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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 37

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-29


Exodus 37:1. And Bezaleel made the ark]. All things in their order. First, the vessels of the Holy of Holies, and then those of the Holy. First, the due regard for God’s commandments, and then for worshipping Him in a becoming manner. First, the mercy-seat, then the altar of incense.



“And Bezaleel made the Ark of shittim-wood: two cubits and a-half was the length of it, and a cubit and a-half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a-half the height of it,” &c., 37 Exodus 37:1-29.

A.—The Holy of Holies

I. The Ark, Exodus 37:1-5. Cf. Exodus 25:10-15, in which the instructions which are here carried out were originally given. The Ark, being intended to contain the Divine testimony, and to support the Mercy-Seat, the proper residence of God, required to be constructed so as to leave upon the minds of the people the idea of ineffable purity or holiness. Accordingly it was made as directed, of the finest wood, and of the purest gold. To enhance the idea of holiness connected with the Ark, it was not to be touched or immediately handled, but only by means of two staves constructed of the same kind of wood and overlaid with gold—which staves were not to be removed from its side, but to remain in the four golden rings which supported them, two on each side, in order to be always convenient for lifting, and that no temptation might be given for laying hands upon the sacred symbol.

II. The Mercy-Seat, Exodus 37:6. Cf. Exodus 25:17. The term “capporeth,” by which the Mercy-Seat is designated, signifies “covering.” The circumstance that this covering was not to be made of wood and gold, but of pure gold alone, seems to indicate that it was designed to serve another purpose than simply to be a lid for the Ark. That God was to commune with His people from off this capporeth appears to point in the direction of a spiritual rather than a material covering; and the Peil form of the verb כִּפֵּר from which the word is derived, according to Gesenius and others, always means to cover sin. Then the fact that on the great day of atonement the blood of the holiest sin-offering was sprinkled upon it, shows that it was designed to be a ίλαστηριον or propitiatorium. Whence we conclude that the Mercy-Seat was a covering not for the Ark, nor for the tables of testimony, but for the sins of the people. That is to say, it was the place where they were covered up by the blood of expiation from the eye of God. Cf. Kurtz—“Sacrificial Worship.”

III. The cherubim, Exodus 37:7-9. Cf. Exodus 25:18-22. These mystical figures were to be constructed out of the one sheet of gold of which the Mercy-Seat was made. What these figures were has given rise to much discussion. They are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24 as guarding the Tree of Life. Probably it was representations of these same figures which Solomon introduced into the Temple, and which Ezekiel has described in his visions, though it is doubtful if the terms “cherub” and “cherubim” did not apply to a variety of figures. The composite beings which Ezekiel saw (Exodus 1:5) had a human figure with four faces; the cherubims of the Ark had only one face each. As to the interpretation of the symbol, it is probable “that no single explanation can be accepted as adequate, but that the best of the various explanations contain elements of truth.” Kitto, art. “Cherubim.” For a statement of opinions on this subject see articles in Bible Dictionaries, “Fairbairn’s Typology,” &c. “The prevailing opinion now is,” says Dr. Jamieson in the Portable Commentary, “that those splendid figures were symbolical not of angelic, but of earthly and human beings—the members of the Church of God interested in the dispensation of grace, the redeemed in every age, and that these hieroglyphic forms symbolised the qualities of the true people of God—courage, practice, intelligence, and activity.” More correctly, however, we think, that, combining with the human figure, as they did, the highest attributes of animal life, they were designed:

(1) to be symbols of the most perfect creature life, and thus to indicate that only with the perfect could Jehovah dwell; and
(2) to be ideal representations of humanity, and of the nearness to God which fallen man will enjoy when he is perfect.

Thus the three things suggested by the furniture of the Holy of Holies were, the holiness of God, the possibility of pardon, the hope of perfection.

B.—The Holy Place

“And he made the table of shittim-wood: two cubits was the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof,” 37 Exodus 37:10-29.

I. The table of shew-bread, Exodus 37:10-16, was made of acacia-wood, covered with a plate of gold. Its dimensions were two cubits long, one broad, and one and a-half high, the cubit being 18 inches. It was ornamented with a golden wreath or border round the table leaf. “The frame of the table immediately below the leaf was encircled with a piece of wood of about four inches in breadth, around the edge of which was a vine or border similar to that around the leaf. A little lower down, but at equal distance from the top of the table, there were four rings of gold fastened to the legs, through which staves covered with gold were inserted for the purpose of carrying it.” Vessels of pure gold stood upon the table, large deep plates in which the shew-bread was not only brought to the table but placed upon it, sacrificial spoons to make the libations with, and goblets, some larger and some smaller, into which the wine was poured and placed upon the table.

II. The candlestick, Exodus 37:17-24. “The structure of the candelabrum consisted of a base; of a shaft rising out of it; of six arms, which came out by threes from two opposite sides of the shaft; of seven lamps, which were supported on the summits of the central shaft, and the six arms, and of the different kinds of ornaments belonging to the shaft and arms. These ornaments are called by names which mean cups (bowls), globes (knops), and blossoms (flowers). The cups (bowls) are described as almond-shaped, it being uncertain whether the resemblance was to the fruit or the flowers. Three such cups were allotted to every arm; but four to the shaft, two and twenty in all. The name of the second ornament occurs only in two places in the Old Testament in which it appears to mean the capital of a column; in the Septuagint and the Vulgate it is rendered σφαιρωτῆρες and spherneæ, whence it may be understood as meaning bodies of a spherical shape. The third ornament means blossom, bud, flower. All these different articles, along with the necessary appendages of snuffers and snuff-dishes, were made of pure gold, wrought with the hammer (beaten work) instead of being cast by fusion. The quantity of gold expended in its construction was one talent, about 94 lbs.—See Kitto’s “Cyclopædia,” art. ‘Candlestick.’

III. The altar of incense (Exodus 37:25) was a square box, two cubits high, one cubit long, and one broad, made of acacia-wood, and having four horns (קרן) or wooden projections, one at each corner. Its top and sides were overlaid with gold; and round the flat surface was a crown or border of gold, underneath which were the rings for the gold-covered staves. In connection with this, Bezaleel, or his artificers acting under his directions, made the holy oil or ointment for anointing all the vessels of the Holy Place and the officiating priests; and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of the apothecary, for burning on the altar. The composition of both of these articles is described in Exodus 30:25-34.

If the Holy of Holies was the peculiar dwelling-place of God, the Holy Place was the temple of the priesthood, hence symbolic of the Christian Church. For the symbolism of the Tabernacle, as a whole, see Exodus 40:0 Meantime the present section is suggestive of four ideas which should ever be associated with the Christian Church, with its edifices, and its worship—

1. Fidelity. All the above-mentioned articles of furniture were made exactly according to the specifications. In not a single point, however minute, was there the slightest deviation from the original pattern. Possibly Bezaleel, or some of his clever artisans and cunning workmen, had their own thought of the different designs. Just as likely as not they believed they could have originated better articles had their fashioning been left entirely to them. Perhaps, too, the reason of some of the instructions, as, e.g., why the gold of the candlestick should be beaten and not cast, did not quite appear to them. Still in this matter there was no room for either their inventive genius or their critical faculties. Their business was simply to carry out the orders of the Great Architect and Chief Designer to whom the Tabernacle, with all its furniture, belonged. So within the Christian Church in the elaboration of her creeds, in the regulation of her worship, in the administration of her government, there is place for neither original discovery nor rationalising criticism. Doubtless, many think they could have sketched a better plan of a New Testament Church than Christ has done, instituted a superior ritual, enunciated truer and more valuable doctrines, and appointed a more beneficent administration; only, in that case, the Church would not have been Christ’s, but theirs; and since it is His and not theirs, their business is not to go beyond, nor below, nor against what is written, but to ask, What saith the Scripture? “To the Law and to the Testimony.” Calvin’s principle, with a little modification, was unquestionably right, viz., that nothing is to be introduced into the creed, worship, or government of the Christian Church that is not either expressly commanded in Scripture or deducible therefrom by necessary inference.

2. Liberality. As the articles in the Holy of Holies were made of the most costly materials, the finest wood, and the purest gold, so were those in the Holy Place, which may remind us that in all matters connected with the Christian Church the utmost liberality should be displayed. In fact, no part of the Church’s service should be anything but the absolute best, i.e., in the circumstances. The spiritual food which she dispenses should be the richest possible, the intellectual and religious light which she diffuses the clearest and the sweetest possible, the sacrifice of prayer and praise which she presents the purest and the noblest possible. All her undertakings and schemes should be supported with the most bountiful munificence. Nothing mean, shabby, illiberal, ungenerous, should have a place within the house of God. This principle too however, has a qualification which must be noted.

3. Beauty. The table, the candlestick, and the altar were all ornamented and though some minds imagine that all taste and beauty should be eschewed in connection with Divine worship, this, obviously, was not God’s opinion; and, indeed, why should it, when God has made His world so fair, ornamented and decorated every part of it? But sin is always vulgar and unæsthetic; and as the only unbeautiful sights to be witnessed on earth are to be found in connection with the works of man, so in God’s service even some are never happy unless everything is as little beautiful and tasteful as possible. Magnificent churches are an offence, elevating music is pronounced to be out of place, decorous and seemly behaviour is an affectation. Contrary to this, however, though again with limitations which must be specified, it should be the aim of devout souls to follow in the footsteps of the Lord, and make everything connected with His house beautiful in its place.

4. Sanctity. The methods adopted to impress the Hebrew mind with this conception of the holiness of God, and of all connected with His house and worship, were many. One of these was the injunction that all the articles of the dwelling should be overlaid with gold, and should not be immediately handled, but borne by means of gold-covered staves. Another was the sprinkling of everything within the Holy Place with holy oil. An idea this which should never be absent from the mind and heart of the Christian. The Christian Church and all its exercises are hallowed by the perpetual Presence of Him who is the Holy One. Hence the lowliest reverence should be exhibited before Him, the purest feelings should be cherished in His service, and a sense of personal consecration should be sought before engaging in His worship. This also has a caveat which must be mentioned.

(1.) The first qualification, “Fidelity,” must be balanced with “Freedom”—not, however, the “freedom” of choosing differently from God, but that highest of all freedom which is synonymous with “cheerful obedience,” or the free election of God’s ways, and thoughts, and purposes, and plans, because they are best.
(2.) The second, “Liberality,” must be modified by the Divine command, “Go ye into all the world.” While Christ’s people are to generously and handsomely support His cause at home, their liberality to home operations must not infringe upon their ability to extend His cause abroad. The best should be done at home that is consistent with the greatest possible munificence to Christ’s cause abroad.
(3.) The third, “Beauty,” requires to be supplemented with “Spirituality.” While Christian churches may be beautiful, and Christian worship tasteful, &c., it should never be forgotten that “God is a Spirit,” &c.
(4.) The fourth, “Sanctity,” must be guarded against degenerating into “Superstition.” The holiness suggested to the Hebrew mind was not the holiness of the table, &c., but of the God to whom the table belonged. And so must Christians be careful not to transfer to these things what in reality is an attribute of God.



Labour! Exodus 37:1, &c.

(1.) Idleness enervates! It has been said that scruples are weeds which luxuriate in the soil of monasticism. That soil is full of the elements which minister to their growth; and the chief of these is idleness. The same element is productive of serious results in all departments of human life. Whether civilised or savage, the idle man deteriorates; and at last actively develops into a mischievous animal, either towards himself or towards his fellow-creatures.

(2.) Industry elevates! It is, as MacCulloch says, the talisman that has raised him from the condition of the savage. It has changed the desert and the forest into cultivated fields—has covered the earth with cities, and the ocean with ships—and has given plenty, comfort, and luxury, instead of want, misery, and barbarism. What, then, shall be said of its mental and moral results, if those of the material are so great! No greater contrast could be found amongst ancient nations, perhaps, than Rome in its infancy of hardihood and Rome in its impotency of luxury and idleness. Persia furnishes a parallel contrast.

“What heart can think, or tongue express,
The harm that groweth of idleness?”


“But sober industry, illustrious power!
Bids the bleak hill with vernal verdure bloom.”


Holy of Holies! Exodus 37:1.

(1.) Its cubical form—the decade in its dimensions—its colours of holiness, heavenliness, kingliness, and life—its undecaying wood, and glorious gold—all unite in predicting that, when the kingdom of God reaches its final development, the outward state and surroundings of the redeemed will correspond in excellence with their high class as the household of God. This seems to harmonise with the Apocalyptic seer’s vision.

(2.) In Revelation 21:0 the Evangelist is represented as standing like another Noah at the heights of Ararat, gazing on a renovated world. After passing through the crucible of its own latent fires, it has come forth—phœnix-like—from their ashes in new resurrection life. Vast as are its dimensions—a gigantic cube, lying foursquare, with gates in every quarter wide open—it must be noticed as having streets of pure gold—i.e., within it there entereth nothing that defileth. All are pure in heart there who see God.

“O heaven! when storm and cloud
Debar the mortal vision of the eye
From wandering o’er thy threshold, more and more
I love thee, thinking on the perfect calm
Which bounds the deadly fever of these days—
The higher, holier, spiritual heaven.”


Ark-Symbolism! Exodus 37:4-5. Dr. Kitto mentions the fact of Captain Cook having seen in the Island of Huahine a curious analogy to the ark. Hawksworth describes it as a kind of ark or chest, the lid of which was nicely sewed on, and thatched very neatly with palm-nut leaves. It was fixed upon two poles, in order to remove it from place to place in the manner of a sedan chair. In one end of it was a square hole, in the middle of which was a ring touching the sides, and leaving the angles open, so as to form a round hole within, and a square one without. Sir Joseph Banks, who saw this curious coffer, considered its general resemblance to the Mosaic ark as remarkable. Still more remarkable is it, that the natives called it “The house of God.”

“Therefore, this little room doth seem

To me a holy place,

And in the world around I deem

A Bethel I can trace.”


Ark-Disclosure! Exodus 37:5. Stone says that the ark of the covenant is observed by St. John (Revelation 11:0) more plainly than ever revealed; because now, as the series of visions draw towards the great consummation, the purposes of God in Redemption become more manifestly developed to His worshipping children and prophesying servants. Clearer views are obtained in a spiritual and prophetic sense towards the close of the Gospel dispensation. These come from the course of events, or otherwise by the light of the Spirit of God, from the increased and devout study of unfulfilled prophecy, and the general agreement on the subject of the glory of Christ; when

“The seventh trumpet’s wondrous sound
Shall through the rending tombs resound,
And wake the sleepers underground!”

Mercy-Seat! Exodus 37:6, &c. This was the throne of Jehovah, where He dwelt between the cherubs, which stood one neither end of the cover of the ark. Above this mercy-seat, and between the cherubs, was the place where the God of the Hebrews localised Himself in the midst of the people whom He had chosen that they should be holy. His throne was thus established on the testimony, or covenant, as a foundation. There can be little doubt that the Psalmist refers to this when he says, “Justice and judgment are the foundation of Thy throne.” And again, “Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.” Over the testimony, as the basis of the covenant, was the place where Jehovah dwelt among His people as their God and King.

“O beauteous God! uncircumscribed treasure
Of an eternal pleasure!
Thy throne is seated far
Above the highest star,
Yet Thou dost make a glorious place,
Within the brightness of thy face,
For every spirit to inherit
Who builds his hopes upon Thy merit.”


Cherubic-Form, &c.! Exodus 37:7.

(1.) Form! Meyer says that these had no fixed form. Bâhr says that the cherubim on the tapestry work could not have been conceived like those on the ark, because the latter were statues, the former paintings. This, however, is hard to see. Indeed, it would seem, as Ladd says, that the Mosaic cherubim was a fixed form. Gesenius in his Thesaurus says that they were in great part human forms. This seems to be inferred from Exodus 37:6.

(2.) Face! They had only one. Their faces (Exodus 37:9) looked towards one another—towards the mercy-seat were the faces of the cherubim. Spencer says that the face of the cherubim was that of an ox; for which there is no evidence. Indeed, as Winer remarks, the complete delineation of the Mosaic cherubim must be for ever renounced.

(3.) Figuration! Herder thinks that they symbolised guardianship; while Bâhr regards them as figuring beings of abounding life. Ladd says that their watchful posture—with wings overshading—seem to indicate the guardian; and Gesenius views their figuration—with their faces towards the mercy-seat, wherein were the two Tables—that of simple custodians or protectors.

(4.) Foundation! Some think that the imagination of the constructor had much to do with the source whence these forms came: and that Moses drew on his familiarity with such figures in Egyptian temples. Hengstenberg distinctly says this was the sphinx of Egypt—a familiar object to Moses. But the question arises:—“Was not the foundation in the Divine Ideal?” Was not Moses instructed as to the form, face, and figuration? Was Bezaleel under the Divine-Mosaic direction?”

“So if His Word once teach us, shoot a ray
Through all the mind’s dark chambers, and reveal
Truths undiscern’d but by that holy light,
Then all is plain.”


Cherubims! Exodus 37:7-8. The cherub has been represented as a symbol of redeemed and perfected humanity, and the Holy of Holies of the kingdom of God in its perfected condition. If so, we are summoned to glance backward at the Edenic paradise, where God and man walked together; and forward to the ethereal paradise, where the spirits of just men made perfect commune with God. The garden of Eden was no sooner vacated by man than it was placed under the care of cherubs, to be kept by them till the original heir should be restored to his inheritance. A tableau of cherubs around the throne of Jehovah is, therefore, says Atwater, a prediction and a promise to men of restoration to such fellowship with God as Adam enjoyed before the earth ceased to be a paradise.

“When, face to face, our ravish’d ear shall hear
God’s voice—that glorious One in Three,
And Three in One—and hearing Him, shall blest Him,
And blessing, love Him—and in love possess Him.”


Cherubic-Attitude! Exodus 37:9. It has been suggested that the attitude of the cherubs harmonises with the symbolic idea of the capporeth, or mercy-seat. It is so called because it was the place from which the covering of sin was authoritatively announced. And with this idea their altitude well accords. They stood with their faces towards it, as if what it signified was specially attractive, wonderful, and agreeable. The posture of these symbols of redeemed humanity expresses the gratitude for expiation, which the vision of the Apocalypse represents them as uttering in song.

“To think how poorly eloquence of words
Translates the poetry of hearts like ours.”


Cherubim-Significance! Exodus 37:7-9. Edwards maintains that they represented the ministry of angels, or the principalities and powers in heavenly places. It was, doubtless, the Divine design that the holy angels should be brought into close friendship with the human family for mutual advantage. It is certain that, from the hour of creation, they have always taken the deepest interest in the affairs of earth. Earth is the planet of their choicest excursions—the realm of their noblest employments—the sphere of their sublimest pleasures. The Church on earth is to them the garden of the Lord, enriched with the bloom, and fragrant with the odour of the fairest flowers in creation’s empire. Redemption is to them the most stupendous fact in the moral universe. Like the fixed gaze of the cherubim within the vail, all their burning ardour is absorbed in its mysteries, and will be absorbed even through eternity itself. A living poet represents these angels at the “Bridal of the Lamb” as

“Retiring till their robes, and wings, and crowns
Appeared as hangings woven of richest dye;
Star-spangled, like the temple curtains, twined
With purple, crimson, blue, and gleaning forms,
Cherubic, curiously traced in gold.”


Candlestick! Exodus 37:17, &c.

1. Gold! More common material would have served the purpose of lighting; but gold was an emblem of

(1) the Light-giving Word, whose truths are more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold; and
(2) the Light-giving worker, who holds forth the Word of Life; for the entrance of the Word giveth light.
2. Graven! A more simple form might have sufficed; but the rich ornamentation was symbolic of

(1) the beauty of the Bible, being richly adorned with flowers of poetry, &c.; and
(2) the beauty of ministers, whose life and testimony should be adorned with the true beauty of zeal, faith, and love.
3. Gifted! M’Ewen, however, says that the candlestick was a figure of the Church, whose use is to receive the light, and then diffuse it abroad. The Church receives the truth, and then holds it forth by purity of doctrine and sanctity of life. Stone says that it symbolises a true Church, having the sevenfold gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit.

“And these prepare man for the sight

Of Majesty above;

The sons of ignorance and might
Can stand in the Eternal Light

Of Th’ Eternal Love.”


Candlestick-Symbolism! Exodus 37:18-23.

(1.) The figure of this Light-giver is represented on the famous arch of Titus at Rome. The Light-giver with seven branches stood in the inner sanctuary—not the Holy of Holies. Its rays thus threw light upon the incense altar and table of shew-bread. Its jets of light bore witness for centuries, says Plumptre, that God was Light, and that that Light revealed itself in manifold variety, growing out of a central unity.

(2.) The form of this Light-giver appears in Zechariah 4:2; where the symbol is completed by a vision of two olive-trees feeding from their branches, through two golden pipes, the bowl through which the lamps were kept burning. The prophet learnt that the trees were the two anointed ones—i.e., Joshua and Zerrubabel, types of priestly and civil authority. This typical symbolism may, however, be capable of large expansion.

(3.) The Patmos seer beholds seven distinct lamps—showing that the lamp was the emblem not merely of uncreated light, but of the Church—as the channel through which that light was to be diffused through the world. This is in harmony with the lampshaft or pedestal in Matthew 5:15. These passages bring out the perfect unity of the Bible. Infinite diversity there may be; but immaculate unity there is.

“Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain,
Here earth and water seem to strive again;
Not chaos-like together crushed and bruised,
But, as the world, harmoniously confused,
Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree.”


Incense-Altar-Symbolism! Exodus 37:25.

(1.) Construction! Wood overlaid with gold tell us that they speak of Christ, as fellow to man in humanity’s low estate, and as equal to God in Godhead’s greatness. Its fourfold shape—like the altar of burnt-offering—speaks of the stability of Christ; its crown of the kingly dignity of Christ; its horns of the mightiness of His salvation; and its staves of the ever-ready spirit of Christ to be borne to the uttermost parts of the earth.

(2) Constitution! On this altar a censer full of incense poured forth its fragrant clouds every morning and evening. Without smoking censer, the high priest was forbidden, on pain of death, to enter into the awful shrine of Jehovah. This is a graphic image of Jesus, from the altar of whose soul—once on earth, and now in heaven—continually rises the fragrance of increasing prayer and intercession for His people. “He ever lives,” says St. Paul, “to make intercession for us.”

(3.) Consideration! The prayers of the saints are here; and from it we learn of the preparation of the heart for prayer. The golden altar was of given form, and size, and material. The praying heart should be equally balanced and lying towards all quarters of truth in affection, sympathy, faith, and earnestness. It should be pure in thought and desire, says Gray, and be framed by the direction of the Spirit. It should accompany the believer everywhere.

“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,

The Christian’s native air;

His watchword in the gates of death—

He enters heaven with prayer.

Praise-Incense! Exodus 37:25-28. “The formalist,” Bridges remarks, “considering ‘seven times a day’ to be an infringement of the sacred canon, ‘Be not righteous overmuch,’ pays his customary duty twice a day. He says his prayers and he says his praises too, and his conscience slumbers again. And it is sad to think that there should be times of slumber with the Christian, when he little differs from him. Oh! let us be alarmed at every symptom of such a state, and ‘find no rest to our spirit’ until we have regained something of the frame of hearty and overflowing praise. If there be a heavenly nature, there must be a heavenly heart. Tongue and heart should be set on fire by love. But the Christian sometimes feels that he must not praise. He has not sensible tokens of love to call him forth, and therefore his harp is suffered to ‘hang upon the willows,’ and he cares not to take it down, even to ‘sing one of the Lord’s songs in this strange land.’ But how little does he remember that this service of praise is the most successful means of resistance to the despondency of unbelief. Many have found with Bunyan, ‘When I believe and sing, my doubtings cease.’ ”

“Two fountains from one source,

Or which from two such neighbouring sources run,
That aye for him who shall unseal the one,

The other flows perforce.
And both are sweet and calm,

Fair flowers upon the banks of either blow;
Both fertilise the soul, and where they flow

Shed round them holy balm.”


Incense-Chariot! Exodus 37:27. Gray mentions an incense-chariot found in a tomb at Cervetri, in Etruria, unquestionably belonging to a very remote date. It was used in the ritual services of the ancients for burning incense. The perfume was placed in the concave part, and the fact that the whole was mounted upon four wheels proves that it was intended to be moved about. The borders are adorned by a row of flower-shaped ornaments, the principal forms of which are fully appreciated from a side-view. The elegance and highly refined taste displayed in the form and figure of this chariot leads to the conclusion that it belonged to some royal personage. Thus even amongst heathen peoples incense had its symbolic speech; fragrant flowers blooming sweetly amid a thousand noxious weeds.

“And nature’s God, to whom alone
The secret of the heart is known,
The hidden language traced thereon.”


Heavenly Incense-Altar! Exodus 37:25-29. The Apocalypse is composed of three parallel visions. In one of these (Exodus 8:0) we have a vision of the angel at the golden altar. The apostle hears a voice, “Come up hither.” The dull, commonplace scenery of his rocky home, writes Macduff, once more fades from view; and in a revived heavenly ecstacy he waits his Saviour’s summons. As previous to the breaking of the seals, there was a sublime opening vision of Christ as the Mediator of His Church; so now, at the sounding of the seven trumpets, it is the same Divine Being—only symbolised as an Angel-Priest in the performance of a great intercessory work. The Lord Jesus stands by the golden altar of incense in the Heavenly Temple—offering, in the golden censer filled with much incense, the prayers of all the saints—i.e., the multitude of the redeemed on earth. Perfuming them with the incense of His adorable merits, the grateful cloud ascends. Poor and utterly unworthy as these prayers may be, they are perfumed by the fragrant merits of the Covenant-Intercessor. The glowing coals in His censer are feeble emblems of the burning love which glows in His heart. Without this all is vain!

“In vain shall waves of incense drift

The vaulted nave around;

In vain the minster turret lift

Its brazen weights of sound.”

Mountain of Spices! Exodus 37:29.

(1.) When the high priest passed within the vail, it was with feverish anxiety that the crowds outside looked for the circling eddies of the odorous incense to arise. When they saw the eddying cloud floating upwards into the clear sunny sky, they knew that the Aaronic intercession had prevailed. Anxiety gave place to expectancy. They longed to see him come forth with the glory yet lingering on his brow—arrayed in splendid robes—the breastplate glittering with the consecrated symbol of the tribes, that, with uplifted hands, he might dispense his benediction.

(2.) The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that all this was a splendid mirror of Christ’s sacerdotal grandeur, and which continueth ever. Hence, in Song of Solomon 8:14, we have the redeemed Hebrew and Gentile Churches expressing the intense fervency of desire that He, who is the great High Priest and King, would come forth from the Heavenly Temple, where He lives to make continual intercession. The mountain of spices is the holy, heavenly hill where the Kingly Priest offers up incense with the prayers of the saints. These are represented (as in Revelation 22:0) as calling with their hearts upon Jesus to come forth to bless them. So eager is the Church to receive this everlasting benediction that she would have Jesus be like a young hart, whose feet are beautiful in their swiftness.

“The minutes seem to move too slow,
O Jesus, quickly come.”


Tabernacle-Significance! Exodus 37:29. It is an inquiry of considerable importance how far the Israelites comprehended the significance of the Tabernacle. The general answer to be given to this inquiry is, that they were as competent to understand its symbolic significance as men of the present day are to apprehend the meaning of the Bible. The devout Hebrew had the aid of the Holy Spirit in his pious desire to understand the ordinances of the law, as the devout Christian has in his earnest wish to comprehend the ordinances of the Gospel. And just as the Christian’s knowledge of the Bible indirectly and largely depends upon his mental character—on the degree of attention and study which he gives to the subject—and on the spirituality of mind which he possesses; so doubtless was it with the believing Israelite. A. Caleb and a Joshua would see far more in the tabernacle appurtenances than a Nadab or Abihu; even as an Ellicot and a Luther perceive more in the Scripture expressions than a Voltaire or a Comte. All the Egyptians were able to read their hieroglyphic language; though, doubtless, their apprehension and knowledge of its significations were very unequal and varied. To see alike?

“Impossible! unless minds were alike
In all, which differ now like human faces.”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 37". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/exodus-37.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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