Exodus 25:30
And you shall set on the table show bread before me always.
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(30) Thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.—For a detailed account of the arrangement of the shewbread see Leviticus 24:5-9. The Hebrew expression translated “shewbread” is literally, “bread of face,” or “bread of presence”—bread, that is, which was set forth always before the presence of God.



Exodus 25:30

I suspect that to many readers the term ‘shew-bread’ conveys little more meaning than if the Hebrew words had been lifted over into our version. The original expression, literally rendered, is ‘bread of the face’; or, as the Revised Version has it in the margin, ‘presence bread,’ and the meaning of that singular designation is paraphrased and explained in my text: ‘Thou shalt set upon the table, bread of the presence before Me always.’ It was bread, then, which was laid in the presence of God. The directions with regard to it may be very briefly stated. Every Sabbath the priests laid upon the table which stood on one side of the Altar of Incense, in the Inner Court, two piles of loaves, on each of which piles was placed a pan of incense. They lay there for a week, being replaced by fresh ones on the coming Sabbath.

The Altar of Incense in the middle symbolised the thought that the priestly life, which was the life of the nation, and is the life of the Christian both individually and collectively, is to be centrally and essentially a life of prayer. On one side of it stood the great golden lamp which, in like manner, declared that the activities of the priestly life, which was the life of Israel, and is the life of the Christian individually and collectively, is to be, in its manward aspect, a light for the world. On the other side of the Altar of Incense stood this table with its loaves. What does it say about the life of the priest, the Church, and the individual Christian? That is the question that I wish to try to answer here; and in doing so let me first ask you to look at the thing itself, and then to consider its connection with the other two articles in connection with which it made a threefold oneness.

I. Let me deal with this singular provision of the ancient ritual by itself alone.

Bread is a product at once of God’s gift and of man’s work. In the former aspect, He ‘leaves not Himself without witness, in that,’ in the yearly miracle of the harvest, ‘He gives us bread from Heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness’; in the latter, considered as a product of man’s activity, agriculture is, if not the first, at all events in settled communities the prime, form of human industry. The farmer and the baker begin the series of man’s industries. So that these loaves were fitly taken as representatives of all kinds of human industry and their products, and as such were consecrated to God. That is the broad significance of this institution, which, as we shall have to see, links itself with the other two conceptions of the priestly life in its Godward and in its manward aspect. Now the first thing that is suggested, therefore, is the plain obligation, which is also a blessed privilege, for all men who are priests of God by faith in, and union with, the great High Priest, that they lay all their activities as an offering before God. The loaves in their very place on that table, right in front of the veil that parted the Inner Court from the inmost of all, where the Shekinah shone, and the Cherubim bowed in worship, tell us that in some sense they, too, were an offering, and that the table was an altar. Their sacrificial character is emphasised by the fact that upon the top of each of the piles there was laid a pan of incense.

So, then, the whole was an offering of Israel’s activities and its results to God. And we, Christian men and women, have to make an offering of all our active life, and all its products. That thought opens up many considerations, one or two of which I ask leave to touch briefly. First, then, if my active life is to be an offering to God, that means that I am to surrender myself. And that surrender means three things: first that in all my daily work I am to set Him before me as my end; second, that in all my daily work I am to set Him before me as my law; third, that in all my daily work I am to set Him before me as my power. As for the first, whatever a man does for any motive other, and with any end less, than God and His Glory, that act, beautiful as it may be in other respects, loses its supreme beauty, and falls short of perfect nobleness, just in the measure in which other motives, or other ends, than this supreme one, are permitted to dominate it. I do not contend for such an impossible suppression of myself as that my own blessedness and the like shall be in no manner my end, but I do maintain this, that in good old language, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God,’ and that anything which I do, unless it is motived by this regard to Him as its ‘chief end,’ loses its noblest consecration, and is degraded from its loftiest beauty. The Altar sanctifies, and not only sanctifies but ennobles, the gift. That which has in it the taint of self-regard so pronouncedly and dominantly as that God is shut out, is like some vegetation down in low levels at the bottom of a vale, which never has the sun to shine upon it. But let it rise as some tree above the brushwood until its topmost branches are in the light, and then it is glorified. To live to self is ignoble and mean; to live for others is higher and nobler. But highest and noblest of all is to offer the loaves to God, and to make Him the end of all our activities.

Again, there is another consideration, bearing on another region in which the assertive self is only too apt to spoil all work. And that is, that if our activities are offerings to God, this means that His supreme Will is to be our law, and that we obey His commands and accept His appointments in quiet submission. The tranquillity of heart, the accumulation of power, which come to men when they, from the depths, say, ‘Not my will but Thine be done’; ‘Speak, Lord! for Thy servant heareth,’ cannot be too highly stated. There is no such charm to make life quiet and strong as the submission of the will to God’s providences, and the swift obedience of the will to God’s commandments. And whilst to make self my end mars what else is beautiful, making self my law mars it even more.

Further, we offer our activities to God when we fall back upon Him as our one power, and say, ‘Perfect Thy strength in my weakness.’ He that goes out into the world to do his daily work, of whatsoever sort it is-you in your little sphere, or I in mine-in dependence upon himself, is sure to be defeated. He that says ‘we have no strength against this great multitude that cometh against us, but our eyes are unto Thee,’ will, sooner or later, be able to go back with joy, and say, ‘the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.’ The man that goes into the fight like that foolish prime minister of France under the Empire, ‘with a light heart.’ will very soon find his Sedan, and have shamefully to surrender. Brethren, these three things, making God the end of my work; making God’s will the law of my work; making God’s strength the power of my work; these are the ways by which we, too, can bring our little pile of barley bread, and lay it upon that table.

Again, this consecration of life’s activities is to be carried out by treating their products, as well as themselves, as offerings to God. The loaves were the results of human activity. They were also the products of divine gifts elaborated by human effort. And both things are true about all the bread that you and I have been able to make for the satisfaction of our desires, or the sustenance of our strength-it comes ultimately from the gift of God. In regard to this consecration of the product of our activities, as well as of our activities themselves, I have but two words to offer, and the one is, let us see to it that we consecrate our enjoyment of God’s gifts by bringing that enjoyment, as well as the activities which He has blessed to produce it, into His presence. That table bore the symbols of the grateful recognition of God’s mercies by the people. And when our hearts are glad, and our ‘bosom’s lord sits lightly on his throne,’ we have special need to take care that our joy be not godless, nor our enjoyment of His gifts be without reference to Himself. ‘Ah,’ you say, ‘that is a threadbare commonplace.’ Yes, it is, dear friends; it is a commonplace just because it is needful at every turn, if we are to make our lives what they ought to be.

May I say another thing? and that is, that the loaves that were laid within the Sanctuary were not intended to be separated from the others that were eaten in the tents, nor were they meant to be a kind of purchasing of an indulgence, or of a right, by surrendering a little, to the godless and selfish enjoyment of the rest of the batch, or of the rest of the harvest. Let us apply that to our money, which is one of the products of our activities; and not fancy, as a great many people do, that what we give as a subscription to some benevolent or religious institution buys for us the right to spend all the rest selfishly. That is another commonplace, very threadbare and very feeble, when we speak it, but with claws and teeth in it that will lay hold of us, when we try to put it in practice. The enjoyments and the products of our daily activities are to be offered to God.

Still further, this table with its burden has suggestions that as Christians we are bound to bring all our work to Him for His judgment upon it. The loaves were laid right in front of the veil, behind which blazed the light of His presence. And that meant that they were laid before ‘those pure eyes and perfect judgment of all-judging’ God. Whether we bring our activities there or no, of course in a very real and solemn sense they are there. But what I desire to insist upon now is how important, for the nobleness and purity of our daily lives, it is that we should be in the continual habit of realising to ourselves the thought that whatever we do, we do before His Face. The Roman Catholics talk about ‘the practice of the presence of God.’ One does not like the phrase, but all true religion will practise what is meant by it. And for us it should be as joyous to think, ‘Thou God seest me,’ as it is for a child to play or work with a quiet heart, because it knows that its mother is sitting somewhere not very far off and watching that no harm comes to it. That thought of being in His presence would be for us a tonic, and a test. How it would pull us up in many a meanness, and keep our feet from wandering into many forbidden ways, if there came like a blaze of light into our hearts the thought: ‘Thou God seest me!’ There are many of our activities, I am afraid, which we should not like to put down on that table. Can you think of any in your lives that you would be rather ashamed to lay there, and say to Him, ‘Judge Thou this’? Then do not do it. That is a brief, but a very stringent, easily applied, and satisfactory test of a great many doubtful things. If you cannot take them into the Inner Court, and lay them down there, and say, ‘Look, Lord! this is my baking,’ be sure that they are made, not of wholesome flour, but of poisoned grain, and that there is death in them.

Further, this table, with its homely burden of twelve poor loaves, may suggest to us how the simplest, smallest, most secular of our activities is a fit offering to Him. The loaves were not out of place amidst the sanctities of the spot, nor did they seem to be incongruous with the golden altar and the golden lamp-stand, and yet they were but twelve loaves. The poorest of our works is fit to be carried within the shrine, and laid upon His altar. We may be sure that He delights even in the meanest and humblest of them, if only we take them to Him and say: ‘All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.’ Ah! there are a great many strange things in Christ’s treasury. Mothers will hoard up trifles that belonged to their children, which everybody else thinks worthless. Jesus Christ has in His storehouse a ‘cup of cold water,’ the widows’ mites, and many another thing that the world counts of no value, and He recognises as precious. There is an old story about some great emperor making a progress through his dominions, where he had been receiving precious gifts from cities and nobles, and as the gay cortège was passing a poor cottage, the peasant-owner came out with a coarse earthenware cup filled with spring water in his hand, and offered it to his overlord as the only gift that he could give. The king accepted it, and ennobled him on the spot. Take your barley loaves to Christ, and He will lay them up in His storehouse.

II. Now I need only say a word or two about the other aspect of this table of shew-bread, taken with the other two articles in conjunction with which it formed a unity.

The lamp and the table go together. They are both offshoots from the altar in the middle. That is to say, your lives will not shine before men unless your activities are offered to God. The smallest taint of making self your end, your law, or your strength, mingling with your lives, and manifest in their actions, will dim the light which shines from them, and men will be very quick to find out and say, ‘He calls himself a Christian; but he lives for himself.’ Neither the light, which is the radiance of a Christian life manwards, can be sustained without the offering of the life in its depths to God, nor can the activities of the life be acceptably offered to Him, unless the man that offers them ‘lets his light shine before men.’ The lamp and the table must go together.

The lamp and the table must together be offshoots from the altar. If there be not in the centre of the life aspiration after Him in the depths of the heart, communion with Him in the silent places of the soul, then there will be little brightness in the life to ray out amongst men, and there will be little consecration of the activities to be laid before God. The reason why the manifold bustle and busy-ness of the Christian Church today sows so much and reaps so little, lies mainly here, that they have forgotten to a large extent how the altar in the centre must give the oil for the lamp to shine, and the grain to be made into the loaves. And, on the other hand, the altar in the middle needs both its flanking accompaniments. For the Christian life is to be no life of cloistered devotion and heavenward aspiration only or mainly, but is to manifest its still devotion and its heavenward aspiration by the consecration of its activities to God, and the raying of them out into a darkened world. The service of man is the service of God, for lamp and table are offshoots of the altar. But the service of God is the basis of the best service of man, for the altar stands between the lamp and the table.

So, brethren, let us blend these three aspects into a unity, the Altar, the Lamp, the Table, and so shall we minister aright, and men will call us the ‘priests of the Most High God,’ till we pass within the veil where, better than the best of us here can do, we shall be able to unite still communion and active service, and shine as the sun in the Kingdom of our Father. ‘His servants shall serve Him’ with priestly ministrations, ‘and shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads.’Exodus 25:30. Thou shalt set upon the table the show bread — Hebrew, Bread of the face or presence, because it was set before the ark, where God was peculiarly present. We call it show bread, because it was showed, or exhibited before God upon the sacred table, as a national weekly oblation, in the name of all the twelve tribes, for the loaves were twelve in number, and being an offering to God were to be eaten only by the priests in the holy place, Leviticus 24:5-9. Every loaf must have been of considerable size, since two-tenth deals, or two homers of flour were used for each, which are about six quarts English. This bread, set in two rows, six loaves in a row, was designed to be a thankful acknowledgment of God’s goodness to them in giving them their daily bread, a token of their communion with God, this bread on God’s table being made of the same corn with the bread on their own tables. And it was a type of the spiritual provision which is made in the church, by the gospel of Christ, for all that are made priests to our God.25:23-30 A table was to be made of wood, overlaid with gold, to stand in the outer tabernacle, to be always furnished with the shew-bread. This table, with the articles on it, and its use, seems to typify the communion which the Lord holds with his redeemed people in his ordinances, the provisions of his house, the feasts they are favoured with. Also the food for their souls, which they always find when they hunger after it; and the delight he takes in their persons and services, as presented before him in Christ.The showbread table was placed in the holy place on the north side Exodus 26:35. Directions for preparing the showbread are given in Leviticus 24:5-9. It consisted of twelve large cakes of unleavened bread, which were arranged on the table in two piles, with a golden cup of frankincense on each pile. It was renewed every Sabbath day. The stale loaves were given to the priests, and the frankincense appears to have been lighted on the altar for a memorial. The showbread, with all the characteristics and significance of a great national Meat offering, in which the twelve tribes were represented by the twelve cakes, was to stand before Yahweh "perpetually," in token that He was always graciously accepting the good works of His people, for whom atonement had been made by the victims offered on the altar in the court of the sanctuary. The showbread or bread which is set forth would be more fairly rendered "bread of the presence." See the notes at Leviticus 24:5-9. 30. showbread—literally, presence bread, so called because it was constantly exhibited before the Lord, or because the bread of His presence, like the angel of His presence, pointed symbolically to Christ. It consisted of twelve unleavened loaves, said traditionally to have been laid in piles of six each. This bread was designed to be a symbol of the full and never-failing provision which is made in the Church for the spiritual sustenance and refreshment of God's people. Heb. Bread of faces, or of the presence, so called, because it was constantly placed in God’s presence. This bread was divided into twelve loaves, one for every tribe; and they were in their name presented to God in the nature of an offering, as the frankincense shows, as a public acknowledgment that they received all their bread or food, both corporal and spiritual, from God’s hand, and were to use it as in God’s presence And thou shall set upon the table shewbread before me always. Which consisted of twelve cakes loaves, set in two rows upon the table, and stood there a whole week, and every sabbath were renewed; and when the old ones were took away, which were eaten by the priests, new ones were set, so that they were always before the Lord; and being continually before him, were called shewbread, or "bread of faces", being always before the face of God. This was a memorial of the goodness of God in daily providing bread for the people of Israel, and was presented to him as a thankful acknowledgment of it, and being the same they ate at their own tables; and this being eaten by the priests, was expressive of the communion between God and them, they being guests of his, and feeding on the same provisions. This shewbread may be considered either as typical of the church and people of God, who are all one bread, 1 Corinthians 10:17, these pure and unleavened cakes may denote their purity, simplicity, and sincerity, being without the leaven of malice and wickedness; the number twelve, the twelve tribes of Israel, the whole spiritual Israel of God; their being called shewbread, or bread of faces, the presentation of themselves to the Lord in public worship, and their being ever under the eye and care of God; their being set on the table, their standing in Christ, and security by him, who is the foundation of the apostles and prophets; and being set in rows, their order and harmony; being renewed every sabbath, the constancy of their worship, and the succession of them in all ages; the frankincense put on each row, the acceptance of their persons and services through the incense of Christ's mediation; the border round about them, the power of Christ around them to keep them from falling: or else as typical of Christ himself, of his being the food of believers, the bread of life: the shewbread of fine flour may fitly signify Christ, the finest of the wheat, the corn of heaven, the bread that comes from thence; its quantity, twelve cakes, the sufficiency of food with him, bread enough and to spare for the whole Israel of God; its continuance, the permanency of Christ as the food believers have always to feed upon; the frankincense on it, the gratefulness of Christ to such, to whom his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed; and being set for priests, and only for them, may show that Christ is only food to such who are made priests to God: or this may be an emblem of the intercession of Christ, who is the Angel of God's presence, ever before him, and represents the whole Israel of God, for whom he intercedes; and his intercession is continual, he ever lives to make intercession for them, and that is always acceptable to God. The twelve loaves, Josephus (a) says, signify the year divided into so many months.

(a) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 7. sect. 7.

And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before me always.
30. shewbread] This rend. is first found in Tindale’s version of Hebrews 9:2 (1526), being derived by him apparently from Luther’s Schaubrot (1522). Though, however, a possible paraphrase of the expression used by Jerome (see below), it does not correctly represent the expression used here, which is undoubtedly Presence-bread (RVm.), i.e. bread set out in Jehovah’s presence, and designed originally as His food. The custom of presenting food on a table as an oblation to a god was widely diffused among ancient peoples: it will be sufficient to instance the lectisternia of the Romans, the similar custom abundantly attested for Assyria, even with the use of 12 loaves (EB. iv. 4116; KAT.3[203] 600), the tables which the idolatrous Israelites laid out for Gad, the god of fortune (Isaiah 65:11), Bar 4:30, and the story of Bel and the Dragon. The gods were supposed to require food and drink; and reverence towards them naturally took the form of supplying their needs. These were the ideas out of which no doubt the Heb. institution originated; but in the light of the higher religion of Israel the ‘continual bread’ (Numbers 4:7) acquired, we may be sure, a higher significance, and was regarded as a standing acknowledgement on the part of (Leviticus 24:8 RVm.) the children of Israel that Jehovah was the giver of their daily bread. See further on the Presence-bread (which is here mentioned only incidentally) the notes on Leviticus 24:5-9; Kennedy in DB. iv. 495 ff., 663; Jewish Encycl. art. Showbread; Edersheim, The Temple and its ministry, p. Exo 155 f. (with quotations from the Mishna). The antiquity of the institution is attested by the familiar incident, 1 Samuel 21:4-6.

[203] Die Keilinschriften und das A T., 1903, by H. Zimmern (pp. 345–653) and H. Winckler (pp. 1–342).

The post-exilic name of the Presence-bread—derived from the fact that the twelve large flat oblong cakes of which it consisted were arranged on the table in two piles (Leviticus 24:6)—was Bread set out (lit. Bread of arrangement), 1 Chronicles 9:32; 1 Chronicles 23:29 al. (cf. on Exodus 40:4). This was rendered by LXX. οἱ ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως, ‘the loaves of setting before’ (viz. before God: cf. προτίθημι, to ‘set before,’ of a meal), whence the NT. expression ὁ ἄρτος τῆς προθέσεως, Matthew 12:4 al. (for ἡ πρ. τῶν ἄρτων Hebrews 9:2, see 2 Chronicles 13:11 LXX.). Jerome’s panes propositionis is simply a lit. translation of the LXX. rend.; and this, understood as ‘loaves of exhibition,’ no doubt suggested to Luther his Schaubrot, whence our shewbread.

31–40 (cf. Exodus 37:17-24). The golden candlestick or lampstand. This consisted of a central stem, resting on feet, with three branches turned upwards and outwards on each side, the stem and branches being ornamented by the gold, at suitable distances, being beaten into the shape of the calyx and corolla of the almond-flower. The whole was of pure beaten gold, a talent (96 lb.) of the metal being employed in its construction. There were seven lamps, corresponding to the central stem and the six branches, which it was the duty of the priests to take off and trim daily, and to replace in the evening (Exo Exodus 27:21, Exodus 30:8).Verse 30. - Thou shalt set upon the table shew-bread before me alway. Here we have at once the object of the table, and its name, explained. The table was to have set upon it continually twelve loaves, or cakes, of bread (Leviticus 24:5), which were to be renewed weekly on the sabbath-day (ibid. ver. 8), the stale loaves being at the same time consumed by the priests in the holy place. These twelve loaves or cakes were to constitute a continual thank-offering to God from the twelve tribes of Israel in return for the bless-Lugs of life and sustenance which they received from him. The bread was called "bread of face," or "bread of presence," because it was set before the "face" or "presence" of God, which dwelt in the holy of holies. The Septuagint renders the phrase by ἄρτοι ἐνώπιοι "loaves that are face to face" - St. Matthew by ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως, "loaves of setting-forth" - whence the Schaubrode of Luther, and our "shew-bread," which is a paraphrase rather than a translation.

CHAPTER 25:31 THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK (vers. 31-40). Though the holy of holies was always dark, unless when lighted by. the glory of God (Exodus 40:34, 35), the holy place, in which many of the priests' functions were to be performed, was to be always kept light. In the day-time sufficient light entered from the porch in front; but, as evening drew on, some artificial illumination was required. In connection with this object, the golden candlestick, or rather lamp-stand, was designed, which, together with its appurtenances, is described in the remainder of the chapter. The Table of Shew-Bread (cf. Exodus 37:10-16). - The table for the shew-bread (Exodus 25:30) was to be made of acacia-wood, two cubits long, one broad, and one and a half high, and to be plated with pure gold, having a golden wreath round, and a "finish (מסגּרת) of a hand-breadth round about," i.e., a border of a hand-breadth in depth surrounding and enclosing the four sides, upon which the top of the table was laid, and into the four corners of which the feet of the table were inserted. A golden wreath was to be placed round this rim. As there is no article attached to זר־זהב in Exodus 25:25 (cf. Exodus 37:12), so as to connect it with the זר in Exodus 25:24, we must conclude that there were two such ornamental wreaths, one round the slab of the table, the other round the rim which was under the slab. At the four corners of the four feet, near the point at which they joined the rim, four rings were to be fastened for בּתּים, i.e., to hold the poles with which the table was carried, as in the case of the ark.
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