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.