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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Bread —In Syria and Palestine there are certain shrines and groves that have been preserved undisturbed through times of political change, and are to-day venerated by all the religions of the country. Such also has been the unchanged history of bread in Bible lands. It is to-day practically what it has always been with regard to (1) the materials of which it is made, (2) the way in which it is prepared, (3) its importance and use as an article of food, and (4) the symbolism and sanctity suggested by its value.

1. Materials .—Bread is usually made of wheat flour, the wheat of the Syrian plains being remarkable for its nutritious quality. An inferior and cheaper kind of bread is also made from barley flour, and less frequently the meal of Indian corn is used.

2. Modes of preparation .—The most primitive way is that of making a hollow in the ground, burning twigs, thorn-bushes, thistles and dry grass upon it, and then laying the flat cakes of dough upon the hot ashes. These loaves are about seven inches in diameter and from half an inch to an inch in thickness. The upper surface is frequently studded with seeds of Indian corn, and they are generally turned in the process of baking ( Hosea 7:8). They are ‘cakes upon the hearth’ ( Genesis 18:6), ‘baken upon the coals’ ( 1 Kings 17:12-13). Such probably were the barley loaves brought to Christ at the feeding of the five thousand ( John 6:9;  John 6:13). Out of this custom, prevailing among the pastoral tribes and the poorest of the peasantry, were developed several improved methods made possible by more civilized conditions of life. ( a ) Large smooth pebbles were laid over the hollow in the ground, and when the fire had been kept up for a sufficient time, the ashes were removed and the loaves were laid upon the hot stones.—( b ) Thinner cakes of both leavened and unleavened bread were made upon a flat pan or convex griddle. These are now made especially at times of religious festival, and are coated on the upper surface with olive oil and sprinkled with aromatic seeds. They recall the ‘oiled bread’ of  Leviticus 8:26, and the ‘wafers anointed with oil’ of  Exodus 29:2 and  Leviticus 2:4.—( c ) The cavity for the fire is deepened, and a cylindrical hole about the size of half a flour barrel is made of stone and lime with a facing of plaster. The pebbles are still left at the bottom for the better preservation of the heat, and the same fuel is applied till the oven has been sufficiently heated. The dough is then rolled out into broad thin cakes, and each disc, after being still further distended by being passed with a quick rotatory motion between the hands of the female baker, is laid on a convex cushion or pad, and is thus transferred evenly to the hot wall of the cavity. In a moment it is fired, and as it begins to peel off it is lifted and laid above the others at her side.—( d ) The most developed form is that of the public oven in the village or town. Here features of the more primitive types still survive, but the cavity now becomes a low vaulted recess about twelve feet in length, and the pebbles are changed into a pavement of smoothed and squared stones. On it wood and lighter fuel of thorns are burnt, and the glowing ashes are finally brushed to each side of the vault. When the oven has been thus prepared the discs of dough are laid in rows upon long thin boards like canoe paddles, and are inserted by these into the oven, and by a quick jerk of the arm slipped off and placed upon the hot pavement to be fired. These loaves, when fired, are about an inch in thickness and about eight inches in diameter, and when newly baked are soft and flexible.

3. Use and importance of bread .—In the West bread is eaten more or less along with the other articles of food that chiefly constitute the meal; but in the East those other articles are rather eaten along with bread, and are regarded as merely accessory to it. When the farmer, carpenter, blacksmith or mason leaves the house for the day’s labour, or the messenger or muleteer sets out on his journey, he wraps his other articles of food in the thin loaves of home-made bread. In the case of loaves fired in the public oven, these, owing to the glutinous adhesiveness and elasticity of the dough, and the sudden formation within them of vapour on the hot pavement, pull out into air-tight balls. They can then be opened a little at one side, and the loaf thus forms a natural pouch enclosing the meat, cheese, raisins or olives to be eaten with it by the labourer. As the loaf thus literally includes everything, so bread represents generally the food of man. A great exclusion was expressed in ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’ ( Luke 4:4). In the miraculous feeding of the multitude ( Matthew 14:15 ff. ||) it was enough to provide them with bread. It was three loaves of bread that the man asked from his neighbour to put before his guest ( Luke 11:5). Two would have been sufficient for his actual needs; but even in such an emergency a third loaf was required to represent that superabundant something which as a touch of grace, often passing into tyrannical imposition, so deeply affects Oriental social life.

In the act of eating, Oriental bread is broken or torn apart by the hand. This is easily done with the bread of the public oven, as it can be separated into two thin layers. The thin home-made bread is named both in Hebrew and Arabic from its thinness, and is translated ‘wafer’ in  Exodus 29:23,  Leviticus 8:26,  Numbers 6:19,  1 Chronicles 23:29 ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885). Such bread is called רָקיק ( râkîk  ; Arab. [Note: Arabic.] markûk , from warak , ‘foliage,’ ‘paper’). At a meal a small piece of such bread is torn off, and with the ease and skill of long habit is folded over at the end held in the hand. It thus makes a spoon, which is eaten along with whatever is lifted by it out of the common dish. This is the dipping in the dish ( Matthew 26:23), and is accomplished without allowing the contents of the dish to be touched by the fingers or by anything that has previously been in contact with the lips of those who sit at meat.

4. Symbolism and sanctity of bread .—In a land where communication with other sources of supply was difficult, everything depended upon the local wheat and barley harvest. As this in turn depended upon the rain in its season, which was beyond the control of the sower, a special sanctity attached itself to what was peculiarly a gift of God, and a reminder of His continual and often undeserved care ( Matthew 5:45). To the disciples of Jesus, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ would seem a very natural petition. An Oriental seeing a scrap of bread on the road will usually lift it up and throw it to a street dog, or place it in a crevice of the wall or on a tree branch where the birds may find it. It should not be trodden under foot in the common dust. Thus the most familiar article of food, so constantly in the hands of all, both rich and poor, and used alike by the evil and the good, had in it an element of mystery and nobility as having been touched by the unseen Giver of all good. How deeply this feeling of reverence possessed the mind of the Lord Jesus is evidenced by the fact that He was recognized in the breaking of bread ( Luke 24:35).

In the social customs of the East, the giving and receiving of bread has always been the principal factor in establishing a bond of peace between the host and the guest at his table. It was a gravely unnatural offence to violate that law of hospitality. Of this offence Judas Iscariot was guilty at the Last Supper.

In travelling through Palestine and partaking of the hospitality of the peasantry, one may notice in the bread the indentations of the pebbles, and small patches of grey ash, with here and there an inlaid attachment of singed grass or charred thorn, the result of the simple baking process. It is bread, however, the best that the poor can give, and it is given with gladness and the dignity of a high duty towards the guest. When Christ sent forth His disciples to tell of His approach, He charged them to take no bread with them ( Mark 6:8). It would have been a serious discourtesy to have set aside as unlit for their use that which was offered to them willingly by their own people, and would have hindered the reception of the good tidings of the Kingdom.

To the crowd that selfishly followed Christ the giving of bread as by Moses was the sordid summary of Messianic hope ( John 6:31). God’s gift of natural food to His people enters into the praises of the Magnificat ( Luke 1:53). When Christ called Himself ‘the bread of life’ ( John 6:35), He could confidently appeal to all the endeared and sacred associations connected in the East with the meaning and use of bread. In the initiation of the Passover, and in its commemoration afterwards, bread was regarded by the Israelites as the most general and effective symbol of their life in Egypt. In the initiation of the new covenant also the same humble article of food was adopted at the Lord’s Supper, to be, with wine, the token of fellowship between Himself and His Church, and the symbol among His disciples of the Communion of Saints. The use of a symbol so familiar and accessible to all, and so representative of common life, seems to suggest that to the mind of Christ some realized and visible communion among the members of His Church was possible and to be expected.

G. M. Mackie.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

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  Ezekiel 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,  Exodus 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,   Exodus 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 ground. The twelve loaves, because they stood before the Lord, were called לחם הפנים , αρτοι προθεσεως , or ενωπιοι , the bread of faces, or of the presence; and are therefore denominated in our English translation the shew bread. Since part of the frankincense put upon the bread was to be burnt on the altar for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord; and since Aaron and his sons were to eat it in the holy place,   Leviticus 24:5-9 , it is probable that this bread typified Christ, first presented as a sacrifice to Jehovah, and then becoming spiritual food to such as in and through him are spiritual priests to God, even his Father,  Revelation 1:6;  Revelation 5:10;  Revelation 20:6;  1 Peter 2:5 . It appears, from some places in Scripture, (see  Exodus 29:32 , and  Numbers 6:15 :) that there was always near the altar a basket full of bread, in order to be offered together with the ordinary sacrifices.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

BREAD . The pre-eminence of bread in the dietary of the Hebrews is shown by the frequent use in OT, from   Genesis 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 (  Ezekiel 4:9; see Food). Barley was in earlier times the main breadstuff of the peasantry (  Judges 7:13 ) and poorer classes generally (  John 6:13 , cf. Jos [Note: 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.  Numbers 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 ( PEFSt [Note: 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 a coarser sort got by the use of the pestle and mortar, the ‘beaten (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘bruised’ corn’ of   Leviticus 2:14;   Leviticus 2:16 , ordinary flour or ‘meal,’ and the ‘fine meal’ for honoured guests (  Genesis 18:6 ) or ‘fine flour’ for a king’s kitchen (  1 Kings 4:22 ) and the ritual meal-offerings.

The flour was then mixed with water and kneaded in the wooden basin or kneading-trough (  Exodus 8:3;   Exodus 12:34 ). In a case of urgency the dough was at once made into cakes and fired. These unleavened cakes were termed mazzoth and were alone permitted for the altar and during Passover and the immediately following Feast of Unleavened Cakes ( Mazzoth ). On ordinary occasions, however, a small lump of yesterday’s baking, which had been reserved for the purpose, was broken down and mixed with to-day’s ‘batch.’ The whole was then set aside for a few hours till thoroughly leavened (see Leaven).

Three modes of firing bread are found in OT, as in the East at the present day. ( a ) The first is represented by Elijah’s ‘cake baken on the hot stones’ (  1 Kings 19:5 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). A few flat stones are gathered together, and a fire lighted upon them. When the stones are sufficiently heated, the embers are raked aside, the cakes are laid on the stones and covered with the embers. After a little the ashes are again removed, the cake is turned (  Hosea 7:8 ) and once more covered. Presently the cake is ready. ( b ) In Syria and Arabia today a convex iron plate is much used, especially among the Bedouin. It is placed over a small fire-pit with the convex side uppermost, on which the cakes of dough are laid and fired. The Hebrew ‘baking-pan’ (  Leviticus 2:5;   Leviticus 7:9 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) must have resembled this species of iron ‘girdle.’ ( c ) The settled population, however, chiefly made use of one or other of the various kinds of oven, then as now called tannur . In one form, which may be termed the bowl-oven, since it consists of a large clay bowl inverted, with a movable lid, the heat is applied by heaping cattle dung, etc., on the outside . The cakes are baked on the heated stones covered by the oven. In other parts of the country the jar-oven is used. This is really a large earthenware jar which is heated by fuel, consisting of stubble (  Malachi 4:1 ), grass (  Matthew 6:30 ), dry twigs (  1 Kings 17:12 ) and the like, placed in the bottom of the jar. When the latter is thoroughly heated, the cakes are applied to the inside walls. From this type was developed the pit-oven, which was formed partly in the ground, partly built up of clay and plastered throughout, narrowing from the bottom upwards. Many of these pit-ovens have been discovered in the recent excavations. It is to the smoke issuing from one of these, while being heated, that the smoke of the ruined cities of the plain is compared in   Genesis 19:28 (EV [Note: English Version.] furnace , and often unnecessary rendering for ‘oven’). Such no doubt were the ovens of the professional bakers in the street named after them in Jerusalem (  Jeremiah 37:21 ).

Bread-making was at all times the special charge of the women of the household. Even when, as we have just seen, baking became a recognized industry, a large part of the baker’s work had been, as now in the East, merely to fire the bread baked by the women at home.

A considerable variety of bakemeats (  Genesis 40:17 , lit. ‘food, the work of the baker’) is met with in OT, but only in a few cases is it possible to identify their nature or form. The ordinary cake the loaf of OT and NT was round and fairly thick; such at least was the rolling ‘cake of barley bread’ of   Judges 7:13 . These cakes were always broken by the hand, never cut. A cake frequently used for ritual purposes (  Exodus 29:2 and often) seems, from its name, to have been pierced with holes like the modern Passover-cakes. The precise nature of the cracknels of   1 Kings 14:3 (Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘cakes’) is unknown. The wafer , often named in ritual passages (cf. also   Exodus 16:31 ), was evidently a very thin species of cake. For what may be called the pastry of the Hebrews, the curious in these matters are referred to the art. ‘Bakemeats’ in the Encyc. Bibl . col. 460 f.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [4]

 Genesis 49:20 (b) Here we find a figure of the profitable and useful things which occupy the life of this man. He took unto himself only those things which would make him worthwhile and useful. In our day we would say that he did not spend his time reading trash, watching worldly pictures, or gossiping with his neighbors. He was busy learning a multitude of interesting and profitable things which would be useful in his daily life.

 Numbers 14:9 (a) We are to learn here that the enemies of Israel would be easily whipped and would be consumed as bread is consumed by the hungry man.

 Judges 7:13 (b) This cake of barley bread represents Gideon who, though weak and lacking in military skill, would win a great victory for Israel and for GOD.

 1 Samuel 10:3 (c) Probably in this passage the Lord is referring to King Saul, that all his needs will be met by the Father, the Son and the Spirit which are represented by the three loaves. We know that Christ is the bread of life. We also understand that both the Father and the Spirit meet the heart hunger of the one who belongs to them. Certainly three loaves were more than Saul could eat at one meal, and he would have enough left over for future needs. It is a beautiful picture of the sufficiency that we find in the triune GOD.

 Psalm 80:5 (a) There are those who feed upon their sorrows. They continue to weep over former griefs. They meditate on their afflictions and talk about them to others. Because of Israel's disobedience, He permitted them to have plenty of tears, and plenty of cause for tears. They would not have GOD's comforting care.

 Proverbs 9:17 (b) This is probably a type of some sin or sins which at first seem pleasant and satisfying but afterwards result in punishment. (See also  Proverbs 20:17).

 Proverbs 31:27 (b) This probably represents those who think that it is sweet, good and profitable to sit around doing nothing. They are lazy and useless. GOD condemns this form of life.

 Ecclesiastes 11:1 (b) Here the figure is used to represent good desires, acts and words. As these are given out to the needy, a full reward will return to the one who is so doing even though it may be after a long time. The waters represent all kinds of people. As we do good to others the blessing will return upon our own heads in the coming days.

 Isaiah 30:20 (a) GOD makes trouble and sorrow to be like a loaf of bread. It must be eaten. We must partake of it as we journey through life. GOD sees that we have this loaf, and plenty of it. It should strengthen our faith, increase our confidence in GOD, and keep us from seeking to build a nest in any earthly tree.

 Isaiah 55:2 (a) The things that most people seek for and think that they will be satisfied when they obtain them, find that these are not bread at all, but only look like bread. CHRIST is the bread of GOD, nothing outside of Him, nothing that omits Him, can ever satisfy the need of the human heart and life. GOD the Father provides in the triune GOD that which is needed by the triune man, his body, soul and spirit. This truth is illustrated by the Lord Jesus in  Luke 11:11.

 Luke 11:3 (b) This must primarily refer to the physical bread which we eat, and which must be given to us through the kindness, wisdom and goodness of GOD. It may also refer to every other ministry from heaven which we need for the many exigencies that arise in our lives from day to day.

 Luke 11:11 (a) In our prayers we often ask for that which we think is good for us and will be a blessing to us. We go by the sight of our eyes and the reasonings of our minds in deciding what is best for us. The gracious Father in Heaven, however, knows exactly the condition and the character of that for which we ask. In some cases He sees that the thing we request is like a stone. It would not harm us, nor hurt us, but it would be of no value whatever to us. We could not eat it, we could not use it, we would not be blessed by it. For this reason, He has to say "no" to our request.

 John 6:33 (a) Throughout this chapter bread is typical of the Lord JESUS Himself. When He is received by faith into the heart, soul and life of a believer, He satisfies, gratifies, strengthens, blesses and gives life more abundant to those who feed upon Him and rejoice in His love and grace. It is not enough just to know about CHRIST, nor even to believe all that may be read about Him. The baker would die of starvation in the midst of his breads, cakes and pies if he did not eat them. It is the personal appropriation of the Lord JESUS that conveys and imparts eternal life to the soul.

 1 Corinthians 10:17 (a) This bread as a loaf represents the true Church of GOD on earth. As the loaf contains many grains (no one knows how many), so the Church contains many members, and no one knows how many. It is true, however, that the loaves contain nothing but wheat. No sand or cinders are there, no sticks or stones will be found there. GOD's true Church contains only true believers, saints of GOD. Man's churches contain all kinds of grain, and other substances. Gamblers, saloon keepers, liquor dealers, tobacco slaves, thieves, murderers, and all kinds of hypocrites may be found in man's organizations. GOD's true Church, however, contains, as members, only those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [5]

Lechem ( לֶחֶם , Strong'S #3899), “bread; meal; food; fruit.” This word has cognates in Ugaritic, Syriac, Aramaic, Phoenician, and Arabic. Lechem occurs about 297 times and at every period of biblical Hebrew. This noun refers to “bread,” as distinguished from meat. The diet of the early Hebrews ordinarily consisted of bread, meat, and liquids: “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 …” (Deut. 8:3). “Bread” was baked in loaves: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread …” (1 Sam. 2:36). Even when used by itself, lechem can signify a “loaf of bread”: “… They will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread …” (1 Sam. 10:4). In this usage, the word ialways preceded by a number. “Bread” was also baked in cakes (2 Sam. 6:19).A “bit of bread” is a term for a modest meal. So Abraham said to his three guests, “Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched … and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts …” (Gen. 18:4-5). In 1 Sam. 20:27, lechem represents an entire meal: “… Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor today?” Thus, “to make bread” may actually mean “to prepare a meal”: “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry …” (Eccl. 10:19). The “staff of bread” is the “support of life”: “And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied” (Lev. 26:26). The Bible refers to the “bread of the face” or “the bread of the Presence,” which was the bread constantly set before God in the holy place of the tabernacle or temple: “And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before me always” (Exod. 25:30).

In several passages, lechem represents the grain from which “bread” is made: “And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all the lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread” (Gen. 41:54). The meaning “grain” is very clear in 2 Kings 18:32: “Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.…”

Lechem can represent food in general. In Gen. 3:19 (the first biblical occurrence), it signifies the entire diet: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.…” This nuance may include meat, as it does in Judg. 13:15-16: “And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread.…” In 1 Sam. 14:24, 28, lechem includes honey, and in Prov. 27:27 goat’s milk.

Lechem may also represent “food” for animals: “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry” (Ps. 147:9; cf. Prov. 6:8). Flesh and grain offered to God are called “the bread of God”: “… For the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer …” (Lev. 21:6; cf. 22:13).

There are several special or figurative uses of lechem  ! The “bread” of wickedness is “food” gained by wickedness: “For [evil men] eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence” (Prov. 4:17). Compare the “bread” or “food” gained by deceit (Prov. 20:17) and lies (23:3). Thus, in Prov. 31:27 the good wife “looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness”—i.e., unearned food. The “bread of my portion” is the food that one earns (Prov. 30:8).

Figuratively, men are the “food” or prey for their enemies: “Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us …” (Num. 14:9). The Psalmist in his grief says his tears are his “food” (Ps. 42:3). Evil deeds are likened to food: "[The evil man’s] meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him” (Job 20:14). In Jer. 11:19, lechem represents “fruit from a tree” and is a figure of a man and his offspring: “… And I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.”

Matstsâh ( מַצָּה , Strong'S #4682), “unleavened bread.” This noun occurs 54 times, all but 14 of them in the Pentateuch. The rest of the occurrences are in prose narratives or in Ezekiel’s discussion of the new temple (Ezek. 45:21). In the ancient Orient, household bread was prepared by adding fermented dough to the kneading trough and working it through the fresh dough. Hastily made bread omitted the fermented (leavened) dough: Lot “made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat” (Gen. 19:3). In this case, the word represents bread hastily prepared for unexpected guests. The feasts of Israel often involved the use of unleavened bread, perhaps because of the relationship between fermentation, rotting, and death (Lev. 2:4ff.), or because unleavened bread reminded Jews of the hasty departure from Egypt and the rigors of the wilderness march.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [6]

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 bread."

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 for themselves.

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

Ingredients A course meal was ground from wheat ( Genesis 30:14 ) or barley ( John 6:9 ,John 6:9, 6:13 ). American corn was unknown. (The use of the word in the KJV is a “Britishism” meaning grain in general.) Barley bread was less appetizing but also less expensive and therefore common among the poor. Grinding was done by a mortar and pestle or with millstones turned by an animal or human being ( Numbers 11:8;  Matthew 24:41 ). For special occasions and for offerings a fine flour was ground ( Genesis 18:6;  Leviticus 2:7 ). The meal or flour was mixed with water, salt, sometimes leaven or yeast, sometimes olive oil, and rarely with other cereals and vegetables ( Ezekiel 4:9 ) and then was kneaded ( Exodus 12:34 ).

Baking Baking was usually the work of wives ( Genesis 18:6 ) or daughters ( 2 Samuel 13:8 ), although in wealthy households it was done by slaves. Large cities or the royal court had professional bakers ( Genesis 40:2;  Jeremiah 37:21 ). There were three means of baking: on heated rocks with the dough being covered with ashes ( 1 Kings 19:6 ); on a clay or iron griddle or pan ( Leviticus 2:5 ); and in a clay or iron oven ( Leviticus 2:4 ). Most bread that was so baked had the appearance of a disk ( Judges 7:13 ) about one-half inch thick and twelve inches in diameter. Some was perforated. Some had a hole in the middle for storing or carrying on a pole. Some was heart-shaped (the word for cakes in 2Samuel 13:6,2Samuel 13:8, 2 Samuel 13:10 literally means heart-shaped). Some took the shape of a small modern loaf (suggested by the arrangement of the Bread of Presence). Bread was broken or torn, not cut.

Use In addition to being used as a staple food, bread was used as an offering to God ( Leviticus 2:4-10 ). It was used in the tabernacle and Temple to symbolize the presence of God ( Exodus 25:23-30;  Leviticus 24:5-9 ). Bread was also used in the Old Testament to symbolize such things as an enemy to be consumed ( Numbers 14:9 , Kjv, Rsv ) the unity of a group ( 1 Kings 18:19 ), hospitality ( Genesis 19:3 ), and wisdom ( Proverbs 9:5 ). It is prefixed to such things as idleness ( Proverbs 31:27 ), wickedness ( Proverbs 4:17 ), and adversity ( Isaiah 30:20 ). In the New Testament it symbolizes Jesus Christ Himself ( John 6:35 ), His body ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 ), His kingdom ( Luke 14:15 ), and the unity of His church ( 1 Corinthians 10:17 ).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

A word which in Scripture is often put for food in general,  Genesis 3:19   18:5   28:20   Exodus 2:20   Leviticus 11:3 . Manna is called bread from heaven,  Exodus 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,  Exodus 12:34   Hosea 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  Ezekiel 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,  Leviticus 2:1-16 . 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,  Jeremiah 37:21   Hosea 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,  Lamentations 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,  Exodus 25:30; twelve cakes of unleavened bread, offered with salt and frankincense,  Leviticus 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,  1 Samuel 21:1-6; and our Savior quotes his example to justify the disciples, who had bruised ears of corn, and were eating them on the Sabbath-day.  Matthew 12:1 -  4 .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [9]

1: Ἄρτος (Strong'S #740 — Noun Masculine — artos — ar'-tos )

"bread" (perhaps derived from aro, "to fit together," or from a root ar---, "the earth"), signifies (a) "a small loaf or cake," composed of flour and water, and baked, in shape either oblong or round, and about as thick as the thumb; these were not cut, but broken and were consecrated to the Lord every Sabbath and called the "shewbread" (loaves of presentation),  Matthew 12:4; when the "shewbread" was reinstituted by Nehemiah ( Nehemiah 10:32 ) a poll-tax of 1/3 shekel was laid on the Jews,  Matthew 17:24; (b) "the loaf at the Lord's Supper," e.g.,  Matthew 26:26 ("Jesus took a loaf," RV, marg.); the breaking of "bread" became the name for this institution,   Acts 2:42;  20:7;  1—Corinthians 10:16;  11:23; (c) "bread of any kind,"  Matthew 16:11; (d) metaphorically, "of Christ as the Bread of God, and of Life,"  John 6:33,35; (e) "food in general," the necessities for the sustenance of life,  Matthew 6:11;  2—Corinthians 9:10 , etc.

2: Ἄζυμος (Strong'S #106 — Adjective — azumos — ad'-zoo-mos )

denotes "unleavened bread," i.e., without any process of fermentation; hence, metaphorically, "of a holy, spiritual condition,"  1—Corinthians 5:7 , and of "sincerity and truth" ( 1—Corinthians 5:8 ). With the article it signifies the feast of unleavened bread,  Matthew 26:17;  Mark 14:1,12;  Luke 22:1,7;  Acts 12:3;  20:6 .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [10]

Bread. The preparation of bread, as an article of food, dates from a very early period.  Genesis 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.  John 6:9;  John 6:13;  Isaiah 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.  Exodus 12:34,39;  2 Samuel 13:3;  Jeremiah 7:18.

When the kneading was completed, leaven was generally added See 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. ( Genesis 18:6;  Genesis 19:3;  Exodus 12:39;  Judges 6:19;  1 Samuel 28:24.

The leavened mass was allowed to stand for some time,  Matthew 13:33;  Luke 13:21,

the dough was then , divided into round cakes,  Exodus 29:23;  Judges 7:13;  Judges 8:5;  1 Samuel 10:3;  Proverbs 6:26, not unlike flat stones, in shape and appearance,  Matthew 7:9, compare  Matthew 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,  1 Kings 17:12;  Isaiah 44:15;  Jeremiah 7:18, or dried grass and flower-stalks.  Matthew 6:30.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

Sometimes bread is spoken of in Scripture in the common acceptation of it, as the staff of natural life, but more frequently it is used in figure, by way of allusion to the Lord Jesus and the life in him. Jesus calls himself "the living bread, and the bread of God;" to intimate, that as the natural man is sustained day by day, life kept up and preserved by receiving the common bread for the body, so the spiritual life in Jesus is wholly supported by communications from Jesus, and life in Jesus. "Whosoever eateth of him shall live for ever." ( John 6:32-58)

The shew bread of the Old Testament was of Christ. It consisted of twelve loaves made without leaven, to intimate that there is nothing leavened in Christ. The shew bread was placed new upon the golden altar. Christ is our New Testament altar; and all offerings must be offered upon the golden altar of his mediatorial nature. The shew bread was placed there every Sabbath. Christ is our Sabbath, and the rest the wherewith the Lord causeth "the weary to rest, and their refreshing." (See  Exodus 25:30;  Isaiah 28:12;  Psalms 116:7;  Matthew 11:28) It may not be improper to add, that the term shew bread meant the bread of faces; and, probably, it was so called, because offered in the presence of the Lord, and placed before him on the table. The Israelites called all their loaves by the name of Huggath.

The unleavened bread of the passover, there is particular mention made of it,  Exodus 12:8. And concerning leavened bread, with which the blood of the sacrifice was never to be offered, what a beautiful type was this of the untainted, pure offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all. No altar but that of earth, (because the earth is the Lord's,) was to be made for offering. If but a tool was lifted up upon the altar of earth, or stone, the whole was polluted. ( Exodus 23:18; Exo 20:24-25) And is it not the same now in the believer's offerings in Jesus? When in commemoration of the Lord's supper we partake of the bread and wine, as tokens of the body and blood of Christ, would it not be a pollution to leaven this solemn service with any thing of ours? Is not Christ all and in all?

Easton's Bible Dictionary [12]

 Exodus 29:2 Judges 6:19 Genesis 14:18 Judges 7:13 Ruth 2:14

Bread was prepared by kneading in wooden bowls or "kneading troughs" ( Genesis 18:6;  Exodus 12:34;  Jeremiah 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 ( Exodus 12:15-20;  Deuteronomy 16:3 ). In the towns there were public ovens, which were much made use of for baking bread; there were also bakers by trade ( Hosea 7:4;  Jeremiah 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 ( 1 Kings 19:6 ). This was probably the mode in which Sarah prepared bread on the occasion referred to in  Genesis 18:6 .

In  Leviticus 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 (  Exodus 25:30;  Leviticus 24:8;  1 Samuel 21:1-6;  Matthew 12:4 ).

The word bread is used figuratively in such expressions as "bread of sorrows" ( Psalm 127:2 ), "bread of tears" (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" ( Proverbs 4:17 ) and "of deceit" (20:17) denote in like manner that wickedness and deceit are a part of the daily life.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [13]

Constantly referred to as the sustenance of man, though animal food may be included, and thus it stands for 'food' in general.  Genesis 3:19;  Ruth 1:6;  Psalm 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.  Genesis 18:6;  Genesis 19:3;  1 Samuel 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,  Leviticus 6:16,17; and for the seven days' feast connected with the Passover, often referred to as 'the Feast of Unleavened Bread,'  Exodus 34:18;  2 Chronicles 8:13;  Luke 22:1;  1 Corinthians 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.  John 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.  Leviticus 24:5-9 . It is literally 'face or presence bread;'  Exodus 25:30; and 'bread of arrangement' or 'ordering,' as in the margin of  1 Chronicles 9:32; and in the N.T. 'bread of presentation.'  Matthew 12:4;  Hebrews 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.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [14]

To people in Bible times, bread was a basic part of the daily food. In everyday speech they often spoke of food in general as bread ( Psalms 37:25;  Proverbs 31:27;  Ecclesiastes 9:7;  Isaiah 30:20;  Matthew 6:11;  2 Thessalonians 3:8). (For details concerning the common bread of the people see Food . For the use of leaven in bread and for its symbolism in Israelite religion see Leaven ; Passover . For the meaning of the ‘presence bread’ in the tabernacle see Tabernacle .)

Manna, that unusual food that God provided for the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to Canaan, was known as ‘bread from heaven’ ( Exodus 16:4;  John 6:31; see Manna ). Jesus spoke of this bread as a picture of himself, the true bread from heaven. He came from God as God’s provision for the world’s spiritually needy people. He alone can bring salvation, and he alone can guarantee believers victory over death ( John 6:32-40). This provision of salvation through Jesus is possible only because Jesus gave himself in sacrifice. By accepting the benefits of this sacrifice for themselves by faith, people can have eternal life ( John 6:48-58).

Jesus also used literal bread as a symbol of his sacrifice. He told his disciples to eat bread and drink wine together, as a remembrance of him and as an expression of their unity with him and with one another ( Matthew 26:26-29;  1 Corinthians 10:16;  1 Corinthians 11:23-26; see Fellowship; Lord’S Supper )

People's Dictionary of the Bible [15]

Bread (Bred ).  Genesis 14:18. The bread of the better class of Jews was generally made of wheat; barley and other grains were sometimes used.  Judges 7:13. The materials were prepared as in modern times in the East. The process of kneading it was performed in kneading-troughs,  Genesis 18:6;  Exodus 12:34;  Jeremiah 7:18, or wooden bowls, such as the Arabians use at this day for a like purpose. It has been supposed by some that the kneading was done upon a circular piece of leather, such as is now used in Persia, and which would be more properly called a kneading-bag, as it draws up like a knapsack. Either of the utensils would be easily transported. Very simple leaven was used in the dough. The loaves were shaped like a plate, and, when leavened, were ordinarily of the thickness of one's little finger. The unleavened bread was very thin, and was broken, not cut.  Lamentations 4:4;  Matthew 14:19;  Matthew 15:36;  Matthew 26:26. It has been said that the thickness or thinness of the loaves was regulated by the time they were to be kept; that which was to be kept longest being made thick, that it might retain its moisture. This is contrary to modern philosophy on this subject, as we see in the manufacture of ship bread For the mode of baking see Oven. The term bread is often used for food or provisions in general.

King James Dictionary [16]

BREAD, n. bred. Gr. anything esculent. If the word signifies food in general, or that which is eaten, probably it is the Heb. and Ch., from barah, to eat or feed.

1. A mass of dough, made by moistening and kneading the flour or meal of some species of grain, and baked in an oven, or pan. 2. Food in general.

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.

 Genesis 3

Give us this day our daily bread. Lord's Prayer.

3. Support of like in general maintenance.

Is the reward of virtue, bread?

Bee-bread. See Bee.

Ship-bread, bread for ships hard biscuits.

Cassada-bread. See Cassada.

BREAD, To spread. Not used.

Webster's Dictionary [17]

(1): (n.) An article of food made from flour or meal by moistening, kneading, and baking.

(2): (n.) Food; sustenance; support of life, in general.

(3): (a.) To spread.

(4): (v. t.) To cover with bread crumbs, preparatory to cooking; as, breaded cutlets.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [18]

( לֶחֶם , Le'Chem; Ἄρτος .), a word of far more extensive meaning among the Hebrews than at present 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. The preparation of bread as an article of food dates from a very early period: it must not, however, be inferred from the use of the word lechem in  Genesis 3:19 (" bread," A. V.) that it was known at the time of the fall, the word there occurring in its general sense Of Food: the earliest undoubted instance of its use is found in  Genesis 18:6.

1.' Materials. The corn or grain ( שֵׁבֶר , She'Ber, דָּנָן , Dagan') employed was of various sorts: the best bread was made of wheat, which, after being ground, produced the "flour" or "meal" ( קֶמִח , Ke'Mach; Ἄλευρον ;  Judges 6:19;  1 Samuel 1:24;  1 Kings 4:22;  1 Kings 17:12;  1 Kings 17:14), and when sifted the "fine flour" ( סֹלֶת , So'Leth, more fully סֹלֶת חַטַּים ,  Exodus 29:2; or קֶמִח סֹלֶת ,  Genesis 18:6; Σεμίδαλις ) usually employed in the sacred offerings ( Exodus 29:40;  Leviticus 2:1;  Ezekiel 46:14), and in the meals of the wealthy ( 1 Kings 4:22;  2 Kings 7:1;  Ezekiel 16:13;  Ezekiel 16:19;  Revelation 18:13). "Barley" was used only by the very poor ( John 6:9;  John 6:18), or in times of scarcity ( Ruth 3:15, compared with 1:1;  2 Kings 4:38;  2 Kings 4:42;  Revelation 6:6; Joseph. War, v, 10, 2): as it was the food of horses ( 1 Kings 4:28), it was considered a symbol of what was mean and insignificant ( Judges 7:13; comp. Joseph. Ant. v, 6, 4, Μάζαν Κριθίνην , Ὑπ᾿ Εὐτελείας Ἀνθρώποις Ἄβρωτον ; Liv. 27:13). as well as of what was of a mere animal character, and hence ordered for the offering of jealousy ( Numbers 5:15; comp.  Hosea 3:2; Philo, ii, 307). "Spelt" ( כֻּסֶּמֶת , Kusse'Meth; Ὄλυρα , Ζέα; V. rye, fitches, spelt) was also used both in Egypt ( Exodus 9:32) and Palestine ( Isaiah 28:25;  Ezekiel 4:9;  1 Kings 19:6; Sept. Ἐλκρυφίας Ὀλυρίτης ): Herodotus I indeed states (ii. 36) that in the former country bread was made exclusively of olyra, which, as in the Sept., he identifies with zea; but in this he was mistaken, as wheat was also used ( Exodus 9:32; comp. Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. ii, 397). Occasionally the grains above mentioned were mixed, and other ingredients, such as beans, lentils, and millet, were added ( Ezekiel 4:9; comp.  2 Samuel 17:28); the bread so produced is called "barley cakes" ( Ezekiel 4:12; A. V. "As barley cakes"), inasmuch as barley was the main ingredient. The amount of meal required for a single baking was an ephah or three measures ( Genesis 18:6;  Judges 6:19;  1 Samuel 1:24;  Matthew 13:33), which appears to have been suited to the size of the ordinary oven. Grain is ground daily in the East. (See Mill).

2. Preparation. After the wheaten flour is taken from the hand-mill, it is made into a dough or paste in a small wooden trough. (See Kneading- Trough). The process of making bread was as follows: the flour was first mixed with water, or perhaps milk (Burckhardt's Notes On The Bedouins, i, 58); it was then kneaded ( לוּשׁ ) with the hands (in Egypt with the feet also; Herod. ii, 36; Wilkinson, ii, 386) in a small wooden bowl or "kneading- trough" ( מַשְׁאֶרֶת , Mishe'Reth, a term which may, however, rather refer to the leathern bag in which the Bedouins carry their provisions, and which serves both as a wallet and a table; Niebuhr's Voyage, i, 171; Harmer, 4:366 sq.; the Sept. inclines to this view, giving Ἐγκαταλείμματα [A. V. "store"] in  Deuteronomy 28:5;  Deuteronomy 28:17; the expression in  Exodus 12:34, however, "bound up in their clothes," favors the idea of a wooden bowl), until it became dough ( בָּצֵק , Batsek'; Σταῖς ,  Exodus 12:34;  Exodus 12:39;  2 Samuel 13:8;  Jeremiah 6:18;  Hosea 7:4; the term "dough" is improperly given in the A. V. for עֲרַיסוֹת , Grits, in  Numbers 15:20-21;  Nehemiah 10:37;  Ezekiel 44:30). When the kneading was completed, leaven ( שְׂאֹר , Seor'; Ζύμη ) was generally added; 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 ( Genesis 18:6;  Genesis 19:3;  Exodus 12:39;  Judges 6:19;  1 Samuel 28:24). (See Leaven).

Such cakes were termed מִצּוֹת , Matstsoth (Sept. Ἄζυμα ), a word of doubtful sense, variously supposed to convey the ideas of Thinness (Fiirst, Lex. s.v. ), Sweetness (Gesen. Thesaur. p. 815), or Purity (Knobel, Comm. In  Exodus 12:20), while leavened bread was called חָמֵוֹ , chamets' (lit. Sharpened or Soured;  Exodus 12:39;  Hosea 7:4). Unleavened cakes were ordered to be eaten at the Passover to commemorate the hastiness of the departure ( Exodus 12:15;  Exodus 13:3;  Exodus 13:7;  Deuteronomy 16:3), as well as on other sacred occasions ( Leviticus 2:11;  Leviticus 6:16;  Numbers 6:15). The leavened mass was allowed to stand for some time ( Matthew 13:33;  Luke 13:21), sometimes for a whole night ("their baker sleepeth all the night,"  Hosea 7:6), exposed to a moderate heat in order to forward the fermentation (" he ceaseth from Stirring" [ מֵעַיר A. V. "raising"] the fire " until it be leavened,"  Hosea 7:4). The dough was then divided into round cakes ( כַּכְּרוֹת לֶחֶם , lit. circles of bread; Ἄρτοι ; '''A.''' V "loaves;"  Exodus 29:23;  Judges 8:5;  1 Samuel 10:3;  Proverbs 6:26; in  Judges 7:13, i, צְלוּל , , Μαγίς ), not unlike flat stones in shape and appearance ( Matthew 7:9; comp. 4:3), about a span in diameter and a finger's breadth in thickness (comp. Lane's Modern Egyptians, i, 164): three of these were required for the meal of a single person ( Luke 11:5), and consequently one was barely sufficient to sustain life ( 1 Samuel 2:36, A. V. "morsel;"  Jeremiah 37:21, A. V. "piece"), whence the expression לֶחֶם לִחִוֹ , "bread of affliction" ( 1 Kings 22:27;  Isaiah 30:20), referring not to the quality (Pane Plebeio, Grotius), but to the quantity; two hundred would suffice for a party for a reasonable time ( 1 Samuel 25:18;  2 Samuel 16:1). The cakes were Sometimes Punctured, and hence called חִלָּה chalah' ( Κολλυρίς ;  Exodus 29:2;  Exodus 29:23;  Leviticus 2:4;  Leviticus 8:26;  Leviticus 24:5;  Numbers 15:20;  2 Samuel 6:19), and mixed with oil. Similar cakes, sprinkled with seeds, were made in Egypt (Wilkinson, ii, 386). Sometimes they were rolled out into wafers ( רָקַיק , rakik'; Λάγανον ;  Exodus 29:2;  Exodus 29:23;  Leviticus 2:4;  Numbers 6:15-19), and merely coated with oil. Oil was occasionally added to the ordinary cake ( 1 Kings 17:12). A more delicate kind of cake is described in  2 Samuel 13:6;  2 Samuel 13:8;  2 Samuel 13:10; the dough (A. V. "flour") is kneaded a second time, and probably fried in fat, as seems to be implied in the name לְבַיבוֹת , Lebiboth', q. d. Dough-Nuts (from לָבִב , to Befaet, kindred with לֵבָב , Heart; compare our expression Hearty food; Sept. Κολλυρίδες ; Vulg. Sorbitiunculce). (See below.)

3. Baking. The cakes were now taken to the oven; having been first, according to the practice in Egypt, gathered into " white baskets" ( Genesis 40:16), סִלֵּי חֹרַי , Salley' Chori', a doubtful expression, referred by some to the whiteness of the bread (Sept. Κανᾶ Χονδριτῶν ; Aquil. Κὀφινοι Γύρεως ; Vulg. Canistra Farina), by others, as in the A. V., to the whiteness of the baskets, and again, by connecting the word חֹרַי with the idea of a hole, to an open-work basket (margin, A. V.), or, lastly, to bread baked in a hole. The baskets were placed on a tray and carried on the baker's head ( Genesis 40:16; Herod. ii, 35; Wilkinson, ii, 386). (See Basket).

The baking was done in primitive times by the mistress of the house ( Genesis 18:6) or one of the daughters ( 2 Samuel 13:8); female servants were, however, employed in large households ( 1 Samuel 8:13): it appears always to have been the proper business of women in a family ( Jeremiah 7:18;  Jeremiah 44:19;  Matthew 13:33; comp. Plin. 18:11, 28). Baking, as a profession, was carried on by men ( Hosea 7:4;  Hosea 7:6). In Jerusalem the bakers congregated in one quarter of the town, as we may infer from the name "bakers' street" ( Jeremiah 37:21), and "tower of the ovens" ( Nehemiah 3:11;  Nehemiah 12:38); A. V. "furnaces." In the time of the Herods, bakers were scattered throughout the towns of Palestine (Joseph. Ant. 15: 9, 2). As the bread was made in thin cakes, which soon became dry and unpalatable, it was usual to bake daily, or when required ( Genesis 18:6; comp. Harmer's Observations, i, 483): reference is perhaps made to this in the Lord's prayer ( Matthew 6:11;  Luke 11:3). The bread taken by persons on a journey ( Genesis 45:23;  Joshua 9:12) was probably a kind of biscuit. (See Bake).

The methods of baking ( אָפָה , Aphah') were, and still are, very various in the East, adapted to the various styles of life. 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 possessed a portable oven ( תִנּוּר , Tannur'; Κλίβανος ), consisting of a stone or metal jar about three feet high, which was heated inwardly with wood ( 1 Kings 17:12;  Isaiah 44:15;  Jeremiah 7:18) or dried grass and flower-stalks ( Χόρτος ,  Matthew 6:30); when the fire had burned down, the cakes were applied either inwardly (Herod. ii, 92) or outwardly: such ovens were used by the Egyptians (Wilkinson, ii, 385), and by the Easterns of Jeronme's time (Comment. in Lam. v, 10), and are still common among the Bedouins (Wellsted's Travels, i, 350; Niebuhr's Descript. de I'Arabie, p. 45, 46). The use of a single oven by several families only took place in time of famine ( Leviticus 26:26). Another species of oven consisted of a hole dug in the ground, the sides of which were coated with clay and the bottom with pebbles (Harmer, i, 487). Jahn (Archaol. i, 9, § 140) thinks that this oven is referred to in the term כַירִיַם , Kira'Yim ( Leviticus 11:35); but the dual number is an objection to this view; the term חֹרַי above ( Genesis 40:16) has also been referred to it. (See Oven).

Other modes of baking were specially adapted to the migratory habits of the pastoral Jews, as of the modern Bedouins; the cakes were either spread upon stones, which were previously heated by lighting a fire above them (Burckhardt's Notes, i, 58) or beneath them (Belzoni's Travels, p. 84); or they were thrown into the heated embers of the fire itself (Wellsted's Travels, i, 350; Niebuhr, Descript. p. 46); or, lastly, they were roasted by being placed between layers of dung, which burns slowly, and is therefore specially adapted for the purpose ( Ezra 4:12;  Ezra 4:15; Burckhardt's Notes, i, 57; Niebuhr's Descript. p. 46). The terms by which such cakes were described were עֻגָּה , Uggah ( Genesis 18:6;  Exodus 12:39;  1 Kings 17:13;  Ezra 4:12;  Hosea 7:8), מָעוֹג , ( 1 Kings 17:12;  Psalms 35:16), or more fully עֻגִּת רְצָפַים ., Uggath' Retsaphin ( 1 Kings 19:6, lit. on the stones,' "coals," A. V ), the term עֻגָּה referring, however, not to the mode of baking, but to the Rounded shape of the cake (Gesen. Thesaur. p. 997): the equivalent terms in the Sept. Ἐγκρυφίας , and in the Vulg. Subcizericius Panis, have direct reference to the peculiar mode of baking.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [19]

bred ( לחם , leḥem  ; ἄρτος , ártos ):

I. Dietary Preëminence

II. Materials

1. Barley

2. Wheat

3. Three Kinds of Flour

III. Bread-Making

1. Grinding

2. Kneading

3. Baking

(1) Hot Stones

(2) Baking Pans

4. Ovens

(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

1. Sanctity

2. Symbolism


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 4/Preëminence

(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  Genesis 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" ( Matthew 14:15 ).

II. Materials

1. Barley

Barley was in early times, as it is today, the main bread-stuff of the Palestine peasantry (see  Judges 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  John 6:13 , where the multitude were fed on the miraculous increase of the "five barley loaves," and compare Josephus, BJ , V, x, 2).

2. Wheat

But wheat , also, was widely used as a breadstuff then, as it is now, the wheat of the Syrian plains and uplands being remarkable for its nutritious and keeping qualities.

3. Three Kinds of Flour

Three kinds, or qualities, of flour, are distinguished, according to the way of making: (1) a coarser sort, rudely made by the use of pestle and mortar, the "beaten corn" of  Leviticus 2:14 ,  Leviticus 2:16 (the Revised Version (British and American) " bruised "); (2) The "flour" or "meal" of ordinary use ( Exodus 29:2;  Leviticus 2:2;  Leviticus 6:15 ), and (3) The "fine meal" for honored guests (see  Genesis 18:6 , where Abraham commands Sarah to "make ready ... Three measures of fine meal") with which we may compare the "fine flour" for the king's kitchen ( 1 Kings 4:22 ) and the "fine flour" required for the ritual meal offering, as in  Leviticus 2:1;  Leviticus 5:11;  Leviticus 7:12;  Leviticus 14:10;  Leviticus 23:13;  Leviticus 24:5; etc.

III. Bread-Making

1. Grinding

After thoroughly sifting and cleaning the grain, the first step in the process was to reduce it to "meal" or "flour" by rubbing, pounding, or grinding. (In  Numbers 11:8 it is said of the manna "The people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in mortars.") It has been shown that by a process, which is not yet extinct in Egypt, it was customary to rub the grain between two the "corn-rubbers" or "corn grinders," of which many specimens have been found by Petrie, Bliss, Macalister and others, at Lachish, Gezer and elsewhere ( PEFS , 1902, 326; 1903, 118; compare Erman, Egypt , 180, for illustrations of actual use). For detailed descriptions of the other processes, see Mortar; Mill .

2. Kneading

The "flour" was then ordinarily mixed simply with water, kneaded in a wooden basin or kneading-trough ( Exodus 8:3 ) and, in case of urgency, at once made into "cakes" and baked. (See  Exodus 12:34 , "And the people took their dough before it was leavened.") The Hebrews called such cakes maccōth , and they were the only kind allowed for use on the altar during Passover, and immediately following the Feast of Unleavened Bread (also called Maccōth ). Commonly however the process was as follows: a lump of leavened dough of yesterday's baking, preserved for the purpose, was broken up and mixed with the day's "batch," and the whole was then set aside and left standing until it was thoroughly leavened (see Leaven ).

3. Baking

We find in the Old Testament, as in the practice of the East today, three modes of firing or baking bread:

(1) Hot Stones

That represented by Elijah's cake baked on the hot stones ( 1 Kings 19:6 the Revised Version, margin; compare "the cakes upon the hearth,"   Genesis 18:6 the King James Version, and see Robinson, Researches , II, 406). The stones were laid together and a fire was lighted upon them. When the stones were well heated the cinders were raked off, and the cakes laid on the stones and covered with ashes. After a while the ashes were again removed and the cake was turned (see  Hosea 7:8 ) and once more covered with the glowing ashes. It was Thus cooked on both sides evenly and made ready for eating (compare the Vulgate, Panis subcineraris , and DeLagarde, Symmicta , II, 188, where ἐγκουθία , egkouthı́a , is referred to as "the hiding" of the cakes under the ashes). Out of these primitive usages of the pastoral tribes and peasants grew other improved forms of baking.

(2) Baking Pans

An ancient method of baking, prevalent still among the Bedouin of Syria and Arabia, is to employ a heated convex iron plate, or griddle, what we would call a frying pan, in lieu of the heated sand or stones. The Hebrew "baking-pan" (מחבת , maḥăbhath ,  Leviticus 2:5;  Leviticus 7:9; compare  Ezekiel 4:3 ) must have been of this species of "griddle." The reference in  1 Chronicles 9:31 is probably to bread baked in this way. There it is said that one of the sons of the priests "had the office of trust over the things that were baked in pans."

4. Ovens

תּנּוּר , tannūr (compare Arabic), no doubt were used by the Hebrews, when they settled in Palestine, as they were used by the settled populations of the Orient in general, more and more as they approached civilized conditions. These "ovens" were of various kinds:

(1) The Bowl-Oven

The simplest used by the ancients were hardly more primitive than the kind quite commonly used in Palestine today. It may be called the "bowl-oven." It consists of a large clay-bowl, which is provided with a movable lid. This bowl is placed inverted upon small stones and then heated with a fuel distinctly oriental, consisting of dried dung heaped over and around it. The bread is baked on the stones, then covered by the inverted oven, which is heated by the firing of the fuel of dung on the outside of the cover.

(2) The Jar-Oven

The jar-oven is another form of oven found in use there today. This is a large earthen-ware jar that is heated by fuel of grass (  Matthew 6:30 ), stubble ( Malachi 4:1 ), dry twigs or thorns ( 1 Kings 17:12 ) and the like, which are placed within the jar for firing. When the jar is Thus heated the cakes are stuck upon the hot inside walls.

(3) The Pit-Oven

The pit-oven was doubtless a development from this type. It was formed partly in the ground and partly built up of clay and plastered throughout, narrowing toward the top. The ancient Egyptians, as the monuments and mural paintings show, laid the cakes upon the outside of the oven (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians ); but in Palestine, in general, if the customs of today are conclusive, the fire was kindled in the inside of the pit-oven. Great numbers of such ovens have been unearthed in recent excavations, and we may well believe them to be exact counterparts of the oven of the professional bakers in the street named after them in Jerusalem "the bakers' street" ( Jeremiah 37:21 ). The largest and most developed form of oven is still the public oven of the town or city of this sort; but the primitive rural types still survive, and the fuel of thorns, and of the grass, "which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven," are still in evidence.

5. Forms of Baked Bread

(1) The large pone or thick, light loaf of the West is unknown in the East. The common oriental cake or loaf is proverbially thin. The thin home-made bread is really named both in Hebrew and Arabic from its thinness as is reflected in the translation "wafer" in  Exodus 16:31;  Exodus 29:23;  Leviticus 8:26;  Numbers 6:19;  1 Chronicles 23:29 . Such bread was called in Hebrew rāḳı̄ḳ (רקיק , rāḳı̄ḳ  ; compare modern Arabic warkûk , from warak = "foliage," "paper").

(2) It is still significantly customary at a Syrian meal to take a piece of such bread and, with the ease and skill of long habit, to fold it over at the end held in the hand so as to make a sort of spoon of it, which then is eaten along with whatever is lifted by it out of the common dish (compare  Matthew 26:23 ). But this "dipping in the common dish" is so accomplished as not to allow the contents of the dish to be touched by the fingers, or by anything that has been in contact with the lips of those who sit at meat (compare Mackie, DCG , article "Bread").

(3) Such "loaves" are generally today about 7 inches in diameter and from half an inch to an inch thick. Such, probably, were the lad's "barley loaves" brought to Christ at the time of the feeding of the 5,000 ( John 6:9 ,  John 6:13 ). Even thinner cakes, of both leavened and unleavened bread, are sometimes made now, as of old, especially at times of religious festivals. Often they are coated on the upper surface with olive oil and take on a glossy brown color in cooking; and sometimes they are sprinkled over with aromatic seeds, which adhere and impart a spicy flavor. They may well recall to us the "oiled bread" of  Leviticus 8:26 and "the wafers anointed with oil" of   Exodus 29:2 and   Leviticus 2:4 .

(4) Sometimes large discs of dough about 1 inch thick and 8 inches in diameter are prepared and laid in rows on long, thin boards like canoe paddles, and Thus inserted into the oven; then, by a quick, deft jerk of the hand, they are slipped off upon the hot pavement and baked. These are so made and baked that when done they are soft and flexible, and for this reason are preferred by many to the thinner cakes which are cooked stiff and brown.

(5) The precise nature of the cracknels of   1 Kings 14:3 (the American Standard Revised Version "cakes") is not known. A variety of bakemeats (  Genesis 40:17 , literally "food, the work of the baker") are met with in the Old Testament, but only in a few cases is it possible or important to identify their nature or forms (see Encyclopedia Bibl , coll. 460 f). A cake used for ritual purposes ( Exodus 29:2 and often) seems, from its name, to have been pierced with holes, like the modern Passover cakes (compare Kennedy, 1-vol HDB , article "Bread").

6. Work for Women

( a ) Every oriental household of importance seems to have had its own oven, and bread-making for the most part was in the hands of the women. Even when and where baking, as under advancing civilization, became a recognized public industry, and men were the professional bakers, a large part of the baker's work, as is true today, was to fire the bread prepared and in a sense pre-baked by the women at home. ( b ) The women of the East are often now seen taking a hand in sowing, harvesting and winnowing the grain, as well as in the processes of "grinding" ( Ecclesiastes 12:3;  Matthew 24:41;  Luke 17:35 ), "kneading" ( Genesis 18:6;  1 Samuel 28:24;  2 Samuel 13:8;  Jeremiah 7:18 ) and "baking" ( 1 Samuel 8:13 ), and doubtless it was so in ancient times to an equal extent.

IV. Sanctity and Symbolism of Bread

1. Sanctity

It would seem that the sanctity of bread remains as unchanged in the Orient as the sanctity of shrines and graves (compare Mackie, DCG , article "Bread," and Robinson's Researches ). As in Egypt everything depended for life on the Nile, and as the Nile was considered "sacred," so in Palestine, as everything depended upon the wheat and barley harvest, "bread" was in a peculiar sense "sacred." The psychology of the matter seems to be about this: all life was seen to be dependent upon the grain harvest, this in turn depended upon rain in its season, and so bread, the product at bottom of these Divine processes, was regarded as peculiarly "a gift of God," a daily reminder of his continual and often undeserved care ( Matthew 5:45; consider in this connection the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread,"  Matthew 6:11; compare  Luke 11:11 ). Travelers generally note as a special characteristic of the Oriental of today that, seeing a scrap of bread on the roadside, he will pick it up and throw it to a street dog, or place it in a crevice of the wall, or on a tree-branch where the birds may get it. One thing is settled with him, it must not be trodden under foot in the common dust, for, in the estimat ion of all, it has in it an element of mystery and sacredness as coming from the Giver of all good.

2. Symbolism

( a ) In partaking of the hospitality of the primitive peasants of Palestine today, east and west of the Jordan, one sees what a sign and symbol of hospitality and friendship the giving and receiving of bread is. Among the Arabs, indeed, it has become a proverb, which may be put into English Thus: "Eat salt together, be friends forever." Once let the Arab break bread with you and you are safe. You may find the bread the poorest barley loaf, still marked by the indentations of the pebbles, with small patches of the gray ash of the hearth, and here and there an inlaid bit of singed grass or charred thorn, the result of their primitive process of baking; but it is bread , the best that the poor man can give you, "a gift of God," indeed, and it is offered by the wildest Arab, with some sense of its sacredness and with somewhat of the gladness and dignity of the high duty of hospitality. No wonder, therefore, that it is considered the height of discourtesy, yea, a violation of the sacred law of hospitality, to decline it or to set it aside as unfit for use. ( b ) Christ must have been influenced by His knowledge of some such feeling and law as this when, on sending forth His disciples, He charged them to "take no bread with them" ( Mark 6:8 ). Not to have expected such hospitality, and not to have used what would Thus be freely offered to them by the people, would have been a rudeness, not to say an offense, on the part of the disciples, which would have hindered the reception of the good tidings of the Kingdom. ( c ) It has well been pointed out that God's gift of natural food to His people enters in for the praises of the Magnificat (  Luke 1:53 ), and that when Christ called Himself "the bread of life" ( John 6:35 ) He really appealed to all these endeared and indissoluble associations connected in the eastern mind with the meaning and use of bread. Most naturally and appropriately in the inauguration of the New Covenant Christ adopted as His memorial, not a monument of stone or brass, but this humble yet sacred article of food, familiar and accessible to all, to become, with the "wine" of common use, in the Lord's Supper, the perpetual symbol among His disciples of the communion of saints.


Wilkinson, Ancient Egypt , 1878, II, 34; Erman, Aegypten und aegyptisches Leben , 1885, 191ff; Nowack, Lehrbuch der hebr. Archaologie , 1894; Maimonides, Yadh , Temidhin U-M ucaphin , v, 6-8; Bacher, Monats-schrift , 1901, 299; Mishna B.M., Ii 1, 2; Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine , II, 416; Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta , I, 131; Josephus, BJ  ; and Bible Dicts. on "Bread," "Dietary Laws": " Maccōth ," " Ḥallāh ," etc.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [20]

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.