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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Exodus 26

 

 

Introduction

III. Israel at Sinai (XIX.-XL.).

The division Num 19-40 presents difficulties due to its very importance, see introduction to Ex. (last paragraph). But Num 25-31, 35-40 readily fall apart from the rest, as containing P's account of the Tabernacle (see on Exodus 25:1), the introduction to which is found in Exodus 19:1-2 a and Exodus 24:15 b - Exodus 24:18 a, Exodus 34:29-35 being a link section. All critics confess that in the remainder many details must remain doubtful. The Oxf. Hex. is for the most part followed here. It does not differ very widely from Baentsch, who has made a special study of this part. Gressmann's drastic reconstruction is highly suggestive in particulars, but as a whole is over-bold. The noteworthy fact is that both J and E preserve important traditions. In each there is an older stratum preserving these elements of the national memory of the religious and political confederation of the tribes: an awful appearance of God upon Sinai-Horeb (Exodus 19 JE, Exodus 20:18-21 E), and the giving of a sacred code, the (Ten) Covenant Words, inscribed upon stone tablets (Exodus 31:18 b E, Exodus 34:28 J) and sealed by a solemn sacrificial feast (Exodus 24:5 E, Exodus 24:11 J). Now these passages concur in presenting a favourable view of Israel at this period: he is the son gratefully responding to the compassionate love of his Father (cf. Exodus 4:22*), or the lowly bride returning the affection of her Husband. And this agrees with the view of the period taken by all the pre-exilic prophets who refer to it (see Hosea 2:15; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:3 f., Hosea 12:9; Hosea 12:13, Amos 2:9-11; Amos 3:1 f., Jeremiah 2:1-3; Jeremiah 2:34). Even Ezekiel's severe view rather points to the ancestral heathenism of the tribes (Egyptian, Exodus 23:3, but Canaanite or Amorite-Hittite, Exodus 16:3) than to any apostasy just at this epoch. Only Hosea 9:11, if it refers to the incident Numbers 25:1-5 JE, implies such a lapse. On these grounds it is probable that Numbers 32 JE (the Golden Calf and its destruction E, and the vengeance of the Levites J), together with not a little expansion elsewhere, belongs to a later stage in the moulding of the tradition. The order of incidents is hard to follow, because the editor who united J and E, in his care to preserve as much as possible of both, took the story of the tablets in J as a re-giving and rewriting of them with a renewal of the broken covenant. Much of Numbers 33 containing the colloquies with the Divine Leader belongs to this stage. All this, of course, involves a considerable disturbance of the Bible order and representation in Ex., which, but for one section, is substantially followed by D. But the essence of the great religious facts is irrefragably secure: Israel did, by whatever stages short or long, emerge from a condition little removed from contemporary heathenism, and learned to worship one gracious and holy God (p. 84). Differences concern only the manner and form of events, and their times. Later historians have so accustomed us to having at least the main events fitted neatly into their centuries B.C. or A.D. that we find it hard to think that serious writers could be centuries out in their reckoning. But just as prophets saw future events near and distant in a foreshortened perspective, so it may be that the Bible historians—called "the former prophets" (pp. 38, 244) by the Jews—saw their instances of the nation's glory and shame as more closely crowded together than they actually were. The main thing is that they actually saw them, and that, too, in the mirror of eternity." Throughout the whole we see the material, as it were, in a plastic state. As older conceptions were outgrown new touches could modify the details, though, fortunately for our chances of recognising the earlier levels of inspiration, traces of the old were not always obliterated. Sometimes we must suppose that these modifications had already been made during the period of oral tradition.


Verses 1-37

Exodus 26. P. The Dwelling.—This chapter deals with the tent, or tabernacle proper, describing in succession the four thicknesses of different materials which were to make its covering (Exodus 26:1-14. cf. Exodus 36:8-19); the framework that should support them (Exodus 26:15-30; cf. Exodus 36:20-34); the inner partition or veil (Exodus 26:31-33; cf. Exodus 36:35 f.) and the contents of the interior (Exodus 26:34 f; cf. Exodus 40:20; cf. Exodus 40:22; cf. Exodus 40:24); and lastly, the entrance screen (Exodus 26:36 f; cf. Exodus 36:37 f.). The interior was to consist of ten "curtains," or breadths of the finest linen, embroidered in blue, purple, and scarlet threads, with figures of cherubs, "the work of the designer" (Exodus 26:1). The ten breadths were to be made into two large curtains, each made up of a "coupling" or "set" of breadths, these two to be attached to one another by fifty gold clasps, working in loops of blue tape (Exodus 26:2-6). The single curtain thus resulting hung down to the ground at the back, but left the front to be closed by the screen. Over this was to be placed a slightly larger tent of eleven breadths of goats'-hair cloth, such as the Bedawin use still; two great curtains of five and six coupled breadths being joined by bronze clasps for use (Exodus 26:7-11). Removing from Exodus 26:12 the words "the half curtain that remaineth," as a hasty gloss, the idea is clear: the sixth curtain was to be doubled over in front, to make a kind of valance over the screen, thus ensuring complete darkness, and leaving just enough to reach the ground at the back, as well as the sides (Exodus 26:12 f.). Over this again two leather coverings were to be placed, such as the Romans used over their tents in winter, i.e. one of ram-skins dyed red, probably with madder, and the other of porpoise or dugong skins.

Next comes the account of the supporting framework. The exact sense of the word rendered "boards" being uncertain, A. R. S. Kennedy's view has been widely accepted that these were open frames, letting the colours and embroidery of the inner linen tent show through, and not solid boards or rather beams. His view is best given by quoting his rendering of Exodus 26:15-17 : "And thou shalt make the frames for the Dwelling of acacia wood, standing up

Exodus 26:10 cubits the length of a frame, and 1½ cubits the breadth of a frame,—namely, two uprights for each frame, joined one to another by cross-rails." The frames were to stand in sockets of silver (Exodus 26:18-22), two extra frames being provided to strengthen the corners at the back (Exodus 26:23 f.). To keep the frames in place bars ran through rings on both sides and the end—one long middle bar, with two shorter bars above and two below, in each case (Exodus 26:26-28). The rings were to be of gold, and the wood gilded (Exodus 26:29).

The oblong chamber thus formed was to be divided by an embroidered veil of partition into the inner shrine or "most holy place," 10 cubits square, and a "holy place" occupying two such squares, the veil being hung by golden hooks upon four pillars of gilded acacia wood in silver sockets or bases, and exactly under the clasps joining the two great curtains (Exodus 26:31-33).

The mercy-seat was to be set upon the Ark within the inner shrine, and outside the veil the table on the north and the candlestick on the south (Exodus 26:34 f.). The screen which closed the entrance was of the same material, but less elaborately embroidered, and was hung with gold hooks upon five pillars fixed in bronze sockets.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 26:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/exodus-26.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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