The Biblical Illustrator
Pure oil-olive beaten for the light.
Directions for furnishing of the sanctuary
Care is here taken, and orders given, for the decent furnishing of the candlestick and table in God’s house.
I. The lamps must always be kept burning. The law for this we had before (Exodus 27:20-21). It is here repeated, probably because now it began to be put in execution when other things were settled.
1. The people were to provide oil (Leviticus 24:2); and this, as everything else that was to be used in God’s service, must be of the best, pure oil-olive beaten--probably it was double-strained. This was to cause the lamps to burn. All our English copies read it “lamps”; but in the original it is singular (Leviticus 24:2), “To cause the ‘lamp’ to burn”; but plural (Leviticus 24:4), “He shall order the ‘lamps.’“ The seven lamps made all one lamp. In allusion to which the blessed Spirit of grace is represented by seven lamps of fire before the throne (Revelation 4:5); for there are diversities of gifts, but one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4). Ministers are as burning and shining lights in Christ’s Church; but it is the duty of people to provide comfortably for them, as Israel for the lamps. Scandalous maintenance makes a scandalous ministry.
2. The priests were to tend the lamps; they-must snuff them, clean the candlestick, supply them with oil morning and evening (Leviticus 24:3-4). Thus it is the work of the ministers of the gospel to hold forth that Word of life--not to set up new lights, but by expounding and preaching the Word to make the light of it more clear and extensive.
II. The table must always be kept spread. This was appointed before (Exodus 25:30). And here also:
1. The table was furnished with bread; not dainties or varieties to gratify a luxurious palate, but twelve loaves or cakes of bread (Leviticus 24:5-6). Where there is plenty of bread there is no famine; and where bread is not there is no feast. There was a loaf for every tribe; for in our Father’s house there is bread enough. They were all provided for by the Divine bounty, and were all welcome to the Divine grace.
2. A handful of frankincense was put in a golden saucer upon or by each row (Leviticus 24:7). When the bread was removed and given to the priests this frankincense was burnt upon the golden altar (I suppose) over and above the daily incense. And this was for a memorial instead Of the bread, an offering made by fire, as the handful of the meat-offering which was burnt upon the altar is called the memorial thereof (Leviticus 2:2). Thus a little was accepted as an humble acknowledgment, and all the loaves were consigned to the priests. All God’s spiritual Israel, typified by the twelve loaves, are made through Christ a sweet savour to Him, and their prayers are said to come up before God for a memorial (Acts 10:4). The word is borrowed from the ceremonial law.
3. Every Sabbath it was renewed. When the loaves had stood there a week the priests had them, to eat with other holy things that were to be eaten in the Holy Place (Leviticus 24:9); and new ones were provided at the public charge, and put in the room of them (Leviticus 24:8). The Jews say, “The hands of those priests that put on were mixed with theirs that took off, that the table might be never empty, but the bread might be before the Lord continually.” God is never unprovided for the entertainment of those that visit Him, as men often are (Luke 11:5). (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
The sanctuary and its furniture
To conceive of the shape and appearance of the Tabernacle, you must measure out in your imagination a level ground-plot, about one hundred and fifty feet long, and about seventy-five feet broad; that is, an oblong square enclosed with linen canvas fastened on stakes, and cords about ten feet in height. Everything relating to the Tabernacle was inside of this enclosed area, which was called the court of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle proper was a smaller enclosure at the far end of this court, equally distant from the two sides of it. It was formed of boards, overlaid with gold, fifteen feet high, set up alongside of each other in sockets of silver, and held together above by golden bars passing through golden rings fastened to the boards on the outside. The roof of this inner enclosure was formed of heavy curtains of several thicknesses thrown over these rows of upright boards from side to side. This was the Tabernacle proper, which was divided again into two apartments by heavy curtains dropped from the roof. The inmost of these covered chambers was the Holy of Holies; and the other, which was the ante-chamber to it, was the sanctuary, otherwise called the Holy Place. You thus observe three departments in this sacred structure: first, the enclosed uncovered space outside of the Tabernacle proper; then the sanctuary, or first room of the covered part; and third, that peculiarly sacred room in the deepest interior, called the Holy of Holies. Nor could any one come to the most Holy Place except by passing in through the court and through the sanctuary. In all this I see a symbolic history of redemption, and of the sinner’s progress from his state of condemnation and guilt to forgiveness and peace in Christ, and to his final glory in the presence of his Lord. The first apartment was the outside court. It was here that the Jews came to offer their sacrifices. They accordingly appeared there as sinners. The outside court, therefore, represents man in his native condition. It is our place or moral locale so long as we are only beginning to believe on Christ and to cleanse ourselves from our filthy ways. The third and most interior apartment represents the heavenly, post-resurrection, or glorified estate of man. There was the visible presence of the Lord. It was the hidden and guarded place into which vulgar eyes could not look, or unholy ones at all enter. But between the outside court and this inmost chamber of the Tabernacle was the sanctuary, or that department with which the text is directly concerned, and of which I propose more particularly to treat. Its position shows that it refers to a condition of things this side of the heavenly estate, and yet in advance of those rudimental experiences by which we come to be Christians. It was a picture of the Christian Church estate, that is, of the immunities and relations in which we stand as the accepted followers and servants of Jesus while yet we remain in this world. With this idea, then, let us take our station in the holy sanctuary, and simply look around us upon the objects to which the text directs attention. The chapter before us speaks of lamps. These were the burners upon the famous seven-armed candlestick of gold, which God directed Moses to make for the holy Tabernacle. The central and all-supporting shaft represented Christ, or rather “the right hand” of Christ, on which everything Christian depends. As the seven candlesticks and their lamps were sustained by that massive golden stem, so Christ sustains every member, branch, institution, and minister of His universal Church. It is He alone “that is able to keep us from falling.” You will observe that the number of lamps and branches of this peculiar fabric was seven--the complete number--indicating that the whole Church was thereby represented. All rested upon the one central shaft; indicating that there is no true Church, and no branch of the true Church, which does not repose in Christ as its great and only foundation and dependence. The whole fabric was of one piece. The parts were all solidly joined together as one continuous mass of solid gold. And so the Holy Catholic Church is one. All the branches are compactly joined together in one central support and stay, which is Christ Jesus. And yet in that unity there was multiplicity and diversity. There were seven branches, and these seven were not all exactly alike. Some were shorter and lighter, and some were longer and heavier; some looked towards the east and some towards the west; some seemed to diverge very far from the central shaft, others rose immediately by its sides. There was multiplicity and diversity, and yet perfect, unbroken, graceful unity. Beautiful picture of the Church of Jesus! It is not confined to one nation, one dispensation, one denomination, but takes in all who are really united to Christ, and built upon Him, as their only dependence, no matter how diverse or remote from each other they may be in other respects. The object of these candlesticks and lamps was to furnish light to the sanctuary. The place had no windows, no other modes of illumination. The light which characterises Christendom as such is not from nature--not from human reason and philosophy--but from Christ and that pure Spirit which flowed and shone through Him and His inspired ministers. Without Christ, and the light which comes from the golden candlesticks of His glory, and the pure olive-oil of His Spirit, mankind are in darkness on all sacred things. “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light,” and thus is made a son of light, whose path shall ever shine more and more unto the perfect day. But the chapter before us speaks of bread as well as lamps and light. Twelve loaves, baked of fine flour, arranged in piles on a table of gold, ever stood in the holy sanctuary. These loaves were to be renewed every Sabbath, and were to be eaten by the priests in the Holy Place. This golden table, the same as the supporting shaft of the golden candlesticks, represented Christ, and these unleavened loaves upon it, that pure bread from heaven which He giveth for the sustenance of them that are His. “Man liveth not by bread alone.” There are wants and cravings in our nature which cannot be satisfied with the produce of the fields. There is in us a spiritual man, which must be fed and nourished with spiritual food, or it languishes and dies. We need higher supplies than this world can furnish, and which can be found only in the holy sanctuary. Jesus furnishes those supplies. It has been touchingly remarked that “every sigh of Jesus was a crumb of imperishable bread to us.” The breaking of His body on the Cross has furnished the sublimest feast of time. There “they that hunger and thirst after righteousness” are for ever filled. There wisdom hath furnished her table, saying, “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.” Here love hath poured out all her lavish fulness for the famishing children of men. There were to be twelve loaves ever on the golden table--a loaf for every name upon the jewelled breastplate of the priest. And they were ample loaves. One omer of manna was enough to serve a man for a day; but each of these loaves contained two omers. The bounties provided for our souls in Christ Jesus are superabundant--far more than enough for all that will ever come to partake. Neither did these loaves ever wax old or become stale. Every Sabbath they were carefully renewed, and thus kept always fresh and sweet. The bread which Jesus gives never moulds, never spoils, and never loses its relish on the tongues of His priests. Having thus looked at the beautiful provisions for light and sustenance which characterised tile holy sanctuary, there is yet a thought or two respecting its relation to the Holy of Holies, to which I will direct your attention. I have said that the Holy of Holies was meant to represent heaven, or that invisible and glorious state into which Christ has entered as our Priest and Forerunner, and into which all His saints shall enter in time to come. Now, the way into this most Holy Place was through the sanctuary. There was no other way of entering it. May not this be meant to signify that the way to heaven is through the Church? If there is any way of salvation outside of this holy Catholic Church I cannot find it revealed in the Scriptures, and fearful is the risk of him who ventures to trust in it. But connected with this is another and more sunny thought. If the sanctuary is the way to heaven, those who are in that way are very near heaven. Every true member of the Church has but a veil between him and the glorious presence of God and angels. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Symbols and their meaning
Among the very first symbols appointed in this chapter, is the pure beaten oil for the lamps that were “to burn continually without the veil of the testimony in the Tabernacle of the congregation.” Now we find that John in the Apocalypse uses the very imagery that is here to set forth the completeness, the unity, and yet the variety of the Christian Church. The seven candlesticks, or the seven branches of the one candlestick, are seven churches; all the seven knit together in one golden stem; and through that stem rushing into each tube, and supplying each lamp with the most precious and perfumed oil, beaten oil rising from the stem and enabling it thus to burn. Now we have in that image the most complete exhibition of the variety of the Christian Church. It is not one stem, there are seven stems. There is not one visible Church, but many visible congregations, all of them, greater or less, constituting together the one universal or Catholic Church. It was never meant that there should be but one visible economy, but many differing economies; having their unity not in the uniformity of A to B, and B to C, but in the unity of all with the central stem to which they are all knit. So is it now in the Christian Church. The discipline of the Church is temporary, but the doctrines of the Church are eternal. In ecclesiastical polity it has varied, and it will vary; in essential attachment to the Saviour, trust in His sacrifice, love of vital and essential truth, it has been one in every age. The oil that supplied it was oil that rose from the stem, penetrated the branches, and thus fed the flame. I need not remind you how that very image is constantly used to denote the Holy Spirit of God. Then the object of this candlestick was to give light in the Tabernacle. So the object of a Church is to give light; and if it fail to give light it is worthless. The best candlestick would not be that which gave least light, but most; and no exquisite beauty of its chasing, no amount of gold in its composition, would be any compensation for its failing to do that which is its end and its mission, to give light to them that are in the household. The very end and object of a Christian is to be a light; and that is the best Church that casts the light upon the truths of the Bible, the problems of the soul, the hopes of the Christian, the way that leads to glory. After the representation of the candlestick we have the bread for a memorial before the Lord. This bread consisted of twelve loaves upon a table of gold, and had two meanings; probably one was to bring the produce of the fields of the earth under the roof of the sanctuary of God, that it might be seen that the same God who saves the soul and feeds it with living bread also supplies the wants of the body, and makes the corn to grow upon the earth to bring forth abundance for man and for beast. Or, secondly, it may have been designed to show that there was a higher want than the want of the bread that perisheth; that there is in man’s soul a need, a hunger for the bread that endureth unto life eternal; which the viands of nature never could furnish, which God must send as He sent the manna--directly and immediately from heaven. And lastly, it was used to be food for Aaron and the priests; everything being consecrated in that sanctuary, and associated in some way with God and the hopes of heaven and of eternity. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The priest setting the lamps in order daily represents Christ causing His people daily to receive and give forth light and life
In the midst of a dark world believers are set up as lights (see Philippians 2:15; Matthew 5:16). They should be as the Baptist, “burning and shining lights.” They should be representatives of Christ Himself, who “shone as the light in darkness.” And they must shine--
1. Not by natural gifts, but by grace. There must be the beaten oil, pressed out of Israel’s olive-trees; not merely talent or natural fervour and benevolence.
2. Clearly. There were golden snuffers for these lamps, and the use of them was committed to the priest who went in to set things in order. Believers must have their gifts and graces stirred up, so that there be no dulness, indecision, languor.
3. Constantly. Every day in succession shine as before; never hide the light. If there be a place where it is not duty to speak, yet there is no place where it is not duty to think and feel for God.
4. Calmly; for the light of these lamps did not sputter as it burned. The oil was pure. Believers must have the lamb-like spirit of Jesus, putting away all admixture of human temper; not reproving with the heat of human passion, not harshly upbraiding the obstinate sinner, not impatient or hasty or fierce even when enormous wickedness and deceit appear. A calm light generally shines full.
5. In the face of the world. Cast your light fair on the world’s sins, that they may see them. Point out their ungodliness, their lawlessness, their unbelief. Bear your testimony where the truth is denied in your presence. Never be afraid of dazzling the world with too much light, but plainly show them that they are wholly sinful, wholly ruined, wholly helpless; and speak of a present, immediate, free, full pardon in the Saviour.
6. So as to show the golden table and the golden altar. The lights of the candlestick did so. Was not this pointing the eye to Christ, who died and who is risen? The bread on the table is Christ, who gave His life for us; the golden altar and its incense is Jesus exalted and accepted. Here is full salvation.
7. As if you alone were responsible for the enlightening of the dark world. The candlestick was the only light; so is the Church. And let every member feel responsibility. Perhaps if you shine not, some soul shall be left for ever in darkness. If one lighthouse on the sea-shore were obscured, how many ships might be lost in consequence, especially if formerly that lighthouse used to direct to the haven! Oh, then, how many may perish if you backslide and shine not as before! This is our time for shining. When Jesus comes His light will dim ours; we shall shine with Him, but our privilege of bringing others shall be ended. When the sun rises the vessel needs no more the help of the beacon-light. (A. A. Bonar.)
Christ an enlightening presence
Here is the experience of a little blind boy, which shows what a blessed light the presence of Jesus gives. This boy had had an attack of scarlet fever, which left him perfectly blind. One day his minister called to see him. In talking about this affliction, he said, “Well, my dear boy, this is hard for you, isn’t it?” He did not answer for a moment; then he said, “I don’t know that I ought to say ‘ hard’; God knows best”; but his lips quivered, and a little tear stole down his cheek. “ Yes, my child; you have a kind Saviour, who loves you, and feels for you, even more than your mother does.” “I know it, sir,” said the little boy, “ and it comforts me.” “I wish Jesus was here to cure Frank,” said his little sister. “Well,” said I, “He will open the eyes of little Frank’s soul to see what a dear, loving Saviour He is. He will show him that a blind heart is worse than blind eyes; and He will help him to see and enjoy heavenly things in all their beauty, and this will make him a thousand times happier than many children who have the use of their bodily eyes.” “Still, I can’t help wishing he could see,” said Lizzie. “I dare say; but I hope you don’t try to make Frank discontented?” “Frank isn’t discontented,” said Lizzie, earnestly;” he loves God. And love makes its own sunshine, doesn’t it, Frank?” “I don’t feel cross about it now,” said the poor blind boy, meekly. “I pray, and think about the sweet hymns I learned in Sabbath School, and I sing, and sing, and then I think that Jesus is with me, and it feels light, and--and--I forget that I’m blind at all,” and a sweet light played over his pale features as he spoke. That was the light which the presence of Jesus gives. The Tabernacle taught us that His presence with His people was intended to be an enlightening presence. (Richard Newton, D. D.)
Christ a comforting presence
Another thing that the Tabernacle taught, in reference to Christ’s presence with His people, was that it will be a comforting presence. There was the table of shewbread. This was a table covered over with gold, and on which twelve fresh loaves of bread were placed every Sabbath day. It was intended to teach the Jews what God teaches us in that sweet promise which says, “Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure “ (Isaiah 33:16). This table of shewbread pointed to Jesus. He is “the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever” (John 6:51). And we know how bread strengthens, or comforts, men’s hearts. And then the golden altar of incense taught the same thing. As the priest burnt the incense on this altar, the perfume rose in clouds of fragrant smoke that filled the Tabernacle. This fragrance was most pleasing and refreshing. And the meaning of it was, that when we love and serve Jesus, the prayers that we offer to God, and the work that we do for Him, are just as pleasant to Him as the fragrance of this incense is to us. How much comfort there is in this thought! And then all the things in the Tabernacle-.the brazen altar of burnt-offering, the laver, the candlestick, the table of shewbread, and the golden altar of incense--were intended to lead the thoughts of those who worshipped there to what was on the other side of the veil that hung down in the Holy Place. There, beyond that veil, was the most Holy Place. In it was the ark, with the glory of God shining brightly upon it. That place represented heaven. And so, when we see the Tabernacle showing us how Jesus was to be with His people, to pardon them, and to purify them, and to enlighten them, and strengthen them, we see it teaching us how all that Jesus does for His people now is to make them ready for heaven. And if this is so, we may well say that the presence of Jesus with His people is a comforting presence. We have just had an illustration of one point of our subject from a little blind boy. We have another illustration here from an old blind woman. She lived in North Wales, and was known all through that part of the country as “Blind Mary.” Wales is a grand old country. Mountains, and rocks, and lakes, and waterfalls in every variety of form are found there. Mary’s cottage was in one of the wildest parts of this country. Great rocks lay scattered around on every side. Ferns and wild flowers peeped out from under them. There was no more charming view in all that country than was to be seen in front of Mary’s cottage. One beautiful summer evening she was sitting there, with her large Bible on her knee. She was spelling out its meaning as her fingers went slowly over the raised letters. Just then a traveller who had been climbing the mountain came near. With the usual quickness of the blind Mary heard his footsteps, and asked him to take a seat. As he did so she pointed out to him the most interesting views in the landscape before them. He looked at her with surprise, and said, “They told me that blind Mary lived up here; but I can hardly believe that you are blind. You seem to see the mountains and lakes as well as I do.” “I used to look at them with so much pleasure when I could see, that I know all about them, although I have been blind for years.” “Doesn’t it make you unhappy, Mary, to think that you can never look at them again?” The blind woman’s eyes filled with tears, as she answered, “Don’t ask me that, sir. At first I felt almost angry with God for afflicting me so; but now I can bless His holy name. I see something better, sir, than rocks and mountains. I see Jesus, my Saviour, and the thought that He loves me makes me happy. Forgive an old woman’s boldness, sir. You tell me you have good eyesight, and that you can see yonder lakes, and the blue mountains beyond; but, oh I sir, did you ever see that wonderful sight, Jesus Christ laying down His life for you?” The traveller looked at blind Mary with great interest, and said, “Mary, I am afraid I have not thought about these things as I ought; but I promise you that I will do so; I shall never forget my evening’s climb up these mountains, and what you have said to me.” “God bless you, sir I But what should I, a poor old blind woman, do without my Saviour? I’m never alone, for He is with me. I’m not afraid to die, either, because He has washed away my sins in His blood; and when I leave these mountains and lakes I shall go, I know, to a better country. ‘Mine eyes shall see the King in His beauty; they shall behold the land that is very far off.’ And I believe I shall meet you there, because I shall ask my Saviour to open your eyes, that you may see yourself first as a sinner, and then see Jesus as your Redeemer.” Certainly the presence of Jesus was a comforting presence to poor blind Mary. (Richard Newton, D. D.)
Take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof.
The shewbread as typical of Christ
Twelve loaves were always on the golden table, answering to the number of the twelve tribes; and Christ is all-sufficient; His salvation can suffice for every case; Christ for every man--refused, indeed, and rejected by numbers, but sufficient for all. They were fresh, as week by week they were placed there; and Christ is ever the same gracious Saviour, and His salvation ever fresh and ever satisfying. He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. He is “the continual Bread.” At all times His words apply--“I am the Bread of Life,” &c. The shewbread also was eaten by the priests in the sanctuary on the Sabbath. And here we may discern a blessed type of privilege and communion; for we remember that all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, all who have been born again of the Spirit, and are led and taught by the Spirit, answer to these privileged priests. All true believers are addressed as a holy priesthood, whose office it is to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, as a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, that they should show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. The arrangement of the Tabernacle may remind us that such have come to this communion with God by blood. They have passed, in the Tabernacle court, the brazen altar of burnt-offering, that which told of atonement through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Through this sacrifice they have found pardon and acceptance. They have been cleansed in the laver, having received the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; and thus they reach the Holy Place, where they may have sweet communion and fellowship with God through His dear Son, may feed upon Christ the living Bread, may rejoice in the light of Christ, and in the prevailing efficacy of His intercession. (J. H. Holford, M. A.)
The table for the bread of faces
1. Here remark,
2. Let us inquire into the typical meaning of the table, its furniture, and its contents. In general it exhibits Messiah as the Bread of God, that comes down from heaven and sustains the life of the Church (John 6:35-39). But particularly,
Christ the true Presence Bread
Christ Jesus is the True Presence Bread. On Him the eye of Jehovah ever looks with infinite complacency. He is the “Bread of God.” “All that God is, finds sweet refreshment in Him.” We, too, by faith, see Him, and in Him are seen. His place is ours. We are made to sit together with Him in heavenly places. Where He is there, representatively, are we. His perfect obedience, too, is ours. What He is, that are we. Christ, too, is our Staff of Life. He who is the Bread of God is our Bread also. The Bread of our life. By faith we eat His flesh, and drink His blood. He is the true, the proper nourishment of our souls. We live only as we feed upon Him. It was not lawful for any of the priests to eat of the shewbread of the Tabernacle (Matthew 12:4). Under the new covenant the priesthood includes every believer. All, who by faith are born unto the Israel of God, may eat of the True Shewbread. God has spread a table in the wilderness of which all His people are called to be partakers. He Himself invites them to feast upon its rich provison. He says, “Eat, O My friends, yea, drink abundantly.” (F. H. White)
The table and shewbread typical of Christ and His Church
I. The mystery or the gospel of the table, upon which this bread was set every Sabbath, and there continued all the week, until a fresh set of loaves were placed in their room. This table was a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of communion with Him, in the administration of the Word and ordinances. It was typical of the person of Christ, in both His natures: for there are two natures in Him, human and Divine. The human nature of Christ may be signified by the wood of which this table was made, and His Divine nature by the gold it was overlaid with. And this shewbread table was not only typical of Christ, as to the matter of it; being made of such excellent, incorruptible wood, and that overlaid with pure gold; but also with respect to the decorations of it. It had a crown of gold upon it, which may be expressive of that honour and glory which is due to Christ, and is given unto Him as the King of kings and Lord of lords. The border of gold, with the crown upon it, about this table of shewbread, is also significant of what may be observed in Christ. For as this phrase, when applied to the Church of Christ, where it is said, “We will make thee borders of gold, with studs of silver” (Song of Solomon 3:11), may denote the graces of the Spirit of God bestowed upon His people, which is as ornamental to them as borders of gold and studs of silver; so this, being applied to Christ, may denote that fulness of grace that there is in Him. He is full of grace and truth. He hath received the Spirit, and the gifts and graces thereof without measure. Thus this table was typical of the person of Christ. It may also be considered as typical of communion with Him. A table among men is an emblem of communion and fellowship. Here men sit, eat, drink, and converse together: and this shewbread table is an emblem of the saints’ communion with Christ, in the present state more especially. There is the table of the Lord, to which His people are now admitted, where He sits down with them, and they with Him, to have fellowship with Him in the ministration of the Word and ordinances, cf which He is the sum and substance. Before I dismiss this head, give me leave to observe unto you that there were rings upon the shewbread table, and staves to be put in there rings, which were for the removing and carrying it from place to place, and which was done by the Levites, when it was necessary; as while they were in the wilderness, and before the Tabernacle had a fixed place for it. For wherever the Tabernacle was carried, the ark and the table were also.
II. I proceed in the second place to give you some account of the gospel, and the mystery of the shewbread set upon his table. This may be considered as typical of the Church of God, who are called bread. “We being many, are one bread, and one body” (1 Corinthians 10:17). They are all one bread; and they may be fitly signified by the shewbread, by these twelve cakes of unleavened bread, set continually upon the table every Sabbath-day. As they were made of fine flour, and into unleavened cakes, so they may denote those that are upright in heart and conversation. Israelites, indeed, who have the truth of grace in them; who are such as keep the feast, not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The twelve cakes had reference to the twelve tribes of Israel; so these may signify the whole of the spiritual Israel of God, whether consisting of Jews or Gentiles; even that general assembly and Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven. In the original text it is “the bread of faces”; because this bread was always before the face or faces of God, before all the Three Divine Persons in the Trinity; before God the Father, Son, and Spirit; before Jehovah, before the Divine Shechinah, which dwelt between the cherubim, over the mercy-seat of the ark, a symbol of the Divine presence. It was continually before the Lord, as our text expresses it; and this may denote the people of God’s constant and continual presentation of themselves before the Lord in acts of public and religious worship. But it may still have a higher sense than this; it may have respect unto these persons, being always under the eye and care of God. Not only are the eyes of His providence upon them which run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose hearts are upright towards Him, to see that no hurt comes to them, that they stand in need of nothing, and to protect, preserve, and defend them; but His eyes of love, grace and mercy are always upon them. He never withdraws His eyes from them. Again, this shewbread, and the twelve loaves thereof, were placed upon the table, where they stood firm and safe. This may denote the standing and security of the saints and people of God upon our Lord Jesus Christ, that sure foundation God has laid in Sion: that foundation of the apostles and prophets. Here they have a sure and safe standing, as on a rock--the Rock of Ages--against which the powers of hell and earth can never prevail. And as about this shewbread table there was a border of gold, to keep everything put upon it from falling off, this may still further point out unto us the safety of the people of God, who are set upon the shewbread table, our Lord Jesus Christ. And then you may further observe, this shewbread was placed upon the table every Sabbath-day; there was a constant succession; the table was never empty. This may denote the constancy of true believers, that have the interest of Christ at heart, in assembling continually before the Lord. Not forsaking the assembling of themselves together, but, like the primitive Christians, continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Or, rather, it may denote the constant succession of the children and people of God in the world. This shewbread, set upon the table, may also be emblematical of Christ Himself; and that as He is the spiritual food of His people. And there being twelve of these loaves upon the table, may denote the fulness and sufficiency of Christ. Here is bread enough and to spare. And as this bread was continual bread, was always upon the table, so it may denote the permanency of Christ. He is always the same--the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. And as this was set upon the table by the priests, and only by them, and none ate of this bread but the priests only, Aaron and his sons (who may be significant of the ministers of the Word, or of Christians in common under the gospel dispensation); if we understand it of the ministers of the Word, it points out that they set before the people the shewbread, even the wholesome and salutary words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and feed the people with knowledge and understanding. But if we understand it (as I rather do) as expressive of the people of God in common, who under the gospel dispensation are all made kings and priests to God, it denotes that these, and these only, eat of this spiritual food. None but they do it; none but they can do it. (John Gill, D. D.)
Blasphemed the name of the Lord.
Blaspheming against God’s holy name
“Swearing is a sin that hath more malignancy in it against God, by how much the less is the temptation to it,” says Burroughs; and adds, “I verily believe that if God had never made the Third Commandment, there could never have been so many oaths in the world; but it springs from a mere malignancy of spirit in man against God because He has forbidden, for no profit can arise from the practice.” Yet, while “no profit” comes to the blasphemer, great ill and grief are thereby caused to others.
I. The historic interest of this incident. This act of blasphemy, and the judgment which it called forth on the sinner--
1. Brought out clearly that the name of the Lord was Israel’s most solemn trust.
2. Introduced the significant custom of avoiding the very use of the name of the Lord. Certainly this may admonish us against an undue freeness in the use of the august name either in pious speech or effusive prayer.
II. The heinous quality of the crime.
1. The crime defined. Blasphemy is calumny and insult against the holy God, uttered with the intention to defame Him. It not only expresses the hatred of Him in the speaker’s own heart, but aims at awakening in his hearer’s mind an equal loathing of Jehovah and all His claims. It is held up in Scripture as an assault upon the dignity and sanctity of God’s name (Psalms 74:18; Isaiah 52:5; Romans 2:24).
2. The root of the sin. This must be traced to the vileness of the human heart, and its natural enmity to God (cf. Matthew 15:19)
. It should be noticed also as being the outgrowth of folly and pride (see 2 Kings 19:22; Psalms 74:18). Of all sins, blasphemy is an indication of a mind mad with impiety.
3. Its great offensiveness to God and man. How hateful to God is evident from the penalties inflicted (see 5:16 and cf. Isaiah 65:7; Ezekiel 20:27-32; Ezekiel 35:11-12; Matthew 12:31-32), how hurtful to man is manifest from Psalms 44:15-16; Psalms 74:10; Psalms 74:18; Psalms 74:22. They who revere “this glorious and fearful name, The Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 28:58) are distressed at its profanation. Louis IX. of France branded swearers’ lips with a hot iron for this offence, and when some complained that the punishment was too severe, he replied, “I could wish that by searing my own lips I could banish all profanity from my realm.”
III. Facts explanatory of such blasphemous speech. The sin of profanity points to--
1. An ungoverned tongue.
2. Passionate contention and strife.
3. An unsanctified heart. (W. H. Jellie.)
Slaying the blasphemer
I. The evil resulting from connection with the ungodly, “whose father was an Egyptian”--said by the Rabbins to be the man whom Moses killed.
II. The danger arising from indulgence in passionate anger: “strove”; the blasphemy was uttered in a quarrelsome passion.
III. The blasphemy which, in this case, resulted from such indulgence. “Cursed” the holy name of Jehovah; which, the Israelites claimed, belonged to none but Israelites.
IV. The punishment which all like sin merits. (W. Wayland, B. A.)
Stoning the blasphemer
I. His person. He is said to be the son of an Egyptian by an Israelitish woman. His father was one of that mixed multitude which came out of Egypt with Israel (Exodus 12:38), whom this woman married as many other women then married Egyptian men, to decline their rage and fury. For at that time the law prohibiting marriages with the heathen was not given them, and some charitably say he was a seeming proselyte; it is more probable that as his mother taught him to speak his father taught this his son to blaspheme.
II. The occasion. He was of a quarrelsome, boisterous, and passionate temper, which demonstrates the danger of mixed marriages. For children, like the conclusion of a syllogism, follow the worst part.
III. His heinous action. He both blasphemed and cursed. In the heat and height of contention, what will not graceless persons both say and do? If this man was drunk, it was with frenzy, which made him belch forth blasphemies and horrid execrations out of his black mouth, and blacker gipsy heart.
1. He blasphemed (“Nakab,” Hebrew signifies “perforate,” to bore through). Thus blasphemers do pierce and strike through the sacred and tremendous name of God. Such diabolical wretches would both “bore” His name and” gore “ His person if they could.
2. He cursed (“Kalal,” Hebrew signifies “leviter de aliquo loqui,”to vilify and scoff at). Thus he set at naught the God of Israel, against whom, it seems, his quarrel was (saith Jerome)more than against that Israelite he quarrelled with. Thus he (like those three unnatural sons, that tried their archery which could shoot nearest their father’s heart) shot his arrows at God and cursed himself. Cursing men are cursed men; such dogs come not into heaven by barking (1 Corinthians 6:9, &c.; Revelation 22:15).
IV. The circumstances of his suffering. As--
1. He was apprehended as a grand malefactor, even against God Himself; impeaching the Divine honour by blasphemy and cursing out of a deep intestine malignity.
2. This capital offender is carried away to Moses, the chief magistrate, who soon committed him to custody, and probably confined him with chains and fetters; for it is improbable there could properly be any strong prisons in the wilderness, where they lived only in tents. Though Moses might have put him to death by virtue of that law against cursing father, &c. (Exodus 21:17), but the crime being very heinous against God Himself, as he used to do in other arduous cases, so in this he consults with God for a condign punishment.
3. God, the judge of all the earth, denounces his doom, “He shall be stoned”: a punishment answerable to his stony heart. Let those that teach their tongues to lie, swear, curse, and blaspheme by a daily custom, consider this severe sentence of God, and what danger hangeth over their heads every day.
4. The people stone him,
1. It was a common quarrel to vindicate the contempt cast upon their common Benefactor, from whom they had their being and well-being.
2. That by executing this severity, they might be cautioned from committing the like abominable crime. Thus the reason is rendered, “That all Israel may fear” (Deuteronomy 13:11). And--
3. This was a means to pacify God, by putting away that evil (both person and thing) from among them; whereas His anger would have been incensed against them, had they permitted the blasphemer to pass unpunished. And whereas God had not as yet made a particular law against blasphemy; now upon this particular occasion a general law is here superadded for punishing blasphemers in all succeeding ages (Leviticus 24:15-16).
And God ordained also, that the witnesses who heard him blaspheme should lay their hands upon his head when he was to be stoned.
1. To confirm their testimony and the truth of it, that they did not, by slander, take away his innocency, nor, by murder, his life.
2. That his blood might be upon his own head, and that they were not guilty of his sin. If so--
3. It was a kind of imprecation, that they might suffer the same severity (so Deuteronomy 17:7; Deuteronomy 17:12; Deuteronomy 19:20, &c., shows).
4. This sacrifice of justice expiates wrath from the survivors. (C. Ness.)
It is striking to notice that in the Hebrew text it is only said that he blasphemed “The name”; what that was being left unwritten. On this omission the later Jews grounded their prohibition of the use of the word Jehovah, under almost any circumstances. “Those who utter the name of God according to its sound,” says the Talmud, “have no position in the world to come.” The priests might use it in the Temple services, but even they were not to let it cross their lips elsewhere. In the Hebrew Bible the vowels of the word Adonai, “Lord,” are placed below it, and in the Greek it is always suppressed, the word Kurios, “Lord,” being used in its place; a practice followed by the English version. Traces of this aversion to utter the Divine name occur early in the Old Testament, as where it is withheld from Jacob at Peniel, and from Mauoah. This dread of using the special name of the Deity characterised antiquity from the earliest ages, through the belief that it expressed the awful mysteries of the Divine essence, and was too holy to be breathed. Thus the “name of God is in the angel,” who was to lead Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 23:21), and the Temple was to be built for “the name” (2 Samuel 7:13), but in neither case is it given. Such reverence, just in itself, early led, however, to many superstitions. The knowledge of the secret name of any god or angel was thought to convey, to him who knew it, the control of their supernatural powers. He who discovered the hidden name of the god Ea, of the Accadians, became invested with attributes higher than those of the gods. The name, in fact, was regarded as a personification of its owner, with which was indissolubly connected the possession of his essential characteristics. Thus the Romans used the word “numen” for a divinity, by a mere play on the word “nomen,” “a name.” Among the Egyptians there was a god whose name it was unlawful to utter; and it was forbidden to name or to speak of the supreme guardian divinity of Rome. Even to mention a god’s name in taking an oath was deemed irreverent. In the book of Henock a secret magic power is ascribed to the Divine name, and “it upholds all things which are.” Men learned it through the craft of the evil angel, Kesbeel, who in heaven, before he was cast out, gained it by craft from Michael, its original guardian. Nor did the ancient world, alone, regard a name as thus potent. The Scandinavians firmly believed that if that of a fighting warrior were spoken out loud, his strength would immediately depart from him, for his name was his very essence. At this day, moreover, the true name of the Emperor of China is kept a profound secret, never to be uttered--perhaps to impress his subjects with his unapproachable elevation above common mortals. (C. Geikie, D. D.)
The sin of profanity
There is not a sin in all the catalogue that is so often peremptorily and suddenly punished in this world as the sin of profanity. There is not a city or a village but can give an illustration of a man struck down at the moment of inprecation. At New Brunswick, U.S., just before I went there as a student, this occurrence took place in front of the college. On the rail-track a man had uttered a horrible oath. He saw not that the rail-train was coming. The locomotive struck him and instantly dashed his life out. The peculiarity of the circumstance was that the physicians examining his body found hardly a bruise, except that his tongue was cut out! There was no mystery about it. He cursed God and died. In Scotland a club assembled every week for purposes of wickedness, and there was a competition as to which could use the most profane oath, and the man who succeeded was to be president of the club. The competition went on. A man uttered an oath which confounded all his comrades, and he was made president of the club. His tongue began to swell, and it protruded from the mouth, and he could not draw it in, and he died, and the physicians said, “This is the strangest thing we ever saw: we never saw any account in the books like unto it: we cannot understand it.” I understand it. He cursed God and died. At Catskill, N.Y., a group of men stood in a blacksmith’s shop during a violent thunderstorm. There came a crash of thunder and some of the men trembled. One man said, “Why, I don’t see what you are afraid of. I am not afraid to go out in front of the shop and defy the Almighty. I am not afraid of the lightning.” And he laid a wager on the subject, and he went out and shook his fist at the heavens, crying, “Strike, if you dare!” and instantly he fell under a bolt. What destroyed him? Any mystery about it? Oh, no; he cursed God and died. Oh, my brother, God will not allow this sin to go unpunished. There are styles of writing with manifold sheets, so that a man writing on one leaf writes clear through ten, fifteen, or twenty sheets; and so every profanity we utter goes right down through the leaves of the book of God’s remembrance. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25