Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,XL.
THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE UPREARING OF THE TABERNACLE.
(1-8) Though the work was now complete, and all the parts of the Tabernacle made ready, Moses did not at once proceed to erect it. As when he first went up into Sinai (Exodus 24:16), so now, he waited for a Divine summons, a distinct command fixing the time for him to do that which he knew that he had to do. There is an importance and a fitness in “times and seasons,” which the Great Father often reserves it to Himself to determine (Acts 1:7). Moses felt this, and waited, till after a time the summons came. God fixed for the erection “the first day of the first month” (Exodus 40:2)—i.e., the New Year’s Day of the first year of freedom. At the same time He gave directions fixing the order in which all should be done, and determining the position of the various articles of furniture which the Tabernacle and its court were to contain (Exodus 40:4-8).
On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.(2) On the first day of the first month.—The Israelites had quitted Egypt on the fourteenth day of the first month, Abib (Exodus 12:6). They had reached the wilderness of Sinai in the course of the third month, Sivan, and encamped in front of Sinai shortly after (Exodus 19:1-2). The two long absences of Moses in the Mount had occupied nearly three months, and were separated by an interval probably of several days. It must have been the sixth or seventh month before the work was commenced, and very late in the year—the eleventh or twelfth month—before it was accomplished. Hence, the new year was now approaching, and, as it was approaching, its first day was naturally chosen as most fit for the inauguration of the new structure.
The tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.—Rather, the tabernacle, the tent of meeting. The words mishhan and ‘ohel are in apposition, not in regimen. (So also in Exodus 40:6.)
And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with the vail.(3) Thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony.—The most precious of the objects which the tabernacle was to contain was to be placed in it; first. Then immediately it was to be covered up with the vail.
And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.(4) The table.—The “table of shewbread” is thus commonly designated. (See Exodus 35:13; Exodus 37:10; Exodus 39:36; Exodus 40:22.)
And set in order the things . . . —The twelve loaves are the “things” specially intended (see Exodus 40:23). Whether the frankincense also is glanced at (Leviticus 24:7) may be doubted. It was perhaps an addition to the earliest ritual.
The candlestick.—See Exodus 25:31-37.
And light the lamps.—Not necessarily at once, but at the close of the day. (See Exodus 30:8.)
And thou shalt set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the hanging of the door to the tabernacle.(5) Thou shalt set the altar of gold . . . before the ark.—Not inside the vail, but outside, in the Holy Place; nearer, however, to the vail than either the table or the candlestick. (See Note 1 on Exodus 30:6.)
And thou shalt set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.(6) The altar of the burnt-offering.—See Exodus 27:1-8.
And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and shalt put water therein.(7) The laver. Comp. Exodus 30:18. Its proper place was close to the door of the Tabernacle, since the priests had to wash their hands and feet at it every time that they set foot within the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:19-20).
And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang up the hanging at the court gate.(8) The court . . . the hanging.—See Exodus 27:9-18.
(9-15) Instructions for the consecration of the Tabernacle, its furniture and its vessels, by anointing, and for the consecration of Aaron and his sons by ablution, anointing, and investiture, were attached to those given concerning the setting up of the Tabernacle, and are here recorded, although their execution appears to have been delayed to a later date. (See Leviticus 8:1-13.) Moses perhaps found that there was not time for the completion of the ceremony on the day of the erection of the Tabernacle, and therefore deferred a part of it.
(9) The anointing oil.—Directions for the composition of the oil had been already given (Exodus 30:23-25); and at the same time it had been ordered that the Tabernacle, the ark, the table, the candlestick, the two altars, the laver, and the various vessels of the sanctuary, should be consecrated by anointing them (Exodus 30:26-29).
And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water.(12) Thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons . . . and wash them.—See Note on Exodus 29:4. Ablution, investiture, and anointing had all of them been previously appointed to be parts of the consecration service (Exodus 29:4-5; Exodus 29:7, &c.).
And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats:(14) Thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats.—Rather, with tunics. (Comp. Exodus 29:8.)
And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.(15) Thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father.—By the narrative of Leviticus 8, it would seem that Aaron’s sons were not anointed in the same way as himself. He had the oil poured over his head (Leviticus 8:12; Psalm 133:2). They were merely sprinkled with a mixture of oil and blood (Leviticus 8:30). The difference implied a lower degree of official holiness.
Their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood.—The Jewish commentators maintain that the one anointing of the sons of Aaron sufficed for all time, and was not repeated in the case of any subsequent priests, who became fully possessed of the sacerdotal office without it. Each high priest was, on the contrary, inducted into his office by anointing, whence the high priest came to be spoken of as “the anointed priest (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 21:12, &c.).
Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he.(16) Thus did Moses.—This verse states generally the fact that Moses carried out the entire series of instructions given him in Exodus 40:2-15, but tells us nothing as to the time at which he carried them out. The passage which follows (Exodus 40:17-33) fixes the performance of the first set of instructions (Exodus 40:2-8) to “the first day of the second year.” The narrative of Leviticus 8 shows that the remainder (Exodus 40:9-15) were not put into execution till later.
(17) On the first day of the month . . . the tabernacle was reared up.—The Tabernacle was so constructed as to be capable of being rapidly both put together and taken to pieces. The erection of the framework, and the stretching upon it of the fine linen and goats’-hair coverings, must have been the main difficulty. But the family of Abraham had been familiar with tent life from the time of its quitting Ur of the Chaldees to the descent into Egypt, and its location in Egypt on the borders of the desert, in close neighbourhood to various nomadic races, had kept up its familiarity with tents, their structure, and the most approved methods of pitching and striking them. Thus it is not surprisiug that the first erection was completed in less than a day.
And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up his pillars.(18) Moses . . . fastened his sockets.—The stability of the Tabernacle must have depended almost entirely upon the sockets. These were of some considerable weight (Exodus 38:27), but they cannot by their mere weight have sustained the fabric in an upright position. It is reasonable to suppose that they were let into the ground to a depth of some feet. The erection necessarily commenced with this operation.
Set up the boards.—When the sockets had been firmly fixed, the upright boards and tiie pillars were inserted into them by means of the “tenons” in which they terminated, and so stood erect. The coupling by “bars” rivetted the three walls into one firm and compact structure.
And he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent above upon it; as the LORD commanded Moses.(19) He spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle.—Erected, i.e., the wooden framework, with the covering of goats’-hair, which formed the true tent (’ohel), and so roofed in the Tabernacle (mishkan).
Put the covering . . . above upon it.—“The covering” (miksêh) is the outer protection of rams’ skins and seals’ skins. (See Exodus 26:14.)
And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark:(20) He took and put the testimony into the ark.—By “the testimony” we must understand the two tables of stone, written with the finger of God, which Moses had brought down with him from the top of Sinai on his last visit (Exodus 34:29). On the use of the word “testimony” in this sense, see Note to Exodus 25:16. It is not proved by this passage that the Ark held nothing but “the testimony.”
Set the staves on the ark—i.e., placed them in the rings, ready for use. (See Exodus 25:14.)
And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded Moses.(21) The vail of the covering.—See Note on Exodus 39:34, and comp, above, Exodus 40:3.
And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail.(22) Put the table . . . upon the side of the tabernacle northward.—On the right hand to one facing towards the vail. Moses may have known the right position from the pattern which was shewed him in the mount (Exodus 25:40).
And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses.(23) He set the bread in order upon it.—Arranged, i.e., the twelve loaves in two rows, as was afterwards commanded to be done (Leviticus 24:6).
And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation, over against the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward.(24) He put the candlestick . . . over against the table.—Directly opposite to it, on the left hand, as one faced the vail. The light would thus be thrown on the table of shewbread. (See Exodus 25:37.)
And he lighted the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses.(25) He lighted the lamps.—When the proper time came, i.e., at even. (Comp. Exodus 30:8; Leviticus 24:3.)
And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the vail:(26) He put the golden altar . . . Before the vail.—In front of the Ark, the mercy-seat, and the place assigned to the Shechinah (Exodus 25:22), but separated from them by the vail. (Comp. Exodus 30:6.)
And he burnt sweet incense thereon; as the LORD commanded Moses.(27) He burnt sweet incense thereon.—At even, when he lighted the lamps, he also, according to the instructions given him (Exodus 30:8) burnt incense.
And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle.(28) The hanging at the door.—See above, Exodus 40:5, and comp. Exodus 26:36.
And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering; as the LORD commanded Moses.(29) He put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle.—On the altar of burnt offering, see Exodus 27:1-8; Exodus 38:1-7. Some preposition has fallen out before the word “door.” Our translators suppose an omission of ’al, “at,” but it is more probable that liphney, which occurs in Exodus 40:6, is the word omitted. The altar was not “at the door,” but “before” or “in front of the door.”
And offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering.—Offered upon it, i.e., the first evening sacrifice—a lamb for a burnt offering, together with the prescribed meat offering. (See Exodus 29:40.)
And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.(30) And he set the laver between the tent . . . and the altar.—On the bronze laver and its position in the Tabernacle, see the Notes on Exodus 30:18.
And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat:(31, 32) These verses are parenthetic. They interrupt the narrative of what Moses did “on the first day of the first month,” informing us of the use whereto the laver was applied subsequently. (Comp. Exodus 30:19-21.)
And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.(33) He reared up the court . . . and set up the hanging.—On the court, see Exodus 27:9-18. For “the hanging” see Exodus 27:16.
(34) Then a cloud.—Heb., the cloud, i.e., the same cloud that had accompanied the host and directed their journeys from Succoth (Exodus 13:20-22).
Covered the tent.—The cloud rested on the tent outside; the “glory of God,”—some ineffably brilliant appearance—entered inside, and “filled” the entire dwelling. It pleased God thus to manifest His intention of making good His promise to go with the people in person (Exodus 33:17).
And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.(35) Moses was not able to enter into the tent.—Apparently, Moses, seeing the cloud descend, as it had been wont to do upon the temporary “tent of meeting” (Exodus 33:9), endeavoured to re-enter the Tabernacle which he had quitted, but was unable; the “glory” forbade approach. (Comp. the effect of the “glory” when it descended on Solomon’s Temple, 1Kings 8:11; 2Chronicles 5:14; 2Chronicles 7:2.)
And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:(36-38) The cloud was henceforth, in a peculiar way, attached to the Tabernacle. As a cloud it rested upon it by day; as a pillar of fire by night. Only in one case was it removed, viz., when it was the Divine will that Israel should march. (See Numbers 9:15-22.)
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