The Table of Showbread
Dec 15th, 2005
The Lord said to me:
“You know the table in the sanctuary – in the Holy of holies. The Table of the Showbread. It was in the presence of the Lord always, and on top the 12 loaves standing for each tribe as you read ? Those 12 loaves were not made like other loaves. Read on how they were made…that I can give you some understanding.
The Challah was just a beginning and the “food I have articles.” This goes with it.”
1 Chron 9:32 KJV And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread , to prepare it every sabbath.
Ex 25:30 KJV And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.
Num 4:7-8 KJV And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: 8 And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.
1 Chron 23:27-32 KJV For by the last words of David the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and above: 28 Because their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and the work of the service of the house of God; 29 Both for the shewbread , and for the fine flour for meat offering, and for the unleavened cakes, and for that which is baked in the pan, and for that which is fried, and for all manner of measure and size; 30 And to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even; 31 And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD: 32 And that they should keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the holy place, and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren, in the service of the house of the LORD.
2 Chron 2:4-5 KJV Behold, I build an house to the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread , and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel. 5 And the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods.
2 Chron 4:19 KJV And Solomon made all the vessels that were for the house of God, the golden altar also, and the tables whereon the shewbread was set;
2 Chron 13:10-11 KJV But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests, which minister unto the LORD, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business:
11 And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him.
Matt 12:4 KJV How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread , which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
Mark 2:26 KJV How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread , which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
Luke 6:4-5 KJV How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread , and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? 5 And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
Heb 9:2-5 KJV For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread ; which is called the sanctuary.
3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
Heb 9:6-9 KJV Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
KJV - devour, eat, ever, fight (-ing), overcome, prevail, (make) war (-ring).
lechem (lekh'-em); from OT:3898; food (for man or beast), especially bread, or grain (for making it): KJV - ([shew-]) bread, eat, food, fruit, loaf, meat, victuals. See also OT:1036.
OT:3898 lacham (law-kham'); a primitive root; to feed on; figuratively, to
consume; by implication, to battle (as destruction): KJV - devour, eat, ever,
fight (-ing), overcome, prevail, (make) war (-ring).
OT:1036 Beyth le-` Aphrah (bayth le-af-raw'); from OT:1004 and the feminine of OT:6083 (with preposition interposed); house to (i.e. of) dust; Beth-le-Aphrah, a place in Palestine: KJV - house of Aphrah.
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
OT:6083 `aphar (aw-fawr'); from OT:6080; dust (as powdered or gray); hence, clay, earth, mud:KJV - ashes, dust, earth, ground, morter, powder, rubbish. `Aphrah. See OT:1036.
OT:6440 paniym (paw-neem'); plural (but always as singular) of an unused noun [paneh (paw-neh'); from OT:6437]; the face (as the part that turns); used in a great variety of applications (literally and figuratively); also (with prepositional prefix) as a preposition (before, etc.): KJV - accept, a- before (-time), against, anger, as (long as), at, battle, because (of), beseech, countenance, edge, employ, endure, enquire, face, favour, fear of, for, forefront (-part), form (-er time, -ward), from, front, heaviness, him (-self), honourable, impudent, in, it, look [-eth] (-s), me, meet, more than, mouth, of, off, (of) old (time), on, open, out of, over against, the partial, person, please, presence, propect, was purposed, by reason of, regard, right forth, serve, shewbread, sight, state, straight, street, thee, them (-selves), through (+-out), till, time (-s) past, (un-) to (-ward), upon, upside (+down), with (-in, -stand), ye, you.
OT:6437 panah (paw-naw'); a primitive root; to turn; by implication, to face, i.e. appear, look, etc.: KJV - appear, at [even-] tide, behold, cast out, come on, corner, dawning, empty, go away, lie, look, mark, pass away, prepare, regard, (have) respect (to), (re-) turn (aside, away, back, faceself,), right [early]. paneh. See OT:6440.
OT:4635 ma` areketh (mah-ar-eh'-keth); from OT:6186; an arrangement, i.e. (concretely) a pile (of loaves): KJV - row, shewbread.
OT:6186 `arak (aw-rak'); a primitive root; to set in a row, i.e. arrange, put in order (in a very wide variety of applications): KJV - put (set) (the battleself,) in array, compare, direct, equal, esteem, estimate, expert [in war], furnish, handle, join [battle], ordain, (lay, put, reckon up, set) (in) order, prepare, tax, value.
Matt 12:4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread , which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
NT:740 artos (ar'-tos); from NT:142; bread (as raised) or a loaf: KJV - (shew-) bread, loaf.
NT:142 airo (ah'-ee-ro); a primary root; to lift up; by implication, to take up or away; figuratively, to raise (the voice), keep in suspense (the mind), specially, to sail away (i.e. weigh anchor); by Hebraism [compare OT:5375] to expiate sin:
KJV - away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up).
NT:3588 ho (ho); including the feminine he (hay); and the neuter to (to); in all their inflections; the def. article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom): KJV - the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc..
(below is the next lexical entry in Strong's Greek Dictionary, in alphabetical order. No Strong's Number was originally given to it.)
ho. See NT:3739.
NT:4286 prothesis (proth'-es-is); from NT:4388; a setting forth, i.e. (figuratively) proposal (intention); specifically, the show-bread (in the Temple) as exposed before God: KJV - purpose, shew [-bread].
NT:4388 protithemai (prot-ith'-em-ahee); middle voice from NT:4253 and NT:5087; to place before, i.e. (for oneself) to exhibit; (to oneself) to propose (determine): KJV - purpose, set forth.
NT:4253 pro (pro); a primary preposition; "fore", i.e. in front of, prior
(figuratively, superior) to: KJV - above, ago, before, or ever. In comparison
it retains the same significations.
NT:5087 tithemi (tith'-ay-mee); a prolonged form of a primary theo (theh'-o) (which is used only as alternate in certain tenses); to place (in the widest application, literally and figuratively; properly, in a passive or horizontal posture, and thus different from NT:2476, which properly denotes an upright and active position, while NT:2749 is properly reflexive and utterly prostrate): KJV - advise, appoint, bow, commit, conceive, give, kneel down, lay (aside, down, up), make, ordain, purpose, put, set (forth), settle, sink down.
The Showbread Table was placed on the right-hand side of the Holy Place, the North side, a little way from the gold-covered Boards. It was not very big: approximately 1 metre long, half a metre wide, three-quarters of a metre high. It was made from acacia wood overlaid with gold, similar to the Boards, speaking of the two-fold nature of Jesus Christ: He was born of Mary as a genuine human being, yet conceived by the Holy Spirit and called the Son of God (Luke 1:35), truly man overlaid with God.
The Showbread Table had a crown made of gold, unlike the Burnt Offering Altar. Back there in the Outer Court, all was about washing, judgment and death at the bronze-coated Laver and Burnt Offering Altar. Here in the Holy Place, all is about life, food, light and fragrant incense. Therefore "we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, because of the suffering of death" in the Outer Court, but at the Showbread Table (and at the Golden Incense Altar) in the Holy Place we see Jesus "crowned with glory and honour" (Hebrews 2:9).
On the Showbread Table were placed twelve loaves of unleavened bread, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The loaves were replaced every week freshly on the Sabbath (Leviticus 24:5-9): fresh food in the house of God for the priests, Aaron and his sons. Peter tells us that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:8), who have tasted that the Lord is gracious (I Peter 2:3) are not only a spiritual house, but also a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:5,9). As priests, we are ministering to the Lord through faith in Jesus' blood and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Our food, in addition to some of the offerings, is the fresh bread on the golden Showbread Table: Jesus as the Bread of God who came down from heaven to give LIFE to the world (John 6:33), crowned with glory and honour.
The twelve loaves represent the whole people of God, in God's house (the church, I Timothy 3:15), in fellowship with one another (I John 1:7).
The loaves of unleavened bread remind us of the Lord Jesus saying "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger" (John 6:35). This unlimited supply of heavenly food, fresh every week, is to be the portion of the priests in the light from the Lampstand (Colossians 1:12). Every day we need to come to Him (John 6:37), see the Son and believe in Him (John 6:40); He is the living Bread, that came down from heaven to give us His life, life IN us (John 6:51,53). This life is brought to us firstly as the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63) and secondly, as the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Today, Jesus Christ can only give His life to us through His word and by His Spirit. The black-and-white word of the scriptures alone is not enough for life (John 5:39-40). We must come to Him in the word AND in the Spirit.
The Showbread is also called the Bread of the Presence. To eat Christ as the Bread of Life, we (the priests) must be in the presence of God, who is Spirit (John 4:24). The Showbread is for all the priests, in fellowship with one another in God's presence.
Based on the parable in Luke 11:5-8, we need the Bread of Life not just for ourselves (as in the daily bread in Luke 11:3), but also for our needy friends, who come to us on their journey. Jesus makes it clear: people in the world are hungry, but the flesh profits nothing (John 6:35,62). Jesus came that He might give life to the world, so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life (John 6:33,47). Therefore, we should ask, seek and knock in prayer (Luke 11:9), until He gives us as much Bread of life as we need for ourselves and for our friends (Luke 11:8). Our heavenly Father delights to do this! (Luke 11:13).
Page authored by Martyn Barrow.
The table is found located on the right side of the holy place. Twelve loaves are placed on the table each week for God’s enjoyment. The next week when replaced by the new loaves, the priest may eat the "older" loaves.
The table symbolizes fellowship. It shows a gesture of friendship, as inviting a friend to share a meal. The table in the tabernacle shows God’s desire for fellowship with us. Jesus was a friend of publicans and sinners because He sat and ate with them at the table. God wishes to satisfy our hunger. God’s salvation is likened to a banquet with the table spread for royalty.
The table was opposite the lampstand. The lampstand supplied light in the holy place. It symbolized Christ, "in Him was life" = source of life = in Him. The bread on the table symbolized the means of life. It maintained physical life or was the sustenance of life. You do not get life by eating bread, it is not a source.
God knows what we need: 1. new life = source (light of regeneration)
2. sustain life = means (continuing life)
Together they produce eternal bliss. Jesus knows we are hungry when He offers himself. We are a people of hearts unsatisfied and hungry for life. What is the solution?
John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
John 6:48-69 - I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
The ancient world was a sad place due to NO HOPE. The people sought immortality by any means. What hope do we have today beyond this life? "I am the bread of life, come down from heaven, to satisfy the hunger you have and give you eternal life." Jesus came from the eternal world, like the manna of the Old Testament, to bring the bread of life.
The miracle of the fish and the loaves preceded the sermon on the "everlasting bread." The 5000 were fed and there was extra food. In Jn 6:12 the disciples are told to gather all the fragments left. The lesson is that not one will be lost that was given Him and all will be raised up the last day. If only a crumb comes your way, take and eat of the bread of life! "I take Christ and do believe on Him. I shall be saved because He will do God’s will to the last crumb."
Man is hungry for life and does not want to die. Is he also hungry for a better kind of life? John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Christ said I am returning to the spiritual world.
We are to live by His words and follow Him to this same spiritual kingdom.
The secret of satisfaction is spiritual in the end. There is another world, a great and eternal world that we see signs and symbols of in this World. We eat bread to satisfy our hunger, God offers the Bread of Eternal Life. We have parents, God offers to be our Father. We live in a home here, God offers an Eternal dwelling! In the temporary things of this world there is no permanent satisfaction. In the eternal world of our Savior, there is everlasting joy and satisfaction. We may enjoy things here, but the heart longs for something lasting, something eternal.
This is eternal fulfillment, but we may have it now by fellowship with God today. The hand of God reaches out to us to provide eternal food to satisfy all today. Will you receive it before the offer comes to an end? How shall we go into eternity? With Christ as our eternal source of satisfaction or eternally unfilled? Eternity will be meaningless and forever unsatisfying without the bread of life. We may gather at the Father’s table in fellowship in the light and life of our blessed Savior.
All the furniture in the tabernacle on the way to God speaks of Christ because He is the only way to God. The spiritual level must be established when studying the tabernacle. To the ancient Israelites it was a means of approach to God, a pattern of heavenly things, and a shadow of coming things. The bread of life is offered to satisfy the hunger for life. The table is the basis of fellowship with God. A picture of our Lord as our basis of fellowship with God.
The Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and death is connected with all facets of the tabernacle and nothing can be enjoyed without Calvary. The Lord’s Table (New Testament) looks back to the table of showbread (Old Testament) as a picture of fellowship with God.
The lampstand and table of showbread are vessels of presentation. The 7 lamps on the lampstand provide a lovely light in the holy place. The world would be a drab place without light. The quality of light fills the world with color. We use the metaphor "please shed some light on the problem." God is light - He adds color to life and meaning to eternity. Sin takes the color out of life and leads to darkness.
What’s the purpose of being saved? - 1. saved from eternal damnation
2. to witness to a dark world to see others saved
Ephesians 1:4 says we chosen before we were even created. It also gives us the purpose of our creation, "to stand holy and unblameable before Him." The table of showbread and the lampstand were both vessels used to present things "before Him". The tabernacle illustrates
Ephesians 1:4 with the 2 vessels of presentation: 1). Lamps are to shine continuously before the Lord to allow the priest to function. This points us to the source of light and life.
2). Table of 12 loaves before the Lord. Is God hungry for bread? What do the twelve loaves of bread represent to God? Does He desire our fellowship? The all sufficient One decided to need you!
Why did God create you? Why did He redeem you? He needs nothing but decided He wanted us. He determined we should be before Him holy and unblameable.
Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.The risen Lord desires to dine with us! He stands outside the doors of our lives and desires to be fed. Do we provide Him fellowship? Uninterrupted? This is not the man Jesus asking, but the glorious risen one, the Son of God!
We were created for His pleasure and are to stand before Him holy and unblameable. God’s purpose was to have me before Him. The world has no interest in us, but almighty God desires that we are before Him in fellowship. Unwilling creatures which He demanded to come before Him would be unsatisfying. His own were "foreordained as sons of God". Sons given to fellowship with the heart of God! His own would have the very life of God within them, God’s spirit, mind, and life to minister unto God intelligently for His pleasure. Creatures had no choice if they would be here on earth. They were put here for God’s pleasure. Man does have a choice if he will become a son of God. It is a decision of faith for each man or woman.
John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Phil 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
We can not be born married. We must make a decision to become married. God has an offer that we should become the sons of God? Have you decided? God thought it worthwhile to create a planet to support creatures who would choose to become sons of God before Him. Man turned his back to God and gone his own way. Why didn’t God just crush the planet and end the disobedience? His love and mercy provided an opportunity to fulfill his purpose for us. How can we fulfill his desires?
Eph 1:18-19, The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
God has seated us before Him (Eph 2:6) and Christ presents us to Him. This is not in a earthly tabernacle, but in the spiritual realm of the eternal tabernacle (the holiest of all). There Christ is before the Father to present me to Him. He does this High Priestly work not only now, but all week long like the loaves on the table for God’s satisfaction.
It is a continuous presentation = I was made to be a son of God, a forgiven creation of God to be presented before God for His satisfaction. May we be found sitting before him for His pleasure "shining before the Lord".
Composition and Presentation.
Twelve cakes, with two-tenths of an ephah in each, and baked of fine flour, which were ranged in two rows (or piles) on the "pure" table that stood before Yhwh and remained exposed to view for a week. A better term than "showbread" is the marginal reading of the Revised Version—"presence-bread" (Ex. xxv. 30), for this offering was required to be constantly before or in the presence of Yhwh.
Each Sabbath fresh cakes replaced the old, which then belonged to the priests, who were required to eat them in a holy place, since the bread was holy. Upon the rows of cakes cups of frankincense were placed; this frankincense constituted the "azkarah," or memorial, and was offered upon the altar to Yhwh (Lev. xxiv. 4-9). According to I Chron. ix. 32, the sons of the Kohathites had charge of the baking and setting in order of the "bread of the row," as the Hebrew describes it. It would thus seem that the preparing of these cakes involved certain information which was kept as a secret by this priestly set.
Mention is made of the showbread in the story of David's adventure at Nob. Ahimelek, the priest, at David's request, gave him the "holy" bread, that is, the stale loaves that had been taken away and replaced by "hot" ones (I Sam. xxi. 4-6; comp. Matt. xii. 4; Luke vi. 4). In Solomon's Temple provision was made for the proper exhibition of the loaves (I Kings vii. 48; comp. II Chron. iv. 19, xiii. 11). Though not explicitly stated to be so, these cakes were most probably unleavened. It is true they were not offered upon the altar, from which leaven was scrupulously excluded (Lev. ii. 11); but, as most holy, they were carried into and exposed in the inner sanctuary, and therefore the supposition that the use of leaven in them was prohibited carries a high degree of probability.
The foregoing rather scanty data from the Biblical sources are confirmed and complemented by information vouchsafed by Josephus. The cakes were provided out of the common charge; they were without leaven, and contained twenty-four tenths of a "deal" of flour. Two heaps were baked the day before the Sabbath, and on the morning of the Sabbath were brought into the holy place, where they were set upon the holy table, six in a heap, one loaf leaning against another. On the top of each heap two golden cups of frankincense were placed; they remained there till the next Sabbath, when the fresh loaves were brought and the old loaves were given to the priests for their own consumption. The frankincense was burned in the sacred fire, and a new supply was placed upon the fresh loaves ("Ant." iii. 10, § 7).
—In Rabbinical Literature:
Rabbinical tradition has preserved specific details concerning the preparation of the showbread.
The cakes were kneaded separately (Men. xi. 1), but they were baked two at a time. To give them the required shape different forms—according to Maimonides, of gold—were used: one form for the cakes while they were still dough, another while they were in the oven, and a third after they were baked, in order to prevent their being broken or spoiled (ib.; see Sifra to Lev. xxiv. 5-9; Maimonides, "Yad," Tamid, v. 8). According to some authorities, the kneading and heaping were done outside, the baking inside, the Sanctuary—a distinction for which the commentaries fail to assign a reason
(ib. v. 7; Men. xi. 2; see Bertinoro and Lipmann Heller)—and, the Sabbath prohibition not being suspended on account of the showbread, the baking took place, as Josephus reports, on Friday (see "Yad," l.c. v. 10), but according to others, all preparations were carried on in the Temple court; according to others, in the house of Pagi, a suburb where the priests who knew the secret of the preparation may have lived. Maimonides' explanation is that this district, while not in, was very near, the courtyard.
According to the Mishnah (Men. xi. 4; "Yad," l.c. v. 9), the cakes had the following dimensions: ten fingers (Maimonides gives "palms") in length, five in breadth, and rims, or upturned "horns," of seven fingers in length. The incense was put into two cups, a handful into each (ib. v. 2). These cups were called "bezikin," and had flat bottoms, or rims, so that they could be placed on the table (Tosef., Men. xi.). The new bread was carried in by four priests, while two bore the two cups of incense. They were preceded by four other priests, two to remove the old loaves and two to take up the two cups containing the incense. Those that carried the new bread went to the north end of the table, facing toward the south; those that had preceded them went to the south end, facing the north. While the latter were removing the old bread, the former were depositing the new, so that the showbread was, in fact, always before the Lord ("Yad," l.c. v. 4; Men. 99b).
The cakes that had been removed were placed on a golden table in the hall; then the incense in the cups was burned, after which the cakes were divided. When Yom Kippur happened to fall on the Sabbath, this division was delayed until evening ("Yad," l.c. v. 5). The cakes, molded in squares, were piled one above the other; hollow golden tubes conducted air between them, and each pile was supported by two golden, fork-shaped supports attached to the table (Men. 94b, 96a; "Yad," l.c. v. 2).
The Biblical descriptions of the table of the showbread make no mention of such provisions to admit the air or hold the bread in position. The table was placed in the northern part of the Sanctuary, opposite the candlestick (Ex. xxvi. 35), with the altar of incense between them. The Septuagint states that this table was of massive gold, but the Hebrew (Ex. xxv., xxxvii.) that it was of acacia wood, two ells long, one ell broad, and one and one-half ells high,covered with pure gold, and with a border of gold around the top. The feet seem to have been enclosed, and to this ring-like enclosure were fastened four gold rings, through which the rods (made of acacia-wood and covered with gold) were passed when the table was carried. When on the march the table was covered with a purplish-blue cloth, upon which were placed the loaves and the vessels; over the whole was spread a scarlet cloth, and on top of this the skin of a seal (Num. iv. 7, 8).
Only one table was found in the various sanctuaries, though II Chron. iv. 8 reports that ten tables were in the Hekal. The table of the showbread was taken from the Second Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (I Macc. i. 23), but it was replaced by another under Judas Maccabeus (I Macc. iv. 49).
Among the vessels enumerated as belonging to the table of the showbread are "ḳe'arot" (dishes, or, probably, the "forms" in which the cakes were baked) and "kappot" (hand-like bowls). These were the "bezikin" for the incense, "ḳesawot" (σπόνδεια) for the wine-libations, and "menaḳḳiyyot" (probably dippers). But according to the Jerusalem and Samaritan Targumim, the ḳesawot were intended to cover the loaves.
The dimensions given in the Mishnah for the table are the same as those given for the loaves—ten handbreadths long and five wide, the loaves being laid across the table. R. Akiba, however, disagreed with these figures. According to him, the table had a length of twelve handbreadths and a width of six, an interval remaining between the two piles, in which, according to Abba Saul, the cups of incense were placed. These dimensions are difficult to reconcile with the Biblical assumption that the loaves rested without support on the table (Men. xi. 5). The Mishnah gives the number of ventilating-tubes mentioned above as twenty-eight, fourteen for each heap. According to the statement that they were like the half of a hollow pipe, they must have been open on top. The Gemara (Men. 97) constructs from these data the following description of the table:
The four fork-like supports were let into the floor, two at each end of the table. They extended above the table, and between them, above the table, fourteen tubes, closed at one end, were fastened, forming a grate-like receptacle for the loaves. The lowest cake of each heap rested on the table; each of the next four rested on three tubes; the two upper cakes on two tubes. On the Arch of Titus the table of the showbread shows no such attachment (comp. Josephus, "B. J." v. 5, § 5; "Ant." iii. 6, § 6).
The Pentateuchal passages in which reference is made to the showbread belong, without exception, to the Priestly Code. It would be unwarranted, however, on this score to hold the offering to have been a late innovation, due to Babylonian influences. The episode in David's visit to the old sanctuary at Nob proves the antiquity of the practise (I Sam. xxi. 1 et seq.). Ahimelek's scruples lest the men had not kept aloof from women and the assurance of David that they were in a state of sexual purity suggest the original meaning of the rite as a sacrificial meal, partaken of by the deity in common with his devotees, who, in order to make tryst with their god, must be in such a state of purity (comp. Ex. xix. 10-11, 15). Hence the bread is not burned, but the incense is, which also is an indication that the rite has descended from remote antiquity (Stade, "Biblische Theologie des Alten Testaments," 1905, i. 168). Stade connects it with the ancient cult of the Ark (ib.), the food of the deity being placed before him, ready for consumption whenever he chose to make his appearance.
The Hebrew custom has developed probably independently of a similar custom in Babylon, both starting, however, from the same root idea, which is found among other races and in other religions (comp. Isa. lxv. 11; Jer. vii. 18, xliv. 17 et seq.; Baruch vi. 26; comp. the instance of the Roman lectisternium). The Babylonians offered to the gods various kinds of cakes or bread ("akalu"), which they laid before them on tables, generally in sets of twelve or multiples of twelve. These cakes were required, to be sweet (i.e., unleavened), and were baked from wheaten flour. Even the Hebrew name "leḥem ha-panim" has its exact counterpart in the Assyrian "akal pânu" (Zimmern, in Schrader's "K. A. T." ii. 600). The number "twelve," which is so prominent in the showbread rite, has always borne mysterious religious significance (see Zimmern, l.c. p. 629).
Bibliography: B. Baentsch, Exodus-Leviticus, p. 419, Göttingen, 1900;
Riehm, Handwörterbuch, ii. 1405 et seq.J. E. G. H.