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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The word 'bread' was of far more extensive meaning among the Hebrews than with us. There are passages in which it appears to be applied to all kinds of victuals (Luke 11:3); but it more generally denotes all kinds of baked and pastry articles of food. It is also used, however, in the more limited sense of bread made from wheat or barley, for rye is little cultivated in the East. Barley being used chiefly by the poor, and for feeding horses [BARLEY]. Bread, in the more limited sense, chiefly denotes the various kinds of cake-like bread prepared from wheaten flour.

Corn is ground daily in the East. After the wheaten flour is taken from the hand-mill, it is made into a dough or paste in a small wooden trough. It is next leavened; after which it is made into thin cakes or flaps, round or oval, and then baked.

The kneading-troughs, in which the dough is prepared, have no resemblance to ours in size or shape, but are small wooden bowls in which only a comparatively small quantity of dough is prepared. The Bedouin Arabs, indeed, use for this purpose a leather, which can be drawn up into a bag by a running cord along the border, and in which they prepare and often carry their dough. It is clear, from the history of the departure from Egypt, that the flour had first been made into a dough by water only, in which state it had been kept some little time before it was leavened; for when the Israelites were unexpectedly (as to the moment) compelled in all haste to withdraw, it was found that, although the dough had been prepared in the kneading-trough, it was still unleavened (Exodus 12:34; comp. Hosea 7:4); and it was in commemoration of this circumstance that they and their descendants in all ages were enjoined to eat only unleavened bread at the feast of the Passover. The dough thus prepared is not always baked at home. In towns there are public ovens and bakers by trade; and although the general rule in large and respectable families is to bake the bread at home, much bread is bought of the bakers by unsettled individuals and poor persons; and many small households send their dough to be baked at the public oven, the baker receiving for his trouble a portion of the baked bread, which he adds to his day's stock of bread for sale. Such public ovens and bakers by trade must have existed anciently in Palestine, and in the East generally, as is evident from Hosea 7:4 and Jeremiah 37:21.

For their larger operations the bakers have ovens of brick, not altogether unlike our own; and in large houses there are similar ovens. The ovens used in domestic baking are, however, usually of a portable description, and are large vessels of stone, earthenware, or copper, inside of which, when properly heated, small loaves and cakes are baked, and on the outer surface of which thin flaps of bread, or else a large wafer-like biscuit, may be prepared.

Another mode of baking bread is much used, especially in the villages. A pit is sunk in the middle of the floor of the principal room, about four or five feet deep by three in diameter, well lined with compost or cement. When sufficiently heated by a fire kindled at the bottom, the bread is made by the thin pancake-like flaps of dough being, by a peculiar knack of hand in the women, struck against the oven, to which they adhere for a few moments, till they are sufficiently dressed.

Another sort of oven, or rather mode of baking, is much in use among the pastoral tribes. A shallow hole, about six inches deep by three or four feet in diameter, is made in the ground: this is filled up with dry brushwood, upon which, when kindled, pebbles are thrown to concentrate and retain the heat. Meanwhile the dough is prepared; and when the oven is sufficiently heated, the ashes and pebbles are removed, and the spot well cleaned out. The dough is then deposited in the hollow, and is left there overnight. The cakes thus baked are about two fingers thick, and are very palatable. There can be little doubt that this kind of oven and mode of baking bread were common among the Jews.

There is a baking utensil called in Arabic tajen, which appears to have been in use among the ancient Hebrews. It is a sort of pan of earthenware or iron (usually the latter), flat, or slightly convex, which is put over a slow fire, and on which the thin flaps of dough are laid and baked with considerable expedition, although only one cake can be baked in this way at a time. This is not a household mode of preparing bread, but is one of the simple and primitive processes employed by the wandering and semi-wandering tribes, shepherds, husbandmen and others, who have occasion to prepare a small quantity of daily bread in an easy off-hand manner. Bread is also baked in a manner which, although apparently very different, is but a modification of the principle of the tajen, and is used chiefly in the houses of the peasantry. There is a cavity in the fire-hearth, in which, when required for baking, a fire is kindled and burnt down to hot embers. A plate of iron, or sometimes copper, is placed over the hole, and on this the bread is baked.

Another mode of baking is in use chiefly among the pastoral tribes, and by travelers in the open country, but is not unknown in the villages. A smooth clear spot is chosen in the loose ground, a sandy soil—so common in the Eastern deserts and harder lands—being preferred. On this a fire is kindled, and, when the ground is sufficiently heated, the embers and ashes are raked aside, and the dough is laid on the heated spot, and then covered over with the glowing embers and ashes which had just been removed. The bread is several times turned, and in less than half an hour is sufficiently baked. Bread thus baked is referred to in Genesis 18:6; 1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 19:6; Ezekiel 4:12. This is the kind of ash-bread which Sarah, on the arrival of the three strangers, was required to bake 'quickly' for the hospitable entertainment of the unknown travelers.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Bread'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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