Exodus 27



                        THE ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERING – (vs. 1-8)


From the description of the tabernacle, or sacred tent in which worship was to be

offered by the priests, it followed in natural sequence, that directions should be

given concerning the court, or precinct, within which the tabernacle was to stand.

Ancient temples were almost universally surrounded by precincts, which the Greeks

called teme>nh, whereto a sacred character attached; and this was particularly the case

in Egypt, where the temenos seems to have been a regular adjunct to the temple

(Wilkinson in Rawlinson’s Heradotus, vol. 2. p. 202, 2nd edition). Among

the chief uses of such an open space, was the offering of victims on altars,

as these could not be conveniently consumed elsewhere than in the open

air, on account of the clouds of smoke and the fumes of the sacrifices. As

in the description of the tabernacle, the furniture was first described, then

the structure, so now the altar takes precedence of the court which was to

contain it.


vs. 1-8 – “And thou shalt make an altar” - Rather, the altar.” God had already

declared that He would have an altar made to Him in the place where He should

record His name” (ch. 20:24). And, even apart from this, an altar would be regarded

as so essential an element in Divine worship, that no place of worship could be

without one – “of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar

shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits.  And thou shalt

make the horns of it” - Literally, “its horns.” Horns were not usual adjuncts of

altars; indeed they seem to have been peculiar to those of the Israelites. They were

projections at the four top comers, probably not unlike the horns of bulls, whence

their name. Criminals clung to them when they took sanctuary (I Kings 1:50; 2:28);

and the blood of sin-offerings was smeared upon them (ch. 29:12; Leviticus 8:15;

9:9; 16:18-19). Victims also were sometimes, when about to be sacrificed, bound to

them (Psalm 118:27). According to Kalisch, “The horns were symbolical of power,

of protection and help; and at the same time of glory and salvation.” – “upon the

four corners thereof:  his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it

with brass.  And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels,

and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans” - the vessels used for

carrying burning embers from the altar of burnt-offering, to the altar of incense on

certain occasions (Leviticus 16:12). Etymologically, it means simply “a receptacle’’

-  “all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass.   And thou shalt make for it

a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings

in the four corners thereof.  And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar

beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar.  And thou shalt make

staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass.   And

the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides

of the altar, to bear it.” - As the altar was of bronze, so the rings were to be of

bronze, and the staves overlaid with bronze. There is a gradual descent in the

preciousness of the materials from the holy of holies to the holy place, and from

that to the court.  Hollow with boards shalt thou make it: as it was shewed

thee in the mount, so shall they make it.”



                        THE SYMBOLISM OF THE BRAZEN ALTAR


The noticeable points of this altar are its position, material, ornaments, and

purpose or use:




ü      It was without the sanctuary, that none might venture inside the

      holy structure, and so draw nigh to God without passing it, and

      obtaining from it the purification which it could confer. Even if the

      priests on the way to the tabernacle did not always stop at the altar

      to offer a victim as a sacrifice, they would have the thought of the

      need of expiation brought home to them by the sight of it, and might as  

      they passed propitiate the Most High by the offering of a prayer. The    

      position of the altar taught that man’s first need is to have his sins and   

      impurities purged away; and that until this is done, he must not presume

      to worship God, or enter into His presence, or offer the sacrifice of

      praise, or mingle in the company of those who form “the general         

      assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven.”

      (Hebrews 12:23)


ü      It was under the open canopy of heaven, visible to all, accessible to all,

                        for all Israel might enter the court; thereby teaching, that the necessary

                        purification was intended by God to be open to all, and that His eye                              

                        looked down from heaven with favor upon all who desired to be purged                                   

                        from their impurities, and were willing to accept the appointed mode of                         



ü      It was directly in front of the sanctuary, and so of the ark and the

                        mercy-seat. By this position it pointed to them, led the eye towards

                        them, reminded men of them. With God, in the holy of holies, was at

                        once justice, and also mercy — the law and the mercy-seat. Here, at

                        the altar, was the place where the two could be reconciled, where

                        mercy and truth might meet together, righteousness and peace

                        kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10) - Here was to be begun that purging,

                        both of the nation and of individuals, which was only complete when

                        once in the year the high priest entered into the holiest, with the blood

                        of the sin-offerings, and sprinkled it on the horns of the altar that was                            

                        within the veil ( ch. 30:10), and “on the mercy-seat eastward” -                                            

                        (Leviticus 16:14), so atoning both for himself and for the sins of the                               

                        people (Hebrews 9:7).


  • ITS MATERIAL. The material was:


ü      Shittim, or acacia, the most incorruptible of woods, typified the

      purity required in all that is set apart for God.


ü      Bronze, the metal most common in the use of the time, indicated that

                        the altar was for every-day employment by the mass of the people

                        (Leviticus chps. 1-7.).


ü      Earth; the earth alone constituting the true altar (ch. 20:24), and the

                        wood and metal a casing, by means of which the earth was kept

                        together.  Earth, pure fragrant mold, that of which man was formed at

                        the first (Genesis 2:7), and into which he is resolved at the last

                        (Genesis 3:19), may well have represented humanity; so that in the

                        altar, which God had required to be made of earth (ch. 20:24), He

                        saw Humanity making its offerings to Him, — peace-offerings in                                               

                        thankfulness for His mercies, sin-offerings in deprecation of His

                        anger, burnt-offerings in complete dedication of the whole being to

                        His service. Or the mold may primarily have represented this earth, on                          

                        which we live, whereof it is the essence as being the life-sustaining                                 

                        portion, and only secondarily man, for whom the earth was brought into                                    

                        existence, and of which he is the master.


  • ITS ORNAMENTS. These were:


ü      Perhaps, its cincture;  The cincture, or “compass” (v. 5), if it was

      wholly for ornament, may simply have indicated the propriety of

      adorning and beautifying everything which is brought into the service

      of the sanctuary. Without some wreath, or molding, where the grating   

      began, the altar would have had a bare and unfinished look. It would

      have been wanting in elegance and beauty. The pattern shown to Moses

      in the mount did not allow of this. It left nothing bare, unsightly,

      inelegant, out of taste. God chose to be worshipped “in the

                        beauty of holiness.” It is easy to disparage beauty; and certainly

                        beauty alone, not accompanied by purity and goodness, is worthless,

                        vain, trivial.  But, as men desire beauty in their own houses, furniture,                            

                        utensils, vessels, implements, so natural piety leads them to desire

                        even greater beauty for the houses, vessels, etc., used in the service of                          

                        God.The house,” said David, “that is to be builded for the Lord,

                        must be exceedingly magnifical (I Chronicles 22:5). And congruity                         

                        requires that, if a house be magnifical, all its contents, down to the                                             

                        meanest vessel, should possess some beauty; otherwise, the law of                                           

                        harmony is broken — a discord manifests itself.


ü      Certainly, its horns.  The horns at the four corners, up-rearing

      themselves to heaven, and showing conspicuously, as symbols of

      power and strength, spoke of the God to whom the altar was reared,

      and indicated His ability to help, protect, and succor His worshippers.

      But there was also a human side to their symbolism. They further          

      indicated the victory which man gains over death and Satan by means

      of expiation, the height to which he is exalted when the atonement

      made for him cleanses him from all sin. “O death, where is thy sting?

      O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the  

      strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who giveth us the

                        victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (I Corinthians 15:55-57)


  • ITS PURPOSE. We have assumed throughout that the purpose of the

            altar — its main purpose — was expiation. Its proper title was “the altar of

            burnt-offering.” All offerings, except those which the high priest offered at

            the altar of incense in the holy of holies, were to be made at this brazen

            altar before the door of the tabernacle. Hither were the Israelites to bring

            alike their peace or thank-offerings, their burnt-offerings, and their sin-

            offerings.  Expiation was the sole idea of the last of these, and a main idea

            of the second; it was absent only from the first. Thus it was the

            predominant idea of sacrifice. The altar witnessed to the guilt of man in

            God’s sight, and the need of an atonement being made for him before he

            could be reconciled to “the High and Holy One.” It witnessed also to

            God’s eternal purpose, that a way of reconciliation should be devised, and

            made known to man, and that thus it should be put into his power to make

            his peace with God. (A purpose before the world was made – Revelation 13:8)

            The true victim was not indeed as yet offered. Bulls and goats, lambs and rams,            

            could never of themselves, or of their own proper force, sanctify the unclean or

            take away sin. (Hebrews 9:12) - It was only by virtue of the death which their   

            sacrifice prefigured, that they had any atoning force, or could be accepted by

            God as expiatory. Each victim represented Christ — the one and only

            sacrifice for sin which could propitiate the Father. And the altar therefore            

            represented and typified the cross on which Christ died, offering Himself

            thereon to the Father as both priest and victim. Shape and material were

            different, and the mode of death was different; but each was the material           

            substance on which the atoning victim died, each was stained

            with the atoning blood; and each was unspeakably precious to the

            trembling penitent who felt his need of pardon, and, if possible, even more

            precious to him who knew that atonement had thereon been made for him,

            and felt his pardon sealed. No true Israelite would sacrifice on any altar but

            that of the sanctuary. No true Christian will look for pardon and atonement

            anywhere but to the cross of Christ, and to Him who on that altar gave

            His life for man!



            THE COURT BEFORE THE TABERNACLE – (vs. 9-18)


The description of the altar is (as already observed) naturally followed by that

of the court which was to contain it, and in which it was to be the most

conspicuous object. This is given with great clearness in ten verses, and

presents scarcely any problem for solution. The court was an oblong

square, three hundred feet in length and seventy-five in breadth. It was

enclosed by curtains, hung on sixty pillars, placed at intervals of seven feet

and a half apart. The pillars were connected by rods, and each of them

fitted into a socket. There was but one entrance, which was at the eastern

side, midway in it. It was thirty feet wide, and had its own curtains and its

own pillars. These curtains were of similar material with those at the

entrance to the tabernacle, but the hangings round the rest of the court

were merely of fine white linen.


vs. 9-18 – “And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side

southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an

hundred cubits long for one side:  And the twenty pillars thereof and their

twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be

of silver.  And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of

an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass;

the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.  And for the breadth of the

court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and

their sockets ten.  And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward” –

Rather, “in front toward the east.” The Rabbinical tradition was that Adam found

himself on his creation fronting towards the east, and had consequently the

south on his right, the north on his left, and the west behind him. Hence,

they said, the four cardinal points received the names of kedem, “in front”

(the east); yamin, “the right hand” (the south); akhor, “behind” (the west);

and shemol, “the left hand” (the north). For this use of all four words, see

Job 23:8-9 – “shall be fifty cubits.  The hangings of one side of the gate shall

be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.  And on the other

side shall be hangings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.

 And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and

purple, and scarlet” - This was a hanging of similar material, colors, and

workmanship to that which hung in front of the tabernacle (ch. 26:36). By its

contrast with the white linen screen which surrounded the rest of the court, it would

show very clearly where men were to enter –  “and fine twined linen, wrought

with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.

 All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks

shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass.  The length of the court shall be

an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five

cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass.”




                        THE COURT OF THE TABERNACLE


  • THE USE OF THE COURT. The court was primarily a precinct

            inclosing the sacred structure, and preserving it from contact with the

            roughnesses of the rude world without. It formed a sort of vestibule to the

            tent-temple, which awoke solemn thoughts, and gave men time to put

            away secular considerations, and attune their minds to the Divine

            harmonies, before entering the house itself, which contained the

            manifestation of the Divine presence. God must be approached with

            preparation, humbly, reverently, tremblingly. The court at once preserved

            the sacred structure from accidental or intentional profanation, and helped

            to prepare the priests for the duties of their office. Secondly, the court was

            the place of sacrifice. It contained the brazen altar, whither all Israel was to

            bring their gifts. Here were offered, at once all the stated sacrifices, daily,

            or weekly, or monthly, or yearly, and all the irregular and voluntary

            offerings which the piety of the Israelites induced them to bring in. The

            smoke of victims continually ascended from it to heaven. Here was the

            place for expiation — for thankfulness — for self-dedication to the service

            of God.



            were all Israel — young and old, rich and poor, great and small, priests and

            laymen. Into the holy of holies none but the high priest, into the holy place

            none but the priests might enter. But the court was common to the

            priesthood with the laity. Hither came, to “the door of the tabernacle of the

            congregation,” every pious Israelite who was minded to offer a sacrifice of

            any kind — whose heart swelled with gratitude for mercies received, and

            who therefore brought a “thank-offering” — whose soul was weighed

            down with the sense of sin, and who sought relief by the sacrifice of a   

            “sin-offering” - whose awakened spirit told him that unless the soul wholly

            rests on God there is no peace for it, and who, as a sign of absolute self-          

            dedication, came to offer a “burnt-offering.” Hither came many a man, and

            many a woman, like Hannah (I Samuel 1:7-11), in sore trouble, and

            offered to the Lord Almighty their vows. Whatever may have been the

            practice with respect to the temple, while the tabernacle endured, the

            whole congregation had free access to it. Here they felt themselves to be

            that “kingdom of priests” — that “holy nation” which God had declared

            that they should be (ch. 19:6). Here they realized, at any rate to

            some extent, that blessing which is among the greatest of the Christian’s

            privileges-the right to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews

            4:16) — to “draw near to God,” without an earthly mediator, “in full

            assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22) — to “cast all our care upon Him”

            to have direct communion with Him — to speak with Him, “as a man

            speaks with his friend.” (ch. 33:11)




            REST OF THE TABERNACLE. There was clearly a gradation in holiness.

            The inner shrine had a sanctity peculiar to itself, expressed by the very

            name, “holy of holies.” Here was the greatest beauty and the greatest

            magnificence. Walls entirely of gold, curtains of cunning work, interwoven

            with the graceful forms of cherubim, furniture all covered with gold,

            golden cherubs of beaten work upon the mercy-seat — above all, the glory

            of God showing in the space between these figures. A lesser degree of

            sanctity belonged to the outer chamber — “the holy place;” and this was

            indicated by inferior richness and magnificence. Though gold was still the

            metal chiefly used, silver, and even bronze (ch. 26:37), were

            introduced. The outer curtain was not wrought with cherubim (v. 36).

            The change was even greater between the “holy place” and the court. In

            the court was no gold, but only silver and bronze. The “hangings” were for

            the most part plain. Only at the entrance did the eye rest upon the mingled

            glory of blue and purple and scarlet, and upon the cunning work of

            embroidery. The furniture and utensils were of bronze only. Again, the

            gradation was marked by the law of admission: into the court, all the

            congregation; into the “holy place,” the priests only; into the “holy of

            holies,” none but the high priest. And thus it will be always, as we are

            nearer to God or further from Him. If we dwell only in His courts, on the

            outer verge of His kingdom, we must be content with the bronze and plain

            linen of bare acceptance; we must not expect favor, glory, beauty. If, on

            the other hand, we press forward from His courts into His sanctuary; if we

            strive ever to advance in holiness, then He has better things in store for us.

            For brass He will give gold” (Isaiah 60:17), for acceptance, approval

            for mere pardon, communion and fellowship; and to such as press into

            the inner shrine, with the “boldness” that is now legitimate “Having

            therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood

            of Jesus” - (Hebrews 10:19), He will reveal Himself in the full splendor of

            His majesty, and in the perfect glow of His love.



                        THE VESSELS OF THE TABERNACLE - (v. 19)


There were many “vessels of the tabernacle” which have not hitherto been mentioned,

as the great laver in the court (chps. 30:18; 40:30) with the basins for washing which must

have belonged to it; the pins or pegs whereby the various curtains were extended and

supported; and probably much sacrificial apparatus besides what is enumerated in

v. 3.  All these were to be of bronze, the commonest metal of the time, but one very

suitable for the various purposes, being, as the Egyptians manufactured it, of great

hardness, yet exceedingly ductile and ready to take all shapes. Its usefulness and

convenience caused it to retain its place, even in the gorgeous and “magnificent”

temple of Solomon (I Chronicles 29:2, 7), where it was employed for the two

great pillars, Jachin and Boaz, for the great laver or “brazen sea,” for the mailer

layers upon wheels, for the pots, the shovels, the basins, the snuffers, the spoons,

and many other sacred vessels (I Kings 7:15-45; II  Kings 25:13-14). Though

common,” it was never reckoned “unclean,” or less fitted for the service of the

sanctuary than silver or gold. It had, however, its own proper place, an inferior

place to that held by the more precious metals.


v. 19 – “All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all

the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass.”



                        THE OIL FOR THE LAMP – (vs. 20-21)


It has been observed that this paragraph is somewhat out of place. It would more

appropriately, according to human ideas, have terminated ch. 25. But “God’s ways

are not as man’s ways, nor his thoughts as man’s thoughts.”  - (Isaiah 55:8) –

It is frequently difficult — some-times impossible — for the keenest human intellect to

trace the connecting links between one portion of God’s word and the next. In such

cases it is best not to speculate on the nature of the connection, but to content

ourselves with laying to heart the lesson which each portion teaches separately.


vs. 20-21 – “And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring

thee pure oil olive beaten for the light” - Compare ch.  25:6, where the

general command had been given. Here certain additions are made as to the

quality of the oil which was to be brought. The oil was to be “pure olive oil

beatenthat is to say, it was to be olive oil purified from any admixture of

that watery juice which the Romans called amurca; and it was to be of the

kind which is obtained by mere beating or pounding in a mortar, and not by

crushing in a mill. Oil of this kind, which is usually made from the unripe

fruit, is reckoned much the best; it is clear and colorless, and gives a

bright pure light with little smoke – “to cause the lamp to burn always.”

It has been supposed from this expression that the lamp must have been kept

constantly burning both day and night; and Josephus declares that this was

actually so, at least with three out of the seven lights (Ant. Jud. 3:7, 7). But

there are several places m Scripture which state, or imply, the contrary.

(See especially ch. 30:8; and I Samuel 3:3.) It seems to have been the duty of the

high-priest to light the lamps every evening, and to give them a sufficient supply

of oil to last till daybreak, at which time “the lamp of God went out” (I Samuel l.s.c.)

The supposition that “one light at least was always burning” (Kalisch), because no daylight

could penetrate into the structure through the fourfold covering, ignores the

fact that light would enter through the single curtain at the entrance, as well as the

probability that some portion of that curtain may generally have been looped up.

If we regard the lamp as extinguished during the daytime, we must understand

always here to mean “regularly every night.” - “In the tabernacle of the

congregation” - Rather, “the tent of meeting” — the tent where God would meet

the earthly ruler of the people (ch. 25:22), and give him commands and directions —

not the place of meeting for the people themselves, who might in no case go

beyond the entrance to the structure – “without the vail, which is before the

testimony” – (the two tables of stone “written with the finger of God)  “Aaron

and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be

a statute for ever (This expression is not at all common.  In Exodus it occurs only

here and in four other places. In Leviticus it is met with some six or seven times. The

portions of the law thus characterized must be regarded as of special importance)

unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.”



                                    OIL FOR THE LAMP




ü      The people were to bring the oil regularly — to attend to what may

                        have seemed to them a little matter, but what was in God’s sight of

                        such importance that He made it “a statute for ever” — and to attend

                        to it with such regularity that oil should never be lacking.


ü      They were to bring of their best. The oil was to be from the olive —

                        not from the sesame plant, or the castor-oil plant, or the Raphanus

                        olifer, or from any vegetable which furnished oil of a coarse kind. It

                        was to be “pure,” not adulterated, as oils often were in Egypt (Plin.

                        H.N 13:1), and not mixed with the amurca, or watery juice of the

                        olive, which made it unfit for burning. Next, it was to be “beaten oil”

                         oil made with extra trouble by careful pounding with the hand, instead

                        of rough mechanical crushing in mills.


ü      THE PRIESTS’ DUTY. The priests were perpetually to trim and tend

                        the lamps. Daily, at even, they were to light them; daily, in the morning,

                        they were to extinguish them, if any were still alight; to trim the wicks;

                        to cleanse the bowls which held the oil; and to replenish them with a                              

                        proper supply. They were to lake every care that a pure light was                                             

                        constantly maintained night after night, so that the house of God should                          

                        never be dark, or even obscure, but be ever ready for worship, ever                             

                        illumined, ever prepared for any visitation of its Lord, who might come

                        at the third, or the sixth, or the ninth, or the twelfth hour. It does not                              

                        appear that there were any night services in the tabernacle; but the

                        lighted lamp was a testimony that the Church continued ever on the

                        watch, strove ever to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) —

                        like the wise virgins, “kept its lamp burning.” (Matthew 25:1-13)

                        And this is the duty of ministers at all times. The Christian ministry

                        must take care that the light of the Church shines pure and bright

                        continually — that nothing dims it — that it glows ever as a beacon

                        light, a guide and a help amid the storms and tempests of the world.

                        If the people do not bring a due supply of oil — i.e., of loving, faithful                           

                        service — the Church must suffer, its light be dimmed. If the people

                        do their duty, and the ministers fail, if they are careless, or slothful, or

                        self-seeking, or worldly, or wanting in faith, the result is the same —

                        the flame flickers; the light sinks and threatens to go out; GROSS

                        DARKNESS  settles down upon the people. A Church in this

                        condition must expect to have its candlestick removed, unless it                                        

                        repents, and bestirs itself, and turns to God, and “does the first

                        works (Revelation 2:5), and “strengthens the things that

                        remain and are ready to die” (Revelation 3:2).


ü      THE TRUE LIGHT. After all, let ministers and people be as faithful

                        as they will, let them “keep their lamps burning,” and cause “their

                        light to shine before men” (Matthew 5:16) ever so brightly, still they

                        are not, they will never be, “the true light.” Christ  is “the true light” —                                 

                        the light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth

                        it not” — “the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the                                   

                        world (John 1:4-9). In Him are “hid all the treasures of wisdom

                        and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3) - nothing needful for man to know

                        but He has taught it — nothing expedient for man to see but He has                              

                        revealed it. “His word is a lantern unto our feet, and a light unto

                        our paths.” (Psalm 119:105) - He is both an outward and an inward

                        light. His gospel illumines the world without — penetrates its dark                                   

                        places, exposes its unholy doings, throws a flood of light upon the

                        past, makes plain to us the ways of God with man. And His Spirit                                    

                        illumines the soul within, quickens and guides the conscience,

                        makes our own way plain before our face, “enables with

                        perpetual light the dulness of our blinded sight.” He is the only true                                  

                        light of the world” — the light which will endure throughout all

                        time — the one Teacher who cannot deceive, the one Guide who

                        cannot lead astray! And He is the light of the world to come.

                        “In Him is the well of life; and in his light shall we see light”                                            

                        (Psalm 36:9). The “holy city, New Jerusalem,” has therefore

                        no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it,”

                        because “the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is

                        the light thereof.”  (Revelation 21:23)




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