By Edward Dennett
THERE are several distinct things comprised in this section. First, the framework of the Tabernacle, with its foundations, is described.
"And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim-wood standing up. 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. And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward. 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. And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards, 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. 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. And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
"And thou shalt make bars of shittim-wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle, 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. And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount." (vv. 15-30.)
Attending carefully to the particulars given, it will be seen that the number of the boards constituting the tabernacle, was forty-eight. There were twenty for the south side (v. 18); twenty for the north side (v. 20); six for the sides of the tabernacle westward (v. 22); and two for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides (v. 23) — making the total of forty-eight. Then observe that each of these boards had two tenons (v. 17); and each tenon had for its base, or foundation, a socket of silver. (v. 19, 25.) In addition there were four sockets of silver underneath the pillars for the beautiful veil (v. 32); so that there were one hundred sockets of silver underneath and supporting the framework of the Tabernacle.
(1) Beginning then at the foundation, the typical teaching of the sockets of silver may be first considered. Leaving, however, their full exposition until the subject is reached in chapter 30, it will suffice now to indicate its outlines. We find, then, that when the people were numbered, every man was to give half a shekel of silver as a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, that the rich should give the same as the poor, and the poor the same as the rich; and that this "atonement" money was appointed for the service of the tabernacle. (Ex. 30: 11-16.) In another scripture, it is stated that the sum thus given amounted to one hundred talents, and one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels; and that the hundred talents were used for the sockets of the boards, etc., and the rest for hooks for the pillars, etc. (Ex. 38: 28.) It is thus evident that the silver sockets, being made up of the ransom money, are a figure of atonement, of the blood of Christ, which He gave as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20: 28.) It is in allusion to this, and to Numbers 31: 49-54, that Peter writes to Jewish believers, "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold." (1 Peter 1: 18.) The blessed truth is therefore taught that God's dwelling-place is founded upon redemption, the redemption which has been effected through the precious blood of Christ. But God's dwelling-place is now composed of believers, and hence the church as such, and every individual believer as forming part of the church (for every Israelite of the required age was represented in the atonement money), are placed before God upon the sure and efficacious foundation of accomplished atonement. The ground of the standing of every believer is the precious blood of Christ, and hence he appears before God in all its unspeakable and infinite value.
Now, as explained, there were one hundred of these sockets — i.e. ten times ten. Ten is the number of responsibility towards God. The blood of Christ therefore, as represented by the silver, has met the highest expression of our responsibility God-ward, — has made an atonement adequate — fully adequate — to all God's claims, and thereby cleared us completely and for ever. Well might the soul, in the perception of this perfect work, joyfully exclaim —
"On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
(2) The boards; and first as to their material, form, and length. They were made of the same materials as the ark, and the table of showbread — of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold (vv. 15, 29.) They therefore refer primarily to Christ; but also, as will be seen, to the believer. Each board had two tenons — which fitted in their respective sockets of silver. Two in Scripture is the number of adequate testimony: as, for example, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." (2 Cor. 13: 1; Deut. 19: 15.) Each board contains therefore in itself an adequate testimony to the value and completeness of the atonement on which it rests. (Compare 1 John 5: 6.) The length of each was ten cubits. (v. 16.) This again points to responsibility God-wards — in this case applicable to believers. Having a standing before God on the ground of redemption, responsibility is never to be forgotten. The standing indeed is the measure of it; and accordingly each board was ten cubits in length.
Together, as we have seen, they were forty-eight in number — i.e. twelve times four. Twelve is administrative perfection; and four is completeness on earth. The whole number therefore will be administrative perfection displayed in all its completeness in Christ, or, if the boards are taken in connection with the divine dwelling-place, through the house of God. The former will be witnessed during the millennium; and, in one aspect, the latter too, as Christ will not reign apart from the church. The two numbers, twelve and four, are thus characteristic of the holy city, the New Jerusalem. It may be, that the Pentecostal church at Jerusalem, organized under the twelve apostles, was a passing shadow of this administrative perfection.
One thing more is noticeable — the provision made for their security when standing in their silver sockets. There were five bars of shittim-wood on either side, running through rings of gold (vv. 26-29); and the boards were, in addition, coupled at the corners by rings (v. 24.) The ring is a symbol of security — there being no end to it; and consequently, since the bars were to strengthen and secure the framework, the two together may well signify eternal security. And this both the church and the individual believer enjoy. Concerning the former, the Lord Himself said, "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16: 18); and of the latter, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand." (John 10: 27, 28.)
The boards completed, they are then to be set in their places. And remark that, once again, Moses is admonished to do everything according to the pattern he had been shown in the mount. It was to be truly an "example and shadow of heavenly things," and consequently there was no room for human thoughts or imaginations. Obedience was the part of Moses, and faithfulness in the execution of the heavenly design. So now fidelity to the word of God, obedience to every part of it, is what God requires from believers in connection with His church. Once admit human regulations, human authority, and the church ceases, in so far, to be a true witness for God. This is the third time that this injunction has been given — showing the importance of obedience in the eyes of God.