Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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. [See on
shittim wood--or Shittah
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
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
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
[1Jo 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
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
They stretched out their wings, and their faces were turned towards the
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 the ark [see on
and like it, too, furnished with rings for the poles on which it was
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. [See on
24. crown--the moulding or ornamental rim, which is thought to
have been raised above the level of the table, to prevent anything from
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
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
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
The figure represented on the arch of Titus gives the best idea of this
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
39. a talent of pure gold--in weight equivalent to 125 lbs. 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.