And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
See Exodus 40:17.
And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with the vail.
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.
The directions given in Leviticus 24:5-9 are here presupposed, and must have been issued before this chapter was written.
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.
And thou shalt set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and shalt put water therein.
And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang up the hanging at the court gate.
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.
Most holy - In Exodus 40:9 the tabernacle and its utensils are said to be rendered holy by the anointing; the altar and its utensils are in Exodus 40:10 said to be "most holy". The difference does not express a higher degree of holiness: it is only used as a caution. The position of the altar exposed it to the chance of being touched by the people when they assembled in the court, while they were not permitted to enter the tabernacle. The tabernacle itself, with all that belonged to it, is called most holy in Exodus 30:29.
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.
And thou shalt anoint the laver and his foot, and sanctify it.
And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water.
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.
And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats:
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.
Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he.
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 of the month - That is, on the first of the month Nisan Exodus 12:2; Exodus 13:4, one year, wanting fourteen days, after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. They had been nearly three months in reaching the foot of Mount Sinai Exodus 19:1; Moses had spent eighty days on the mountain Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28, and some time must be allowed for what is related in Exodus 24, as well as for the interval between the two periods which Moses spent on the mountain Exodus 33:1-23. The construction of the tabernacle and its furniture would thus appear to have occupied something less than half a year.
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.
And he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent above upon it; as the LORD commanded Moses.
The tent-cloth was spread over the tabernacle-cloth, and the covering of skins was put over the tent-cloth. See Exodus 26:1 note.
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 tables of stone with the Ten Commandments engraved on them Exodus 25:16; Exodus 31:18. Nothing else is said to have been put into the ark. These were found there by themselves in the time of Solomon 1 Kings 8:9; 2 Chronicles 5:10. The pot of manna was "laid up before the testimony" Exodus 16:34; Aaron's rod was also placed "before the testimony" Numbers 17:10; and the book of the law was put at "the side of the ark" Deuteronomy 31:26. The expression "before the testimony" appears to mean the space immediately in front of the ark. Most interpreters hold that the pot of manna and Aaron's rod were at first placed between the ark and the veil, and afterward within the ark Hebrews 9:4. It is very probable that the pot and the rod had been put into the ark before it was taken by the Philistines, but that they were not sent back with the ark and the tables. 1 Samuel 4:11; 1 Samuel 6:11.
And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail.
And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Moses performed these priestly functions (Exodus 28:1 note), before the holy things with which they were performed were anointed. The things had been made expressly for the service of Yahweh, by His command, and in this fact lay their essential sanctity, of which the anointing was only the seal and symbol. Aaron and his sons, on similar ground, having had the divine call, took part in the service of the sanctuary as soon as the work was completed Exodus 40:31. But Moses took part with them, and most likely took the lead, until they were consecrated and invested Leviticus 8 and publicly set apart for the office.
And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation, over against the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward.
And he lighted the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the vail:
Before the vail - That is, opposite to the ark, in the middle between the table of showbread on the North and the candlestick on the South.
And he burnt sweet incense thereon; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle.
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.
And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.
And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat:
When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the LORD commanded Moses.
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.
Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
On the distinction between the tent as the outer shelter and the tabernacle as the dwelling-place of Yahweh, which is very clear in these verses, see Exodus 26:1 note. The glory appeared as a light within and as a cloud on the outside.
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.
Compare the entrance of the high priest into the holy of holies on the day of atonement, Leviticus 16:2, Leviticus 16:13. For special appearances of this glory in the tabernacle, see Numbers 14:10; Numbers 16:19, Numbers 16:42.
The tabernacle, after it had accompanied the Israelites in their wanderings in the wilderness, was most probably first set up in the holy land at Gilgal Joshua 4:19; Joshua 5:10; Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6, Joshua 10:43. But before the death of Joshua, it was erected at Shiloh Joshua 18:1; Joshua 19:51. Here it remained as the national sanctuary throughout the time of the Judges Jos 18:8; Joshua 21:2; Joshua 22:19; Judges 18:31; Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 4:3. But its external construction was at this time somewhat changed, and doors, strictly so called, had taken the place of the entrance curtain 1 Samuel 3:15 : hence, it seems to have been sometimes called the temple 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3, the name by which the structure of Solomon was afterward commonly known. After the time of Eli it was removed to Nob in the canton of Benjamin, not far from Jerusalem 1 Samuel 21:1-9. From thence, in the time of David, it was removed to Gibeon 1 Chronicles 16:39; 1 Chronicles 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:3; 1 Kings 3:4; 1 Kings 9:2. It was brought from Gibeon to Jerusalem by Solomon 1 Kings 8:4. After this, it disappears from the narrative of Scripture. When the temple of Solomon was built, "the tabernacle of the tent" had entirely performed its work; it had protected the ark of the covenant during the migrations of the people until they were settled in the land, and the promise was fulfilled, that the Lord would choose out a place for Himself in which His name should be preserved and His service should be maintained Deuteronomy 12:14, Deuteronomy 12:21; Deuteronomy 14:24.
In accordance with its dignity as the most sacred object in the sanctuary, the original ark of the covenant constructed by Moses was preserved and transferred from the tabernacle to the temple. The golden altar, the candlestick and the showbread table were renewed by Solomon. They were subsequently renewed by Zerubbabel, and lastly by the Maccabees (see Exodus 25:23.) But the ark was preserved in the temple until Jerusalem was taken by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar 2 Chronicles 35:3; Jeremiah 3:16. It was never replaced in the second temple. According to a rabbinical tradition, its site was marked by a block of stone.
And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:
But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
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 house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.