“Bake” means cook (or dry out; harden) by dry heat. The most common Hebrew term for “bake” is ʼa·phahʹ, root of ʼo·phehʹ (baker). (Ge 19:3; 40:2) Another Hebrew word for “bake” (ʽugh; Eze 4:12) is evidently related to ʽu·ghahʹ, meaning “round cake.”—Ge 18:6; see CAKE.
In the Hebrew home the baking of bread and cakes was a chief duty of the women, though slaves did the baking in some larger households. Speaking for Jehovah, Samuel told the Israelites, who had requested a human king: “Your daughters he will take for ointment mixers and cooks and bakers.” (1Sa 8:13) Yet, men might oversee the work or do some baking themselves, as is indicated by Lot’s actions when two angels visited him in Sodom. “He baked unfermented cakes, and they went to eating” the prepared feast.—Ge 19:1-3.
Bread was generally baked in ovens in Bible times. (See OVEN.) Occasionally, however, baking was done by kindling a fire on stones that had been laid together. When they were well heated, the cinders were swept aside and dough was placed on the stones. After a while, the cake was turned and then left on the stones until the bread was thoroughly baked. (Ho 7:8) Travelers might bake coarse bread in a shallow pit filled with hot pebbles, upon which a fire had been built. After the embers were removed, dough was laid on the heated stones, perhaps being turned several times while the bread was baking.—1Ki 19:6.
Grain offerings made by the Israelites were often “something baked in the oven,” came “from off the griddle,” or were from “out of the deep-fat kettle.” (Le 2:4-7) The griddle was a thick pottery plate having depressions (comparable to a modern waffle iron), though iron griddles were also used.—Eze 4:3.
Professional bakers were in business in the cities. While Jeremiah was in custody in the Courtyard of the Guard in Jerusalem during the time of scarcity prior to that city’s overthrow in 607 B.C.E., he was given a daily ration of a round loaf of bread “from the street of the bakers,” as long as the supply lasted. (Jer 37:21) So, commercial bakers evidently occupied a particular street in Jerusalem. Years later, when Jerusalem’s walls were restored under Nehemiah’s supervision, “the Tower of the Bake Ovens” was also repaired. (Ne 3:11; 12:38) Just how the tower came to be named is uncertain, but it is possible that it was given its unusual name because the ovens of commercial bakers were located there.
The royal baker was evidently a man of some importance in ancient Egypt. A wall painting from the tomb of Ramses III in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes depicts an Egyptian royal bakery in full operation, showing the kneading of dough with the feet, the making of cakes of bread, and the preparing of the oven. As reported in Genesis, one Egyptian royal baker gained particular notoriety because he sinned against the king and was cast into prison. There he had a dream in which he saw himself carrying three baskets of bread on his head, with fowls eating from the topmost basket. This “chief of the bakers” was taken out on the third day and “hung up,” thus fulfilling Joseph’s interpretation: “The three baskets are three days. In three days from now Pharaoh will lift up your head from off you and will certainly hang you upon a stake; and the fowls will certainly eat your flesh from off you.”—Ge 40:1-3, 16-22.