Bible Commentaries
Exodus 26

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Of the form, measure, and matter of the tabernacle.

Before Christ 1491.

Verses 1-6

Exodus 26:1-6. Moreover, thou shalt make the tabernacle The word which we render tabernacle, signifies a place to dwell in: and as this was to be an habitation of the Deity, it is therefore called the tabernacle, where Jehovah dwelt, [שׁכן shachen] and manifested his presence; thence called Shechinah: see the last note on Genesis 3:24. The more sacred and important part of the furniture of this tabernacle having been appointed, the Lord now proceeds to describe to Moses the form of the tabernacle itself; with the inner curtains or coverings whereof he begins first, which were to be ten in number, and each in length twenty-eight cubits, and in breadth four cubits, i.e. according to Bishop Cumberland's measure of the cubit, about sixteen yards and twelve inches long, and two yards and twelve inches broad. The matter whereof they were to be made, was fine twined, that is, spun or woven linen; embroidered, as I conceive, with the blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, which were appointed, ch. Exo 25:4 as part of the people's offering; and in which embroidery, cherubical forms were inwoven; for the Hebrew, literally, is, and thou shalt make the tabernacle, ten curtains, twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: cherubims, the work of an embroiderer, or embroidery, thou shalt make them. We may just again remind our readers, with respect to the cherubims, that, as no description of their form is given, that form must, doubtless, have been familiar to Moses. These curtains of this tapestry-work were to be coupled together, five and five of a side, by fifty loops of blue tape, Exo 26:5 and as many golden clasps, Exo 26:6 so that each might look like one curtain, and the whole make one entire covering. The learned reader will find some accurate observations in Houbigant's notes on this chapter.

REFLECTIONS.—The furniture being described, the covering is ordered. There must be a tabernacle or tent made, with curtains richly embroidered, and united by loops and clasps of gold. Note; (1.) We dwell at present in tabernacles of clay, whose foundation is in the dust; but if God be with us, his presence shall comfort us, till he bring us to the promised inheritance. (2.) All true Christians, whatever their denomination may be, are united in love to Jesus Christ and one another, like these curtains of the tabernacle, and make one truly glorious catholic and apostolic church.

Verse 7

Exodus 26:7. And thou shalt make curtains of goats' hair The second covering for the tabernacle was to be made of stuff, spun or wove from goats hair; the form and dimensions of which are evident from the accurate description in the following verses.

Verse 14

Exodus 26:14. Thou shalt make a covering—of rams' skins, &c.— The third covering, of a still coarser kind, was to be made of rams' skins dyed red; over which, as a fourth covering, and a perfect security from the weather, skins of a purple colour were to be thrown: see what has been said respecting the word rendered badgers' skins, on ch. Exodus 25:5. Perhaps this might be intended to describe one covering only, which went over the whole; for the verse might be rendered, And thou shalt make a covering for the tent, of rams' skins dyed red, and of purple skins, even a covering for the whole. Note; 1. A coarse garment covers often a precious soul. 2. A true christian is best within, whilst a hypocrite seeks only outward show. 3. They who take refuge in God's true sanctuary, Jesus Christ, have a safe and glorious covert from all the storms of wrath and the tempests of sin.

Verse 15

Exodus 26:15. And thou shalt make boards The boards or planks, which were to form, as it were, the walls of the tabernacle, are next described. They were to be of shittim-wood, each plank ten cubits long, and a cubit and a half broad; that is, about five yards and two feet long,—which marks the height of the tabernacle; and about two and thirty inches broad, which marks the length of the tabernacle,—which was thirty cubits, i.e. about seventeen yards and a half long: for there were to be twenty planks on the south, and twenty planks on the north side; and for the corners of the tabernacle, in the two sides, two planks; and for the west end, or backside of the tabernacle, there were to be six planks; which shews the breadth of the tabernacle to have been about five yards and some odd inches, Exo 26:22 where sides should be rendered side, or, at least, the plural understood for the singular. The front or entrance was at the east; it being thus contrived, says Theodoret, that the sun might pay a kind of symbolical adoration to Jehovah, by darting his first rays into the sanctuary; and that the Israelites might be thus figuratively taught to turn from the worship of that luminary, the grand idol of the Gentiles, and to adore the God who made it. (See Jablonski Pantheon. Egypt. lib. 2:) These planks, each of them having two tenons, [hands, in the Hebrew, as they were to answer the end of hands by holding] were to be placed each in two sockets of silver, formed for the two tenons. The planks at the corners, Exo 26:23 were to serve as a kind of pillars to compact the whole firmly together by means of mortices, into which the planks of the three sides were jointed; and, to make all more firm, these corner planks were to be knit to the other planks, both at the top and bottom, with a golden ring, perfected (in the Hebrew;) i.e. uniformly joined both at top and bottom, Exo 26:24 and thus at the west-end, Exo 26:25 there were to be eight planks in all, six for the end, and the two single ones for the two corners. To strengthen these uprights, wooden bars, (Exodus 26:26.) were to be made, five for each side; the middle one of which only was to reach from end to end: these, as well as the planks, were to be overlaid with gold, and were to run into rings or staples of gold, fastened in the planks for that purpose, Exodus 26:29. Mechanics commonly call these transoms, girders, or cross bars. For the two sides westward, at the end of the 27th verse, we should certainly read for the two corners west-ward—five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, at, or for the two corners westward: The words rendered side and sides in our version, are different. St. Paul, 1Ti 3:15 alludes to this tabernacle, with its pillars and sockets, when he calls the church the pillar and stay of the truth. Beauty and strength unite in the church of Christ: beauty, which renders it the admiration of angels; and strength, which defies all the malice of devils.

Verse 31

Exodus 26:31. And thou shalt make a vail A vail made of the same stuff and workmanship with the inmost covering of the tabernacle, hung upon four pillars of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold, &c. (see note following) was to divide the sacred dwelling into two parts, the inmost called the most holy, and the outer called the holy place. Into the most holy the ark, &c. was put; where none but the high-priest was permitted to enter; and that only once a year. Thus it is often, in the New Testament, considered as a figure of heaven, into which Christ our High-Priest entered once for all with his own blood. See Hebrews 6:19-20; Hebrews 9:11-12; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 9:28. The vail itself, says Ainsworth, signified the flesh of Christ, under which the Godhead was veiled, and through which, by suffering death, he himself entered, and made way also for us to enter into heaven. To confirm this, at the death of Christ the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; Matthew 27:51. But, upon all these topics, St. Paul's epistle to the Hebrews will prove the best comment. Let it only be briefly observed, that if the holy of holies, with the ark, &c. figured out the true heavens; it seems most reasonable to believe, that the cherubims signified the angelic orders, those attendants upon the presence of God; or, otherwise, there would be wanting in this typical representation something to correspond to so important a reality in the true heavens. Again, in another sense, the holy of holies may represent the high privileges of the Christian dispensation, and the high state of holiness, into which the faithful believer may enter even here below. In this sense, no vail of separation keeps us from it: the vail was rent when the Saviour suffered; and since the great High Priest is entered into the heavens, every believer is consecrated a priest, and may with boldness approach the mercy-seat through the blood of Jesus. Blessed be God for his unspeakable gift!

Verse 32

Exodus 26:32. Their hooks—of gold upon the four sockets of silver What The LXX render hooks, Houbigant and many others render chapiters, (their chapiters of gold upon four sockets or bases of silver, like those mentioned Exodus 26:19.) which is the more likely to be the true version, not only because it is scarcely to be doubted that these pillars had chapiters; but because the hooks for the vail are expressed in the next verse by another word, taches or clasps. The Hebrew, literally, in Exodus 26:33, is, and thou shalt give the vail from or by clasps; [i.e. thou shalt cause it to hang by clasps from the pillars] and thou shalt bring in thither, within the vail, the ark, &c. In Heb 9:3 this is called the second vail, which must be understood in reference to the hanging for the door of the tent, mentioned Exo 26:36 which was made of the same stuff with this inner vail, and may properly enough be called the first vail or covering.

Verse 35

Exodus 26:35. And thou shalt set the table without the vail The table and candlestick, food and light, were to be placed opposite each other. From this description of the tabernacle, into which no light could enter, the use of the candlestick, which was lighted up every day, is manifest. The table, according to Ainsworth and others, being without the vail, signified that the twelve tribes, represented by the twelve cakes upon the table, were shut out from the mysteries of the Gospel, Hebrews 9:8-10; Heb 10:19 and Heb 11:39-40 and in respect of heaven itself, we all, in this life, are yet without, and enter in only by the anchor of hope, Hebrews 6:18-20. 1Pe 1:4-5. 2 Corinthians 5:1-3.

A review of the tabernacle in the wilderness, considered typically.

What shall we say? Did the High and Lofty One, whose dwelling is not with flesh, who resides not in temples made with hands,—did he stand in the least need of this moveable habitation? Glorious as it was, can we reasonably think it to have been a meet apartment for the Deity, or at all adequate to the inconceivably glorious, immense, and eternal Spirit? What a contemptible idea of the true God would such a supposition inspire into the mind? Away with such a grovelling thought; so unworthy of God, and shocking to reason herself! But if we suppose, that these holy places made with hands were figures of heaven, of Christ, and of the church, and exhibited as such to the believing Israelites, then doubtless we shall be reconciled to that very particular regard which the high God was pleased to shew to the worldly sanctuary. Then we shall be able to account for that ardent affection which the ancient believers confessed on all occasions to the tabernacles of the Lord of hosts. Then it will not appear strange, that the same God who spent but six days in creating the universal frame of nature, should spend no less than forty in prescribing the little frame of the tabernacle. That these holy places made with hands, were figures of heaven, of Christ, and of the church, we are now to declare.

First then, the tabernacle of Moses was a figure of heaven itself, that glorious high throne from the beginning. For this interpretation we have the express words of an inspired penman of the New Testament, who, speaking of our great High Priest, plainly declares, that he, "is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us," Hebrews 9:24. But though the most holy place was by itself alone the most eminent figure of the heavenly sanctuary, this does not forbid us to regard the whole fabrick as an emblem of the same blissful mansion. Was the tabernacle of Moses divided into several parts? We know him that said, "In my Father's house are many mansions," John 14:2. Was it a place of great splendour and magnificence to the eye? "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God," Psalms 87:3. Was it the dwelling of JEHOVAH, where the visible tokens of his presence were seen? In the heavenly mansions he unvails the brightness of his glory to all the saints around him. Did priests always officiate there? The saints in light are both kings and priests unto God. Were the curtains broidered with cherubims? In the celestial abodes are the innumerable company of angels? Was it replenished with all necessary furniture and provision? In heaven is the true light, and the living bread, fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore. Did the voice of praise daily resound in the earthly tabernacle? The eternal regions are for ever filled with loud hosannas. Was legal purity required in all who trode the venerable courts of God's ancient dwelling-place? Nothing that is defiled can enter the heavenly Jerusalem. And, lastly, as the tabernacle was sprinkled with blood by the Jewish high priest, when he penetrated its innermost recesses once in the year, with the names of all the tribes engraven on his heart; even so the blood of Jesus Christ has consecrated that high and holy place, that sinners of the human kind might not be for ever excluded from dwelling in the beatific presence of JEHOVAH. When the everlasting gates of heaven were by sin barred for ever against us, the blood of Christ was the key which opened them again: and the believers in his atoning blood may enter into heaven itself with greater boldness, than the high priest when he went into the holiest of all, than the Levites when they officiated in the holy place, or than the people when they approached the outward court.

A second thing which the tabernacle of Moses did most undoubtedly represent, was the Person and future incarnation of the Messias himself, who was made flesh in the appointed time, and tabernacled among us, and who spake of his own body when he said to the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Was the tabernacle a work of heavenly architecture? The human nature of our Lord was prepared by his heavenly Father, and curiously wrought, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, in the lower parts of the earth. Was it the habitation of the Deity? "In him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," Cor. Exodus 2:9. Was it anointed with holy oil? The most holy humanity of our Lord was anointed with the spirit which God gave not by measure unto him. Was it embellished with a variety of ornaments? He was adorned with every Divine grace. Was it taken down by the Levites, and removed from place to place, till at last it was conveyed to Jerusalem, where it remained in the temple? The human nature of our Lord was dissolved by death; reared up again by his resurrection; and, lastly, translated into the heavenly temple, which must contain him to the time of the restitution of all things. Was the tabernacle the place where God met with Israel? Here he communed with them; here they presented their gifts, and slew their sacrifices, and even prayed with their faces towards it, though at the remotest distance. It is easy to see here a lively figure of the one Mediator between God and man. In Christ alone we have a clear revelation of the Divine will; and by him we must present our spiritual sacrifices, and do in his name whatsoever we do, whether in word or deed.

The third and last thing prefigured by the tabernacle, is the church, that holy society and mystical body of Jesus Christ, which, in Scripture-style, is the house and temple of the living God, in which he dwells and walks. We shall enumerate some of the most obvious parallels between them. The tabernacle was planned by the wisdom of God himself, who condescended to adjust the minutest particulars, as the loops, the taches, and the pins, and peremptorily required, that all things should be done according to the original pattern. And who knows not, that all things in the Gospel-church are planned by the same unerring wisdom, and how much the Sovereign Architect has testified his displeasure in every age against the inventions of men in things pertaining to himself? "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it," Deuteronomy 12:32. This is the law, this is the prophets, and this is the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. The tabernacle was executed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who rested on Bezaleel and Aholiab, to fit them for this service, without whom they were no more capable of it than other men. It was the same Spirit who descended on the blessed apostles, the wise master-builders of the Gospel-church, without which they could not have been qualified for their honourable work. Yea, it is the Holy Ghost, who, by his common gifts, makes ordinary ministers workmen that need not be ashamed. The tabernacle was composed of very different materials, as gold, silver, wood, brass, scarlet, blue, and purple cloth, fine linen, rams' skins, and goats' hair: yet all these different materials, combined by the workman's skill, conduced each in their kind to the beauty and perfection of the structure: and the gold could not say to the brass, nor the scarlet to the goats' hair, "I have no need of you," 1 Corinthians 12:21. So in the spiritual house, the materials of which it is composed, that is, the believers in Christ Jesus, are men of divers nations, different stations in life, unlike natural tempers, unequal gifts and graces, and various ministries: yet, being fitly framed together by the operation of the Holy Spirit, they grow into a holy temple in the Lord. The symmetry of the ancient tabernacle, the nice conjunction of the boards by mortises and bars, and of the curtains by loops and taches, was not so delightful to the eye of the body, as it is pleasant to the eye of the mind to see brethren dwelling together in unity, perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment, and carefully endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. The tabernacle was covered with many coverings, with fine twined linen, with blue, purple, and scarlet, with rams' skins, and goats' hair. By this means it was rendered extremely close, and finely protected from the injuries of the weather. May not this recal to our mind the ample protection and security of the Gospel-church from the heat of God's anger, and from all worldly tribulations, by the infinite merit of the blood of Christ, and by his almighty power? For "the Lord is their Keeper; the Lord is their Shade upon their right hand: the sun shall not smite them by day, nor the moon by night: The Lord shall preserve them from all evil; he shall preserve their soul," Psalms 121:5-7. The tabernacle was ornamented with gold and silver and curious embroideries: externally it was not inelegant, but within it was magnificent. Even so, the beauty of the Gospel-sanctuary does not so much strike the eye of sense which looks at the outward appearance, as it is obvious to the spiritual sight which looks at unseen things. Would you discern the true glory of the spouse of Jesus Christ, look not at her face, because the sun hath looked upon her: but the King's daughter is all glorious within. The tabernacle was anointed with oil, when Moses consecrated it; and the church has an unction from the Holy One. The tabernacle was divided into several partitions. The outward court might denote the visible church; the holy place, the church invisible; and the holiest of all, the church triumphant in glory. By baptism we enter into the first, by regeneration into the second, and by death into he third. O death, it is thine to pull aside the vail of mortality which interposes between the holy and the most holy place! Happy they who enter by faith, and not by a visible profession only, into JEHOVAH's sanctuary, which he has sanctified for evermore: for as there was no possibility of coming at the holiest of all, but by passing through the holy place; even so it is impossible, if we are not now partakers of his holiness, to be hereafter sharers of his glory.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 26". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.