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Yahweh had redeemed the Israelites from bondage. He had made a covenant with them and had given them laws. He had promised, on condition of their obedience, to accept them as His own “peculiar treasure,” as “a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” Exodus 19:5-6. And now He was ready visibly to testify that He made his abode with them. He claimed to have a dwelling for Himself, which was to be in external form a tent of goats’ hair Exodus 19:4, to take its place among their own tents, and formed out of the same material (see Exodus 26:7 note). The special mark of His presence within the tent was to be the ark or chest containing the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone Exodus 31:18, symbolizing the divine law of holiness, and covered by the mercy-seat, the type of reconciliation. Moses was divinely taught regarding the construction and arrangement of every part of the sanctuary. The directions which were given him are comprised in Exodus 25:1-11. The account of the performance of the work, expressed generally in the same terms, is given Exodus 35:21-33.
Moses is commanded to invite the people to bring their gifts for the construction and service of the sanctuary and for the dresses of the priests.
An offering - The word is used here in its general sense, being equivalent to korban, κορβᾶν korban, (compare Mark 7:11). On the marginal rendering “heave offering,” see the note at Exodus 29:27.
That giveth it willingly with his heart - The public service of Yahweh was to be instituted by freewill offerings, not by an enforced tax. Compare 1 Chronicles 29:3, 1 Chronicles 29:9,1 Chronicles 29:14; Ezra 2:68-69; 2 Corinthians 8:11-12; 2 Corinthians 9:7. On the zeal with which the people responded to the call, see Exodus 35:21-29; Exodus 36:5-7.
Gold, and silver, and brass - The supply of these metals possessed by the Israelites at this time probably included what they had inherited from their forefathers, what they had obtained from the Egyptians Exodus 12:35, and what may have been found amongst the spoils of the Amalekites Exodus 17:8-13. But with their abundant flocks and herds, it can hardly be doubted that they had carried on important traffic with the trading caravans that traversed the wilderness, some of which, most likely, in the earliest times were furnished with silver, with the gold of Ophir (or gold of Sheba, as it seems to have been indifferently called), and with the “brass” (the alloy of copper and tin, called bronze) of Phoenicia and Egypt. Compare Exodus 38:24 note.
Blue, and purple, and scarlet - i. e. the material dyed with these colors. The Jewish tradition has been very generally received that this material was wool. Compare Hebrews 9:19 with Leviticus 14:4, Leviticus 14:49, etc. When spun and dyed by the women, it was delivered in the state of yarn; and the weaving and embroidering was left to Aholiab and his assistants, Exodus 35:25, Exodus 35:35. The “blue” and “purple” dye are usually thought to have been obtained from shell-fish, the “scarlet” from the cochineal insect of the holm-oak.
Fine linen - The fine flax or the manufactured linen, for which Egypt was famous Ezekiel 27:7, and which the Egyptians were in the habit of using for dresses of state Genesis 41:42. It was used as the groundwork of the figured curtains of the tabernacle as well as of the embroidered hangings of the tent and the court. See Exodus 35:35.
Rams’ skins dyed red - Skins tanned and colored like the leather now known as red morocco.
Badgers’ skins - Rather, leather, probably of a sky-blue color, formed from the skins of the תחשׁ tachash (a general name for marine animals), which was well adapted as a protection against the weather.
Shittim wood - The word שׁטים shı̂ṭṭâm is the plural form of שׁטה shı̂ṭâh, which occurs as the name of the growing tree, Isaiah 41:19. The tree is satisfactorily identified with the Acacia seyal, a gnarled and thorny tree, somewhat like a solitary hawthorn in its habit and manner of growth, but much larger. It flourishes in the driest situations, and is scattered more or less numerously over the Sinaitic Peninsula. It appears to be the only good wood produced in the wilderness. No other kind of wood was employed in the tabernacle or its furniture. In the construction of the temple cedar and fir took its place 1 Kings 5:8; 1 Kings 6:18; 2 Chronicles 2:8.
See the notes to Exodus 27:0; Exodus 28:0; Exodus 30:0,
sanctuary - i. e. a hallowed place. This is the most comprehensive of the words that relate to the place dedicated to Yahweh. It included the tabernacle with its furniture, its tent, and its court.
That I may dwell among them - The purpose of the sanctuary is here definitely declared by the Lord Himself. It was to be the constant witness of His presence among His people. Compare the marginal references.
According to all that I shew thee - The tabernacle and all that pertained to it were to be in strict accordance with the ideas revealed by the Lord to Moses (compare Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5). The word here translated “pattern” is also used to denote the plans for the temple which were given by David to Solomon 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 1 Chronicles 28:19; it is elsewhere rendered “form, likeness, similitude,” Deuteronomy 4:16-17; Ezekiel 8:3, Ezekiel 8:10.
The tabernacle - The Hebrew word signifies the “dwelling-place.” It here denotes the wooden structure, containing the holy place and the most holy place, with the tent which sheltered it. See Exodus 26:1 note.
(compare Exodus 37:1-5). The ark is uniformly designated in Exodus the ark of the testimony. Elsewhere it is called the testimony, the ark of the covenant (most frequently in Deuteronomy and the other books of the Old Testament), the ark of the lord, the ark of god, the ark of the strength of the lord, and the holy ark.
The ark of the covenant was the central point of the sanctuary. It was designed to contain the testimony Exodus 25:16; Exodus 40:20; Deuteronomy 31:26, that is, the tables of the divine law, the terms of the covenant between Yahweh and His people: and it was to support the mercy-seat with its cherubim, from between which He was to hold communion with them Exodus 25:22. On this account, in these directions for the construction of the sanctuary, it is named first of all the parts. But on the other hand, in the narrative of the work as it was actually carried out, we find that it was not made until after the tabernacle Exodus 37:1-9. It was suitable that the receptacle should be first provided to receive and shelter the most sacred of the contents of the sanctuary as soon as it was completed. The order in which the works were executed seems to be given in Exodus 31:7-10, and Exodus 35:11-19. The completion of the ark is recorded in Exodus 37:1-5. On its history, see the concluding $$note to Exodus 40:0.
An ark - Taking the cubit at 18 inches (see Genesis 6:15 note), the ark of the covenant was a box 3 ft. 9 in. long, 2 ft. 3 in. wide, and 2 ft. 3 in. deep.
Overlay it with pure gold - Words descriptive of the common process of gilding. The Egyptians in early times were acquainted with both the art of gilding and that of covering a substance with thin plates of gold.
A crown of gold - That is, an edging or moulding of gold round the top of the ark, within which the cover or mercy-seat Exodus 25:17 may have fitted (compare Exodus 38:2). There were golden mouldings, called by the same name, to the table of showbread Exodus 25:24; Exodus 37:11-12, and to the golden altar Exodus 30:3; Exodus 37:26.
Four corners thereof - Rather, its four bases, or feet. It is not unlikely that there were low blocks, or plinths, placed under the corners to which the rings were attached (see Exodus 25:26), and that it is to them the word is here applied. The ark, when it was carried, must thus have been raised above the shoulders of the bearers.
They shall not be taken from it - This direction was probably given in order that the ark might not be touched by the hand (compare 2 Samuel 6:6).
The testimony - Literally, “something spoken again and again.” The stone tables of the Ten Commandments are called the Testimony, or, the tables of the Testimony, as the ark which contained them is called the ark of the Testimony, and the tabernacle in which the ark was placed, the tabernacle of the testimony. Taking this in connection with the prohibitory form of the commandments, the name must have been understood as signifying the direct testimony of Yahweh against sin in man Deuteronomy 31:26-27.
The ark of the covenant has been most generally likened to the arks, or moveable shrines, which are represented on Egyptian monuments. The Egyptian arks were carried by poles on the shoulders, and some of them had on the cover two winged figures not unlike what we conceive the golden cherubim to have been. Thus far the similarity is striking. But there were points of great dissimilarity. Between the winged figures on the Egyptian arks there was placed the material symbol of a deity, and the arks themselves were carried about in religious processions, so as to make a show in the eyes of the people. We know not what they contained. As regards the ark of the covenant, the absence of any symbol of God was one of its great characteristics. It was never carried in a ceremonial procession: when it was moved from one place to another, it was closely packed up, concealed from the eyes even of the Levites who bore it. When the tabernacle was pitched, the ark was never exhibited, but was kept in solemn darkness. Rest, it is evident, was its appointed condition. It was occasionally moved out of its place in the holy of holies, but only so long as the nation was without a settled capital, and had something of the character of an army on the march. Not less was it distinguished from all other arks in the simple grandeur of its purpose: it was constructed to contain the plain text of the Ten Commandments written on stone in words that were intelligible to all.
A mercy seat of pure gold - (Compare Exodus 37:6-9.) In external form, the mercy-seat was a plate of gold with the cherubim standing on it, the whole beaten out of one solid piece of metal Exodus 37:7; it was placed upon the ark and so took the place of a cover. “mercy” seat expresses well the distinct significance and recognized designation of the Hebrew name.
The cherubim of the mercy-seat were human figures, each having two wings. They must have been of small size, proportioned to the area of the mercy-seat. Comparing the different references to form in this place, in 2 Samuel 22:11 Psalms 18:10, in Ezekiel 1:0; Ezekiel 10:0 and in Revelation 4:1-11, it would appear that the name “cherub” was applied to various combinations of animal forms. Among the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the Greeks, as well as the Hebrews, the creatures by far most frequently introduced into these composite figures, were man, the ox, the lion, and the eagle, as being types of the most important and familiarly known classes of living material beings. Hence, the cherubim, described by Ezekiel, have been regarded as representing the whole creation engaged in the worship and service of God (compare Revelation 4:9-11; Revelation 5:13); and it would be in harmony with this view to suppose that the more strictly human shape of the cherubim of the mercy seat represented the highest form of created intelligence engaged in the devout contemplation of the divine law of love and justice. (Compare 1 Peter 1:12.) It is worthy of notice that the golden cherubim from between which Yahweh spoke Exodus 25:22 to His people bore witness, by their place on the mercy-seat, to His redeeming mercy; while the cherubim that took their stand at the gate of Eden, Genesis 3:24, to keep the way to the tree of life, witnessed to His condemnation of sin in man.
Of beaten work - i. e. elaborately worked with the hammer.
Even of the mercy seat - See the margin. The sense appears to be that the cherubim and the mercy-seat were to be worked out of one mass of gold. (Compare Exodus 37:7.)
The testimony - See Exodus 25:16 note. Compare Exodus 40:20.
(Compare Exodus 37:10-16.) The table and the candlestick figured on the Arch of Titus at Rome are those of the Maccabaean times, but made as nearly as possible after the ancient models reproduced under the direction of Solomon and Zerubbabel. The details and size of the figure, and the description of Josephus, appear to agree very nearly with the directions here given to Moses, and to illustrate them in several particulars. Josephus says that the table was like the so-called Delphic tables, richly ornamented pieces of furniture in use amongst the Romans, which were sometimes, if not always, covered with gold or silver.
See Exodus 25:11 note. The moulding of the table is still seen at the ends of the sculptured figure.
A border - Rather a framing, which reached from leg to leg so as to make the table firm, as well as to adorn it with a second moulding of gold. Two fragments of such framing are still seen in the sculpture attached to the legs halfway down.
Over against the border - Rather, Over against the framing; that is, the rings were to be placed not upon the framing itself, but at the extremities of the legs answering to each corner of it.
Dishes - deep vessels like “bowls,” similar to the large silver vessels (or chargers) which were filled with fine flour, and formed part of the offerings of the Princes of Israel (Numbers 7:13 following).
Spoons - Rather, the small gold cups that were filled with frankincense in the offerings of the Princes Numbers 7:14, and represented on the table in the sculpture.
Covers ... bowls - Or flagons and chalices, such as were used for the rite of the drink offering, which appears to have regularly accompanied every Meat offering (Leviticus 23:18; Numbers 6:15; Numbers 28:14, etc.). The subject is important in its bearing upon the meaning of the showbread: the corrected rendering of the words tends to show that it was a true Meat offering.
To cover withal - See the margin. The first part of the verse might be better rendered: And thou shalt make its bowls and its incense-cups and its flagons and its chalices for pouring out “the drink offerings.”
The showbread table was placed in the holy place on the north side Exodus 26:35. Directions for preparing the showbread are given in Leviticus 24:5-9. It consisted of twelve large cakes of unleavened bread, which were arranged on the table in two piles, with a golden cup of frankincense on each pile. It was renewed every Sabbath day. The stale loaves were given to the priests, and the frankincense appears to have been lighted on the altar for a memorial. The showbread, with all the characteristics and significance of a great national Meat offering, in which the twelve tribes were represented by the twelve cakes, was to stand before Yahweh “perpetually,” in token that He was always graciously accepting the good works of His people, for whom atonement had been made by the victims offered on the altar in the court of the sanctuary. The showbread or bread which is set forth would be more fairly rendered “bread of the presence.” See the notes at Leviticus 24:5-9.
A candlestick of pure gold - (Compare Exodus 37:17-24.) A lampstand rather than a candlestick. Its purpose was to support seven oil-lamps. Its height appears to have been about three feet, and its width two feet. The original foot was lost or stolen when the candlestick was taken out of the temple, and the pedestal in the sculpture was added by some Roman artist to set off the trophy.
His shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers - Or, its base, its stem, its flower cups, its knobs, and its lilies.
Three bowls made like unto almonds - Three cups of almond flowers. These appear to be the cups in immediate contact with the knobs as shown in the sculpture.
A flower - A lily; and this rendering well agrees with the sculpture.
The candlestick - Here, and in the two following verses, the word appears to denote “the stem,” as the essential part of the candlestick. It would seem from Exodus 25:33-35 that the ornamentation of the candlestick consisted of uniform members, each comprising a series of an almond flower, a knob and a lily; that the stem comprised four of these members; that each pair of branches was united to the stem at one of the knobs; and that each branch comprised three members. In comparing the description in the text with the sculptured figure, allowance must be made for some deviation in the sculptor’s copy.
Seven lamps - These lamps were probably like those used by the Egyptian and other nations, shallow covered vessels more or less of an oval form, with a mouth at one end from which the wick protruded. The candlestick was placed on the south side of the holy place Exodus 26:35, with the line of lamps parallel with the wall, or, according to Josephus, somewhat obliquely. If the wick-mouths of the lamps were turned outwards, they would give light over against the candlestick; that is, toward the north side (see Numbers 8:2).
Light was of necessity required in the tabernacle, and wherever light is used in ceremonial observance, it may of course be taken in a general way as a figure of the Light of Truth; but in the sanctuary of the covenanted people, it must plainly have been understood as expressly significant that the number of the lamps (seven) agreed with the number of the covenant. The covenant of Yahweh was essentially a covenant of light.
They shall light - See the margin and the note at Leviticus 1:9.
The tongs - Used to trim and adjust the wicks. (Compare Isaiah 6:6.)
The snuff-dishes - These were shallow vessels used to receive the burnt fragments of wick removed by the tongs. The same Hebrew word is translated, in accordance with its connection, “fire pans,” Exodus 27:3; Exodus 38:3; and “censers,” Numbers 4:14; Numbers 16:6.
A talent of pure gold - about 94 lbs.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Exodus 25". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13