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Exodus 26:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Thou shalt make the tabernacle - משכן mischan, from שכן shachan, to dwell, means simply a dwelling place or habitation of any kind, but here it means the dwelling place of Jehovah, who, as a king in his camp, had his dwelling or pavilion among his people, his table always spread, his lamps lighted, and the priests, etc., his attendants, always in waiting. From the minute and accurate description here given, a good workman, had he the same materials, might make a perfect facsimile of the ancient Jewish tabernacle. It was a movable building, and so constructed that it might be easily taken to pieces, for the greater convenience of carriage, as they were often obliged to transport it from place to place, in their various journeyings. For the twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet, see Clarke's note on Exodus 25:4, etc.

Cherubims - See Clarke's note on Exodus 25:18.

Cunning work - חשב chosheb probably means a sort of diaper, in which the figures appear equally perfect on both sides; this was probably formed in the loom. Another kind of curious work is mentioned, Exodus 26:36, רקם rokem, which we term needle-work; this was probably similar to our embroidery, tapestry, or cloth of arras. It has been thought unlikely that these curious works were all manufactured in the wilderness: what was done in the loom, they might have brought with them from Egypt; what could be done by hand, without the use of complex machinery, the Israelitish women could readily perform with their needles, during their stay in the wilderness. But still it seems probable that they brought even their looms with them. The whole of this account shows that not only necessary but ornamental arts had been carried to a considerable pitch of perfection, both among the Israelites and Egyptians.

The inner curtains of the tabernacle were ten in number, and each in length twenty-eight cubits, and four in breadth; about sixteen yards twelve inches long, and two yards twelve inches broad. The curtains were to be coupled together, five and five of a side, by fifty loops, Exodus 26:5, and as many golden clasps, Exodus 26:6, so that each might look like one curtain, and the whole make one entire covering, which was the first.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-37

(Compare Exodus 26:1-6, more strictly so-called, its tent Exodus 26:7-13, and its covering Exodus 26:14 (Compare Exodus 35:11; Exodus 39:33-34; Exodus 40:19, Exodus 40:34; Numbers 3:25, etc.). These parts are very clearly distinguished in the Hebrew, but they are confounded in many places of the English Version (see Exodus 26:7, Exodus 26:9, etc.). The tabernacle itself was to consist of curtains of fine linen woven with colored figures of cherubim, and a structure of boards which was to contain the holy place and the most holy place; the tent was to be a true tent of goats‘ hair cloth to contain and shelter the tabernacle: the covering was to be of red rams‘ skins and “tachash” skins Exodus 25:5, and was spread over the goats‘ hair tent as an additional protection against the weather. On the external form of the tabernacle and the arrangement of its parts, see cuts at the end of the chapter.

Exodus 26:1

The tabernacle - The משׁכן mı̂shkân i. e. the dwelling-place; the definite article regularly accompanies the Hebrew word when the dwelling-place of Yahweh is denoted. But in this place the word is not used in its full sense as denoting the dwelling-place of Yahweh: it denotes only the tabernacle-cloth Exodus 26:6. The word is, in fact, employed with three distinct ranges of meaning,

(1) in its strict sense, comprising the cloth of the tabernacle with its woodwork (Exodus 25:9; Exodus 26:30; Exodus 36:13; Exodus 40:18, etc.);

(2) in a narrower sense, for the tabernacle-cloth only (Exodus 26:1, Exodus 26:6; Exodus 35:11; Exodus 39:33-34, etc.);

(3) in a wider sense, for the tabernacle with its tent and covering (Exodus 27:19; Exodus 35:18, etc.).

With ten curtains - Rather, of ten breadths. Five of these breadths were united so as to form what, in common usage, we should call a large curtain Exodus 26:3. The two curtains thus formed were coupled together by the loops and taches to make the entire tabernacle-cloth Exodus 26:6.

Of cunning work - More properly, of the work of the skilled weaver. The colored figures of cherubim (see Exodus 25:4, Exodus 25:18) were to be worked in the loom, as in the manufacture of tapestry and carpets (see Exodus 26:36 note). On the different kinds of workmen employed on the textile fabrics, see Exodus 35:35.

Exodus 26:3

Each curtain formed of five breadths (see Exodus 26:1), was 42 feet in length and 30 feet in breadth, taking the cubit at 18 inches.

Exodus 26:4

The meaning appears to be, “And thou shalt make loops of blue on the edge of the one breadth (which is) on the side (of the one curtain) at the coupling; and the same shalt thou do in the edge of the outside breadth of the other (curtain) at the coupling.” The “coupling” is the uniting together of the two curtains: (“selvedge” is the translation of a word signifying extremity or end).

Exodus 26:5

The words “in the edge,” etc. mean, “on the edge of the breadth that is at the coupling in the second (curtain).”

Exodus 26:6

Taches of gold - Each “tache,” or clasp, was to unite two opposite loops.

Couple the curtains - i. e. couple the two outside breadths mentioned in Exodus 26:4.

Exodus 26:7

A covering upon the tabernacle - A tent over the tabernacle. The Hebrew word here used, is the regular one for a tent of skins or cloth of any sort.

Exodus 26:9

tabernacle - tent, not tabernacle. The passage might be rendered, “thou shalt equally divide the sixth breadth at the front of the tent.” In this way, half a breadth would overhang at the front and half at the back.

Exodus 26:10

Or: “And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the outside breadth of the one (curtain) at the coupling, and fifty loops on the edge of the outside breadth of the other (curtain) at the coupling.”

Exodus 26:11

In the tent, clasps of bronze were used to unite the loops of the two curtains; in the tabernacle, clasps of gold, compare Exodus 26:6, Exodus 26:37.

Couple the tent together - Not “covering,” as in the margin. By “the tent” is here meant the tent-cloth alone.

Exodus 26:13

The measure of the entire tabernacle-cloth was about 60 ft. by 42; that of the tent-cloth was about 67 ft. by 45. When the latter was placed over the former, it spread beyond it at the back and front about 3 ft. (the “half-curtain,” Exodus 26:9, Exodus 26:12) and at the sides 18 inches.

Exodus 26:16

The board would therefore be about 15 ft. long, and 27 in. broad.

Exodus 26:18

The entire length of the structure was about 45 ft. in the clear, and its width about 15 ft.

The south side southward - Or, the south side on the right. As the entrance of the tabernacle was at its east end, the south side, to a person entering it, would be on the left hand: but we learn from Josephus that it was usual, in speaking of the temple, to identify the south with the right hand and the north with the left hand, the entrance being regarded as the face of the structure and the west end as its back.

Exodus 26:19

Sockets - More literally, bases, or foundations. Each base weighed a talent, that is, about 94 lbs. (see Exodus 38:27), and must have been a massive block. The bases formed a continuous foundation for the walls of boards, presenting a succession of sockets or mortices (each base having a single socket), into which the tenons were to fit. They served not only for ornament but also for the protection of the lower ends of the boards from the decay which would have resulted from contact with the ground.

Exodus 26:22

The sides of the tabernacle westward - Rather, the back of the tabernacle toward the west. See Exodus 26:18.

Exodus 26:23

In the two sides - Rather, at the back.

Exodus 26:24

The corner boards appear to have been of such width, and so placed, as to add 18 in. to the width of the structure, making up with the six boards of full width Exodus 26:22 about 15 ft. in the clear (see Exodus 26:18). The “ring” was so formed as to receive two bars meeting “beneath” and “above” at a right angle.

Exodus 26:27

For the two sides westward - For the back toward the west. Compare Exodus 26:22,

Exodus 26:28

In the midst of the boards - If we suppose the boards to have been of ordinary thickness Exodus 26:16, the bar was visible and passed through an entire row of rings. In any case, it served to hold the whole wall together.

Exodus 26:31

Vail - Literally, separation (see Exodus 35:12 note).

Exodus 26:33

Taches - Not the same as the hooks of the preceding verse, but the clasps of the tabernacle-cloth (see Exodus 26:6).

Exodus 26:34-35

See Exodus 25:10-16, Exodus 25:23, Exodus 25:31.

Exodus 26:36

The door of the tent - The entrance to the tent, closed by the “hanging” or curtain Exodus 27:16.

Wrought with needlework. - The work of the embroiderer. The entrance curtain of the tent and that of the court Exodus 27:16 were to be of the same materials, but embroidered with the needle, not made in figures in the loom (see Exodus 26:1; Exodus 35:35).

Exodus 26:37

Rice pillars - These, it should be observed, belonged to the entrance of the tent, not, in their architectural relation, to the entrance of the tabernacle.

Sockets of brass - Their bases (see Exodus 26:19) were of bronze (like the taches of the tentcloth, Exodus 26:11), not of silver, to mark the inferiority of the tent to the tabernacle.

We are indebted to Mr. Fergusson for what may be regarded as a satisfactory reconstruction of the sanctuary in all its main particulars. He holds that what sheltered the Mishkan was actually a tent of ordinary form, such as common sense and practical experience would suggest as best suited for the purpose.

According to this view the five pillars at the entrance of the tent Exodus 26:37 were graduated as they would naturally be at the entrance of any large tent of the best form, the tallest one being in the middle to support one end of a ridge-pole.

Such a ridge-pole, which must have been sixty feet in length, would have required support, and this might have been afforded by a plain pole in the middle of the structure. Over this framing of wood-work the tent-cloth of goats‘ hair was strained with its cords and tent-pins in the usual way. (See cut.)

Above the tent-cloth of goats‘ hair was spread the covering of red rams‘ skins.

The five pillars, to reach across the front of the tent, must have stood five cubits (about 7 1/2 ft.) apart. Their heads were united by connecting rods (“fillets” Exodus 27:10) overlaid with gold Exodus 36:38. The spaces at the sides and back may have been wholly or in part covered in for the use of the officiating priests, like the small apartments which in after times skirted three sides of the temple. It was probably here that those portions of the sacrifices were eaten which were not to be carried out of the sacred precincts Leviticus 6:16, Leviticus 6:26. We may also infer that priests lodged in them. Compare 1 Samuel 3:2-3.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
God manifested his presence among the Israelites in a tabernacle or tent, because of their condition in the wilderness. God suits the tokens of his favour, and the gifts of his grace, to his people's state and wants. The curtains of the tabernacle were to be very rich. They were to be embroidered with cherubim, signifying that the angels of God pitch their tents round about the church, Ps 34:7.
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 412

In the holy place was the candlestick, on the south, with its seven lamps giving light to the sanctuary both by day and by night; on the north stood the table of shewbread; and before the veil separating the holy from the most holy was the golden altar of incense, from which the cloud of fragrance, with the prayers of Israel, was daily ascending before God. GC 412.1

In the most holy place stood the ark, a chest of precious wood overlaid with gold, the depository of the two tables of stone upon which God had inscribed the law of Ten Commandments. Above the ark, and forming the cover to the sacred chest, was the mercy seat, a magnificent piece of workmanship, surmounted by two cherubim, one at each end, and all wrought of solid gold. In this apartment the divine presence was manifested in the cloud of glory between the cherubim. GC 412.2

After the settlement of the Hebrews in Canaan, the tabernacle was replaced by the temple of Solomon, which, though a permanent structure and upon a larger scale, observed the same proportions, and was similarly furnished. In this form the sanctuary existed—except while it lay in ruins in Daniel's time—until its destruction by the Romans, in A.D. 70. GC 412.3

This is the only sanctuary that ever existed on the earth, of which the Bible gives any information. This was declared by Paul to be the sanctuary of the first covenant. But has the new covenant no sanctuary? GC 412.4

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 414

The sanctuary in heaven, in which Jesus ministers in our behalf, is the great original, of which the sanctuary built by Moses was a copy. God placed His Spirit upon the builders of the earthly sanctuary. The artistic skill displayed in its construction was a manifestation of divine wisdom. The walls had the appearance of massive gold, reflecting in every direction the light of the seven lamps of the golden candlestick. The table of shewbread and the altar of incense glittered like burnished gold. The gorgeous curtain which formed the ceiling, inwrought with figures of angels in blue and purple and scarlet, added to the beauty of the scene. And beyond the second veil was the holy Shekinah, the visible manifestation of God's glory, before which none but the high priest could enter and live. GC 414.1

The matchless splendor of the earthly tabernacle reflected to human vision the glories of that heavenly temple where Christ our forerunner ministers for us before the throne of God. The abiding place of the King of kings, where thousand thousands minister unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him (Daniel 7:10); that temple, filled with the glory of the eternal throne, where seraphim, its shining guardians, veil their faces in adoration, could find, in the most magnificent structure ever reared by human hands, but a faint reflection of its vastness and glory. Yet important truths concerning the heavenly sanctuary and the great work there carried forward for man's redemption were taught by the earthly sanctuary and its services. GC 414.2

The holy places of the sanctuary in heaven are represented by the two apartments in the sanctuary on earth. As in vision the apostle John was granted a view of the temple of God in heaven, he beheld there “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.” Revelation 4:5. He saw an angel “having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” Revelation 8:3. Here the prophet was permitted to behold the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven; and he saw there the “seven lamps of fire” and “the golden altar,” represented by the golden candlestick and the altar of incense in the sanctuary on earth. Again, “the temple of God was opened” (Revelation 11:19), and he looked within the inner veil, upon the holy of holies. Here he beheld “the ark of His testament,” represented by the sacred chest constructed by Moses to contain the law of God. GC 414.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 347-8

The tabernacle was so constructed that it could be taken apart and borne with the Israelites in all their journeyings. It was therefore small, being not more than fifty-five feet in length, and eighteen in breadth and height. Yet it was a magnificent structure. The wood employed for the building and its furniture was that of the acacia tree, which was less subject to decay than any other to be obtained at Sinai. The walls consisted of upright boards, set in silver sockets, and held firm by pillars and connecting bars; and all were overlaid with gold, giving to the building the appearance of solid gold. The roof was formed of four sets of curtains, the innermost of “fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of cunning work;” the other three respectively were of goats’ hair, rams’ skins dyed red, and sealskins, so arranged as to afford complete protection. PP 347.1

The building was divided into two apartments by a rich and beautiful curtain, or veil, suspended from gold-plated pillars; and a similar veil closed the entrance of the first apartment. These, like the inner covering, which formed the ceiling, were of the most gorgeous colors, blue, purple, and scarlet, beautifully arranged, while inwrought with threads of gold and silver were cherubim to represent the angelic host who are connected with the work of the heavenly sanctuary and who are ministering spirits to the people of God on earth. PP 347.2

The sacred tent was enclosed in an open space called the court, which was surrounded by hangings, or screens, of fine linen, suspended from pillars of brass. The entrance to this enclosure was at the eastern end. It was closed by curtains of costly material and beautiful workmanship, though inferior to those of the sanctuary. The hangings of the court being only about half as high as the walls of the tabernacle, the building could be plainly seen by the people without. In the court, and nearest the entrance, stood the brazen altar of burnt offering. Upon this altar were consumed all the sacrifices made by fire unto the Lord, and its horns were sprinkled with the atoning blood. Between the altar and the door of the tabernacle was the laver, which was also of brass, made from the mirrors that had been the freewill offering of the women of Israel. At the laver the priests were to wash their hands and their feet whenever they went into the sacred apartments, or approached the altar to offer a burnt offering unto the Lord. PP 347.3

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