Summary: #12 in the series on the Tabernacle in the Wilderness dealing with the Table of Shewbread.
#12 Showing Jesus as the Bread of Life
Tabernacle in the Wilderness Series
The Table of Shewbread
By Pastor Jim May
Exodus 25:23-30, "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 alway."
What is the meaning of this Table of Showbread? Literally it means, “The Table of the Bread of the Presence”, because this table held fresh bread perpetually, before the presence of the Lord. It was never to be empty and the bread was to be refreshed every 7 days.
If you think about it, you will come to the conclusion that the Bread must represent life, and the staff of life. In the natural sense, bread is a staple and most of the world couldn’t survive without it. In a spiritual sense, we cannot live without partaking of the “Bread of Life” through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundantly, but we cannot have that life without partaking of the Bread that He gives.
On the North side of the sanctuary, known as the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, stood a small golden Table for the Showbread. This table is constructed of also of shittim wood that is completely overlaid with gold. God gave Moses some very specific instructions on how to build this table.
The 12 loaves of very special bread were baked in pans which gave them a specific form, and when done they rested on golden shelves upon this table which would allow air to circulate around them at all times, keeping them from becoming full of mold and ruining. The loaves were replaced every Sabbath with new ones and the old loaves then were eaten by the priests of the temple.
In fact, The Talmud, a collection of ancient Rabbinic writings consisting of the Mishnah, (a collection of early oral interpretations of the scriptures that was compiled about AD 200) and the Gemara, (a written commentary on the Mishnah), describes that a miracle took place every week:
According to their traditions and writings, when the priests came to replace the bread with new loaves every Sabbath, they found that those of the previous week remained fresh and hot upon the table, like the moment they were baked. This miracle was seen as a clear confirmation that the Divine Presence indeed rested in this holy place.
The Table of Shewbread, with its 12 loaves of bread, golden dishes, pans, jars and bowls seems to be a mystery to the Jews. Even some of their prominent historians cannot put a firm meaning on what it stands for.
Maimonides was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher who lived from the year 1135 to1204 AD. He is one of the most celebrated and honored Jewish historians and religious figures of all time. And yet Rabbi Maimonides confessed in his own writings that, ’I do not know the object of the table with the bread upon it continually, and up to this day I have not been able to assign any reason to this commandment’. Most of the time, even today, Jewish commentators can only understand the Bread of Presence as an expression of thankfulness and standing acknowledgment on the part of the children of Israel that God was the Giver of man’s daily necessities.
The reason that so few Jewish Rabbis can understand the true meaning of the Table of Showbread is that they are still looking for their Messiah to come, and they do not know that Jesus Christ was, and is their Messiah. If they could understand who Jesus is, and recognize what He has done for them, it would be much easier for them to see the true meaning behind the Table of Showbread because it represents Jesus as the Bread of Life, set before us on a table, with the 12 loaves representing every tribe of Israel, showing us that Jesus loves all of His people equally. There’s a lot more to be seen in the Table of Showbread concerning Jesus Christ and our relationship with him as we continue on.