Bible Commentary: Exodus 37-38

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Exodus 37-38

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The Tabernacle Accoutrements

The building of the tabernacle and the items God commanded to be in it was a monumental task. In chapters 37 and 38, Bezalel makes the implements of the temple according to the commands God had earlier given Moses. No doubt the details are repeated to show that all was done exactly as God had instructed. And it should be pointed out that Bezalel did not work alone. He was the overseer and had many artisans working under him (see Exodus 36:8). Aholiab and those under him did all of the weaving and engraving (Exodus 38:23 Exodus 38:23And with him was Aholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver, and a cunning workman, and an embroiderer in blue, and in purple, and in scarlet, and fine linen.
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).

Chapter 37, concerning the furnishings of the sanctuary, begins with the manner in which Bezalel constructed the Ark of the Covenant, including the mercy seat and the cherubim. The text exactly follows the instructions God had given Moses on how the construction was to be done (see Exodus 25:10-22 Exodus 25:10-22 [10] 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. [11] And you shall overlay it with pure gold, within and without shall you overlay it, and shall make on it a crown of gold round about. [12] And you shall 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. [13] And you shall make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. [14] And you shall put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. [15] The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it. [16] And you shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you. [17] And you shall 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. [18] And you shall make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shall you make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. [19] And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. [20] And the cherubim 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 cherubim be. [21] And you shall put the mercy seat above on the ark; and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. [22] And there I will meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.
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). The only thing left out here is God’s instruction that the tablets of the Testimony be put into the ark and that the mercy seat be put on top of it—which we will later find Moses doing once the tabernacle is complete (Exodus 40:20 Exodus 40:20And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above on the ark:
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). In the same way, all of the instructions God gave regarding the table of showbread (Exodus 25:23-30 Exodus 25:23-30 [23] You shall 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. [24] And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. [25] And you shall make to it a border of an hand breadth round about, and you shall make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. [26] And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. [27] Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. [28] And you shall make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. [29] And you shall make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover with: of pure gold shall you make them. [30] And you shall set on the table show bread before me always.
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) are followed by Bezalel in chapter 37. The only detail not repeated is God’s instruction that the showbread be placed on the table—which, again, is something that happens once the tabernacle is finished (Exodus 40:4 Exodus 40:4And you shall bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order on it; and you shall bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.
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, 22-23). Then we see here the construction of the lampstand or menorah—also according to God’s instructions in chapter 25 (verses 31-40). The only thing left out is the lighting of its lamps, which, still again, is done when the tabernacle is completed (Exodus 40:4 Exodus 40:4And you shall bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order on it; and you shall bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.
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, 25). Then we are presented with the making of the altar of incense, following the instructions God gave in chapter 30.

Chapter 38 concerns the court of the tabernacle. It begins with the construction of the altar of burnt offering, according to God’s instructions in Exodus 27:1-8 Exodus 27:1-8 [1] And you shall 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 you shall make the horns of it on the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and you shall overlay it with brass. [3] And you shall make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basins, and his meat hooks, and his fire pans: all the vessels thereof you shall make of brass. [4] And you shall make for it a grate of network of brass; and on the net shall you make four brazen rings in the four corners thereof. [5] And you shall put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the middle of the altar. [6] And you shall make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass. [7] And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be on the two sides of the altar, to bear it. [8] Hollow with boards shall you make it: as it was showed you in the mount, so shall they make it.
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. Then follows the bronze laver or washbasin, according to God’s instructions from Exodus 30:17-21 Exodus 30:17-21 [17] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [18] You shall also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash with: and you shall put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and you shall put water therein. [19] For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: [20] When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire to the LORD: [21] So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.
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. Finally, we see the construction of the court itself, following what God told Moses in Exodus 27:9-19 Exodus 27:9-19 [9] And you shall make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side: [10] And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. [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. [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 hangings 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, worked with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four. [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.
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. Notice that the various furnishings, including those inside the sanctuary, were made with rings to slide poles through for carrying. This was to keep people from touching the holy implements. God’s perfection and glory were symbolized by these items, and thus they were not to be profaned.

The chapter ends with a summary of the precious metals that went into the building of the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings. As a talent weighed about 70 pounds, equaling 3,000 shekels, the weight of all the gold used may have been around a ton. The weight of the bronze was around 2 ½ tons. And the silver added up to the enormous weight of 3 ½ tons! Indeed, silver was used in even the most basic elements of the tabernacle and its accoutrements. As The Nelson Study Bible notes: “Although the tabernacle was a tent, it was not a makeshift dwelling. It was a glorious shrine that symbolized the presence of the living God in the midst of His people.” Lest we think these are unimportant or insignificant details, Hebrews 8:5 Hebrews 8:5Who serve to the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, said he, that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount.
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and Hebrews 9:23 Hebrews 9:23It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
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remind us that the tabernacle and its furnishings were “the copy and shadow of the heavenly things” and “copies of the things in the heavens.”

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