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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 27

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The altar of burnt-offering with its vessels is described, together with the court of the tabernacle, and the oil for the candlestick.

Before Christ 1491.

Verse 1

Exodus 27:1. And thou shalt make an altar of shittim-wood The altar for the common service of sacrifices is next described; which the use whereto it was appointed rendered necessary to be formed of baser and stronger materials than the ark and table before mentioned. Accordingly, though constructed of the same wood with them, it was to be overlaid with brass, and all the furniture about it was to be made of the same metal. It was to be four-square, five cubits long, and five broad, and three cubits high; i.e. about three yards square at the top, and about five feet in height, according to Bishop Cumberland's measure. There were to be four horns at the four corners of it, which were designed, it is supposed, for fastening the sacrifice to the altar before it was slain; an opinion, which the words of the Psalmist strongly confirm: Bind the sacrifice with cords unto the horns of the altar, Psalms 118:27. For the middle of it, a grate of net-work of brass was to be made; of the same square, I conceive, with the altar itself; which grate was to have four rings in the four corners of it, and which was to be inserted from below or the bottom, so as to fill up the whole compass of the altar, Exo 38:5 and to be placed in the middle of it; that is, two feet and a half from the top; the rings being outward at the four corners, and used for the purpose of carrying it, Exo 38:7 for, that there were no other rings to this altar than those which belonged to the net-work, is evident from ch. Exodus 38:5; Exodus 38:7. This net-work, according to my idea, filling up the whole compass of the altar, formed the bottom of that grate for the fire which the upper half of the altar contained. The 8th verse shews us, that the altar was, as we have described, hollow; and that it had nothing else in the middle but this grate of net-work, upon which the fire was made: and, understanding it in this form, the objections to its portableness, from the weight of brass, is removed; especially, if, with Calmet, we suppose it to have stood upon feet which reached half up to the grate of brass, with the four rings at each corner. Thus also, objections to its height are taken off, which, upon this plan, was very convenient. In short, we may easily conceive it as a large square stove, lined with thick brass, and with such a grate of brass for its bottom, as would be absolutely necessary for fire to burn in such a stove. This altar was to be furnished with pans (to receive the ashes falling through the grate of the altar, to which there was no other bottom,) and shovels; with basons to receive the blood of the sacrifices, Exo 27:3 flesh-hooks for taking off the pieces of the sacrifice from the fire, (see 1 Samuel 2:13-14.) and fire-pans, i.e. censers, wherein the sacred incense was dissolved by the fire. The word is translated censer very properly, Leviticus 10:1; Lev 16:12 in which last place, particularly, the use of it just mentioned is specified. See also Numbers 16:17. This altar, says Witsius, by the consentient voice of all orthodox divines, denotes Christ; so far as he sanctifies and renders acceptable to God, his own oblation of himself for the sins of the whole world: to this the apostle is thought to allude, Hebrews 13:10. The horns, the place of refuge for the guilty, 1Ki 1:50 denote his strength and all-sufficiency, who is the Horn of our salvation, 2 Samuel 22:3.Luke 1:69; Luke 1:69.

REFLECTIONS.—The brazen altar is here described, on which all the offerings of the children of Israel are to be offered, and there accepted as a sweet-smelling favour. It was the type of Christ, who is both altar and sacrifice; and who by one oblation of himself once offered, has obtained eternal redemption for us. Our sacrifices of prayer and praise are acceptable only as offered up through him, who is the true Altar which sanctifieth the gift. And to him the sinner, under the accusations of guilt and sin, must fly as the malefactor did to the horns of the altar, and then he shall be safe.

Verse 9

Exodus 27:9. And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle The tabernacle, when formed, was to be surrounded by a kind of open court, which was to be circumscribed by hangings of plain fine linen, supported by pillars in sockets of brass; but the hanging for the gate of the court, Exo 27:16 was to be of the same embroidered stuff with the inmost covering of the tabernacle. This court-yard was a hundred cubits, or about fifty-eight yards long; and from Exo 27:12 it appears, that it was just half as broad as it was long; and from Exo 27:18 that it was five cubits or near three yards high, which was but half the height of the tabernacle: see ch. Exodus 26:16. The gate or entrance was to be twenty cubits wide, Exodus 27:16. In this court, towards the upper end, the tabernacle was placed; between which and the lower end, the altar with the laver on one side of it was placed, ch. Exo 30:18 and Revelation 11:1-2. Note; The court surrounding the tabernacle, is typical of the church of Christ, inclosed from the rest of the world, and brought into a nearer state of communion with his blessed Self.

Verse 19

Exodus 27:19. All the vessels of the tabernacle That is, all the vessels in the common use of the tabernacle, and such as have not been before specified; in particular the pins, as they are called, of the tabernacle and the court: the original word means, the small stakes to which the ropes of a tent are fastened.

Verses 20-21

Exodus 27:20-21. Pure oil-olive beaten, for the light, &c.— Pure oil of olive beaten (i.e. obtained by pounding or expression,) is here commanded to be brought for the use of the golden candlestick, as being most excellent, and freest from sediment. We have before observed how necessary it was that there should be a continual light in the tabernacle; and Josephus (Antiq. b. 3: ch. 8.) informs us that this was the case; though it must be confessed, that Exo 27:21 and other passages of Scripture, would rather lead one to believe, that the lamps were only lighted in the evening, and went out in the morning: see Leviticus 24:3. 1Sa 3:3. 2Ch 13:11 with which the expression, to cause the lamp to burn always, may well comport; for always, in the Scripture, very frequently signifies constantly, continually, regularly; and the meaning here may only be "oil for the constant supply of the lamp when it burns." Calmet observes, that the priests entered into the holy place every morning to offer the incense, and to put out the lamps; and every evening they went in to light them again: every morning they offered a lamb for a burnt-sacrifice upon the brazen altar, and every evening they offered another upon the same altar. The Egyptians used lamps in their religious worship: they had a feast, as Herodotus tells us, (l. ii. c. 62.) called the feast of lighted lamps. Note; Provision is here made for the continual supply of the lamps in the golden candlestick, and Aaron and his sons must attend them. The oil signifies the graces of God's spirit, which shine forth in the conversation of his people; and Aaron's care should remind every faithful minister, how diligent he should be in his labours towards the flock, of which the Holy Ghost hath made him overseer.

Further reflections on the altar of burnt-offering as typical of the Messiah.

That Jesus Christ is the Antitype of this altar, the apostle to the Hebrews permits us not to doubt; for, speaking of him, he says, "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle," Hebrews 13:10. He says not altars, as if they were many, but an altar, speaking of one; and this altar is Christ. As the intercession of Jesus Christ was typified by the golden altar of incense, so the altar of burnt-offering represented both his satisfaction in general, and his Godhead in particular. Let us begin with the first.

It represented the Person of our Redeemer, as the propitiation for our sins. It was a brazen altar. Did it not signify the same glorious Person whom Ezekiel saw like a man of brass, with a line of flax in his hand to measure the temple; and whose feet are described, in the visions of John, like fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace? Brass is a cheap and common metal. When by himself he purged our sins, he shone not with golden lustre; for his visage was marred more than any man's, and his form than the sons of men. Brass is a strong metal, and fit to endure the fire. Our strength was not the strength of stones, our flesh was not of brass, to dwell with devouring fire, to abide with everlasting burnings: but Christ was the mighty One, who felt the power of God's anger, and was not devoured by the fiery indignation.—It was a horned altar. This may signify the strength of his atonement, both to satisfy the justice of God, and pacify the consciences of men. It was a four-square altar: an emblem of his perpetual stability, who is the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever. It was a public altar. For the death of Christ was to be a transaction of the most public kind. It was a burning altar, on which the fire never went out. The Holy Ghost is that eternal spirit of judgment and of burning, through whom Christ offered up himself unto God, and who dwells for ever in the Son. With this holy fire the great High-Priest inflamed his legal sacrifice of atonement; and with this holy fire the royal priesthood ought to kindle their moral sacrifice of praise, which they offer by him continually.—It was the only altar of burnt-offering, and, according to the law of Moses, admitted not any rival. So Jesus Christ is the one Mediator between God and man. To multiply mediators is no less condemned by the New Testament, than to multiply altars by the Old.—It was an altar most holy, which sanctified all gifts. Whether we present unto God the meat-offering of alms, the drink-offering of tears, the peace-offering of thanksgiving, the heave-offering of prayer, or the whole burnt-offering of body and soul, by Christ alone they are sanctified and accepted, as the altar sanctified the gift.—It was an altar which protected criminals who fled to it; though, for some crimes, they were to be dragged from it to suffer condign punishment. In Jesus Christ the guilty sinner finds a refuge from legal condemnation; nor can they fail of making peace with him, who by faith take hold of his strength, be their crimes ever so atrocious.—It was an altar which nourished the Levitical priests who served at it, and were partakers with it. Even so the happy persons who are made priests unto God, and partakers of Christ, receive from him, not a natural, but a spiritual and eternal life: "For he that eateth me," himself declares, "even he shall live by me." John 6:57.

But in a particular manner his Deity seems fit to be called the altar on which he offered his humanity: for he was his own Altar no less than ours. It was not the wooden cross on which he died, that served him for an altar. Far less can the material table on which the holy memorials are exhibited, in the sacrament of the supper, deserve any such glorious epithet. Hear what himself says about the altar and the gift. "Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?" Matthew 23:19. Will any dare to say, that the wooden cross was greater than the soul and body of the Redeemer who expired on it? or that the table of the supper is greater than the consecrated symbols of his body and blood? If it be impossible to find any thing greater than the humanity of our Lord and Saviour except his own divinity, his own divinity, and nothing else, must be the altar. Did the altar support the gift or victim while it was burning upon it? It was the Godhead of Christ which supported the manhood from sinking under those direful sufferings that he patiently endured. Did the altar sanctify the gifts that touched it? It was the Deity of Christ which sanctified the gift of his humanity, and imparted a dignity and value to the sacrifice of his body and soul. The sins of many are fully expiated by the sufferings of one, because he is God, and there is none else; besides him there is no saviour.

Blessed be God for such a High-Priest; such a Temple; such a Sacrifice; such an Altar of burnt-offering. We have an altar, not only in the midst of Canaan, but in the midst of the land of Egypt, to which the sons of the strangers may bring their sacrifices. We have an altar which God will never cast off; a sanctuary which he will never abhor. The great atoning sacrifice is already offered up: what remains for us, but to offer unto a gracious God the calves, not of the stall, but of the lips, and the sacrifice of praise continually.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 27". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/exodus-27.html. 1801-1803.
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