“They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the food offerings to the Lord, the food of their God, they are to be holy.”-Leviticus 21:6
In Leviticus 21:6, we encounter the interesting phrase “the food of their God”.
Other translations say “the bread of their God”.
One thing we need to come to terms with is as inspired as Holy Scripture is, it was still through the vehicle of men who were confined to a given culture that divine truths were revealed.
The writers and compilers of Scripture wrote and spoke in a language and used terms that were normal for their society and culture.
Here’s the thing.
Every known culture during Bible times practiced giving burnt offerings to their gods.
Long before Moses and Mount Sinai, erecting an altar and offering up animal sacrifices to the gods was a practice well known to Israel.
In fact, when the Torah was being handed down to them, Israel would have expected nothing less from this powerful deity that had rescued them from Egypt.
In this verse, the Hebrew word being used for “food” is LECHEM.
LECHEM is typical Hebrew word for “food” but it can also has the double meaning of “bread”.
For example, “BEIT-LECHEM” (Bethlehem) where Yeshua was born means the “House of Bread”.
That LECHEM means both “bread” and “food” makes sense because bread was the primary food eaten in the ancient Middle East.
When Christians use the phrase “the bread of life”, they are really reflecting a common Hebrew way of thinking and speaking.
The truth is that in some sense the Hebrews really did believe their God YHVH was really “smelling” the aroma from the smoke of the burnt offerings and in some mysterious way “eating” the animal sacrifices.
The pagan cultures at that time really believed the burnt offerings were the food of the gods and if the gods didn’t eat they would in the most literal sense get hungry, grow weak and perhaps maybe even die from lack of nutrition.
Understand that just because God chose Israel doesn’t mean they instantly stopped thinking and behaving like pagans.
After being separated from Egypt (which also serves as a metaphor for the “world” in Scripture), it would take literally hundreds of years for the notion of their being only ONE God with purely spiritual attributes who doesn’t need food for physical sustenance to take root.
If we read the Bible honestly, it is impossible to overlook the many, many references to the polytheistic and pagan beliefs that remained within the belief system and culture of the ancient Israelites long after they left Egypt.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Then Yeshua declared,
‘I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me
will never go hungry,
and whoever believes in me
will never be thirsty.'”