We have seen that the Temple was a place where the covenantal relationship was seen, and there is no place in the Sanctuary that brings out this concept more than the Shulchan Ha Lechem Ha Pannim, or “The Table of the Bread of the Faces.” Lev 24.8 refers to this bread as “an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel.” This bread on display is a covenant forever.
We have gone over the furniture in the Heichal and that is where the table of bread was located. This bread was replaced every Sabbath and this gives us the idea that this is an ongoing series of meals in the Temple. This bread symbolizes the covenant at Sinai and it is to be seen as a meal and celebration where the covenant is constantly renewed. The idea of feasting in the Temple as a avenue of worship will seem strange to many who are not familiar with the Temple, the korbanot or the zevachim, but it fits in nicely with what the Lord is trying to teach us.
We would think that the highest form of worship would center around what man could do, like prayer, music and meditation. We would think that speech would be be at the core of the avodah (worship), but it isn’t. The idea of feasting and the consumption of the korbanot is actually the highlight. Eating is an everyday thing and we think that it is removed from the “majesty” of worship. So, just how does feasting become such a highly regarded form of worship activity in the Temple? To stand before God in the Temple is to feel and know God’s “closeness” to us. It is his house and his shekinah was experienced everywhere. When a person is happy he celebrates with a feast. These meals, symbolized by the korbanot, were an expression of man’s joy at being close to the Lord in his Temple.
The next logical thing we are going to look at is the blood connection to Mount Sinai. The primary focus of the korbanot in the Temple was the blood of the animal. It had to be collected and sprinkled in the prescribed way and place or it was not valid. We have already listed the eleven steps when offering a korban in an earlier teaching. The sprinkling represented the life blood and the rededication of the nephesh (soul). Blood symbolizes man’s soul, his essence. As a result, blood symbolizes commitment. There is a saying about breakfast. When you eat eggs it shows that a hen was involved, but eating the bacon shows that the pig was committed.
When a person commits to someone, they are not only agreeing to do certain things, they are committing to give entirely of himself. His “soul” (nephesh) is defined by the object of their devotion. This transforms the nephesh, or soul, and there is no other symbol that more dramatically illustrates this transformation than the blood, which symbolizes the soul. A covenant between two parties represents such commitment. In the Bible, it is the blood that signifies the level of commitment. The Torah given at Mount Sinai was ratified in blood (Exo 24.3-8) and Yeshua ratified the Brit Chadasha (the Renewed Covenant) with his own blood.(Luke 22.20).
The Temple avodah (service) gives us greater insight when we see it in relation to the events that happened at Mount Sinai. Sprinkling the blood was very important and it was symbolic of the commitment between God and his people. In our verses in Exo 24.3-8, we see that the blood was first sprinkled on the altar (v 6) and then it was sprinkled on the people (v 8), showing their commitment. The term “zerika ha dam” (sprinkling of the blood) at Sinai is the only time this term is used outside of a Temple avodah (service) context. So, the sprinkling of the blood in the Temple has the same symbolism as the sprinkling of the blood at Sinai. When the blood of a korban, no matter what kind, is sprinkled on the altar it represents the owner. This applies if it is an individual or an entire people. It is a renewal of the covenantal relationship between God and the one offering the korban.
We have mentioned before that the korbanot give us two interpretations of the Temple avodah. First we talked about expiation, or the removal of guilt, and secondly, they illustrate the action of parties who have entered into a covenant. These are are related in the fact that the Temple is a place of expiation and it is a function of a covenantal center. Sin not only causes the status of the sinner to decline, but it affects the covenantal relationship. God equates disobedience with the breaking of the covenant in Lev 26.14-15). If sin damages the covenant, then the rituals associated with the korbanot help heal that breach to the covenantal relationship.
The relationship between expiation and the covenant will help us understand a strange theology associated with the Temple. This is the idea of “tum’at mikdash” or the idea that the Temple becomes defiled because of the sins of the people. We see this when we look at the the Torah in Lev 20.3 which tells us that God is against a person who gives his offspring to Moloch. This idea is also seen in Lev 16.15-16 where the High Priest on Yom Kippur slaughters the goat of the korban chatat (sin offering). By doing this he “shall make atonement for the holy place because of the impurities of the sons of Israel, and because of their transgressions, in regard to all their sins.” Jeremiah refers to the idols and sins of Judah as bringing ritual impurity into the Temple (Jer 7.30).
The concept of defiling the Temple sounds a little strange when we think that the Beit ha Mikdash was the “house of kedusha.” How does sin defile the Temple and the vessels? The answer to that question is in the question. The Temple is God’s house, but that is not the only concept associated with the Temple. It is also the central point of the covenant between God and his people. As a result, any breach in that covenant has consequences in the Temple. When sin stains the covenant, its symbol (the Temple) becomes stained along with it.
In Part 5 we will continue with the idea of “tum’ot mikdash” (defiling the Temple) and then we will enter into a discussion about the morality of animal sacrifice.