Exodus 27


The altar of burnt-offerings, and its dimensions, 1;

its horns, 2;

pans, shovels, &c., 3;

its grate and net work, 4, 5;

its staves, 6, 7.

Court of the tabernacle, with its pillars and hangings, 9-15.

Gate of the court, its pillars, hangings, length, breadth, and

height, 16-18.

All the vessels used in the court of the tabernacle to be of

brass, 19.

The Israelites to provide pure olive oil for the light, 20.

Every thing to be ordered by Aaron and his sons, 21.


Verse 1. Thou shalt make an altar] mizbeach, from

zabach, to slay: Septuagint, θυσιαστηριον, from θυσιαζω, to

sacrifice or from θυω to kill, &c.

See Clarke on Ge 8:20.

Four square] As this altar was five cubits long and five broad,

and the cubit is reckoned to be twenty-one inches, hence it must

have been eight feet nine inches square, and about five feet three

inches in height, the amount of three cubits, taken at the same


Verse 2. Thou shalt make the horns of it] The horns might have

three uses: 1. For ornament. 2. To prevent carcasses, &c., from

falling off. 3. To tie the victim to, previously to its being

sacrificed. So David: Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns

of the altar; Ps 118:27.

Horns were much used in all ancient altars among the heathen,

and some of them were entirely constructed of the horns of the

beasts that had been offered in sacrifice; but such altars appear

to be erected rather as trophies in honour of their gods. On the

reverses of several medals we find altars represented with horns

at the corners. There is a medal of Antoninus on the reverse of

which is an altar, on which a fire burns, consecrated Divi Pio,

where the horns appear on each of the corners.

There is one of Faustina, on which the altar and its horns are

very distinct, the legend Pietas Augusta. All the following have

altars with horns. One of Valerian, legend Consecratio; one

of Claudius Gothicus, same legend; one of Quintillus, same legend;

one of Crispina, with the legend Diis Genitalibus; and several

others. See Numismatica Antiq., a MUSELLIO, under Consecratio, in

the index.

Callimachus, in his Hymn to Apollo, line 60 introduces him

constructing an altar of the horns of the animals slain by Diana:-

----- πηξεδεβωμον


Martial has these words: Cornibus ara frequens.

Verse 3. Thou shalt make his pans] sirothaiv, a sort

or large brazen dishes, which stood under the altar to receive the

ashes that fell through the grating.

His shovels] yaaiv. Some render this besoms; but as

these were brazen instruments, it is more natural to suppose that

some kind of fire-shovels are intended, or scuttles, which were

used to carry off the ashes that fell through the grating into the

large pan or siroth.

His basins] mizrekothaiv, from zarak, to

sprinkle or disperse; bowls or basins to receive the blood of

the sacrifices, in order that it might be sprinkled on the people

before the altar, &c.

His flesh-hooks] mizlegothaiu. That this word is

rightly translated flesh-hooks is fully evident from 1Sa 2:13,

where the same word is used in such a connection as demonstrates

its meaning: And the priest's custom with the people was, that

when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while

the flesh was in the seething, with a FLESH-HOOK ( mazleg)

of three teeth (prongs) in his hand, and he struck it into the

pan, &c.; all that the FLESH-HOOK ( mazleg) brought up,

the priest took for himself. It was probably a kind of trident, or

fork with three prongs, and these bent to a right angle at the

middle, as the ideal meaning of the Hebrew seems to imply

crookedness or curvature in general.

His fire-pans] machtothaiu. Bishop Patrick and others

suppose that "this was a larger sort of vessel, wherein, probably,

the sacred fire which came down from heaven (Le 9:24) was kept

burning, whilst they cleansed the altar and the grate from the

coals and the ashes; and while the altar was carried from one

place to another, as it often was in the wilderness.

Verse 4. Thou shalt make for it a grate] Calmet supposes this

altar to have been a sort of box, covered with brass plates, on

the top of which was a grating to supply the fire with air, and

permit the ashes to fall through into the siroth or pan that was

placed below. At the four corners of the grating were four rings

and four chains, by which it was attached to the four horns; and

at the sides were rings for the poles of shittim wood with which

it was carried. Even on this there is a great variety of


Verse 8. Hollow with boards] It seems to have been a kind of

frame-work, and to have had nothing solid in the inside, and

only covered with the grating at the top. This rendered it more

light and portable.

Verse 9. The court of the tabernacle] The tabernacle stood in

an enclosure or court, open at the top. This court was made with

pillars or posts, and hangings. It was one hundred cubits, or

about fifty-eight yards and a half, in length; the breadth we

learn from Ex 27:12, 18; and

five cubits, or nearly three yards, high, Ex 27:18. And as

this was but half the height of the tabernacle, Ex 26:16, that

sacred building might easily be seen by the people from without.

Verse 16. And for the gate of the court] It appears that the

hangings of this gate were of the same materials and workmanship

with that of the inner covering of the tabernacle, and the outer

and inner veil. See Ex 26:36.

Verse 19. All the vessels-shall be of brass.] It would have been

improper to have used instruments made of the more precious metals

about this altar, as they must have been soon worn out by the

severity of the service.

Verse 20. Pure oil olive beaten] That is, such oil as could

easily be expressed from the olives after they had been bruised in

a mortar; the mother drop, as it is called, which drops out of

itself as soon as the olives are a little broken, and which is

much purer than that which is obtained after the olives are put

under the press.

Columella, who is a legitimate evidence in all such matters,

says that the oil which flowed out of the fruit either

spontaneously, or with little application of the force of the

press, was of a much finer flavour than that which was obtained

otherwise. Quoniam longe melioris saporis est, quod minore vi

preli, quasi luxurians, defluxerit.-COLUM., lib. xii., c. 50.

To cause the lamp to burn always] They were to be kept burning

through the whole of the night, and some think all the day

besides; but there is a difference of sentiment upon this subject.

See the note on the following verse.

This oil and continual flame were not only emblematical of the

unction and influences of the Holy Ghost, but also of that pure

spirit of devotion which ever animates the hearts and minds of the

genuine worshippers of the true God. The temple of VESTA, where a

fire was kept perpetually burning, seems to have been formed on

the model of the tabernacle; and from this the followers of

Zeratusht, commonly called Zoroaster, appear to have derived their

doctrine of the perpetual fire, which they still worship as an

emblem of the Deity.

Verse 21. The tabernacle of the congregation] The place where

all the assembly of the people were to worship, where the God of

that assembly was pleased to reside, and to which, as the

habitation of their king and protector, they were ever to turn

their faces in all their adorations.

Before the testimony] That is, the ark where the tables of the

covenant were deposited. See Ex 25:16.

Aaron and his sons] These and their descendants being the only

legitimate priests, God having established the priesthood in this


Shall order it from evening to morning] Josephus says the whole

of the seven lamps burned all the night; in the morning four were

extinguished, and three kept burning through the whole day.

Others assert that the whole seven were kept lighted both day and

night continually; but it appears sufficiently evident, from

1Sa 3:3, that these lamps were extinguished in the morning:

And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord,

where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep, &c.

See also Ex 30:8:

And when Aaron LIGHTETH THE LAMPS AT EVEN. It appears therefore

that the business of the priests was to light the lamps in the

evening; and either to extinguish them in the morning, or permit

them to burn out, having put in the night before as much oil as

was necessary to last till daylight.

A statute for ever] This ordering of the lamps night and

morning, and attendance on the service of the tabernacle, was a

statute that was to be in full force while the tabernacle and

temple stood, and should have its spiritual accomplishment in the

Christian Church to the end of time. Reader, the tabernacle and

temple are both destroyed; the Church of Christ is established in

their place. The seven golden candlesticks were typical of this

Church and the glorious light it possesses, Re 1:12-20; and Jesus

Christ, the Fountain and Dispenser of this true light, walks in

the midst of them. Reader, hast thou that celestial flame to

enlighten and animate thy heart in all those acts of devotion

which thou professest to pay to him as thy Maker, Redeemer, and

Preserver? What is thy profession, and what thy religious acts

and services, without this? A sounding brass, a tinkling cymbal.

TERTULLIAN asserts that all the ancient heathens borrowed their

best notions from the sacred writings: "Which," says he, "of your

poets, which of your sophists, have not drunk from the fountain of

the prophets? It is from those sacred springs that your

philosophers have refreshed their thirsty spirits; and if they

found any thing in the Holy Scriptures which hit their fancy, or

which served their hypothesis, they took and turned it to a

compliance with their own curiosity, not considering those

writings to be sacred and unalterable, nor understanding their

true sense, every one altering them according to his own


The reader's attention has already been called to this point

several times in the preceding parts of this work, and the subject

will frequently recur. At the conclusion of Ex 25:31

(See Clarke on Ex 25:31) we had occasion to observe

that the heathens had imitated many things in that Divine worship

prescribed by Moses; but in application to their own corrupt

system every thing was in a certain measure falsified and

distorted, yet not so far as to prevent the grand outlines of

primitive truth from being discerned. One of the most complete

imitations of the tabernacle and its whole service is found in the

very ancient temple of Hercules, founded probably by the

Phoenicians, at Gades, now Cadiz, in Spain, so minutely described

by Silius Italicus from actual observation. He observes that

though the temple was at that time very ancient, yet the beams

were the same that had been placed there by the founders, and that

they were generally supposed to be incorruptible; a quality

ascribed to the shittim wood, termed ξυλονασηπτον, incorruptible

wood, by the Septuagint. That women were not permitted to enter

this temple, and that no swine were ever suffered to come near it.

That the priests did not wear party-coloured vestments, but were

always clothed in fine linen, and their bonnets made of the same.

That they offered incense to their god, their clothes being

ungirded; for the same reason doubtless given Ex 20:26, that in

going up to the altar nothing unseemly might appear, and therefore

they permitted their long robes to fall down to their feet. He

adds, that by the laws of their forefathers they bore on their

sacerdotal vestments the latus clavus, which was a round knob or

stud of purple with which the robes of the Roman knights and

senators were adorned, which these priests seem to have copied

from the breastplate of judgment made of cunning work, embroidered

with purple, blue, &c. See Ex 28:15. They also ministered

barefooted, their hair was trimmed or cut off, and they observed

the strictest continency, and kept a perpetual fire burning on

their altars. And he farther adds that there was no image or

similitude of the gods to be seen in that sacred place. This is

the substance of his description; but as some of my readers may

wish to see the original, I shall here subjoin it.

Vulgatum (nec cassa fides) ab origine fani

Impositas durare trabes, solasque per aevum

Condentum novisse manus: hic credere gaudent

Consedisse Deum, seniumque repellere templis.

Tum, queis fas et honos adyti penetralia nosse,

Foemineos prohibent gressus, ac limine curant

Setigeros arcere sues: nec discolor ulli

Ante aras cultus: velantur corpora lino,

Et Pelusiaco praefulget stamine vertex.

Discinctis mos thura dare, atque, e lege parenturn

Sacrificam LATO vestem distinguere CLAVO.

Pes nudus, tousaeque comae, castumque cubile,

Irrestincta focis servant altaria flammae.

Sed nulla effigies, simulacrave nota Deorum

Majestate locum, et sacro implevere timore.

Punicor., lib. iii., ver. 17-31.

This is such a remarkable case that I think myself justified in

quoting it at length, as an extraordinary monument, though

corrupted, of the tabernacle and its service. It is probable that

the original founders had consecrated this temple to the true God,

under the name of EL, the strong God, or EL GIBBOR,

the strong, prevailing, and victorious God, Isa 9:6, out of

whom the Greeks and Romans made their Hercules, or god of

strength; and, to make it agree with this appropriation, the

labours of Hercules were sculptured on the doors of this temple

at Gades.

In foribus labor Alcidae Lernaea recisis

Anguibus Hydra jacet, &c., &c.

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