The word “bore” appears several times in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. While the basic meaning of “bore” is to make a hole by drilling, piercing, or digging, the term takes on richer significance in key Biblical passages. In this post, we will explore the various contexts and meanings of “bore” in the Bible.
- The primary meaning of “bore” in the Bible is to pierce, penetrate, or make a hole.
- God bore the Israelites out of Egypt by delivering them from slavery.
- Jesus bore our sins on the cross by suffering punishment in our place.
- We are exhorted to bear one another’s burdens by helping carry each other’s loads.
- The Holy Spirit bore witness to apostles like Peter through signs, wonders, and spiritual gifts.
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Old Testament Usages of “Bore”
The verb “bore” shows up several times in the Old Testament, primarily carrying the literal sense of drilling or piercing a hole. For example, when God gives Moses instructions for building the tabernacle, he mentions:
“You shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 25:18-22 NKJV)
The key detail here is that God wanted the mercy seat placed “on top of the ark.” The Hebrew verb translated “put” more literally means “bore” or “carried,” emphasizing the precision of resting the mercy seat directly on the ark. This bore spiritual significance, as the mercy seat represented God’s throne and presence.
Another example is in Isaiah, where the prophet warns:
“They lavish gold out of the bag, And weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it And set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move.” (Isaiah 46:6-7 NKJV)
The idol-makers here are said to “bear” and “carry” their man-made gods on their shoulders to install them. The physical bearing reflects their spiritual rebellion against the one true God.
So in the Old Testament, “bore” maintains its literal sense of carrying, transporting, lifting, and placing objects. But we also see hints of deeper spiritual connotations developing.
God Bore Israel Out of Bondage
One of the most significant uses of “bore” in the Old Testament describes how God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt:
“‘I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.'” (Exodus 19:4-5 NKJV)
Here, God did not literally carry Israel out of Egypt on the wings of eagles. Rather, He dramatically intervened with the ten plagues, parting of the Red Sea, pillar of cloud and fire, and destruction of Pharaoh’s army. Through these miracles, God swiftly and decisively “bore” Israel away from bondage into freedom.
The Ezekiel 20:5-6 parallel passage says God “chose” and “made Himself known” to Israel in bringing them out of Egypt. So bearing here implies personal divine election, deliverance, and covenant relationship. God intimately identified with Israel by bearing them up as an eagle does its young.
This set a key precedent that God physically and spiritually delivers His chosen people from oppression. And it sheds light on Jesus as the ultimate redeemer who bears our sins and imparts righteousness.
The Suffering Servant Bore Our Sorrows
Building on the Exodus motif, Isaiah 53 famously describes God’s “Suffering Servant” who bears the sins of the people:
“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5 NKJV)
Though despised and rejected, this servant bears both the griefs and sorrows of the people. The Hebrew words respectively mean sicknesses and pains. So Jesus bore our infirmities and diseases on the cross, purchasing healing and wholeness.
Jesus also bore our sin and iniquity, taking the punishment and judgment we rightly deserved. This substitutionary atonement brings eternal peace with God for all who believe.
So while the Septuagint uses a different Greek word for “bore” here, the meaning clearly conveys Jesus’ suffering as he takes our afflictions on himself. Just as God bore Israel in the Exodus, Jesus bore our sins at Calvary.
Peter Bore Witness to the Resurrected Christ
In Acts, Luke describes how Peter bore direct testimony to the resurrection after Pentecost:
“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses… Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God…having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:32-37 NKJV)
The post-crucifixion appearances and miracles conclusively bore witness that Jesus was the Messiah. Peter bore this gospel message to “the house of Israel” at Pentecost. The Greek for “know assuredly” means to know in a settled, fully convinced way. Though Jesus had been crucified, God bore infallible witness by raising Him from the dead. This bore through the hearts of the listeners, leading to repentance.
We see this term again when Peter heals the lame beggar:
“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’…And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong…Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.'” (Acts 3:6-16 NKJV)
Peter had no money to give. But through the authority of Jesus’ name, He bore full healing to immediately and completely restore the lame man. God continued bearing witness to Christ through signs, wonders, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
We Should Bear One Another’s Burdens
Moving to the New Testament epistles, Paul instructs:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:2-3 NKJV)
Here, the Greek for “bear” means to carry a heavy load. Rather than considering ourselves superior, we are to come alongside others and help them carry their burdens. This could involve emotional, financial, spiritual, or other forms of support to lift their spirits and meet pressing needs.
As Jesus bore the weight of our sins on the cross, we are to bear the weights of fellow believers. This could include praying for them, lending a listening ear, offering guidance, or meeting tangible needs they are struggling with. Bearing burdens is hard work but embodies Christ’s love.
James 5:16 gives a related exhortation:
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16 NKJV)
By humbly confessing sins and praying for each other, we bear one another’s failures and needs before God. The Holy Spirit then bears inner healing and restoration to those prayed for. Our persevering prayers bear fruit through God’s grace.
Bear Spiritual Fruit with Patience
Finally, the Bible emphasizes bearing fruit spiritually:
“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15 NKJV)
Unlike seeds sown among thorns and rocks, the good soil produces a bountiful crop. Similarly, we are to receive the Word of God into soft hearts ready to apply it. Then the Holy Spirit develops holy fruit in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
But spiritual fruit often doesn’t appear overnight. Rather, we must cultivate godly virtues with endurance. Fruit needs time to grow under the Spirit’s nurturing influence. Patience is required to bear the full harvest.
So whether it is multiplying disciples, enriching character, or cultivating other Christlike traits, bearing fruit requires longsuffering. We must weather seasons of difficulty and drought to actualize mature spiritual fruit.
In summary, “bore” in Scripture carries rich theological meaning. On a basic level, it means to make a hole or carry a load. But more broadly, it applies to God bearing Israel out of bondage, Jesus bearing the weight of human sin and brokenness on the cross, eyewitnesses bearing testimony to Christ’s resurrection, believers bearing one another’s burdens, and disciples bearing spiritual fruit through patient obedience.
To bear something is to be intimately identified with it. Jesus bore the excruciating agony of the cross because of His profound identification with humanity. We are called to bear the burdens of fellow believers because of our spiritual connection in Christ’s body. And bearing fruit stems from abiding in intimate relationship with Jesus, the true vine (John 15:1-5).
May the multifaceted biblical witness of bearing inspire us to deeper intimacy with Christ and sacrificial service towards others. As we emulate our Lord Jesus, may we bear one another’s sorrows and burdens with redeeming love.