Table of Gold
February 24, 2020

The instructions for the table of showbread (Exodus 25:23-30) occur in the "third day" section of Exodus 25-30. On "Day 1," Yahweh assembles the materials for building the tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-9). On "Day 2," he prescribes the pattern for the ark of the covenant, a "firmament" that separates and joins heaven and earth (Exodus 25:10-22). On "Day 4," Moses receives instructions for forming the menorah, the miniature solar system that will be placed in the heavenly Holy Place (Exodus 25:31-40).

The "Day 3" slot is filled by a description of the table of showbread (Exodus 25:23-30), which connects the table and bread with the land and plants produced on Day 3 of the creation week (Genesis 1:10-13). The bread is, literally, "bread of faces" (Exodus 25:30) because it is laid before the face of Yahweh. His seven eyes - the lights of the lampstand on the south side of the tent - watch over the bread of the faces on the table on the north. The bread is, as it were, face-to-face with the Lord of the tent.

The parallel between creation and tabernacle is exact. Moses placed twelve loaves of showbread on the table in two rows of six, topped off with frankincense (Leviticus 24:5-9), along with bowls containing wine for libations (Exodus 25:29). Bread and wine are glorified forms of the original vegetation - grasses/grains and fruit trees/vines.

From the beginning, the Lord spread out the earth as a table for man and animals (Genesis 1:29-30), a magic table that continuously produces fresh courses of food. Now, as He erects His microcosmic tent, He spreads a table with the same food.

The fact that there were twelve loaves adds an additional layer to the symbolism. Israel is the "face-bread," set before the face of Yahweh. Israel is the firstfruits of the nations, "brought up" from Egypt as the grasses and trees were "brought up" from the earth. Israel is wheat ground, milled, and baked into bread, grapes trampled and aged into fine wine, prepared as a feast for the nations. When Jesus said "This is my body, this is my blood," He was claiming, among other things, to be the true Israel, Yahweh's bread and wine given for the life of the world.

The creation symbolism is somewhat in the background in the tabernacle. The table is in the Holy Place, a heavenly environment, and, though made of acacia wood, it is glorified with an overlay of pure gold (Exodus 25:23-24). Insofar as the bread represents Israel, it represents Israel as a heavenly people. Insofar as the table is a place for food, it's a heavenly table, and the bread is the bread of angels.

Under the law, only the angelic priests ate the showbread (Leviticus 24:5-6; though cf. 1 Samuel 21). It was kept in reserve until the veil is torn and the goods of the sanctuary are brought out for the Gentiles. It was hidden behind the firmament until the living Manna came from heaven to offer His flesh and blood as true food and drink.

One anomaly in the order of presentation. Exodus 25 first describes the ark of the covenant, which is housed in the Most Holy Place. Descriptions of two items in Holy Place follow - the table and the lampstand. We expect a description of the third item in the Holy Place - the incense altar - but that doesn't come up for several chapters (30:1-10). In between, we have elaborate descriptions of the tabernacle, the curtains, the priestly garments, and the ordination rite for priests.

The effect of this arrangement is to place the instructions for the golden altar in the Sabbatical "Day 7" slot. That's fitting. The altar with its ascending incense serves as a stairway of prayer into the throne room of Yahweh. By offering incense, the priest brings the petitions of the people to the Lord who enjoys His Sabbatical enthronement above the cherubim.

But the arrangement also suggests that the furnishings of the Holy Place aren't complete until the curtains, veils, and priests are installed. The "heaven" of the Holy Place has heavenly bread and heavenly light, but it's also needs heavenly curtains and angelic ministers. Only then can the lower heavens of the Holy Place be linked with the higher heavens of the Most Holy Place.

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