Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Exodus 25

Verse 1

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

The Lord spake unto Moses, saying. The business that chiefly occupied Moses on the mount, whatever other disclosures were made to him there, was in receiving directions about the form and arrangements of the tabernacle; and they are recorded in the following section as given to him.

Verse 2

Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.

Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering, [ t

Verse 3

And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass,

This is the offering - a list of the leading articles which the offering should embrace.

Brass - rather copper or bronze, brass being a composite metal.

Verse 4

And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair,

Blue, [ uwtkeelet (Hebrew #8504)] - from a shellfish, Helix Ianthina (Linnoeus), a species of mussel found in the Mediterranean, with a cerulean shell; whence was obtained the dark-blue purple dye; Septuagint, huakinthon.

Purple, [ w

Verse 5

And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood,

Rams' skins dyed red - red morocco leather (see the processes of tanning and dyeing leather among the ancient Egyptians described, Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt,' vol 3:, ch. 9:, pp. 155-157; 'Egypt's Testimony,' pp. 191, 198; Hengstenberg's 'Books of Moses,' pp. 138, 139).

'There is a definiteness in the name rams' skins which is worth noticing. From time out of mind the southern part of Syria and Palestine has been supplied with mutton from the great plains and deserts on the north, east, and south, and the shepherds do not ordinarily bring the females to market. The vast flocks which annually come from Armenia and Northern Syria are nearly all males. The leather, therefore, is literally rams' skins dyed red' ('The Land and the Book'). Badgers' skins, [ w

Verse 6

Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,

Oil for the light - (see the note at Exodus 27:20.) Spices for anointing oil, [ b

Verse 7

Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.

Onyx stones, [ 'abneey (Hebrew #68) shoham (Hebrew #7718)] - (see the note at Genesis 2:12.) It is doubtful what gem is meant. J.D. Michaelis supposes it to be the onyx with pale stripes.

In the ephod - (see the note on the form of the ephod, Exodus 28:6.) An ephod was a square vestment covering the shoulders, and extending over the breast, resembling a sleeveless coat. [The Septuagint has eis teen epoomida for the garment worn over the shoulders.]

And in the breastplate - ornament used specially of the breastplate of the high priest, which was externally studded with precious stones (see the note at Exodus 28:15). [The Septuagint has kai eis ton podeeree, and for the long robe (hanging down to the feet) (Revelation 1:13).] The things mentioned in the earlier part of the catalogue were brought by the people at large; but the precious stones were contributed by the princes alone (Exodus 35:27).

Verse 8

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.

Let them make me a sanctuary, [ miqdaash (Hebrew #4720)] - anything consecrated (Numbers 18:29); but here a hallowed place, a sanctuary. The command to erect such a sanctuary affords a clear proof, if any were needed, that the primitive place of worship, called "the presence of the Lord," had been completely obliterated; and although in the patriarchal history many spots are mentioned which, by the experience God's servants had there of His presence and blessings, were Bethels to them, there was no fixed or permanent place in which He manifested Himself by the visible symbols of His presence. In the contemplated sanctuary He was to do so (Exodus 29:45); and however marvelous or apparently incredible that might seem (1 Kings 8:27), this typical inhabitation of the tabernacle, and subsequently of the temple, was but a prelude to His tabernacling with men in the person of His incarnate Son (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3).

In one sense the tabernacle was to be a palace-the royal residence of the King of Israel, in which He was to dwell among His people, receive their petitions, and issue His responses. But it was also to be a place of worship, in which God was to record His name and to enshrine the mystic symbols of His presence.

Verse 9

According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

According to all that I show thee, after the pattern [ tab

Verse 10

And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. An ark, [ '

Verse 11

And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.

Thou shalt overlay it with pure gold. That this special mode of applying the precious metal to other substances, especially wood, was practiced in Egypt, undoubted evidence is furnished by the numerous remains of overlaid work still in existence. Some of them, in the form of miniature figures, are deposited in the British Museum; while the process of overlaying is represented frequently on the monuments of that country. Osburn ('Egypt's Testimony,' p. 176) describes a picture from the ancient tomb of Roti, at Benihassan, in which the practice of this art appears to be represented.

'A person stands handing out to workmen thin slips of gold latten, which they are fixing, by means apparently of strong pressure, on a block bearing some resemblance to an ark, or sacred chest. There is something beside them resembling a hook, which would be useful for holding or fastening; and from the appearance of the men, the bodily exertion of the labourer was in no degree spared in this process, either by means of tools or any other contrivance.' In this case the chest was overlaid with thin plates of gold. But Wilkinson has shown that substances were on some occasions only gilded, on others covered with gold leaf ('Ancient Egypt,' vol.

iii., p. 224; also Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and Books of Moses, p. 136).

Dr. Taylor, editor of the latter work, maintains that the 'overlaying' the furniture of the tabernacle must have been by gilding, both because if plates of gold, however thin, had been used, the weight of the plates would have rendered the tabernacle very difficult of transport, and because all the gold that Moses collected would not have sufficed to furnish plates for every article that was to be covered. The ark was to be overlaid with "pure gold." The same writer, after describing how the ore was subjected to the heat of a furnace in a capsule, to remove the dross and make pure gold - i:e., distinguished from gold unworked and not purified-says, 'In the hieroglyphic inscriptions which enumerate the gifts of the Pharaohs to the temples of the gods, the golden offerings are always designated "pure gold;" thus proving to a demonstration that as a certain standard or assay of gold existed in Egypt, and that the metal which bore it was applied to sacred purposes, this standard was known to the Israelites in the desert, and the metal so distinguished employed in a similar way.'

And shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about, [ zeer (Hebrew #2213)] - a border, rim, or cornice. This golden wreath, which was to encircle the upper edge, was probably intended more to decorate than to strengthen the lid.

Verse 12

And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.

Thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof, [ pa`

Verses 13-15

And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.

Thou shalt make staves of shittim wood. These staves, which were to be ornamented in the same style as the ark itself, were always to remain in the rings, even when the ark was stationary, to prevent it from being desecrated by the contact of human hands. The Septuagint has: hoi anaforeis akineetoi, the poles not to be moved (see the note at Numbers 4:15).

Verse 16

And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.

Thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee, [ haa`eedut (Hebrew #5715)] - that is, the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments, and called "the Testimony," because by it God did testify His sovereign authority over Israel as His people, His selection of them as the guardians of His will and worship, and His displeasure in the event of their transgressing His laws; while on their part, by receiving and depositing this law in its appointed place, they testified their acknowledgment of God's right to rule over them, and their submission to the authority of His law. [Septuagint, ta marturia (cf. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 34:29; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 17:15; Nehemiah 9:34; Psalms 19:7).]

'ln all these passages,' says Gesenius, 'the Septuagint have marturion, testimony, marturia, testimonies, according to the common etymology, but against the context, which requires precepts, or, collectively, law; hence, he translates this passage, 'In the ark thou shalt put the law-the decalogue' (see the note at Exodus 24:12 : cf. Exodus 40:20; Deuteronomy 10:5). Kurtz ('History of the Old Covenant,' 3:, p. 121) agrees with Gesenius, considering that the proper meaning of the word is 'attestation of the divine will to the people;' while Hengstenberg ('Pentateuch,' 2:, p. 319) adheres to the common interpretation of the word, maintaining that the name "Testimony" is to be traced directly to the great purpose of the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 31:26) - that of serving as a witness against the transgressor.

May not the word be taken in a wider sense, to include the other things deposited in the ark along with the law, as forming "the testimony" which God gave of His presence and favour to Israel (cf. Exodus 16:33-34; Numbers 17:10 with Hebrews 9:4 : see the note at 1 Kings 8:9). For although the Decalogue was the basis of the covenant (Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 9:9), and the divinely-engraven copy of it on the two stone tables was placed in the ark, it is unwarrantable to restrict [ haa`eedut (Hebrew #5715)], the law to it exclusively; for it is expressly said the covenant embraced not only that portion of the law which Yahweh spoke publicly, but that also which He communicated to Moses in private (cf. Exodus 25:22; Exodus 34:27).

This direction, then, to 'put into the ark the testimony which should be given to him' must be viewed as extending to all the divine communications, embracing not only the precepts and counsels contained in Exodus 20:22-26; Exodus 21:1-36; Exodus 22:1-31; Exodus 23:1-33, which Moses had already written (Exodus 24:4), but most of the remainder of this book, the whole of Leviticus, and the greater part of Numbers; because all these are included in "the testimony" (Exodus 25:16), and were among the 'things which God gave Moses in commandment unto the children of Israel' (Deuteronomy 31:26; 2 Chronicles 34:11).

The ark itself is called "the ark of the testimony" (Exodus 30:6), and in an abbreviated form, "the testimony" (Exodus 16:34). From the description here given of the form and dimensions of the ark, it appears to have been the exact counterpart of an ark carried after the statue of the god Chem, or Khem, in a painting of the time of Rameses III. The Egyptians carried an ark or shrine in procession, and their mode of doing so was that adopted by the Israelites, (Hawks' 'Mon. of Egypt,' pp. 237, 238; Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt,' Second Series, vol. 1:, ch. 13:) But although, in form and general structure, the Hebrew bore resemblance to the Egyptian ark, it was entirely purified from all superstitious accompaniments, and devoted to purposes of the true religion. It was a precious and sacred coffer; but it was not the gold that sanctified it: it was the invaluable treasure it contained. The superb and elaborate style of the ark that contained "the testimony" was emblematic of the great treasure it held-in other words, the incomparable value and excellence of the Word of God; while its being placed in this chest further showed the great care which God has ever taken for preserving it.

The parallelism that has been traced between the shrine processions of the Egyptians (Wilkinson, Second Series, vol. 2:, p. 271) and the ark of the tabernacle is only apparent, for, on a close examination, there are few or no points of resemblance beyond the fact of there being a sacred chest. For in the ark of the tabernacle there was no figure or material representation of the object of worship. It served only as a repository of His holy law; and as that law was the basis of the national covenant of Israel, the sacred deposit was a witness whether, by the keeping of the divine commandments, they were entitled to participate in its promised blessings, or their national election was at an end. The ark or sacred chests of the Hebrews and Egyptians, therefore, were associated with totally different ideas in the minds of those respective peoples.

Verse 17

And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.

Mercyseat - [ kaporet (Hebrew #3727); Septuagint, hilasteerion (Greek #2435), propitiatory (cf. Romans 3:25; Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:13).] It was a covering of pure gold spread over the ark in which the tables of the law were kept, to serve as a lid, covering it exactly, but not as a mere appendage of the ark. It was a separate article, bearing a deeply interesting and important significance; and therefore the preparation was introduced by a fresh order, "thou shalt make," etc. It was 'the propitiatory cover,' as the term may be rendered; denoting that Christ, our great propitiation, has fully answered all the demands of the law, covers our transgressions, and comes between us and the curse of a violated law.

Verse 18

And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.

Two cherubim. The real meaning of these figures, as well as the form of them, is not known with certainty (see the note at Genesis 3:24): they were probably similar to what were afterward introduced into the temple, and described, Ezekiel 10:1-22. They stretched out their wings, and their faces were turned toward the mercyseat, probably in a bowing attitude. The prevailing opinion has been that those splendid figures were symbolical not of angelic but of earthly and human beings-the members of the Church of God interested in the dispensation of grace, the redeemed in every age-and that these hieroglyphic forms symbolized the qualities of the true people of God-courage, patience, intelligence, and activity (see the note on the primitive form, attitude, and position of the cherubim, Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and Books of Moses,' pp. 153-159; Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt,' Second Series, vol. 2:, p. 275; B„hr,`Symbol.,' 1:, p. 350; Donaldson's 'Christian Orthodoxy,'

p. 354; Hardwick, 'Christ and Other Masters,' 2:, pp. 324-330).

A different view from that given above is advanced by Mr. Rhind ('The Tabernacle in the Wilderness;' etc., p.

21). 'The construction as well as uses of the mercyseat seem to preclude either of the common interpretations of the type, as referring either to angels or to the Church. The cherubim are distinctly stated to be of the mercyseat, and out of the mercyseat (Exodus 25:19 : cf. Exodus 37:8). And this is still more apparent in the Hebrew text, where the preposition used in Exodus 25:18-19 (as well as verses Exodus 37:7-8), and translated, "on the mercyseat," and "on the two ends," etc., should properly be translated 'from;' also, as to the word "beaten work" (Exodus 25:18) (cf. Exodus 37:7, "beaten out of one piece"), the meaning seems to be, that the cherubim were not cast or moulded separately from the mercyseat, and then attached to it, but were beaten out of the solid mass of gold which formed the mercyseat, the one being beaten from out of the one end, and the other from the other. The mercyseat and cherubim being thus all of one piece, represents, it is believed, Christ, as the one who holds all the glorious power of God, associated with mercy, and in and through whom God is able to display His power and righteousness-ever inseparably linked on with mercy and grace.'

Verses 19-21

And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 22

And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

There I will meet with thee. The shechinah, or symbol of the divine presence, rested on the mercyseat, and was indicated by a cloud, from the midst of which responses were audibly given when God was consulted on behalf of His people. Hence, God is described as 'dwelling' or 'sitting' between the cherubim (Psalms 80:1 : cf. Isaiah 6:1-3), whose wings were so expanded or disposed as, according to the view of some writers, to form the seat of God (cf. Psalms 18:10), while the ark was his footstool. This promise, made to Moses as the divine delegate in introducing the Sinaitic dispensation, was fulfilled in his experience (Numbers 7:89); and afterward, when the tabernacle ritual had been fully organized, it was accomplished in that of the high priest, who alone was privileged once a year to enter (Leviticus 16:1-34), and through whom God communicated His will to the people (Exodus 29:42; Exodus 40:29; Leviticus 17:4), whether in the delivery of oracles, in the form of councils, acceptance of their homage, or announcement of His blessing (see the note at Exodus 40:20-21).

Verse 23

Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.

Table of shittim wood - of the same material and decorations as the ark, and, like it, too, furnished with rings for the poles on which it was carried. The staves, however, were taken out of it when stationary, in order not to encumber the priests while engaged in their services at the table. It was half a cubit less than the ark, but of the same height.

Verse 24

And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about.

Crown - the moulding, or ornamental rim, which is thought to have been raised above the level of the table, to prevent anything from falling off.

Verses 25-28

And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 29

And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them.

Dishes, [ q

Verse 30

And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.

Showbread, [ lechem (Hebrew #3899) paaniym (Hebrew #6440)] - literally, bread of faces, presence bread [Septuagint, artoi enoopioi] (Leviticus 24:5-9); so called because it was constantly exhibited before the Lord, or because the bread of His presence, like the angel of His presence, pointed symbolically to Christ. It consisted of twelve unleavened loaves, said traditionally to have been laid in piles of six each. This bread was designed to be a symbol of the full and never-failing provision which is made in the Church for the spiritual sustenance and refreshment of God's people.

Verse 31

And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.

Candlestick - literally, a lamp-bearer. It was so constructed as to be capable of being taken to pieces for facility in removal. The shaft or stock rested on a pedestal. It had seven branches, shaped like reeds or canes-three on each side, with one in the center-and worked out into knobs (bosses or protuberances), flowers [Septuagint, krina (Greek #2918), lilies], and bowls placed alternately. The figure represented on the arch of Titus gives the best idea of this candlestick.

Of beaten work, [ miqshaah (Hebrew #4749), from qaashah, to be heavy] - solid, beaten or hammered out; but according to some (from a different sense of the verb, to turn), turned work, rounded, hollow within (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 3:, ch. 6:, sec. 7).

His shaft, [ y

Verse 32

And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side:

Six branches, [ qaaniym (Hebrew #7070); Septuagint, kalamiskoi] - arms, tubes, bearing the light. There were seven branches-the central stalk and six branches, or arms. Each arm was adorned at equal distances with six flower-shaped ornaments, with the same number of knobs and bowls alternately recurring.

Verses 33-36

Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 37

And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.

They shall light the lamps thereof, [ w

Verse 38

And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold.

And the tongs thereof, [ uwmalqaacheyhaa (Hebrew #4457)] - sometimes large tongs for a fire (cf. Isaiah 6:6); but here small tongs, or snuffers for lamps (cf. Exodus 37:23; Numbers 4:9; 1 Kings 7:49; 2 Chronicles 4:21).

Verse 39

Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels. A talent of pure gold - in weight equal to 114 lbs., and in value to 7,013 pound sterling. It must have been a magnificent work of art. (As to its typical import, see the note at Leviticus 24:1-4.)

Verse 40

And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.

Look that thou make them after their pattern. This caution, which is repeated with no small frequency in other parts of the narrative, is an evidence of the deep interest taken by the Divine King in the erection of His palace or sanctuary; and it is impossible to account for the circumstance of God's condescending to such minute details, except on the assumption that this tabernacle was to be of a typical character, and eminently subservient to the religious instruction and benefit of mankind, by shadowing forth, in its leading features, the grand truths of the Christian Church.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 25". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.