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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 40

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-11


Verses 1-11:

Bezaleel and his workmen had wrought well. And the work of the tabernacle was completed, and it had passed inspection.

Moses did not at once set up the completed tabernacle. He waited for a specific instruction from Jehovah. This was soon given.

Moses was to set up the tabernacle on the first day of the first month of the year, Abib or Nisan. When the walls and the tent and coverings were all in place, the ark of the testimony was placed in the holy of holies, and the veil separating this room from the sanctuary was hung in place.

Next, the table of shewbread was put in place, and the various articles pertaining to it were laid in order.

Then the golden lampstand was installed, the lamps filled with oil, and lighted.

The golden altar of incense came next. It was placed before the veil separating the holy of holies from the holy place.

The altar of burnt offering and the laver were next set in place, and the laver was filled with water.

When all was set in proper order, Jehovah instructed that Moses anoint the tabernacle and all its furniture with the holy anointing oil.

The text illustrates the institution of the Lord’s churEx The church was: 1) first established (Mt 4:18-22), 2) then its officers were set in order (1Co 12:28), 3) then it was commissioned (Mt 28:19, 20; Ac 1:8). When this was all completed, 4) then the Holy Spirit anointed the church with His presence and power (Acts 2).

Verses 12-16

Verses 12-16:

It is not likely that the anointing of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood was carried out on the same day as the erection and anointing of the tabernacle. They were probably anointed on the next day.

The washing was ceremonial, signifying cleansing from the defilement of the world. Aaron was first ceremonially cleansed, then invested with the beautiful garments prepared for the high priest’s office, then anointed with the holy anointing ointment. Following this, his sons were clothed with the garments for the ordinary priests and anointed for service.

The office of Israel’s priesthood was to be permanently vested in the descendants of Aaron.

Verse 16 points to the faithfulness of Moses in his service to Jehovah. This corresponds to Nu 12:7; Heb 3:2-5. It illustrates the principle that the most important requirement of stewardship is faithfulness, see 1Co 4:2; 15:58; Ga 6:9; 2Ti 4:7, 8; Re 2:10.

Verses 17-19

Verses 17-19:

Under the workmen’s willing hands, the tabernacle was completed and erected in a very short time. Ex 19:1 fixes the date of Israel’s arrival at Sinai as the third month of the first year of their journey. The present text fixes the date of the erection of the completed structure as the first day of the first month of the second year (after leaving Egypt). Subtracting the two forty-day periods which Moses spent in the mountain receiving the Law, leaves slightly over six months of actual construction time. Some few days must be allowed for the debacle of the golden calf, and for the giving of the instructions and gathering of materials for the tabernacle. This means that the actual construction time from start to finish was six months or less.

The "sockets" were heavy bases of metal, and would tend to remain in place where they were set, flat upon the desert sand.

Verse 19 emphasizes the distinction between the "tent" ohel, and the "tabernacle" mishkan.

The text once more emphasizes that Moses followed the instructions of Jehovah faithfully in this entire project.

Verses 20-21

Verses 20. 21:

Verses 20-33 give the details of the record of verses 3-16.

When the tabernacle was fully erected, Moses then proceeded to

set in order the furniture. The first to be put in place was the "ark of the testimony," see Ex 25:10-22. ’

Moses placed within the ark the "testimony," the two tablets of stone upon which God had written His Law, particularly the Ten Commandments. Later, other articles were added, namely a golden bowl filled with manna, Ex 16:33, 34; and Aaron’s rod which budded, Nu 17:6-11.

The ark and its contents comprised a "testimony" to Israel:

1. The Law: a witness of man’s sin and his inability to meet God’s standards of perfect righteousness, and of the penalty of the broken Law. See Ro 3:19, 20; 7:7-13; Ga 3:11.

2. The Manna: a witness of man’s dissatisfaction with the provision God makes for his need, see Nu 21:5; and God’s compassion, Php 4:19.

3. Aaron’s Rod: a witness of man’s rejection of God’s appointed leadership, Nu 17:6-11.

The ark was sealed (covered) with the "mercy seat," a symbol of God’s grace in providing a covering for man’s sin, 1Jo 1:7-10.

When the ark was in place, Moses then hung the veil before it, to conceal it from view of men. The symbolism of this veil is explained in Heb 9:1-5; 10:19, 20. When Jesus died for man’s sin, this veil was torn in two from top to bottom, Mt 27:51; Mr 15:38; Lu 23:45, signifying that the way is now open for man to come directly to God, through the ministry and Person of Jesus.

Verses 22-23

Verses 22, 23:

The "table" is the "table of shewbread." Twelve loaves of unleavened bread were placed regularly upon this table, one loaf for each of Israel’s twelve tribes. The table was on the right-hand side of the sanctuary on entering, as one faced the veil. For the significance of this table, see the comments on Ex 25:23-30.

Verses 24-25

Verses 24, 25:

Moses placed the gold candlestick (lampstand) in the holy place, opposite the table of shewbread. This was a heavy and very valuable item, made of one talent weight (app. 75.5 pounds) of pure gold.

For comments on the symbolism of this lampstand, see Ex 25:31-40.

Verses 26-27

Verses 26, 27:

The golden altar of incense occupied the center of the holy place, immediately in front of the veil which concealed the ark of the testimony. When this was put in place, Moses then offered a sacrifice of sweet incense before Jehovah.

For the significance of this altar and its function, see comments on Ex 30:1-10.

Verses 28-29

Verses 28, 29:

Five pillars were put in place at the entrance of the tabernacle. It was on these pillars that Moses hung the curtain made for this purpose, see Ex 36:37, 38.

The altar of burnt offering was situated directly in front of the tabernacle. This was the first object seen as one entered the courtyard. It symbolized the cross upon which Jesus was offered as man’s Substitute, and its position teaches that none may enter God’s presence without first coming by the way of the cross.

Verses 30-33

Verses 30-33:

Verse 7 gives the instructions for the positions of the laver. It was to be situated directly between the tabernacle and the altar of burnt offering. A line drawn from the altar directly to the ark of the covenant, intersected by a line from the table of shewbread to the lampstand, forms a cross. Thus does the position of the furnishings of the tabernacle picture the sacrificial work of Christ, without which it is impossible for man to come to God (see sketch in Ex 27).

The final act in setting up the tabernacle complex was the setting up of the curtain wall which formed the other courtyard, and the hanging of the curtains which formed the entrance of it.

Verses 34-38

Verses 34-38:

"A cloud" is literally "the cloud," referring to "the cloud" which was Israel’s guide and protection, and the symbol of Jehovah’s Presence, from the beginning of their journey, Ex 13:21, 22; 14:19-24; 19:9; 24:15-18; 33:9, 10.

Jehovah demonstrated His approval of the completed tabernacle, by His Presence in the cloud by day and fire by night.

The text implies that Moses desired to enter the tabernacle, but he was unable to do so. The reason: not the external cloud, but the internal "glory" of Jehovah which filled the "house." This was the "Shekinah Glory," the visible sign of God’s Presence, compare 1 Kings 8:11; 2Ch 5:14; 7:2. See also Ps 104:1, 2.

The cloud was always with Israel, by day and by night, a constant reminder of God’s Presence with them throughout their wilderness journey. This symbolizes the constant Presence of the Lord with His people today, see Heb 13:5; Mt 28:19, 20.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 40". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-40.html. 1985.
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