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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Bible and Bread

In the discussion about the Bible and milk, Jenn asked a very good question- what grains did people eat for bread most often in the Bible? It was a great question because I knew about it! It’s also a great question because it plays right into prophecy about the Son of Man.

Many grains are mentioned in the Bible, but the two most common are wheat and barley. Wheat was more expensive, so barley was the staple grain of all but the wealthiest families. It’s hard to imagine now when we live in a time and place where bread is so cheap and plentiful, but consider the prophecy from Revelation 6:6 that one measure of wheat or three measures of barley would cost about a day’s wages. Wheat is also much more susceptible to disease and weather, as was witnessed by last year’s shortage.

In Exodus 29:2, it was wheat flour that was used in the ceremony to consecrate the priests. Wheat makes a finer flour and a smoother loaf than does barley, so it would suit that the best was used for this special event. Yet another festival that is all about bread, Passover and the accompanying Days of Unleavened Bread, requires only that the bread be unleavened. It does not specify a kind of grain. Interestingly, the time of the Passover meal coincided with the barley harvest.

In Ezekiel 4:9, we see a recipe for the kind of bread to be eaten during the prophet’s symbolic paralysis that was to parallel the future of Israel. This bread was made by mixing barley and wheat as well as lentils, millet, beans, and spelt. The interesting thing is that rather than just a single-grained bread, even the poor man’s barley, this bread has multiple ingredients. There are many ideas as to why Yahweh gave this recipe (to symbolize the famine brought on by siege, to symbolize that the rich and poor and everyone in between would suffer, etc.) but it is worth noting that spelt is easier to digest, and often those with only a wheat allergy and not a complete gluten intolerance can eat it without any trouble.

Because Yeshua was a poor man, saying once that he didn’t even really have a home (Matthew 8:20), he would most likely have eaten barley bread the majority of the time. He was also often accompanied by others who needed to eat, and feeding a crowd would likely rule out wheat breads. We know for sure once instance when he was feeding a large group and he used barley loaves:

“When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.“ John 6:5-13

For the sake of space I won’t put down every verse with the word barley or wheat in it (barley- 35 times, wheat- 52 times), but if you check it online, you’ll see barley was most often mentioned as an everyday, anybody bread.

Now, as to prophecy and the Son of Man and how that relates to bread. I remember hearing this first a few years ago when a speaker from Chosen People Ministries came to our church. I was so amazed and overwhelmed by the symbolism in absolutely everything Yah has ever done, my only reaction was tears.

The Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23) was when a sheaf of barley was brought into the temple and waved by the priest. This was kinda asking Yah’s blessing on the harvest by bringing Him the first of the barley as an offering.

The spring schedule of feasts goes like this: first is Passover on the 14th, then the Days of Unleavened Bread start the 15th, and the Feast of Firstfruits is the 16th, all right in a row without a day off. Yeshua fulfilled all the spring feast with his first coming, and will fulfill the fall feast with his second coming. But that still isn’t quite as clear unless you study these things in-depth. So we’ll look at the comparisons-

*Yeshua’s death as a sacrifice was fulfilled in Passover. He became the Passover lamb for us once for all by allowing those with His blood upon them to be passed over by death, the wages of sin (of which we are all guilty).

*Yeshua’s burial fulfilled the Days of Unleavened Bread. We know yeast, or leaven, was compared to sin many times in the Bible. Leaven is a symbol for sin, and during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are to get rid of all leaven from among us, the way Yeshua was hidden from us when he was in the grave for three days and three nights. His burial is the symbolic burying of sin.

*Yeshua’s resurrection fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits, when He was put before the Father as an offering on our behalf. He was the choicest of the fruit of the womb, the spotless and perfect offering required by the Father. He is referred to many times as the firstborn of the Sons of G-d, or the first fruit.

But there’s more. 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits comes Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks (known in Greek as Pentecost). This is the day traditionally used by the Israelites to commemorate the giving of the law to Moses. Yeshua fulfilled this one, too. He fulfilled the requirements of the law for us, and on the Pentecost after His resurrection he gave to us the key to the new covenant- the Holy Spirit, whom the Father told us long before would be the way He would write his law on our hearts.

So that’s my short answer to what the Bible has to say about bread. It is not only a primary food source but also a frequently used symbolic image for so many different things. There’s the mystery bread called manna that the Father sent from the heavens every day when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, the symbolism of the Last Supper in which Yeshua tells us that the bread is his body that would be broken for us, and the coming together of the churches to break bread as a way of building their intimacy with one another and the Father.

But this is my favorite:
“For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.’ Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:33-35

Amen. Come, Lord, quickly.

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