Hebrew Word for Bread

The Hebrew word for bread is “lechem” (לָ֫חֶם). It may sound familiar because of the name Bethlehem – or Beit Lechem, meaning “House of Bread”. But is it connected to the meaning of the Bread of Life? Let’s study deeper the Biblical meaning of “bread”. 

It is found 296 times in the Tanach (Old Testament). In fact, it appears in 30 of the 39 books of the Tanach! It isn’t the most prevalent word found from Genesis to Malachi, but it certainly doesn’t lack in popularity.

As you may remember, the New Testament was written in Greek. But the word “bread” continues to appear throughout and in significant contexts. Most notably, Jesus said to be “the bread of life”. So, what is the biblical meaning of bread?

bread oven

Significance of ‘Lechem’

First, let’s consider the question, why would bread be such a common word? The answer is likely very simple. Perhaps it’s because it was and is a very common food. Over the centuries, bread has been a staple food in the lives of nearly all peoples and nations. Even today, bread is a product that many restaurants and grocery stores cater around.For example, think of all the gluten free, yeast free, and vegan options. Not to mention cornbread, rice bread, bean bread, and so on.But is that all there is to it? Does lechem appear in the Bible, because it’s a common food? 

Hebrew Word for Bread in the Bible

The first appearance of lechem, the Hebrew word for bread, in the Word of God is in Genesis 3:19. There, the LORD is explaining the consequences of “the fall” to Adam. He says,

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

God lets man know that he will live by bread until his death. It is only a temporary source of life for him. Essentially, he eats bread only to die in the end. But praise the LORD that the story doesn’t end here!

God continues His story with man (and mankind) all throughout the Tanach. He picks up where He left off with this portion of the story in Deuteronomy 8:3. Here we learn that bread isn’t the only food that man will live by.

The ‘Lechem’ to Live by

We get insight to “the rest of the story” that God began telling Adam in Genesis 3. Moses wrote, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Man shall live by two things. Bread (lechem) AND the Word of God. The first bread is simple enough to understand. But what is this second lechem, the Word, that man shall also live by?

It’s the Messiah, the very one who was born in Bethlehem – the house of bread! 

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the author dives into a midrash [1] of verbal tallies [2]. John mentions how “in the beginning” the “word” was with God and the “word” was God. He culminates in verse 14 as he states,

“And the word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Cart of bread in the streets of Old Jerusalem.

The Deeper, Biblical Meaning

John understands the deep truth about this Word which man is to live by, as said in Deuteronomy 8. He recognizes Yeshua the Messiah in this scripture. John knows that Yeshua is the Word of God who became flesh.What is more, this understanding of the word, the flesh, and the bread comes together in Yeshua’s testimony of Himself. Again, it is noted by John – in chapter 6, verses 48-51. Yeshua’s own words were:

“I am the bread of life… I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Bread of Life

The bottom line is, Yeshua is the lechem that sustains our lives. He is the Word of God. It is the Son of God who is the Word made flesh. He is the Messiah in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

So then, what are the two things men live by? Our answer, in the end, is set up in true Hebraic fashion with this poetic play on words.

Bread and the biblical meaning of bread. Our bodies eat, only to die, the bread of the ground. Our spirits eat, to live forever, the supernatural lechem, Yeshua – the Word of God and the Bread of Life.


7 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know: Free PDF Download

With the use of the Hebrew language God revealed Himself to mankind. This ancient tongue held the greatest spiritual truths that guided our lives through the ages. And in each generation, they are discovered anew.

We know the Bible can be hard to understand and you want to get more out of it. Which is why we want to teach you seven Hebrew words that will transform the way you read the Bible.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

[1] “Midrash” — an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text.

[2] “Verbal tallies” – short quotes that reference the audience back to previous portions of Scripture – ex: “In the beginning… [John 1:1]” takes the audience directly back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning…”
Dustin Herron
Dustin Herron is a men's ministry coordinator at Gateway Church in Southlake, TX, and has a Master’s in Christian Leadership from Moody Bible Institute. He attended a Messianic congregation in southeastern Kentucky while growing up, and through this experience, the LORD cultivated a passion for Israel and for God’s Word in Dustin. He greatly enjoys spending time with his wife, Andrea, and reading in his hammock whenever cooler Texas weather permits.
tag icon-info envelope-o search map-marker money-heart globe contact-plane flag wallet star icon-directions controller-play calendar location world thumb-up comments verified language handshake-o congregations youth-young-adults social-justice worship-and-prayer outreach resources members-az israel-outline members biblical-soundness excellence-integrity financial-transparency leadership-accountability spirit-of-unity paint-brush-1 leader