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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Shewbread

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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 Septuagint rendering 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.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Shewbread'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/shewbread.html. 1906-1918.

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