Exodus 25







The Tabernacle and the Gifts for It (vs. 1-7)


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 (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 (ch. 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 (v. 2).


1"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  2 Speak unto the children of Israel,

that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his

heart ye shall take my offering."  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 ch. 30:13; 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” – (II Corinthians 9:7).

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 chps. 35:21-29; and 36:5-7.



God Loveth a Cheerful Giver (vs. 1-2)


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:




Ø      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 honor for a town to

receive and entertain a member of our royal family, how much greater an

honor to be permitted to entertain the head of the royal family of heaven!


Ø      Materials. All manner of things required (vs. 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.


Ø      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.


  • THE CONDITION OF ACCEPTANCE. All may help, but on one

conditionthey 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 Hmself 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 (II Corinthians 9:7). 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 inHis 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 (Mark 12:42-44; the talents of the ostentatious

tax-payer are forgotten.


  • THE RESPONSE MADE. The people of Israel realized their

privileges. They remembered what God had done for them, and were eager

to manifest their gratitude. They gave even more than enough (ch. 36:6-7).

Their hearts stirred them up, and their spirits made them willing

(ch. 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.


3 "And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and

brass," - Gold was needed for:


Ø      the overlaying of the boards, whereof the ark was composed (v. 11);

Ø      the “crown of gold,” which surmounted it (ibid.);

Ø      the “rings” (v. 12);

Ø      the “mercy-seat” (v. 17);

Ø      the cherubim (v. 18);

Ø      the dishes, the spoons, the covers, the bowls (v. 29);

Ø      the candlestick (v. 31);

Ø      the tongs and snuff dishes (v.. 28);

Ø      the hooks and taches (ch. 26:6, 32);

Ø      the covering of the table of shew bread (ch. 25:24);

Ø      the staves and pillars (ibid., 28: ch. 26:32, 37); and also

Ø      for many parts of the dress of the High Priest (ch. 28:6, 8, 11, 14, etc.).


Silver was required for:


Ø      the sockets which supported the boards of the Tabernacle (ch. 26:19); and for

Ø      the “hooks” and “fillets” of the pillars of the court (ch. 27:10)


Brass, or rather bronze, was wanted for:


Ø      the taches which coupled together the curtains of the tent (ch. 26:11);

Ø      the “sockets” which received the pillars or tent poles (ibid. v. 37);

Ø      the external coating of the altar (ch. 27:2);

Ø      the vessels and utensils of the altar (ibid. v 3);

Ø      the covering of its staves (ibid. v.  6);

Ø      the sockets of the pillars of the Court (ibid. v.10);

Ø      the “pins” of the Court (ibid. v.19); and generally for

Ø      the vessels of the Tabernacle (ibid.).


To understand how the Israelites could supply all that was wanted, we must



·         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

·         That they had received large presents of gold and silver from the

Egyptians just before their departure (ch. 12:35); and

·         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

4  "And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and

goats’ hair,"  And blue, and purple, and scarlet. Cloths of these three

colors 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, equaling that of the best Indian muslins

(Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians, vol. 3. p. 121). It would seem that the

Israelite women spun the thread from the flax (ch. 35:25), and that

the skilled workmen employed by Moses wove the thread into linen (ibid.

v. 35). And goat’s hair.  The soft inner wool of the Angora goat was also

spun by the women into a fine worsted (ibid. v. 26), which was woven into

cloths, used especially as coverings for tents.


5 "And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim

wood,"  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 colors which they peculiarly

affected (ibid.). We must suppose that the skins spoken of had been

brought with them by the Israelites out 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. (Compare Plin. H. N. 2:55; Sueton. Octav § 90.)

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 color 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 (ch. 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.


6 "Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,"

 Oil for the light. That the sanctuary to be erected would

require to be artificially lighted is assumed. Later, a “candlestick” is

ordered (vs. 31-37). The people were to provide the oil which was to be

burnt in the “candlestick.” In ch. 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 ch. 30:23-24.

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 (ib, 34).


7 "Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.”

Onyx stones. On the need of onyx stones, see ch. 28:9, 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 (ibid. vs.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



The Law of Acceptable Offerings (vs. 1-7)


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



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” (ch. 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 (I Chronicles 29:6-9);

and again those who returned from the Babylonian captivity with

Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:68-69; Nehemiah 7:70-72).




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 Him of that which

costs us nothing.” (II Samuel 24:24) - 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 Histhe 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.



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” – (v.40) - to

avoid  “will-worship”  (Colossians 2:23) — 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 honor.



The Materials for the Sanctuary (vs. 1-7)



thought that in order to make this holy habitation, this tent for God

traveling 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 marvelous 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, unstableit 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? (Matthew 6:19-21;

Mark 8:36-37) — 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

rearranging touch, the treasures upon earth can be transmuted into

treasures in heaven.



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 civilizations.

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 top-stone 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.


  • 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 symbolized 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 (I Corinthians 3:12). We must not

bring to God just what we do not want ourselves. (the sick, the lame,

the inferior, etc. – CY – 2017)   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.




                  GENERAL DIRECTIONS  (vs. 8-9)


After the gifts which God will accept have been specified, and the spirit in

which they are to be offered noted (ver. 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 (Herod. 1:131, Strab. 15. pp, 1039-41) 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

(I Kings 8:27; II Chronicles 2:6; Isaiah 56:1; Jeremiah 23-24).   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:


  • A sanctuary is to be constructed; and


·         Both it, and all its vessels, are to be made after patterns which God

was about to show to Moses.


8 “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among

them.” 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.  Compare ch. 29:45-46; Numbers 35:34.

There is a sense in which “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands”

(Acts 7:48; 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 (ch. 40:34-35, 38).


9  According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and

the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”  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 chps.

40-42, could certainly have made known to Moses, in the same way, the

far simpler structure of the primitive Tabernacle. 



The Rearing of the Lord’s Sanctuary (vs. 1-9)




Ø      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. (Our bodies? - CY - 2017)  Are we obeying? Is God being

glorified by us?


Ø      Of their free-will offerings. There is no constraint; everything is free and

spontaneous — the loving gifts of children, not the forced labor of slaves.


Ø      Of their choicest and best, and yet,


Ø      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.



building and furniture are to be in every particular according to His own

plan (v. 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:


Ø      contempt of God or

Ø      open rebellion


to His authority.




Earthly Sanctuaries Typical


the Heavenly Dwelling Place (v. 8)


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:



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” (ch. 40:34, 35). Christian churches have

the promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”

(Matthew 28:20) — and again, “Where two or three are gathered together

in my name, there am I in the midst of you.” -  (Matthew 18:20) - 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).



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.




His courts with praise,” says David, of the tabernacle — “be thankful

unto Him, and bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4) - “When ye come

together, every one of you has a psalm,”  (I Corinthians 14:26) says Paul

of a Christian Church.  In heaven there is “a great voice of much people,

saying, Alleluia: Salvation and glory, and honor, 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 honor to Him” (Revelation 19:1-7).



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, 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.



God’s Dwelling-Place among His People (vs. 8-9)


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:



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, sympathizing 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 travelers 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.




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 pomp. 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





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 savored 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 molds 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 GOD'S

DIRECTION! All our institutions are nothing unless we can trace them

to the inspiration and control of God.




            THE PATTERN OF THE ARK – (vs. 10-22)


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.


10 “And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a

half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof,

and a cubit and a half the height thereof." 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.



The Command to Build a Sanctuary (vs. 1-10)


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 (v. 8), and “mishkan,” or dwelling-place (tabernacle, v. 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 (v. 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 (compare I Chronicles

28:11-12, 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

(compare Revelation 21.). Consider:


  • THE MATERIALS OF THE TABERNACLE. These were ordered to

be collected before the work began. They were to be:


Ø      Costly and various — representing


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

o        the richest products of each, so far as accessible in the desert

(gold, silver, fine linen, dyed skins, precious stones, etc.);

o       all varieties of human skill.


The design was to make a palace for Jehovah: a beautiful and glorious



Ø      Abundant. There was to be no stint in the gifts. Profuse liberality

befitted the occasion. Grudging in our gifts to God betrays an unworthy



Ø      Free-will offerings (v. 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:


o        The people first offered themselves to God  (ch. 24:7), then

their gifts. This is the true order. Compare what is said of the Macedonian

believers (II Corinthians 8:1-6).


o        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.


o        God values only such gifts as come from a willing heart. He loves the

cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:7). He puts no value on giving of gifts

which are not cheerful.


o        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 labor 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. (Compare II 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.


o        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.


o        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

fulfillment of the obligation was left to the individual conscience. It was

not enforced by legal means. What was given had to be given freely.


  • 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.


Ø      Actually, the tabernacle was the place of Jehovah’s dwelling with His

people (v. 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 realization 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 (Psalm

132:13-14). He wishes to dwell with them. The history of revelation may

be viewed as but a series of steps towards the realization of this idea. The

steps are the following :


o        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 realization 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 realizations of the idea were



o        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 fullness of the Godhead

dwelt in Him (John 1:14; Colossians 1:15; 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 fullness already contained in Him (John 1:16). This

unfolding, however, is necessary, that the temple-idea may reach its

complete fulfillment. A third stage, accordingly, is;


o        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 (I 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 realized:


o        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 2:21-22). Realized 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. Compare Revelation 21:3 —

“The tabernacle of God is With men,” etc.


The idea of the Jewish tabernacle thus finds its fulfillment:


o       in the body of Christ;

o       in the body of the believer;

o       in the body of the Church.


Ø      Symbolically — the tabernacle figured out, in its structure, its contents,

and its arrangements, various spiritual truths.


o        On the ark and its symbolism, see next homily (v. 8 below)


o        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 shewbread and the lighted lamps, with the

incense from the golden altar, emblematized aspects of that calling.


o        The arrangements of the tabernacle had further in view the symbolizing

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. (Compare Hebrews 9:6-14; 10:19-20;

11:39-40; 12:23.)


11 "And thou shalt overlay it with  pure gold, within and without shalt

thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about." 

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 molding or edging round the top of the chest.


12 "And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the

four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it,

and two rings in the other side of it."  And thou shalt cast 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 II Samuel 6:1-7).  As Kalisch notes, “the smallness

 of the dimensions of the ark rendered its safe transportation, even with the rings

at its feet, not impossible. 


13 "And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold."

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.


14 "And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark,

that the ark may be born with them."  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; I Samuel 4:3; 7:1;

II Samuel 6:10, etc.); but in the desert it required to be moved each time that the

congregation changed its camping-ground.


15 "The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken

from it.  The staves, when once put 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 II Samuel 6:6-.7


16 “And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee."

This 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 31:26-27.) The main intention of the ark was to be a

repository in which the two tables should be laid up. 



The Ark of the Testimony (vs. 10-16; ch. 37:1-5)


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 virtuesare 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.


17 "And thou shalt make a mercy set of pure gold:  two cubits and a half

shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof."

And thou shalt make a mercy seat” - Modern exegesis has endeavored 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 Leviticus 16:2, and I Chronicles 28:11.

Atonement was made by sprinkling the blood of expiation upon it

(Leviticus 16:14-15) -   of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be

the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.”

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.   The length and breadth were exactly those of

the ark itself, which the mercy seat thus exactly covered (v. 10).


18 “ And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt

thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat."  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. Jud. 8:3, § 3). That they were winged figures appears from v. 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; 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. Of beaten

work shalt thou make them. Not cast, i.e., but hammered into shape

(Septuagint -  τορευτά - toreuta - . The word “cherub” is thought to be

derived from an Egyptian root, karabu, signifying “to hammer” (Speaker’s

Commentary, vol. 4. p. 207). In the two ends. Rather, “From the two ends”

i.e., “rising,” or, “standing up from the two ends.”


19 "And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the

other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the

two ends thereof.”  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 v.18 —

viz., min, “from.” The idea is that the figures rose from the two ends.


20 “And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the

mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward

the mercy seat shall the faces of the  cherubims be.”  Compare ch. 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.  “their faces” -  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. 


21 "And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark

thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee."  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 (v. 17), compared

with those of the ark (v. 10), would naturally have suggested the idea. In the ark

thou shalt put the testimony. This is a mere repetition of v. 16, marking the

special importance which attached to the provision.



                     He Maketh the Winds His Messengers


     His Ministers a Flame of Fire

                                                     (vs. 18-21)


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.




Ø      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), 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

(ch. 6.), 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.


Ø      That which is symbolized. 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!




Ø      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.” (I Kings 19:12)  If we regard

the mercy seat as typical of Christ (compare Romans 3:25), then we are

reminded of the mysterious relation which exists between Christ and nature

(Colossians 1:17; John 1:1, etc.).


Ø      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.




Ø      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

cognizance of this vigilant, sleepless, unconscious sentinel [compare Eugene

Aram’s dream – (which I found on the Internet – Very interesting – CY –

2017)]. It is “full of eyes within and behind.”  (Revelation 4:6)


Ø      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.


22 "And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above

the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the

testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the

children of Israel.”  The whole of the foregoing description has been subordinate

to this. In all the arrangements 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 ch.  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.


This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door

of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD: where I will meet you, to

speak there unto thee.  And there I will meet with the children of Israel,

and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory.  And I will sanctify the

tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron

and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office.  And I will dwell among

the children of Israel, and will be their God.  And they shall know that I am

the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that

I may dwell among them:  I am the LORD their God.”  (ch. 29:42-46)



            The Symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant (vs. 10-22)


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

either,  separately, as to its parts; or collectively, as to the bearing of its several

parts one upon the other.




Ø      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 on stone, and shrined in gold. It was fixed, unbending, unchangeable.


Ø      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 (Psalm 32:1;

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 (Leviticus 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.


Ø      The cherubim represented at once guardianship and worship. Doubtless

holy angels at all times guarded invisibly the ark, and especially the

testimonywhich 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 (I 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.



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, of Jesus Christ, which He accepts as

atonement.  Finally, the Divine presence, promised as a permanent thing,

gave God’s sanction to the expiatory scheme, (planned before the foundation

of the world – Revelation 13:8 – CY - 2010) whereby alone man can be

reconciled to Him, and the claims both of justice and of mercy satisfied. 

(Compare Romans 11:32)




The Mercy Seat and the Cherubim (vs. 17-22; ch. 37:6-9)


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 honored by

a heartfelt and properly corresponding obedience, then they must be

honored by a heartfelt repentance for transgression, an adequate

propitiation, and an honorable 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 Peter

phrases it when he speaks of things which the angels desire to look into.

(I Peter 1:12)  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,

carnal, and unsusceptible, He nevertheless called His own. Sinners may

be so changed, renewed, and energized as to be joined in the most

complete harmony of service even with the cherubim.




                        THE TABLE OF THE SHEWBREAD (vs. 23-30)


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:


  • A table, called the table of shew-bread (“bread of presence” or “bread of



  • A candelabrum, or lamp-stand; and


  • 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

            (v. 25), and the rings by which it was to be carried from place to place.


23 “Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be

the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the

height thereof."  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.


24"And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto 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

v. 11)  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 v. 11.)


25 And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about,

and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about."

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. (See the Speaker’s

Commentary, vol. 1. p. 363.) A golden crown to the border i.e., an

edging at the top of the bar, which could be only for ornament.


26 "And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four

corners that are on the four feet thereof."  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. Jud. 3:6, § 6.)



27 "Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear

the table.   28  And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay

them with gold, that the table may be born with them."   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 v. 12.) Of the staves. Rather, “for staves.”  Staves for

the table had not yet been mentioned; and naturally the word has no article.


29 "And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and

covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou

make them." The dishes thereof. Literally "its dishes,” or rather perhaps,

its bowls” (Septuagint - τρύβλια - trublia - ). 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 (Lepsius, Denkmaler, pt. 2, pls. 5, 19,

84, 129, etc.). Spoons thereof. Rather, “its incense cups” — small jars or

pots in which the incense, offered with the loaves (Leviticus 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” (Septuagint - σπονδεῖα καὶ κύαθοι - spondeia kai kuathoi - ) —

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.


30 "And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread 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

(Leviticus 24:5), which were to be renewed weekly on the sabbath-day

(ibid. v. 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 blessings 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 - artoi enopioi -

loaves that are face to face — Matthew by ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως - artoi taes

protheseos - loaves of setting-forth” — whence the Schaubrode of Luther, and

ourshewbread,” which is a paraphrase rather than a translation.




            The Symbolism of the Table of Shewbread (vs. 23-30)


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

(Leviticus 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 (ib, v. 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




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 shewbread, 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.



            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”  - (Hosea 14:2)  - 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

            sublimized 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.




            loaves were to be of the finest flour (Leviticus 24:5). The frankincense

            was to be “pure frankincense” (ib, v. 7). The table was to be overlaid

            with “pure gold” (ch. 26:24). All the utensils of the table were to

            be of the same (ib, v. 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 (Leviticus 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.




The Table of Shewbread (vs. 23-30; ch. 37:10-16)


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 symbolize 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 labor

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. (Psalm 104:27-29)  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.



                        THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK – (vs. 31-40)


Though the holy of holies was always dark, unless when lighted by the glory of

God (ch. 40:34-35), 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.


31 "And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work

shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his

bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same." 

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 (v. 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 v. 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 (v. 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

(v. 37). The remainder were of one piece with the candlestick.


32 "And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches

of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the

candlestick out of the other side:"  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.


33 "Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in

one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other

branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come

out of the candlestick."  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.


34 "And in the candlesticks shall be four bowls made like unto

almonds, with their knops and their flowers."  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


35 "And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a

knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two

branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed

out of the candlestick."  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.


36 "Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be

one beaten work of pure gold."  All it. Rather, “all of it.” Shall be one beaten

work. Compare v. 31


37 "And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light

the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it."  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 (ch. 27:21; 30:8; Leviticus

24:3, etc.), and burnt till morning, when the High Priest extinguished them

and “dressed” them (ch. 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.


38 "And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure

gold."  The tongs thereof. Tongs or pincers were required for

trimming the wicks of the lamps. Compare I Kings 7:49; II 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 ch. 27:23,

in the place of tongs, had not been invented, and were indeed unknown to

the ancients.


39 "Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels."

Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it. The candlestick,

with all its appurtenances, was to weigh exactly a talent of gold.


40 "And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was

shewed thee in the mount."  And look that thou make them after their pattern,

which was shewed thee in the mount.  Compare v. 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.





        What Must be Found with Every Soul that is God’s Dwelling-Place

     (vs. 10-40)


  • THE ARK (vs. 10-22). The place where the Lord meets and

communes with us.


Ø      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

honored as God’s testimony.


Ø      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.


Ø      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.





Ø      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.


Ø      God’s joy is to be found in us. The Lord’s portion is His people.


Ø      We are to be prepared and perfected for His presence, and to be for ever

before Him (v. 30).





Ø      It is made of pure gold, the only metal that loses nothing, though passed

through the fire and whose lustre is never tarnished.


Ø      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.



                        The Symbolism of the Candlestick (vs. 31-40)


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 shewbread 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:




            DOVE — WHO 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.”  (Habakkuk 1:13)





            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





            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” - (I 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.(James

            1:17) -  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 2:3-4; Revelation 4:5).





            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.” (I Corinthians 13:12) - But

            “His grace is sufficient for us.”  - (II Corinthians 12:9) - 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” - (I Peter 1:12).





            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.




The Ark, the Table, and the Candlestick (vs. 10-40


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 ch. 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.


  • THE ARK AND MERCY SEAT (vs. 10-23). This was the heart of

the sanctuary — the throne of Jehovah. As the nucleus of the whole

structure, it is described first.


Ø      The ark proper (vs. 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. 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 (v. 16)! The deposition of these tables in the ark,

underneath the mercy seat, had three ends.


o        They testified to the fact that God’s kingdom in Israel was founded on

immutable justice and righteousness (Psalm 89:15; 97:2). Even grace,

in its acting, must respect law. Favor 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” (ibid.). 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 (Psalm

85:10; Romans 3:21-27).


o        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.


o        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. (Compare Deuteronomy 31:26-27

 “Take this book of the law, and .put it in the side of the ark of the

covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness

against thee. For I know thy rebellion,” etc.)


Ø      The mercy seat (v. 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 (v. 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 (v. 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 favor.

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.


INTERCESSION, can God transact with sinners.


Ø      The cherubim (vs. 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 favor 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.” (Hist. of Redemption, p. 29.)

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 honor of His law, and deeply interested in the counsels of

His love (I 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 Psalm 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 (Psalm 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.


  • THE TABLE OF SHEW-BREAD (vs. 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 shewbread (v. 30; Leviticus 24:5-9),

with flagons for purposes of libation (v. 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:


Ø      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.  (John 6)  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).


Ø      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 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 shewbread. 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

(II Corinthians 5:15).


  • THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK (vs. 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 (ch. 27:20-21), 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 5:14-16; 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 gifts, say of knowledge or wisdom, than to let

their light burn in the sanctuary — in the service of God.




The Candlestick (vs. 31-40; ch. 37:17-24)


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. (the golden calf -

ch. 32)  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. (Matthew 5:14-16)  He who

is living so as to make Christ better known amid the spiritual darkness of the world

has surely learned the great lesson that God would teach to all ages by this

golden candlestick in His sanctuary of old.




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