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OVEN. A chamber that is heated so as to roast or to bake the food materials placed inside. There were three principal types. In Egypt there was in nearly every house a structure of clay built on the house floor. In this, or on it, baking was done. In Palestine and Syria, a barrel-shaped hole in the ground was coated with clay and a quick hot fire of brambles or dry dung mixed with straw heated it. The dough, beaten very thin, was spread on the inside and almost immediately taken out, fully baked. In some places, a curved plate of iron is put over the sunken oven; but in cities the oven is a chamber of stone, from which the fire is raked when the oven is very hot and into which the unbaked loaves are then placed (Hos.7.4-Hos.7.7). See also Bread; Occupations and Professions: Baker.

OVEN. Two words, one Gr. and one Heb., are used in the Bible. In the OT the Heb. תַּנּוּר, H9486, “stove,” “oven” occurs frequently. Attempted etymologies for this term drawn from Akkad. are highly questionable. Excavations of Neolithic sites in the Near E (c. 8,000 b.c.) have produced many clay ovens set into interior wall corners. Several types were used including open hearths with a center smoke hole as in wattle and daub houses found widely scattered across the world from an early period. In the OT ovens of various sizes were used for smelting metals and firing pots, as well as baking the traditional flat doughy bread of the Near E. Before the Punic wars of the 3rd cent. b.c. the Romans had adopted the Gr. bread made in open clay ovens, but after the African campaigns they favored the puls punica, a white raised style made from better wheat and cooked in stone ovens. The ancient ovens were universally heated with wood and some animal dung.

In the imprecations of the latter prophets the oven is used as a symbol of God’s wrath (Mal 4:1 et al.). This same theme is developed in the Gospel narratives where Christ refers to the judgment at the parousia in terms of the heat of an oven (Gr. κλίβανος, G3106, Matt 6:30). The use of metallic stoves was not begun in antiquity because of the difficulty in tempering the metal sufficiently to withstand the heat. Many types of structures were built with the lower openings facing in such a manner to take advantage of the prevailing winds. Such ovens were capable of high temperatures, and were prob. the ones referred to in the prophetic contexts. See Bread.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


See Bread; Furnace.