The word bread appears 239 times in the NAS Old Testament and 79 times in the NAS New Testament; but the seven Hebrew words which refer to bread, but are not always so translated, appear 384 times in the Old Testament and three Greek words 108 times in the New. Frequency of mention is just one indication that bread (not vegetables and certainly not meat) was the basic food of most people (except nomads and the wealthy) in Bible times. Indeed, several of the words alluded to above are often translated food.
Ingredients A course meal was ground from wheat (Genesis 30:14) or barley (John 6:9,John 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
2 Samuel 13:6,2 Samuel 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).