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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 40

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-33


Exodus 40:1-33

THE COMMAND TO SET UP THE TABERNACLE, AND ITS PERFORMANCE. All was now ready. Bezaleel and Aholiab had completed their task. The work for the tabernacle had been given in, and had been approved Moses did not however at once set it up. He waited for a command from God. After a short interval, the command came. He was ordered to select the first day of the ensuing year—the first day of the first year of freedom—for the operation. Directions were given him, which fixed the order in which the various parts were to be set up, and assigned to the various articles of furniture their proper places (Exodus 40:1-8). When he had arranged the whole as directed, he was to anoint the various parts (Exodus 40:9-11). He was then to wash and dress Aaron, and his sons; to invest them with their robes of office (Exodus 40:12-14), and to anoint them to be priests (Exodus 40:15). The orders given were executed, except (as it would seem) those concerning the investiture of the priests and the anointing, which were deferred. (See Le Exodus 8:6-30.) In one day the sanctuary was completely set up (Exodus 40:18-33).

Exodus 40:1-8

The directions to set up the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:2

On the first day of the first month. The first of Abib, or Nisan, the "New Year's Day" of Israel, coinciding nearly with the opening of the vernal equinox, a very suitable day for the inauguration of a place of worship. The tabernacle was to be set up first of all; then the tent was to be placed over it. See Exodus 40:18, Exodus 40:19.

Exodus 40:3

The first thing to be placed within the tabernacle was the ark of the testimony, as containing the foundation of the covenant between God and Israel, and being the special token of God's presence with his people. See the comment on Exodus 25:10. The "two tables" were placed within the ark before it was brought into the tabernacle (Exodus 25:20, Exodus 25:21). Cover the ark with the veil—i.e; "hang up the veil in front of the ark, so as to cover or conceal it."

Exodus 40:4

Thou shalt bring in the table—i.e; "the table of shew-bread" (Exodus 25:23-30; Exodus 37:10-16). And set in order the things, etc. It has been observed with reason that the directions of Le Exodus 24:5-7 must have been already given, though not recorded till so much later. Bread and frankincense were to be "set in order" on the table in a particular way. The candlestick. The seven. branched candelabrum (Exodus 25:31-39; Exodus 37:17-24). And thou shalt light the lamps. The lamps would have to be lighted on the first day at even (Exodus 27:21; Exodus 30:8).

Exodus 40:5

The altar of gold. See Exodus 30:1-10; Exodus 37:25-28. Before the ark of the testimonyi.e; "before the veil, opposite the ark of the testimony," not within the veil. See the comment on Exodus 30:6. The hanging of the doori.e; "the curtain which closed the front or eastern end of the tabernacle." (See Exodus 26:36; Exodus 36:37.)

Exodus 40:6

The altar of burnt-offering. See Exodus 27:1-8; Exodus 38:1-7. Before the door of the tabernacle. In the court, directly in front of the entrance, but not close to it, since the place of the laver was between the entrance and the altar. See the next verse.

Exodus 40:7

The laver. See Exodus 30:18; Exodus 38:8. Put water therein. The water was required:—

1. For the ablution of the priests (Exodus 30:19-21; Exodus 40:12, Exodus 40:31; Le Exodus 8:6), and

2. For washing the victims (Le Exodus 8:21).

Exodus 40:8

The court. See Exodus 27:9-18; Exodus 38:9-20. The hanging at the court gatei.e; the curtain at the entrance of the court (Exodus 27:16; Exodus 38:18).

Exodus 40:9-16

The directions to anoint, etc.

It does not appear that these directions were carried out at this time. Probably, there would not have been time to go through all the ceremonies enjoined (Exodus 29:1-34) on the same day with the erection of the sanctuary. They were consequently deferred, either till the next day, or possibly to a later date. (See Leviticus 8:1-36.) The anointing of the tabernacle is recorded in Exodus 40:10; of the vessels in Exodus 40:11; of the altar and laver in the same. The washing of Aaron and his sons in Exodus 40:6; their investiture in Exodus 40:7-9; the anointing of Aaron in Exodus 40:12; and a further anointing of Aaron together with his sons in Exodus 40:30.

Exodus 40:10

An altar most holy. Not really more holy than the rest of the tabernacle and its contents, which are all pronounced" most holy" in Exodus 30:29; but requiring more to have its holiness continually borne in mind, since "it was more exposed to contact with the people" than the tabernacle and its vessels (Keil).

Exodus 40:12

Unto the door of the tabernacle—i.e; to the place where the laver was situated (Exodus 40:7).

Exodus 40:14

Coats. Rather, "tunics." They were to be "of fine linen, woven work" (Exodus 39:27).

Exodus 40:15

Thou shalt anoint them as thou didst anoint their father. The mode of anointing does not seem to have been identical in the two cases. The oil was first poured upon Aaron's head (Le Exodus 8:12; Psalms 133:2), and afterwards sprinkled upon him (Le Exodus 8:30). It was, apparently, only sprinkled upon the priests (ib,). This was a lower form of anointing; and hence the high priest was sometimes called "the anointed priest" (Le Exodus 4:5, Exodus 4:16; Exodus 6:22; Exodus 16:32, etc.). Their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood. The Rabbinical commentators maintain that these words apply to the ordinary priests only, and on the strength of them establish a difference between the ordinary priests and the high priests. The latter were in every ease to be anointed to their office. A single anointing sainted for the former. It is scarcely necessary to say that there is no Scriptural ground for this distinction. The natural sense of the words is, rather, that as long as the anointing continued, the priesthood should continue.

Exodus 40:17-33

The actual setting up of the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:17

On the first day the tabernacle was reared up. Being constructed after the fashion of a tent, it was quite possible to rear up and also to take down, the tabernacle in less than a day.

Exodus 40:18

Fastened his sockets. Rather, "placed its sockets." The "sockets" or "bases" appear to have been simply laid on the flat sand of the desert, not "fastened" to it in any way. They were heavy masses of metal and would remain where they were placed. His pillars. The pillars that supported the "veil," and also those at the east end, where the entrance was.

Exodus 40:19

He spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle. The entire distinctness of the tent ('ohel) from the tabernacle (mishkan) is here very strongly marked. The "tent" was the goats' hair covering, with the framework of wood that supported it. The covering. The outer covering of rams' skins and seals' skins. (See Exodus 26:14.)

Exodus 40:20

The testimonyi.e; the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 31:18). Set the staves on the ark. "Put the staves," that is, "into the rings, and left them there" (Exodus 25:14). Put the mercy seat above upon the ark. See Exodus 25:21.

Exodus 40:21

Set up the veil of the covering—i.e; hung the veil on the four pillars between the holy place and the holy of holies, and thus covered—i.e; concealed from sight, the ark of the testimony. (See the comment on Exodus 40:3)

Exodus 40:22

Upon the side of the tabernacle northward. Upon the right hand, as one faced the veil. No direction had been given upon this point, but Moses probably knew the right position from the pattern which he had seen upon the mount.

Exodus 40:23

He set the bread in order upon it. Upon the subject of this "order," see Le Exodus 24:6-8, and compare the comment on Exodus 24:4.

Exodus 40:24

Over against the tablei.e; exactly opposite to the table, on the left as one faced the veil.

Exodus 40:25

When evening came, he lighted the lamps. (See the comment on Exodus 40:4) Whatever the priests ordinarily had to do was on this occasion done by Moses.

Exodus 40:26

The golden altar, or "altar of incense," was placed before the veili.e; outside it, in the holy place, midway between the table of shew-bread and the golden candlestick.

Exodus 40:28

He set up the hanging at the door. He hung on the five pillars at the entrance to the tabernacle the "hanging" or ': curtain," which had been made for the purpose (Exodus 36:37).

Exodus 40:29

He put the altar of burnt-offering by the door of the tabernacle. See the comment on Exodus 40:6. And offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat-offeringi.e; in his priestly character inaugurated the altar by offering upon it the first evening sacrifice. (See Exodus 29:38-41.)

Exodus 40:30

He set the laver. As directed in Exodus 40:7. For the position of the laver, see Exodus 30:18.

Exodus 40:31, Exodus 40:32

Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands. This is not a part of the narrative of what was done at this time, but a parenthetic statement of the purpose to which the laver was subsequently applied. On the importance attached to these ablutions, see Exodus 30:20, Exodus 30:21.

Exodus 40:33

He reared up the court, etc; as directed in Exodus 40:8. So Moses finished the work. With the hanging of the curtain at the entrance to the court, the erection of the tabernacle was complete. It was probably not till after this that Moses performed the acts of worship mentioned in the course of the narrative—put water in the laver (Exodus 40:30), offered sacrifice (Exodus 40:29), lighted the lamps (Exodus 40:25), and burnt incense on the golden altar (Exodus 40:26).


Exodus 40:1-33

The erection of the tabernacle.

At last the work of preparation was over. The work for which God had begun to give instructions more than nine months previously (Exodus 25:1) was completed. All the parts of the structure, pillars, curtains, boards, sockets, bars, taches, hooks, pins; and all the furniture, ark, altars, table, candlestick, laver, vessels, censers, tongs, ash-pans—were finished and ready. All had been inspected by Moses, and approved (Exodus 39:43); they answered to the pattern which had been shown him in the mount (Exodus 25:40). Still, however, Moses waited until he received from God:—

1. The order for erection.

2. Instructions as to details.

I. THE ORDER FOR ERECTION. "On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation" (Exodus 40:2). The order included:—

1. The act. "Set up the tabernacle."

2. The agent. "Thou"—i.e; Moses.

3. The time.

"The first day of the first month." Concerning the act there is nothing to be said. It was implied in the first order given, and lay at the root of every subsequent direction. The tabernacle could only have been devised in order to be set up. But concerning the agent and the time there was room for doubt. As to the agent: Bezaleel, the master craftsman, might have been chosen to erect what he had constructed; or Aaron might have been deputed to arrange the temple of which he was to be chief minister; or Moses and Aaron and Bezaleel might have been constituted a commission to carry out the work conjointly. But it pleased God to appoint Moses alone. For every enterprise it is best to have one directing mind, one ultimate authority. Otherwise there will be conflicting views, waste of time and energy, and commonly an inharmonious result. And Moses, who had alone seen "the pattern on the mount," was beyond all doubt the fittest director that could have been selected. As to the time: any day that was not a Sabbath would have been fairly suitable; but there seems an especial appropriateness in the selection of the first day of a new year. "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 7:1). A new year should begin with a good work. What better work for such a day than the opening of a Bethel—a house of God—a "tent of meeting," where God himself was to be met 9 God, who is the first, should have the first. First fruits of all things should be given to him. Thus, New Year's-day is a natural holy day. It opens the year. It is thus the most appropriate for openings.

II. INSTRUCTIONS AS TO DETAILS. A certain order had to be observed. God determined the order. First, the tabernacle itself was to be erected (Exodus 40:2); then the ark was to be brought in and placed in the holy of holies (Exodus 40:3); then the veil was to be hung up (ib,). After this the furniture of the holy place was to be brought in—the table of shewbread (Exodus 40:4), the candlestick (ib,), and the altar of incense (Exodus 40:5). Next, the hanging at the entrance to the tabernacle was to be put up (ib,) Lastly, the outer court and its furniture were to be taken in hand. The laver and altar of burnt offering were to be set in their places (Exodus 40:6, Exodus 40:7); the pillars and hangings which enclosed the court were to be arranged, and the curtain hung at the entrance to it (Exodus 40:8). The general law which pervades the whole is the precedence of the more important over the less important. We do not know what time intervened between the delivery of these instructions to Moses and "the first day of the second year"; but probably the interval was not long. Moses would employ it in selecting a site, and in preparing the artificers and others for the day's proceedings. When the appointed day arrived, he applied himself to the work (Exodus 40:17). First, he stretched, by means of cords and tent-pins, probably on a light wooden framework, the tabernacle cloth of blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen (Exodus 26:1-6). Then he laid down the "sockets" of silver in their places, fitted the boards into them by means of their "tenons," put in the bars which kept the boards together, and reared up the pillars for the veil (Exodus 40:18). After this he stretched the goats'-hair covering, which constituted the tent, outside and above the tabernacle cloth, and placed over the goats'-hair covering the rams' skins and the seals' skins (Exodus 40:19). So much constituted the erection of the tabernacle proper. Next he proceeded to the furniture; he brought in the ark and mercy seat, and, having placed them in the holy of holies (Exodus 40:21), set up the vail; thus completing it, and isolating it from the holy place. After this, he brought in the furniture of the holy place—the table, the candlestick, and the golden altar—and arranged it (Exodus 40:22-26). He then, and not till then, according to the direction given to him (Exodus 40:5), put up the hanging which separated the tabernacle from the court (Exodus 40:28). Finally, he proceeded to set in order the court. He put the altar of burnt offering and the laver into their places (Exodus 40:29, Exodus 40:30), carried the hangings alongside the court's four sides, and arranged the curtain at the entrance (Exodus 40:33). So, with a minute observance of the directions given, "Moses finished the work." Note the exactitude with which Moses followed all the directions given him, together with the liberty which he claimed and exercised:—

1. To determine the time of their execution.

2. To fill up particulars with respect to which no directions had been given.

1. Of the first, the deferring of the consecration by anointment of the tabernacle and its furniture, and of the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 40:9-15), is the crucial instance. It has been said that these may have taken place on the same day as the erection of the tabernacle; but the mode in which the narrative of the consecration is introduced in Le Exodus 8:1-5, no less than the separation of the narrative from that of the present chapter, implies an interval between the two events. Probably, by the time of the completion of the court, the day was far advanced, and it would have been impossible to perform all the ceremonies commanded (Exodus 29:1-36) in the remaining space.

2. Of the second, the emplacement of the table and the candlestick (Exodus 8:22, Exodus 8:24), the burning of incense (Exodus 8:27), and the offering upon the altar of burnt offering (Exodus 8:29) are specimens. Evidently Moses considered that "God's instructions were not always to be carried out with literal exactness, but sometimes with an enlightened spiritual freedom."

Exodus 40:18-33

The sanctification of material things.

Objections are raised to the entire idea of a holiness in things. Holiness, it is said, being a personal quality, cannot reside in things, or be communicated to them, or be rightly predicated of them. God is holy; angels are holy; some men are holy; but nothing else. To imagine a holiness in things is superstition. This is to effect a complete severance of matter from spirit—to dig an abyss between them—to regard them as asymptotes, which cannot ever touch one the other. But if God became incarnate, if "the Word was made flesh" (John 1:14), then that matter which constituted the body of Christ, most certainly became holy. And if that matter, why not other matter? Why not the food which he "blessed and brake, and gave to his disciples"? Why not the drink which he called "his blood"? If there is a contact between matter and spirit, and some spirits are holy, then it is readily intelligible that the matter which comes into contact with them may be, in a certain sense, holy also. And this is, beyond all doubt, the language of the Scriptures. We hear of "holy ground" (Exodus 3:5), "holy places" (Exodus 26:33), "holy garments" (Exodus 28:2), "holy oil" (Exodus 30:31), "a holy perfume" (Exodus 30:35), etc. Things material may become holy in various ways, e.g.

I. BY BEING TAKEN INTO GOD. Christ took our nature upon him, joined for ever the Manhood to the Eternal Godhead, and so gave to his own body an eternal sanctification of the highest possible kind, which renders it most holy.

II. BY BEING BROUGHT INTO CONTACT WITH HIM. The Cross of Christ, the crown of thorns, the nails, the soldier's spear, the raiment, the vesture, the napkin which was about his head when in the grave, became hallowed by association with him, and must ever be regarded by all Christians as holy. If the garment shown at Treves were indeed what it professes to be a garment once worn by Christ—it would well deserve the name, by which it is commonly called, of the "holy coat." As it is, we have no sufficient evidence of any existing piece of matter, that it ever came into contact with our Lord's blessed body; but, if we had, any such piece of matter would be "holy."

III. BY DESIGNATION FOR A HOLY PURPOSE. It is in this way especially that buildings, garments, vessels, cloths, and the like, are "holy." They are intended for and serve a holy purpose—are employed in the worship or service of Almighty God. It is felt on all hands that such things ought to be set apart from secular uses, reserved for the sacred end to which they have been designated, and applied to that only. Now, in cases of this kind, it does not appear to be inappropriate that the designation should be by a material act; and certainly no more significant act than anointing with oil is possible. For oil is symbolical of the Holy Spirit; ,and as it is by the Holy Spirit that individuals are sanctified, not only personally but officially, so as to be media of grace to others, so it may well be conceived that even inanimate things may become channels of grace and blessing to men, through an effluence from the same Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not disdain all contact with matter. At the beginning of creation he "moved," or rather brooded, "upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). At the baptism of Jesus, the Spirit was seen "descending like a dove, and lighting on him" (Matthew 4:16). At Pentecost he showed himself in the form of "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3). In every consecration it is quite possible that he may bear a part, though in general he shrouds himself, and does not let his presence be perceived.


Exodus 40:1-33

The erection of the tabernacle.


1. It reminded them of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage; "this month shall be unto you the beginning of months" (Exodus 12:2). God's dwelling-place is ever erected amid the adoring remembrance of his redemption. "The love of Christ constraineth us."

2. It was a consecration of the year upon which they were entering. It struck the key-note of the after time. The joy of the new year was to rise into the greater joy of the new life. The joy which hallows all time is that of reconciliation to, and union with, God.


1. The tabernacle was first erected in which God was to be served. The duty to serve God is confessed before the power is attained or the way understood.

(1) The emblem of the law in its strength and weakness.

(2) The story of all the saved.

2. The tabernacle is next furnished, and the altar and laver and outer court set up. The means are given of reconciliation and service. It is not enough to be convinced of duty. God must be waited upon for power. His way must be taken. "No other foundation can any man lay."

3. All things are anointed with the holy oil. The spirit hallows and energizes all the means of grace which God has given.

4. The priests also are anointed; we, too, must be so in order to serve, and we shall be if we come, as they did, into the midst of what God has provided and sanctified for man's redemption.

III. THE ERECTION OF THE TABERNACLE WAS FOLLOWED BY ITS IMMEDIATE USE. So soon as the shew-bread table was placed, the bread was set in order upon it. The lamps were immediately lighted. He burnt sweet incense upon the altar before the veil. On the altar of sacrifice he offered burnt offering and meat offering. At the laver "Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their feet." Belief should follow fast upon the heels of knowledge. God has sent forth his salvation, not to be the subject of intellectual interest and theological speculation, but to touch and change the heart. The bread of life has been given to feed the perishing, not merely to be examined, weighed, analysed.—U.


Exodus 40:10

The altar most holy.

There is a difference at once perceptible between the words of sanctifying in Exodus 40:9, and the words of sanctifying in Exodus 40:10. Whereas the tabernacle and all therein are declared as holy, a special sanctity is somehow attached to the altar of burnt offering. "It shall be an altar most holy." The reasonable explanation of this is, not that there was any special sanctity in the altar of burnt offering itself, but that from its exterior position it was in great danger of being treated thoughtlessly, and therefore needed special attention to be called to it. Hence we are led to note the existence of a similar distinction among such things as we are bound to treat in a reverent and careful manner. Certain persons, things, and places are of such a kind as to be their own protection. Perhaps it is still true to some extent, though doubtless it was much more felt in former times, that there is a divinity which doth hedge a king. Men of coarse and scandalous tongues manage to put a check on them selves in the presence of women and children. Some are still alive who remember the horror and indignation excited by the resurrection-men of fifty or sixty years ago, and how little watch-houses were built in some churchyards, and men took it in turns to guard by night the resting-places of their beloved dead. But those who would shrink with loathing from the bare possibility that they could be guilty of such desecration are nevertheless found treating great realities of holiness with indifference, if not with contempt. Remember with what profaning hands the Holy One of God was abused; he who spake concerning the temple of his body; he who was holy, not by any mere association, not for the purposes of some temporary economy, but essentially holy. Are there not those who, thoughtless enough of all the evil they are doing, crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame? (Hebrews 6:6.) What a fearful outlook is indicated for those who tread underfoot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant, wherewith they are sanctified, an unholy thing, and do despite unto the spirit of grace! (Hebrews 10:29.) The very same thing may in one way be hallowed, and in another be desecrated. There is a great semblance of hallowing in the huge family Bibles so often seen in English houses, rich, and not unfrequently tawdry, in their binding and gilding; but after all they may only be there as part of a reputation for respectability. The true hallowing is in the dog's-eared, well-worn book, poorly printed it may be, and on common paper, and with that indefinable appearance about it which tells of constant use. It is only too easy a thing to put superstition in the place of an intelligent, diligent, profound, and practical reverence. Even Christians are strangely negligent concerning the holiness inherent in them if they are really born again. Very unobservant are they of the persistent references in the New Testament to the holiness of a Christian's personality. How much is done, as a matter of course, that is inconsistent, yea, scarcely compatible with being, indeed, a living sacrifice!—Y.


Exodus 40:1-33

The tabernacle set up.

The sanctuary did not take long in making. When hearts are wilting, gifts liberal, and hands active, work is soon accomplished. Everything was ready by the first day of the new year after leaving Egypt. The new year was inaugurated by the setting up of the finished dwelling. How suitable an employment for the new year, to consecrate our hearts anew as dwelling-places for Jehovah! The section conveys lessons as to—

I. ORDER IN THE SANCTUARY. Every thing was done with order and deliberation. "Set the bread in order" (Exodus 40:4, Exodus 40:23). "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 15:40).

II. BEAUTY IN THE SANCTUARY. God's house, when completed, was a beautiful house. Cf. Isaiah 9:18.

III. HOLINESS IN THE SANCTUARY. The place was holy. Moses consecrated it by anointing (Isaiah 9:9-12). Those who served in it were to be holy. This is signified by the wearing of "holy garments" (Isaiah 9:13), and by washing in the laver (verse 31). Holiness becomes God's house (Psalms 93:5). His servants are to serve him in "beauties of holiness" (Psa 110:1-7 :8).

IV. WORSHIP IN THE SANCTUARY. Moses set the bread in order on the table, lighted the lamps, burnt incense, etc. He offered burnt offerings and meat offerings on the altar (verse 39). The tabernacle was a picture Gospel.—J.O.

Exodus 40:33

The two finishings.

"So Moses finished the work." Cf. Exodus 39:32—"Thus was all the work of the tabernacle finished." View the tabernacle as a type of the spiritual house—the Church. This tabernacle is being made. A time is coming when, in a more special sense, it will be reared,—the "day of Christ"—the day of "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19. Cf. Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:3).


1. The tabernacle was made with a view to its being reared. This was the end. So the calling, saving, and perfecting of individuals for the kingdom of God has always reference to their ultimate manifestation with Christ in glory (Rom 8:17-26; 2 Corinthians 4:15-18; 2 Corinthians 5:1-11; Ephesians 5:25-28; Philippians 1:6, Philippians 1:10; Colossians 3:1-4, etc.).

2. The labours of making were entirely finished, before the rearing was begun. The rearing was but the bringing into visibility of an already finished work.

(1) All the parts of the tabernacle were made.

(2) All the furniture of the tabernacle was made.

(3) The dress of the servants of the tabernacle was made.

Not till all this was done was the command given to rear. So the day of the manifestation of believers will not arrive till all labours preparatory to the setting up of the kingdom of God in glory have been concluded. The Gospel preached through all the world (Matthew 24:14), the "elect" (Exodus 39:31) gathered in, the last soul saved, believer's; sanctified, avery "living stone" (1 Peter 2:4) shaped and fashioned for the place it is ultimately to occupy In the heavenly building, etc.

3. These labours having been concluded, the rearing was proceeded with without delay. The rearing included

(1) the putting of the parts of the tabernacle together.

(2) The arrangement of its furniture.

(3) The ordering of its service.

So, when once the preparatory labours in connection with the kingdom of God have been finished, no time will be lost in setting it up in its final glory. Christ will appear, and his people will appear with him (Colossians 3:4). He and they will be glorified together (Romans 8:17).

4. The rearing of the tabernacle was the setting of it in visible glory before the eyes of the Israelites. So will Christ come to be "glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe" (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

5. The rearing of the tabernacle completed the preparation of it as a sanctuary for Jehovah. The same will be true of the glorification of the Church (Revelation 21:3, Revelation 21:4).


1. Christ admits us to be fellow-workers with himself in the labours of his Church. These are carried on by human agency (2 Corinthians 6:1).

2. He alone has to do with the glorification of his Church.

III. WHEN THE TABERNACLE WAS REARED, IT WAS FOUND THAT NOTHING WAS WANTING TO ITS PERFECTION AS A SANCTUARY. So will the glorification of the Church make manifest the beauty, symmetry, completeness, and perfection of the spiritual structure. It will be found to be "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27); complete as a place of habitation for Jehovah; a unity, and a perfect one.—J.O.

Verses 34-38


THE DESCENT OF THE GLORY OF GOD ON THE COMPLETED WORK. The work was finished the fist incense burnt (Exodus 40:27)—the first sacrifice offered (Exodus 40:29). Those who had watched the proceedings, and those who had been engaged in them, were probably about to retire to rest. Even Moses had withdrawn, and left the tabernacle to itself—when suddenly, there was a manifestation of Divine Power. The cloud, which had gone before the Israelites from Succoth onward (Exodus 13:20-22), and which had recently settled upon the extemporised "Tent of Meeting" (Exodus 33:9), left its place, and "covered" the newly-erected structure externally (Exodus 40:34), while an intensely brilliant light—here called "the glory of God"—filled the whole interior of the tabernacle (ib,). Moses, it appears, would fain have re-entered the tabernacle—to see the great sight" (Exodus 3:3); but he could not—the "glory" was too dazzling (Exodus 40:35). Thus a distinct approval was given to all that had been done. God accepted his house, and entered it. The people saw that he had foregone his wrath, and would be content henceforth to dwell among them and journey with them. Henceforth, throughout the wanderings, the cloud and tabernacle were inseparable. If the cloud was lifted a little off it and moved in front, the tabernacle had to follow (Exodus 40:36)—if it settled down on the roof, the people stopped and remained until it moved again (Exodus 40:37). The appearance was as of a cloud by day, and as of fire by night, so that all could always see where the tabernacle was, and whether it was stationary or in motion (Exodus 40:38). After the first descent, it would seem that "the glory" withdrew into the Holy of Holies, so that both Moses and the priests could enter the holy place, and minister there (Le Exodus 8:10; Exodus 10:13, etc.).

Exodus 40:34

Then a cloud. In the original "the cloud," i.e. the cloud so often spoken of (Exodus 13:21, Exodus 13:22; Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:20, Exodus 14:24; Exodus 19:9; Exodus 24:15-18; Exodus 33:9, Exodus 33:10). Covered the tent. Descended on the outer covering and rested there. Filled the tabernacle. Entered inside, and filled both holy place and Holy of Holies.

Exodus 40:35

Moses was not able to enter. It is implied that he wished—nay, tried—to enter—but the "glory" prevented him. (Compare 1 Kings 8:11; 2Ch 5:14; 2 Chronicles 7:2.) Because the cloud abode thereon. It was not the external "cloud" which prevented Moses from entering, but the internal "glory." But the two are regarded as inseparable.

Exodus 40:36-38

And wheni.e. "whensoever." The last three verses describe the manner in which the cloud henceforth served the Israelites as guide—not only directing their course, but determining when they were to move, and how long they were to rest at each encampment. For a further account of the same, see Numbers 9:15-23.

Exodus 40:38

The cloud … was upon the tabernacle by day and fire was on. it by night. Compare Exodus 13:21, Exodus 13:22; and Exodus 14:20, Exodus 14:24; Numbers 9:15, Numbers 9:16. The cloud had two aspects—one obscure, the other radiant. It was a dark column by day—a pillar of fire by night. Thus it was always visible.


Exodus 40:34-35

The symbols of God's presence.

I. GOD IS SEEN BY THOSE WHO UNFEIGNEDLY LOVE HIM AS PURE LIGHT. "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12; John 9:5). "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). "In him is no darkness at all" (1 John 2:5). With clear unclouded radiance he shines on those who tread his heavenly courts, which need no other light besides him. "The city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Revelation 21:23). With a radiance not much less bright, he looks upon his saints on earth, cheering them, illumining their paths, making them glad with the light of his countenance. He may veil himself in condescension to their infirmity; but the veil is translucent; it covers without concealing; it tempers the brightness, but only as a thin haze tempers the splendours of the lord of day.

II. GOD SHOWS HIMSELF TO THE GENERALITY OF MEN AS MINGLED LIGHT AND CLOUD. To Abraham he appeared as "a smoking furnace and a burning lamp" (Genesis 15:17); to the Israelites at Sinai as combined smoke and fire (Exodus 19:18); to Solomon, dazzled by his glory, he was still one who "dwelt in the thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12). When Isaiah beheld him sitting in his temple "the house was filled with smoke" (Isaiah 6:1-4); when Ezekiel "saw visions of God," he "looked and behold, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself." Wherever the glory of the Lord is seen, wherever he looks upon men with. mercy and compassion, there his proper symbolism is light, though it may be a light partially obscured and mingled with darkness. For darkness symbolises his anger; and in the case of his wayward children, he cannot but be at once compassionate and angry; displeased, yet anxious to forgive. Or the darkness may be the dense cloud of human ignorance which the Divine light can only partially pierce through. Any way, the bulk of men see God as a light amid smoke. "Clouds and darkness are round about him" (Psalms 97:2)—"he makes darkness his secret place, his pavilion round about him with dark waters, and thick clouds to cover him" (Psalms 18:11). Fire flashes out of the clouds occasionally; gleams of light stream forth; "at the brightness of his presence, his clouds remove" (Psalms 12:1-8), and he is seen to be man's "true light."


1. To agnostics—to them who know him not, and refuse to believe that he can be known;

2. To them who have never heard of him, but have a dim unconscious feeling that some infinite unknown being exists;

3. To them that have been taught to view him as a remorseless, revengeful being, without pity or mercy;

4. To them that, having known him aright, have cast his words behind their back, thrown off his authority, and placed themselves in determined antagonism to his will and commandments. All is dark in the future to such persons; and in the thought of God is "the blackness of darkness for ever." Because they have not chosen to retain God in their knowledge, God has given them over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28). They "put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." He, in whom is no darkness at all, is to them mere darkness. The God of this world has "blinded their eyes" that they cannot see; and, like a blind man, looking at the sun, the darkness which is in their own vision they ascribe to the object which' their dim sight, fails to distinguish.,, God is "the,, true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9). But if the light that is within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:23.)


Exodus 40:34-38

Indwelling and guidance.

I. GOD OWNS THE DWELLING-PLACE SET UP ACCORDING TO HIS COMMANDMENTS. "Then the cloud," etc. "And Moses was not able to enter in," etc.; it was claimed as his own and taken possession of by the Lord.

1. The soul which comes by God's way will be filled with God's glory.

2. The Church which honours God he will glorify.

3. The full glory of the perfected Church, the bride of Christ.

II. WHERE THE LORD DWELLS HE GUIDES. When the cloud was taken up they went onward; when it rested they rested.

1. He is our guide in our onward journey.

(1) In providence. We must make sure that we follow him. It will not avail to choose our own way and then ask God to be with us. We are to follow his leading, not he ours.

(2) In grace. We may be mourning departed joy. There may be no longer the freshness and power we once felt in the ministration of the word, or in prayer. We have been slumbering and loitering. We have not striven to press through our sins and into fuller light. The cloud has lifted and gone onward, and we must follow after. "This one thing I do."

2. He is our guide into patience.

(1) He teaches us to bear and so to overcome.

(2) By the resting of faith to possess and to grow.—U.


Exodus 40:34-38

The house filled with glory.

The close of the book of Exodus is worthy of the greatness of its subject. It ends where the history of the world will end, with the descent of Jehovah's glory to dwell with men (Revelation 21:3). We have seen Israel in bondage; have beheld its redemption; have followed it through the wilderness; have heard the thunders of the law at Sinai; have been witnesses of the nation's covenant with God; have seen its shameful apostasy; have traced the steps of its reconciliation; have heard the instructions given for the building of this tabernacle; have viewed the tabernacle itself. We see now the symbol of Jehovah's glorious presence in the midst of the people whom he has thus in so many ways made his own. What a wondrous succession of subjects we have thus had before us in the course of our review. The intolerable anguish of oppressed Israel; the birth of the deliverer; the singular providence of his early life; his great choice; the call in Midian; the revelation of the name; the return to Egypt; first failures; the long and tragic contest with Pharaoh; the hardening of Pharaoh's heart; the exodus; the Red Sea; the miracles of the desert; the law; the covenant; the "patterns" shown to Moses in the mount; the sin of the calf; the great intercession; the name of mercy; the preparation of the sanctuary. There remains to complete the series only this final scene of the entrance of Jehovah's glory into the house prepared for his habitation. This was the true consecration of the sanctuary, and the true consecration of the nation. "A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (verse 14). In what is related in these verses we have:—


1. Indwelling. The filling of the tabernacle with the glory was the symbol of Jehovah's taking up his abode in it, and so in Israel (cf. Exodus 25:8). It testified

(1) to the completeness of his reconciliation with the people. Cf. Isaiah 12:1—"O Lord, 1 will praise thee, though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me."

(2) To his complacency in the beautiful house they had reared for him. Cf. Psalms 132:14—"This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell; for I have desired it."

(3) To his desire to dwell among them. Note—

1. The true glory of the Church is God's residence in her midst. This was Israel's highest distinction (Exodus 33:16).

2. We should pray that the time may come when the Church shall be, not only dwelt in by her Lord, but "filled" with the "glory" of his presence (Isaiah 60:1-22.).

2. Protection. The glory filled the tabernacle within, while the cloud spread itself above the tent as a protective covering without. So is Jehovah the protection of his Church (Isaiah 4:5, Isaiah 4:6; Zechariah 2:5).

3. Guidance (verses 36-38). See Homily on Exodus 13:21, Exodus 13:22.

II. A HINT OF IMPERFECTION. "Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation," etc. (verse 35). Thus are we reminded that, amidst all these glorious circumstances, that which is perfect is not yet come.

1. Law, not gospel.

2. A material building, not a spiritual house.

3. Earth, not heaven. It was a glory

(1) too great for man to see. Even Moses, who had seen so much of the Divine glory, was not able to look upon it.

(2) Too great for such a building—a mere material structure—to contain. Man longs for nearer communion. So great a glory needs a better house to contain it—a spiritual (1 Peter 2:5).

III. A FORECAST OF WHAT SHALL BE. That which is perfect is not yet come, but it will come by-and-by.

1. The tabernacle of God will be with men, and he will dwell among them (Revelation 21:3, Revelation 21:4). His glory will fill it. "The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Revelation 21:23).

2. This glory will be no longer unapproachable. We shall be able to endure the sight. "His servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face" (Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:4). We shall receive the Vision.

3. This, however, will only be when earthly conditions have been exchanged for heavenly. "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53). Till that hour arrives, we must be content to "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), seeing only "as through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12).—J.O.


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 40". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/exodus-40.html. 1897.
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