Summary: What is the significance of the table and bread referred to in Hebrews 2?
The table and the showbread (Ex. 25:23-30, Lev 24:5-9)
At about 3 feet by 1.5 feet and 2 feet 3 inches high this table was similar in size to a largish coffee table. Having this table in your home, however, could cause difficulties with your insurance company as it was made from acacia wood overlaid with gold. It stood on the right side of the Holy Place across from the lampstand. Every Sabbath twelve new loaves were placed on the table and the week-old loaves were taken off the table, and eaten by the priests in the Holy Place, or Sanctuary. According to Jewish tradition the loaves were as warm and fresh as when they were put on the table a week earlier.
We have a pretty good idea of the appearance of the table as it, or rather a later version from the temple, is pictured in the sculpture on Titus’ Arch. Shittim, probably acacia, from which the table was constructed was apparently plentiful in the wilderness and was a very hardwearing wood. It is generally seen as a picture of Christ’s perfect Humanity. Acacia may have been the sapling in mind in Isa 53:2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground That Christ is truly Man is clear from His adoption of the title the Son of Man" and from Paul’s inspired description as the Man Christ Jesus in 1 Tim. 2:5. It is also a subject that we looked at in Chapters 1 and 2 and again in Ch 4: 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.
Shittim-wood is virtually rot proof and, in the Septuagint, (the first Greek translation of the Old Testament) it is always translated "incorruptible wood." Wood rots because of its exposure to wet conditions and fungal spores. This reminds me of the affect of sin on us. Jesus was in the same environment as us and, as 4:15 goes on He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Therefore disease and death had no claim upon Him. How different He is to us, and yet what a great example of what God can do in us when the mighty power of His beloved Son flows through us.
The wood of the table was overlaid with gold. The wood gave form to the table, but its appearance was all gold with no visible wood. The gold reminds me of Christ’s deity. In His life on earth this was hidden by His humanity, but here we see the resurrected and glorified Christ pictured. In the wood and the gold together we have foreshadowed the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh – 1Ti 3:16. Here we see, in symbol the union of the two natures in the God-man, a lesson which is vitally important, as God has shown us by repeating the pattern throughout the tabernacle, thousands of years before His Son’s birth in Bethlehem.
You might have expected to find some delicacies on such a beautiful table, but instead on it were placed 12 simple loaves of bread. I find it hard to say what the spiritual significance of the bread is, for it reminds me of different things!
That there were 12 loaves clearly points to the whole of Israel or God’s people. All the loaves were equally important, being made with the same quantities of ingredients. Their exact size and shape probably varied, depending on how they were formed and cooked. They were not mass produced like modern bread. This signified that the smallest tribe and the largest, the weakest and the strongest, the most insignificant and the most honoured all had an equal status before the Lord. So too with us today. When we come to God we all come as His children, with the same status, rights and needs. He does not have favourites. We are all sinners, saved by grace and we all need His forgiveness and blessing. We are all His children and He loves and values us equally, even if some of us have a funny shape!