The expression "brick" (; translated once "tile" in A. V., Ezek. iv. 1) designates both the burnt and the sun-dried brick. However, there is only one certain passage in which the first kind is referred to—viz., Gen. xi. 3—and there the Babylonian custom of "burning brick thoroughly" (thus A. V.; "thoroughly" should be omitted) seems to be treated as not less foreign to Palestine than is the use of bitumen (R. V.) for mortar. Apparently, all other passages mean the unburnt mud-brick, dried solely by the sun. This practise is current in the ancient Orient and in the modern East likewise, which still has in general a great preference for unbaked clay as building material. The A. V. in II Sam. xii. 31; Nahum iii. 14; Jer. xliii. 9, speaks of the brick-kiln, but the rendering is not correct. The first passage—which was formerly considered as a strong proof of the barbarous cruelty of David's time—is most likely to be translated, "David made them [the captives] labor with the brick-mold" (compare R. V. margin on this slight emendation). Similarly, R. V. margin in Nahum, in accordance with the Peshiṭta. In Jer. xliii. 9 the R. V. substitutes "brickwork" (margin, "pavement or square"; so also the Pesh. and Hoffmann; the former translation was defended by Hitzig and others). No version offers any support to the idea of a kiln in these passages (see G. Hoffmann, in Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1882, ii. 53 et seq.).
Indeed, burnt bricks in Oriental ruins seem to date from Roman times. Egypt—in which the sundried brick from Nile mud formed the material for all secular buildings and even for many tombs (in earliest time, for all the royal tombs and pyramids) seems to furnish the best analogue. The only means employed by the Egyptians to give greater durability to this material was the admixture of straw and stubble with the clay: mentioned in Ex. v. 7. This seems to have been a purely Egyptian custom. On Egyptian monuments there are found scenes representing brickmaking; and among these some showing captive Semites at work with the brick-mold, who have often erroneously been taken for Israelites.
In Babylonia (see above on Gen. xi.) burnt bricks were often employed for the outer layers of important public constructions, because of the copious winter rains of the country. This led to a high development of the ornamentation of buildings with glazed and painted bricks and tiles: so, for example, Nebuchadnezzar's palace at Babylon. In Egypt only a few instances of the employment of such methods can be found (Tell el-Amarna, Tell el-Yehudiye); while the Persians still used such bricks in the Babylonian manner, for instance, in the palace of Susa. But by the side of this, the unburnt brick always played the greater part. It may be mentioned that the size of Babylonian and Egyptian bricks was larger than that of the modern brick, often enormous. In both countries the brick-mold—that is, the open box with a handle—often furnished a royal or official stamp for the bricks, stating the date, and the building for which the bricks were determined, etc. Of none of these higher developments of brick-manufacturing have examples been found in Palestine, which country offered rich material in stones for public buildings. The unburnt bricks of which the Palestinian mounds exhibit numerous examples seem to have formed the principal building material for private houses, except for a few of the most wealthy (Isa. ix. 9; Amos v. 11). For constituents of bricks, tablets, or tiles see Clay; and on the use of a tablet or tile see Alphabet and Paleography.