Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 38

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 38:1. Having finished the furniture of the house itself, Bezaleel, and those who were employed under him, proceeded next to that of the court of the tabernacle, where the sacrifices and services were commonly performed; wherein first they made the great brazen altar for burnt-sacrifices, with all its appurtenances, in mode and form exactly agreeable to the orders given about it in Exodus 27:1-3. On this all their sacrifices were offered. Christ was himself the altar to his own sacrifice of atonement, and so he is to all our sacrifices of acknowledgment. We must have an eye to him in offering them, as God hath in accepting them.

Verse 8
Exodus 38:8. He made the laver of brass — The brass font for the priests to wash in before service, Exodus 30:18. This laver signified the provision that is made in the gospel for cleansing our souls from the pollution of sin by the atoning blood of Christ and the regenerating Spirit of God, that we may be fit to serve God in holy duties. That is here said to be made of the looking-glasses, (or mirrors rather, for they were not glasses,) of the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle — Mirrors, before the invention of glass, were made of polished brass. Pliny says those of brass and tin mixed together were esteemed the best, before those of silver came to be in use. These here mentioned, no doubt, were of the finest kind of brass, and the women who gave them seem to have been eminent for devotion, attending more constantly than others at the place of public worship, which, is here taken notice of to their honour. In the laver these mirrors were either artfully joined together, or else molten down and cast anew; but it is probable the laver was so brightly burnished that the sides of it still served for mirrors, that the priests, when they came to wash, might there see their faces, and so discover the spots to wash them clean.

Verse 9
Exodus 38:9. He made the court — The inner utensils of the court being thus completed, they proceeded to make the court itself, which was a large oblong square, fenced in with thick, well-wrought hangings; the size, dimensions, and workmanship of each side whereof have been described in Exodus 27:9-19. This court represented the state of the Old Testament church; it was a garden enclosed; the worshippers were then confined to a little compass. But the enclosure being of curtains only, intimated that that confinement of the church to one particular nation was not to be perpetual. The dispensation itself was a tabernacle dispensation, moveable and mutable, and in due time to be taken down and folded up, when the place of the tent should be enlarged, and its cords lengthened, to make room for the Gentile world.

Verse 21
Exodus 38:21. This is the sum of the tabernacle — That is, this is the charge of the foregoing work of the tabernacle, under the direction of the two chief workmen. For the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar — The particle for is not in the original, and therefore it may be better rendered, By the ministry of the Levites, under the conduct of Ithamar. By Moses’s appointment the Levites took and kept an account of the gold, silver, and brass, that was brought in for the use of the tabernacle, and how it was employed. Ithamar, the son of Aaron, was appointed to draw up this account. The gold amounted to twenty-nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels, which sum of gold, at the rate of f5,250 to a talent, and f1.

15s. to a shekel of gold, will be found to have amounted to upward of f150,000 English. As to the silver, there being six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty, who offered each of them half a shekel, as Exodus 38:26 informs us, three hundred and one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels were thus raised, which sum amounts to thirty-five thousand two hundred and seven pounds, English. The raising of the gold by voluntary contribution, and silver by way of tribute, shows that either way may be taken for the defraying of public expenses, provided that nothing be done by partiality.