The Bread of Life

1 When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord’s food offerings.

“When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil. You shall break it in pieces and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering. And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. And you shall bring the grain offering that is made of these things to the Lord, and when it is presented to the priest, he shall bring it to the altar. And the priest shall take from the grain offering its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 10 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the Lord’s food offerings.

11 “No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord. 12 As an offering of firstfruits you may bring them to the Lord, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing aroma. 13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

14 “If you offer a grain offering of firstfruits to the Lord, you shall offer for the grain offering of your firstfruits fresh ears, roasted with fire, crushed new grain. 15 And you shall put oil on it and lay frankincense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 And the priest shall burn as its memorial portion some of the crushed grain and some of the oil with all of its frankincense; it is a food offering to the Lord. – Leviticus 2:1-16 ESV

The three different burnt offerings the Israelites were instructed to bring before the Lord involved the sacrifice of animals created by God. Bulls, sheep, lambs, goats, and birds were God’s handiwork, and when offered as sacrifices to Him, they reflected the reality that the atonement received by the giver was made possible by God. In essence, God had paid for the sins of the individual by providing the sacrificial animal. Man could breed and care for his flocks and herds, but he played no significant role in their actual creation or procreation.

In the original creation account, God gave man responsibility for cultivating the crops that were to be the primary source of sustenance for both humans and animals.

“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” – Genesis 1:29-30 ESV

Mankind had been tasked with the job of planting, cultivating, and harvesting the various plants and trees that filled the garden. They were to play a part in God’s creative order, using the seeds of the plants God had created to expand the garden beyond its original boundaries. And the produce from these plantings would provide an abundance of food for all future offspring, both human and animal. And this process would require effort on the part of man. But it was not until the fall that this effort or work became laborious and difficult. Because of his role in breaking the command concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and his future descendants were placed under a curse by God.

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
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.” – Genesis 3:17-19 ESV

From that moment on, the task of carrying out his God-given responsibility would be marked by pain and difficulty. Planting and harvesting crops would become a chore that was accompanied by pain, suffering, and disappointment. And it was not until after the flood that God gave humanity the right to consider animals as a source of food. But even this concession came with conditions.

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” – Genesis 9:3-4 ESV

Since each of the grain offerings described in this chapter was intended to follow the burnt offerings outlined in chapter one, they were intended to be a response to God’s gracious provision of atonement. These offerings were to be expressions of gratitude for God’s forgiveness, made possible by the animals He had created. Their blood had been shed in order to cover or atone for the sins of the one giving the offering. As an act of worship and a demonstration of thankfulness, the newly forgiven Israelite was to offer the work of his hands to Yahweh.

The meat of the burnt offering was followed by the “bread” of the grain offering. Both were “a pleasing aroma to God” and “a most holy part of the Lord‘s food offerings” (Leviticus 9:2-3 ESV). Together, they formed a “meal” for Yahweh. But in the case of the grain offerings, God reserved a portion of the sacrifice for His servants, the priests.

“…the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons.” – Leviticus 2:3 ESV

Aaron and his sons were graciously permitted to eat from the table of the Lord. God cared for His own, rewarding them for their faithful service in His house and meeting all of their physical needs.

God provides options when it came to the grain offerings. The first involved grain that had been milled into finely ground flour. This would have required effort on the part of the one making the offering. Fine flour would have been of the highest quality and a fitting gift to Yahweh. A portion of the flour was to be mixed with oil, salt, and frankincense, then burned on the altar. The addition of these ingredients to the gift increased the cost to the giver while enhancing the value of the gift. The burnt offering had cost the animal its life. Its blood had been shed so that the giver might live and not die. And the one whose life had been spared was to express his or her gratitude in a manner that signified the true value of God’s gracious gift.

God gave the Israelites options when it came to the form of the grain offering. They could offer it in the form of flour, baked loaves of bread, or flat cakes cooked on a griddle. But regardless of its form, the flour was to be free from yeast or honey. The grain was to be pure and free from adulteration of any kind. To the Israelites, yeast was a symbol of sin’s permeating presence within the life of the individual and the community. It’s likely that honey was excluded because its high sugar content would have caused the grain to ferment, another sign of corruption or sin.

God’s gift of atonement, made possible through the burnt offering, was to be followed by the grain offering. By offering the “bread of life,” the giver was thanking God for redeeming his life from death. Because of their sin, every Israelite stood before God as condemned and worthy of death, but the sacrifice of the unblemished bull, lamb, or bird provided atonement and forgiveness. The grain offering was a tangible demonstration that God was the ultimate provider and sustainer of life. The death of the animal had extended the life of the giver. The offering of the grain was the giver’s way of acknowledging that, even in the absence of bread, God could sustain life.

It was John the Baptist who declared of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). And the apostle John would later record Jesus’ claim concerning Himself: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35 ESV).

Jesus would become the sacrificial lamb and the bread of life. He would offer Himself as the sinless substitute who offers atonement for sin and freedom from death. But He would also be the ongoing sustainer of life. Jesus boldly declared His intention to provide eternal life in the hereafter but also life more abundantly in the here and now (John 10:10). Jesus provides atonement for sin and freedom from death. But He also offers to sustain all those who place their faith in Him. As the bread of life, He provides the nourishment necessary to live in this life while waiting for the one to come.

“…this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6:39-40 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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