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The Showbread -
Its Connection to Passover Bread

Showbread in the Old Testament

This is part two of a four-part study on the question of whether the Last Supper was a true Passover observance. Go back to part one - Passover Bread.

Table of Showbread

Another word is used for the showbread (shewbread) specified in the Old Testament. Here are verses describing it:

"And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread <03899> before me alway." (Exo 25:30)
"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 <03899> 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." (Lev 24:5-8)

Here is a description of the word used for showbread:

03899 Hebrew word lechem lechem lekh'-em
from 03898; TWOT-1105a; n m
AV-bread 237, food 21, meat 18, shewbread + 06440 5, loaves 5, shewbread + 04635 3, shewbread 2, victuals 2, eat 1, feast 1, fruit 1, provision 1; 297
1) bread, food, grain
1a) bread
1a1) bread
1a2) bread-corn
1b) food (in general)

This word can be used for bread that is leavened or not and even for food in general. It is distinct from the Hebrew words used for bread that is definitely leavened or unleavened.

We sometimes hear the term "bread of the presence." That term is not in scripture but we do see this word:

06440 Hebrew word paniym paniym paw-neem' pl. (but always as sing.) of an unused noun Hebrew word paneh paneh paw-neh' pe nun yod mem

It is used in close connection with the showbread:

"Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it [the lamps] from the evening unto the morning before <06440> the LORD continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations." (Lev 24:3)
"He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before <06440> the LORD continually." (Lev 24:4)
"And thou shalt set them [the shewbread] in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before <06440> the LORD." (Lev 24:6)
"Every sabbath he shall set it [the shewbread] in order before <06440> the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant." (Lev 24:8)

The showbread representing the very presence of God does not contain leaven. However, we need to understand that from the context in which it is used. "Pan," of course, is closely related to bread in some languages.

The Word for Showbread in the New Testament

The word "artos" is used in the New Testament to refer to the shewbread:

"How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread <740, artos>, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?"(Matt 12:4, also Mark 2:26, Luke 6:4)

This is referring to the showbread, used to represent the very presence of God. How could leaven be used for this? Here is the definition given for artos:

740 Hebrew word artos artos ar'-tos
from 142; TDNT-1:477,80; n m
AV-bread 72, loaf 23, shewbread + 4286 + 3588 4; 99
1) food composed of flour mixed with water and baked
1a) the Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one's thumb, and as large as a plate or platter hence it was not to be cut but broken
1b) loaves were consecrated to the Lord
1c) of the bread used at the love-feasts and at the Lord's Table
2) food of any kind

It can also be used to refer to food in general:

"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread <740> alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt 4:4)

The same word is used of the bread eaten at the Last Supper:

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread <740, artos>, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body." (Matt 26:26)
Again, the question for this study is: was this bread leavened or not? Let's look at the Last Supper (part three of this four-part study) for any other evidence that this was a Passover meal.  


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