“Jesus said to them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.’” John 6:32
Don’t you just love the smell of baking bread? The incredible aroma wraps you in yummy coziness, like a soft, fuzzy, warm blanket on a snowy day. Put a little soft butter on a hunk of warm, right-from-the-oven bread and it’s like eating a slice of heaven. It’s amazing stuff, am I right?
Bread is pretty amazing in the Bible too. It is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible beginning in Genesis and continuing right through Revelation with a variety of meanings and symbolism. And, it had so much importance that we still celebrate it today in both Jewish and Christian faiths.
You can probably think of several uses of bread in the Bible already, but let’s discover some other notable uses, how they interconnect, and how it all illustrates God’s faithfulness, grace, and life itself.
Provision and Survival
The first thought many of us have about bread in the Bible is how it symbolizes God’s provision. We usually think of Exodus 16 and how He rained manna down for forty years while the Israelites wandered in the desert. God was not just handing out free meals, though. He knew His people’s survival depended on it.
We still depend on God’s provision for our survival today, and it’s not just food to eat. He also provides necessary medicines, finances, transportation, good friends to lean on, and more.
So, when we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are reminded that God—Jehovah Jireh—has already promised to provide what you need, day in and day out, without fail. He is always faithful.
Life and Salvation
Staying with the book of Exodus for a moment, remember how the Israelites had to rush out of Egypt with no time to let their bread dough rise?
“So the people picked up their bread dough before it had risen and carried it on their shoulders in bowls, wrapped up in their clothes.” Exodus 12:34
The Jewish people still use unleavened bread to celebrate Passover and their rescue from Pharaoh. Christians use bread too in celebrating holy communion or eucharist, but Christians base the bread on Jesus and His gift of salvation, not a fast midnight exit.
Jesus’s death on the cross gives us life, which is why in John 6 Jesus calls Himself the bread of life several times.
“Jesus told them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never become thirsty.” John 6:35
Bread is nourishment for the body, but Jesus offers spiritual bread that feeds our spiritual lives. It brings our souls to life and offers a way to salvation. It’s why, during the Last Supper, Jesus took the unleavened bread and broke it to symbolize His broken body and His death on the cross on our behalf.
You probably already know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which translates as the House of Bread. In Hebrew alphanumerically, it also means nativity, the occasion of a person’s birth. So, the place of Jesus’ nativity is in the House of Bread. It is a place of life.
Now, remember Jesus said He is the bread of life, which means forgiveness and freedom. When we go to the House of Bread to accept God’s forgiveness of our sins, we see again how God feeds our souls with something we must have to spiritually survive. His bread is the only kind that leads to eternal life.
It makes the Lord’s Prayer a little clearer. When we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking for both His provision and that He would come and fill us up with His everlasting grace.
We need bread to physically live, but God’s bread of forgiveness enables us to spiritually live.
God’s Holy Word
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:1-4
Jesus was the physical embodiment of God’s holy word. He and the Word were one in the same. Since Jesus is the bread of life, we can make the connection that the Bible feeds us spiritually.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4
For the Bible to nourish us, though, we have to open it up and read it. God gives us free will to never read any of it, but if we truly want to experience His grace and find eternal life we must eat His bread. That’s where the meat and the nutrients are that keep us spiritually alive.
Bread is also used to signify the Jesus’ return to the earth and the final establishment of His kingdom. John mentions the marriage feast of the Lamb (Jesus) and His wife (the church):
“Then He said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’”
The marriage feast is also described in Isaiah 25:6:
“And in this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees.”
Those who enter heaven will participate in the marriage feast (Revelation 2:17), which will include bread. Here again, we see Jesus as the spiritual bread who symbolizes salvation through Him.
“Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Luke 14:15
God’s Eternal Presence
In Moses’ time, the high priests were directed to build a table made of acacia wood and place it on the north side of the Holy Place of the temple (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9). Twelve loaves of bread called showbread were laid on the table to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.
The bread wasn’t offered to God like the food offered to pagan gods; rather, the loaves were a form of thanksgiving for God’s constant care and presence. It also was used as a peace offering (Leviticus 7:12) and an offering of first fruits or tithing (Numbers 15:17-20). These offerings were called the bread of His Presence (in Hebrew, the bread “of His face”) and were made not only to God but also in His presence.
In the New Testament, the showbread was used as a memorial symbol for Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, which Jesus signified in the Last Supper in Matthew 26:26.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:32-33
Today, we use bread in our communion ceremonies to remember Jesus’ work of salvation and redemption on the cross and to praise Him for His constant presence and faithfulness.
Other Symbols of Bread
You can find bread in many other places in the Bible. Here’s a very small, quick sample.
- Unity of the church (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
- An enemy who can be consumed (Numbers 14:9)
- A sign of meeting people’s needs (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
- The acceptance of wisdom (Proverbs 9:5)
- Making an unearned living (Proverbs 31:27)
- Wealth (2 Kings 18:32)
- Poverty (Amos 4:6)
- Prophecy of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18)
Bread can symbolize just about anything in the Bible, but what it points to most is Jesus Himself. He is the bread we must all take in if we truly want to find physical, spiritual, and eternal life.
When you read the Bible, what does bread make you think about? How does it relate to your life? Is there another way you’ve found to stay nourished in the Lord? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about it either down below or right here.
Bible Gateway did a very thorough job of explaining the history and meanings of bread in Bible times. You can read all about it over on their amazingly informative website.
You might also check out Kathie Lee Gifford’s new book, “The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi” (not an affiliate link), where she talks to Rabbi Jason Sobel about the meanings of bread in one chapter. I’m going through the Bible study associated with this book right now. I encourage you to check it out. It’s good stuff.
Have a blessed week!