Lechem: The Hebrew Word for Bread and Its Biblical Meaning

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September 27th, 2016

Hebrew Word for Bread

The Hebrew word for bread is “lechem” (לָ֫חֶם). It is found 296 times in the TaNaK (Old Testament). It isn’t the most prevalent word found from Genesis to Malachi, but it certainly doesn’t take last place in popularity, being found in 30 of the 39 books of the TaNaK. Then in the New Testament, Jesus claims to be “the bread of life.” So, what is the biblical meaning of bread?

Why would bread be such a common word? Perhaps it’s because it was such a 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 in the form of gluten free, yeast free, vegan bread, cornbread, rice bread, bean bread, and so on.

Lechem in the Bible

The first appearance bread, “lechem,” makes in the Word of God is in Genesis 3:19 as 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. Praise the LORD that the story doesn’t end here. God continues His story with man all throughout the TaNaK. 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. We get insight to “the rest of the story” that God began telling Adam in Genesis 3.


Moses wrote that, “Man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Living by Bread Alone

Man shall live by two things. Bread (“lechem”) AND the Word of God. “Lechem” is simple enough to understand, but what is the “word” that man shall also live by?

The Messiah.

John chapter 1 dives into a midrash [1] of verbal tallies [2], mentioning 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.”

The Bread of Life

John understands that that this Word which man lives by from Deuteronomy 8 is Yeshua, the Messiah. He is the Word of God and He became flesh. This understanding of “the word, the flesh, and the bread” comes together in Yeshua’s testimony of Himself in John 6:48-51. His 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.”

Yeshua is the Word of God. He is the Word made flesh. He is the Messiah in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Our answer, in the end, is set up in true Hebraic fashion with this poetic play on words. What two things do men live by? “Bread” and “bread.” Our bodies eat, only to die, the bread of the ground. Our spirits eat, to live forever, Yeshua – the Word of God and the Bread of Life.


[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.
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