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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Exodus 38

Introduction

CHAP. XXXVIII.

The altar of burnt-offering, the laver of brass, and the court of the tabernacle, are made: the sum of the offerings for the tabernacle are specified.

Before Christ 1490.

Verses 1-8

Exodus 38:1-2.38.8. The brazen altar for the sacrifices, and the laver for the priests, are next fashioned: both typical of him, who made the one atonement for sin, and whose blood alone can cleanse our souls from the guilt or the defilement of it. This laver was made of the looking-glasses of the devout women, who frequently assembled to worship at the door of the congregation. Be it remembered to their honour. Note; 1. They who appear often before the sanctuary, and in the glass of God's holy law see the deformity of their nature, will never spend their time at their toilette in admiring their persons. 2. When God's service requires it, we should be willing to part with any thing, however useful to us or precious, and count that best bestowed, which is employed for his glory. 3. When we go to the laver of Christ's blood, we must look into the glass of the law, and then we shall see more distinctly in the one, how much we want the other.

Verse 8

Exodus 38:8. Of the looking-glass of the women assembling Looking-glasses or mirrors were anciently, as appears from hence, made of brass. Callimachus, in his hymn to Pallas, observes, (Exo 38:19 that she never looked into ορεικαλκον, a mirror made of mountain-brass, nor into water; which were heretofore the only looking-glasses: luxury brought in silver ones afterwards. Le Clerc, from Cyril, tells us, that it was the custom of the Egyptian women to carry a looking glass along with them, when they went to the temples and places of public worship; and perhaps many of the Israelitish women had the same custom, borrowed from the Egyptians. Dr. Shaw informs us, that "the Arabian women still carry their looking-glasses constantly with them, hanging at their breasts," Travels, p. 241. The strong expressions here used [see the margin of our Bibles] seem to refer to that readiness, wherewith the women came in troops to offer even these instruments of their pride (if they were such) to the service of the tabernacle: anxious to shew their zeal, they assembled in vast multitudes, as with their jewels, so with their looking-glasses, at the door of that tabernacle of the congregation, which was pitched without the camp, and of which we have spoken in the note on ch. Exodus 33:7. Some, however, have thought, that these were devout women, who daily attended the sanctuary, and were perhaps employed in some sacred offices. The learned Grotius is of this opinion; and observes upon Luke 2:37. (where Anna's attention to the service of the temple is mentioned,) that not only the Levites, but other Israelites, both men and women, were wont to assemble both by day and night, in order to employ themselves in prayer and praise; which companies were called by the military term צבא tzaba, hosts or troops; which is the Hebrew word here used: so that, as assembling in a troop, and relieving each other by turns, like soldiers appointed to keep guard, they might be called with propriety the sacred watch; see Psalms 92:2; Psalms 119:147; Psalms 134:0; Psalms 135:0. To this custom, he thinks, the passage before us refers, as having taken place in the earlier times of the Jewish commonwealth, even before the sacred tabernacle was erected, and when this, here spoken of, supplied its place. Hence the LXX render it, the women who fasted; and the Chaldee, the women who prayed. Whether this opinion of Grotius be admitted or not, we may, with great propriety, understand the present passage, of the women who zealously and in multitudes assembled with their free-gifts.

See commentary on Exo 38:1

Verse 14

Exodus 38:14. The learned reader will find some critical emendations of this and the following verse, proposed by Houbigant in his Comment.

Verse 18

Exodus 38:18. And the height in the breadth was five cubits The Hebrew is, and its height in the breadth: an expression, which specifies only the height of the hanging.

REFLECTIONS.—Behold a figure of the church of God: a little inclosure, with Christ in the midst of it, and his worshippers around him, separated from the world, and ready to remove out of it. Death is coming to fold up the curtains; and then we shall have a more durable abode, translated from the church militant on earth, to the church triumphant in heaven.

Verse 21

Exodus 38:21. This is the sum of the tabernacle, &c.— Houbigant renders this verse, Now this is the sum of the things which were brought for the tabernacle of the testimony, and which, by the command of Moses, were counted by the Levites; Ithamar, the son of Aaron, being their head. The latter clause might be rendered, perhaps, more agreeably to the Hebrew, which the ministry of the Levites, under the conduct of Ithamar, the son of Aaron, counted, or summed up at the command of Moses. Mr. Chais renders it thus: a quoi furent employees les Levites sous la conduite d'Ithamar: to which the Levites were employed under the conduct of Ithamar.

Verse 24

Exodus 38:24. All the gold—was twenty and nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels Allowing 5250£. to a talent of gold, and thirty-five shillings to a shekel of gold, this sum will be found to amount to upwards of 150,000£. English. See Cumberland's Scripture-weights, ch. 4. See also note on ch. Exodus 25:39.

Verse 25

Exodus 38:25. And the silver—an hundred talents, &c.— It appears from the following verse, that 603,550 men were numbered; and, as so numbered, paid each man half a shekel, which makes 301,775 shekels; i.e. (3000 shekels making a talent,) 100 talents and 1775 shekels; which, at the rate of 350£. to a talent of silver, and 2s. 4d. to a shekel of silver, amount to 35,207£. English; that is, in the whole, to 185,207£. a very considerable sum! but one, which will by no means appear incredible, when it is remembered, that the ancestors of the Israelites, Abraham, &c. were possessed of very considerable riches, which, no doubt, were improved before the Israelites left Egypt; but which, certainly, the spoils that they brought out of Egypt, as wall as those which they gained from the Amalekites, must have augmented very much. Respecting this numbering of the people, see Numbers 1:46.

REFLECTIONS.—Those who are entrusted with the gold for the use of the tabernacle, ought to keep fair accounts. When the great audit comes, woe to the unfaithful steward. The employment of the whole which the workmen received, is here laid down; amounting to a sum which shews both the generosity of the people, and the fidelity of the servants. Note; The church of Christ cannot fail of rising in beauty and glory, when there is so happy a concurrence of a willing mind in the people, and of uprightness and diligence in the ministers.

Thoughts on the laver of brass.

The divers washings enjoined in the law of Moses were, no doubt, a very significant branch of that ritual economy: for not only did the heathen nations adopt this custom in their false worship of imaginary gods; but a shadow of it is still retained in the Christian baptism, the initiating ordinance of the church. The daily lustration of the Levitical priesthood we shall presently glance at.
At the entrance of the tabernacle of the congregation, before you come to the brazen altar, was set, by the appointment of the Lord, a pure vessel or laver of polished brass. Though the shape of this vessel is not minutely described by Moses, it was certainly so contrived, that the water it contained might be emptied by vents or pipes: for the priests were ordered, on pain of death, to wash their hands and feet at this laver, when they went into the tabernacle, or approached the altar. At first this washing-pot was probably of small size; but when Solomon built his magnificent temple, he made also a laver of large dimensions, which, on account of the vast quantity of water it was capable of holding, was called a molten sea, and set it on a base of twelve oxen of brass, not without the direction of heaven, as we may well presume.

Did the pure and holy God intend, by this law, only to require from his worshippers the putting away the filth of the flesh, which might be done with material water, and by such as had neither their hearts clean, nor their hands pure? Is washing the body with the purest water, an adequate preparation for coming into the presence of that God, in whose sight the heavens are not clean? Far be it from us to harbour so foolish a thought. The purification of the soul from spiritual pollution, was the thing intended by this carnal ordinance. The laver is Jesus Christ himself, who cleanses all the royal priesthood from the soul contagion of sin, by the word which he speaks to them, by the Spirit which he sheds upon them, and by the Blood he poured out for them. Was the laver a pure and cleanly vessel? This may denote the innocence and spotless purity of the glorious Immanuel, together with his fitness to preserve all that are in him holy and unblameable. Was it an open vessel, which stood in the most public situation? A prophet styles the blessed Redeemer "a Fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin, and for uncleanness." Zechariah 13:1. Was it a consecrated vessel? for Moses anointed the laver and his foot with the holy anointing oil. Christ Jesus was consecrated for evermore to his saving office, and anointed with the Holy Spirit in the most ample manner.

But the use which the priests, under the law, were commanded to make of this vessel on all occasions, under the severest penalty, is the most remarkable circumstance we have to attend to. They were to wash their hands and feet with the water of this vessel when they entered the tabernacle, on pain of death. These priests are figures not only of all office-bearers in the church, who ought to be pure and holy; but of all the holy nation of Christians; who, having a great high-priest over the house of God, ought to draw near with true hearts, and in the full assurance of faith, having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water. It is true, they are washed and justified already, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God; yet still they need to wash their hands and feet: yea, even the holiest saints upon earth stand in need of a constant fresh application to the laver of Christ's atoning blood. Faith is the hand by which this purifying water is applied to the conscience. Would we approach to God in holy duties? would we ascend the hill of the Lord, and stand in his holy place? then, in a special manner, must we lay aside all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness, resolving, with the sweet singer of Israel, "I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord." Psalms 26:6. But whoever they be that prefer the mire of their sin to the laver of his blood, and think to wash away their sins with the nitre and soap of their own carnal righteousness, they shall die before the Lord, be excluded from his beatific presence, and become an abhorring unto all flesh for evermore.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 38". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/exodus-38.html. 1801-1803.