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Exo 37:1 Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Its length was two and a half cubits, and its breadth a cubit and a half, and a cubit and a half its height-
Ex. 25:10 "They shall make an ark" becomes "I made an ark" in Moses' autobiography (Dt. 10:3), although apparently Bezaleel made the ark (Ex. 37:1). The people were generous when asked, but were not real workers. Perhaps Moses himself had to make the ark because they didn't get to it. Or maybe his work was counted as theirs, as happens between the Lord Jesus and ourselves.

A cubit is about 18 inches (45 cm.). The ark was not at all large, for God's glory doesn't require grandiose human artistry nor anything large scale. His glory is manifested in the small and humble things. This was a lesson which David and Solomon failed to learn in their obsession about building a grandiose building for God's glory to dwell in.  

Bezaleel means shelter of / for God, appropriate for a man who built His tent / tabernacle. This reinforces the idea that God prefers to dwell in a tent, and not in a physical brick building. David and Solomon willfully ignored this in their obsession with building a temple. It's possible (although see my commentary on 1 Chron. 2:18) that Bezaleel was little more than a child. For 1 Chron. 2:19,20 says that Caleb was the father of Hur. Caleb was only 40 when he first spied out the land (Josh. 14:7). "The son of..." is not a precise term in Hebrew and can simply mean a relative, but there is still the idea of a relative in a younger generation than the 'father'. Bezaleel was a generation or two older than Bezaleel; and when Caleb was 40, Bezaleel made the tabernacle that same year. This would be typical of how God works through the weak and those considered inappropriate by men. He gave His Spirit to the young Bezaleel, who may have been only 12 years old, and through him built His dwelling place. We can be sure there would have been many older and experienced builders, who had worked for the Egyptian building projects, who would have been far more qualified in secular terms. 

Exo 37:2 He overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a moulding of gold for it 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. The mention of a "crown" or "moulding of gold" is as if it represented a person, a King- the Lord Jesus.

Exo 37:3 He cast four rings of gold for it, in its four feet-
The ark had feet, literally "walking feet", feet bent as if walking, to symbolize how the ark was always moving on. We recall that God spoke of how He had "walked" in the tabernacle and therefore didn't want a fixed temple (2 Sam. 7:6).

Even two rings on its one side, and two rings on its other side-
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. See on Ex. 25:27.


Exo 37:4 He made poles of acacia wood, and overlaid 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.

Exo 37:5 He put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to bear the ark-
This was a deconstruction of the Egyptian religious arks, which were displayed and carried in processions. God's ark was concealed, and only carried when it was without religious significance, being moved between sanctuaries.

Exo 37:6 He made a mercy seat of pure gold. Its length was two and a half cubits, and a cubit and a half its breadth-
This was the cover or lid of the ark, with the wings of the cherubim overshadowing it, and upon this the blood of atonement was sprinkled each year at the day of atonement. The blood would have built up over the years. Paul interprets this as symbolic of the blood of the Lord Jesus on the cross. It is a seat or throne in that it is upon that that God's glory is enthroned. But we note the small size of it. God doesn't need anything large scale by human standards. "Mercy seat" is a form of the Hebrew word for 'covering' which is usually used for the covering of sins; literally "the means of propitiation". The LXX word used here is directly applied to the Lord Jesus in Rom. 3:25. It was the blood which was the basis of atonement (Lev. 17:11), but the actual mercy seat, the slab of gold which was the cover of the ark, was put by metonymy for the blood. It is upon this that God's glory dwells and is revealed. His forgiveness is Yahweh at His most glorious, and it is in this that God meets with man (Ex. 25:22). We note that the mercy seat or cover was of pure gold, not acacia word overlaid with gold. It may have been a literal cover over the ark which was detachable. 

The mercy seat is clearly stated in Rom. 3:25 to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom has been set forth for all to see the salvation of God in Christ. But note that only the High Priest once / year was able to view the mercy seat covered in the blood of atonement. It's as if we are each now the High Priest, if we are in Christ. We can now with boldness, not as the fearful High Priest, enter the Most Holy place (Heb. 10:29). The veil has been opened. We can enter, in order to gain atonement for others. The "seat" implies someone sat upon it- there God was enthroned in all the glory of His forgiveness of men through the blood of Christ. He "dwelt between the cherubim" (Ps. 80:1; 99:1). There was the impression held by Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:15) and David (2 Sam. 6:2) that God dwelt between the cherubim, over the mercy seat. "Justice and judgment" are where God was enthroned (Ps. 89:14), and this refers to the blood sprinkled mercy seat where God was especially enthroned in glory on the day of Atonement. His forgiveness and salvation has integrity, it's not a turning of a blind eye, a waiving of principle. In this is the wonder of our salvation. Note that the cherubim peered down upon the blood- alluded to in 1 Pet. 1:11,12, which says that the Angels earnestly look into the things of the blood of Christ. The cherubim were of gold, of one piece with the mercy seat, but Jesus was not an Angel by nature (see Heb. 1)- which warns us not to over-interpret tabernacle types.

Exo 37:7 He made two cherubim of gold. He made them of beaten work, at the two ends of the mercy seat-
The cherubim had wings (:9) and could have human and animal forms, according to Ez. 1,10. In this sense they could be said to resemble the sphinx forms which were such a common part of Egyptian religion. The similarity is in the fact that God was deconstructing Egyptian religion, just as the plagues were aimed at the gods of Egypt. Instead of openly displayed sphinx like creatures memorializing the dead, these were the hidden symbols of God's living presence amongst His people, hidden away in the holiest place, and only briefly seen once every year by the high priest.

Exo 37:8 one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other end. He made the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends-
The cherubim represented those through whom God was manifested, be it Angels or His people. For this is how the cherubim are used in Ezekiel. But they are of one part with the mercy seat, which represented the Lord Jesus (Rom. 3:25). This speaks of His deep unity with us, shown in His life by His being of our nature, and now through the presence of His Spirit within those who are "in" Him.

Exo 37:9 The cherubim spread out their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces toward one another. The faces of the cherubim were toward the mercy seat-
Speaking of the things of the blood of the Lord Jesus, Peter comments: "Which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Pet. 1:12), as if he saw in the cherubim some representation of the Angels looking down at the blood of atonement sprinkled upon the mercy seat. And yet Peter implies that we too "look into" those things. And thus we note that the cherubim were looking down at the blood, not at each other; as our focus should be upon the Lord's blood, and not each other.

The pagan god tabernacles all feature some kind of throne, upon which the god visibly sits. The cherubim of the Israelite tabernacle are similar to the Mesopotamian karibu, cherubim, upon which their gods sat. Phoenician and Egyptian art uncovered by archaeologists shows they believed in cherubim very similar in form to those described in Ezekiel's visions of Yahweh's cherubim. The throne of Yahweh was the ark, covered by the cherubim. There, above the blood spattered lid of the ark (or "mercy seat"), supported by the cherubim, the pagan mind expected to see Israel's God enthroned. The similarities to the pagan shrines were intentional- to set up this expectation. But there was nothing there. It was, to their eyes, an empty throne- just as God appears to be absent to so many people today. There was no visible image resting upon the wings of the cherubim, nothing on the throne / lid of the ark but the blood of atonement (which pointed forward to that of God's Son).

Exo 37:10 He made the table of acacia wood. Its length was two cubits, and its breadth was a cubit, and its height was a cubit and a half-
The Ugaritic poems speak of the furniture in Baal's heavenly temple, and it's very similar to that in the Most Holy Place. But the poems especially focus upon Baal's bed and chests of drawers for his clothing. These are noticeably absent in Yahweh's tabernacle furniture.

The table of show bread was to be made of acacia wood, which was effectively the weak wood from a thorn bush; but David planned to make it of pure gold, and even worked out the weight of gold required for it (1 Chron. 28:16). And Solomon indeed made it of gold (1 Kings 7:48), leading to it being known as "the pure table" (2 Chron. 13:11). Religion had overtaken spirituality, form had eclipsed content. Likewise the "tables of silver" David ordered to be made (1 Chron. 28:16) do not feature in the tabernacle. He was missing the point- that God wanted His holiest symbols made of common, weak things like acacia wood. For His strength and glory is made perfect in weakness. David claims these plans were from God (1 Chron. 28:19), although as discussed on 1 Chron. 28:12, they were in fact from his own mind. The way these things were taken into captivity, with no record of this golden table ever being returned, surely reflects God's judgment upon this kind of religious show. He prefers a humble house church in an inner city room, rather than a gold plated cathedral. The way some exclusive churches speak of 'maintaining a pure table' suggests they have made the same essential mistake as David did.  

Exo 37:11 He overlaid it with pure gold, and made a gold moulding around it-
The table of shewbread looked ahead to the breaking of bread in the Christian experience. It had a crown (NEV "moulding") around it, as if it were the king's table. And indeed it is. We sit there as guests at the king's table, and it is not for us to use it as "our" table, excluding or ejecting others from it.

Exo 37:12 He made a border of a handbreadth around it, and made a golden moulding on its border around it-
The golden moulding or crown is twice stressed (:24), as if it really was the king's table. The purpose of the rim was for the rings for carrying it (:27).

Exo 37:13 He cast four rings of gold for it, and put the rings in the four corners that were on its four feet-
The ark had feet, literally "walking feet", feet bent as if walking, to symbolize how the ark was always moving on. We recall that God spoke of how He had "walked" in the tabernacle and therefore didn't want a fixed temple (2 Sam. 7:6). See on :5.

Exo 37:14 The rings were close by the border, the places for the poles to carry the table-
"Places" is the Hebrew word usually used for a house. A different word would have been used if the idea was merely a "place". There is a purposeful juxtaposition between the image of stability carried by the idea of a "house", and the fact that the rings and poles were in order that this furniture could be carried and moved on. God's permanent, characteristic way is the way of dynamism, moving on.

Exo 37:15 He made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold, to carry the table-
The need to be mobile and always moving on is stressed throughout the record of the tabernacle. There could have been some blanket statement like "All the tabernacle equipment had rings on it so that poles could be put in the rings, and it could be carried". But the record labours this mobile nature of the whole system; see on :14.

Exo 37:16 He made the vessels which were on the table, its dishes, its spoons, its bowls, and its pitchers with which to pour out, of pure gold-
Yahweh had a "table". The Mesopotamian gods likewise had a table (passuru) upon which food was placed as a meal for the god (as in Is. 65:11). But the beakers, cups and vessels on Yahweh's table remained empty; the wine was poured out onto the sacrifices and vaporized; the priests ate the shewbread. There was no pretence that Yahweh was a hungry god who needed to be fed by His worshippers. To the pagan mind, this would've meant that if He didn't eat, He wasn't actually around nor powerful. Again, the difference and similarities were intentional, in order to point up the need for faith in the power and existence of Yahweh.

Ex. 25:30 adds: "You shall set bread of the presence on the table before me always". "The bread of the presence" doesn't simply mean that it was bread which was in God's presence; for that is the meaning covered by "before Me always". Rather the idea is that God's especial presence was there in the eating of the bread. The God who dwelt the other side of the veil, over the mercy seat, as it were came out from there and was present when the bread was eaten. We may have here some hint that there is a special presence of the Father and Son at the breaking of bread, which is the Christian equivalent of this table (Mt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 11:10).

Exo 37:17 He made the lampstand of pure gold. He made the lampstand of beaten work. Its base, its shaft, its cups, its buds, and its flowers were of one piece with it-
"The candlestick" or menorah is only ever spoken of in the law of Moses in the singular, but in 1 Chron. 28:15 David decided there were to be multiple such candlesticks. By doing so, he ignored the symbolism of the one candlestick, the one people of God; such was his obsession with mere religion. See on :10.

The candlestick represents the assembly of believers (Rev. 1:20). It was made of beaten work, representing how all those in the true church will be beaten into a shape through which they can be lights for God. "Hammered" or "beaten" suggests that through blow by blow on material heated in the furnace of affliction (Is. 48:10), God works out a place where His glory may be revealed. And that place is our lives.

Exo 37:18 There were six branches going out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of its one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of its other side-
The lampstand represents God's people (Rev. 1:20), and it had seven lamps; the six branches and the central stem, upon which there was also a lamp. Seven is the number of wholeness and completion. Perhaps the idea is that there is to be a complete manifestation of God through the witness of His people, burning the oil of the Spirit. Each component member witnesses to Him in a slightly different way, not only in this life but throughout the generations of God's people. Likewise the body of Christ in the same way manifests Christ to the world.

Exo 37:19 three cups made like almond blossoms in one branch, a bud and a flower, and three cups made like almond blossoms in the other branch, a bud and a flower: so for the six branches going out of the lampstand-
The almond is the first tree in Palestine to bud, so it means literally the watching tree, as if it were alive and eager to come to life. So it is appropriate for the candlestick, which represented God's people. Jeremiah sees the branch of an almond tree and is comforted that "I watch over My word to perform it" (Jer. 1:11,12). The word translated 'hasten' or "watch over" is very similar to the word for 'almond'. Almonds are associated with God's eyes; the bowls of the lampstands were almonds (Ex. 25:33,34). Zech. 4:2 talks about these almond bowls on the candlestick, and Zech. 4:10 interprets them as the "eyes of the LORD which run to and fro through the whole earth". 2 Chron. 16:9 talks about the Angels in the same way; "the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him". Similarly in Rev. 4:5 the lamps in the bowls of almond are equated with the "seven spirits (or Angels) of God". Rev. 5:6 equates the seven eyes with the seven spirits. Thus the almond rod which Jeremiah saw represented God's eyes or Angels who would watch over the word of God which Jeremiah was to speak to perform it. And He does likewise with the witness of all those represented within the candlestick.

Israel was one nation under God; they were represented by one seven-branched candlestick. But in the New Testament vision of Rev. 1:20, each church is represented by an individual candlestick, and the body of Christ as a whole is represented by seven candlesticks, seven being the number of completion. This suggests that each local congregation is seen as autonomous by Christ; no other candlestick can dictate to another what they should do. If they fail to give light as they should, then this is dealt with by Christ Himself, the One who walks amongst the seven candlesticks and is in their midst (Rev. 1:13); He alone can remove a candlestick (Rev. 2:5).

Exo 37:20 In the lampstand were four cups made like almond blossoms, its buds and its flowers-
The menorah or "candlestick" is from a root meaning to yoke. In the Christian context, the yoke, the uniting power, is the Lord Jesus (Mt. 11:30). He is the unique power which binds together His otherwise disparate people into one candlestick. Thereby Christian unity becomes a witness to the world, at least that is the intention. All disunity between believers therefore causes the candlestick not to function, and the light of witness is thereby the less.

Exo 37:21 and a bud under two branches of one piece with it, and a bud under two branches of one piece with it, and a bud under two branches of one piece with it, for the six branches going out of it-

The language of buds, flowers and branches invites us to see the candlestick as a tree of life giving light in the darkness of the tabernacle, which had no natural light. The candlestick represents the local church in our times (Rev. 1:20); we as communities of believers are to be as the tree of life, offering eternity to a dark world; hence Prov. 11:30 likens the fruit of the righteous to the tree of life, which results in winning people for eternity. In this sense the ecclesia, the community of believers, is to be as the tree of life to others by their words (Prov. 3:18; 11:30; 15:4).

Exo 37:22 Their buds and their branches were of one piece with it. The whole thing was one beaten work of pure gold-
The fact the candlestick was made from one piece of gold is emphasized; it speaks of the unity of the local church, achieved through much patient beating out of the material which comprises it. The candlestick represents the assembly of believers (Rev. 1:20). It was made of beaten work, representing how all those in the true church will be beaten into a shape through which they can be lights for God. "Hammered" suggests that through blow by blow on material heated in the furnace of affliction (Is. 48:10), God works out a place where His glory may be revealed. And that place is our lives.

Exo 37:23 He made its seven lamps, and its snuffers, and its snuff dishes, of pure gold-
The mention of seven lamps confirms that there was a central stem with a lamp, and six branches coming out of it with a total of six lamps on them- making seven lamps. Ex. 25:37 adds: "And they shall light its lamps to give light to the space in front of it". The candlestick was on the south end of the holy place, shedding light "opposite" (Heb., NEV "in front of it"), i.e. towards the northern end where the veil was, and where the table of shewbread was, symbolizing fellowship with God. This is the purpose of our witness; to direct people towards fellowship with God and entry to the most holy place.

Gold wasn’t the strongest or most practical material for these instruments. But it represents faith (1 Pet. 1:7). We aren’t the best instruments for God to use in His house, but He prefers to use the soft and those who aren’t humanly qualified for His work- because He works by faith in us, and by our faith in Him rather than our human strength.

Exo 37:24 He made it of a talent of pure gold, with all its vessels-
A talent was 94 pounds or 42.6 kg. This was a huge amount of gold, but all the same, due to the dense weight of gold, the candlestick would have been quite small if it were solid. 42 kg. of solid gold is about the size of two standard size books. This fits the theme that everything in the tabernacle was small scale, not large. The ecclesia of God, represented by the candlestick (Rev. 1:20), is small but gives huge light in a dark place, pointing towards the entrance to the most holy place. It is depicted as large and a source of particular glory in the famous depiction of the capture of Jerusalem by Titus, but either the candlestick of those times was only gold plated, or the size was exaggerated.

Exo 37:25 He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. It was square: its length was a cubit, and its breadth a cubit. Its height was two cubits. Its horns were of one piece with it-
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.

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 37:26 He overlaid it with pure gold, its top, its sides around it, and its horns. He made a gold moulding around it-
The mention of a "crown" or "moulding of gold" is as if it represented a person, a King- the Lord Jesus.

Exo 37:27 He made two golden rings for it under its moulding crown, on its two ribs, on its two sides, for places for poles with which to carry it-
"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. See on :3.

Exo 37:28 He made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with gold-
"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 37:29 He made the holy anointing oil and the pure incense of sweet spices, after the art of the perfumer-
The specific perfumer in view was Bezaleel.