10 Bread Symbols In the Bible You Should Know
5. Miracle of the Five Loaves and Twelve Baskets
“He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.” (Mark 6:37-42)
Contrary to Sunday School class, this miracle wasn’t so much about feeding the hungry. Jesus was re-establishing his hierarchy, renewing what had began as a shadow in Jethro and Moses. This is why Christ sits them down in ranks, a clear reference to these words in Exodus 18, “So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.”
Christ takes the five loaves of the law, (Genesis – Deuteronomy) and makes them filled full. Just as Moses, Christ feeds his people with his law, he feeds his people with this perfect word (there are also some very strong church polity implications in this text as well, Bishop Sutton’s Captains and Courts is remarkable and brief – I highly recommend it). While this article is focused on bread, it is worthwhile to consider the two fish. Remember that there are two fish in the Old Testament, the clean and the unclean. The one with scales and fins is the Hebrew people, protected in its scaly armor by God’s design and able to swim against the raging seas (multitude/gentiles).
No numbers in the Bible are a coincidence, but entirely the inspired and perfect word of God. When He includes “two fish,” “two fish” is a significant phrase. Here we see Christ’s clear intention of bringing Jew and Gentile together under the fulfillment of the law. We also see Christ’s servants, who are largely fishermen, receiving the responsibility of the twelve baskets. Christ is establishing his new Kingdom, with new bread bearers who feed the flock the bread of life.
Generations earlier, we see the twelve tribes are confused and muddled; through division, conquest, and exile from the Assyrian invasion to the current Roman occupation. Christ, in His Apostles, restores the nation in His Twelve as he works to fulfill: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7)
6. Bread Upon Waters
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” Ecclesiastes 11:1
I hadn’t ever thought much of this verse until my wife chose it as the name for her blog (shameless plug!). What does it mean? Knowing what we do about bread symbolically, we could easily put Christ in there. “Cast thy Christ upon the…” Waters? Waters are typically a sign of multitude or even of the gentiles, think “as the waters cover the sea.”
“Cast thy Christ upon the multitudes: for thou shall find it after many days.”
Many have pointed out that this is a commercial maxim, meant to emphasize an investment with God is safe despite how uncertain it may seem. Now compare that to what we read in Proverbs about the church as a merchant ship who travels from far seas with bread.
“She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her bread from far.” (31:14)
As Rev. Matthew Henry notes, “Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season, in God’s time, you shall reap.” 
7. Broth Poured Over Bread
“And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.” (Judges 6:20)
Gideon was focused on restoring communion with God, and puts together a Levitical peace sacrifice. He makes a bunch of bread, which is quite the feat considering that our friend is threshing inside of a winepress. Threshing here is an important theme, as James B. Jordan points out,
“Threshing is also a frequent sign in the Bible of the historical process of judgment and winnowing. In Luke 3:17 John the Baptist says that Christ will thresh the world, separating wheat from chaff. God had been threshing Israel with judgments because of her Baal worship. If Gideon is God’s servant, he will also thresh Israel. In fact, the first thing God tells him to do is thresh his father’s household. (In connection with this theme, it is interesting to note by the way that the Temple was built on a threshing floor, a sign of how God’s kingdom is built, 2 Sam. 24:18ff.)” 
He used an ephah, or a bushel, which is about 60 pounds of flour, and then God takes it up in fire. The bread is judged through threshing and then peace is restored through Gideon’s offering of a meal. This is the imagery we should be pondering as we partake on the Lord’s day. This bread, which is Christ, has taken my judgement and through it I have peace with God.
8. Unleavened Bread
“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover.” (Exodus 12: 7-11)
In the Exodus account, the instruction for haste is the reasoning behind unleavened bread. It symbolizes the work that is before the Israelites and the cutting off of the leaven of Egypt. While in Egypt, the Israelites are slaves, workers for their pagan lords. Their toil is bitter like the herbs, cooked quickly under the fire, and their labors do not benefit them the next day. The unleavened bread is our bondage, the kingdom confined and occupied by its enemies. As much as the Israelites work and remember their toil, they can never pull themselves out of bondage. As they eat the passover meal, they are reminded of their desperate need for their deliverer, and for him to rescue them unto the promised land of peace, plenty, and rest under the kingly messiah. Unleavened bread cries, “Come Lord Jesus!”
9. Broken Bread
“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)
Commenting on this breaking of bread, John Gill adds,
“Christ himself took the bread and brake it, denoting his willingness to lay down his life, to suffer and die in the room of his people; and this action of breaking the bread was used in order to be distributed, and that everyone might partake, as all the Israelites did at the passover, and not as these Corinthians at their ante-suppers, when one was full and another hungry; but Christ broke the bread, that everyone might have a part, as every believer may and ought, who may eat of this bread, and drink of the wine, and feed by faith on Christ, and take every blessing procured by him to themselves”
I noted earlier that the five loaves of bread related to the five books of the law. Consider now the way that Moses had destroyed the tablets of the ten commandments, tablets that were directly the “begotten” work of the Lord. Moses breaks the “Word” and in his righteous anger destroys the golden calf of idolatry. Moses then leads the Israelites into the edge of the promise land where he dies. This type of Christ breaks the bread of stone, just as the gospel will breaks hearts of stone. Here we have tablets that didn’t require Moses’ work to be removed from the mountain, they were stones uncut by human hands. So today we have Christ, the stone of God,”cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.” (Daniel 2:34)
Just as Moses in his anger broke the tablets, the Father exercises his wrath in braking the Son on the cross.
10. Leavened Bread
“He shall offer also his offering with cakes of leavened bread, for his peace offerings, to give thanks.” (Leviticus 7:13)
The leavened bread is a bread of victory, it is the bread of rest, and it is the bread of life. Just as Christ rose from the dead, so must also the bread rise. Just as the kingdom is to expand, so must the bread also expand. The offering of peace through Jesus Christ has been accepted by the Father, Jesus is the reigning king from the Father’s right hand.
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
Truly those who eat at the Holy Eucharist, are eating at the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb. It is no longer a time of bitterness, no longer a time of haste, and thus the purified leaven now will cover the world. The bread of life is living just as leaven lives. Through Christ the evil, the old, the sour leaven, has been changed into the new leaven. While the the unleavened bread served as a reminder of the powerlessness of the Israelites at the first passover, the new leaven signifies the transformational power of the resurrection
Through the risen bread of the risen savior “O taste and see that the LORD is Good,” “and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Steve Macias is the executive director of Cherish California’s Children and founder of the St. Anselm Leadership Institute. Steve and his Wife, Sarah, live in California’s gold country and are members of Church of the King Sacramento. Like Steve on Facebook and follow @SteveMacias on Twitter.
- Discussing doctrinal differences is healthy, do have a different viewpoint? Let us know in the comments!
- Follow up question: What does the Lord’s Table/Communion/Holy Eucharist look like at your church? Answer below in the comments!
* A Special thanks to my knowledgable research assistant Jack Conrad F.
Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.
1. Rite Reasons Newsletter, No. 1: “Do This!” by James B. Jordan, March, 1989
2. Through New Eyes, Developing a Biblical View of the World, James B. Jordan
3. The Table of the Show Bread, Mt. Olivet Tape Library, Dr. RJ Rushdoony
4. Covenant Hierarchy I & II, Covenant Renewal Newsletter, Bishop Ray Sutton
5. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Ecclesiastes 11
6. Judges: God’s War Against Humanism, James B. Jordan
7. Scripture Quotes from the King James Version