(1) And the Lord spake unto Moses.—The regulations about the annual festivals and the ritual connected with them are now followed by directions with regard to the daily service and its ritual.
In the tabernacle of the congregation.—Better, in the tent of meeting.
A statute for ever in your generations.—Better, a statute for ever throughout your generations, as this phrase is rendered in the Authorised Version in Leviticus 23:14; Leviticus 23:31, &c. (See Leviticus 3:17.)
Upon the pure table.—According to the interpretation which obtained during the second Temple, this denotes that the cakes are to be put upon the table itself, and not upon the hollow golden rods which were on the table to allow the air to pass through to prevent the shewbread becoming mouldy during the week. These hollow tubes are to be placed between the cakes, whilst the cakes themselves are to be put on the table itself and not on the tubes, so as to be raised above the table.
Before the Lord.—That is, the table which stood before the Lord, for it was placed in the sanctuary. The cakes, therefore, which were thus ranged upon it were constantly before God. Hence, not only is the table called “the table of His Presence” (Numbers 4:7), but the cakes are called “the bread of His Presence” (Exodus 25:30; Exodus 35:13; Exodus 39:36). The rendering of the Authorised Version, “table of shewbread,” and “shewbread,” is taken from Luther, and does not express the import of the names. The names, “the bread set in order,” “the sets of bread,” and the “table set in order,” which were given to the cakes (1 Chronicles 9:32; 1 Chronicles 23:29; 2 Chronicles 13:11; Nehemiah 10:33) and to the table (2 Chronicles 29:18) in later times, and which are unjustifiably obliterated in the Authorised Version, are derived from this verse where the cakes are ordered to be ranged in two “sets.”
That it may be on the bread for a memorial.—Better, that it may be for the bread as a memorial, that is, that the frankincense may be offered up upon the altar, as God’s portion, instead of the bread which was given to the priests. By this means the prayers of the children of Israel will be brought into grateful remembrance before the Lord. (See Leviticus 2:2.)
Being taken from the children of Israel.—Like the daily sacrifices, the offerings for the congregation, the salt for the sacrifices, the wood for the altar, the incense, the omer (see Leviticus 23:10-11), the two wave-loaves (Leviticus 23:17), the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:5, &c.), the red heifer (Numbers 19:1-22), &c., the shewbread, or the “bread of His Presence,” according to the canon that obtained during the second Temple, were purchased with the people’s half-shekels, which every Israelite had to contribute annually toward the maintenance of the service in the sanctuary. (See Exodus 30:11-16.)
They shall eat it in the holy place.—Of the many things connected with the national service which became the perquisites of the priests, there were eight only which had to be consumed within the precincts of the sanctuary, and the shewbread is one of the eight, viz., (1) the remnant of the meat offering (Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 2:10); (2) the flesh of the sin offering (Leviticus 6:26); (3) of the trespass offering (Leviticus 7:6); (4) the leper’s log of oil (Leviticus 14:10); (5) the remainder of the omer (Leviticus 23:10-11); (6) the peace offering of the congregation; (7) the two loaves (Leviticus 13:19-20); and (8) the shewbread.
Of the offerings of the Lord made by fire.—That is, the former part of the offering, as the frankincense, which was the other part, was burnt as an offering to God.
Went out among the children of Israel.—Better, he went out into the midst, &c. This shows that he lived outside the camp and came where he had no right to be.
This son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together.—The cause and the manner of their quarrel or contention are not given. But. according to tradition, the “man of Israel” was a Danite, and, as we are told in the next verse, his mother was of the tribe of Dan, this semi-Egyptian contended with this Danite that he had a right from the side of his mother to encamp among the children of Dan, whilst the Danite disputed this, maintaining that a son could only pitch his tent by the standard of his father’s name (Numbers 2:2). This contention, moreover, took place before the rulers who tried the case (Exodus 19:21-22). Hence the ancient Chaldee version translates it, “And while the Israelites were dwelling in the wilderness, he sought to pitch his tent in the midst of the tribe of the children of Dan; but they would not let him, because, according to the order of Israel, every man, according to his order, dwelt with his family by the ensign of his father’s house. And they strove together in the camp. Whereupon the son of the Israelitish woman and the man of Israel who was of the tribe of Dan went into the house of judgment.”
And they brought him unto Moses.—The contention about his right to pitch his tent among the tribe to which his mother belonged being a minor point, came within the jurisdiction of the rulers, according to the advice of Jethro (Exodus 18:22); whilst blaspheming God was considered too serious an offence, and hence the criminal was brought to Moses.
And his mother’s name was Shelomith.—Whether we accept the traditional explanation, that Shelomith was no consenting party to her union with the Egyptian, or whether we regard her as having voluntarily married him, the fact that both her personal and tribal names are here so distinctly specified, indicates that the record of this incident is designed to point out the ungodly issue of so unholy an alliance, and to guard the Hebrew women against intermarriage with heathen.
That the mind of the Lord might be shewed them.—Better, that he might direct them according to the command of the Lord, as the Authorised Version renders this phrase in Exodus 17:1, Numbers 4:37; Numbers 4:41; Numbers 4:49, &c. Though this was a transgression of the third commandment, and though it was ordained that he who cursed his earthly parent should be put to death (see Leviticus 20:9), yet no law existed as to the exact punishment which was to be inflicted upon him who cursed his heavenly Father (see Exodus 22:28); nor was it known whether such an offender should be left to God Himself to execute the sentence. For this reason the criminal was detained till Moses had appealed to the Lord for instruction, in order that he might direct the people accordingly. Similar instances of Moses appealing direct to the Lord for guidance in matters of law and judgment we have in Numbers 15:34; Numbers 28:1-5.
Let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head.—That is, the witnesses who heard him blaspheme, and upon whose evidence he was convicted, and the judges who found him guilty, are to lay their hands upon the criminal’s head. Hence the Chaldee version translates it, “Let the witnesses who heard his blasphemy and the judges lay their hands upon his head.” This imposition of hands upon a criminal was peculiar to the blasphemer who was sentenced to death, and according to the Jewish canonists, the witnesses and the judges thereby declared that the testimony and the sentence were faithful and righteous, and at the same time uttered the solemn words, “Let thy blood be upon thine own head; thou hast brought this upon thyself.”
Let all the congregation stone him.—The witnesses, who are the representatives of the people, cast the first stone, and then all the people who stood by covered the convict with stones. (See Leviticus 20:2.)
As well the stranger as he that is born in the land.—This law is applicable alike to the proselyte and to the Gentile, who does not even profess to believe in Jehovah.
When he blasphemeth the name of the Lord.—Better, when he curseth the Name. Here again the expression “Name” has, out of reverence, been substituted for Jehovah. (See Leviticus 24:11.)