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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 25

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-9


We have now reached in the revelation of the tabernacle the most important step in the history of grace yet met with in Scripture. There are several reasons for believing this: (1) the unusual preparation required on man’s part for its reception (see Exodus 24:9-18 ); (2) the large space occupied by its recital thirteen chapters in all; and (3) the depth of detail seen throughout.


The tabernacle was a divine object lesson; an embodied prophecy of good things to come; a witness to the grace and saving power of God. It taught salvation through propitiation, forgiveness and blood-shedding.

Access to God and worship it disclosed; the holiness of God; the sinfulness of man; the reconciliation which in due time should be affected, are all clearly set forth by the tabernacle and its rites.

Seven chapters are given to the specifications of the tabernacle, and six to its construction; while in between the two is the record of the unbelief and apostasy of the people in the matter of the golden calf.

Of the seven chapters of specification, three are occupied with the tabernacle itself, three with the priesthood, and one with the arrangement for carrying the whole into effect.

Our present lesson deals with the tabernacle itself.


On what principle was this offering to be presented (Exodus 25:2 )? What three metals are specified (Exodus 25:3 )? Three colors (Exodus 25:4 )?

What vegetable textile is mentioned and what animal (Exodus 25:4 )? What two kinds of skins (Exodus 25:5 )? The badger here spoken of is thought to be not the animal commonly known by that name among us, but some other animal equally well known in Arabia.

What species of wood is named (Exodus 25:5 )? This is supposed to be the acacia, abundant in Moses’ day.

The oil (Exodus 25:6 ) was from the olive, the spices are more particularly indicated (Exodus 30:23-24 ); the precious stones (Exodus 28:15-21 ), as also the ephod and breastplate in the same chapter.

What name is given to the building (Exodus 25:8 ), and for what purpose is it? The fulfillment of this purpose was in the visible cloud of glory which

overshadowed the tabernacle when completed, and rested upon the mercy seat in the Most Holy place.

As to the name “sanctuary,” it denotes especially the holiness of the place. What other name is given it (Exodus 25:9 )? This simply means a dwelling, and is sometimes used in an indefinite way for the curtain, the framework or the entire structure.

“Tent” is the name given to it in the following chapter; and at other places “the tent of meeting,” having reference to the meeting of God with His people (Exodus 29:42-43 ); or the tent or tabernacle “of testimony” (Numbers 2:50, 53), as designating the place where God declared His will, and especially testified against the sins of His people, by His holy law which, within the ark, witnessed to the covenant they had entered into at Sinai.

According to what design was the sanctuary to be erected (Exodus 25:9 )? Thus we see it was a type of God’s dwelling place in the heaven of heavens, a fact that profoundly impresses us with its significance in every detail.

We do not know how the pattern or type was shown to Moses in the mount, whether by a visible model, or vision presented to his mind, but we know it was in some sense a copy of heavenly things, and that hence Moses was allowed no liberty in constructing it.

Archeological Discoveries

Archeology has shown an analogy between the tabernacle service and the ritualistic practice of some of the heathen nations, but this is not to be interpreted as imitation or adoption on Moses’ part.

There is a similitude in the modes of worship fundamental in the human race, and Moses may have been used of God to cull out the truth from this mass of wrong and falsehood.

A parallel is that of the “Code of Hammurabi,” a Chaldean monarch, hundreds of years before Moses, who in this code gave laws to his people corresponding to those in the previous chapters.

The critics used to argue that the Mosaic code could not be of so early a date as Moses since it presupposed too advanced a civilization on the part of the people for whom it was intended. When, however, this code of Hammurabi was discovered, their tune was changed, and they exclaimed: “Ah! Moses copied after Hammurabi.”

The truth rather is that just suggested about the tabernacle. Hammurabi’s code is based upon fundamental principles of law in the constitution of the race, albeit commingled with many grotesque fancies in consequence of the fall. These fundamental principles, however, are, in their origin, divine, and in the code of Moses we find them separated from the false by the hand of their heavenly originator.


1. What three reasons show the importance attached to this theme?

2. What names are given to the tabernacle, and what are their meanings?

3. How may the pattern have been revealed to Moses?

4. How would you explain the similarity of the tabernacle service to the rituals of heathen nations?

5. What is the Code of Hammurabi, and what light does it throw on Moses’ writings?

Verse 10


THE ARK OF THE TESTIMONY (Exodus 25:10-16 )

Notice the kind of wood and the dimensions (Exodus 25:10 ). The cubit measures from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and is variously estimated from 18 to 21 inches, usually 18. How was it to be overlaid (Exodus 25:11 )? The crown of gold meant a rim or moulding. The four rings (Exodus 25:12 ) were attached to the four corners, in the sense of the four feet of the ark. The staves, or poles, were used in carrying it (Exodus 25:14 ). What was to be placed in the ark (Exodus 25:16 )? The testimony means the ten commandments. (Compare to Exodus 24:12 .)

THE MERCY SEAT (Exodus 25:17-22 )

Notice its material and dimensions (Exodus 25:17 ). What was to be placed at either end (Exodus 25:18 )? “Even of the mercy seat,” should be rendered “out of” or “of one piece with the mercy seat”; i.e., they were not separate attachments from it. What was to be the attitude and position of the cherubim (Exodus 25:20 )?

This was the attitude of observant attention, while they seemed to guard with their wings the place of the manifestation of the divine glory. Where was the mercy seat to be placed (Exodus 25:21 )? This does not mean that it was merely the cover of the ark, but a separate article, composing with the ark a unity “not so much in outward as in inward design.”

What promise is connected with the mercy seat (Exodus 25:22 )?

These two articles, the ark and the mercy seat were the only objects, (and they appeared as one), in the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy place in the tabernacle; and about them, or rather about it, the whole service of worship centered.

The ark was God’s throne (Psalms 80:1 RV), but it was a throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16 ). The mercy seat means “the place of propitiation,” and here the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled on the day of atonement, and satisfaction was rendered to the divine claims on the people represented by the law in the ark of the testimony (Psalms 85:9-10 ).

What the mercy seat did symbolically for Israel, Christ has accomplished perfectly for all who will believe on Him (Romans 3:25 ; 1 John 2:1-2 ).

THE TABLE OF SHEWBREAD (Exodus 25:23-30 )

This table was to have not only a “crown” or rim, but also a “border” with a crown or rim (v. 24-25), the distinction between which it is difficult to make.

Observe the appurtenances of the table (Exodus 25:29 ). The dishes were to hold the shewbread (Exodus 25:30 , compared with Leviticus 24:5-6 ); the bowls were for frankincense (Leviticus 24:7 ). “Covers” is, in the Revised Version, “flagons” or vessels for wine, used in drink-offerings (Numbers 15:1-12 ). The shewbread consisted of 12 cakes (Leviticus 24:5-6 ), corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, and is sometimes called the “presence-bread” or the “bread of the face.”

At certain times the priests, who represented the whole of Israel, ate this shewbread from off the table. As the table is the Lord’s and in the Lord’s house, here we have the idea of hospitality based upon friendship. We see the family of God regaled by Him at His paternal board, which speaks of perfect reconciliation and communion with Him, and helps to explain the phrase, “the bread of the face.” That is, man is represented as face to face with God in fellowship through atonement for sin. (See Genesis 14:18-20 .) Furthermore, whatever the “bread of the face” was for Israel in old times, Jesus Christ is now for His people. In and through Him we have communion with the Father (1 John 1:3 ), and He is the true Bread which sustains us in our new life (John 6:31-58 ).


“His bowls, his knops, his flowers” refers to the ornaments on the branches of the candlestick, and which were to be all of one piece. The seven lamps rest on the flowers at the extremities of the stems. The latter part of Exodus 25:37 means that the candlestick shall be so set up on the south side of the tabernacle (40:24) as to throw light upon the table opposite. It was the only light in the tabernacle, the home or dwelling place of God.

According to Zechariah 4:0 , the candlestick is a type of Israel, and according to Revelation 1, a type of the church. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and light typifies God (1 John 1:5 ), and Christ (John 8:12 ; 2 Corinthians 4:6 ). The typical significance of the whole in its present position is difficult, but may appear as we proceed.

Note that as the ark and mercy seat were to be placed in the Most Holy place, the table and candlestick were to be placed in the Holy place, i.e., outside the veil separating the two, of which later.

THE CURTAINS (Exodus 26:1-14 )

After revealing the above mentioned pieces of furniture, attention is turned to the curtains.

To begin with the inner curtains, they were to be of what number, material, colors, design, length and breadth (v. 1-2)?

Five were to be sewed together in one piece and five in another (Exodus 26:3 ). These two halves were to be connected by loops of blue fastened with golden clasps (Exodus 26:4-6 ), the whole to cover the top, sides and western end of the tabernacle, and correspond to the papering of our modern dwellings.

Of what material were the outer curtains to be made (Exodus 26:7 )? How many in number? Do they differ in length or breadth from the inner curtains (Exodus 26:8 )? How was the sixth curtain to be used (v. 9, 12)? Of what material were the clasps to be in this case (Exodus 26:11 )? How many outside “coverings” were to be made (Exodus 26:14 )? Badger is translated seal or porpoise in the Revised Version.

THE FRAMEWORK (Exodus 26:15-30 )

Notice the material, length and breadth of the boards (Exodus 26:16 ). How many tenons to each board? “Set in order” means mortised. Of what material were the sockets (Exodus 26:19 )? The word sides (Exodus 26:22 ) should be translated “back part.”

The sockets probably rested on the ground as nothing is said of sleepers under them.

How were the boards braced together (v. 26-28)? How were the boards and bars overlaid (Exodus 26:29 )? What a costly edifice it must have been! Some have calculated it as reaching $1,500,000.

THE VAIL (Exodus 26:31-35 )

The vail for the Most Holy place, and the hanging or screen for the door of the Holy place (v. 36-37) require no comment here. The typical significance of the former will come before us in its proper place.

THE BRAZEN ALTAR (Exodus 27:1-8 )

We are now in the outer court. Notice the material, size, height and shape of this altar. The “horns,” or the parts of the corner-posts projecting above the upper surface of the altar, were to be of one piece with it (RV), and the whole was to be overlaid with brass to protect from fire and weather, whence its name “the brazen altar” (Exodus 27:2 ). Upon this altar the burnt offerings were presented.


1. What is the meaning of “testimony” in the lesson?

2. What is the meaning of “mercy seat”?

3. What is the meaning of “the bread of the face”?

4. Of what are the candlestick and the oil types made?

5. What is an estimate of the cost of the tabernacle in our money?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Exodus 25". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/exodus-25.html. 1897-1910.
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