New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Exo 39:1 Of the blue, purple, and scarlet, they made finely worked garments, for ministering in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as Yahweh commanded Moses-
Scarlet and purple were the colours of royalty or rulership, yet it was intertwined with the priestly garments. There was always the theme of king-priests. It was perhaps God's initial intention that the leadership of Israel should be by the priests, and their choice of a human king and the subsequent ruling dynasty through David and the tribe of Judah was not His ideal intention. 

 Exo 39:2 He made the ephod of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen-
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. We also see that the religious style which they had been used to in Egypt was being alluded to but deconstructed. They were being given a system of religion not completely foreign to them, but also radically different to all systems they had previously used or encountered. This is why the Pentateuch alludes to things like the laws of Hammurabi, or the existing creation myths- to deconstruct them.

Exo 39:3 They beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into wires, to work it in the blue, in the purple, in the scarlet, and in the fine linen, the work of the skilful workman-
This may refer to one specific "skilful workman", Bezaleel or Aholiab.

Exo 39:4 They made shoulder straps for it, joined together. At the two ends it was joined together-
LXX "It shall have two shoulder-pieces joined together, fastened on the two sides".  "Joined / Coupled together" is s.w. "have fellowship with" (Ps. 94:20), and often of men 'joining together'. The theme of coupling and joining together occurs throughout the record of the tabernacle, and is used e.g. of the joining together of the curtains (Ex. 26:3). 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 39:5 The skilfully woven band that was on it, with which to fasten it on, was of the same piece, like its work; of gold, of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen; as Yahweh commanded Moses-
The significance of the colours should not be over emphasized. Israel in the wilderness only had a limited range of things with them, and as with the use of the acacia wood for the tabernacle construction, God was [and is] in a sense limited by the material He choses to have available to work with. But see on :1.

Exo 39:6 They worked the onyx stones, enclosed in settings of gold, engraved with the engravings of a signet, according to the names of the children of Israel-
LXX "emerald". The LXX is the version quoted repeatedly in the New Testament, often preferring its renderings to that of the Masoretic text. And yet the LXX differs from the Hebrew in the description of the precious stones, and their order in the breastplate. It is unwise therefore to seek to find meaning in the actual stones. These precious stones would have been extracted from the amulets or jewellery given to Israel by the Egyptians when they left Egypt. The significant thing is that the names of God's people were engraved upon them. God's people were carried before God by the High Priest, looking forward to how we are personally represented by name before God, through the mediation of the Lord Jesus in Heaven itself. Man is not alone, none are forgotten or unknown. That is the simple take away.

The names of God's people were engraved upon the stones which were on the High Priest's clothing. God's people were carried before God by the High Priest, looking forward to how we are personally represented by name before God, through the mediation of the Lord Jesus in Heaven itself. Man is not alone, none are forgotten or unknown. That is the simple take away. But "engraved" is the word usually translated "open", "to make appear". We are revealed before God, our life situation and personality type is openly made to appear before God, by our great High Priest.

Exo 39:7 He put them on the shoulder straps of the ephod, to be stones of memorial for the children of Israel, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
The idea wasn’t that God might forget His people and so He needed to be reminded by the Priest wearing these stones with their names on; rather they were a reminder to Israel that they were each personally remembered by God all the time.

Bearing on the shoulders by the High Priest in order to gain atonement surely looks forward to the Lord bearing the cross on His shoulders. Yet He bore our sins. The cross is presented as symbolic of the weight of our sins. This is symbolic of how Christ, our High Priest, carries the names of all God’s people on His shoulders and over His heart (:8) as He stands for us in God’s presence. The preciousness of the stones reflects our high value in God’s sight.

Ex. 28:10 adds: "six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the six that remain on the other stone, in the order of their birth". The names of the tribes were to be written on the two shoulder stones of the High Priest "in the order of their birth" (Ex. 28:10). Seeing that Reuben was deposed from being the first born, we may wonder why there is this curious requirement. And the answer is perhaps just very practical. For if we take the tribes in the order of their birth, the list is: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali upon one stone, and  Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin upon the other stone. There are then exactly 25 Hebrew letters on each stone. This kind of perfect symmetry would be impossible to arrange by any uninspired hand. It is this kind of internal corroboration which to me is the most powerful argument for a Divinely inspired Bible.

Exo 39:8 He made the breastplate, the work of a skilful workman, like the work of the ephod; of gold, of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen-
"Breastplate" is LXX "oracle", as if the judgment flashed out from the urim and thummim associated with the breastplate  was God's word or oracle to His people. For "linen" see on :2. "The skilful workman" may specifically refer to Aholiab (Ex. 38:23). Perhaps Paul saw in this man a representation of us all- for he urged us likewise to be careful workmen when it comes to the understanding and teaching of God's word (2 Tim. 2:15).

Exo 39:9 It was square. They made the breastplate double. Its length was a span, and its breadth a span, being double-
GNB "9 inches long and 9 inches wide". 23 x 23 cm. Again we note the small size of the things associated with the tabernacle, compared with the grandiose surface level religion of the other peoples. David and Solomon's obsession with building a large scale temple reflects how they failed to grasp this. The breastplate was quite small, compared to the grandiose religious clothing of other religions.

Exo 39:10 They set in it four rows of stones: a row of ruby, topaz, and beryl was the first row-
The faithful believers are likened to a stone with a unique name written on it (Rev. 2:17). We are each called to uniquely reflect and refract the light of God’s glory in a way slightly different to anyone else, just as the stones on the breastplate all glimmered with their own unique beauty. Unity isn’t the same as uniformity. LXX "a sardius, a topaz, and emerald". See on :6 for the difference between the LXX and the Hebrew text.

Exo 39:11 and the second row, a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald-
LXX "a carbuncle, a sapphire, and a jasper". See on :6 for the difference between the LXX and the Hebrew text.

Exo 39:12 and the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst-
LXX has "a ligure" for "jacinth". See on :6 for the difference between the LXX and the Hebrew text.

Exo 39:13 and the fourth row, a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. They were enclosed in gold settings-
LXX "chrysolite, and a beryl, and an onyx stone". See on :6 for the difference between the LXX and the Hebrew text. "Chrysolite" is Hebrew  'tarshish', from the idea of long endurance. "Ships of tarshish" therefore refer to long distance trading vessels, not a specific location called Tarshish.

Exo 39:14 The stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names; like the engravings of a signet, everyone according to his name, for the twelve tribes-
The long sentence here belabours the point several times over that the names of Israel were engraven or 'opened up' upon the stones. The idea is that the people of God were individually represented by name before God by the High Priest / the Lord Jesus.

Exo 39:15 They made on the breastplate chains like cords, of braided work of pure gold-
LXX calls "the breastplate" "the oracle", see on :8. The attachment of the breastplate to the inner clothes of the High Priest is emphasized. The impression is of careful connection of the precious stones to the person of the High Priest- all looking forward to our connection with the Lord Jesus. 

Exo 39:16 They made two settings of gold, and two gold rings, and put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate-
As noted on :15, the impression is of careful connection of the precious stones to the person of the High Priest- all looking forward to our connection with the Lord Jesus. LXX is quite different: "And Aaron shall take the names of the children of Israel, on the oracle of judgment on his breast; a memorial before God for him as he goes into the sanctuary".

Exo 39:17 They put the two braided chains of gold in the two rings at the ends of the breastplate-
The almost monotonous stress continues- that the chains connected the breastplate to the ephod. The lesson from all this is that God's people are indeed truly connected to their High Priest. And that connection, like they themselves, is all supremely precious- the most valuable metal and stones are used to represent it.

Exo 39:18 The other two ends of the two braided chains they put on the two settings, and put them on the shoulder straps of the ephod, in its front-
As noted on :16,17, the cameraman of Divine inspiration is zoomed in very close up here. The connection of God's people to their High Priest is being laboured. 

Exo 39:19 They made two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, on its edge, which was toward the side of the ephod inward-
GNB "make two rings of gold and attach them to the lower corners of the breastpiece on the inside edge next to the ephod".

Exo 39:20 They made two rings of gold, and put them on the two shoulder straps of the ephod underneath, in its front, close by its coupling, above the skilfully woven band of the ephod-
GNB "attach them to the lower part of the front of the two shoulder straps of the ephod, near the seam and above the finely woven belt". There is nowhere that we have more detail about a piece of clothing in the Bible. The attachment of the symbols of God's people to the High Priest is clearly of the utmost importance to Him.

Exo 39:21 They bound the breastplate by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it might be on the skilfully woven band of the ephod, and that the breastplate might not come loose from the ephod, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
GNB "so that the breastpiece rests above the belt and does not come loose". Again we note the constant emphasis upon the connection between the breastplate and the ephod, looking ahead to the unbreakable connection between God's people and the Lord Jesus in His work of mediation for us before God.

Exo 39:22 He made the robe of the ephod of woven work, all of blue-
This plain single colour [perhaps indigo] would have thrown into contrast the variegated patterns of the ephod and breastplate. 

Exo 39:23 The opening of the robe in its midst was like the opening of a coat of mail, with a binding around its opening, that it should not be torn-
The Lord having His own clothes put back on Him meant that He would have been dressed in blood sprinkled garments for the walk to Golgotha. Again His holy mind would have been on the Messianic prophecies of Is. 63:3 about a Messiah with blood sprinkled garments lifted up in glorious victory. Or perhaps He saw the connection to Lev. 8:30, where the priests had to have blood sprinkled garments in order to begin their priestly work. This would have sent His mind to us, for whom He was interceding. Likewise when He perceived that His garment would not be rent, He would have joyfully perceived that He was indeed as the High Priest whose garment was not to be rent (Ex. 39:23).

The Lord's robe He wore to the cross was without seam and not torn (Jn. 19:23,24). There He acted as High Priest, with the names of God's people on His shoulders, upon which He carried the cross; and in His heart. "Now is the judgment of this world", He predicted of the cross; and the cross was indeed the judgment of the world. This was matched by the urim and thummim being on the breastplate, flashing out judgment. 

Christ died as the supreme High Priest, and the soldiers decided not to rend His garment but instead to throw dice to see which of them should get it (Jn. 19:24). As He hung on the cross, looking down and noticing what they were doing, He would have remembered this teaching about the High Priest’s garment, and taken encouragement that He was indeed doing the High Priestly work to its ultimate term. His blood stained, dirty outer garment- perhaps woven by his social outcast of a mother- was equivalent of the High Priest’s robe of “glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:2).

Exo 39:24 They made on the skirts of the robe pomegranates of blue, purple, scarlet, and twined linen-
The golden bells on the High Priest's garments were familiar in local religions as charm to ward off demons by their noise. But they are used in the Divine scheme of things to remind of God's holiness and the danger of human sin impinging upon this and thus leading to death. And thereby fear of demons was to be replaced by fear of God's holiness and human sin.

LXX "pomegranates of a flowering pomegranate tree".

Exo 39:25 They made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates around the skirts of the robe, between the pomegranates-
The pomegranate was full of seeds. The suggestion was that the mediation of the High Priest was to produce a multitudinous seed, in fulfilment of the promises to Abraham. Hebrew tradition claims there were 12 pomegranates on the hem, appropriate to the 12 tribes of Israel. All this came to full term in the priestly work of the Lord Jesus. As noted on :23, the robe looked ahead to that of the Lord Jesus, and so we note how He healed those who took hold of the hem of His robe (Mt. 9:20; 14:36). Perhaps they perceived His High Priestly nature.

Exo 39:26 a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, around the skirts of the robe, to minister in, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
The bells can be understood as meaning that there was to be an element of proclamation in the work of the priest. Ex.  28:35 adds: "It shall be on Aaron to minister; and his sound shall be heard when he goes in to the holy place before Yahweh, and when he comes out, so that he will not die".
"Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16) may be alluding to how the High Priest had to have bells so that "his sound may be heard... that he die not" (Ex. 28:35; this idea of the sound being heard is picked up in Ps. 19 concerning the spread of the Gospel).

Exo 39:27 They made the coats of fine linen of woven work for Aaron, and for his sons-
Ex. 28:40 adds that these clothes were "for glory and for beauty". The idea is not that the clothes should be beautiful and glorious; they were "for" the manifestation of the glory and beauty of God's saving ways, once their significance was perceived. The naked flesh of man was to be covered over with a glory and beauty which was to come from God, looking forward to the idea of imputed righteousness which Paul explains in Romans. Glory and beauty were to be the features of all Israel in their role as priests / teachers of the Gentile world (Dt. 26:19 s.w.). Again we see repeated the ideal intention that all Israel were to be a nation of priests, and not just resign the work of witness to the priestly tribe.  

Exo 39:28 and the turban of fine linen, and the linen headbands of fine linen, and the linen breeches of fine twined linen-
The fine linen is the righteousness of the saints" (Rev. 19:8) suggests that the entire body of believers ["saints"] are seen as indeed they are, a priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5). This is how we will be presented to the Lord, as priests now equipped for eternal service. This is what eternity will be about- serving in the spirit of priests. And we are to train for this now, and at least develop the desire to do that work.  

Exo 39:29 and the sash of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, the work of the embroiderer, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
"Sash" is AV "girdle". "The embroiderer" was specifically Bezaleel or Aholiab (Ex. 38:23), and the word is more commonly translated "needlework". This was typically women's work, but a theme of the construction of the tabernacle is that the work was done by God's Spirit using people for His purpose. We may connect this with how the likes of chemists and goldsmiths were used for the rough work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah's time. On one hand, our natural talents are used by God; and yet we are also called to step out against the wind of our natural inclination in God's service. 

Exo 39:30 They made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote on it a writing, like the engravings of a signet: HOLY TO YAHWEH-
Most of the surrounding tabernacles featured quite a lot of noise- especially incantations and spoken formulas regarding the holiness of the god and shrine. There were few spoken words in the Mosaic rituals; "Holy to the Lord" was written upon the forehead of the High Priest rather than stated by incantations (GNB 'Dedicated to the LORD', LXX has "holiness of the Lord"). We could maybe go so far as to say that we see here the exaltation of God's written word, with all the faith and understanding which this requires, as opposed to the incantations of other worship systems. The plate or rosette on the High Priest's turban would've recalled pagan plates which warded off supposed demons; but this one spoke of "Holiness to Yahweh", again replacing the negative with the positive.

Exo 39:31 They tied to it a lace of blue, to fasten it on the turban above, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
"Lace" is s.w. "wire", "ribband", "line"; we note it was not a golden chain but a lace. That the Priest’s crown was to be made of linen rather than solid gold or some other precious metal could appear some kind of anticlimax- most leaders of other religions had something solid on their heads. White linen represents righteousness (Rev. 19:8); it’s as if the intention was to highlight the fact that simple righteousness is of such great value and power in God’s sight rather than any visible ostentation.

Exo 39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting was finished. The children of Israel did according to all that Yahweh commanded Moses; so they did-
There is huge emphasis upon the exact obedience to the commandments given before the apostacy with the golden calf. But it was really Moses, Bezaleel and Aholiab who did most of the work. Their obedience and work was counted to all Israel. The idea of imputed righteousness is found throughout the Bible, and not just in the New Testament letter to the Romans.

Exo 39:33 They brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent, with all its furniture, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, its sockets-
The interconnected nature of the tabernacle construction is continually stressed. For this is the nature of God's system of manifestation amongst His people to this day- various aspects and individuals linking in with each other, according to His design. There is no way an individual can reach God's Kingdom alone.

Exo 39:34 the covering of rams’ skins dyed red, the covering of sea cow hides, the veil of the screen-
The sea cow hides would have been picked up by them whilst camped by the Red Sea. Whatever we pick up along the way in our wilderness journey- is to be used by God, and devoted to Him by us.

Exo 39:35 the ark of the testimony with its poles, the mercy seat-
"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 39:36 the table, all its vessels, the show bread-
"The bread of the presence" (Ex. 25:30) 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 39:37 the pure lampstand, its lamps, even the lamps to be set in order, all its vessels, the oil for the light-
GNB reads in the possible ellipsis: "the lampstand of pure gold". As the gold for it weighed around 40 kg., it would have been quite small, given the density of gold. "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.

Exo 39:38 the golden altar, the anointing oil, the sweet incense, the screen for the door of the Tent-
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 39:39 the bronze altar, its grating of brass, its poles, all of its vessels, the basin and its base-
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 39:40 the hangings of the court, its pillars, its sockets, the screen for the gate of the court, its cords, its pins, all the instruments of the service of the tabernacle, for the Tent of Meeting-
The tent of meeting is here defined as the tabernacle. The reference is to the tent which included the holy place and the most holy place (Ex. 29:11; 30:20). But the actual place of meeting between God and His people was over the mercy seat, the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was in the most holy place and only seen by the high priest briefly once / year. But it was as if God as a king left His throne and came forth to meet His people, represented by the priests, at the door of the holy place, the "tent of meeting".

Exo 39:41 the finely worked garments for ministering in the holy place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest’s office-
AV "the cloths of service" [NEV "finely worked garments"] may refer to the cloths used for covering the various items as they were transported around. 

Exo 39:42 According to all that Yahweh commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work-
But it was really Moses, Bezaleel and Aholiab who did most of the work. Their obedience and work was counted to all Israel. The idea of imputed righteousness is found throughout the Bible, and not just in the New Testament letter to the Romans.

Exo 39:43 Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it as Yahweh had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them-
Moses’ personal blessing of the people was that of God (Dt. 33); and when he looked with pleasure upon the completed tabernacle and blessed Israel, he was imitating God’s inspection and blessing of the completed natural creation (Ex. 39:43). Yet Israel tragically failed to appreciate the degree to which God was manifest in the words of Moses, as they did with Christ. This is shown by them asking for Moses to speak with them, not God; they failed to realize that actually his voice was God’s voice. They failed to see that commandments given ‘second hand’ really are the voice of God (Ex. 20:19). Perhaps our appreciation of inspiration is similar; we know the theory, but do we really see the wonder of the fact that what we read is the awesome voice of God Himself?

When Moses looked with pleasure upon the completed tabernacle and blessed Israel, he was imitating God’s inspection and blessing of the completed natural creation (Gen. 1:31); as if now a new creation had been begun in the lives of Israel, just as it is in us through baptism into Christ (cp. the Red Sea crossing)- 2 Cor. 5:17.