THE COMMAND TO SET UP THE TABERNACLE, AND ITS PERFORMANCE.
All was now ready. Bezaleel and Aholiab had completed their task. The work for the tabernacle
had been given in, and had been approved Moses did not however at once set it up. He waited
for a command from God. After a short interval, the command came. He was ordered to select
the first day of the ensuing year — the first day of the first year of freedom — for the operation.
Directions were given him, which fixed the order in which the various parts were to be set up,
and assigned to the various articles of furniture their proper places (vs. 1-8). When he had
arranged the whole as directed, he was to anoint the various parts (vs. 9-11). He was then
to wash and dress Aaron, and his sons; to invest them with their robes of office (vs. 12-14),
and to anoint them to be priests (v.15). The orders given were executed, except (as it would
seem) those concerning the investiture of the priests and the anointing, which were deferred.
(See Leviticus 8:6-30.) In one day the sanctuary was completely set up (vs.18-33).
The Directions to Set Up the Tabernacle (vs. 1-8)
1 “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 On the first day of the first
month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.”
On the first day of the first month. The first of Abib, or Nisan, the “New Year’s Day”
day for the inauguration of a place of worship. The tabernacle was to be set up
first of all; then the tent was to be placed over it. See vs.18-19.
3 “And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the
ark with the vail.” And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony –
The first thing to be placed within the tabernacle was “the ark of the testimony”,
containing the foundation of the
covenant between God and
the special token of God’s presence with His people. See the comment on
ch. 25:10. The “two tables” were placed within the ark before it was brought
into the tabernacle (vs. 20-21) - and cover the ark with the veil. i.e., “hang up
the veil in front of the ark, so as to cover or conceal it.”
4 “And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are
to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light
the lamps thereof.” Thou shalt bring in the table — i.e., “the table of shewbread”
(see ch. 25:23-30; 37:10-16). And set in order the things, etc. It has been observed
with reason that the directions of Leviticus 24:5-7 must have been already given,
though not recorded till so much later. Bread and frankincense were to be “set in
order” on the table in a particular way. The candlestick. The seven branched
candelabrum (ch. 25:31-39; 37:17-24). And thou shalt light the lamps.
The lamps would have to be lighted on the first day at even (ch. 27:21; 30:8).
5 “And thou shalt set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the
testimony, and put the hanging of the door to the tabernacle.” The altar of gold.
See ch. 30:1-10; ch. 37:25-28. Before the ark of the testimony — i.e., “before the veil,
opposite the ark of the testimony,” not within the veil. See the comment on ch. 30:6.
The hanging of the door — i.e., “the curtain which closed the front or eastern end
of the tabernacle.” (See ch. 26:36; 36:37.)
6 “And thou shalt set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the
tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.” The altar of burnt-offering.
See ch. 27:1-8; ch. 38:1-7. Before the door of the tabernacle. In the court,
directly in front of the entrance, but not close to it, since the place of the
laver was between the entrance and the altar. See the next verse.
7 “And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the
altar, and shalt put water therein.” The laver. See ch. 30:18; ch. 38:8. This
verse tells us that it was made from “the looking glasses of the women
assembling......at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. Put water therein.
The water was required:
8 “And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang up the hanging
at the court gate.” The court. See ch. 27:9-18; ch. 38:9-20. The hanging at
the court gate — i.e., the curtain at the entrance of the court (ch. 27:16; ch. 38:18).
The Directions to Anoint the Tabernacle, the Vessels therein; the Altar of the
Burnt Offering, the Laver and its Foot, Aaron and His Sons (vs. 9-16)
It does not appear that these directions were carried out at this time. Probably, there
would not have been time to go through all the ceremonies enjoined (ch. 29:1-34) on
the same day with the erection of the sanctuary. They were consequently deferred,
either till the next day, or possibly to a later date. (See Leviticus 8.) The anointing of
the tabernacle is recorded in (ibid. v.10); of the vessels in v. 11; of the altar and
laver in the same. The washing of Aaron and his sons in v. 6; their investiture in
vs. 7-9; the anointing of Aaron in v. 12; and a further anointing of Aaron together
with his sons in v. 30.
9 “And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle,
and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it
shall be holy. 10 And thou shalt anoint the altar of the burnt offering, and
all his vessels, and sanctify the altar: and it shall be an altar most holy.” Not really
more holy than the rest of the tabernacle and its contents, which are all pronounced
“most holy” in ch. 30:29; but requiring more to have its holiness continually borne
in mind, since “it was more exposed to contact with the people” than the tabernacle
and its vessels.
The Altar Most Holy (v. 10)
There is a difference at once perceptible between the words of sanctifying
in v. 9, and the words of sanctifying in v. 10. Whereas the tabernacle
and all therein are declared as holy, a special sanctity is somehow attached
to the altar of burnt offering. “It shall be an altar most holy.” The
reasonable explanation of this is, not that there was any special sanctity in
the altar of burnt offering itself, but that from its exterior position it was in
great danger of being treated thoughtlessly, and therefore needed special
attention to be called to it. Hence we are led to note the existence of a
similar distinction among such things as we are bound to treat in a reverent
and careful manner. Certain persons, things, and places are of such a kind
as to be their own protection. Perhaps it is still true to some extent, though
doubtless it was much more felt in former times, that there is a divinity
which doth hedge a king. Men of coarse and scandalous tongues manage
to put a check on them selves in the presence of women and children.
Some are still alive who remember the horror and indignation excited by
the resurrection-men of fifty or sixty years ago, and how little watchhouses
were built in some churchyards, and men took it in turns to guard
by night the resting-places of their beloved dead. But those who would
shrink with loathing from the bare possibility that they could be guilty of
such desecration are nevertheless found treating great realities of holiness
with indifference, if not with contempt. Remember with what profaning
hands the Holy One of God was abused; He who spake concerning the
temple of His body; He who was holy, not by any mere association, not for
the purposes of some temporary economy, but essentially holy. Are there
not those who, thoughtless enough of all the evil they are doing, crucify the
Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame? (Hebrews 6:6.)
What a fearful outlook is indicated for those who tread underfoot the Son
of God, and count the blood of the covenant, wherewith they are
sanctified, an unholy thing, and do despite unto the spirit of grace!
(Hebrews 10:29.) The very same thing may in one way be hallowed,
and in another be desecrated. There is a great semblance of hallowing in
the huge family Bibles so often seen in English houses, rich, and not
unfrequently tawdry, in their binding and gilding; but after all they may
only be there as part of a reputation for respectability. The true hallowing
is in the dog’s-eared, well-worn book, poorly printed it may be, and on
common paper, and with that indefinable appearance about it which tells of
constant use. It is only too easy a thing to put superstition in the place of
an intelligent, diligent, profound, and practical reverence. Even Christians
are strangely negligent concerning the holiness inherent in them if they are
really born again. Very unobservant are they of the persistent references in
the New Testament to the holiness of a Christian’s personality. How much
is done, as a matter of course, that is inconsistent, yea, scarcely compatible
with being, indeed, a living sacrifice! (Romans 12:1)
11 “And thou shalt anoint the laver and his foot, and sanctify it. 12 And thou
shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the
congregation, and wash them with water.” Unto the door of the tabernacle —
i.e., to the place where the laver was situated (v. 7).
13 “And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and
sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. 14 And thou
shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats:” Coats. Rather, “tunics.” They
were to be “of fine linen, woven work” (ch.39:27).
15 “And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that
they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing
shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.”
And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father” - The mode of
anointing does not seem to have been identical in the two cases. The oil was first
poured upon Aaron’s head (Leviticus 8:12; Psalm 133:2), and afterwards sprinkled
upon him (Leviticus 8:30). It was, apparently, only sprinkled upon the priests (ibid.).
This was a lower form of anointing; and hence the high priest was sometimes called
“the anointed priest” (Leviticus 4:5,16; 6:22; 16:32) Their anointing shall surely be
an everlasting priesthood - as the anointing continued, the priesthood should continue.
16 Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him,
so did he.”
THE ACTUAL SETTING UP OF THE TABERNACLE (vs. 17-33)
17 “And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first
day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up.” On the first day the
tabernacle was reared up. Being constructed after the fashion of a tent, it was
quite possible to rear up and also to take down, the tabernacle in less than a day.
18 “And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up
the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up his pillars.”
Fastened his sockets. Rather, “placed its sockets.” The “sockets” or “bases” appear
to have been simply laid on the flat sand of the desert, not “fastened” to it in any
way. They were heavy masses of metal and would remain where they were placed.
His pillars. The pillars that supported the “veil,” and also those at the east end,
where the entrance was.
19 “And he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering
of the tent above upon it; as the LORD commanded Moses.” He spread
abroad the tent over the tabernacle. The entire distinctness of the tent (‘ohel)
from the tabernacle (mishkan) is here very strongly marked. The “tent” was
the goats’ hair covering, with the framework of wood that supported it.
The covering. The outer covering of rams’ skins and seals’ skins. (See ch. 26:14.)
20 “And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on
the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark:” The testimony — i.e.,
the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments (ch. 25:16; 31:18).
Set the staves on the ark. “Put the staves,” that is, “into the rings, and left them
there” (ch. 25:14). Put the mercy seat above upon the ark. See ibid. v. 21.
21 “And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the
covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded
Moses.” Set up the veil of the covering — i.e., hung the veil on the
four pillars between the holy place and the holy of holies, and thus covered
— i.e., concealed from sight, the ark of the testimony. (See the comment
on v. 3)
22 “And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the
tabernacle northward, without the veil.” Upon the side of the tabernacle
northward. Upon the right hand, as one faced the veil. No direction had been
given upon this point, but Moses probably knew the right position from the
pattern which he had seen upon the mount.
23 “And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD
had commanded Moses.” He set the bread in order upon it. Upon the subject
of this “order,” see Leviticus 24:6-8, and compare the comment on v. 4.
24 “And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation, over against
the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward.” Over against the table —
i.e., exactly opposite to the table, on the left as one faced the veil.
25 “And he lighted the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD commanded
Moses.” When evening came, he lighted the lamps. (See the comment on v. 4)
Whatever the priests ordinarily had to do was on this occasion done by Moses.
26 “And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the veil:
27 And he burnt sweet incense thereon; as the LORD commanded Moses.”
The golden altar, or “altar of incense,” was placed before the veil — i.e., outside it,
in the holy place, midway between the table of shewbread and the golden candlestick.
28 “And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle.”
He set up the hanging at the door. He hung on the five pillars at the entrance
to the tabernacle the “hanging” or curtain, which had been made for the purpose
29 “And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of
the tent of the congregation, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the
meat offering; as the LORD commanded Moses.” He put the altar of burnt
offering by the door of the tabernacle. See the comment on v. 6. And offered
upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering — i.e., in his priestly character
inaugurated the altar by offering upon it the first evening sacrifice. (See ch.29:38-41.)
30 “And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar,
and put water there, to wash withal.” He set the laver. As directed in v. 7.
For the position of the laver, see ch. 30:18.
(Left to right – altar – laver – tabernacle – source Wikipedia)
31 “And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet
thereat: 32 When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when
they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the LORD commanded Moses.”
Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands. This is not a part of the
narrative of what was done at this time, but a parenthetic statement of the purpose
to which the laver was subsequently applied. On the importance attached to these
ablutions, see ch. 30:20-21.
33 “And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar,
and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.”
He reared up the court, etc., as directed in v. 8. So Moses finished the work.
With the hanging of the curtain at the entrance to the court, the erection of the
tabernacle was complete. It was probably not till after this that Moses performed
the acts of worship mentioned in the course of the narrative:
The Erection of the Tabernacle (vs. 1-33)
At last the work of preparation was over. The work for which God had begun to give
instructions more than nine months previously (ch. 25:1) was completed. All the parts
of the structure, pillars, curtains, boards, sockets, bars, taches, hooks, pins; and all the
furniture, ark, altars, table, candlestick, laver, vessels, censers, tongs, ash-pans — were
finished and ready. All had been inspected by Moses, and approved (ch. 39:43); they
answered to the pattern which had been shown him in the mount (ch. 25:40). Still,
however, Moses waited until he received from God:
Ø The order for erection.
Ø Instructions as to details.
· THE ORDER FOR ERECTION. “On the first day of the first month
shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation” (v. 2).
The order included:
Ø The act. “Set up the tabernacle.”
Ø The agent. “Thou” — i.e., Moses.
Ø The time. “The first day of the first month.”
Concerning the act there is nothing to be said. It was implied in the first
order given, and lay at the root of every subsequent direction. The tabernacle
could only have been devised in order to be set up. But concerning the agent
and the time there was room for doubt. As to the agent: Bezaleel, the master
craftsman, might have been chosen to erect what he had constructed; or
Aaron might have been deputed to arrange the temple of which he was to be
chief minister; or Moses and Aaron and Bezaleel might have been constituted
a commission to carry out the work conjointly. But it pleased God to appoint
Moses alone. For every enterprise it is best to have one directing mind, one
ultimate authority. Otherwise there will be conflicting views, waste of time
and energy, and commonly an inharmonious result. And Moses, who had
alone seen “the pattern on the mount,” was beyond all doubt the fittest
director that could have been selected. As to the time: any day that was not
a Sabbath would have been fairly suitable; but there seems an especial
appropriateness in the selection of the first day of a new year. “To
everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the
heaven” - (Ecclesiastes 4:1). A new year should begin with a good work.
What better work for such a day than
the opening of a
God — a “tent of meeting,” where God Himself was to be met? God, who
is the first, should have the first. First fruits of all things should be given to
Him. Thus, New Year’s day is a natural holy day. It opens the year. It is
thus the most appropriate for openings.
observed. God determined the order. First, the tabernacle itself was to be
erected (v. 2); then the ark was to be brought in and placed in the holy of
holies (v. 3); then the veil was to be hung up (ibid.). After this the furniture
of the holy place was to be brought in — the table of shewbread (v. 4),
the candlestick (ibid.), and the altar of incense (v. 5). Next, the hanging at
the entrance to the tabernacle was to be put up (ibid.) Lastly, the outer court
and its furniture were to be taken in hand. The laver and altar of burnt
offering were to be set in their places (vs. 6, 7); the pillars and hangings
which enclosed the court were to be arranged, and the curtain hung at the
entrance to it (v. 8). The general law which pervades the whole is the
precedence of the more important over the less important. We do not
know what time intervened between the delivery of these instructions to
Moses and “the first day of the second year”; but probably the interval was
not long. Moses would employ it in selecting a site, and in preparing the
artificers and others for the day’s proceedings. When the appointed day
arrived, he applied himself to the work (v. 17). First, he stretched, by
means of cords and tent-pins, probably on a light wooden framework, the
tabernacle cloth of blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen
(Exodus 26:1-6). Then he laid down the “sockets” of silver in their
places, fitted the boards into them by means of their “tenons,” put in the
bars which kept the boards together, and reared up the pillars for the veil
(v. 18). After this he stretched the goats’-hair covering, which
constituted the tent, outside and above the tabernacle cloth, and placed
over the goats’-hair covering the rams’ skins and the seals’ skins (v. 19).
So much constituted the erection of the tabernacle proper. Next he
proceeded to the furniture; he brought in the ark and mercy seat, and,
having placed them in the holy of holies (v. 21), set up the vail; thus
completing it, and isolating it from the holy place. After this, he brought in
the furniture of the holy place — the table, the candlestick, and the golden
altar — and arranged it (vs. 22-26). He then, and not till then, according
to the direction given to him (v. 5), put up the hanging which separated
the tabernacle from the court (v. 28). Finally, he proceeded to set in
order the court. He put the altar of burnt offering and the laver into their
places (vs. 29-30), carried the hangings alongside the court’s four sides,
and arranged the curtain at the entrance (v. 33). So, with a minute
observance of the directions given, “Moses finished the work.” Note the
exactitude with which Moses followed all the directions given him,
together with the liberty which he claimed and exercised:
ü To determine the time of their execution.
ü To fill up particulars with respect to which no directions had
v Of the first, the deferring of the consecration by anointment of
the tabernacle and its furniture, and of the consecration of
Aaron and his sons (vs. 9-15), is the crucial instance. It has been
said that these may have taken place on the same day as the
erection of the tabernacle; but the mode in which the narrative
of the consecration is introduced in Leviticus 8:1-5, no less than
the separation of the narrative from that of the present chapter,
implies an interval between the two events. Probably, by the
time of the completion of the court, the day was far advanced,
and it would have been impossible to perform all the ceremonies
commanded (ch. 29:1-36) in the remaining space.
v Of the second, the emplacement of the table and the candlestick
(vs. 22, 24), the burning of incense (v. 27), and the offering
upon the altar of burnt offering (v. 29) are specimens.
The Erection of the Tabernacle (vs. 1-33)
Ø It reminded them of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage; “this
month shall be unto you the beginning of months” (ch. 12:2). God’s
dwelling-place is ever erected amid the adoring remembrance of His
redemption. “The love of Christ constraineth us.” (II Corinthians 5:14)
Ø It was a consecration of the year upon which they were entering. It
struck the key-note of the after time. The joy of the new year was to rise
into the greater joy of the new life. The joy which hallows all time is:
o that of reconciliation to,
o and union with, GOD!
Ø The tabernacle was first erected in which God was to be served. The
duty to serve God is confessed before the power is attained or the way
o The emblem of the law in its strength and weakness.
o The story of all the saved.
Ø The tabernacle is next furnished, and the altar and laver and outer court
set up. The means are given of reconciliation and service. It is not enough
to be convinced of duty. God must be waited upon for power. His way must
be taken. “..... other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid,
which is JESUS CHRIST!” (I Corinthians 3:11)
Ø All things are anointed with the holy oil. The spirit hallows and energizes
all the means of grace which God has given.
Ø The priests also are anointed; we, too, must be so in order to serve, and
we shall be if we come, as they did, into the midst of what God has
provided and sanctified for man’s redemption.
ITS IMMEDIATE USE. So soon as the shewbread table was placed, the
bread was set in order upon it. The lamps were immediately lighted. He
burnt sweet incense upon the altar before the veil. On the altar of sacrifice
he offered burnt offering and meat offering. At the laver “Moses and Aaron
and his sons washed their feet.” Belief should follow fast upon the heels of
knowledge. God has sent forth His salvation, not to be the subject of
intellectual interest and theological speculation, but to touch and change
the heart. The bread of life has been given to feed the perishing, not merely
to be examined, weighed, or analyzed.
The Tabernacle Set Up (vs. 1-33)
The sanctuary did not take long in making. When hearts are willing, gifts
liberal, and hands active, work is soon accomplished. Everything was ready
first day of the new year after leaving
inaugurated by the setting up of the finished dwelling. How suitable an
employment for the new year, to consecrate our hearts anew as dwelling
places for Jehovah! The section conveys lessons as to:
deliberation. “Set the bread in order” (vs. 4, 23). “Let all things be done
decently and in order” (I Corinthians 14:40).
was a beautiful house. Compare Isaiah 60:13).
consecrated it by anointing (vs. 9-12). Those who served in it were to be
holy. This is signified by the wearing of “holy garments” (v. 13), and by
washing in the laver (v. 31). Holiness becomes God’s house (Psalm 93:5).
His servants are to serve Him in “beauties of holiness” (Psalm 110:3).
the table, lighted the lamps, burnt incense, etc. He offered burnt offerings
and meat offerings on the altar (v. 39). The tabernacle was a picture Gospel.
The Sanctification of Material Things (vs. 18-33)
Objections are raised to the entire idea of a holiness in things. Holiness, it is said, being
a personal quality, cannot reside in things, or be communicated to them, or be rightly
predicated of them. God is holy; angels are holy; some men are holy; but nothing else.
To imagine a holiness in things is superstition. This is to effect a complete severance
of matter from spirit — to dig an abyss between them — to regard them as asymptotes,
which cannot ever touch one the other. But if God became incarnate, if “the Word was
made flesh” (John 1:14), then that matter which constituted the body of Christ, most
certainly became holy. And if that matter, why not other matter? Why not the food
which He “blessed and brake, and gave to His disciples”? Why not the drink which
He called “His blood”? If there is a contact between matter and spirit, and some
spirits are holy, then it is readily intelligible that the matter which comes into contact
with them may be, in a certain sense, holy also. And this is, beyond all doubt, the
language of the Scriptures. We hear of “holy ground” (ch. 3:5), “holy places” –
(ch. 26:33), “holy garments” (ch. 28:2), “holy oil” (ch. 30:31), “a holy perfume”
(ibid. v. 35). Things material may become holy in various ways:
joined for ever the Manhood to the Eternal Godhead, and so gave to His
own body an eternal sanctification of the highest possible kind, which
renders it most holy.
Christ, the crown of thorns, the nails, the soldier’s spear, the raiment, the
vesture, the napkin which was about His head when in the grave, became
hallowed by association with Him, and must ever be regarded by all
Christians as holy. If the garment shown
what it professes to be a garment once worn by Christ — it would well
deserve the name, by which it is commonly called, of the “holy shroud.”
As it is, we have no indisputable evidence of any existing piece of matter,
that it ever came into contact with our Lord’s blessed body; but, if we had,
any such piece of matter would be “holy.”
especially that buildings, garments, vessels, cloths, and the like, are “holy.”
They are intended for and serve a holy purpose — are employed in the
worship or service of Almighty God. It is felt on all hands that such things
ought to be set apart from secular uses, reserved for the sacred end to
which they have been designated, and applied to that only. Now, in cases
of this kind, it does not appear to be inappropriate that the designation
should be by a material act; and certainly no more significant act than
anointing with oil is possible. For oil is symbolical of the Holy Spirit; and
as it is by the Holy Spirit that individuals are sanctified, not only personally
but officially, so as to be media of grace to others, so it may well be
conceived that even inanimate things may become channels of grace and
blessing to men, through an effluence from the same Spirit. The Holy Spirit
does not disdain all contact with matter. At the beginning of creation he
“moved,” or rather brooded, “upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).
At the baptism of Jesus, the Spirit was seen “descending like a dove,
and lighting on Him” (Matthew 4:16). At Pentecost He showed Himself
in the form of “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3). In every consecration it is
quite possible that He may bear a part, though in general He shrouds
Himself, and does not let His presence be perceived.
The Two Finishings (v. 33)
“So Moses finished the work.” Compare ch. 39:32 — “Thus was all the
work of the tabernacle finished.” View the tabernacle as a type of the
spiritual house — the Church. This tabernacle is being made. A time is
coming when, in a more special sense, it will be reared, — the “day of
Christ” — the day of “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans
8:19. Compare Revelation 21:2-3).
LABORS IN CONNECTION WITH THE MAKING OF IT HAD
Ø The tabernacle was made with a view to its being reared. This was the
end. So the calling, saving, and perfecting of individuals for the kingdom of
God has always reference to their ultimate manifestation with Christ in
glory (Romans 8:17-26; II Corinthians 4:15-18; 5:1-11; Ephesians 5:25-28;
Philippians 1:6, 10; Colossians 3:1-4, etc.).
Ø The labors of making were entirely finished, before the rearing was begun.
The rearing was but the bringing into visibility of an already finished work.
o All the parts of the tabernacle were made.
o All the furniture of the tabernacle was made.
o The dress of the servants of the tabernacle was made.
Not till all this was done was the command given to rear. So the day of the
manifestation of believers will not arrive till all labors preparatory to the
setting up of the
Gospel preached through all the world (Matthew 24:14), the “elect”
(v. 31) gathered in, the last soul saved, believer’s; sanctified, every
“living stone” (I Peter 2:4) shaped and fashioned for the place it is
ultimately to occupy In the heavenly building, etc.
Ø These labors having been concluded, the rearing was proceeded with
without delay. The rearing included
o the putting of the parts of the tabernacle together.
o The arrangement of its furniture.
o The ordering of its service.
So, when once the preparatory labors in connection with the kingdom of
God have been finished, no time will be lost in setting it up in its final
glory. Christ will appear, and His people will appear with Him
(Colossians 3:4). He and they will be glorified together (Romans 8:17).
Ø The rearing of the tabernacle was the setting of it in visible glory before
the eyes of the Israelites. So will Christ come to be “glorified in His saints,
and admired in all them that believe” (II Thessalonians 1:10).
Ø The rearing of the tabernacle completed the preparation of it as a
sanctuary for Jehovah. The same will be true of the glorification of the
Church (Revelation 21:3-4).
o Christ admits us to be fellow-workers with Himself in the labors of His
Church. These are carried on by human agency (II Corinthians 6:1).
o He alone has to do with the glorification of His Church.
THAT NOTHING WAS WANTING TO ITS PERFECTION AS A
SANCTUARY. So will the glorification of the Church make manifest the
beauty, symmetry, completeness, and perfection of the spiritual structure.
It will be found to be “a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or
any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27); complete as a place of habitation for
Jehovah; a unity, and a perfect one.
THE DESCENT OF THE GLORY OF GOD ON THE COMPLETED WORK
The work was finished - the first incense burnt (v.27) — the first sacrifice offered
(v. 29). Those who had watched the proceedings, and those who had been engaged
in them, were probably about to retire to rest. Even Moses had withdrawn, and left the
tabernacle to itself — when suddenly, there was a manifestation of Divine Power.
The cloud, which had gone before the Israelites from Succoth onward (ch.13:20-22),
and which had recently settled upon the extemporized “Tent of Meeting” (ch. 33:9),
left its place, and “covered” the newly-erected structure externally (v. 34), while an
intensely brilliant light — here called “the glory of God” — filled the whole
interior of the tabernacle (ibid). Moses, it appears, would fain have reentered
the tabernacle — “to see the great sight” as in (ch. 3:3); but he could not — the
“glory” was too dazzling (v. 35). Thus a distinct approval was given to all that
had been done. God accepted His house, and entered it. The people saw that He
had foregone His wrath, and would be content henceforth to dwell among them and
journey with them. Henceforth, throughout the wanderings, the cloud and tabernacle
were inseparable. If the cloud was lifted a little off it and moved in front, the
tabernacle had to follow (v. 36) — if it settled down on the roof, the people stopped
and remained until it moved again (v. 37). The appearance was as of a cloud by day,
and as of fire by night, so that all could always see where the tabernacle was, and
whether it was stationary or in motion (v. 38). After the first descent, it would seem
that “the glory” withdrew into the Holy of Holies, so that both Moses and the
priests could enter the holy place, and minister there (Leviticus 8:10; 10:13).
34 “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of
the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Then a cloud. In the original “the cloud,” i.e.
the cloud so often spoken of (ch. 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 24; 19:9; 24:15-18; 33:9-10).
Covered the tent. Descended on the outer covering and rested there. Filled the
tabernacle. Entered inside, and filled both holy place and Holy of Holies.
35 “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.” Moses was not able to enter. It is implied that he wished —
nay, tried — to enter — but the “glory” prevented him. (Compare I Kings 8:11;
II Chronicles 5:14; 7:2.) Because the cloud abode thereon. It was not the external
“cloud” which prevented Moses from entering, but the internal “glory.” But the
two are regarded as inseparable.
36 “And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the
were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was
on it by night, in the sight of all the
journeys.” And when - i.e. “whensoever.” The last three verses describe the
manner in which the cloud henceforth served the Israelites as guide — not only
directing their course, but determining when they were to move, and how long t
hey were to rest at each encampment. For a further account of the same, see
Numbers 9:15-23 – The cloud… was upon the tabernacle by day and fire was
on it by night. The cloud had two aspects — one obscure, the other radiant.
It was a dark column by day — a pillar of fire by night. Thus it was always visible.
Compare ch. 13:21-22; and ch.14:20, 24. Numbers 9:15-16 says “And on the day
that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely,
the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it
were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was alway: the cloud
covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.”
The Symbols of God’s Presence (vs. 34-38)
PURE LIGHT. “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). “In Him
was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “In Him is no
darkness at all” (I John 1:5). With clear unclouded radiance He shines
on those who tread His heavenly courts, which need no other light besides
Him. “The city hath 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). With a radiance not much less bright, He looks
upon His saints on earth, cheering them, illumining their paths, making
them glad with the light of His countenance. He may veil Himself in
condescension to their infirmity; but the veil is translucent; it covers
without concealing; it tempers the brightness, but only as a thin haze
tempers the splendors of the glory of day.
MINGLED LIGHT AND CLOUD. To Abraham He appeared as “a
smoking furnace and a burning lamp” (Genesis 15:17); to the Israelites
at Sinai as combined smoke and fire (ch.19:18); to Solomon, dazzled by
His glory, He was still one who “dwelt in the thick darkness”
(I Kings 8:12). When Isaiah beheld Him sitting in His temple “the house
was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4); when Ezekiel “saw visions of
God,” he “looked and behold, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself.”
(Ezekiel 1:4 ) - Wherever the glory of the Lord is seen, wherever He looks
upon men with mercy and compassion, there His proper symbolism is light,
though it may be a light partially obscured and mingled with darkness. For
darkness symbolizes His anger; and in the case of His wayward children, He
cannot but be at once compassionate and angry; displeased, yet anxious to
forgive. Or the darkness may be the dense cloud of human ignorance which
the Divine light can only partially pierce through. Any way, the bulk of men
see God as a light amid smoke. “Clouds and darkness are round about
him” (Psalm 97:2) — “He makes darkness His secret place, His pavilion
round about Him with dark waters, and thick clouds to cover Him”
(Psalm 18:11). Fire flashes out of the clouds occasionally; gleams of
light stream forth; “at the brightness of His presence, His clouds remove”
(ibid. v.12), and He is seen to be man’s “TRUE LIGHT.”
This He is:
ü To agnostics — to them who know Him not, and refuse to believe
that He can be known;
ü To them who have never heard of Him, but have a dim unconscious
feeling that some infinite unknown being exists;
ü To them that have been taught to view Him as a remorseless,
revengeful being, without pity or mercy;
ü To them that, having known Him aright, have cast His words
behind their back, thrown off His authority, and placed themselves
in determined antagonism to His will and commandments. All is
dark in the future to such persons; and in the thought of God is “the
blackness of darkness for ever.” (Jude 1:13) Because they have not
chosen “to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to
a reprobate mind” – (Romans 1:28). They “put bitter for sweet,
and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20) - He, in whom is no darkness
at all, is to them mere darkness. The God of this world has
“blinded their eyes” that they cannot see; and, like a blind man,
looking at the sun, the darkness which is in their own vision they
ascribe to the object which their dim sight, fails to distinguish.,
God is “the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh
into the world (John 1:9). But if “the light that is within thee be
darkness HOW GREAT IS THAT DARKNESS!” (Matthew 6:23.)
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HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
Vers. 34-38. —
Indwelling and guidance.
I. GOD OWNS THE DWELLING-PLACE SET UP ACCORDING TO
HIS COMMANDMENTS. “Then the cloud,” etc. “And Moses was not
able to enter in,” etc.; it was claimed as his own and taken possession of by
1. The soul which comes by God’s way will be filled with God’s glory.
2. The Church which honours God he will glorify.
3. The full glory of the perfected Church, the bride of Christ.
II. WHERE THE LORD DWELLS HE GUIDES. When the cloud was
taken up they went onward; when it rested they rested.
1. He is our guide in our onward journey.
(1) In providence. We must make sure that we follow him. It will not avail
to choose our own way and then ask God to be with us. We are to follow
his leading, not he ours.
(2) In grace. We may be mourning departed joy. There may be no longer
the freshness and power we once felt in the ministration of the word, or in
prayer. We have been slumbering and loitering. We have not striven to
press through our sins and into fuller light. The cloud has lifted and gone
onward, and we must follow after. “This one thing I do.”
2. He is our guide into patience.
(1) He teaches us to bear and so to overcome.
(2) By the resting of faith to possess and to grow. — U.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Vers. 34-38. —
The house filled with glory.
The close of the book of Exodus is worthy of the greatness of its subject. It
ends where the history of the world will end, with the descent of Jehovah’s
dwell with men (<662103>Revelation 21:3). We have seen
bondage; have beheld its redemption; have followed it through the
wilderness; have heard the thunders of the law at Sinai; have been
witnesses of the nation’s covenant with God; have seen its shameful
apostasy; have traced the steps of its reconciliation; have heard the
instructions given for the building of this tabernacle; have viewed the
tabernacle itself. We see now the symbol of Jehovah’s glorious presence in
the midst of the people whom he has thus in so many ways made his own.
What a wondrous succession of subjects we have thus had before us in the
our review. The intolerable anguish of oppressed
of the deliverer; the singular providence of his early life; his great choice;
the call in
Midian; the revelation of the name; the return to
failures; the long and tragic contest with Pharaoh; the hardening of
heart; the exodus; the
law; the covenant; the “patterns” shown to Moses in the mount; the sin of
the calf; the great intercession; the name of mercy; the preparation of the
sanctuary. There remains to complete the series only this final scene of the
entrance of Jehovah’s glory into the house prepared for his habitation. This
was the true consecration of the sanctuary, and the true consecration of the
nation. “A cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the
Lord filled the tabernacle” (ver. 14). In what is related in these verses we
I. A THREEFOLD PRIVILEGE.
1. Indwelling. The filling of the tabernacle with the glory was the symbol of
taking up his abode in it, and so in
(1) to the completeness of his reconciliation with the people. Cf. <231201>Isaiah
12:1 — “O Lord, 1 will praise thee, though thou wast angry with me, thine
anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.”
(2) To his complacency in the beautiful house they had reared for him. Cf.
<19D214>Psalm 132:14 — “This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell; for I have
(3) To his desire to dwell among them. Note —
1. The true glory of the Church is God’s residence in her midst. This was
2. We should pray that the time may come when the Church shall be, not
only dwelt in by her Lord, but “filled” with the “glory” of his presence
2. Protection. The glory filled the tabernacle within, while the cloud spread
itself above the tent as a protective covering without. So is Jehovah the
protection of his Church (<230405>Isaiah 4:5, 6; <380205>Zechariah 2:5).
3. Guidance (vers. 36-38). See Homily on <021321>Exodus 13:21, 22.
II. A HINT OF IMPERFECTION. “Moses was not able to enter into the
tent of the congregation,” etc. (ver. 35). Thus are we reminded that, amidst
all these glorious circumstances, that which is perfect is not yet come.
1. Law, not gospel.
2. A material building, not a spiritual house.
3. Earth, not heaven. It was a glory
(1) too great for man to see. Even Moses, who had seen so much of the
Divine glory, was not able to look upon it.
(2) Too great for such a building — a mere material structure — to
contain. Man longs for nearer communion. So great a glory needs a better
house to contain it — a spiritual (<600205>1 Peter 2:5).
III. A FORECAST OF WHAT SHALL BE. That which is perfect is not
yet come, but it will come by-and-by.
1. The tabernacle of God will be with men, and he will dwell among them
(<662103>Revelation 21:3, 4). His glory will fill it. “The glory of God did lighten
it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (<662123>Revelation 21:23).
2. This glory will be no longer unapproachable. We shall be able to endure
the sight. “His servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face”
(<662203>Revelation 22:3, 4). We shall receive the Vision.
3. This, however, will only be when earthly conditions have been
exchanged for heavenly. “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and
this mortal must put on immortality” (<461553>1 Corinthians 15:53). Till that
hour arrives, we must be content to “walk by faith, not by sight” (<470507>2
Corinthians 5:7), seeing only “as through a glass darkly” (<461312>1 Corinthians
13:12). — J.O.