From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

"Bread of the faces" or "presence" of God ( Exodus 25:30). "Bread of ordering" ( 1 Chronicles 9:32). "The continual bread" ( Numbers 4:7). "Hallowed bread" ( 1 Samuel 21:4-6;  Matthew 12:4;  Hebrews 9:2 "the shewbread," Greek "bread of setting forth".) The table was of acacia or "shittim wood," two cubits long, one broad, one and a half high, overlaid with pure gold, with a golden crown to the border round about, to hinder any bread falling off (But See Below) ;  Exodus 25:23-30. The border was to be "of a handbreadth"; so in the sculpture on Titus' Arch the slave's hand that holds the table is just the breadth of the border. "The pure table" ( Leviticus 24:6), both because of its unalloyed gold and because of the "pure offering" on it ( Malachi 1:11). The table stood in the holy place on the N. side ( Exodus 26:35). The 12 cakes of unleavened bread, arranged in two piles, with a golden cup of frankincense on each (Josephus Ant. 3:10, section 7), were renewed every sabbath, and the stale loaves given to the priests.

They represented the 12 tribes before Jehovah perpetually, (see  Revelation 21:12) in token that He was always graciously accepting His people and their good works, for whom atonement had been made by the victims on the altar outside. They were the national meat offering ( Leviticus 24:5-9). Each cake contained two tenths of an ephah, about six pounds and a quarter, of fine flour. The frankincense as a memorial was probably cast upon the altar fire as "an offering made by fire unto the Lord," when the bread was removed from the table on the Sabbath. Ahimelech stretched the law in giving the stale loaves to David's men, as free from ceremonial defilement ( 1 Samuel 21:4-6;  Matthew 12:4), for they should have been eaten by the priests, in the holy place ( Leviticus 24:5-9). Bahr thinks the loaves symbolized the Holy One in His sanctuary as the Bread of life to His people ( John 6:35;  John 6:47-51;  Matthew 4:4;  Deuteronomy 8:3).

But the loaves were taken from Israel, not presented by God to them; and one loaf would suit his view rather than twelve ( 1 Corinthians 10:17). Still, on their presenting themselves before Him in the bread symbol, He feeds them represented by their priests. As they are a bread offering to Him, so He gives Himself as the bread to feed them. In  2 Chronicles 4:8;  2 Chronicles 4:19, ten tables are mentioned "whereon the shewbread was set," i.e., Solomon made a number of tables, and one great golden one on which they set the loaves. In the parallel passage,  1 Kings 7:48, "the table of gold" alone is mentioned, as in  2 Chronicles 29:18. "Ten" is the number also of the candlesticks. The tables were probably made of cedarwood overlaid with gold (see Josephus Ant. 8:3, section 7). As it is omitted in the list of articles restored from Babylon ( Ezra 1:9-11), it was doubtless remade by Zerubbabel. Antiochus Epiphanes carried away the table of the second temple ( 2 Maccabees 1:22). Anew one was made at the restoration of the temple by Judas Maccabeus ( 1 Maccabees 4:49).

Afterward Ptolemy Philadelphus presented a splendid table (Josephus Ant. 12:2, section 8-9). In the Arch of Titus, the sculptor in defiance of perspective exhibits the two ends. Speaker's Commentary ( Exodus 25:23-30) for "crown of gold" translated "moulding of gold"; for "border," "a framing" which reached from leg to leg, to make the table firm, as well as to adorn it with a second moulding of gold; two fragments of such a framing appear half way clown the legs in the Titus' Arch sculpture. "Over against the framing" the rings were "upon the four extremities (KJV "corners") that were at the four (Clawlike) feet," answering to each corner of it. The staves were never taken out of the golden rings by which the ark was to be borne; so translated  Numbers 4:5-6, "put the staves thereof in order," not "put in," they would need merely adjustment after motion ( Exodus 25:14-15).

The "dishes" or bowls were probably the measures for the meal used in the loaves. For "spoons" translated "cups" filled with frankincense, represented on Titus' Arch. For "covers" and "bowls" and "to cover withal" translated "flagons and chalices, to pour out withal." These were for the drink offering which accompanied every meat offering, for the shewbread was a true meat offering. In  Numbers 4:7 the Hebrew means "the shew table" or "table of the faces" or presence, namely, of God manifested. Similar is the phrase "the Angel of His presence" ( Isaiah 63:9;  Exodus 33:14-15;  Exodus 23:20;  Deuteronomy 4:37, "in His sight".) The "face" stands for the Person. "The bread of the face" on the table in the sanctuary symbolizes that man is admitted to God's holy table and presence, seeing and being nourished by God in the person of Christ, the Bread of life.

The priests, Israel's representatives, alone ate this sacramental pledge in the Old Testament. The whole church as "priests unto God" offer themselves before God and are fed at the Lord's table with the sacramental symbol of Christ's body, our true food ( Psalms 23:5;  Luke 22:30;  1 Corinthians 11:26). The continued renewal every Sabbath testified to the design of that holy day to renew men afresh to self dedication as in God's immediate presence; as Israel by the candlestick appeared as a people of enlightenment, and by the incense altar as a people of prayer. The frankincense always on the shewbread, and consumed when the bread was to be eaten, symbolized that prayer must ever accompany self dedication, and that the fame of love must kindle prayer when we are about to hold communion with and to be nourished by Him.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Shewbread . In one of the oldest historical documents preserved in the OT we find, in a passage telling of David’s flight from Saul, the first mention of an offering in the shape of ‘holy bread,’ which was presented to J″ [Note: Jahweh.] in the sanctuary at Nob (  1 Samuel 21:1-6 ). Here this holy bread is also termed ‘ the bread of the presence ’ (  1 Samuel 21:6 ), i.e. of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] , which appears in EV [Note: English Version.] as ‘shewbread’ a rendering due to Tindale, who adds the note, ‘shewbrede, because it was alway in the presence and sight of the Lorde’ (cf.   1 Samuel 21:6 , which ends literally thus: ‘the presence-bread, that was taken from the presence of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’). ‘Presence-bread’ is also the name for this special offering generally used in the Priests’ Code but ‘continual bread’ in   Numbers 4:7 , contracted from the fuller expression   2 Chronicles 2:4 . The Chronicler, however, prefers another designation, which may be rendered ‘pile-bread’ (  1 Chronicles 9:32;   1 Chronicles 23:29 etc., EV [Note: English Version.] ‘shewbread’) and is to be explained by the arrangement of the loaves in two piles (see below and cf.   Leviticus 24:8 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ).

After its first historical mention in connexion with the sanctuary of Nob, where it was periodically renewed at what intervals is not stated the presence-bread is next met with in the Temple of Solomon. Here was an ‘altar of cedar’ ( 1 Kings 6:20 ), which modern scholars regard as an altar for the presentation of the offering of the shewbread. It stood, according to the restored text, in front of the dÄ•bîr , or Most Holy Place, and it is to be identified with ‘the table whereupon the shewbread was,’ mentioned in   1 Kings 7:48 in a section of later date (see, for the composite text of these chapters, the authorities cited in art. Temple, and cf. ib . § 5). The same interchange of ‘altar’ and ‘table’ is found in   Ezekiel 41:22; cf.   Ezekiel 44:16 .

The table of shewbread to be provided for the Tabernacle of P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] is discussed in the art. Tabernacle, § 6 ( a ) (cf. Temple, § 9 ). The preparation of the shewbread itself, which in the time of the Chronicler was the privilege of a division of the Levites (  1 Chronicles 9:32 ), is prescribed in another section of P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] (  Leviticus 24:5-9 ). The offering consisted of twelve unleavened cakes of considerable size, since each cake contained a fifth of an ephah an ephah held more than a bushel of fine flour. The cakes or loaves were arranged on the table in two piles; on the top of each pile was placed an oblation of frankincense. The cakes were renewed ‘every Sabbath day’ (  Leviticus 24:8 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ); those removed were eaten by the priests alone within the sanctuary precincts, the shewbread being among ‘the most holy of the offerings of the Lord’ (  Leviticus 24:9 ).

As regards the original significance of the shewbread offering there can be no doubt. This antique form of oblation had its origin in pre-historic times in the naïve desire to propitiate the deity by providing him with a meal (See Sacrifice and Offering, § 16 ). This view is confirmed by the fact that it was accompanied, even in the later period, by a provision of wine, as is clear from the mention of ‘the flagons thereof, and the bowls thereof, to pour out withal’ (  Exodus 25:29 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ,   Numbers 4:7 ). The analogy of the classical lectisternia will at once suggest itself. Less familiar is the similar offering among the Babylonians, who laid cakes of ‘sweet,’ i.e. unleavened, bread on the altars of various deities (see Zimmern’s list in KAT [Note: Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament.] 3 600). The analogy between the Babylonian and Hebrew ritual is rendered still more striking by the identity of the name ‘bread of the presence’ ( loc. cit. ), and of the number of cakes offered twelve or a multiple of twelve. This number had probably an astrological origin, having reference originally to the twelve months of the year, or the twelve signs of the Zodiac. For the later Hebrews, at least, the twelve loaves of the presence-bread doubtless represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and were interpreted as a symbolical expression of the nation’s gratitude to God as the continual source of every material blessing.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [3]

In the holy place of the temple or tabernacle was the shewbread ( Hebrews 9:2), lit.[Note: literally, literature.]‘the setting forth of the loaves’ (ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἄρτων; Vulg.[Note: Vulgate.]propositio panum). In the Septuagintrendering of  Exodus 40:23 the loaves are called ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως; other names were ‘the continual bread,’ ‘the presence-bread,’ ‘holy bread.’ Every Sabbath day the shewbread, unleavened (Josephus, Ant. III. vi. 6), and fresh from the oven, was placed, in two piles of six loaves each, on a table of cedar-wood, in front of the entrance to ‘the most holy place,’ and the stale bread was eaten within the sacred precincts. Instructions as to the composition, setting forth, and consumption of the bread are given in  Leviticus 24:5-9. The ritual is attested from an early date ( 1 Samuel 21:6), and was no doubt a survival from a primitive cultus in which the shewbread was regarded as the food of the deity, like the lectisternia of the Romans; but this idea was ‘too crude to subsist without modification beyond the savage state of society’ (W. R. Religion of the Semites (W. Robertson Smith)2, 1894, p. 229), and, when more spiritual thoughts of the Divine nature prevailed, the shewbread was retained merely εἰς ἀνάμνησιν ( Leviticus 24:7)-i.e. as a reminder of man’s dependence upon God for the gift of daily bread. Among the spoils displayed at the triumph of Vespasian and Titus, ‘those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem made the greatest figure of them all: that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the golden candlestick also’ (Josephus, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus)VII. v. 5), both of which are represented on the well-known Arch of Titus.

Literature.-Thayer Grimm’s Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, s.v. πρόθεσις; A. Edersheim, The Temple, its Ministry and Services, n.d., p. 181 ff.; A. R. S. Kennedy, article‘Shewbread’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols).

James Strahan.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

 Exodus 25:30  1 Chronicles 9:32  Numbers 4:7 1 Samuel 21:1-6

This bread consisted of twelve loaves made of the finest flour. They were flat and thin, and were placed in two rows of six each on a table in the holy place before the Lord. They were renewed every Sabbath ( Leviticus 24:5-9 ), and those that were removed to give place to the new ones were to be eaten by the priests only in the holy place (see  1 Samuel 21:3-6; Compare  Matthew 12:3,4 ).

The number of the loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and also the entire spiritual Israel, "the true Israel;" and the placing of them on the table symbolized the entire consecration of Israel to the Lord, and their acceptance of God as their God. The table for the bread was made of acacia wood, 3 feet long, 18 inches broad, and 2 feet 3 inches high. It was plated with pure gold. Two staves, plated with gold, passed through golden rings, were used for carrying it.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [5]

The shewbread was placed on the golden table of the sanctuary every Sabbath. They were twelve loaves in number, meaning one for every tribe, to be presented before the Lord. (See  Leviticus 24:5-7 with  Exodus 25:30). Those twelve loaves were carried in by the priests hot before the Lord, and the twelve which had been there from the Sabbath before were then taken away. Generally there was upon those occasions all offering of frankincense and salt. The Hebrews called them Lechem Panahim, the bread of faces: probably from being thus presented before the face of the Lord.

Surely the believer may discern strong pointings to Christ in this service. And the call of the church as strongly referred to him, when the united prayer of the congregation went up, "Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed." ( Psalms 84:9)

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [6]

 Matthew 12:4 Mark 2:26 Luke 6:4 Hebrews 9:2 Exodus 25:30 Isaiah 63:9  Exodus 33:14,15 1—Chronicles 9:32 Numbers 4:7  1—Samuel 21:4,6 1—Kings 7:48 Leviticus 24:8 1—Peter 2:5,9

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Shewbread.  Exodus 25:30. Unleavened bread offered every Sabbath on the golden table in the holy place, made into twelve cakes, according to the twelve tribes of Israel, and placed in two piles or rows. The old cakes remained till replaced by the new and hence the name "continual bread."  Numbers 4:7;  Leviticus 24:8. As a general rule the old could be eaten by the priests alone, and by them only in the court of the sanctuary.  1 Samuel 21:1-6;  Matthew 12:3.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [8]

 Exodus 25:30 (c) It is a type of the rich provision made by the Lord for the sustenance of His people. These loaves were quite large, more than anyone person could eat. They were all the same size, revealing that GOD makes just as much provision for the small tribes as for the large ones. The smallest tribe had just as large a loaf on the table as did the largest tribe. GOD does not give by measure according to the riches of His grace.

Holman Bible Dictionary [9]

 Exodus 25:30 Leviticus 24:5-9 1 Samuel 21:4-6 Mark 2:23-28Bread Of The Presence

Webster's Dictionary [10]

See Showbread.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

In the outer apartment of the tabernacle, on the right hand, or north side, stood a table, made of acacia (shittim) wood, two cubits long, one broad, and one and a half high, and covered with laminae of gold. The top of the leaf of this table was encircled by a border or rim of gold. The frame of the table, immediately below the leaf, was encircled with a piece of wood of about four inches in breadth, around the edge of which was a rim or border, similar to that around the leaf. A little lower down, but at equal distances from the top of the table, there were four rings of gold fastened to the legs, through which staves covered with gold were inserted for the purpose of carrying it . These rings were not found in the table which was afterwards made for the temple, nor indeed in any of the sacred furniture, where they had previously been, except in the Ark of the Covenant. Twelve unleavened loaves were placed upon this table, which were sprinkled with frankincense (the Sept. adds salt; ). The number twelve represented the twelve tribes, and was not diminished after the defection of ten of the tribes from the worship of God in his sanctuary, because the covenant with the sons of Abraham was not formally abrogated, and because there were still many true Israelites among the apostatizing tribes. The twelve loaves were also a constant record against them, and served as a standing testimonial that their proper place was before the forsaken altar of Jehovah.

The loaves were placed in two piles, one above another, and were changed every Sabbath day by the priests. The frankincense that had stood on the bread during the week was then burnt as an oblation, and the removed bread became the property of the priests, who, as God's servants, had a right to eat of the bread that came from His table; but they were obliged to eat it in the holy place, and nowhere else. No others might lawfully eat of it; but in a case of extreme emergency the priest incurred no blame if he imparted it to persons who were in a state of ceremonial purity, as in the instance of David and his men . The bread was called 'the bread of the face,' or, 'of the presence,' because it was set forth before the face or in the presence of Jehovah in his holy place. This is translated 'show-bread.' It is also called 'the bread arranged in order,' and 'the perpetual bread,' because it was never absent from the table .

Wine also was placed upon the table of 'show-bread,' in bowls, some larger, and some smaller, also in vessels that were covered, and in cups, which were probably employed in pouring in and taking out the wine from the other vessels, or in making libations. They appear in the Authorized Version as 'spoons' (see generally;;;;; ).