Terumah:
Where the showbreads jump from Judaism to Christianity


The relation of the Jewish Temple cult to the Christian tradition can be seen in Portion Terumah (Exodus 25-27).

In Exodus 25, we encounter the mysterious term “showbreads,” lechem panim, in Hebrew. The term dates from William Tyndale’s pathbreaking translation of the Bible directly from Hebrew into English around 1530. He coined the term “Shewbreads because it was always in the presence of the sight of the Lord.” (Tyndale’s Old Testament, David Daniell, Yale, 123). Alternatively, it is translated “bread of the Presence.” (Archaelogical Study Bible, Zondervan, NIV translation, 133). .

According to Exodus 25, the showbreads are placed on an ornate table of acacia wood, which is inside the Tabernacle. The recipe is set forth in Leviticus 24. The showbreads are to be made of fine flour. Twelve loafs are to be baked. Each loaf is to be two-tenths of an ephah. Rambam said that each loaf was to be the volume of 86.4 eggs. Each Sabbath the showbreads were to be placed in two stacks on a table before God. Pure frankincense was to be placed on each stack. The classic commentators said that the showbreads were backed on Friday and displayed on Saturday. The old showbreads were given to the priests to eat. Miraculously, the showbreads always remained fresh. (Artscroll Chumash, 691).

According to 1 Chronicles 9, in the Temple, the Kohathites, a branch of the Levites, baked the showbreads.

Showbreads are the center of one of the David stories and the basis of a Jesus story.

In 1 Samuel 21, David flees King Saul who wants to kill him. David goes alone to Nob, site of the Hebrew cult, after Philistines destroyed the Tabernacle at Shiloh. David told High Priest that he was on a secret mission for the King. Actually, David, traveling alone, was hiding. David asks for bread for his men. There was no regular bread at Nob because everyone living there was a kohen (priest).

The High Priest interpreted the rules so David could eat. He asked David if anyone in his group had been with a woman David said they had not been with women for at least the past two days and the current day. The High Priest concluded that David and his men were ritually pure and could partake of the Showbreads The High Priest gave showbreads to David. (Artscroll Samuel, 139-141, footnotes fill in the details of Scripture).

This story of David and the showbreads were picked up by the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark and John. Jesus and his followers are traveling through a grainfield on the Sabbath. Jesus's followers break off wheat, crush it and eat it. The Pharisees--the rabbis--chastise Jesus for violating the Sabbath. The Gospel writers use this incident to criticize the literal application of the Law.

At Luke 6, Jesus says, "Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those that were with him?"

At Matthew 12 Jesus says, "How he entered the House of God and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but the priests alone?

Matthew omits that the High Priest, determined that David and his men were ritually pure and could partake of the showbreads.
At Matthew 12, Jesus continues, "Or have you not read the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the Temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?

Matthew omits that the priests as part of their role, did the work of sacrifice on the Sabbath.

At Matthew 12 Jesus criticizes the Sabbath,"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."


(Quotes from Gospels are from Archaelogical Bible, Zondervan, NIV translation, 1579, 1678).

Did the Gospel writers interpret or erroneously cite the David story. The distinction is in the mind of the reader.