Across from the golden lampstand inside the Holy Place stood the table of the bread of the presence (Exodus 40:22). Priests placed a special bread on the table. God gave specific instructions for the preparation of the bread and the arrangement of the table (Leviticus 24:5-9).
The table of the bread of the presence was another visual reminder of the covenant-the formal agreement that God made with Israel. In the covenant, God promised to be Israel’s God and King-in other words, he would protect and provide for Israel; God would fight for Israel and give them a land flowing milk and honey. Israel, on the other hand, promised to be faithful to God, obedient to his commandments.
Bread and the making of bread are very important metaphors in the Bible. In the cultural world of the Old Testament, people sealed their covenants with a meal (see Genesis 14:18, 18:7, 26:30; Exodus 24:1). The meal formalized the agreement and bound them in a close relationship.
The priests replaced the bread every week during the Sabbath day. God dedicated the bread for the priests, the sons of Aaron. The priests ate this bread. In eating the bread, the priests were representing the twelve tribes of the children of Israel in a covenant meal with God. Such an action was a commemoration of the covenant that God made with with the Israelites at Sinai (see Exodus 24:11 for an example of a meal to confirm a covenant).
In addition, the ancient Israelites considered bread as life giving and sustaining. The Old Testament understood that God is the ultimate source of bread and all of life. The bread of the presence also signified God’s covenant provision and presence as Provider for and among the twelve tribes of Israel.