Exodus 26:1
Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of cunning work shall you make them.
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(1-37) The sacred tent which was to form the “House of God,” or temple, for Israel during the continuance of the people in the wilderness, and which in point of fact served them for a national sanctuary until the construction of the first temple by Solomon, is described in this chapter with a minuteness which leaves little to be desired. It is called ham-mishkân, “the dwelling,” and ha-’ohel, “the tent” (Exodus 26:36)—the former from its purpose, as being the place where God “dwelt” in a peculiar manner (Exodus 25:22); the latter from its shape and general construction, which resembled those of other tents of the period. The necessary foundation was a framework of wood. This consisted of five “pillars,” or tent-poles, in front (Exodus 26:37), graduated in height to suit the slope of the roof, and doubtless five similar ones at the back, though these are not mentioned. A ridge-pole must have connected the two central tent-poles, and over this ridge-pole the covering of the tent, which was of goats’-hair (Exodus 26:7), was no doubt strained in the ordinary way by means of cords and “pins,” or tent-pegs (Exodus 35:18). Thus an oblong square space was roofed over, which seems to have been sixty feet long by thirty broad. Within this “tent” (‘ohel) was placed the “dwelling” (mishkân). The “dwelling” was a space forty-five feet long by fifteen broad, enclosed on three sides by walls of boards (Exodus 26:18-25), and opening in front into a sort of porch formed by the projection of the “tent” beyond the “dwelling.” Towards the open air this porch was closed, wholly or partially, by a curtain (Exodus 26:36). The “dwelling” was roofed over by another “curtain,” or “hanging,” of bright colours and rich materials (Exodus 26:1-6). It was divided into two portions, called respectively “the Holy Place,” and “the Holy of Holies”—the former towards the porch, the latter away from it. These two places were separated by a “vail” hung upon four pillars (Exodus 26:31-32). Their relative size is uncertain; but it may be suspected that the Holy of Holies was the smaller of the two, and conjectured that the proportion was as one to two, the Holy of Holies being a square of fifteen feet, and the Holy Place an oblong, thirty feet long by fifteen. The whole structure was placed within an area called “the Court of the Tabernacle,” which is described in the next chapter.


(1) The tabernacle.—Literally, the dwelling (see Exodus 25:9, where mishkân first occurs). It is a derivative from shakan, translated by “dwell” in the preceding verse.

Ten curtains.—The same word (yĕri’ah) is used for the constituent parts of the covering, and for the entire covering, or, at any rate, for each of the two halves into which it was divided (Exodus 26:4-5). In the first use, it corresponds to what we should call “a breadth.”

Fine twined linen—i.e., linen thread formed by twisting several distinct strands together. Egyptian thread was ordinarily of this character.

Blue, and purple, and scarlet.—See the Notes on Exodus 25:4.

Cherubims of cunning work.—Rather, cherubim, the work of a cunning weaver. Ma’asêh khoshêb and ma’asêh rokêm (Exodus 26:36) seem to be contrasted one with the other, the former signifying work where the patterning was inwoven, the latter where it was embroidered with the needle. The inweaving of patterns or figures was well understood in Egypt (Herod, iii. 47; Plin. H. N., viii. 48).

Exodus 26:1. Thou shalt make the tabernacle — The word המשׁכן hammishchan, which we translate tabernacle, means a place to dwell in. And this was not only to be a sign of God’s presence with, and protection of his people, but his habitation or dwelling-place among them: the place where he would, in a peculiar manner, manifest his presence, display his glory, accept their oblations, prayers, praises, and other services, and by the intervention of Moses and Aaron first, and afterward of the high-priest for the time being, would communicate to them his mind and will. “It was a type,” says Mr. Brown, “1st, Of Christ’s person, Hebrews 8:2. 2d, Of the gospel church; the habitation of God by the Spirit, Ephesians 2:20-22; 2 Corinthians 6:16. 3d, Of every Christian, in whose heart God dwells, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19. 4th, Of the new covenant and heavenly state, Isaiah 66:1. And according to these different significations may the furniture thereof be understood in different views.”

With ten curtains — These curtains formed the principal covering of the sanctuary, and are called the tabernacle or dwelling-place of God. They were made of the finest linen, dyed with the richest colours, spun and woven in the most curious manner, and beautifully embroidered all over with cherubim, the emblematic representations of angels. This last circumstance was not only intended to signify that the angels joined in the worship of the God of Israel; but also that they attend continually upon him in his holy habitation as “his ministers to do his pleasure,” Psalm 103:21; that they encamp around his church, Psalm 34:7; and are always in waiting, so to speak, and ready to minister to the heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14. For, as there were cherubim over the mercy- seat, so there were also round the tabernacle. It must be observed, likewise, that there were to be two hangings, five breadths in each, sewed together, and the two hangings coupled together, with golden clasps, or tacks, so that it might all be one tabernacle. Thus the churches of Christ, though they are many, yet are one, being fitly joined together in holy love, and by the unity of the Spirit, so growing into one holy temple in the Lord. This tabernacle was very straight and narrow, but at the preaching of the gospel the church is bid to enlarge the place of her tent, and to stretch forth her curtains, Isaiah 54:2.26:1-6 God manifested his presence among the Israelites in a tabernacle or tent, because of their condition in the wilderness. God suits the tokens of his favour, and the gifts of his grace, to his people's state and wants. The curtains of the tabernacle were to be very rich. They were to be embroidered with cherubim, signifying that the angels of God pitch their tents round about the church, Ps 34:7.(Compare Exodus 36:8-33.) The tabernacle was to comprise three main parts, the tabernacle Exodus 26:1-6, more strictly so-called, its tent Exodus 26:7-13, and its covering Exodus 26:14 (Compare Exodus 35:11; Exodus 39:33-34; Exodus 40:19, Exodus 40:34; Numbers 3:25, etc.). These parts are very clearly distinguished in the Hebrew, but they are confounded in many places of the English Version (see Exodus 26:7, Exodus 26:9, etc.). The tabernacle itself was to consist of curtains of fine linen woven with colored figures of cherubim, and a structure of boards which was to contain the holy place and the most holy place; the tent was to be a true tent of goats' hair cloth to contain and shelter the tabernacle: the covering was to be of red rams' skins and "tachash" skins Exodus 25:5, and was spread over the goats' hair tent as an additional protection against the weather. On the external form of the tabernacle and the arrangement of its parts, see cuts at the end of the chapter.

Exodus 26:1

The tabernacle - The משׁכן mı̂shkân, i. e. the dwelling-place; the definite article regularly accompanies the Hebrew word when the dwelling-place of Yahweh is denoted. But in this place the word is not used in its full sense as denoting the dwelling-place of Yahweh: it denotes only the tabernacle-cloth Exodus 26:6. The word is, in fact, employed with three distinct ranges of meaning,

(1) in its strict sense, comprising the cloth of the tabernacle with its woodwork (Exodus 25:9; Exodus 26:30; Exodus 36:13; Exodus 40:18, etc.);

(2) in a narrower sense, for the tabernacle-cloth only (Exodus 26:1, Exodus 26:6; Exodus 35:11; Exodus 39:33-34, etc.);

(3) in a wider sense, for the tabernacle with its tent and covering (Exodus 27:19; Exodus 35:18, etc.).

With ten curtains - Rather, of ten breadths. Five of these breadths were united so as to form what, in common usage, we should call a large curtain Exodus 26:3. The two curtains thus formed were coupled together by the loops and taches to make the entire tabernacle-cloth Exodus 26:6.

Of cunning work - More properly, of the work of the skilled weaver. The colored figures of cherubim (see Exodus 25:4, Exodus 25:18) were to be worked in the loom, as in the manufacture of tapestry and carpets (see Exodus 26:36 note). On the different kinds of workmen employed on the textile fabrics, see Exodus 35:35.


Ex 26:1-37. Ten Curtains

1. cunning work—that is, of elegant texture, richly embroidered. The word "cunning," in old English, is synonymous with "skilful."Moses is commanded to make the tabernacle with ten curtains, Exodus 26:1 The length and breadth of the curtains, Exodus 26:2. The form of the curtains, Exodus 26:3-6. He is commanded to make eleven curtains of goats’ hair, Exodus 26:7. The manner of the making and placing them, Exodus 26:8-14. Of what the tabernacle is to be made, Exodus 26:15. The manner of its making, with other utensils, Exodus 26:16-30. Of the veil, and what it is to be made of, Exodus 26:31. The fashion of it, Exodus 26:32,33. The hanging for the tent-door, Exodus 26:36.

The tabernacle, or tent; a little house wherein the ark, table, and candlestick were to be placed. And scarlet, i.e. with materials of these colours, to wit, wool, as may be gathered from hence, that it is opposed to linen. Compare Exodus 25:4. Of cunning work, either woven, or rather wrought with needle, wherein is most skill and curiosity.

Moreover, thou shalt make the tabernacle,.... Which he was ordered to make before, the pattern of which was shown him in the mount: this was an habitation for God to dwell in, as the word properly signifies, and into which the furniture before described was to be put; this tabernacle was a type both of the human nature of Christ, which is the true tabernacle which God pitched, and not man, the greater and more perfect one, Hebrews 8:2 in which the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, where the glory of God is seen, in whom he grants his gracious presence to his people, and accepts of them and their sacrifices of prayer and praise; and also of the church of God, Psalm 43:3. Here Jehovah dwells, grants his presence to his people, and comes and blesses them; here he is worshipped, and spiritual sacrifices are offered up to him with acceptance: the tabernacle of Moses was made

with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet; the ground of these curtains was fine linen, twined or doubled: and the Jewish writers, as Maimonides, Ben Gersom, and others, say it was six times doubled, the word "Shesh", here used, signifying six; and this was interwoven with threads of yarn dyed blue, purple, and scarlet; according to Jarchi, the threads of which this tapestry was made were twenty four times doubled: he observes,"there were four sorts in every thread, one thread of fine linen, and three of wool, and every thread was doubled six times; lo, the four sorts, when they were twined together, there were twenty four double to a thread;''which if so, must make a stuff of a very great consistence and stiffness. This, as applied to the human nature of Christ, the fine linen may denote the purity of it; the various colours the different graces of the Spirit, with which it is adorned; or else the wounds, bruises, bloodshed, sufferings and death he endured in it: as applied to the church, may signify the clothing of the saints with the righteousness of Christ, that fine linen clean and white, and their being washed in his precious blood, and beautified with the graces of his Spirit:

with cherubim of cunning work shall thou make them; that is, with figures like those of the cherubim on the mercy seat, so disposed by the curious art and contrivance of the weaver, as to appear on both sides of this tapestry; for this was not wrought by a needle, which only shows the figure on one side, but by weaving, as Jarchi observes; and who says, that there was one figure on one side, and another on another; as, for instance, a lion on one side, and an eagle on the other; or, which is more likely, the same figure was seen on both sides, as Maimonides affirms, who says (e), the work called Chosheb (which is what is here spoken of) is that whose figures appear on both sides, before and behind: this in the mystical sense may point either to the ministration of angels to Christ in his human nature, and to his people the heirs of salvation; or else to the service of Gospel ministers, done for the honour and glory of Christ, and the good of his church and people: Josephus (f) thinks these curtains had a mystical meaning in them, and represent the nature of the elements, and so Philo (g).

(e) Hilchot Cele Hamikdash, c. 8. sect. 15. (f) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 7. sect. 7. (g) De Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 667.

Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of {a} cunning work shalt thou make them.

(a) That is, of most cunning or fine work.

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.Verses 1-37. - THE TABERNACLE. The sacred furniture which the tabernacle was to contain having been described, with the exception of the "altar of incense" the description of which is reserved for ch 30. (vers. 1-10)-directions were next given for the sacred structure itself. This was to consist of three main things -

1. A quadrangular enclosure thirty cubits long by ten broad, open at one end, and on the other three sides enclosed by boards of acacia-wood overlaid with gold - called the mishkan, or "the dwelling-place," in our version usually translated "tabernacle."

2. A tent of goat's hair, supported upon poles, and stretched by means of ropes and tent-pegs in the ordinary manner over the mishkan. This is called the ohel - which is the usual word for a "tent" in Hebrew, and is so translated generally (Genesis 4:20; Genesis 9:21; 13:31; 18:1, etc.), though in this chapter, unfortunately, "covering" (ver. 7); and

3. A "covering" - mikseh, to be placed over the ohel, composed of rams' skins dyed red, and seals' skins (ver. 14). Subordinate parts of the structure were -

(a) The sockets, or bases, which were to receive and support the upright boards (vers. 19-25);

(b) The bars which were to hold the boards together (vers. 26-29);

(c) The veil, stretched on pillars, which was to be hung across the" dwelling-house," and to separate it into two parts, the "holy place" and the "holy of holies" (vers. 31-33); and

(d) The curtain or "hanging" at the open end of the "dwelling-place," where there were no boards, which was intended to close that side of the structure when necessary (vers. 36, 37). The fine linen covering (vers. 1-6). Verse 1. - Thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains. These "ten curtains" are explained in the verses which follow to be ten "breadths," so fastened together as to form practically a single curtain or awning, which constituted the cieling or inner covering of the tabernacle. The mode of its arrangement is not quite certain. Some suppose that it was really a part of the "tent," being laid over the same framework as the goats' hair curtain (Fergusson, Cook); others believe it to have been strained across the mishkan and fastened to the top of the boards on either side, thence depending, either inside or outside (Bahr, Keil). The former supposition appears the more probable. Fine twined linen is linen the threads of which are formed of several fine strands twisted together. This is often the case with Egyptian linen. On blue and purple and scarlet, see the comment upon Exodus 25:4. Cherubims of cunning work. Rather, "cherubim, the work of a skilled weaver." Figures of cherubs were to be woven into the hangings in the loom itself, not embroidered upon them afterwards. "and every pipe under the two branches shall be out from them (be connected with them) for the six (side) pipes going out from the candlestick;" i.e., at the point where the three pairs of the six side pipes or arms branched off from the main pipe or stem of the candlestick, a knob should be so placed that the arms should proceed from the knob, or from the main stem immediately above the knob.
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