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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 26

 

 

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.

The Dwelling-place Itself (26:1-27:19).

Having described the main contents of the Sanctuary which represented the permanent blessing which came from Him in His presence, we now move on to the Dwellingplace proper.

The Dwellingplace was to be splendid in beauty. Its glory represented the glory of its King and His supreme righteousness. But it had to be patterned according to how God revealed it (Exodus 26:30). Nothing mundane must enter into its construction, and no ideas of man. It had to be kept pure in what it represented. The fine detail of its construction was a reminder of God’s detailed activity on behalf of His own (compare Ephesians 2:21).

The Dwelling-place was to be about thirty cubits by ten cubits made of large curtains flung over a framework, the Most Holy Place being a perfect cube, ten cubits by ten cubits by ten cubits, symbolising the perfection of God, and the Holy Place twenty cubits by ten cubits. These were then covered by goats’ hair, and then by rams’ skins dyed red and finally by dolphin or dugong skins.

The Tabernacle/Temple would finally be dispensed with when God found a more splendid and more fitting Dwellingplace, the living temple of His people (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22) who would submit at His throne, and receive the bread and light of life. And it would finally find its fulfilment in Heaven (Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:24).


Verses 1-14

The Dwelling-place Itself (Exodus 26:1 to Exodus 27:19).

Having described the main contents of the Sanctuary which represented the permanent blessing which came from Him in His presence, we now move on to the Dwellingplace proper.

The Dwellingplace was to be splendid in beauty. Its glory represented the glory of its King and His supreme righteousness. But it had to be patterned according to how God revealed it (Exodus 26:30). Nothing mundane must enter into its construction, and no ideas of man. It had to be kept pure in what it represented. The fine detail of its construction was a reminder of God’s detailed activity on behalf of His own (compare Ephesians 2:21).

The Dwelling-place was to be about thirty cubits by ten cubits made of large curtains flung over a framework, the Most Holy Place being a perfect cube, ten cubits by ten cubits by ten cubits, symbolising the perfection of God, and the Holy Place twenty cubits by ten cubits. These were then covered by goats’ hair, and then by rams’ skins dyed red and finally by dolphin or dugong skins.

The Tabernacle/Temple would finally be dispensed with when God found a more splendid and more fitting Dwellingplace, the living temple of His people (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22) who would submit at His throne, and receive the bread and light of life. And it would finally find its fulfilment in Heaven (Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:24).

The Curtains of the Dwellingplace and the Outer Tent (Exodus 26:1-14)

The making of these may be analysed as follows:

a The Dwellingplace to be made of ten curtains of fine-twined linen, and bluey-purple and purpley-red, and scarlet worked with pictures of cherubim, and made by skilful workmen (Exodus 26:1).

b Length and breadth of the curtain in cubits (Exodus 26:2).

c Two sets of five curtains to be coupled together (Exodus 26:3).

d Loops to be made on the edges of the curtains (Exodus 26:4).

e Fifty loops on one set of curtains and fifty loops on the other, the loops to be opposite one another (Exodus 26:5).

f Fifty clasps of gold are to be made to couple the curtains and make the Dwellingplace one (Exodus 26:6).

g Curtains of goats’ hair to be made to form a tent over the Dwellingplace, there are to be eleven curtains (Exodus 26:7).

g The length and breadth of the eleven curtains of the outer tent is described (Exodus 26:8).

f The method of coupling the curtains for the outer tent is described (Exodus 26:9).

e Fifty loops on one set of curtains and fifty loops on the other, the loops to be opposite one another, on the curtains for the outer tent (Exodus 26:10).

d Fifty clasps of brass are to be put in the loops to bring the curtains together (Exodus 26:11).

c The overhanging of the curtains is described (Exodus 26:12).

b Description of the overhanging in cubits (Exodus 26:13).

a The tent covering is to be made of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of porpoise skins (Exodus 26:14).

It will be noted that in ‘a’ the making of the Dwellingplace is described and in the parallel the making of the outer tent. In ‘b’ the curtains are measured in cubits, and in the parallel the overhanging is measured in cubits (apart from in verse 8 the only mention of cubits in the narrative). In ‘c’ the curtains are described, in the parallel the overhanging of the curtains is described. In ‘d’ the loops are described and in the parallel the clasps that utilise the loops. In ‘e’ we have fifty loops on each set of curtains opposite each other, and in the parallel the same. In ‘f’ fifty clasps of gold join the loops and make the Dwellingplace one, and in the parallel the method of coupling for the outer tent is described. In ‘g’ the overtent of goats’ hair is composed of eleven curtains, while in the parallel the length and breadth of the eleven curtains are described.

We would suggest that the way in which the making of the two sets of curtains is described in such a way that we have a chiasmus by using keywords is very clever and quite remarkable, while if we compare each section verse by verse they would not wholly fit.

Exodus 26:1-3

“Moreover you shall make the Dwelling-place with ten curtains. You shall make them as the work of a skilful craftsman of fine twined linen, and of blue, and purple, and scarlet, with cherubim woven in. The length of each curtain shall be twenty eight cubits and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. All the curtains shall have one measure. Five curtains shall be coupled together, the one to the other, and the other five curtains shall be coupled together the one to the other.”

The first procedure in making the Dwelling-place is to make ten curtains of the same size, of different colours, of which two are then to be made each consisting of five of the ten curtains joined together. They are to be made of fine twined linen and multicoloured cloth (sections consisting of the different colours having been attached together) with cherubim patterned in. Thus the final large curtains would appear to be twenty eight cubits by twenty cubits (about thirteen metres by ten metres or forty foot by thirty foot). It appears that the edge was then woven making a selvedge.

It has been suggested that bluey-purple represents its heavenly connections, purpley-red its royal connections, red symbolises the shedding of blood and the fine linen represents purity (but see above on Exodus 25:4). The cherubim, symbolising a heavenly reality, were a reminder of the spiritual beings who attended on the throne of Yahweh. The size of the curtains was limited both for practical purposes and by their methods of manufacture.

Exodus 26:4-6

“And you shall make loops of bluey-violet on the edge of the one curtain along the woven edge in the set, and in the same way you shall make loops on the outmost edge of the curtain in the second set. You will make fifty loops on the one curtain, and you will make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain in the second set. The loops shall be opposite one another. And you will make fifty clasps of gold and couple the curtains one to another with the clasps, and the Dwelling-place shall be one.”

The use of loops and clasps was a popular method of joining curtains together in the Ancient Near East and is still used today. The two curtains were joined by fifty loops. They could thus be split apart for travelling. When fitting together the whole would be flung over the framework described below forming the Dwelling-place. This would then be protected by a goat-hair covering so that the curtains were only seen from the inside.

Paul uses these fittings and framework of the Tabernacle as a picture of God’s careful concern for His people (Ephesians 2:21).

Exodus 26:7-13

“And you shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the Dwelling-place. You shall make eleven curtains. The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains shall have one measure. And you shall join five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves. And you will double over the sixth curtain at the front of the tent. And you will make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is on the outside of the first set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain which is on the outside of the second set. And you shall make fifty clasps of copper, and put the clasps into the loops and couple the tent together that it may be one. And the overhanging part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the rear of the Dwelling-place, and the cubit on the one side and the cubit on the other side of what remains in the length of the curtains in the tent, shall overhang the sides of the Dwelling-place on this side and on that to cover it.”

The goats’ hair covering was to be made in the same way but was to be larger than the inner curtains so that it overhung and could be tucked in at the front and would protect the inner curtains at front, rear and at both sides from the weather.

Note that the goat’s hair is ‘a tent over the Dwelling-place’. Thus the Dwelling-place strictly consists of the framework plus the inner curtains. These latter are overhung by the goats’ hair by two cubits (twenty eight cubits compared with thirty cubits).

Exodus 26:14

“And you shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and a covering of dolphin (or dugong) skins above.”

These were the final weatherproofing and protected the whole. The red rams’ skins over portable religious tents are witnessed later among the Bedouin.


Verses 15-25

The Framework of the Dwelling-place (Exodus 26:15-25) .

This can be analysed as follows:

a The frames are to be made standing up and the measurements are given in cubits (Exodus 26:15-16).

b Two tenons to be made for each frame to join them up (Exodus 26:17).

c Twenty frames to be made for the south side (Exodus 26:18).

d Forty sockets of silver to be made to support the frames, two per frame (Exodus 26:19).

e Twenty frames to be made for the north side (Exodus 26:20).

d Forty sockets of silver to be made to support the frames, two per frame (Exodus 26:21).

c Six frames to be made for the west side, the rear of the Dwellingplace (Exodus 26:22).

b Two frames to form the corners at the rear doubled up (Exodus 26:23-24).

a There are to be eight frames and sixteen sockets, two sockets to a frame (Exodus 26:25).

Again we see the clever way in which the writer uses his descriptions so as to form parallels by key words. In ‘a’ the frames are to be made standing up, and in the parallel they way in which they stand up is described. In ‘b’ there are two tenons for each frame and in the parallel there are two frames for each corner. In ‘c’ the frames for the south side are described and in the parallel the frames for the rear, the west side. In ‘d’ and its parallel the forty sockets of silver to be made to support the frames, two per frame, are described. And in the centre the twenty frames for the north side are described. While the twenty frames of the north side would have made a better parallel with the south side, the west side had to be described after the north side because of what subsequently followed.

Exodus 26:15-17

“And you shall make upright frames for the Dwelling-place of acacia wood. The length of a frame shall be ten cubits and the breadth of each frame a cubit and a half. In each frame there will be two uprights (or tenons) joined to one another. You will make all the frames for the Dwelling-place in this way.”

Frames”. (Kerashim). Probably not planks or boards but upright frames which would be lighter to carry and provide firmness and strength. The ‘uprights joined together’ probably referred to a ladder-like structure. The kerashim framework was paralleled at Ugarit, and similar frames were known from Egypt.

Exodus 26:18-25

“And you will make the frames for the Dwelling-place, twenty frames for the south side southward, and you shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty frames, two sockets under one frame for its two uprights and two sockets under another frame for its two uprights, and for the second side of the Dwelling-place, on the north side, twenty frames and their forty sockets of silver, two sockets under one frame and two sockets under another frame. And for the rear part of the Dwelling-place westward you will make six frames. And you shall make two frames for the corners of the rear part, and they shall be double beneath, and they shall be the same right to their top in the one ring. It shall be the same for both. They shall be for the two corners. And there will be eight frames, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets, two sockets under one frame and two sockets under the other frame.”

The general pattern was clear although we do not have sufficient knowledge of their technical language to be certain of the full meaning. Each side would be based on twenty frames at one and a half cubits a frame, and would therefore be thirty cubits. The rear would be based on six similar frames plus two specially designed corner frames which doubled up for strength. The frames were held up by sockets with connection across by bars. It is possible that the extra two frames doubled up under the final ones of the six frames. That would make the actual width nine cubits upwards. But this would depend on exactly how they were combined together.

The sockets were to be of silver. These prevented the pillars having contact with the ground. The gold which represented the holiness of God could not be allowed to touch ground other than that which was most holy. The gold of the Ark, the table and the lampstand appear to have been allowed to touch the ground. This suggests that the ground there was seen as most holy. But the sockets tended of course to be at the division between the most holy ground and the slightly less holy ground.

The veil was also on pillars with silver sockets. But the outer pillars of that would again be seen as coming at the border where the most holy met the less holy, and the variety of curtains (which themselves did not touch the ground), may have been seen as making the ground within them most holy, with the ground on which the pillars actually stood, less holy.


Verses 26-29

The Making of the Bars To Hold The Frames Together (Exodus 26:26-29).

This may be analysed as follows:

a Five bars were to be made of acacia wood for the frames for each of the south, north and west sides (Exodus 26:26-27).

b The middle bar was to pass from end to end right along the frames (Exodus 26:28).

c The frames were to be overlaid with gold, they were to attach rings of gold to hold the bars, and the bars were to be overlaid with gold (Exodus 26:29).

In ‘a’ we have the description of the making of the five bars for the frames and in the parallel what the bars are to be overlaid with, and how connected to the frames. The middle bar is central.

Exodus 26:26-28

“And you shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the Dwelling-place, and five bars for the frames on the other side of the Dwelling-place, and five bars for the frames of the side of the Dwelling-place for the rear part westward. And the middle bar in the middle of the frames will pass through from end to end.”

The bars would hold the frames together and be connected to them by rings of gold as then described. The middle bar went all the way along. Possibly each of the two above and below went half way along, one from the rear and one from the front, the shorter bars giving added strength.

Exodus 26:29

“And you shall overlay the frames with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars, and you shall overlay the bars with gold.”

Moses did not have to guess or work it out from the instructions, for he had already been shown, while in the Mount, how it was all to be fitted together. The instructions were merely there to remind him of the main plan. No instruction is given as to how the roof is to be supported. It may have been unsupported, in which case it would have sagged in the middle, especially when it rained, but this is very unlikely. It would hardly have remained stable. Or it may have been supported by a kind of lattice work or by bars going across, a method probably already connected in their minds with the kerashim framework and therefore not needing to be explained. Its measurements would be determined by the other measurements.

To sum up. The framework was thirty cubits long by nine to ten wide by ten high. The curtains of forty cubits by twenty eight and forty four cubits by thirty would cover the top and both sides plus the rear, with the overhangs mentioned for the goats’ hair. The inner curtains would not quite reach the floor, for this would have been seen as defiling the Dwellingplace. The front was seemingly open. Thus a screen will be made to cover this opening (Exodus 26:36) although the outer coverings of rams’ skins dyed red and dolphin skin may also have been long enough to provide covering.


Verses 30-37

The Making of the Veil and the Ordering of the Dwellingplace (Exodus 26:30-37).

Exodus 26:30 is regularly connected with what precedes, but it is very different from Exodus 25:40, and the chiastic pattern connects it with what follows. Furthermore it fits in well with this following passage which deals not only with the veil but also with the ordering of the furniture in the Dwellingplace

The Most Holy Place was to be separated from the Holy Place by a large veil. This would keep the Most Holy Place in darkness except for when the light of Yahweh shone there, apart from a glimmer of light from the Holy Place. It was to prevent access to all men, even including the priests, apart from on the Day of Atonement when ‘the Priest’ (the High Priest) alone could enter to make final atonement for the people. It symbolised that while men could approach God they could not enter directly into His presence. He must always be veiled from them because no man could see God or enter His immediate presence and live. We can imagine the awe with which the priest approached the veil aware that beyond it was the Presence before Whom no man could enter and Whom no man could see and live.

When the holy veil was made no one could have even dreamed that over a thousand years later that veil would be torn in half by God Himself, but in the death of Jesus the veil was torn apart for Him (Mark 15:38), symbolic of the fact that through it went our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, to act as Mediator on our behalf, and to represent us in God’s presence for ever (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:12) with the result that we too can spiritually enter through the veil by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22).

But this is only partial, for the final glory still awaits when our great High Priest returns from within the veil (Hebrews 9:28) and we then have access not only spiritually but literally to behold His full glory (Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:4-5).

This passage may be analysed as follows:

a The Dwellingplace was to be set up in accordance with the pattern shown on the mount (Exodus 26:30).

b A veil was to be made of bluey-purple, purpley-red, scarlet and fine twined linen embroidered with cherubim, all to be done by skilled workmen and was to be hung on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, supported by four sockets of silver (one per pillar) (Exodus 26:31-32).

c The veil being held up with clasps the Ark of the Testimony was to be brought within the veil (Exodus 26:33 a).

d The veil will divide between the Holy of Holies (the Most Holy Place) and the Holy Place (Exodus 26:33 b).

c The mercy-seat (place of propitiation) shall be put on the Ark of the Testimony in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:34).

b Outside the veil in the Holy Place are to be placed the table on the north side and the lampstand on the south (Exodus 26:35).

a The Dwelling place was to be set off from the people by a screen for the door of the Tent, of bluey-purple, purpley-red, scarlet and fine twined linen, the work of the embroiderer, and was to be hung on five pillars of acacia overlaid with gold by means of golden hooks and supported by five sockets of brazen copper (Exodus 26:36-37).

It will be noted that in ‘a’ the Dwellingplace is set up and in the parallel the screen which separates the people from the Dwellingplace. In ‘b’ the veil is made and hung, and in the parallel the table and lampstand are set outside the veil. In ‘c’ the Ark of the Testimony is brought within the veil into the Holy of Holies, and in the parallel the mercy-seat is put on the Ark of the Testimony in the Holy of Holies. In a sense central to all (in the passage) is the veil which separates the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place and thus guards the Ark but gives access to the lampstand and the table of showbread.

Exodus 26:30-33

“And you shall rear up the Dwelling-place in accordance with its pattern which has been shown you in the Mount, and you shall make a veil of bluey violet, and purpley red, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skilful workman. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks of gold, on four sockets of silver. And you shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring within there, within the veil, the Ark of the Testimony, and the veil shall divide for you between the holy place and the most holy.”

When the Dwelling place was raised up in accordance with the pattern shown to Moses in the mount, the Holy Place was to be separated from the Most Holy by this veil. This was to be made of multicoloured cloth and fine linen and was to hang down from the top of the hooks on the four pillars. The four pillars would be in sockets of silver. It separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies). Within the Most Holy Place were set the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh called here the Ark of the Testimony because it contained the Covenant tablets, and it testified to that covenant. It may also have contained the ancient covenant tablets from which the narrative of Genesis was obtained. It was the most sacred of all the furniture in the Tabernacle, and was seen as the place from where God dispensed justice and mercy.

The veil acted as a barrier between it and man, through which no man might pass, apart from ‘the Priest’ (the High Priest) once a year under special restrictions. The cherubim designed on it were a reminder of the cherubim who guarded the way to the tree of life and would not allow man to approach it. They signified the extreme holiness of the Most Holy Place, that a man could go so far and no further in his approach to God.

In the Temple, doors separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, but the veil was hung over the doors so as to continue to fulfil its purpose. It was this veil that was torn in two at the time of the crucifixion of Christ. For Him there could be no veil to hide Him from the Father and He entered directly into His presence. And it symbolically opened the way of access spiritually into God's presence for all who came through Him (Hebrews 10:20; Matthew 27:50-51; Mark 15:37-38; Luke 23:45-46). But in the end that rending of the veil is also the declaration that one day we shall enjoy the glory of His presence in its fullness (Revelation 21:23-24; Revelation 22:5).

Exodus 26:34

“And you shall put the mercy seat on the Ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy Place.”

Thus while the Ark contained within it the Testimony (the ten words), the covenant and all the moral requirements demanded by a holy God that revealed the sinfulness and failure of man, above them was the place of propitiation, the mercy seat, where propitiation and atonement could be found. In the midst of judgment there was always mercy through the shedding of blood. It was the place where men’s sins were finally done away.

We might suggest that the Mercy-seat represented the opening words of the covenant, ‘I am Yahweh your God Who delivered you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage’, and the chest the commands which followed required by their Overlord.

Exodus 26:35

“And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand opposite the table on the south, and you will put the table on the north side.”

The table and lampstand were set in the Holy Place, the table to the north side and the lampstand opposite it on the south side. Thus as a priest entered the Holy Place through the entrance from outside he saw ahead of him the table on the left and the lampstand on the right. The fact that they were outside the veil confirms further that there was no thought of Yahweh eating the bread. It was their provision, not His requirement, and they partook of it themselves through their priests. It was a sign of God’s provision for them, not for Himself.

Exodus 26:36-37

“And you shall make a screen for the door of the Tent, of bluey-violet and purpley-red and scarlet and fine twined linen, the work of the embroiderer. And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia and overlay them with gold. Their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five sockets of brass for them.”

The way in and out of the Holy Place from the courtyard outside was to be covered by a screen of multicoloured cloth and fine linen, hung on five pillars. This suggests that it was wider than the inner veil, (with its four pillars), and extended at each side of the entrance. It prevented access by the unauthorised and those not duly sanctified. The gradation of entry emphasised that the nearer men came to God the more holy the ground, and the more thorough the preparation needed for the approach, and that between man and God there was a great gulf that could only be dealt with by atonement and cleansing.

Note that there were no cherubim on this curtain. Their representation was only allowed within the Sanctuary, for they spoke of the heavenly. Such representations must not be seen by ordinary people for they could result in wrong ideas.

The outer screen had sockets of brazen copper to hold the golden pillars. It was where the more holy ground came in contact with the even less holy ground. It should be noted that gold never touches the ground, (apart from the furniture in the holy Sanctuary) and that even within the Sanctuary, when contact with the ground is made by the pillars it is by silver sockets. The ground is more holy where they are but not most holy, for there the more holy connects with the less holy.

Notes for Christians.

Here in this picture of the construction of the Dwellingplace we have a symbol of how sinful men can through Christ become the temple of the living God by the indwelling of the Spirit, and what it means. There were differing qualities of cloth within and without the Dwellingplace. Outwardly we portray the Porpoise skins and the goatskins, for we are rough hewn and have to be tough to face the world. But that roughness and toughness, if right, comes from the inner harmony and beauty, the blue cloth which symbolises heaven in our hearts, the purple which reminds us that we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), the red which reminds us that we are constantly cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), the pure linen cloth which is indicative of the righteousnesses of His people (Revelation 19:8). And the intricate details are a reminder of God’s perfect work within us as He ‘fitly frames us together’ (Ephesians 2:21) in order to make us a suitable dwellingplace. The very detail of the description is a reminder of the care with which He goes about His work. Bezalel is a novice in comparison. God’s frames support us, His pegs hold us secure, His loops and clasps hold us together. And not one is unimportant. We may see His pegs as faith, hope and love, His loops and clasps as the intricacies of His word which speak to every need, and His frames as the great promises in which we trust. For all is His provision. But in the end it speaks of all that He provides for our spiritual growth.

Alternatively these different parts of the Dwellingplace may be seen as representing the part played by different Christians in the whole united ‘temple of God’ consisting of His people, each having a part to play, some larger, some smaller, but all essential to the whole.

And the veil reminds us of the sin that prevents men’s access, but for us it has been torn asunder by our great High priest and sacrifice, so that through Him we can enter humbly but joyously within the veil (Hebrews 10:19 ff), ever aware of the glory of the One Who awaits us there.

End of note.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 26:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-26.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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