is the rendering. in the A.V. of the Heb. phrase לֶחֶ ם ה פָּנַי ם, lechem hap-panim, lit. bread of the face, i.e. of Jehovah (this is the usual form); or (in the later books) לֶחֶ ם הִמִּעֲרֶכֶת, lechem ham-maareketh, bread of the ordering (1Ch 9:32; 1Ch 23:29; 2Ch 13:11; Ne 10:33), or simply the latter word (1Ch 28:16; 2Ch 2:4; 2Ch 29:18); also לֶחֶ ם הִתָּמַיד, lechem hat-tamid, the continual bread (Nu 4:7), and לֶחֶ ם קֹדֵשׁ, lechem kodesh, holy bread (1Sa 21:5). Onkelos sometimes paraphrases it לח ם אפ, bread of the nostrils. The Sept. has, lit. ἄρτοι ἐνώπιοι ἄρτοι τοῦ προσώπου, sometimes ἄρτοι τῆς προσφορᾶς (1Ki 7:48), or ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως (1Ch 9:32, etc.), as in the New Test. (Mt 12:4; Lu 6:4); but ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἄρτων in Hebrewa 9:2; Josephus directly ἄρτοι τοῦ θεοῦ (Ant. 8, 3, 7); the Vulg. panes propositionis. In the following account we bring together all the ancient and modern information on the subject.
I. The Table and its Accessories. — Within the ark it was directed that there should be a table of shittim wood, i.e. acacia, two cubits in length, a cubit in breadth, and a cubit and a half in height, overlaid with pure gold, and having "a golden crown to the border thereof round about," i.e. a border or list, in order, as we may suppose, to hinder that which was placed on it from by any accident falling off. The further description of this table will. be found in Ex 25:23-30, and a representation of it as it existed in the Herodian Temple forms an interesting feature in the bas reliefs within the arch of Titus. The accuracy of this may, as is obvious, be trusted. It exhibits one striking correspondence with the prescriptions in Exodus. We there find the following words: "and thou shalt make unto it a border of a handbreadth round about." In the sculpture of the arch the hand of one of the slaves who is carrying the table, and the border, are of about equal breadth. This table is itself called שֻׁלחִןהִפָּנַי ם, "the table of the face," in Nu 4:7, and שֻׁלהָןהִטָּחֹר, "the pure table" in Le 24:6 and 2Ch 13:11. This latter epithet is generally referred by commentators to the unalloyed gold with which so much of it was covered. It may, however, mean. somewhat more than this, and bear something of the spiritual force which it has in Mal 1:11.
It was thought by Philo and Clement of Alexandria that the table was a symbol of the world, its four sides or legs typifying the four seasons. In the utter absence of any argument in their support, we may feel warranted in neglecting such fanciful conjectures, without calling in the aid of Bahr's arguments against them.
In 2Ch 4:19 we have mention of the tables whereon the showbread was set," and at ver. 8 we read of Solomon making ten tables. This is probably explained by the statement of Josephus (Ant. 8:3, 7), that the king made a number of tables, and one great golden one on which they placed the loaves of God. SEE TEMPLE.
The table of the second Temple was carried away by Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Macc. 1:22), and a new one made at the refurbishing of the sanctuary under Judas Maccabaeus (4:49). Afterwards Ptolemy Philadelphus presented a magnificent table (Josephus, Ant. 12, 2, 8, 9).
The table stood in the sanctuary, together with the seven branched candlestick and the altar of incense. Its position, according to Josephus (Ant. 3, 6, 6), was on the north side of the sanctuary, not far from the veil that opened into the most holy. Besides the twelve loaves, the showbread table was adorned with dishes, spoons, bowls, etc., which were of pure gold (Ex 25:29). These, however, were evidently subsidiary to the loaves, the preparation, presentation, and subsequent treatment of which manifestly constituted the ordinance of the showbread. SEE TABLE.
II. The Bread and its Significance. — Whether the bread was to be leavened or unleavened is not said. The Jewish tradition holds it to have been unleavened (Josephus, Ant. 3, 6, 6; 10, 7; Philo, De Congr. 5, 1); and as Josephus and Philo could scarcely be ignorant of what on such a matter was customary in their time, it is not to be doubted that, according to the later practice at least, the bread was unleavened, affording ground for the inference that the same was the case also in earlier times. The cakes or loaves were to be placed in two rows; but whether each apart, six in a line, or piled up one above another, is not indicated. The Jewish tradition. however, is quite uniform; it represents them as ranged in two columns, six in each. Two reasons seem to confirm this view: first, the dimensions of the table, coupled with the quantity of flour in each cake, which must have rendered it next to impossible to have two parallel lines of six loaves placed on it; and, second, the regulation concerning the frankincense (the Sept. and Philo add salt) which required this to be set, not on each cake as standing individually apart, but upon each row, as if forming a visible unity (Le 24:7). The frankincense was to be "on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire unto the Lord;" the two golden pots containing it being, according to Josephus (Ant. 3, 10, 7), taken out along with the bread, and the frankincense burned on the altar of burned offering before the bread was given to the priests to be eaten. On each Sabbath this took place; twelve new loaves which had been prepared the evening before by a portion of the Levites (1Ch 9:32) being made every returning Sabbath to replace the old, and fresh frankincense put in the golden vessels in the room of that which had been burned (Le 24:8-9).
The number of the loaves (twelve) is considered by Philo and Josephus to represent the twelve months. If there was such a reference, it must surely have been quite subordinate to that which is obvious at once. The twelve loaves plainly answer to the twelve tribes (comp. Re 22:2). But, taking this for granted, we have still to ascertain the meaning of the rite, and there is none which is left in Scripture so wholly unexplained. Though it is mentioned, as we have seen, in other parts of the Old Test. besides the Pentateuch, it is never more than mentioned. The narrative of David and his companions being permitted to eat the showbread (1 Samuel 214-6)
does but illustrate the sanctity which was ascribed to it; and besides our Savior's appeal to that narrative (Mt 12:4), the ordinance is only once referred to in the New Test. (Heb 9:2), and there it is merely named among the other appurtenances of the first sanctuary. But although unexplained, it is referred to as one of the leading and most solemn appointments of the sanctuary. For example, the appeal of Abijam to the revolted tribes (2Ch 13:10-11) runs thus, "But, as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests, which minister unto the Lord, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business; and they burn unto the Lord every morning and every evening burned sacrifices and sweet incense; the, showbread also set they in order upon the pure table," etc. In this absence of explanation of that which is yet regarded as so solemn, we have but to seek whether the names bestowed on, and the rites connected with, the showbread will lead us to some apprehension of its meaning.
The first name we find given it is obviously, the dominant one, לח ם פני, "bread of the face, or faces." This is explained by some of the rabbins, even by Maimonides, as referring to the four sides of each loaf. It is difficult to believe that the title was given on a ground which in no way distinguished them from other loaves. Besides, it is applied in Nu 4:7, simply to the table, שלחןהפני, not, as in the English version, "the table of showbread," but the "show table," the "table of the face, or faces." We have used the words face and faces; for פני ם, it need scarcely be said, exists only in the plural, and is therefore applied equally to the face of one person and of many. In connection with this meaning, it continually bears the secondary one of presence. It would be superfluous to cite any of the countless passages in which it does so. But whose face or presence is denoted? That of the people? The rite of the showbread, according to some, was performed in acknowledgment of God's being the giver of all our bread and sustenance, and the loaves lay always on the table as a memorial and monitor of this. But against this, besides other reasons, there is the powerful objection that the showbread was unseen by the people; it lay , in the sanctuary, and was.eaten there by the priests alone. Thus the first condition of symbolic instruction was wanting to the rite, had this been its meaning.
The פני ם, therefore, or presence, is that not of the people, but of God. The ἄρτοι ἐνώπιοι and the ἄρτοι τῆς προσφορᾶς of the Sept. seem to indicate as much, to, say nothing of 1Sa 21:6, where the words ל8 8 הפני ם המוסרי ם מלפני יהוה seem decisive of the whole question. But in what sense? Spencer and others consider it bread offered to God, as was the Minchah, a symbolical meal for God somewhat answering to a heathen Lectisternium. But it is not easy to find this meaning in the recorded appointments. The incense is, no doubt, to be burned on the appointed altar, but the bread, on the Sabbath following that of its presentation, is to be eaten in the holy place by the priests. There remains, then, the view which has been brought out with such singular force and beauty by Bahr — a view broad and clear in itself, and not disturbed by those fanciful theories of numbers which tend to abate confidence in some parts of his admirable Symbolik. He remarks, and justly, that the phrase פני ם is applied solely to the table and the bread, not to the other furniture of the sanctuary, the altar of incense, or the golden candlestick. There is something, therefore, peculiar to the former which is denoted by the title. Taking הפני as equivalent to the presence (of God subaud.), he views the application of it to the table and the bread as analogous to its application to the angel, מלאפִני (Isa 63:9, compared with Ex 33:14-15; De 4:37). Of the angel of God's presence it is said that God's "name is in him" (Ex 23:20). The presence and the name may therefore be taken as equivalent. Both, in reference to their context, indicate the manifestation of God to his creatures. "The name of God," he remarks, "is himself, but that, in so far as he reveals himself, the face is that wherein the being of a man proclaims itself, and makes known its individual personality. Hence, as name stands for he or himself, so face for person: to see the face, for to see the person. The 'bread of the face' is, therefore, that bread through which God is seen; that is, with the participation of which the seeing of God is bound up, or through the participation of which man attains the sight of God. Hence it follows that we have not to think of bread merely as such, as the means of nourishing the bodily life, but as spiritual food, as a means of appropriating and retaining that life which consists in seeing the face of God. Bread is therefore here a symbol, and stands, as it generally does in all languages, both for life and life's nourishment; but by being entitled the bread of the face, it becomes a symbol of a life higher than the physical. It is, since it lies on the table placed in the symbolic heaven, heavenly bread. They who eat of it and satisfy themselves with it see the face of God" (Bahr, Symbolik, bk. 1, ch. 6, § 2). It is to be remembered that the showbread was "taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant" (Le 24:8), and may therefore be well expected to bear the most solemn meaning. Bahr proceeds to show very beautifully the connection in Scripture between seeing God and being nourished by God, and points, as the coping stone of his argument, to Christ being at once the perfect image of God and the bread of life. The references to a table prepared for the righteous man, such as Ps 23:5; Lu 22:30, should also be considered. SEE BREAD.