Exodus 26
Pulpit Commentary
Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them.
Verses 1-37. - THE TABERNACLE. The sacred furniture which the tabernacle was to contain having been described, with the exception of the "altar of incense" the description of which is reserved for ch 30. (vers. 1-10)-directions were next given for the sacred structure itself. This was to consist of three main things -

1. A quadrangular enclosure thirty cubits long by ten broad, open at one end, and on the other three sides enclosed by boards of acacia-wood overlaid with gold - called the mishkan, or "the dwelling-place," in our version usually translated "tabernacle."

2. A tent of goat's hair, supported upon poles, and stretched by means of ropes and tent-pegs in the ordinary manner over the mishkan. This is called the ohel - which is the usual word for a "tent" in Hebrew, and is so translated generally (Genesis 4:20; Genesis 9:21; 13:31; 18:1, etc.), though in this chapter, unfortunately, "covering" (ver. 7); and

3. A "covering" - mikseh, to be placed over the ohel, composed of rams' skins dyed red, and seals' skins (ver. 14). Subordinate parts of the structure were -

(a) The sockets, or bases, which were to receive and support the upright boards (vers. 19-25);

(b) The bars which were to hold the boards together (vers. 26-29);

(c) The veil, stretched on pillars, which was to be hung across the" dwelling-house," and to separate it into two parts, the "holy place" and the "holy of holies" (vers. 31-33); and

(d) The curtain or "hanging" at the open end of the "dwelling-place," where there were no boards, which was intended to close that side of the structure when necessary (vers. 36, 37). The fine linen covering (vers. 1-6). Verse 1. - Thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains. These "ten curtains" are explained in the verses which follow to be ten "breadths," so fastened together as to form practically a single curtain or awning, which constituted the cieling or inner covering of the tabernacle. The mode of its arrangement is not quite certain. Some suppose that it was really a part of the "tent," being laid over the same framework as the goats' hair curtain (Fergusson, Cook); others believe it to have been strained across the mishkan and fastened to the top of the boards on either side, thence depending, either inside or outside (Bahr, Keil). The former supposition appears the more probable. Fine twined linen is linen the threads of which are formed of several fine strands twisted together. This is often the case with Egyptian linen. On blue and purple and scarlet, see the comment upon Exodus 25:4. Cherubims of cunning work. Rather, "cherubim, the work of a skilled weaver." Figures of cherubs were to be woven into the hangings in the loom itself, not embroidered upon them afterwards.
The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.
Verse 2. - Eight and twenty cubits. This is the exact length required for a rectangular tented roof over such a space, which should descend (as tent roofs usually do) within about seven feet of the ground. The comparison made in vers. 12, 13, between the fine linen covering of the mishkan and the goats' hair covering of the "tent," implies that the one was directly under the other, and that both were arranged in the same way. The breadth of four cubits. This gives for the entire length of the curtain (4 by 10), 40 cubits, or ten cubits more than the length of the boarded space. The roof must thus have been advanced some distance in front of the tabernacle proper, or rectangular boarded space. Every one of the curtains shall have one measure. They shall all, i.e., have the same measure.
The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other five curtains shall be coupled one to another.
Verse 3. - When the ten "breadths" had been woven, five were to be sewn together to form one portion of the awning, and the other five to form another portion, the reason for this being, probably, that if all the ten breadths had been sewn together, the awning would have been too cumbrous to have been readily folded together, or easily conveyed when the people journeyed.
And thou shalt make loops of blue upon the edge of the one curtain from the selvedge in the coupling; and likewise shalt thou make in the uttermost edge of another curtain, in the coupling of the second.
Fifty loops shalt thou make in the one curtain, and fifty loops shalt thou make in the edge of the curtain that is in the coupling of the second; that the loops may take hold one of another.
And thou shalt make fifty taches of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle.
Verse 6. - The Authorised Version gives the sense fairly. The two curtains, each composed of five "breadths," were to be united by means of one hundred loops, fifty on each curtain, which were to be coupled together by fifty "taches" or clasps. The loops were to be of the "blue" material used generally in the textile fabrics of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:4; Exodus 26:1, 31, 36), and the "taches" or clasps were to be of gold. In this way the covering of the mishkan was to be completed. The goat's skin tent-cloth (vers. 7-13).
And thou shalt make curtains of goats' hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make.
Verse 7. - From the inner covering of the tabernacle the directions proceed to the external covering, or rather coverings, which constituted the real strength of the structure, and its protection from wet or stormy weather. Curtains of goats' hair, such as the Arabs still use, as the ordinary covering of their tents (Layard, Nin. and Bab., p. 171), were to form a true "tent" (ohel) above the tabernacle, being supported by tent-poles, and kept taut by means of cords and pegs (Exodus 27:19; Exodus 35:18). See the representation in Dr. W. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3. p. 1454, which is reproduced in the Speaker's Commentary, vol. 1. p. 376. To be a covering. In Exodus 36:14, we have - "he made curtains of goats' hair for the tent over the tabernacle," which is far better. The word used in both places is the same (ohel). Eleven curtains - i.e., "eleven breadths." Compare ver. 1.
The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure.
Verse 8. - The length... shall be thirty cubits. A tent with a rectangular roof, over such a chamber as the mishkan, brought down, as tents usually are, within six or seven feet of the ground, would have required a covering of this length. If the slope of the roof had been greater, the covering must have been longer. The breadth... four cubits. This gives for the entire covering, when made up, a width of forty-four cubits, or sixty-six feet. As the entire length of the mishkan was only thirty cubits, or forty-five feet, it is evident that the tent projected considerably beyond the tabernacle, either at both ends, or, at any rate, at one end. Probably the projection was at one end only - viz., in front; where it constituted a porch, eighteen or twenty feet deep. The temple, which was modelled after the tabernacle, had a porch fifteen feet deep.
And thou shalt couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle.
Verse 9. - Thou shalt couple, etc. As with the inner awning of linen, so with the goats' hair tent-cloth. The whole when made up was to be in two pieces, for convenience of transport. (See the comment on ver. 3.) The number of breadths in the tent-cloth being uneven, the two pieces were to be of different sizes, one containing five, and the other six, "breadths." Thou shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle. "Tabernacle" here is a mistranslation; since the Hebrew word is ohel, "tent." The meaning may be, either that the sixth breadth was to be doubled back upon the fifth, or that half of it was to be doubled back upon the other half. The latter view is to be preferred, since otherwise the extra breadth would have been superfluous.
And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the coupling, and fifty loops in the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second.
Verse 10. - Fifty loops in the edge of the curtain that coupleth the second. Rather, "fifty loops at the edge of the second curtain of coupling." The two portions of the goats' hair covering were to be united in exactly the same way as those of the inner awning of linen. Fifty loops were to be sewn on to the edge of the extreme, or outermost, breadth of each portion, and these loops were to be connected by clasps or links. The outermost breadth on which the loops are sewn, is called the curtain of coupling."
And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one.
Verse 11. - Fifty taches of brass. Rather "of bronze." The links of the inner curtain were of gold (ver. 6).
And the remnant that remaineth of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle.
Verse 12. - The remnant which remaineth, etc. Both this and the next verse presume a very close connection between the fine linen covering of the mishkan and the goats hair tent-cloth which protected it. "The remnant that remaineth" is the half-breadth by which the tent-cloth would overlap the linen covering at the back of the tent, when at the front half of the eleventh breadth had been turned back upon the other half (see comment on ver. 9). This "remnant" was to be 'allowed to hang down over the back part of the tabernacle.
And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent, it shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it.
Verse 13. - And a cubit. Rather, "And the cubit." The cubit by which the goats' hair tent-cloth, which was thirty cubits across (ver. 8), would exceed the linen covering, which was twenty-eight cubits (ver. 2), on either side of the tabernacle, was to be allowed to hang down, like a valance, hiding so far the golden boards of the tabernacle. The outer protection (ver. 14).
And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins.
Verse 14. - And thou shalt make a covering for the tent. Nothing is said of the size of this covering; but, as its object was clearly to protect the roof of the tent from penetration by wet, it seems reasonable to suppose that it extended at least as far as the boards of the tabernacle. To do this, it must have been thirty cubits long, and fourteen broad. The boarding of the tabernacle (vers. 15-30).
And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up.
Verse 15. - Boards... of shittim wood. These boards were to be fifteen feet long by two feet three inches broad, and, if they were each of a single plank, can scarcely have been furnished by any of the acacias which now grow in the Sinaitic peninsula. It is possible, however, that they were made up of two or more planks, since the name by which they are designated, kereth, is thought to be applied in Ezekiel 27:6, to the "deck of a ship." Standing up. The way in which they were to be made to "stand up" is explained in vers. 17 and 19. They were not to have one end sunk in the ground, but to be fitted by means of "tenons" into silver "sockets."
Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board.
Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle.
Verse 17. - Two tenons. Literally, "hands." Projecting rods, such as those common in our dinner tables, seem to be meant. They may have been of metal, let into the boards to a certain depth, and projecting several inches beyond them. Or, possibly, they may have been of acacia wood. In one board - i.e. "In each board" - no doubt, at the bottom of each. Set in order one against the other. Arranged, i.e., at regular intervals, the position of each corresponding to the position of its fellow.
And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward.
Verse 18. - Twenty boards. Each board being a cubit and a half in width (ver. 16), the length of the chamber was, necessarily, thirty cubits. On the south side southward. Literally, "On the south side, to the right." The Orientals regarded it as natural to look to the east, and spoke of the east as "in front," the west as "behind," the north as "on the left," and the south as "on the right hand."
And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons.
Verse 19. - Forty sockets of silver. Nothing is said of the shape of these "sockets." They were certainly very massive, as each contained a silver talent (Exodus 38:27), and thus weighed from eighty to ninety pounds. It has been supposed that they stood on the ground, and formed a sort of continuous base, out of which the planks rose. But this would have constituted a very unsafe structure. Kalisch is probably right in his view, that the sockets were let into the ground resembling those at the bottom of a gate, into which the bolt is pressed down. Each socket received one of the "tenons."
And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards:
Verse 20. - The second side... the north side. The north side, or left hand, was always regarded as less honourable than the south side or right hand (see Genesis 48:13-20), probably because in the northern hemisphere the sun illumines the south side. It showed the superior dignity of the south side that the golden candlestick was set against it (Exodus 40:24).
And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards.
Verses 22, 23. - For the sides of the tabernacle westward. Rather, "for the back" (τὰ ὀπίσω - LXX.). Here there were to be six boards only, which would give the abnormal and improbable width of nine cubits. The additional cubit required was no doubt obtained from the corner boards, or posts, each of which added to the (internal) width half a cubit (see ver. 23).
And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides.
And they shall be coupled together beneath, and they shall be coupled together above the head of it unto one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners.
Verse 24. - They shall be coupled together beneath... unto one ring. This is very obscure, and might be explained in several ways. Perhaps it is best to suppose that the coupling was by the "bars," cf. vers. 26-29, the ends of which fitted into a sort of double ring, like the figure 8, attached to the corner posts. Above the head. Rather "at" or near the head."
And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
Verse 25. - And they shall be eight boards. Counting in the two comer boards, or posts, the boards of the back would be eight. Each of them was to have two "tenons," like the boards of the sides, and every "tenon" was to have its own silver "socket." Thus the "sockets" would be sixteen, two under each board.
And thou shalt make bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle,
Verses 26-28. - Bars of shittim wood. To give greater stability to the structure, to keep the boards in their places, and to prevent there being any aperture between them, five bars were to be made for each side, and the same number for the end, of the mishkan, which were to be passed through rings attached to the boards - one at least to each - and thus to hold the boards firmly together. The middle bar in each case was to extend the whole length of the enclosure (ver. 28), and thus in two cases to be thirty cubits, or forty-five feet long. The exact length, and the disposition of the other bars is not indicated; but it is with reason conjectured that two were above and two below the "middle bar" that all were horizontal - and that each coupled together one half of the boards of each side. The length of each was probably fifteen cubits; and the ends which reached the two comer posts at the back ran into the corner rings, which were shaped so as to receive the two bars (see ver. 24). It is not said whether the bars were inside or outside the mishkan; but the best authorities suppose them to have been outside.
And five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, for the two sides westward.
And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end.
And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars: and thou shalt overlay the bars with gold.
Verse 29. - The rings were to be of solid gold; the boards and the bars of acacia wood overlaid with gold.
And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount.
Verse 30. - According to the fashion. Where the description was incomplete (and it could not but be incomplete in many points), Moses was to follow his recollection of the "pattern," which either in vision, or otherwise - he had seen in the mount This would be his best guide, for

"Segnius irritant animum demissa per aures,
Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus."
And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:
Verses 31-35. - The veil and the ordering of the holy places. Verse 31. - A vail. The veil was to be of the same material and workmanship as the inner covering extended over the mishkan, and like that, was to have figures of cherubim woven into its texture by a skilled weaver.
And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.
Verse 32. - Four pillars. The contrast between these four pillars of the interior, and the "five pillars" at "the door of the tent" (vers. 36, 37), is striking, and justifies the supposition that the veil in the tabernacle did not completely divide the holy of holies from the holy place, but formed a screen, above which the space was open. If the veil had been hung from the top of the tented roof, so as completely to separate the two places, there must have been fire pillars, or at any rate an odd number, m the interior. Their hooks shall be of gold. These are hooks attached to the pillars, for the purpose of their having the curtains hung upon them. Upon the four sockets. The word "sockets" has no article. Translate - "Thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold, with their hooks of gold, and standing upon four sockets of silver. The pillars probably had "tenons," like the boards (ver. 17), which were inserted into silver sockets, let into the ground.
And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.
Verse 33. - Thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches. If the "taches" of ver. 6 or even of ver. 11, are intended, and" under" is to be taken strictly as" immediately under," the mishkan must have been divided by the veil into two equal, or very nearly equal parts; and the tabernacle must in an important particular have completely differed from the temple. In the temple the holy place was twice the length of the holy of holies (1 Kings 6:16, 17). It is possible that "under "may be used vaguely, or that the "taches" of this verse are the "hooks" of ver. 32. That thou mayest bring in. Rather, "And thou shalt bring in." The clause is directive. The most holy. Literally, "the holy of holies" - the inner chamber, that within the veil, which constituted the adytum, or innermost recess of the tabernacle. The ark and the mercy-seat were the special furniture of this inner sanctuary. To these is added later (Exodus 30:1-10) the altar of incense.
And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.
And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side.
Verse 35. - The table here is, of course, "the table of shew-bread" described in the preceding chapter (vers. 23-30), immediately after the mercy-seat It was to be set "without the veil," in the holy place or outer chamber, against the north wall. The candlestick is the seven-branched lamp-stand described in Exodus 25:31-39. It was to be placed over against the table, and consequently on the south side (Exodus 40:24).
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.
Verses 36, 37. - The entrance to the tent. Verse 36. - Thou shalt make a hanging. A curtain which could draw up and. down, seems to be intended. When let down, it probably covered the entire eastern side, or front of the tabernacle. When raised, it allowed the eye to penetrate into the holy place.
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 37. - Five pillars. The central pillar was, no doubt, as Mr. Fergusson long ago pointed out, one of two tent-poles, which supported between them a ridge-pole, over which were thrown the coverings that formed the roof of the tent. Its height was probably fifteen cubits, so as to give a due slope to the roof. The two pillars nearest to the central one probably measured ten cubits, and stood in line with the two walls of the mishkan. The outer pair would then have a height of five cubits, and support the two extremities of the goats' hair covering. Their hooks. The hooks whereby the "hanging" was attached to the pillars. Compare ver. 32. Sockets of brass - i.e., of bronze. These were probably let into the ground, like the other sockets.

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