(לבֵנָה, lebenah', so called from the whitish clay of which bricks are made, as described by Vitruv. ii, 3; rendered "tile" in Eze 4:1; hence the denominative verb לָבִן, laban', to nake brick, Ge 11:5; Ex 5:7,14). Bricks compacted with straw and dried in the sun are those which are chiefly mentioned in the Scriptures. Of such bricks the Tower of Babel was doubtless composed (Ge 11:3), and the making of such formed the chief labor of the Israelites when bondsmen in Egypt (Ex 1:13-14).
1. Babylonian. — Herodotus (i, 179), describing the mode of building the walls of Babylon, says that the clay dug out of the ditch was made into bricks as soon as it was carried up, and burnt in the kilns, καμίνοισι. The bricks were cemented with hot bitumen (ἄσφαλτος), and at every thirtieth row crates of reeds were stuffed in. This account agrees with the history of the building of the Tower of Confusion, in which the builders used bricks instead of stone, and slime (חֵמָר ἄσφαλτος) for mortar (Ge 11:3; Joseph. Ant. i, 4, 3). In the alluvial plain of Assyria, both the material for bricks and the cement, which bubbles up from the ground, and is collected and exported by the Arabs, were close at hand for building purposes; but the Babylonian bricks were more commonly burned in kilns than those used at Nineveh, which are chiefly sundried, like the Egyptian. Xenophon mentions a wall called the wall of Media, not far from Babylon, made of burned bricks set in bitumen, 20 feet wide and 100 feet high; also another wall of brick 50 feet wide (Diod. ii, 7, 8, 12; Xen. Anab. ii, 4, 12; 3:4, 11; Na 3:14; Layard, Nineveh, ii, 46, 252, 278). While it is needless to inquire to what place or to whom the actual invention of brickmaking is to be ascribed, there is perhaps no place in the world more favorable for the process, none in which the remains of original brick structures have been more largely used in later times for building purposes. The Babylonian bricks are usually from 12 to 13 in. square, and 3 'in. thick. (American bricks are usually 8 in. long, 3k to 4 wide, and 2k thick.) They most of them bear the name inscribed in cuneiform character of Nebuchadnezzar, whose buildings, no doubt, replaced those of an earlier age (Layard, Nin. and Babyl. p. 505, 531). They thus have more of the character of tiles (Eze 4:1). They were sometimes glazed and enamelled with patterns of various colors. Semiramis is said by Diodorus to have overlaid some of her towers with surfaces of enamelled brick bearing elaborate designs (Di. odor. ii, 8). Enamelled bricks have been found at Nimroud (Layard, ii, 312). Pliny (vii, 56) says that the Babylonians used to record their astronomical observations on tiles (coctilibus lateroulis). He also, as well as Vitruvius, describes the process of making bricks at Rome. There were three sizes: (a), 1 ft. long, 1 ft. broad; (b), 4 (Greek) palms long, 12.135 in.; (c), 5 palms long, 15.16875 in.; the breadth of these latter two the same. He says the Greeks preferred brick walls in general to stone (35, 14; Vitruv. ii, 3, 8). Bricks of more than 3 palms length, and of less than 1w palm, are mentioned by the Talmudists (Baba Me;a, c. 10:fol. 1176; Baba Bathra, i, 3 a). SEE TILE.
2. Egyptian. — The use of crude brick, baked in the sun, was universal in Upper and Lower Egypt, both for public and private buildings; and the brick-field gave abundant occupation to numerous laborers throughout the country. These simple materials were found to be particularly suited to the climate, and the ease, rapidity, and cheapness with which they were made afforded additional recommendations. The Israelites, in common with other captives, were employed by the Egyptian monarchs in making bricks and in building (Ex 1:14; v, 7). Kiln-bricks were not generally used in Egypt, but were dried in the sun, and even without straw are as firm as when first put up in the reigns of the Amunophs and Thotmes whose names they bear. The usual dimensions vary from 20 in. or 17 in. to 143 in. long , 81 in. to 61 in. wide; and 7 in. to 4 in. thick. When made of the Nile mud or alluvial deposit, they required (as they still require) straw to prevent cracking; but those formed of clay taken from the torrent beds on the edge of the desert held together without straw; and crude brick walls had frequently the additional security of a layer of reeds and sticks, placed at intervals to act as binders (Wilkinson, ii, 194, abridgm.;; Birch, Ancient Pottery, i, 14; comp. Herod. i, 179). Baked bricks, however, were used, chiefly in places in contact with water. They are smaller than the sun-dried bricks (Birch, i, 23). A brick-kiln is mentioned as in Egypt by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 43:9). A brick pyramid is mentioned by Herodotus (ii, 136) as the work of King Asychis. Sesostris (ii, 138) is said to have employed his captives in building. Numerous remains of buildings of various kinds exist, constructed of sun-dried bricks, of which many specimens are to be seen in the British Museum with inscriptions indicating their date and purpose (Birch, i, 11, 17). Among the paintings at Thebes, one on the tomb of Rekshara, an officer of the court of Thotmes III (B.C. cir. 1400), represents the enforced labors in brick-making of captives, who are distinguished from the natives by the color in which they are drawn. Watching over the laborers are "task-masters," who, armed with sticks, are receiving the "tale of bricks" and urging on the work. The processes, of digging out the clay, of moulding, and of arranging, are all duly represented; and, though the laborers cannot be determined to be Jews, yet the similarity of employment illustrates the Bible history in a remarkable degree (Wilkinson, ii, 197; Birch, i, 19; see Aristoph. Av. 1133, Αἰγύπτιος πλινθοφόρος; Ex 5:17-18). Enclosures of gardens or granaries, sacred circuits encompassing the courts of temples, walls of fortifications and towns, dwelling-houses and tombs, in short, all but the temples themselves, were of crude brick; and so great was the demand that the Egyptian government, observing the profit which would accrue from a monopoly of them, undertook to supply the public at a moderate price, thus preventing all unauthorized persons from engaging in the manufacture. And in order the more effectually to obtain this end, the seal of the king or of some privileged person was stamped upon the bricks at the time they were made. This fact, though not positively mentioned by any ancient author, is inferred from finding bricks so marked both in public and private buildings; some having the ovals of a king, and some the name and titles of a priest, or other influential person; and it is probable that those which bear no characters belonged to individuals who had obtained a license or permission from the government to fabricate them for their own consumption. The employment of numerous captives who worked as slaves enabled the government to sell the bricks at a lower price than those who had recourse solely to free labor; so that, without the necessity of a prohibition, they speedily became an exclusive manufacture; and we find that, independent of native laborers, a great many foreigners were constantly engaged in the brickfields at Thebes and other parts of Egypt. The Jews. of course, were not excluded from this drudgery; and, like the captives detained in the Thebaid, they were condemned to the same labor in Lower Egypt. They erected granaries, treasure-cities, and other public buildings for the Egyptian monarch: the materials used in their construction were the work of their hands; and the constant employment of brick-
makers may be accounted for by the extensive supply required and kept by the government for sale (Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, ii, 97, 98). SEE BONDAGE.
Captive foreigners being thus found engaged in brick-making, Biblical illustrators (e.g. Hawkes, Egypt and its Monuments, p. 225 sq.), with their usual alacrity, jumped to the conclusion that these captive foreigners were Jews, and that the scenes represented were .those of their actual operations in Egypt. Sir J. G. Wilkinson satisfactorily disposes of this inference by the following remark: "To meet with Hebrews in the sculptures cannot reasonably be expected, since the remains in that part of Egypt where they lived have not been preserved; but it is curious to discover other foreign captives occupied in the same manner, and overlooked by similar 'task- masters, and performing the very same labors as the Israelites described in the Bible; and no one can look at the paintings of Thebes representing brick-makers without a feeling of the highest interest. ...... It is scarcely fair to argue that, because the Jews made bricks, and the persons here introduced are so engaged, they must necessarily be Jews, since the Egyptians and their captives are constantly required to perform the same task; and the great quantity made at all times may be justly inferred from the number of buildings which still remain constructed of these materials; but it is worthy of remark that more bricks bearing the name of Thotmes III (who is supposed [by some] to have been the king at the time of the Exode) have been discovered than at any other period, owing to the many prisoners of Asiatic nations employed by him, independent of his Hebrew captives." SEE EXODE.
The process of manufacture indicated by the representations in the foregoing cuts does not material y differ from that which is still followed in the same country. The clay was brought in baskets from the Nile, thrown into a heap, thoroughly saturated with water, and worked up to a proper temper by the feet of the laborers. And here it is observable that the watering and tempering of the clay is performed entirely by the light- colored laborers, who are the captives, the Egyptians being always painted red. This labor in such a climate must have been very fatiguing and unwholesome, and it consequently appears to have been shunned by the native Egyptians. There is an allusion to the severity of this labor in Na 3:14-15. The clay, when tempered, was cut by an instrument somewhat resembling the agricultural hoe, and moulded in an oblong trough; the bricks were then dried in the sun, and some, from their color, appear to have been baked or burned, but no trace of this operation has yet been discovered in the monuments (Dr. W. C. Taylor's Bible Illustrated, p. 82). The writer just cited makes the following pertinent remarks on the order of the king that the Israelites should collect the straw with which to compact (not burn) their bricks: It is evident that Pharaoh did not require a physical impossibility, because the Egyptian reapers only cut away the tops of the grain. SEE AGRICULTURE. We must remember that the tyrannical Pharaoh issued his orders prohibiting the supply of straw about two months before the time of harvest. If, therefore, the straw had not been usually left standing in the fields, he would have shown himself an idiot as well as a tyrant; but the narrative shows us that the Israelites found the stems of the last year's harvest standing in the fields; for by the word ' stubble' (Ex 5:12) the historian clearly means the stalks that remained from the last year's harvest. Still, the demand that they should complete their tale of bricks was one that scarcely could be fulfilled, and the conduct of Pharaoh on this occasion is a perfect specimen of Oriental despotism." SEE EGYPT.
3. Jewish Bricks-The Jews learned the art of brickmaking in Egypt, and we find the use of the brick-kiln (מִלבֵּן, malben') in David's time (2Sa 12:31), and a complaint made by Isaiah that the people built altars of brick instead of unhewn stone as the law directed (Isa 65:3; Ex 20:25). SEE POTTERY.