"Man shall not live on bread alone..." (Matthew 4:4)

After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4)

Is Jesus quoting Moses?

Yes, Jesus is quoting Moses here. It is very interesting that Jesus would quote Moses on a fast through the desert for 40 days. Is this a coincidence?

No. Moses fasted for 40 days:
Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28)
So did Elijah:
So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. (1 Kings 19:8)
So we find precedent for such a fasting period in ancient times. It is likely that many other saints and pilgrims fasted for 40 days in ancient times.

Thus we can conclude that Jesus' fast would have a commemorative aspect: A dedication to Moses and his commitment to the Supreme Being.

We also find some additional symbolism with Moses' teachings, and his trek through the desert for 40 years with the Israelites. Jesus was drawing attention to the dedication of Moses to the Supreme Being.

Indeed, the three temptations of Jesus during this fast all include quotes from Moses. 

Here is the passage Jesus is quoting from - spoken by Moses to his followers after they had traveled through the desert:
"He [the Lord your God] humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." (Deuteronomy 8:3)
What does this passage mean and what does Moses and Jesus mean by "man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD"? This is discussed below.

What does 'bread alone' mean?

Moses and Jesus were speaking of our spiritual connection with the Supreme Being. "From the mouth of God" is a metaphor. It means to rely upon the Supreme Being. Moses was speaking of the Israelites taking refuge in God.

This is also a spiritual supposition. Not needing physical food is a topic relating to our spiritual identity.

Each of us is essentially made of spirit. We are not these physical bodies. These physical bodies are temporary vehicles. They will last no more than a few decades and then they will die and begin to decompose - eventually turning into dirt.

Each of us is a spirit-person living within a physical body.

We can see this when we look at a photo of our body when it was a child. That body is now gone. Every molecule that made up that body has been replaced by new molecules - as every molecule in the body is replaced within five years.

Who is looking at the photo? And who was there when the photo was taken? Don't we say "this is me"? If the childhood body is gone now, yet we still say "this is me" - this means that we - "me" - is not the physical body. We are the personality who pervaded - who existed - within both the child body and the body we wear now.

This spirit-person is invisible to the physical eyes, because these eyes cannot see into the spiritual dimension. The spirit-person is of another plane of existence. It is of the spiritual dimension - a dimension not seen by the physical eyes. The physical eyes were designed to see a particular range or spectrum of wavelengths and not others. They see certain frequencies of light waves as those light waves bounce off of the molecules of the forms of the physical world.

This is why we cannot see any difference between a living body and a body that just died. We don't see the spirit-person leaving the physical body.

Because our identity is spiritual, we require food that is more than physical "bread." The physical body may need constant fuel in the form of "bread" in order to continue functioning. But the spirit-person that Jesus and Moses are speaking of needs something more. What is it?

What is our spiritual food?

It is the food that feeds the spiritual self.

Our spiritual food is our relationship with the Supreme Being. This is what gives each of us real life. And this is the only thing that will make us happy.

Just think about it. We are each looking for happiness in this physical world and never finding it. We look for happiness in the objects of the senses. We look for happiness by achieving wealth. We look for happiness by achieving fame and the acclaim of others. We look for happiness by having a big house. We look for happiness by achieving some goal of accomplishment.

Yet none of these physical things make us happy. We are still empty within. Even those who have the most of these things are still empty within.

So we look for happiness through our relationships with those around us. We look for happiness in our spouses, our children, and our family. And to a degree, we do find a glimpse of happiness within these relationships.

But this fleeting happiness fades as these people leave us or break up with us. Our spouse may divorce us or die. Our children will grow up and move out. Our mother and father and grandparents will all die one day. Each of these events will leave us empty and alone.

Because they are temporary relationships. Yes, we might see them in a different lifetime but we won't recognize them as we knew them before. We will have to start a brand new relationship with them and won't remember the last one we had with them.

In other words, all the relationships of the physical world - these relationships of the physical body - are all temporary. They don't last. And the happiness we are looking for in the physical world does not exist. The world only offers us the illusion of happiness. And the illusion that we are these bodies and we are permanently these physical bodies.

Who is the 'tempter'?

This description provides a combination of events and symbolic parable. We see a historical connection between Jesus' fast in the desert and Jesus' departing John the Baptist and then beginning his teachings.

But the events of the fast also take on a symbolic theme. For example, there is no mountain on the earth for which one can see every kingdom of the earth.

Similarly, this is not describing a specific person - "Satan the tempter" - as though God has lost control over this person and he has the power to deceive God and bring us over to his team.

Rather, the "tempter" is symbolic of an aspect of the physical world that constantly tests us.

This is the illusory nature of the physical world - designed by the Supreme Being. And this is "the tempter" being spoken of in Matthew 4:3.

The physical world is constantly tempting us with promises of wealth, popularity, and sensual satisfaction. All of these are magnified for someone who is attempting to serve and honor the Supreme Being.

The physical world provides a constant testing ground for the soul. These tests come in the form of temptations, which are repeatedly offered to us with promises of self-satisfaction. The test is whether we succumb to those tests during our temporary stay in the physical realm.

But this is not the case in the spiritual realm. The Supreme Being is eternal and our relationship with the Supreme Being is eternal. And we find true happiness within our loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.

We have forgotten this relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the purpose of the physical world and these physical bodies. This is the purpose for the illusory nature - "the tempter": To help us escape from and forget God.

But our relationship with Him is forever. We simply have forgotten that relationship.

This is because the Supreme Being gives each of us the freedom to love Him or not. Love requires freedom.

So those of us in the physical world are here because we chose not to love the Supreme Being.

Even so, the Supreme Being wants us to come home to Him. He wants us to return to our loving relationship with Him. This is because He loves us and He knows we will only be happy when we have resumed our relationship with Him.

And what is that relationship? It is the loving relationship we are perpetually looking for as we seek love within the physical world. This is the loving relationship we seek as we look for our soul mate and seek love with family members. We are looking for our lost relationship of love with the Perfect Person.

What does 'living on every word' mean?

"Living on every word that comes from the mouth of God" means living for the Supreme Being - taking refuge in God and dedicating our life to Him.

When we are in love with another person, we will do what pleases them. Should they want to go somewhere in particular, we will go there. Or when they say they want to eat a certain food, we go get them that food.

What are we doing as we are doing all those things? We are living off of "every word that comes from the mouth" of that person.

Yes, "every word that comes from the mouth" is an expression. It is an expression - used by Moses and even still used today - that refers to doing what is pleasing to that person. It refers to having a loving service relationship with that person.

And this is what Moses and Jesus were asking of their followers: To renew their loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.

And Jesus' lived this instruction as well. Consider this statement he made:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Jesus is stating that his pleasure ("I seek") is derived from pleasing the Supreme Being. He also states this elsewhere - for example:
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)
Jesus is referring to his loving relationship with the Supreme Being. He wants to do whatever the Supreme Being wants him to do. This means he is living off of "every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

And because the Supreme Being wants each of us to return to our loving relationship with Him, Jesus' efforts were focused upon encouraging and teaching those around him to return to their loving service relationship with the Supreme Being. This was also clearly communicated in the most important teaching of both Jesus and Moses:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)