—Biblical Data:

The bread of the ancient Hebrews, like that of the Palestinians today, was not in the shape of thick loaves, but of thin cakes (see Bread). Originally these were baked by kindling a fire on the sand or on small stones, and then, when the sand or stones had become sufficiently heated, brushing away the fire and ashes and laying the thin cakes of dough upon the sand or stones and covering them with glowing ashes. A few minutes sufficed to bake this bread. Such is the description given by Epiphanius (De Lagarde, "Symmicta," ii. 188), who explains the Septuagint ἐγκρυθία as referring to "the hiding" of the cakes under the ashes (compare the Vulgate panis subcinerarius). The Hebrew expression in I Kings xix. 6, rendered as "cakes baken on the coal," is also most probably to be understood as meaning cakes baked on glowing stones (see Robinson, "Biblical Researches," ii. 416; Doughty, "Arabia Deserta," i. 131). Another method of baking, prevalent still among the Bedouins, is to employ a heated iron plate in lieu of sand or stones (, Lev. ii. 5; Ezek. iv. 3). The reference in I Chron. ix. 31 is probably to bread baked in this way.

The Jews that were settled in the land, no doubt, as a general thing, had ovens in their houses (, "tannur"). The modern Palestinian oven, which, in ancient times, could certainly not have been more primitive, consists generally of a clay pan, which is placed upon small stones with dung-fuel heaped around and over the pan. The dung is kindled and the bread then laid upon the heated stones under the pan. This is evidently an elaboration of the process above described. Another form of oven, however, is also used, consisting of a clay cylinder narrower toward the top. Fire is kindled inside this, and the cakes of bread are stuck upon the heated inside walls. The ancient Egyptians laid the cakes upon the external walls of the oven, as the drawings show.

Modern Baking-Oven in Syria.(From Benzinger, "Hebräische Archäologle.")
  • Wilkinson, Ancient Egypt, 1878, ii. 34;
  • Erman, Aegypten und Aegyptisches Leben, 1885, pp. 191 et seq.;
  • see also the cuts of the modern oven in Benzinger, Archäologie, 1894, pp. 86, 87;
  • Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebr. Archäologie, 1894;
  • Vogelstein, Die Landwirthschaft in Palästina zur Zeit der Mishnah, Berlin, 1894; and the works referred to in this article.
J. Jr. I. Be.—In Rabbinical Literature: Fermentation.

Rabbinical, and especially tannaitic, literature gives more detailed information respecting baking than any other handicraft. This is due to the fact that the Temple ritual included no less than twelve distinct meal-offerings which were of the greatest importance in the Halakah. The flour used was made from wheat crushedwith a pestle; the grains being ground for fine pastry. It was then strained through a sieve once or oftener, and, after being mixed with water, was kneaded thoroughly. Leavened dough or other leavening material was generally used for baking outside the Temple. The process of fermentation is minutely described in the Talmud in passages relating to the making of the unleavened bread for Passover (Pes. 36b, 37a and b, 41a, and in many other places; see Maẓẓot).

Besides the ordinary mode of preparing dough in a kneading trough, there were other methods. It was sometimes made by pouring flour into boiling water; sometimes by pouring the boiling water on the flour, after which the mass was kneaded (Ḥallah i. 6; Pes. 37b; Tosefta, Ḥallah, i., 2; Yer. ib. i. 58a; compare Maimonides, Commentary to Mishnah). When thoroughly mixed, the dough was placed on boards ("arukot"), to be stretched, rolled, and molded into the desired shape. Usually it was shaped by hand, but occasionally special forms were used. The size and weight of the bakers' loaves were always uniform (Mishnah B. M. ii. 1; compare Rashi, ib.); those made at home differed according to individual taste and desire (Mishnah B. M. ii. 2).


Ovens were of clay, stone, or metal; those in the Temple being of metal. They were a handbreadth narrower at the top, where the opening was made. After the oven was filled, this orifice was closed with a lid, and in order to avoid too rapid cooling the edges of the cover were cemented with clay. The lower and smaller opening, which served for the removal of the ashes, was also cemented. This primitive oven was not, however, the only one known in ancient times, the , φοῦρνος, imported from Greece as its name shows, being also used (Beẓah 34a; Kelim xi. 4; and in many other places). This oven rested upon a round or four-cornered foundation; sometimes a cupola-shaped dome was placed upon the ground and the loaves upon it were baked by a fire beneath. The loaves were placed against the inner wall of the oven, and considerable dexterity and practise were required to remove the baked bread without injuring it (Kelim viii. 9; v. 10, 11; compare Gershon of Radzyn's Maseket Kelim (Yosefow, 1873), ad loc. and "Zeit. Deutsch. Paläst. Ver." iii. 111, 112).

Egyptian Royal Bakery, Showing Various Processes of Baking.(From Wilkinson, "Ancient Egyptians.")The "Two Loaves."

As stated above, the Talmud pays particular attention to the bread or cakes used in Temple offerings. With the exception of the bread of the thank-offering () and the two breads () used at Pentecost, all meal-offerings were unleavened. The priests, who kneaded the dough withlukewarm water, took great care to prevent fermentation. The "two loaves" were both kneaded as well as baked separately; they were four-cornered, seven handbreadths long, four handbreadths wide, with corner-pieces ("horns") of four fingers' length (Men. xi. 1, 4).

The Showbread.

A special knack and dexterity were necessary for the baking of the showbread (), which the Talmud describes in detail. Each loaf was kneaded singly, but every two loaves were baked together. Three (golden) forms or molds were used in the course of preparation; in the first the dough was kneaded, in the second the bread was baked, and into the third it was put, immediately after being taken from the stove, in order to preserve its shape (Men. xi. 1, 94a; see Maimonides, "Yad," Temidin u-Musafin, v. 6-8). The preparation of this bread was so intricate that only one family, the Garmu, was deemed sufficiently expert in the art, and accordingly its members charged high prices for their services (Yoma 38d).

Women as Bakers.

Baking was a developed trade even in Jeremiah's time (Jer. xxxvii. 21), and was continued as such in the Talmudic period. It is remarkable, therefore, that in the Hebrew as well as in Aramaic portions of the Talmud the baker bears an Assyrian appellation, (for the Assyrian derivation of this word, see Zimmern, "Z. D. M. G." liii. 115 et seq.; see, however, Jastrow, "Dictionary," s.v. ). In Talmudic times, women followed the baker's trade, selling their wares in the market-places (Ḥallah ii. 7; see also Ber. 58b). In the larger cities, the bakers did not sell their own bread, but disposed of it to dealers (Demai v. 4; 'Ab. Zarah 35b, 55b, where the Tosafists give the correct explanation). In addition, there were large bakeries where dough was baked which had been prepared at home. Since many different individuals had bread baked in these ovens, each loaf, to prevent disputes, was distinguished by some little token, such as a pebble, a bean, etc., which was pressed upon the loaves (Ṭebul Yom i. 3). See Dietary Laws; Maẓẓot, Ḥallah.

  • G. Löwy, Technologie und Terminologie der Müller und Bäcker in den Rabbinischen Quellen, Leipsic, 1898. On Baking in Cæsarea, see Bacher, Monatsschrift, 1901, p. 299.
J. Sr. L. G.
Images of pages