The Table of Shewbread
The Bread of Life
As discussed previously, the golden candlestick pictures Christ as the Light of the World and His Body (the Church) carrying on as Light as He lives through them. The Light in the Tabernacle was there, in part, to illuminate the Table of Shewbread.
Thou shalt also make a table of acacia 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 rim of gold roundabout. And thou shalt make unto it a border of a handbreadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden rim to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the four rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. – Ex. 25:23-26
The term shewbread comes from a Hebrew word that means bread of the face or bread of presence, because the bread was set before the face of Jehovah or His presence in the Holy of Holies.
The table of shewbread stood to the north side of the holy place. It was made of acacia wood, and was overlaid with pure gold. It was three feet long, one and one-half feet wide, and two and one-fourth feet high. It had a golden crown or molding all around the outer edge to keep the twelve loaves of bread safely upon the table and to prevent them from falling upon the ground and thus being defiled. There were four golden rings, two on each side of the table, through which were passed two bars or handles made of wood and plated with gold. With these bars the table was carried from place to place by the priests whenever they were on the move.
The children of Israel were ever on the march. They were in a howling wilderness. They had no abiding place in the wilderness, and as such they are typical of the believer during this life, who passes through this world. Out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb, separated from the world, but still in the world. The tabernacle was, therefore, God’s provision for their wilderness journey. They needed food, physically and spiritually. God provided physical food for them in the form of manna from heaven. He provided spiritual food in the Tabernacle. The table and its bread provided for them in abundance. The needed guidance was provided by the golden lampstand, and they needed an intercessor and a protector, and this was found in the golden incense altar. We are reminded of the absolute security of the believer who abides in Christ, for provision is provided by God for every need!
The table points like all the tabernacle does to the Lord Jesus Christ. Both the table and the bread upon the table represent Him. On it were placed twelve loaves of bread, six each in two separate rows. The bread was flavored with frankincense. It was unleavened (leaven being a type of sin) and typifies Christ’s sinless life. The frankincense had a sweet fragrance when burned. It symbolizes and typifies Christ living through Christians. Now thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and makest manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ. (2 Cor. 2:14, 15)
The shewbread constituted the food of the priests who ministered in the Tabernacle. About this table the priests worshiped and fellowshipped daily, on the basis of the blood of the sacrificial animal slain on the altar. The bread also speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, the living Bread who came down from heaven. Our Saviour Himself said in John 6:35:
I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
He repeats this again in John 6:48 and 51,
I am the bread of life.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.
The table, therefore, in the tabernacle pointed to the Lord Jesus, our Sustainer, and the bread on the table was symbolic of His own body. The table was the center of fellowship for the priests (type of believers), and the bread was the living Word, as revealed in the written Word. The lesson for us is definite and clear. We are New Testament priests, ministering unto the Lord in the Lord Jesus. We have come by way of the bloody altar, have been sanctified by the laver of the Word, and now we are to seek fellowship for worship with other saints in the holy place, feeding on the Bread of Life together. Every born-again believer seeks the fellowship of other believers. It is the duty of born-again believers to identify themselves with God’s people in some assembly of worship with other born-again believers. This assembly need not be complex, a part of organized religion. It may be that, so long as Truth is upheld in such institutions; but it may be as simple as a group of believers gathered to study the Word of God together, open to the leading of the Lord Jesus by His Holy Spirit. For all believers are priests unto God in the New Testament age.
Christians are to love and serve one another through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians are to love all people, seeing them as God sees them, as no respector of persons. And Christians are to desire and seek the salvation of all. But Christians are to love other Christians as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Jesus said,
Joh 13:34A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. Joh 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
The table in the holy place speaks of fellowship; the altar of incense of worship, and the candlestick represents light for service. We are to “walk in the light, even as he is in the light.” (I John 1:7) Part of that walking in the light is to partake of the Bread of Life.
The basis and center of fellowship was the table of shewbread. Around this table the priests gathered daily. Since the table and the bread are Christ, all true fellowship must be around the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were to feed on Him as the Bread of Life, flavored with the frankincense of the Holy Spirit. The sustaining food of the believer, then, is the Word of God, both the living Word and the written Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit – seen in the bread and the frankincense. The bread placed on the table was the only thing that provided food of the priests as they ministered. There were no sauces and spices and pickles and olives and fancy salads or pie alamode; just bread. God here shows the importance of “feeding on the Word,” and all else must take a secondary place. The assembly of the saints should be first of all a time of worship and devotion and feeding and feasting upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, a beautiful antitype of the table of shewbread is seen. We gather in the fellowship of believers to feed upon Christ, and to wait for orders to move on. Paul says, in giving the order of the Lord’s Supper:
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come. (I Cor. 11:26)
Christ, our living Bread, is coming back again. When He comes will He find us occupied with Him? Feeding upon Him? Walking in the light of the Holy Spirit? Will He find us in fellowship with Himself and with the saints of God? Will He find us feasting upon His Word, or feeding on the shallow, empty husks of formal religion or legalism?
The priests were to feed at the table daily. It was their daily food. We, too, are to feed upon the Bread of Life, and what it represents as our continual diet. The Bread was the result of a process of death and suffering: bread is wheat ground to powder and baked in a heated oven. It speaks of the crushing of Gethsemane, and the burning heat of Calvary.
A question to ponder. What does it mean to eat Christ’s body, and to drink His blood? John 6:53 – Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Also - John 6:63 – It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.
A little test of your knowledge of the typological meanings of the Tabernacle.
Match up the ideas in the left column with their representation in the Tabernacle in the right column. The parts of the Tabernacle may be used more than once in typology. Email me if you wish to discuss any of this.
Next: The Golden Altar of Incense
Index of Tabernacle Subjects