What the Israelites were to offer for making the tabernacle. (1-9) The ark. (10-22) The table, with its furniture. (23-30) The candlestick. (31-40)
Verses 1-9 God chose the people of Israel to be a peculiar people to himself, above all people, and he himself would be their King. He ordered a royal palace to be set up among them for himself, called a sanctuary, or holy place, or habitation. There he showed his presence among them. And because in the wilderness they dwelt in tents, this royal palace was ordered to be a tabernacle, that it might move with them. The people were to furnish Moses with the materials, by their own free will. The best use we can make of our worldly wealth, is to honour God with it in works of piety and charity. We should ask, not only, What must we do? but, What may we do for God? Whatever they gave, they must give it cheerfully, not grudgingly, for God ( 2 Corinthians. 9:7 ) service of God, we must reckon well bestowed; and whatsoever is done in God's service, must be done by his direction.
Verses 10-22 The ark was a chest, overlaid with gold, in which the two tables of the law were to be kept. These tables are called the testimony; God in them testified his will. This law was a testimony to the Israelites, to direct them in their duty, and would be a testimony against them, if they transgressed. This ark was placed in the holy of holies; the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled, and the incense burned, before it, by the high priest; and above it appeared the visible glory, which was the symbol of the Divine presence. This was a type of Christ in his sinless nature, which saw no corruption, in personal union with his Divine nature, atoning for our sins against it, by his death. The cherubim of gold looked one towards another, and both looked downward toward the ark. It denotes the angels' attendance on the Redeemer, their readiness to do his will, their presence in the assemblies of saints, and their desire to look into the mysteries of the gospel. It was covered with a covering of gold, called the mercy-seat. God is said to dwell, or sit between the cherubim, on the mercy-seat. There he would give his law, and hear supplicants, as a prince on his throne.
Verses 23-30 A table was to be made of wood, overlaid with gold, to stand in the outer tabernacle, to be always furnished with the shew-bread. This table, with the articles on it, and its use, seems to typify the communion which the Lord holds with his redeemed people in his ordinances, the provisions of his house, the feasts they are favoured with. Also the food for their souls, which they always find when they hunger after it; and the delight he takes in their persons and services, as presented before him in Christ.
Verses 31-40 The candlestick represents the light of God's word and Spirit, in and through Christ Jesus, afforded in this dark world to his believing people, to direct their worship and obedience, and to afford them consolations. The church is still dark, as the tabernacle was, in comparison with what it will be in heaven; but the word of God is a light shining in a dark place, ( 2 Peter. 1:19 ) it. In ver. ( 40 ) is an express caution to Moses. Nothing was left to his own fancy, or to that of the workmen, or the people; but the will of God must be observed in every particular. Christ's instruction to his disciples, ( Matthew 28:20 ) , is like this, Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Let us remember that we are the temples of the Holy Ghost, that we have the law of God in our hearts, that we are to live a life of communion with God, feast on his ordinances, and are the light of the world, if indeed we are followers of Christ. May the Lord help us to try ourselves by this view of religion, and to walk according thereto.
Exodus 25:1-40 . CONCERNING AN OFFERING.
1. the Lord spake unto Moses, &c.--The business that chiefly occupied Moses on the mount, whatever other disclosures were made to him there, was in receiving directions about the tabernacle, and they are here recorded as given to him.
2. bring me an offering of every man that giveth it willingly, &c.--Having declared allegiance to God as their sovereign, they were expected to contribute to His state, as other subjects to their kings; and the "offering" required of them was not to be imposed as a tax, but to come from their own loyal and liberal feelings.
3. this is the offering which ye shall take of them--the articles of which the offerings should consist.
brass--rather copper, brass being a composite metal.
4. goats' hair--or leather of goats' skin.
5. badgers' skins--The badger was an unclean animal, and is not a native of the East--rather some kind of fish, of the leather of which sandals are made in the East.
shittim wood--or Shittah ( Isaiah 41:19 ), the acacia, a shrub which grows plentifully in the deserts of Arabia, yielding a light, strong, and beautiful wood, in long planks.
7. ephod--a square cloak, hanging down from the shoulders, and worn by priests.
8. a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them--In one sense the tabernacle was to be a palace, the royal residence of the King of Israel, in which He was to dwell among His people, receive their petitions, and issue His responses. But it was also to be a place of worship, in which God was to record His name and to enshrine the mystic symbols of His presence.
9. According to all that I show thee, [after] the pattern of the tabernacle--The proposed erection could be, in the circumstances of the Israelites, not of a fixed and stable but of a temporary and movable description, capable of being carried about with them in their various sojournings. It was made after "the pattern" shown to Moses, by which is now generally understood, not that it was an unheard-of novelty, or an entirely original structure, for it is ascertained to have borne resemblance in form and arrangements to the style of an Egyptian temple, but that it was so altered, modified, and purified from all idolatrous associations, as to be appropriated to right objects, and suggestive of ideas connected with the true God and His worship.
10. an ark--a coffer or chest, overlaid with gold, the dimensions of which, taking the cubit at eighteen inches, are computed to be three feet nine inches in length, two feet three inches in breadth.
11. a crown--a rim or cornice.
12. rings--staples for the poles, with which it was to be carried from place to place.
15. staves shall be in the rings of the ark--that is, always remain in the rings, whether the ark be at rest or in motion.
16. the testimony--that is, the two tables of stone, containing the ten commandments, and called "the testimony," because by it God did testify His sovereign authority over Israel as His people, His selection of them as the guardians of His will and worship, and His displeasure in the event of their transgressing His laws; while on their part, by receiving and depositing this law in its appointed place, they testified their acknowledgment of God's right to rule over them, and their submission to the authority of His law. The superb and elaborate style of the ark that contained "the testimony" was emblematic of the great treasure it held; in other words, the incomparable value and excellence of the Word of God, while its being placed in this chest further showed the great care which God has ever taken for preserving it.
17. thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold--to serve as a lid, covering it exactly. It was "the propitiatory cover," as the term may be rendered, denoting that Christ, our great propitiation [ 1 John 2:2 , 4:10 ], has fully answered all the demands of the law, covers our transgressions, and comes between us and the curse of a violated law.
18. two cherubim--The real meaning of these figures, as well as the shape or form of them, is not known with certainty--probably similar to what was afterwards introduced into the temple, and described in Ezekiel 10:8-22 . They stretched out their wings, and their faces were turned towards the mercy seat [ Exodus 25:20 ], probably in a bowing attitude. The prevailing opinion now is, that those splendid figures were symbolical not of angelic but of earthly and human beings--the members of the Church of God interested in the dispensation of grace, the redeemed in every age--and that these hieroglyphic forms symbolized the qualities of the true people of God--courage, patience, intelligence, and activity.
22. there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat--The Shekinah, or symbol of the Divine Presence, rested on the mercy seat, and was indicated by a cloud, from the midst of which responses were audibly given when God was consulted on behalf of His people. Hence God is described as "dwelling" or "sitting" between the cherubim.
23. table of shittim wood--of the same material and decorations as and like it, too, furnished with rings for the poles on which it was carried [ Exodus 25:26 ]. The staves, however, were taken out of it when stationary, in order not to encumber the priests while engaged in their services at the table. It was half a cubit less than the ark in length and breadth, but of the same height.
24. crown--the moulding or ornamental rim, which is thought to have been raised above the level of the table, to prevent anything from falling off.
29. dishes--broad platters.
spoons--cups or concave vessels, used for holding incense.
covers--both for bread and incense.
bowls--cups; for though no mention is made of wine, libations were undoubtedly made to God, according to JOSEPHUS and the rabbins, once a week, when the bread was changed.
to cover withal--rather, "to pour out withal."
30. showbread--literally, presence bread, so called because it was constantly exhibited before the Lord, or because the bread of His presence, like the angel of His presence, pointed symbolically to Christ. It consisted of twelve unleavened loaves, said traditionally to have been laid in piles of six each. This bread was designed to be a symbol of the full and never-failing provision which is made in the Church for the spiritual sustenance and refreshment of God's people.
31. candlestick--literally, "a lamp bearer." It was so constructed as to be capable of being taken to pieces for facility in removal. The shaft or stock rested on a pedestal. It had seven branches, shaped like reeds or canes--three on each side, with one in the center--and worked out into knobs, flowers, and bowls, placed alternately [ Exodus 25:32-36 ]. The figure represented on the arch of Titus gives the best idea of this candlestick.
33. knops--old spelling for "knobs"--bosses.
37. they shall light the lamps . . . that they may give light--The light was derived from pure olive oil, and probably kept continually burning (compare Exodus 30:7 , Leviticus 24:2 ).
39. a talent of pure gold--in weight equivalent to one hundred twenty-five pounds, troy.
40. look that thou make them after their pattern--This caution, which is repeated with no small frequency in other parts of the narrative, is an evidence of the deep interest taken by the Divine King in the erection of His palace or sanctuary; and it is impossible to account for the circumstance of God's condescending to such minute details, except on the assumption that this tabernacle was to be of a typical character, and eminently subservient to the religious instruction and benefit of mankind, by shadowing forth in its leading features the grand truths of the Christian Church.