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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–9
Verses 1–9

Care is here taken, and orders are given, for the decent furnishing of the candlestick and table in God’s house.

I. The lamps must always be kept burning. The law for this we had before, Exod. 27:20, 21. It is here repeated, probably because it now began to be put in execution, when other things were settled. 1. The people were to provide oil (Lev. 24:2), and this, as every thing else that was to be used in God’s service, must be of the best, pure olive-oil, beaten, probably it was double-strained. This was to cause the lamps to burn; all our English copies read it lamps, but in the original it is singular in Lev. 24:2—to cause the lamp to burn; but plural in Lev. 24:4he shall order the lamps. The seven lamps made all one lamp, in allusion to which the blessed Spirit of grace is represented by seven lamps of fire before the throne (Rev. 4:5), for there are diversities of gifts, but one Spirit, 1 Cor. 12:4. Ministers are as burning and shining lights in Christ’s church, but it is the duty of people to provide comfortably for them, as Israel for the lamps. Scandalous maintenance makes a scandalous ministry. 2. The priests were to tend the lamps; they must snuff them, clean the candlestick, and supply them with oil, morning and evening, Lev. 24:3, 4. Thus it is the work of the ministers of the gospel to hold forth that word of life, not to set up new lights, but, by expounding and preaching the word, to make the light of it more clear and extensive. This was the ordinary way of keeping the lamps burning; but, when the church was poor and in distress, we find its lamps fed constantly with oil from the good olives immediately, without the ministry of priest or people (Zech. 4:2, 3); for, though God has tied us to means, he has not tied himself to them, but will take effectual care that his lamp never go out in the world for want of oil.

II. The table must always be kept spread. This was appointed before, Exod. 25:30. And here also, 1. The table was furnished with bread; not dainties nor varieties to gratify a luxurious palate, but twelve loaves or cakes of bread, Lev. 24:5, 6. Where there is plenty of bread there is no famine; and where bread is not there is no feast. There was a loaf for every tribe, for in our Father’s house there is bread enough. They were all provided for by the divine bounty, and were all welcome to the divine grace. Even after the revolt of the ten tribes this number of loaves was continued (2 Chron. 13:11), for the sake of those few of each tribe that retained their affection to the temple and continued their attendance on it. 2. A handful of frankincense was put in a golden saucer, upon or by each row, Lev. 24:7. When the bread was removed, and given to the priests, this frankincense was burnt upon the golden altar (I suppose) over and above the daily incense: and this was for a memorial instead of the bread, an offering made by fire, as the handful of the meat-offering which was burnt upon the altar is called the memorial thereof, Lev. 2:2. Thus a little was accepted as a humble acknowledgment, and all the loaves were consigned to the priests. All God’s spiritual Israel, typified by the twelve loaves, are made through Christ a sweet savour to him, and their prayers are said to come up before God for a memorial, Acts 10:4. The word is borrowed from the ceremonial law. 3. Every sabbath it was renewed. When the loaves had stood there a week, the priests had them to eat with other holy things that were to be eaten in the holy place (Lev. 24:9), and new ones were provided at the public charge, and put in the room of them, Lev. 24:8. The Jews say, “The hands of those priests that put on were mixed with theirs that took off, that the table might be never empty, but the bread might be before the Lord continually.” God is never unprovided for the entertainment of those that visit him, as men often are, Luke 11:5. Every one of those cakes contained two tenth-deals, that is, two omers of fine flour; just so much manna every Israelite gathered on the sixth day for the sabbath, Exod. 16:22. Hence some infer that this show-bread, which was set on the table on the sabbath, was intended as a memorial of the manna wherewith they were fed in the wilderness. Christ’s ministers should provide new bread for his house every sabbath day, the production of their fresh studies in the scripture, that their proficiency may appear to all, 1 Tim. 4:1, 5.