THE GIFTS WHICH MIGHT BE GIVEN FOR THE TABERNACLE AND THE PRIESTS’ DRESSES.
(2) Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring me an offering.—God, being about to command the construction of a dwelling for Himself, such as the circumstances of the case allowed, prefaced His directions concerning its materials and form by instructing Moses to invite the people to contribute from their stores, as an offering to Himself, the various substances which were suitable for the dwelling and its appurtenances. The erection of sanctuaries is one of the fittest occasions for man to shew his gratitude to God by giving to Him of His own, largely and liberally.
Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart.—Heb., of every man whose heart impels him. Unless gifts come from the heart, they are an offence to God. He “loveth a cheerful giver.” When the time came, a noble and liberal spirit was not wanting. (See Exodus 35:21-29; Exodus 36:3-7.)
My offering.—Literally, my heave-offering. But the word seems to be intended in a generic sense.
Fine linen—i.e., white thread spun from flax, which is found to be the material of almost all the Egyptian dresses, mummy cloths, and other undyed fabrics. It is of a yellowish white, soft, and wonderfully fine and delicate. (See Wilkinson in Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. ii., p. 233).
Goats’ hair.—The covering of an Arab tent is to this day almost always of goats’-hair. An excellent fabric is woven from the soft inner hair of the Syrian goat, and a coarse one from the outer coat of the animal. Yarn of goats’-hair was to be offered, that from it might be produced the first of the three outer coverings of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:7-14).
Badgers’ skins.—The badger is not a native of North Africa, nor of the Arabian desert; and the translation of the Hebrew takhash by “badger” is a very improbable conjecture. In Arabic, tukhash or dukhash is the name of a marine animal resembling the seal; or, perhaps it should rather be said, is applied with some vagueness to a number of sea-animals, as seals, dugongs, dolphins, sharks, and dog-fish. The skins here spoken of are probably those of some one or more of these animals. They formed the outer covering of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:14).
Shittim wood.—That the shittah (plural, shittim) was a species of Acacia is now generally admitted.
It was certainly not the palm; and there are no trees in the Sinaitic region from which boards could be cut (see Exodus 26:15) except the palm and the acacia. The Sinaitic acacia (A. Seyal) is a “gnarled and thorny tree, somewhat like a solitary hawthorn in its habit and manner of growth, but much larger” (Tristram). At present it does not, in the Sinaitic region, grow to such a size as would admit of planks, ten cubits long by one and a half wide, being cut from it; but, according to Canon Tristram (Nat. Hist. Of the Bible, p. 392), it attains such a size in Palestine, and therefore may formerly have done so in Arabia. The wood is “hard and close-grained, of an orange colour with a darker heart, well adapted for cabinetwork.”
Spices for anointing oil.—Rather, for the anointing oil. Here, again, there is an assumption that anointing oil will be needed, and that spices will be a necessary ingredient in such oil. We find afterwards that the Tabernacle itself, all its vessels, and the priests appointed to serve in it, had to be consecrated by anointing (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 29:36; Exodus 30:26-30). The particular spices to be mixed with the “anointing oil” are enumerated in Exodus 30:23-24.
And for sweet incense.—Rather, for the sweet incense—the incense, i.e., which would have to be burnt. (See Exodus 30:1-8; and for the composition of the incense, Exodus 30:34.)
Stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.—Heb., stones of insertion for the ephod and for the breast-plate. The stones of the ephod were two only, both probably either onyx or sardonyx; those of the breast-plate were twelve in number, all different (Exodus 28:17-20).
Exodus 25:8And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.THE SANCTUARY AND ITS CONTENTS.
(8) Let them make me a sanctuary.—The enumeration of the gifts (Exodus 25:3-7) has been subordinate to this. Hitherto Israel had had no place of worship, no structure dedicated to God. God now brings this state of things to an end, by requiring them to “make him a sanctuary.” In Egypt they had seen structures of vast size and extraordinary magnificence erected in every city for the worship of the Egyptian gods. They are now to have their own structure, their “holy place,” their “house of God.” As, however, they are still in a nomadic condition, without fixed abode, continually shifting their quarters, a building, in the ordinary sense of the word, would have been unsuitable. They must soon have quitted it or have foregone their hopes of Palestine. God therefore devised for them a structure in harmony with their condition—a “tent-temple”—modelled on the ordinary form of the better Oriental tents, but of the best materials and of an unusual size—yet still portable. It is this structure, with its contents and its adjuncts, which forms the main subject of the rest of the book of Exodus, and which is now minutely and elaborately described in six consecutive chapters (Exodus 25-30)
That I may dwell among them.—Compare Exodus 29:42-46; Exodus 40:34-38. Though God “dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48), is not confined to them, cannot be comprehended within them, yet since it pleases Him to manifest Himself especially in such abodes, He may be well said to “dwell there” in a peculiar manner. His dwelling with Israel was not purely spiritual. From time to time He manifested Himself sensibly in the Holy of Holies, where He dwelt continually, and might be consulted by the temporal ruler of the nation.
Exodus 25:10And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.THE ARK.
(10) They shall make an ark.—Arôn, the word here rendered “ark,” is an entirely different word from that previously so translated in Genesis 6:14; Exodus 2:3, which is tebah. Arôn is properly a chest or coffer of small dimensions, used to contain money or other valuables (2 Kings 12:9-10; 2 Chronicles 25:8-11, &c.). In one place it is applied to a mummy-case (Genesis 1:26). Here it designates a wooden chest three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches broad, and two feet three inches deep. The primary object of the ark was to contain the two tables of stone, written with the finger of God, which Moses was to receive before he came down from the mount. (See Exodus 24:12, and comp. Exodus 20:16.) Sacred coffers were important parts of the furniture of temples in Egypt. They usually contained the image or emblem of some deity, and were constructed so as to be readily carried in processions.
crown of gold—i.e., a rim or border of gold, carried round the edge of the chest at the top. The object was probably to keep the kapporeth, or mercy-seat, in place.
In the four corners thereof.—Literally, at the four feet thereof. The rings were to be affixed, not at the four upper corners of the chest, but at the four bottom corners, in order that the ark, when carried on men’s shoulders, might be elevated above them, and so be in no danger of coming in contact with the bearers’ persons. The arrangement might seem to endanger the equilibrium of the ark when carried; but as Kalisch observes, “the smallness of the dimensions of the ark rendered its safe transportation, even with the rings at its feet, not impossible.”
Exodus 25:17And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.THE MERCY SEAT.
(17) A mercy seat.—Those critics to whom the idea of expiation is unsatisfactory, as Knobel and Gesenius, render kapporeth, the word here used, by “lid” or “cover.” Kaphar, it may be Admitted, has the physical meaning of “to cover” (Genesis 6:14); but kipper, the Piel form of the same verb, has never any other meaning than that of “covering,” or “expiating sins.” And kapporeth is not formed from kaphar, but from kipper. Hence the ἱλαστήριον of the LXX., the propitiatorium of the Vulg., and the “mercy seat” of the Authorised Version are correct translations. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 28:11, where the Holy of Holies is called beyth-hak-kapporeth, which is certainly not” the house of the cover,’ but “the house of expiation.”)
Of pure gold.—Not of shittim wood, overlaid with a plating of gold, but a solid mass of the pure metal. It has been calculated that the weight would be 750 lbs. Troy, and the value above £25,000 of our money. It was intended to show by this lavish outlay, that the “mercy seat” was that object in which the accessories of worship culminated, the crowning glory of the material tabernacle.
Of beaten work—i.e., not cast, but brought into shape by the hammer. In the Egyptian language karabu was “to hammer,” whence, according to some, the word “cherub.”
In the. two ends.—Literally, from the two ends—rising, that is, from either end of the mercy seat.
Towards the mercy seat.—Bent downwards, i.e., as though gazing on the mercy seat. (Compare Exodus 37:9).
Exodus 25:23Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.THE TABLE OF SHEWBREAD.
(23-30) Thou shalt also make a table.—The ark and mercy seat, which covered it, constituted the entire furniture of the inner sanctuary, or “Holy of Holies” (Exodus 40:20-21). When this had been shown to Moses the next thing to be done was to set before him the furniture of the outer sanctuary, or holy place. This consisted of three articles—(1) The table of shewbread, described in the present passage; (2) the golden candlestick, described in Exodus 25:31-40; and (3) the altar of incense, described in Exodus 30:1-10. The “table of shewbread” was a receptacle for the twelve loaves, which were to be “set continually before the Lord” (Leviticus 24:8) as a thank-offering on the part of His people—a perpetual acknowledgment of His perpetual protection and favour. It was to be just large enough to contain the twelve loaves, set in two rows, being a yard long, and a foot and a-half broad. The vessels belonging to the table (Exodus 25:29) were not placed on it.
(23) Of shittim wood.—See the last Note on Exodus 25:5. No other wood was to be employed, either for the sanctuary itself, or for its furniture.
A crown of gold round about.—Rather, a border, or edging of gold, something to prevent what was placed on the table from readily falling off.
The four corners that are on the four feet.—Rather, that are at the four feet. Not the top corners of the table, i.e., but the bottom corners. The table, like the ark, was, when carried, to be elevated above the shoulders of the bearers. So we see it borne on the Arch of Titus.
For places of the staves.—Rather, for places for staves.
Exodus 25:31And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK.
(31-39) The golden candlestick, like the table of shewbread, was represented on the Arch of Titus, and the careful copy made under the direction of Reland in 1710, and published in his work, De Spoliis Templi, gives probably the best idea that can be formed of it. It was composed of a straight stem, rising perpendicularly from a base, and having on either side of it three curved arms or branches, all of them in the same plane, and all rising to the same level. The stem and arms were ornamented with representations of almond flowers, pomegranates, and lily blossoms, repeated as there was room for them, the top ornament being in every case a lily blossom, which held a hemispherical lamp. The form and ornamentation of the base are unknown, since the representation of the base upon the Arch of Titus is manifestly from some Roman work which had superseded the original pedestal. The special object of the candlestick seems to have been to give light by night. Its lamps were to be lighted at even (Exodus 30:8) by the High Priest, and were to burn from evening to morning (Exodus 27:21), when they were to be “dressed,” or trimmed (Exodus 30:7), and “extinguished” (Kalisch, Comment, on Exodus, p. 370). The Holy Place had sufficient light during the day from the entrance, where the curtain would let the light through, if indeed it were not also partially looped up.
(31) Of beaten work.—Like the cherubim. (See Note on Exodus 25:18.)
His bowls, his knops, and his flowers.—Rather, its cups, its pomegranates, and its blossoms. The “cups” are afterwards said to be “like almonds” (Exodus 25:33), i.e., almond blossoms.
Shall be of the same—i.e., “of one piece with the stem and branches;” not separate ornaments put together.
In the other branch.—Rather, in another branch. The ornamentation was the same in the first, the second, and all the other branches; but in the longer branches the triple series was probably repeated of tener.
They shall light.—See Note on Exodus 25:31-39, and comp. Exodus 27:21; Exodus 30:8; Leviticus 24:3.
Shall he make it.—“He” refers to the artificer by whom the candlestick would be constructed.