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Holy Communion and the Bread & Wine on the Table of Shewbread/Presence

As Christians we are all used to taking communion or partaking in the Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table. It is a tradition that has been handed down through generations and is regarded as one of the most important customs carried out by Christians each sunday. Everyone understands the significance of the Bread and Wine being equaled to the Body and Blood of Christ. But do we really understand the real significance behind this Commemoration? Did it simply originate with Christ?

Now whether the Last Supper was a Passover Meal has been reviewed before here, so we will not be delving into that question again. The discoveries in that study led us to conclude that the Last Supper was a meal shared at the beginning of the 14th Day of the 1st Month of the Biblical Year. Although the Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel seem to be contradicting each other, they all agreed that Christ died on the Passover and the Last Supper was held the night before. Even though the Last Supper seemed like a Passover seder, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the likeness of this theory. The Last Supper would have most probably been a Pre-Passover meal shared in celebration of the ushering in of the Passover day, and the upcoming Sacrifice, through which we came out of slavery to Sin, just as the Israelites came out of slavery to Egypt.

In this study we hope to find the reason behind Christ’s choice of Bread & Wine as a symbol and commemoration, and what it really means to partake of communion / Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table.

This study is broken down into the following parts:
1. Christ speaks of the Body & the Blood
2. Covenants and the Covenant meals
3. The Table of Shewbread/Showbread
4. The Contents of The Table of Shewbread – Bread & Wine
5. The Table of the Lord
6. The Bread & Wine of the Old Testament and the New
7. Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table
8. Conclusion

1. Christ speaks of the Body & the Blood
On the eve before the Passover was killed, at the end of the 13th day and the beginning of the 14th day (The Biblical day starts at Sundown), Christ sat down with His Disciples to have His last meal – His Last Supper. The Day when the Passover Lamb was to be Sacrificed had begun. And as the Disciples were having their Supper, Yeshua – their teacher & master makes a parallel between His Body & Blood and the Bread & Wine that they consume.

Mat 26:26-28  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mar 14:22-24  And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Luk 22:14-20  And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Joh 13:1-4  Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

All 3 Gospels that record the breaking of bread and drinking of wine note the parallelism brought by Christ. Only John is silent in this sense, indicating that the Supper was before the Feast of Passover and moving onto the washing of feet after the meal. It is a fact that Yeshua equaled the bread to His Body and the wine to His Blood of the New Covenant. Even as Moses ratified the Covenant with Blood(Exo 24:8), Christ also ratifies the New Covenant with His Blood. So from the above we conclude as all agree:

The Bread = Yeshua’s Body
The Wine = Yeshua’s Blood

2. Covenants and the Covenant meals
Although Bread and Wine are not specifically mentioned we see that Covenants preceded with a meal between the two parties in celebration of the agreement at hand. We see such meals taking place between Abimelech/Isaac as well with God and the Elders of Israel. God wanted the elders of Israel to have a Covenant Meal after ratifying the Covenant with blood before Him.

Gen 26:26-30  Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army. And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD. And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.

Exo 24:1-11  And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him. And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words. Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

After this Meal Moses straight away ascended the mountain and received instructions from God, of which the first was on making a Tabernacle for God. And one of the integral parts in this tent of meeting, was a table which stood in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle.

3. The Table of Shewbread/Showbread
The “Table of Showbread” as it is called in some of our English Translations, is one of the lesser known articles in the Tabernacle. The “shulchan lechem paneem” mentioned in Exo 25:30 can be directly translated as the “Table(shulchan) of the Bread(lechem) of Faces(paneem)” and is also translated in some of our English Bibles as Table of Bread of the Presence(because God was meeting face to face). The Table was one of the 3 Items mentioned to be placed inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle alongside the Altar of Incense and The Golden Lampstand(Menorah).

Exo 25:23-30  Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.

Exo 40:22,23  And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail. And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses.

2Ch 29:18  Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread table, with all the vessels thereof.

Heb 9:2  For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

4. The Contents of The Table of Shewbread – Bread & Wine
The Table inside the Holy Place had twelve Loaves of Bread. Each loaf was made of two tenth deals (Approximately 3.5Kg) which would have made each loaf quite large in size. The Table also carried dishes, spoons, bowls and covers(qasah-cups) to cover(Nawsak-Pour) Drink Offerings. Prepared every Sabbath, the 12 Loaves of Bread signified the 12 Tribes of Israel as it is set in order before YHVH being taken from the Children of Israel by an Everlasting Covenant. The 12 loaves together represented the whole of Israel. When the new loaves were set on the Sabbath the old ones were taken away, and none but the priests were allowed to eat them. The Drink Offering for which the Cups were placed on the table, carried Wine; as the Drink Offerings were made exclusively with Wine(Exo 29:40, Lev 23:13, Num 15:5,7,10, Num 28:14). The Table of Presence/Showbread was also known as “The Table” & “The Pure Table”.

Lev 24:5-9  And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute.

Num 4:7,8  And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover(Nesek-Drink Offering) withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.

Exo 37:16  And he made the vessels which were upon the table, his dishes, and his spoons, and his bowls, and his covers to cover withal, of pure gold.

1Ki 7:48  And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was,

2Ch 13:11  And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him.

1Ch 9:32  And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread, to prepare it every sabbath.

It is stated in the Mishnah ” teaches that they(priests) used to lift it up and exhibit the Shewbread thereon to those who came up for the Festivals, saying to them, Behold the love in which you are held by God! –Menachoth 96b & 29a. Why did the Priests say “Behold the love in which you are held by God!”? The table represented the Covenant God had made with Israel – the bread resembling Israel while the Wine most probably resembled the Blood of the Covenant.

5. The Table of the Lord
The Table of Showbread was also known as the “Table of the Lord”, and God Himself calls it “My Table”. The Table of Showbread was the only Table that had any connection to God. Built according to specific instructions by God, this Table was where He came face to face (hence “Lekhem-Pawneem” which means Bread of the Faces commonly translated as showbread or bread of the presence) with Israel. The other main feature of the table was the Drink offering which is Wine – known as the Blood of grapes(Gen 49:11, Deut 32:14). The Bread and Wine on His Table signifying coming face to face or having Fellowship with His Children in remembrance of His Covenant was surely an integral part of the Tabernacle. Every Sabbath, the bread was renewed and the Table with its bread and wine was before the face of God continually.

Mal 1:7  Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

Mal 1:12  But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.

Eze 44:16  They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.

Eze 41:22  The altar of wood was three cubits high, and the length thereof two cubits; and the corners thereof, and the length thereof, and the walls thereof, were of wood: and he said unto me, This is the table that is before the LORD.

6. The Bread & Wine of the Old Testament and the New
According to Lev 24:8 the Table was set on behalf of the Children of Israel by the Everlasting Covenant. If the Wine kept on the Table of Shewbread symbolized the Blood of The Covenant and the Bread symbolized the Children of Israel, Then the Bread and Wine symbolized in the Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament writings could be categorized as below.

Old Testament Scriptures

New Testament Writings

Bread symbolizes Israel

Bread symbolizes Christ’s Body

Wine symbolizes the Blood of the Mosaic Covenant

Wine symbolizes the Blood of the New Covenant

7. Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table
Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table in connection with a specific issues that the Corinthian Congregation was having – Eating meat from the markets which could have been selling animals which were sacrificed at pagan temples (which was common at that time). A more detailed study on this subject can be read here. Paul speaks of the “cup of blessing” and the “communion of the blood of Christ”. The “Bread” and the “communion of the body of Christ”. and then he says we are the body of Christ. According to the above comparisons of Bread in  the Old Testament and New, it could be said that Yeshua equated His body to the body of Israel. In other words we are all His body and a part of Israel – God’s Chosen people. Paul also speaks of Israelites by birth who partake in the altar (which is the tabernacle). Why did Paul bring a connection of the Tabernacle to the blood and body of Christ? Was it because he understood the origins of the Communion we partake? Was his reference to the “Lord’s Table” one which spoke of the Table of Shewbread?

1Co 10:15-21  I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

8. Conclusion
While we are used to calling Communion as the “Lord’s Table”, the only Table of the Lord in the Scriptures was the Table of Shewbread, specifically made according to designs given by God. The Table of Presence as it is also called, was a Table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle of God which carried Bread which symbolized Israel and the Drink Offering of Wine which probably Symbolized the Blood of the Covenant. The Table was to be before God continually with fresh loaves of Bread added each Sabbath. The Table represented a meeting of Faces(as it is called shulchan lechem paneem – Table of Bread of Faces) as in Communion/Fellowship and was a kind of eternal Covenant Meal where God remembered Israel and the Covenant He had with them. While Yeshua used the Bread and Wine to be equaled to His Body and Blood, the reason probably originated from the Original Lord’s Table. He was equaling Israel that He was going to reign over someday(Acts 1:6, Luk 1:33) to be His Body and equating the Blood He shed to the Blood of The Covenant, just as Moses ratified the Covenant with the Blood of the Covenant(Exo 24:8). As we partake of communion / Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table we do remember the Covenant God has made with us and that we are His Body/His People. The Bread and Wine has deeper roots in the Scriptures than we thought, being connected to the Mosaic Covenant as well as the renewed Covenant. As often as we eat the bread and drink the wine, let us remember that we are His Body and we are saved only through the Blood of the Covenant which was shed for us. Let us partake of it without having any uncleanness as the Aaronic Priests also did. Let us remember God’s Love for us, and that His Covenant is before His face continually, forever.