And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Verses 1-33. - THE COMMAND TO SET UP THE TABERNACLE, AND ITS PERFORMANCE. All was now ready. Bezaleel and Aholiab had completed their task. The work for the tabernacle had been given in, and had been approved Moses did not however at once set it up. He waited for a command from God. After a short interval, the command came. He was ordered to select the first day of the ensuing year - the first day of the first year of freedom - for the operation. Directions were given him, which fixed the order in which the various parts were to be set up, and assigned to the various articles of furniture their proper places (vers. 1-8). When he had arranged the whole as directed, he was to anoint the various parts (vers. 9-11). He was then to wash and dress Aaron, and his sons; to invest them with their robes of office (vers. 12-14), and to anoint them to be priests (ver. 15). The orders given were executed, except (as it would seem) those concerning the investiture of the priests and the anointing, which were deferred. (See Leviticus 8:6-30.) In one day the sanctuary was completely set up (vers. 18-33). Verses 1-8. - The directions to set up the tabernacle.
On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
Verse 2. - On the first day of the first month. The first of Abib, or Nisan, the "New Year's Day" of Israel, coinciding nearly with the opening of the vernal equinox, a very suitable day for the inauguration of a place of worship. The tabernacle was to be set up first of all; then the tent was to be placed over it. See vers. 18, 19.
And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with the vail.
Verse 3. - The first thing to be placed within the tabernacle was the ark of the testimony, as containing the foundation of the covenant between God and Israel, and being the special token of God's presence with his people. See the comment on Exodus 25:10. The "two tables" were placed within the ark before it was brought into the tabernacle (vers. 20, 21). Cover the ark with the veil - i.e., "hang up the veil in front of the ark, so as to cover or conceal it."
And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.
Verse 4. - Thou shalt bring in the table - i.e., "the table of shew-bread" (Exodus 25:23-30; Exodus 37:10-16). And set in order the things, etc. It has been observed with reason that the directions of Leviticus 24:5-7 must have been already given, though not recorded till so much later. Bread and frankincense were to be "set in order" on the table in a particular way. The candlestick. The seven. branched candelabrum (Exodus 25:31-39; Exodus 37:17-24). And thou shalt light the lamps. The lamps would have to be lighted on the first day at even (Exodus 27:21; Exodus 30:8).
And thou shalt set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the hanging of the door to the tabernacle.
Verse 5. - The altar of gold. See Exodus 30:1-10; Exodus 37:25-28. Before the ark of the testimony - i.e., "before the veil, opposite the ark of the testimony," not within the veil. See the comment on Exodus 30:6. The hanging of the door - i.e., "the curtain which closed the front or eastern end of the tabernacle." (See Exodus 26:36; Exodus 36:37.)
And thou shalt set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
Verse 6. - The altar of burnt-offering. See Exodus 27:1-8; Exodus 38:1-7. Before the door of the tabernacle. In the court, directly in front of the entrance, but not close to it, since the place of the laver was between the entrance and the altar. See the next verse.
And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and shalt put water therein.
Verse 7. - The laver. See Exodus 30:18; Exodus 38:8. Put water therein. The water was required: -
1. For the ablution of the priests (Exodus 30:19-21; Exodus 40:12, 31; Leviticus 8:6), and
2. For washing the victims (Leviticus 8:21).
And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang up the hanging at the court gate.
Verse 8. - The court. See Exodus 27:9-18; Exodus 38:9-20. The hanging at the court gate - i.e., the curtain at the entrance of the court (Exodus 27:16; Exodus 38:18).
And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy.
Verses 9-16. - The directions to anoint, etc. Verses 9-16. - It does not appear that these directions were carried out at this time. Probably, there would not have been time to go through all the ceremonies enjoined (Exodus 29:1-34) on the same day with the erection of the sanctuary. They were consequently deferred, either till the next day, or possibly to a later date. (See Leviticus 8.) The anointing of the tabernacle is recorded in ver. 10; of the vessels in ver. 11; of the altar and laver in the same. The washing of Aaron and his sons in ver. 6; their investiture in vers. 7-9; the anointing of Aaron in ver. 12; and a further anointing of Aaron together with his sons in ver. 30.
And thou shalt anoint the altar of the burnt offering, and all his vessels, and sanctify the altar: and it shall be an altar most holy.
Verse 10. - An altar most holy. Not really more holy than the rest of the tabernacle and its contents, which are all pronounced" most holy" in Exodus 30:29; but requiring more to have its holiness continually borne in mind, since "it was more exposed to contact with the people" than the tabernacle and its vessels (Keil).
And thou shalt anoint the laver and his foot, and sanctify it.
And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water.
Verse 12. - Unto the door of the tabernacle - i.e., to the place where the laver was situated (ver. 7).
And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.
And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats:
Verse 14. - Coats. Rather, "tunics." They were to be "of fine linen, woven work" (Exodus 39:27).
And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.
Verse 15. - Thou shalt anoint them as thou didst anoint their father. The mode of anointing does not seem to have been identical in the two cases. The oil was first poured upon Aaron's head (Leviticus 8:12; Psalm 133:2), and afterwards sprinkled upon him (Leviticus 8:30). It was, apparently, only sprinkled upon the priests (ib,). This was a lower form of anointing; and hence the high priest was sometimes called "the anointed priest" (Leviticus 4:5, 16; Leviticus 6:22; Leviticus 16:32, etc.). Their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood. The Rabbinical commentators maintain that these words apply to the ordinary priests only, and on the strength of them establish a difference between the ordinary priests and the high priests. The latter were in every ease to be anointed to their office. A single anointing sainted for the former. It is scarcely necessary to say that there is no Scriptural ground for this distinction. The natural sense of the words is, rather, that as long as the anointing continued, the priesthood should continue.
Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he.
And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up.
Verses 17-33. - The actual setting up of the tabernacle. Verse 17. - On the first day the tabernacle was reared up. Being constructed after the fashion of a tent, it was quite possible to rear up and also to take down, the tabernacle in less than a day.
And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up his pillars.
Verse 18. - Fastened his sockets. Rather, "placed its sockets." The "sockets" or "bases" appear to have been simply laid on the flat sand of the desert, not "fastened" to it in any way. They were heavy masses of metal and would remain where they were placed. His pillars. The pillars that supported the "veil," and also those at the east end, where the entrance was.
And he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent above upon it; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Verse 19. - He spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle. The entire distinctness of the tent (ohel) from the tabernacle (mishkan) is here very strongly marked. The "tent" was the goats' hair covering, with the framework of wood that supported it. The covering. The outer covering of rams' skins and seals' skins. (See Exodus 26:14.)
And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark:
Verse 20. - The testimony - i.e., the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 31:18). Set the staves on the ark. "Put the staves," that is, "into the rings, and left them there" (Exodus 25:14). Put the mercy seat above upon the ark. See Exodus 25:21.
And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Verse 21. - Set up the veil of the covering - i.e., hung the veil on the four pillars between the holy place and the holy of holies, and thus covered - i.e., concealed from sight, the ark of the testimony. (See the comment on ver. 3)
And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail.
Verse 22. - Upon the side of the tabernacle northward. Upon the right hand, as one faced the veil. No direction had been given upon this point, but Moses probably knew the right position from the pattern which he had seen upon the mount.
And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Verse 23. - He set the bread in order upon it. Upon the subject of this "order," see Leviticus 24:6-8, and compare the comment on ver. 4.
And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation, over against the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward.
Verse 24. - Over against the table - i.e., exactly opposite to the table, on the left as one faced the veil.
And he lighted the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Verse 25. - When evening came, he lighted the lamps. (See the comment on ver. 4) Whatever the priests ordinarily had to do was on this occasion done by Moses.
And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the vail:
Verse 26. - The golden altar, or "altar of incense," was placed before the veil - i.e., outside it, in the holy place, midway between the table of shew-bread and the golden candlestick.
And he burnt sweet incense thereon; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle.
Verse 28. - He set up the hanging at the door. He hung on the five pillars at the entrance to the tabernacle the "hanging" or ': curtain," which had been made for the purpose (Exodus 36:37).
And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Verse 29. - He put the altar of burnt-offering by the door of the tabernacle. See the comment on ver. 6. And offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat-offering - i.e., in his priestly character inaugurated the altar by offering upon it the first evening sacrifice. (See Exodus 29:38-41.)
And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.
Verse 30. - He set the laver. As directed in ver. 7. For the position of the laver, see Exodus 30:18.
And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat:
Verses 31, 32. - Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands. This is not a part of the narrative of what was done at this time, but a parenthetic statement of the purpose to which the laver was subsequently applied. On the importance attached to these ablutions, see Exodus 30:20, 21.
When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
Verse 33 - He reared up the court, etc., as directed in ver. 8. So Moses finished the work. With the hanging of the curtain at the entrance to the court, the erection of the tabernacle was complete. It was probably not till after this that Moses performed the acts of worship mentioned in the course of the narrative - put water in the laver (ver. 30), offered sacrifice (ver. 29), lighted the lamps (ver. 25), and burnt incense on the golden altar (ver. 26).
Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Verses 34-38. - THE DESCENT OF THE GLORY OF GOD ON THE COMPLETED WORK. The work was finished the fist incense burnt (ver. 27) - the first sacrifice offered (ver. 29). Those who had watched the proceedings, and those who had been engaged in them, were probably about to retire to rest. Even Moses had withdrawn, and left the tabernacle to itself - when suddenly, there was a manifestation of Divine Power. The cloud, which had gone before the Israelites from Succoth onward (Exodus 13:20-22), and which had recently settled upon the extemporised "Tent of Meeting" (Exodus 33:9), left its place, and "covered" the newly-erected structure externally (ver. 34), while an intensely brilliant light - here called "the glory of God" - filled the whole interior of the tabernacle (ib,). Moses, it appears, would fain have re-entered the tabernacle - to see the great sight" (Exodus 3:3); but he could not - the "glory" was too dazzling (ver. 35). Thus a distinct approval was given to all that had been done. God accepted his house, and entered it. The people saw that he had foregone his wrath, and would be content henceforth to dwell among them and journey with them. Henceforth, throughout the wanderings, the cloud and tabernacle were inseparable. If the cloud was lifted a little off it and moved in front, the tabernacle had to follow (ver. 36) - if it settled down on the roof, the people stopped and remained until it moved again (ver. 37). The appearance was as of a cloud by day, and as of fire by night, so that all could always see where the tabernacle was, and whether it was stationary or in motion (ver. 38). After the first descent, it would seem that "the glory" withdrew into the Holy of Holies, so that both Moses and the priests could enter the holy place, and minister there (Leviticus 8:10; Leviticus 10:13, etc.). Verse 34. - Then a cloud. In the original "the cloud," i.e. the cloud so often spoken of (Exodus 13:21, 22; Exodus 14:19, 20, 24; Exodus 19:9; Exodus 24:15-18; Exodus 33:9, 10). Covered the tent. Descended on the outer covering and rested there. Filled the tabernacle. Entered inside, and filled both holy place and Holy of Holies.
And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Verse 35. - Moses was not able to enter. It is implied that he wished - nay, tried - to enter - but the "glory" prevented him. (Compare 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 5:14; 2 Chronicles 7:2.) Because the cloud abode thereon. It was not the external "cloud" which prevented Moses from entering, but the internal "glory." But the two are regarded as inseparable.
And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:
Verses 36-38. - And when - i.e. "whensoever." The last three verses describe the manner in which the cloud henceforth served the Israelites as guide - not only directing their course, but determining when they were to move, and how long they were to rest at each encampment. For a further account of the same, see Numbers 9:15-23.
But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.