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Exodus 39:9. Doubled = kafal]. This word is repeated again at the close of the Verse to show that the length of the breastplate was one span after it was doubled, so that its actual length was two spans, and because this was not expressed with sufficient distinctness in Exodus 33:16.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 39:1-31
PREPARATION OF THE PRIEST’S CLOTHES
“And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the Lord commanded Moses”—Exodus 39:1.
I. The holy place: so called because it enshrined the Holy of Holies, which was the immediate dwelling-place of God. It is God’s presence alone that makes a holy place. In this sense the entire world is a holy place: “Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” Hence when He revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He said, “The ground whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Hence the Christian Church is a holy place: “Where two or three are met together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Hence heaven is by pre-eminence “the Holy Place.” It is called the Habitation of His Holiness. “His presence fills each heart with joy,” &c.
II. The holy service. Holy places are for holy services. In this case the peculiar service, which consisted of three parts, the lighting of the golden candlestick, the burning of incense on the altar, and the laying out, removing, and renewing of the shew-bread, all of which had a symbolic character to be afterwards described, was holy, as being a service done unto the Lord. And this is the essential idea in holy service, whether rendered in the temple of Nature, or the temple of the Church, or the temple of Heaven, it is service rendered to the High and Holy One whose presence fills them all. Clearly this was Paul’s idea when he said: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
III. The holy minister. This was Aaron, the high priest, and his sons, who ministered in the priest’s office. Holy services can only be performed by holy persons. It is so in heaven, and so it must be on earth. This was symbolised by the consecration of Aaron and his sons with the holy oil at their first appointment, and every time they went to minister before the Lord. Of course, it is not the outward consecration that makes holy, but the inward, of which the outward is but a symbol. With the inward consecration of the nature by the Holy Ghost the person is holy, even though no anointing oil should ever have been poured upon his head; while with the outward one remains unholy still, unless the Spirit of God shall have also given him “another heart.” In short, only a new-born child of God can either find a holy place or perform a holy service.
IV. The holy clothes. Holy persons require to be arrayed in holy garments. So God commanded with reference to Aaron and his sons. The different items of the priest’s dress had a special symbolic significance, for which see below; in the meantime, it may be noted that they served the purpose of certifying to the nation their consecration to the priestly office. And so does God command that they who shall minister, or do holy service to Him in the holy place of the Church of Christ, shall array themselves in the beautiful apparel of holiness (cf. Matthew 22:11-12; Romans 13:13-14; Ephesians 4:24).
1. The Ephod
“And he made the Ephod of gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen”—Exodus 39:2-7.
Cf. Exodus 28:6-14. The ephod, Septuagint ἐπωμίς, Vulgate superhumerale, which was par excellence the official dress of the priest, was a short cloak covering the shoulders and breast. It was made of the same materials as the inner drapery and curtain of the tabernacle, “blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen,” interwoven with gold threads, or wires, which were cut from thin plates of gold. Pliny says the ancient Egyptians understood the art of weaving fabrics with gold; and Egyptian monuments show coloured costumes which were probably woven with gold thread. Exodus 39:4 seems to indicate that it was made in two parts, joined together at the shoulders by what are called “shoulder-pieces.” It was tied round the waist by an embroidered (“curious”) girdle woven of the same material. Upon each shoulderpiece was an onyx stone set in gold, graven as a signet is graven with the names of six of the sons of Israel, “according to their births,” which is explained by Josephus to mean that the names of the six elder sons were engraven on the precious stone upon the right shoulder, and the names of the six younger sons on the precious stone upon the left. The two stones were designed to be memorial stones for the children of Israel. All this was in accordance with Divine command, which shows that it was meant to have some special significance. What then was that significance? Well—
I. The ephod, being made of the same material as the drapery of the tabernacle, indicated that the high priest was designed for the special service of the sanctuary. It was an article of dress which was only worn when engaged in the sacrificial worship of the tabernacle. So the Lord Jesus Christ is represented (Revelation 1:13) as wearing a girdle, and probably an ephod, to mark Him out as the High Priest of the better sanctuary.
II. The ephod, as resting on the shoulders of the priest, indicated that on him exclusively lay the burden of the sanctuary service. So of Christ it is said, “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” He is the one only High Priest in the Christian Church, to whom has been assigned the work of offering sacrifice and making intercession for the sins of the people.—Hebrews 5:10.
III. The ephod, as bearing on its shoulders the names of the children of Israel, indicated the nature of the high priestly service, which was to represent the nation before God. So Christ is the great Representative of His people before the throne; the special work in which He is now engaged being that of “appearing in the presence of God for us.”—Hebrews 9:24.
IV. The ephod, as being made of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and linen interwoven with gold, indicated the beauty and the glory of the high priestly service. “Thou shaft make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and tor beauty,” said Jehovah. What was true of all the different parts of the official dress was specially true of the ephod. It was designed to leave upon the mind an impression of the honourable and glorious character of the high priestly office. And surely there is no office that, in respect of “glory and beauty,” can compare with that of Jesus Christ, the High Priest of our profession. “Καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐχ ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασε γενηθῆναι ” (Hebrews 5:5), which clearly implies, however, that there was a “glory” in being a “High Priest;” and so we read in Hebrews 2:9 : “βλεπομεν ʼΙησοῦν … δόξη καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον, ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου.” Even the service of the Christian ministry, though not that of a priesthood, acquires a “beauty and a glory” from being subservient to that of Christ’s. Whence thinks Dr. A. Clarke their official garments should be “for beauty, for glory” also, in some degree expressive of the dignity and grandeur of their calling. Certainly the service of the Christian life, which is that of a priesthood, though not exactly of the same character as Christ’s, is beautiful and glorious; and the garments of the Christian—if not his literal clothes, at least the clothing of his spirit, his walk and conversation—should be for beauty and for glory.—Ecclesiastes 9:7-8; Romans 13:14.
2. The Breastplate
“And he made the breastplate of cunning work, like the work of the ephod, of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. It was four square”—Exodus 39:8-21. See also Exodus 28:15-30.
I. Its formation. The breastplate was fashioned of the same material as the ephod. It was about ten inches square, and made double with a front and lining, so as to answer for a pouch or bag. It was adorned with twelve precious stones, arranged in three rows of four each. The order of the stones as given in the authorised version is different from that of the old versions, which is stated by Keil as follows (reading from right to left):—
Emerald: Zebulon (of a brilliant green).
Topaz: Judah (golden tinged).
Sardius: Issachar. (i.e., our cornelian, or blood-red colour).
Diamond: Asher (transparent or reddish yellow).
Sapphire: Simeon (sky-blue).
Carbuncle: Reuben (the ruby—fine coloured).
Amethyst: Benjamin (violet-blue).
Agate: Manasseh (transparent—of divers colours).
Ligure: Ephraim (transparent—orange).
Jasper: Gad (dark red).
Beryl: Naphtali (sea-green).
Chrysolith: Dan (golden coloured).
On each of these stones was engraved a name of one of the sons of Israel as above. The two upper corners were fastened to the ephod by blue ribands passing through gold rings, two on each side, one attached to the ephod and another to the breastplate. In the bag or pouch between the front and back were put the Urim and Thummim, which are mentioned in Exodus 28:30, as if they were already known. Now, however, they are unknown. No description is given of them. Nor can their meaning be traced with any certainty from their etymology. The words mean “lights and perfections.” Whether they denote some material objects which were deposited in the pocket of the breastplate, or whether they were only intended to signify that Divine manifestations were to be given through the breastplate, has been much disputed. “Perhaps the Urim and Thummim are only a spiritual description of the sacred gems in the High Priest’s breastplate.”—Eadie. “The Urim and Thummim did not represent the illumination and right of Israel, but were merely a promise of these, a pledge that the Lord would maintain the rights of His people, and give them through the high priest the illumination requisite for their protection.”
II. Its designation. “The breastplate of judgment,” and the “memorial,”—Exodus 28:29. Doubtless the two names were derived from its use. It was probably styled by the first to indicate that the high priest should wear it when either asking counsel or judgment from the Lord, or administering justice and judgment in the name of the Lord. These were two given functions of the Hebrew high priest; and in discharging them he was typically foreshadowing the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the fountain of Divine wisdom and the administrator of Divine justice in the Christian Church. The second name was equally suggestive of its use. It was designed as a remembrancer of the people when the high priest ministered before the Lord. It reminded the high priest of his representative character, in which again he foreshadowed Christ who is His people’s representative before God and within the veil.
III. Its situation. This is indicated in the name. It lay upon the breast. “The heart, according to the Biblical view, is the centre of the spiritual life, not merely of the willing, desiring, thinking life, but of the emotional life, as the seat of the feelings and affections. Hence to bear upon the heart does not merely mean to bear it in mind, but denotes that personal intertwining with the life of another, by virtue of which the high priest was, as Philo expresses it, τοῦ σύμπαντος Ἔθνους συγγενὴς Καὶ , and so stood in the deepest sympathy with those for whom he interceded.”—Keil and Delitsch. In short, its lying on the breast indicated—
1. Nearness. So the names of Christ’s people are on His breast, and their persons are always near. Isaiah represents Israel as graven on the palms of Jehovah’s hands: here they are pictured as graven on Christ’s heart.
2. Remembrance. Having the names of Israel upon his heart, the Jewish high priest could not forget them; and neither can Christ ever forget those for whom He has already shed His blood, and now presents it within the veil.
3. Affection. So the people of Christ are near His heart in the sense of being always the object of His tender love (Jeremiah 31:3), “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (John 13:1); “Having loved His own …”
4. Representation. The names of the sons of Israel were on the high priest’s breast that he might represent them within the veil: so are Christ’s people always on His breast in the sense that He is interceding for them (Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:24).
5. Communication. Being on the high priest’s breast, the people shared his fortunes. When He was accepted, so were they. When blessing was bestowed on him, it was that through him it might come down to them. And so it is with Christ. All the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him for us, that out of His fulness we might receive.
3. The Robe
“And he made the robe of the ephod of woven work, all of blue …”—Exodus 39:22-26.
The robe (מְעִיל), from מעל, to cover, was an upper garment of dark blue purple, closely fitting to the person, and reaching to the knees, made of one piece, with an opening for the head to pass through, and, according to Josephus and the Rabbins, with armholes, but with no sleeves. The opening for the head was bound with a hem, so that it should not rend; and the skirt was bordered with a fringe, ornamented with artificial pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and little golden bells between them round about, a bell and a pomegranate occurring alternately all round. The robe was not intended as a covering for the ephod, as then the breastplate must have been concealed. Lange thinks it was a very short garment, covering only the shoulders of the ephod. This, however, is obviously a mistake. The articles of the priest’s dress are clearly mentioned in the reverse order to that in which they were put on. Beginning with the outside, there is first the ephod with its breastplate, then the robe, after that the long frock or coat, then the head-dress, and finally the breeches. The robe was a covering for the coat.
Great diversity of opinion exists as to the symbolic import of this particular article of dress. The following may be considered along with other suggestions on the subject:—
I. The robe of blue being an article of dress which specially belonged to the high priest, and requiring to be worn over and above the linen coats which were common to the entire priestly order, pointed to the need of special qualification for the high priestly office. Authority to exercise the office and fitness to discharge the duties of the office, seem to be the two ideas involved in the clothing of a priest with an official dress; and that these two qualifications belonged to Aaron was signified by his official robe, in addition to the linen coat, which he wore in common with the ordinary priests. The first of these ideas may have been pointed to in the “dark blue colour of the robe,” which “indicated,” says Keil, “the heavenly origin and character of the office with which it was associated.” Being heavenly in its origin and character, no man could take it upon himself except he was “called of God as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4). “So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee,” glorified Him by investing Him with high priestly authority (Hebrews 5:5). The second was possibly indicated by its forms, which, being woven in one piece, “set forth the idea of spiritual wholeness or integrity.”—Keil. A qualification which was never possessed in completeness except by Him who wore “the seamless robe,” and who is now the great High Priest of our profession, possessed of all the qualities which are necessary to the efficient discharge of His priestly office. For a statement of those qualities, see Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:2.
II. The pomegranate fringe, among other things, and chiefly, was intended to remind the wearer of the necessity of attending to the Divine regulations in discharging his high priestly office. According to Numbers 15:38-39, every Israelite was directed to make a fringe in the border of his garment of dark blue, in order that every time he looked upon it, he might “remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them.” It was thus a symbolic injunction to order his daily walk in accordance with Divine precept; and doubtless the fringe upon the robe of Aaron signified that he, too, in discharging the duties of his high priestly office, was not to follow courses of his own, but confine himself exactly and minutely to the regulations and prescriptions which God had given. So Christ came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that had sent Him (John 6:38). The duties of Christ’s high priestly office were not left for Him to invent when He entered on the office—they were all defined for Him in the “Volume of the Book” (Psalms 40:7). Accordingly in all He did He kept His eye upon His Father’s writing in the Scripture. (See Matthew 26:54; Mark 14:21; Luke 24:46; John 19:24; 1 Corinthians 15:3.) If the artificial pomegranates were intended to symbolise anything, perhaps it was the “fragrance” and “fruitfulness” of such high priestly service when performed in accordance with the will of God.
III. The golden bells, ever tinkling as the high priest went about his duties within the veil, intimated that he had found favour in the sight of God, and was yet alive, although looking on the glorious Presence of Jehovah, and so virtually proclaimed the efficacious intercession of his high priestly office. The common notions, as, e.g., that the ringing of the bells was to take the place of knocking at the door of Jehovah’s palace (Abraham ben David); that it was meant to call the people without to accompany the high priest with their thoughts (son of Sirach, in Eccles. 45:9); that it was designed as a reverential greeting and a musical ascription of praise (Knobel); that it symbolised the sounding forth of the word of God (Keil); that the alternation of pomegranates and bells was designed to indicate the connection of nature and grace (Lange) may all have some elements of truth in them, although for the most part they are fanciful. The true interpretation of the tinkling bells, we feel persuaded, is to be found in Hebrews 7:25, which speaks of the Everliving High Priest, who even now, within the veil, is making intercession for us. The testimony of the angels (Acts 1:11), the phenomena of Pentecost (Acts 2:0), the continuous existence of the Church, the witness of the Spirit through the Word, are the evidences to the Christian Church that Christ lives; the evidence to the Hebrew congregation that its high priest within the veil was living was the tinkling of the bells upon his garment. This is hinted at in Exodus 28:35. The robe with its pomegranates and bells was to be upon Aaron when he went to minister before the Lord, “that he die not;” or, “and he shall not die.” Entering without his official “robe” he was sure to die: entering with it he would live; and that would be announced to the people by the sounding bells. If the bells ceased to sound it would be an intimation that the high priest was dead.
Thus, special qualification, Divine regulation, and efficacious intercession, were the three ideas suggested by the robe, the fringe, and the bells.
4. The Mitre
“And they made coats of fine linen, of woven work, for Aaron, and for his sons. And a mitre of fine linen, and goodly bonnets of fine linen.…”—Exodus 39:27-31.
The linen coats, bonnets, and breeches, which are here referred to, were articles of dress which Aaron wore in common with the priestly order in general. They do not call for any special note. The head-dress of the high priest, in addition to the “goodly bonnet,” or linen turban, consisted of a mitre, or superior turban, made of fine linen, and bearing upon its front a gold plate, tied to the mitre by a blue riband, on which was inscribed, “Holiness to the Lord.” According to Exodus 28:38, this plate was to be upon Aaron’s forehead, that he might bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead that they may be accepted before the Lord.”
I. Personal consecration was the first thing symbolised by the golden mitre. “Through the golden plate, with its inscription, Holiness to the Lord,’ which was fastened upon his head-dress of brilliant white, the earthly reflection of holiness, he was crowned as the sanctified of the Lord.”—Keil.
II. Representative propitiation was the second thing intended by the golden mitre. Wearing the “crown of holiness,” Aaron was the representative of the entire congregation. In this capacity his business was to bear the iniquity of the holy offerings of the children of Israel. The stains of sin which clung to all the expiatory Offerings of the people required to be further cleansed away; and in and through him acting as their representative that expiation was effected.
III. Congregational acceptance was a third idea included in the golden mitre. When Aaron appeared before God wearing the holy crown, the people were accepted. Thus, again, we have a threefold symbol: of the Personal qualification of the Lord Jesus Christ for the high priestly office—Holiness; of the character of His official work—Expiation; and of the blessed result which He secures for His people—Acceptance with God.
The Delivery of the Work to Moses
“Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished; and the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they. And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses,” &c.—Exodus 39:32-43.
I. The presentation of the work: “They brought the tabernacle unto Moses.” It seems that after all the different articles were finished, they were solemnly brought and presented to Moses, the chief builder of the house. So, whatever work or service is done in connection with the Christian Church should be solemnly presented to Christ, who is the Chief Builder of the Christian temple.—
II. The inspection of the work: “Moses did look upon all the work;” and so does Christ inspect every offering that is brought to Him, whether of work or of gifts, to see if it be according to the commandment of the Lord. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:13, that a day is coming in which every man’s work will be tried of what sort it is—tried by fire—tried with the most terrible exactness. Yet even now a process of inspection is going on in which everything a person does—and especially does for Christ—is subjected to minute investigation.
III. The approbation of the work: “Behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded.” So in Christian service nothing can be accepted that is not minutely in accordance with the Divine specification. This will be the standard at the last day as it is now. “As the Lord had commanded,” is the one qualification which must attach to all our labours and gifts to make them good.
IV. The remuneration of the work: “And Moses blessed them.” So is all faithful service done to Christ rewarded even here with spiritual blessing. So will it be in the end (1 Corinthians 3:14). Lessons:—
(1.) The dignity of Christian work as presented to Christ;
(2.) the duty of fidelity in Christian work, considering it must be inspected by Christ;
(3.) the grand aim in Christian work, to be accepted by Christ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:9;
(4.) the high stimulus in Christian work, the certainty of being rewarded by Christ.
REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON
Scripture-Symbolism! Exodus 39:1-43.
1. When God uses natural objects in His Word, notes Brown, as illustrations of spiritual truth, He did not take them, as we should have taken them, simply because He saw them to be apt illustrations of the subject, but that He had an eye to their use for this purpose when He made them. He did not, in fact, use them because they were apt illustrations of the truths inculcated, but He made them in order that, among other purposes, they might be such. The sun was not employed by God to emblematise the Lord Jesus, because He recognised in it a fit emblem, but God made the sun with the very object of being such, amongst other objects.
2. So with all the tabernacle and its adjuncts, God enjoined their manufacture and construction, not because they were, but because He would have them to be striking symbols—silent, symbolic sermons. The poet speaks of sermons in stones and in the running brooks. In the tabernacle accessories are such sermons—designedly arranged for Israel’s instruction in the mysteries of the kingdom of God. As such, we should recognise them. They are expressly appointed by God to be earthly shadows of heavenly realities.
“The key that opens to all mysteries,
The Word in character, God in the voice.
Each page of Thine hath true life in’t,
And God’s bright mind express’d in print.”
Holiness-Hints! Exodus 39:1, &c. Who can ever forget the vision of the apocalyptic seer, known as that of the “white-robed and palm-bearing multitude”? (Revelation 7:0) The Patmos exile had just been witnessing scenes of judgment and terror. How grateful and soothing, then, to him, must have been this lull in the storm—this bright though momentary glimpse through the midst of the tempestuous clouds. The words must have fallen on his ear with serenest music. But what signify the array of “white robes”?
1. Such was the scene in the fourth century, in the age of Constantine, and the general conversion of the empire from Paganism to Christianity. Not, however, in the visible Church, though it had the seal of baptism, enrolled its members in church registers, and enrobed them in white, with crowns and palms. No, the allusion is to the invisible Church of that era. It had in the spirit impressing the image of Jesus a more enduring seal—in the Lamb’s Book of Life a more enduring registration—and in the divine holiness of heart and life a more lustrous purity.
2. Such will be the scene in the latter days, before the millennial dawn. The passage, it has been said, is like a mirror set in eternity, in which the believer sees reflected his future character and condition. We all, beholding as in a glass our heavenly glory, are encouraged to look forward to the time when we shall have “white robes,” i.e., when the holy services of the heavenly temple shall be performed by us as holy servants of God (Revelation 7:15).
“Palm-bearing, white-robed multitudes who sing
Salvation, honour, praise, and glory to their Lord the King.”
Gold-Wire, &c. Exodus 39:3.
(1.) Some of the mummy cloths which are preserved are of beautiful texture, and bespeak a high degree of excellence for those who manufactured them. The finest kind resemble muslin, and are very thin and transparent. Some of them are fringed like silk shawls; others have strong salvages, with stripes of blue, the dye of which has been determined to be indigo. One specimen is covered with hieroglyphics, drawn with exceeding fineness. Gold and silver wire was used at a very early date in Egypt in weaving and embroidery.
(2.) If gold is symbolic of the divine excellence, does it not teach us that in all the hangings of the Sacred Scriptures, i.e., in all the word-veils and curtains, the elements of divine excellence is discernible? May it not also teach us that all our works for God, all our efforts of service for Him, should have the element of divine excellence interwoven with them? Not, however, that this is to be done as rendering our works works of merit, but because their beauty is thus enhanced, and as an acknowledgment that they are for His glory.
“Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee:
Take myself, and I will be
Ever only ALL for Thee.”
Breastplate-Stones! Exodus 39:10-14. The minute account in Exodus and Revelation of the jewels that adorned the sacerdotal apparel and the walls of the heavenly city, indicate, says Macmillan, the symbolic reverence attached to their use by the Jews. And this belief in their mystic qualities passed from India and Persia to Greece and Rome. After playing a considerable part in the Gnostic systems of Alexandria, this belief was finally transferred to the Christian Church, as we find Bishop Marbœuf of Rennes, in the eleventh century, versifying their talismanic influences in his curious “Lapidarium.” This is an illustration of the sure darkening of Scripture truth during the dark ages. No such influences are ascribed to these precious stones in the Word of God; though, doubtless, they symbolise moral and spiritual perfections in the Christians. “They shall be Mine, faith the Lord, in that day when I make up My JEWELS.” Then
“Christ alone beareth me
Where Thou dost shine;
Joint-heir He maketh me
Of the Divine;
In Christ my soul shall be
Nearest, my God, to Thee,
Nearest to Thee.”
Little Things! Exodus 39:20. One of the most astonishing results of the scientific expedition lately undertaken to dredge the bottom of the Atlantic was the discovery of organisms—delicate as hoarfrost—living at a depth of four or five thousand feet. All that enormous mass of water rested above them, and yet they were as safe and uninjured as the tender blossom that unfolds in the summer air. Still more wonderful, remarks Macmillan, is the discovery which the geologist is constantly making of microscopic shells and other forms of life, of most delicate organisation, in rocks that have been subjected to the most tremendous pressure. An infant’s touch could crush them to atoms, and yet they have shared uninjured in movements which have displaced continents, upheaved huge mountain chains, and shaken the earth to its very centre. All these, like the pins and taches of the tabernacle, have their place and functions in nature. And so all parts of Scripture have each their place and function in the mystery of God. The verses in this chapter, little and unimportant as they seem, are essential to the Bible unity. As such, God has preserved them amid the upheavings of the Jewish nation and the Gentile world. They are part of our heritage to-day. They are
“Marked, with the seal of high divinity,
Their every thought bedewed with drops of love
Divine, and with the eternal heraldry
And signature of God Almighty stampt,”
Testimony-Tabernacle! Exodus 39:21. As the Word of God is the light to direct us, and to detect errors, so it is also the standard and beam to try the weights of truth and falsehood. Therefore our Lord, knowing, says Bishop Jewell, that there should be such confusion of things in the latter days, commandeth that Christians, who live in the profession of Christian faith, and are desirous to settle themselves upon a sure ground of faith, should go to no other thing but to the Scriptures. Otherwise, if they had regard to other things, they should be offended and perish, and not understand which is the true Church. The master of a ship, when he is on the main sea, casts his eye always upon the lode-star, and so directs and guides his ways. Even so must we, who are passengers and strangers in this world, ever settle our eyes to behold the Word of God; so shall no tempest overblow us; so shall we be guided without danger; so shall we arrive safely in the haven of our rest. This is the rule of our faith.… Therefore, Christ saith, “Search the Scriptures; they are they that testify of Me.”
“O child of sorrow, be it thine to know
That Scripture only is the cure of woe;
That field of promise—how it flings abroad
Its perfume o’er the Christian’s thorny road.
The soul, reposing in assured belief,
Feels herself happy amidst all her grief;
Forgets her labour as she toils along,
Weeps tears of joy, and bursts into a song.”
Scripture-Secrets! Exodus 39:22 to Exodus 30:1. Many years age Rassam, the famous explorer and orientalist, searched the ruing in Assyria to no purpose for ancient remains. Within the last two years, he has again gone forth to examine the very same ruins, under the firm conviction that treasures are there, though he had failed to discover them. This time he has been eminently successful; and very soon the literary world will have rare gems of history set before them for study and instruction.
2. Long years ago, we searched these Mosaic mounds, but failed to discover truth-treasures hidden within. But subsequent and more recent investigation has proved successful. We have found Messianic-treasures—tablets of Gospel truth among the tabernacle-articles of Moses. They were there before, but we failed to discover them. Now we rejoice in them.
3. Is it not so with all the Scriptures! Bunyan, in his “Grace Abounding,” says that while he was shut up in Bedford Jail he never had in all his life so great an inlet into the Word of God. “Those Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place and state to shine upon one.” And this experience has been the experience of others also, especially when suffering for the truth’s sake.
“There is a Lamp, whose steady light
Guides the poor traveller in the night:
’Tis God’s own Word! Its beaming ray
Can turn a midnight into day.”
Bells! Exodus 39:25. Who invented bells we know not. Probably they were devised, at a very early period of the world’s history, by the musical genius of Jubal, who is called in Genesis 4:0 the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. But this and Zechariah are the only two books in which we have direct reference to bells. Maurice mentions that one indispensable ceremony in the Indian Poojah is the ringing of a small bell by the officiating Brahminic priest. The women of the idol, or dancing girls of the pagoda, have little golden bells fastened to their feet—the soft harmonious tinkling of which vibrates in unison with the exquisite melody of their voices. Calmet calls attention to the fact that the ancient kings of Persia, who in fact united in their own persons the regal and sacerdotal office, were accustomed to have the fringes of their robes adorned with pomegranates and golden bells. The Arabian princesses wore rings, to which tiny golden bells were suspended. But no bells ever sounded so sweet and melodious as those on the Great High Priest’s robes. The ministers of Christ, when preaching the glad tidings of salvation, are those bells; and it is Jesus who enables them to send forth sweet strains.
“Ye monarchs from the eastern land,
Ye heathen from far island strand,
Come up, come up, ye people all,
His voice the whole wide world doth call;
The Saviour preaches from the mount.”
Mitre-Material! Exodus 39:28.
(Exodus 39:1.) In Chron Exodus 39:6, this ornament is called “nezer,” from a verb signifying to separate; and hence denoting a crown as a mark of separation or distinction. The same word is applied to the diadem of kings. Indeed, such turbans of fine linen, with an encircling or front ornament of gold or precious stones, seem to have been the usual diadems of ancient kings. Justin says that Alexander the Great took his diadem from his head to bind up the wounds of Lysimachus. This shows clearly that it was of linen. Probably, it had some distinguishing ornament like that of the high priest here.
2. Jahn says curiously enough that, in the time of Josephus, the shape of the mitre had become somewhat altered. It was circular, was covered with a piece of fine linen, and sat so closely on the upper part of the head that it would not fall off when the body was bent down: apparently it did not cover the whole of the head. It may be that there is mystical reference to the crown of gold worn by each of those who exulted before God in the acknowledgment that He had made them prince-priests unto Himself. Each cast his mitre-coronet down before Him, who sat upon the throne, singing—
“I bless Thee, gracious Father, for Thy pleasant gift to me,
And earnestly I ask Thee, that it may always be
In perfect consecration laid at Thy glorious feet,
Touched with Thine altar-fire, and made an offering pure and sweet.”
Labour-Lessons! Exodus 39:32, &c.
1. Duty and desire! (Exodus 39:43.)
(1.) That it is the duty and should be the desire of the workmen to submit their work to the builder or surveyor. This applies to Scripture readers, teachers, and pastors.
(2.) That it is the duty and should be the desire of the builder or surveyor to scrutinise the work on its completion. This applies to chief pastors, the Church, and the Christ of God.
2. Destiny and delight! (Exodus 39:43.)
(1.) That it is the destiny and should be the delight of the surveyor to record his approval of work well done. This is true of chief pastors, the Church, and the Christ.
(2.) That it is the destiny and should be the delight of the workmen to receive the approval of the surveyor of the work when complete. This is true of Scripture readers, teachers, and pastors.
3. Dignity and design! (Exodus 40:34.)
(1.) That it is the dignity and should be the design of the proprietor to recognise the completion of his house. This may refer to the Church, the Christ, or God.
(2.) That it is the dignity and should be the design of the builder and workmen to rejoice in the proprietor’s recognition of their handiwork. See our Lord’s parables, Paul’s epistles, and John’s apocalypse for admirable illustrations of the above.
“Glory waits the faithful workmen
Who perform their Master’s will; Then,
O Christians, will ye weary
Of this work of building still!”
Church-Building! Exodus 39:32.
1. “Peep of Day” furnishes a very different account of the erection of the first church in Tahiti. In the year 1800, the missionaries determined to build a place of prayer. Hitherto they had only met together in a room in their own house, just as Israel probably had held their services at the tent of Moses or Aaron. King Pomare seemed pleased with the plan, and promised to set his people to work. The brethren, however, found this assistance of little use. Pomare’s servants set about the work eagerly, but soon grew weary of it, as they did of all their undertakings, unless encouraged by continual feastings. They also did the work so ill, that they gave the missionaries more trouble than they did them service. In March, the first wooden pillars were reared to form the walls; and, as the workmen proceeded, they jeered at Christ, and scoffingly marked each pillar with His name. But the missionaries earnestly hoped that those pillars would hereafter be witnesses to the conversion of the heathen.
“To give them songs for sighing,
Their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying,
Were precious in His sight.”
Well-doing! Exodus 39:32. It is recorded of these Israelites that they did not weary in the work appointed. All that the Lord commanded Moses, that they did accordingly. Alas! how many, whether in the uprearing of the tabernacle of a holy life, or in the erection of a house to His name, become weary. How readily does it creep over the most vigilant man 1 Of how many has it to be said, “This man began to build and was not able to finish”! Not able, because not willing,—not able, because inconstant,—not able, because weary in well-doing. How, under the dread spell of inconstancy, exclaims Punshon, have fair plants been withered, generous youth launched into premature age, and the edifice of Christian graces stayed in its erection! Unlike Israel, they have not continued steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Forgetting that they have the Divine assurance that their work shall not be in vain in the Lord, when He says “Well done,” they have become like the stream
“Which, smiling, left the mountain’s brow,
As if its waters none could’ sever;
Yet, when it reach’d the plain below,
In the sand-desert sank for ever.”
Ark of Testimony! Exodus 39:35. The apocalyptic seer tells us in Revelation 11:19, that he saw the temple of God opened in heaven. The impenetrable veil, which screens from mortal sight the mysteries of that true “Holy of Holies,” was for a moment drawn aside, And what was the disclosure made to the eye of the apostle! “The ark of His testimony!” What a glorious and comforting vision wherewith to terminate all the previous terrific trumpet soundings—those symbols of wrath and judgment, more awful and awe-inspiring than the Sinaitic peals and flashes! He gazes on the familiar emblem, so often and so long associated with the fortunes and the history of the Hebrew people—the palladium of their liberties—the rallying-point in every hour of disaster—the true COVENANT ARK. In it he recognises a figure of the Great Propitiatory—the true mercy-seat; in the glories of whose Divine person, and the fulness of whose mediatorial work, is the pledge and guarantee of eternal safety and peace.
“O Master, at Thy feet
I bow in rapture sweet!
Before me, as in darkening glass,
Some glorious outlines pass,
Of love, and truth, and holiness, and power;
I own them THINS, O Christ, and bless Thee for this hour.”
Candlestick! Exodus 39:37. The Church, it has been said, is a golden light-bearer, and therefore at once precious and luminous. Zion is God’s peculiar heritage; its members are His jewels, acquired by an immeasurable ransom, and therefore properly symbolised by an article made of solid gold. One of the chief functions of the Church has ever been to give light. All the true light enjoyed by the ancient world streamed out from the candlestick which God set up in His chosen people, and still more largely was this the case in the new economy. It was intended to be diffusive and propagandist; but only by the force of light—the manifestation of the truth.
“Where’er I go, where’er I stand,
In valley dark, or mountainland,
At noon, or ’neath the midnight drear,
That Golden Light still shines most clear.”
Golden-Altar! Exodus 39:38. Solemn and imposing, says Macduff, must have been the scene on the Great Day of Atonement, when the Jewish high priest, divested of his wonted gorgeous robes, and habited in a pure white vestment, stood before the great brazen altar. After the preliminary sin-offerings, &c., burning coals were taken by him from the altar and deposited in a golden censer. Carrying with him a handful of sweet incense, he proceeded within the curtain into the Holiest of all. As he stood in this august presence-chamber of Jehovah, he took a portion of it beaten small, and cast it among the burning embers. The cloud enveloped the mercy-seat, the fumes filling the most holy place with grateful odours. Hence Revelation 8:3, “Another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer,” &c. This is Jesus, the great antitypical High Priest, standing in the heavenly temple. Therefore we need not fear: He will undertake.
“Give to the winds thy fears;
Hope and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.”
Incense-Materials! Exodus 39:38.
1. Stacte! Some say the distilled myrrh or gum; but Rosenmuller points out that it has been described as a species of storax gum, transparent like a tear, and resembling myrrh. This tree is found in Syria.
2. Onycha! Kalisch says that it is found in the waters of Arabia, that it is the crustaceous covering of the shells of certain fish, that it is frequently used in the present day for incense, and that, though by no means fragrant, yet it enhances the fragrance of other ingredients.
3. Galbanum! Pliny says that it was employed as an ingredient in perfumes, and that it was so used to make the odours more lasting. It has always been used in medicine; but, though so long known, the plant itself is still a matter of dispute.
4. Frankincense! This well-known odoriferous resin is obtained from a large tree which grows in the mountainous parts of India. It is extremely fragrant, and exudes naturally from the bark. An inferior kind was found in Arabia. There can be little doubt that these have each their spiritual significance. But since it is now difficult to distinguish their origin, &c., we are without a clue, except so far as the New Testament tells us, what are the genuine ingredients of true and acceptable prayer.
“Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.”
Atonement-Day Incense. Exodus 39:38. Macmillan observes that on the golden altar a censer full of incense poured forth its fragrant clouds every morning and evening. Yearly, as the day of atonement came round, when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, he filled a censer with live coals from the sacred fire on the altar of burnt-offerings, and bore it into the sanctuary, where he threw upon the burning coals the “sweet incense.” Without this smoking censer, he was forbidden, on pain of death, to enter into the awful ‘shrine of Jehovah. Notwithstanding the washing of his flesh, and the linen garments with which he was clothed, he dare not enter the Holiest of all with the blood of atonement unless he could personally shelter himself under a cloud of incense.
“I need Thee, precious Jesus!
For I am full of sin;
My soul is dark and guilty,
My heart is dead within.”
Tabernacle-Life! Exodus 39:42.
1. When King Pomare began to build the first Christian chapel in Tahiti some sixty years ago, he had not observed that a stream of water ran in a slanting direction through it. The builders might have tried to turn the course of this stream, which flowed from the mountains into the sea, but they decided to allow it to pass through the sanctuary. We think those who sat near it must have been reminded, by the sight of this living stream, of the living water that Jesus gives to those who ask Him, and of that crystal river that makes glad the city of God.
2. Israel did not, probably, when they at first began to construct the tabernacle, perceive that from the hills of eternal truth a river flowed onwards and downwards through it to the eternal sea. Afterwards, they did see that there was such a symbolic stream making glad the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. Many persons connected with the uprearing of the superstructure of temple-grace see not the Gospel-stream,—the river of life,—flowing through the fabric of the visible church-tabernacle in this desert of sin.
“This beautiful stream is the river of life,
It flows for all nations free;
A balm for each wound
In its waters is found;
O sinner, it flows for THEE!”
Duty Done! Exodus 39:42.
1. On one occasion, at a crowded dinner-table, Webster was asked what his greatest thought was. Looking about on the company, he inquired whether all were his friends. On receiving an affirmative assurance, he said, “The greatest thought that ever entered my mind was that of my personal responsibility ‘to a personal God.’ ” He expanded that idea in conversation for ten minutes and then left the room.
2. The same man on another occasion said, “There is no evil that we cannot either face or flee from, but the consciousness of duty disregarded. A sense of duty pursues us ever. It is omnipresent like the Deity.” Whereever we go, whatever we are busied about, duty performed, or duty violated, is still with us for our happiness or misery. We cannot escape the power, nor fly from the presence of duty.
3. What must, then, have been the emotions of Moses and Israel when their duty was done? Conscious of their work’s completion, how heartfelt was their sense of happiness. If we neglect our duty, we cannot escape from the consciousness of pain in its violation; and, on the other hand, if we do as the Lord commands us, there is the consolation awaiting our completed work, “Well done, good and faithful servant,”
“When, when shall that great day appear,
In which all His that voice shall hear,
Each knee bow down in reverence deep.
All flesh before Him silence keep!
‘Servant of God, well done! well done.’ ”
Finished Beauty! Exodus 39:43.
1. If any one had looked in upon Raphael, while in his studio working out the first rough draught of his immortal “Transfiguration,” he might have seen nothing that was attractive. As Cuyler says, vague outlines or coarse blotches of paint were all that the canvass could yet show of the world’s master-piece of art. The artist himself could say to the visitor, “Wait until the picture is done; it will be beautiful in its time.”
2. So with the tabernacle. Hobab and the Egyptian camp-followers may have commented on the confined labours of the tabernacle-toilers. But, as the time to see Raphael’s picture was when it was hung in its matchless loveliness above the dead master’s coffin at Rome; so the time to see the “beauty of the tent of God” was when—upreared under the shadow of Sinai—it stood in all its exquisitely simple grace.
3. And so with the temple of God. His workers are men busily employed in its erection. The world remarks on the apparent roughness and confusion on all sides; yet how beautiful will that workmanship be in its time! Then the scaffoldings and seatings will all be swept away, Messiah will look upon the work and exclaim, “It is finished,” while all His coworkers will see on every column and frieze and architrave, “the beauty of our God” (Revelation 21:23).
“Oh none can tell Thy bulwarks,
How gloriously they rise;
Oh none can tell Thy capitals
Of beautiful device!
Pure mansion of pure people,
Whom God’s own love and light
Promote, increase, make holy,
Scripture-Scenery! Exodus 39:43.
1. John Bunyan in his immortal allegory says, “By this time the Pilgrims had a desire to go forward, and the shepherds a desire they should; so they walked together towards the end of the mountains. Then said the shepherds one to another, ‘Let us here show the pilgrims the gates to the celestial city, if they have skill to look through our perspective glass.’ The pilgrims then lovingly accepted the motion; so they had them to the top of a high hill called CLEAR, and gave them the glass to look.” But their hands shook so, that they could not look steadily through the glass; yet they saw some of the glory of the place.
2. The ministers of God earnestly desire that their flock should, through the glass of faith, behold the Messianic glory around and within the gates to the Pentateuch and its tabernacle. The writer has himself brought his readers towards the end of the Exodus mountains, up to the lofty summit called CLEAR; and all that he can do is to bid them take the perspective glass and behold Christ’s glory in these chapters Alas I how many are there who take the glass, and gaze through upon the gates, predetermined not to witness Messiah’s loveliness there.
“Oh may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 39". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany