Loaves of Egypt

Here is a basket of bread. It might not look very appertising, but what if I revealed it was baked in Egypt’s New Kingdom period (which is not that ‘new’: it means 1550-1069 BC)? It was discovered at a site near Thebes and is quite possibly the oldest extant bread in the world, having been placed in a tomb to provide sustenance for its occupant on his journey to the afterlife. Apart from looking unattractive, eating it would also have worn away and damaged your teeth, for the flour the Egyptians produced for making bread was not as refined as that which we enjoy. Their finest sieves could not remove impurities such as sand and dirt, which caused many Egyptians to suffer from toothache, abscesses and tooth loss.

The New Kingdom roughly corresponds to the period of Biblical history covering the birth of Moses to the Philistines’ capture of the ark in 1 Samuel 6. It is a shame this bread cannot be dated more accurately, but it is remarkable that bread from Bible lands and Bible times should be sitting on a shelf in Liverpool.

The Israelites sometimes complained about their provisions on the journey from Egypt:

And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Exodus 16:3

I guess this is the kind of bread they had in mind. It doesn’t look so very appealing now on account of its age, but it shouldn’t have appeared delicious back then either. The pleasures, cucumbers and loaves of Egypt were part and parcel of its slavery and oppression. One day, from heaven, we shall regard the delights of this world as they truly are- rotten, decaying and poisonous. The mature believer reckons this already.