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Deeper Commentary

Exo 30:1 You shall make an altar to burn incense on. You shall make it of acacia wood-
For "acacia", see on :5. The LXX has Ex 30:1-10 coming after Ex. 26:32, and this may well be correct. Man first had to bow his head to enter the court, referring to humility. Then there was accepting the principle of sacrifice at the altar, followed by baptism in the laver- and then entry to the holy place, where there was the incense altar [prayer- Ps. 141:2; Rev. 8:3,4], the table of shewbread [the breaking of bread] and candlestick [church life], shining light towards the entrance to the most holy place where God dwelt between the cherubim.

Exo 30:2 Its length shall be a cubit, and its breadth a cubit. It shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits. Its horns shall be of one piece with it-
GNB "18 inches long and 18 inches wide, and it is to be 36 inches high". Again we note the small scale of the tabernacle and its furniture. God doesn't need grandiose religious symbols.

Exo 30:3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top, its sides around it, and its horns; and you shall make a gold moulding around it-
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 30:4 You shall make two golden rings for it under its moulding; on its two ribs, on its two sides you shall make them; and they shall be for places for poles with which to bear it-
The mention of a "crown" or "moulding of gold" is as if it represented a person, a King- the Lord Jesus. 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 30:5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold-
"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.

"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.

Exo 30:6 You shall put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with you-
The incense, representing prayer (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 8:3,4), would have come through to the most holy place, where Yahweh dwelt between the cherubim. This symbolized how prayer enters into heaven itself, into the very presence of God. Passing through the veil suggests the role of the Lord Jesus in our prayers (Heb. 10:20).

The principles God will use in the final judgment are manifested now, and have been reflected in His previous judgments of men. In our very personal lives, there are foretastes of that future judgment. When we receive forgiveness, this gives a knowledge of the future salvation (Lk. 1:77). Indeed, whenever man meets with God, whenever His ways have contact with those of men (which so often happens in the life of the believer) there is a judgment experience; His holiness, His demands, the imperatives which lay within His very being, reveal quite naturally our failures. The Hebrew word used to describe God’s ‘meeting’ with men is also used in the senses of ‘summoning’ or gathering to a trial (Ex. 30:6). And positively, the degree to which we have responded to Him will be revealed by our meeting with Him. Men fell down before Him when they realized who He was (Lk. 8:28,47), just as they will at judgment day (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 4:10).

Exo 30:7 Aaron shall burn incense of sweet spices on it every morning. When he tends the lamps, he shall burn it-
The lambs were to be offered morning and evening (Ex. 29:39), and along with them, incense was to be offered and the lamps tended. The incense spoke of prayer being offered to God, and the lamp of His Spirit still burning- all because of the offering of the Passover lamb which the daily lamb offerings alluded to (see on Ex. 29:38,39). Although our lamps need tending, the fire of the Spirit is to burn within us constantly. The Lord's parable about all the faithful 'tending their lamps' at the last day (Mt. 25:7) suggests that we are all priests, even High Priests [for the command to tend the lamps is given here to Aaron specifically]. 

Exo 30:8 When Aaron lights the lamps at evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before Yahweh throughout your generations-
The continual burning of incense, night and day, was a reminder that prayer (cp. incense, Rev. 8:3,4) was a way of life, not only specific statements. David's references to making constant prayer (e.g. Ps. 88:1) may allude to the constant rising up of the incense. We cannot be literally praying all the time, but our basic spirit of life can rise up as a prayer to God constantly. Our lives are, in a sense, our prayer.

Exo 30:9 You shall offer no strange incense on it, nor burnt offering, nor meal offering; and you shall pour no drink offering on it-
The Law seems to have foreseen the difference between real and apparent prayer by warning that the true incense was to be burnt [representing prayer], but not any other kind of incense, or incense comprised of other kinds of ingredients. .

Exo 30:10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once in the year: with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once in the year he shall make atonement for it throughout your generations. It is most holy to Yahweh-
"Atonement for it" can as well be "atonement upon it". The preposition al is of very wide meaning, but generally means "upon", "over" or "above". Al an altar is usually rendered "upon the altar", multiple times (e.g. Ex. 29:20). The idea is not that the altar was somehow sinful. Rather was there the need to regularly demonstrate the connection between the blood and prayer; for that blood of itself was meaningful to God only because it spoke to Him of the future blood of His Son (Heb. 10:4).

Exo 30:11 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
The Mosaic Law required a half shekel temple tax, but He reduced it- such was His desire to work with them and have them as His people (Ex. 30:11-16 cp. Neh. 10:32,33). But still they feared, still they didn’t fully believe, still they saw the establishment of God’s Kingdom as only their concern insofar as it coincided with their self-interest; and so the promised establishment of the Messianic Kingdom just didn’t come. We note from Mt. 17:24 how this tax was abused into an annual tax to be paid to the temple, regardless of whether a census was taken or not.

Exo 30:12 When you take a census of the children of Israel, according to those who are numbered among them, then each man shall give a ransom for himself to Yahweh, when you number them; that there be no plague among them when you number them-
Having bowed the head in humility in order to get through the low gate into the court, sacrifice at the altar was the first thing the Israelite who approached God had to grasp. And so here too, the simple lesson is taught that to be numbered amongst God's people, one has to give. The prosperity Gospel could not be more wrong; we are here to give, not to receive. It was God who ransomed Israel from Egypt, but the people were to as it were give a ransom for themselves in response to that. Always, the grace of their salvation was to be the motivation for their generous living. Their giving was to be a remembrance of their deliverance (:16). The threat of plague was also allusive to the plagues upon Egypt; if they did not act as the ransomed  redeemed, then they would be judged as Egypt. 

Exo 30:13 They shall give this, everyone who passes over to those who are numbered: half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs); half a shekel for an offering to Yahweh-
The idea of being numbered by passing over implies they were a flock of sheep (Jer. 33:13). The census of Ex. 30:16 required each man of military age to pay a half shekel of silver. It was used for the silver sockets in the boards of the tabernacle etc. There were 600,000 men of military age who left Egypt (Ex. 12:37); if they each paid a half shekel, this would have been 300,000 shekels of silver. 3000 shekels make one talent, so this would have made 1000 talents of silver. Which is exactly the amount of silver mentioned in Ex. 38:27. However, there were actually 603,550 men (Ex. 38:26). And we wonder whether each man actually paid what was asked. We see here the way in which the Biblical record often doesn't worry about literal exactitude, but presents an overall picture.

A half shekel was not a large amount of money, it was the money one might throw to a beggar (1 Sam. 2:36 s.w.). The point was that they were to accept the principle of giving in response to God's gift of redemption to them.

Exo 30:14 Everyone who passes over to those who are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the offering to Yahweh-
The idea of passing over, from the group that had not yet been numbered to the group which had been, recalls the Passover 'passing over'; both of the Red Sea, and the Angel passing over the houses of Israel. And I explained on :12 that the motivation for this gift was that they had been redeemed from Egypt; so the allusion was appropriate. "Offering" in Ex. 30:13-15 is s.w. "heave offering". It could be that the small coin was to be symbolically given to God and then taken back. This is why both rich and poor were to 'give' the same amount (:15). It was an acceptance that there must be giving on some level, in response to God's gift. This is why the financial ability of the donors wasn't taken into account; and the coin was in any case very small value (see on :13).

Exo 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when they give the offering of Yahweh, to make atonement for your souls-
Personal wealth was and is irrelevant when it comes to our spiritual position before God. The atonement for their souls came not from a monetary gift, but from the blood which looked ahead to that of the Lord Jesus (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 10:4). But it had to be responded to, and one way of doing so was through making this donation. See on :14.    

Exo 30:16 You shall take the atonement money from the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the Tent of Meeting that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before Yahweh, to make atonement for your souls-
As explained on :12, the redemption money was in memory of their own redemption from Egypt; in this sense it was a remembrance or "memorial". The immediate usage of the silver is given in Ex. 38:27,28- it was used for the silver sockets in the boards of the tabernacle etc. There were 600,000 men of military age who left Egypt (Ex. 12:37); if they each paid a half shekel, this would have been 300,000 shekels of silver. 3000 shekels make one talent, so this would have made 1000 talents of silver. Which is exactly the amount of silver mentioned in Ex. 38:27.

Exo 30:17  Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
Man first had to bow his head to enter the court, referring to humility. Then there was accepting the principle of sacrifice at the altar, followed by baptism in the laver- and then entry to the holy place. We see here the vital step which baptism is.

Exo 30:18 You shall also make a basin of brass, and its base of brass, in which to wash. You shall put it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it-
This may represent the need for the washing of baptism in order to come to Christ, the altar (Heb. 13:10). This was required if they didn’t want to die (:20). It is baptism which is the washing or "laver" of regeneration by the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5). The fact we are to wash in this laver suggests that all baptized are all priests; we are a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5). It is for us to take seriously the work of priestly service, it falls to all who are baptized; and we must therefore overcome the typical human tendency to leave such work to others. 

Exo 30:19 Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in it-
The Lord alludes to this in Jn. 13:10. Again, as noted on :18, the implication is that all His people are priests, consecrated to priestly service by the act of baptism and the associated cleansing and regeneration. 

Exo 30:20 When they go into the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water, that they not die; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to Yahweh-
All God's people are priests, in a sense (1 Pet. 2:5,9); the washing of baptism is an absolute necessity before we can be God's priestly people. To pass through this 'baptism' was in order to make an offering. And that is the next step after baptism- to devote our lives as living sacrifices, as both the offering and the priest (Rom. 12:1).

Exo 30:21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they not die; and it shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his descendants throughout their generations-
See on :19.
There are many allusions to the language of priesthood in the New Testament, both as major statements and also in passing. The idea of baptism as a washing suggests that we afterwards enter into priestly service; we’re not declared by baptism to be merely members of a denomination, hobby level theologians who now agree to a set of doctrines. We instead, in a very real sense, are cleansed and consecrated into the service of God, ministering to His people, doing His work.

"He that is washed needs only to wash his feet" (Jn. 13:10) was surely suggesting that all baptized believers ("washed") were like the priests, who firstly washed their bodies and then their hands and feet, before entering on service (Ex. 30:21). Even the elderly brothers and sisters in Crete who were to be guided by specially appointed elders were to be encouraged to behave "as those who are engaged in sacred service" (Tit. 2:3, M.R. Vincent Word Studies In The N.T.).

Exo 30:22 Moreover Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
Moses personally was to make this special oil, although in reality Bezaleel did it (Ez. 37:29). 

Exo 30:23 Also take fine spices: of liquid myrrh, five hundred shekels-
Literally, "myrrh of freedom" or "freely flowing myrrh". The idea was that the myrrh was to be taken from the shrub not by extraction, but the higher quality myrrh which exuded naturally from it. We may well enquire where they would have found these kinds of shrubs in the desert. Perhaps we have here an example of where the law given was not all intended for immediate obedience there in the desert. Or perhaps they had taken some of these spices with them from Egypt; but the free flowing myrrh means it was taken directly from a living shrub in the ground, and so that explanation doesn't fully fit.

And of fragrant cinnamon half as much, even two hundred and fifty-
Cinnamon was quite rare, and unknown in Egypt. It was made from the inner bark of a tree similar to the laurel. They would have only found this in Palestine. Again, we get the impression that the full obedience to these commandments was only intended once they had entered the land.  

And of fragrant cane, two hundred and fifty-
This "cane" was a specific product of Judah (Ez. 27:17), so again it seems that the Divine intention was that soon Israel would be in the land and able to make this kind of oil from the spices there.

Exo 30:24 and of cassia five hundred, after the shekel of the sanctuary; and a hin of olive oil-
Cassia was a product of the inner bark of the cinnamon tree; see on :23. A hin is just over one gallon. The amount of  anointing oil produced was very small in order to anoint all the items mentioned, so the anointing was done just with a few drops; perhaps because of the difficulty in obtaining larger quantities of the spices required, or in order to focus attention on the significance of each drop of anointing. See on :31, where it could be that the oil was miraculously multiplied.

Exo 30:25 You shall make it a holy anointing oil, a perfume compounded after the art of the perfumer: it shall be a holy anointing oil-
The specific perfumer in view was Bezaleel (Ez. 37:29).

Exo 30:26 You shall use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the testimony-
We now read of the anointing of the tabernacle and all its component parts, and then the anointing of the priests. Anointing is really most appropriate to persons. "The Christ" is 'the anointed one', and so we are invited to see the entire tabernacle as pointing forward to a person, the Lord Jesus.

Exo 30:27 the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense-
There are now specific articles / utensils listed in the law as required for the table of shewbread. But clearly there were some, as they were anointed. We see again how the law of Moses was flexible and open to expansion or incomplete fulfilment. For it was not to prescribe a rigid way of life, but to inculcate a spirit of living.

Exo 30:28 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its base-
AV correctly reads "his articles..." as in :27. The idea is that all of these components of the tabernacle system were to be seen as representing a person, the anointed ["Christ"] Lord Jesus.

Exo 30:29 You shall sanctify them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them shall be holy-
These inanimate items were not of themselves holy, as was thought to be the case in many pagan religions of the time. Their sanctification was granted to them by God, working through the rituals Moses was to perform. LXX "Everyone that touches them shall be hallowed" may not mean that whatever touched them was thereby made holy by touching. Rather the idea is that only sanctified priests were to touch the furniture. "Holy" is the same word as "sanctify" in :30, about the priests being made holy or sanctified Hag. 2:12 makes the point that true holiness cannot be passed on by merely touching.

Exo 30:30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me in the priest’s office-
Any service of God therefore required being sanctified. The Lord had this theme much on His mind in His prayer of Jn. 17. He sanctified Himself that we might be sanctified (Jn. 17:19). The idea is that all sanctified by the cross are therefore prepared for ministry. We all therefore have a ministry. We are all called to it- not just some. We are sanctified by the Lord's death so that we might minister; and we do well to ask early on after our conversion "What is my ministry?".

Exo 30:31 You shall speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations-
The idea could be that the oil Moses made would somehow never run out, rather like the oil created by Elisha and Elijah. Just as the clothes of Aaron are assumed to last permanently. I noted on :24 that the amount of anointing oil produced was very small in order to anoint all the items mentioned, so the anointing was either done just with a few drops, or it was miraculously multiplied- and preserved throughout the generations, just as Aaron's clothing was, and as the clothes and shoes of the wilderness generation lasted for 40 years. It is therefore not chance that later read in the Bible of oil being miraculously multiplied and extended in its function. 

Exo 30:32 It shall not be poured on man’s flesh, neither shall you make any like it, according to its composition: it is holy. It shall be holy to you-
"Holy to you" could mean that Moss alone was to make it and it would last for all generations; see on :31. It was to be poured upon the priests whilst they were clothed, and not come on their flesh. Or the idea may be that only the priests, the sons of Aaron, were to be sanctified with it- and not, as Jeroboam did, people from other tribes.

Exo 30:33 Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on a stranger, he shall be cut off from his people’-
The "it" may refer specifically to that oil made by Moses; see on :31. The idea may be that the gift of the Spirit, for we too are anointed to service if we are in Christ the anointed one (2 Cor. 1:21), will not come upon those who are not sanctified in Christ and washed in the laver of regeneration (cp. baptism). Birth of water is required for the birth of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3-5). For "cut off", see on :38.

Exo 30:34 Yahweh said to Moses, Take to yourself sweet spices, gum resin, and onycha, and galbanum; sweet spices with pure frankincense: there shall be an equal weight of each-
These spices would have been difficult to find in the wilderness, because they were gum from specific trees which didn't grow in the wilderness; and this would confirm the suggestion on :31 that the oil made once by Moses through Bezaleel lasted, or was intended to, throughout the generations of the tabernacle system. Note that many of these spices and ingredients are not native to Israel. They would have been taken from Egypt. And we wonder whether it was God's long term intention that His people should make this anointing oil. This is one of many hints that the law of Moses was largely intended for Israel in the wilderness, and the details of the various rituals were widely and locally interpretted over their history. Thus the Passover was celebrated at various times in their history, but not always strictly according to the initial specifications.

Exo 30:35 and you shall make incense of it, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy-
Incense is a symbol of prayer (Rev. 8:3,4). Whilst there is a place for instantaneous and emotional prayers, this doesn’t mean that we should overlook the fact that another kind of prayer should be prayer that is carefully prepared, just as the incense was. Our speech, Paul says, should be “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). He’s alluding here, perhaps with the idea that the way we speak generally should be in the same manner as we pray to God, like the incense.

Exo 30:36 and you shall beat some of it very small, and put some of it before the testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be to you most holy-
If incense is like prayer, this may refer to how we shouldn’t be afraid nor ashamed to pray to God about the smallest things. Nothing is outside of His control, indeed, God is so often in the details.

God met with Israel over the ark in the most holy place (Ex. 25:22; 30:6; Num. 17:4). But they were never allowed there. And so He also "met" (s.w.) with Israel at the door of the tabernacle, and spoke with them there (Ex. 29:42,43; 30:36). But the word for "meet" is used in Am. 3:3, where God laments that Israel had not "met" with Him and therefore they could not walk further together. The idea of the "meeting" was that God's word might be revealed, so that the people could walk with Him in His ways. He was like a king, who came out of His throne room to meet with His people. It was an awesome invitation, to be able to meet with the God who only otherwise met with His people in the glory of the most holy place, over the ark. He as it were came out of that most holy place and met with them at the door of the tabernacle. But they weren't interested. Just as so many today. 

Exo 30:37 The incense which you shall make, according to its composition you shall not make for yourselves: it shall be to you holy for Yahweh-
There was to be a clear distinction between the spiritual and the secular. Secular life was not to be passed off as spiritual life; and that is the abiding principle. It means that being a Christian is not a case of being a secular person, acting and smelling like them, but claiming that that secular life is in fact a life devoted to God.

Exo 30:38 Whoever shall make any like that, to smell of it, he shall be cut off from his people-
Being "cut off from Israel" may not mean that the person must be slain. For then the phrase "cut off from the earth" would have been used (as in Prov. 2:22 and often). The idea is that the person who ate leaven (Ex. 12:15) or was not circumcised (Gen. 17:14) was excluded from the community of God's people because they had broken or despised the covenant which made them His people. But there is no record of Israel keeping a list of 'cut off from Israel' Israelites and excluding them from keeping the feasts. So we conclude this means that God would consider such persons as cut off from His people. He would do the cutting off, and not men. In His book, they were "cut off". But there was no legal nor practical mechanism provided to Israel to manage the 'cutting off from Israel' of those who despised the covenant. The cutting off was done in God's eyes, in Heaven's record, and the Israelites were intended to continue to fellowship with such persons at the feasts. This is a strong argument for an open table, and for not seeking to make church excommunication the equivalent of this cutting off of the disobedient from the people of Israel. This explains why being "cut off from Israel" is the punishment stated for doing things which man could not see and judge- secretly breaking the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14), eating peace offerings whilst being unclean (Lev. 7:20- for how were others to know whether someone had touched the unclean, or was experiencing an unclean bodily emission), eating meat with blood still in it (Lev. 17:10,14), not adequately humbling the soul (Lev. 23:29), not keeping Passover (Num. 9:13), being presumptuous (Num. 15:30,31- only God can judge that), not washing after touching a dead body (Num. 19:13,20). This is why Lev. 20:6 makes it explicit that "I [Yahweh personally] will set My face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people". It is Yahweh who does the cutting off and not men (also 1 Sam. 2:33).