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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 40

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


This final chapter of Exodus records the erection and preliminary consecration of the Tabernacle, which henceforth would serve as the visible presence of God among His people. Amazingly, the construction and erection of this Tabernacle apparently occupied a period of only about six months; and its erection occurred on the first day of Nisan, or Abib, just exactly a year minus fifteen days from their coming out of Egypt. Think what a marvelous two years culminated for Moses upon this occasion. During that period, Moses had received the call from God to deliver Israel, confronted Pharaoh with God’s commandment to “let my people go,” executed according to God’s commandments the Ten Plagues upon Egypt, led the nation across the Red Sea, came to Sinai and there received the Law, endured the rebellion of the people under Aaron in the matter of the Golden Calf, interceded again and again with God for the beloved nation, received the detailed instructions for the making of the Tabernacle, and had supervised its construction, and now established the Tabernacle itself as the center of the nation, leading the people in the worship of God and the keeping of the Covenant which, forever afterward, was to be the glory of Israel. When Moses had asked God for a sign, the Lord told him that he would “come and worship God” again in this mountain (Sinai); and in this chapter God fulfilled the promise, Moses himself being privileged to offer the first of the “daily sacrifices” in the sacred Tabernacle!

Verses 1-38

“And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, On the first day of the first month shalt thou rear up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.(F1) And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and thou shalt screen the ark with the veil.(F2) And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof. And thou shalt set the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the screen of the door to the tabernacle. And thou shalt set the altar of burnt-offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar, and shalt put water therein. And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang up the screen of the gate of the court. And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the furniture thereof: and it shall be holy. And thou shalt anoint the altar of burnt-offering, and all its vessels, and sanctify the altar: and the altar shall be most holy.(F3) And thou shalt anoint the laver and its base, and sanctify it. And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tent of meeting, and shalt wash them with water. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments; and thou shalt anoint him, and sanctify him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them; and thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: and their anointing shall be to them for as everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.(F4) Thus did Moses according to all that Jehovah commanded him, so did he.(F5) “And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up. And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and laid its sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up its pillars.(F6) And he spread the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent above upon it; as Jehovah commanded Moses. And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy-seat upon the ark:(F7) and he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony; as Jehovah commanded Moses.(F8) And he put the table in the tent of meeting, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the veil. And he set the bread in order upon it before Jehovah; as Jehovah commanded Moses. And he put the candlestick in the tent of meeting, over against the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward. And he lighted the lamps before Jehovah; as Jehovah commanded Moses. And he put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil: and he burnt thereon incense of sweet spices; as Jehovah commanded Moses.(F9) And he put the screen of the door to the tabernacle. And he set the altar of burnt-offering at the door of the tabernacle, and offered upon it the burnt-offering and the meal-offering; as Jehovah commanded Moses. And he set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water therein, wherewith to wash. And Moses and Aaron, and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat; when they went into the tent of meeting, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as Jehovah commanded Moses.(F10) And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of Jehovah filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode therein, and the glory of Jehovah filled the tabernacle.(F11) And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys: but if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of Jehovah was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was the fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”


One of the big things about the tabernacle was its mobility. It was never intended to be a stationary structure. As Neil noted, “It is clear from Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7), that he attached great significance to the fact that the Tabernacle was PORTABLE.”(F12) Moreover, it is evident that David finally decided to build God a Temple, and that his decision was contrary to God’s will (2 Samuel 8). All of the great victories of Israel were won during the era of the tabernacle, and, in no sense whatever, except in the most limited application of it, was the Temple ever a type of the holy church. James made that abundantly clear in Acts 15:16, where inspiration spoke, not of rebuilding the Temple, but of “rebuilding the fallen tabernacle.” Jesus spoke of the O.T. Scriptures as being, “These are they which testify of me!” (John 5:39), and the Book of Exodus is especially eloquent in that testimony. (See the Introduction for an elaboration of this.)

Except for his ill-advised use of the word “tradition,” the following quotation from Napier is priceless:

“In the Book of Exodus, tradition has created an inspired masterpiece. We who come to it with faith find that it is also our history, our torah, our institution… all gathered up and fulfilled in Him who even now brings us up out of Egypt into life with God. We can affirm with Exodus, and with greater conviction because of Exodus, that in all our journeys we are not alone, that when we look with faith, the Lord is himself, even now, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”(F13)

We say the same, except, that it was not tradition at all that gave this marvelous inspiration. God spoke through that Prophet like unto Jesus Christ, even Moses!


We are indebted to Fields for this brief history of the Tabernacle:(F14)

1. It was set up first at Gilgal after Israel crossed Jordon (Joshua 18:1).

2. It was erected at Shiloh and remained there through period of the Judges. (Joshua 19:51; 1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 4:3; 1 Samuel 12).

3. It was captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:10-11).

4. It was returned to Israel at Kiriath-Jearim west of Jerusalem (1 Samuel 7:1).

5. After the times of Eli, it was removed to Nob, north of Jerusalem (1 Samuel 21:1-9).

6. The ark remained at Kiriath-Jearim until the times of David (1 Samuel 7:1-2; 1 Chronicles 13:5-6).

7. About the beginning of David’s reign (1000 B.C.), it was located at Gibeon, 5 miles northwest of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21:29; 1 Chronicles 16:39-40; 2 Chronicles 1:3; 1 Kings 3:4; 1 Kings 9:2).

8. David brought it in a new cart to Jerusalem, where he had prepared a new tent for it (2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 16:1).

9. It was replaced by Solomon’s Temple, all except the ark (1 Kings 8:4; 1 Kings 8:6). God destroyed Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

10. After that, no more was heard of the tabernacle, or the ark of the covenant, which was not in Zerubbabel’s Temple (516 B.C.).

11. The Herodian Temple (in the times of Christ) was also destroyed by God by the overthrow of Jerusalem by the armies of Vespasian and Titus in 70 A.D.

Exodus alone is not the book, but only a chapter in the book. The narrative of the journey to Canaan will be resumed in Numbers. First, however, there will be given a compendium (Leviticus) of very necessary regulations, laws and instructions imposed upon Israel by the Sinaitic Covenant. “The end of the Book of Exodus therefore marks the close of a chapter rather than the close of a story.”(F15)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Exodus 40". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/exodus-40.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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