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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Exodus 40



God commands the tabernacle to be erected, and Aaron and his sons to be sanctified: Moses obeys the command; and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle.

Before Christ 1490.

Verse 2

Exodus 40:2. On the first day of the first month That is, of the second year after the departure from Egypt. See the 17th verse, and the last note on the former chapter.

Verse 15

Exodus 40:15. For their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood Houbigant renders this, And this anointing of theirs shall be for them, as well as for their posterity, for an everlasting right to the priesthood. The successors of the high-priest were personally anointed; see Leviticus 6:22; Leviticus 21:0.

10. Some have thought, that this anointing of Aaron and his sons was signified by these words, to be sufficient to consecrate not only them, but their posterity, to the priesthood. "As the priesthood," says Calmet, "was hereditary in the family of Aaron, there was no necessity to repeat the anointing here spoken of upon every one of that family: it was sufficient that the first priests had once received that anointing for all their successors: they anointed, however, the high-priest, even to the coming of Jesus Christ."

REFLECTIONS.—The whole, being complete, is ordered to be set up.

Here is, 1. The time: on the first day of the new year; and a happy new year's day it was to them. About a year had elapsed since their departure from Egypt; a year, full of God's mercies and their unfaithfulness. Now that God is come to dwell in the midst of them, it is to be hoped a new life will begin with a new year. Note; New years should begin with humbling reviews of the past, and humble purposes of amendment for the future.

2. The consecration. The whole was solemnly set apart for God's use and service. When we are raised from beds of sickness, and when we arise from beds of sleep, we should anew consecrate and devote to his service the tabernacle of our bodies.

Verse 31

Exodus 40:31. And Moses, and Aaron and his sons, washed their hands, &c.— This shews, (what we have before observed on Exo 29:26) that Moses now acted as priest: see ch. Exo 30:19-21 and Levit. ch. 8. It is to be remembered, that, in this erection of the tabernacle, due regard was had to the time appointed for the several ceremonies; as will appear more fully from the next book.

REFLECTIONS.—Moses sets up the glorious fabric, and begins the service of the sanctuary. The candlestick is lighted up, the table covered, the incense smoking, the offering on the altar. Thus he taught the priests the method of their service: and himself, and Aaron and his sons, washed in the laver: for they who minister before a holy God, must purge themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; and even in our most holy duties, whenever we would approach God, we must first wash in the open fountain of a Saviour's blood, without which we never can draw near with acceptance to him.

Verse 34

Ver. 34. Then a cloud covered the tent It should rather be rendered, then the cloud covered the tent. The tabernacle being finished, the Divine Presence, signified by this glorious cloud, came to take possession, as it were, of that house, which God had promised to inhabit, as the King and peculiar Guardian of the Jewish nation: and, accordingly, this glorious cloud became the director of all their motions, Exo 40:36 signifying to them not only when to travel, but also which way they were to steer their course; and thus it continued to do all the time they were in the wilderness, till it brought them into the land of Canaan: "Whereby," says Dr. Beaumont, "was figured the guidance and protection of the church by Christ, under the Gospel; as it is written, Isaiah 4:5. The Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount-Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence."

REFLECTIONS.—No sooner is the tent pitched, than the Divine Inhabitant comes to take up his residence in it; declaring hereby his favour towards them, and his acceptance of their services. All the glory of the tabernacle had been useless pomp without the presence of the Deity: all the gifts and greatness of man, without the in-dwelling of the true Shechinah, are no better than the miserable ruins of a desolate place. The soul is only truly glorious and happy, when it becomes a living temple, an habitation of God through the spirit.

1. There was an awful display of the Divine Majesty. The cloudy pillar from the top of Sinai descends, enters the tabernacle, and passes to the throne between the cherubim; and so transplendent is the brightness, that for a while Moses cannot enter. But though Moses is weak through the flesh, He, who from eternity dwells in the light to which no man approacheth, is now, in our nature, for us entered into the holy place; and not only so, but will open a way for us to follow him, and will strengthen us to bear the brightest coruscations of the Divine light and glory.
2. This cloud covered the tent, visible to all the host; a constant proof, that God was in the midst of them, and as constant a pledge of his protection. Note; If the spirit of God and of glory resteth upon us, we may well be comforted: neither sin nor Satan shall be able to destroy us.

3. The cloud directed their journeyings, and guided them in the way, hovering over their tabernacle, and going before them, till they rested at last in Canaan. Such, to every believer, is the word of God in his journey to glory. Under its guidance he sets out, and by its light shall he be conducted, till he shall take his last Exodus, his final departure from this sublunary scene, to his mansion in the skies, his eternal and fixed abode with God in glory.

Reflections on the Levitical Priesthood as emblematical of the priesthood of all Christians.

Although the Levitical priesthood was chiefly designed to prefigure the Great High-Priest, this does not render it improper, or unprofitable, to view it as an emblem of the priesthood of all the saints, who, in every age, approach to God, that they may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. It is true, indeed, the great propitiatory Sacrifice is already offered, never to be repeated again; and we cannot sufficiently detest that sacrilegious usurpation of the Redeemer's glory by the pretended priests in the Roman Church, who, without any the least warrant from the sacred oracles, give out to their deluded votaries, that they offer in the mass, I know not what unbloody sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. O impiety! O absurdity! for can any thing be more impious and foolish, than to imagine that Jesus Christ has not, by his one Offering, for ever perfected all them that are sanctified, but has left his work to be completed by a wretched, mortal priest? We Christians must acknowledge, that all priesthood, in the strict literal sense, is now ceased in Christ, the end of the law. But still there is a metaphorical priesthood, which the New Testament ascribes, not to the office-bearers in the Christian church, but to all Christians without exception. It was the promise of God to his ancient people, that "they should be unto him a kingdom of priests." Exo 19:6 and the phrase is adopted by an apostle, who says to the whole body of believers to whom he writes, "Ye are a royal priesthood." 1 Peter 2:9. It was foretold by the holy prophets, that men should call the professors of the true religion the priests of the Lord, and the ministers of our God, Isaiah 61:6.—that the Gentiles should be taken for priests and Levites;—that the priestly tribe should have an offspring numerous as the host of heaven, and the sand of the sea;—that in every place which the rising and setting sun surveys, incense and a pure offering should be offered to the true God. These great and precious promises have already been, and still more shall be fulfilled. The company of the redeemed were seen in vision by John, arrayed in white robes, the badge of their priestly character; and he heard their heavenly song of praise to that loving Saviour who washed them from their sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God. Though the analogy of the legal and metaphorical priesthood may not perhaps be so striking as that between Aaron and Christ Jesus, there is not wanting a considerable resemblance.

Were the Levitical priests chosen by God, and separated to his peculiar service? God has chosen the faithful from the rest of mankind, and set apart him that is godly for himself. Were they taken in the room of the first-born of all the tribes, to whom the right of priesthood seems originally to have belonged? The people of Christ are the general assembly and church of the first-born, as all God's children are. Were they all descended from Levi and Aaron? (for unless they could prove their genealogy, they were put from the priesthood as polluted.) So all the saints are descendants from Jesus Christ, their everlasting Father, and ought to ascertain their heavenly extraction by the documents of a holy conversation. They were washed with water at their consecration, and were always to use the laver which stood in the entry of the tabernacle, when they ministered in the sanctuary. This puts us in mind of the washing of regeneration, of which all Christians partake at first, and of the frequent recourse to the fountain of Christ's blood in their holy services. The oil which anointed them, signified the unction of the spirit, which the faithful receive from the Holy One. The white garments of fine linen, are an emblem of the righteousness of the saints. They were not allowed a share of the earthly Canaan, as the other tribes: for the Lord spake unto Aaron, "Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part, and thine inheritance among the children of Israel." Numbers 18:20. Was not this a lively type of the superior privilege of his beloved, who are delivered from the men of the world who have their wretched portion in this transitory life? But the Lord is their portion, and therefore in him they may hope, be their outward state ever so indigent. The ceremonial purity which was required of them who bore the vessels of the Lord, denotes, that holiness becomes the house of the Lord and all who worship in his temple for ever.

But what are their sacrifices? Let an apostle speak this: they are "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus "Christ." 1 Peter 2:5. Perhaps we might say, to use the legal style, there is the meat-offering of charitable distributions; the drink-offering of penitent tears issuing from a broken contrite heart; the heave-offering of prayer and elevated desires; the peace-offering of praise and thanksgiving; and the whole burnt-offering of the whole man, when the body is presented unto God a living sacrifice, when every lust is mortified, and the very life surrendered for the honour of God in the spirit of martyrdom, which is our reasonable service. These are the sacrifices which all the saints offer, not to an unatoned, but to an atoned God. They themselves are their temples; and, besides, they have access by faith into heaven, the holiest of all. Christ is their Altar, that sanctifies all their gifts. His Spirit is the Fire that inflames, and his Merit is the salt which powders and seasons all their sacrifices, when they come with acceptance before the presence of JEHOVAH.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 40". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.