Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 27

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 27:1. Thou shalt make an altar — As God intended in the tabernacle to manifest his presence among his people, so there they were to pay their devotions to him; not in the tabernacle itself, into that only the priests entered as God’s domestic servants, but in the court before the tabernacle, where, as common subjects, they attended. There an altar was ordered to be set up, to which they must bring their sacrifices; and this altar was to sanctify their gifts; from hence they were to present their services to God, as from the mercy-seat he gave his oracles to them: and thus a communion was settled between God and Israel. This altar was placed at the entrance of the sanctuary, and is termed the altar of burnt-offering, and the great altar: it was almost three yards square, and above a yard and a half in height. It was made of wood rather than of solid brass, that it might not be too heavy. But notwithstanding that it was overlaid with brass, (Exodus 27:2,) had it been of common wood, it must soon have been consumed to ashes by the continual heat: hence Le Clerc conjectures that this shittim-wood might be the larch-tree, which bears the fire like stone.

Verse 2
Exodus 27:2. Thou shalt make the horns of it — Pinnacles or spires, rising up at the corners, wrought out of the same wood; which was partly for ornament, and partly for use. To them the animals were bound, and part of the blood was applied, and to them malefactors fled for refuge.

Verse 4
Exodus 27:4. Thou shalt make for it a grate of net-work — This was the principal part of the altar. It was let into the hollow about the middle of it, and here the fire was kept, and the sacrifice burned. It was a broad plate of brass full of holes, like a net or sieve, and partly hollow that the fire might burn the better, and the ashes might fall through to the bottom of the altar, where there was a door on the east side to open and take out the ashes.

Now this brazen altar was a type of Christ dying to make atonement for our sins. Christ sanctified himself for his church as their altar, (John 17:19,) and by his mediation sanctifies the daily services of his people. To the horns of this altar poor sinners flee for refuge, and are safe in virtue of the sacrifice there offered.

Verse 9
Exodus 27:9. Thou shalt make the court — Such a place as we call a court- yard, uncovered above, but enclosed with pillars and hangings of fine linen. This court, according to common computation, was fifty yards long and twenty-five broad. In it stood the tabernacle toward the upper west end; between the tabernacle and the lower end stood the altar, with the laver on one side of it, Exodus 30:18. The pillars were set up at convenient distances, in sockets of brass, the pillars filleted with silver, and silver tenterhooks in them, on which the linen hangings were fastened: the hanging which served for the gate was finer than the rest. This court was a type of the church, enclosed and distinguished from the rest of the world; the enclosure supported by pillars, denoting the stability of the church; hung with the clean linen, which is said to be the “righteousness of saints,”

Revelation 19:8. Yet this court would contain but a few worshippers; thanks be to God, now the enclosure is taken down; and there is room for all that in every place call on the name of Christ.

Verse 20
Exodus 27:20. Pure oil-olive beaten — Not squeezed out by a press or mill, such being full of sediment; but which run freely from the olives when bruised or beaten with a pestle. To cause the lamp to burn always — Josephus, who was himself a priest, says, they burned the lamps day and night, three of them being kept burning all day, and the rest being lighted in the evening. And indeed to keep them burning by day as well as night, was no more than what was necessary, for otherwise the priest must have ministered in the dark at the altar of incense; there being no windows in the holy place. Now the pure oil signifies the gifts and graces of the Spirit, which are communicated to all believers from Christ the good olive, “of whose fulness we receive,” Zechariah 4:11-12. The priests were to light the lamps, and to tend them; to cause the lamp to burn always, night and day. Thus it is the work of ministers to preach and expound the Scriptures, which are as a lamp to enlighten, the church. This is to be a statute for ever, that the lamps of the word be lighted as duly as the incense of prayer and praise is offered.