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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 25

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-7



THE TABERNACLE AND THE GIFTS FOR IT. The great principles of the moral law had been given in the Ten Commandments uttered by God amid the thunders of Sinai. The "Book of the Covenant," or short summary of the main laws, civil, political, and social, had been communicated to Moses, and by him reduced to a written form (Exodus 24:4). A solemn league and covenant had been entered into between God and his people, the people undertaking to keep all the words of the Lord, and God to be their Protector, Guide, and King. But no form of worship had been set up. Abstract monotheism had been inculcated; and worship had been so far touched upon that an "altar" had been mentioned, and certain directions, chiefly negative, had been given with respect to it (Exodus 20:24-26). It remained that the abstract monotheism should be enshrined in forms, obtain a local habitation, and be set forth before the eyes, and so fixed in the heart and affections of the people. God was now about to declare to Moses what the character of the habitation should be, its size, form, and materials. But before doing this, as a first and fitting, if not necessary, preliminary, he required of the people to bring of the best of their possessions for the service which he was about to institute, enumerating the substances which he would condescend to receive at their hands, and especially enjoining upon them that all should be offered willingly and from the heart (Exodus 25:2).

Exodus 25:2

Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring me an offering. The word translated "offering" is that commonly rendered" heave-offering;" but it seems to be used here (as in Exodus 30:13; Exodus 35:5, etc.) in a generic sense. The propriety of the people, when God was about establishing his habitation among them, presenting to God all the materials needed, is self-evident and requires no comment. Of every man that giveth it willingly. Literally, "of every man whose heart drives him." God will have no gifts but such as are freely offered. He "loveth a cheerful giver. If a man gives grudgingly or of necessity," God rejects the gift. On the noble spirit which the people showed when the appeal was made to them, see Exodus 35:21-29; and Exodus 36:3 Exodus 36:7.

Exodus 25:3

This is the offering—gold and silver and brass. Gold was needed for the overlaying of the boards, whereof the ark was composed (Exodus 25:11); for the "crown of gold," which surmounted it (ibid.); for the "rings" (Exodus 25:12); the "mercy-seat" (Exodus 25:17)—the cherubim (Exodus 25:18); the dishes, the spoons, the covers, the bowls (Exodus 25:29); the candlestick (Exodus 25:31); the tongs and snuff dishes (Exodus 25:28); the hooks and taches (Exodus 26:6, Exodus 26:32); for the covering of the table of shew bread (Exodus 25:24); and of the staves and pillars (Exodus 26:28 : Exodus 26:32, Exodus 26:37); and also for many parts of the dress of the High Priest (Exodus 28:6, Exodus 28:8, Exodus 28:11, Exodus 28:14, etc.). Silver was required for the sockets which supported the hoards of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:19); and for the "hooks" and "fillets" of the pillars of the court (Exodus 27:10) Brass, or rather bronze, was wanted for the "taches" which coupled together the curtains of the tent (Exodus 26:11); for the "sockets" which received the pillars or tent-poles (Exodus 26:37); for the external coating of the altar (Exodus 27:2); for the vessels and utensils of the altar (Exodus 27:3); for the covering of its staves (Exodus 27:6); for the sockets of the pillars of the Court (Exodus 27:10); for the "pins" of the Court (Exodus 27:19); and generally for the vessels of the Tabernacle (ibid.). To understand how the Israelites could supply all that was wanted, we must remember,

1. That they had a certain amount of ancestral wealth, as that which Joseph had accumulated, and what Jacob and his sons had brought with them into Egypt.

2. That they had received large presents of gold and silver from the Egyptians just before their departure (Exodus 12:35); and

3. That they had recently defeated, and no doubt despoiled, the Amalekites (Exodus 16:8-13). Whether they had further made money by trade since they entered the Sinaitic peninsula, may be doubted. The supposition is not at all needed in order to account for their wealth.

Exodus 25:4

And blue, and purple, and scarlet. Cloths of these three colours seem to be meant. The material was probably wool; the blue dye probably indigo, which was the ordinary blue dye of Egypt; the purple was no doubt derived from one or other of the shell-fish so well-known to the Syrians (of which the one most used was the Murex trunculus), and was of a warm reddish hue, not far from crimson; the scarlet (literally, "scarlet worm" or "worm scarlet,") was the produce of the Corcus ilicis, or cochineal insect of the holm oak, which has now been superseded by the Coccus cacti, or cochineal insect of the prickly pear, introduced into Europe from Mexico. And fine linen. The word used is Egyptian. It seems to have designated properly the fine linen spun from flax in Egypt, which was seldom dyed. and was of a beautiful soft white hue. The fineness of the material is extraordinary, equalling that of the best Indian muslins. It would seem that the Israelite women spun the thread from the flax (Exodus 35:25), and that the skilled workmen employed by Moses wove the thread into linen (Exodus 35:35). And goat's hair. The soft inner wool of the Angora goat was also spun by the women into a fine worsted (Exodus 35:26), which was woven into cloths, used especially as coverings for tents.

Exodus 25:5

And rams' skins dyed red. The manufacture of leather was well-known in Egypt from an early date, and the Libyan tribes of North Africa were celebrated for their skill in preparing and dyeing the material (Herod. 4.189). Scarlet was one of the colours which they peculiarly affected (ibid.). We must suppose that the skins spoken of had been brought with them by the Israelites cut of Egypt. And badgers' skins. It is generally agreed among moderns that this is a wrong translation. Badgers are found in Palestine, but not either in Egypt or in the wilderness. The Hebrew takhash is evidently the same word as the Arabic tukhash or dukhash, which is applied to marine animals only, as to seals, dolphins, dugongs, and perhaps sharks and dog-fish. "Seals' skins" would perhaps be the best translation. Shittim wood. It is generally agreed that the Shittah (plural Shittim) was an acacia, whether the seyal (Acacia seyal) which now grows so abundantly in the Sinaitic peninsula, or the Acacia Nilotica, or the Serissa, is uncertain. The seyal wood is "hard and close-grained of an orange colour with a darker heart, well-adapted for cabinet work;" but the tree, as it exists nowadays, could certainly not furnish the planks, ten cubits long by one and a half wide, which were needed for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:21). The Serissa might do so, but it is not now found in the wilderness. We are reduced to supposing either that the seyal grew to a larger size anciently than at present, or that the serissa was more widely spread than at the present day.

Exodus 25:6

Oil for the light. That the sanctuary to be erected would require to be artificially lighted is assumed. Later, a "candlestick" is ordered (Exodus 25:31-37). The people were to provide the oil which was to be burnt in the "candlestick." In Exodus 27:20, we are told that the oil was to be "pure oil olive beaten." Spices for anointing oil. Anointing oil would be needed for the sanctification of the Tabernacle, the ark, and all the holy vessels, as also for the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. The spices required are enumerated in Exodus 30:23, Exodus 30:24. They consisted of pure myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, and cassia. And for sweet incense. The spices needed for the incense were, according to our translators, stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense (Exodus 30:34).

Exodus 25:7

Onyx stones. On the need of onyx stones, see Exodus 28:9, Exodus 28:20. Stones to be set in the ephod, etc. Rather, "stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastplate." The only stones required for the ephod were two large onyx stones; for the breastplate twelve jewels were needed (Exodus 28:17-20), one of them being an onyx. It has been proposed to translate the Hebrew shoham by "beryl" instead of "onyx;" but onyx, which is more suitable for engraving, is probably right.


Exodus 25:1-7

The law of acceptable offerings.

For offerings to be acceptable to God, it is necessary—

I. THAT THEY BE FREELY OFFERED BY A WILLING HEART. Offerings were to be taken of those "whose heart drove them to it" (compare Tennyson—"His own heart drove him, like a goad"), not of others. There was to be no tax—no church rate. The entire tent-temple was (with one unimportant exception) to be the produce of a free offertory. Thus was generosity stirred in the hearts of the people, and emulation excited. They gave so liberally that they had to be "restrained from bringing" (Exodus 36:6). This is noble and acceptable service, when no exhortation is required, no persuasion, no "pressing"—but each man stirs himself up, and resolves to do the utmost that he can, not seeking to obtain the praise of men, but desirous of the approval of God. A like spirit animated those who lived in David's time (1 Chronicles 29:6-9); and again those who returned from the Babylonian captivity with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:68, Ezra 2:69; Nehemiah 7:70-72).

II. THAT THEY BE OF THINGS EXCELLENT IN THEIR KIND, AND THE BEST THAT WE POSSESS OF EACH. All that is rich and rare, all that is lovely and beautiful, all that is expensive and magnificent, is suitable for an offering to God. We must not "give to Into of that which costs us nothing." We must not offer "the blind, and the lame, and the sick" (Malachi 1:8) to him. Things excellent in their kind befit his service. Gold and silver, of metals; of fabrics, silk, and velvet, and fine linen; of woods, cedar, and acacia, and olive, and sandal-wood; of stones, ruby and diamond, and emerald; of spices, myrrh, and cinnamon, and cassia, and frankincense. Each, however, can only give what he has. Cedar, and olive, and sandal-wood were unattainable in the desert, and so acacia sufficed; silk and velvet were unknown, wherefore God accepted linen and woollen fabrics, and goat's hair; rubies and diamonds were uncut, so God was content with emeralds and sapphire, and onyx. The widow's mite pleases him, as much as the alabaster box of spikenard very precious, or the price of an estate brought and laid at the apostles' feet. If men "have little," he is content when they "give gladly of that little," provided still that they give him of their best. And this is true of other offerings besides material ones. The best of our time should be his—the fair promise of youth—the strength of manhood—not the weakness of decrepitude. The best of our powers should be his—our warmest affections, our intensest thoughts, our highest aspirations—not the dull tame musings of an exhausted and jaded spirit. Each man should seek to consecrate to God's service the best that he possesses in intellect, in knowledge, in fortune.

III. THAT THEY BE SUCH IN KIND AS HE HAS DECLARED HIS WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT. There were "unclean animals" which were an abomination if offered to God. There are gifts of intellect, valuable in their way, which are unsuitable for the service of the sanctuary. Many a picture of the highest power, and exhibiting the greatest genius, would be out of place in a church. God points out with sufficient clearness in his holy word, the kinds of gifts with which he is pleased. It will be well for man to "do all things after the pattern showed him in the mount"—to avoid "will-worship"—and even in his offerings, to follow in the line of precedent, and see that he has a warrant for what he proposes doing in God's honour.


Exodus 25:1-7

The materials for the sanctuary.

I. GOD REQUIRED THESE FROM THE PEOPLE. It might have been thought that in order to make this holy habitation, this tent for God travelling along with his people, God himself would have in some way supplied the material. Even as he gave Moses the stones on which the law was written (in the first instance at all events), so he might have made a sanctuary to descend in marvellous manner into the midst of Israel. But it pleased him, who we may be sure always does the wise and fitting thing, to act differently. He required the materials for this sanctuary from the people. They could not provide food for themselves—but they could provide such a dwelling-place for Jehovah as he would approve and accept. These people who had required so many interventions of God to deliver and secure them had yet been carrying with them in the midst of all their helplessness the great store of wealth indicated in this passage. It is somewhat perplexing to consider the revelation thus afforded of the Israelite condition. In their hearts these people were sinful, idolatrous, unbelieving, unstable—it is humiliating to gaze on the sad exhibition of human nature they present—and yet they had managed to surround themselves with these treasures. They were those who had been laying up treasures on earth; and so far these treasures had been of little use; for what will it profit a man to have all this store of gold and silver, and brass and fine linen, and what not, if he lack the daily bread?—all the efforts of the people, all their scraping, had ended in the bringing of these things into the wilderness where they seemed of no use. Even gold and silver would not buy bread in the wilderness. But now, behold how God can take this gold and silver and show how to make a profitable and acceptable use of it. When we begin to look regretfully on the results of our natural efforts as if those efforts had been wasted, he comes in to overrule our ignorance and folly. By his consecrating and re-arranging touch, the treasures upon earth can be transmuted into treasures in heaven.

II. THE WILLINGNESS THAT MARKED THESE GIFTS. These materials, valuable as they were, yet yielded in respect of worth to an element more valuable still. These rare and … beautiful materials, workable into such beautiful forms, could have been gotten without human intervention at all, if that had been the whole of the necessity. As not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of the lilies, so nothing man can make with his utmost art is so beautiful as the handiwork of God. Nor is the question altogether one as to what is beautiful to the outward eye. The value of beautiful forms is a thing only too easily exaggerated. But no one can exaggerate the beauty of a spiritual action, the beauty of a gift where the willingness and devotion of the whole heart are manifest. This tabernacle might be a very inferior structure, when measured by such principles as dictated Grecian art; but this was a thing of no consequence when compared with the higher consideration that its materials were freely brought. There was none of that extortion and slavish toil, such as we read of in connection with some of the huge fabrics of ancient civilisations. What blood and tears, what reckless expenditure of human life, for instance, in the construction of buildings like the pyramids! When we look at the great buildings—aqueducts, roads, of ancient times—we must not look at the outward appearance only. These Israelites doubtless had helped in the building of splendid structures; but the foundation of these structures was laid in oppression, and therefore on their topstone rested a destroying curse. There was nothing about all the tabernacle more beautiful than the willingness that marked the gift of the materials. There was no specific demand on any particular person. Let everyone consider for himself whether he will give, and how much. A free-will offering of the inferior brass would be of ever so much more value than an extorted one of gold or silver, or precious stones.

III. THE MATERIALS OF THE GIFTS. Evidently such things were taken as the people had by them; but of these things the very best were taken. Being already in the possession of the people, and valued by them, they were exactly the things to test the willingness of their disposition. When God asks us to give, he asks us to give of our best. All this gold and silver symbolised what was most precious in the heart within. One is reminded of Paul's words with respect to the materials that might be laid upon the foundation given in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:12). We must not bring to God just what we do not want ourselves. The value of the gifts constituted a most searching test of willingness, and willingness was the particular quality that needed to be tested at this time. Men willing to give gold and silver, might be reasonably supposed as willing to give anything else within their power. Then there was a test also in the variety of the gifts. The man without gold and silver would not escape the responsibility of considering what he could do in the way of another gift. For the needs of the tabernacle God required a large diversity of materials; and probably there were few in Israel but could do something towards the supply if only they were so disposed.—Y.


Exodus 25:1, Exodus 25:2

God loveth a cheerful giver.

A message to the people. Like messages are often sent, but seldom welcomed. Even when God demands an offering, many people grudge to give it; they yield, as to a kind of heavenly highwayman, of necessity if at all. Consider here:—


1. Purpose. Jehovah will give the people a visible sign of his presence in their midst. He will have a home amid their homes, a tent dwelling like in character to their dwellings. More than this—he will be their guest. They shall provide for him the sacred tent. If we count it an honour for a town to receive and entertain a member of our royal family, how much greater an honour to be permitted to entertain the head of the royal family of heaven!

2. Materials. All manner of things required (Exodus 25:3-7), so that all can share the privilege of providing them. Some may give a few gold ornaments; even a poor man may yet find some goat's hair for cloth. Not a member of the nation but can do his part in helping to rear the tabernacle for God. All gifts can be used, so that each may have a share in the work.

3. A precedent for ourselves. God treats us as he treated Israel. He asks our help in building for him a spiritual temple, a dwelling-place in which men are the living stones. Some can give personal effort; some can give money to assist the actual workers; no one so poor but that he can give something. Surely the opportunity of helping God is one which ought not to be undervalued.

II. THE CONDITION OF ACCEPTANCE. All may help, but on one condition—they must help "willingly," with the "heart." The offering is valued not on its own account, but as a symbol of that which is more valuable. Gifts to God are a kind of human sacrament, which God deigns to receive at the hands of man: they are acceptable as outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. If the grace be wanting, the gifts are worthless. God is good enough to make needs for himself that his creatures may have the privilege of satisfying them; if they degrade the privilege into a tax, he would rather be without their assistance. How often is this forgotten! We give to God, when asked, for many reasons. It is the proper thing to do, and respectability requires it; or it will get our name into some subscription list; or we may have an uneasy feeling that we ought to give, and to soothe our uneasiness we must do something. "Grudgingly and of necessity" is the epitaph which must be written above such wasted offerings. God cannot accept as gifts offerings which are never truly given. He may use them, for they are his in any case to do as he wills with them; he cannot, however, enter them in his inventory as received from the giver who nominally presents them. Only he who gives with his heart has his name set down in the inventory of God. The two mites of the widow are remembered; the talents of the ostentatious tax-payer are forgotten.

III. THE RESPONSE MADE. The people of Israel realised their privileges. They remembered what God had done for them, and were eager to manifest their gratitude. They gave even more than enough (Exodus 36:6, Exodus 36:7). Their hearts stirred them up, and their spirits made them willing (Exodus 35:21); so that they even had to be restrained. What an example for us! Church debts, fettered missionary enterprise, ministers of the Gospel converted into persistent yet unsuccessful beggars; what are the Lord's people doing when such phenomena abound? Do we not need to be reminded of the privilege offered us, which is so fearfully profaned? Do we not need to stir up our hearts, and to take active measures to make our spirits willing? The roused heart loosens the purse-strings; only the willing spirit can offer the willing and generous gift.—G.


Exodus 25:1-9

The rearing of the Lord's sanctuary.


1. Of material supplied by his redeemed. To them only request and direction come—'' Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." This is still our high calling, to make God a dwelling-place in the earth. Are we obeying? Is God being glorified by us?

2. Of their free-will offerings. There is no constraint; everything is free and spontaneous—the loving gifts of children, not the forced labour of slaves.

3. Of their choicest and best, and yet,

4. of things named by God himself. Even here we are not left to impose burdens upon ourselves. God's word and the Spirit's voice in the heart will direct us.

II. GOD IS THE ARCHITECT OF HIS OWN SANCTUARY. The building and furniture are to be in every particular according to his own plan (Exodus 25:9). We may not bring into God's worship or service our own devices. The stepping aside from the simplicity of God's ordinances is disservice. It is contempt of God or open rebellion to his authority.—U.


Exodus 25:1-10

The command to build a sanctuary.

The covenant being now ratified, everything was prepared for Jehovah taking up his abode with the people. He would dwell among them as their King. In keeping with the genius of the dispensation, commands are given for the erection of a visible sanctuary. It is here called "mikdash, or sanctuary (Exodus 25:8), and "mishkan," or dwelling-place (tabernacle, Exodus 25:9), the latter being the name most commonly applied to it. Considering the purpose which the sanctuary was to serve, and the "plenitude of meaning" designed to be conveyed by its symbolism, it was necessary that the whole should be constructed under immediate Divine direction. A plan of the tabernacle, embracing minute details, was accordingly placed before the mind of Moses on the mount (Exodus 25:9). It was presented in its completeness to his inner eye, before any part of it was set up on earth. The ark of Noah, the tabernacle of Moses, and the temple of Solomon (cf. 1Ch 28:11, 1 Chronicles 28:12, 1 Chronicles 28:19), are probably the only buildings ever erected from plans furnished by direct revelation. In the building of the spiritual temple—the Church—God is himself not merely the architect, but the builder; and the beauty and symmetry of the structure will be found in the end to be perfect (cf. Revelation 21:1-27.). Consider—

I. THE MATERIALS OF THE TABERNACLE. These were ordered to be collected before the work began. They were to be—

1. Costly and various—representing

(1) every department of nature (mineral, vegetable, animal);

(2) the richest products of each, so far as accessible in the desert (gold, silver, fine linen, dyed skins, precious stones, etc.);

(3) all varieties of human skill. The design was to make a palace for Jehovah: a beautiful and glorious house.

2. Abundant. There was to be no stint in the gifts. Profuse liberality befitted the occasion. Grudging in our gifts to God betrays an unworthy spirit.

3. Free-will offerings (Exodus 25:2). This point is put in the foreground. The people were to bring an offering—"Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering." Observe in this—

(1) The people first offered themselves to God (Exodus 24:7), then their gifts. This is the true order. Compare what is said of the Macedonian believers (2 Corinthians 8:1-6).

(2) The giving of themselves to God was followed by the devotion to his service of the best of their possessions. The consecration of self, as formerly remarked, includes all other consecrations. If we are God's, then all is God's that is ours. He has the first claim on everything we have. Our best ought cheerfully to be dedicated to him.

(3) God values only such gifts as come from a willing heart. He loves the cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). He puts no value on givings which are not cheerful.

(4) Free-will offerings are necessarily various in kind and amount. Not all could give gold, or silver, or precious stones. Some, whose means were small, could probably give only their labour in working up the gifts of the wealthier. Each gave as he was able, and according to the kind of material in his possession. So far, however, as the gifts were offered willingly, they met with God's acceptance. The giver was accepted in his gift, not according to its absolute amount, but according to his ability, and to the spirit in which he gave. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:12.) And all the gifts were needed. The variety which they exhibited was part of their appropriateness. What one could not furnish another could. Many kinds of gifts are required in Christ's service, and there is none so poor but he can furnish something which others have not at command. The Lord accepts, and will use, all.

(5) God's dwelling with his people must rest on a voluntary basis. They must wish him to dwell among them, and must prove their wish by voluntarily providing the materials for his sanctuary. A living Church will show its desire for God's presence, and will evince its gratitude, and its sense of obligation to him, by large and willing gifts in his service. These, indeed, are not conclusive as proofs of genuine spiritual interest; but the absence of them speaks with sufficient plainness of spiritual coldness.

(6) The ideal state in the Church is that in which "ordinances of Divine service" are freely supported by the gifts of the people. This principle found distinct expression, not simply in the freewill offerings for the making of the tabernacle, but in the general arrangements of the Jewish economy. The law prescribed amounts—commanded tithes, etc; but the fulfilment of the obligation was left to the individual conscience. It was not enforced by legal means. What was given had to be given freely.

II. THE IDEA OF THE TABERNACLE. Some remarks on this subject seem called for before entering on the study of details. A firm grasp of the central idea is essential to a right understanding of the parts. The tabernacle may be considered—

(1) Actually, as the literal dwelling-place of Jehovah with his people;

(2) symbolically, as in its different parts and arrangements symbolical of spiritual ideas; and

(3) typically, as prophetic of better things to come. The typical treatment, however, will best be connected with what is to be said under the two former heads.

1. Actually, the tabernacle was the place of Jehovah's dwelling with his people (Exodus 25:8). This is to be viewed as, on the one side, a privilege of the Church of Israel; but, on the other, as a step towards the realisation of the great end contemplated by God from the first, as the goal of all his gracious dealings with our race, namely, the taking up of his abode among them. God seeks an abode with men. He cannot rest with perfect satisfaction in his love to them till he has obtained this abode (Psalms 132:13, Psalms 132:14). He wishes to dwell with them. The history of revelation may be viewed as but a series of steps towards the realisation of this idea. The steps are the following—

(1) God dwelling with men in the visible sanctuary of the Jews—the tabernacle and temple. This served important ends. It brought God near to men. It enabled them to grasp the reality of his presence. It was, however, but a very imperfect stage in the realisation of the truth. It would not have suited a universal religion. There was, besides, no congruity between the nature of the spiritual Deity and a building "made with hands." It was but an outward, local presence which this visible sanctuary embodied. The union between the dwelling and the Dweller was not inherent or essential; it could at any moment be dissolved. Higher realisations of the idea wore possible.

(2) God dwelling with men in Christ. Christ pointed to himself as the antitype of the temple (Matthew 12:6; John 2:19-22). He was Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). The fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him (John 1:14; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 2:9). The temple in this case is not a mere material structure, but a holy, and now perfected, humanity. The union is personal and indissoluble. The revelation of God, through the medium of humanity, cannot rise higher than it has done in Christ. The life of God in the individual and in the Church is but the unfolding of the fulness already contained in him (John 1:16). This unfolding, however, is necessary, that the temple-idea may reach its complete fulfilment. A third stage, accordingly, is

(3) God dwelling in the soul of the believer. Rather, we should say, in the humanity of the believer—body, soul, and spirit forming, unitedly, a habitation for God through the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19). In this tabernacle, as in the former, there is the innermost shrine—the holy of holies of the spirit, the "inner man" in which is deposited the law of the Lord (Ephesians 3:16); a holy place—the soul or mind, with its lamps of understanding, etc.; and an outer court—the body—the external side of the being, open and visible to all. The individual, however, taken by himself, is but a fragment. The full idea is realised

(4) in the Church as a whole—the whole body of believers, in heaven and on earth, with Christ as Head. This is the true and the living temple (Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22). Realised in part on earth, and wherever a portion of the Church of Christ exists, the perfection of the manifestation of the idea is reserved for the future and for glory. Cf. Revelation 21:3—"The tabernacle of God is With men," etc.

The idea of the Jewish tabernacle thus finds its fulfilment

(1) in the body of Christ;

(2) in the body of the believer;

(3) in the body of the Church.

2. Symbolically—the tabernacle figured out, in its structure, its contents, and its arrangements, various spiritual truths.

(1) On the ark and its symbolism, see next homily.

(2) The separation into two apartments had as its basis the twofold aspect of God's fellowship with man. The holy of holies was God's part of the structure. Its arrangements exhibited God in relation to his people. The outer apartment—the holy place—exhibited in symbol the calling of the people in relation to God. The shew-bread and the lighted lamps, with the incense from the golden altar, emblematised aspects of that calling. See next homily.

(3) The arrangements of the tabernacle had further in view the symbolising of the imperfect condition of privilege in the Church under the old economy. A veil hung between the holy place and the holy of holies. Into this latter the high priest only was permitted to enter, and that but once a year, and not without blood of atonement. The mass of the people were not allowed to come nearer than the outer court. They could enter the holy place only in the persons of their representatives, the priests. All this spoke of distance, of barriers as yet unremoved, of drawbacks to perfected communion. The arrangements were of such a nature as studiously to impress this idea upon the mind. Accordingly, at the death of Christ, the removal of these barriers, and the opening of the way for perfected fellowship between God and man, was signified by the striking circumstance of the rending of the veil (Matthew 27:51). It is implied in the teaching of Scripture that a like imperfection of privilege marked the condition of the departed just, and that this also was removed by Christ, who, passing into the highest heavens, made manifest, both for them and for us, the way into the holiest of all. (Cf. Hebrews 9:6-13; Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20; Hebrews 11:39, Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23.)—J.O.

Verses 8-9


GENERAL DIRECTIONS. After the gifts which God will accept have been specified, and the spirit in which they are to be offered noted (Exodus 25:2), God proceeds to unfold his purpose, and declare the object for which the gifts are needed. He will have a "sanctuary'' constructed for him, an habitation in which he may "dwell." Now, it is certainly possible to conceive of a religion which should admit nothing in the nature of a temple or sanctuary; and there are even writers who tell us that a religion has actually existed without one That God should "dwell" in a house, as a man does, is of course impossible; and the Hebrews were as deeply impressed with this truth as any other nation (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; Isaiah 56:1; Jeremiah 23:24, etc.). But a religion without a temple was probably unknown in the days of Moses; and, with such a people as the Hebrews, it is inconceivable that religion could have maintained its ground for long without something of the kind. "It was," as Kalisch says, "above all things necessary to create a firm and visible centre of monotheism, to keep perpetually the idea of the one omnipotent God alive in the minds of the people, and so to exclude for ever a relapse into the pagan and idolatrous aberrations". A sanctuary was therefore to be constructed; but, as the nation was in the peculiar position of being nomadic, without fixed abode, that is, and constantly on the move, the usual form of a permanent building was unsuitable under the circumstances. To meet the difficulty, a tent-temple was designed, which is called mishkan, "the dwelling," or 'ohel, "the tent," which was simply an Oriental tent on a large scale, made of the best obtainable materials, and guarded by an enclosure. The details of the work are reserved for later mention. In the present passage two directions only are given:—

1. A sanctuary is to be constructed; and

2. Both it, and all its vessels, are to be made after patterns which God was about to show to Moses.

Exodus 25:8

A sanctuary well expresses the Hebrew micdash, which is derived from cadash—"to be holy." It is a name never given to the temples of the heathen deities. That I may dwell among them. Compare Exodus 29:45; Numbers 35:34. There is a sense in which "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands"(Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24)—i.e; he is not comprehended in them, or confined to them; but there is another sense in which he may be truly said to dwell in them, viz; as manifesting himself in them either to the senses, or to the spirit. In the tabernacle he manifested himself sensibly (Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35, Exodus 40:38).

Exodus 25:9

The patterns. Many of the old Jewish commentators supposed, that Moses was shown by God a real material structure, which actually existed in the heavens, far grander than its earthly copy, after which he was to have the tabernacle fashioned. Some recent Christian writers, without going these lengths, suggest that "an actual picture or model of the earthly tabernacle and its furniture was shown to him" (Keil). But the words of the text, as well as those of Acts 7:44, and Hebrews 8:5, are sufficiently justified, if we take a view less material than either of these—i.e; if we suppose Moses to have had impressed on his mind, in vision, the exact appearance of the tabernacle and its adjuncts, in such sort that he could both fully understand, and also, when necessary, supplement, the verbal descriptions subsequently given to him. It is unnecessary to inquire how the impression was produced. God who in vision communicated to Ezekiel the entire plan of that magnificent temple which he describes in ch. 40-42; could certainly have made known to Moses, in the same way, the far simpler structure of the primitive Tabernacle.


Exodus 25:8

Earthly sanctuaries typical of the heavenly dwelling-place.

Such habitations as God condescends to acknowledge for his in this earthly sphere, are, all of them, more or less types of the New Jerusalem, the eternal heavenly home. "The temple of God was opened in heaven," says St. John the Divine, "and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament" (Revelation 11:19); and again, "After that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened" (Revelation 15:5). Note the following common features:—

I. THE CENTRAL CARDINAL FACT IN EACH AND ALL IS, THE MANIFEST PRESENCE OF GOD. Of the Tabernacle we are told—"Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35). Christian churches have the promise," Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world"—and again, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you." In the New Jerusalem "the city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof" (Revelation 21:23). And the saints "see his face" (Revelation 22:4).

II. THE SECOND LEADING FACT IS THE EXISTENCE IN EACH OF "MANY MANSIONS." An outer court, a porch, a holy place, and a holy of holies, are features manifestly common to the Hebrew tabernacle and temple with Christian churches. These give different degrees of access to God, and imply different degrees of fitness to contemplate him. In heaven there is a throne—the throne of God and of the Lamb—and round about the throne four and twenty seats for four and twenty elders to sit on (Revelation 4:4); and beyond these angels (Revelation 5:11), and martyrs (Revelation 7:14); and, last of all, "the nations of them that are saved" (Revelation 21:24). And each individual of the "nations" finds his fitting place.

III. IN ALL, THE OCCUPATION OF THOSE WHO HAVE FOUND ENTRANCE IS THE PRAISE AND WORSHIP OF GOD. "Enter into his courts with praise," says holy David, of the tabernacle (Psalms 100:4)—"be thankful unto him, and bless his name." "When ye come together, every one of you has a psalm," says St. Paul of a Christian Church. In heaven there is "a great voice of much people, saying, Alleluia: Salvation and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God, for true and righteous are his judgments … and again they say, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him" (Revelation 19:1-7).

IV. IN ALL, THE WORSHIPPERS ENJOY A SACRED FEAST. Of the worship of the tabernacle sacrifice was an essential part; and a sacrificial feast, of which the offerer partook, always followed the sacrifice. In Christian worship upon earth, the crowning act is a heavenly banquet, to which the minister in Jesus' name invites all the faithful.

"Hail sacred feast, which Jesus makes

Rich banquet of his flesh and blood!

Thrice happy he, who here partakes

That sacred stream, that heavenly food."

In the New Jerusalem there is a "tree of life," which bears "twelve manner of fruits;" and they who enter in "have right to the tree of life" (Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14), and are "given to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). How far this is literal, how far allegorical, we shall scarcely know till we are translated to that celestial sphere, and become dwellers in that glorious city.


Exodus 25:8, Exodus 25:9

God's dwelling-place among his people.

God announces to Israel that he is about to take up his abode in their midst, and that various offerings are to be used in the construction of a suitable dwelling-place. Observe here—

I. JEHOVAH'S CONDESCENDING REGARD FOR THE WANTS OF ISRAEL. This tabernacle with all its belongings was not constructed for any real need that Jehovah had of it. The people had to construct tents for themselves because they needed them, and the making of a tent for Jehovah was also in condescending compliance with their need. This thought is brought out still more clearly by the parallel reference to the incarnation in John 1:14, where it is said that the Word tabernacled among us. Something in the shape of an ever visible dwelling-place of God was given to the people, that thus they might comfort their hearts with the assurance that he was constantly near them, sympathising with them in their changing circumstances and requirements. The people had been compelled to go to Sinai, there to be impressed with the majesty of God and receive his commandments; but at Sinai they could not stay. With all its glories and revelations, it was but a halting place on the way to Canaan. God had indeed already given an assurance of his daily providence in the manna; but he now added a further sign than which none could be more expressive, none more illustrative of the desire of God to adapt himself to the spiritual blindness and infirmity of men. He took for himself a tent like the rest of the travellers through the wilderness. Where a dwelling place is we look for an inhabitant, and especially where it is manifestly kept in order and regularly attended to. If at any moment an Israelite was in doubt whether God was indeed with the people, here through the sight of the tabernacle was his readiest resource to expel all doubt. God's own house with its services and attendants was continually before him to rebuke and remove his unbelief.

II. THOUGH JEHOVAH CONDESCENDED TO DWELL IN A TENT, YET THAT TENT HAD TO BE A HOLY PLACE. The condescension was simply a condescension in circumstances. God himself remained the same. He who was holy and jealous, when removed to a distance from the people, amid the clouds and sounds of Sinai, was not the least altered as to his vigilant holiness by coming down to the apparent limitations of a tent. Coarse and humble though the tent appears, there is an unspeakably glorious inhabitant within whose presence exalts and sanctifies the tent. God himself thus furnishes an illustration of the truth that those who humble themselves shall be exalted. He needs not to preserve his glory by extraneous and vulgar pomps. And just because this dwelling-place of God was a tent, the people needed to remember its function with peculiar carefulness. Though it was only a tent, it was God's tent. A very mean tent, that in ordinary circumstances would excite no attention, would be carefully guarded if the king happened for a night to make his abode therein.

III. THIS HOLINESS WAS MADE CONSPICUOUS BY THE CHARACTER AND FORM OF THE TABERNACLE AND ITS FURNITURE. Just imagine if, instead of prescribing an exact pattern for everything, God had left the people' to make any sort of structure they liked. In the first place there would hardly have been unanimity. Those who might have been very willing and united in the bestowal of raw material would at once have split asunder in attempting to settle how the material was to be used. Then, even if a majority had proceeded to action, they would probably have introduced something idolatrous, assuredly something that savoured rather of human error than Divine truth; and the error would have been none the less because those who committed it, committed it in a spirit of cordial devotion to what they believed was best. What an exposure is thus made of the plausible notion that if only men are in earnest, God will accept the will for the deed! As to the supply of the raw material, God stipulated for free will there—perfect liberty either in giving or withholding. But the raw material once gathered, the freedom of the givers was at an end. God himself supplied the moulds in which the gifts were to flow. A dwelling-place for God must supply all his wants for the time being. He must have just exactly those ordinances of worship and those channels of Divine distribution which he deems best. God's wants, as we see more and more from a careful study of the Scriptures, are not as man's wants; and therefore we must wait humbly for him to reveal what it is impossible for man to conjecture. The materials for the tabernacle and the instruments thereof were human and earthly, but the patterns are Divine and heavenly. We know not into what beautiful, glorious, and serviceable forms man and his belongings may be wrought, if only he will humbly and attentively wait for directions from God above. These Israelites, when all was finished according to the pattern in the mount, had then something to show which would make an impression on men of the right sort in the outside world. Here was an answer to the question, "Where is now your God?" Visible he himself is not; but here is a dwelling-place not in anything constructed after art and man's device, but entirely of Divine direction. All our institutions are nothing unless we can trace them to the inspiration and control of God.—Y.

Verses 10-22


THE PATTERN OF THE ARK.—Moses is first shown, not the pattern of the tabernacle, but the patterns of those things which it was to contain—the ark, the table of shew-bread, and the seven-branched candlestick, or lamp-stand, with its appurtenances. The ark, as the very most essential part of the entire construction, is described first.

Exodus 25:10

Thou shalt make an ark of shittim wood. Arks were an ordinary part of the religious furniture of temples in Egypt, and were greatly venerated. They usually contained a figure or emblem, of some deity. Occasionally they were in the shape of boats; but the most ordinary form was that of a cupboard or chest. They were especially constructed for the purpose of being carried about in a procession, and had commonly rings at the side, through which poles were passed on such occasions. It must be freely admitted, that the general idea of the "Ark," as well as certain points in its ornamentation, was adopted from the Egyptian religion. Egyptian arks were commonly of sycamore wood. Two cubits and a half, etc. As there is no reason to believe that the Hebrew cubit differed seriously from the cubits of Greece and Rome, we may safely regard the Ark of the Covenant as a chest or box, three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches wide, and two feet three inches deep.

Exodus 25:11

Thou shalt overlay it with pure gold. Or, "cover it with pure gold." As gilding was well known in Egypt long before the time of the exodus, it is quite possible that the chest was simply gilt without and within. It may, however, have been overlaid with thin plates of gold (a practice also known in Egypt, and common elsewhere)—which is the view taken by the Jewish commentators. The crown of gold was probably an ornamental moulding or edging round the top of the chest.

Exodus 25:12

Four rings of gold. These rings were to be fixed, not at the upper, but at the lower corners of the chest, which are called pa'amoth, literally "feet" or "bases." The object was, no doubt, that no part of the chest should come in contact with the persons of the priests when carrying it (see Exodus 25:14). As Kalisch notes, "the smallness of the dimensions of the ark rendered its safe transportation, even with the rings at its feet, not impossible."

Exodus 25:13

Staves of shittim wood. Similar staves, or poles, are to be seen in the Egyptian sculptures, attached to arks, thrones, and litters, and resting on the shoulders of the men who carry such objects.

Exodus 25:14

That the ark may be borne with them. The Hebrew ark was not made, like the Egyptian arks, for processions, and was never exhibited in the way of display, as they were. The need of carrying it arose from the fact, that the Israelites had not yet obtained a permanent abode. As soon as Canaan was reached, the ark had a fixed locality assigned to it, though the locality was changed from time to time (Joshua 18:1; 1Sa 4:3; 1 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 6:10, etc.); but in the desert it required to be moved each time that the congregation changed its camping-ground.

Exodus 25:15

The staves, when once inserted into the rings of the ark, were never to be taken from them. The object probably was that there might be no need of touching even the rings, when the ark was set down or taken up. The bearers took hold of the staves only, which were no part of the ark. On the danger of touching the ark itself, see 2 Samuel 6:6, 2 Samuel 6:7.

Exodus 25:16

The testimony which I will give thee, is undoubtedly the Decalogue, or in other words, the two tables of stone, written with the finger of God, and forming his testimony against sin. (Compare Deuteronomy 31:26, Deuteronomy 31:27.) The main intention of the ark was to be a repository in which the two tables should be laid up.

Exodus 25:17

Thou shalt make a mercy seat. Modern exegesis has endeavoured to empty the word kapporeth of its true meaning, witnessed to by the Septuagint, as well as by the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 9:5). It tells us that a kapporeth is simply a cover, "being derived from kaphar, to cover,"—used in Genesis 5:14, with respect to covering the ark with pitch. But the truth is that kapporeth is not derived from kaphar, but from kipper, the Piel form of the same verb, which has never any other sense than that of covering, or forgiving sins. In this sense it is used in the Old Testament some seventy times. Whether the mercy seat was the real cover of the ark of the covenant, or whether that had its own lid of acacia wood, as Kalisch supposes, is uncertain. At any rate, it was not called kipporeth because it was a cover, but because it was a seat of propitiation. On the importance of the mercy seat, as in some sort transcending the ark itself, see Le Genesis 16:2, and 1 Chronicles 28:11. Atonement was made by sprinkling the blood of expiation upon it (Le 1 Chronicles 16:14, 1 Chronicles 16:15). Of pure gold, Not of wood, plated with metal, or richly gilt, but of solid gold—an oblong slab, three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches wide, and probably not less than an inch thick. The weight of such a slab would be above 750 lbs. troy, and its value above 25,000l. of our money. The length and breadth were exactly those of the ark itself, which the mercy seat thus exactly covered (1 Chronicles 28:10).

Exodus 25:18

Two cherubims. The form "cherubims,'' which our translators affect, is abnormal and indefensible. They should have said either "cherubim," or "cherubs." The exact shape of the Temple cherubim was kept a profound secret among the Jews, so that Josephus declares—"No one is able to state, or conjecture of what form the cherubim were" (Ant. Jude 1:8Jude 1:8.3, § 3). That they were winged figures appears from Exodus 25:28 of this chapter, while from other parts of Scripture we learn that cherubim might be of either human or animal forms, or of the two combined (Ezekiel 1:5-14; Ezekiel 10:1-22). These last have been with some reason compared to the symbolical composite figures of other nations, the andro-sphinxes and crio-sphinxes of the Egyptians, the Assyrian winged bulls and lions, the Greek chimaerae, and the griffins of the northern nations. But it is doubtful whether the cherubim of Moses were of this character. The most sober of recent inquirers (Bp. Harold Browne, Canon Cook, Kalisch, Keil),while admitting the point to be doubtful, come to the conclusion that they were in all probability, "winged human figures, with human face too." In this case their prototype would seem to have been the winged figures of Ma, the Goddess of Truth, frequently seen inside Egyptian arks, sheltering with their wings the scarabaeus or other emblem of the deity.. In the two ends. Rather, "From the two ends"—i.e; "rising," or, "standing up from the two ends."

Exodus 25:19

On the one end on the other end … on the two ends. The preposition used is in every case the same as ,that of the last clause of Exodus 25:18—viz; min, "from." The idea is that the figures rose from the two ends.

Exodus 25:20

The cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high. Compare Exodus 37:9. It would seem that the two wings of both cherubs were advanced in front of them, and elevated, so as to overshadow the mercy seat. This was a departure from the patterns furnished by the figures of Ma (see the comment on Exodus 37:18), since in them one wing only was elevated, and the other depressed. It is clear that in no case was any part of the Hebrew sacred furniture a mere reproduction of Egyptian models. Whatever was made use of was so transformed or modified as to acquire a new and independent character. Their faces, etc. The words are not without difficulty; but the generally received meaning appears to be correct that the faces were bent one towards the other, but that both looked downwards, towards the mercy seat. Thus the figures, whether they were standing or kneeling, which is uncertain, presented the appearance of guardian angels, who watched over the precious deposit below—to wit, the two tables.

Exodus 25:21

Thou shalt put the mercy seat above the ark. Rather, "upon the ark"—"thou shalt cover the ark with it." This had not been expressed previously, though the dimensions (Exodus 25:17), compared with those of the ark (Exodus 25:10), would naturally have suggested the idea. In the ark thou shalt put the testimony. This is a mere repetition of Exodus 25:16, marking the special importance which attached to the provision.

Exodus 25:22

And there I will meet with thee. The whole of the foregoing description has been subordinate to this. In all the arrange-meats for the tabernacle God was, primarily and mainly, providing a fit place where he might manifest himself to Moses and his successors. The theocracy was to be a government by God in reality, and not in name only. There was to be constant "communing" between God and the earthly ruler of the nation, and therefore a place of communing. Compare Exodus 29:42-45. The special seat of the Divine presence was to be the empty space above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim, and above the ark of the covenant.


Exodus 25:10-22

The symbolism of the ark of the covenant.

The symbolical meaning of the ark of the covenant may be considered, either

(1) separately, as to its parts; or

(2) collectively, as to the bearing of its several parts one upon the other.


(1) The ark itself, or chest;

(2) The mercy seat; and

(3) The cherubim.

(1) The ark, or coffer of acacia wood, coated within and without with pure gold, and intended as a receptacle for the law written by the finger of God, would seem to have represented Divine law as enshrined in the pure nature of God. Acacia is said to be one of the most incorruptible of woods, and gold is undoubtedly the most incorruptible, as well as the most precious, of metals. The law of God—"holy, just, and good" (Romans 7:12)—needs such a receptacle. It dwells fitly in God himself—in the incorruptible hearts of the sinless angels—and in the undefiled hearts of godly men. It is in itself pure and incorrupt, an emanation from him who is essential purity. It is a "golden" rule, perfect, lovely, beautiful. It is no cruel code of a tyrant, but the only rule of action by which the well-being of man can be secured. At the same time there is severity and sternness in it. It was written oft stone, and shrined in gold. It was fixed, unbending, unchangeable.

(2) The mercy seat represented God's attribute of mercy. It covered up the law, as he "covers up" the sins and offences of his people (Psalms 32:1; Psalms 85:2; Romans 4:7). It was prepared to receive the expiatory blood wherewith the high-priest was to sprinkle it, the blood that typified the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ (Le Exodus 16:14). It was of gold because mercy is the most precious of God's attributes. It was placed over the law, because mercy transcends justice.

(3) The cherubim represented at once guardianship and worship. Doubtless holy angels at all times guarded invisibly the ark, and especially the "testimony" which it contained. The presence of the two golden figures signified this holy watchfulness to the Israelites, and spoke to them of the intense holiness of the place. The shadowing wings represented protecting care; and the cherubic form showed that the most exalted of creatures were fitly employed in watching and guarding the revelation of the will of the Almighty. By their attitude, standing or kneeling with bent heads end faces turned down toward the mercy seat, they further spoke of worship. On the Divine presence, which was manifested "from between them," they dared not gaze—their eyes were lowered, and fixed for ever on the mercy seat—the embodiment of the Divine attribute of mercy. As under the new covenant angels desired to look into the mystery of redemption (1 Peter 1:12), so, under the old, angels doubtless saw with admiring wonder God commencing the recovery of a lost world; they looked on his attribute of mercy with rapture but with amaze; it was a new thing to them; the angels who lost their first estate had not elicited it; man alone had been thought worthy of the "afterthought," whereby sin was condoned, and the salvation of sinners made possible.

II. COLLECTIVELY, AS TO THE BEARING OF THE SEVERAL PARTS ONE UPON ANOTHER. The teaching of the ark in this respect was, primarily, that of David in the eighty-fifth psalm: "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Mercy without justice is a weak sentimentality, subversive of moral order. Justice without mercy is a moral severity—theoretically without a flaw, but revolting to man's instinctive feelings. The synthesis of the two is required. The law, enshrined in the holiest place of the sanctuary, vindicated the awful purity and perfection of God. The mercy seat, extended above the law, assigned to mercy its superior directive position. The cherubic figures showed the gaze of angels riveted in astonishment and admiration on God's mode of uniting mercy with justice, by means of vicarious suffering, which he can accept as atonement. Finally, the Divine presence, promised as a permanent thing, gave God's sanction to the expiatory scheme, whereby alone man can be reconciled to him, and the claims both of justice and of mercy satisfied.


Exodus 25:10-16; Exodus 37:1-5

The ark of the testimony.

When Jehovah provided for Israel an abiding record of his holy will, it was needful that Israel should also provide an appropriate receptacle. Nor was it left to Moses and the people to determine what might be most appropriate. Jehovah arranged things so that all the religious service of the people gathered around the two tables of stone. An Israelite gazing upon the great holy place of another nation and inquiring what might be its innermost treasure hidden and guarded from all presumptuous approach, would get for answer that it was some image graven by art and man's device; and he would further learn that the supposed will of this deity found its expression in all licentious and abominable rites. But, on the other hand, a gentile, looking towards Israel's holy place and inquiring what might be behind the curtains of the tabernacle, and expecting perhaps to hear of some magnificent image, would be astounded with a very different reply. No image there! and not only no image, but words graven by God's desire which forbade fabrication of everything in the shape of an image. Within that gilded box of shittim wood there lie written the leading requirements for those who would obey the will of Jehovah. Litera scripta manet. The spot where that ark had a resting-place was a sacred spot, not approachable by the common multitude: but this was not because there was anything to conceal. The recesses of heathenism will not bear inspection. The character of the deity worshipped corresponds with the degradation of the worshippers. But here is the great distinction of that Divine service found in Israel, that however vile the people might be, and even the officiating priests, an exposure of the hidden things of their sacred place would have been an exposure of their apostasy. No Israelite needed to be ashamed of what lay within the ark on which he was bound to look with such veneration, which he was bound to guard with such assiduity; and if it be true that every human heart ought to be a sanctuary of God, then the very heart of hearts should be as the ark of the testimony in the sanctuary of old. Our hearts should be better than our outward services. We should have the consciousness that God's will has a real, an abiding, a cherished, a predominating place in our affections. All the actions of life should flow from the fountain formed by the ever living force of a Divine will within us. Let us ever consider the internal more than the external. If the internal be right, the external will come right in due time. If God's commandments—the full scheme of Christian virtues—are indeed written in our hearts, then all superficial hindrances and roughness can only last for a little time. The Divine life ruling within must subdue all things to itself.—Y.

Exodus 25:17-22; Exodus 37:6-9

The mercy seat and the cherubim.

The ark already indicated as the repository of the two tables, is now further indicated as the resting-place of the mercy seat and the cherubim. Thus there was presented to the thoughts of the people a Divinely constituted whole, a great symbolic unity which set forth the glory and the mystery of God's presence as no unaided human conception could have done, however sublime, however sincere. The ark, the mercy seat, and the cherubim once made and placed in position, were hidden away from the general gaze. Bezaleel looked no more upon his handiwork. But though the things behind the veil were themselves hidden, yet their general character and relations were known. Hidden in one sense, in another sense they were all the more manifest just because they were hidden. It was perfectly well known that behind the veil God made himself known as the God of the commandments, the God of the mercy seat, the God shining forth between the cherubim. The proximity of the mercy seat to the tables of the law was an excellent way of showing that the requirements inscribed on these tables were to be no dead letter. If they could not be honoured by a heartfelt and properly corresponding obedience, then they must be honoured by a heartfelt repentance for transgression, an adequate propitiation, and an honourable forgiveness. There was a place for profound and permanent repentance, and a place for real and signal mercy to the transgressor: but for a slurring over of disobedience there was no place at all. Very close indeed are the law and the gospel. The law, when its comprehensiveness and severity are considered, magnifies the gospel; and the gospel, when we consider how emphatically it is proclaimed as being a gospel, magnifies the law. Then we have also to consider what may be signified by the presence of the cherubim; and surely we shall not go far wrong in connecting these golden figures here with the presence of those awful guardians who prevented the return of Adam and Eve to the scene of earthly bliss which they had forfeited. The presence of these cherubim suggested a solemn consideration of all that man had actually lost; God looking from between the cherubim, was looking as it were from the scene of the ideal human life on earth; that life which might have been the real, if man had only persisted according to the original injunction of his Maker. Thus the cherubim are associated, first with the barrier against return, and then with the working out of a plan for glorious and complete restoration. There is here no word of the flaming sword. The cherubim seem to be regarded as contemplative rather than active, somewhat as St. Peter phrases it when he speaks of things which the angels desire to look into. Over against the delight of those faithful ones who guarded Eden, we must set the thought of those in whose presence there is such inexpressible joy over the repenting sinner. God looked forth from between these symbols of the unsullied creatures who serve him day and night continually, and towards those people whom, though at present they were disobedient, carnalised, and unsusceptible, he nevertheless called his own. Sinners may be so changed, renewed, and energised as to be joined in the most complete harmony of service even with the cherubim.—Y.


Exodus 25:10-40

What must be found with every soul that is God's dwelling-place

I. THE ARK (Exodus 25:10-22). The place where the Lord meets and communes with us.

1. It contained the testimony. The light of the meeting-place with God is the word concerning righteousness and sin. There is no communion with God if that be left out. The law which searches and condemns us must be honoured as God's testimony.

2. Between God and the law we have broken is the mercy seat, sin's glorious covering, on which the cherubim—emblems of the highest intelligence and purity of creation—look, and before which we also bow, with adoring awe.

3. Over the mercy seat rests the cloud of God's glory. We shall meet God only as we seek him here. His glory can be fully revealed and the might of his salvation proved here alone.


1. The bread was the emblem of God's people. The twelve cakes represented the twelve tribes. The fruit of the great Husbandman's toil is to be found in us.

2. God's joy is to be found in us. The Lord's portion is his people.

3. We are to be prepared and perfected for his presence, and to be for ever before him (Exodus 25:30).


1. It is made of pure gold, the only metal that loses nothing, though passed through the fire and whose lustre is never tarnished.

2. It was the only light of the holy place. The true Christian Church the only light which in the world's darkness reveals the things of God and the pathway to his presence.—U.


Exodus 25:10-40

The ark, the table, and the candlestick.

The instructions for the making of these essential parts of the tabernacle furniture occupy the remainder of the chapter. The directions for making the altar of incense are postponed to Exodus 30:1-10. The reason seems to be that the uses of this altar could not be described without reference to commands which were to be given respecting the altar of burnt-offering—to which the altar of incense stood in a certain relation of dependence—and to the ordinance for the institution of the priesthood. The instructions have respect to the internal relation of the parts.

I. THE ARK AND MERCY SEAT (Exodus 30:10-23). This was the heart of the sanctuary—the throne of Jehovah. As the nucleus of the whole structure, it is described first.

1. The ark proper (Exodus 30:10-17). For details, consult the exposition. A plain wooden box or chest, overlaid within and without with pure gold, and borne upon staves, for the insertion of which rings were provided in its feet or corners, its structure could not well have been simpler. On the resemblances and differences between this ark and the religious arks of the Egyptians, see the interesting article in "Kitto's Cyclopaedia." The ark, in the religion of Israel, was simply a depository for the two tables of stone—the tables of the covenant. In its freedom from idolatrous symbols (in this respect a contrast to the Egyptian arks), it was a testimony to monotheism; in the character of its contents, it testified to the ethical foundation of the religion—to the severe and stern morality which formed its basis. If ever doubt is cast on the pure moral character of the Hebrew faith, it should suffice to refute it, to point to the ark of the testimony. What a witness to the ruling power of the moral in this religion that, when the sacred chest is opened, the sole contents are found to be the two stone tables of the moral law (Exodus 30:16)! The deposition of these tables in the ark, underneath the mercy seat, had three ends.

(1) They testified to the fact that God's kingdom in Israel was founded on immutable justice and righteousness (Psalms 89:15; Psalms 97:2). Even grace, in its actings, must respect law. Favour cannot be dispensed on terms which make the law "void" (Romans 3:31). If sin is pardoned, it must be with full recognition of the law's claims against the sinner. The ultimate end must be to "establish the law" (Romans 3:31). Only in the Gospel have we the clear revelation of how, on these terms, mercy and truth can meet together, and righteousness and peace can kiss each other (Psalms 85:10; Romans 3:21-27).

(2) They testified to the covenant obligation. The tables were, as Oehler calls them, "the obligatory document of the covenant." As such they were laid up in the heart of the sanctuary.

(3) They testified against Israel's sins and backslidings. They testified against all sin in Israel, but especially against rebellion and deliberate apostasy. This appears to be the special force of the expression—"the testimony," "tables of testimony," etc.

2. The mercy seat (Exodus 30:17). The mercy seat, or propitiatory, made of pure gold, served as a lid or covering to the sacred chest. The name, however, as the Piel form implies, had more especial reference to the covering of sins. Sprinkled with blood of atonement, the mercy seat cancelled, as it were, the condemnatory witness of the underlying tables—covered sin from God's sight (Exodus 30:21). From above this mercy seat, and from between the two cherubim that were upon it, God promised to meet with Moses, and to commune with him (Exodus 30:22). The gracious element in the covenant with Israel here reaches its distinct expression. Jehovah could "by no means clear the guilty;" i.e; he could not call sin anything else than what it was, or tamper in the least degree with the condemnatory testimony of the law against it; but he could admit atonements, and on the ground of expiatory rites, could forgive sin, and receive the sinner anew to his favour. The mercy seat thus foreshadowed Christ, as, in his sacred Person, the great Propitiatory for man (Romans 3:25)—priest, sacrifice, and mercy seat in one. On the basis of mere law, there can be no communion between God and man. The blood-sprinkled mercy seat must intervene. Only on the ground of Christ's mediation and intercession, can God transact with sinners.

3. The cherubim (Exodus 30:18-23). The cherubic figures were formed from the same piece of gold which constituted the mercy seat, and rose at either end of it, with wings overspreading the place of propitiation, and faces turned inward. On the various interpretations, see the exposition. The view which finds most favour is that which regards the cherubim, not as real and actual, but only as symbolic and imaginary beings—hieroglyphs of creation in its highest grade of perfection. Egyptian and Assyrian art abound in similar ideal forms, most of them representative, not of qualities of the creature, as distinct from its Creator, but of attributes of God revealed in creation. This view, also, has been taken of the cherubim of Scripture, but it must be rejected as untenable. We confess that, after all that has been written of the purely ideal significance of these figures—"the representative and quintessence of creation, placed in subordination to the great Creator"—we do not feel the theory to be satisfactory. We incline very much to agree with Delitzsch: "The Biblical conception considers the cherub as a real heavenly being, but the form which is given to it changes; it is symbolical and visionary." It seems fair to connect the cherubim with the seraphs of the temple-vision in Isaiah 6:2; and this, taken with Genesis 3:24, points strongly in the direction of an angelic interpretation. The conception, however, unquestionably underwent development, and in the highly complex form in which it appears in Ezekiel may quite possibly take on much more of the ideal character than it had at first; may, in short, closely approximate to what is commonly given as the meaning of the symbol. Confining ourselves to the figures of the tabernacle, we prefer to view them, with the older writers, and with Keil and others among the moderns, as symbolic of the angel hosts which attend and guard the throne of Jehovah, zealous, like himself, for the honour of his law, and deeply interested in the counsels of his love (1 Peter 1:12). The angel-idea is so prominent in the theology of Israel that we should expect it to find some embodiment in this symbolism. And what finer picture could be given of angels than in these cherubic figures, who, with wings outspread and faces lowered, represent at once humility, devotion, adoration, intelligence, service, and zeal? On the angels at the giving of the law, see Deuteronomy 33:2. On the assembly or council of holy ones, see Psalms 89:6-9. The wings of the cherubs constituted, as it were, a protecting shade for those who took refuge under them in the Divine mercy (Psalms 91:1). Jehovah's guards, they appear in the symbol as ready to defend his Majesty against profane invasion; as avengers of disobedience to his will; as sheltering and aiding those who are his friends. They are, when otherwise unemployed, rapt in adoration of his perfections, and deeply attent on the study of his secrets. So interpreted, the cherubs are hieroglyphs of the heavenly spiritual world.

II. THE TABLE OF SHEW-BREAD (Psalms 89:23-31). The table was part of the belongings of the holy place. This shows it to have been primarily connected, not with the relation of God to Israel, but conversely, with the works and services of the people, in their relation to Jehovah. Like other articles in the sanctuary, the table was to present a golden exterior, and on it were to be placed twelve cakes of shew-bread (Psalms 89:30; Le Psalms 24:5-9), with flagons for purposes of libation (Psalms 89:29). The shew-bread had thus the significance of a meat-offering. The sense may be thus exhibited. Bread is the means of nourishment of the natural life. The twelve cakes represented the twelve tribes. The presentation of the bread on the table was, accordingly,

1. A recognition of Jehovah's agency in the bestowal of what is necessary for the support of life. Natural life is supported by his bounty. The cakes on the table were a grateful acknowledgment of this dependence. Spiritually, they pointed to the higher bread with which God nourishes the soul. They remind us of our duty to give thanks for this, not less than for the other. The true bread is Christ (John 6:32).

2. A dedication of the life so nourished to him whose goodness constantly sustained it. We take this to be the essential feature in the offering. The life-sustaining food and drink is placed upon the table of Jehovah. In the act of placing it there, the tribes offer, as it were, to God, the life which it sustains, and which is derived from his bounty. The meaning could not be better expressed than in words borrowed from St. Paul—"Unto which promise, our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come" (Acts 26:7). Perpetual consecration—a life fruitful in good works, and acts of holy service to God. This is the conception which is embodied in the shew-bread. Here, also, the symbolism points to a life higher than that nourished on material bread, and might almost be said to pledge to Israel the gift of the higher bread needed for it. Fed on this bread from heaven—i.e; on Christ, who gave himself for us (John 6:51), we are to live, not to ourselves, but to him who died for us, and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:15).

III. THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK (Psalms 89:31-40). This sacred ornament was, like the mercy seat, to be made of pure gold. Art was to be allowed to do its best to make it massive, shapely, beautiful. Stem and branches were to be wrought with great artistic skill. The lamps, seven in number, fed with beaten olive oil (Exodus 27:20, Exodus 27:21), were to burn all night in the sanctuary. The immediate design of its introduction was, of course, to illuminate the holy place. Symbolically, the candlestick represented the calling of Israel to be a people of light. Compare, as regards Christians, Matthew 5:14, Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15. The church is the abode of light. It has no affinity with darkness. The light with which it is lighted is the light of truth and holiness. The lamps are the gifts of wisdom and holiness, which Christ bestows upon his people. Their own souls being filled with light, they become, in turn, the lights of the world. The oil which feeds the light is the oil of God's Holy Spirit. Note—we cannot make a higher use even of natural girts, say of knowledge or wisdom, than to let their light burn in the sanctuary—in the service of God.—J.O.


Exodus 25:18-21

He maketh the winds his messengers, and his ministers a flame of fire.

The cherubim were to be of one piece with the mercy seat, the whole a lid, or guard above the lid, to the ark or chest which contained the tables of the law.


1. The symbol. They are not described here; but by comparing the various passages in which they are re[erred to we may get a general notion as to their appearance. Ezekiel, who must have been familiar with their appearance, describes them as seen in his vision (Ezekiel 1:1-28.), four wings, four faces, etc. In Revelation

4. the same idea is seen in a developed form, four creatures having each a different face, and each having six wings. This latter feature suggests identity with the seraphim in Isaiah's vision (Isaiah 6:1-13.), and the name "seraphim," which seems connected with fire or burning, reminds us of the "flaming sword" with which the cherubim are associated in Genesis 3:24. In any case wings, fire, and a mixture of the human and the animal in their appearance are characteristic features.

2. That which is symbolised. Wings in Scripture almost always represent the wind. The appearance of the cherubim is as fire. Their faces are those of the chief beasts—the lion, the bull-calf, the man, the eagle. Their form tends towards the human. On the whole, we may say they represent nature under her manifold aspects, nature as interpreted chiefly through the natural man in his perfection regarded as a part of nature. The cherubim shadow forth the natural creation according to the Divine ideal. The clause in the Te Deum—"To thee, cherubim and seraphim continually do cry," is the Benedicite condensed into a sentence!


1. Position. One piece with the mercy seat. Nature, in spite of appearances, is a manifestation of God's mercy to man. His voice may not be in the tempest or the fire, yet the tempest and the fire form a canopy to that throne whence issues the "still, small voice." If we regard the mercy seat as typical of Christ (cf. Romans 3:25), then we are reminded of the mysterious relation which exists between Christ and nature (Colossians 1:17; John 1:1, etc.).

2. Office. Here they protect the ark and its contents, as in Genesis 3:24, they "keep the way of the tree of life." The way of the tree of life is the way of righteousness, the way of the law of God. Thus the cherubim above the ark declare that nature, a manifestation of God's mercy, is also the guardian of God's law.


1. Nature does guard the way of the tree of life, the law of God. There is a tendency implanted in the very constitution of nature which "makes for righteousness." Break a law, and, by God's merciful ordinance, you are compelled to reap the penalty. Sin in secret, yet you cannot escape the cognisance of this vigilant, sleepless, unconscious sentinel [cf. Eugene Aram's dream]. It is "full of eyes within and without."

2. Nature is a manifestation of mercy. Undiscoverable transgression would be irretrievable damnation. Christ, too, is one with the mercy seat; nature is rooted in the Divine Word. If we go to that throne of grace we may still obtain mercy, and win, through Christ, peace with the avengers.—G.

Verses 23-30


THE TABLE OF SHEW-BREAD. From the description of the ark, which constituted the sole furniture of the most holy place, God proceeded to describe the furniture of the holy place, or body of the tabernacle, which was to consist of three objects—

1. A table, called the table of shew-bread ("bread of presence" or "bread of setting-forth").

2. A candelabrum, or lamp-stand; and

3. An altar for the offering of incense. Of these the table seems to have been regarded as of primary importance; and its description is therefore made to follow immediately on that of the ark. It was of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold, and was of the most ordinary shape—oblong-square, i.e; with four legs, one at each corner. The only peculiar features of the table, besides its material, were the border, or edging, which surrounded it at the top, the framework which strengthened the legs (Exodus 25:25), and the rings by which it was to be carried from place to place.

Exodus 25:23

Two cubits shall be the length thereof, etc. The table was to be three feel long, one foot six inches broad, and two feet three inches high. It was thus quite a small table, narrow for its length, and about two inches below the ordinary height.

Exodus 25:24

Thou shalt overlay it with pure gold. Again, gilding may be meant; but a covering with thin plates of gold is perhaps more probable. A crown of gold round about. A border, or edging round the top, which would prevent anything that was placed on the table from readily falling off. (Compare Exodus 25:11.)

Exodus 25:25

A border of a hand-breadth. Rather "a band" or "framing." This seems to have been a broad flat bar, placed about hallway down the legs, uniting them and holding them together. It was represented in the sculpture of the table which adorned the Arch of Titus. A golden crown to the borderi.e; an edging at the top of the bar, which could be only for ornament.

Exodus 25:26

The four corners that are on the four feet, is scarcely an intelligible expression. Pe'oth, the word translated "corners," means properly "ends;" and the direction seems to be, that the four rings should be affixed to the four "ends" of the table; those ends, namely, which are "at the four feet." It is a periphrasis, meaning no more than that they should be affixed to the feet, as Josephus tells us that they were. (Ant. Jude 1:3Jude 1:3.6, § 6.)

Exodus 25:27

Over against the border. Rather "opposite the band" or "framing"—i.e; opposite the points at which the "band" or "framing" was inserted into the legs. Bishop Patrick supposes that the table "was not carried up as high as the ark was, but hung down between the priests, on whose shoulders the staves rested." But it is carried upright in the bas-relief on the Arch of Titus, and might have been as easily so carried as the ark. (See the comment on verse 12.) Of the staves. Rather, "for staves." Staves for the table had not yet been mentioned; and naturally the word has no article.

Exodus 25:29

The dishes thereof. Literally" its dishes," or rather perhaps, "its bowls" (LXX. τρύβλια). They were probably the vessels in which the loaves were brought to the table. Loaves are often seen arranged in bowls in the Egyptian tomb decorations. Spoons thereof. Rather, "its incense cups"—small jars or pots in which the incense, offered with the loaves (Le Exodus 24:5), was to be burnt. Two such were represented in the bas-relief of the table on the Arch of Titus. Covers thereof and bowls thereof. Rather, "its flagons and its chalices" (LXX. σπονδεῖα καὶ κύαθοι)—vessels required for the libations or "drink offerings" which accompanied every meat-offering. To cover withal Rather, as in the margin, "to pour out withal." So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and most of the Targums.

Exodus 25:30

Thou shalt set upon the table shew-bread before me alway. Here we have at once the object of the table, and its name, explained. The table was to have set upon it continually twelve loaves, or cakes, of bread (Le Exodus 24:5), which were to be renewed weekly on the sabbath-day (Le Exodus 24:8), the stale loaves being at the same time consumed by the priests in the holy place. These twelve loaves or cakes were to constitute a continual thank-offering to God from the twelve tribes of Israel in return for the bless-Lugs of life and sustenance which they received from him. The bread was called "bread of face," or "bread of presence," because it was set before the "face" or "presence" of God, which dwelt in the holy of holies. The Septuagint renders the phrase by ἄρτοι ἐνώπιοι "loaves that are face to face"—St. Matthew by ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως, "loaves of setting-forth"—whence the Schaubrode of Luther, and our "shew-bread," which is a paraphrase rather than a translation.


Exodus 25:23-30

The symbolism of the table of shew-bread.

Before the holy of holies, within which was the Divine Presence, dwelling in thick darkness behind the veil, was to be set perpetually this golden table, bearing bread and wine and frankincense. The bread and wine and frankincense constituted a perpetual thank-offering, offered by Israel as a nation to the high and holy God. The idea was that of a constant memorial (Le Exodus 24:8), a continual acknowledgment of the Divine goodness on the part of the nation. The essence of the offering was the bread—we know of the wine only by implication; the frankincense is distinctly mentioned (Le Exodus 24:7), but is altogether subordinate. Israel, grateful to God for maintaining and supporting its life, physical and spiritual, expressed its gratitude by this one and only never ceasing offering. It was intended to teach—

I. THAT GRATITUDE WAS DUE TO GOD FROM HIS PEOPLE PERPETUALLY. Men are so cold by nature, so selfish, so little inclined to real thankfulness, that it was well they should be reminded, as they were by the shew-bread, of thankfulness being a continuous, unending duty, a duty moreover owed by all. No tribe was ever exempt, however reduced in numbers, however little esteemed, however weak and powerless. The twelve loaves were perpetually before the Lord.

II. THAT GRATITUDE MUST BE SHOWN BY OFFERINGS. The best offering is that of a "pure heart;" but no man of a pure heart, who possessed aught, was ever yet content to offer merely "the calves of his lips"—men instinctively give of their best to God. Bread, the staff of life—wine, that maketh glad the heart of man—frankincense, the most precious of spices, are fitting gifts to him. The offering of bread signifies the devotion of our strength—of wine, the devotion of our feelings—of frankincense, the devotion of our most sublimised spiritual aspirations to the eternal. Israel, as a nation, perpetually offered these offerings, and thereby inculcated on each individual of the nation the duty of doing the same, separately and individually, for private, as the nation did for public, benefits.

III. THAT NO OFFERING COULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD, UNLESS ALL ITS SURROUNDINGS WERE PURE AND HOLY. The loaves were to be of the finest flour (Le Exodus 24:5). The frankincense was to be "pure frankincense" (Le Exodus 24:7). The table was to be overlaid with "pure gold" (Exodus 26:24). All the utensils of the table were to be of the same (Exodus 26:29). Nothing "common or unclean" was to come into contact with the offering, which was "the most holy unto the Lord" of all the offerings made to him (Le Exodus 24:8). The purity and perfection of all the material surroundings of the offering suggested the need of equal purity in those who offered it.


Exodus 25:23-30; Exodus 37:10-16

The table of shew-bread.

Between the ark of the testimony and the table of the shew-bread we see this great correspondence—that they were of the same material of shittim wood and had the same adornment of gold. But along with this correspondence there was a great difference, in that the ark of the testimony stood within the veil, while the table of shew-bread stood without. The ark of the testimony had the mercy seat above it, while the table of the shew-bread had the lighted candlestick over against it. There must be some significance in having the table on the people's side of the veil rather than God's side; and may it not be that the table with its bread and the candlestick with its light were meant to set forth God's providential support and illumination of all his people? The shew-bread was not so much an offering presented to God as something placed on the table by his command, regularly and unfailingly, to symbolise the unfailing regularity with which he supplies his people in their ordinary wants. The daily meat offering with its fine flour was the representation of the labour of the people: and so we may take the shew-bread as representing that blessing of God without which the most diligent toil in sowing and watering avail nothing. The God of the shew-bread is the God in whom we live and move and have our being; we cannot do without him for the necessities and comforts of natural life. Were he to cease the operations of his energy in nature, it would soon be seen how utterly fruitless is all our working just by itself. A great and efficient providing power cannot be denied by whatsoever name we choose to call him. Would we know him and more of him than we can ever know in nature—we must think of what lies within the veil. He gives us the things belonging to the outer holy place, the bread and the light, the natural strength and the natural wisdom, in order that we may come to know him in his spiritual demands and his ability to satisfy the deepest demands of our hearts. The God who gives that bread to his people, of which the shew-bread was an ever renewed sample, gives it that we whose lives are continued by the bread may spend them to his glory. God feeds us that we may be in all things his servants, and not in anything our own masters.—Y.

Verses 31-40


THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK (Exodus 25:31-40). Though the holy of holies was always dark, unless when lighted by. the glory of God (Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35), the holy place, in which many of the priests' functions were to be performed, was to be always kept light. In the day-time sufficient light entered from the porch in front; but, as evening drew on, some artificial illumination was required. In connection with this object, the golden candlestick, or rather lamp-stand, was designed, which, together with its appurtenances, is described in the remainder of the chapter.

Exodus 25:31

A candlestick. The golden candlestick is figured upon the Arch of Titus, and appears by that representation to have consisted of an upright shaft, from which three curved branches were carried out on either side, all of them in the same plane. It stands there on an octagonal pedestal, in two stages, ornamented with figures of birds and sea-monsters. This pedestal is, however, clearly Roman work, and no part of the original. Of beaten work. Not cast, but fashioned by the hand, like the cherubim (verse 18). His shaft. Rather, "its base" (literally "flank"). His branches. Our version follows the Septuagint; but the Hebrew noun is in the singular number, and seems to designate the upright stem, or shaft. The "branches are not mentioned till verse 32, where the same noun is used in the plural. His bowls, his knops, and his flowers. Rather, "its cups, its pomegranates, and its lilies." The "cups" are afterwards likened to almond flowers (verse 33); they formed the first ornament on each branch; above them was a representation of the pomegranate fruit; above this a lily blossom. The lily-blossoms supported the lamps, which were separate (verse 37). The remainder were of one piece with the candlestick.

Exodus 25:32

Six branches. The representation on the Arch of Titus exactly agrees with this description. It was a peculiarity of the "candlestick," as compared with other candelabra, that all the branches were in the same plane.

Exodus 25:33

Three bowls made like unto almonds. Cups shaped like almond blossoms seem to be intended. Each branch had three of these in succession, then a pomegranate and a lily-flower. The lily probably represented the Egyptian lotus, or water-lily. In the other branch. Rather, "on another branch." There were six branches, not two only. The ornamentation of two is described; then we are told that the remainder were similar.

Exodus 25:34

In the candlestick: i.e; in the central shaft or stem, which is viewed as "the candlestick" par excellence. Here were to be twelve ornaments, the series of cup, pomegranate, and lily being repeated four times, once in connection with each pair of branches, and a fourth time at the summit.

Exodus 25:35

A knop under two branches of the same. The branches were to quit the stem at the point of junction between the pomegranate (knop) and the lily.

Exodus 25:36

All it. Rather, "all of it." Shall be one beaten work. Compare Exodus 25:31

Exodus 25:37

The seven lamps. The lamps are not described. They appear by the representation on the Arch of Titus to have been hemispherical bowls on a stand, which fitted into the lily-blossom wherewith each of the seven branches terminated. They shall light the lamps. The lamps were lighted every evening at sunset (Exodus 27:21; Exodus 30:8; Le Exodus 24:3, etc.), and burnt till morning, when the High Priest extinguished them and "dressed" them (Exodus 30:7). That they may give light over against it. The candlestick was placed on the southern side of the holy place, parallel to the wall, the seven lamps forming a row. The light was consequently shed strongly on the opposite, or northern wall, where the table of show-bread stood.

Exodus 25:38

The tongs thereof. Tongs or pincers were required for trimming the wicks of the lamps. Compare 1 Kings 7:49; 2 Chronicles 4:21. Snuff-dishes were also needed for the reception of the fragments removed from the wicks by the tongs. "Snuffers," though the word is used in Exo 27:1-21 :23, in the place of tongs, had not been indented, and were indeed unknown to the ancients.

Exodus 25:39

Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it. The candlestick, with all its appurtenances, was to weigh exactly a talent of gold. The value of the Hebrew gold talent is supposed to have been between 10,000l. and 11,000l. of our money.

Exodus 25:40

Their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount. Compare Exodus 25:9, and the comment ad loc. It would seem from this passage that the "patterns" were shown to Moses first, and the directions as to the making given afterwards.


Exodus 25:31-40

The symbolism of the candlestick.

The light which illuminated the darkness of the tabernacle can represent nothing but the Holy Spirit of God, which illuminates the dark places of the earth and the recesses of the heart of man. That the light was sevenfold is closely analogous to the representation of the Holy Spirit in the Revelation of St. John, where there are said to be "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" (Revelation 4:5). It is generally allowed that these "seven spirits" represent the one indivisible but sevenfold Spirit, who imparts of his sevenfold gifts to men. Seven is, in fact, one of the numbers which express perfection and completeness; and a sevenfold light is merely a light which is full and ample, which irradiates sufficiently all that it is designed to throw light upon. The light from the golden candlestick especially irradiated the opposite wall of the tabernacle where the table of shew-bread was set, showing how the offerings of the natural man require to be steeped in the radiance of the Spirit of God in order to be an acceptable gift to the Almighty. We may see—

I. IN THE PURE GOLD OF THE CANDLESTICK THE SPOTLESS PERFECTION OF HIM, WHOSE EMBLEM IS THE INNOCENT DOVEWHO IS "THE SPIRIT OF PURITY." The pure light of the refined olive oil, and the pure gold of the candlestick were in harmony. Both indicated alike the Spirit's awful holiness. Both taught the presence of One, who was "of purer eyes then to behold iniquity."

II. IN THE SIMPLE YET BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTATION OF ALMOND BUDS, AND POMEGRANATES, AND LILIES, WE MAY SEE THE DELIGHT OF THE SPIRIT IN ALL THINGS LOVELY, SWEET, AND INNOCENT. The Spirit of God, which, when the earth was first made, "brooded upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2), still tenderly watches over creation, and rejoices in the loveliness spread over it by his own influences. Flowers and fruits are among the most beautiful of created things, and well befit the interior of the sanctuary where God's presence is manifested, whether cunningly carved in stone, or fashioned in metal-work, or, best of all, in their own simple natural freshness.

III. IN THE SOFT RADIANCE SHED AROUND BY THE CANDLESTICK, WE MUST SEE THE ILLUMINATING POWER OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH GIVES LIGHT TO THE WORLD. Spiritual gifts, however diverse, are his gifts. "To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing; to another faith; to another prophecy; to another miracles; to another tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). It is he who "doth our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire." It is he from whom all wisdom and knowledge, and spiritual illumination are derived. He informs the conscience, guides the reason, quickens the spiritual insight, gives us discernment between good and evil. Christ is "the light of the world," but Christ diffuses his light by his Spirit. Man's contact is closest with the Third Person of the Trinity, who communicates to the soul every good and perfect gift which has come down to it from the Father of lights. Illumination is especially his gift; and it is therefore that light and fire are made the especial symbols of his presence (Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3, Acts 2:4; Revelation 4:5).

IV. IN THE SEVENFOLD LIGHT OF THE SEVEN LAMPS WE MAY SEE THE FULNESS AND COMPLETENESS OF THE ILLUMINATION WHICH THE SPIRIT VOUCHSAFES TO MAN. Fulness and completeness in respect to man's needs—not absolute completeness or fulness; for "Now, we see through a glass darkly," "we know in part only—not as we are known." But "his grace is sufficient for us." We know all that we need to know—we see all that we need to see. "Full light" and "true knowledge" are for another sphere; but still, even here, we are privileged to see and know as much as would be of advantage to us. Inspired messengers have declared to us what they have felt justified in calling "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). We are familiarly acquainted with mysteries, which the very "angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12).

V. IN THE PROVISION OF TONGS AND SNUFF-DISHES WE MAY SEE THAT THE CO-OPERATION OF MAN IS REQUIRED, IF THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE SPIRITUAL LIGHT VOUCHSAFED TO HIM IS TO REMAIN UNDIMMED. The lamps of the golden candlestick had to be "dressed" each morning. Perpetual vigilance is necessary. Phrases once instinct with power lose their force; and new phrases, adapted to each new generation, have to be coined and circulated. The translation of the word of God in each country has from time to time to be revised, or an accretion of usage will dim the light of the pure word, and overshadow it with traditional glosses. Teachers must be watchful, that they do not suffer the light of their teaching to grow dim; hearers must Be watchful, that they do not by their obstinacy refuse to give the light passage into their souls.


Exodus 25:31-40; Exo 27:17 -24

The candlestick.

As the shew-bread was a symbol of what Jehovah gave to his people in one way, so the lighted candlestick in all the preciousness of its material and elaboration of its workmanship was a symbol in another way. And even as the shew-bread was in magnitude only as a crumb of all the great supply which God gives in the way of food, so the candlestick even in full blaze was but as a glimmer compared with all the light which God had gathered and arranged in various ways to guide and cheer his people. But glimmer though the light of the candlestick might be, it was quite enough to act as an inspiring and encouraging symbol for all who, seeing, were able to understand. From that place between the cherubim, shrouded as it was in awful sanctity, there radiated forth abundance of light for every one in Israel who was disposed to profit by it. In heathendom the perplexed went long distances to consult renowned oracles, only to find that for all practical purposes they might just as well have stayed at home. There was a great boast of illumination; but the reality turned out ambiguous and delusive. But here is the seven-branched candlestick (seven being the perfect number) to indicate that God would assuredly give all needed light to his people. On one side stood the shew-bread, and over against it the light. So we need God's guidance to show us how to use what materials he puts in our hands for our support. It is only too easy for man, following the light of a corrupted nature, to waste, abuse, and degrade the choice gifts of God. Consider the vast quantities of grain that instead of passing through the hands of the baker to become food, pass through the hands of the brewer and distiller to become alcohol. In all our use of the resources which God has placed in our hands, we must seek with simplicity of purpose and becoming humility for God's light, that we may be assured of God's will. God has placed us in the midst of such profusion that we may use it for him and not for self. And is not a lesson taught us in this respect by the very candlestick itself? It was made of gold. The Israelites at this time seem to have had great store of gold; and left to their own inclinations, they gave it for shaping into an image to be worshipped. Now, by causing this candlestick to be made of gold, Jehovah seemed to summon his people to give their gold to aid in supporting and diffusing his light. What God gives may be a curse or a blessing, just according to the spirit in which we receive and use it. We can desire no nobler office than to be ourselves as lamps, doing something to shed abroad that great, true light of the world, which radiates from the person of Christ. He who is living so as to make Christ better known amid the spiritual darkness of the world has surely learnt the great lesson that God would teach to all ages by this golden candlestick in his sanctuary of old.—Y.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/exodus-25.html. 1897.
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