The Bible is never silent on any subject. At times it speaks loudly on some thematic issues while at times it speaks figuratively. Just like in other subject matters, the Bible speaks of cakes and yeast and bread in different contexts. In this article, we shall look at each of these contexts to find out explicitly what the cakes were symbolic of.
What You'll Learn Today
Symbols of Offering to God
Offerings occupy a special place in the worship of the children of God. Whether the object of offering is an animal (e.g. deer, pig, etc) or a simple made meal, as long as it is given to a divine person, it qualifies to be an offering or sacrifice.
In Genesis 18, three men appear to Abraham as he was sitting at the entrance to his tent. The subject of the day was the promise to Sarah of a son. Out of generosity and care of strangers, Abraham asks Sarah to prepare a cake. He even gives here the recipe. In Genesis 18:6, the Bible records,
“So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.”
While cakes in the day were part of a normal meal, in this context they were being offered to messengers of Yahweh and thus served as an offering to God.
Abraham didn’t know who these people were, but he wholeheartedly put together his resources and ensured that they got some food to refresh before they went ahead with their journey. Unknown to him that these visitors had come with the good news to Sarah of a son to be born.
Symbol of God’s Provision
In the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness, God was concerned about their welfare. Even though they felt at some point as though God hade abandoned them, he was still watching their backs.
In one of the instances as they set out from Elim towards the Wilderness of Sin, they begun complaining about food specifically meat and bread. They said that in Egypt they used to eat meat and bread, but in the wilderness, it seems as though God had brought them out to starve.
Upon hearing the complaints, God spoke to Moses and communicated his intention to rain down food from heaven. Each Israelite would go out and collect as much as they can for the day. The food the Lord provided is described in Exodus 16:31,
“The people of Israel called the food manna. It was like a small white seed and tasted like thin cakes made with honey.”
This was not just food for the stomach, but also a symbol that God is their provider and cares for both their physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Symbol of The Priests Dedication Meal
In the Old Testament, priests played a crucial role as a go between the people and God. They presented the issues and petitions people had to God in the Holy of Holies.
In Exodus 28, we see God instructing Moses to set aside his brother Aaron and Aaron sons – Nadab, Abihu, Eliazar, and Ithamar to serve as priests. Apart from the garments that they were to be prepared for, there was a special dedication feast which is described in Exodus 29.
In the second verse of Exodus 29, there is a meal to be prepared which the Bible describes as follows
“Then, using choice wheat flour and no yeast, make loaves of bread, thin cakes mixed with olive oil, and wafers spread with oil.”
The loaves, wafers, and thin cakes were to be presented at the entrance of the tabernacle together with the animals. This was to be the sacrifice of ordination which the children of Israel were to follow henceforth.
Symbols of Grain Offering
The grain offering was meant to be taken from the first portion of the harvest of the children of Israel. It could be offered in the form of choice flour or grain offering baked in an oven.
In Leviticus 2:4 the Bible records,
“If your offering is a grain offering baked in an oven, it must be made of choice flour, but without any yeast. It may be presented in the form of thin cakes mixed with olive oil or wafers spread with olive oil.”
The grain offering was a reminder to the children of Israel that it is God who blesses their harvest and in turn they should give him the first portion in worship. The offering was also meant to be seasoned with salt as a reminder that the covenant God made with His people is eternal.
Symbolic Offering for Nazarite Rituals
A section of the Israelites was required of the Lord to take a special vow of a Nazarite which would set them apart for the service of the Lord. As part of the ritual, they would conclude with sacrifices at the entrance of the tabernacle. They would offer a burnt offering and a peace offering together with bread and cakes.
In Numbers 6:15 the Bible says,
“a basket of bread made without yeast—cakes of choice flour mixed with olive oil and wafers spread with olive oil—along with their prescribed grain offerings and liquid offerings.”
Just like the grain offering, this special offering for the Nazarite rituals was to be observed throughout Israel for all the subsequent rituals.
Symbols of Selfishness
The Bible illustrates how God loves us even though we are pulled away by our desires. When we turn to other gods, we make God jealous, and this infuriates him. In Hosea 3:1 the Bible instructs the prophet as follows,
“Then the Lord said to me, go and love your wife again even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel even though the people have turned to other gods and love their raisin cakes.”
The Bible uses cakes to bring out symbolisms in the relationship between God and the children of Israel. Many of the cake mentions are with regards to festivals but some speak to the direct relationships between God and His people.