Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Exodus 27

Verses 1-8

Altar of burnt offering (27:1-8)

All animal sacrifices were offered on what has become known as the brazen altar (though the metal referred to in older English versions as brass was probably bronze or, less likely, copper). The altar was made of timber overlaid with bronze and was hollow inside. Its utensils also were made of bronze (27:1-3).

The instructions do not tell us how sacrifices were burnt on this altar. Either the altar was filled with earth to form a mound on which the sacrifices were burnt, or it had an internal grid for the same purpose. Halfway up the altar on the outside was a horizontal ledge supported by a grating. The priest may have stood on this ledge while offering the sacrifices, to avoid treading in the blood of the sacrificial animals that was poured out at the base (4-8).

Verses 9-21

Tabernacle court; oil for the lamp (27:9-21)

Around the perimeter of the tabernacle courtyard (GNB: enclosure) was a fence, which separated the tabernacle sufficiently from the camp to create a feeling of reverence towards the symbolic dwelling place of God. This fence gave protection against desert winds and was high enough to prevent people outside from watching the rituals out of idle curiosity.

The fence was made of cloth attached to posts, which were fitted into metal bases in the ground and held firm by ropes tied to ground pegs (see 35:17-18). A silver band at the tops of the posts may have been a decoration, or it may have been a means of connecting the tops of all the posts to give the fence added stability. As with the tabernacle-tent, the court faced east and had a curtain entrance in its eastern side (9-19).

Light from the seven-headed lamp was the only light in the tabernacle. The ordinary people supplied the oil for the lamp, and the priests tended the lamp morning and evening to keep it burning continually (20-21).

The priesthood

Having outlined his plans for the tabernacle as the central place of worship for his people, God now provided further for that worship by establishing a priesthood. The priests were responsible for the proper functioning of all matters connected with the tabernacle and its services.

Until now Moses had been not only the leader of the people but also the go-between, or mediator, between the people and God. In the ordered religious life of the nation that was now being established, this function of people's representative in religious affairs was given to Aaron (who was appointed high priest) and his sons (who were the ordinary priests that assisted him). In future only direct male descendants of Aaron could be priests. It was further revealed (see notes on 32:25-29 below) that only those of the same tribe as Aaron, the tribe of Levi, could assist in the practical affairs of the tabernacle such as its erection, maintenance and transport (cf. 6:16-25; 29:9; Numbers 3:9-10).

Priests were required to offer sacrifices on behalf of those who brought them (Hebrews 8:3). They therefore served as mediators between the people and God. They also carried out daily functions connected with the overall tabernacle rituals, such as ensuring that a sacrifice was burning on the altar continually (29:38-42; Leviticus 6:12), keeping the lamp burning in the Holy Place (27:20-21) and offering incense on the golden altar (30:7-8). They were also to teach the law of God to the people and serve as moral guides to the nation (Deuteronomy 31:9-13; Deuteronomy 33:10; Malachi 2:7).

Only priests could enter the Holy Place and only the high priest the Most Holy Place. Even then he could do so only once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1-19; Leviticus 16:29-31; Hebrews 9:6-7).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Exodus 27". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/exodus-27.html. 2005.