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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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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 ; ; ; ; ; ).





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Shewbread'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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