The Table of the Shewbread: Exodus 25:23-30

Exodus 25:23‑30  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The ark, with the mercy-seat and the cherubim, was the sole occupant of the holy of holies. Nothing else was to be found in the immediate dwelling place of God. But passing from without through the veil (supposing for a moment the erection of the tabernacle) the holy place is entered—the scene of the customary service of the priest. There were three vessels here—the table of shewbread, the candlestick of pure gold, and the altar of incense—though the last is not yet described. It is the first of these in order as here given—the table of shewbread—that we have now to consider.
“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 handbreadth 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” (vss. 23-30).
The composition of the table is the same as that of the ark. It was made of shittim wood, and overlaid with pure gold (vss. 23-25). The meaning therefore will be the same—the shittim wood presenting that which is human, and the gold that which is divine. It is then Christ, Christ in His human and divine natures as combined in His one person. This indeed is the beauty of everything connected with the tabernacle. It is Christ everywhere, Christ in Himself or in some of His varied perfections and glories.
The bread on the table. It is in the book of Leviticus that we find the particulars of the loaves—“And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto Him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute” (Lev. 24:5-95And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. 6And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. 7And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 8Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. 9And it shall be Aaron's and his sons'; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute. (Leviticus 24:5‑9)). (1) The loaves or cakes were made of fine flour. This at once points to the meat-offering which, in like manner, was made of fine flour, with the addition of oil and frankincense. (See Lev. 2.) No leaven is mentioned, whereas in the two wave loaves (Lev. 23:1717Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord. (Leviticus 23:17)) leaven is expressly specified—for the obvious reason that, in this case, the loaves represent the church, and therefore leaven—emblem of evil—is found in them. But the fine flour is a type of the humanity of Christ, and hence the loaves of the shewbread are without leaven, He being holy, harmless, undefiled, absolutely without sin. (2) The loaves were baked. They set forth therefore Christ as having been exposed to the action of fire—the judgment of God’s holiness by which He was searched and tested when upon the cross, and found to answer, and to answer perfectly, its every claim. (3) They were twelve in number—six in a row. So on the shoulders of the high priest, there were the names of six tribes on the one, and the names of six tribes on the other. The loaves equally point to the twelve tribes of Israel. The number twelve signifies administrative perfection of government in man, and thus there were twelve tribes, twelve apostles, twelve gates, and twelve foundations in the holy city, new Jerusalem. (See for an illustration of this meaning Matt. 19:2828And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28).) The twelve loaves may then be taken to represent Israel in its twelve tribes; and this will give us, in connection with the significance of the number twelve, God revealed in Christ in association with Israel (for Christ was of the seed of David, and heir to his throne—Luke 1:3232He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (Luke 1:32)) in perfection of government. This will be displayed according to the predictions of the prophets (for example, Psa. 72) in the millennium. But the loaves were on the table, and hence, on the other hand, Israel is seen in association with Christ before God. (4) Another thing should be noticed. “And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (Lev. 24:77And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 24:7)). The frankincense typifies the sweet fragrance of Christ to God. Observe therefore that Israel in its twelve tribes is ever presented before God, covered with all the fragrance of Christ, and maintained there through all the night of their unbelief in virtue of what He is, and of what He has done—the sure promise of their future restoration and blessing. Hence the loaves were to be set in order “before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant” (Lev. 24:88Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. (Leviticus 24:8)). They may be unfaithful, as they have been, but God cannot deny Himself; He abideth faithful, and as a consequence, though they have been scattered throughout the world because of their unbelief, He will yet perform His counsels of mercy and truth, and gather them from the four corners of the earth, and reinstate them in their own laud in fullness of blessing—blessing which will be established in and secured by Him who is symbolized by the shewbread table.
An illustration of this may be gathered from the border of the table: “And thou shalt make unto it a border of an handbreadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about” (vs. 25). It is very clear that the object of this border was to maintain the loaves in their position; and if the ornamental crown of gold be taken as an emblem of the divine glory of Christ, the lesson taught will be, that Israel is secured in its position through Christ before God by all that He is as divine; nay, that His divine glory is concerned in their maintenance in it, as well as in preserving them for all the blessing which He Himself has secured, and on which they will therefore one day surely enter. But there is more than Israel’s position in this symbol. It embraces in principle that of every believer. There in the holy place, ever before the eye of God, covered with the grateful fragrance of the frankincense, he is seen in Christ. It is indeed the perfect presentation of the believer to God. In other words, it is our acceptance in the Beloved.
We may now consider the bread as food for the priests: “And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto Him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute” (Lev. 24:99And it shall be Aaron's and his sons'; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute. (Leviticus 24:9)). Feeding indicates identification and communion with the thing fed upon. This is expressly brought out by the Apostle Paul in his teaching concerning the Lord’s table. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread, one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-1716The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16‑17)). It was the same with the priests. For example, they ate also of the sin-offering in certain cases (Lev. 6:2626The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. (Leviticus 6:26)), and thereby identified themselves with it. Feeding therefore upon the shewbread is a symbol of the fact that Christ, as the Priest, ever identifies Himself with Israel before God. It was only to be eaten, it will be remarked, in the holy place. It is, then, Christ, in communion with the thoughts of God, identifying Himself with the twelve tribes in the exercise of His priesthood. This brings before us a very blessed aspect of truth. That He is the High Priest of this dispensation all admit; but it is not sufficiently borne in mind that, notwithstanding Israel’s unbelief, He identities Himself with them before God in His priestly office, and that He will come out of the holiest, into which He has entered, as Melchizedek and be a Priest upon His throne over a willing people. “The Lord shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of Thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110:2-42The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. 4The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110:2‑4)).
Then we have the provision for the journey: “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” (vss. 26-28). The children of Israel were pilgrims in the wilderness, and hence the tabernacle and all its furniture were made for them in this character, and accompanied them in all their wanderings. Christ is ever with His people; and the very rings and staves, equally with the table itself, composed of gold and shittim wood, point to Him as the God-man. But it is in the book of Numbers that the details for the transport of the table, when on the march, are given. “And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: and they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof” (Num. 4:7-87And upon the table of showbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: 8And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put in the staves thereof. (Numbers 4:7‑8)). The inner covering, it will be observed, is a cloth of blue—symbol of what is heavenly; next, a cloth of scarlet—scarlet being an emblem of human glory or Jewish royalty; and outside came the covering of badgers’ skins—a type of protection from evil as a consequence of holy watchfulness. Regarding the whole, the table with its shewbread, as Christ in association with Israel, to be hereafter displayed in perfection of administrative government, the meaning of this arrangement will be apparent. The cloth of blue was immediately upon the gold; that is, the heavenly character of Christ was in intimate association with what He was as divine. The scarlet next—royalty, or human glory, because being in the wilderness the time for its manifestation had not yet arrived. That will be connected with the kingdom at His appearing. The badgers’ skins are therefore outside, as concealing His human or royal glory, and as expressive of that holy vigilance which guarded Him on every hand from evil while in wilderness circumstances.
All the vessels connected with the table were made of gold (vs. 29), all significant of that which was divine, as befitted the service of the One who was really God manifest in flesh, and who will be confessed in the future day of Israel’s blessing as their Lord and their God. It will thus be seen that every detail, as well the whole table, speaks of Christ. May our eyes be opened to perceive every aspect of His person and work as presented to us by the Spirit of God.