Leviticus 24:5
And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake.
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(5) And bake twelve cakes.—The next order is about the preparation of the shewbread, and the use to be made of it. It was made in the following manner. Twenty-four seahs of wheat, which were brought as a meat offering, were beaten and ground, and after passing through twelve different sieves each finer than the other, twenty-four tenth-deals of the finest flour were obtained. The dough was kneaded outside the court, and after it was put into a golden mould of a definite size and form to impart the prescribed size and shape to each cake, was brought into the court. Here it was taken out of the first golden mould, and put into a second of the same material and form, and baked in it. As soon as it was taken out of the oven the cake was put into a third mould of the like description, and when it was turned out of it the cake was ten handbreadths long, five broad, one finger thick, and square at each end. Each cake, therefore, was made of two omers of wheat, or, as it is here said, of two tenth-parts of anephah, which is the same thing. (See Leviticus 14:10.) As an omer is the quantity which, according to the Divine ordinance (Exodus 16:16-19), supplies the daily wants of a human being, each of these cakes represents the food of a man and his neighbour, whilst the twelve cakes answered to the twelve tribes of Israel. Hence the ancient Ohaldee version has, after the words “twelve cakes,” “according to the twelve tribes.” The baking of these cakes took place every Friday afternoon, or Thursday if a feast which required Sabbatical rest fell on Friday. According to the testimony of those who were eyewitnesses to the baking, these cakes were unleavened.

Leviticus 24:5. Thou shalt take — By the priests or Levites, whose work it was to prepare them, 1 Chronicles 9:32. Twelve cakes — Representing the twelve tribes. Two tenth-deals shall be in one cake — That is, two omers, or two tenth parts of an ephah, consisting of about six quarts of English measure, Exodus 16:36. So that they must have been of a very large size.24:1-9 The loaves of bread typify Christ as the Bread of life, and the food of the souls of his people. He is the Light of his church, the Light of the world; in and through his word this light shines. By this light we discern the food prepared for our souls; and we should daily, but especially from sabbath to sabbath, feed thereon in our hearts with thanksgiving. And as the loaves were left in the sanctuary, so should we abide with God till he dismiss us.Each cake or loaf of unleavened bread Leviticus 2:11 was to contain about six pounds and a quarter (see Exodus 29:40 note) of fine flour. The material was the same, both in quality and in quantity, with that of each one of the wave-loaves of Pentecost Leviticus 23:17. In the service of the temple the preparation and arrangement of the cakes was committed to the Levites 1 Chronicles 9:32; 1 Chronicles 23:29; 2 Chronicles 13:11.5-9. take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes—for the showbread, as previously appointed (Ex 25:30). Those cakes were baked by the Levites, the flour being furnished by the people (1Ch 9:32; 23:29), oil, wine, and salt being the other ingredients (Le 2:13).

two tenth deals—that is, of an ephah—thirteen and a half pounds weight each; and on each row or pile of cakes some frankincense was strewed, which, being burnt, led to the showbread being called "an offering made by fire." Every Sabbath a fresh supply was furnished; hot loaves were placed on the altar instead of the stale ones, which, having lain a week, were removed, and eaten only by the priests, except in cases of necessity (1Sa 21:3-6; also Lu 6:3, 4).

Thou shalt take; by the priests or Levites, whose work it was to prepare them, 1 Chronicles 9:32.

Twelve cakes, representing the twelve tribes.

Two tenth deals, i.e. two omers. See Leviticus 23:13. And thou shalt take fine flour,.... Of wheat, and the finest of it:

and bake twelve cakes thereof; answerable to the twelve tribes, as the Targum of Jonathan, which were typical of the spiritual Israel of God:

two tenth deals shall be in one cake; that is, two tenth parts of an ephah, which were two omers, one of which was as much as a man could eat in one day of the manna: so that one of these cakes was as much as two men could eat of bread in one day; each cake was ten hands' breadth long, five broad, and seven fingers its horns, or was so high (g).

(g) Menachot, c. 11. sect. 4.

And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two {c} tenth deals shall be in one cake.

(c) That is, two omers, read Ex 16:16.

5. twelve cakes] Though probably alluding in the Jewish ritual to the number of the tribes, the original reference in the corresponding Babylonian rite was doubtless to the signs of the zodiac. See Zimmern, Beiträge zur Kenntniss d. Babylon. Religion, p. 94, for a Babylonian parallel.

cakes] most probably unleavened (Jos. Ant. iii. 6. 6). They were of flour, the fineness of which was secured by sifting eleven times (Menaḥoth, 76 b). In the time of the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 9:32) this was done by the Levitical guild called ‘the sons of the Kohathites.’ The cakes in the early times of the Jewish monarchy were placed hot upon the table (see 1 Sam. above). The rite in its form is probably a survival from a pre-Mosaic stage of Hebrew religion.

5–9. The ordering of the shewbread

Cp. Exodus 25:30; Exodus 37:10 ff.; Numbers 4:7. The ‘twelve cakes’ are not here given this name. For its origin and for parallels to the custom in other religions, see Driver, Exodus 25:30, and HDB. s.v. The undoubtedly correct rendering is presence-bread (lit. bread of the countenance [of God]), as in R.V. mg. there, i.e. bread which was placed as an offering in the presence of the Lord. Cp. the expression used of this bread in the story of 1 Samuel 21:6 [Matthew 7], ‘taken from before [from the presence of] the Lord.’ The LXX. mostly render by ἄρτοι τῆς πρθέσεως, loaves of the setting forth (or, before [God]).Verses 5-9. - The shewbread, or bread of the face, that is, of the presence, was to be made of fine flour, that is, of wheat, and to consist of twelve cakes or loaves, to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, each loaf containing upward of six pounds of flour. The loaves were placed upon the pure table before the Lord; that is, on the golden table of shewbread within the sanctuary - which stood not far from the vail which partitioned off the holy of holies - toward the north, as the candlestick was toward the south. The loaves were set, not, probably, in two rows, six on a row, as they could have hardly stood in that position on so small a table as the table of shewbread (which was only three feet by one foot and a half), but in piles, six in a pile. Upon them, or more probably between the two piles, were placed two vials or cups filled with frankincense (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 3:07, 6). The shewbread was renewed every sabbath day, with much ceremony. "Four priests," says the Mishna, "enter, two of them carrying the piles of bread, and two of them the cups of incense. Four priests had gone in before them, two to take off the two old piles of shrewbread, and two to take off the cups of incense. Those who brought in the new stood at the north side facing southwards; those who took away the old, at the south side, facing northwards. One party lifted off and the other put on, the hands of one being over against the hands of the other, as it is written, Thou shalt set upon the table bread of the Passover always before me" ('Men.,' 11:7). The loaves that were removed were delivered to the priests for their consumption within the tabernacle, the whole quantity amounting to seventy-five pounds of bread per week. It was this bread which, in the pressure of necessity, Abimelech gave to David and his men (1 Samuel 21:4-6). At the same time that the old loaves were changed, the frankincense was burned on the golden altar of incense for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. There is nothing in Scripture to prove whether the loaves were leavened or unleavened. As being the meat offering of the tabernacle, we should expect them to be unleavened, like the meat offering of the court, but there was a reason why the meat offering of the court should be unleavened, which did not operate in the case of the shewbread. A part of the ordinary meat offering had to be burnt on the altar of burnt sacrifice; therefore it could not be leavened, because no leaven might be burned on the altar; but the shewbread was not burnt on any altar, and consequently it need not for that reason be unleavened. The two Pentecostal loaves, which were offered to the Lord by waving instead of burning, were leavened. The probabilities derived from Scripture appear to be equally strong on either side. Josephus states that they were unleavened ('Ant.,' 3:06, 6; 10, 7).

CHAPTER 24:10-23 The reason why the narrative of the blasphemer's death (verses 10-23) is introduced in its present connection, is simply that it took place at the point of time which followed the promulgation of the last law. It serves, however, to vindicate by a memorable example the principle which is at the foundation of every Mosaic law. "I am the Lord" is the often-repeated sanction, whether of a moral law or of a ceremonial regulation. But this bastard Israelite, one of the mixed multitude that had followed in the flight from Egypt (Exodus 12:38), blasphemed the Name of the Lord. If such blasphemy were to go unpunished, the obligation of law was dissolved. For, as Lange has said, "A community which suffers the reviling of the principle of their community without reaction, is morally fallen to pieces." He was brought, therefore, to Moses, and so solemn was the occasion, that Moses reserved the case, for which no provision had yet been made, for the special decision of God. The specific judgment on the man is that he shall die by stoning at the hands of the congregation, after the witnesses of his sin had laid their hands upon his head; and a general law is founded on the special case. "Beside the Sabbaths:" i.e., the Sabbath sacrifices (see Numbers 28:9-10), and the gifts and offerings, which formed no integral part of the keeping of the feasts and Sabbaths, but might be offered on those days. מתּנות, gifts, include all the dedicatory offerings, which were presented to the Lord without being intended to be burned upon the altar; such, for example, as the dedicatory gifts of the tribe-princes (Numbers 7), the firstlings and tithes, and other so-called heave-offerings (Numbers 18:11, Numbers 18:29). By the "vows" and נדבות, "freewill-offerings," we are to understand not only the votive and freewill slain or peace-offerings, but burnt-offerings also, and meat-offerings, which were offered in consequence of a vow, or from spontaneous impulse (see Judges 11:31, where Jephthah vows a burnt-offering). - In Leviticus 23:39. there follows a fuller description of the observance of the last feast of the year, for which the title, "feast of Tabernacles" (Leviticus 23:34), had prepared the way, as the feast had already been mentioned briefly in Exodus 23:16 and Exodus 34:22 as "feast of Ingathering," though hitherto no rule had been laid down concerning the peculiar manner in which it was to be observed. In connection with this epithet in Exodus, it is described again in Leviticus 23:39, as in Leviticus 23:35, Leviticus 23:36, as a seven days' feast, with sabbatical rest on the first and eighth day; and in Leviticus 23:40. the following rule is given for its observance: "Take to you fruit of ornamental trees, palm-branches, and boughs of trees with thick foliage, and willows of the brook, and rejoice before the Lord your God seven days, every native in Israel." If we observe that there are only three kinds of boughs that are connected together by the copula (vav) in Leviticus 23:40, and that it is wanting before תם כּפּת, there can hardly be any doubt that הדר עץ פּרי is the generic term, and that the three names which follow specify the particular kinds of boughs. By "the fruits," therefore, we understand the shoots and branches of the trees, as well as the blossom and fruit that grew out of them. הדר עץ, "trees of ornament:" we are not to understand by these only such trees as the orange and citron, which were placed in gardens for ornament rather than use, as the Chald. and Syr. indicate, although these trees grow in the gardens of Palestine (Rob., Pal. i. 327, iii. 420). The expression is a more general one, and includes myrtles, which were great favourites with the ancients, on account of their beauty and the fragrant odour which they diffused, olive-trees, palms, and other trees, which were used as booths in Ezra's time (Nehemiah 8:15). In the words, "Take fruit of ornamental trees," it is not expressly stated, it is true, that this fruit was to be used, like the palm-branches, for constructing booths; but this is certainly implied in the context: "Take...and rejoice...and keep a feast...in the booths shall he dwell." בּסּכּת with the article is equivalent to "in the booths which ye have constructed from the branches mentioned" (cf. Ges. 109, 3). It was in this sense that the law was understood and carried out in the time of Ezra (Nehemiah 8:15.).

(Note: Even in the time of the Maccabees, on the other hand (cf. 2 Macc. 10:6, 7), the feast of the Purification of the Temple was celebrated by the Jews after the manner of the Tabernacles (κατὰ σκηνωμάτων τρόπον); so that they offered songs of praise, holding (ἔχοντες, carrying?) leafy poles (θύρσους, not branches of ivy, cf. Grimm. ad l.c.) and beautiful branches, also palms; in the time of Christ it was the custom to have sticks or poles (staves) of palm-trees and citron-trees (θύρσους ἐκ φοινίκων καὶ κιτρέων: Josephus, Ant. xiii. 13, 5), or to carry in the hand a branch of myrtle and willow bound round with wool, with palms at the top and an apple of the περσέα (peach or pomegranate?) upon it (εἰρεσιώνην μυρσίνης καὶ ἰτέας σὺν κράδῃ φοίνικος πεποιημένην τοῦ μήλου τοῦ τῆς Περσέας προσόντος). This custom, which was still further developed in the Talmud, where a bunch made of palm, myrtle, and willow boughs is ordered to be carried in the right hand, and a citron or orange in the left, has no foundation in the law: it sprang rather out of an imitation of the Greek harvest-feast of the Pyanepsia and Bacchus festivals, from which the words θύρσοι and εἰρεσιώνη were borrowed by Josephus, and had been tacked on by the scribes to the text of the Bible (v. 40) in the best way they could. See Bδhr, Symbol. ii. p. 625, and the innumerable trivial laws in Mishna Succa and Succa Codex talm. babyl. sive de tabernaculorum festo ed. Dachs. Utr. 1726, 4.)

The leading character of the feast of Tabernacles, which is indicated at the outset by the emphatic אך (Leviticus 23:39, see at Leviticus 23:27), was to consist in "joy before the Lord." As a "feast," i.e., a feast of joy (חג, from חגג equals חוּג, denoting the circular motion of the dance, 1 Samuel 30:16), it was to be kept for seven days; so that Israel "should be only rejoicing," and give itself up entirely to joy (Deuteronomy 16:15). Now, although the motive assigned in Deut. is this: "for God will bless thee (Israel) in all thine increase, and in all the work of thine hands;" and although the feast, as a "feast of ingathering," was a feast of thanksgiving for the gathering in of the produce of the land, "the produce of the floor and wine-press;" and the blessing they had received in the harvested fruits, the oil and wine, which contributed even more to the enjoyment of life than the bread that was needed for daily food, furnished in a very high degree the occasion and stimulus to the utterance of grateful joy: the origin and true signification of the feast of Tabernacles are not to be sought for in this natural allusion to the blessing of the harvest, but the dwelling in booths was the principal point in the feast; and this was instituted as a law for all future time (Leviticus 23:41), that succeeding generations might know that Jehovah had caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths when He led them out of Egypt (Leviticus 23:43). סכּה, a booth or hut, is not to be confounded with אחל a tent, but comes from סכך texuit, and signifies casa, umbraculum ex frondibus ramisque consertum (Ges. thes. s. v.), serving as a defence both against the heat of the sun, and also against wind and rain (Psalm 31:21; Isaiah 4:6; Jonah 4:5). Their dwelling in booths was by no means intended, as Bhr supposes, to bring before the minds of the people the unsettled wandering life of the desert, and remind them of the trouble endured there, for the recollection of privation and want can never be an occasion of joy; but it was to place vividly before the eyes of the future generations of Israel a memorial of the grace, care, and protection which God afforded to His people in the great and terrible wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:15). Whether the Israelites, in their journey through the wilderness, not only used the tents which they had taken with them (cf. Leviticus 14:8; Exodus 16:1; Exodus 18:7; Exodus 33:8.; Numbers 16:26., Leviticus 24:5, etc.), but erected booths of branches and bushes in those places of encampment where they remained for a considerable time, as the Bedouins still do sometimes in the peninsula of Sinai (Burckhardt, Syrien, p. 858), or not; at all events, the shielding and protecting presence of the Lord in the pillar of cloud and fire was, in the words of the prophet, "a booth (tabernacle) for a shadow in the day-time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain" (Isaiah 4:6) in the barren wilderness, to those who had just been redeemed out of Egypt. Moreover, the booths used at this feast were not made of miserable shrubs of the desert, but of branches of fruit-trees, palms and thickly covered trees, the produce of the good and glorious land into which God had brought them (Deuteronomy 8:7.); and in this respect they presented a living picture of the plenteous fulness of blessing with which the Lord had enriched His people. This fulness of blessing was to be called to mind by their dwelling in booths; in order that, in the land "wherein they ate bread without scarceness and lacked nothing, where they built goodly houses and dwelt therein; where their herds and flocks, their silver and their gold, and all that they had, multiplied" (Deuteronomy 8:9, Deuteronomy 8:12-13), they might not say in their hearts, "My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth," but might remember that Jehovah was their God, who gave them power to get wealth (Leviticus 23:17, Leviticus 23:18), that so their heart might not "be lifted up and forget Jehovah their God, who had led them out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage." If, therefore, the foliage of the booths pointed to the glorious possessions of the inheritance, which the Lord had prepared for His redeemed people in Canaan, yet the natural allusion of the feast, which was superadded to the historical, and subordinate to it, - viz., to the plentiful harvest of rich and beautiful fruits, which they had gathered in from this inheritance, and could now enjoy in peace after the toil of cultivating the land was over, - would necessarily raise their hearts to still higher joy through their gratitude to the Lord and Giver of all, and make this feats a striking figure of the blessedness of the people of God when resting from their labours.

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