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36 And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework.
37 And thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them.
Verse 30. "Thou shall rear up the tabernacle."-This fabric, having moveable walls of board, was of a more substantial character than a tent; but it is right to regard it as a tent, its general appearance and arrangement being the same, and its more substantial fabric being probably on account of the weight of its several envelopes which required stronger supports than are usually necessary. A connected description of it here will afford the best commentary on the particulars given in this book.
The tabernacle was of an oblong square figure, fifty-five feet in length, by eighteen feet in breadth and height. Its length extended from east to west, the entrance being at the east end. The two sides and the west end consisted of a framework of boards, of which there were twenty to each side and eight at the west end. The manner in which these boards were joined to each other so as to form a wall which might be easily taken down and set up again, may be illustrated in some degree by a reference to the window-shutters of an extensive shop; but the boards of the tabernacle did not slide in grooves, but each was furnished at the bottom with two tenons, which were received into sockets in the bases of solid silver; and to give the whole greater security, the boards were furnished each with five rings or staples of gold, by means of which they were successively run up to their proper places on horizontal poles or bars, which served as the ribs of the fabric, binding its parts together. In the cut these rings are not shown, as the artist could not determine their exact places. The boards as well as the bars were of shittim wood, overlaid with thin plates of gold. The east end, being the entrance, had no boards, but was furnished with five pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold, and each standing on a socket of brass. Four similar pillars within the tabernacle, towards the west or further end, supported a rich hanging, which divided the interior into two apartments, of which the outer was called "the holy place," and the innermost and smallest was "the most holy place," or the "Holy of Holies," in which the presence of the Lord was more immediately manifested. The separating hanging was called, by way of eminence," the vail ;" and hence the expression "within" or "without the vail" is sometimes used to distinguish the most holy from the holy place. The people were never admitted into the interior of the tabernacle. None but the priests might go even into the outer chamber or holy place, and into the inner chamber the high-priest alone was allowed to enter, and that only once in the year, on the great day of atonement. To this, however, there was a necessary exception when the tabernacle was to be taken down or set up. The outer chamber was only entered in the morning to offer incense on the altar which stood there, and to extinguish the lamps, and again in the evening to light them. On the Sabbath also the old shew-bread was taken away and replaced with new. These were all the services for which the attendance of the priests was necessary within the tabernacle, all the sacrifices being made in the open space in front of the tabernacle, where stood the brazen altar for burnt offerings. It will be useful to observe, that the most holy place contained only the ark with its contents; that the outer apartment contained the altar of incense, the table of shew-bread, and the great golden candlestick; while the open area in front of the tabernacle contained the brazen laver for the ablutions of the priests, and the brazen altar for burnt offerings.
This description will give an idea of the general arrangement and substantial structure of the tabernacle; and we may proceed to notice the various curtains which were thrown over and formed the outer coverings of the tent. The first or inner covering was of fine linen, splendidly embroidered with figures of cherubim and fancy work in scarlet, purple, and light blue. It is described in the same terms as the vail of the "holy of holies," and was doubtless of the same texture and appearance with the vail, which, according to Josephus, was embroidered with all sorts of flowers, and interwoven with various ornamental figures, excepting the forms of animals. Over this inner covering was another, made of goats' hair, which was spun by the women of the camp. Cloth made of goats' hair forms the customary covering for the tents of the Bedouin Arabs to this day, and it still continues to be spun and woven at home by the women. Over this covering there was another of rams' skins dyed red, and over that the fourth and outermost covering of tahash skins (see the note on chap. xxv. 5). These curtains, after covering, or rather forming, the roof, hung down by the sides and west end of the tabernacle, those that were outside being calculated to protect the more costly ones within, while the whole combined to render the tabernacle impervious to the rain, and safe from the injuries of the weather. This magnificent tent stood in an oblong court or inclosure, particularly described in chap. xxvii. 9—19. See the note there.
These observations will serve to give a general notion of the tabernacle; and remarks on some of the details will be made under some of the repeated descriptions which occur in the sequel of this book. The idea of a tented structure set apart for the service of God is quite as obvious among a nomade people as that of a temple in settled countries; and Spencer (De Legibus Hebræorum) and other learned men seem to have bestowed very unnecessary labour in searching out remote analogies and connexions. To this day we find the tabernacle principle still in operation among the nomades of Asia, particularly those of the Mongol race. They have sacred huts, distinguished by their size and superiority from those used as habitations, as well as by the coverings of fur which envelope the outside, the frame or foundation of the fabric being of wood, as in the Hebrew tabernacle. The opinion of Spencer however is, that this tabernacle, together with all its furniture and appurtenances, was of Egyptian origin; and that it was framed by Moses on the model of some such fabric which he had observed in Egypt; or else that God directed it to be made with the view of indulging the Israelites in the customs and modes of worship they had acquired in Egypt, in so far as they were not directly sinful. The predilection of the Israelites for visible gods was indicated before the erection of the tabernacle in the affair of the golden calf, and on subsequent occasions; and we may infer from Amos v. 26, and Acts vii. 42, that they had brought with them from Egypt the tabernacle" of Moloch, which was probably a portable shrine or small temple containing the image of the idol. Spencer endeavours to substantiate the supposed analogy, by a comparison between the tabernacle and the sacred tents in use among the heathens when they carried their gods with them in their marches and journeys. It certainly does not, on the mere face of the matter, seem improbable that some condescension, so far as harmless, might have been made to that state of mind which disqualified the Israelites for the more simple worship of their fathers; and by rendering lawful what was not in itself evil, obviate the temptation to sin and disobedience. The principle of accommodation, in things indifferent, to the state of their minds, which this consideration involves, is not precluded in the Scriptures. On the contrary, our Saviour himself states that some practices were allowed in the law of Moses on account of the hard hearts of the people with whom the legislator had to deal (Matt. xix. 9). The instance there given, however, was that of a secular law; and considering the great care manifested by many of the regulations to keep up a marked distinction, even in apparently small matters, between the prescribed religious observances and those of the Egyptians, it seems more than doubtful whether the principle of accommodation was at all admitted into the things which more particularly pertained to the worship and service of
God. The notion of such accommodation seems also to be precluded by the statement of St. Paul (Heb. ix. x.) from which we learn that all these things were in their original intention typical, and designed to shadow forth good things to come; and on this view of the matter, it is quite certain that nothing could have been admitted merely on a principle of concession, or from local or temporary feelings or prejudices. We are besides expressly told, that the tabernacle was made after the pattern shown to Moses in the mount; and when we consider that the history and legislation before us are the most ancient in the world, and that our earliest accounts of the religions and usages of nations may be called modern in comparison with those which now engage our attention, it seems a far more reasonable conclusion that, where striking analogies are found, other nations copied from the Hebrews rather than they from other nations; or else that the practice or institution was in itself so obvious and simple that, with some modifications, it was calculated to result from the operation of analogous principles in different countries, the influence of which upon one another either never existed or cannot now be traced. Although these observations be made with a special reference to the tabernacle, they apply with equal force to the analogies, often curious and interesting, which may be pointed out in connexion with other observances and objects embraced in this account. (See further in the note to chap. xxxv. ii.)
AND thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits.
2 And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.
3 And thou shalt make his pans to re
ceive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of
4 And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings in the four corners thereof.
5 And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar.
6 And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass.
ings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
16 And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.
11 And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
17 All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass.
18 The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass.
19 All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass.
20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.
21 In the tabernacle of the congregation without the vail, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.
12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.
13 And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits.
14 The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
15 And on the other side shall be hang
1 Heb. he shewed.
Heb. fifty by fifty. 8 Heb. to ascend up.
Verse 1. "Allar of shittim wood."-This altar was a sort of square chest of shittim wood overlaid with brass. It was five cubits long by five broad, and three in height (about three yards square and five feet high), and had a horn or projection at each corner. It was hollow within, and in the middle of its surface was a sunk grating of brass to support the fire, which was furnished with four rings, that it might be taken out and carried separately from the body of the altar. The ashes from the fire sunk through the grating, and were received in a pan that was placed under it. The altar had four rings or staples at the sides, into which poles of shittim wood covered with brass were inserted when the altar was to be moved from place to place. This is the account which seems to agree best with the text, although some of the details have been differently understood by various expositors. It is thought that both this altar and the larger one made by Solomon, by which it was superseded, had the lower part of the hollow filled up either with earth or stones, in compliance with the injunction in chap. xx. 24, 25. Josephus says, that the altar used in his time at the Temple was of unhewn stone, and that no iron tool had been employed in its construction. None of the altars which the Scripture assigns to either the tabernacle or Temple were of this construction, but that erected at Mount Ebal by Joshua was so (Josh. viii. 31), and apparently others which were set up in different parts of the land of promise. It seems to us that the command in chap. xx. about altars applies as a general instruction respecting those which the Israelites might wish to erect in the provinces or elsewhere, and which were not in constant use, without excluding for the chief place of worship such particular variations as its peculiar circumstances, and the frequent sacrifices which were offered there, rendered necessary.
2. "Horns.”—The horns of the altar have given occasion to no common amount of discussion, regarding both their form and their design. They were certainly projections of some kind or other at the four corners, but their precise shape, or even the direction in which they projected, cannot be distinctly collected from the sacred text. Many very good authorities think that they were really horn-shaped, like those of the ara pacis of the Romans, and this opinion is supported by the valuable testimony of Josephus as to the altar used in his time. The other opinions that deserve the most attention are, that the horns were square risings from each corner of the altar; or that they were square to half their height and then sloped pyramidically-not equally on all sides, but only from the inside to the outer or external angle, ending in a sharp tip or point. The account of the Rabbins, as given by Lightfoot, admits of being thus understood; and the editor of Calmet, by whom it is supported (Frag. cxxviii.), gives two engravings, from Egyptian pictures, preserved by being buried in the ruins of Herculaneum, in which altars with such "horns" are represented. Moses merely mentions "horns" in such a way as to lead us to suppose that such appendages were already well known to the Israelites; and if they were merely conveniences involving no religious idea or principle, it is not impossible that they were much the same as in Egyptian altars. But it is unknown whether the altars of Egypt had such horns at all in the early times to which the Scripture narrative refers. We are much in the dark as to the use of these projections in the Hebrew altar of burnt offering. It is inferred from Psal. cxviii. 27: "Bind the sacrifice with cords unto the horns of the altar," that these appendages were designed for the purpose of fastening the victim to the altar before it was slain. That the "horns" were applied to this use is certainly possible; but that this was their
primary intention seems to be rendered doubtful by the fact that the incense-altar, at which no bloody sacrifices were offered, also had horns. The horned Egyptian altars appear also to be altars of incense. It is possible that their presence had some connexion with the use of horns as symbols of sovereignty, glory, power, or strength.
9-19. "The court of the tabernacle."-This court or open inclosure, in which the tabernacle stood, was of an oblong figure of a hundred cubits (about fifty-eight yards) in length by half that breadth, and the height of the inclosing fence or curtain was five cubits, or nearly three yards, being half the height of the tabernacle. The inclosure was formed by a plain hanging of fine twined linen yarn, which seems to have been worked in an open or net-work texture, so that the people without might freely see the interior. The door-curtain was however of a different texture from the general hanging, being a great curtain of "fine twined linen" embroidered with blue, purple, and scarlet. It is described in precisely the same terms as the door-curtain of the tabernacle itself, which was not, as commonly stated, of the same fabric with the inner covering of the tabernacle and the vail before the holy of holies; for in the description of the two door-curtains there is no mention of the figures of cherubim and the fancy work ("cunning work") which decorated the inner covering and vail. The door-curtain of the court was furnished with cords, by which it might be drawn up or aside when the priests had occasion to enter. The curtains of this inclosure were hung upon sixty pillars of brass, standing on bases of the same metal, but with capitals and fillets of silver. (Compare the deseription in this chapter with that in chap. xxxviii.) The hooks also, to which the curtains were attached, were of silver. The entrance of the court was at the east end opposite that to the tabernacle, and between them stood the altar of burnt offering, but nearer to the door of the tabernacle than to that of the court. It is uncertain whether the brazen laver was interposed between the altar and the door of the tabernacle or not. Chap. xxx. 18, certainly conveys that impression; but the Rabbins, who appear to have felt that nothing could properly interpose between the altar and tabernacle, say that the laver was indeed nearer to the tabernacle than was the altar, but still that it did not stand in the same line with the altar, but stood a little on one side to the south. As to the position of the tabernacle in the court, nothing is said in the Scriptures on the subject, but it seems less probable that it stood in the centre than that it was placed towards the farther or western extremity, so as to allow greater space for the services which were to be performed exclusively in front of the tabernacle.
AND take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.
2 And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.
3 And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.
4 And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.
5 And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.
6¶ And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.
1 Or embroidered.
7 It shall have the two shoulder-pieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together.
8 And the 'curious girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.
9 And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel:
10 Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth.
11 With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel: thou shalt make them to be set in ouches of gold.
12 And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD upon his two shoulders for a memorial.
13 And thou shalt make ouches of gold;
14 And two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathen chains to the
15 And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it;
2 Wisd. 18. 24.