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Deeper Commentary

Exo 27:1 You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and its height shall be three cubits-
In 2 Chron. 4:1, David and Solomon replaced this with "An altar of brass, twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and ten cubits in height". This was far larger than the altar of the tabernacle, which was 5 x 5 x 3. 5 cubits is 7.5 feet (225 cm.), 3 cubits is 1.5 feet (45 cm.) Clearly the idea was that far more animals were going to be offered. And yet David and Solomon were forgetting the lesson taught through the sin with Bathsheba, Solomon's mother; God doesn't want sacrifice, but rather broken, contrite hearts (Ps. 40:6-8). Just as God didn't want a physical house built to Him, but rather wanted to build a house of people with humble hearts open to the working of His Spirit. The altar was of brass, whereas that of the tabernacle was of common, weak acacia wood (Ex. 27:1,2). This taught that the basis of acceptable sacrifice and approach to God is the recognition of our common weak humanity, and sacrifice is offered to God upon that basis. But Solomon had no recognition of his own moral frailty and humanity, and was convinced that as David's son and the Messianic seed [as he imagined], he was therefore perfect. And it seems David too somehow rationalized his sin with Bathsheba by the end of his life, and lacked grace and humility.   

Although the altar was very low, only three cubits (45 cm.) high (Ex. 27:1), Aaron "came down" from it (Lev. 9:22). This may be understood in the same way as people "went up" and "came down" from the temple. Sacrifice was a 'height'. However the more obvious sense is that the altar was placed upon a mound of earth or rocks.

Exo 27:2 You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it; and you shall overlay it with brass-
Whilst there are similarities with the concept of religion which Israel had been used to in Egypt, there were significant differences. The altars of Egypt tended to have the horns of previously sacrificed animals attached to them. But the horns of Yahweh's altar were in order to bind the sacrifices (Ps. 118:27), they had practical function; and were a symbol of Yahweh's salvation (1 Kings 1:50)- not the triumph of secular man over an impressive animal.

Exo 27:3 You shall make its pots to take away its ashes, its shovels, its basins, its flesh hooks, and its fire pans: all its vessels you shall make of brass-
Jewish tradition has it that the fire which came down from Heaven in Lev. 9:24 remained burning; and this fire was preserved burning all night and day. Hence the need for "fire pans" (Ex. 27:3) to keep the fire burning whilst the altar was being cleaned or the remains of sacrifices removed from it.

Exo 27:4 You shall make a grating for it of network of brass: and on the net you shall make four bronze rings in its four corners-
This implies that the altar was a brass plated box, with a grating on the top to feed air to the fire with air. Through this the ashes would have fallen into a pan below.

Exo 27:5 You shall put it under the ledge around the altar beneath, that the net may reach halfway up the altar-
"Put it" is LXX "put them", referring to the rings. Or GNB "Put the grating under the rim of the altar, so that it reaches halfway up the altar". If the grate was only halfway up the altar, this could mean that the altar was placed over a heap of earth which was "halfway up the altar"; see on :8.

Exo 27:6 You shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with brass-
"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.

Exo 27:7 Its poles shall be put into the rings, and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar, when carrying it-
"Pole" is s.w. "strength". There is again a juxtaposition of ideas- the weak acacia wood, which is no more than a thorn bush, was to be turned into God's strength through being overlaid with gold. The continual mention of rings and poles is because all the tabernacle had to be portable, as Israel were constantly on the move. This is proof enough that much of the "law of Moses" was only relevant to the wilderness generation. God's desire to be continually on the move, dwelling in a tent, was still evident at the time when Israel settled in the land. For He told David that He didn't want a temple because He was dynamic, always moving on. But the way of religion is to have a permanent, stable closed system, rather than the dynamic way of the Spirit and true spirituality. "Rings" in Hebrew is literally 'that which sinks in', and refers to a signet ring. If a literal ring was solely in view, a different word would have been used. It was as if this mobile, ever moving onwards style of the tabernacle was the signature or hallmark of God. 

Exo 27:8 You shall make it with hollow planks. They shall make it as it has been shown you on the mountain-
The earlier insistence had been that Israel only worship upon an altar or earth or unhewn stones (Ex. 20:24). It could be that the hollow nature of the altar meant that a pile of earth was made, and the altar structure placed on top of it. But this would make it hard to understand how the ashes of the sacrifices could be collected. Surely the idea of a grate would have been meaningless if effectively the altar was solid earth inside it. So we are left with the conclusion that the 'altar of earth' instruction was not to apply to the tabernacle, but to altars for sacrifice which were used more local to the tents of the people. Or perhaps it was intended to only apply in the wilderness until the tabernacle was built. For clearly later altars were accepted by God, when they were not made of earth. We see in these considerations that the law of Moses was not inflexible, and God is not a literalist. Changed circumstances for His people changed His operational style with them, and His expectations of them.

Exo 27:9 You shall make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen one hundred cubits long for one side-
The "fine twined linen" was given to them on leaving Egypt, as it was characteristic of Egypt ("fine twined linen from 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. It perhaps appropriately designated the boundary between the believer and the world, represented by the linen fence which marked the enclosure of the tabernacle. 100 cubits is 58 yards or 53 meters.

Exo 27:10 and its pillars shall be twenty, and their sockets twenty, of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver-
"Fillets" is rendered "connecting rods" by some, and "sockets" as "bases".

Exo 27:11 Likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, and its pillars twenty, and their sockets twenty, of brass; the hooks of the pillars, and their fillets, of silver-
Nearly all the features of the tabernacle suggest parts of the body. The girl in Solomon's song portrays her lover as having "legs as pillars [s.w. "pillars" here] set upon sockets [s.w. "sockets" here, meaning "bases"] of gold" (Song 5:15). The pillars therefore correspond to legs, and the bases / "sockets" to feet. It was as if the tabernacle was surrounded by men's legs and feet, holding hands with each other. 

Exo 27:12 For the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits; their pillars ten, and their sockets ten-
GNB "with ten posts and ten bases".

Exo 27:13 The breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits-
LXX adds "their pillars ten, and their sockets ten".

Exo 27:14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits; their pillars three, and their sockets three-
Verses 14 and 15 are summed up in GNB: "On each side of the entrance there are to be 71/2 yards of curtains, with three posts and three bases". Fifteen cubits is 6.8 meters, or 7.5 yards. But LXX gives "fifty cubits".

Exo 27:15 For the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits; their pillars three, and their sockets three-
See on :14. But LXX gives "fifty cubits".

Exo 27:16 For the gate of the court shall be a screen of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, the work of the embroiderer; their pillars four, and their sockets four-
Entrance to both the court and to the most holy place was through a veil made of the same design. The Lord Jesus alludes to this in teaching that "I am the door". The only way to get on the path to God is through Him. This rules out all non-Christian paths to God. Christ is the door of the tabernacle through which we enter at our conversion and baptism (Jn. 10:9). By doing so we also enter, in prospect, through the veil into the Most Holy of eternity and Divine nature. The veil symbolized the flesh of the Lord; and yet in it was woven scarlet, a symbol of His blood and sacrifice (Ex. 27:16), which permeated His mortal life. The lesson is that the cross is a daily way of life. The Lord taught this when He asked us to take up the cross daily: to live each day in the exercise of the same principles which He lived and died by. Let's not see spiritual life as a survival of a few crises, as and when they present themselves. It's a way of life, and the principles which lead us to the little victories (when we scald ourselves with hot water, when we dirty a newly washed shirt...) will give us the greater ones also, when (e.g.) we stand before a tribunal, or face death in whatever form.

Exo 27:17 All the pillars of the court around shall be filleted with silver; their hooks of silver, and their sockets of brass-
GNB "All the posts around the enclosure are to be connected with silver rods, and their hooks are to be made of silver and their bases of bronze". Silver rods seems another feature of the tabernacle which might appear at first blush to not at all be how man would have designed things.

Exo 27:18 The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty everywhere, and the height five cubits, of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass-
The relatively low height meant that the tent containing the holy place and most holy place was visible to the ordinary people even from outside the tabernacle. It also meant that to enter into the tabernacle, a man would have to bow his head. Humility was to be for all time the required prerequisite for beginning any approach to God.

Exo 27:19 All the instruments of the tabernacle in all its service, and all its pins, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass-
The "pins" are the tent pegs.

Exo 27:20 You shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually-
"Pure olive oil" apparently refers to olive juice which bursts naturally from the first ripe olives. But we enquire where Israel obtained olive oil from in the wilderness, especially such "pure" olive oil to such great amounts as required here? Perhaps they had been given lots of it as they left Egypt and gave it to the priests. But for 40 years? I suggest as on :8 that this was God's ideal intention, and many of these laws were applicable only in contexts when obedience to them was possible. God's law is not therefore at all a reflection of a God who is a literalist or legalist. For by its nature, the law of Moses shows that He was not like that.

The lampstand is used as a symbol of the ecclesia in the visions of Revelation 2 and 3. The purpose of the ecclesia is to enable the oil of the Spirit to be burnt, to turn it into light. We are to keep our own personal light burning continually, day and night. Jesus had this in mind when He likened us to women waiting for the bridegroom to come at night, whose oil lamps should not be allowed to go out (Mt. 25:8).


Exo 27:21 In the Tent of Meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before Yahweh: it shall be a statute forever throughout their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel
"The tent of meeting" is the tent where God met with His people over the blood of atonment upon the ark of the covenant. But that "meeting" was effectively not with the people, as only the priests entered into the holy place, and the high priest alone, only once / year, into the ultimate place where God met with His people- the Most Holy place. But the candlestick was to be kept burning in order to point the way into the Most Holy. All this suggested that there was something lacking in the entire system. God was prepared and even willing to meet with His people over the blood of atonement on the day of atonement. That meeting was therefore predicated upon their repentance and forgiveness. But it would have left the people aware that a fuller meeting with God was somehow promised. And this would come to full term when the Lord's death tore down the veil, and the way into the holiest was opened for all, not just the priests nor the High Priest.

We note that Aaron and his sons have not yet been chosen and dedicated to the priestly work. So this may have been edited in, under Divine inspiration, from Lev. 24:1-4; Num. 8:1,2.