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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 27

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary


III. Israel at Sinai ( XIX. XL.) .

The division Num 19– 40 presents difficulties due to its very importance, see introduction to Ex. (last paragraph). But Num 25– 31, 35– 40 readily fall apart from the rest, as containing P’ s account of the Tabernacle ( see on Exodus 25:1), the introduction to which is found in Exodus 19:1-2 a and Exodus 24:15 b Exodus 24:18 a, Exodus 34:29-35 being a link section. All critics confess that in the remainder many details must remain doubtful. The Oxf. Hex. is for the most part followed here. It does not differ very widely from Baentsch, who has made a special study of this part. Gressmann’ s drastic reconstruction is highly suggestive in particulars, but as a whole is over-bold. The noteworthy fact is that both J and E preserve important traditions. In each there is an older stratum preserving these elements of the national memory of the religious and political confederation of the tribes: an awful appearance of God upon Sinai-Horeb (Exodus 19 JE, Exodus 20:18-21 E), and the giving of a sacred code, the (Ten) Covenant Words, inscribed upon stone tablets ( Exodus 31:18 b E, Exodus 34:28 J) and sealed by a solemn sacrificial feast ( Exodus 24:5 E, Exodus 24:11 J). Now these passages concur in presenting a favourable view of Israel at this period: he is the son gratefully responding to the compassionate love of his Father ( cf. Exodus 4:22 *), or the lowly bride returning the affection of her Husband. And this agrees with the view of the period taken by all the pre-exilic prophets who refer to it (see Hosea 2:15; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:3 f., Hosea 12:9; Hosea 12:13, Amos 2:9-11; Amos 3:1 f., Jeremiah 2:1-3; Jeremiah 2:34). Even Ezekiel’ s severe view rather points to the ancestral heathenism of the tribes (Egyptian, Exodus 23:3, but Canaanite or Amorite-Hittite, Exodus 16:3) than to any apostasy just at this epoch. Only Hosea 9:11, if it refers to the incident Numbers 25:1-5 JE, implies such a lapse. On these grounds it is probable that Numbers 32 JE (the Golden Calf and its destruction E, and the vengeance of the Levites J), together with not a little expansion elsewhere, belongs to a later stage in the moulding of the tradition. The order of incidents is hard to follow, because the editor who united J and E, in his care to preserve as much as possible of both, took the story of the tablets in J as a re-giving and rewriting of them with a renewal of the broken covenant. Much of Numbers 33 containing the colloquies with the Divine Leader belongs to this stage. All this, of course, involves a considerable disturbance of the Bible order and representation in Ex., which, but for one section, is substantially followed by D. But the essence of the great religious facts is irrefragably secure: Israel did, by whatever stages short or long, emerge from a condition little removed from contemporary heathenism, and learned to worship one gracious and holy God (p. 84). Differences concern only the manner and form of events, and their times. Later historians have so accustomed us to having at least the main events fitted neatly into their centuries B.C. or A.D. that we find it hard to think that serious writers could be centuries out in their reckoning. But just as prophets saw future events near and distant in a foreshortened perspective, so it may be that the Bible historians— called “ the former prophets” (pp. 38, 244) by the Jews— saw their instances of the nation’ s glory and shame as more closely crowded together than they actually were. The main thing is that they actually saw them, and that, too, in the mirror of eternity.” Throughout the whole we see the material, as it were, in a plastic state. As older conceptions were outgrown new touches could modify the details, though, fortunately for our chances of recognising the earlier levels of inspiration, traces of the old were not always obliterated. Sometimes we must suppose that these modifications had already been made during the period of oral tradition.

Verses 1-21

Exodus 27. P. Altar and Outer Court ( cf. Exodus 38:1-7, Exodus 38:9-20).— In strongest contrast to Exodus 20:24, with its sanction of many altars, rudely made of earth or rough stone blocks, we find instructions for “ the altar” to be made of wood plated with bronze, 7½ feet square and 4½ feet high, with horn-like projections at the corners, according to a widespread custom of uncertain meaning ( Exodus 27:1 f.).

Its vessels were to be of bronze ( Exodus 27:3); and “ the (usual) ledge” for the priests to stand on, half way up the altar, was to be supported by a bronze grating with rings at the corners for the bearing poles ( Exodus 27:4-8). The authors of the description do not seem to have thought it out practically, for if the fire were on the ground the hollow wood sides would burn, and nothing is said about filling it with earth. It is probably an attempt to copy in portable form Solomon’ s huge bronze altar of Phœ nician design and craftsmanship ( 2 Chronicles 4:1, cf. 1 Kings 7:13-16). But if their idea was not expressed realistically, it was yet clear enough: without sacrifice no acceptable approach to the one God of the one altar.

But the altar must stand on ground marked as holy: so an outer court must enclose both Dwelling and altar ( Exodus 27:7-19). It was not very large, the breadth 25 yards (little more than a cricket pitch) and the length 50 yards, and the hangings that enclosed it were to be of plain linen, 7½ feet high, enough to keep anyone from looking over, and hung by silver hooks from wooden pillars, set in bronze sockets, and adorned with silver bands or “ fillets.” A coloured and embroidered screen, 30 feet long, closed the entrance ( Exodus 27:16). The tools and tent-pins were to be of bronze ( Exodus 27:19). The little piece at the end ( Exodus 27:20 f.) about the oil for the ever-burning light has been added here as a note from Leviticus 24:2 f.* by a late editor.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 27". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/exodus-27.html. 1919.
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