What does the Bible say about the belly?

The belly, or stomach region, is mentioned over 40 times in the Bible. It is often used metaphorically to represent a person’s innermost being, their desires, or their source of strength. The Bible has much to say about the spiritual and practical significance of the belly.

The Belly as a Metaphor for Innermost Being

In several verses, the belly is used as a metaphor for a person’s innermost being, the seat of their emotions and desires. For example:

May my supplication come before You; Deliver me according to Your word. My lips shall utter praise, For You teach me Your statutes. My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness. Let Your hand become my help, For I have chosen Your precepts. I long for Your salvation, O Lord, And Your law is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise You; And let Your judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; Seek Your servant, For I do not forget Your commandments (Psalm 119:169-176).

Here the psalmist equates his “soul” with his “belly” or innermost being that longs for God’s salvation.

Similarly, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon advises:

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:20-23).

The “heart” here refers to the inner being, the seat of emotions, longings, and character. Guarding one’s heart is parallel to storing up God’s words in one’s “belly.”

The Belly as Physical Hunger and Desire

At times the biblical writers use the belly in a literal sense to refer to physical hunger, appetite, and desire. For instance, when describing his time of fasting and mourning over Judah’s sin, the prophet Joel says:

Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seed shrivels under the clods; the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are torn down because the grain has dried up. How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. To you, O Lord, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness (Joel 1:14-20).

The imagery of physically hungry bellies highlights the devastation and longing of the people for God to heal their land.

Similarly, the belly can represent physical desire, as when the book of Proverbs counsels:

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags (Proverbs 23:20-21).

Here gluttony and drunkenness are paired as fleshly desires that lead to ruin.

The Belly as a Place of Emotion

The biblical authors connect the belly to a person’s emotional state, especially anxiety, grief, joy, and courage. For example, when describing his worry over his people’s captivity, Jeremiah says:

My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me. Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” (Jeremiah 8:18-19)

And King David sings of God:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11-12)

Here dancing and gladness contrast with mourning and sackcloth as contrasting emotional states rooted in the belly.

When exhorting Joshua to be strong and courageous, God says:

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:5-9).

Here courage is rooted in the belly, contrasted with fear and dismay.

The Belly as the Source of Strength

Not only emotions, but also physical strength is biblically connected to the belly. Samson’s long hair is said to be the source of his strength. When Delilah cuts it, the Bible says:

And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained. Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life (Judges 16:20-30).

Though his hair grew back, Samson did not regain his strength until he prayed for God to strengthen him “this once.” His strength is internal, rooted in his belly, even when the external sign of his hair had been cut.

Along the same lines, Job complains that his days of suffering have “no strength”:

My days are past, my plans are ripped up, the desires of my heart. They make night into day; ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’ If I look for Sheol as my home, if I spread my couch in darkness, if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:11-16)

Without God’s strength, Job has “no strength” in his belly to face the day.

The Belly as the Womb

The belly also frequently refers to the womb, the place where human life begins. The Psalms celebrate:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14a).

The prophet Jeremiah gives thanks to God:

The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name (Jeremiah 1:5).

The angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive Jesus in her womb:

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus (Luke 1:31).

The belly as womb highlights God’s intimate care for people even before they are born.

The Belly as the Entire Body

At times in Scripture, the term “belly” refers to the entire body. For example, when blessing Rebekah, Isaac prays:

May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you (Genesis 27:28-29)!

Here, being “full” or “empty” in the belly represents the prosperity and barrenness of the whole person.

Similarly, God warns the prophet Ezekiel:

And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe (Ezekiel 2:6-10).

Eating the scroll represents taking God’s words into his belly, his whole being.

Caring for Physical Needs of the Belly

In addition to its metaphorical uses, the Bible acknowledges the basic physical needs of the belly. Sustenance and food are gifts from God. For instance, Paul writes to the Corinthians:

If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:11-14).

He makes the case that feeding and caring for the physical body, even of ministers of the gospel, enables more effective spiritual service.

Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul rebukes the church at Corinth for shaming those who were hungry at community meals:

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? (1 Corinthians 11:20-22a)

Caring for the physical needs of the belly through shared meals is an important way the church expresses Christ-like love.

Overindulging the Belly

While Scripture affirms the importance of feeding the belly, it also warns against pampering the body’s appetites and overindulging physical desires. Paul writes:

Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:19).

He worries some make a god of their bodily impulses rather than living by the Spirit.

Peter also warns:

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry (1 Peter 4:3).

Living to gratify the flesh will lead to spiritual decay.

Even something inherently good like food can become sinful when overindulged:

Whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things (Philippians 3:19).

Practical Tips for Caring for the Belly

Based on the Bible’s teachings about the belly, here are some best practices:

  • Consider your belly a gift from God. Thank Him for sustaining you physically (Psalm 139:13-14).
  • Eat to live; don’t live to eat. Enjoy God’s gift of food, but avoid overindulgence (Proverbs 23:20-21).
  • Let your “belly” direct you to God, not sin. Hunger and desire should point you to the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
  • Share meals together and care for the physical needs of others (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).
  • Feed on God’s Word more than physical food (Job 23:12, Jeremiah 15:16).
  • Ask God for strength in your inner being to face each day with courage (Psalm 138:3).


In summary, the Bible uses the imagery of the belly in various ways. It represents the inner being, the source of emotions, desires, courage, and strength. It also connects to the womb as the place where life begins. Scripture affirms caring for physical needs of the belly while warning against overindulgence. Most importantly, believers must feed their spiritual hunger on God’s Word even more than physical bread. The needs of the belly direct us to depend on God’s care and direction for the body and soul.

Leave a Comment