|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:4-20 The Kohathites were to carry the holy things of the tabernacle. All the holy things were to be covered; not only for security and respect, but to keep them from being seen. This not only marked the reverence due to holy things, but the mystery of the things signified by those types, and the darkness of the dispensation. But now, through Christ, the case is altered, and we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace.
Verse 13. - Take away the ashes. This is omitted by the Septuagint. The Hebrew word for "ashes is of somewhat doubtful meaning, being only used here and in Exodus 27:3; Psalm 20:3 (see margin). Being connected with the word "fat," it may perhaps mean the grease or dripping from the burnt offerings. The Targum of Palestine renders it "cinders." As the altar was hollow, and was filled with earth or stones when used, there would be no need to cleanse it from ashes; if this be the meaning of the word, the command would rather have been to collect the living embers before the altar was removed, in order to keep alive the sacred fire. That this fire was never allowed to go out may be looked upon as certain.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon. Having cleared the holy of holies, and the holy place, they were to come forth from thence into the court of the tabernacle, where stood the altar of burnt offering, which is here meant, and on which sacrifices being daily burnt, there were always ashes to be removed; and which at this time was highly necessary to be done, when the tabernacle was taken down, and all belonging to it to be carried away; and though no mention is made of the fire, which was always burning on it, it was doubtless preserved, and care was taken for the carrying it along with the altar, or in a separate vessel from it. Bishop Patrick supposes it might be carried upon the grate.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13. shall take away the ashes from the altar, &c.—The necessity of removing ashes from the altar plainly implies that sacrifices were offered in the wilderness (compare Ex 18:12; 24:4), though that rebellious race seems frequently to have neglected the duty (Am 5:25). No mention is made of the sacred fire; but as, by divine command, it was to be kept constantly burning, it must have been transferred to some pan or brazier under the covering, and borne by the appointed carriers.
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