One way of baking much practiced in the East is to place the dough on an iron plate, either laid on or supported on legs above the vessel sunk in the ground, which forms the oven. The cakes baked "on the hearth" (Genesis 18:6
) were probably baked in the existing Bedouin manner, on hot stones covered with ashes. The "hearth" of King Jehoiakim?s winter palace, (Jeremiah 36:23
) was possibly a pan or brazier of charcoal. From this we see that the significance of the Hebrew words translated hearth is not the same as with us.
- harth: Occurs 7 times in the King James Version: Gen 18:6
; Ps 102:3
; Isa 30:14
; Jer 36:22,23
bis; Zec 12:6
; 4 times in the Revised Version: Lev 6:9
; Isa 30:14
; Ezek 43:15,16
("altar hearth"); compare also Isa 29:1
the Revised Version margin. It will be noted that the renderings of the two versions agree in only one passage (Isa 30:14
(1) The hearth in case of a tent was nothing more than a depression in the ground in which fire was kindled for cooking or for warmth. Cakes were baked, after the fashion of Gen 18:6, in the ashes or upon hot stones. In this passage, however, there is nothing in the Hebrew corresponding to the King James Version "on the hearth." In the poorer class of houses also the hearth consisted of such a depression, of varying dimensions, in the middle or in one corner of the room. There was no chimney for the smoke, which escaped as it could, or through a latticed opening for the purpose (the "chimney" of Hos 13:3). While the nature of the hearth is thus clear enough, more or less uncertainty attaches to specific terms used in the Hebrew. In Isa 30:14 the expression means simply "that which is kindled," referring to the bed of live coals. From this same verb (yaqadh, "be kindled") are formed the nouns moqedh (Ps 102:3 (Hebrew 4)) and moqkedhah (Lev 6:9 (Hebrew 2)) which might, according to their formation, mean either the material kindled or the place where a fire is kindled. Hence, the various renderings, "firebrand," "hearth," etc. Moreover, in Lev 6:9 (2) the termination -ah of moqedhah may be taken as the pronominal suffix, "its"; hence, the Revised Version margin "on its firewood."
(2) Two other terms have reference to heating in the better class of houses. In Jer 36:22,23 the word ('ach) means a "brazier" of burning coals, with which Jehoiakim's "winter house" was heated. The same purpose was served by the "pan (kiyyor) of fire" of Zec 12:6 the Revised Version (British and American), apparently a wide, shallow vessel otherwise used for cooking (1 Sam 2:14, English Versions of the Bible "pan"), or as a wash basin (compare Ex 30:18; 1 Ki 7:38, etc., "laver").
(3) Another class of passages is referred to the signification "altar hearth," which seems to have been a term applied to the top of the altar of burnt offering. The moqedhah of Lev 6:9 (2), though related by derivation to the words discussed under (1) above, belongs here (compare also Ecclesiasticus 50:12, "by the hearth of the altar," par' eschara bomou). Again in Ezekiel's description of the altar of the restored temple (43:15,16), he designates the top of the altar by a special term (the Revised Version margin, ariel), which is by most understood to mean "altar hearth" (so the Revised Version (British and American)). With this may be compared the symbolical name given to Jerusalem (Isa 29:1), and variously explained as "lion (or lioness) of God," or "hearth of God."
Benjamin Reno Downer