Manners & Customs: Bread
Bread in Ancient Bible Times
Baking Bread and Ovens
Baking of bread. The most primitive method of baking bread was the laying of cakes of dough on heated stones.11
A Scriptural example of this is from the experience of Elijah. (I Kings 19:6): "And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head."
Another simple method of baking is the digging in the ground of a hole four or five feet deep, and three feet in diameter, and after this oven is heated, the dough is rolled out until it is no thicker than a person's finger, and then it is struck against the oven's sides where it instantly bakes.
Sometimes a great stone pitcher is used as an oven. In the bottom of it a fire is made among small flints that retain the heat. The dough is placed on these and is quickly baked. Sometimes the dough is rolled out quite thin and is stuck on the outside of the hot pitcher where it bakes. Some have thought that it was this pitcher-oven that was meant in Leviticus 2:4, where two types of unleavened bread were to be baked. The cakes of fine flour would be baked inside the pitcher-oven, and the wafers would be baked on the outside of it.
Another type of simple oven is a large earthenware jar, into which the fuel is placed, and when the jar is hot enough the thin cakes are laid on the outside to cook.14 When bread was baked individually by each family in Bible days, some such method as has been described was probably used by the ordinary homes.
But often today, as in the days of Sacred Writ, bread was and is baked in either a semipublic oven, or in the oven of a public baker. Sometimes each town might have several of these ovens. One type of such an oven consists of a big earthen tube, some three feet in diameter, and about five feet long. It is sunk in the ground inside a hut. The women take their turn in baking their bread. The fuel is thrown into the tube, and when the fire gets hot, and billows of smoke and tongues of flame come from the deep hole, the hut, without any chimney in it, begins to resemble an active crater. Malachi must have seen such an oven when he wrote the words, "For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven: and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble" (Malachi 4:1).15
Another type of Oriental oven "is a long, low, stonebuilt vault, like half a railway-engine's boiler,
with a stone pavement down the middle, and a long narrow strip at each side for the firewood."16 Each night the ashes are taken out, and often the children of poor families will bring a piece of tin, or of a broken water jar, and carry home on this some of the embers of the fire with which to start the fire at home for the evening meal.
Hosea makes mention of "an oven heated by the baker" (Hosea 7:4). This would indicate that some of the people brought their bread to a baker to do the baking. The city of Jerusalem had its Baker's Street in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:21).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Bread the principal food. In the Orient it has been estimated that three-fourths of the people live entirely upon either bread or upon that which is made from wheat or barley flour. It is unquestionably the principal food of the East.
In the Bible such an expression as "eating bread" is often used when Occidentals would say: "eating a meal." When the Bible says, "The Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews" (Genesis 43:31, 32), it means that they could not eat a meal with them (See also Genesis 37:25; Exodus 2:20; I Samuel 28:22-25).
Sacredness of bread. The Palestinians are brought up to think of bread as having a mystic sacred meaning. In some places they have such a reverence for bread that they will not arise to salute a guest, if they are in the midst of breaking bread together, but will wait till they are finished. Such is their attitude toward bread.
It may be said that this attitude of the people toward bread is essentially religious. Everything about bread from the sowing of the seed to the baking of the loaves is done in the name of GOD. These Orientals sense the importance of the petition in the disciple's prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). It was to men who really appreciate the value of bread, that JESUS first said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35).
Since there is this attitude of sacredness in relation to "the staff of life," there grows out of it the universal Eastern custom of breaking bread and not cutting it. One who has lived in Israel says about the natives of the country: "They never put a knife to bread, holding it to be absolutely wicked to cut it, but always break it into pieces with their fingers." [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Bread in Easton's Bible Dictionary
among the Jews was generally made of wheat (Ex. 29:2; Judg.
6:19), though also sometimes of other grains (Gen.
7:13). Parched grain was sometimes used for food
other preparation (Ruth 2:14).
Bread was prepared by kneading in wooden bowls or
troughs" (Gen. 18:6; Ex. 12:34; Jer. 7:18). The
dough was mixed
with leaven and made into thin cakes, round or oval,
baked. The bread eaten at the Passover was always
(Ex. 12:15-20; Deut. 16:3). In the towns there were
ovens, which were much made use of for baking bread;
also bakers by trade (Hos. 7:4; Jer. 37:21). Their
not unlike those of modern times. But sometimes the
baked by being placed on the ground that had been
heated by a
fire, and by covering it with the embers (1 Kings
was probably the mode in which Sarah prepared bread
occasion referred to in Gen. 18:6.
In Lev. 2 there is an account of the different kinds
and cakes used by the Jews. (See BAKE -T0000419.)
The shew-bread (q.v.) consisted of twelve loaves of
bread prepared and presented hot on the golden table
Sabbath. They were square or oblong, and represented
tribes of Israel. The old loaves were removed every
were to be eaten only by the priests in the court of
sanctuary (Ex. 25:30; Lev. 24:8; 1 Sam. 21:1-6;
The word bread is used figuratively in such
"bread of sorrows" (Ps. 127:2), "bread of tears"
sorrow and tears are like one's daily bread, they
form so great
a part in life. The bread of "wickedness" (Prov.
4:17) and "of
deceit" (20:17) denote in like manner that
wickedness and deceit
are a part of the daily life.
Bread in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
First undoubtedly mentioned in Genesis 18:6. The best being
made of wheat; the inferior of barley, used by the poor, and
in scarcity (John 6:9; John 6:13; Revelation 4:6; 2 Kings
4:38; 2 Kings 4:42). An ephah or "three measures" was the
amount of meal required for a single baking, answering to
the size of the oven (Matthew 13:33). The mistress of the
house and even a king's daughter did not think baking
beneath them (2 Samuel 13:8). Besides there were public
bakers (Hosea 7:4), and in Jerusalem a street tenanted by
bakers (Jeremiah 37:21); Nehemiah mentions "the tower of the
furnaces," or ovens (Nehemiah 3:11; Nehemiah 12:38). Their
loaf was thinner in shape and crisper than ours, from whence
comes the phrase, not cutting, but breaking bread (Matthew
14:19; Acts 20:7; Acts 20:11). Exodus 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 (Joshua 9:12),
and so fresh bread was usually baked every day, which usage
gives point to "give us day by day our daily bread" (Luke
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 Exodus 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 (1 Corinthians 5:8); therefore
excluded from the Passover, as also to commemorate the haste
of Israel's departure. Leaven was similarly excluded from
sacrifices (Leviticus 2:11).
The leavened dough was sometimes exposed to a
moderate heat all night while the baker slept: Hosea 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 (Luke 11:5). "Bread of
affliction" or "adversity" would be a quantity less than
this (1 Kings 22:27; Isaiah 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 (2 Samuel 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 (Genesis 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
The oven of each house was a stone or metal jar,
heated inwardly, often with dried "grass" (illustrating
Matthew 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 (Ezekiel 4:15). They needed to
be turned in baking, like Scotch oatcakes. Hosea 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
Bread in Naves Topical Bible
Called the STAFF OF LIFE
Eze 4:16; 5:16; 14:13
Bread of affliction
1Ki 22:27; Ps 127:2; Ho 9:4; Isa 30:20
Leavened (made with yeast)
Le 7:13; 23:17; Ho 7:4; Am 4:5; Mt 13:33
Unleavened (made without yeast)
Ge 19:3; Ex 29:2; Jud 6:19; 1Sa 28:24
-Made of wheat flour
Ex 29:2; 1Ki 4:22; 5:11; Ps 81:16
Mixed with oil
With leaven, or ferment
See leavened, in the paragraph above
Also see LEAVEN
Ge 18:6; Ex 8:3; 12:34; 1Sa 28:24; 2Sa 13:8; Jer
Made into loaves
1Sa 10:3; 17:17; 25:18; 1Ki 14:3; Mr 8:14
2Sa 6:19; 1Ki 17:12
Ex 16:21; 29:23
Baked in ovens
Ex 8:3; Le 2:4; 7:9; 11:35; 26:26; Ho 7:4
Le 2:5,7; 2Sa 13:6-9
1Ki 19:6; Isa 44:19; Joh 21:9
on coals of dung
-Made by men
-Made by women
Le 26:26; 1Sa 8:13; Jer 7:18
Jer 37:21; Mr 6:37
Le 21:6,8,17,21,22; 22:25; 1Sa 2:36; 2Ki 23:9
Jer 7:18; 44:19
Isa 55:2; 1Co 10:17; 2Co 9:10
Of the body of Christ
Mt 26:26; Ac 20:7; 1Co 11:23,24
Bread in Smiths Bible Dictionary
The preparation of bread as an article of food dates from a
very early period. Ge 18:6 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. Ex 12:34,39; 2Sa
13:3; Jer 7:18 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
Ge 18:6; 19:3; Ex 12:39; Jud 6:19; 1Sa 28:24 The
leavened mass was allowed to stand for some time, Mt 13:33;
Lu 13:21 the dough was then divided into round cakes, Ex
29:23; Jud 7:13; 8:5; 1Sa 10:3; Pr 6:26 not unlike flat
stones in shape and appearance, Mt 7:9 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, 1Ki 17:12; Isa 44:15; Jer 7:18 or dried
grass and flower-stalks. Mt 6:30
Bread in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
bred (lechem; artos):
I. DIETARY PREEMINENCE
3. Three Kinds of Flour
(1) Hot Stones
(2) Baking Pans
(1) The Bowl-Oven
(2) The Jar-Oven
(3) The Pit-Oven
5. Forms of Baked Bread
6. Work for Women
IV. SANCTITY AND SYMBOLISM OF BREAD
The art of bread-making is very ancient. It was even known
to the Egyptians at a very early day (Wilkinson, Ancient
Egyptians), to the Hebrews of the Exodus (Nowack, Lehrbuch
der hebr. Archaologie) and, of course, to the Greeks and
Romans of a later day. Bread played a large part in the
vocabulary and in the life of the ancient Hebrews.
I. Dietary Preeminence.
(1) In the East bread is primary, other articles of food
merely accessory; while in the West meat and other things
chiefly constitute the meal, and bread is merely secondary.
Accordingly "bread" in the Old Testament, from Gen 3:19
onward, stands for food in general. (2) Moreover in ancient
times, as now, most probably, when the peasant, carpenter,
blacksmith or mason left home for the day's work, or when
the muleteer or messenger set out on a journey, he wrapped
other articles of food, if there were any, in the thin
loaves of bread, and thus kept them ready for his use as
needed. (3) Often the thin, glutinous loaf, puffed out with
air, is seen today, opened on one side and used so as to
form a natural pouch, in which meat, cheese, raisins and
olives are enclosed to be eaten with the bread (see Mackie
in DCG, article "Bread"). The loaf of bread is thus made to
include everything and, for this reason also, it may fitly
be spoken of as synonymous with food in general. To the
disciples of Jesus, no doubt, "Give us this day our daily
bread" would naturally be a petition for all needed food,
and in the case of the miraculous feeding of the multitude
it was enough to provide them with "bread" (Mt 14:15 ff).
Barley was in early times, as it is today, the main bread-
stuff of the Israel peasantry (see Jdg 7:13; where "the cake
of barley bread" is said to be "the sword of Gideon"), and
of the poorer classes of the East in general (see Jn 6:13,
where the multitude were fed on the miraculous increase...
Bread Scripture - 2 Samuel 12:21
Then said his servants unto him, What thing [is] this that
thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, [while
it was] alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise
and eat bread.
Bread Scripture - 2 Samuel 9:10
Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the
land for him, and thou shalt bring in [the fruits], that thy
master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy
master's son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had
fifteen sons and twenty servants.
Bread Scripture - Deuteronomy 8:3
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee
with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers
know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by
bread only, but by every [word] that proceedeth out of the
mouth of the LORD doth man live.
Bread Scripture - Deuteronomy 8:9
A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou
shalt not lack any [thing] in it; a land whose stones [are]
iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
Bread Scripture - Ezekiel 4:9
Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and
lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel,
and make thee bread thereof, [according] to the number of the
days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and
ninety days shalt thou eat thereof.
Bread Scripture - Genesis 3:19
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou
return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for
dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.
Bread Scripture - Judges 13:16
And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain
me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a
burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah
knew not that he [was] an angel of the LORD.
Bread Scripture - Leviticus 21:21
No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest
shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by
fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the
bread of his God.
Bread Scripture - Leviticus 21:22
He shall eat the bread of his God, [both] of the most holy,
and of the holy.
Bread Scripture - Leviticus 23:20
And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the
firstfruits [for] a wave offering before the LORD, with the
two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
To cut bread would be thought of as cutting life itself. This custom of breaking bread rather than cutting it, is found throughout the Scriptures. In Lamentations 4:4 we read: "The young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them." Thus the expression "breaking of bread" came to mean the taking of a meal whatever was included in the meal. Because CHRIST broke bread when He instituted the ordinance of the LORD's Supper, the expression came to refer to that ordinance. Matthew 26:26: "Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples."
Thus we read in Acts 20:7: "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them."
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Kinds of Bread
Kinds of bread used. Two kinds of bread were in use in the days when Bible events were being enacted: wheat bread, and barley bread. Both of these are in use in Israel today. There is this distinction between them: barley bread is used by the poorer classes, whereas if a family is able to have wheat bread, it is considered to have arrived at a place well up in the comfort scale.8
This same distinction was true in the Old Testament days and also New Testament times. When the "cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian" in the dream of the Midianite soldier (Judges 7:13), it was an indication that the enemy despised Israel, as a more favored people eating wheat bread would despise eaters of barley bread, and yet GOD was to use the despised Israelites of Gideon's army to overpower those proud Midianites.
The lad who had his five barley loaves and gave them to Jesus, and saw Him multiply them to feed five thousand (John 6:9), must have come from the poorer class, but his humble contribution made possible a great miracle, and the crowd was satisfied with that kind of bread.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Loaves of Bread
Form of loaves. In the Holy Land where the old customs prevail, bread takes three forms:
First, there are the small loaves which somewhat resemble the light bread biscuits of this country. It was this kind the lad had and gave to Jesus.
Second, there are the larger loaves, nearly as heavy as the modern loaves of the West, but round instead of rectangular. The ten loaves which Jesse sent by David to the camp of Israel were probably of this form (I Samuel 17:17).
Third, there are the flat loaves which are thin like paper. These are something like American hot cakes only bigger around and much thinner. When served some of these, one man from the West thought they were napkins and started to use them as such.
This kind of bread is used to take the place of the knife, fork, or spoon of the Occidental; Easterners "cup it up" and use it to dip into the food sauces (see Chapter 6). It is quite pliable; and the men fold it up and put it in their scrip, and take it with them, so they can eat it as needed. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Traveling with Food
Food taken by travelers. Travelers going a distance will carry food with them, which will include bread, parched grain, dried olives, dried figs, and dates. Most travelers in the East now, as in the days of JESUS, will not go any distance from home without taking barley bread or meal or parched grain sufficient to last for one or two days. When JESUS performed the miracle of feeding the four thousand, he said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way" (Matthew 15:32). According to custom, the multitude would have a day or two's supply of food with them when they flocked to hear JESUS. But on the third day, seven loaves and a few small fish was all that was left. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
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