At this chapter begins an account of the orders and instructions God
gave to Moses upon the mount for the erecting and furnishing of a
tabernacle to the honour of God. We have here.
I. Orders given for a collection to be made among the people for this
II. Particular instructions,
1. Concerning the ark of the covenant,
2. The table of showbread,
3. The golden candlestick,
|The Tabernacle and Its Furniture.
||B. C. 1491.|
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an
offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye
shall take my offering.
3 And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold,
and silver, and brass,
4 And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats'
5 And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim
6 Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet
7 Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the
8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among
9 According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the
tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even
so shall ye make it.
We may suppose that when Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and
abode there so long, where the holy angels attended the
shechinah, or divine Majesty, he saw and heard very glorious
things relating to the upper world, but they were things which it was
not lawful nor possible to utter; and therefore, in the records he kept
of the transactions there, he says nothing to satisfy the curiosity of
those who would intrude into the things which they have not seen, but
writes that only which he was to speak to the children of Israel. For
the scripture is designed to direct us in our duty, not to fill our
heads with speculations, nor to please our fancies.
In these verses God tells Moses his intention in general, that the
children of Israel should build him a sanctuary, for he designed to
dwell among them
and some think that, though there were altars and groves used for
religious worship before this, yet there never was any house, or
temple, built for sacred uses in any nation before this tabernacle was
erected by Moses, and that all the temples which were afterwards so
much celebrated among the heathen took rise from this and pattern by
it. God had chosen the people of Israel to be a peculiar people to
himself (above all people), among whom divine revelation, and a
religion according to it, should be lodged and established: he himself
would be their King. As their King, he had already given them laws for
the government of themselves, and their dealings one with another, with
some general rules for religious worship, according to the light of
reason and the law of nature, in the ten commandments and the following
comments upon them. But this was not thought sufficient to distinguish
them from other nations, or to answer to the extent of that covenant
which God would make with them to be their God; and
I. He orders a royal palace to be set up among them for himself, here
called a sanctuary, or holy place, or habitation,
of which it is said
A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our
sanctuary. This sanctuary is to be considered,
1. As ceremonial, consonant to the to the other institutions of that
dispensation, which consisted in carnal ordinances
hence it is called a worldly sanctuary,
God in it kept his court, as Israel's King.
(1.) There he manifested his presence among them, and it was intended
for a sign or token of his presence, that, while they had that in the
midst of them, they might never again ask, Is the Lord among us or
not? And, because in the wilderness they dwelt in tents, even this
royal palace was ordered to be a tabernacle too, that it might move
with them, and might be an instance of the condescension of the divine
(2.) There he ordered his subjects to attend him with their homage and
tribute. Thither they must come to consult his oracles, thither they
must bring their sacrifices, and there all Israel must meet, to pay
their joint respects to the God of Israel.
2. As typical; the holy places made with hands were the figures of
The gospel church is the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath
pitched, and not man,
The body of Christ, in and by which he made atonement, was the
greater and more perfect tabernacle,
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, as in a
II. When Moses was to erect this palace, it was requisite that he
should first be instructed where he must have the materials, and where
he must have the model; for he could neither contrive it by his own
ingenuity nor build it at his own charge; he is therefore directed here
1. The people must furnish him with the materials, not by a tax imposed
upon them, but by a voluntary contribution. This is the first thing
concerning which orders are here given.
(1.) Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring me an
offering; and there was all the reason in the world that they
[1.] It was God himself that had not only enlarged them, but enriched
them with the spoils of the Egyptians. He had instructed them to
borrow, and he had inclined the Egyptians to lend, so that from him
they had their wealth, and therefore it was fit they should devote it
to him and use it for him, and thus make a grateful acknowledgement of
the favours they had received. Note, First, The best use we can
make of our worldly wealth is to honour God with it in works of piety
and charity. Secondly, When we have been blessed with some
remarkable success in our affairs, and have had, as we say, a good
turn, it may be justly expected that we should do something more than
ordinary for the glory of God, consecrating our gain, in some
reasonable proportion of it, to the Lord of the whole earth,
[2.] The sanctuary that was to be built was intended for their benefit
and comfort, and therefore they must be at the expense of it. They had
been unworthy of the privilege if they had grudged at the charge. They
might well afford to offer liberally for the honour of God, while they
lived at free quarters, having food for themselves and their families
rained upon them daily from heaven. We also must own that we have our
all from God's bounty, and therefore ought to use all for his glory.
Since we live upon him, we must live to him.
(2.) This offering must be given willingly, and with the heart, that
[1.] It was not prescribed to them what or how much they must give, but
it was left to their generosity, that they might show their good-will
to the house of God and the offices thereof, and might do it with a
holy emulation, the zeal of a few provoking many,
2 Corinthians 9:2.
We should ask, not only, "What must we do?" but, "What may we do for
[2.] Whatever they gave, they must give it cheerfully, not grudgingly
and with reluctance, for God loves a cheerful giver,
2 Corinthians 9:7.
What is laid out in the service of God we must reckon well
(3.) The particulars are here mentioned which they must offer
all of them things that there would be occasion for in the tabernacle,
or the service of it. Some observe that here was gold, silver, and
brass, provided, but no iron; that is the military metal, and this was
to be a house of peace. Every thing that was provided was very rich and
fine, and the best of the sort; for God, who is the best, should have
2. God himself would furnish him with the model: According to all
that I show thee,
God showed him an exact plan of it, in miniature, which he must conform
to in all points. Thus Ezekiel saw in vision the form of the house and
the fashion thereof,
Note, Whatsoever is done in God's service must be done by his
direction, and not otherwise. Yet God did not only show him the model,
but gave him also particular directions how to frame the tabernacle
according to that model, in all the parts of it, which he goes over
distinctly in this and the following chapters. When Moses, in the
beginning of Genesis, was to describe the creation of the world, though
it is such a stately and curious fabric and made up of such a variety
and vast number of particulars, yet he gave a very short and general
account of it, and nothing compared with what the wisdom of this world
would have desired and expected from one that wrote by divine
revelation; but, when he comes to describe the tabernacle, he does it
with the greatest niceness and accuracy imaginable. He that gave us no
account of the lines and circles of the globe, the diameter of the
earth, or the height and magnitude of the stars, has told us
particularly the measure of every board and curtain of the tabernacle;
for God's church and instituted religion are more precious to him and
more considerable than all the rest of the world. And the scriptures
were written, not to describe to us the works of nature, a general view
of which is sufficient to lead us to the knowledge and service of the
Creator, but to acquaint us with the methods of grace, and those things
which are purely matters of divine revelation. The blessedness of the
future state is more fully represented under the notion of a new
Jerusalem than under the notion of new heavens and a new earth.
10 And 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.
11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without
shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold
12 And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put
them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in
the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.
13 And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay
them with gold.
14 And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of
the ark, that the ark may be borne with them.
15 The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not
be taken from it.
16 And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall
17 And 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.
18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten
work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on
the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the
cherubims on the two ends thereof.
20 And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high,
covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall
look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of
the cherubims be.
21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in
the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with
thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims
which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which
I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
The first thing which is here ordered to be made is the ark with its
appurtenances, the furniture of the most holy place, and the special
token of God's presence, for which the tabernacle was erected to be the
I. The ark itself was a chest, or coffer, in which the two tables of
the law, written with the finger of God, were to be honourably
deposited, and carefully kept. The dimensions of it are exactly
ordered; if the Jewish cubit was, as some learned men compute, three
inches longer than our half-yard (twenty-one inches in all), this chest
or cabinet was about fifty-two inches long, thirty-one broad, and
thirty-one deep. It was overlaid within and without with thin plates of
gold. It had a crown, or cornice, of gold, round it, with rings and
staves to carry it with; and in it he must put the testimony,
The tables of the law are called the testimony because God did
in them testify his will: his giving them that law was in token of his
favour to them; and their acceptance of it was in token of their
subjection and obedience to him. This law was a testimony to them, to
direct them in their duty, and would be a testimony against them if
they transgressed. The ark is called the ark of the testimony
and the tabernacle the tabernacle of the testimony
The gospel of Christ is also called a testimony or witness,
It is observable,
1. That the tables of the law were carefully preserved in the ark for
the purpose, to teach us to make much of the word of God, and to hide
it in our hearts, in our innermost thoughts, as the ark was placed in
the holy of holies. It intimates likewise the care which divine
Providence ever did, and ever will, take to preserve the records of
divine revelation in the church, so that even in the latter days there
shall be seen in his temple the ark of his testament. See
2. That this ark was the chief token of God's presence, which teaches
us that the first and great evidence and assurance of God's favour is
the putting of his law in the heart. God dwells where that rules,
3. That provision was made for the carrying of this ark about with them
in all their removals, which intimates to us that, wherever we go, we
should take our religion along with us, always bearing about with us
the love of the Lord Jesus, and his law.
II. The mercy-seat was the covering of the ark or chest, made of solid
gold, exactly to fit the dimensions of the ark,
This propitiatory covering, as it might well be translated, was
a type of Christ, the great propitiation, whose satisfaction fully
answers the demands of the law, covers our transgressions, and comes
between us and the curse we deserve. Thus he is the end of the law
III. The cherubim of gold were fixed to the mercy-seat, and of a piece
with it, and spread their wings over it,
It is supposed that these cherubim were designed to represent the holy
angels, who always attended the shechinah, or divine Majesty,
particularly at the giving of the law; not by any effigies of an angel,
but some emblem of the angelical nature, probably some one of those
four faces spoken of,
Whatever the faces were, they looked one towards another, and both
downward towards the ark, while their wings were stretched out so as to
touch one another. The apostle calls them cherubim of glory
shadowing the mercy-seat,
It denotes their attendance upon the Redeemer, to whom they were
ministering spirits, their readiness to do his will, their special
presence in the assemblies of saints
and their desire to look into the mysteries of the gospel which they
1 Peter 1:12.
God is said to dwell, or sit, between the cherubim, on the
and thence he here promises, for the future, to meet with Moses, and to
commune with him,
There he would give law, and there he would give audience, as a prince
on his throne; and thus he manifests himself willing to be reconciled
to us, and keep up communion with us, in and by the mediation of
Christ. In allusion to this mercy-seat, we are said to come boldly to
the throne of grace
for we are not under the law, which is covered, but under
grace, which is displayed; its wings are stretched out, and we are
invited to come under the shadow of them,
23 Thou 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.
24 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a
crown of gold round about.
25 And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth
round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border
thereof round about.
26 And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the
rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof.
27 Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the
staves to bear the table.
28 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and
overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them.
29 And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof,
and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure
gold shalt thou make them.
30 And thou shalt set upon the table showbread before me alway.
1. A table ordered to be made of wood overlaid with gold, which was to
stand, not in the holy of holies (nothing was in that but the ark with
its appurtenances), but in the outer part of the tabernacle, called the
sanctuary, or holy place,
&c. There must also be the usual furniture of the sideboard, dishes and
spoons, &c., and all of gold,
2. This table was to be always spread, and furnished with the
or bread of faces, twelve loaves, one for each tribe, set in two
rows, six in a row; see the law concerning them,
&c. The tabernacle being God's house, in which he was pleased to say
that he would dwell among them, he would show that he kept a good
house. In the royal palace it was fit that there should be a royal
table. Some make the twelve loaves to represent the twelve tribes, set
before God as his people and the corn of his floor, as they are
As the ark signified God's being present with them, so the twelve
loaves signified their being presented to God. This bread was designed
(1.) A thankful acknowledgement of God's goodness to them, in giving
them their daily bread, manna in the wilderness, where he prepared a
table for them, and, in Canaan, the corn of the land. Hereby they
owned their dependence upon Providence, not only for the corn in the
field, which they gave thanks for in offering the sheaf of
first-fruits, but for the bread in their houses, that, when it was
brought home, God did not blow upon it,
Christ has taught us to pray every day for the bread of the day.
(2.) A token of their communion with God. This bread on God's table
being made of the same corn with the bread on their own tables, God and
Israel did, as it were, eat together, as a pledge of friendship and
fellowship; he supped with them, and they with him.
(3.) A type of the spiritual provision which is made in the church, by
the gospel of Christ, for all that are made priests to our God. In
our Father's house there is bread enough and to spare, a loaf for
every tribe. All that attend in God's house shall be abundantly
satisfied with the goodness of it,
Divine consolations are the continual feast of holy souls,
notwithstanding there are those to whom the table of the Lord,
and the meat thereof (because it is plain bread), are
Christ has a table in his kingdom, at which all his saints shall for
every eat and drink with him,
31 And 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
32 And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three
branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three
branches of the candlestick out of the other side:
33 Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a
flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the
other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches
that come out of the candlestick.
34 And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto
almonds, with their knops and their flowers.
35 And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same,
and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two
branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed
out of the candlestick.
36 Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it
shall be one beaten work of pure gold.
37 And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall
light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against
38 And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall
be of pure gold.
39 Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these
40 And look that thou make them after their pattern, which
was showed thee in the mount.
I. The next thing ordered to be made for the furnishing of God's palace
was a rich stately candlestick, all of pure gold, not hollow, but
solid. The particular directions here given concerning it show,
1. That it was very magnificent, and a great ornament to the place; it
had many branches drawn from the main shaft, which had not only their
bowls (to put the oil and the kindled wick in) for necessity, but knops
and flowers for ornament.
2. That it was very convenient, and admirably contrived both to scatter
the light and to keep the tabernacle clean from smoke and snuffs.
3. That it was very significant. The tabernacle had no windows by
which to let in the light of the day, all its light was candle-light,
which intimates the comparative darkness of that dispensation, while
the Sun or righteousness had not as yet risen, nor had the day-star
from on high yet visited his church. Yet God left not himself without
witness, nor them without instruction; the commandment was a lamp, and
the law a light, and the prophets were branches from that lamp, which
gave light in their several ages to the Old-Testament church. The
church is still dark, as the tabernacle was, in comparison with what it
will be in heaven; but the word of God is the candlestick, a light
shining in a dark place
(2 Peter 1:19),
and a dark place indeed the world would be without it. The Spirit of
God, in his various gifts and graces, is compared to the seven
lamps which burn before the throne,
The churches are golden candlesticks, the lights of the world,
holding forth the word of life as the candlestick does the
Ministers are to light the lamps, and snuff them
by opening the scriptures. The treasure of this light is now put into
2 Corinthians 4:6,7.
The branches of the candlestick spread every way, to denote the
diffusing of the light of the gospel into all parts by the Christian
There is a diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit gives to each
to profit withal.
II. There is in the midst of these instructions an express caution
given to Moses, to take heed of varying from his model: Make them
after the pattern shown thee,
Nothing was left to his own invention, or the fancy of the workmen, or
the people's humour; but the will of God must be religiously observed
in every particular. Thus,
1. All God's providences are exactly according to his counsels, and
the copy never varies from the original. Infinite Wisdom never changes
its measures; whatever is purposed shall undoubtedly be performed.
2. All his ordinances must be administered according to his
institutions. Christ's instruction to his disciples
is similar to this: Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded