New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Exo 26:1 Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains; of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, with cherubim. By the work of the skilful workman you shall make them-
The ark was covered in the tabernacle by the various layers of the tent detailed in Ex. 26:1-6: sea cows' skins, red rams skins, goats hair, blue, purple, scarlet and linen. These would form a kind of rainbow over the ark, and above that there was the Angel in the pillar of cloud or fire. This "pattern of things in the Heavens" (Heb. 9:23,24) replicated the visions of a throne (the ark) over-arched by a rainbow and the glory of God.

When David says in 2 Sam. 7:2 that he doesn't want Yahweh to have to dwell in "curtains", this doesn't mean that David was concerned that God's ark was under a tent, whilst he lived in a house. Rather is the reference to the ten curtains which comprised the tabernacle. David was assuming that he could change the Mosaic commandments about the tabernacle, and move God's purpose forward to something more permanent. We see here how he didn't consider the laws of Moses [of which the commands about the tabernacle were part] to be static. He saw them as open to interpretation and development. This was not a position he came to lightly, seeing he had been terribly punished for thinking he could flout the legislation about how the ark was to be transported.

Many of the commands within the "law of Moses" were clearly only intended for the wilderness generation, indeed they could only have been obeyed by them then; and David wondered whether the entire commands about the tabernacle were in that category. Those today who claim that Mosaic legislation is eternally binding need to give this due weight. It's not just that the Mosaic law was abrogated by the Lord's death; but the whole nature of that law was that it was never intended to all be literally applied to every subsequent generation. And that meant that it was the spirit of it which was to be discerned and followed.

Exo 26:2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits: all the curtains shall have one measure-
28 cubits is 42 feet (12.8 meters), and 4 cubits is 6 feet (1.8 meters). "Curtain" in Hebrew is literally a thing which hang and shakes, and the essential word is used for "fear". The impression is of man trembling before Yahweh's holiness.

Exo 26:3 Five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and the other five curtains shall be coupled one to another-
"Coupled together" is s.w. "have fellowship with" (Ps. 94:20), and often of men 'joining together'. Clearly we are to sense that the curtains represented God's people. The theme of coupling and joining together occurs throughout the record of the tabernacle. Unity amongst believers is to be the outcome of the indwelling of God's glory. Disunity results from simply not having perceived His glory. For before that, all disunity disappears as we are awed by His grace and convicted of our own smallness and unworthiness.

Exo 26:4 You shall make loops of blue on the edge of the one curtain from the edge in the coupling; and likewise you shall make in the edge of the curtain that is outmost in the second coupling-
See on :3. "Blue" may refer to a mussel they had picked up on the shores of the Red Sea, which was used for dying things blue. If we wish to attach symbolic meaning to everything- and that isn't necessarily the right way to read the tabernacle account- then we could think of "blue" as representing the sky, heaven. It is of God that we are bound together, linked together by His Spirit in a unity which can only come from Him. For the human tendency is naturally to disagreement and disunity rather than to unity.

Exo 26:5 You shall make fifty loops in the one curtain, and you shall make fifty loops in the edge of the curtain that is in the second coupling. The loops shall be opposite one to another-
The record loves to stress the interlocking nature of the tabernacle. This points forward to our unity between each other, linked together by the blue loops of Heaven; God's unity. See on :4.

Exo 26:6 You shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to another with the clasps: and the tabernacle shall be one-
There is great emphasis in Ex. 26 that the tabernacle was "one", joined together in such a way that taught the lesson of unity. The spiritual tabernacle, the believers, was "pitched" by the Lord- translating a Greek word which suggests 'crucifixion' (Heb. 8:2). Through the cross, the one, united tabernacle was pitched. To tear down that structure by disuniting the body is to undo the work of the cross.

Exo 26:7 You shall make curtains of goats’ hair for a covering over the tabernacle. You shall make them eleven curtains-
"Covering" is literally 'a tent'. There was to be a tent over the tent, as if a vertical expression of the horizontal division of the tabernacle into the holy and most holy places. The external appearance of the tabernacle would therefore have been rough; and beauty was on the inside. This contrasts with the pagan way of attaching value to external beauty, whilst inside, the places of worship were not so attractive. God looks upon the internal, upon the heart; and leaves the external as unattractive to secular eyes.

Exo 26:8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits: the eleven curtains shall have one measure-
Comparing this with the size of the actual tabernacle, which is far smaller, it is clear that the tent which covered it must have been sloped, and also probably extended to each side of the tabernacle. Hence the mention of an overhang in :12. 

Exo 26:9 You shall couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shall double over the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tent-
"By themselves" is s.w. "pole" or "stave", and this makes better sense. The idea is 'curtains on poles' or curtain rods.

Exo 26:10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the coupling, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain which is outmost in the second coupling-
The tabernacle represents God’s dwelling place. He now no longer lives in any physical structure, but in the hearts of His people, who between them comprise His new dwelling place. We can however learn lessons from the principles behind the tabernacle construction. Great emphasis was placed on how the components were all interlocking- the curtains coupled together, the boards were joined by bars etc. It is by our unity and connection with each other that God will dwell amongst us. Christianity can’t be lived in isolation- we need each other.

Exo 26:11 You shall make fifty clasps of brass, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one-
As noted on :10, the language looks forward to the unity of the body of believers. "That it may be one" is clearly alluded to by the Lord Jesus when He prayed "that they may be one" (Jn. 17:11,21-23).

Exo 26:12 The overhanging part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle-
See on :8. The "part that remains" is the half-breadth by which the rough outer tent would overlap the linen covering. 

Exo 26:13 The cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side, of that which remains in the length of the curtains of the tent, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it-
The outer tent of goats' hair was 30 cubits broad (Ex. 26:8), whilst the internal linen 'tent' was 28 cubits. There was therefore one cubit overhang on each side. "The cubit" here therefore means "one cubit". 

Exo 26:14 You shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of sea cow hides above-
They were dyed red to represent how the blood of Christ is the covering for God’s people. Presumably they had picked up the sea cow hides from the shores of the Red Sea. What we pick up along life's way is to be devoted to the things of God.

Exo 26:15 You shall make the boards for the tabernacle of acacia wood, standing up-
"Acacia" is literally "thorns". It is translated "thorns" in Josh. 23:13. It refers to the common thorn bushes found in the scrubland they were passing through in the desert. Thorns were part of the curse in Eden. But from this weak material which was very difficult to work with, brittle, fragile and very weak, God covered this weak, difficult wood with gold and constructed a system with it where His glory might dwell. It all speaks of how He uses us. And we connect this with how God speaks of His people are wood from a vine tree, which is not used by anyone else for making anything; but He uses it for His work (Ez. 15:1-6). We shouldn't be surprised at the brittle nature of the folk with whom God works, their difficulty in binding together and resistance to being worked with- this is as it were all God has to work with. It was a surprising choice of material to be used in God’s dwelling place. But His choice of us with all our weakness and dysfunction, the common, weak stuff of the wilderness, is no less surprising. The choice of acacia wood for constructing the tabernacle is one of several points in the whole enterprise where it seems a less than ideal material was chosen, from a construction point of view. This aspect emphasizes that God prefers to work with the soft, weak and easily broken in order to do His work.

"Standing up" seems to mean that the boards were not to merely sink into the dust of the earth, but to hold together in such a way that they would be stable, because the outer tent would keep the wind from blowing over the structure. This detail may be significant if we follow through the idea that the boards represent God's people. They are not to sink into the dust, but to take strength and stability from connection with each other, and to trust in God's protection from the wind.

Exo 26:16 Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and one and a half cubits the breadth of each board-
Acacia bushes don't grow so long nor straight. These boards would have been very difficult to construct (see on :15), and would have involved much joining together of pieces of wood which were difficult to work with. It was an appropriate symbol for the kind of human material which goes to make up God's dwelling place. For God dwells in the community of His people, and not within wood and stone. The materials of the tabernacle therefore represent us His people. See on :17.

Exo 26:17 There shall be two tenons in each board, joined to one another: thus you shall make for all the boards of the tabernacle-
"Tenons" is the word for "hands", again encouraging us to see the boards as God's people, joined together by as it were holding hands. See on :16. 

Exo 26:18 You shall make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards for the south side southward-
Heb. "on the south side, to the right". Semitic thought is often expressed from the perspective of a person facing east. See on :20.

Exo 26:19 You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for its two tenons, and two sockets under another board for its two tenons-
If each socket weighed a talent (Ex. 38:27), the forty silver sockets would have been really big and solid. The connection between the boards was critical, because according to Ex. 26:15 they were "standing up". This seems to mean that the boards were not to merely sink into the dust of the earth, but to hold together in such a way that they would be stable. So the large size and weight of the sockets is appropriate. The internal cohesion and corroboration within the account of the tabernacle is such that it is a profound reflection of the Divine inspiration of the record.

Exo 26:20 For the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, twenty boards-
"The north side" is literally "the left side". As noted on Ex. 26:18, the south side was "to the right". Semitic thought is often expressed from the perspective of a person facing east. The left hand side was considered the side of lesser favour (Gen 48:13-20). This perhaps was why the candlestick was placed on the right or south side of the tent (Ex. 40:24). 

Exo 26:21 and their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board-
Sockets, eden, is related to adon, "Lord", in that the word carries the same idea of strength. Again, language appropriate to persons is used of the tabernacle components; for the whole thing pointed forward to the body of believers, in whom God walks and dwells.

Exo 26:22 For the far part of the tabernacle westward you shall make six boards-
Westward" is LXX "the back". These six boards would have given a breadth of only nine cubits. We can therefore conclude that the corner post boards of :23 on each side were half a cubit broad, to account for the extra cubit. 

Exo 26:23 You shall make two boards for the corners of the tabernacle in the far part-
As explained on :22, these corner posts were half a cubit broad.

Exo 26:24 They shall be double beneath, and in the same way they shall be whole to its top to one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners-
The Hebrew is unclear. GNB, which uses "frames" instead of NEV "boards", offers: "These corner frames are to be joined at the bottom and connected all the way to the top. The two frames that form the two corners are to be made in this way".

Exo 26:25 There shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board-
The LXX gives "posts" instead of "boards", suggesting there may have been other material in between those posts. "Sockets" is rendered "bases" by some. The idea was that the boards did not sink down into the dust of the earth (see on :15), but the whole structure was kept upright by the tight connection between the boards / posts. These "eight boards" are the six and two of :22,23.

Exo 26:26 You shall make bars of acacia wood: five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle-
As noted often, acacia wood is very weak. The bars themselves would likely have been made from various parts of this weak bush wood being joined together. The boards likewise were made of this very weak material which it was difficult to join together. But the overall design enabled the whole system to stand strongly, without sinking into the earth (:15), because of the strength of the interconnections. It is a profound picture of the strength of the overall body of believers thanks to the working of God's Spirit and His design; at least potentially. And the strength is only possible if the interconnections are made and not broken by petty arguments about "fellowship".


Exo 26:27 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 far part westward-
We are left to assume that these bars would have passed through rings made on the boards for this purpose.

Exo 26:28 The middle bar in the midst of the boards shall pass through from end to end-
This middle bar would therefore have been 30 cubits /  45 feet long. It would have had to be constructed of bits of acacia, which is no more than a common thorn bush. This singular middle bar, which held the boards in shape and close to each other, looks forward to the Lord Jesus.

Exo 26:29 You shall overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars: and you shall overlay the bars with gold-
The weak acacia wood was to be overlaid with gold. "Overlay" in Hebrew carries the idea of to be seen, to be looked at. This was how God looked at that weak acacia wood, as if it was the finest gold. This was an Old Testament anticipation of what the New Testament calls imputed righteousness; we the weak acacia wood, the thorn bush, are looked at as pure gold. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and one outcome of love is to consider the beloved as far more glorious than they are.

Exo 26:30 You shall set up the tabernacle according to the way that it was shown to you on the mountain-
We wonder whether Moses was given a vision of how the tabernacle would look when constructed. 

Exo 26:31 You shall make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cherubim. The work of the skilful workman shall it be made-
The veil represented the flesh of the Lord Jesus (Heb. 10:20), and also the fact that the way into the most holy place, representing God Himself in Heaven, was somehow barred. But when the Lord died, the veil was torn from top [by God] to bottom (Mt. 27:51), and thus the way into direct personal fellowship with God was permanently opened for all- not just the high priest once a year (Heb. 9:8,24; 10:19). This understanding was so radical for Jewish minds. For the high priest could only nervously enter the most holy place briefly, once every year on the day of atonement. But now the believer in Christ can enter into full and permanent fellowship with God Himself. This was all achieved through the Lord's flesh being torn. The fine linen speaks of His righteousness (Rev. 19:8), the blue of His association with God in Heaven, the crimson of His blood, and the purple of His Kingship (Jn. 19:2). All this was worked into the veil, and the overall product of it was glory to God, represented by the image of cherubim superimposed upon all this. 

The veil represents Christ in His humanity (Heb. 10:20). His character was complexly woven and beautiful, with the white linen or righteousness (Rev. 19:8) running as a thread through His entire character. Weaving complex strands and patterns therefore speaks of how God worked to develop the character of Christ, and He likewise weaves in our lives too, if we are open to His working.

Exo 26:32 You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold; their hooks shall be of gold, on four sockets of silver-
At this point we may note that the LXX usually gives "incorruptible wood" for "acacia". Yet as noted on :15, "acacia" is s.w. "thorn". It was the common thorn bush of the desert, a result of the curse in Eden; and yet there is this sense of incorruption and eternity associated with it by the LXX. The LXX has Ex 30:1-10 coming after Ex. 26:32, and this may well be correct.

Exo 26:33 You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil: and the veil shall separate the holy place from the most holy for you-
The veil screened off the Most Holy Place, where the very presence of God was. When Christ died, this veil was torn down (Mt. 26:51), from top to bottom- indicating it was done by God and not men. Through His death, anyone who believes in Him can do continually what the High Priest could do only once per year- come right into the very presence of God Himself. But the High Priest entered in order to serve God, and to attain salvation for sinners. This, then, is to be our work. We are all to function not only as priests (1 Pet. 2:5), but in a sense, as the High Priest.

Exo 26:34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the most holy place-
This again indicates that the mercy seat was not part of the ark, but was a detachable lid.

Exo 26:35 You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side-
The structure of the tabernacle pointed ahead to man's approach to God under the Christian dispensation. First, a man had to bow his head in order to pass through the gate. Humility is essential. Then there was acceptance of the principle of sacrifice, the large altar; followed by the laver or washing basin, speaking of baptism. Beyond that is the table of shewbread (breaking of bread), the candlestick (church life) and the incense altar (prayer). After this is the veil, through which we can pass in Christ into the most holy place, and the presence of God Himself.

Exo 26:36 You shall make a screen for the door of the Tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, the work of the embroiderer-
The New Testament therefore speaks of "the second veil" (Heb. 9:3) which screened the most holy place. This was of the same material as the veil which covered the door into the holy place, but was more elaborate, including the cherubim motif whereas the first veil didn't. Perhaps the idea is that it is through the Lord Jesus, represented by the veil, that we enter into the community of believers; He is the door and by Him alone a sheep can enter the fold. But it is likewise also through Him, displaying an even greater glory and beauty, that we shall enter into the presence of God Himself.

The "fine twined linen" was given to them on leaving Egypt, as it was characteristic of Egypt ("fine twined linen fom Egypt" Ez. 27:7). It was apparently only in Egypt at that time that such fine linen was "made from yarn of which each thread was composed of many delicate strands". We see that the best wealth we take from Egypt / the world is to be devoted to the Lord's work.

Exo 26:37 You shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia, and overlay them with gold: their hooks shall be of gold; and you shall cast five sockets of brass for them-
We contrast this gold and brass with the gold and silver fittings for the veil which screened the most holy place. It is easy to over interpret, to see significance never intended, in our European obsession with a 'this = that' schema or hermeneutic. Probably the simple idea was that there was to be an increasing sense of glory as one approached closer to the most holy place. We may note that the expense, beauty and intricacy of the tabernacle grew greater the closer one got to the most holy. There was no natural light in the tabernacle; it had no windows. And only the high priest could enter the most holy once / year. The progressive beauty of God's tabernacle was revealed to fewer and fewer people, the further one progressed. This is in total contrast to the religious ways of the surrounding religions, which made the greatest display of glory and beauty on the outside, in the eyes of as many as possible; and progressively decreased in detail and beauty within them.