“Put frankincense with each row to be an offering made by fire to Adonai in place of the bread and as a reminder of it.“-Leviticus 24:7
Verse 7 of Leviticus chapter 24 needs to be straightened out.
Many English Bible translations will say that the Frankincense was to PLACED UPON the loaves of Shewbread.
For example, the King James version says the following:
“And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row,
that it may be on the bread for a memorial,
even an offering made by fire unto the Lord.”
The problem is such a rendering gives the impression that the very expensive Frankincense spice was sprinkled on top of the Shewbread.
While it is true that Frankincense is highly fragrant, using it as some kind of flavor enhancer is quite another matter altogether.
Okay, here’s the problem and it’s a problem that’s quite readily solved once we check out the original Hebrew.
The Hebrew preposition AL which is normally translated as “on” or “upon” as in “on the bread” or “upon the bread” is simply not correct.
AL does NOT mean “on” or “upon“.
Rather, it means “alongside with“, “next to“, “near” or “besides” or something to that effect.
So the actual reality is that the Frankincense was placed inside of two incense burners and placed NEXT TO the Table of Shewbread where it was burned as incense.
Let’s now take a quick look at one of the most famous references to the Shewbread found in the New Testament.
Let’s read the following:
“At that time Yeshua went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the Shewbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?”
The first thing I want you to notice is that Yeshua fully admits that yes, technically speaking, David and his men did indeed break the Law because the Shewbread was only supposed to be eaten by the priests.
However, in giving his approval to what David and his men did, Yeshua was actually employing a well-known rabbinic method of debate known as KAL V’HOMER.
KAL V’HOMER means the weighing of the LIGHT versus the HEAVY.
The Rabbis and Sages always understood that when life and well-being were being threatened, that situation had to be weighed against the strictest interpretation of the Law.
A doctor working to save a life on the Sabbath is a perfect example.
This was the point Yeshua was making.
And in no way does it mean that the Law has now been rendered null and void as the Christians would say.
Yeshua was pointing out the inconsistency in the thinking of his critics by asking them if they had no problems with David feeding men who were hungry using sacred bread, then why should they have a problem with his hungry disciples plucking heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath day?