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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 39

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 32


‘All the work of the Tabernacle … was finished.’

Exodus 39:32

The mysteriousness, and unapproachable glory of Jehovah, could only be impressed on the Hebrews in figures and ways which they would appreciate. The portable temple of the Israelites had in its whole arrangement a resemblance with the temples of antiquity. In many of the Grecian temples the back part was not to be entered by anybody; and here the statue of the deity was placed. In the Egyptian temples the inner or sacred part was shrouded in darkness, and divided from the front or outer portion by a curtain embroidered with gold. From this impress two things—

I. God educates His creatures in Divine things with the help of picture-teachings, and in each age the pictures have to be painted in the style, and in accordance with the ideas, of the age. This will enable teachers to explain that the mere form of the picture is never of first importance, the great thing is the truth illustrated. Infidelity attacks the mere picture-subject, which the taste of our day may think unlovely. We must force men to consider the truths which are of value for every age, which were taught in one way then.

II. Awe and reverence toward God are always at the very foundation of religion.—They were impressed by the separateness and sanctity of a building for the Hebrews. They are sadly imperilled in our days, and we hear even mere boys talking about what is consistent and proper for God to do. Piety never can base itself on familiarity with God. Jesus reverently called Him, ‘Holy Father, Righteous Father.’ Preachers should earnestly plead for worthier and more solemn apprehensions of God. Then,

III. The right view to take of the claims of God’s sanctuary should be discussed.—The tabernacle was not a place for worshippers, it was the shrine of deity. The outer courts alone represented our churches. There is danger lest we should come to look on churches and chapels as places to which we go that we may enjoy ourselves, or, at most, get good. We need to feel much more than we do, that it is our bounden duty, as God’s creatures, and as God’s redeemed creatures, to offer together solemn, reverent, adoring worship to Him. ‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me.’

The following are the main doctrinal ideas that were kept before the minds of the people, as they looked on the Tabernacle, thought on its ritual, and shared in its services:—(1) The fact that God was graciously pleased to dwell among them, and take them into covenant with Himself. (2) The fact that they through sin were unfit to appear in God’s presence and enjoy His favour. (God was behind two veils.) (3) The fact that before any approach to God could be made, the guilt of sin must be expiated, and the pollution of sin removed. (Note the presence of the altar of burnt-offering in the outer court.) (4) The fact that when sin is expiated, and cleansed, a sinful being passes into a state of acceptance with God. (5) The fact that God’s continued presence in the midst of them depended on the great atoning sacrifice of the ever-living High Priest. (This was pointed at by the entrance once a year into the Holy of Holies of the high-priest, with his official robes, and the blood of sprinkling wherewith to sprinkle the Mercy Seat.)

Notice, also, the double manifestation of Jehovah’s abiding presence. 1. Within the dwelling as an unapproachable glory. 2. Without the dwelling as a visible cloud. Help towards realising how Christ is God ‘ manifest in the flesh.’ The ‘unseen’ seen by mortal eyes.


(1) ‘Let me be holy to the Lord in my thoughts. The real battle often is there, with the imaginations which wish to lodge in the heart, and which will do me much harm if I let them stay.

Let me be holy to the Lord in my words. When Hugh Latimer was on his trial, he heard a pen scratching behind the tapestry, and he knew that every word he uttered was being taken down. Let me remember that God takes my words down, and I shall seek to have them such as He can approve.

And let me be holy to the Lord in my deeds. It should be my ambition to go about my little world doing things which everyone feels are the very things that Christ would have done. He gives His highest dignity, He assigns His noblest work, to those who have performed the small services graciously and well. I would rise to the Christ-like life.’

(2) ‘ The completed Tabernacle was the type and emblem of Jesus Christ. “The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us.” As the Shekinah dwelt in the sanctuary, filling it with a light and glory which sometimes flowed over into the outer courts, so did God dwell in the person of Jesus, sometimes irradiating His whole being, as at the transfiguration, “We beheld His glory.” The Tabernacle is also a symbol of every true child of God: for God still dwells in human spirits, and shines out through them, so that there is no part of them left dark. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” The Tabernacle is also a type of the collective Church, in whom God dwells. It must have been a very affecting and triumphant moment when Moses looked on the completed Tabernacle, not yet set up, but awaiting the next step of erection.’

(3) ‘The Tabernacle was both a symbol and a type; that is, it expressed in material form certain great spiritual needs and truths; and, just because it did so, it pointed onwards to the full expression and satisfaction of these in Christ Jesus and His gifts. In other words, it was a parable of the requisites for, and the blessings of, communion with God.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Exodus 39". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/exodus-39.html. 1876.
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