Exodus 25:31
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.
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(31-39) The golden candlestick, like the table of shewbread, was represented on the Arch of Titus, and the careful copy made under the direction of Reland in 1710, and published in his work, De Spoliis Templi, gives probably the best idea that can be formed of it. It was composed of a straight stem, rising perpendicularly from a base, and having on either side of it three curved arms or branches, all of them in the same plane, and all rising to the same level. The stem and arms were ornamented with representations of almond flowers, pomegranates, and lily blossoms, repeated as there was room for them, the top ornament being in every case a lily blossom, which held a hemispherical lamp. The form and ornamentation of the base are unknown, since the representation of the base upon the Arch of Titus is manifestly from some Roman work which had superseded the original pedestal. The special object of the candlestick seems to have been to give light by night. Its lamps were to be lighted at even (Exodus 30:8) by the High Priest, and were to burn from evening to morning (Exodus 27:21), when they were to be dressed,” or trimmed (Exodus 30:7), and “extinguished” (Kalisch, Comment, on Exodus, p. 370). The Holy Place had sufficient light during the day from the entrance, where the curtain would let the light through, if indeed it were not also partially looped up.

(31) Of beaten work.—Like the cherubim. (See Note on Exodus 25:18.)

His bowls, his knops, and his flowers.—Rather, its cups, its pomegranates, and its blossoms. The “cupsare afterwards said to be “like almonds” (Exodus 25:33), i.e., almond blossoms.

Shall be of the samei.e., “of one piece with the stem and branches;” not separate ornaments put together.



Exodus 25:31

If we could have followed the Jewish priest as he passed in his daily ministrations into the Inner Court, we should have seen that he first piled the incense on the altar which stood in its centre, and then turned to trim the lamps of the golden candlestick which flanked it on one side. Of course it was not a candlestick, as our versions misleadingly render the word. That was an article of furniture unknown in those days. It was a lampstand; from a central upright stem branched off on either side three arms decorated with what the Book calls ‘beaten work,’ and what we in modern jewellers’ technicality call répoussé work, each of which bore on its top, like a flower on its stalk, a shallow cup filled with oil, in which a wick floated. There were thus seven lamps in all, including that on the central stem. The material was costly, the work adorning it was artistic, the oil with which it was fed was carefully prepared, the number of its lamps expressed perfection, it was daily trimmed by the priest, and there, all through the night, it burned, the one spot of light in a dark desert.

Now, this Inner Court of the Tabernacle or Temple was intended, with its furniture, to be symbolical of the life of Israel, the priestly nation. The Altar of Incense, which was the main article of ecclesiastical equipment there, and stood in the central place, represented the life of Israel in its Godward aspect, as being a life of continual devotion. The Candlestick on the one hand, and the Table of Shew-bread on the other, were likewise symbolical of other aspects of that same life. I have to deal now with the meaning and lessons of this golden lampstand, and it teaches us-

I. The office manwards of the Church and of the individual Christian.

Let me just for a moment recall the various instances in which this symbol reappears in Scripture. We have, in the vision of the prophet who sustained and animated the spirits of Israel in their Restoration, the repetition of the emblem, in the great golden candlestick which Zechariah saw, fed by two ‘olive trees,’ one on either side of it; and in the last book of Scripture we have that most significant and lovely variation of it, the reappearance, not of the one golden candlestick or lampstand, but of seven. The formal unity is at an end, but the seven constitute a better, more vital unity, because Christ is in the midst. We may learn the lesson that the Christian conception of the oneness of the Church towers above the Jewish conception of the oneness of Israel by all the difference that there is between a mere mechanical, external unity, and a vital oneness-because all are partakers of the one Christ. I may recall, also, how our Lord, in that great programme of the Kingdom which Matthew has gathered together in what we call ‘the Sermon on the Mount,’ immediately after the Beatitudes, goes on to speak of the office of His people under the two metaphors of ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world,’ and immediately connects with the latter of the two a reference to a lamp lit and set upon its stand; and clinches the whole by the exhortation, ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.’

A remarkable and beautiful variation of that exhortation is found in one of the Apostolic writings when Paul, instead of saying, ‘Ye are the light of the world,’ says, ‘Shine as lights in the world,’ and so gives us the individual, as well as the collective and ecclesiastical, aspect of these great functions. That is a hint that is very much needed. Christian people are quite willing to admit that the Church, the abstraction, the generalisation, is ‘the light of the world.’ But they are wofully apt to slip their own necks out from under the yoke of the obligation, and to forget that the collective light is only the product of the millions of individual lights rushing together-just as in some gas-lights you have a whole series of minute punctures, each of which gives out its own little jet of radiance, and all run together into one brilliant circle. So do not let us escape the personal pressure of this office, or lay it all on the broad shoulders of that generalised abstraction ‘the Church.’ But, since the collective light is but the product of the individual small shinings, let us take the two lessons: first, contribute our part to the general lustre; second, be content with having our part lost in the general light.

But now let me turn for a little while to the more specific meaning of this symbol. The life which, by the central position of the Altar of Incense, was symbolised as being centrally, essentially in its depths and primarily, a life of habitual devotion and communion with God, in its manward aspect is a life that shines ‘to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ That is the solemn obligation, the ideal function, of the Christian Church and of each individual who professes to belong to it. Now, if you recur to our Lord’s own application of this metaphor, to which I have already referred, you will see that the first and foremost way by which Christian communities and individuals discharge this function is by conduct. ‘Let your light so shine before men’-that they may hear your eloquent proclamation of the Gospel? No! ‘Let your light so shine before men’-that you may convince the gainsayers by argument, or move the hard-hearted by appeals and exhortations; that you may preach and talk? No! ‘That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.’ We may say of the Christian community, and of the Christian individual, with all reverence, what the Scripture in an infinitely deeper and more sacred sense says of Jesus Christ Himself, ‘the life was the light.’ It is conduct, whereby most effectually, most universally, and with the least risk of rousing antagonism and hostile feelings, Christian people may ‘shine as lights in the world.’ For we all know how the inconsistencies of a Christian man block the path of the Gospel far more than a hundred sermons or talks further it. We all know how there are people, plenty of them, who, however illogically yet most naturally, compare our lives in their daily action with oar professed beliefs, and, saying to themselves, ‘I do not see that there is much difference between them and me,’ draw the conclusion that it matters very little whether a man is a Christian or not, seeing that the conduct of the men who profess to be so is little more radiant, bright with purity and knowledge and joy, than is the conduct of others. Dear brethren, you can do far more to help or hinder the spread of Christ’s Kingdom by the way in which you do common things, side by side with men who are not partakers of the ‘like precious faith’ with yourselves, than I or my fellow-preachers can do by all our words. It is all very well to lecture about the efficiency of a machine; let us see it at work, and that will convince people. We preach; but you preach far more eloquently, and far more effectively, by your lives. ‘In all labour,’ says the Book of Proverbs, ‘there is profit’-which we may divert from its original meaning to signify that in all Christian living there is force to attract-’but the talk of the lips tendeth only to poverty.’ Oh! if the Christian men and women of England would live their Christianity, they would do more to convert the unconverted, and to draw in the outcasts, than all of us preachers can do. ‘From you,’ said the Apostle once to a church very young, and just rescued from the evils of heathenism-’from you sounded out,’ as if blown from a trumpet, ‘the Word of the Lord, so that we need not to speak anything.’ Live the life, and thereby you diffuse the light.

Nor need we forget that this most potent of all weapons is one that can be wielded by all Christian people. Our gifts differ. Some of us cannot speak for Jesus; some of us who think we can had often better hold our tongues. But we can all live like and for Him. And this most potent and universally diffused possibility is also the weapon that can be wielded with least risk of failure. There is a certain assumption, which it is often difficult to swallow, in a Christian man’s addressing another on the understanding that he, the speaker, possesses something which the other lacks. By words we may often repel, and often find that the ears that we seek to enter with our message close themselves against us and are unwilling to hear. But there is no chance of offending anybody, or of repelling anybody, by living Christlike. We can all do that, and it is the largest contribution that any of us can make to the collective light which shines out from the Christian Church.

But, brethren, we have to remember that there are dangers attending the life that reveals its hidden principles as being faith in Christ and obedience to Him. Did you ever notice how, in the Sermon on the Mount, there are two sets of precepts which seem diametrically opposite to one another? There is a whole series of illustrations of the one commandment, ‘Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them,’ and then there Is the precept, ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.’ So that whilst, on the one hand, there is to be the manifestation in daily conduct of the inner principles that animate us, on the other hand, if there comes in the least taint or trace of ostentation, everything is spoiled, and the light is darkness. The light of the sun makes all things visible and hides itself. We do not see the sunbeams, but we see what the sunbeams illuminate. It is the coarser kinds of light which are themselves separately visible, and they are so only because they have not power enough to make everything around them as brilliant as they themselves are. So our light is to be silent, our light is-if I might use such a phrase-to hide itself in ‘a glorious privacy,’ whilst it enables men to see, even through our imperfect ministration, the face of our Father in Heaven.

But let me remind you that the same variation by Paul of our Lord’s words to which I have already referred as bringing out the difference between the collective and the individual function, also brings out another difference; for Paul says, ‘Ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.’ He slightly varies the metaphor. We are no longer regarded as being ourselves illuminants, but simply as being the stands on which the light is placed. And that means that whilst the witness by life is the mightiest, the most universally possible, and the least likely to offend, there must also be, as occasion shall serve, without cowardice, without shamefaced reticence, the proclamation of the great Gospel which has made us ‘lights in the world.’ And that is a function which every Christian man can discharge too, though I have just been saying that they cannot all preach and speak; for every Christian soul has some other soul to whom its word comes with a force that none other can have.

So the one office that is set forth here is the old familiar one, the obligation of which is fully recognised by us all, and pitifully ill-discharged by any of us, to shine by our daily life, and to shine by the actual communication by speech of ‘the Name that is above every name.’ That is the ideal; alas for the reality! ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ What kind of light do we-the Church of Christ that gathers here-ray out into the darkness of Manchester? Socially, intellectually, morally, in the civic life, in the national life, are Christian people in the van? They ought to be. There is a church clock in our city which has a glass dial that professes to be illuminated at night, so that the passer-by may tell the hour; but it is generally burning so dimly that nobody can see on its grimy face what o’ clock it is. That is like a great many of our churches, and I ask you to ask yourselves whether it is like you or not-a dark lantern, a most imperfectly illuminated dial, which gives no guidance and no information to anybody.

This golden lampstand teaches us-

II. How this office is to be discharged.

Remember simply these two points. It stood, as I have already said, on one side of the Altar of Incense which was central to everything. It was daily tended by the priests, and fed with fresh oil. Hence we may derive some important practical lessons.

To begin with, we note that our light is a derived light, and therefore can only be kept bright when we keep close to the source from whence it is derived.

‘That was the true Light, which coming into the world lighteth every man’-there is the source of all illumination, in Jesus Christ Himself. He alone is the Light, and as for all others we must say of them what was said of His great forerunner, ‘Not that light, but sent to bear witness of that light’; and again, ‘he was a light kindled,’ and therefore ‘shining,’ and so his shining was but ‘for a season.’ But Jesus is for ever the light of the world, and all our illumination comes from Him. As Paul says, ‘Now are ye light in the Lord,’ therefore only in the measure in which we are ‘in the Lord,’ shall we be light. Keep near to Him and you will shine; break the connection with Him, and you are darkness, darkness for yourselves, and darkness for the world. Switch off, and the light is darkness.

Change the metaphor, and instead of saying ‘derived light’ say ‘reflected light.’ There is a pane of glass in a cottage, miles away across the moor. It was invisible a moment ago, and suddenly it gleams like a diamond. Why? The sun has struck it; and in a moment after it will be invisible again. As long as Jesus Christ is shining on my heart, so long, and not a moment longer, shall I give forth the light that will illumine the world. Astronomers have a contrivance by which they can keep a photographic film on which they are seeking to get the image of a star, moving along with the movement of the heavens, so that on the same spot the star shall always shine. We have to keep ourselves steady beneath the white beam from Jesus, and then we, too, shall be ‘light in the Lord.’

Our light is fed light. Daily came the priest, daily the oil that had been exhausted by shining was replenished. We all know what that oil means and is; the Divine Spirit which comes into every heart which is open by faith in Christ, and which abides in every heart where there are desire, obedience, and the following of Him; which can be quenched by my sin, by my negligence, by my ceasing to wish it, by my not using its gifts when I have them; which can be grieved by my inconsistencies, and by the spots of darkness that so often take up more of the sphere of my life than the spots of illumination. But we can have as much of that oil of the Divine Spirit, the ‘unction from the Holy One,’ as we desire, and expect, and use. And unless we have, dear brethren, there is no shining for us. This generation in its abundant activities tends to a Christianity which has more spindles than power, which is more surface than depth, which is so anxious to do service that it forgets the preliminary of all right service, patient, solitary, silent communion with God. Suffer the word of exhortation-let shining be second, let replenishing with the oil be first. First the Altar of Incense, then the Candlestick.

III. This golden lampstand tells us of the fatal effect of neglecting the Church’s and the individual’s duty.

Where is the seven-branched candlestick of the second Temple? No one knows. Possibly, according to one statement, it lies at the bottom of the Mediterranean. Certainly we know that it is pictured on that sad panel in the conqueror’s arch at Rome, and that it became a trophy of the insolent victor. It disappeared, and the Israel whom it vainly endeavoured through the centuries to stir to a consciousness of its vocation, has never since had a gleam of light to ray out into the world. Where are the seven candlesticks, which made a blessed unity because Christ walked in their midst? Where are the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Thyatira, and the rest? Where they stood the mosque is reared, and from its minaret day by day rings out-not the proclamation of the Name, but-’There is no God but God, and Mahomet is His Prophet.’ The Pharos that ought to have shone out over stormy seas has been seized by wreckers, and its light is blinded, and false lights lure the mariner to the shoals and to shipwreck.

‘Take heed lest He also spare not thee.’ O brethren! is it not a bitter irony to call us ‘lights of the world’? Let us penitently recognise the inconsistencies of our lives, and the reticence of our speech. Let us not lose sight of the high ideal, that we may the more penitently recognise the miserable falling short of our reality. And let us be thankful that the Priest is tending the lamps. ‘He will not quench the smoking wick,’ but will replenish it with oil, and fan the dying flame. Only let us not resist His ministrations, which are always gentle, even when He removes the charred blacknesses that hinder our being what we should be, and may be, if we will-lights of the world. ‘Arise! shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.’

Exodus 25:31. This candlestick had many branches drawn from the main shaft, which had not only bowls to put the oil and the kindled wick in for necessity, but knops made in the form of a pomegranate and flowers for ornament. The tabernacle had no windows, all its light was candle-light, which denotes the comparative darkness of that dispensation, while, the Sun of righteousness was not as yet risen, nor had the Day-star from on high visited his church. Yet God left not himself without witness, nor them without instruction; the commandment was a lamp, and the law a light, and the prophets were branches from that lamp, which gave light in their several ages. The church is still dark, as the tabernacle was, in comparison with what it will be in heaven: but the word of God is the candlestick, a light shining in a dark place.

25:31-40 The candlestick represents the light of God's word and Spirit, in and through Christ Jesus, afforded in this dark world to his believing people, to direct their worship and obedience, and to afford them consolations. The church is still dark, as the tabernacle was, in comparison with what it will be in heaven; but the word of God is a light shining in a dark place,Exodus 25:31

A candlestick of pure gold - (Compare Exodus 37:17-24.) A lampstand rather than a candlestick. Its purpose was to support seven oil-lamps. Its height appears to have been about three feet, and its width two feet. The original foot was lost or stolen when the candlestick was taken out of the temple, and the pedestal in the sculpture was added by some Roman artist to set off the trophy.

His shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers - Or, its base, its stem, its flower cups, its knobs, and its lilies.

31. candlestick—literally, "a lamp bearer." It was so constructed as to be capable of being taken to pieces for facility in removal. The shaft or stock rested on a pedestal. It had seven branches, shaped like reeds or canes—three on each side, with one in the center—and worked out into knobs, flowers, and bowls, placed alternately [Ex 25:32-36]. The figure represented on the arch of Titus gives the best idea of this candlestick. Thou shalt make, either by thyself, or by some other person whom thou shalt cause to make it.

His shaft; the trunk, or main body of it.

His knops, or, apples, made in form of a pomegranate.

His flowers shall be of the same, to wit, beaten out of the same piece by the hammer. Compare Exodus 25:36.

And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold,.... Another piece of household furniture, and an useful one, especially in a house where there are no windows, as there were none in the tabernacle, denoting the darkness of the legal dispensation, see 2 Kings 4:10. This candlestick was set in the holy place, on the south side of it, opposite the shewbread table, Exodus 26:35 and was typical of the church of God; so the candlesticks John had a vision of signify seven churches, Revelation 1:13, the general use of which is, to hold forth light put into it, for it has none of itself, but what is put there by Christ: and this is not the light of nature and reason, nor the law of Moses, but the Gospel of Christ; which where it is set, gives light and dispels darkness; is useful to walk and work by; does not always burn alike, and will shine the brightest in the end of the world: this light is put into the candlestick by Christ the fountain of all light, and from whom all light is communicated, particularly the Gospel; and being put there, lost sinners are looked up by it, strayed ones are brought back, hypocrites are detected, and saints are enlightened, comforted, and refreshed: and this candlestick being made of "pure gold", may denote the worth and value of the church of God, and the members of it, their splendour, glory, and purity they have from Christ, and their duration; and thus the seven churches of Asia are compared to seven golden candlesticks, Revelation 1:12, and under the form of a golden candlestick is the Gospel church set forth in Zechariah 4:2. Josephus (b) is of opinion the candlestick has some mystical meaning in it, it being of seventy parts, as he says, refers to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, through which the seven planets take their course, whom Milton (c) follows:

of beaten work shall the candlestick be made; not of gold melted, and poured into a mould, from whence it might take its form; but it was beaten with an hammer out of an entire mass of gold, and not the following parts made separately, and then joined:

his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same; not only of the same metal, but beaten out of the same mass and lump of gold; these are the several parts of the candlestick: the "shaft" is the trunk and body of the candlestick, which stood in the middle of it, and in which the several parts united; and may either be typical of Christ, who is principal and head of the church, and stands in the middle of it, and is the cement of the several parts of it, and is but one, the one head, Mediator and Saviour; or else the church universal, of which particular ones are parts: its "branches" may either signify the several members of churches, who are in Christ as branches, and hold forth the word of light; or else minister, of the Gospel, who have their commission and gifts from him, and are held by him as stars in his right hand; or else particular churches, which are branches of the church universal: its "bowls", which were to hold oil for the lamps, may denote men of capacity in the churches, full of the gifts and graces of the Spirit, able to teach others also: and the "knops" and "flowers" were for decoration, and may signify the graces of the Spirit, with which private members and believers are adorned; or the gifts of the Spirit with which the ministers of the word are furnished, and appear beautiful, publishing the glad tidings of salvation by Christ.

(b) Antiq. l. 3. c. 7. sect. 7. (c) Paradise Lost. B. 12. ver. 254, 255, 256.

And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten {i} work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.

(i) It shall not be molten, but beaten out of the lump of gold with the hammer.

31. candlestick] Lampstand would be a more accurate rendering; but no doubt ‘candlestick’ (though the expression involves an anachronism) is generally understood here in the same sense.

its base] Heb. its thigh (or loins), which seems to include rather more than the ‘base,’ viz. the part of the central stem below the lowest pair of branches, as well as the actual base, probably some kind of tripod, into which it must ultimately have expanded.

The Golden Lampstand, as reconstructed by Prof. A. R. S. Kennedy.

From Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, iv. (1902), p. 663.

shaft] lit. reed.

its cups, (namely,) its knops, and its flowers] As v. 33 shews, the ‘cup is the whole opened flower, its component parts being the ‘knop’ and the ‘flower,’ or, in technical language, the calyx and the corolla, i.e. (roughly) the outer and inner leaves of the entire flower. ‘Knop’ is an old word meaning knob, or bud.

of one piece with it] See on v. 19.

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. Exodus 25:31(cf. Exodus 37:17-24). The Candlestick was to be made of pure gold, "beaten work." מקשׁה: see Exodus 25:18. For the form תּיעשׂה instead of תּעשׂה (which is probably the work of a copyist, who thought the reading should be תּעשׂה in the Niphal, as the י is wanting in many MSS), see Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 52, and Ewald, 83b. "Of it shall be (i.e., there shall issue from it so as to form one complete whole) its ירך" (lit., the loins, the upper part of the thigh, which is attached to the body, and from which the feet proceed, - in this case the base or pedestal, upon which the candelabrum stood); its קנה, or reed, i.e., the hollow stem of the candelabrum rising up from the pedestal; - "its גּבעים," cups, resembling the calix of a flower; - כּפתּרים, knobs, in a spherical shape (cf. Amos 9:1; Zephaniah 2:14); - "and פּרחים," flowers, ornaments in the form of buds just bursting.
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