Exodus 26
Clarke's Commentary
The ten curtains of the tabernacle, and of what composed, Exodus 26:1. Their length, Exodus 26:2, Exodus 26:3; their loops, Exodus 26:4, Exodus 26:5; their taches, Exodus 26:6. The curtains of goats' hair for a covering, Exodus 26:7; their length and breadth, Exodus 26:8. Coupled with loops, Exodus 26:9, Exodus 26:10, and taches, Exodus 26:11. The remnant of the curtains, how to be employed, Exodus 26:12, Exodus 26:13. The covering of rams' skins, Exodus 26:14. The boards of the tabernacle for the south side, Exodus 26:15; their length, Exodus 26:16, tenons, Exodus 26:17, number, Exodus 26:18, sockets, Exodus 26:19. Boards, etc., for the north side, Exodus 26:20, Exodus 26:21. Boards, etc., for the west side, Exodus 26:22; for the corners, Exodus 26:23; their rings and sockets, Exodus 26:24, Exodus 26:25. The bars of the tabernacle, Exodus 26:26-30. The veil, its pillars, hooks, and taches, Exodus 26:31-33. How to place the mercy-seat, Exodus 26:34. The table and the candlestick, Exodus 26:35. The hanging for the door of the tent, Exodus 26:36; and the hangings for the pillars, Exodus 26:37.

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.
Thou shalt make the tabernacle - משכן mischan, from שכן shachan, to dwell, means simply a dwelling place or habitation of any kind, but here it means the dwelling place of Jehovah, who, as a king in his camp, had his dwelling or pavilion among his people, his table always spread, his lamps lighted, and the priests, etc., his attendants, always in waiting. From the minute and accurate description here given, a good workman, had he the same materials, might make a perfect facsimile of the ancient Jewish tabernacle. It was a movable building, and so constructed that it might be easily taken to pieces, for the greater convenience of carriage, as they were often obliged to transport it from place to place, in their various journeyings. For the twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet, see Clarke's note on Exodus 25:4, etc.

Cherubims - See Clarke's note on Exodus 25:18.

Cunning work - חשב chosheb probably means a sort of diaper, in which the figures appear equally perfect on both sides; this was probably formed in the loom. Another kind of curious work is mentioned, Exodus 26:36, רקם rokem, which we term needle-work; this was probably similar to our embroidery, tapestry, or cloth of arras. It has been thought unlikely that these curious works were all manufactured in the wilderness: what was done in the loom, they might have brought with them from Egypt; what could be done by hand, without the use of complex machinery, the Israelitish women could readily perform with their needles, during their stay in the wilderness. But still it seems probable that they brought even their looms with them. The whole of this account shows that not only necessary but ornamental arts had been carried to a considerable pitch of perfection, both among the Israelites and Egyptians.

The inner curtains of the tabernacle were ten in number, and each in length twenty-eight cubits, and four in breadth; about sixteen yards twelve inches long, and two yards twelve inches broad. The curtains were to be coupled together, five and five of a side, by fifty loops, Exodus 26:5, and as many golden clasps, Exodus 26:6, so that each might look like one curtain, and the whole make one entire covering, which was the first.

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.
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.
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.
Curtains of goats' hair - Stuff made of goats' hair. See Clarke's note on Exodus 25:4. This was the second covering.

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.
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.
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.
And the remnant that remaineth of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle.
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.
And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins.
Rams' skins dyed red - See Clarke's note on Exodus 25:5. This was the third covering; and what is called the badgers' skins was the fourth. See Clarke's note on Exodus 25:5. Why there should have been four coverings does not appear. They might have been designed partly for respect; and partly to keep off dust and dirt, and the extremely fine sand which in that desert rises as it were on every breeze; and partly to keep off the intense heat of the sun, which would otherwise have destroyed the poles, bars, boards, and the whole of the wood work. As to the conjecture of some that "the four coverings were intended the better to keep off the rain," it must appear unfounded to those who know that in that desert rain was rarely ever seen.

And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up.
Thou shalt make boards - These formed what might be called the walls of the tabernacle, and were made of shittim wood, the acacia Nilotica, which Dr. Shaw says grows here in abundance. To have worked the acacia into these boards or planks, the Israelites must have had sawyers, joiners, etc., among them; but how they got the tools is a question. But as the Israelites were the general workmen of Egypt, and were brought up to every kind of trade for the service of their oppressors, we may naturally suppose that every artificer brought off some of his tools with him. For though it is not at all likely that they had any armor or defensive weapons in their power, yet for the reason above assigned they must have had the implements which were requisite for their respective trades.

Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board.
Ten cubits shall be the length of a board - Each of these boards or planks was about five yards and two feet and a half long, and thirty-two inches broad; and as they are said to be standing up, this was the Height of the tabernacle. The length being thirty cubits, twenty boards, one cubit and a half broad each, make about seventeen yards and a half, and the Breadth was about five yards.

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.
And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward.
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.
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.
And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides.
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.
And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
And thou shalt make bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle,
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.
Thou shalt overlay the boards with gold - It is not said how thick the gold was by which these boards, etc., were overlaid; it was no doubt done with gold plates, but these must have been very thin, else the boards, etc., must have been insupportably heavy. The gold was probably something like our gold leaf, but not brought to so great a degree of tenuity.

And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount.
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:
Thou shalt make a veil - פרכת parocheth, from פרך parach, to break or rend; the inner veil of the tabernacle or temple, (2 Chronicles 3:14), which broke, interrupted, or divided between the holy place and the most holy; the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was standing. Compare Hebrews 9:8. The Septuagint constantly render it by καταπετασμα. Does not the Hebrew name פרכת parocheth moreover intimate the typical correspondence of this veil to the body or flesh of Christ? For this καταπετασμα or veil was his flesh, (Hebrews 10:20), which, being rent, affords us a new and living way into the holiest of all, i.e., into heaven itself. Compare Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20; Hebrews 9:24. And accordingly when his blessed body was rent upon the cross, this veil also (το καταπετασμα του ἱερου) εσχισθη, was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; Matthew 27:51 - See Parkhurst, under the word פרך.

The veil in the tabernacle was exceedingly costly; it was made of the same materials with the inner covering, blue, purple, scarlet, fine twined linen, embroidered with cherubim, etc. It served to divide the tabernacle into two parts: one, the outermost, called the holy place; the other, or innermost, called the holy of holies, or the most holy place. In this was deposited the ark of the covenant, and the other things that were laid up by way of memorial. Into this the high priest alone was permitted to enter, and that only once in the year, on the great day of atonement. It was in this inner place that Jehovah manifested himself between the cherubim. The Jews say that this veil was four fingers' breadth in thickness, in order to prevent any person from seeing through it; but for this, as Calmet observes, there was no necessity, as there was no window or place for light in the tabernacle, and consequently the most simple veil would have been sufficient to obstruct the discovery of any thing behind it, which could only be discerned by the light that came in at the door, or by that afforded by the golden candlestick which stood on the outside of this veil.

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.
Their hooks shall be of gold - וויהם vaveyhem, which we translate their hooks, is rendered κεφαλιδες, capitals, by the Septuagint, and capita by the Vulgate. As the word וו vav or vau, plural ווים vavim, occurs only in this book, Exodus 26:32, Exodus 26:37; Exodus 27:10, Exodus 27:11, Exodus 27:17; Exodus 36:36, Exodus 36:38; Exodus 38:10, Exodus 38:11, Exodus 38:12, Exodus 38:17, Exodus 38:19, Exodus 38:28; and is used in these places in reference to the same subject, it is very difficult to ascertain its precise meaning. Most commentators and lexicographers think that the ideal meaning of the word is to connect, attach, join to, hook; and that the letter ו vau has its name from its hooklike form, and its use as a particle in the Hebrew language, because it serves to connect the words and members of a sentence, and the sentences of a discourse together, and that therefore hook must be the obvious meaning of the word in all the above texts. Calmet thinks this reason of no weight, because the ו vau of the present Hebrew alphabet is widely dissimilar from the vau of the primitive Hebrew alphabet, as may be seen on the ancient shekels; on these the characters appear as in the word Jehovah, Exodus 28:36. This form bears no resemblance to a hook; nor does the Samaritan vau, which appears to have been copied from this ancient character.

Calmet therefore contends,

1. That if Moses does not mean the capitals of the pillars by the ווים eht vavim of the text, he mentions them nowhere; and it would be strange that while he describes the pillars, their sockets, bases, fillets, etc., etc., with so much exactness, as will appear on consulting the preceding places, that he should make no mention of the capitals; or that pillars, every way so correctly formed, should have been destitute of this very necessary ornament.

2. As Moses was commanded to make the hooks, ווים vavim, of the pillars and their fillets of silver, Exodus 27:10, Exodus 27:11, and the hooks, vavim, of the pillars of the veil of gold, Exodus 36:36; and as one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels were employed in making these hooks, vavim, overlaying their chapiters, ראשיהם rasheyhem, their heads, and filleting them, Exodus 38:28; it is more reasonable to suppose that all this is spoken of the capitals of the pillars than of any kind of hooks, especially as hooks are mentioned under the word taches or clasps in other places. On the whole it appears much more reasonable to translate the original by capitals than by hooks.

After this verse the Samaritan Pentateuch introduces the ten first verses of Exodus 30, and this appears to be their proper place. Those ten verses are not repeated in the thirtieth chapter in the Samaritan, the chapter beginning with the 11th verse.

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.
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.
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.
A hanging for the door of the tent - This may be called the first veil, as it occupied the door or entrance to the tabernacle; the veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies is called the second veil, Hebrews 9:3. These two veils and the inner covering of the tabernacle were all of the same materials, and of the same workmanship. See Exodus 27:16.

1. For the meaning and design of the tabernacle see Clarke's note on Exodus 25:40 : and while the reader is struck with the curious and costly nature of this building, as described by Moses, let him consider how pure and holy that Church should be of which it was a very expressive type; and what manner of person he should be in all holy conversation and godliness, who professes to be a member of that Church for which, it is written, Christ has given himself, that he might sanctify and cleanse it; that he might present it unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. See Ephesians 5:25-27.

2. In the Jewish tabernacle almost every thing was placed out of the sight of the people. The holy of holies was inaccessible, the testimony was comparatively hidden, as were also the mercy-seat and the Divine glory. Under the Gospel all these things are laid open, the way to the holiest is made manifest, the veil is rent, and we have an entrance to the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20. How abundantly has God brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel! The awful distance is abolished, the ministry of reconciliation is proclaimed, the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers, and the Lord is in his holy temple. Sinner, weary of thyself and thy transgressions, fainting under the load of thy iniquities, look to Jesus; he died for thee, and will save thee. Believer, stand fast in the liberty wherewith God has made thee free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.

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.
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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