The Tabernacle1 ▼
▼ This chapter is given over to the details of the structure itself, the curtains, coverings, boards and walls and veil. The passage can be studied on one level for its function both practically and symbolically for Israel’s worship. On another level it can be studied for its typology, for the tabernacle and many of its parts speak of Christ. For this one should see the commentaries.“The tabernacle itself ▼ you are to make with ▼
▼ This is for the adverbial accusative explaining how the dwelling place is to be made.ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet; ▼
▼ S. R. Driver suggests that the curtains were made with threads dyed with these colors (Exodus, 280). Perhaps the colored threads were used for embroidering the cherubim in the curtains.you are to make them with ▼
▼ The construction is difficult in this line because of the word order. “Cherubim” is an adverbial accusative explaining how they were to make the curtains. And מַעֲשֵׂה חֹשֵׁב (ma’aseh khoshev) means literally “work of a designer”; it is in apposition to “cherubim.” The Hebrew participle means “designer” or “deviser” so that one could render this “of artistic designs in weaving” (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 280–81). B. Jacob says that it refers to “artistic weavers” (Exodus, 789).cherubim that are the work of an artistic designer. 2 The length of each ▼
▼ Heb “one” (so KJV).curtain is to be forty-two feet, and the width of each curtain is to be six feet ▼
▼ Heb “twenty-eight cubits” long and “four cubits” wide.– the same size for each of the curtains. 3 Five curtains are to be joined, ▼
▼ This is the active participle, not the passive. It would normally be rendered “joining together.” The Bible uses the active because it has the result of the sewing in mind, namely, that every curtain accompanies another (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 348).one to another, ▼
▼ Heb “a woman to her sister,” this form of using nouns to express “one to another” is selected because “curtains” is a feminine noun (see GKC 448 #139.e).and the other ▼
▼ The phrase “the other” has been supplied.five curtains are to be joined, one to another. 4 You are to make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and in the same way you are to make loops ▼
▼ Here “loops” has been supplied.in the outer edge of the end curtain in the second set. 5 You are to make fifty loops on the one curtain, and you are to make fifty loops on the end curtain which is on the second set, so that the loops are opposite one to another. ▼
▼ Heb “a woman to her sister.”6 You are to make fifty gold clasps and join the curtains together with the clasps, so that the tabernacle is a unit. ▼
▼ Heb “one”; KJV “it shall be one tabernacle”; NRSV “that the tabernacle may be one whole”; NLT “a single unit.”
7 “You are to make curtains of goats’ hair ▼
▼ This chapter will show that there were two sets of curtains and two sets of coverings that went over the wood building to make the tabernacle or dwelling place. The curtains of fine linen described above could be seen only by the priests from inside. Above that was the curtain of goats’ hair. Then over that were the coverings, an inner covering of rams’ skins dyed red and an outer covering of hides of fine leather. The movement is from the inside to the outside because it is God’s dwelling place; the approach of the worshiper would be the opposite. The pure linen represented the righteousness of God, guarded by the embroidered cherubim; the curtain of goats’ hair was a reminder of sin through the daily sin offering of a goat; the covering of rams’ skins dyed red was a reminder of the sacrifice and the priestly ministry set apart by blood, and the outer covering marked the separation between God and the world. These are the interpretations set forth by Kaiser; others vary, but not greatly (see W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:459).for a tent over the tabernacle; ▼
▼ This curtain will serve “for a tent over the tabernacle,” as a dwelling place.you are to make ▼
▼ Heb “you will make them”eleven curtains. 8 The length of each ▼
▼ Heb “one”curtain is to be forty-five feet, and the width of each curtain is to be six feet – the same size for the eleven curtains. 9 You are to join five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves. You are to double over ▼
▼ The text seems to describe this part as being in front of the tabernacle, hanging down to form a valence at the entrance (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 284).the sixth curtain at the front of the tent. 10 You are to make fifty loops along the edge of the end curtain in one set and fifty loops along the edge of the curtain that joins the second set. 11 You are to make fifty bronze clasps and put the clasps into the loops and join the tent together so that it is a unit. ▼
▼ Heb “one”12 Now the part that remains of the curtains of the tent – the half curtain that remains will hang over at the back of the tabernacle. ▼
▼ U. Cassuto (Exodus, 353) cites b. Shabbat 98b which says, “What did the tabernacle resemble? A woman walking on the street with her train trailing behind her.” In the expression “the half of the curtain that remains,” the verb agrees in gender with the genitive near it.13 The foot and a half ▼
▼ Literally “cubit.”on the one side and the foot and a half on the other side of what remains in the length of the curtains of the tent will hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on one side and the other side, to cover it. ▼
▼ U. Cassuto states the following: “To the north and to the south, since the tent curtains were thirty cubits long, there were ten cubits left over on each side; these covered the nine cubits of the curtains of the tabernacle and also the bottom cubit of the boards, which the tabernacle curtains did not suffice to cover. It is to this that v. 13 refers” (Exodus, 353).
14 “You are to make a covering ▼
▼ Two outer coverings made of stronger materials will be put over the tent and the curtain, the two inner layers.for the tent out of ram skins dyed red and over that a covering of fine leather. ▼
15 “You are to make the frames ▼
▼ There is debate whether the word הַקְּרָשִׁים (haqqerashim) means “boards” (KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB) or “frames” (NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV) or “planks” (see Ezek 27:6) or “beams,” given the size of them. The literature on this includes M. Haran, “The Priestly Image of the Tabernacle,” HUCA 36 (1965): 192; B. A. Levine, “The Description of the Tabernacle Texts of the Pentateuch,” JAOS 85 (1965): 307-18; J. Morgenstern, “The Ark, the Ephod, and the Tent,” HUCA 17 (1942/43): 153-265; 18 (1943/44): 1-52.for the tabernacle out of ▼
▼ “Wood” is an adverbial accusative.acacia wood as uprights. ▼
▼ The plural participle “standing” refers to how these items will be situated; they will be vertical rather than horizontal (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 354).16 Each ▼
▼ Heb “the frame.”frame is to be fifteen feet long, and each frame is to be two feet three inches wide, 17 with two projections ▼
▼ Heb “hands,” the reference is probably to projections that served as stays or supports. They may have been tenons, or pegs, projecting from the bottom of the frames to hold the frames in their sockets (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 286).per frame parallel one to another. ▼
▼ Or “being joined each to the other.”You are to make all the frames of the tabernacle in this way. 18 So you are to make the frames for the tabernacle: twenty frames for the south side, ▼
▼ Heb “on the south side southward.”19 and you are to make forty silver bases to go under the twenty frames – two bases under the first frame for its two projections, and likewise ▼
▼ The clause is repeated to show the distributive sense; it literally says, “and two bases under the one frame for its two projections.”two bases under the next frame for its two projections; 20 and for the second side of the tabernacle, the north side, twenty frames, 21 and their forty silver bases, two bases under the first frame, and two bases under the next frame. 22 And for the back of the tabernacle on the west ▼
▼ Or “westward” (toward the sea).you will make six frames. 23 You are to make two frames for the corners ▼
▼ The term rendered “corners” is “an architectural term for some kind of special corner structure. Here it seems to involve two extra supports, one at each corner of the western wall” (N. M. Sarna, Exodus [JPSTC], 170).of the tabernacle on the back. 24 At the two corners ▼
▼ Heb “they will be for the two corners.” This is the last clause of the verse, moved forward for clarity.they must be doubled at the lower end and finished together at the top in one ring. So it will be for both. 25 So there are to be eight frames and their silver bases, sixteen bases, two bases under the first frame, and two bases under the next frame.
26 “You are to make bars of acacia wood, five for the frames on one side of the tabernacle, 27 and five bars for the frames on the second side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames on the back of the tabernacle on the west. 28 The middle bar in the center of the frames will reach from end to end. ▼ 29 You are to overlay the frames with gold and make their rings of gold to provide places for the bars, and you are to overlay the bars with gold. 30 You are to set up the tabernacle according to the plan ▼
▼ The noun is מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat), often translated “judgment” or “decision” in other contexts. In those settings it may reflect its basic idea of custom, which here would be reflected with a rendering of “prescribed norm” or “plan.”that you were shown on the mountain.
31 “You are to make a special curtain ▼
▼ Although translated “curtain” (traditionally “veil,” so ASV, NAB, NASB) this is a different word from the one used earlier of the tent curtains, so “special curtain” is used. The word פָרֹכֶת (farokhet) seems to be connected with a verb that means “to shut off” and was used with a shrine. This curtain would form a barrier in the approach to God (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 289).of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine twisted linen; it is to be made ▼ with cherubim, the work of an artistic designer. 32 You are to hang it ▼
▼ Heb “put it.”with gold hooks ▼
▼ This clause simply says “and their hooks gold,” but is taken as a circumstantial clause telling how the veil will be hung.on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold, set in ▼
▼ Heb “on four silver bases.”four silver bases. 33 You are to hang this curtain under the clasps and bring the ark of the testimony in there behind the curtain. ▼
▼ The traditional expression is “within the veil,” literally “into the house (or area) of the (special) curtain.”The curtain will make a division for you between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. ▼
▼ Or “the Holy of Holies.”34 You are to put the atonement lid on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. 35 You are to put the table outside the curtain and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle, opposite the table, and you are to place the table on the north side.
36 “You are to make a hanging ▼
▼ This was another curtain, serving as a screen in the entrance way. Since it was far away from the special curtain screening the Most Holy Place, it was less elaborate. It was not the work of the master designer, but of the “embroiderer,” and it did not have the cherubim on it.for the entrance of the tent of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine twined linen, the work of an embroiderer. ▼
▼ The word רֹקֵם (roqem) refers to someone who made cloth with colors. It is not certain, however, whether the colors were woven into the fabric on the loom or applied with a needle; so “embroiderer” should be understood as an approximation (cf. HALOT 1290-91 s.v. רקם).37 You are to make for the hanging five posts of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, and their hooks will be ▼
▼ “will be” has been supplied.gold, and you are to cast five bronze bases for them. ▼
▼ In all the details of this chapter the expositor should pay attention to the overall message rather than engage in speculation concerning the symbolism of the details. It is, after all, the divine instruction for the preparation of the dwelling place for Yahweh. The point could be said this way: The dwelling place of Yahweh must be prepared in accordance with, and by the power of, his divine word. If God was to fellowship with his people, then the center of worship had to be made to his specifications, which were in harmony with his nature. Everything was functional for the approach to God through the ritual by divine provisions. But everything also reflected the nature of God, the symmetry, the order, the pure wood, the gold overlay, or (closer to God) the solid gold. And the symbolism of the light, the table, the veil, the cherubim – all of it was revelatory. All of it reflected the reality in heaven. Churches today do not retain the pattern and furnishings of the old tabernacle. However, they would do well to learn what God was requiring of Israel, so that their structures are planned in accordance with the theology of worship and the theology of access to God. Function is a big part, but symbolism and revelation instruct the planning of everything to be used. Christians live in the light of the fulfillment of Christ, and so they know the realities that the old foreshadowed. While a building is not necessary for worship (just as Israel worshiped in places other than the sanctuary), it is practical, and if there is going to be one, then the most should be made of it in the teaching and worshiping of the assembly. This chapter, then, provides an inspiration for believers on preparing a functional, symbolical, ordered place of worship that is in harmony with the word of God. And there is much to be said for making it as beautiful and uplifting as is possible – as a gift of freewill offering to God. Of course, the most important part of preparing a place of worship is the preparing of the heart. Worship, to be acceptable to God, must be in Christ. He said that when the temple was destroyed he would raise it up in three days. While he referred to his own body, he also alluded to the temple by the figure. When they put Jesus to death, they were destroying the temple; at his resurrection he would indeed begin a new form of worship. He is the tent, the curtain, the atonement, that the sanctuary foreshadowed. And then, believers also (when they receive Christ) become the temple of the Lord. So the NT will take the imagery and teaching of this chapter in a number of useful ways that call for more study. This does not, however, involve allegorization of the individual tabernacle parts.
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