A word which in Scripture is often put for food in general, Ge 3:19; 18:5; 28:20; Ex 2:20; Le 11:3. Manna is called bread from heaven, Ex 16:4. Bread, in the proper and literal sense, usually means cakes made of wheaten flour; barely being used chiefly by the poor and for feeding horses. The wheat was ground daily, in small stone mills; the flour was made into dough in a wooden trough, and subsequently leavened, Ex 12:34; Ho 7:4. It was then made into cakes, and baked.
The ancient Hebrews had several ways of baking bread: of baking bread: they often baked it under the ashes upon the earth, upon round copper or iron plates, or in pans or stoves made on purpose. The Arabians and other oriental nations, among whom wood is scarce, often bake their bread between two fires made of cow-dung, which burns slowly. The bread is good, if eaten the same day, but the crust is black and burnt, and retains a smell of the fuel used in baking it. This explains Eze 4:9,15.
The Hebrews, in common with other eastern people, had a kind of oven, (tannoor,) which is like a large pitcher, open at top, in which they made a fire. When it was well heated, they mingled flour in water, and this paste they applied to the outside of the pitcher. Such bread is baked in an instant, and is taken off in thin, fine pieces, like our wafers, Le 2. Bread was also baked in cavities sunk in the ground, or the floor of the tent, and well lined with compost or cement. A tire was built on the floor of this oven; and the sides being sufficiently heated, thin cakes were adroitly stuck upon towns there were public ovens, and bakers by trade, Jer 37:21; Ho 7:4.
As the Hebrews generally made their bread thin, and in the form of flat cakes, or wafers, they did not cut it with a knife, but broke it, La 4:4, which gave rise to that expression so usual in Scripture, of "breaking bread," to signify eating, sitting down to table, taking a repast. In the institution of the Lord's supper, our Savior broke the bread which he had consecrated; whence "to break bread," and "breaking of bread," in the New Testament are used for celebrating the Lord's supper. See under EATING.
SHOWBREAD, Heb. Bread of presence, was bread offered every Sabbath-day to God on the golden table which stood in the holy place, Ex 25:30; twelve cakes of unleavened bread, offered with salt and frankincense, Le 2:13; 24:5-9. The show-bread could be lawfully eaten by none but the priests; nevertheless, David having received some of these loaves from the high-priest Abimelech, ate of them without scruple in his necessity,
among the Jews was generally made of wheat (Ex 29:2; Jg 6:19), though also sometimes of other grains (Ge 14:18; Jg 7:13). Parched grain was sometimes used for food without any other preparation (Ru 2:14).
Bread was prepared by kneading in wooden bowls or "kneading troughs" (Ge 18:6; Ex 12:34; Jer 7:18). The dough was mixed with leaven and made into thin cakes, round or oval, and then baked. The bread eaten at the Passover was always unleavened (Ex 12:15-20; De 16:3). In the towns there were public ovens, which were much made use of for baking bread; there were also bakers by trade (Ho 7:4; Jer 37:21). Their ovens were not unlike those of modern times. But sometimes the bread was baked by being placed on the ground that had been heated by a fire, and by covering it with the embers (1Ki 19:6). This was probably the mode in which Sarah prepared bread on the occasion referred to in Ge 18:6.
In Le 2 there is an account of the different kinds of bread and cakes used by the Jews. (See Bake.)
The shew-bread (q.v.) consisted of twelve loaves of unleavened bread prepared and presented hot on the golden table every Sabbath. They were square or oblong, and represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The old loaves were removed every Sabbath, and were to be eaten only by the priests in the court of the sanctuary (Ex 25:30; Le 24:8; 1Sa 21:1-6; Mt 12:4).
The word bread is used figuratively in such expressions as "bread of sorrows" (Ps 127:2), "bread of tears" (Ps 80:5), i.e., sorrow and tears are like one's daily bread, they form so great a part in life. The bread of "wickedness" (Pr 4:17) and "of deceit" (Pr 20:17) denote in like manner that wickedness and deceit are a part of the daily life.
First undoubtedly mentioned in Ge 18:6. The best being made of wheat; the inferior of barley, used by the poor, and in scarcity (Joh 6:9,13; Re 4:6; 2Ki 4:38,42). An ephah or "three measures" was the amount of meal required for a single baking, answering to the size of the oven (Mt 13:33). The mistress of the house and even a king's daughter did not think baking beneath them (2Sa 13:8). Besides there were public bakers (Ho 7:4), and in Jerusalem a street tenanted by bakers (Jer 37:21); Nehemiah mentions "the tower of the furnaces," or ovens (Ne 3:11; 12:38). Their loaf was thinner in shape and crisper than ours, from whence comes the phrase, not cutting, but breaking bread (Mt 14:19; Ac 20:7,11). Ex 12:34 implies the small size of their kneading troughs, for they were "bound up in their clothes (the outer garment, a large square cloth) upon their shoulders."
As bread was made in thin cakes it soon became dry, as the Gibeonites alleged as to their bread (Jos 9:12), and so fresh bread was usually baked every day, which usage gives point to "give us day by day our daily bread" (Lu 11:3). When the kneading was completed leaven was added; but when time was short unleavened cakes were hastily baked, as is the present Bedouin usage; termed in Ex 12:8-20 matsowt, i.e. pure loaves, having no leaven, which ferments the dough and so produces corruption, and is therefore symbol of mortal corruption (1Co 5:8); therefore excluded from the Passover, as also to commemorate the haste of Israel's departure. Leaven was similarly excluded from sacrifices (Le 2:11).
The leavened dough was sometimes exposed to a moderate heat all night while the baker slept: Ho 7:4-6; "as an oven heated by the baker who ceaseth from raising (rather, heating) after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened; for they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait ... their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire." Their heart was like an oven first heated by Satan, then left to burn with the pent up fire of their corrupt passions. Like the baker sleeping at night, Satan rests secure that at the first opportunity the hidden fires will break forth, ready to execute whatever evil he suggests. The bread was divided into round cakes, or "loaves," three of which sufficed for one person's meal (Lu 11:5). "Bread of affliction" or "adversity" would be a quantity less than this (1Ki 22:27; Isa 30:20). Oil was sometimes mixed with the flour.
There were also cakes of finer flour, called "heart cakes" (as our "cordial" is derived from cor, "the heart"), a heart strengthening pastry (2Sa 13:8-10 margin), a pancake, possibly with stimulant seeds in it, quickly made; such as Tamar prepared and shook out (not "poured" as a liquid) from the pan, for Amnon. The loaves used to be taken to the oven in a basket upon the head (Ge 40:16), which exactly accords with Egyptian usage, men carrying burdens on their heads, women on their shoulders. The variety of Egyptian confectionery is evident from the monuments still extant. The "white baskets" may mean "baskets of white bread."
The oven of each house was a stone or metal jar, heated inwardly, often with dried "grass" (illustrating Mt 6:30). When the fire burned down the cakes were applied inwardly or outwardly. Cakes were sometimes baked on heated stones, or between layers of dung, the slow burning of which adapts it for baking (Eze 4:15). They needed to be turned in baking, like Scotch oatcakes. Ho 7:8, "Ephraim is a cake not turned": burnt on one side, unbaked on the other, the fire spoiling, not penetrating it; so religious professors, outwardly warm, inwardly cold; on one side overdone, on the other not vitally influenced at all; Jehus professing great "zeal for the Lord," really zealous for themselves.
The pre-eminence of bread in the dietary of the Hebrews is shown by the frequent use in OT, from Ge 3:19 onwards, of 'bread' for food in general. It was made chiefly from wheat and barley, occasionally mixed, more especially in times of scarcity, with other ingredients (Eze 4:9; see Food). Barley was in earlier times the main breadstuff of the peasantry (Jg 7:13) and poorer classes generally (Joh 6:13, cf. Josephus BJ V. x. 2).
The first step in bread-making, after thoroughly sifting and cleaning the grain, was to reduce it to flour by rubbing, pounding, or grinding (cf. Nu 11:8). In the first process, not yet extinct in Egypt for certain grains, the grain was rubbed between two stones, the 'corn-rubbers' or 'corn-grinders,' of which numerous specimens have been found at Lachish and Gezer (Quarterly Statement of the same, 1902, 326; 1903, 118; cf. Erman, Egypt. 180 for illust. of actual use). For the other two processes see Mortar and Mill respectively. Three qualities of flour are distinguished
Constantly referred to as the sustenance of man, though animal food may be included, and thus it stands for 'food' in general. Ge 3:19; Ru 1:6; Ps 41:9. Bread was made of wheaten flour, or of wheat and barley mixed, or by the poor of barley only. It was generally made in thin cakes which could be baked very quickly when a visitor arrived. Ge 18:6; 19:3; 1Sa 28:24. It was usually leavened by a piece of old dough in a state of fermentation. See LEAVEN.
UNLEAVENED BREAD was to be eaten with certain of the offerings, Le 6:16-17; and for the seven days' feast connected with the Passover, often referred to as 'the Feast of Unleavened Bread,' Ex 34:18; 2Ch 8:13; Lu 22:1; 1Co 5:8; a symbol that all evil must be put away in order to keep the feast.
The Lord Jesus called Himself the BREAD OF GOD, the bread that came down from heaven, THE BREAD OF LIFE, the living bread, of which if any man ate he should live for ever: He said "He that eateth me shall live by me." He is the spiritual food that sustains the new life. Joh 6:31-58. This was typified in Israel by the SHOWBREAD, the twelve loaves placed upon the table in the holy place, new every sabbath day: it was holy and was eaten by the priests only. Le 24:5-9. It is literally 'face or presence bread;' Ex 25:30; and 'bread of arrangement' or 'ordering,' as in the margin of 1Ch 9:32; and in the N.T. 'bread of presentation.' Mt 12:4; Heb 9:2. It typified the nourishment that God would provide for Israel in Christ, as well as the ordering of the twelve tribes before Him; in them was the administration of God's bounty through Christ for the earth, as Christ is now the sustainment for the Christian.
The preparation of bread as an article of food dates from a very early period.
The corn or grain employed was of various sorts. The best bread was made of wheat, but "barley" and spelt were also used.
Joh 6:9,13; Isa 28:25
The process of making bread was as follows: the flour was first mixed with water or milk; it was then kneaded with the hands (in Egypt with the feet also) in a small wooden bowl or "kneading-trough" until it became dough.
When the kneading was completed, leaven was generally added [LEAVEN]; but when the time for preparation was short, it was omitted, and unleavened cakes, hastily baked, were eaten as is still the prevalent custom among the Bedouins. (
The leavened mass was allowed to stand for some time,
Mt 13:33; Lu 13:21
the dough was then divided into round cakes,
not unlike flat stones in shape and appearance,
comp. Matt 4:8 about a span in diameter and a finger's breadth in thickness. In the towns where professional bakers resided, there were no doubt fixed ovens, in shape and size resembling those in use among ourselves; but more usually each household poured a portable oven, consisting of a stone or metal jar, about three feet high which was heated inwardly with wood,
or dried grass and flower-stalks.
BREAD, a term which in Scripture is used, as by us, frequently for food in general; but is also often found in its proper sense. Sparing in the use of flesh, like all the nations of the east, the chosen people usually satisfied their hunger with bread, and quenched their thirst in the running stream. Their bread was generally made of wheat or barley, or lentiles and beans. Bread of wheat flour, as being the most excellent, was preferred: barley bread was used only in times of scarcity and distress. So mean and contemptible, in the estimation of the numerous and well-appointed armies of Midian, was Gideon, with his handful of undisciplined militia, that he seems to have been compared to bread of this inferior quality, which may account for the ready interpretation of the dream of the Midianite respecting him: "And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel; for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host." In the cities and villages of Barbary, where public ovens are established, the bread is usually leavened; but among the Bedoweens and Kabyles, as soon as the dough is kneaded, it is made into thin cakes, either to be baked immediately upon the coals, or else in a shallow earthen vessel like a frying-pan, called Tajen. Such were the unleavened cakes which we so frequently read of in Scripture; and those also which Sarah made quickly upon the hearth. These last are about an inch thick; and, being commonly prepared in woody countries, are used all along the shores of the Black Sea, from the Palus Maeotis to the Caspian, in Chaldea and Mesopotamia, except in towns. A fire is made in the middle of the room: and when the bread is ready for baking, a corner of the hearth is swept, the bread is laid upon it, and covered with ashes and embers; in a quarter of an hour, they turn it. Sometimes they use small convex plates of iron, which are most common in Persia, and among the nomadic tribes, as being the easiest way of baking, and done with the least expense; for the bread is extremely thin, and soon prepared. The oven is also used in every part of Asia: it is made in the ground, four or five feet deep, and three in diameter, well plastered with mortar. When it is hot, they place the bread (which is commonly long, and not thicker than a finger) against the sides: it is baked in a moment. Ovens, Chardin apprehends, were not used in Canaan in the patriarchal age: all the bread of that time was baked upon a plate, or under the ashes; and he supposes, what is nearly self-evident, that the cakes which Sarah baked on the hearth were of the last sort, and that the shew bread was of the same kind. The Arabs about Mount Carmel use a great strong pitcher, in which they kindle a fire; and when it is heated, they mix meal and water, which they apply with the hollow of their hands to the outside of the pitcher; and this extremely soft paste, spreading itself, is baked in an instant. The heat of the pitcher having dried up all the moisture, the bread comes on as thin as our wafers; and the operation is so speedily performed, that in a very little time a sufficient quantity is made. But their best sort of bread they bake, either by heating an oven, or a large pitcher full of little smooth shining flints, upon which they lay the dough, spread out in the form of a thin broad cake. Sometimes they use a shallow earthen vessel, resembling a frying pan, which seems to be the pan mentioned by Moses, in which the meat-offering was baked. This vessel, Dr. Shaw informs us, serves both for baking and frying; for the bagreah of the people of Barbary differs not much from our pancakes; only, instead of rubbing the pan in which they fry them with butter, they rub it with soap, to make them like a honey-comb. If these accounts of the Arab stone pitcher, the pan, and the iron hearth or copper plate, be attended to, it will not be difficult to understand the laws of Moses in the second chapter of Leviticus: they will be found to answer perfectly well to the description which he gives us of the different ways of preparing the meat-offerings. As the Hebrews made their bread thin, in the form of little flat cakes, they did not cut it with a knife, but broke it; which gave use to the expression, breaking bread, so frequent in Scripture.
The Arabians and other eastern people, among whom wood is scarce, often bake their bread between two fires made of cow dung, which burns slowly, and bakes the bread very leisurely. The crumb of it is very good, if it be eaten the same day; but the crust is black and burnt, and retains a smell of the materials that were used in baking it. This may serve to explain a passage in Eze 4:9-13. The straits of a siege and the scarcity of fuel were thus intimated to the Prophet. During the whole octave of the passover, the Hebrews use only unleavened bread, as a memorial that at the time of their departure out of Egypt they wanted leisure to bake leavened bread; and, having left the country with precipitation, they were content to bake bread which was not leavened, Ex 12:8. The practice of the Jews at this day, with relation to the use of unleavened bread, is as follows: They forbid to eat, or have in their houses, or in any place belonging to them, either leavened bread or any thing else that is leavened. That they may the better observe this rule, they search into all the corners of the house with scrupulous exactness for all bread or paste, or any thing that is leavened. After they have thus well cleansed their houses, they whiten them, and furnish them with kitchen and table utensils, all new, and with others which are to be used only on that day. If they are movables, which have served only for something else, and are made of metal, they have them polished, and put into the fire, to take away all the impurity which they may have contracted by touching any thing leavened. All this is done on the thirteenth day of Nisan, or on the vigil of the feast of the passover, which begins with the fifteenth of the same month, or the fourteenth day in the evening; for the Hebrews reckon their days from one evening to another. On the fourteenth of Nisan, at eleven o'clock, they burn the common bread, to show that the prohibition of eating leavened bread is then commenced; and this action is attended with words, whereby the master of the house declares that he has no longer any thing leavened in his keeping; that, at least, he believes so. In allusion to this practice, we are commanded to "purge out the old leaven;" by which "malice and wickedness" are intended; and to feed only on the "unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
2. SHEW BREAD, or, according to the Hebrews, the bread of faces, was bread offered every Sabbath day upon the golden table in the holy place, Ex 25:30. The Hebrews affirm that these loaves were square, and had four sides, and were covered with leaves of gold. They were twelve in number, according to the number of the twelve tribes, in whose names they were offered. Every loaf was composed of two assarons of flour, which make about five pints and one-tenth. These loaves were unleavened. They were presented hot every Sabbath day, the old ones being taken away and eaten by the priests only. This offering was accompanied with salt and frankincense, and even with wine, according to some commentators. The Scripture mentions only salt and incense; but it is presumed that wine was added, because it was not wanting in other sacrifices and offerings. It is believed that these loaves were placed one upon another, in two piles of six each; and that between every loaf were two thin plates of gold, folded back in a semicircle the whole length of them, to admit air, and to prevent the loaves from growing mouldy. These golden plates, thus turned in, were supported at their extremities by two golden forks, which rested on the groun