EXODUS – Chapter 27 – Chapter 454
OUTSIDE IN THE COURT: THE BRAZEN ALTAR, HANGINGS FOR THE COURT, OIL FOR THE LAMP
The court outside the tabernacle emphasises the need of flesh to make proper preparation before entering the holy place. Most prominent of its furniture is the great brazen altar that stands immediately in line with the entrance of the court and that of the tabernacle. It bars the way to worshippers, who first must present their offerings unto Yahweh in the manner specified. Moses is instructed how all this is to be constructed. He is given details concerning the linen fence that is to enclose the Sanctuary; the gate of the court through which entrance is gained thereto; and the oil for the lamps which it is the responsibility of every Israelite to contribute.
The Great Altar Of Burnt Offering — vv.1-8.
This altar is usually depicted with a ramp running up the side, but, in fact, no such appendage is described. Indeed, it seems hardly to be necessary. The altar is approximately 230cms (7 ½ ft) square by 137cms (4 ½ ft) high. What need of a ramp to attend an altar of that size? The altar is like a hollow box, shaped square, open at both ends, and made of shittim wood overlaid with bronze or copper. It is equipped with poles placed through rings for the purpose of carrying it, in similar fashion to the furniture of the tabernacle. Since Israel is instructed to make altars only of earth or unhewn stone (Exo. 20:24-25), it has been conjectured that this boxlike altar is to be filled with earth wherever Israel stopped, and the sacrificial victims are to be placed on top of the earth which filled the bronze-wood frame.
"And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood" — The word for "altar" is mizbeach from a root zabach, signifying "to slaughter." Hence by its very name it suggests death. Paul makes the point that "without the shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22), because blood shed in sacrifice represents a life devoted to Yahweh (Lev. 17:11). There is a need, therefore, to "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24), and give one's life in dedication, if we would please God.
In Mosaic sacrifices, the animals were slain, and the blood was smeared upon the horns of the altar, and poured out by its side (Exo. 29:12; Lev. 8:15; 9:9; 16:18), representing that the offerer sacrificed his fleshly desires, and gave his life in dedication to Yahweh. Why should it be necessary to represent the flesh as being put to death? Because of its sinful proclivities, called in Romans sin in the flesh. The altar, or slaughter place, barred the way to the tabernacle, reminding Israelites that death to fleshly desires and dedication of self is the basis of acceptable worship.
The altar was made of acacia wood, representing human nature: that is, human nature shaped according to divine pattern, and therefore pointing forward to Christ "our altar" (Heb. 13:10). Atonement had to be made for the altar (Exo. 29:36), and accordingly, in the antitype, the Lord, though sinless, also "had somewhat to offer," for he, in common with all humanity, needed redemption from the nature he bore (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14; 8:3; 7:27).
Being "cleansed," however, the altar made "holy" all who had contact with it (Exo. 29:37), and in fulfilment of the type, the Lord "sanctified himself that his followers might also be sanctified through the Truth (John 17:19). The Lord benefited by his death, and now, in life, offers to share that benefit with others (Phil. 2:8-9; 3:21).
"Five cubits long, and five cubits broad" — The altar was approximately 230cms square. The number five is the number of grace, so that despite its fearful title of mizbeach, the altar was expressive of the grace of Yahweh: it provided a means to salvation. Indeed, grace is emphasised in other ways associated with the altar. There were five utensils used in connection with it: pans, shovels, basons, flesh hooks, and fire pans; there were five kinds of animals that could be offered on it: lambs, bullocks, goats, heifers, and turtle doves; there were five forms of offerings in connection with it: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the peace offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering.
"The altar shall be foursquare" — Four is the number of Israel, for the nation encamped in four huge sections around the tabernacle. The altar is only accessible to Israelites, though Gentiles may become proselytes, and so partake of Israel's benefits (see Eph. 2:11-13). It shares this foursquare appearance with the nation itself, the breastplate on the high priest (Exo. 28:15-16), the temple of the age to come (Eze. 42:17-20), and the Holy Jerusalem (the Lamb's wife) of Rev. 21:16.
"And the height thereof shall be three cubits" — "Three" suggests resurrection, for on the third day the earth first appeared, and life showed itself thereon. The altar, though called a slaughter place, was actually connected with resurrection: that to newness of life. So it taught the principle of life through death. Baptism is an immersion into death, but at the same time the gateway to life. "I am crucified with Christ," wrote Paul, "nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20). Again he reasons in 2 Cor. 5:14 that "if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
Three cubits is approximately 37cms, so that the altar was not high. Most drawings of the altar depict a sloping ramp moving up to it, but, in fact, no such provision is given. Nor is there any need of such. The altar was low and easily accessible, a reminder to all that though sacrifice might be required, there is easy and ready access to God on the part of those whose minds are in the right frame to approach Him. See our notes on Exo. 20:26.
"And thou shalt make the horns of it" — Horns are representative of power and protection. These horns probably were curved so as to point to the four corners of the compass, and in doing so emphasised the universality of approach for those who are prepared to submit to the conditions. The four horns, therefore, would point to the four directions outside the court where the foursquare encampment of Israel was found. The horns so symbolised protection and salvation, that criminals rushed to them to obtain sanctuary in time of need (1 Kings 1:50; 2:28). In sacrifices, blood was placed upon the horns of the altar, indicative of life devoted, displayed for all to see.
"Upon the four corners thereof” — The word for "corners" in this verse is pinath, and signifies "angles," and by implication, pinnacles. As the same word is rendered "towers" in Zeph. 1:16; 3:6, here is suggested the elevated nature of the four corners, with the angles of the altar due to its horns.
"His horns shall be of the same" — They were part of the altar, formed out of it, and not mere projectiles fitted into it as additions.
"And thou shalt overlay it with brass" — The material used, most likely copper or bronze, is representative of flesh purified by fire. As such it points forward to the perfection Christ manifested in spite of the nature that he possessed in common with all humanity. A solid plating of bronze would protect the shittim wood from the fire, and prevent it from being burnt. Evidently when the altar was set up, a mound of earth or stone was placed within, upon which the sacrifice could rest. Later, a bronze grill or covering was provided for the top through the peculiar circumstances recorded in Num. 16:37-39.
When the wood was so coated, it was completely fire proof. In recent times it has been "discovered" that if wood is overlaid with copper, and the joints are so hammered as to hermetically seal them, a structure is absolutely safe against fire. According to C. W. Stemming, in Made According To Pattern, "the invention was passed on to the London Country Council Fire Brigade who put it through their tests. It stood all, and was certified 'fireproof.' This was considered a 'modern invention.' This fact not only answers the query as to whether the altar was fire proof, but also reveals the accuracy of the Bible, and demonstrates that in such matters it is ahead of science, not adverse to it." Spiritually, the fire of trial will never harm a person who has been purified with the Truth (1Pet. 2:12-13; 4:12-13).
"And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes" — The word for "ashes" (dashen) literally is "fat." There would be very little of ashes (as we understand the term) resulting from the burning of the victim, but there would be a great deal of fat. This was not just thrown away. The "ashes" represented all that remained after the animal had been consumed by the fire, and it was taken "without the camp," and deposited "in a clean place." A special ceremony was devised to convey it to the place appointed (see Lev. 6:10-11).
Now consider Christ as a burnt offering. After his death "without the camp" (Heb. 13:13), his remains were taken and placed in "a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid" (John 19:41). John stresses that point because he wants to emphasise that in Christ, the perfect sacrifice, there was a perfect alignment with the requirements of the Law.
"And his shovels" — The word for "shovels" comes from a root signifying to sweep away. They were used for collecting the ashes, and depositing them in the pans, as well as for tending or feeding the fire. See the ceremony by which the ashes were removed (Lev. 6:10-11).
"And his basons" — The word mizraqoth is derived from a root signifying, to sprinkle, and therefore denotes sacrificial bowls designed to hold blood. The blood was smeared on the horns of the altar, and poured out by its side. It represented life (Lev. 17:11) devoted unto Yahweh, given to Him at the expense of self, so that the offerer became a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), and the slain animal a representation of the means by which he attained unto that state: death to fleshly desires.
"And his flesh hooks" — These were three-pronged forks (see 1Sam. 2:13), used to arrange the pieces of the sacrifice on the altar.
"And his fire pans" — The Hebrew does not refer to "fire" at all, but merely signifies, a receptacle. It is the word elsewhere rendered "censers" (Lev. 10:1; 16:12; Num. 16:6-7). It could here designate the vessels used for carrying burning embers from the altar of burnt offering, to the altar of incense (Lev. 16:12).
"All the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass" — This is quite significant. The vessels of the altar represent those who are associated therewith, and who assist in the form of worship thus indicated. Such, however, must be purged of pollution, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1), so as to become "a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use" (2 Tim. 2:21). We have seen that bronze or copper represents flesh that has been purged by fire. The fact that the altar has these utensils and vessels associated with it, teaches that believers can actively labour in support of Christ, their altar. Moreover, as censers of brass were taken into the holy place where all was gold, teaches that flesh can acceptably approach God through prayer.
"And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass" — What was the grating? Many seem to think that it was inside the altar, but the subsequent words show that it was outside of it. The Hebrew is makber and, according to Strong, is used in the sense of "covering." It is from a root signifying to plait together, so that evidently, it was in the form of bronze fretwork, probably designed for protection for the lower portion of the altar.
"And upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings" — This makes it obvious that the grating was on the outside of the altar, for the four rings are attached to it for conveyance from point to point.
"In the four corners thereof" —Here the word for "corners" is katsoth, and denotes the "ends" of the grating.
"And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath" — The R.V. gives "compass" as "ledge." The Hebrew karkob denotes a rim which could be extended into a ledge. It was probably used to there place the vessels of the altar. "That the net may be even to the midst of the altar" — The word for "midst" can also signify "half." Therefore, if the ledge were at the top of the altar, the bronze network covered the top half; if it were in the middle, it covered the bottom half. This latter seems to be the most appropriate placing, though the actual position is not revealed.
"And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass" — Compare with ch.25:13.
"And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it" — The word is tseloth. See ch. 25:14. The staves were used for the conveyance of the altar from place to place.
"Hollow with boards shalt thou make it" — The altar, therefore, was a box-like structure, hollow inside like a case. In conformity with the law of Exo. 20:24-26; Deu. 27:5, the inside of the altar would have been filled with earth or stones whenever the tabernacle was set up.
"As it was shewed thee in the mount, so shall they make it" — See note Exo. 25:9. Moses evidently saw in vision a replica of the tabernacle. The Hebrew is as the margin: "He [that is, the angel of Yahweh] showed thee.
The Court Of The Tabernacle — vv. 9-19.
A wall of white linen separates the Sanctuary (or tent of Yahweh) from the tents of the Israelites, thus teaching that "the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). The court is primarily A barrier, preventing unlawful approach, and so protects the worship of Yahweh against defilement. It represents a clear line of demarcation, emphasising the separateness which is an essential feature of acceptable worship. It makes clear the way of approach, teaching Israelites to realise that Yahweh dictates the terms of worship.
The wall of white linen, contrasting with the black tents of the Israelites, symbolised righteousness in action to which they were called. The court is one hundred cubits long (approximately 30mts; 150 feet) by fifty cubits (approximately 23 mtrs; 75 feet) broad.
"And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle" — The court was an enclosure that separated the tabernacle from the people.
"From the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side" — For the significance of the direction given, see note at Exo. 26:18. "South" is negeb, a word that represents the drought-prone desert area, whereas "southward" is teman, denoting the "right hand," derived from a root yaman that signifies, the right hand.
The "fine twined linen" speaks of righteousness manifested in action (see Rev. 19:8).
The term "hangings" is from the Hebrew kelaim, used to define a "sling" (Jud. 20:16), and so to "cast" a people out of a country (Jer. 10:18). It is used to engrave, to sculpture, to carve in, or to make indentations like slings (1 Kings 6:29, 32, 35). In Arabic it is used of the sail of a ship; in 1 Kings 6:34 for the leaves of a door. The Septuagint has translated the word by the Greek istia, sails, and therefore the Jews thought that a loosely woven sail-cloth is intended, such as would enable the common Israelite to gaze at what was going on inside. But there is no certainty of this, and the term itself could relate to a form of hangings that would allow the wind to move in and out, thus performing the action of a sling. A loosely woven fabric, permitting the curious to gaze into the court, does not seem appropriate to the purpose of the hangings at all. If an Israelite wanted to watch the service being conducted, he could do so from the appointed entrance. From there he would observe the altar of burnt offering as the barrier to the holy place, and be made conscious of his need to sacrifice, if he would acceptably approach Yahweh.
"And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars" — There were sixty pillars in all, answering to the sixty companions surrounding the Bridegroom in Song 3:7, thereby representing the company of the faithful who surround the present of God, and prevent those unworthy of entering into the holy presence. These pillars stood in sockets of brass (flesh purified), and were topped with the silver of redemption.
"And their fillets" — The Hebrew is kashukim, from a root, signifying "to cling, to join, and, figuratively, to love, or delight in" (Strong). The fillets were evidently connecting rods that extended from pillar to pillar, and so united the whole structure. What an expressive word to use to describe this strengthening feature of the wall of white linen! It not only sets forth the principle of righteousness in action, but the need for those manifesting such a quality to be united together in love.
"Shall be of silver" — Nothing is mentioned here of chapiters, but they are included in the description of Exo. 38:17. The pillars were topped with chapiters of silver, and joined as one with connecting rods of silver. Silver is the metal of redemption, and hence, in the pillars a wonderful exhortation was presented. The wood represents human nature, specially selected and fashioned according to the divine requirements. The pillars stood in sockets of brass, which speaks of flesh purified; they were united by fillets of silver, suggesting a unity based on a life begotten by the redemption set forth in the Word; and their chapiters (or heads) held aloft the principle of redemption.
All this formed part of the frame-work of righteous actions exhibited by the linen. The silver rods, or fillets, bound the wall of linen together as one, and Paul wrote: "above all these things [works of righteousness] put on love, which is the bond of perfectness" (Col. 3: 14). The silver chapiters, holding aloft the linen wall of righteousness, suggest Christ's words: "look up, and lift up your heads [chapiters], for your redemption [silver] draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28).
"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" — For the significance of the word "north," see note, Exo. 26:20. The north side of the court exactly matched the south side.
"And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten and their sockets ten" — For "west" see note, Exo. 26:22. The west side was similar to the south and north sides, except that it was to be half the length, and therefore required only half the number of pillars and sockets. Notice how the multiples of five occur, emphasising the principle of grace to Israelite and Gentile in the way appointed.
"And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits" — The east is always the fore-part of any direction, in Scripture. The term "east side eastward" is kedmah mizrakh, and literally denotes the "forefront towards the sun's rising." Mizrakh is from the root zarach, to shoot forth beams, suggesting the beams of light that stream forth from the rising sun.
A corresponding Greek term is rendered "east" in Rev. 16:12, and is rendered by Bro. Thomas as "kings who are out of a sun's rising." In both places the use of the term is significant. In the Apocalypse it relates to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Sun of righteousness with healing in his beams (Mal. 4:2). The tabernacle which always faced east was a constant reminder of that hope (Mal. 4:1 -2).
However, the priest, in commencing the national worship at the beginning of the day, turned his back upon the sun, and after washing at the laver and offering the morning sacrifice at the altar, entered the holy place, walking now in the light of the seven-branched lampstand. This impressed upon the thoughtful Israelite, that whilst the tabernacle faced the rising sun, and thus pointed to the coming of the Sun of righteousness, and the beginning of the seventh millennial day of glory, he was not to walk in the illumination of natural light, but in that which emanates from the Word. Hence his back also was turned on the natural light of the sun as he looked at the tabernacle, for the so-called "light within" a man is but darkness; and so, entering the darkness of the holy place, he walked in the light of the golden lamp-stand, a representation of the Word of life.
"The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits" — In this specification, the word "side" is katheph, and signifies "shoulder." It is from a root signifying "to clothe," because the garments of a person hang from the shoulders. Hence, as an Israelite approached the forefront of the tabernacle, the very description of the hangings of righteousness as viewed from that side emphasised the need of the "garments of salvation" and "the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10; Gal. 3:26-28). The hangings were fifteen cubits, a multiple of five and three, the numbers for grace and resurrectional completeness.
"Their pillars three, and their sockets three" — Three is the number of completion, of fulfilment, and of resurrection. See notes above.
"And on the other side shall be hangings fifteen cubits; their pillars three, and their sockets three" — The pillars were three, not counting the corner pillars of the southern and northern sides of the tabernacle. This made four on either side.
"And for the gate of the court" — In Exo. 35:17 the "gate" is called the door, representing the Lord Jesus who declared: "I am the door" (Jn. 10:7).
"Shall be an hanging of twenty cubits" — The number "twenty" can be divided into two tens (the number of completeness) as representing Israelite and Gentile who accept the terms of entrance; or four fives as speaking of divine grace shown towards the true Israel of God.
The entrance to the court was 10 metres (30ft) wide; thus wide enough to receive "whosoever will" enter, but, at the same time, limited in size so as to accommodate only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Isa. 55:1).
The size of the gate is the same size as the door of the tabernacle, and the veil of the most holy. This would teach Israelites that, whilst they were not permitted to enter the holy place or the most holy, the size of their entrances would permit it to be done, suggesting that ultimately the way would be opened to them to enter into glory. This was the promise of the tabernacle.
"Of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen" — The colours represent the principle of God manifest in the flesh, seen to perfection in the Lord Jesus.
"Wrought with needlework" — Rendered literally, this signifies the work of the embroiderer. The hanging was embroidered in a pattern not specified, but which was minutely variegated, beautifully blending the various colours mentioned. Such work requires patience and skill, and was performed by those whom Yahweh "filled with the spirit of God" in wisdom and understanding (Exo. 35:31, 35). It therefore was a work of God, and the embroiderers were "labourers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9). The hanging of the gate, like that of the door of the tabernacle, and the veil of the most holy represented the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom alone entrance is gained to the court of the tabernacle, and the other sections of the sanctuary (Acts 4:12).
In Psalm 139:13-18, prophetic reference is made to the conception and the birth of the Lord in such a way as to illustrate the symbolism before us. From his Father, Christ inherited the potential to manifest the wisdom, and the perfect obedience unique to him, and which he revealed because he completely subjected his will to that of the Father. In the Psalm he is represented as saying: I will praise Thee; For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvellous are Thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee,
When I was made in secret, And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; And in Thy book all my members were written, Which in continuance were fashioned, When as yet there was none of them.
The verb "curiously wrought" signifies to variegate colour, to embroider. The only other occurrence of this form of the word is in ch. 35:35, where it relates to the skilful embroidering of the blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen which formed the gate of the court, the door of the tabernacle, and the veil of the most holy — clearly identified by Paul with the flesh of the Lord (Heb. 10:20; 6:19; 9:3). In other words, the Lord was strengthened to overcome (Psa. 80:17), and this process began, as the Psalm and the words of the apostle (John 1:14) clearly show, at the begettal of the Son — being completed at his resurrection. Then the full beauty of the skilful work of the Embroiderer was manifest for all to see (Rom. 1:3; 1 Tim. 3:16). Thus the work of God in Christ, as designed from the beginning, was brought to a wonderful completion (1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Cor. 5:19). In The Christadelphian, 1953 (p. 234), Bro. J. Carter commented: "The Spirit in the Psalmist invites us to consider with wonder and with awe the most remarkable event in human history, when God's redeeming power, brooding as did His creative power at man's beginning, thus moved to bring into being a new man, not son of earth as Adam, but son of Mary, and thus Son of man and Son of God. God's power moved; His watchful eye never slept, as in secret the interweaving embroidery which belonged to a divine manifestation went on, producing in the finish a man who bore the divine likeness, for the strands skilfully blended formed a cherubic figure."
The hanging of blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen foreshadowed the beautiful character of the Lord wrought by Yahweh in the Son. He became the example, and representative of all who would approach God in truth and righteousness; and so proclaimed of himself: "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
"And their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four" — "Four" is the number of Israel, and only Israelites (both natural born and proselyte) could enter the court. As the hanging represented the Lord as the basis of redemption, appropriately there is a fourfold development for all who enter thereat. Paul taught: "of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ is displayed to all who would worship in Truth, on those four pillars of salvation.
The four pillars of the gate, plus the three pillars on each side of the eastern hangings, completed the ten pillars of the entrance to match the ten pillars of the western side. This, with the twenty pillars on each side of the northern and southern sides of the court, brought the total number of pillars to sixty. Sixty is a multiple of six and ten, representing the flesh, and completeness, and as those sixty pillars displayed the white linen wall of righteousness, the court of the tabernacle represented the multitude of the redeemed taken out of the nations. These sixty pillars, with their silver heads held high, to witness to their status as such, that separated the tabernacle from the world, answer to the sixty warriors who surround the antitypical Solomon, as symbolised in the Song of Solomon (ch. 3:7).
From Exo. 38:18 we learn that the height of this wall of linen was five cubits, or about 230cms (7½ feet). The significant fact is added, that it was constructed in squares, each piece being 5x5 cubits. Hence, as an Israelite came to the front of the court, he would view the "gate" as a beautifully woven entrance of four significant colours worked into a pattern on four large squares of five cubits each. How significant! Five is the number of grace, and the square is the shape of the true Israel of God, and in this design both are united.
"And the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver" — The whole structure, though made up of many parts, will be completely united in love.
"Their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass" — That which displayed the curtain of righteousness was the work of redemption; and that which sustained and ruled it were the sockets of brass representing flesh purified by fire.
"The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where" — See notes, vv. 9, 12.
"And the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass" — This statement outlines the height of the linen wall, and later we learn of the curious mode of construction. It was formed into a series of foursquare patterns, like the foursquare breastplate on the robe of the high priest, the foursquare altar in the court, the foursquare encampment of the tribes, and, prophetically, the foursquare appearance of the New Jerusalem, the Lamb's Bride (Rev. 21:16).
"All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof' — The Septuagint omits the reference to the tabernacle, and limits the statement to "the instruments and pins of the court." This is doubtless correct, because the vessels in the tabernacle proper were of gold. Of course, those vessels in the court were used in conjunction with the tabernacle service, and therefore can be referred to as belonging to the tabernacle as in the A.V., but obviously, they were those used in the court. There were many such that have not been mentioned, including the laver (ch. 30:18) with basins in which to wash, which must have been associated with it. All, however, were of brass, or bronze, and contrasted with those of gold in the tabernacle itself. Though bronze was a common metal of the times, it was very suitable for the purpose in view. It is extremely hard, and yet, at the same time, exceedingly ductile, and ready to form all shapes. Though "common" it was not "unclean," for it had gone through the fire (see Num. 31:23).
The various vessels in use typified the different activities in which believers can engage in the service of God. Paul speaks of vessels of wrath, and vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:22-23), and declares that though we have "this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Cor. 4:7), we can be transformed to a better status. To Timothy he wrote that as there were "vessels of gold and silver" as well as those of "wood and of earth" in the temple, if a man purge himself of that which is dishonourable, "he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21). By this means we can make ourselves worthy aids in the divine service. Though we may be only common "vessels of bronze," yet shaped as the Master would have us be, we can and will engage upon honourable service both now and in the age to come.
"And all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass" — The word "pin" is elsewhere translated "nail" (Jud. 4:21-22; 5:26) and defined as a tent pin or metal stake (see also Isa. 33:20). Associated with these pins, there were cords. They are not mentioned here, but they are elsewhere (Exo. 35:18; 39:40; Num. 3:26,37; 4:26, 32). There were pins, first for the tabernacle itself (Exo. 27:19; 35:18; 38:20, 31); secondly, for the court (Exo. 27:19; 35:18; 38:20; 38:31); thirdly, for the court gate (Exo. 39:40). Apparently the pins for the court, and for the court gate were especially connected with the pillars, from which the hangings forming the court and the gate were suspended. By means of these pins of bronze, the tabernacle and the court wall were securely fastened to the desert ground, so that no storm, or flood of waters could sweep away the structure. Storm and stress were part of the life of the Lord, as it is of those who "fellowship his sufferings" (see Psa. 55:4-6, 8). At the moment of greatest trial, he was able to say: "Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." He was firmly fixed in his resolve to carry out the divine will by the pins and cords of trust and faith.
The same word rendered "pin" is translated "nail," and applied to Christ in Isaiah 22:20-25; Zech. 10:4. In the former place, it is described as a peg upon which was displayed items of glory, and this certainly applies to the Lord. Note that the peg is represented as supporting "the offspring and the issue," as well as "all vessels of small quantity." The prophet, moreover declares: "I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place," and the word "sure" is from the same root as amen, one of the titles of Christ emphasising the certainty of God's purpose to be fulfilled in him (Rev.3:14; 2 Cor. 1:20).
Oil For the Light — vv. 20-21.
The supply of high-quality oil for the seven-branched lampstand was the responsibility of all Israel: providing scope for any Israelite to contribute to the essential service of the Holy Place.
"And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light" — The highest quality olive oil was required for the lamps. It was obtained by gently pounding immature olives in a mortar and then straining the oil, purifying it from any admixture of watery juice normal to olive oil; whilst other inferior oil was obtained by roughly crushing the berries in a mill. The "beaten oil" is clear and gives a bright pure light with little smoke. In biblical symbology it represents the light of Truth (Psa. 119:105; Zech. 4:1, 12, 14; Mat. 25:4). "light" is ma'owr, luminary or light-bearer; i.e., the lamps. The same word is used for the sun and the moon in Gen. 1:16. It is derived from owr, to make luminous. In the tabernacle, the light of the natural sun was exchanged for that of the lampstand. In its light the priests walked in the Holy Place.
"To cause the lamp to burn always" — The word "burn" is aloth, and signifies "to ascend up," as rendered in the margin. "Always" is from the Heb. tamyid, and signifies "continually," as in the R.V. From this it would appear that the lamps in the Holy Place never went out entirely, but were regularly tended morning and evening so that they might burn brightly.
"In the tabernacle of the congregation without the veil" — The Hebrew has the "tent (ohel) of meeting (mowade)." Mowade signifies "a set time." As such it relates to the "set time" at which the people were expected to gather at the tabernacle for specific purposes. The R.V. has "tabernacle of meeting," because it was the place where Yahweh would meet with His people (Exo. 25:22), which He did at set times.
"Which is before the testimony" — See note, v. 16.
"Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before Yahweh" — This statement anticipates the appointment of Aaron as the high priest in Israel, and of his sons as his attendant priests, the consecration of whom is described in the following chapter. The ministry of the priests as far as the olive oil was concerned (for which see note on v. 20) was to "order" it each evening. The word is arak, and signifies "to arrange in order, to set in a row" as in Exo. 40:4. The context suggests that it was the oil so "ordered," the bowls of the lampstand being replenished with oil every evening one after the other, or "in order," so that there would be no danger of the light going out when all slept. So the light of Truth has been maintained throughout the ages through the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and others.
In the morning, the priests "dressed" the lamps in order (Exo. 30:7; Lev. 24:1-4), so that the light was always burning, as Josephus testifies. The light was caused to shine "before Yahweh." The priests were called upon to be always conscious of His presence, and to recognise the solemn responsibility resting upon them to tend to the lamps, and so cause the light to shine "continually."
Believers are in the position of prospective priests today (1 Pet. 2:9), and their labours within the Ecclesias, in keeping the light of truth burning brightly, must be performed "as before Yahweh."
"It shall be a statute for ever unto their generations" — A statute is an appointment; in this case something fixed for worshippers to do. The work of the priests by divine appointment, therefore, was to tend the lamps. It typed their work of preaching and teaching (see 2 Chr. 15:3; Mal. 2:7, and hence Dan. 12:3). They were as light-bearers within the community of Israel, shedding abroad the illumination of truth. Believers should "shine as lights" in the Gentile "night" (John 9:4-5) of "darkness" (Isa. 60:1-2) in which they dwell.
"On the behalf of the children of Israel" — The action of the priests in attending to the lamps was done "on the behalf of all the people. The people had contributed the oil, but priestly mediation was required on their behalf to feed it to the co-operation implied in the statute the lamps, and so cause them to shine with regarding the light. The people prepared light in the presence of Yahweh. This means; the priests perpetuated it; and Co-operation between teachers and the result was illumination of the Holy students was necessary to that end.
LESSONS FOR US:
Much preparation is necessary prior to approaching unto God
The work of service to God is continual
HP Mansfield – Exodus
C. W. Stemming, in Made According To Pattern
Strong’s analytic concordance
The Septuagint version
The Christadelphian magazine
Why were there 60 pillars?
Were the Israelites baptised?
How did tending the lamps type our service in the Truth?
What burnt in the lampstand, and what was it’s significance?
Some Ecclesias like to have a lampstand constantly burning. Is this a good idea?