Barley was generally used for making bread, though wheat was not unknown, and even lentils and beans (Ezek. 4: 9) combined with grain. A little of old fermented dough was added to the new mixture as leaven to make it rise. The ‘showbread’ or ‘bread of the presence’ consisted of twelve loaves in two rows in the holy place of the tabernacle (Exod. 25: 30) and it was these which were given to David and his men by the priest at Nob (1 Sam. 21: 6), an act of humanity which was strictly illegal. This incident was once sympathetically recalled by Jesus (Mark 2: 25). Unleavened bread, i.e. bread made without yeast, was eaten by Jews at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was originally a solar agricultural festival but was later amalgamated with Passover.

Bread was vital both for existence and for religion. The prospect of ‘bread without scarcity’ (Deut. 8: 9) was no mean promise. And Jesus as ‘the bread of life’ was a powerful image (John 6: 33).