What Does Bread Symbolize?

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What does the Bible say about bread? How important to everyday life was it? What does it symbolize?

´╗┐There are at least seven words referencing bread in the Hebrew language version of the Old Testament and three Greek words referring to it in the New Testament. Mentioned at least 492 times in the original languages of the Bible, it is easy to see how important bread was to everyday life.

In Bible times (for most people in and near Israel), bread was a part of a basic diet that included vegetables, fruit, olives and cheese. Meat and fish were seldom eaten (herded animals were needed for work and producing milk) except for special occasions (Genesis 18:7), or keeping one of God's Holy Feast Days (Exodus 12:1 - 8, Deuteronomy 14:26, etc.) or by those who were wealthy (1Kings 4:23).

Bread was usually composed of the simple ingredients like flour, water and salt. Olive oil was sometimes added if it was to be used in the worship of God (Leviticus 2:4, etc.). It could have leavening (such as yeast) in it to make it rise (Leviticus 7:13, 23:17, 20), but it did not have to. This was especially the case for bread made during the Passover Festival season (Leviticus 23:5 - 7, Exodus 12:8, 15 - 20).

Picture of Bread

In ancient Israel this staple was made from wheat or barley. God told them, just before the entered the Promised Land, that it was blessed with an abundance of these two crops (Deuteronomy 8:8). Since barley was usually cheaper to purchase, the poor usually bought it to make flour even though the loaves it produced were heavier, thicker, and less pleasant tasting that those made from wheat.


Bread, the staff of life, was used in the worship of God, primarily through tabernacle (then later temple) services to symbolize the Eternal's presence (Exodus 25:30, Leviticus 24:5 - 9). Bread was also used in the Bible to symbolize an enemy being totally conquered (Numbers 14:9), hospitality (Genesis 19:3), and the acceptance of wisdom (Proverbs 9:5).

The children of Israel were miraculously feed with "bread from heaven" or Manna as the wandered for forty years before entering the Promised Land (Exodus 16). This food initially symbolized God's love and care for his people, in spite of their sins, and an omer of it was placed inside the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:32 - 34). Jesus revealed the full meaning of Manna when he stated it was a reference to him.

Additionally, in the Bible, bread symbolized Jesus the Messiah and the eternal life he offers to those willing to follow him with their whole heart (John 6:32 - 35, 41, 50 - 51). The unleavened version of this staple was used during Christ's last Passover represented his willingness to offer his own body as a sacrifice for our sins and to make our healing possible (Matthew 26:26, 1Corinthians 11:23 - 30).

The apostle Paul wrote how bread symbolized the true spiritual unity of the church of God (1Corinthians 10:16 - 17).

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