“Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me always”. Exodus 25:23-30.
“And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute”. Leviticus 24:5-9.
The duty of the table
The table of shewbread supported the loaves in the presence of God. We shall return to this later, but suffice it to say at this point that the table symbolises the person of Christ as He supports His people in the presence of God.
The design of the table
The table was one and a half cubits high. This is about 27″ high. It was necessary for it to not be too high, for the lamp is going to shine upon it, and each of the loaves needs to be evenly lit, which they might not be if the table was higher.
The area of the top of the table was 2×1 cubits, which is about 36″ x 18″. Note the small size of the table. The priests are not going to sit at this table, so it does not need to be large. There were no seats in the tabernacle. On the centre of the table were placed twelve loaves in two rows of six. Then there was a golden crown, and then outside of this a space a handbreadth wide. Small Hebrew measurements of length were based on the size of a man’s hand and arm, so that a cubit was the distance from his elbow to the tip of his longest finger; a span was the distance between his thumb-tip and the tip of his little finger when the hand was stretched out, and a handbreadth was the width of the palm of his hand at the base of the fingers. Since there were six handbreadths to a cubit, and assuming a cubit was 18″ inches, then the space outside of the loaves and their crown was 3″ wide on all sides. On this space would be placed dishes, spoons, covers, and bowls, and this space was surrounded by another golden crown. As a result of these arrangements and measurements, we can say that the actual area of table taken up by the loaves was 30″ x 12″. This means that each loaf was 5″ x 6″ in area, and of unspecified height.
Double purpose for the loaves
The loaves on the table served a dual purpose. Every Sabbath day the priest would place fresh, hot bread on the table, having taken off the previous week’s loaves and placed them in a vessel. The new loaves on the table were in the presence of God for a week. The previous week’s loaves became the food of the priests.
Designation of the table
(a) The table of shewbread, Numbers 4:7.
“Upon the table shewbread before Me, (My face) always”, Exodus 25:30.
Shewbread means “bread of faces”, and it was set before God’s face.
Shewbread in Hebrews 9:2 means “the setting forth of the loaves.
The twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes arranged in God’s presence.
At Jacob’s bedside the faces of his 12 sons were looking at him. Shame on face of Reuben because of Bilhah; Simeon and Levi because of Dinah; Judah and the others because of betrayal of Joseph.
Now the 12 faces have frankincense on them, and they are accepted before God.
Frankincense was “for a memorial”- Jacob remembered the evil things about his sons, God remembers the devotion of His Son when He was here, and looks at His people in the light of it.
Each one of the loaves was visible, for they were in two rows, not two piles.
The other place where the tribes were arranged 6×2 was on the high priest’s
shoulders, the place of strength. The names were according to their birth, so their sonship is in view.
All believers are God’s sons, and are represented equally by our high priest in heaven.
The Lord Jesus appears “in the presence of God for us”, Hebrews 9:24, and His frankincense-like acceptability to God is our guarantee. The word “shewbread” is connected to the Hebrew verb “to appear”.
(b) The table, Exodus 37:10; 40:4.
“Table” is connected with food; e.g. “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?”
Not a lavish banquet, but wholesome food for priestly men. There were no chairs, for they did not eat at the table, although they did eat in the holy place, Leviticus 24:9.
After David had eaten the shewbread he wrote, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”, Psalm 34:8, (see title, and 1 Samuel 21:13-15).
Peter quotes these words when he is writing about the Christian priesthood, 1 Peter 2:3. If we are to be energised to worship God, then we must feed our souls on the food He provides.
The shewbread was a meal offering, and the priests had the privilege of sharing what had been prepared for God.
No honey to please natural taste; no leaven to make an attractive loaf. Oil and fine flour make spiritual food.
(c) The pure table before the Lord, Leviticus 24:6.
Emphasis on fact that nothing impure must be put there. Being before the Lord meant His eye was upon it, and He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil”, Habakkuk 1:13. “Pure table”; “pure frankincense”; “pure gold”.
God only feeds our souls with that which speaks of Christ.
“Whatsoever things are…pure…think on these things”, Philippians 4:8. We must not associate impure things with the things of God. Our minds should be full of the things of Christ so we are strengthened to worship God aright.