Exodus 33:7
And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.
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(7-11) Moses, having experienced the blessedness of solitary communion with God during the forty days spent on Sinai, felt now, as he had never felt before, the want of a “house of God,” whither he might retire for prayer and meditation, secure of being undisturbed. Months would necessarily elapse before the Tabernacle could be constructed according to the pattern which he had seen in the mount. During this interval he determined to make use of one of the existing tents as a “house of prayer,” severing it from the others, and giving it the name “Tent of Meeting,” which was afterwards appropriated to the Tabernacle. It would seem that he selected his own tent for the purpose—probably because it was the best that the camp afforded—and contented himself with another. God deigned to approve his design, and descended in the cloudy pillar on the tent each time that Moses entered it.

(7) Moses took the tabernacle.—Rather, Moses took his tent. The Hebrew article, like the Greek, has often the force of the possessive pronoun. The LXX. translate λαβὼν Μωυσῆς τὴν σκηνὴν αὐτοῦ; and so Jarchi, Aben-Ezra, Kurtz, Kalisch, Keil, Cook, &c.

And pitched it without the camp.—Heb., and pitched it for himself without the camp. “For himself” means for his own use, that he might resort to it. This was his special object.

The Tabernacle of the congregation.—Rather, the tent of meeting. (See Note on Exodus 25:22.) He gave it—i.e., by anticipation—the identical name by which the “Tabernacle” was afterwards commonly known. It was, in fact, a temporary substitute for the Tabernacle.

Every one . . . went out unto the tabernacle.—Though he had designed it for his own special use, Moses allowed all Israel to make use of it also.

Exodus 33:7. And Moses took the tabernacle — The tent wherein he gave audience, heard causes, and inquired of God; and pitched it without, afar off from the camp — To signify to them that they were unworthy of it. Perhaps this tabernacle was a model of the tabernacle that was afterward to be erected, a hasty draft from the pattern showed him in the mount, designed for direction to the workmen, and used in the mean time as a tabernacle of meeting between God and Moses about public affairs. And called it the tabernacle of the congregation — Implying, that whosoever would seek the Lord, that is, would seek either for his favour, or for counsel and direction, must come thither.33:7-11 Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp. This seems to have been a temporary building, set up for worship, and at which he judged disputes among the people. The people looked after him; they were very desirous to be at peace with God, and concerned to know what would come to pass. The cloudy pillar which had withdrawn from the camp when it was polluted with idolatry, now returned. If our hearts go forth toward God to meet him, he will graciously come to meet us.The tabernacle - The tent. The only word in the Old Testament which ought to be rendered "tabernacle" משׁכן mı̂shkān does not occur once in this narrative Exodus 26:1. What is here meant is a tent appointed for this temporary purpose by Moses, possibly that in which he was accustomed to dwell.

Pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp - That the people might feel that they had forfeited the divine presence (see Exodus 25:8). This tent was to be a place for meeting with Yahweh, like the tabernacle which was about to be constructed.

The tent of meeting (as it should be called, see Exodus 27:21 note, and note at end of Exodus 40) was placed "afar off from the camp," and the mediator and his faithful servant Joshua were alone admitted to it Exodus 33:11.

7. Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp—Not the tabernacle, of which a pattern had been given him, for it was not yet erected, but his own tent—conspicuous as that of the leader—in a part of which he heard cases and communed with God about the people's interests; hence called "the tabernacle of the congregation," and the withdrawal of which, in abhorrence from a polluted camp, was regarded as the first step in the total abandonment with which God had threatened them. The tabernacle was a tent set up by Moses for the people to meet in for sacrifice and seeking of God, and other parts of God’s worship, until the great tabernacle should be finished; for such a place was necessary, or highly expedient for that use, and therefore it is not probable they would be without it for a year’s space.

Afar off from the camp; in testimony of God’s alienation from them, and displeasure against them, this being a kind of excommunication; and all was too little to bring them to a thorough repentance.

The tabernacle of the congregation; it was so before, but he called it so now, to show that God had not wholly forsaken them; and that if they truly repented, he still permitted them to come into his presence, and to seek the Lord.

Every one which sought the Lord; either for his favour, or for counsel and direction. See Exodus 18:15,19,20. And Moses took the tabernacle,.... Not that, the pattern of which he had been shown in the mount, for that was not as yet made, rather his own tabernacle or tent, Exodus 18:7 or one that was erected for worship before the large one was ordered, and while that was building; for it can hardly be thought they should have no place of worship for a whole year after they were come out of Egypt; though this might be not a place on purpose, or only erected for that use, but might be one of the apartments of Moses; who, besides what he had for the use and convenience of his family, had a special and peculiar one, hath on a religious account, where he and the people sometimes worshipped, and God met with them, and on a civil account, to hear and judge the causes of the people, and resolve their doubts, and remove their difficulties, and make inquiries of God for them:

and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp; 2000 cubits distant from it, as the Targum of Jonathan, and so Jarchi, which he endeavours to confirm from Joshua 3:4 and was what was afterwards called a sabbath day's journey: this was done partly that he might have the opportunity of conversing with God, and bringing about a thorough reconciliation between him and the people, who declared he would not go up in the midst of them; and partly that this might be a symbol to the people of the Lord's departure from the midst of them; that so they might be brought to a thorough humiliation for their sin, who might fear that he would not only stand at a distance, but entirely remove from them: it might be considered as a token of his displeasure with them, and yet be a door of hope unto them; since he was not wholly gone from them, but might be sought unto by them as follows:

and called it the tabernacle of the congregation; as the great tabernacle was afterwards called, and as this might be before, though now renewed, to give the people some encouragement to resort here; because here he and they met together, both on civil and religious accounts, and God met with them:

and it came to pass, that everyone which sought the Lord: about any affair of moment and importance, to know his will, and to have instruction and direction what to do; or that sought to him for peace and reconciliation, for the pardon of their sins, and the acceptance of their persons, repenting of their sins, and confessing the same:

went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp; these went out of the camp, from their tents there, to this; who were not the body of the people, but either such who had difficult matters to inquire about, or were seriously and heartily concerned for the evil they had committed, and for the removal of the divine Presence from them.

And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the {c} Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.

(c) That is, the tabernacle of the congregation: so called because the people turned to it, when they needed to be instructed of the Lord's will.

7. used to take, &c.] at every new encampment of the Israelites.

the tent] As the context shews, not Moses’ tent, or a provisional tent, but the same sacred tent which is mentioned by P, under the same name (Exodus 25:22), though described by him as a much more ornate and elaborate structure (see further Kennedy in DB. iv. 654). It is introduced as something already known (‘the tent’): in all probability it had been just mentioned in a part of E no longer preserved (cf. on v. 6); and as it was a well-known element of the tradition, the art could be retained by the compiler. The rend. ‘a tent,’ which Heb. idiom would also permit (G.-K. § 126 r, s), does not suit the sequel, which implies that not a casual, but a definite tent, is meant.

pitch it] Heb. pitch it for himself: it was intended particularly for his own use, in his converse with God. P’s ‘Tent of Meeting’ was used similarly (Exodus 25:22, Leviticus 1:1, Numbers 7:89): but that is represented principally as a centre for sacrifice and other ceremonial observances.

without the camp] like the local sanctuaries of a later age, outside the towns of Canaan.

The tent of meeting] I.e. the tent where Jehovah used to ‘meet’ Moses, and communicate to him His will. See more fully on Exodus 27:21.

every one which sought, &c.] Every one who desired to ‘seek’ Jehovah in order to obtain an oracle (2 Samuel 21:1 Heb.: cf. p. 314, McNeile, p. cxvi f., EB. iii. 3841; Jdg 18:5, 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 23:2, 2 Samuel 16:23), perhaps also with sacrifice or prayer (2 Samuel 12:16)—would go out to the Tent of Meeting for the purpose.

7–11. The Tent of Meeting, and the use made of it by Moses. The sudden introduction of this notice of the Tent of Meeting is extremely surprising; and it is difficult to explain it, except by the conjecture mentioned on v. 6. The notice is a highly interesting and remarkable one, preserving, as it does, the oldest representation that we possess—that of E—of the Tent of Meeting, and differing in many particulars from the representation given by P (chs. 25–31, &c.). The ‘tent’ is obviously much simpler in structure than that of P; it is guarded by one attendant, the Ephraimite Joshua, instead of by the host of Levites pictured by P (Numbers 3-4); and it is outside the camp (so Numbers 11:26 f., Exodus 12:4), at some distance from it, not in its centre, as in P (Numbers 2:17). The tenses, throughout the section, are frequentative, and describe what was Moses’ habitual practice—no doubt, in E’s view, during the whole time of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. Used in v. 7 is intended to rule the whole section: but would go out, would rise up, &c., with whenever for when in vv. 8, 9, would be clearer.Verses 7-11. - THE FIRST ERECTION OF A TABERNACLE. The decision of the matter still hung in suspense. God had not revoked his threat to withdraw himself and leave the host to the conduct of an angel. He had merely reserved his final decision (ver. 5). Moses was anxious to wrestle with him in prayer until he obtained the reversal of this sentence; but he could not be always ascending Sinai, when the camp needed his superintending care, and the camp as yet contained no place of worship, where a man could pray and be secure against disturbance. Moses, under these circumstances, with the tabernacle in his mind, but without leisure to construct it, contrived "for the present distress" a temporary tabernacle or tent. He took, apparently, the tent that had hitherto been his own, and removed it to a position outside the camp, erecting it there, and at the same time giving it the name of "the tent of meeting" (ver. 7). Hither he decreed that all persons should come who desired communion with God (ver. 7), and hither he resorted himself for the same purpose (ver. 8). It pleased God to approve these arrangements; and to show his approval by a visible token. Whenever Moses entered the "tent of meeting," the pillar of the cloud descended from the top of Sinai, and took up its station at the door of the tent (ver. 9), thus securing Moses from interruption. At the sight the people "worshipped," each at his tent's door, while Moses was privileged to speak with God "face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (ver. 11). Joshua accompanied him on the first occasion, and remained behind, to guard the tent, when Moses left it (ibid.). Verse 7 - Moses took the tabernacle. The "tabernacle" proper was not yet constructed. (See chs. 35-40.) And the word used is not that properly rendered "tabernacle" - viz., mishkan (Exodus 26:1); but the far more common word ohel, which means "tent." The proper translation would be, "Moses took the tent." But the question at once arises - What tent? It is suggested that the article may have the force of the possessive pronoun, and indicate that he took "his tent." (Compare Matthew 9:10, where "the house" undoubtedly means "his house.") Moses took his own tent, probably as the best in the encampment, and converted it to a sacred use, transferring his own abode to another. Afar off from the camp. The sacred and the profane must not approach each other too closely - an interval must be set between them. But the distance, evidently, was not great (ver. 10). The tabernacle of the congregation. Rather, "the tent of meeting" or "of conference" - i.e., the tent in which he expected to meet and converse with God. See the comment on Exodus 27:21. Every one which sought the Lord went out. Moses must have commanded this. The "tent" was not to be a mere oratory for himself, but open to all Israelites. Moses' negotiations with the people, for the purpose of bringing them to sorrow and repentance, commenced with the announcement of what Jehovah had said. The words of Jehovah in Exodus 33:1-3, which are only a still further expansion of the assurance contained in Exodus 32:34, commence in a similar manner to the covenant promise in Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:23; but there is this great difference, that whereas the name, i.e., the presence of Jehovah Himself, was to have gone before the Israelites in the angel promised to the people as a leader in Exodus 23:20, now, though Jehovah would still send an angel before Moses and Israel, He Himself would not go up to Canaan (a land flowing, etc., see at Exodus 3:8) in the midst of Israel, lest He should destroy the people by the way, because they were stiff-necked (אכלך for אכלך, see Ges. 27, 3, Anm. 2).
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