Among the Hebrews and other Oriental peoples of ancient times bread was often baked in the form of flat disks, and it was not uncommon to refer to such bread by the term “cake.” However, cakes were of various shapes. For instance, “ring-shaped cakes” (Heb., chal·lohthʹ) were used at the time of the installing of Israel’s priesthood (Ex 29:2, 23), and Tamar prepared “heart-shaped cakes.” (Heb., levi·vohthʹ; 2Sa 13:8, ftn; see LOAF.) Abraham told Sarah to make “round cakes” (Heb., ʽu·ghohthʹ) to feed the materialized angels that visited him.—Ge 18:6; see also Nu 11:8; 1Ki 19:6; Eze 4:12.
Through the prophet Hosea, Jehovah said: “Ephraim himself has become a round cake not turned on the other side.” (Ho 7:8) Ephraim (Israel) had mingled with pagan peoples, adopting their ways and also seeking alliances with heathen nations, and consequently was like a cake not turned. It was not uncommon to bake cakes on hot ashes or hot stones. If such cakes were not turned, they might be baked or even burned on one side and not baked at all on the other side.
During Israel’s Passover celebration “unfermented cakes” (yeastless, or unleavened, bread; Heb., mats·tsohthʹ) were to be eaten, and associated with this observance was “the festival of unfermented cakes.” (Ex 12:8, 15, 17-20; 13:3-7; 23:15; 34:18; De 16:3, 8, 16) Unfermented ring-shaped cakes moistened with oil or unfermented wafers that were smeared with oil were among the offerings Israel was to make to Jehovah God. (Le 2:4-7, 11, 12) In the law of the communion sacrifice to be presented to Jehovah, provision was also made for offering ring-shaped cakes of leavened bread.—Le 7:13.
After the ark of the covenant had been brought to Jerusalem, David “apportioned to all the people, to the whole crowd of Israel, man as well as woman, to each one a ring-shaped cake [Heb., chal·lathʹ] of bread and a date cake [Heb., ʼesh·parʹ] and a raisin cake [Heb., ʼashi·shahʹ], after which all the people went each to his own house.” (2Sa 6:19) The raisin cake consisted of compressed dried grapes or raisins. However, it is possible that at least some of the raisin cakes prepared in ancient times were made from raisins and flour.
In Jeremiah’s day the people of Judah and Jerusalem engaged in false worship, and the women among them were “kneading flour dough in order to make sacrificial cakes to the ‘queen of the heavens.’” (Jer 7:18) Reference is also made to this false deity and “sacrificial cakes” (Heb., kaw·wa·nimʹ) made for her in Jeremiah 44:19. Just what these sacrificial cakes consisted of is uncertain, but they were evidently put on the altar as an offering.—See QUEEN OF THE HEAVENS.
Other types of cakes mentioned in the Bible are ‘cakes of pressed [or dried] figs’ (Heb., deve·limʹ [1Sa 30:12; Isa 38:21]), “sweet cake” (Heb., la·shadhʹ; Nu 11:8), “flat cakes” (Heb., tsap·pi·chithʹ; Ex 16:31), “round cake” (Heb., tselulʹ; Jg 7:13), “cakes of raisins” (Heb., tsim·mu·qimʹ; 1Sa 25:18), and “sprinkled cakes” (Heb., niq·qu·dhimʹ; 1Ki 14:3). The Greek word aʹzy·mos means “unfermented; unleavened,” and its neuter plural form is used to refer to “unfermented cakes” and “the festival of unfermented cakes.”—1Co 5:8; Mr 14:1.