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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 27

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-21

Exodus 27:1. Make an altar. The altar, says a living author before mentioned, seems to have been intended only for the present purpose, until further orders were given; and especially for those sacrifices with which the national covenant was ratified. Exodus 20:24.

Exodus 27:2. Horns. The horns were ornamental turrets, which prevented the victims from falling off; and to these they were sometimes bound when about to be sacrificed. Psalms 118:17. The horns seem to have been long, that culprits might take hold of them, as Joab did, when he fled from the wrath of the king. The gentile altars had the same kind of horns. The altar was entirely covered with thick plates of brass, with a place to receive the fuel and lay the flesh upon, very curiously formed, to prevent the wood being consumed by the fire. Neither could the human nature of Christ have supported the fire of divine wrath for sin, had it not been in union with his divinity.

Exodus 27:3. Basons. In these was received the blood of the sacrifices, in order to its being sprinkled.

Exodus 27:20. Cause the lamp to burn always. The LXX amplify this reading. The people are required to bring pure oil, “that the lamp may burn always in the tabernacle of testimony without the veil.” The heathens had much the same ritual; their lamps burned, and their fires on the altar were guarded by the priests, and in many places by vestal virgins. The American Indians had fires likewise in their temples. In 1727, the French at the Mobile were massacred by the Indians. Chepar, the governor, having cruelly treated the Natchees, they convened a meeting of the neighbouring tribes; and having fixed on one moon for preparation, the priest delivered a bunch of thirty rods to each tribe, with instructions to burn one rod every day upon the altar. But Braspike, the chief’s mother, being connected with a French officer, had the address to steal one of the rods, which occasioned the Natchees to begin the massacre on the 28th of December, instead of the 29th, which gave the French in other places, one day of alarm. The similarity of these customs of lamps and fires demonstrates that Noah had handed down those institutions to his sons. The ritual was of divine and primitive authority.


Oh altar, altar, most instructive, tragic, and atoning altar! How many trembling culprits take hold of thy horns! How many trembling victims bleed at thy foot, and are consumed in thy flames! How awful is the character of justice, whose sword is unsheathed, and who seems to cast a disdainful look on the sinners, as well as on their victims, until a voice is heard from the mercy-seat, “sacrifice and burnt-offering thou wouldest not; mine ears hast thou opened, a body hast thou prepared me. Lo I come, as it is written of me, in the volume of the law and the prophets. Thy law is within me: I delight to do thy will, oh God.” Psalms 40:6-7.

This beautiful tabernacle, seen by day from afar by its splendid colours, and by night by its flames, is a striking figure of Jews and Gentiles mixed in its outward court. Also of the true church, within the tabernacle; and of heaven itself, by the most holy place. May the Lord count us worthy to follow from the outward to the inner court, and then to the holy of holies in the paradise above.

We see here the fire of the altar, ever burning to take away the daily faults of an offending people, for the love of Christ ever glows with compassion towards them.

The lamps, ever burning in the temple, adumbrate the light of the Lord shining forth in the glory of the gospel, rising with beams of grace and righteousness on the church, and with the light of life in every believer’s heart. Zion has often been under an exterior cloud, but she has always light within. Christ still walks amid the golden candlesticks, and causes the church to shine by reflection, with beauties enhanced, as a city set on a hill. It is the portion of the finally impenitent to be thrust into outer darkness.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 27". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/exodus-27.html. 1835.
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