Christian Churches of God

No. CB111




The Tables of Shewbread


(Edition 1.0 20070912-20070912)


Even in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness God had a table of shewbread with twelve loaves of unleavened bread on it. In this paper we will review how the table of shewbread expanded in God’s Temple system and what the shewbread prefigured and represented.



Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright ã 2007 Diane Flanagan, ed. Wade Cox)



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 The Tables of Shewbread


We all routinely eat at a table; but what tables are spoken of in the Bible and what is the spiritual implication or meaning of the table and the food served on the table?


Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. (KJV)


The first time the word table (SHD 7979) comes up in reference to the table of shewbread or "bread of the ordering" is in Exodus 25:22-30.


The footnote to Exodus 25:30 in The Companion Bible states: “Heb. Bread of faces; faces being put for presence by Fig. Metonymy A. 6 denoting the Divine presence in which the bread stood, and from Whom all supplies, material and spiritual, came first occ.”


Leviticus 24:5-9 describes how and when to make the bread, and that "it shall be set in order before the Lord. ... Aaron and his sons shall eat it in the holy place".


Bullinger’s footnote to Leviticus 24:6 states: i.e. in the holy place, Hence called the “the table of the presence” (Num. 4:7) and called “the bread of the presence” (Ex. 25:30; 35:13; 39:16). The word “shewbread” taken from the Vulgate, and Luther, does not correctly represent the Hebrew name. The use of the word quite hides the Hebrew expression “bread of ordering” (set in order); “the sets of bread”, “the table is set in order”, in 1Chronicles 9:32; 23:29. 2Chronicles 13:11, and the table in 2Chronicles 13:11, Neh. 10:33 and the table in 2Chr. 29:18.  These Hebrew expressions are based on and derived from this verse.


These 12 loaves represent many concepts: One idea is that the unleavened loaves represent one of each of the 12 tribes in which we all, Israelite or Gentile, enter the Kingdom of God.


Secondly, we see from Bullinger’s footnote to Leviticus 24:6 regarding the Holy Place – it is a place holy to the Lord and where the bread is set in order. God does things perfectly and in the correct time-frame. He had a plan to bring His work to fulfilment before He ever started creating.


Thirdly, the priests are to make and consume the unleavened bread on each weekly Sabbath. The priesthood changed to the order of Mechisedek and shows us the priesthood is no longer based on lineage. The priests of God are still to spiritually feed and care for the people.


Fourthly, we see the concept that Messiah is the bread of life that “feeds/nourishes” all of the nations and restores us back to the Father. 


Let us begin with the table of shewbread in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.


The table of shewbread in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness


The table of shewbread was located on the north side of the Tent of Meeting, or on the right when one walked into the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:30; 40:22). It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, and was two cubits long, one cubit wide and one and a half cubits high. The table had a rim of one handbreadth all around and a ring on each corner of the table. Two poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold went through the rings to allow the table to be carried. The dishes and utensils of the table were of pure gold (Ex. 25:23-30; 37:10-16). Numbers 4:7-10 tells us how the table was moved from place to place.


It is interesting to note the top of table of shewbread was 2 cubits by 1 cubit, and the side of the altar of incense was 2 cubits by 1 cubit. Both had a crown on top of them though the table of shewbread did not have horns on it like the burnt altar and altar of incense did.


It contained twelve loaves of unleavened bread. The bread was stacked in two piles, with six loaves in each pile. The priests put frankincense on each pile to make it a memorial portion and to be an offering made to the Lord by fire. The bread was replaced every Sabbath with new loaves that were set out before the Lord as an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. It belonged to Aaron and his sons and they ate it in the Holy Place. It was part of their regular share of the offerings made to the Lord by fire (Lev. 24:5-9).


The twelve loaves of bread represented a gift from the twelve tribes of Israel, by which the entire world comes into the Kingdom of God. It signified the fact that God sustains His people and we are all brought in through one of the 12 tribes.


Location of the table of shewbread


We also know that in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness the shewbread was located on the north side (Ex. 26:35; 40:24). What else is in the north? As we have talked about in the lesson on the Family of God, God’s Throne is in the north.


Psalm 48:2.3 Beautiful in elevation the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King God in her palaces, has made Himself known as a stronghold. (NASV)


From 2Corinthians 12:2, we see God’s Throne is located in the 3rd Heaven and on the sides of the north (Isa. 14:13). When God comes to Earth for the first time, New Jerusalem will be on the sides of the north of that area.


In Ezekiel 1:4, the whirlwind from the north brings the vision of God’s four Living Creatures.


We see from the abovementioned scriptures that the north is a special place to God and has meaning that we may not currently be aware of. 


David eating the shewbread


If only the priests were allowed to eat the shewbread, what was the meaning of David's being allowed to eat it? David ate the shewbread unlawfully or without permission from God (1Sam. 21:6; Mat. 12:3-4; Mk. 2:25-26; Lk. 6:3-4). Why was David allowed to eat it? Because it pointed towards something else which was to be eaten by non-Levitical people. It pointed towards the order of Melchisedek taking over the function of the priesthood within the Church, as we see from David. The annual Lord’s Supper was the festival that enshrined this aspect. For more detail see the paper The Sacraments of the Church (No. 150).


1Corinthians 10:17 speaks of the Church partaking of the one bread.


1Chronicles 10:17 since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread


Let us look at the Temple Solomon built and see if the table and the shewbread remained consistent.


Ten tables of shewbread in the Temple Solomon built


From Exodus 25:32-30 and 37:10-29 we know there was one table of shewbread on the north wall. It had twelve loaves that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. They were stacked in two piles with a golden bowl of frankincense on each stack. The priests were responsible for making the unleavened bread each week and then consuming the bread the following Sabbath.


In Solomon’s Temple there were ten tables of shewbread with twelve loaves on each table. There were five tables on the right/north and five tables on the left/south  (1Kgs. 7:48; 2Chr. 4:8) with a total of 120 loaves. Again we see the number 120 coming up. From the paper Symbolism of Numbers (No. 7) we see one hundred and twenty (120 or 12 x 10) is the number of extended government. This is the next number in the sequence of the Church. We would also see 20 golden bowls of frankincense. Bullinger, in his footnote to 2Chronicles 8:1, explains the number 20 as expectancy and waiting. So, the 10 tables of 120 loaves could be picturing the waiting for the extended government of God.


In the footnote to Exodus 25:24, Bullinger makes the comment: "Table of shewbread, the crown of the Kingdom. The twelve tribes symbolised by the twelve loaves".


We know all people come to the Father through one of the twelve tribes, and in the loaves we see the concept expanded. On the table of shewbread we have a similar concept that was seen on the shoulders of the High Priest, with a stone on each shoulder engraved with the name of a tribe of Israel. There were six names on one shoulder and six names on the other shoulder. On the table of shewbread we have the two piles of six loaves with a combined total of twelve loaves.


Shewbread may represent the world being fed by the Spirit of God through the council of the Church. Initially, we saw the concept of manna being provided supernaturally for 40 years to feed Israel after they left Egypt. Later, we saw Messiah being the bread of life (Jn. 6:35,48,51). We know that unless we are baptized and partake of the Lord’s Supper annually there is no life in us. Yet, it is the Gospel message that is delivered to the world via the Church that is currently feeding the world prior to the famine of the word (Amos 8:11). As stated earlier, the priests were responsible for making the shewbread and, spiritually, the priests are responsible for tending to the flock of spiritual Israel, the Church.


The ‘work’ of the elect from Luke 4:18-19 is: “to preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord:” (NASV)


From the number of the loaves of shewbread expanding to 120 and lamps expanding to 70 we see how God is expanding His Inner Council to accomplish His work at the correct time.


Messiah as the bread of Life


John 6:28-37 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 30  So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. (RSV)


For a more detailed understanding of how Messiah is the bread of life see also the papers: The Sacraments of the Church (No. 150); Significance of the Bread and Wine (No. 100) and The Old and the New Leaven (No. 106a).


It is interesting that even Messiah is from the line of Jesse, David’s father. Jesse’s name (SHD 3488) means: I possess. He was Jesse the Bethlehemite (SHD 1022) meaning, house of bread. So Jesse’s full name in Scripture means: "I posses the house of bread". David and, eventually, Messiah came from the line of Jesse. Christ it the true Bread of Life. Eloah our Father sent us the Bread of Life. See also the paper Lesson: David and Goliath (No. CB62).


Let us now look in the Millennial Temple and see how much detail can be gained there about the tables of shewbread.


The Millennial Temple


There are two references in Ezekiel that deal with the tables. The first seems to refer to the altar of incense and then the table of shewbread.


Ezekiel 41:22 The altar was of wood, three cubits height and its length two cubits. Its corners, its base and its sides were of wood. And he said to me, “this is the table that is before the Lord.” (NASV)


The verse in 44:16 goes on to describe how the priests are to dress to minister in God’s sanctuary.


Ezekiel 44:16 “They shall enter My sanctuary they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge. (NASV)


Malachi 1:7,12 makes reference to defiled or bad food; this is in the same sense of where Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire to the Lord, or when we worship false gods.


We are to be able to know the difference between the Holy and unholy. We are to teach the world the difference between the clean and unclean, both physically and spiritually. 1Corinthians talks of this.


1Corinthians 10:21 you can not be partakers of the Lord's table and devil's table. (NASV)


Though Ezekiel gives us a lot of detail on some issues, he is rather vague in his comments about the shewbread.


Let us now look to what Revelation has to say about the 'tables of ordering' in the City of God.


City of God


Let’s read parts of Revelation 21 and 22 so we know clearly what God’s word is telling us.


Revelation 21:11-27 The glory of God made the city bright. It was dazzling and crystal clear like a precious jasper stone. 12 The city had a high and thick wall with twelve gates, and each one of them was guarded by an angel. On each of the gates was written the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 Three of these gates were on the east, three were on the north, three more were on the south, and the other three were on the west. 14 The city was built on twelve foundation stones. On each of the stones was written the name of one of the Lamb's twelve apostles. 15 The angel who spoke to me had a gold measuring stick to measure the city and its gates and its walls. 16 The city was shaped like a cube, because it was just as high as it was wide. When the angel measured the city, it was about fifteen hundred miles high and fifteen hundred miles wide. 17 Then the angel measured the wall, and by our measurements it was about two hundred sixteen feet high. 18 The wall was built of jasper, and the city was made of pure gold, clear as crystal. 19 Each of the twelve foundations was a precious stone. The first was jasper, the second was sapphire, the third was agate, the fourth was emerald, 20 the fifth was onyx, the sixth was carnelian, the seventh was chrysolite, the eighth was beryl, the ninth was topaz, the tenth was chrysoprase, the eleventh was jacinth, and the twelfth was amethyst. 21 Each of the twelve gates was a solid pearl. The streets of the city were made of pure gold, clear as crystal. 22 I did not see a temple there. The Lord God All-Powerful and the Lamb were its temple. 23 And the city did not need the sun or the moon. The glory of God was shining on it, and the Lamb was its light. 24 Nations will walk by the light of that city, and kings will bring their riches there. 25 Its gates are always open during the day, and night never comes. 26 The glorious treasures of nations will be brought into the city. 27 But nothing unworthy will be allowed to enter. No one who is dirty-minded or who tells lies will be there. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be in the city. (CEV)


From the above texts, we see the meaning of everyone coming in to the City of God through one of the 12 tribes. It also appears that an Apostle is also tied or paired with each tribe and each of the 12 gates is solid pearl. For more detailed information on how God’s family expands over time, see The City of God (No. 180), and The Family of God (No. CB4).


It does not appear that there are tables of shewbread in the City of God; rather the 12 loaves have become the 12 gates. At this time, all will be spiritual beings and will have entered the City gates, and there will be no need for the shewbread to prefigure things to come as it is already completed.




We see early in Israel’s history that God clearly showed the people His Plan of Salvation and how all would come into the Kingdom of God through one of the 12 tribes, by partaking of the Bread of life, which is Messiah.


If we try to live only by physical bread we die. As it is written: "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mat. 4:4; Lk. 4:4).


Yet, our bread and water are sure as long as we remain obedient to the Laws, Ways and Words of Eloah (Isa. 33:16).


We need to remember we are the spiritual Temple (naos) of God (1Cor. 3:26-17) and each one of us is individually responsible to continue to work while there is light to work. Let us all take David’s words of wisdom in 1Chronicles 28:20 to heart.


1Chronicles 28:19-20  "All this," said David, "the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern." 20 Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.”


Let us all be about our Father’s business and continue to preach the Gospel to the world and build the spiritual Temple of Eloah.