MAINTAINING THE OIL AND BREAD IN THE SANCTUARY SERVED AS ONGOING REMINDERS OF THE LORD’S PRESENCE AND PROVISION
Mark Rooker: The logical connection between Leviticus 23 and 24:1–9 has been advocated by Gispen. According to Gispen the laws of 24:1–9 regarding the Holy Place come on the heels of the legislation regarding the festivals as a reminder of the fact that the worship of God through the regular sacrifices was to be carried out at all times, not just during the momentous occasions of the national festivals.
Constable: The connection of these instructions with what precedes is this: The Israelites were not only to offer themselves to Yahweh on special days of the year, but they were to worship and serve Him every day of the year. The daily refueling and burning of the lamps, and the uninterrupted presentation of the showbread to Yahweh, represented the daily sanctification of the people to their God (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15). These were the priest’s “private official duties.”
Kenneth Mathews: The golden lampstand and gold table of the bread of the Presence were fixtures in God’s home. The olive oil derived from the autumn olive ingathering was necessary for the fueling of the lampstand in the Tent of Meeting and for the anointing oil for the priests and the holy sanctuary. The bread of the Presence consisted of baked loaves of grain that was derived from the wheat harvest and was remembered during the weeklong celebration of the Feast of Weeks. These two images, the light and the bread, tell us about the sanctity of God’s presence.
Allen Ross: The provision of oil for light and the presentation of bread for the table were part of the worshipers’ contribution to the sanctuary. Making sure that the lamp was lit every day and that bread was brought every week stresses the day-in-day-out service of the holy place, for these activities might not have been so carefully attended during the year as they were during the great festivals. As the people harvested olives and gathered summer crops they were reminded to set aside what they needed for oil and bread through the months to come. . .
The Israelites had to bring pure oil to keep the lampstand burning as a reminder of the LORD’S presence and their access to him and fresh loaves of bread made of fine flour to be set on the table every Sabbath as a reminder of the LORD’s provision and portion.
(:1) ADDRESS TO MOSES
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,”
I. (:2-4) REMINDER OF THE LORD’S PRESENCE –
MAINTAINGING OIL FOR THE LAMPS TO BURN CONTINUALLY
“Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. 3 Outside the veil of testimony in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the LORD continually; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations. 4 He shall keep the lamps in order on the pure gold lampstand before the LORD continually.”
Perry Yoder: The luminary in the tabernacle is to provide a constant night light before the curtain that screens the ark from view. The stand, or candlestick, has six branches, three on each side, with a central stem. Today such a candlestick is called a menorah. Aaron as high priest is to arrange oil lamps on the each of the six branches of the menorah and its central stem. The blueprint for this lampstand is given in Exodus 25:31-37.
Roy Gane: Verses 2–4 remind the Israelites of their ongoing duty to supply olive oil as fuel for the lamps on the golden lampstand so that the priest can keep them burning regularly (tamid) every night from evening to morning (Ex. 27:20–21). Every morning he is to trim the lamps and fill them with fresh oil, and every evening he is to kindle them (30:7–8; cf. 25:37; Num. 8:2–3). By burning through the night, the lamps parallel the evening regular burnt offering on the outer altar (Lev. 6:2).
Within the Israelite ritual system, the lampstand, table, and incense burner served as the Lord’s furniture in his dwelling place (cf. Ex. 25:8). The complex of rituals performed regularly by the priest in the outer sanctum, such as tending the lamps (27:20–21; Lev. 24:1–4) and burning incense (Ex. 30:7–8), constituted the work of a servant for his Lord, who was enthroned behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place.
The regular rituals had the purpose of maintaining an existing order, that is, the Presence of God dwelling among his people in the sanctuary. Thus in F. Gorman’s taxonomy of rituals, these are rituals of “maintenance” (cf. Num. 28–29), in contrast to rituals of “founding” that create a normative state (Lev. 8–9: consecration and inauguration) or rituals of “restoration” that accomplish return to the normative state (e.g., purification and reparation offerings).
Richard Hess: The purest oil was used in the Israelite cult for the worship of God. The word translated “pure” (zāk, GK 2341) derives from the Hebrew root for “clean, pure” (zkh, GK 2342) and appears elsewhere to describe either the purity of incense (Ex 30:34; Lev 24:7) or the righteousness of a believer’s life and faith (Job 8:6; 11:4; 16:17; 33:9; Pr 16:2; 20:11; 21:8). This reflects the twofold purpose of the oil: to prevent impurities that would block the oil from the fire of the lamp and extinguish it, and to symbolize the righteousness of God’s people, who would appear before him at the sanctuary (Pr 13:9; 20:27; 24:20). . .
The permanent maintenance of the light of the golden lamps (cf. Ex 25:31–40 for their construction) before God represents the presence and revelation of God as one of light against all the darkness of sin (e.g., Isa 2:5; 9:2; 51:4; 58:8; Pss 4:6; 13:3; 18:28; 27:1; 31:16; 36:9; 56:13).
Wiersbe: The commandment in Leviticus 24:1-4 emphasized two essentials;
(1) the people of Israel had to provide the olive oil regularly, and
(2) it had to be beaten and pure (Ex. 27:20-21). There was a method of extracting olive oil by heat, but beating or crushing the olives and straining out the impurities produced the best olive oil. And the God of Israel deserves the very best.
Kenneth Mathews: The shape of the candlestick in the form of a budding tree symbolized life and with its lamps communicated that God is the source of both life and light. The lamp was, however, not for the Lord. He has no need of light since he is the embodiment of light. The lamps were positioned to shine in front of the candlestick into the Holy Place where the priests functioned (Numbers 8:2). The priests needed the light as they ministered inside the tent. The lamps were lit each evening and burned until morning, when they were extinguished (v. 3). The responsibility of Aaron as high priest was to ensure that the lamps had sufficient oil each evening to burn through the night hours. Three times in our short passage of four verses, the text’s instructions insist that the lighting of the lamps was to be done “regularly” (vv. 2, 3, 4; cf. v. 8). The importance of this practice was its teaching value for the Israelites. It conveyed that the Lord was ever-present in the Tent of Meeting. In other words, the Lord kept the lights burning in his home. It communicated that he was the constant overseer of the welfare of his people.
II. (:5-9) REMINDER OF THE LORD’S PROVISION –
MAINTAINING TWELVE CAKES ON THE GOLD TABLE
“Then you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it; two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. 6 And you shall set them in two rows, six to a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be a memorial portion for the bread, even an offering by fire to the LORD. 8 Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the LORD’s offerings by fire, his portion forever.”
Constable: The addition of incense to the bread (“pure frankincense”; v. 7) represented the spirit of prayer (dependence) that accompanied the Israelites’ sacrifice of work.
David Guzik: God wanted the people of God to actually receive, enjoy, and be nourished by the bread – which symbolized their relationship and fellowship with Him.
Perry Yoder: None of the loaves were burned, but they represented food placed before God as an offering. In this offering God’s token amount includes all twelve loaves. But if they were burned up, the priests would have had no share in this grain offering, as was normally their due (see the grain offerings in ch. 2). We might guess that God gives the entire offering to the priests as their portion; as in the case of the peace offering, God’s share goes to the priests (7:34).
Wiersbe: God was present with His people and they were in His presence in the tabernacle. No matter where the Jews were in the camp, they needed to remind themselves that their tribe was represented in the holy place on the golden table.
Richard Hess: This short section reflects the concern to present the most important element of Israel’s diet continually before God as an offering. These twelve loaves remind Israel that all the harvest is a blessing of God and they represent a token of that divine gift that Israel weekly returns to God. The harvest is not an end in itself, nor is some other deity responsible for the harvest; rather, the Lord God of Israel alone supplies all the nation’s needs.
Kenneth Mathews: That there were “twelve loaves” also symbolized an important message. The twelve loaves were arranged into two groups of six each, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. The twelve loaves indicated that all Israel had given to the Lord. All the people in covenant with God could claim a share in the blessing of God as loyal covenant members. They collectively as a community were the recipients of God’s redemption and provision. The priest placed pure frankincense on the bread, which was also a common feature for the regular daily grain offerings (Leviticus 2:1, 2, 15, 16). The bread of the Presence was replaced every Sabbath day on a weekly basis by freshly baked bread. . .
The manna and the bread of the Presence pointed forward to the time when God would be present among his people in a way that was not symbolic but actual. This occurred at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus claimed to be the light of the world, he also claimed to be the bread of the world. “I am the living bread,” Jesus said, “that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). The bread that Moses provided could spoil; it was not a permanent solution to the people’s hunger. The audience that Jesus addressed was made up of common persons whose lives were dependent on daily bread. We say this in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). We today in the Western world rarely face a daily deprivation of food, but ordinary people in ancient times had a daily grind to obtain the food to sustain their families. Jesus, however, spoke more profoundly of their deepest spiritual need—a heavenly bread that would satisfy their souls. Jesus urged the people to receive him as their satisfying bread of life: “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:27). This is what God would have us know from the bread of the Presence and from the manna of long ago: Jesus is the bread from God that satisfies and is permanent. This bread does not spoil and does not need replacement. Partake of the Lord Jesus, and our hungry souls will be satisfied with the dynamic, living presence of the Lord. The Lord taught his disciples, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied” (Luke 6:21).