The Holy Place in the tabernacle had two items in it that are mentioned by the writer of Hebrews in explaining the superiority of Jesus to the ancient religious rituals of Israel. It contained the lampstand and the table with the twelve loaves of bread. Hebrews 9:1-2 says, “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place.” The lampstand set up in the Holy Place as the only light by which God’s presence is illuminated in the sanctuary speaks of Jesus being the light of the world. He is the only light by which God can be seen. Being formed like branches of the almond tree with the almond blossoms holding the light represents the unbreakable promise God made to Jeremiah regarding the New Covenant of which Jesus would be the mediator. Jeremiah 1:11-12 says, “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, ‘I see an almond branch.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’”

On the table lay twelve loaves of bread. Each loaf represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Just as the lampstand represented God’s promises to his people that would be part of the New Covenant that Jeremiah foretold to Israel, the table with the twelve loaves also speaks of the promises of God. Like the manna in the wilderness, it was the faithful provision that God had promised to a wayward people. That bread sustained God’s people while wandering through the wilderness. God proved faithful with his promise. But the table of 12 loaves in the holy place pointed forward to the future Messiah and his fulfillment of the covenant. Remember, the New Covenant is far superior to the Old. Looking back at Hebrews 8:6, were reminded that all this is simply to illustrate the superiority of Jesus’ ministry and his promises over those of the Jewish system. It says, “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.”

The priests would eat this bread in the Holy Place but would refresh it every seven days. Girdwood writes, “This table was evidently used for nothing but holding these loaves. It came to be called ‘the table for setting out the consecrated bread’ (2 Chr 29:18). It is not difficult to see a connection between this weekly replenishing of bread and the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper in the early church (Luke 22:14–20; 1 Cor 11:23–34; Acts 2:42; 20:7).”[1] We need frequent reminders that God’s promises will never fail. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Later, in verse 51, he said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Hughes says, “He is the true spiritual sustenance of his people, and apart from him there is no life.”[2]

[1] James Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse, Hebrews, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), Heb 9:2.

[2] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 1, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 224.