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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 26

 

 

Verses 1-37

THE INNER COVERING OF THE TABERNACLE

(vs.1-6)

The tabernacle itself had four coverings; the lower one, which would be visible from inside, being made of fine woven linen with blue, purple and scarlet material woven into this, as well as ornamental cherubim. Since one would have to be inside to see the beauty of all of this, we are reminded that only believers coming into the presence of the Lord, are able to discern the glory and beauty of His person. Though the white fine linen speaks of His perfect moral character, which is a delight to a believer's heart, the world sees no beauty in Him: their eyes are blinded (John 12:37). Similarly as regards the blue, a reminder of His heavenly character, which Israel could not discern (John 6:42). The royal purple color tells us He is King, which Israel strongly denied (John 19:15). These three portray what is seen of Christ in the three Gospels, Luke, John and Matthew, in that order, while the scarlet is the color of attraction, just as the Lord's service in Mark's Gospel drew the attention of great numbers (Mark 1:33; Mark 1:37; Mark 2:2; Mark 2:7 etc.) How much better it would have been if people had been drawn by the perfection of the Lord's moral character or the beauty of His heavenly glory, rather than by His miracles through which they might be benefitted. Yet sometimes, while the miracles first draw them, people are further drawn by the perfection and beauty of the person of the Lord Jesus. But all are seen in the sanctuary of His presence.

There were ten curtains, the number of human responsibility (as seen in the ten commandments), for these colors all connect with the Lord's humanity, a humanity absolutely perfect, for the length of each curtain was 28 cubits, that is, 7 x 4. The seven speaks of perfection, while four is the number of weakness and dependence, which is further emphasized by the four cubit width of each curtain. Christ's human weakness is seen in His "being wearied with His journey" (John 4:6), and in the words of 2 Corinthians 13:4, "For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God." This weakness did not in any way imply failure, but dependence on God.

Five of the curtains were to be coupled together and the other five the same (possibly sewn). Then the two sets of five were to be joined by means of 50 loops of blue material attached to the selvage of each set (v.4), with golden clasps to attach the loops together. Thus a covering would be formed to extend from near the ground on either side right over the frame of the tabernacle. The loops and clasps would be in the middle. In this way the ten curtains were divided into five times two, the number indicating the reality of the Lord's responsibility to God and the number two speaking of the witness to this in the world. The clasps of gold tell us that it is a work of divine power that unites together every aspect of the humanity of Christ.

THE CURTAIN OF GOATS' HAIR

(vs.7-13)

Above the curtains of fine linen those of goats' hair were placed. There were eleven of these instead of ten, and they were two cubits longer, though the same width. These of course would be more weather resistant, and would reach to the ground, as the fine linen curtains did not. Five of these were coupled together and the six others also coupled together, but the sixth curtain was to be doubled at the front of the tabernacle (v.9). The fifty loops of blue in each set and the copper clasps speak similarly to the same in the linen curtains, except that the copper speaks of God's holiness in uniting these sets together. For the goats' hair symbolizes, not the person of Christ, but His work as the substitutionary sacrifice for His people. This must be a perfectly holy sacrifice, typical of that of Calvary.

While the sixth curtain of goats' hair was doubled at the front of the tent, this evidently meant that half of the curtain was doubled back, for verse 12 speaks of a remaining half curtain, which was to hang over the back of the tabernacle. Verse 13 then indicates that the extra two cubits of the length of the curtains (since these were 30 rather than 28) were to extend on either side one cubit lower than the inner curtain, so that the inner curtain was well covered, not to be seen from the outside.

THE CURTAINS OF RAMS' SKINS AND BADGER SKINS

(v.14)

The size of these two coverings is not mentioned, nor how they were made, but they no doubt covered the others over completely. The covering of rams' skins dyed red speaks of the sacrifice of Christ, not from the viewpoint of substitution, but from that of redemption. For Christ's sacrifice was not only for the sake of substituting for us, but for the glory of God. The ram speaks of His willing devotion to God in His sacrifice, and being dyed red reminds us that the shedding of His blood was absolutely essential to satisfy the righteous claims of God against our sins. By that sacrifice we are redeemed to God (Revelation 5:9).

But the covering of badger skins, or possibly sealskins, as some commentators consider likely, does not speak of sacrifice. This covering would necessarily be water proof, and whether badger skins or sealskins the color would be drab and unattractive to the eye. Yet this covering speaks of Christ also, as the others do. It reminds us of Isaiah 53:2 : "And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." This was true of Israel's response when the Messiah came to them, and it is true of all classes of people everywhere. In their first view of the Lord Jesus they see nothing to attract them. There must be a work of the Spirit of God to open their eyes to see far more in Him than appears at first sight.

THE BOARDS AND SOCKETS

(vs.15-30)

Boards were made for walls on the two sides and on the back of the tabernacle, but not for the front, where a curtain was used. We have seen that all four coverings speak of Christ, but in regard to the boards another interesting feature is added. First, they stood upright, the length of each being ten cubits and the width one and a half cubits. These were made of acacia wood, so the tree must be large to provide such width (at least 27 inches). Verse 29 gives instructions that these were to be overlaid with gold. At first sight we might therefore think back to the ark and the table for showbread, both of which speak of Christ in His pure Manhood overlaid by His deity. But this does not fit, for the boards are standing on sockets of silver (v.19, etc.). Silver always speaks of redemption (see Numbers 3:45-51), and Christ certainly does not stand on redemption: it is only believers who stand on redemption: it is only believers who stand on this ground. While the acacia wood speaks of our humanity, the gold covering can only symbolize the divine nature with which every believer is invested through being born of God. Thus the boards are not seen, but the gold. Speaking of all those who are truly born again, 1 John 2:24 tells us, "you also will abide in the Son and in the Father." This does not mean that we become God, but we are covered by the nature of God, being no longer seen as "in the flesh," but "in Christ," or "in the Spirit." This is marvelous grace.

The boards were standing, for the tenons and sockets were designed to keep them upright. Romans 14:4 reminds us concerning every true believer, "he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand." The ten cubit length however speaks of responsibility, for the believer does not stand merely as a lifeless robot, but with the exercise of willing, devoted faith that gladly bears a responsibility of testimony for God. The width of each board was one and one half cubits, the one speaking of unity as being joined with the other boards, but the extra half cubit seems to indicate that the full perfection of our place in Christ and the full perfection of our unity with all other believers will not be apprehended so long as we are in this wilderness world, but awaits the day of full manifestation.

On each side of the tabernacle (south and north) there were twenty boards (10 x 2), again emphasizing responsibility in witness, that is, our responsibility to bear a witness to what we are "in Christ." In this the flesh has no place whatever. On the west end (the back) of the tabernacle were six boards, besides a board for each corner at the back (v.23). These may have been set at an angle. The number 6 perhaps tells us that our present testimony falls short of perfection, just as six falls short of seven. The corners required extra strength, for whenever God makes changes of direction in His ways, or his dispensations, He gives special grace or strength to His people. Various occasions in the book of Acts illustrate this (ch.2; ch.7; ch.8, ch.10) By means of the sockets of silver the boards were joined together at the bottom, and at the top by one ring (v.24). Exactly how this was done does not seem too clear, but we are sure the building was stable, resisting the winds of the wilderness.

Bars were made for the sides and back of the tabernacle, five for each side and five for the back (vs.26-27). four of the bars in each case were long enough only to reach half way, so that two met in the middle above the one long bar that reached from end to end, and the other two met in the middle below that long bar. These bars also were made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The number five again speaks of responsibility and the bars indicate the unity of the saints of God as being held together by the gracious hand of God. Thus we are told in Ephesians 4:1-3 to "walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Rings of gold were attached to the boards, through which the bars were inserted (v.29). We are not told the number of the rings. This may be one of the details that Moses was shown on the mountain (v.30), for he is told that the tabernacle was to be raised up in accordance with what the Lord had shown him there, so that no-one today can duplicate the plan of the tabernacle, even though we have the plans that scripture furnishes.

THE VAIL

(vs.31-35)

The vail was to be hung between the holy place and the most holy. It was to be made of blue, purple, scarlet and fine woven linen, with cherubim woven into it, though we are not told how many cherubim.

The significance of the vail is clearly announced in Hebrews 10:20 : "the vail, that is to say, His flesh." It is the Lord Jesus, not in His eternal Godhead glory, but in Manhood. "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15). The beauty of the Lord's Manhood is seen in various ways. First, the blue speaks of Him as being a unique Man, coming down from heaven (John 6:51). In this verse He insists that He is the living bread and that bread is His flesh. He is true Man, yet a Man uniquely different than all the children of Adam.

Purple is the royal color, and speaks of the Lord Jesus as King of Israel, as Matthew presents Him, yet more than that, "King of kings and Lord of lords." As King His Manhood is essential, as Matthew 1:21 infers, "you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." This King saves His people by virtue of His own suffering and death, for in Matthew He is the trespass offering.

Scarlet is the attracting color, reminding us of the blood of Christ by which guilty sinners are attracted to Him to have their sins put away. This connects with Christ as the sin-offering, a prominent feature of Mark's Gospel, which also presents the Lord Jesus as the perfect Servant of God accomplishing God's will in fully meeting the sin question.

Finally the fine woven linen emphasizes the Lord's Manhood in every detail of His character and conduct. These threads were extremely fine yet strong, and woven together. So all the moral character and conduct of the Lord Jesus was perfect in every detail and all woven together to form a pattern of exquisite beauty. Woven into the vail was an artistic design of cherubim. How many we do not know, but they speak of governmental control. Wonderful it is to know that the Lord Jesus was always perfect in governing Himself, perfect in self-control.

The vail separated the holy place from the most holy. Just so, the perfect flesh of the Lord Jesus forbids our entry into the holy presence of God. For it shows us the only king of a man who has any title whatever to enter God's presence. Once a year the high priest was allowed to enter, not without blood, for the high priest is a type of the Lord Jesus, who entered heaven once, having accomplished eternal redemption by the shedding of His blood (Hebrews 9:11-12).

In order for believers to enter, however, it was necessary that the vail should be torn from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51). This typifies the rending of the flesh of the Lord Jesus in sacrifice for us, so that the way is open for us to be welcomed into the presence of God. Thus Hebrews 10:19-22 tells us, "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us, through the vail, that is to say, His flesh, and having a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith."

The vail was to be hung upon four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. These rested on silver sockets. Since standing on silver, they speak of believers as they are "in Christ," dependent on His redemption. It may seem strange that believers in any sense "hold up" Christ. But we are reminded in Revelation 3:12, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out." It will be our eternal joy to hold up the perfections of the blessed Man Christ Jesus.

Though we shall hold up the perfections of the Man Christ Jesus for eternity, yet the tabernacle does not speak of eternity, but of our passing through a wilderness world. So that these pillars supporting the veil speak of our holding up Christ as a testimony in the world. In fact, the number four is the world number (its four directions), so that this emphasizes a present lifting up of the Lord Jesus as the One worthy of the adoration of all the world. The hooks on the pillars were of gold.

Inside the veil, in the Holiest of all, the ark with its covering mercy seat was to be the one article of furniture (vs.33-34), for it is symbolic of the throne of God, and Christ the upholder of that throne. the table was outside the veil on the right side as one entered, and the lampstand opposite it on the left side (v.35). Not mentioned as yet is the altar of incense, which we shall see later was just outside the veil (ch.30:1-10).

THE ENTRANCE CURTAIN

(vs.36-37)

The entrance to the tabernacle was covered by a large curtain. It was made of the same materials as the veil except that no cherubim were interwoven into it. Of course it speaks also of the pure Manhood of the Lord Jesus, the only One by whom there is any entrance into even the outer sanctuary, as the Lord Jesus says, "If anyone enters in by Me, he will be saved" (John 10:9). Typically, entering into the first room is salvation, while entering through the veil is for worship.

Five pillars held up the entrance curtain, and they stood on sockets of brass (or copper), not silver. Brass speaks of the holiness of God, the brazen altar being a prime example of this. In this altar is seen God's holiness in connection with the sacrifice of Christ, where the burning judgment of God was borne by Him in suffering for sins. How appropriate it is that the reminder of His sacrifice is seen in connection with the entrance, for only on this basis can one enter in by Christ, the living way.

The five pillars in this case do not represent believers, but the Lord Himself, who bears full responsibility (the number five) for the witness to His own sufficiency as the entrance for man into the blessing of salvation. Though believers stand upon redemption (silver), only the Lord Jesus stands upon a ground of pure holiness (brass), as seen in His sufferings, and only through Him and His sufferings can anyone enter in.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 26:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/exodus-26.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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