And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Verses 1-7. - THE TABERNACLE AND THE GIFTS FOR IT. The great principles of the moral law had been given in the Ten Commandments uttered by God amid the thunders of Sinai. The "Book of the Covenant," or short summary of the main laws, civil, political, and social, had been communicated to Moses, and by him reduced to a written form (Exodus 24:4). A solemn league and covenant had been entered into between God and his people, the people undertaking to keep all the words of the Lord, and God to be their Protector, Guide, and King. But no form of worship had been set up. Abstract monotheism had been inculcated; and worship had been so far touched upon that an "altar" had been mentioned, and certain directions, chiefly negative, had been given with respect to it (Exodus 20:24-26). It remained that the abstract monotheism should be enshrined in forms, obtain a local habitation, and be set forth before the eyes, and so fixed in the heart and affections of the people. God was now about to declare to Moses what the character of the habitation should be, its size, form, and materials. But before doing this, as a first and fitting, if not necessary, preliminary, he required of the people to bring of the best of their possessions for the service which he was about to institute, enumerating the substances which he would condescend to receive at their hands, and especially enjoining upon them that all should be offered willingly and from the heart (ver. 2).
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.
Verse 2. - Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring me an offering. The word translated "offering" is that commonly rendered" heave-offering;" but it seems to be used here (as in Exodus 30:13; Exodus 35:5, etc.) in a generic sense. The propriety of the people, when God was about establishing his habitation among them, presenting to God all the materials needed, is self-evident and requires no comment. Of every man that giveth it willingly. Literally, "of every man whose heart drives him." God will have no gifts but such as are freely offered. He "loveth a cheerful giver. If a man gives grudgingly or of necessity," God rejects the gift. On the noble spirit which the people showed when the appeal was made to them, see Exodus 35:21-29; and Exodus 36:37
And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass,
Verse 3. - This is the offering - gold and silver and brass. Gold was needed for the overlaying of the boards, whereof the ark was composed (ver. 11); for the "crown of gold," which surmounted it (ibid.); for the "rings" (ver. 12); the "mercy-seat" (ver. 17) - the cherubim (ver. 18); the dishes, the spoons, the covers, the bowls (ver. 29); the candlestick (ver. 31); the tongs and snuff dishes (ver. 28); the hooks and taches (Exodus 26:6, 32); for the covering of the table of shew bread (Exodus 25:24); and of the staves and pillars (ib, 28: Exodus 26:32, 37); and also for many parts of the dress of the High Priest (Exodus 28:6, 8, 11, 14, etc.). Silver was required for the sockets which supported the hoards of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:19); and for the "hooks" and "fillets" of the pillars of the court (Exodus 27:10) Brass, or rather bronze, was wanted for the "taches" which coupled together the curtains of the tent (Exodus 26:11); for the "sockets" which received the pillars or tent-poles (ib, 37); for the external coating of the altar (Exodus 27:2); for the vessels and utensils of the altar (ib, 3); for the covering of its staves (ib, 6); for the sockets of the pillars of the Court (Exodus 27:10); for the "pins" of the Court (ib, 19); and generally for the vessels of the Tabernacle (ibid.). To understand how the Israelites could supply all that was wanted, we must remember,
1. That they had a certain amount of ancestral wealth, as that which Joseph had accumulated, and what Jacob and his sons had brought with them into Egypt.
2. That they had received large presents of gold and silver from the Egyptians just before their departure (Exodus 12:35); and
3. That they had recently defeated, and no doubt despoiled, the Amalekites (Exodus 16:8-13). Whether they had further made money by trade since they entered the Sinaitic peninsula, may be doubted. The supposition is not at all needed in order to account for their wealth.
And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair,
Verse 4. - And blue, and purple, and scarlet. Cloths of these three colours seem to be meant. The material was probably wool; the blue dye probably indigo, which was the ordinary blue dye of Egypt; the purple was no doubt derived from one or other of the shell-fish so well-known to the Syrians (of which the one most used was the Murex trunculus), and was of a warm reddish hue, not far from crimson; the scarlet (literally, "scarlet worm" or "worm scarlet,") was the produce of the Corcus ilicis, or cochineal insect of the holm oak, which has now been superseded by the Coccus cacti, or cochineal insect of the prickly pear, introduced into Europe from Mexico. And fine linen. The word used is Egyptian. It seems to have designated properly the fine linen spun from flax in Egypt, which was seldom dyed. and was of a beautiful soft white hue. The fineness of the material is extraordinary, equalling that of the best Indian muslins (Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, vol. 3. p. 121). It would seem that the Israelite women spun the thread from the flax (Exodus 35:25), and that the skilled workmen employed by Moses wove the thread into linen (ib, 35). And goat's hair. The soft inner wool of the Angora goat was also spun by the women into a fine worsted (ib, 26), which was woven into cloths, used especially as coverings for tents.
And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood,
Verse 5. - And rams' skins dyed red. The manufacture of leather was well-known in Egypt from an early date, and the Libyan tribes of North Africa were celebrated for their skill in preparing and dyeing the material (Herod. 4:189). Scarlet was one of the colours which they peculiarly affected (ibid.). We must suppose that the skins spoken of had been brought with them by the Israelites cut of Egypt. And badgers' skins. It is generally agreed among moderns that this is a wrong translation. Badgers are found in Palestine, but not either in Egypt or in the wilderness. The Hebrew takhash is evidently the same word as the Arabic tukhash or dukhash, which is applied to marine animals only, as to seals, dolphins, dugongs, and perhaps sharks and dog-fish. "Seals' skins" would perhaps be the best translation. (Compare Plin. H. N. 2:55; Sueton. Octav § 90.) Shittim wood. It is generally agreed that the Shittah (plural Shittim) was an acacia, whether the seyal (Acacia seyal) which now grows so abundantly in the Sinaitic peninsula, or the Acacia Nilotica, or the Serissa, is uncertain. The seyal wood is "hard and close-grained of an orange colour with a darker heart, well-adapted for cabinet work;" but the tree, as it exists nowadays, could certainly not furnish the planks, ten cubits long by one and a half wide, which were needed for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:21). The Serissa might do so, but it is not now found in the wilderness. We are reduced to supposing either that the seyal grew to a larger size anciently than at present, or that the serissa was more widely spread than at the present day.
Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,
Verse 6. - Oil for the light. That the sanctuary to be erected would require to be artificially lighted is assumed. Later, a "candlestick" is ordered (vers. 31-37). The people were to provide the oil which was to be burnt in the "candlestick." In Exodus 27:20, we are told that the oil was to be "pure oil olive beaten." Spices for anointing oil. Anointing oil would be needed for the sanctification of the Tabernacle, the ark, and all the holy vessels, as also for the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. The spices required are enumerated in Exodus 30:23, 24. They consisted of pure myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, and cassia. And for sweet incense. The spices needed for the incense were, according to our translators, stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense (ib, 34).
Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.
Verse 7. - Onyx stones. On the need of onyx stones, see Exodus 28:9, 20. Stones to be set in the ephod, etc. Rather, "stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastplate." The only stones required for the ephod were two large onyx stones; for the breastplate twelve jewels were needed (ibid. 17-20), one of them being an onyx. It has been proposed to translate the Hebrew shoham by "beryl" instead of "onyx;" but onyx, which is more suitable for engraving, is probably right.
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
Verses 8, 9. - GENERAL DIRECTIONS. After the gifts which God will accept have been specified, and the spirit in which they are to be offered noted (ver. 2), God proceeds to unfold his purpose, and declare the object for which the gifts are needed. He will have a "sanctuary" constructed for him, an habitation in which he may "dwell." Now, it is certainly possible to conceive of a religion which should admit nothing in the nature of a temple or sanctuary; and there are even writers who tell us that a religion has actually existed without one (Herod. 1:131, Strab. 15. pp, 1039-41) That God should "dwell" in a house, as a man does, is of course impossible; and the Hebrews were as deeply impressed with this truth as any other nation (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; Isaiah 56:1; Jeremiah 23:24, etc.). But a religion without a temple was probably unknown in the days of Moses; and, with such a people as the Hebrews, it is inconceivable that religion could have maintained its ground for long without something of the kind. "It was," as Kalisch says, "above all things necessary to create a firm and visible centre of monotheism, to keep perpetually the idea of the one omnipotent God alive in the minds of the people, and so to exclude for ever a relapse into the pagan and idolatrous aberrations" (Comment on Exodus, p. 365). A sanctuary was therefore to be constructed; but, as the nation was in the peculiar position of being nomadic, without fixed abode, that is, and constantly on the move, the usual form of a permanent building was unsuitable under the circumstances. To meet the difficulty, a tent-temple was designed, which is called mishkan, "the dwelling," or ohel, "the tent," which was simply an Oriental tent on a large scale, made of the best obtainable materials, and guarded by an enclosure. The details of the work are reserved for later mention. In the present passage two directions only are given: -
1. A sanctuary is to be constructed; and
2. Both it, and all its vessels, are to be made after patterns which God was about to show to Moses. Verse 8. - A sanctuary well expresses the Hebrew micdash, which is derived from cadash - "to be holy." It is a name never given to the temples of the heathen deities. That I may dwell among them. Compare Exodus 29:45; Numbers 35:34. There is a sense in which "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands"(Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24) - i.e., he is not comprehended in them, or confined to them; but there is another sense in which he may be truly said to dwell in them, viz., as manifesting himself in them either to the senses, or to the spirit. In the tabernacle he manifested himself sensibly (Exodus 40:34, 35, 38).
According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
Verse 9. - The patterns. Many of the old Jewish commentators supposed, that Moses was shown by God a real material structure, which actually existed in the heavens, far grander than its earthly copy, after which he was to have the tabernacle fashioned. Some recent Christian writers, without going these lengths, suggest that "an actual picture or model of the earthly tabernacle and its furniture was shown to him" (Keil). But the words of the text, as well as those of Acts 7:44, and Hebrews 8:5, are sufficiently justified, if we take a view less material than either of these - i.e., if we suppose Moses to have had impressed on his mind, in vision, the exact appearance of the tabernacle and its adjuncts, in such sort that he could both fully understand, and also, when necessary, supplement, the verbal descriptions subsequently given to him. It is unnecessary to inquire how the impression was produced. God who in vision communicated to Ezekiel the entire plan of that magnificent temple which he describes in ch. 40-42, could certainly have made known to Moses, in the same way, the far simpler structure of the primitive Tabernacle.
And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
Verses 10-22. - THE PATTERN OF THE ARK. - Moses is first shown, not the pattern of the tabernacle, but the patterns of those things which it was to contain - the ark, the table of shew-bread, and the seven-branched candlestick, or lamp-stand, with its appurtenances. The ark, as the very most essential part of the entire construction, is described first. Verse 10. - Thou shalt make an ark of shittim wood. Arks were an ordinary part of the religious furniture of temples in Egypt, and were greatly venerated. They usually contained a figure or emblem, of some deity. Occasionally they were in the shape of boats; but the most ordinary form was that of a cupboard or chest. They were especially constructed for the purpose of being carried about in a procession, and had commonly rings at the side, through which poles were passed on such occasions. It must be freely admitted, that the general idea of the "Ark," as well as certain points in its ornamentation, was adopted from the Egyptian religion. Egyptian arks were commonly of sycamore wood. Two cubits and a half, etc. As there is no reason to believe that the Hebrew cubit differed seriously from the cubits of Greece and Rome, we may safely regard the Ark of the Covenant as a chest or box, three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches wide, and two feet three inches deep.
And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.
Verse 11. - Thou shalt overlay it with pure gold. Or, "cover it with pure gold." As gilding was well known in Egypt long before the time of the exodus, it is quite possible that the chest was simply gilt without and within. It may, however, have been overlaid with thin plates of gold (a practice also known in Egypt, and common elsewhere) - which is the view taken by the Jewish commentators. The crown of gold was probably an ornamental moulding or edging round the top of the chest.
And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.
Verse 12. - Four rings of gold. These rings were to be fixed, not at the upper, but at the lower corners of the chest, which are called pa'amoth, literally "feet" or "bases." The object was, no doubt, that no part of the chest should come in contact with the persons of the priests when carrying it (see ver. 14). As Kalisch notes, "the smallness of the dimensions of the ark rendered its safe transportation, even with the rings at its feet, not impossible."
And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
Verse 13. - Staves of shittim wood. Similar staves, or poles, are to be seen in the Egyptian sculptures, attached to arks, thrones, and litters, and resting on the shoulders of the men who carry such objects.
And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them.
Verse 14. - That the ark may be borne with them. The Hebrew ark was not made, like the Egyptian arks, for processions, and was never exhibited in the way of display, as they were. The need of carrying it arose from the fact, that the Israelites had not yet obtained a permanent abode. As soon as Canaan was reached, the ark had a fixed locality assigned to it, though the locality was changed from time to time (Joshua 18:1; 1 Samuel 4:3; 1 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 6:10, etc.); but in the desert it required to be moved each time that the congregation changed its camping-ground.
The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it.
Verse 15. - The staves, when once inserted into the rings of the ark, were never to be taken from them. The object probably was that there might be no need of touching even the rings, when the ark was set down or taken up. The bearers took hold of the staves only, which were no part of the ark. On the danger of touching the ark itself, see 2 Samuel 6:6, 7.
And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.
Verse 16. - The testimony which I will give thee, is undoubtedly the Decalogue, or in other words, the two tables of stone, written with the finger of God, and forming his testimony against sin. (Compare Deuteronomy 31:26, 27.) The main intention of the ark was to be a repository in which the two tables should be laid up.
And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.
Verse 17. - Thou shalt make a mercy seat. Modern exegesis has endeavoured to empty the word kapporeth of its true meaning, witnessed to by the Septuagint, as well as by the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 9:5). It tells us that a kapporeth is simply a cover, "being derived from kaphar, to cover," - used in Genesis 5:14, with respect to covering the ark with pitch. But the truth is that kapporeth is not derived from kaphar, but from kipper, the Piel form of the same verb, which has never any other sense than that of covering, or forgiving sins. In this sense it is used in the Old Testament some seventy times. Whether the mercy seat was the real cover of the ark of the covenant, or whether that had its own lid of acacia wood, as Kalisch supposes, is uncertain. At any rate, it was not called kipporeth because it was a cover, but because it was a seat of propitiation. On the importance of the mercy seat, as in some sort transcending the ark itself, see Leviticus 16:2, and 1 Chronicles 28:11. Atonement was made by sprinkling the blood of expiation upon it (Leviticus 16:14, 15). Of pure gold, Not of wood, plated with metal, or richly gilt, but of solid gold - an oblong slab, three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches wide, and probably not less than an inch thick. The weight of such a slab would be above 750 lbs. troy, and its value above 25,000l. of our money. The length and breadth were exactly those of the ark itself, which the mercy seat thus exactly covered (ver. 10).
And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
Verse 18. - Two cherubims. The form "cherubims," which our translators affect, is abnormal and indefensible. They should have said either "cherubim," or "cherubs." The exact shape of the Temple cherubim was kept a profound secret among the Jews, so that Josephus declares - "No one is able to state, or conjecture of what form the cherubim were" (Ant. Jud. 8:3, § 3). That they were winged figures appears from verse 28 of this chapter, while from other parts of Scripture we learn that cherubim might be of either human or animal forms, or of the two combined (Ezekiel 1:5-14; Ezekiel 10:1-22). These last have been with some reason compared to the symbolical composite figures of other nations, the andro-sphinxes and crio-sphinxes of the Egyptians, the Assyrian winged bulls and lions, the Greek chimaerae, and the griffins of the northern nations. But it is doubtful whether the cherubim of Moses were of this character. The most sober of recent inquirers (Bp. Harold Browne, Canon Cook, Kalisch, Keil),while admitting the point to be doubtful, come to the conclusion that they were in all probability, "winged human figures, with human face too." In this case their prototype would seem to have been the winged figures of Ma, the Goddess of Truth, frequently seen inside Egyptian arks, sheltering with their wings the scarabaeus or other emblem of the deity. (See Lepsius, Denkmaler, pt. 3. pl. 14; Wilkinson in Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. it. p. 85, 2nd edition; Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1. p. 3040 Of beaten work shalt thou make them. Not cast, i.e., but hammered into shape (LXX. τορευτά. The word "cherub" is thought to be derived from an Egyptian root, karabu, signifying "to hammer" (Speaker's Commentary, vol. 4. p. 207). In the two ends. Rather, "From the two ends" - i.e., "rising," or, "standing up from the two ends."
And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
Verse 19. - On the one end on the other end... on the two ends. The preposition used is in every case the same as that of the last clause of ver. 18 - viz., min, "from." The idea is that the figures rose from the two ends.
And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.
Verse 20. - The cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high. Compare Exodus 37:9. It would seem that the two wings of both cherubs were advanced in front of them, and elevated, so as to overshadow the mercy seat. This was a departure from the patterns furnished by the figures of Ma (see the comment on ver. 18), since in them one wing only was elevated, and the other depressed. It is clear that in no case was any part of the Hebrew sacred furniture a mere reproduction of Egyptian models. Whatever was made use of was so transformed or modified as to acquire a new and independent character. Their faces, etc. The words are not without difficulty; but the generally received meaning appears to be correct that the faces were bent one towards the other, but that both looked downwards, towards the mercy seat. Thus the figures, whether they were standing or kneeling, which is uncertain, presented the appearance of guardian angels, who watched over the precious deposit below - to wit, the two tables.
And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
Verse 21. - Thou shalt put the mercy seat above the ark. Rather, "upon the ark" - "thou shalt cover the ark with it." This had not been expressed previously, though the dimensions (ver. 17), compared with those of the ark (ver. 10), would naturally have suggested the idea. In the ark thou shalt put the testimony. This is a mere repetition of verse 16, marking the special importance which attached to the provision.
And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
Verse 22. - And there I will meet with thee. The whole of the foregoing description has been subordinate to this. In all the arrange-meats for the tabernacle God was, primarily and mainly, providing a fit place where he might manifest himself to Moses and his successors. The theocracy was to be a government by God in reality, and not in name only. There was to be constant "communing" between God and the earthly ruler of the nation, and therefore a place of communing. Compare Exodus 29:42-45. The special seat of the Divine presence was to be the empty space above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim, and above the ark of the covenant.
Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
Verses 23-30. - THE TABLE OF SHEW-BREAD. From the description of the ark, which constituted the sole furniture of the most holy place, God proceeded to describe the furniture of the holy place, or body of the tabernacle, which was to consist of three objects -
1. A table, called the table of shew-bread ("bread of presence" or "bread of setting-forth").
2. A candelabrum, or lamp-stand; and
3. An altar for the offering of incense. Of these the table seems to have been regarded as of primary importance; and its description is therefore made to follow immediately on that of the ark. It was of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold, and was of the most ordinary shape - oblong-square, i.e., with four legs, one at each corner. The only peculiar features of the table, besides its material, were the border, or edging, which surrounded it at the top, the framework which strengthened the legs (ver. 25), and the rings by which it was to be carried from place to place. Verse 23. - Two cubits shall be the length thereof, etc. The table was to be three feel long, one foot six inches broad, and two feet three inches high. It was thus quite a small table, narrow for its length, and about two inches below the ordinary height.
And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about.
Verse 24. - Thou shalt overlay it with pure gold. Again, gilding may be meant; but a covering with thin plates of gold is perhaps more probable. A crown of gold round about. A border, or edging round the top, which would prevent anything that was placed on the table from readily falling off. (Compare ver. 11.)
And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about.
Verse 25. - A border of a hand-breadth. Rather "a band" or "framing." This seems to have been a broad flat bar, placed about hallway down the legs, uniting them and holding them together. It was represented in the sculpture of the table which adorned the Arch of Titus. (See the Speaker's Commentary, vol. 1. p. 363.) A golden crown to the border - i.e., an edging at the top of the bar, which could be only for ornament.
And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof.
Verse 26. - The four corners that are on the four feet, is scarcely an intelligible expression. Pe'oth, the word translated "corners," means properly "ends;" and the direction seems to be, that the four rings should be affixed to the four "ends" of the table; those ends, namely, which are "at the four feet." It is a periphrasis, meaning no more than that they should be affixed to the feet, as Josephus tells us that they were. (Ant. Jud. 3:6, § 6.)
Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table.
Verse 27. - Over against the border. Rather "opposite the band" or "framing" - i.e., opposite the points at which the "band" or "framing" was inserted into the legs. Bishop Patrick supposes that the table "was not carried up as high as the ark was, but hung down between the priests, on whose shoulders the staves rested." But it is carried upright in the bas-relief on the Arch of Titus, and might have been as easily so carried as the ark. (See the comment on ver. 12.) Of the staves. Rather, "for staves." Staves for the table had not yet been mentioned; and naturally the word has no article.
And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them.
And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them.
Verse 29. - The dishes thereof. Literally" its dishes," or rather perhaps, "its bowls" (LXX. τρύβλια). They were probably the vessels in which the loaves were brought to the table. Loaves are often seen arranged in bowls in the Egyptian tomb decorations (Lepsius, Denkmaler, pt. 2, pls. 5, 19, 84, 129, etc.). Spoons thereof. Rather, "its incense cups" - small jars or pots in which the incense, offered with the loaves (Leviticus 24:5), was to be burnt. Two such were represented in the bas-relief of the table on the Arch of Titus. Covers thereof and bowls thereof. Rather, "its flagons and its chalices" (LXX. σπονδεῖα καὶ κύαθοι) - vessels required for the libations or "drink offerings" which accompanied every meat-offering. To cover withal Rather, as in the margin, "to pour out withal." So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and most of the Targums.
And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.
Verse 30. - Thou shalt set upon the table shew-bread before me alway. Here we have at once the object of the table, and its name, explained. The table was to have set upon it continually twelve loaves, or cakes, of bread (Leviticus 24:5), which were to be renewed weekly on the sabbath-day (ibid. ver. 8), the stale loaves being at the same time consumed by the priests in the holy place. These twelve loaves or cakes were to constitute a continual thank-offering to God from the twelve tribes of Israel in return for the bless-Lugs of life and sustenance which they received from him. The bread was called "bread of face," or "bread of presence," because it was set before the "face" or "presence" of God, which dwelt in the holy of holies. The Septuagint renders the phrase by ἄρτοι ἐνώπιοι "loaves that are face to face" - St. Matthew by ἄρτοι τῆς προθέσεως, "loaves of setting-forth" - whence the Schaubrode of Luther, and our "shew-bread," which is a paraphrase rather than a translation.
CHAPTER 25:31 THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK (vers. 31-40). Though the holy of holies was always dark, unless when lighted by. the glory of God (Exodus 40:34, 35), the holy place, in which many of the priests' functions were to be performed, was to be always kept light. In the day-time sufficient light entered from the porch in front; but, as evening drew on, some artificial illumination was required. In connection with this object, the golden candlestick, or rather lamp-stand, was designed, which, together with its appurtenances, is described in the remainder of the chapter.
And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
Verse 31. - A candlestick. The golden candlestick is figured upon the Arch of Titus, and appears by that representation to have consisted of an upright shaft, from which three curved branches were carried out on either side, all of them in the same plane. It stands there on an octagonal pedestal, in two stages, ornamented with figures of birds and sea-monsters. This pedestal is, however, clearly Roman work, and no part of the original. Of beaten work. Not cast, but fashioned by the hand, like the cherubim (ver. 18). His shaft. Rather, "its base" (literally "flank"). His branches. Our version follows the Septuagint; but the Hebrew noun is in the singular number, and seems to designate the upright stem, or shaft. The "branches are not mentioned till ver. 32, where the same noun is used in the plural. His bowls, his knops, and his flowers. Rather, "its cups, its pomegranates, and its lilies." The "cups" are afterwards likened to almond flowers (ver. 33); they formed the first ornament on each branch; above them was a representation of the pomegranate fruit; above this a lily blossom. The lily-blossoms supported the lamps, which were separate (ver. 37). The remainder were of one piece with the candlestick.
And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side:
Verse 32. - Six branches. The representation on the Arch of Titus exactly agrees with this description. It was a peculiarity of the "candlestick," as compared with other candelabra, that all the branches were in the same plane.
Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick.
Verse 33. - Three bowls made like unto almonds. Cups shaped like almond blossoms seem to be intended. Each branch had three of these in succession, then a pomegranate and a lily-flower. The lily probably represented the Egyptian lotus, or water-lily. In the other branch. Rather, "on another branch." There were six branches, not two only. The ornamentation of two is described; then we are told that the remainder were similar.
And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers.
Verse 34. - In the candlestick: i.e., in the central shaft or stem, which is viewed as "the candlestick" par excellence. Here were to be twelve ornaments, the series of cup, pomegranate, and lily being repeated four times, once in connection with each pair of branches, and a fourth time at the summit.
And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick.
Verse 35. - A knop under two branches of the same. The branches were to quit the stem at the point of junction between the pomegranate (knop) and the lily.
Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold.
Verse 36. - All it. Rather, "all of it." Shall be one beaten work. Compare ver. 31
And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.
Verse 37. - The seven lamps. The lamps are not described. They appear by the representation on the Arch of Titus to have been hemispherical bowls on a stand, which fitted into the lily-blossom wherewith each of the seven branches terminated. They shall light the lamps. The lamps were lighted every evening at sunset (Exodus 27:21; Exodus 30:8; Leviticus 24:3, etc.), and burnt till morning, when the High Priest extinguished them and "dressed" them (Exodus 30:7). That they may give light over against it. The candlestick was placed on the southern side of the holy place, parallel to the wall, the seven lamps forming a row. The light was consequently shed strongly on the opposite, or northern wall, where the table of show-bread stood.
And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold.
Verse 38. - The tongs thereof. Tongs or pincers were required for trimming the wicks of the lamps. Compare 1 Kings 7:49; 2 Chronicles 4:21. Snuff-dishes were also needed for the reception of the fragments removed from the wicks by the tongs. "Snuffers," though the word is used in Exodus 37:23, in the place of tongs, had not been indented, and were indeed unknown to the ancients.
Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels.
Verse 39. - Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it. The candlestick, with all its appurtenances, was to weigh exactly a talent of gold. The value of the Hebrew gold talent is supposed to have been between 10,000l. and 11,000l. of our money.
And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.
Verse 40. - Their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount. Compare ver. 9, and the comment ad loc. It would seem from this passage that the "patterns" were shown to Moses first, and the directions as to the making given afterwards.