“Give us this day our daily bread.”
Key Word Analysis
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον
In this phrase of the passage, Jesus continued the connection of Earth and Heaven from the last phrase by moving to a distinctly human and earthly topic: bread. While Luther called this the Fourth Petition, continuing from the earlier petitions and his interpretation of the pattern of the passage, it seems to this writer that the tone of the passage distinctly changes in this verse. These words bridge the gap between spiritual and physical by moving the theme of the teaching from the will of God to the daily necessities of life. While bread is used in the New Testament to mean different types of food, it moves the focus to “seeking from the hand of God all the necessities of life.”
δίδωμι/Give is a common verb used 414 times in the New Testament meaning bestow, bring forth, commit, and deliver (up), grant, make or minister. It is used for both literal and figurative purposes. It is used indicate one person giving something to another, granting something that is asked for or delivering something to someone’s care. It can be used as a declaration or as a request, as it is used in this passage. As has been seen in the previous portions of the passage, Jesus used a common word that would be easily understood by his listeners. Here are some of the other New Testament examples:
“All these things I will give”, Matthew 4:9
“Give to him who asks of you”, Matthew 5:42
“Freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8
“He gave to them”, Matthew 26:48
“To you has been given”, Mark 4:11
“For what will a man give”, Mark 8:37
“To give to his people”, Luke 1:77
“And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Luke 7:15
“Give me a drink.” John 4:7
“My peace I give to you”, John 14:27
ἐγώ/Us is a form or the primary personal pronoun egṓ, meaning I, my, me or ours. It is used twice in this passage in Give us as well as our daily bread. It is used to make a phrase or idea very personal and intimate. It is used only 40 times in the New Testament, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul to express important, personal ideas. It is used with a verb to help give the phrase force and emphasis. There are many other forms of this pronoun that could have been used. This use is very intentional to communicate the importance and intimacy of this idea.
“whoever hears these words of Mine”, Matthew 7:26
“even the least of them, you did it to Me.”, Matthew 25:40
“whatever I have”, Mark 7:11
“for a friend of mine”, Luke 11:6
“I myself have seen”, John 1:34
“I myself with judge”, Acts 7:7
“So, for my part, I am eager to preach”, Romans 1:15
“For I, on my part, though absent in the body,”, 1 Corinthians 5:3
“As the truth of Christ is in me”, 2 Corinthians 11:10
“although I myself might have confidence”, Philippians 3:4
“a faith of the same kind as ours”, 2 Peter 1:1
“I wrote something to the church”, 3 John 1:9
σήμερον/This day has the same contemporary meaning as the original Greek. It refers to the immediate moment, today or this very day. It is in the present tense.
“which is alive today.” Matthew 6:30
“So, go work today.” Matthew 21:28
“and is to this day.” Matthew 28:15
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled”, Luke 4:21
“perform cures today.” Luke 13”32
“for today, I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5
“If we were on trial today”, Acts 4:9
“all who hear me this day”, Acts 26:29
“Down to this very day.”, Romans 11:8
“But to this day”, 2 Corinthians 3:15
ἐπιούσιος/Daily is the descriptor for bread in the passage. It is only used twice in the New Testament, both times only in the “Lord’s Prayer” passages in Matthew and in Luke. It is different from other forms of the word that are used to describe repetitive tasks or work. It refers not something that we do but something we need. This daily is only used to refer to the bread or subsistence that is needed for nutrition and survival. It is also in the present tense.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”, Matthew 6:11
“Give us this day our daily bread.”, Luke 11:3
ἄρτος/Bread is the final object of the phrase. Used 97 times in the New Testament, it refers to nutritional bread or good. It is not any sort of spiritual reference. It is practical and meant to communicate the bread or food needed for survival. It is a “food from wheat and water mixed together.” It is also translated as loaves or a meal.
“Man shall not live by bread alone.” , Matthew 4:4
“when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?”, Matthew 7:9
“We have only five loaves and two fish.” , Matthew 14:17
“they could not even eat a meal.”, Mark 3:20
“There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.”, Mark 6:44
“For John the Baptist has come, eating no bread and drinking no wine.”, Luke 7:33
“Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?”, John 6:5
“he had broken the bread and eaten”, Acts 20:11
“As often as you eat this bread”, 1 Corinthians 11:26
The word analysis of this portion of the passage reveals personal, intimate ideas using a combination of common and unique words chosen by Jesus. It refers to practical and physical nutrition. We ask the Father to give to us what need for physical survival on a daily basis. There is no reference to the past or the future, just the present. The word analysis indicates a request for our daily nutritional requirements physically, with no spiritual references. From this modern analysis, the meaning seems very straightforward. How the disciples would have heard the words of Jesus is our next focus.
Historical Theology Analysis
The word analysis revealed the meaning of Jesus’ words based on their contemporary use in New Testament Israel. The historical analysis will reveal the meaning of these words based on the context, backgrounds and education of the disciples. The key words of this passage were used extensively in the Old Testament Torah and would have been very familiar to the disciples.
Give us used 926 times in the Old Testament, many times in a phrase of request as in this passage. It is a common verb, used many times connected to physical needs or food as in this passage.
“Give heed to my speech”, Genesis 4:23
“Give the people to me”, Genesis 14:21
“Give me my wife”, Genesis 29:21
“Give me children”, Genesis 30:1
“give me another son”, Genesis 30:24
“give your daughters to us”, Genesis 34:9
“Give us water”, Exodus 17:2
“Give us meat that we may eat.”, Numbers 11:13
Give us in found in the Old Testament at least seven times in the same context as this passage. It is used as part of a request for physical need: rest, food, seed, water and meat.
“give us rest”, Genesis 5:29
“Give us food”, Genesis 47:15
“give us seed”, Genesis 47:19
“Give us water”, Exodus 17:2
“give us meat to eat”, Numbers 11:4
“Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”, Numbers 31:49
The Old Testament uses of this day are a reference to a physical period of time related to an actual calendar day, the same perspective as words of Jesus. It is used 1513 times in the Old Testament. The uses are related to creation, chronological time keeping or an immediate need related time. The creation references are known by many. Here are examples of these:
“God called the light day,” Genesis 1:5
“and there was morning, one day.”, Genesis 1:8
“and there was morning, a second day.”, Genesis 1:8
“to govern the day and the night”, Genesis 1:18
“By the seventh day”, Genesis 2:2
“Then God blessed the seventh day”, Genesis 2:3
There are also many uses for chronological time keeping.
“in the cool of the day”, Genesis 3:8
“You have driven me this day”, Genesis 4:14
“named them Man in the day when they were created”, Genesis 5:2
“on the seventeenth day of the month”, Genesis 7:11
“on the first day of the month”, Genesis 8:5
“in the very same day”, Genesis 17:26
“both in one day”, Genesis 27:45
“the day the heat consumed me”, Genesis 31:40
In the passage from Matthew, Jesus is referring to a more immediate this day. It is a defined division of time. There are also several parallel examples in the Old Testament with which the disciples would have been familiar.
“You have driven me this day”, Genesis 4:14
“he is the father of the Moabites to this day.”, Genesis 19:37
“the father of the sons of Ammon to this day.”, Genesis 19:38
“as it is said to this day”, Genesis 26:33
“But what can I do this day”, Genesis 31:43
“between you and me this day.”, Genesis 31:48
“Therefore, to this day”, Genesis 32:32
“that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.”, Genesis 35:20
“in the land of Egypt valid to this day”, Genesis 47:26
“all my life to this day.”, Genesis 48:15
“came upon the earth until this day.”, Exodus 10:6
“Now this day”, Exodus 12:14
“you shall observe this day”, Exodus 12:17
“Remember this day”, Exodus 13:3
“I am commanding you this day”, Exodus 34:11
“as it has been done this way”, Leviticus 8:34
“for it is on this day”, Leviticus 16:30
Daily bread also has parallel meanings in Old Testament passages. The disciples would have clearly understood the context of time and nutrition as the words indicate. Daily is used 39 times and always indicates a defined division of time or calendar day. Here are some of those examples.
“Complete your work quota, your daily amount.”, Exodus 5:13
“You must not reduce your daily amount of bricks.”, Exodus 5:19
“twice as much as they gather daily.”, Exodus 16:5
“you must present daily, for seven days.”, Numbers 28:24
“she pressed him daily with her words”, Judges 16:16
“and did so according to the daily rule”, 2 Chronicles 8:13
“according to the daily rule”, 2 Chronicles 8:14
“for his daily obligations”, 2 Chronicles 31:16
As in the New Testament passage, bread also had many Old Testament passages where the word indicated a physical, nutritional item, part of the food needed regularly to survive as a human.
“You will eat bread.”, Genesis 3:19
“Salem brought out bread and wine”, Genesis 14:18
“I will bring them a piece of bread”, Genesis 18:5
“knead it and make bread cakes”, Genesis 18:6
“baked unleavened bread and they ate.”, Genesis 19:3
“rose early in the morning and took bread”, Genesis 21:14
“the bread which she had made”, Genesis 27:17
“they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs”, Exodus 12:8
“you shall eat unleavened bread”, Exodus 12:18
“into cakes of unleavened bread”, Exodus 12:39
“He gives you bread for two days”, Exodus 16:29
“cakes of leavened bread”, Leviticus 7:13
“one cake of bread mixed with oil”, Leviticus 8:26
“unleavened bread with bitter herbs”, Numbers 9:11
“you shall eat unleavened bread”, Deuteronomy 16:8
“You have not eaten bread”, Deuteronomy 29:6
While the words daily and bread are used in these parallel Old Testament passages, the two words together appear only in the two New Testament version of The Lord’s Prayer. They are a concept introduced to us by God in his scriptures only in reference to our reliance on the Father for our daily nutritional needs.
The words used by Jesus in New Testament times had almost identical meanings to those same words the disciples would have studied as part of their Jewish upbringing and education using Old Testament/Torah references. Jesus connected old and new clearly and effectively. The meaning expressed by Jesus and the meaning heard by the disciples based on their culture have been examined. The modern, contemporary applications of the passage are the next focus.
Contemporary Theology Analysis
The modern implications of this passage may seem obvious: ask God for your daily food needs. Many times, the most obvious answer is the best one. There is much more to this passage than the obvious meanings.
As the beginning of Jesus’ words in this passage proclaimed God as the almighty ruler of the universe as Our Father who is in Heaven, this part of the passage deals with the common nature of man. These verses level the playing field for all men. All men need food. “The rich and the poor are alike dependent upon the harvest for daily bread.” God may be all powerful but each man is powerless against hunger. Hunger is the great equalizer. Depending on our heavenly Father for this most basic of all needs is a good first step in a dependent relationship with him. A child learns its dependence on it mother early in life when the pain of hunger can be silenced only by the nourishment she provides.
Jesus placed it as the first human step in the passage. Up until this point, the passage has dealt with Our Father, his heavenly attributes and heavenly will and kingdom. As Jesus transitioned from heavenly to earthly, he started with the most basic of all human needs. Jesus teaches by his words and his example to be “consciously dependent upon the great God for the food that sustains” us in our daily lives. Upon this basis of dependence we can begin to build our earthly relationship with God. Being nourished daily also has spiritual implications.
We must be physically able to serve God to do so. This petition for our daily bread is intended to allow “for the maintenance of our bodily powers in their highest condition for the service of God.” This passage also speaks to the time-focus God wishes for us. There is no reference to a week, month, year or lifetime. The reference is to this day. This shows “a hint of the uncertainty of life.” We may not need any bread tomorrow. We may not be here! Jesus again modeled the behavior desired of man by both his words and deeds. There is no biblical evidence that Jesus ever thought or planned ahead for his physical needs. He truly lived this day every day, in regards to both food and shelter. “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)
Jesus taught a valuable lesson of community in this passage. He instructs his disciples to ask for our daily bread. There was not an instruction for my daily bread. Jesus taught the need for an individual relationship with God, supported by a community or family of other believers. He lived his ministry with twelve others around him much of the time. He did few things by himself and when he did, it was described in scripture as an event or significant happening. We can only assume that he was surrounded by others most of the time during his ministry years. By those actions and by these words he sets an example. The use of our shows a constant concern for the welfare of others. “Give me the opportunity to earn my daily bread but give all other men the same.”
To seek to live in community or to focus only on the needs of today are both behaviors foreign to modern society. We seek to be independent and well as save and invest for ourselves for a secure future or retirement. We seek to trust ourselves. Jesus seeks to teach us to trust the Father. “Today is ours; tomorrow is Thine, as yesterday is Thine.” This may be the goal of Jesus for his believers, but it not their nature. But Jesus seeks that we put trust in Him and not in ourselves. If we follow the words of Jesus, we would focus only on today, asking the Father only for the needs for today. That requires trust. If we ask for no accumulation of nutrition or of anything else of tangible worth, then we trust that each day the Father will again provide. “If Thou hast given us much, we will no more trust in ourselves than if we had nothing; and if we have nothing for tomorrow, we trust Thee still.” To receive only for today is to trust for tomorrow, to trust another for all needs.
Jesus wishes that we seek “living in and for the present, without either forecast or retrospect.” Jesus wishes them to live as Moses did. He was instructed to “gather a day’s portion every day.” (Exodus 16:4) This creates not a one way trust of man in God but a two way trust between the two. Man takes only today and shows trust in God. God then rewards that trust by “providing for them, one day at a time.”
Jesus teaches in this passage and by his life to trust in our heavenly Father for our needs every day, one day at a time. God will provide the most basic of all needs as well as a life of fulfilment. We must only ask him to give us those needs.
In this portion of the passage, Jesus continues the connection of Heaven and Earth from the last portion but now turns the focus towards life on Earth, versus a heavenly focus. Using common language, he encourages his followers to ask for and depend on the Father for daily human needs, daily nutrition.
God is interested in every part of our lives. He wants to insure we are never hungry, spiritually or physically. The God of the entire universe may seem too powerful or almighty to care if you have food to eat, but Jesus shows that the Father is interested in just that. He will give us our daily needs and we should depend on him for them.
Daily bread is used as a phrase using this language only twice in the entire Bible, in the two Lord’s Prayer passages. It implies that we should depend of God daily for our needs, with little thought or worry about any future needs. Today is what matters to Him.
In today’s world, we are always future focused. We constantly ask ourselves the questions about the fate of our society and our personal futures. Jesus makes it clear that our focus should be on the day we have been given. There is no mention of tomorrow or things still to come. God wants our service and our submission to him today! “Give us this day our daily bread!”