Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 26

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 26:1. Thou shalt make the tabernacle — The word המשׁכן hammishchan, which we translate tabernacle, means a place to dwell in. And this was not only to be a sign of God’s presence with, and protection of his people, but his habitation or dwelling-place among them: the place where he would, in a peculiar manner, manifest his presence, display his glory, accept their oblations, prayers, praises, and other services, and by the intervention of Moses and Aaron first, and afterward of the high-priest for the time being, would communicate to them his mind and will. “It was a type,” says Mr. Brown, “1st, Of Christ’s person, Hebrews 8:2. 2d, Of the gospel church; the habitation of God by the Spirit, Ephesians 2:20-22; 2 Corinthians 6:16. 3d, Of every Christian, in whose heart God dwells, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19. 4th, Of the new covenant and heavenly state, Isaiah 66:1. And according to these different significations may the furniture thereof be understood in different views.”

With ten curtains — These curtains formed the principal covering of the sanctuary, and are called the tabernacle or dwelling-place of God. They were made of the finest linen, dyed with the richest colours, spun and woven in the most curious manner, and beautifully embroidered all over with cherubim, the emblematic representations of angels. This last circumstance was not only intended to signify that the angels joined in the worship of the God of Israel; but also that they attend continually upon him in his holy habitation as “his ministers to do his pleasure,” Psalms 103:21; that they encamp around his church, Psalms 34:7; and are always in waiting, so to speak, and ready to minister to the heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14. For, as there were cherubim over the mercy- seat, so there were also round the tabernacle. It must be observed, likewise, that there were to be two hangings, five breadths in each, sewed together, and the two hangings coupled together, with golden clasps, or tacks, so that it might all be one tabernacle. Thus the churches of Christ, though they are many, yet are one, being fitly joined together in holy love, and by the unity of the Spirit, so growing into one holy temple in the Lord. This tabernacle was very straight and narrow, but at the preaching of the gospel the church is bid to enlarge the place of her tent, and to stretch forth her curtains, Isaiah 54:2.

Verse 14
Exodus 26:14. Badgers’ skins — So we translate it: but it seems rather to have been some strong sort of leather, but very fine, for we read of the best sort of shoes made of it, Ezekiel 16:10. This was the fourth covering of the tabernacle. The first was of linen, the second of goats’ hair, and the third of rams’ skins.

Verse 15
Exodus 26:15. Very particular directions are here given about the boards of the tabernacle, which were to bear up the curtains. These had tenons which fell into the mortises that were made for them in silver bases. The boards were coupled together with gold rings at top and bottom, and kept firm with bars that ran through golden staples in every board. Thus every thing in the tabernacle was very splendid, agreeable to that infant state of the church, when such things were proper to possess the minds of the worshippers with a reverence of the divine glory. In allusion to this, the new Jerusalem is said to be of pure gold, Revelation 21:18. But the builders of the gospel church said, silver and gold have we none; and yet the glory of their building far exceeded that of the tabernacle. St. Paul, probably, alludes to this tabernacle, with its pillars and sockets, when he terms the church the pillar and ground ( εδραιωμα, seat rather) of the truth, 1 Timothy 3:15. As beauty and strength were united in the tabernacle, so they are in the church of Christ: “beauty, which renders it the admiration of angels; and strength, which defies all the malice of devils.”

Verses 31-33
Exodus 26:31-33. Thou shalt make a veil — The whole fabric in the inside was to be divided into two rooms by a large and thick veil or curtain of the finest wrought stuff, with variety of colours, and cherubs, and other figures. It was to be hung upon golden hooks at the top, and by reason of its thickness and weight to rest against four overlaid, or gilded pillars, mortised into so many silver pedestals. The lesser of these rooms, thus parted from the other so as none could look into it, was to be called the most holy place, or place of extraordinary worship, to be entered by the high-priest alone, and that but once a year. This is often considered in the New Testament as a figure of heaven, into which Christ is entered as our forerunner, and whither our hope extends, Hebrews 6:19-20; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19. But it also signified that under that dispensation divine grace was veiled, whereas now we behold it with open face. The apostle tells us, this veil intimated that the ceremonial law could not make the comers thereunto perfect. The way into the holiest was not made manifest while the first tabernacle was standing; life and immortality lay concealed till they were brought to light by the gospel, which was therefore signified by the rending of this veil at the death of Christ. We have now boldness to enter into the holiest in all acts of devotion by the blood of Jesus; yet such as obliges us to a holy reverence, and a humble sense of our distance. Another veil was for the outer door of the tabernacle. Through this the priests went in every day to minister in the holy place, but not the people, Hebrews 9:6. This veil was all the defence the tabernacle had against thieves and robbers, who might easily have broken through, for it could be neither locked nor barred, and the abundance of wealth in it, one would think, might have been a temptation. But by leaving it thus exposed, 1st, The priests and Levites would be so much the more obliged to keep a strict watch upon it: and, 2d, God would show his care of his church on earth, though it be weak and defenceless, and continually exposed. A curtain shall be (if God please to make it so) as strong a defence as gates of brass and bars of iron.

Verse 36
Exodus 26:36. Make a hanging for the door of the tent — It is plain from the former part of this description, (Exodus 26:12-23,) that the ark and mercy-seat were in the west end of the tabernacle, that is, the door or entrance fronted the east: so that the Israelites, in worshipping Jehovah, turned their faces toward the west, where the ark was; it being thus contrived, says Theodoret, that the sun might pay a kind of symbolical adoration to Jehovah, by darting his first rays into the sanctuary, and that the Israelites might be thus figuratively, taught to turn from the worship of that luminary, the great idol of the nations, and to adore the God who made him. Before the entrance then of the first tabernacle, or the holy place, was the curtain here spoken of to be hung, which may be called the first veil, as that mentioned Exodus 26:31, which divided the holy place from the most holy, is called the second veil, Hebrews 9:2-3.