(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 FINE LINEN COVERING.
(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).
Taches, or clasps. These might be split-rings, or links like modern sleeve-links.
And it shall be one tabernacle.—Rather, and (so) the tabernacle shall be one. The division of the curtain which formed the roof into two portions tended to make a division in the tabernacle itself. To prevent this, the two curtains were to be so looped together as to be practically one. Thus the tabernacle itself became one.
Exodus 26:6And thou shalt make fifty taches of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle.
Exodus 26:7And thou shalt make curtains of goats' hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make.2. THE GOATS’-HAIR TENT-CLOTH.
(7-13) An awning such as that described in Exodus 26:1-6 would have neither kept out sun nor rain. For this purpose an ordinary cloth of goats’-hair was requisite, and accordingly Moses was instructed to make a second covering, which was to be of this material, and to extend over the whole of the first, thus externally concealing it. This second covering was, like the first, to be in two portions (Exodus 26:9-11), each of them made up of several “breadths,” but the two portions were not to be of the same size. Both were to be thirty cubits in length, but the hinder portion was to contain five “breadths,” while the portion in front was to contain six. Thus the outer covering was six feet broader than the inner one. The object was the protection of the inner covering, which was overlapped at both ends by the outer one (Exodus 26:9; Exodus 26:12).
(7) To be a covering.—Literally, to be a tent. (See the first Note on the chapter.)
Eleven curtains—i.e., eleven breadths. (See Note 2 on Exodus 26:1.)
Exodus 26:13And 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.
Exodus 26:14And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins.3. THE TWO OUTER COVERINGS.
(14) As the object of the two outer coverings must have been to keep out rain, we must suppose them to have protected not only the ridge of the roof, but, at any rate, the whole of the mishkân. Their length must, therefore, have been at least thirty cubits, and their breadth fourteen.
Exodus 26:15And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up.4. THE WALLS OF THE TABERNACLE.
(15-30) The various coverings which have been described had it for their object to roof over and protect an oblong chamber or “dwelling,” within which God was to manifest Himself and to be worshipped. The directions which follow (Exodus 26:15-33) are for the construction of this chamber. It was to be enclosed by boards of shittim wood, fifteen feet high by two feet three inches wide, which were to be plated with gold, and made to stand upright by being inserted into solid sockets of silver. The two sides were to contain, each of them, twenty such boards, and thus to be forty-five feet long, while the connecting wall was to be composed of six such boards, together with two corner posts (Exodus 26:23), giving it a length, probably, of ten cubits, or fifteen feet.
(15) Boards . . . of shittim wood.—On the possibility of boards fifteen feet long by two feet three inches wide being cut from the Acacia seyal, see the last Note on Exodus 25:5.
Six boards.—Six boards, presumably of the same width with the others (Exodus 26:16), would extend a length of nine cubits only, or thirteen and a half feet. The tenth cubit seems to have been made up by the corner boards, or posts, which are counted with the “six” boards as forming the back of the tabernacle in Exodus 26:25.
Exodus 26:31And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:5. THE VAIL, AND THE POSITION WHICH IT WAS TO OCCUPY.
(31) Thou shalt make a vail.—It was of the essence of the mishkân that it should have an outer and an inner sanctuary, a place for the daily ministrations of the priests, and an adytum or penetrale of extreme holiness, in which was to be the Divine Presence, and into which the high priest alone was to be privileged to enter, and he but once in the year. (See Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:2-34; Hebrews 9:7.) The separation between these two chambers was to be made by a vail of the same materials and workmanship as the inner covering of the mishkân (Exodus 26:1).
Their hooks.—Each pillar was to have a hook near the top, whereto the vail was to be attached.
Upon the four sockets.—Heb., upon four sockets.—Each pillar was to have its “socket,” into which it was to be inserted, and which was itself probably to be sunk into the ground.
That thou mayest bring in.—Heb., and thou shalt bring in.
Exodus 26:34And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.6. THE POSITION OF THE FURNITURE.
(34, 35) The sole furniture of the most holy place, or “Holy of Holies,” was to be the ark, with its covering of the mercy-seat. In the “Holy Place” without the vail were to be the “table of shewbread” against the north wall, and the “golden candlestick” opposite to it, against the south wall. Intermediate between them, but advanced nearer the vail, was to be the “golden altar of incense” (Exodus 30:6; Exodus 40:26), which, however, is not here mentioned.
Exodus 26:35And 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.
Exodus 26:36And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework.7. THE HANGING FOR THE DOOR.
(36, 37) It is essential in the East to shut out light and heat, whence tents have always doors. These are usually made of a piece of cloth, which is raised for a man to enter, and falls behind him. But for a tent of the size described, which seems to have been above twenty-two feet high in the centre, something more was required. The “hanging” spoken of appears to have been a beautifully embroidered curtain, which could be either drawn up or let down, and which was attached by golden “hooks” to five pillars plated with gold, thus dividing the entrance into four equal spaces.
Their hooks.—The hooks from which the hanging was to be suspended. (Comp. Exodus 26:32.)
Sockets of brass.—Rather, “of bronze.” (See Note on Exodus 25:3.)