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The Adam Clarke Commentary

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 Chapter 39
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Chapter 40

Moses is commanded to set up the tabernacle, the first day of the first month of the second year of their departure from Egypt, 1,2. The ark to be put into it, 3. The table and candlestick to be brought in also with the golden altar, 4.5. The altar of burnt-offering to be set up before the door, and the laver between the tent and the altar, 6,7. The court to be set up, 8. The tabernacle and its utensils to be anointed, 9-11. Aaron and his sons to be washed, clothed, and anointed, 12-15. All these things are done accordingly, 16. The tabernacle is erected; and all its utensils, it on the first of the first month of the second year, 17-33. The cloud covers the tent, and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle, so that even Moses is not able to enter, 34,35. When they were to journey, the cloud was taken up; when to encamp, the cloud rested on the tabernacle, 36,37. A cloud by day and a fire by night was upon the tabernacle, in the sight of all the Israelites, through the whole course of the journeyings, 38.

Notes on Chapter 40

Verse 2. The first day of the first month
It Is generally supposed that the Israelites began the work of the tabernacle about the sixth month after they had left Egypt; and as the work was finished about the end of the first year of their exodus, (for it was set up the first day of the second year,) that therefore they had spent about six months in making it: so that the tabernacle was erected one year all but fifteen days after they had left Egypt. Such a building, with such a profusion of curious and costly workmanship, was never got up in so short a time. But it was the work of the Lord, and the people did service as unto the Lord; for the people had a mind to work.

Verse 4. Thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things,
That is, Thou shalt place the twelve loaves upon the table in the order before mentioned. See Clarke on Exodus 25:30.

Verse 15. For their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood
By this anointing a right was given to Aaron and his family to be high priests among the Jews for ever; so that all who should be born of this family should have a right to the priesthood without the repetition of this unction, as they should enjoy this honour in their father's right, who had it by a particular grant from God. But it appears that the high priest, on his consecration, did receive the holy unction; see Leviticus 4:3;; 6:22;; 21:10. And this continued till the destruction of the first temple, and the Babylonish captivity; and according to Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and others, this custom continued among the Jews to the advent of our Lord, after which there is no evidence it was ever practised. See Calmet's note on chap. xxix. 7. See Clarke on Exodus 29:7. The Jewish high priest was a type of Him who is called the high priest over the house of God, Hebrews 10:21; and when he came, the functions of the other necessarily ceased. This case is worthy of observation. The Jewish sacrifices were never resumed after the destruction of their city and temple, for they hold it unlawful to sacrifice anywhere out of Jerusalem; and the unction of their high priest ceased from that period also: and why? Because the true priest and the true sacrifice were come, and the types of course were no longer necessary after the manifestation of the antitype.

Verse 19. He spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle
By the tent, in this and several other places, we are to understand the coverings made of rams' skins, goats' hair, thrown over the building; for the tabernacle had no other kind of roof.

Verse 20. And put the testimony into the ark
That is, the two tables on which the ten commandments had been written. See Exodus 25:16. The ark, the golden table with the shew-bread, the golden candlestick, and the golden altar of incense, were all in the tabernacle, within the veil or curtains, which served as a door, Exodus 40:22,24,26. And the altar of burnt-offering was by the door, Exodus 40:29. And the brazen laver, between the tent of the congregation and the brazen altar, Exodus 40:30; still farther outward, that it might be the first thing the priests met with when entering into the court to minister, as their hands and feet must be washed before they could perform any part of the holy service, Exodus 40:31,32. When all these things were thus placed, then the court that surrounded the tabernacle, which consisted of posts and hangings, was set up, Exodus 40:33.

Verse 34. Then a cloud covered the tent
Thus God gave his approbation of the work; and as this was visible, so it was a sign to all the people that Jehovah was among them.

And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
How this was manifested we cannot tell; it was probably by some light or brightness which was insufferable to the sight, for Moses himself could not enter in because of the cloud and the glory, Exodus 40:35. Precisely the same happened when Solomon had dedicated his temple; for it is said that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord; 1 Kings 8:10,11. Previously to this the cloud of the Divine glory had rested upon that tent or tabernacle which Moses had pitched without the camp, after the transgression in the matter of the molten calf; but now the cloud removed from that tabernacle and rested upon this one, which was made by the command and under the direction of God himself. And there is reason to believe that this tabernacle was pitched in the centre of the camp, all the twelve tribes pitching their different tents in a certain order around it.

Verse 36. When the cloud was taken up
The subject of these three last verses has been very largely explained in the notes on Exodus 13:21, to which, as well as to the general remarks on that chapter, the reader is requested immediately to refer. See Clarke on Exodus 13:21.

Verse 38. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day
This daily and nightly appearance was at once both a merciful providence, and a demonstrative proof of the Divinity of their religion: and these tokens continued with them throughout all their journeys; for, notwithstanding their frequently repeated disobedience and rebellion, God never withdrew these tokens of his presence from them, till they were brought into the promised land. When, therefore, the tabernacle became fixed, because the Israelites had obtained their inheritance, this mark of the Divine presence was no longer visible in the sight of all Israel, but appears to have been confined to the holy of holies, where it had its fixed residence upon the mercy-seat between the cherubim; and in this place continued till the first temple was destroyed, after which it was no more seen in Israel till God was manifested in the flesh.

As in the book of GENESIS we have God's own account of the commencement of the WORLD, the origin of nations, and the peopling of the earth; so in the book of EXODUS we have an account, from the same source of infallible truth, of the commencement of the Jewish CHURCH, and the means used by the endless mercy of God to propagate and continue his pure and undefiled religion in the earth, against which neither human nor diabolic power or policy have ever been able to prevail! The preservation of this religion, which has ever been opposed by the great mass of mankind, is a standing proof of its Divinity. As it has ever been in hostility against the corrupt passions of men, testifying against the world that its deeds were evil, these passions have ever been in hostility to it. Cunning and learned men have argued to render its authority dubious, and its tendency suspicious; whole states and empires have exerted themselves to the uttermost to oppress and destroy it; and its professed friends, by their conduct, have often betrayed it: yet librata ponderibus suis, supported by the arm of God and its own intrinsic excellence, it lives and flourishes; and the river that makes glad the city of God has run down with the tide of time 5800 years, and is running on with a more copious and diffusive current.

Labitur, et labetur in omne volubilis aevum.

"Still glides the river, and will ever glide."

We have seen how, by the miraculous cloud, all the movements of the Israelites were directed. They struck or pitched their tents, as it removed or became stationary. Every thing that concerned them was under the direction and management of God. But these things happened unto them for ensamples; and it is evident, from Isaiah 4:5, that all these things typified the presence and influence of God in his Church, and in the souls of his followers. His Church can possess no sanctifying knowledge, no quickening power but from the presence and influence of his Spirit. By this influence all his followers are taught, enlightened, led, quickened, purified, and built up on their most holy faith; and without the indwelling of his Spirit, light, life, and salvation are impossible. These Divine influences Are necessary, not only for a time, but through all our journeys, Exodus 40:38; though every changing scene of providence, and through every step in life. And these the followers of Christ are to possess, not by inference or inductive reasoning, but consciously. The influence is to be felt, and the fruits of it to appear as fully as the cloud of the Lord by day, and the fire by night, appeared in the sight of all the house of Israel. Reader, hast thou this Spirit? Are all thy goings and comings ordered by its continual guidance? Does Christ, who was represented by this tabernacle, and in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, dwell in thy heart by faith? If not, call upon God for that blessing which, for the sake of his Son, he is ever disposed to impart; then shalt thou be glorious, and on all thy glory there shall be a defence. Amen, Amen.

On the ancient division of the law into fifty-four sections, see the notes at the end of Genesis. See Clarke on Genesis 50:26. Of these fifty-four sections Genesis contains twelve; and the commencement and ending of each has been marked in the note already referred to. Of these sections Exodus contains eleven, all denominated, as in the former case, by the words in the original with which they commence. I shall point these out as in the former, carrying the enumeration from Genesis.

The THIRTEENTH section, called shemoth, begins Exodus 1:1, and ends Exodus 6:1.

The FOURTEENTH, called vaera, begins Exodus 6:2, and ends Exodus 9:35.

The FIFTEENTH, called bo, begins Exodus 10:1, and ends Exodus 13:16.

The SIXTEENTH, called beshallach, begins Exodus 13:17, and ends Exodus 17:16.

The SEVENTEENTH, called yithro, begins Exodus 18:1, and ends Exodus 20:26.

The EIGHTEENTH, called mishpatim, begins Exodus 21:1, and ends Exodus 24:18.

The NINETEENTH, called terumah, begins Exodus 25:2, and ends Exodus 27:19.

The TWENTIETH, called tetsavveh, begins Exodus 27:20, and ends Exodus 30:10.

The TWENTY-FIRST, called tissa, begins Exodus 30:11, and ends Exodus 34:35.

The TWENTY-SECOND, called vaiyakhel, begins Exodus 35:1, and ends Exodus 38:20.

The TWENTY-THIRD, called pekudey, begins Exodus 38:21, and ends Exodus 40:38.

It will at once appear to the reader that these sections have their technical names from some remarkable word, either in the first or second verse of their commencement.


Number of VERSES in Veelleh shemoth, (Exodus,) 1209.

The symbol of this number is ; aleph denoting 1000, resh 200, and teth 9.

The middle verse is Exodus 22:28: Thou shalt not revile God, nor curse the ruler of thy people.

Its parashioth, or larger sections, are 11. The symbol of this is the word ei, Isaiah 66:1. WHERE is the house that ye will build unto me? In which aleph stands for 1, and yod for 10.

Its sedarim are 29. The symbol of which is taken from Psalms 19:2, yechavveh: Night unto night SHOWETH FORTH knowledge. In which word, yod stands for 10, cheth for 8, vau for 6, and he for 5; amounting to 29.

Its pirkey, perakim, or present chapters, 40. The symbol of which is belibbo, taken from Psalms 37:31: The law of God is IN HIS HEART. In this word, beth stands for 2, lamed for 30, beth for 2, and vau for 6; amounting to 40.

The open sections are 69. The close sections are 95. Total 164. The symbol of which is yisadecha, from Psalms 20:2: STRENGTHEN THEE out of Zion. In which numerical word ain stands for 70, samech for 60, caph for 20, yod for 10, and daleth for 4; making together 164.

Number of words, 16,513; of letters 63,467.

But on these subjects, important to some, and trifling to others, see what is said in the concluding note on GENESIS. See Clarke on Genesis 50:26.


IN the preceding notes I have had frequent occasion to refer to Dr. Shaw's account of the different stations of the Israelites, of which I promised an abstract in this place. This will doubtless be acceptable to every reader Who knows that Dr. Shaw travelled over the same ground, and carefully, in person, noted every spot to which reference is made in the preceding chapters.

After having endeavoured to prove that Goshen was that part of the Heliopolitan Nomos, or of the land of Rameses, which lay in the neighbourhood of Kairo, Matta-reah, and Bishbesh, and that Cairo might be Rameses, the capital of the district of that name, where the Israelites had their rendezvous before they departed out of Egypt, he takes up the text and proceeds thus:-

"Now, lest peradventure 13:17) when the Hebrews saw war they should repent and return to Egypt, God did not lead them through the way of the land of the Philistines, (viz., either by Heroopolis in the midland road, or by Bishbesh, Tineh, and so along the seacoast towards Gaza and Ascalon,) although that was the nearest, but he led them ABOUT through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. There are accordingly two roads through which the Israelites might have been conducted from Kairo to Pihahhiroth, on the banks of the Red Sea. One of them lies through the valleys, as they are now called, of Jendily, Rumeleah, and Baideah, bounded on each side by the mountains of the lower Thebais. The other lies higher, having the northern range of these mountains, (the mountains of Mocattee) running parallel with it on the right hand, and the desert of the Egyptian Arabia, which lies all the way open to the land of the Philistines, on the left. About the middle of this range we may turn short upon our right hand into the valley of Baideah through a remarkable breach or discontinuation, in which we afterwards continued to the very bank of the Red Sea. Suez, a small city upon the northern point of it, at the distance of thirty hours or ninety Roman miles from Kairo, lies a little to the northward of the promontory that is formed by this same range of mountains, called at present Attackah, as that which bounds the valley of Baideah to the southward is called Gewoubee.

"This road then through the valley of Baideah, which is some hours longer than the other open road which leads us directly from Kairo to Suez, was, in all probability, the very road which the Israelites took to Pihahhiroth, on the banks of the Red Sea. Josephus then, and other authors who copy after him, seem to be too hasty in making the Israelites perform this journey of ninety or one hundred Roman miles in three days, by reckoning each of the stations that are recorded for one day. Whereas the Scriptures are altogether silent with regard to the time or distance, recording the stations only. The fatigue, likewise, would have been abundantly too great for a nation on foot, encumbered with their dough, their kneading-troughs, their little children and cattle, to walk at the rate of thirty Roman miles a day. Another instance of the same kind occurs Numbers 33:9, where Elim is mentioned as the next station after Marah, though Elim and Marah are farther distant from each other than Kairo is from the Red Sea. Several intermediate stations, therefore, as well here as in other places, were omitted, the holy penman contenting himself with laying down such only as were the most remarkable, or attended with some notable transaction. Succoth, then, the first station from Rameses, signifying only a place of tents, may have no fixed situation, being probably nothing more than some considerable Dou-war of the Ishmaelites or Arabs, such as we will meet with at fifteen or twenty miles' distance from Kairo, in the road to the Red Sea. The rendezvous of the caravan which conducted us to Suez was at one of these Dou-wars; at the same time we saw another at about six miles' distance, under the mountains of Mocattee, or in the very same direction which the Israelites may be supposed to have taken in their marches from Goshen towards the Red Sea.

"That the Israelites, before they turned towards Pihahhiroth, had travelled in an open country, (the same way, perhaps, which their forefathers had taken in coming into Egypt,) appears to be farther illustrated from the following circumstance: that upon their being ordered to remove from the edge of the wilderness, and to encamp before Pihahhiroth, it immediately follows that Pharaoh should then say, they are entangled in the land, the wilderness (betwixt the mountains we may suppose of Gewoubee and Attackah) hath shut them in, Exodus 14:3, or, as it is in the original, ( sagar,) viam illis clausit, as that word is explained by Pagninus; for, in these circumstances the Egyptians might well imagine that the Israelites could have no possible way to escape, inasmuch as the mountains of Gewoubee would stop their flight or progress to the southward, as the mountains of Attackah would do the same towards the land of the Philistines; the Red Sea likewise lay before them to the east, whilst Pharaoh closed up the valley behind them with his chariots and horsemen. This valley ends at the sea, in a small bay made by the eastern extremities of the mountains which I have been describing, and is called Tiah-Beni Israel, i.e., the road of the Israelites, by a tradition that is still kept up by the Arabs, of their having passed through it; so it is also called Baideah, from the new and unheard-of miracle that was wrought near it, by dividing the Red Sea, and destroying therein Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen. The third notable encampment then of the Israelites was at this bay. It was to be before Pihahhiroth, betwixt Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-tsephon, Exodus 14:2; and in ; Numbers 33:7it was to be before Migdol, where the word liphney, (before, as we render it,) being applied to Pihahhiroth and Migdol, may signify no more than that they pitched within sight of, or at a small distance from, the one and the other of those places. Whether Baal-tsephon then may have relation to the northern situation of the place itself, or to some watch tower or idol temple that was erected upon it, we may probably take it for the eastern extremity of the mountains of Suez or Attackah, the most conspicuous of these deserts, inasmuch as it overlooks a great part of the lower Thebais, as well as the wilderness that reaches towards, or which rather makes part of, the land of the Philistines. Migdol then might lie to the south, as Baal-tsephon did to the north, of Pihahhiroth; for the marches of the Israelites from the edge of the wilderness being to the seaward, that is, towards the south-east, their encampments betwixt Migdol and the sea, or before Migdol, as it is otherwise noted, could not well have another situation.

"Pihahhiroth, or Hhiroth rather, without regarding the prefixed part of it, may have a more general signification, and denote the valley or that whole space of ground which extended itself from the edge of the wilderness of Etham to the Red Sea: for that particular part only, where the Israelites were ordered to encamp, appears to have been called Pihahhiroth, i.e., mouth of Hhiroth; for when Pharaoh overtook them, it was in respect to his coming down upon them, Exodus 14:9, i.e., beside or at the mouth, or the most advanced part, of Hhiroth to the eastward. Likewise in Numbers 33:7, where the Israelites are related to have encamped before Migdol, it follows, Numbers 33:8, that they departed from before Hhiroth, and not from before Pihahhiroth, as it is rendered in our translation.

"There are likewise other circumstances to prove that the Israelites took their departure from this valley in their passage through the Red Sea, for it could not have been to the northward of the mountains of Attackah, or in the higher road, which I have taken notice of; because as this lies for the most part upon a level, the Israelites could not have been here, as we find they were, shut in and entangled. Neither could it have been on the other side, viz., to the south of the mountains of Gewoubee, for then (besides the insuperable difficulties which the Israelites would have met with in climbing over them, the same likewise that the Egyptians would have had in pursuing them) the opposite shore could not have been the desert of Shur where the Israelites landed, Exodus 15:22, but it would have been the desert of Marah, that lay a great way beyond it. What is now called Corondel might probably be the southern portion of the desert of Marah, the shore of the Red Sea, from Suez, hitherto having continued to be low and sandy; but from Corondel to the port of Tor, the shore is for the most part rocky and mountainous, in the same manner with the Egyptian coast that lies opposite to it; neither the one nor the other of them affording any convenient place, either for the departure of a multitude from the one shore, or the reception of it upon the other. And besides, from Corondel to Tor, the channel of the Red Sea, which from Suez to Sdur is not above nine or ten miles broad, begins here to be so many leagues, too great a space certainly for the Israelites, in the manner they were encumbered, to pass over in one night. At Tor the Arabian shore begins to wind itself round about Ptolemy's promontory of Paran, towards the gulf of Eloth, whilst the Egyptian shore retires so far to the south-west that it can scarce be perceived. As the Israelites then, for these reasons, could not, according to the opinion of some authors, have landed either at Corondel or Tor, so neither could they have landed at Ain Mousa, according to the conjectures of others. For if the passage of the Israelites had been so near the extremity of the Red Sea, it may be presumed that the very encampments of six hundred thousand men, besides children and a mixed multitude, which would amount to as many more, would have spread themselves even to the farther or the Arabian side of this narrow isthmus, whereby the interposition of Providence would not have been at all necessary; because, in this case and in this situation, there could not have been room enough for the waters, after they were divided, to have stood on a heap, or to have been a wall unto them, particularly on the left hand. This, moreover, would not have been a division, but a recess only of the water to the southward. Pharaoh likewise, by overtaking them as they were encamped in this open situation by the sea, would have easily surrounded them on all sides. Whereas the contrary seems to be implied by the pillar of the cloud, Exodus 14:19,20, which (divided or) came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, and thereby left the Israelites (provided this cloud should have been removed) in a situation only of being molested in the rear. For the narrow valley which I have described, and which we may presume was already occupied and filled up behind by the host of Egypt, and before by the encampments of the Israelites, would not permit or leave room for the Egyptians to approach them, either on the right hand or on the left. Besides, if this passage was at Ain Mousa, how can we account for that remarkable circumstance, Exodus 15:22, where it is said that, when Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, they went out into (or landed in) the wilderness of Shur? For Shur, a particular district of the wilderness of Etham, lies directly fronting the valley from which I suppose they departed, but a great many miles to the south-ward of Ain Mousa. If they landed likewise at Ain Mousa, where there are several fountains, there would have been no occasion for the sacred historian to have observed, at the same time, that the Israelites after they went out from the sea into the wilderness of Shur, went three days in the wilderness, always directing their marches toward Mount Sinai, and found no water; for which reason Marah is recorded, Exodus 15:23, to be the first place where they found water, as their wandering so far before they found it seems to make Marah also their first station, after their passage through the Red Sea. Moreover, the channel over against Ain Mousa is not above three miles over, whereas that betwixt Shur or Sedur and Jibbel Gewoubee and Attackah, is nine or ten, and therefore capacious enough, as the other would have been too small, for covering or drowning therein, Exodus 14:28, the chariots and horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh. And therefore, by impartially weighing all these arguments together, this important point in the sacred geography may with more authority be fixed at Sedur, over against the valley of Baideah, than at Tor, Corondel, Ain Mousa, or any other place.

"Over against Jibbel Attackah and the valley of Baideah is the desert, as it is called, of Sdur, (the same with Shur, Exodus 15:22,) where the Israelites landed after they had passed through the interjacent gulf of the Red Sea. The situation of this gulf, which is the Jam suph, the weedy sea or the tongue of the Egyptian sea in the Scripture language; the gulf of Heroopolis in the Greek and Latin geography; and the Western arm, as the Arabian geographers call it, of the sea of Kolzum; stretches itself nearly north and south, and therefore lies very properly situated to be traversed by that strong east wind which was sent to divide it, Exodus 14:21. The division that was thus made in the channel, the making the waters of it to stand on a heap, 78:13,) their being a wall to the Israelites on the right hand and on the left, 14:22,) besides the twenty miles' distance, at least, of this passage from the extremity of the gulf, are circumstances which sufficiently vouch for the miraculousness of it, and no less contradict all such idle suppositions as pretend to account for it from the nature and quality of tides, or from any such extraordinary recess of the sea as it seems to have been too rashly compared to by Josephus.

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Bibliography Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Exodus 40". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". <>. 1832.  


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