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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 25

 

 

Introduction

Moses in Mount Sinai Receives God’s Revelation.

Moses In The Mountain With Yahweh For Forty Days and Nights (25:1-31:18).

After receiving the covenant and putting it into writing Moses was called by Yahweh to go up to Him into the Mountain. The Great Overlord wished to establish the necessary protocol for His people’s approach to Him. There through revelation Moses was to be given instructions concerning the provision of a Dwellingplace for Yahweh, with all its furniture, so that they could know that He ‘dwelt among them’. This was in order to confirm to Israel His gracious intentions towards them (Exodus 25:1 to Exodus 29:46), and which will enable them to reveal their continued loyalty and concern for His holiness (Exodus 30-31).

An Earthly Dwellingplace Is To Be Prepared For Yahweh’s Convenience (Exodus 25:1 to Exodus 29:46)

The first act is to establish a Dwellingplace among them which will be a reminder that He is their Overlord. The preparation of the Dwellingplace falls into two sections:

1). That which expresses Yahweh’s sovereign activity towards His people and His provision of atonement (Exodus 25:1 to Exodus 29:46), and at the end of it He expresses His intention to dwell among them (Exodus 29:45).

2) This is followed by the provision of the means by which they can express their loyalty to Him, and can approach Him, through their representatives, in His throne room, and at the end of this He gives them the covenant as sealed by His hand (Exodus 30:1 to Exodus 31:18).

Yahweh as Suzerain Lord Sets Up His Throne and Palace Among His People (25:1-27:21).

Once the children of Israel had sealed the treaty with Yahweh He established His official presence among them. Previously He has been with them in the pillar of cloud and fire as Guide and Protector, and this would continue, but now He established Himself openly as their King. The ancient Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:7-11 - how far back its history went we do not know) would now be replaced by a more splendid model, The Dwelling-Place (mishkan, from shakan ‘to dwell’) in which would be the throne of Yahweh. (EVV translate Tabernacle, but the word mainly indicated a ‘dwelling-place’). At this stage this would necessarily be a tent because of their circumstances, but it seems to be suggested that that was how God intended it to be permanently (2 Samuel 7:5-7). Its transient nature was meant to indicate that it was not His permanent home. His permanent home was above. The future Temple would, in fact, seem to be a concession to man’s weakness for such things, illustrating the way in which men think, although it was in itself symbolic for it indicated that no Temple was worthy of Yahweh (1 Kings 8:27).

So from now on Yahweh would dwell among His people in a new way, and He would have His own splendid Tent to which they could direct their worship and their obedience, situated at the heart of the camp. But it is made clear that while sometimes they would see His glory on it He Himself would never be seen, nor must He be depicted in any form. That would be to make Him earthly and to degrade and limit Him. This Tent would contain the throne of Yahweh (the ark of the covenant) and the Testimony (the ten words and the covenant which He had made with them), but He Himself would be invisible.

However, great kings had many dwellingplaces, so this one is not therefore to be seen as limiting Yahweh. It was the one that He used in communication with His people, but it was not His sole home, although it was His sole home on earth. For even the heaven of heavens could not contain Him, how much less this tent (compare 1 Kings 8:27). The people knew that Yahweh was the God and Judge of all the earth, and could do what He would wherever He would (Exodus 15:11-12; Exodus 19:5; Genesis 18:25; 1 Kings 8:27), so that even Egypt with all its gods had been unable to prevent Him doing His will. They would not therefore see Him as limited to a tent.

However, as a totally new thing, specifically stated to be of heavenly design, it would help to unite these people of many races (including the mixed multitude - Exodus 12:38) into one unified people. They had all received the covenant together. Now together they would receive the dwellingplace of Yahweh to be in their midst, a dwellingplace designed by Yahweh Himself. It was an ever present reminder to them that God had personally met with them and made His covenant with them, and would be with them.

Its constructional techniques are paralleled elsewhere. Portable pavilions using practically the same constructional techniques as the Dwellingplace are well witnessed to in Egypt in 2nd millennium BC and even dating back into 3rd millennium. And it is noteworthy that a bas-relief dating from the period of Rameses II about 1285 BC showed the tent of the divine king set in the middle of the Egyptian encampment just as the tent of Yahweh was now set among His people. Moses would thus be aware of such tents.

We have already seen that the name Oholibamah (Genesis 36) means ‘tent of the high place’ which suggests a tent shrine, and it is interesting that such a tent shrine has been discovered at Timnah in the Negeb, the region of ancient Edom. Furthermore in the Ugaritic story of King Krt he is spoken of as practising certain rituals within a tent despite the fact that his was an age of roofed houses, and other Ugarit sources suggest that El had such a portable shrine or shrines. Such portable tent shrines were later in use among the Arabs.

So the idea of the tent shrine of the Great King was in itself nothing new, although it did have its own unique construction. What was new was that God’s presence was real and marked by invisibility. No image of any kind, which could be seen as representing Yahweh, was allowed. And yet it was a reminder that God was invisibly among them and aware of all that happened.

It may be that the basic plan of the Dwelling-place (Tabernacle), with its division into the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, was patterned on similar Canaanite temples, for there would be Canaanite temples in Egypt to suggest such a pattern (at Baal-zephon (Exodus 14:2) for example) and the twofold division is hardly unusual. Every palace would have its throne room and ante room.

Besides the division conforms with what we have already seen of different levels of approach to Yahweh with:

1). Only Moses being able to fully enter His presence and enter into the cloud when summoned.

2). The elders being called to approach a certain distance but not the whole way.

3). The people having to keep their bounds and not being allowed on the mount.

The dividing curtain into the Most Holy Place (‘the Veil’) was symbolic of the cloud and was the bound past which even the priests and Moses may not go, (except the High Priest when summoned once a year on the Day of Atonement), and the curtain guarding the way into the Holy Place was in order to prevent the entry of the people. Thus the Dwelling-place conveys the same ideas as we have seen at Sinai. Its structure therefore fits well into that environment. And its tent structure fits well into the wilderness situation.

The Dwelling-place was also Yahweh’s ‘tent palace’ as Suzerain Lord with, as it were, its personal quarters for Yahweh that none may enter and the outer room for those who would approach Him. While He is the God of all the earth (Exodus 19:5; 1 Kings 8:27) it signifies that He was dwelling among them in a unique way as a result of the covenant of Sinai.

These changes were psychologically important. They would convey to the people the idea that God was among them in a new way as their Great King and demonstrate that they were now to enter into the realities of the promises. It was a continuing reminder of God’s deliverance from Egypt and of Hi covenant at Sinai.

This next section of the book may be analysed as follows:

a The people called on to make their offerings so that they can make a Sanctuary for Yahweh to dwell among them (Exodus 25:1-9)

b The Making of the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh (of the Testimony) (Exodus 25:10-22).

c The Making of the Table of Shewbread (Exodus 25:23-30).

d The Making of the Lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40).

e The Making of the Dwellingplace (Exodus 26:1-30).

e The Making of the Veil (Exodus 26:31-35).

d The Making of the Screen (Exodus 26:36-37).

c The Making of the Brazen Altar (Exodus 27:1-8).

b The Making of the Court of the Dwellingplace (Exodus 27:9-19).

a The people called on to bring the Olive Oil for the Continually Burning Lamp (Exodus 27:20-21).

It will be noted that it opens and closes with the people called on to bring their contribution to Yahweh. In ‘a’ they bring their offerings, and in the parallel they bring their olive oil as a part of their tribute to Him. The furniture is then described. This commences in ‘b’ with the Ark which was to contain the covenant and from which Yahweh would speak to Moses. It emphasised that the covenant was of central importance to Yahweh’s dwelling among them. It was where He sat to receive homage. In the parallel was where the people came to pay homage to Him and confirm their response to the covenant. In ‘c’ we have the shewbread which represents the twelve tribes as constantly being presented before God in the Holy Place, and in the parallel we have the brazen altar where the people presented themselves and their offerings to God. In ‘d’ we have the the lampstand through which the people shine out constantly towards God, while in the parallel we have the screen which presents the people from actually coming into God’s presence. Central are the Dwelling-Place where God dwells among His people, and the Veil which reminds them that they cannot directly approach Him.

The Sanctuary furniture is described moving from the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) which contained the Ark, through to the Holy Place which contained the Table and the Lampstand. All these were contained within the Dwellingplace, with the Most Holy Place being separated from the Holy Place by the Veil. The whole inner sanctuary was shielded from the court into which the people could come by the screen, and we then move on to the Brazen Altar, which was in the Court of the Dwellingplace, and was the plae where atonement could be made for them. The whole finishes with a description of the olive oil which fed the continually burning lamp and was provided by the people. It should be noted that all these items are a reaching out by Yahweh to His people, as well as being a reminder that, although continually in remembrance before Him, they are not fit to enter into His direct presence.

The making of the Veil may seem to be out of place in the order of things, but that is because it was secondary. It was not part of the holy equipment. It was rather a part of the screening from God. The writer sees the curtains, veil and screen all as one item, dividing up the Sanctuary in which the furniture was to be situated.

It will be noted that all the items are for representing Yahweh to His people, even the brazen altar, which is God’s opening of an access point to man. It is noteworthy that in the heavenly Temple of Ezekiel which descends on the unknown mount away from Jerusalem only the brazen altar actually has to be built as the physical access point to the spiritual temple. The altar of incense and the laver which are part of man’s approach to God will come later.


Verses 1-9

Provision For Making the Dwellingplace: The People Called On To Make Their Offerings (Exodus 25:1-9).

We may analyse this passage as follows:

a The children of Israel to be called on to make an offering according to their willingness (Exodus 25:1-2).

b The offering was to be of gold, silver and brazen copper (Exodus 25:3).

c And blue-violet and purple-red and scarlet, and fine linen (Exodus 25:4 a).

d And goats’ hair and rams’ skins dyed red, and dolphin skins, (Exodus 25:4-5 a).

d And acacia wood (Exodus 25:5 b).

c Oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense (Exodus 25:6).

b Onyx stones and stones to be set for the ephod and for the breastplate (Exodus 25:7).

a And they are to make Him a sanctuary that He may dwell (shakan) among them. According to all that He was to show Moses, the pattern of the Dwellingplace (mishkan - EVV Tabernacle) and the pattern of all its furniture, even so they were to make it.

In ‘a’ the people are called on to make a willing offering, and in the parallel they are to make Him a Holy Place (Sanctuary) in which to dwell in accordance with the heavenly pattern. In between these we have the treasures of Israel. Note how in ‘b’ we have the precious metals whereas in the parallel we have the (semi-) precious stones. In ‘c’ we have the materials for the dwellingplace which convey the essential message of the Dwellingplace, its heavenly nature (blue), its royalty (purple-red)and its offer of atonement and righteousness (scarlet), and in the parallel the continual contributions to worship by the people of oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and incense all of which are closely connected to the Sanctuary. In the ‘d’ we have the protective coverings and the wood to add strength, possibly indicating the presence of the earthly aspect in the Dwellingplace.

Note also how, in as far as possible with such overall coverage, all is graded so as to go from the centre outwards, commencing with gold, through silver, to brazen copper; and from the materials for the inner draping to the materials for the outer covering. And we may detect the order, constituents of the inner furniture (gold), drapings and outer coverings, oils and incense for maintenance of worship, jewels for the priestly garments, an order followed in the subseqent narrative.

So the pattern that follows in the subsequent description on the whole parallels the order here, mainly (but not precisely) indicating the first use of the offering made by the people. So we have the making of the inner furniture with the gold (Exodus 25:10-40), then the making of the Sanctuary with the coloured materials (Exodus 26:1-6), then the outer covering with the goatskins, etc. (Exodus 26:7-14), then the frames of acacia wood (Exodus 26:15-28), then the oil for the lamp (Exodus 27:20), then the jewels for the priestly garments (Exodus 28). We should note that the acacia wood is also used in the inner furniture, and the gold on the frames, so there may also be a pattern based partly on value. The acacia wood by its position is clearly seen as the element of least value among the constituting materials, even though it is contained in much of the inner furniture, probably because it represents the more earthly aspect of the whole. The anointing oil and sweet incense only come in later in the narrative (Exodus 30:22-38), although the anointing oil is required for the sanctifying of the priests (Exodus 29). So we can only discern a trend rather than an exact order.

Exodus 25:1-2

‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the children of Israel that they take an offering for me. You shall take my offering from every man whose heart makes him willing.” ’

From a human point of view this was an offering of tribute, the first requirement of a suzerain lord, but because the recipient was Yahweh it was also an act of worship, an ‘offering’. The tribute was therefore to be voluntary, a willing contribution. He wanted it to come from the heart. The people were to offer willingly. God receives nothing ungraciously given, or given for the wrong motive.

Exodus 25:3-5

“And this is the offering that you shall take of them, gold and silver and brazen copper, and blue-violet and purple-red and scarlet, and fine linen and goats’ hair. And rams’ skins dyed red, and dolphin skins, and acacia wood.”

This is a list of what would be required for the Dwelling-place and its contents. Gold, silver and brazen copper for the furniture, and for the implements and vessels. Bluey-violet, purpley-red and scarlet for the curtains, goats’ hair as a covering over the curtains (see 26:7; 35:26), and rams’ skin dyed red for the outside (see 35:23). The later Arab tent shrines were also made of red leather. There would be no shortage of these things for some had built up wealth in Egypt and they had ‘spoiled’ the Egyptians of many precious things when leaving.

“Dolphin skins” (‘tachash’) The meaning is not certain but it was certainly a leather of fine quality. They were possibly dolphin skins (or porpoise skins) from Red Sea dolphins, or dugong skins. Compare Arabic ‘tuchas’ which means dolphin. But also Egyptian ‘tchs’ which means leather.

We may see the precious metals as a reminder of the glory and splendour of God, the bluey-violet a reminder that this was the place of contact with the heavens (the blue sky would be a daily occurrence), the purpley-red as a reminder that they were approaching a king, and the scarlet as a reminder that they could only do so through the shedding of blood. The fine linen would then represent the true righteousness of the One within, and the acacia wood might be seen as representing the strength and power of God. (It was put within the gold to provide stability and strength). But this is our view of things. They may have seen it differently.

The paucity of words for colour in Hebrew suggests that colour was not considered important in Israel and the words used tended more to suggest the origin of the dyes. And dyed cloth indicated wealth and splendour. The thought may simply therefore be of differing dark, dyed colours, indicating royalty and beauty and the spoils that Yahweh had won for them. The goat’s hair was outside for weather protection and represented the people and the world outside. And finally all would be covered with a covering dyed red. This both made the Dwellingplace prominent and was also a reminder that God could only be approached through the shedding of blood.

The bluey-purple dye was probably indigo and was a common dye used in Egypt, the purpley-red dye was possibly derived from shellfish, the ‘scarlet worm’ would probably be from the cochineal insect found in trees and the fine linen would be from Egyptian flax and of a soft white hue. The word used for linen is of Egyptian provenance.

Exodus 25:6

“Oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense.”

The oil of pure beaten olive oil (Exodus 27:20) would be required for the lampstand (Exodus 25:31) and the perpetually shining light (Exodus 27:20-21), the spices for the anointing oil (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 29:21) and incense (Exodus 30:7). Compare the almost parallel verse in Exodus 35:28.

This verse is not found in the Septuagint (LXX) and some therefore see it as a later addition, possibly a scribal note from Exodus 35:28 eventually brought into the text. On the other hand it may equally have been accidentally or even deliberately omitted in the family of manuscripts from which the Septuagint was translated, or by the translators themselves.

The oil represented the people’s part in letting the light of God shine out, a reminder to Him (in their eyes) of the fact that He was their light and life. The spices and incense represented a desire to please God.

Exodus 25:7

“Onyx stones and stones to be set for the ephod and for the breastplate.”

The ephod is described in Exodus 28:4; Exodus 28:6 onwards, the breastpouch in Exodus 28:15 onwards. The word for ‘onyx stones’ is ‘shoham’ which may also mean beryl (so LXX often). The onyx is a black and white transluscent stone, and is easily engraved, the beryl is a green stone. Other alternatives are also suggested such as lapis lazuli and carnelian.

Exodus 25:8-9

“And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell (shakan) among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the Dwellingplace (mishkan - EVV Tabernacle) and the pattern of all its furniture, even so shall you make it.”

The word for ‘sanctuary’ (miqdash) comes from the root for ‘holy’ (qdsh). It is thus a sacred and holy place. But it is also His ‘dwelling-place’ (mishkan - tabernacle). The King is here to dwell among His people. And the pattern of it and of its furniture is specifically stated to be divinely determined. We later learn that it is a pattern of heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5). But even then it is so idealistically not literally. It was to convey ideas not to describe the literal construction of Heaven, which is of course not physical. But the importance of this is in the idea it contained. Here they were in touch with the heavenly.

“The Dwellingplace.” (Mishkan). The temporary nature of the dwellingplace is brought out in 1 Chronicles 6:32 which refers to ‘the mishkan of the tent of meeting until Solomon had built the house of Yahweh’ and 1 Chronicles 17:5 where it says ‘for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel to this day, but have gone from tent to tent, and from one mishkan to another’. ‘Dwelt (yashab) in a house (bayith)’ is there contrasted with ‘tent’ (‘ohel) and ‘dwelling-place’ (mishkan). The stress in the case of the tent is therefore on the tent as a ‘dwelling-place’, but as more temporary of nature. Indeed its temporary nature is stressed, ‘from one tent to another’. It had constantly to be replaced. Once the temple had been built God was seen as more permanently housed in a building (yashab) rather than more temporarily housed in a movable tent (shakan) which led to the fatal error of thinking that God was restricted to the house and would protect His own house against all-comers. So Ezekiel had to indicate His permanent departure from it (Ezekiel 10). In Exodus 24:16 Yahweh temporarily dwelt (shakan) on Mount Sinai. He was not restricted to a place, and indeed could not be.


Verses 10-15

The Throne and Covenant Chest of Yahweh (Exodus 25:10-22).

The Making of the Ark (Exodus 25:10-14).

The analysis of this section stresses the make up of the Ark (Exodus 25:10-14).

a They were to make an Ark (chest) of acacia wood covered with gold and a moulding of gold round about (Exodus 25:10-11).

b Four rings of gold were to be set at the bottom part of the sides of the chest, two on one side and two on the other (Exodus 25:12).

b Staves were to be made of acacia wood covered with gold, and these were to be but into the rings in the side of the ark.

a This was for the purpose of carrying the Ark and all that pertained to it (Exodus 25:13-14).

Note how in ‘a’ we have the making of the Ark and in the parallel the bearing of the Ark. And in ‘b’ we have the provision of the rings for carrying it, and of the staves which would fit into the rings.

The Purpose of the Ark (Exodus 25:15-22).

a Into the Ark was to be put the Testimony which Yahweh will give them (Exodus 25:15).

b A mercy-seat or place of propitiation was to be made to cover the Ark as a kind of lid, and on it, made as one piece with the lid, were to be two cherubim of gold at each end of the mercy-seat (Exodus 25:17-19).

c And the cherubim were to spread their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat, with their faces facing each other and facing the centre of the mercy-seat (Exodus 25:20).

c And the mercy-seat was to be put over the Ark and in the Ark was to be the Testimony that Yahweh had given them (Exodus 25:21).

b And there Yahweh will meet with Moses, and commune with him from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim (Exodus 25:22 a).

a Which are on the Ark of the Testimony, concerning all the commandments which He will give him for the children of Israel - compare Numbers 7:89 (Exodus 25:22).

Note how in ‘a’ the Testimony (the covenant) was to be put into the Ark and in the parallel it is called the Ark of the Testimony, containing all the commandments given through Moss to the children of Israel. In ‘b’ the mercy-seat or place of propitiation is to be made, on which are set, at each end, the two cherubim looking inward, while in the parallel Yahweh will meet with Moses and commune with him from the mercy-seat or place of propitiation, from between the two cherubim. And in ‘c’ the cherubim were to ‘cover’ the mercy-seat, and in the parallel the mercy-seat was to cover the Ark.

The first and central object in the Tabernacle, although only known to the people by description, was the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh with its covering mercy seat. It represented the throne of Yahweh both for mercy and judgment, and confirmed the covenant that as their Overlord He had made with His people. It was the outward evidence of their unique position as His ‘holy people’, which they were required to live up to (when they finally failed to do so the Ark was finally destroyed).

It is to us a reminder that our God is enthroned in Heaven, the High and Lofty One, enshrouded in splendour, Who inhabits eternity Whose name is Holy, surrounded by a multitude of heavenly beings, and yet is One Who dwells among the humble and contrite (Isaiah 6:1-4; Isaiah 57:15). And it is a reminder that to those who trust in Him He offers mercy and forgiveness, and to be their God, to watch over them and keep them, and be perpetually among them.

That the Ark should be mentioned first emphasises its supreme importance. It represented the essential realities between Yahweh and His people. As His throne it declared Him to be their king, as His Mercy-seat (place of covering of sin) it declared His offer of continual mercy and propitiation (making satisfaction for sin), as containing the covenant tablets it declared that His people’s portion in Him lay though the covenant. Only by receiving and being bound by His covenant could they approach Him as their sovereign and merciful Lord.

Exodus 25:10-11

“And you shall make a chest of acacia wood. Its length will be two and a half cubits and its breadth one and a half cubits and its height one and a half cubits. And you will overlay it with pure gold, you will overlay it both inside and outside, and you will make on it a moulding of gold round about.”

The chest or ark would contain the Testimony, the ten words (Exodus 25:21). It was to be made of acacia wood and totally covered in gold. Thus it depicted His strength and His glory. Only gold was worthy of the throne of Yahweh. In the Tabernacle that which is gold must not come in contact with the more mundane. Thus it stresses the holiness of all that is in the Tabernacle which is made of gold. The word for ‘chest’ was used for Joseph’s coffin in Egypt (Genesis 50:26) and a money chest for collecting the ‘ransom’ (Exodus 30:12), as well as freewill gifts, when the people were numbered (2 Chronicles 24:8-11; 2 Kings 12:9). Otherwise it is exclusive to the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh.

“Acacia wood.” This was obtainable in the Sinai region and came from a spreading, thorny tree which would produce hard wood of sufficient size. Some of the people already had some in stock (35:24).

“Totally covered in gold”, both inside and out. Gold represented all that was most splendid. In the Tabernacle it represented all that was most holy. The Semites were recognised as highly skilled craftsmen in precious metals, as various Egyptian tomb scenes, depicting the giving of tribute, demonstrate. The moulding was probably shaped to receive the covering, the throne seat (25:17). We must not just look on Israel as merely a desert people. They would have had ample opportunity to expand skills that were already among them while Joseph was vizier and these would have continued in use even when they were enslaved. Skilful slaves were always treasured.

“Cubits.” The cubit was the length from elbow to finger tip. This was the natural or common cubit. It was about 44:45 centimetres or 17:5 inches. The chest was thus about 111 centimetres or three foot eight inches long, and about 66:68 centimetres or two foot six inches wide.

Exodus 25:12

“And you will cast four rings of gold for it, and put them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it.”

These rings were to receive the staves by which the Ark would be carried. They were probably at the bottom (its four feet), possibly at the corners. But we must recognise that in all the descriptions there may be technical terms which were far better understood then than they are now.

Exodus 25:13-15

“And you shall make staves of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you will put the staves into the rings on the sides of the chest, to carry the chest by them. The staves shall be in the rings of the chest. They shall not be taken from it.”

The staves for carrying the chest were made of the same wood as the chest, providing strength, and overlaid with gold, demonstrating overlordship and holiness. For Yahweh all was to be the very best. The staves ensured that the Ark never needed to be touched and were to be kept in the rings permanently although it would appear that when the Ark was being elaborately prepared for travelling they would be temporarily removed and then immediately replaced (Numbers 4:5-6) by the priests. It was holy to Yahweh, as Mount Sinai had been (19:12-13). The staves were long enough to protrude into the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) (1 Kings 8:8). One purpose therefore of keeping them permanently in the rings was so that they would be seen through the veil as a permanent reminder of the presence of the unseen Ark. Another was that having touched the Ark they were not to be treated casually by being stored away.


Verses 16-22

The Purpose of the Ark (Exodus 25:15-22).

a Into the Ark was to be put the Testimony which Yahweh will give them (Exodus 25:15).

b A mercy-seat or place of propitiation was to be made to cover the Ark as a kind of lid, and on it, made as one piece with the lid, were to be two cherubim of gold at each end of the mercy-seat (Exodus 25:17-19).

c And the cherubim were to spread their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat, with their faces facing each other and facing the centre of the mercy-seat (Exodus 25:20).

c And the mercy-seat was to be put over the Ark and in the Ark was to be the Testimony that Yahweh had given them (Exodus 25:21).

b And there Yahweh will meet with Moses, and commune with him from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim (Exodus 25:22 a).

a Which are on the Ark of the Testimony, concerning all the commandments which He will give him for the children of Israel - compare Numbers 7:89 (Exodus 25:22).

Note how in ‘a’ the Testimony (the covenant) was to be put into the Ark and in the parallel it is called the Ark of the Testimony, containing all the commandments given through Moss to the children of Israel. In ‘b’ the mercy-seat or place of propitiation is to be made, on which are set, at each end, the two cherubim looking inward, while in the parallel Yahweh will meet with Moses and commune with him from the mercy-seat or place of propitiation, from between the two cherubim. And in ‘c’ the cherubim were to ‘cover’ the mercy-seat, and in the parallel the mercy-seat was to cover the Ark.

The first and central object in the Tabernacle, although only known to the people by description, was the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh with its covering mercy seat. It represented the throne of Yahweh both for mercy and judgment, and confirmed the covenant that as their Overlord He had made with His people. It was the outward evidence of their unique position as His ‘holy people’, which they were required to live up to (when they finally failed to do so the Ark was finally destroyed).

It is to us a reminder that our God is enthroned in Heaven, the High and Lofty One, enshrouded in splendour, Who inhabits eternity Whose name is Holy, surrounded by a multitude of heavenly beings, and yet is One Who dwells among the humble and contrite (Isaiah 6:1-4; Isaiah 57:15). And it is a reminder that to those who trust in Him He offers mercy and forgiveness, and to be their God, to watch over them and keep them, and be perpetually among them.

That the Ark should be mentioned first emphasises its supreme importance. It represented the essential realities between Yahweh and His people. As His throne it declared Him to be their king, as His Mercy-seat (place of covering of sin) it declared His offer of continual mercy and propitiation (making satisfaction for sin), as containing the covenant tablets it declared that His people’s portion in Him lay though the covenant. Only by receiving and being bound by His covenant could they approach Him as their sovereign and merciful Lord.

Exodus 25:13-15

“And you shall make staves of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you will put the staves into the rings on the sides of the chest, to carry the chest by them. The staves shall be in the rings of the chest. They shall not be taken from it.”

The staves for carrying the chest were made of the same wood as the chest, providing strength, and overlaid with gold, demonstrating overlordship and holiness. For Yahweh all was to be the very best. The staves ensured that the Ark never needed to be touched and were to be kept in the rings permanently although it would appear that when the Ark was being elaborately prepared for travelling they would be temporarily removed and then immediately replaced (Numbers 4:5-6) by the priests. It was holy to Yahweh, as Mount Sinai had been (Exodus 19:12-13). The staves were long enough to protrude into the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) (1 Kings 8:8). One purpose therefore of keeping them permanently in the rings was so that they would be seen through the veil as a permanent reminder of the presence of the unseen Ark. Another was that having touched the Ark they were not to be treated casually by being stored away.

Exodus 25:16

“And you shall put the Testimony which I will give you into the chest.”

The chest was to contain the stone tablets written by ‘the finger of God’ (Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:16), later to be replaced, due to Israel’s sin, by tablets written by Moses (Exodus 34:28). These were called ‘The Testimony’, for they testified to the solemn covenant between Yahweh and His people. This was why the chest is regularly called ‘the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh’.

Exodus 25:17-20
“And you shall make a mercy-seat of pure gold. Its length shall be two and a half cubits, and its breadth one and a half cubits. And you shall make two cherubim of gold. You shall make them of beaten work at the two ends of the mercy-seat. And make one cherub at the one end and one cherub at the other end. You shall make the cherubim on its two ends of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat with their wings, with their faces one towards the other. The faces of the cherubim shall be towards the mercy-seat”

The gold slab which covered the chest was to be of solid gold, and moulded on it at either end were to be two figures of cherubim, looking inwards towards the centre, with their wings outspread stretched over the mercy-seat.

“A mercy seat.” The ‘kapporeth’, literally the place of propitiation, the place where reconciliation and atonement was finally performed. This was a solid gold slab on which were the two cherubim at either end looking inward. It was the same size as the chest. It comes from the root ‘kpr’ (to cover) and the conjugation used signifies the place where sins are ‘covered’ so that they are no longer seen by God and held against the sinner (Jeremiah 18:23). It is the place of propitiation and expiation, the place where the punishment for sin was met by the application of the shedding of blood, the place of atonement, of reconciliation, where he and His people were made at one.

“Pure gold.” The most precious physical thing that the world could offer. In the Tabernacle it represented what was most holy.

“Cherubim.” These were only previously mentioned in Genesis 3:24 where the ideas of a storm wind (along with the ‘flaming sword’ of lightning) and acting as guardians were very much in mind. They are connected elsewhere with the wind. Thus in 2 Samuel 22:11 and Psalms 18:10 God ‘rode on a cherub and did fly, yes, He was seen on the wings of the wind’ (compare Ezekiel 1:3-4). But it was a divine wind. Their ‘likeness’ was clearly well known to the children of Israel. They represented celestial beings, and unlike angels were seen as having wings, and therefore very mobile. Yahweh is described as ‘dwelling between (or on) the cherubim’ (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; Psalms 80:1; Psalms 99:1 etc.), no doubt with the Ark in mind, sometimes explicitly. In Ezekiel 10 they appear as bearers of the travelling throne of Yahweh and in Ezekiel 1, as the ‘living creatures’ and bearers of the throne, they were closely connected with a stormy wind (verses 3-4) and bore the throne wherever it went.

The idea behind their presence here was as a reminder that all heavenly beings were totally subjected to Yahweh and under His command. Not only the whole world but heaven itself was at His feet.

They were also later connected with the animal world. Thus in Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 10:14 each had the faces of man, lion, ox and eagle, and they had the hands of a man (Exodus 1:8; Exodus 10:8) and feet like calves’ feet (Exodus 1:7). In the Temple they were represented on curtains along with lions (1 Kings 7:36) and lions and oxen (1 Kings 7:29) and palm trees and open flowers (1 Kings 6:29; 1 Kings 6:37; 1 Kings 7:36). They were two-winged (1 Kings 6:27). If we see the wings as the wings of an eagle we have here a parallel combination to that in Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10 of lion, ox and eagle. In Ezekiel 41:18-20 they were connected with palm trees and had the faces of a man and a lion.

On the Ark they would seemingly have one face each (unless they have four faces facing in the same direction, which seems unlikely). And the later descriptions might suggest that their shape was somewhat similar to those found in excavations at Samaria and in Phoenicia with human face, lion body, four legs and two conspicuous and elaborate wings. This would explain where Ezekiel got his ideas from. At Byblos such beings were found supporting the throne of the king. The idea behind the presence of the cherubim would then include the fact that Yahweh is attended by those who represent the whole of creation, man, wild beast, domestic beast and bird. The later palm trees and open flowers on the curtains would represent the inanimate creation. They are not quite so closely connected with Yahweh.

But none of this is actually stated about the Tabernacle. There only the cherubim are spoken of, without description apart from their having wings.

We are not to take the descriptions as referring specifically to literal beings (contrast Revelation 4:7-8) for they could also be depicted as having six wings, of which four were to hide face and feet in the presence of Yahweh (Isaiah 6:2 of the seraphim; see also Revelation 4:8 of the living creatures, the latter with both human and animal features). They are symbolic rather than literal representations. Revelation 4 seems to borrow features of both seraphim and cherubim. They incidentally demonstrate that what the commandments forbade were graven images intended to be worshipped or venerated, not graven images themselves.

It would appear therefore that the Mercy-seat was seen as the throne of the invisible Yahweh, from which He dispensed mercy, and that the position on the Ark of the cherubim suggests that they act as symbols of a greater reality as attendants and guardians, representing both all heavenly beings and the whole animate creation, and protecting and guarding the holiness of Yahweh as in Genesis 3. They were a reminder that there were other beings besides God and man who enjoyed God’s immediate presence.

Exodus 25:21-22

“And you shall put the Mercy-seat above on the Ark, and in the Ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you, and there I will meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the Mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the Ark of the Testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.”

The Mercy-seat is not only a place of atonement, it is a throne where the Great Overlord meets and speaks with His people, through their representative, on the basis of the covenant. So the Ark is Mercy-seat and Throne and Testimony and Judgment Throne combined. It represents all that Yahweh is to His people and expects from them.

“I will commune with you --- of all things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” The Great Overlord will reign over them and dispense mercy from the Mercy-seat on which His throne is established, as agreed in the covenant. In Numbers 7:89 we are told that ‘the Voice (of Yahweh) spoke to him (Moses) from above the Mercy-seat that was on the Ark of the Testimony from between the two cherubim’.

Note. Gold overlaid wooden receptacles and portable shrines are known from the ancient Near East in pre-Mosaic times, although not as containing treaty records. Among certain Arabic tribes are objects similar to some extent with the Ark which still survive. In time of war they accompanied the tribe into battle and guided them in their wanderings. They stood near the tent of the chief and often contained sacred stones or were seen as the dwelling-place of a god. The idea may well go back into the mists of time and would explain why the significance of the Ark, superstitiously speaking, was recognised by enemies (1 Samuel 4:7). But in Israel superstitious objects were replaced by the words of the covenant, and the chest was made into a throne for the invisible God. All superstition was done away.

End of note.


Verses 23-30

The Table of Showbread and the Seven-branched Lampstand (Exodus 25:23-40).

This Table and Lampstand were a perpetual reminder of Yahweh’s provision for His people, and especially of His gifts of bread, and of life and light, and could be seen as a constant appeal to Him (through their maintenance) to continue their supply. But the primary significance of the lampstand was as reminding Israel that He was their light. Yahweh made His face to shine on them (Numbers 6:25). Yet they were within the Holy Place lest any think that His blessings could be obtained lightly. Light and life were available to Israel, available to those whose hearts were right towards Him, when they approached Him sincerely in the way that He ordained.

Thus when Jesus came He came offering Himself as the Bread of life (John 6:35) and the Light of life (John 8:12). The blessing symbolised in the Tabernacle became a reality in Him, to be enjoyed by those who became the Temple of His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). On Him they would feed spiritually and from Him they would receive understanding and truth.

This passage may be analysed as follows:

a The making of the table of acacia wood covered with gold (Exodus 25:23-24).

b The making of a border and golden rim round about (Exodus 25:25).

c The making of four rings of gold to put on the four feet at its corners placed so as to take the carrying staves (Exodus 25:26-27)

c The making of four staves of acacia wood made with gold for the carrying of the table (Exodus 25:28).

b The making of vessels of pure gold for use on the table (Exodus 25:29).

a The showbread to be set on the table before Yahweh always (Exodus 25:30).

We note that in ‘a’ the table is constructed which is worthy of the Sanctuary, and in the parallel the showbread is to be set on it before Yahweh for ever. In ‘b’ the making of the border and golden rim for keeping the vessels on the table are described, and in the parallel the vessels of gold are themselves described. And in ‘c’ we have the golden rings for making the staves, and in the parallel the making of the staves.

Exodus 25:23

“And you shall make a table of acacia wood, its length will be two cubits and its breadth one cubit and its height one and a half cubits.

The table is to measure approximately a metre (or three feet) long, by half a metre (or eighteen inches) wide, by three quarters of a metre (two foot three inches) deep. Its purpose is to carry the showbread.

Exodus 25:24-25

“And you shall overlay it with pure gold and make on it a moulding of gold round about, and you will make it to a handbreadth round about and you shall make a moulding of gold to its border round about.”

“Overlay it with pure gold.” The result of the ‘spoiling’ of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35-36) was now being used to good effect. The gold demonstrated the majesty of God and the holiness of the purpose of the table.

The moulding of gold round about (Exodus 25:24) is described, in the form known to him, by Josephus, a Jewish historian in 1st century AD, in these words, ‘it was hollowed out on each side to a depth of about three inches, a spiral border running round the upper and lower portion of the body of the table’. But that may not describe accurately the original table. The main point is that it was not plain but decorated, demonstrating God’s care for detail and beauty.

There is some doubt as to the meaning of Exodus 25:25, although it would no doubt be quite clear at the time. (Compare how a modern carpenter might speak of ‘a piece of four by two’. Everyone now would know what he meant but in two centuries time it might be a total mystery, and they might say ‘something must have dropped out from the text’. We can imagine the fun commentators might have with it). Some see it as meaning that an eight centimetre moulding went round the top of the table going upwards as a rim, others as signifying an eight centimetre wide horizontal border, and others as eight centimetre wide cross-struts between the legs of the table. The last seems to have been the interpretation put on it when the table was made for Herod’s Temple. RSV takes this view and translates, ‘and you shall make around it a frame a handbreadth wide, and a moulding of gold around the frame’.

Exodus 25:26-27

“And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on its four legs. The rings will be close by the border (or frame), for places for the staves to bear the table.”

The rings are either attached half way down (by the frame) or near the top (by the border). They are to take the staves with which the table will be carried.

Exodus 25:28

“And you will make the staves of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, so that the table may be carried with them.”

The staves are similar to those that bear the Ark (Exodus 25:13). The wood provided the strength, the gold their uniqueness, as expressing appreciation of God and as symbols of His holiness.

Exodus 25:29

“And you shall make its plates and its dishes, and its flagons and its bowls with which to pour out, you shall make them of pure gold.

All is made of pure gold as befits the God of all the earth. The plates were for carrying the showbread, the dishes for carrying incense, the flagons and bowls for pouring out libations (see also Exodus 38:16).

Exodus 25:30

“And on the table you shall set the bread of the Presence (showbread) before me always.”

The ‘bread of the Presence’ or showbread is literally ‘bread of the face’, that is bread set before the face or presence of God. It consisted of twelve very large baked cakes made of fine flour each containing two tenths of an ephah (Leviticus 24:5). They were set on the table in two rows, six to a row. Frankincense was then placed on them ‘as a memorial’ and this was then offered by fire to Yahweh (Leviticus 24:7). This and the bread were seen as ‘the most holy to Him of the offerings by fire to Yahweh’, the frankincense being burned for Yahweh and the bread being eaten by the priests (Leviticus 24:9). This demonstrates the huge importance of the showbread. New showbread was baked every sabbath and the old was then eaten by the priests in the holy place because the cakes were ‘most holy’ (Leviticus 24:8-9). Certainly later it was unleavened bread (according to Josephus).

The significance of the showbread is never explained, although it is stated to be for an everlasting covenant on behalf of the children of Israel (Leviticus 24:8). This may confirm their connection with the everlasting covenant of Genesis 9:16 which guaranteed the rain that provided bread. It also confirms that the number twelve relates to the number of the tribes of Israel. Compare for the everlasting covenant Genesis 9:16; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 17:9; Genesis 17:13 where the everlasting covenant guarantees the seasons for ever, with resulting fruitfulness; promises the land as an everlasting possession, and assures them that the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be His for ever and He will be their God. It would seem therefore that the twelve loaves represent the twelve tribes of Israel before God, as the twelve pillars did previously (Exodus 24:4), keeping them ever before His face that He might show His love towards them, and in their eyes ‘reminding’ Him of His covenant with them, and of their need for bread.

But we are also reminded that Abram set bread before Yahweh (Genesis 18:5). They are thus also an indication of Israel’s welcome to Yahweh in His house. They continually signify the welcoming by the twelve tribes of His presence.

But the fact that the bread was eaten by the priests further suggests it has a God to man significance. While it is probable that they were to be seen as a continual offering of thanksgiving to God for food provided and a reminder (memorial) to God of His promise of provision, they were also a reminder to Israel of the food God put in their mouths, that the daily bread that they ate came from God. That it was given to them from God.

Thus Jesus will have these loaves in mind when He speaks of Himself as ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:35). Jesus is the One on Whom we must continually feed by constant faith (John 6:53-55). He who ‘eats’ of Him (by believing) will live because of Him (John 6:57)). It is also called ‘holy bread’ (1 Samuel 21:4; 1 Samuel 21:6), ‘continual bread’ (Numbers 4:7) and ‘bread of setting out (or layering)’ (1 Chronicles 9:32; 1 Chronicles 23:29; 2 Chronicles 13:11; Nehemiah 10:34).

The setting of bread before gods was common practise elsewhere and the Assyrians at least placed twelve loaves before their gods which were associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac. Consider also the cakes kneaded for the Queen of heaven (Jeremiah 7:18). In the apocryphal story of Bel and the Dragon food was set before the god and supposed to be eaten by him, although the eating was done secretly by the priests (Exodus 1:11-13). Israel reinterpreted the practise and removed the dishonesty. There is no suggestion that the loaves were to be eaten by Yahweh. They were eaten by the priests.

“Always.” This practise was to be maintained in perpetuity. The bread of the presence must never cease before God as long as Israel never ceased before Him.


Verses 31-40

The Golden Lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40).

The making of this may be analysed as follows:

a The lampstand to be made of beaten work of pure gold: its base, its shaft its cups, its buds and its flowers, all made of one piece with it (Exodus 25:31).

b As well as the shaft it has to have six branches going out from it, three each side of the shaft, with cups made like almond blossoms , a bud and a flower. The shaft to have four cups, made like almond blossoms with the buds and flowers (Exodus 25:32-34).

c The description of the buds on the branches (Exodus 25:35).

c The making of the buds and the branches in pure beaten gold (Exodus 25:36).

b The total of lamps are to be seven (the shaft and the six branches) and they shall light its lamps to give light opposite to it (illuminating the table of showbread), and these are to be made along with the tongs and fire-holders of pure gold (Exodus 25:37-38).

a The whole is to be made of a talent of pure gold in accordance with the pattern shown in the mount (Exodus 25:39-40).

Note that in ‘a’ the lampstand is to be of pure beaten gold, and in the parallel the gold required for it and all connected with it is measured. In ‘b’ we have the description of the lampstand with its six branches and its shaft, while in the parallel we are told it is sevenfold, and is to be lit to shine on the table of showbread (compare Numbers 6:25 with Exodus 8:3). In ‘c’ we have details of the making of buds and branches.

Exodus 25:31-34

“And you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand will be made of beaten work, even its base and its shaft. And its cups, its buds and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. And there will be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of its one side and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. Three cups made like almond blossoms on one branch, each with a bud and a flower. And three cups made like almond blossoms in the other branch, each with a bud and a flower. Thus for the six branches going out of the lampstand. And in the lampstand four cups made like almond blossoms with its buds and its flowers.”

The general pattern is clear, a central shaft from which will go from each side three branches per side, a main stem and six branches in all making a sevenfold lampstand. And at the top of the branches and the shaft will be cups made like almonds blossoms to receive the lamps. It would seem that each branch had three cups and the central shaft four. The lampstand was to one side of the Holy Place, the table of showbread to the other.

Exodus 25:35-36

“And a bud under a pair of branches, of one piece with it, and a bud under a pair of branches, of one piece with it, and a bud under a pair of branches, of one piece with it, for the six branches going out of the lampstand. Their buds and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it one beaten work of pure gold.”

Under each pair of branches there is an almond bud and the buds and branches are specifically to be of one piece with the whole. Thus one significance of the lampstand is that, with its branches and its almond buds and flowers, it symbolises an almond tree. The almond tree (shaked) was ‘the waker’, the first tree to come to life and blossom after the dry season. So it is a symbol of new life, the new life into which Israel has entered. Furthermore in Jeremiah 1:11-12 the almond tree also symbolises the watching (shoked) of Yahweh over His word. Thus it symbolises His watch over the covenant.

Exodus 25:37

“And you shall make its lamps seven, and they will light its lamps to give light over against it.”

The seven lamps, possibly made of terracotta, symbolise divinely perfect light. ‘Over against it’ presumably means that they are set to throw their light forward towards the centre. Thus the lampstand speaks of life (the almond tree) and light (the fire in the lamps) coming from God. This is why Jesus could speak of the ‘light of life’ in relation to it (John 8:12). That was during the Feast of Tabernacles and the lampstand was closely connected with that feast.

In Zechariah the lampstand (Zechariah 4) signifies the all-knowingness of God (Zechariah 4:10) and the presence of the living God feeding life to His anointed ones. Just as a man’s life was often called his ‘lamp’ (Job 21:17; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 24:20 see also 2 Samuel 21:17; 1 Kings 11:36), and the lampstand, once removed, signified the death of the church (Revelation 2:5), so the lampstand represents spiritual life. Thus the lampstand represents the living God, ‘the Lord of the whole earth’, fully present and fully aware behind the veil, in His giving of that life to His people.

So in the Most Holy Place is the throne of God between the guardian Cherubim, who continually bow before Him, which no man can behold, but which can be approached from behind a veil which safeguards man from the awesomeness of His presence, and in the Holy Place are the Table of Showbread and the golden Lampstand which represent His feeding of His people, both physically and spiritually, and His giving of life and light to them. We learn both of His total ‘otherness’ which cannot be experienced in its fullness, and of His gracious giving of Himself to His people.

In the Book of Revelation we have the expansion of this when one day His own will walk openly in the light of His presence, and will enjoy the light of God and will feast on the tree of life (Revelation 21:22 to Revelation 22:5).

Exodus 25:38-39

“And its tongs and its fire-holders shall be of pure gold. With all these vessels it shall be made with one talent of pure gold.”

The lampstand and its appurtenances are to be made of a talent of gold, that is about thirty kilogrammes. ‘Fireholders.’ The significance of the word is uncertain. They possibly received the old wicks when they were removed from the lamps.

Exodus 25:40

“And see that you make them after their pattern, which has been showed to you in the Mount.”

This verse finalises the details of the three most important pieces of furniture to be placed in the new Dwelling-place, referring back to verse 9. Each is important and they are important as a unit. They represent different aspects of Yahweh’s covenant with His people, firstly, the reign of Yahweh and the covenant requirements, secondly, the giving of life and light by Yahweh and His guarantee of bread, and thirdly their receiving by it (for it represented all that they needed) of all that they needed for the future.

It is stressed that they must follow the pattern shown to Moses which demonstrates that the detail was vital. Nothing must be added. Nothing must be changed. They speak of heavenly things. That they are spoken of first and separately shows how very important all three were seen to be. (The altar of incense is not mentioned here because that represented worship from man to God, whereas the above furniture was from God to man).

Notes on the Christian significance of this passage.

In the New Testament it is made clear that the Dwellingplace was no longer a tent. Paul could say to all true believers, ‘we are a sanctuary of the living God, even as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” ’ (2 Corinthians 6:16-17). And again in 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, ‘You are God’s husbandry, God’s building -- do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you -- the temple of God is holy, which temple you are’. For God would tabernacle among His people, first in Jesus Christ (John 1:14) and then by His Holy Spirit in His people (Ephesians 2:22). In 1 Corinthians 6:19 each Christian is therefore a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit within the whole sanctuary. The significance that can be drawn from this is that we are indwelt by God and by Christ (Galatians 2:20; John 17:22-23; Ephesians 3:17, and that therefore our inner lives with their outward expression must be worthy of Him. Daily as we go out to meet the world we must each say to ourselves, ‘the only way the world will know about God and about Christ is what they see of Him in me, for I am where He dwells in this sinful world, I am the one through whom He is to be made known. Lord, live out your life through me today that men may see through the purity of my life that Jesus Christ still walks among them’.

Furthermore men once gazed at the ancient Sanctuary and were comforted by the thought that God was close to them, dwelling among them. That is what they should sense also when they look on God’s true people, the church of the living God, a people vibrant and joyful and full of actively revealed concern because they follow the Master. But sadly often all they see is a church wrapped up in itself.

The fact that we all make up one sanctuary stresses the unity and fellowship that there should be between all who truly love Christ. All contribute to the whole, and without a part the church is mutilated.

The Ark of the covenant within the Dwellingplace is a reminder that God Himself dwells in us (as God’s dwellingplace), that Christ lives within us and seeks to live out His life through us (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:4). There in our heart of hearts is the living Christ (Ephesians 3:17) Who reigns in us so that we might reign through Him (Revelation 5:10), and through Whom we should know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:19). Thus we are to reckon ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God, in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:11). But how easily we forget that it is so, and just as the people of old tended to overlook the significance of the Tabernacle in their daily lives, so sadly do we as we leave our houses each day. We keep God locked in the throne room, while we control our own affairs. Some have seen in the Ark a picture of Jesus Christ as both God (gold) and man (acacia wood).

The Table of Showbread reminds us that Christ is the bread of life (John 6:35). That we who eat of Him by believing in Him will live for ever. He is the living bread that came down from heaven that we might live and not die (John 6:51). Thus do we pray, ‘give us today the bread of the great Tomorrow’. And as we look to Him He feeds us with His very life.

The Lampstand is a reminder that Christ constantly shines in our hearts revealing His truth and revealing God (2 Corinthians 4:6), that God’s great light shines on His people Who are ever before Him, and that through knowing Christ Who is the light we do not walk in darkness. And it is a reminder too that we are to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:16; Revelation 1:12-13). The one who is a true Christian walks daily in that light (1 John 1:7), and comes constantly to the light that his deeds may be open to God’s scrutiny (John 3:18 ff).

But it also has a heavenly significance. For the Dwellingplace is a reminder that God is in heaven where He dwells (Hebrews 8:1-2) and that we may approach Him through our Lord Jesus Christ Who is out great High Priest (Hebrews 9:11-12) Who makes propitiation for us (Hebrews 2:17). We can therefore enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way which He has prepared for us through His becoming man and offering up His flesh for us (Hebrews 10:19-20), and thus we can obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. And there dwells God in unapproachable light Whom no man has seen nor can see (1 Timothy 6:16). Although one day all who are truly His will dwell in that light (Revelation 21:23-24). And there we shall feed on Him for ever (Revelation 7:17).

End of note.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 25:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-25.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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