Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Exodus 39

Verse 1




Exodus 35:1-35 - Exodus 40:1-38.

The remainder of the narrative sets forth in terms almost identical with the directions already given, the manner in which the Divine injunctions were obeyed. The people, purified in heart by danger, chastisement and shame, brought much more than was required. A quarter of a million would poorly represent the value of the shrine in which, at the last, Moses and Aaron approached their God, while the cloud covered the tent and the glory filled the tabernacle, and Moses failed to overcome his awe and enter.

Thenceforth the cloud was the guide of their halting and their march. Many a time they grieved their God in the wilderness, yet the cloud was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, throughout all their journeyings.

That cloud is seen no longer; but One has said, "Lo, I am with you all the days." If the presence is less material, it is because we ought to be more spiritual.

* * * * *

Looking back upon the story, we can discern more clearly what was asserted when we began--the forming and training of a nation.

They are called from shameful servitude by the devotion of a patriot and a hero, who has learned in failure and exile the difference between self-confidence and faith. The new name of God, and His remembrance of their fathers, inspire them at the same time with awe and hope and nationality. They see the hollowness of earthly force, and of superstitious worships, in the abasement and ruin of Egypt. They are taught by the Paschal sacrifice to confess that the Divine favour is a gift and not a right, that their lives also are justly forfeited. The overthrow of Pharaoh's army and the passage of the Sea brings them into a new and utterly strange life, in an atmosphere and amid scenes well calculated to expand and deepen their emotions, to develop their sense of freedom and self-respect, and yet to oblige them to depend wholly on their God. Privation at Marah chastens them. The attack of Amalek introduces them to war, and forbids their dependence to sink into abject softness. The awful scene of Horeb burns and brands his littleness into man. The covenant shows them that, however little in themselves, they may enter into communion with the Eternal. It also crushes out what is selfish and individualising, by making them feel the superiority of what they all share over anything that is peculiar to one of them. The Decalogue reveals a holiness at once simple and profound, and forms a type of character such as will make any nation great. The sacrificial system tells them at once of the pardon and the heinousness of sin. Religion is both exalted above the world and infused into it, so that all is consecrated. The priesthood and the shrine tell them of sin and pardon, exclusion and hope; but that hope is a common heritage, which none may appropriate without his brother.

The especial sanctity of a sacred calling is balanced by an immediate assertion of the sacredness of toil, and the Divine Spirit is recognised even in the gift of handicraft.

A tragic and shameful failure teaches them, more painfully than any symbolic system of curtains and secret chambers, how little fitted they are for the immediate intercourse of heaven. And yet the ever-present cloud, and the shrine in the heart of their encampment, assure them that God is with them of a truth.

Verses 32-43

Exodus 39:32-43

They brought the Tabernacle unto Moses.

The delivery of the work to Moses

I. The presentation of the work: “They brought the Tabernacle unto Moses.” So, whatever work or service is done in connection with the Christian Church should be solemnly presented to Christ, who is the Chief Builder of the Christian Temple.

II. The inspection of the work; “Moses did look upon all the work“; and so does Christ inspect every offering that is brought to Him. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:13, that a day is coming in which every man’s work will be tried of what sort it is--tried by fire--tried with the most terrible exactness.

III. The approbation of the work: “Behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded.” So in Christian service nothing can be accepted that is not minutely in accordance with the Divine specification.

IV. The remuneration of the work: “And Moses blessed them.” So is all faithful service done to Christ rewarded even here with spiritual blessing. So will it be in the end (1 Corinthians 3:14). Lessons:

1. The dignity of Christian work as presented to Christ.

2. The duty of fidelity in Christian work, considering it must be inspected by Christ.

3. The grand aim in Christian work, to be accepted by Christ. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:9.

4. The high stimulus in Christian work, the certainty of being rewarded by Christ. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The Tabernacle itself

The Tabernacle held an important position in the divinely-appointed worship of the Jewish Church. No less than thirteen chapters in the Book of Exodus (Exodus 25-31; Exodus 35-40) are devoted to the account of it; an account twice repeated, extending to the minutest details of shape, size, material, colour, and workmanship. Special stress is laid upon the fact that it was made after a heavenly design exhibited to Moses during the forty days of his mysterious communing with Jehovah on Mount Sinai (Exodus 29:9; Exodus 29:40; Exodus 26:30). The smallest details are included in this heavenly pattern (Exodus 27:8; Numbers 8:4). This heavenly pattern of the Tabernacle is twice referred to in the New Testament (Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5). Not only was the Tabernacle made after a heavenly pattern, but divinely-inspired artificers carried the design into execution (Exodus 31:1-6; Exodus 35:30-35; Exodus 36:1). We see from these passages that, in matters which concern the worship of God, the minutest details as to the colour, shape, material, and make of the ornaments of Divine service, and of the ministers of it, are not thought unworthy of a special Divine revelation as to their design, and of a special Divine inspiration for the carrying of that design into effect. At the close of the work we are told, in words that carry our thoughts back to the blessing bestowed upon the first creation (Genesis 1:30), that Moses recognized its exact accordance with the heavenly pattern which he had seen (Exodus 39:43). (E. F. Willis, M. A.)

Names of the Tabernacle

It is called the House of Jehovah (Exodus 23:19; Joshua 6:24; 1 Samuel 3:15); The Temple of Jehovah (1 Samuel 3:3), the Sanctuary (Exodus 25:8; Leviticus 12:4; Leviticus 16:33; Leviticus 19:30; Leviticus 20:3; Leviticus 21:12; Numbers 3:38, etc.); or simply, the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:9; Exodus 26:16; Exodus 27:9; Exodus 27:19, etc.); or Dwelling, i.e., of God. The two most characteristic names, however, are, the Tent or Tabernacle of the Testimony (Numbers 9:15; Numbers 17:7-8, etc.), and the Tent or Tabernacle of Meeting (Exodus 27:21; Exodus 39:32; Exodus 39:40; Exodus 40:7; Exodus 40:34-35, etc.). The name Tent or Tabernacle of the Testimony had reference to that which was one of the two chief objects of the Tabernacle, viz., to serve as a shrine for “the Testimony”--the two tables of stone on which were engraved the ten words of the Divine Law. The other characteristic name, that of Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting, speaks of the other chief end for which the Tabernacle existed, viz., to be a place of meeting between God and His people (Exodus 25:8; Exodus 25:22; Exodus 29:42-45; Exodus 30:6; Exodus 30:36). (E. F. Willis, M. A.)

Completed labour

I. The work was completed according to plan.

II. It was completed in a short time.

III. It was completed with great joy. The joy of--

1. Knowing that each had done something, and that something his best.

2. Anticipation.

IV. The completed work may remind us of the words of Him who said, “I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do.”

V. As the house in the wilderness was finished down to the last pin, so the Church in the world, of which it was a type, shall be perfected down to the last and meanest member. The Jewish Tabernacle:--

1. It was a school of object-lessons, designed to teach the ignorant and sensual Israelites the truths of the invisible and eternal kingdom of God. It was a small model of heavenly realities--a pattern of sight in the heavens (Hebrews 9:23). It was, in the realm of religious truth, something like the planetarium used in a recitation room in teaching astronomy.

2. The principal lessons it taught were--

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 39". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.