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Where did Israel get their bread for the showbread in the tabernacle in Exodus 40:23?

by Stephen Davey

Kevin asks: If the children of Israel were eating manna in the wilderness, where did they get their bread for the showbread in the tabernacle in Exodus 40:23?

Kevin, 

The Bible is not clear on this point and does not give any explicit instructions to the priests as to where the showbread is supposed to come from, or what the recipe is.

Based on historical context and a cultural understanding of food at that time, I can offer a couple suggestions, but not a definitive answer.

One option is that the Israelites brought grain with them from Egypt, and as they traveled through the wilderness, their grain stores began to run low. That would explain why God needed to provide the people with manna, and would also make the showbread, made from the limited supply of grain, a costly and rare item, just like the rest of the tabernacle.

The other option is that the showbread was made with ingredients from the manna. Numbers 11 says that the Israelites were already using manna to make cakes that tasted like, “cakes baked with oil” (Numbers 11:8). If this was the case, the showbread would be a continued reminder of the nation’s complete dependency on God to provide both their physical needs and their spiritual needs.

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