Exodus 27
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.

And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits.
1. the altar] the altar κατʼ ἐξοχήν, if not, in P’s view (see on Exodus 30:1-10), the only altar. So Exodus 30:18; Exodus 30:20; Exodus 40:7; Exodus 40:32, &c.

foursquare] ‘An archaism dating from a time when “square” meant equal-sided, and it was necessary to express the number of sides’ (McNeile). See Wright’s Bible Word-Book, s.v.: ‘In Wesley’s Journal (28 July, 1738) a church in Dresden is described as “eight square” ’; and in 1 Kings 6:31 AVm. has ‘five-square.’

1–8. (cf. Exodus 38:1-7). The altar of burnt-offering. This was a hollow frame of acacia planks, overlaid with copper (or bronze) 5 cubits (=7 ½ ft.) in length and breadth, and 3 cubits (= 1 ½ ft.) in height at each corner, a ‘horn,’ of the same material, projected outwards Round the altar, mid-way between top and bottom, ran a projecting ledge,—probably for the priests to stand upon when sacrificing,—supported at its outer edge by a vertical grating of bronze, that rested on the ground. At the corners of this grating, presumably where it me the ledge, there were rings to receive the poles for carrying the altar.

And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.
2. the horns of it] these were an indispensable part of an altar (cf. Exodus 30:2-3), and were regarded as its most sacred part: the blood of the sin-offering was applied to them (Exodus 29:12 ["" Leviticus 8:15]; Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30; Leviticus 4:34; Leviticus 9:9; Leviticus 16:18; Ezekiel 43:20; and on the horns of the altar of incense, Exodus 30:10, Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18); a criminal seeking asylum seized

The Altar of Burnt-offering.

From Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, iv. 658.

hold of them (1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28); see also Amos 3:14, Jeremiah 17:1, Psalm 118:27. The length of the horns is not specified: in the great altar of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 43:13-17), which however was 12 cubits (=18 ft.) square, and, with its bases, rose to a height of 11 cubits (16 ½ ft.) from the ground, they were, according to v. 15 LXX., a cubit (1 ½ ft.) long: in the altar of burnt-offering they would, if of the same proportion, be about 7 in. long. Horns are occasionally found similarly on Greek altars: A. J. Evans, also, in Mycenœan Tree and Pillar Cult (1901), pp. 37–40, mentions several bas-reliefs representing them found at Mycenae and in Crete; and there is a good Semitic example on the stelè from Teima, about 250 miles S.E. of Edom (see Perrot and Chipiez, Art in Sardinia, Judœa, &c. i. 304; and for the inscription Cooke, N.-Sem. Inscriptions, p. 195 ff.). The origin of the symbolism is uncertain; and different theories have been propounded (see DB. i. 77a, iv. 658a; EB. i. 124; Benz.2 321): perhaps the most probable is that of Evans (cf. Rel. Sem.2[204] 436; and Bä.), that they are conventionalized representatives of the horns of sacrificed oxen: ‘the setting of the horns of slaughtered animals before the cult-image or upon the altar is a very familiar usage of primitive worship’ (Evans, op. cit. p. 39).

[204] W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.

brass] copper or bronze. So in the sequel.

And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass.
3. The vessels of the altar, for use in connexion with the sacrifices.

its pots … and its shovels] cf., in the Temple, 1 Kings 7:45, 2 Kings 25:14.

its ashes] lit. its fat, i.e. the fat, which, when a sacrifice was burnt, ran down and mixed with the ashes: cf. Numbers 4:13, Leviticus 1:16; Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 6:10 f. Not used of ordinary ashes. The shovels would be for collecting and sweeping away (cf. the same root, Isaiah 28:17) the ashes.

basons] lit. tossing-vessels,—large bowls, used for tossing the blood in a volume against the sides of the altar: see on Exodus 24:6, and Exodus 29:16. Cf. Zechariah 9:15; Zechariah 14:20 (‘bowls’).

fleshhooks] Exodus 38:3, Numbers 4:14, 1 Chronicles 28:17, 2 Chronicles 4:16†.

firepans] 1 Kings 7:50. Cf. the note on ‘snuffdishes,’ Exodus 25:38.

And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings in the four corners thereof.
4. a grating] Exodus 35:16, Exodus 38:4-5; Exodus 38:30, Exodus 39:39†. This formed a vertical support for the ‘ledge’ (v. 5), resting on the ground, and supporting it at its outer edge.

And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar.
5. the ledge] ‘the ledge’ (Exodus 38:4†) which such an altar would naturally have for the priests to stand upon: cf. the frequent use of the phrases to go up to and to come down from an altar in connexion with sacrificing: Exodus 20:26, Leviticus 9:22, 1 Kings 12:33, 2 Kings 16:12; 2 Kings 23:9; Sir 50:11; Sir 50:20.

And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass.
6. bronze] contrast the gold of Exodus 25:13; Exodus 25:28.

And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it.
7. For the marg., cf. Exodus 25:12.

Hollow with boards shalt thou make it: as it was shewed thee in the mount, so shall they make it.
8. Hollow with planks] it was a hollow framework or casing.

in the mount] see Exodus 25:9.

It is difficult to reconcile satisfactorily this plated ‘altar’ (v. 1) of acacia wood, borne upon the shoulders of Levites from one encampment to another (Numbers 4:13; Numbers 7:9), with the altar of earth or stone, reared where occasion might require, on which burnt-and peace-offerings were to be sacrificed (Exodus 20:24 f.). As nothing is said about a top to the altar, on which the victims might be placed, it is commonly assumed that, when the Tabernacle became stationary, the hollow case of the altar was filled up with earth. But it is strange that, if intended, this is not expressed. On the other hand, if the fire was kindled on the ground, within the altar, it is obvious that the wooden sides would quickly be destroyed. The directions here given are in fact entirely unrelated to those of Exodus 20:24 f. When the character of P’s Tabernacle-legislation, as a whole, is considered, and account taken of the wide differences which separate it from the ceremonial legislation of JE, it can hardly be doubted that the true explanation of the present remarkable structure is that ‘it originated in the desire to construct a portable altar on the lines of the massive bronze altar of Solomon, which was itself a departure from the true Heb. tradition (Exodus 20:24-26)’ (Kennedy, p. 658). The bronze altar in Solomon’s temple was a gigantic structure, 20 cubits (30 ft.) long and broad, and 10 cubits (15 ft.) high (2 Chronicles 4:1),—no doubt the work of Phoenician artists (cf. 1 Kings 7:13-16; 1 Kings 7:40-46). Zerubbabel’s altar, it may be added, was built of stone (1Ma 4:46): the one erected by Judas in its place, in 165 b.c., was of unhewn stone, ‘according to the law’ of Exodus 20:25 (ib. v. 47).

9–19 (cf. Exodus 38:9-20. The court of the tabernacle. This was a rectangular area, lying E. and W., 100 cubits (150 ft.) long, and 50 (75 ft.) broad, enclosed by hangings of white linen, 5 cubits (7 ½ ft.) high, suspended on pillars of wood,—20 for each of the larger sides, and 10 for each of the shorter sides. Each of the pillars was let into a socket of silver, and had a capital overlaid with silver (Exodus 38:17); and all were kept in position by cords, and tent-pins of bronze. In the centre of the E. front there was a space of 20 cubits (30 ft.), not provided with hangings, but left open as an entrance to the court, and covered by a screen of white linen, embroidered in colours.

And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:
9. the south side southward] see on Exodus 26:18.

fine twined linen] see on Exodus 25:4.

And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
10. sockets] properly bases: see on Exodus 26:19.

brass] copper or bronze, as always. See also on Exodus 25:3.

the hooks) for attaching the hangings to.

fillets) i.e. bands, or binding-rings (the root in Aram, signifies to bind), surrounding the pillars, probably at the base of the capitals (Exodus 38:17): so Di., Kenn. The Heb. word has also been understood to mean connecting-rods, joining the tops of the pillars, to which the hangings were attached: Exodus 38:19, however, seems to shew that the ḥǎshuḳim were integral parts of the pillars, and the Heb. of Exodus 27:17 (= Exodus 38:17) can hardly mean ‘connected by silver rods.’ ‘Fillet’ (lit. a little thread, from Lat. filum, Fr. fil, dimin. filet) is a word better known formerly than it is now (except in connexion with food), meaning a headband, esp. a ribbon, but also used for any narrow strip of binding material (DB. s.v.), or for strips of metal (Murray, Eng. Dict. s.v.).

And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.
And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits.
13. on the east side eastward] Heb. on the front [i.e. on the east: see on Joel 2:20] towards the (sun-)rising: cf. on Exodus 26:18.

The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
And on the other side shall be hangings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.
16. The screen for the gate of the court. This was of the same richly coloured materials, the ‘work of the embroiderer,’ as the screen at the entrance to the Dwelling (Exodus 26:36).

All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass.
17. filleted] i.e. bound round, as explained on v. 10.

The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass.
18. every where] a lapsus calami in the Heb. for cubits, which is read by Sam. The text implies an otherwise unknown Heb. idiom, and the Eth. usage (Di. Eth. Gr. § 159g) referred to by König (iii. § 316c) is not the same.

All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass.
19. All] read with LXX. And all (ובל for לבל, removing at the same time a grammatical anomaly in the Heb.). The instruments seem here to be the tools used in setting up the Dwelling: possibly the tent-cords (Exodus 35:18) are also included.

the service thereof] i.e. the work of putting it up: cf. Exodus 39:40, Numbers 3:26; Numbers 3:36.

pins (twice)] the regular Heb. word for tent-pins.

the pins of the court] Exodus 35:18, Exodus 38:20; Exodus 38:31; and, with the cords as well, Exodus 39:40, Numbers 3:37; Numbers 4:26; Numbers 4:32.

In the method of reckoning the pillars of the court there is an inexactness, due no doubt to the author’s love of symmetry. The two

The Court of the Tent of Meeting.

From Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, iv. 657.

longer sides are of 100 cubits, each with 20 pillars, the two shorter sides are of 50 cubits each, with 10 pillars; and there are 60 pillars in all. If now there are 10 pillars on the E. side, the distance between each will be 50/9 cubits, and the two sides of the entrance, 15 cubits from each corner, will not coincide with two of the pillars: as, moreover, the four corner pillars must now be counted twice, there will in all be not 60, but only 56 pillars. The writer must thus, for the sake of symmetry, have reckoned the sides as having respectively 20 and 10 pillars each, when in reality they would have 21 and 11. ‘The S. side, reckoning from E. to W., has pillars nos. 1–21, of which no. 21, however, is reckoned as belonging to the W. side; the W. side has nos. 21–31 (i.e. 11), no. 31 being reckoned to the N. side; the N. side has nos. 31–51 (i.e. 21), no. 51 being reckoned to the E. side; the E. side has for the N. side of the entrance nos. 51–54, no. 54 being reckoned to the entrance: the entrance has nos. 54–58, no. 58 being reckoned to the S. side of the entrance; the S. side of the entrance has nos. 58–61, no. 61 being the same as no. 1 of the S. side’ (Di.; similarly Kennedy).

20–21 (no parallel in 35–40). A light to be kept burning in the sanctuary every night. Oil is to be provided at the cost of the people; and the priests are to arrange the lamps on the candlestick every evening. These regulations seem out of place here; and in the mention of Aaron and his sons anticipate chaps. 28–29. They recur, with slight verbal differences, in Leviticus 24:2-3, where they are followed by directions respecting a kindred subject, viz. the Presence-bread (vv. 5–9). Probably (so Di.) they were introduced here by a later editor from Lev Exo 24:1-4. Comp. Numbers 8:1-2.

And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.
20. And thou, thou shalt, &c.] the emph. pron. marks the beginning of a new section (Exodus 28:1, Exodus 30:23, Exodus 31:13, Numbers 1:50).

pure] clear: LXX. ἄτρυγον (‘without lees, clarified’) καθαρόν.

beaten] Exodus 29:40, Leviticus 24:2, Numbers 28:5†. ‘Beaten’ oil was oil of the finest quality: it was obtained ‘by gently pounding the olives in a mortar; the pulp was then poured into a wicker or rush basket, which, acting as a strainer, allowed the liquid to run into a vessel underneath. The oil which would presently float upon the top was skimmed off,’ and this formed the oil in question. The commoner kinds of oil were obtained from the pulp remaining in the baskets (Kennedy, EB. iii. 3407, from descriptions in the Mishna).

to cause, &c.] to fix on a lamp continually: see on Exodus 25:37.

continually] i.e. not continuously (Exodus 25:30 Heb.), but regularly, as a standing practice, whether daily (as here, Exodus 29:38; Exodus 29:42, Exodus 30:8 al.), or whenever occasion required (Exodus 28:29-30).

In the tabernacle of the congregation without the vail, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.
21. the tent of meeting] Heb. ’ôhel mô‘çd, i.e. the tent of appointed meeting (cf. Job 30:23 ‘the house of appointed meeting for all living,’ of Sheol), the tent appointed by Jehovah as the place where He will ‘meet’ Moses (see in P Exodus 25:22, Exodus 30:6; Exodus 30:36) and Israel (Exodus 29:42-43, Numbers 17:4), and communicate His will to them, or (OTJC.2[205] 246) the ‘tent of tryst’ (i.e. of appointment to meet). It is the oldest name of what we now commonly know as the ‘Tabernacle’ (see on Exodus 25:9), being first found in E (Exodus 33:7 : see the note), where it denotes the tent which Moses used to pitch outside the camp, to which everyone resorted who sought Jehovah, and whither Moses also used to repair in order that Jehovah might speak with him. It is mentioned besides in JE in Numbers 11:16; Numbers 12:4, Deuteronomy 31:14. The Tent of meeting, as described by P, is a much more elaborate structure than that can have been (see p. 257 f.). He mentions it some 130 times.

[205] W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, ed. 2, 1892.

The rendering of AV. ‘tabernacle (i.e. tent: see on Exodus 25:9) of the congregation’ is based on a mistaken interpretation of mô‘çd, as though this word were a synonym of ‘çdâh, ‘congregation’ (Exodus 12:3 &c.). The LXX. render the expression by ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτυρίου, ‘the tent of the testimony’ (whence Vulg. tabernaculum testimonii), treating ’ôhel mô‘çd incorrectly as a synonym of ’ôhel hâ‘çdûth (Numbers 9:15; Numbers 17:7-8, 2 Chronicles 24:6†), which does mean ‘the tent of the testimony’ (see on Exodus 25:16): cf. Acts 7:44, Revelation 15:5.

outside the veil, &c.] cf. Exodus 26:35; and on Exodus 25:21.

order] an archaism for set in order, arrange; so often in EVV., as Leviticus 24:4, Jdg 6:26, 1 Kings 20:14, Jeremiah 46:3 : cf. in the Communion Service, ‘when the priest hath so ordered the bread and wine,’ &c.; and in PBV. of Psalm 37:23; Psalm 40:2; Psalm 40:6 (cf. Job 13:18), Psalm 50:23. The meaning is, arrange the lamps on the stand.

from evening to morning] the lamps were to be removed every morning to be trimmed (Exodus 30:7), and to be lighted and replaced every evening to burn during the night (Exodus 30:8, 2 Chronicles 13:11). (The later usage was, however, different; see DB. iv. 664a, and Schürer, as cited.)

a due for ever from] ḥuḳḳâh may mean either a prescribed rule (i.e. a statute), or a prescribed portion (i.e. a due): so ḥôḳ, Exodus 29:28, Leviticus 7:34 b, Leviticus 7:36, Exodus 24:8 (AVm.); cf. Proverbs 30:8; Proverbs 31:15 (RVm.).

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Exodus 26
Top of Page
Top of Page