Bible Commentary: Exodus 25

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Exodus 25

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Plans for the Tabernacle Interior

Now we read of plans for the construction of the tabernacle, where God said He would dwell on earth with the Israelites. Notice some points that one may otherwise quickly read over.

Certain offerings were given by the Israelites. Only the offerings that were given willingly were to be accepted. God does not want us to give of necessity or with a begrudging attitude, but cheerfully and thankfully (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The Ark of the Testimony, elsewhere called the Ark of the Covenant, would contain the two tablets of the Ten Commandments - indeed, they were apparently the only items that were actually in the Ark (see 1 Kings 8:9). While Hebrews 9:4 does seem to say that the golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod that budded were in the Ark, it has been speculated that there was perhaps some kind of satchel attached to the side of the Ark containing these items. (Some have suggested that the pot and rod were originally in the Ark and then removed. But it seems unlikely that someone would have lifted the Ark's lid and trifled with its contents - except perhaps for the one period in which it was taken by the Philistines and then peered into by the men of Beth Shemesh, 1 Samuel 6:19. However, God supernaturally made sure of the Ark's return from Philistia and struck the men of Beth Shemesh for merely looking inside the Ark. He mentions nothing about them taking any items from inside - and why would He not have ensured their return also. Still, it is possible that the manna and rod were in the ark to start with and later turned up missing.)

Beside the Ark was placed the Book of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 31:26). All the items mentioned are "testimonies" - as if witnesses providing evidentiary testimony in court - of God's miraculous intervention for the children of Israel. Placed on top of the ark was the mercy seat, another "testimony" of God's everlasting mercy, which represented His very throne.

God also gave understanding of the appearance of the cherubim, part of the angelic realm created in service to God. Embroidered patterns of cherubim were also woven into the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1). The artistic representations of these wondrous creatures, which are described in greater detail in the book of Ezekiel, were the only "images" of heavenly beings permitted in God's worship system. They were, of course, not to be worshiped. And it is clear that there was no image of God in all of the tabernacle accoutrements - as was so common in pagan temples.

The showbread, constituting 12 loaves for all the tribes of Israel, is itself described more fully in Leviticus 24:5-9. Its name derives from its symbolic placement before the face of God. Other translations render it "bread of presence" or "bread of the Presence." That is, it was in the presence of God, just as the nation of Israel was-since God's presence was among them.

The last verse of the chapter informs us that Moses was not only told how to make the implements, but he actually "saw" a heavenly pattern for them. Indeed, the book of Hebrews assures us that the tabernacle and the items within it were "copies of the things in the heavens" (Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 9:11, 23-24).