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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 25

Verses 1-2


2. Bring me an offering Hebrews, take for me a terumah . The terumah ( תרומה ) was thought of as a gift or offering that was lifted up to the honour of God . The word is often translated heave offering, as in the margin . Comp . Exodus 29:27-2.29.28; Leviticus 7:14; Leviticus 7:32; Numbers 15:19-4.15.20; Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 12:17. Here it is used in the general sense of offering, or oblation, and what every man contributed toward the sanctuary was to be given willingly with his heart. No compulsory oblations were to be accepted for this new house of Jehovah, but only such as each man’s heart impelled him to bestow. And so in typical form it was indicated that God builds his spiritual house of willing souls. Comp. Rom 12:1 ; 1 Peter 2:5. How willingly the people responded is seen in Exodus 35:21-2.35.29; Exodus 36:5-2.36.7.

Verse 3

3. Gold, and silver, and brass Sceptics have been fond of asking whence the Hebrews in the wilderness could have obtained such quantifies of the precious metals as the tabernacle required . It is not difficult to answer: (1 . ) They probably possessed some of the treasures which belonged to their ancient fathers, and of which they had not been despoiled in Egypt. (2.) They obtained great quantities of gold and silver from the Egyptians on their departure from their land. See Exodus 12:35-2.12.36, and notes on Exodus 3:22, and Exodus 11:2. (3 . ) Much spoil of the Egyptian army probably fell into their hands at the Red sea . See Exodus 14:30, note . (4 . ) They doubtless obtained much spoil of the defeated Amalekites, (Exodus 17:8-2.17.13. ) (5 . ) Finally, we are not to imagine that in the Sinaitic peninsula the Hebrews were cut off from all communication with other peoples . Great caravans frequently traversed these deserts, (comp . Genesis 37:25; Genesis 37:28,) and doubtless then, as in a later time merchantmen of “all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country,” (1 Kings 10:14-11.10.17,) carried to and fro with them large quantities of precious metals; and these, as well as other material needed for any of their purposes, could have been obtained by the Israelites .

Verse 4

4. Blue, and purple, and scarlet The exact colours, tints, or shades denoted by the Hebrew words thus translated it is now hardly possible to determine with absolute certainty . The same may be said of the names of colours in all the ancient languages . The use of these different colours in the tabernacle probably served not only for the sake of beauty and variety, but also to suggest thoughts of heavenly excellence and glory . The three colours here named have always and everywhere been regarded as appropriate for the persons and palaces of kings . Blue, as the colour of the heaven, reflected in the sea, would naturally suggest that which is heavenly, holy, and divine . Hence it was appropriate that the robe of the ephod was made wholly of blue, (Exodus 28:31; Exodus 39:22,) and the breastplate was connected with it by blue cords, Exodus 25:28. It was also by a blue cord or ribbon that the golden plate inscribed “Holiness to Jehovah” was attached to the high priest’s mitre, Exodus 25:31. The loops of the tabernacle curtains were of this colour, (Exodus 26:4,) and the children of Israel were commanded to place blue ribbons as badges upon the borders of their garments, (Numbers 15:37-4.15.41,) as if to remind them that they were children of the heavenly King, and were under the responsibility of having received from him commandments and revelations. Hence, too, it was appropriate that a blue cloth was spread over the holiest things of the tabernacle when they were arranged for journeying forward. Numbers 4:6-4.4.7; Numbers 4:11-4.4.12. Purple and scarlet, so often mentioned in connexion with the dress of kings, have very naturally been regarded as symbolical of royalty and majesty . Judges 8:26; Esther 8:15; Daniel 5:7; Nahum 2:3. Both these colours, along with blue, appeared upon the curtains of the tabernacle, (Exodus 26:1,) and upon the vail that separated the holy place from the most holy . Exodus 26:31. A scarlet cloth covered the holy vessels which were placed upon the table of showbread, and a purple cloth the altar of burnt offerings . Numbers 4:8; Numbers 4:13.

Fine linen Hebrews שׁשׁ , shesh, believed to be an Egyptian word, translated by βυσσος in the Septuagint, and applied to an Egyptian fabric made of fine flax, and having a peculiar whiteness . Joseph’s vesture, when made ruler in Egypt, was of this material . Genesis 41:42. It was used for the curtains and vails of the tabernacle, and for the garments of the priests . Exodus 26:1; Exodus 26:31; Exodus 26:36; Exodus 28:5-2.28.6; Exodus 28:8; Exodus 28:15; Exodus 28:39.

Goats’ hair A very solid fabric was woven of the hair of the goat, and was the most common material used for the covering of tents among the nomads of the East.

Verse 5

5. Rams’ skins dyed red “These skins may have been tanned and coloured like the leather now known as red morocco, which is said to have been manufactured in Libya from the remotest antiquity . ” Speaker’s Commentary . Others have explained the words as meaning simply skins of red rams .

Badgers’ skins Besides the mention in Ezekiel 16:10, the word תחשׁ , here translated badger, occurs only in connexion with the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle. The Sept. and Vulg. seem to understand it as the name of a colour, hyacinthine. The Targum and the Syriac translate it by the word ססגונא , which Levy explains ( Chald . Worterbuch) as a red-spotted beast . Kitto’s Cyclopaedia maintains that it was probably an animal of the antelope tribe, but could not have been the badger, which is not found in Asia so far south as Palestine and Arabia . It is probably best understood of a kind of seal which is said to be found in the waters about Arabia . “The word bears a near resemblance to the Arabic tuchash, which appears to be the general name given to the seals, dugongs, and dolphins found in the Red sea, (Tristram,) and, according to some authorities, to the sharks and dog-fish. (Furst.) The substance spoken of would thus appear to have been leather formed from the skins of marine animals, which was well adapted as a protection against the weather. Pliny speaks of tents made of seal skins as proof against the stroke of lightning, ( Nat. Hist., 2: 56,) and one of these is said to have been used by Augustus whenever he travelled. The skins of the dolphin and dugong are cut into sandals by the modern Arabs, and this may explain Ezekiel 16:10. ” Speaker’s Commentary .

Shittim wood The wood of the acacia tree, a very hard and durable kind of tree which abounds in the Sinaitic peninsula .

Verse 6

6. Oil for the light This, according to Exodus 27:20, was to be pure olive oil and beaten .

Spices Such as are more fully described in Exodus 30:22-2.30.25. The various things for which the anointing oil was used are mentioned in Exodus 30:26-2.30.33.

Sweet incense See more fully Exodus 30:34-2.30.38.

Verse 7

7. Onyx stones Already mentioned Genesis 2:12. These, and the other precious stones set in the breastplate, are mentioned more fully in Exodus 28:17-2.28.21.

Verse 8

8. A sanctuary This word, מקדשׁ , has occurred but once before this place, namely, in Moses’s song, (Exodus 15:17,) where a general prophecy is made that the chosen people shall be established in the mountain of Jehovah’s inheritance, the sanctuary in which Jehovah purposed to dwell . This name applies to the entire structure about to be described, and designates it as the holy place where Jehovah would graciously dwell among his people, and reveal to them his holiness and his truth .

Verse 9

9. The pattern of the tabernacle This is most positively represented throughout this entire narrative (comp . Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5) as given to Moses by divine revelation . The notion that it was a fiction of the priests, invented nearly a thousand years after the time of Moses, puts such a withering stamp of falsehood upon this straightforward narrative that it must fail to commend itself to any serious student of history . But when we study out the details, and picture the whole pattern before our eyes when, further, we consider the striking symbolism of the various objects, and their adaptation to body forth the profoundest truths touching the relations of God and man we are convinced that the pattern originated not with man, but with God himself . How God showed Moses this model of the tabernacle we are not told . It may have been imaged before him in clear outline, like the sight of the burning bush; or, in a dream of the night it may have been definitely pictured before the soul . We have no need, however, with the rabbins, to suppose that he saw heaven opened, and a material tabernacle there, in form and substance like what he was commanded to make .

Verse 10

10. Shittim wood Its material, observes Stanley, “was not of oak, the usual wood of Palestine, nor of cedar, the usual wood employed in Palestine for sacred purposes, but of shittim, or acacia, a tree of rare growth in Syria, but the most frequent, not even excepting the palm, in the peninsula of Sinai . ” The size of the ark was about three feet nine inches long, and a little over two feet in breadth and height. Its probable form is best illustrated by the adjoining cut .

Verses 10-22

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT, Exodus 25:10-2.25.22.

he description of the tabernacle begins with the most sacred object, which, in addition to the above title, bore the several names of the Ark of the Testimony, (Exodus 25:22,) or simply the Testimony, (Exodus 27:21,) the Ark of Jehovah, (Joshua 3:13,) the Ark of God, (1 Samuel 3:3,) the Ark of the strength of Jehovah, (Psalms 132:8,) and the Holy Ark . 2 Chronicles 35:3. This occupied the most holy place in the sanctuary, and symbolized the deepest mysteries of redemption . The monuments of Egypt have been found to bear images which strikingly resemble the ark here described . This no more conflicts with the statement that the tabernacle of the Hebrews was modelled after a heavenly pattern than does the fact that numerous other revelations embodied in well known forms of human thought conflict with their heavenly origin. Other nations and other religions have their altars, and sanctuaries, and ceremonials; but this does not hinder Israel from appropriating like objects to symbolize their holiest mysteries. In like manner, the new revelations both of Mosaism and of Christianity did not invent a new language for their use, but appropriated and adapted old ones. Moses’s acquaintance with the learning and wisdom of the Egyptians made him the more competent, under God, to fashion such objects as served the purpose he had in hand. Not so much the mere outward form as their arrangement and religious lessons give evidence of a heavenly origin.

Verse 11

11. A crown of gold round about Rather a rim, moulding, or border around the top, as shown in the cut .

Verses 12-15

12-15. Rings… staves The position of these is seen in the cut, and the whole, as wont to be carried by the priests, is shown in the following cut .

Verse 16

16. Put into the ark the testimony Hence the name “Ark of the Testimony,” (Exodus 25:22. ) This testimony was Jehovah’s declarations from the mount, which were afterward written by God’s finger upon two tables of stone (Exodus 31:18. ) They were to be deposited in the ark as a monumental witness of the will of God .

Verse 17

17. A mercy seat Hebrew, capporeth; the cover or lid of precisely the same dimensions as the length and breadth of the ark . Exodus 25:10. On its symbolical significance see note at the end of chap . 40 .

Verses 18-20

18-20. Two cherubim The exact form of these is nowhere described, but their position in the two ends of the cover of the ark, and the stretching forth and covering the mercy seat with their wings, may be seen best illustrated in the cuts . It is not necessary to suppose that the cherubim described in Ezekiel 1:5-26.1.14, conformed in all details with those of the tabernacle. The probable form of the cherubic type as there given is seen in connexion with our note on 1 Kings 6:23, and also in McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopaedia, article Cherubim, from which the adjoining cut is taken .

Click image for full-size version

Verse 22

22. There I will meet with thee Here, as also in Exodus 29:42-2.29.46, we have an intimation of the main idea, symbolized in the tabernacle, namely, the union and communion of Jehovah and his people .

Verse 23

THE TABLE OF SHOWBREAD, Exodus 25:23-2.25.30.

23. Two cubits While the height of it was to be the same as that of the ark, (Exodus 25:10,) the length and breadth were each half a cubit less . The form is represented in the adjoining cut .

Verse 24

24. Crown Rather, moulding or rim, as in Exodus 25:11.

Verse 25

25. Border An enclosing framework, running round the table underneath the top and designed to strengthen the whole by holding the legs firmly in place . To this border there was also fastened a golden moulding like that which adorned the top of the table . Exodus 25:24.

Verses 26-28

26-28. Rings… staves These are exhibited in the cut, and serve the same purpose as the like in the ark Exodus 25:12-2.25.15.

Verse 29

29. The dishes Probably large deep plates used for the purpose of carrying the showbread to and from the table .

Spoons Or, perhaps, cups, small hollow vessels used sometimes, according to Numbers 7:14, for holding incense.

Covers… bowls These were vessels for holding the drink offerings, as appears from the words which immediately follow, to pour out withal, (margin,) wrongly translated to cover withal. The Speaker’s Commentary renders this part of the verse thus: “And thou shalt make its bowls and its incense-cups and its flagons and its chalices for pouring out, (the drink offerings.)”

Verse 30

30. Showbread before me always The showbread (Hebrews פנים לחם , bread of faces,) was so called from its being designed to lie as a meat-offering continually before the face of Jehovah . The manner of making this bread, and of arranging it upon the table in two piles of six cakes each, is described in Leviticus 24:5-3.24.9, and is also shown in the above cut . The twelve cakes or loaves undoubtedly represented the twelve tribes of Israel as offered in holy consecration perpetually before Jehovah .

Verse 31

THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK, Exodus 25:31-2.25.40.

31. A candlestick This is to be thought of as an elaborately constructed lampstand, furnishing places for seven lamps, (Exodus 25:37. ) Like the cherubim it consisted of beaten work, (comp. Exodus 25:18,) that is, elaborately wrought by some hand process.

Shaft Rather, the base, or pedestal.

Branches Rather, the main stem or shaft, rising up from the pedestal,

Bowls These appear to have been the flower-shaped cups into which the spherical knops, next mentioned, were set, and both the cups and the knops were further connected with flowers, or blossoms, all together serving the purpose of ornamentation. All these were to be wrought out of one and the same piece, so as to form a complete whole.

Verse 32

32. Six branches Having described the main shaft or stem ( קנה ) which was to rise up out of the base, he next mentions the six stems ( קנים ) which were to come out of the sides of it. These, with the central shaft, furnished at their tops the places for the seven lamps.

Verse 33

33. Three bowls Returning now to a further description of the ornamental bowls or cups ( גביעים ) mentioned in Exodus 25:31, the writer describes them as made like unto almonds, probably meaning like almond blossoms. Also a knop and a flower were to be wrought into each of the six branches that come out of the candlestick. In this verse, and in the two following, the word candlestick is to be understood more particularly of the main shaft or stem of the lampstand, a part being named for the whole.

Verse 34

34. In the candlestick That is, in the main shaft of it .

Four bowls Four cups like those in each of the branches just described in Exodus 25:33. These, like those, were to have their knops and their flowers. The position of these knops is stated in the next verse .

Verse 35

35. Under two branches of the same, according to the six branches That is, immediately underneath the point at which the side stems, or branches, proceeded out of the main stem there was a knop, each connected with its cup, ( bowl, Exodus 25:31, note,) and its flower, (Exodus 25:33. ) This leaves us to infer that the fourth bowl (Exodus 25:34) was above, between the two upper branches and the top of the main stem . Thus is explained the position of the four bowls of Exodus 25:34.

Verse 36

36. Shall be of the same The entire lampstand was to be wrought out of one piece of pure gold, that is, as in Exodus 25:31, so that the completed work should form one solid piece .

Verse 37

37. Seven lamps One for each of the side stems or branches, and one for the central shaft .

They shall light the lamps Or, cause the lamps to go up, that is, they shall elevate or place the lamps (the lighted, shining lamps) in their position, that they may give light over against it, that is, opposite the place where it stood, the opposite side of the room.

The above description of the golden candlestick is somewhat obscure. The exact form of the shafts, or branches, and the knops and flowers is left to conjecture, nor can we determine from what is here written whether the central shaft and the six branches were all carried up to the same height, and whether the branches proceeded out of the shaft at right angles or formed a curve in their upward turn. No dimensions are given, and we can judge of its size only by supposing that its height would have been as high, and probably somewhat higher, than the table, and its breadth between the two outer lamps at least two feet. Josephus ( Ant., 3: 6, 7) describes it as having a shaft rising from a single base and spreading itself into as many branches as there are planets, including the sun among them. Its seven heads terminated in one row, and all stood parallel to one another. A conspicuous object among the spoils of Jerusalem pictured on the Arch of Titus at Rome is a figure of the candlestick, with its central shaft and six arms. It is not certain that this is an exact copy of even the one captured at the fall of the temple, for the Roman artist may have modified some of its parts; but in its main outline it doubtless truly represents the original. The two additional cuts herewith given exhibit two slightly different models, the one showing all the lamps on the same level, and the other at various elevations. Either of these will illustrate the statements of the text commented on above. Here is seen, first, the pedestal or base ( shaft of Exodus 25:31) from which rises the main shaft with its four knops and associated ornamentation, (Exodus 25:31; Exodus 25:34-2.25.35,) and from which three pipes branched out on each side, one above the other, and formed so many arms to hold the lamps. Each of these branches had three bowls or cups (Exodus 25:33) along with knop and flower, as the central shaft had four, placed as described in Exodus 25:35. Most writers believe that the seven lamps were all elevated to the same level, which is probable, but not made certain by what is here written. That they were all in a row, or in the same plane, as shown in all these cuts, is evident from Exodus 25:32, where the six branches are described as coming out of two sides of the main shaft.

Verse 38

38. Tongs… snuffdishes The one for snuffing and trimming the lamps, the other for holding the burned snuffings when removed from the wicks . These latter were a small sort of fire-pans or ash-pans . Comp . Exodus 27:3. The exact form of these is nowhere described .

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 25". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.