Exodus 38


Bezaleel makes the altar of burnt-offering, 1-7.

He makes the laver and its foot out of the mirrors given

by the women, 8.

The court, its pillars, hangings, &c., 9-20.

The whole tabernacle and its work finished by Bezaleel,

Aholiab, and their assistants, 21-23.

The amount of the gold contributed, 24.

The amount of the silver, and how it was expended, 25-28.

The amount of the brass, and how this was used, 29-31.


Verse 1. The altar of burnt-offering]

See Clarke on Ex 27:1; and for its horns, pots, shovels,

basins, &c., see the meaning of the Hebrew terms explained,

Ex 27:3-5.

Verse 8. He made the laver] See Clarke on Ex 30:18, &c.

The looking-glasses] The word maroth, from

raah, he saw, signifies reflectors or mirrors of any kind. Here

metal, highly polished, must certainly be meant, as glass was not

yet in use; and had it even been in use, we are sure that

looking-GLASSES could not make a BRAZEN laver. The word therefore

should be rendered mirrors, not looking-glasses, which in the

above verse is perfectly absurd, because from those maroth the

brazen laver was made. The first mirrors known among men were the

clear, still, fountain, and unruffled lake; and probably the

mineral called mica, which is a very general substance through all

parts of the earth. Plates of it have been found of three feet

square, and it is so extremely divisible into laminae, that it has

been divided into plates so thin as to be only the three hundred

thousandth part of an inch. A plate of this forms an excellent

mirror when any thing black is attached to the opposite side. A

plate of this mineral, nine inches by eight, now lies before me; a

piece of black cloth, or any other black substance, at the

back, converts it into a good mirror; or it would serve as it is

for a square of glass, as every object is clearly perceivable

through it. It is used in Russian ships of war, instead of glass,

for windows. The first artificial mirrors were apparently made of

brass, afterwards of polished steel, and when luxury increased

they were made of silver; but they were made at a very early

period of mixed metal, particularly of tin and copper, the best of

which, as Pliny tells us, were formerly manufactured at

Brundusium: Optima apud majores fuerant Brundisina, stanno et aere

mixtis.-Hist. Nat. lib. xxxiii., cap. 9. But, according to him,

the most esteemed were those made of tin; and he says that silver

mirrors became so common that even the servant girls used them:

Specula (ex stanno) laudatissima Brundisii temperabantur; donec

argenteis uti caepere et ancillae; lib. xxxiv., cap. 17. When the

Egyptian women went to the temples, they always carried their

mirrors with them. The Israelitish women probably did the same,

and Dr. Shaw states that the Arabian women carry them constantly

hung at their breasts. It is worthy of remark, that at first

these women freely gave up their ornaments for this important

service, and now give their very mirrors, probably as being of

little farther service, seeing they had already given up the

principal decorations of their persons. Woman has been

invidiously defined by Aristotle, an animal fond of dress, (though

this belongs to the whole human race, and not exclusively to

woman.) Had this been true of the Israelitish women, in the

present case we must say they nobly sacrificed their incentives to

pride to the service of their God. Woman, go thou and do likewise.

Of the women-which assembled at the door] What the employment

of these women was at the door of the tabernacle, is not easily

known. Some think they assembled there for purposes of devotion.

Others, that they kept watch there during the night; and this is

the most probable opinion, for they appear to have been in the

same employment as those who assembled at the door of the

tabernacle of the congregation in the days of Samuel, who were

abused by the sons of the high priest Eli, 1Sa 2:22. Among the

ancients women were generally employed in the office of porters or

doorkeepers. Such were employed about the house of the high priest

in our Lord's time; for a woman is actually represented as keeping

the door of the palace of the high priest, Joh 18:17:

Then saith the DAMSEL that KEPT THE DOOR unto Peter; see also

Mt 26:69. In 2Sa 4:6, both the

Septuagint and Vulgate make a woman porter or doorkeeper to

Ishbosheth. Aristophanes mentions them in the same office, and

calls them σηκις, Sekis, which seems to signify a common

maid-servant. Aristoph, in Vespis, ver. 768:-


Homer, Odyss., ψ, ver. 225-229, mentions Actoris, Penelope's

maid, whose office it was to keep the door of her chamber:-



And Euripides, in Troad., ver. 197, brings in Hecuba,

complaining that she who was wont to sit upon a throne is now

reduced to the miserable necessity of becoming a doorkeeper or a

nurse, in order to get a morsel of bread.




Sir John Chardin observes, that women are employed to keep the

gate of the palace of the Persian kings. Plautus, Curcul., act

1., scene 1, mentions an old woman, who was keeper of the gate.

Anus hic solet cubitare, custos janitrix.

Many other examples might be produced. It is therefore very

likely that the persons mentioned here, and in 1Sa 2:22, were the

women who guarded the tabernacle; and that they regularly relieved

each other, a troop or company regularly keeping watch: and indeed

this seems to be implied in the original, tsabeu, they came

by troops; and these troops successively consecrated their mirrors

to the service of the tabernacle. See Calmet on Joh 18:16.

Verse 9. The court] See Clarke on Ex 27:9.

Verse 17. The hooks-and their fillets] The capitals, and the

silver bands that went round them;

See Clarke on Ex 26:32.

Verse 21. This is the sum of the tabernacle.] That is, The

foregoing account contains a detail of all the articles which

Bezaleel and Aholiab were commanded to make; and which were

reckoned up by the Levites, over whom Ithamar, the son of Aaron,


Verse 24. All the gold that was occupied for the work, &c.] To

be able to ascertain the quantum and value of the gold, silver,

and brass, which were employed in the tabernacle, and its

different utensils, altars, &c., it will be necessary to enter

into the subject in considerable detail.

In the course of my notes on this and the preceding book, I have

had frequent occasion to speak of the shekel in use among the

ancient Hebrews, which, following Dean Prideaux, I have always

computed at 3s. English. As some value it at 2s. 6d., and

others at 2s. 4d., I think it necessary to lay before the reader

the learned dean's mode of computation as a proper introduction to

the calculations which immediately follow.

"Among the ancients, the way of reckoning their money was by

talents. So the Hebrews, so the Babylonians, and so the Romans

did reckon. And of these talents they had subdivisions which were

usually in minas and drachms; i.e., of their talents into

minas, and their minas into drachms. The Hebrews had, besides

these, their shekels and half-shekels, or bekas; and the Romans

their denarii, which last were very nearly of the same value with

the drachms of the Greeks. What was the value of a Hebrew talent

appears from Ex 38:25,26, for there 603,550 persons being taxed

at half a shekel a head, they must have paid in the whole 301,775

shekels; and that sum is there said to amount to one hundred

talents, and 1775 shekels over: if therefore we deduct the 1775

shekels from the number 301,775, and divide the remaining sum,

i.e., 300,000, by a hundred, this will prove each of those talents

to contain three thousand shekels. Each of these shekels

weighed about three shillings of our money; and sixty of them,

Ezekiel tells us, Eze 45:12, made a mina; and therefore

fifty of those minas made a talent. And as to their drachms,

it appears by the Gospel of St. Matthew that it was the fourth

part of a shekel, that is, nine-pence of our money. For there

(Mt 17:24) the tribute money annually paid to the temple, by

every Jew, (Talmud in shekalim,) which was half a shekel, is

called διδραχμον (i.e., the two drachm piece;) and therefore, if

half a shekel contained two drachms, a drachm must have been the

quarter part of a shekel, and every shekel must have contained

four of them: and so Josephus tells us it did; for he says,

Antiq., lib. iii., c. 9, that a shekel contained four Attic

drachms, which is not exactly to be understood according to the

weight, but according to the valuation in the currency of common

payments. For according to the weight, the heaviest Attic drachms

did not exceed eight-pence farthing half-farthing, of our money;

and a Hebrew drachm, as I have said, was nine-pence; but what the

Attic drachm fell short of the Hebrew in weight might be made up

in the fineness, and its ready currency in all countries, (which

last the Hebrew drachm could not have,) and so might be made

equivalent in common estimation among the Jews. Allowing

therefore a drachm, as well Attic as Jewish, as valued in

Judea, to be equivalent to nine-pence of our money, a BEKA or

half-shekel will be one shilling and six-pence; a SHEKEL, three

shillings; a MINA, nine pounds; and a TALENT, four hundred and

fifty pounds. So it was in the time of Moses and Ezekiel; and so

was it in the time of Josephus among that people, for he tells us,

Antiq., lib. xiv., c. 12, that a Hebrew mina contained two LITRAS

and a half, which comes exactly to nine pounds of our money: for a

litra, being the same with a Roman libra, contained twelve ounces

troy weight, that is, ninety-six drachms; and therefore two litras

and a half must contain two hundred and forty drachms, which being

estimated at nine-pence a drachm, according to the Jewish

valuation, comes exactly to sixty shekels, or nine pounds of our

money. And this account agrees exactly with that of Alexandria.

For the Alexandrian talent contained 12,000 Attic drachms; and

12,000 Attic drachms, according to the Jewish valuation, being

12,000 of our nine-pences, they amount to 450 pounds of sterling

money, which is the same in value as the Mosaic talent. But here

it is to be observed, that though the Alexandrian talent amounted

to 12,000 Attic drachms, yet they themselves reckoned it but at

6000 drachms, because every Alexandrian drachm contained two Attic

drachms; and therefore the Septuagint version being made by the

Alexandrian Jews, they there render the Hebrew word shekel, by

the Greek διδραχμον, which signifies two drachms, because two

Alexandrian drachms make a shekel, two of them amounting to as

much as four Attic drachms. And therefore computing the

Alexandrian money according to the same method in which we have

computed the Jewish, it will be as follows: One drachm of

Alexandria will be of our money eighteen pence; one didrachm

or shekel, consisting of two drachms of Alexandria, or four of

Attica, will be three shillings; one mina, consisting of sixty

didrachms or shekels, will be nine pounds; and one talent,

consisting of fifty minas, will be four hundred and fifty pounds,

which is the talent of Moses, Ex 38:25,26: and so also is it the

talent of Josephus, Antiq., lib. iii., c. 7; for he tells us that

a Hebrew talent contained one hundred Greek (i.e., Attic) minas.

For those fifty minas, which here make an Alexandrian talent,

would be one hundred Attic minas in the like method of valuation;

the Alexandrian talent containing double as much as the Attic

talent, both in the whole, and also in all its parts, in whatever

method both shall be equally distributed. Among the Greeks the

established rule was, Jul. Pollux, Onomast., lib. x., c. 6, that

one hundred drachms made a mina, and sixty minas a talent.

But in some different states their drachms being different,

accordingly their minas and talents were within the same

proportion different also. But the money of Attica was the

standard by which all the rest were valued, according as they

more or less differed from it. And therefore, it being of most

note, wherever any Greek historian speaks of talents, minas, or

drachms, if they be simply mentioned, it is to be always

understood of talents, minas, or drachms of Attica, and never of

the talents, minas, or drachms of any other place, unless it be

expressed. Mr. Brerewood, going by the goldsmith's weights,

reckons an Attic drachm to be the same with a drachm now in use in

their shops, that is, the eighth part of an ounce; and therefore

lays it at the value of seven-pence halfpenny of our money, or the

eighth part of a crown, which is or ought to be an ounce weight.

But Dr. Bernard, going more accurately to work, lays the middle

sort of Attic drachms at eight-pence farthing of our money, and

the minas and talents accordingly, in the proportions above

mentioned. The Babylonish talent, according to Pollux, Onomast.,

lib. x., c. 6, contained seven thousand of those drachms. The

Roman talent (see Festus Pompeius) contained seventy-two Italic

minas, which were the same with the Roman libras; and ninety-six

Roman denariuses, each being of the value of seven-pence halfpenny

of our money, made a Roman libra. But all the valuations I have

hitherto mentioned must be understood only of silver money, and

not of gold; for that was much higher. The proportion of gold to

silver was among the ancients commonly as ten to one; sometimes it

was raised to be as eleven to one, sometimes as twelve, and

sometimes as thirteen to one. In the time of King Edward the

First it was here, in England, at the value of ten to one; but

it is now gotten at sixteen to one; and so I value it in all the

reductions which I make in this history of ancient sums to the

present value. But to make the whole of this matter the easier to

the reader, I will lay all of it before him for his clear view in

this following table of valuations:-

HEBREW money s. d.

A Hebrew drachm..................... 9

Two drachms made a beka or

half-shekel, which was the tribute

money paid by every Jew to the

temple............................. 1 6

Two bekas made a shekel............. 3 0

Sixty shekels made a mina........... 9 0 0

Fifty minas made a talent........... 450 0 0

A talent of gold, sixteen to one....7200 0 0

ATTIC money, according to Mr. BREREWOOD

An Attic drachm.................... 7�

A hundred drachms made a mina...... 3 2 6

Sixty minas made a talent.......... 187 10 0

A talent of gold, sixteen to one...3000 0 0

ATTIC money, according to Dr. BERNARD

An Attic drachm.................... 8�

A hundred drachms made a mina...... 3 8 9

Sixty minas made a talent.......... 206 5 0

A talent of gold, sixteen to one...3300 0 0

BABYLONISH money, according to Mr. BREREWOOD

A Babylonish talent of silver

containing seven thousand Attic

drachms........................... 218 15 0

A Babylonish talent in gold,

sixteen to one....................3500 0 0

BABYLONISH money, according to Dr. BERNARD

A Babylonish talent in silver......240 12 6

A Babylonish talent in gold,

sixteen to one...................3850 0 0

ALEXANDRIAN money s. d.

A drachm of Alexandria, containing

two Attic drachms, as valued by

the Jews........................... 1 6

A didrachm of Alexandria, containing

two Alexandrian drachms, which was a

Hebrew shekel...................... 3 0

Sixty didrachms or Hebrew shekels

made a mina........................ 9 0 0

Fifty minas made a talent.......... 450 0 0

A talent of gold, sixteen to one...7200 0 0

ROMAN money

Four sesterciuses made a Roman

denarius......................... 7�

Ninety-six Roman denariuses made

an Italic mina, which was the

same with a Roman libra.......... 3 0 0

Seventy-two Roman libras made a

talent........................... 216 0 0

See the Old and New Testament connected, &c. Vol. 1., preface,

pp. xx-xxvii.

There were twenty-nine talents seven hundred and thirty

shekels of GOLD; one hundred talents one thousand seven hundred

and seventy-five shekels of SILVER; and seventy talents two

thousand four hundred shekels of BRASS.

If with Dean Prideaux we estimate the value of the silver shekel

at three shillings English, we shall obtain the weight of the

shekel by making use of the following proportion. As sixty-two

shillings, the value of a pound weight of silver as settled by

the British laws, is to two hundred and forty, the number of

penny-weights in a pound troy, so is three shillings, the value

of a shekel of silver, to 11 dwts. 14 22/31 grains, the weight of

the shekel required.

In the next place, to find the value of a shekel of gold we must

make use of the proportion following: As one ounce troy is to 3.

17s. 10�d., the legal value of an ounce of gold, so is 11 dwts. 14

22/31 grains, the weight of the shekel as found by the last

proportion, to 2. 5s. 2� 42/93d., the value of the shekel of

gold required. From this datum we shall soon be able to ascertain

the value of all the gold employed in the work of this holy place,

by the following arithmetical process: Reduce 2. 5s. 2� 42/93d.

to the lowest term mentioned, which is 201,852 ninety-third parts

of a farthing. Multiply this last number by 3000, the number of

shekels in a talent, and the product by 29, the number of talents;

and add in 730 times 201,852, on account of the 730 shekels which

were above the 29 talents employed in the work, and we shall have

for the last product 17,708,475,960, which, divided successively

by 93, 4, 12, and 20, will give 198,347. 12s. 6d. for the

total value of the gold employed in the tabernacle, &c.

The value of the silver contributed by 603,550 Israelites, at

half a shekel or eighteen pence per man, may be found by an easy

arithmetical calculation to amount to 45,266. 5s.

The value of the brass at 1s. per pound will amount to 513.


The GOLD of the holy place weighed 4245 pounds.

The SILVER of the tabernacle 14,602 pounds.

The BRASS 10,277 pounds troy weight,

The total value of all the gold, silver, and brass of the

tabernacle will consequently amount to 244,127. 14s. 6d. And

the total weight of all these three metals amounts to 29,124

pounds troy, which, reduced to avoirdupois weight, is nearly ten

tons and a half. When all this is considered, besides the

quantity of gold which was employed in the golden calf, and which

was all destroyed, it is no wonder that the sacred text should say

the Hebrews spoiled the Egyptians, particularly as in those early

times the precious metals were probably not very plentiful in


Verse 26. A bekah for every man] The Hebrew word beka,

from baka, to divide, separate into two, seems to

signify, not a particular coin, but a shekel broken or cut in two;

so, anciently, our farthing was a penny divided in the midst and

then subdivided, so that each division contained the fourth part

of the penny; hence its name fourthing or fourthling, since

corrupted into farthing.

THERE appear to be three particular reasons why much riches

should be employed in the construction of the tabernacle, &c. 1.

To impress the people's minds with the glory and dignity of the

Divine Majesty, and the importance of his service. 2. To take out

of their hands the occasion of covetousness; for as they brought

much spoils out of Egypt, and could have little if any use for

gold and silver in the wilderness, where it does not appear that

they had much intercourse with any other people, and were

miraculously supported, so that they did not need their riches, it

was right to employ that in the worship of God which otherwise

might have engendered that love which is the root of all evil. 3.

To prevent pride and vainglory, by leading them to give up to the

Divine service even the ornaments of their persons, which would

have had too direct a tendency to divert their minds from better

things. Thus God's worship was rendered august and respectable,

incitements to sin and low desires removed, and the people

instructed to consider nothing valuable, but as far as it might be

employed to the glory and in the service of God.

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