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Showbread, shewbread, Schaubrot, lechem (hap)pānīm(לחם פנים) refers to the twelve cakes or loaves of bread which were continually present on the Table of Shewbread in the Jewish Temple as an offering to YHWH. Percentages are relative to US RDI values for adults. ... The Temple in Jerusalem or the Holy Temple (Hebrew: בית המקדש, transliterated Bet HaMikdash) was built in ancient Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE and was subsequently rebuilt twice, after the Babylonian Captivity and during Herod the Greats renovation. ... The Tetragrammaton in Phoenician (1100 BC to 300 CE), Aramaic (10th Century BC to 0) and modern Hebrew scripts. ...


Composition and Presentation

Biblical Data:

Twelve cakes, with two-tenths of an ephah in each, and baked of fine flour, which were arranged in two rows (or piles) on the "pure" table that stood before Yhwh and remained exposed to view for a week. A better term than "showbread" is the marginal reading of the Revised Version—"presence-bread" (Exodus 25:30), for this offering was required to be constantly before or in the presence of Yhwh. Each Sabbath fresh cakes replaced the old, which then belonged to the priests, who were required to eat them in a holy place, since the bread was holy. Upon the rows of cakes cups of frankincense were placed; this frankincense constituted the "azkarah", or memorial, and was offered upon the altar to Yhwh (Leviticus 24:4-9). (Targums Onkelos and Neofiti clarify that the Showbread itself was le-azkarah; in the Greek this is the only instance of its translation as anamnesis.) The Septuagint Greek adds salt to the incense placed on the cakes, presumably because of its covenantal symbolism. The Showbread was offered on behalf of the sons of Israel as a "berit 'olam", an "eternal covenant", which elsewhere is associated ritually only with the Sabbath (Exodus 31:16), the circumcision (Genesis 17:13), and salt (Numbers 18:19). According to 1 Chronicles 9:32, the sons of the Kohathites had charge of the baking and setting in order of the "bread of the row", as the Hebrew describes it. It would thus seem that the preparing of these cakes involved certain information which was kept as a secret by this priestly set. Mention is made of the showbread in the story of David's adventure at Nob. Ahimelek, the priest, at David's request, gave him the "holy" bread, that is, the stale loaves that had been taken away and replaced by "hot" ones (1 Samuel 21:4-6; comp. Matt. 7:4; Luke 6:4). In Solomon's Temple provision was made for the proper exhibition of the loaves (1 Kings 7:48; comp. 2 Chronicles 4:19 13:11). Though not explicitly stated to be so, these cakes were most probably unleavened. It is true they were not offered upon the altar, from which leaven was scrupulously excluded (Leviticus 2:11); but, as most holy, they were carried into and exposed in the inner sanctuary, and therefore the supposition that the use of leaven in them was prohibited carries a high degree of probability. A birthday cake decorated with fruit, shaved chocolate, and candles. ... An epha or ephah is a unit of volume used by ancient Hebrews, equal to about one bushel. ... Look up flour in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Row may refer to: Row, an argument. ... Look up Pile in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The word pure has several meanings, including: The adjective form of purity Pure, an album by vocalist Hayley Westenra Pure, a Canadian rock band Pure, A slang term for dog dung, used in Tanning This is a disambiguation page, a list of pages that otherwise might share the same title. ... The Tetragrammaton in Phoenician (1100 BC to 300 CE), Aramaic (10th Century BC to 0) and modern Hebrew scripts. ... Sacrifice (from a Middle English verb meaning to make sacred, from Old French, from Latin sacrificium : sacer, sacred; sacred + facere, to make) is commonly known as the practice of offering food, or the lives of animals or people to the gods, as an act of propitiation or worship. ... This artyicle concerns the Sabbath in Christianity. ... Roman Catholic priests in traditional clerical clothing. ... This is a list of cities that various groups regard as holy. ... 100g of frankincense resin. ... Look up Altar in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

In Josephus

The foregoing rather scanty data from the Biblical sources are confirmed and complemented by information vouchsafed by Josephus. The cakes were provided out of the common charge; they were without leaven, and contained twenty-four tenths of a "deal" of flour. Two heaps were baked the day before the Sabbath, and on the morning of the Sabbath were brought into the holy place, where they were set upon the holy table, six in a heap, one loaf leaning against another. On the top of each heap two golden cups of frankincense were placed; they remained there till the next Sabbath, when the fresh loaves were brought and the old loaves were given to the priests for their own consumption. The frankincense was burned in the sacred fire, and a new supply was placed upon the fresh loaves ("Ant." iii. 10, § 7). Josephus (c. ...

In Rabbinical Literature:

Rabbinical tradition has preserved specific details concerning the preparation of the showbread. The cakes were kneaded separately (Men. xi. 1), but they were baked two at a time. To give them the required shape different forms—according to Maimonides, of gold—were used: one form for the cakes while they were still dough, another while they were in the oven, and a third after they were baked, in order to prevent their being broken or spoiled (ib.; see Sifra to Lev. xxiv. 5-9; Maimonides, "Yad," Tamid, v. 8). According to some authorities, the kneading and heaping were done outside, the baking inside, the Sanctuary—a distinction for which the commentaries fail to assign a reason (ib. v. 7; Men. xi. 2; see Bertinoro and Lipmann Heller)—and, the Sabbath prohibition not being suspended on account of the showbread, the baking took place, as Josephus reports, on Friday (see "Yad," l.c. v. 10), but according to others, all preparations were carried on in the Temple court; according to others, in the house of Pagi, a suburb where the priests who knew the secret of the preparation may have lived. Maimonides' explanation is that this district, while not in, was very near, the courtyard. According to the Talmud, the House of Garmu was responsible for baking the Showbread, and they did not tell how it was done. Rabbinic literature, in the broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of Judaisms rabbinic writing/s throughout history. ... The first page of the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot, folio 2a The Talmud (תלמוד) is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history. ...

Rabbinical Traditions

According to the Mishnah (Men. xi. 4; "Yad," l.c. v. 9), the cakes had the following dimensions: ten fingers (Maimonides gives "palms") in length, five in breadth, and rims, or upturned "horns," of seven fingers in length. The incense was put into two cups, a handful into each (ib. v. 2). These cups were called "bezikin," and had flat bottoms, or rims, so that they could be placed on the table (Tosef., Men. xi.). The new bread was carried in by four priests, while two bore the two cups of incense. They were preceded by four other priests, two to remove the old loaves and two to take up the two cups containing the incense. Those that carried the new bread went to the north end of the table, facing toward the south; those that had preceded them went to the south end, facing the north. While the latter were removing the old bread, the former were depositing the new, so that the showbread was, in fact, always before the Lord ("Yad," l.c. v. 4; Men. 99b). The cakes that had been removed were placed on a golden table in the hall; then the incense in the cups was burned, after which the cakes were divided. When Yom Kippur happened to fall on the Sabbath, this division was delayed until evening ("Yad," l.c. v. 5). The cakes, molded in squares, were piled one above the other; hollow golden tubes conducted air between them, and each pile was supported by two golden, fork-shaped supports attached to the table (Men. 94b, 96a; "Yad," l.c. v. 2). The Mishnah (Hebrew משנה, repetition) is a major source of rabbinic Judaisms religious texts. ...

The Table

The Biblical descriptions of the table of the showbread make no mention of such provisions to admit the air or hold the bread in position. The table was placed in the northern part of the Sanctuary, opposite the candlestick (Exodus 26:35), with the altar of incense between them. The Septuagint states that this table was of massive gold, but the Hebrew (Exodus 25,37) that it was of acacia wood, two ells long, one ell broad, and one and one-half ells high,covered with pure gold, and with a border of gold around the top. The feet seem to have been enclosed, and to this ring-like enclosure were fastened four gold rings, through which the rods (made of acacia-wood and covered with gold) were passed when the table was carried. When on the march the table was covered with a purplish-blue cloth, upon which were placed the loaves and the vessels; over the whole was spread a scarlet cloth, and on top of this the skin of a seal (Numbers 4:7-8). Only one table was found in the various sanctuaries, though 2 Chronicles 4:8 reports that ten tables were in the Hekal. The table of the showbread was taken from the Second Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (I Macc. i. 23), but it was replaced by another under Judas Maccabeus (I Macc. iv. 49).

Among the vessels enumerated as belonging to the table of the showbread are "ḳe'arot" (dishes, or, probably, the "forms" in which the cakes were baked) and "kappot" (hand-like bowls). These were the "bezikin" for the incense, "ḳesawot" (σπόνδεια) for the wine-libations, and "menaḳḳiyyot" (probably dippers). But according to the Jerusalem and Samaritan Targumim, the ḳesawot were intended to cover the loaves.

The dimensions given in the Mishnah for the table are the same as those given for the loaves—ten handbreadths long and five wide, the loaves being laid across the table. R. Akiba, however, disagreed with these figures. According to him, the table had a length of twelve handbreadths and a width of six, an interval remaining between the two piles, in which, according to Abba Saul, the cups of incense were placed. These dimensions are difficult to reconcile with the Biblical assumption that the loaves rested without support on the table (Men. xi. 5). The Mishnah gives the number of ventilating-tubes mentioned above as twenty-eight, fourteen for each heap. According to the statement that they were like the half of a hollow pipe, they must have been open on top. The Gemara (Men. 97) constructs from these data the following description of the table:

The four fork-like supports were let into the floor, two at each end of the table. They extended above the table, and between them, above the table, fourteen tubes, closed at one end, were fastened, forming a grate-like receptacle for the loaves. The lowest cake of each heap rested on the table; each of the next four rested on three tubes; the two upper cakes on two tubes. On the Arch of Titus the table of the showbread shows no such attachment (comp. Josephus, "B. J." v. 5, § 5; "Ant." iii. 6, § 6).

Critical View:

The Pentateuchal passages in which reference is made to the showbread belong, without exception, to the Priestly Code. It would be unwarranted, however, on this score to hold the offering to have been a late innovation, due to Babylonian influences. The episode in David's visit to the old sanctuary at Nob proves the antiquity of the practise (1 Samuel 21:1 et seq.). Ahimelek's scruples lest the men had not kept aloof from women and the assurance of David that they were in a state of sexual purity suggest the original meaning of the rite as a sacrificial meal, partaken of by the deity in common with his devotees, who, in order to make tryst with their god, must be in such a state of purity (comp. Exodus 19:10-11,Exodus 19:15). Hence the bread is not burned, but the incense is, which also is an indication that the rite has descended from remote antiquity (Stade, "Biblische Theologie des Alten Testaments," 1905, i. 168). Stade connects it with the ancient cult of the Ark (ib.), the food of the deity being placed before him, ready for consumption whenever he chose to make his appearance.

The Hebrew custom has developed probably independently of a similar custom in Babylon, both starting, however, from the same root idea, which is found among other races and in other religions (comp. Isaiah 65:11; Jeremiah 8:18, 44:17 et seq.; Baruch vi. 26; comp. the instance of the Roman lectisternium). The Babylonians offered to the gods various kinds of cakes or bread ("akalu"), which they laid before them on tables, generally in sets of twelve or multiples of twelve. These cakes were required, to be sweet (i.e., unleavened), and were baked from wheaten flour. Even the Hebrew name "leḥem ha-panim" has its exact counterpart in the Assyrian "akal pânu" (Zimmern, in Schrader's "K. A. T." ii. 600). The number "twelve," which is so prominent in the showbread rite, has always borne mysterious religious significance (see Zimmern, l.c. p. 629).

Beyond the Temple

Jewish Sectarian Cultic Meals

There is evidence of Jewish groups around the turn of the common era, such as the Qumran Dead Sea community and the Egyptian Therapeutae, which although geographically or theologically (i.e. in schism) isolated from the Jerusalem cult, seem to have regarded themselves as somehow participating in it.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls, Mathew Black (p.110) links the sacred community meal of 1QSVI; the Messianic meal of 1QSaII; and the eschatological eating of the Showbread described in the Aramaic fragments of Qumran Cave 2. The effect of this is that the Qumran community, which strictly maintained a priestly level of purity, may have considered their regular sharing of bread to be an enactment of the Sabbath ritual of the Showbread.

Similarly, Philo's De Vita Contemplativa 81-82 explains that the meal of the Therapeutae (an Egyptian group associated with the Essenes, who some scholarship identifies with the Qumran community) was intended to 'emulate' that 'holy table set forth in the sacred hall of the temple.' However, out of respect for the Holy Bread, they were careful to introduce slight differences into their own practice. Philo says that they aspired to similarity but not to direct imitation, which suggests that they still owed their allegiance to Jerusalem, whereas the Dead Sea Scrolls portray a group striving for a priestly holiness in which the Jerusalem service has failed.

Christian Eucharist

The Christian affinity with such cultic associations is demonstrated by the fact that 'since the time of Eusebius, Philo's Therapeutae have been claimed as Christian monks' (Black, p.45). This possibility has been championed by some modern scholars, but the consensus since F.C. Conybeare discounts it. Likewise G. Vermes has decisively discredited claims that the Qumran community may have been Christian. Nevertheless, it is possible that early Christianity adopted their sectarian participation in the Shewbread in the form of the Eucharistic meal. Margaret Barker: 'The two temple rituals originally exclusive to the high priests were carrying blood into the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement and eating the most holy Shewbread on the Sabbath. These were combined to become the Christian Eucharist.' (p.10) Christians, like the Qumran group, considered themselves in priestly terms.

Whether or not the roots of the Eucharist can be found in Jewish sectarianism, Christians soon developed a view of the Shewbread as a type (i.e. an image or figure) of both the setting forth (Greek prothesis) of Christ on the Cross and the Sacrament on the Altar.

Paul: Romans 3.25 Christ is 'set forth' (same Greek word as for the Shewbread in the Septuagint Greek Scriptures). Paul: 1 Corinithians 11 The Corinthians' suffering is the result of profaning the Eucharist. Perhaps a suggestion of holiness like the Shewbread's? Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho 41 The offering of fine flour is a type of the Eucharist, as predicted in Malachi 1.11. This is not the Shewbread, but follows a comparable typology. Hippolytus: Apostolic Tradition 41 The Shewbread is a type of the body and blood of Christ. Origen: Homilies on Leviticus 13 First extended Christian treatment of the meaning of the Shewbread.


  • B. Baentsch, Exodus-Leviticus, p. 419, Göttingen, 1900;
  • Riehm, Handwörterbuch, ii. 1405 et seq
  • M. Black, The Scrolls and Christian Origins: Studies in the Jewish Background of the New Testment (London: Nelson, 1961)
  • M. Barker, Temple Theology: An Introduction (London: SPCK, 2004)
This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.

Göttingen ( ) is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany. ... The Jewish Encyclopedia was an encyclopedia originally published between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

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See also

  Results from FactBites:
NationMaster - Encyclopedia: Showbread (2894 words)
The Showbread was offered on behalf of the sons of Israel as a "berit 'olam", an "eternal covenant", which elsewhere is associated ritually only with the Sabbath (Exodus 31:16), the circumcision (Genesis 17:13), and salt (Numbers 18:19).
This showbread (translated "shewbread" in the KJV) was, literally, "bread of the Presence." It consisted of twelve loaves of bread, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel.
As the priests on the south side picked up the old showbread and frankincense pans, the priests on the north side replaced those with the new showbread and pans of frankincense, with perfect timing, at the very same moment, so that showbread was always upon the table, continually.
The Showbread Table (706 words)
The Showbread Table was placed on the right-hand side of the Holy Place, the North side, a little way from the gold-covered Boards.
Therefore "we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, because of the suffering of death" in the Outer Court, but at the Showbread Table (and at the Golden Incense Altar) in the Holy Place we see Jesus "crowned with glory and honour" (Hebrews 2:9).
Our food, in addition to some of the offerings, is the fresh bread on the golden Showbread Table: Jesus as the Bread of God who came down from heaven to give LIFE to the world (John 6:33), crowned with glory and honour.
  More results at FactBites »



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