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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 26

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-37

4. The Tent, or the Dwelling itself. Exodus 26:1-30

I. The Component Parts of the Tent as to Form.

a. The tent itself. (1) Ten curtains of byssus each 28 cubits long, and 4 cubits wide. (2) Fifty loops to each curtain, to connect together five curtains. (3) Five times fifty golden clasps, to connect the loops1

b. The covering of the tent. First covering, of goats’ hair: eleven curtains, each 30 cubits long, and 4 cubits wide, divided into sets of 5 and 6. For them 50 [or rather, 100] loops and 50 copper clasps. One curtain is folded double on the front side of the tent. The surplus cubits hang over on the two sides. A similar excess hangs over on the back end of the tent.—Second covering, rams’ skins dyed red.—Third covering, the outer one, seal-skins.

c. The supports of the tent. The boards of acacia wood. Each board 10 cubits long, 1½ cubits wide. Two tenons in each board. Twenty boards on the south side resting on forty silver sockets (feet).—Twenty boards on the north side with the same number of sockets. Six boards for the rear. Two boards for the corners of the rear. In addition, the bars (cross-bars or connecting bars), 5 for each side, the middle one passing the whole length of the framework. The bars and boards gilt. Also the rings for the bars.2

II. The Component Parts as to material. Byssus, linen, goats’-hair, and the two kinds of skin. Acacia wood, gold, silver, copper.
III. The Colors. Especially significant. The covering proper of the tent contains the four colors: white, purplish-blue, purplish-red, crimson.
IV. The Work of the Curtains. The work of skilful weavers, i.e., with figures interwoven, viz., with figures of cherubim.

V. The different kinds of woven work.

5. The Veil. Exodus 26:31-37

The division between the holy place and the Holy of holies. According to modern notions there is no difference between the wide, savage world and the court, no difference between the court and the holy place, none, in fine, between the holy place and the most holy. The Biblical notions are infinitely purer and finer. Even between the holy place and the most holy hangs a thick curtain, as between the Old and New Testament. The passage from the holy place into the Holy of holies has been made free to His people by Christ.
As the heaven of heavens is to be conceived as a high heaven consisting of individual heavens, the age (æon) of ages (æons) as an age which consists of individual ages, the Sabbath of Sabbaths as one whose several week days are seven Sabbaths; so the Holy of holies is a sanctuary of sanctuaries, קֹדֶשׁ קֳדָשִׁים, and so, most holy. Especially is it to be observed that the three principal features of the holy place, viz., the table of shew-bread, the candlestick, and the altar of incense, here coalesce into one.

As there were three altars, so three curtains. The first screened the court; the second, the holy place; the third, the Holy of holies. The latter was the principal one. Keil and Knobel give details about the construction and arrangement of the curtain, as also about the Arab tents and Egyptian temples.3

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6. The Altar of Burnt-offering. Exodus 27:1-8

The fact that the altar of burnt-offering was separated not only from the Holy of holies, but also from the holy place, and stood in the court, serves to express this religious idea: that faith begins with the first approach to God, with obedience to His law and surrender to His judgment; but that it does not for that reason entitle one to an entrance into the interior communion with God in the sanctuary, still less to a complete union with God in the Holy of holies; although it has this as its aim, and is a preparation for it, and also through religious fellowship with the high-priest gives to him who makes the offering a conditional participation in the blessing of the Holy of holies, and gives him a hope of future entrance into the Holy of holies itself.

This distance between the holy place and the Holy of holies is also represented by the gradations in the value of the metallic ornamentations. The altar of burnt-offering was overlaid with copper: the seven-branched candlestick in the holy place consisted of fine or hollow vessels; the table of shew-bread was gilt; the ark of the covenant was gilt inside and outside, while its lid and the cherubim on it, as also the rim of the ark, were of solid gold. A similar relation exists between the curtains. The veil of the Holy of holies was the work of a skilled weaver, adorned with figures of cherubim in which the reflection of the cherubim in the Holy of holies appears. The second curtain, which screened the holy place, was simply woven in variegated colors, striped, or perhaps checkered; so also the screen at the entrance of the court. Significant special features in the altar of burnt-offering are particularly its horns, the points of the corners, the permanent power of the altar, so to speak, in contrast with the fire which now appears and now disappears; “hence,” as Keil says, “the blood of the sin-offering was put upon them (Leviticus 4:7), and also those who sought the protection of their lives at the altar seized hold of them (vid. Exodus 21:14).” Among the vessels bowls appear again, but here to be used for sprinkling the blood. Special mention, moreover, is made of the grating of the altar under the ledge or rim (כַּרְכֹּב), and of this ledge itself. “Upon the karkob, the ledge or rim, the priest stepped when an offering was made, or when he wished to add more wood, or do anything else on the altar” (Keil). Knobel has a different view, holding [that the rim was only an ornament, that such a ledge to step on would have disfigured the altar, and moreover] that the altar was so high that it could not have been served without steps; which is contrary to Exodus 20:26. Keil, on the contrary, supposes that the earth was slightly heaped up, so that the priest could step from it to the ledge. Neither does the height of the altar in Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 4:1) exclude the assumption of such a gradual ascent. The grating was an enclosure to protect the altar; the rings by which the altar was carried were also fastened to it. The altar itself was a wooden structure consisting of four plane sides overlaid with copper, forming a hollow square, which was probably filled with earth, gravel, or stones (vid. Exodus 20:24). The place for the fire had to be adequately separated from the wooden border.

7. The Court. Exodus 27:9-19

The hangings which enclosed the court were not wrought in the four sacred colors, like the covering of the tabernacle itself, but were simply white. Moreover, they formed no roof, as that did, but only a boundary, an enclosure. The pillars here, moreover, have copper sockets, not silver ones; only the hooks of the pillars and the rods connecting them were of silver, the latter perhaps only overlaid with silver, as the pillars at the entrance of the tabernacle were gilt. It is to be further observed, that the court properly unites the notions of a porch and of a quadrangular wall of enclosure, since it passed around the tabernacle from east to west.

iii. the persons and things occupying the building. the ritual worship. Exodus 27:20 to Exodus 30:38.

In speaking now exclusively of the features of the ritual worship, it is to be observed that we must distinguish the general worship of the house of God from the specific, Levitical worship, the sacrificial ritual described in Leviticus.

1. The Oil for the Light. The Lamps. Exodus 27:20-21

The first condition of life, in the house of the Lord as well as elsewhere, is light; and the prerequisite of that is oil. Light is the spirit in action, symbolized by oil, which is a symbol of the spiritual life itself. The first business of the priest was to be to prepare and produce light—even in the Old Testament. How is it in this respect with the sacrificial priesthood of the present time? The text says that this is to be a perpetual statute. On the oil vid Knobel.4

2. The Sacerdotal Vocation. The Priest—his Assistants and Apparel. Exodus 28:0

The consecration of the priests is not treated of here, as Knobel thinks, but the priestly calling and its symbolic representation by means of the clothing; the consecration is not distinctly spoken of till the next chapter.
First, then, the vocation of the Priest, Exodus 28:1-5. That Aaron is to be the priest (i.e., high priest), is presupposed; or, rather, it is Jehovah’s commandment which is fulfilled by his coming before Moses, the prophet of God. The prophetic order is therefore perpetually the medium through which, and the condition on which, the priestly order officiates. But the priest is essentially only one—a truth which in the N. T. is fulfilled in the high-priesthood of Christ. His sons therefore must approach with him, as being his descendants and legal successors, and as being his actual assistants. So they are first publicly presented to the congregation, and the latter take part in their appointment by furnishing men of sacred skill able to prepare the sacred garments which are to portray the symbolic phenomenon of the sacerdotal vocation, and by furnishing the materials for them (all of which is shadowed forth in Christianity, but not in the least in the “infallible” Pope). The main particulars are given in a significant order. As in the house of Jehovah the chief thing is the ark, so in the service of Jehovah is the breast-plate of the high-priest, with which, however, the shoulder-piece or ephod is immediately connected; for the priest is not only as a sympathizing intercessor to bear his people on his heart, but also, as a fellow-sufferer and laborer, on his shoulders. The shoulder-piece and the breast-plate form substantially one whole, whose most important part is the breast-plate; just as the mercy-seat is connected with the ark of the law, and yet forms in itself the principal thing in the Holy of holies, being, so to speak, the New Testament in the Old. So also in the breast-plate the eternal intercession of the eternal High Priest is adumbrated. Then follow the robe, the coat, the turban, and the girdle.

Next, therefore, is described the shoulder-piece or ephod, this being designed to underlie the breast-plate, Exodus 28:6-14. From the whole cast of the precept it is evident that the culminating feature was its serving to bear the breast-plate. The material of the shoulder-piece is of as costly work, in all the four colors of the covenant, as the veil of the Holy of holies, “except that instead of the figures of cherubim woven into the veil, this is to be artistically inwrought with gold, i.e., gold threads” (Keil). According to Knobel, the ephod consisted of one piece, which had holes slit in it for the arms. But this leaves us no clear conception of it, for in this case there must have been another slit for the head too; and moreover in that case the symbolic reference to the two shoulders would be lost. According to Keil’s representation, the two shoulder-pieces seem to be too much separated; but they are not “connecting” so much as connected. The Rabbinical conception which he accepts seems quite untenable. It seems almost necessary to suppose that there was a connection not only on the front side, but also on the back; for only on this condition could the girdle, of like material and color, fasten the ephod.5 The girdle itself also is of one piece with the ephod; for firmness and collectedness are necessary in order to bear the burden of the people on the shoulders. That this was to be done by the high-priest, is expressed by the onyx (shoham) stones which were fastened on the right and left shoulder pieces and had engraved on them the names of the sons of Israel in the order of age—a foreshadowing of the names on the breast-plate, as the cherubim in the veil foreshadow the cherubim in the Holy of holies itself, and the altar of burnt-offering (used also for sin and trespass-offerings, and for the great sin-offering) foreshadows the propitiatory lid or mercy-seat. Finally in the ephod are to be considered the golden settings or rings, with their golden chains, by means of which the breast-plate is to be fastened to the ephod.

Now follows the most important article—the breast-plate

Exodus 28:15-30 : the breast-plate of judicial sentence. By this phrase would we represent the meaning of מִשְׁפָּט, because it comprises both factors, light and right [Urim and Thummim], the sentence of salvation or of righteousness, and the sentence of judgment. The source and combination of both elements is found in the sympathy of the high-priest with the people of God. The material of the breast-plate is like that of the shoulder-pieces. Its form is square; for the people of God signify symbolically God’s perfect world; they are eventually to dwell in the Holy of holies (Revelation 21:24). The doubling of it, aside from any other reference (e.g., to make it a pocket for the stones used in drawing lots), may have this meaning: that the inner fold represents the divine justice; the outer one, the people. The people are laid upon the heart of the high-priest, with the twelve precious stones set in four rows: four, the mundane number [the four points of the compass], multiplied by three, the number of the spirit [intellect, feelings, will], thus pointing to the world as made complete in and by the people of God. The twelve precious stones denote the variety, manifoldness, and totality of the natural and gracious gifts bestowed on the people of God, and united in the one spirit of heavenly preciousness. This wonderful idea goes from the twelve sons of Jacob through the whole Bible, and at last, proceeding from the number of the twelve apostles, attains its complete expression in the Apocalypse, vid. Comm. on Revelation, p. 385. The rows are as follows:

(Flesh Color.)


(Brilliant Green.)



(Transparent or Reddish-Yellow.)



(Mostly Violet.)




For archæological and other details, see Knobel, p. 283, and my Vermischte Schriften, I. p. 18.

The fastening of the breast-plate to the ephod was an important task; no part was to be injured in the process. The description is hard to understand. We find a clue by the use of two suggestions. First, by determining that two golden chains hang down from the ephod towards the breast-plate. Secondly, by determining that the breast-plate must be loose at the top, as a pocket, for which reason also only two corners, viz., those at the bottom, are spoken of. On these corners two golden rings are fixed, into which the golden chains of the ephod are inserted, they themselves passing down by the breast plate and then returning into the connecting hooks of the ephod. Thus the breast-plate is held secure from falling, but may still become displaced. Hence two more golden rings have to be put upon the corners of the edge of the pocket, towards the inner part, i.e., on the inside part of the pocket, in order that the pocket itself may be left open. These rings correspond to two golden rings on the ephod which are fixed upon the breast side of it above where the two parts are joined together. These corresponding rings are tied fast together with a purplish-blue cord. So much importance and particularity belong to the business of fastening the breast-plate to the high-priest’s breast; and this fact has doubtless its significance. Knobel has a different conception.6 The ordinance that Aaron must appear with the breast-plate before Jehovah (Exodus 28:29) is designed to be a symbolical reference to the high-priestly intercession; and so the opposite of this is quite appropriate, viz., the direction that he shall proclaim light and right to the people in the name of Jehovah, with royal authority, as it were, after he has consecrated this commission in Jehovah’s presence, Exodus 28:30. Vid. Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8. Comp. Comm. on John 11:51. On the various explanations of אוּרִים and תֻּמִּים [Urim and Thummim] see the Dictionaries and Commentaries. Luther’s translation, “Licht und Recht” [“light and right (justice)”] is much better than that of the LXX., δήλωσις καὶ�, or that of the Vulg., doctrina et veritas. We translate: “Lights and decision,” connecting תֹּם with the meaning “to be finished,” “to be at an end,” which תָּמַם has in Kal; and “to finish,” “to terminate,” in Hiphil. So also Symmachus and Theodotion translate φωτισμοὶ καὶ τελειώσεις. As to the question what the object of them was, as stated in Numbers 27:21, the Urim and Thummim mark a kind of permanent judgment-hall where prophetico-royal decisions were rendered. There were not always prophets in Israel, and also not always kings; but the priest was always to be found, and so also the living God, who was the King of Israel, and after whose will Israel was always to inquire. Hence it was the high-priest’s duty, when the prophetic voice was wanting, always to give answer when the people asked what was to be done. Herein the priest was the vicar of the prophet, as in other cases the reverse happened. But because the priest was a hereditary one, he was as such neither prophet nor king, and could therefore give answer only through a special medium, the oracle of the Urim and Thummim. In many cases the answer of Jehovah was at once light and right; in favorable cases, when the inquirers were pious, as is assumed in the case mentioned in Numbers 27:21, it was Urim; also in the worst case, such as is implied in John 11:51, the decision, necessary in all cases, took the form of Thummim in bringing on judgment. It was regarded as a condition of peculiar distress when, there was at hand neither a prophet, nor a king, nor the priest with Urim and Thummim (Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65), or when the oracle Urim gave no answer—a circumstance which might grow out of the institution itself (1 Samuel 14:37), or out of a variance between the high-priest and the inquirer. As to the question what the Urim and Thummim were, they could not have consisted in the stones of the breast-plate themselves, which, as Josephus and Saalschütz suppose, inspired the high-priest as he looked down upon them; still less in two small oracular images, teraphim, which, as Philo probably or perhaps conceives, were inserted in the orifice of the breastplate. The Urim and Thummim must certainly have been an object distinct from the breast-plate itself, and something which Moses was to put into it. The Rabbins conceived that in the inside of the breast-plate was the sacred tetragrammaton (Jehovah), and that this illuminated the names on the breast-plate; the Cabbalists assumed, instead of this, two similarly efficacious names of God. Züllig understands the object to have been two diamond dice to be used in drawing lots (Apokalypse, I. p. 408). So much is established, that the phrase “to ask of Jehovah” may be explained both by the phrase “ask of the Urim and Thummim,” and by the notion of decision by lot (1 Samuel 10:20; 1 Samuel 14:36). It is noticeable that in 1 Samuel 28:6 the lot is not mentioned in connection with Urim. Comp. on the lot Winer, Realwörterbuch, II. p. 31. On the derivation of the Urim and Thummim from an Egyptian judicial symbol, vid. Winer, II. p. 644 [and Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Art. Urim and Thummim]. Reference can only be assumed to something analogous in the Egyptian institution. The main point is that the resolute spirit of the Holy Scriptures regarded hesitation as the evil of evils—e.g., in the life of Saul and of Judas. Hence the lot, hence the need of decision. In accordance with his coarse anthropopathic conceptions, Knobel holds that the precious stones were in the proper sense to remind Jehovah of Israel, p. 287. The directions concerning the Urim and Thummim seem to have been intentionally made very brief and kept mysterious. Vid. more in Knobel.

The outer robe, Exodus 28:31. Luther’s translation is here very arbitrary, but was probably occasioned by the desire to leave the breast-plate uncovered: “Thou shalt also make the silk robe under the coat all of yellow silk.” For if a מְעִיל, a covering (not to be absolutely confounded with the ordinary מְעִיל), was made for the ephod, such an over-garment must necessarily have covered the breast-plate also, if it was a long robe closely fitting (according to Keil), reaching to the knees, and, according to the Alexandrians, even reaching, as ποδήρης, to the feet. Against both assumptions is not only the fact that in that case the breast-plate would have been covered, but also the manner in which the robe was put on, viz., over the head, by means of an opening (as in the case of a coat of mail)—which also implies the absence of sleeves. Besides, there would then come two girdles at nearly the same place, since the coat had its own girdle, vid. Exodus 28:39. The representation in Leviticus 8:7 seems, it is true, somewhat inexact.7 The significance of this hyacinth-colored, dark-blue, purple ornament may be sought in this, that the burden of the high-priest symbolized by the ephod was not to be made a spectacle to the world, but was to be hidden by a symbol of the royal splendor of his vocation. Two questions are raised by this conception of the covering for the ephod. First: If the robe was so short, what was the case with the rest of the garments? This is answered by Exodus 28:39 and the parallel description, Exodus 39:27. They made the coats (הַכָּתְנֹת) of white byssus. Secondly: How could the bells ring, if they lay so high up that even the breast-plate was to be exposed? This question is solved if we take ‍שׁוּלָי‍ו [“its skirts”] in its original sense, i.e., not as its hem, but its train, and assume that the robe was so cut that it left the breast-plate free, while it flowed out sidewise in trains.

On the various interpretations of the bells and pomegranates, vid. Keil.8 According to Keil or Bähr, the pomegranates are symbols of the word and testimony of God; the bells, with their ringing, symbols of the sound of this word. But in this case Moses the prophet would have abdicated his functions to Aaron the priest. The symbolic meaning of the pomegranate is very hard to fix (vid. Friedrich, Symbolik und Mythologie der Natur); perhaps the most natural assumption is that in the alternation of pomegranates and bells is to be discerned the connection of nature, as represented in its abundance and beauty by the pomegranate, with the theocracy as designed to manifest, itself in the sacrificial vocation of the high-priest through holy time, and through the awakening voice of the thunder, the trumpet, and the bells. The gifts of nature and of grace are the offerings which the high-priest brings to Jehovah over his shoulders.

The clause, “that he die not,” can hardly mean that sudden death would follow the neglect of the precept, but that this would be an official misdemeanor worthy of death, an offence consisting chiefly in contempt of Jehovah and of the customs of the sanctuary, but also particularly in the fact that the connection between Jehovah and the congregation is not only effected in general by means of these bells, but is also enlivened by the sacred moment [the advent of which they announce]. From the farthest distance, as it were, the sound of the bells is heard, indicating holy time (as the organ indicates the holy place), although the large bell is not immediately derived from an enlargement of these small ones.
The plate of gold for the forehead, Exodus 28:36. A plate of gold fastened to the turban by a dark-blue purple string, with the inscription, “Holiness (or holy) to Jehovah,” and designated in Exodus 39:30 as the holy crown. The meaning is that Aaron is to bear the expiation (עֲוֹן, i.e., expiation of the guilt) of the gifts of the sanctuary, which the children of Israel shall hallow, etc. That is, the high-priest has to effect the expiation of the expiations before Jehovah. The children of Israel also bring expiatory offerings of all kinds before Jehovah; but guilt cleaves even to their offerings; the high-priest, however, is symbolically to accomplish the expiation of all these guilt-stained expiations. Thus, then, the high-priest’s plate of gold points to the chief function which he was to discharge on the great day of atonement, on which day, even on his entrance into the Holy of holies, he had, if not exactly to supplement, yet to complete, the whole abundance of the expiatory offerings of the children of Israel, to cleanse them from the stain of guilt (the negative guilt of deficiency, and the positive guilt of wrong-doing) which cleaves to them. How rich in instruction this symbol is in its relation to the high-priesthood and sacrifice of Christ! From the instituting of this plate to the fulfilment of the prophecy in Zechariah 14:20 is a great distance. The general fulfilment is announced in John 17:0.; the eschatological fulfilment is pictured in Revelation, Exodus 21:0. Knobel, referring to ancient heathen customs, resolves the thing itself wholly into sensuous conceptions, speaking of “external lapses of the children of Israel in connection with their offering of gifts—the conciliatory appearance of the high-priest,” and referring to a custom of the ancients, in offering sacrifices to put garlands on themselves and on the victims. But vid. the quotation from Calvin in a note in Keil, II. p. Exodus 204: [“The iniquity of the sacred offerings was to be borne and cleansed by the priest. It is a frigid explanation to say that whatever error crept into the ceremonies was remitted through the prayers of the priest. For we must look further back, and see that the iniquity of the offerings was obliterated by the priest for the reason that no offering, so far as it is man’s, is wholly free from defect. It sounds harsh and almost paradoxical to say that holy things themselves are unclean, so as to need pardon; but it is to be held that there is absolutely nothing so pure but that it contracts some stain from us… Nothing is more excellent than the worship of God; and yet the people could offer nothing, even when it was prescribed by law, without the intervention of pardon, which they could obtain only through the priest.”]

Aaron’s coat, Exodus 28:39. The tunic proper, with which also his sons were clothed. It reached to the ankles, and was also provided with sleeves. It was made of white byssus; but Aaron’s coat was, distinguished by being more artistically wrought. The girdle of his coat was also of variegated work. According to Josephus (Ant. III. 7, 2) purple and crimson flowers were woven into the linen girdles of the priests.

The clothing of the sons, Exodus 28:40. Of Aaron’s assistants, or the ordinary priests. It consisted in the coat of white byssus, the girdle, and the cap. These articles are not included in the description of Aaron’s clothing, because there were differences. The sons do not receive the prerogatives of the high-priest; and Aaron’s head-gear is the turban with the gold plate, while the sons receive caps. “מִגְבָּעָה is only used of the headdress of the common priests, Exodus 29:9; Exodus 39:28; Leviticus 8:13. The word is related to גָבִיעַ, goblet, cup (Exodus 25:31), so that these head-tires seem to have had a conical form. This was also customary in reference to other sacerdotal persons of antiquity” (Knobel). The passage, 1 Samuel 22:18, seems to merge the whole family of priests into one, as inheriting in that capacity the high-priesthood, and therefore the ephod. A different point of view would lead critics to make a sharp distinction between the time of the original giving of the law and the time of Samuel.

The investment, anointing, and consecration of the priests, Exodus 28:41. This equipment is common to all, but conferred wholly by Moses, not even in part by Aaron after he himself has been equipped. Nor does Aaron anoint even his sons, but the prophet does it. That which was genealogically transmitted from Aaron to his descendants must therefore be continually supplemented by the transmission of spiritual life in the theocracy. The clothes denote the dignity and burden of the office; the anointment is a symbol of the Spirit; the hands filled are the signs of the sacrificial gifts furnished by the congregation,—of the emoluments which they themselves first of all have to bring as an offering to Jehovah. With this investment is completed the potential sanctification or consecration; the strict, actual consecration of the priests is yet to follow.

The breeches and the object of them, Exodus 28:42-43. This ordinance forms a transition to the actual consecration of the priests. It is significant that it follows the official investment. The official clothing in the narrow sense conferred dignity and ornament; these, on the other hand, were only to avert dishonor and disgrace. The reason for this covering, according to Baumgarten, lay in the fact that “the sins of nature have their principal seat in the ‘flesh of nakedness!’ ” According to Keil the physical members mentioned, “which subserve the natural secretions, are pudenda, or objects of shame, because in these secretions is made evident the mortality and corruptibility of the body which through sin has permeated human nature.” Neither the first, theosophic explanation, nor the latter, most peculiarly orthodox one, can be derived from Genesis 3:0. The organs of the strongest impulses, those which through sin have been morbidly deranged, belong, even physiologically, to the dark side of life, and are therefore to be kept mysterious, like births themselves, in connection with which there can be no thought of lust; but in an ethical respect, affecting the whole human race, they are not objects of a dispassionate æsthetic contemplation, but confusing to the senses, for which reason also there is a difference between naked children and naked adults: religiously considered, finally, they are indeed signs of the moral nakedness of man, of his natural and hereditary guilt. Furthermore, “religious reverence demands that, when they officially approach the altar, they should cover still more the above-mentioned parts, which, even in common life, through natural bashfulness are carefully covered, whereas for the rest of the body a single covering suffices” (Knobel). But in a sense the altar also becomes to the mind of the priest, according to chap. 23, a symbol of God as seeing. This duty, too, is declared to be most holy for ever, and so it obtains also a symbolic character, signifying that everything sexual is to be avoided in the service of the sanctuary. It marks the opposite extreme of the voluptuous rites of the heathen, and of the commingling of sexual passion with the religious fanaticism. But as shamelessness in worship is particularly designated as a capital offence, so in general every other shameless act.


[1][This is incorrect. Fifty loops to each curtain would make five hundred loops, whereas there were only one hundred. For these loops were not to connect the five curtains to one another, as Lange says, but to connect the one curtain made up of five (coupled together we are not told how) with the curtain made up of the other five. Accordingly, also, there were only fifty clasps, not two hundred and fifty.—Tr.].

[2] [Lange says nothing about the shape of the tabernacle, or about the manner in which the curtains are arranged. It is a vexed question. The following are the principal views: (1) It being clear and undisputed that the board framework was 30 cubits long, 10 broad, and 10 high, one theory is that the ten curtains, called “the tabernacle” in Exodus 26:1, were so joined together side to side as to form two curtains of equal size, each 28 cubits long, and 20 cubits broad; that these two were looped together (Exodus 26:5), and the whole was spread horizontally over the tops of the boards, thus hanging down 9 cubits on each side, i.e., within one cubit of the ground, since the two sides (each 10 cubits) and the width (10 cubits) together are equal to 30 cubits. The breadth of both curtains being 40 cubits, and the length of the wooden structure only 30, and the entrance (according to Exodus 26:9; Exodus 26:36) being provided with a special curtain, it follows that 10 cubits must have hung down on the west (back) end, and so the curtain just reached the ground. (2) Another view (brought into favor by Bähr) differs from this in that the lower (linen) curtains are conceived as hanging down inside, not outside, of the boards. (3) Saalschütz supposes that the curtains formed a roofed tent above the boards, the bottom of the under-curtain just touching the top of the boards. This roof would reach about 13 cubits above the top of the boards, the ridge having an angle of about 40°. Paine’s theory is somewhat similar, but in its details is so fantastical and arbitrary as hardly to merit a full statement. (4) Fergusson (in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Art. Temple) also holds that there was a ridge above the boards and half-way between them, so that the goats’-hair curtain formed a tent proper (as it is called in Exodus 26:7, where A. V. mistranslates, “covering”). But his view differs from that of Saalschütz, in that he makes the angle at the ridge a right angle (the more natural angle for a roof), so that the two sides of the roof projected beyond the boards, the lower point being 5 cubits above the ground and 5 cubits horizontally from the boards. He also assumes that the roof extended 5 cubits beyond the boards in the front and in the rear, so that the extra 10 cubits did not hang down at all over the west end. The accompanying diagram exhibits a section of the tabernacle according to Fergusson’s theory. The apparent absence of all allusion to a ridge-pole Fergusson would supply by explaining “the middle bar” of Exodus 26:28 as referring not to a bar like the others at the side, but to the ridge-pole. He supposes also (though no express mention is made of it) that the sides of the verandah and the western end were enclosed with curtains, and that the ridge-pole must have been supported at the middle by a pillar.—The principal reasons urged by Mr. Fergusson for this theory are the following: (1) According to the common view only about one-third of the inner or ornamental curtain would have been visible. Bähr’s theory obviates this difficulty, but creates another, viz., by making out that the gilded boards were almost entirely covered up. If so, why so expensively constructed? (2) The curtains spread flat over the boards would have been no protection against the rain. The skins above the cloth and hair curtains would, when wet, only have depressed the centre and torn the curtains under them. (3) The common view contradicts the description in Exodus 26:9; Exodus 26:12-13, according to which only two cubits of the goats’-hair curtain hung over at the west end, and only one cubit at each side; whereas the other theory assumes that 10 cubits hung down on every side but the front.—The latter argument may be met by the supposition that the Biblical statements referred to only assert that the goats’-hair curtain hung over the tabernacle, i.e., the linen curtain, half a cubit at the west end, and one cubit at each side.—The second reason is undoubtedly the strongest one. The tabernacle, according to the traditional view, is an ungainly structure, ill protected against rain or snow, and unlike either house or tent; while yet a part of it is distinctly called a tent.—Mr. Atwater points out the most obvious objection to Mr. Fergusson’s theory, viz., that, according to Exodus 26:33, the veil of the Holy of holies was hung under the clasps that connect the two parts of the covering. These must have been 20 cubits from the front of the building, and 10 cubits from the rear, according to the traditional view, entirely in accordance with the supposed position of the veil, the Holy of holies being in the form of a cube, 10 cubits in every direction, while the holy place was 20 cubits long. But Fergusson’s theory would bring the clasps 15 cubits from each end, though he distinctly adopts the view that the veil was 10 cubits from the western end. This difficulty seems entirely to have escaped his attention. Mr. Atwater calls it “fatal,” and deems it useless to consider the theory any further, remarking that “nothing is more certain in regard to the tabernacle, than that the two apartments into which it was divided by this partition-veil were of unequal size, the eastern being thirty feet long and fifteen wide, and the western an exact cube of fifteen feet in dimension.” It might be asked, however, how is it made so certain that the two apartments were of the size specified? The Bible nowhere gives the slightest information respecting this matter, excepting the statement of Exodus 26:33 above cited. Where the clasps were, depends on what disposition was made of the curtains; and it we choose to adopt Mr. Fergusson’s theory respecting them, it would follow that the building was equally divided; and where is the proof that it was not? Only Josephus’s assertion, and the corresponding apartments of Solomon’s temple, in which the Holy of holies was half the size of the other part of the sanctuary. It must be admitted that these two items of evidence are very weighty; but they by no means prove the theory so incontestably as to make it unwarrantable to hold a different one. At all events, if any stress had been meant to be laid upon the dimensions of the Holy of holies, it is singular that they were not plainly given, instead of being left to be inferred from the very indefinite directions concerning the position of the curtains.—Tr.].

[3][“The temples of the ancient Egyptians were constructed as follows: First, a square in front 100 or less feet wide and three or four times as long; then porticoes (προπύλαια), indefinite in number; next the νεώς itself with a πρόναος, and finally the σηκός with a sacred animal as the object of worship (Strabo, 17, p. 805). The Egyptian temples still preserved confirm in general this description. A large gateway leads into the court, surrounded with pillars; then follows a ‘portico, and often a second one; then two or three halls, in the last of which the sacred animal or the idol-image stood.’ Heeren, Ideen, II. 2, p. 173).” Knobel, Comm., p. 275—Tr.].

[4]“The oil which the children of Israel were to bring to Moses was to be oil of the olive tree, זָךְ, pure, i.e., made of olives which, before being crushed, were cleansed from leaves, twigs, dust, etc.; and כָּתִית, beaten, i.e., obtained from crushed olives. The olives, when plucked, were beaten and crushed, and put into a basket; thence the oil was allowed to run out of itself. This was the finest of all kinds; what was secured afterwards by pressing was poorer, and the more so the longer the olives were pressed.” Knobel, p. 279.—Tr.]

[5][The meaning of this apparently is that the shoulder-pieces were joined not merely to the two parts of the ephod, but also to one another, both in front of and behind, the neck, so that the girdle passing around at the bottom of the ephod would close it together thoroughly, not leaving the upper parts loose, as they would be if they were only connected by two disconnected pieces passing over the shoulders.—Tr.]

[6][Knobel’s description is as follows: The two chains which pass down from the shoulder-pieces of the ephod (Exodus 28:13; Exodus 28:25) are connected with two rings at the upper corners of the breast-plate. Then two more rings at the lower corners of the same are connected by means of two more chains to two lings “underneath, on the fore part” of the ephod (Exodus 28:27), i.e., lower down than the shoulder-pieces, but “close by the coupling,” i.e., at the place where the shoulder-pieces are connected with the upper part of the ephod. Thus the lower part of the breast-plate is joined by the chains to the upper part of the ephod.—Tr.]

[7][Lange’s notion of the robe seems to be rather peculiar, viz., that it was a very short garment, covering the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, but, leaving the breast-plate exposed under it. He seems to assume that the ephod and breast-plate were to be put on before the robe, though for what reason it is difficult to imagine. The reason cannot be found in the circumstance that the robe is described after the ephod and breast-plate; for the coat is described still later, and the linen breeches last of all. Besides, we have in Leviticus 8:7 a clear indication of the order in which these articles were put on. Josephus (Ant. III. 7, 4) says that the robe, though without sleeves, had arm-holes, and this sufficiently harmonizes all the apparent difficulties.—Tr.]

[8][Keil rejects the view propounded by the son of Sirach (from Sir 45:9, “that as he went there might be a sound, and a noise made that might be heard in the temple, for a memorial to the children of the people”), on the ground that the last clause of the verse is evidently borrowed from Exodus 28:12, where the stones of the ephod are spoken of, and also on the ground that the clause “that he die not” is not explained by this hypothesis; for the assumption is that the high-priest’s life would be endangered if he went into the Holy of holies without being accompanied by the prayers of his people—which would make his life depend on their caprice, irrespective of his own character. He also rejects as trivial the notion that the ringing of the bells was intended to be equivalent to rapping at the door, so as not to enter info the presence of Jehovah unannounced, as well as Knobel’s notion that the sound was to stand for a reverential greeting and a musical ascription of praise. Keil holds that the reason for Aaron’s not, dying lies “in the significance that belongs to the ringing of the bells or the garments of Aaron, with their appendages of artificial pomegranates and ringing bells.”—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 26". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/exodus-26.html. 1857-84.
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