Exodus 26
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chapters 25–31

We come now to the long section of P, which contains the instructions stated to have been given by God to Moses on the mount for the construction and equipment of a sanctuary, and for the vestments and consecration of a priesthood. These instructions fall into two parts: (1) chs. 25–29; (2) chs. 30–31. The instructions contained in chs. 25–29 relate to (a) the vessels of the sanctuary, viz. the ark, the table of Presence-bread, and the candlestick,—named naturally first, as being of primary interest and importance (ch. 25); (b) the curtains, and wooden framework supporting them, to contain and guard the sacred vessels (ch. 26); (c) the court round the Sanctuary, and the Altar of Burnt offering, standing in it (ch. 27); (d) the vestments (ch. 28) and the consecration (ch. 29) of the priests who are to serve in the sanctuary (Exodus 29:1-37); (e) the daily burnt-offering, the maintenance of which is a primary duty of the priesthood (Exodus 29:38-42), followed by what is apparently the final close of the whole body of instructions, Exodus 29:43-46, in which Jehovah promises that He will bless the sanctuary thus established with His presence. Chs. 30–31 relate to (a) the Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:1-10); (b) the monetary contributions for the maintenance of public service (Exodus 30:11-16); (c) the Bronze Laver (Exodus 30:17-21); (d) the holy Anointing Oil (Exodus 30:22-33); (e) the Incense (Exodus 30:34-38); (f) the nomination of two skilled artificers, Bezal’el and Oholiab, to make the sanctuary and its appurtenances Exodus 31:1-11); (g) the observance of the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17).

The principal names of what we—adopting a rendering based upon Jerome’s tabernaculum (i.e. ‘tent’)—commonly call the ‘Tabernacle’ are the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 27:21), the Tent where God ‘met’ and talked with Moses; the Tent; the Tent of the Witness or Testimony, i.e. (see on Exodus 25:16) the Tent containing the Ark, in which were deposited the two tables of the Decalogue; the Dwelling (Exodus 25:9 al.), the Dwelling of Jehovah (Numbers 16:9 al.), or the Dwelling of the Testimony (Exodus 38:21 al.); and the Sanctuary (see on Exodus 25:8). The first two these designations are found in both JE and P; the others are used exclusively by P. If the passages in which E and J speak of the ‘Tent of Meeting’ or the ‘Tent’—viz. Exodus 33:7-11, Numbers 11:16 f., 24, 26, Exodus 12:5; Exodus 12:10, Deuteronomy 31:14 f.—are read carefully, it will be found that the representation which they give of it differs in several respects very materially from that given by P. In E the Tent of Meeting is outside the camp (Exodus 33:7, Numbers 11:26 f., cf. v. 30, Exodus 12:4 : on Numbers 14:44, see p. 428); it is guarded by one attendant, Joshua, who never leaves it Exodus 33:11; cf. Numbers 11:28); though it had probably some decoration (cf. on Exodus 33:6), it was obviously a much simpler, less ornate structure than that described by P; Moses used to go out to it, and enter into it speak with God, and the pillar of cloud then descended, and stood at the entrance of the Tent, and Jehovah spoke to him from it (Exodus 33:8-11; cf. Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:25; Numbers 12:5; Numbers 12:10, Deuteronomy 31:14 f.); on the march also, the ark precedes the host, to seek out a camping-place for it (Numbers 10:33). In P, on the contrary, the Tent of Meeting is in the centre of the camp, with the Levites around it on the west, south, and north, and Aaron and his sons on the east, and the other tribes, three on each side, outside them (Numbers 2; Numbers 3:23; Numbers 3:29; Numbers 3:35; Numbers 3:38); it is served by Aaron and his sons, and a large body of Levites (in Numbers 4:48, 8580); it is a highly decorated, costly structure (chs. 25–27); the cloud (which is not in P spoken of as a ‘pillar’), instead of descending from time to time, as occasion requires, to the entrance of the Tent, that Jehovah may speak with Moses, rests upon the Tent always, when the camp is stationary (Exodus 40:35-38, Numbers 9:15-23), and Jehovah, instead of speaking to Moses at its ‘entrance,’ speaks to him from between the cherubim above the ark (Exodus 25:22, Numbers 7:89); on the march, also, the ark, borne, covered up, by the Kohathites, with the other sacred vessels, is in the centre of the long procession of Israelites, six tribes preceding it, and six following it (Numbers 2:17; Numbers 3:31; Numbers 4:5 ff; Numbers 10:21). Lastly in P the Tent of Meeting is the centre of an elaborate sacrificial and ceremonial system (Leviticus 1-27, &c.), such as is nowhere mentioned in connexion with the Tent of Meeting of J and E, and, in view of the subsequent history (Judg., Sam.), not historically probable,—at least on anything like the same scale. Unquestionably (cf. p. 359) both representations have common features: in both, in particular, the Tent is the place where God speaks with Moses, and communicates to him His will; nor need it be doubted, though it is no stated in so many words, that the Tent of JE, like that of P, sheltere the ark (though a much simpler ark than P’s): but there are also wide differences between them. Here it will be sufficient to have noted these differences: in explanation of them see p. 430 ff.

The Tabernacle, with its various appurtenances, is described to having been made by Bezal’el and Oholiab, and other skilled workmen acting under them, in accordance with detailed specifications given by God to Moses (chs. 25–31), and a ‘pattern,’ or model, shewn Moses in the mount (Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40, Exodus 26:30, Exodus 27:8). It is designed as a ‘dwelling’ (Exodus 25:8-9) in which God may permanently dwell among His people (Exodus 29:45); and after it has been erected and consecrated, He gives manifest tokens of His presence in it, He fills it with His glory (Exodus 40:34-38), He habitually speaks in it with Moses (Exodus 25:22), and He gives him many of His instructions from it (Leviticus 1:1, Numbers 1:1). It is also the centre at which all sacrifices are to be offered (Leviticus 1:3; Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 3:2, &c.).

In its general principle the ‘Tabernacle’ of P is a portable Temple (so Jos. Ant. iii. 6. 1 μεταφερόμενος καὶ συμπερινοστῶν ναός). On the one hand, it is a tent, and is repeatedly so called, formed of tent-hangings, or curtains, held in their places by cords and tent-pins, of oblong shape, and with a flat upper surface (without a ridge pole), like the tents of Bedawin at the present day (see ill. in Smith, DB. iii. 1467; Judges in SBOT. (Engl. vol.), p. 63; Doughty, i. 226; or (best) Benzinger, Bilderatlas zur Bibelkunde, 1905, No. 287, or Arch.2 89), and divided into two compartments, in this respect also (Kn. on Exodus 26:37) resembling the tents of Bedawin, in which a separate compartment is formed by a curtain for the women (Burckh. Bed. i. 39 f.; EB. iv. 4972); on the other hand, the Tabernacle has also the form of a temple of a type very common in antiquity, and in fact represented by Solomon’s temple, consisting of an oblong rectangular structure, with pillars on its front, standing in a large court, and divided into two parts, the hall (in Greek πρόναος, ‘fore-shrine’; in Solomon’s temple, the hêkâl, 1 Kings 6:3; 1 Kings 6:5; 1 Kings 6:17, &c. [in EVV. rendered badly ‘temple,’ suggesting the whole building]), corresponding to the Holy Place, and the shrine (ναός Hdt. i. 183, or ἄδυτον, the ‘part not to be entered,’ Lat. cella; Heb. debîr, the ‘hindmost part,’ 1 Kings 6:5; 1 Kings 6:16, &c. [in EVV., through a false etymology, the ‘oracle’]), corresponding to the Most Holy Place,—both without windows, and the latter containing, if there was one, the image of the deity to whom the temple was sacred, and usually entered only by the priests. The ‘Tabernacle’ was however primarily and essentially a tent; it was the tapestry curtains alone which formed the real ‘Dwelling’ of Jehovah (see on Exodus 26:1); the ‘boards,’ or framework, were merely intended to give the tent greater stability and security than ordinary tent-poles would do. An altar, a priesthood, with regulations determining who might hold it, and prescribing the sacrifices and other religious offices to be maintained, often also an ark containing some sacred object, a table on which food was laid out for the deity, lavers for ceremonial ablutions, &c., were likewise, in one form or other, the necessary elements in an ancient Temple establishment. The Tabernacle of P was an elaborate and ornate structure. Metals more or less precious, and woven materials more or less ornamented, and more or less richly coloured, were employed; the general distinction observed being that the nearer an object was to the Presence of Jehovah in the Holy of holies, the costlier and more beautiful it was, the commoner materials, such as bronze and ordinary woven stuff, being reserved for the objects further off (cf. on Exodus 25:3). In the same way, the high priest had a specially gorgeous and splendid attire, while that of the ordinary priests was much plainer.

In their dimensions, both the ‘Tabernacle’ and the court display great symmetry. The ruling numbers are 3, 4, 7, 10, their parts (1½, 2, 2½, 5), and their multiples (6, 9, 12, 20, 28, 30, 42, 48, 50, 60, 100). If, without indulging in fantastic extravagances, we may discern a symbolism in numbers, we may perhaps see in three a symbol of the divine, in four—suggesting the four quarters of the earth—the totality of what is human, in seven and twelve numbers which, deriving their original significance from astronomy, came to be regarded as symbols of completeness, and in ten and its multiples numbers specially suggestive of symmetry and perfection. In the prominence given to the numbers mentioned, we may perhaps recognize an effort ‘to give concrete expression—in a manner, it is true, which our Western thought finds it difficult to appreciate—to the sacred harmonies and perfection of the character of the Deity for whose “dwelling” the sanctuary is destined’ Kennedy, DB. iv. 667b). The Holy place Isaiah 20 cubits (30 ft.) long, 10 cubits (15 ft.) high and broad, and the Holy of holies a perfect cube of 10 cubits (exactly half the dimensions of the Holy of holies in Solomon’s temple); and these ratios, a perfect cube, or two cubes placed side by side, are, we are told (Enc. Brit.9 Architecture, cited ibid.), still considered the most pleasing in architectural art; while the perfect cube, forming the Holy of holies, may be intended to represent symbolically the ‘perfection of Jehovah’s character and dwelling place, the harmony and equipoise of all His attributes.’ Comp. how, in Revelation 21:16, the ideal perfection of the New Jerusalem is expressed in the fact that ‘the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.’

The ‘Tabernacle,’ moreover, symbolizes directly, and gives visible expression to, various theological and religious truths. It must, however, be clearly understood that in the text itself no symbolism or significance whatever is attributed either to the Tabernacle or to any of its appurtenances; so that, if we go beyond what is suggested directly by the names or uses of the Tabernacle, or its parts, we are in danger of falling into what is arbitrary or baseless. Bearing this in our minds, we may however observe that by one of its principal names, the mishkân, or ‘Dwelling’ (see on Exodus 25:9), the Tabernacle expresses in a sensible form the truth of God’s presence in the midst of His people; by another of its principal names, the ‘Tent of Meeting’ (Exodus 27:21), it gives expression to the truth that God is not only present with His people, but that He reveals Himself to them; by its third name, the ‘Tent (or Dwelling) of the Witness or Testimony,’ it reminded the Israelite that in the Decalogue, inscribed on the Tables in the Ark, it contained an ever-present witness to the claims of God and the duty of man. These three, especially the first, are the fundamental ideas symbolized by the Tabernacle. But there are also other ideas. Thus the gold, and costly, beautifully worked fabrics, which decorated, especially, the Holy of holies, and were also conspicuous in the gorgeous vestments of the high priest, give expression to the thought that the Dwelling, and the most responsible ministers of God, should be decked, or apparelled, with becoming splendour and dignity. The Bronze Altar, standing midway between the entrance to the court and the Tent, emphasized the importance of sacrifice in general under the old Dispensation (see further on Leviticus 1-5.), and taught the truth that ‘apart from shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Hebrews 9:22); while the burnt-offering, offered daily upon it on behalf of the community, gave expression to the spirit of worship which Israel as a whole should ever be actuated, and symbolized its constant sense of the devotion due from it to its divine Lord. The Laver, standing probably directly in front of the entrance to the Tent, in which the priests washed their hands and feet before their ministrations, secured the ceremonial purity, which was an emblem of the moral purity, that should belong to those who are the ministers of God. The Presence-bread—whatever it may have denoted originally (see on Exodus 25:30)—is an expression of thankfulness, and an acknowledgement that man’s daily bread,—is a like all other ‘blessings of this life,’—divine gift. The symbolism of the Candlestick is less obvious: none is suggested by the text; and any that may be proposed is in danger of being far-fetched, or of being read into the description as an afterthought: but—whether this was its original intention, or not—the candlestick may perhaps be most easily regarded as symbolizing the people of Israel, shining with the light of divine truth (cf. the figure of ‘light’ in Isaiah 51:4, Matthew 5:16 f., Php 2:15; and Revelation 1:12; Revelation 1:20, where the seven golden candlesticks seen in vision are said to denote the seven churches). The interpretation of Zechariah 4:1-4; Zechariah 4:11-13 is too uncertain to be used in explaining the symbolism of the candlestick in the Tabernacle (see the Century Bible, p. 203 f.): moreover, the candlestick there is differently constructed, and the lamps are differently supplied with oil. The Altar of Incense symbolized a higher form of devotion than the altar of burnt-offering: the smoke of incense was finer and choicer than that of animal victims; and it symbolized the devotion not of action, but of aspiration and prayer (cf. Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3 f.): the blood of the sin-offering was also applied to the altar of incense, when it was offered for the high priest or the community (Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18 : see also Exodus 30:10). The ark itself, sacred though it is, does not in P enshrine or symbolize the divine Presence: it contains the Decalogue, which is the ‘witness’ to God’s claims and man’s duty: but the Presence is symbolized by the golden cherubim upon it—which are regularly the emblems of the nearness of deity (see on Exodus 25:18-20)—‘from between’ which, and above the ark, Jehovah speaks with Moses. And the cherubim rest upon the golden mercy-seat, or ‘propitiatory,’ symbolizing, with special emphasis and clearness, the mercifulness of God (Exodus 34:6 f.), and His readiness to forgive sin which has been repented of, and duly purged away (p. 332) by a propitiatory rite. The purification of the altar of burnt-offering (see on Exodus 29:36 f.), and the anointing of the Tabernacle and its vessels after their completion (Exodus 30:26-29), signified that objects designed for sacred purposes must be properly consecrated before being actually used in the service of Jehovah. And the ascending degrees of sanctity, attaching to the court, the Holy place, and the Holy of holies, marked both by the materials of which they were constructed, and by the fact that while the people generally might enter the court, only the priests could enter the Holy place, and only the high priest, and he only once a year, and that ‘not without blood,’ the Holy of holies, safeguarded, in an impressive and significant manner, the holiness of God; and shewed that, though the way to Him was open, it was open only under restrictions (Heb Exo 9:8), and especially that the Presence of God Himself could be approached only by those who were, in a special sense, ‘holy’ (cf. Lev Exo 19:2), and who carried with them the blood of atonement. According to the historical view of the Old Testament, these truths and principles do not date from Moses’ time, but were acquired gradually as the result of divinely guided meditation and reflection upon sacred things: but the question the actual date at which they were acquired does not affect their reality and value.

The symbolical meanings attached to the Tabernacle and its vessels, vestments of the high priest, &c., by Josephus and Philo (see Westcott, Hebrews, p. 238 f.), are cleverly drawn out, and testify to the reverence and regard with which the Tabernacle was viewed, but are too remote to possess probability.

In the NT. the Tabernacle is explained symbolically from a different point of view. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is represented as constructed so as to reproduce a heavenly archetype—not a mere architect’s model, such as Exodus 25:9 would naturally suggest, but—a real and eternal heavenly original, the genuine ‘tent,’ pitched by God, not man (Exodus 8:2),—‘a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, and not of this creation,’ i.e. not of this visible order of things (Exodus 9:11),—whether by this is meant heaven itself, or an ideal celestial temple in heaven,—of which the earthly tabernacle is merely a secondary representation, a copy (ὑπόδειγμα, Exodus 8:5, Exodus 9:23 : cf. Wis 9:8) and shadow (Exodus 8:5), or counterpart (ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν). And into this heavenly Temple, the archetype of the earthly tabernacle, Christ, the ideal and perfect High Priest, entered, like the Jewish high priest, only not with the blood of animal victims, but with His own blood, to appear before God, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Exodus 9:12; Exodus 9:23-26; cf. on Leviticus 16). Thus while Josephus and Philo regarded the Tabernacle as a microcosm, or ‘epitome of that which is presented on a larger scale in the world of finite being’ (Westcott, p. 240), the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews regards it as the temporal and material counterpart of an eternal and invisible temple in heaven. The Tabernacle further corresponds to Christ’s humanity. God ‘dwelt’ in the midst of His people in the ‘Dwelling’ (Exodus 25:9) of a tent; and the Word, when He took flesh, ‘dwelt as in a tent or tabernacle’ (ἐσκήνωσεν) among us, and manifested His ‘glory’ to the world (John 1:14). And entrance into (the presence of God, which was all but closed under the older Dispensation, is now opened, by the blood of Jesus, ‘through a new and living way, which he hath dedicated for us, through the veil, that is to say, through his flesh’ (Hebrews 10:20); on which A. B. Davidson (ad loc.) remarks, ‘This beautiful allegorizing of the veil cannot of course be made part of a consistent and complete typology. It is not meant for this. But as the veil stood locally before the holiest in the Mosaic Tabernacle, the way into which lay through it, so Christ’s life in the flesh stood between Him and His entrance before God, and His flesh had to be rent ere He could enter.’

There is no question that the Tent of Meeting, as described by J and E, is historical; but there are strong reasons for holding that the Tent of Meeting, as described by P, represents an ideal, and had no historical reality. See on this question p. 426 ff.

The execution of the directions given in chs. 25–31 is narrated in chs. 35–40, and (Exodus 29:1-37) Leviticus 8,—mostly in the same words, with merely the future tenses changed into pasts, but with a few cases of abridgment, omission, and transposition. In the notes on 25–31 the passages in 35–40 which correspond are noted at the beginning of each paragraph by ‘cf.’

The general structure and character of the Tabernacle are perfectly clear: but great difficulty and uncertainty attach to some of the details. It is impossible within the limits of the present commentary to discuss the doubtful or disputed points. The following notes are indebted frequently to Kennedy’s full and illuminative art. Tabernacle in DB.; a statement and criticism of divergent views upon the principal doubtful points will be found in Benzinger’s ably written art. Tabernacle in EB.

Ch. 26. The Dwelling, or (RV.) ‘tabernacle,’ i.e. (see on Exodus 25:9) the interior fabric of curtains, supported upon a wooden framework, forming the Holy place, and the Holy of holies.

Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them.
1. the tabernacle] the Dwelling,—used here, as the passage itself clearly shews, in its stricter sense (see on Exodus 25:9) of the structure formed by the tapestry hangings. Cf. Exodus 40:2 (with the note), 3, Numbers 3:25.

fine twined linen] i.e. linen of superior fineness: see on Exodus 25:4.

blue, &c.] i.e. threads dyed with these colours (Exodus 25:4).

cherubim] the composite animal figures described on Exodus 25:18.

the work of the designer] or, of the pattern-weaver. ‘Cunning workman’ is not a good rendering; for it lacks the necessary distinctness. ‘Cunning’ (i.e. kenning, knowing) is an archaism for skilful—or (Exodus 31:4) skilfully made—used often in AV., and retained mostly in RV., to denote various kinds of technical skill (Exodus 38:23, Genesis 25:27, 1 Samuel 16:16, 2 Chronicles 2:7, Jeremiah 9:17 al.). Even ‘skilful workman’ would not however be sufficiently distinctive: the Heb. word means deviser or designer, viz. of artistic designs in weaving, and is one of three terms, used repeatedly in these chapters, to distinguish three different grades of textile work. We have viz.:—

(1) the work of the weaver (Exodus 28:32, Exodus 39:22; Exodus 39:27), i.e. simple weaving, work woven of one material only: as of blue, Exodus 24:4 (the loops for the curtains), Exodus 28:28 (the lace attaching the sacred pouch to the ephod), 31 (the robe of the ephod), 37 (the lace attaching the gold plate to the high priest’s turban); of white linen Exodus 28:39 (the turban), Exodus 39:27 f. (the priests’ tunics and caps); or of fine twined linen, Exodus 27:9 (the hangings of the court), Exodus 39:28 (the priests’ drawers).

(2) the work of the variegator (or embroiderer): Exodus 26:36, Exodus 27:16 (the screens for the entrances to the Dwelling and the court); Exodus 28:39, Exodus 39:29 (the sash of the high priest). There is no doubt that this term denotes work variegated in colours: but it is disputed whether it means work woven in colours, or embroidered in colours. According to Kn. Di. it is work woven of blue, purple, scarlet, and white yarns, arranged in stripes or checks, but without figures or gold thread (as No. 3): Kennedy (EB. iv. 5289) thinks that it is embroidery proper, i.e. woven work, decorated afterwards by the needle with figures embroidered on it in colours. The cognate subst. variegated (or embroidered) work occurs Jdg 5:30, Ezekiel 16:10; Ezekiel 16:13; Ezekiel 16:18; Ezekiel 17:3 (of variegated plumage), Ezekiel 26:16, Ezekiel 27:7; Ezekiel 27:16; Ezekiel 27:24, Psalm 45:14, 1 Chronicles 29:2†; and the verb in Psalm 139:15 (‘curiously wrought’). When the white woollen carpet which separates the men’s from the women’s compartment in a Bedawi tent is ‘interwoven with patterns of flowers,’ it is denoted in Arabic by the corresponding partic. marḳûm, ‘variegated’ (Burckh. Bedouins, i. 40).

(3) the work of the designer, i.e. work woven of blue, purple, scarlet, and white yarns, with figures (as here and v. 31), or gold thread (Exodus 28:6; Exodus 28:15), artistically interwoven: Exodus 26:1 (the curtains of the Dwelling), 31 (the veil), Exodus 28:6 (the ephod), 15 (the pouch for the Urim and Thummim).

1–6 (cf. Exodus 36:8-13). The ornamented curtains, forming the Dwelling itself. These were ten in number, each 28 cubits (42 ft.) long, and 4 cubits (6 ft.) wide, all made of richly coloured tapestry, with figures of cherubim interwoven (the ‘work of the designer’). When joined together, they formed a single large curtain, 40 cubits (60 ft.) long, and 28 cubits (42 ft.) broad.

The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.
The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other five curtains shall be coupled one to another.
3. The curtains were to be joined together, so as to form two sets of five, each 28 cubits (42 ft.) long, and 20 cubits (30 ft.) broad. The Dwelling was 30 cubits long, and 10 cubits high and broad: and the curtain was spread over it in such a way that it hung down for the entire height of 10 cubits behind (the front, having a ‘screen’ of its own (v. 36), not needing any curtain), and for 9 cubits on each of the two sides.

And thou shalt make loops of blue upon the edge of the one curtain from the selvedge in the coupling; and likewise shalt thou make in the uttermost edge of another curtain, in the coupling of the second.
4–6. These sets were to be coupled together so as to form a single large curtain 28 cubits (42 ft.) broad, and 40 cubits (60 ft.) long. The coupling was to be effected by 50 loops of violet tape being attached to one of the outer edges of each set, and fastened to the loop opposite to it by golden clasps.

4. from the selvedge, &c.] at the extremity.

in the (first) set] ‘Coupling’ = things coupled together, i.e. ‘set.’

4 end, 5b. coupling] set (RVm.).

6 and the Dwelling shall be one] it will be formed by one single curtain.

Fifty loops shalt thou make in the one curtain, and fifty loops shalt thou make in the edge of the curtain that is in the coupling of the second; that the loops may take hold one of another.
And thou shalt make fifty taches of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle.
And thou shalt make curtains of goats' hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make.
Exodus 7-13 (cf. Exodus 36:14-18). The Tent over the Dwelling, consisting of eleven curtains of cloth made of goats’ hair, each 30 cubits long, and 4 cubits wide, fastened together so as to form a single large curtain, 30 cubits broad, and 44 cubits long. The Bedawin still make their tents of goats’ hair in the same way: breadths of goats’ hair cloth, it may be ¾ yd. broad, and as long as the breadth of the tent, are stitched together, and form a covering capable of keeping out the heaviest rain (Burckh. Bedouins, i. 37; cf. DB. iv. 717): comp. Song of Solomon 1:5, where their dark colour is alluded to.

The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure.
8. The dimensions of the ‘curtains,’ or, as we should here say, ‘breadths.’ On the late Heb. for ‘eleven,’ see LOT. 156 n.

9a. The curtains, or ‘breadths,’ are to be coupled together, so as to form two sets, of five and six breadths respectively.

9b. double over] i.e., as commonly understood, lay double on the top

Model of P’s Tent of Meeting, as reconstructed by Prof. Kennedy.

The two outermost coverings (Exodus 26:14) are removed, shewing the framework covered by the tapestry curtains a a with the figures of cherubim, the goats’ hair curtains of the ‘tent’ (Exodus 26:7) b b, one of the corner frames c, the bars d d d, the veil e, and the screen f.

From Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, iv. 661.

of the Dwelling in front, so as to form a kind of portal above the entrance. But this is not the natural meaning of the Heb., which is that the curtain is to be doubled in front of the Dwelling, so as to hang down there for 2 cubits, forming a kind of valance over the top of the screen (v. 36), and securing that the Dwelling is in perfect darkness (so Kennedy, p. 662a). Render then double (without ‘over’); and see further on v. 12.

And thou shalt couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle.
And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the coupling, and fifty loops in the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second.
10. coupling] better as marg.: cf. vv. 4, 5.

10, 11. How the two sets, of five and six breadths respectively, were to be held together, viz. by 50 loops, with clasps of copper, attached to the outer edge of one of the end breadths in each set.

And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one.
11. brass] copper or bronze. Gold (v. 6) was confined to the clasps for the inner curtains, forming the Dwelling proper.

And the remnant that remaineth of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle.
12. overhanging] The Heb. means loose or free, not necessarily ‘overhanging.’

the half curtain that remaineth] The breadth in front is laid double (v. 9): it is consequently halved in width; and the entire length of the curtain is thus 42 cubits. As the Dwelling Isaiah 30 cubits long and 10 cubits high, it follows that, according to the usual view of v. 9b, 12 cubits will hang down behind, according to Kennedy’s view, 10 cubits will hang down behind. The ‘half-curtain’ (= 2 cubits) overhanging a the back can thus, upon the usual view, be only the 2 cubits in excess of the 10 (so Di.), the whole 12, we may suppose, being stretched out, and pegged to the ground in the manner of a tent: it is not, however, very natural to speak of only the 2 cubits as hanging down loosely behind: we should rather expect the whole 12 to be so spoken of. The difficulty would be removed, if we might suppose the words, ‘the half-curtain that remaineth,’ in v. 12 to be a mistaken gloss, arising out of a hasty reading of v. 9b: if these words are omitted, the length of the part hanging down behind is not specified, and it might, of course, be either the 12 cubits required by the ordinary view of v. 9b, or the 10 cubits required by Kennedy’s view. The latter view does better justice to v. 9b, and also has the advantage of making the goats’ hair curtain hang down symmetrically on the two sides and the back, viz. so a exactly to touch the ground in each case.

And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent, it shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it.
13. On the two sides of the Dwelling, the curtain of goats’ hair being 30 cubits broad, while the inner tapestry curtain was 28 cubits broad, the former would of course reach a cubit lower than the latter, and touch the ground.

And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins.
14. (cf. Exodus 36:19). Two outer coverings of stronger and stouter materials, to be laid over the Tent, for protection against rain. Kn. reminds us that on military expeditions the Romans used in winter to cover their tents with skins (sub pellibus hiemare).

rams’ skins dyed red] i.e. leather, dyed, not with the costly Phoenician ‘scarlet’ (Exodus 25:4), but probably (Kennedy), as LXX. ἠρυθροδανωμένα suggests, with madder (ἐρυθρόδανον).

sealskins] dugong skins (Exodus 25:5). The Dwelling, with the coverings above it, was kept in its place by cords connecting it with pins driven into the ground, in the manner of a tent: see Exodus 27:19, Exodus 35:18, Exodus 38:20; Exodus 38:31.

15–30 (cf. Exodus 36:20-34). The ‘boards,’ or, perhaps, frames, for the Dwelling. There is great difficulty in some of the details: but the general sense is clear. The ‘boards’ were to be of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, each 10 cubits (15 ft.) long, and 1½ cubits (2 ft. 3 in.) broad: they were to be placed upright, so as to form the sides and back of the Dwelling, each resting in two sockets of silver: there were to be twenty forming each side, six to form the back, and two, of special construction, at the corners, where the back and sides met: five bars, attached to the boards by rings, were to run horizontally along the two sides and the back, respectively, to hold them firmly in their place.

And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up.
15. boards] either beams or frames: ‘boards’ suggests something much thinner than seems to be intended. The Heb. ḳéresh, except in the present connexion (50 times), occurs only Ezekiel 27:6, of some part of a ship, described there as made up of ivory, inlaid in boxwood (RV. benches, RVm. deck); and its exact sense is uncertain. Here it has commonly been rendered boards: but to this rend. Kennedy (p. 659b) makes the pertinent objections that, if these ‘boards’ are to support the curtains, the latter must hang down outside them: the boards, however, standing, as they are described, close to each other, would form, on the two sides and back of the Tabernacle, three solid wooden walls; if, then, the Dwelling on three, of its sides was formed of these wooden walls, it is difficult to understand how it can be consistently spoken of as formed by the curtains (v. 1, &c.): and, moreover, if the sides of the Dwelling were thus solid, these richly worked curtains would be hidden from view, not only on the outside, as they would be in any case, by the curtain of goats’ hair and the two skin coverings, but also on the inside (except on the roof). Hence Kennedy argues, with much force, that the ḳĕrâshim were pictured, not as solid boards, but as wooden frames (as shewn in the illustr.), which, while affording sufficient support for the curtains and skin coverings, would allow the richly coloured tapestry curtains with their cherubim figures to appear inside the sanctuary. Kennedy’s view undoubtedly brings a very great improvement into the idea of the Tabernacle: but the sense attached to ḳéresh being hypothetical, it is difficult to accept it quite unreservedly.

A ‘Frame,’ with its bases.

Reduced from Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, iv. 660.

The thickness of the ḳĕrâshim is not specified. Jos. (Ant. iii. 6. 3) gives it as 4 finger-breadths (3 in.): Rashi (11 cent.), Ew. al. suppose it to have been a cubit (18 in.). V. 22 suggests that the writer pictured them as ½ a cubit (9 in.) thick: but even in this case, if they were solid, their dimensions being 15 ft. × 2 ft., 3 in. × 9 in., they would be so substantial as be beams rather than ‘boards.’

15–17. The wooden framework of the Dwelling.

Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board.
Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle.
17. tenons] lit. hands, used fig. of supports: cf. 1 Kings 7:32-33 (EVV. axletrees; rather, diagonal stays under the body of the laver, holding the axles in their places), 35 (supports of the basin at the top), 36 (corrupt dittography from v. 35: see Skinner’s note in the Century Bible), Exodus 10:16 (of the ‘arms’ of a throne). These ‘hands,’ or tenons, as ordinarily understood, were pegs projecting underneath the bottom of the boards, to hold them firm in their sockets (v. 19).

joined] the word (only here and in the "", Exodus 36:22) means joined by a cross-piece (cf. the cognate shĕlabbim, 1 Kings 7:28-29†, ‘cross-pieces,’ or ‘cross-rails’ [see Skinner’s note: in EVV. misrendered ledges], and the post-Bibl. shĕlîbâh, the ‘rung’ of a ladder), clamped together. The tenons of each board (or frame) were secured in their places by a clamp of metal underneath the bottom of the board.

Kennedy, however (p. 660a), understands the ‘hands’ not of tenons, but of the upright sides of the ‘frame’ themselves, and would render vv. 15–17 thus: ‘And thou shalt make the frames for the Dwelling of acacia wood, standing up,—10 cubits the length of a frame, and 1½ cubits the breadth of a frame,—namely, two uprights for [so rightly, for EVV. in] each frame, joined one to another by cross-rails [see the illustr.]: thus shalt thou make for all the frames of the Dwelling.’ The translation is quite legitimate (for there is in the Heb. no ‘shall be’ in either v. 16 or v. 17), and the explanation clever: but it is difficult to feel certain that such ‘uprights’ would be called hands in Heb. The sense ‘frames’ for ḳĕrâshim is not dependent upon it; and it is perhaps safer to adhere to the usual rend, ‘tenons.’

And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward.
18. for the south side southward] lit., with not quite the same tautology as the English, towards (the) Negeb, southward. The ‘Negeb’ (properly, as Aram. shews, meaning dry land) is a geographical term denoting the arid district in the S. of Judah (Genesis 12:9 RVm., Joshua 15:21, and often); as this district was on the S. of Canaan, it became the most usual word in Heb. for ‘south.’ Its use in the Pent. is an indication that this was written after Israel had lived long enough in Canaan for ‘négeb’ to have acquired this sense. The same pleonasm recurs in Exodus 27:9, and in the "" "", Exodus 38:9, Exodus 36:23, Ezekiel 47:19; Ezekiel 48:28; and there are similar ones in Exodus 27:13 ("" Exodus 38:13), Numbers 34:15.

18–25. The number of frames for each side of the Dwelling, and the arrangements for holding them firmly in their place.

And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons.
19. sockets] bases (Ezekiel 41:22 RVm.), or pedestals (cf. Job 38:6 ‘foundations’; Song of Solomon 5:15 supporting pillars), i.e. solid blocks of silver—acc. to Exodus 38:27 weighing a talent (96 lbs.) each—resting on the ground, and, naturally, with ‘sockets’ in them to receive the ‘tenons.’ A talent of silver, of the sacred standard, weighed probably DB. iii. 422b, 419b) about 96 lbs. av.: so that, as a cubit ft. of silver weighs 655 lbs., the talent would amount to about 250 cubic inches, i.e. it might form a block about 7 in. square and 5 in. deep: two such blocks were to stand under each of the frames. Kennedy, however, discarding Exodus 38:27 as part of a late addition to P (see on Exodus 38:24-31), pictures each base as a square plinth, ¾ cubit on the side and a cubit high, the whole forming thus a continuous wall under the frames; the weight of each base in this case would be about 1240 lbs.

And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards:
And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards.
22. westward] lit. sea-ward. Sea (i.e. the Medit. sea) is in Heb. the regular word for ‘west’; and the usage, like that of négeb in v. 18 in the sense of ‘south,’ could only have arisen after Israel had been long settled in Canaan. So Exodus 10:19; Exodus 10:27; Exodus 27:12; Exodus 36:27; Exodus 36:32; Exodus 38:12.

The twenty frames for the sides of the Dwelling made up its entire length of 30 cubits (= 1 ½ × 20). The six frames at the end would make 9 cubits: so that, as the entire width of the Dwelling was 10 cubits, if the frames at the sides were ½ a cubit thick, the six at the end would just fill up the 9 cubits between them.

And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides.
23, 24. The two corner frames.

And they shall be coupled together beneath, and they shall be coupled together above the head of it unto one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners.
24. A most obscure verse, the crux of all interpreters. It must suffice here to state Kennedy’s view (p. 661); for a discussion of others, the reader is referred to McNeile, p. lxxv f. (see also W. R. Smith, Journ. of Phil. xvi. 76). After v. 22 these two extra frames do not really appear to be required: apparently, however, they are intended to strengthen the two corners, at the back of the Dwelling, the idea being that the last frame at each end of the hinder wall is to be doubled, the second frame forming a buttress, sloping upwards from the outside and terminating just under the uppermost of the bars described in v. 26 f. The verse may be rendered, And they shall be twinned (so AVm.: i.e. twin-pieces to the two extreme frames of the end wall, and braced to them to give additional strength) from beneath, and together (i.e. both alike, as Deuteronomy 12:22) they shall be twinned (reading תאמים, as just before, for תמים) unto the top thereof (viz. of the Dwelling) unto the first ring (i.e. the topmost ring (see v. 29) at the back of the Dwelling): thus shall it be, &c. The sense, it must be admitted, is contortedly expressed: but no explanation is free from objection, and nothing more satisfactory has been proposed.

And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
25. eight] i.e. the 6 + 2 of vv. 22, 23. Bases for sockets, as before.

And thou shalt make bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle,
26–29. The bars. Five gilt bars of acacia wood, attached to the frames by gold rings, are to run horizontally along the two sides and the back of the Dwelling, to keep the frames in their places. The middle bar in each case ran from end to end: the other bars, it may be inferred, were shorter, perhaps arranged as is here shewn:

It is not stated whether the bars were to be outside or inside the Dwelling: but the former seems the more natural, and is commonly assumed.

And five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, for the two sides westward.
And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end.
And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars: and thou shalt overlay the bars with gold.
And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount.
30. Cf. Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40; and see Exodus 40:18.

fashion] more exactly, prescribed norm: cf. 1 Kings 6:38, Ezekiel 42:11; and see on this sense of mishpâṭ the writer’s Jeremiah, p. 345.

And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:
31. a veil] Heb. pârôketh, only in P, in the same connexion, and 2 Chronicles 3:14 : the primary meaning was probably ‘that which shuts off’ cf. Ass. parâku, to bar or shut off, parakku, apartment, esp. shrine in a Temple; Syr. perakkâ (loan-word), a shrine). In Hebrews 6:19 f., Exodus 9:7-8, Exodus 10:19-22, the veil (with allusion to the fact that the high priest alone, and that only once in the year, entered into the Holy of holies) is regarded as forming an impediment to the approach to God, which was broken down by Christ, when He entered by His own blood into the ‘holy place’ in heaven (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:24-26).

of the cunning workman] of the designer (v. 1).

31–35. The veil, to separate the Holy place from the Holy of holies, made of the same richly coloured tapestry, with figures of cherubim woven into it (the ‘work of the designer’), as the curtain (v. 1), and suspended on four gilt pillars of acacia wood, vv. 31–33 (cf. Exodus 36:35-36). The position of the ark, the table of the Presence-bread, and he candlestick, vv. 34–5 (cf. Exodus 40:20; Exodus 40:22; Exodus 40:24).

And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.
32. four bases of silver] such as the frames rested upon, v. 19 ff.

And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.
33. under the clasps] the clasps mentioned in v. 6, which must have been (vv. 2, 3) at a distance of 5 × 4 (= 20) cubits from the front of the Dwelling, and (as the Dwelling Isaiah 30 cubits long) 10 cubits from its back. The Holy place is thus 20 cubits long, and the Most Holy place 10 cubits; as the latter is also Exodus 10 cubits high and 10 cubits wide, it forms a cube. The length and breadth of the Dwelling are exactly half those of Solomon’s Temple (60 × 20 cubits): the Holy of holies is also half the height of that in the Temple (20 × 20 × 20 cubits), but the Holy place is only a third as high as that in the Temple (40 × 20 × 30 cubits): see 1 Kings 6:2; 1 Kings 6:16-17; 1 Kings 6:20 [for ‘oracle,’ read hindmost part, or shrine, and for ‘temple,’ Heb. hêkâl, read hall; see p. 259].

And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.
And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side.
35. over against] opposite to, on the south side of the table.

And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework.
Exodus 36-7 (Exodus 26:36-37). The screen, to cover the entrance to the Dwelling. This was of the same materials as the veil (v. 31), but, as it was further from the shrine, of less elaborate workmanship, the ‘work of the variegator,’ or ‘embroiderer’ (not of the ‘designer’ or pattern-weaver see on v. 1), and without cherubim.

And thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Exodus 25
Top of Page
Top of Page