LCN Article
Bread: A Biblical Symbol

March / April 2024

Roger Meyer

The word bread appears in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Though it often literally refers to a specific food or to food in general, bread is also a very important and instructive symbol of biblical truth, particularly during this season of the year.

Bread is one of the most universal foods and is made from a wide variety of grains in the different nations around the world. This may be why the Bible uses bread to symbolize the nourishment we need to live. We are made from the earth and need food to sustain our lives (Genesis 3:19). Without food, we die—returning to the dust from which we were created. The Hebrew word for bread is lechem, which can mean food for man or beast, but especially bread or the grain used to make it. You may recognize lechem in the name Bethlehem—beth means house, so Bethlehem means House of Bread.

So, what does bread symbolize in the Bible? Most importantly, bread can symbolize Jesus Christ. Jesus declared that He is the “bread of life” and that those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst (John 6:35).

Bread is also used as a metaphor for togetherness and fellowship with one another. The “breaking of bread” (e.g., Acts 2:42) refers to sharing a meal with someone. Inviting someone to “break bread” with you means not just eating a meal together, but also sharing conversation and fellowship with one another. The literal breaking of bread is central to the New Testament Passover, which Jesus shared with His disciples before He was arrested and crucified. Professing Christian sects and denominations the world over use different terms, such as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist, but Christ kept the Passover while He was instituting new symbols of bread and wine. He was the Lamb of God, symbolized by the Passover lamb. Jesus explained that the unleavened bread represents His body, broken for mankind (Matthew 26:26; 1 Corinthians 11:24).

Two commemorations of the Feasts that the Lord gave Israel are the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Israel was commanded to eat the Passover “with unleavened bread [matstsâh, today called matzo]” (Exodus 12:8). They were to eat unleavened bread from the fourteenth of the first month through the twenty-first day of that month (v. 18). Unleavened bread contains no leaven or yeast, so it does not rise but remains flat. It is a symbol of choosing to abandon sin, while leavened bread during this time symbolizes sin itself.

An example of this symbol is also found in the New Testament, where the Apostle Paul tells Christians at Corinth to “keep the feast [of Unleavened Bread], not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Unleavened bread represents sincerity and truth. Leaven puffs up bread dough, and true Christians are not to be “puffed up” like leavened bread (1 Corinthians 4:6, 18–19; 5:2; 13:4). This “puffing up” takes place in a mind that is filled with vanity and pride, like the mind of Satan, the devil (Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 3:6). It is the opposite of godly love (1 Corinthians 13:4). 

The biblical symbol of bread gives us important knowledge. For more, you can read the booklet The Holy Days: God’s Master Plan, which explains in detail the meaningful symbolism of God’s Holy Feast Days.