New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Exo 40:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
We must remember in interpreting what follows that this was all spoken personally to Moses.

Exo 40:2 On the first day of the first month you shall raise up the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting-
The components of the tabernacle had been made and brought to Moses, and he was to assemble it by hand. Jewish tradition has it that Moses was Divinely empowered in assembling it all in one day, and therefore didn't do it with his own hands. Heb. 9:11 appears to allude to this and deconstruct it: "Christ having become a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands". The tabernacle was indeed made or assembled with hands, unlike the spiritual tabernacle of the house of believers which is being put together by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. Moses pitched the tent, but the spiritual tabernacle has been pitched without hands, by the Spirit of Jesus (Heb. 8:2). The Lord Jesus alluded to these things by saying that He could raise up a new temple through His death and resurrection, without hands (Jn. 2:19-21). "Raise up", used here of raising or assembling the tabernacle, was interpreted by the Lord as implying resurrection. The idea was that the tabernacle looked ahead to the new system of believers which the Lord was to bring about through His sacrifice.

Exo 40:3 You shall put the ark of the testimony in it, and you shall screen the ark with the veil-
The “testimony” refers to the tables of the covenant, the ten commandments, which were within the ark; the connection between the ark and the “testimony” is very strong in the record. The ark was symbolic of Christ, in whom dwelt the word and covenant of God.

Exo 40:4 You shall bring in the table, and set in order the things that are on it. You shall bring in the lampstand, and light its lamps-
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.

Exo 40:5 You shall set the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the screen of the door to the tabernacle-
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 40:6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting-
Sacrifice is necessary before we can enter God’s presence. Sacrifice doesn’t simply mean giving material things to God; it refers to giving up to God that which is personal and valuable to us. We’re not involved with God simply in order to get from Him; in this case, spirituality would be purely selfish, as it is in many religions. Authentic relationship with God depends upon our having the spirit of sacrifice; not in the sense that we can only get to God if we give something, for that too would be too primitive and a denial of grace as the basis of our relationship with God. But His grace and the wonder of fellowship with Him cannot be accepted by us passively nor with indifference; our natural response, if we believe it, is to want to give to Him.

Exo 40:7 You shall set the basin between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and shall put water therein-
This would imply a change of perspective in the description, which so far has been from the most holy place and outwards, whereas this is now from the perspective of someone approaching from the outside. Either that, or the mention of the basin / laver is not placed in order. Possibly the idea is to emphasize the critical importance of washing the priests before entering the holy place, pointing forward to the importance of baptism.

Exo 40:8 You shall set up the court around it, and hang up the screen of the gate of the court-
For Moses alone to do this all in one day would have perhaps required superhuman help; see on :1,2. The weight of some of the items would have surely been too much for him to carry or manipulate alone.

Exo 40:9 You shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is in it, and shall make it holy, and all its furniture; and it will be holy-
The anointing process takes our Christian minds to the Christ, the anointed one, and we who are anointed through being in Him (2 Cor. 1:21).

Exo 40:10 You shall anoint the altar of burnt offering, with all its vessels, and sanctify the altar; and the altar will be most holy-
We wonder why the altar is here called "most holy" although it stood outside of the tent of meeting. All the tabernacle was called "most holy" (Ex. 30:29), but here there seems an especial note made that the altar was to be made "most holy". It was in the court, not in the holy place nor most holy place. The idea may be that the God who dwells in the most holy place between the cherubim is so pleased with sacrifice, that He accepts even the place outside the tabernacle as most holy.

Exo 40:11 You shall anoint the basin and its base, and sanctify 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 (Ex. 30:20). 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 40:12 You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the Tent of Meeting, and shall wash them with water-
The laver was situated just in front of the door of the tent, so presumably this was done in the laver.

Exo 40:13 You shall put on Aaron the holy garments; and you shall anoint him, and sanctify him, that he may minister to Me in the priest’s office-
It is hard to imagine how Moses could have erected the tabernacle and done all this on one day. It confirms the suggestion on :2 that he could only have done this with Divine help. However it could be that this anointing of Aaron and his sons was deferred and not done until the time of Lev. 8:1 ff.

Exo 40:14 You shall bring his sons, and put coats on them-
See on :13. 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 40:15 You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me in the priest’s office. Their anointing shall be to them for an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations-
The Levitical priesthood was “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood” (Ex. 40:15; Num. 25:13), but “the priesthood being changed (by Christ’s work), there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). There was an “everlasting covenant” between God and Israel to display the shewbread in the Holy Place (Lev. 24:8). This “everlasting covenant” evidently ended when the Mosaic Law was dismantled. But the same phrase “everlasting covenant” is used in 2 Samuel 23:5 concerning how Christ will reign on David’s throne for literal eternity in the Kingdom. In what sense, then, is God using the word olahm, which is translated “eternal”, “perpetual”, “everlasting” in the Old Testament? James Strong defines olahm as literally meaning “the finishing point, time out of mind, i.e. practically eternity”. It was God’s purpose that the Law of Moses and the associated Sabbath law were to continue for many centuries. To the early Israelite, this meant a finishing point so far ahead that he couldn’t grapple with it; therefore he was told that the Law would last for ever in the sense of “practically eternity”. For all of us, the spectre of ultimate infinity is impossible to intellectually grapple with. We may glibly talk about God’s eternity and timelessness, about the wonder of eternal life. But when we pause to really come to terms with these things, we lack the intellectual tools and linguistic paradigms to cope with it. Therefore there is no Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible text to speak of absolute infinity. We know that death has been conquered for those in Christ, therefore we have the hope of immortal life in his Kingdom. But God speaks about eternity very much from a human viewpoint.

Likewise the Sabbath is described as a perpetual, eternal ordinance between God and His people (Ex. 31:16). Yet in the New Testament we read that the Old Covenant has been done away; and the Old Covenant clearly included the ten commandments (Dt. 4:13), one of which was concerning the Sabbath. For this reason the New Testament is at pains to explain that Sabbath keeping is not now required of God’s people (Col. 2:14-17; Rom. 14:1-3). Indeed, the whole Law of Moses is described as an everlasting covenant (Is. 24:5; Dt. 29:29), but it has now been done away (Heb. 8:13). The feasts of Passover and Atonement were to be “an everlasting statute unto you” (Lev. 16:34; Ex. 12:14); but now the Mosaic feasts have been done away in Christ (Col. 2:14-17; 1 Cor. 5:7).

Exo 40:16 Moses did so. According to all that Yahweh commanded him, so he did-
There is huge emphasis upon the exact obedience of Moses to the commandments. And yet his careful obedience to the letter regarding the "house" or tabernacle is commented upon in Heb. 3:2-5. The idea is that all that obedience to commandment was still nothing compared to that of the Lord Jesus. For He was not only obedient to commandment, but more positively achieved a personality and character which was to be the basis of an eternal spiritual house.

Exo 40:17 It happened in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up-
As discussed on :1,2, this meant that Moses assembled the tabernacle alone in one day- and surely required Divine help to do so. 

Exo 40:18 Moses raised up the tabernacle, and laid its sockets, and set up its boards, and put in its bars, and raised up its pillars-
The rabbis like to note that there are three references to Moses' assembly of the tabernacle (:2,17,18), which they see as pointing forward to the three temples [the third yet to be built by Messiah].

Exo 40:19 He spread the covering over the tent, and put the roof of the tabernacle above on it, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
"As Yahweh commanded Moses" is a phrase runs as a refrain throughout the chapter, as an appropriate ending to the book. See on Ex. 36:31.

Exo 40:20 He took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the poles on the ark, and put the mercy seat above on the ark-
The ark was always ready to be moved on. 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 40:21 He brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
There may be a reference here to the two veils (cp. Heb. 9:3 "the second veil" ), one over the entrance to the holy place, and the other over the entrance to the most holy

Exo 40:22 He put the table in the Tent of Meeting, on the side of the tabernacle northward, outside of the veil-
"Side" is literally "thigh", and constantly we find language appropriate to the human body used in describing the tabernacle. It was all a hint that it was looking ahead to a greater and more perfect tabernacle (Heb. 9:11) in a person, Messiah, the Lord Jesus.

Exo 40:23 He set the bread in order on it before Yahweh, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
"Before Yahweh" may imply that by this point, there was some presence of God already in the most holy place beyond the veil. Or perhaps an Angel was standing with Moses as he assembled the tabernacle.

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

Exo 40:25 He lit the lamps before Yahweh, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
"Before Yahweh" may imply that by this point, there was some presence of God already in the most holy place beyond the veil. Or perhaps an Angel was standing with Moses as he assembled the tabernacle. Ex. 27:20 recorded that "You shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light". "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? I suggest 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.

Exo 40:26 He put the golden altar in the Tent of Meeting before the veil-
The incense altar is called "the golden altar" because the incense represents prayer, and gold is the symbol of faith. And prayer "works" by faith. It was before the veil which screened the most holy place, because the smell of the incense would have entered there, even if man cannot. Just as our prayers enter heaven itself.

Exo 40:27 and he burnt incense of sweet spices on it, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
“A pleasant / sweet aroma” is a very common phrase. This concept is important to God. It first occurs in Gen. 8:21 where it means that God accepted Noah's sacrifice and vowed that the pole of saving mercy in His character was going to triumph over that of necessary judgment. Under the new covenant, it is persons and not sacrifices or incense which are accepted as a "pleasant aroma" (Ez. 20:41). The word for "pleasant" means strong delight; this is how God's heart can be touched by genuine sacrifice. Those pleasing offerings represented us, the living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). And so it is applied to us in 2 Cor. 2:15- if we are in Christ, we are counted as a pleasant aroma to God. The offering of ourselves to Him is nothing of itself, but because we are in Christ and counted as Him, we are a delight to God. Hence the colossal importance of being “in Christ”. "Aroma" or "smell" is a form of the Hebrew word ruach, the word for spirit or breath. God discerns the spirit of sacrifices, that was what pleased Him rather than the burning flesh of animals. Our attitude of mind in sacrifice can touch Him. Sacrifice is therefore accepted, Paul says, according to what a person has to give, but the essence is the attitude of mind behind it. We think of the two coins sacrificed by the widow.

Exo 40:28 He put up the screen of the door to the tabernacle-
The New Testament therefore speaks of "the second veil" (Heb. 9:3) which screened the most holy place. This was of the same material as the veil which covered the door into the holy place, but was more elaborate, including the cherubim motif whereas the first veil didn't. Perhaps the idea is that it is through the Lord Jesus, represented by the veil, that we enter into the community of believers; He is the door and by Him alone a sheep can enter the fold. But it is likewise also through Him, displaying an even greater glory and beauty, that we shall enter into the presence of God Himself. By entering into Him we in prospect enter into the salvation presence of God personally; we are saved in prospect, we live the eternal life, as John's Gospel stresses.

Exo 40:29 He set the altar of burnt offering at the door of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the meal offering, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
This may refer specifically to the offerings Moses was to make during the seven days of the rituals for the consecration of Aaron and his sons. The daily burnt offering was from then on to be offered by Aaron.

Exo 40:30 He set the basin between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water therein, with which to wash-
Before we can come to offer acceptable sacrifice and do God’s work, we must firstly wash in baptism. The water may have come from the stream from the smitten rock. This is used in the New Testament to represent the spirit of Christ. It is this which we are washed in by water baptism; we must therefore be born of water-and-spirit (Jn. 3:3-5).

Exo 40:31 Moses, Aaron, and his sons washed their hands and their feet there-
The Lord alludes to this in Jn. 13:10 and implies it applies to all His people. Baptism is in essence ongoing, as the Lord progressively sanctifies us for His service in practice.

Exo 40:32 When they went into the Tent of Meeting, and when they came near to the altar, they washed, as Yahweh commanded Moses-
The altar of sacrifice would have therefore been walked passed in order to wash in the laver, and then they would have returned to offer at the altar. 'Coming near' the altar is therefore used to refer to offering sacrifice, rather than in any literal sense.

Exo 40:33 He raised up the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work-
Jesus had this in mind when just before His death He said that He had finished the work God had given Him to do (Jn. 17:4); and He died saying “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). He felt His work had been to build a dwelling place for God- not in a literal tabernacle, but in the hearts of willing men and women whose weakness and sin He had enabled to be overcome through His sacrifice. See on :2. Moses "reared up" the tabernacle, representing us (2 Cor. 6:16); "So Moses finished the work" God had given him to do. Dt. 31:24 likewise speaks of Moses finishing the work. The Hebrew for "reared up" is also used in the context of resurrection and glorification / exaltation. As our Lord sensed His final, ultimate achievement of the Father's glory in His own character, He could look ahead to our resurrection and glorification. He adopted God's timeless perspective, and died with the vision of our certain glorification in the Kingdom. This fits in with the way Psalms 22 and 69 (which evidently portray the thoughts of our dying Lord) conclude with visions of Christ's "seed" being glorified in the Kingdom. There are a number of passages which also speak of the temple (also representative of the ecclesia) being a work which was finished (e.g. 2 Chron. 5:1). In His moment of agonized triumph as He died, the Lord Jesus saw us as if we were perfect.

What God did at creation, He can do at any time. When Moses “finished the work” of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:33), there is clear allusion to God ‘finishing the work’ of creation (Gen. 2:2). The whole phrase “Behold I have given you…” (Gen. 1:28) occurs later when the Priests are told what God has given them (Ex. 31:6; Lev. 6:10; Num. 18:8,21; Dt. 11:14).

Exo 40:34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle-
This was "the cloud" which had covered Sinai (s.w. Ex. 24:15,16). Both holy place and most holy were filled.
The glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle when it was erected (Ex. 40:34), as it would later fill the temple (2 Chron. 7:1). But it was God's intention that His glory should fill all the earth; the same words are used in Num. 14:21. The apparently intense manifestation of Himself in a specific place was only a foretaste of what He wished to bring about in "all the earth". And yet Judaism misread this as meaning that His glory was there alone in a specific holy place. They failed to perceive that it was merely a localized foretaste of His intention to make this a universal experience, and the tearing down of the veil at the Lord's death was evidence enough of the progression of this plan. When exiled from the sanctuary, David in his Psalms often perceives that God's glory fills and shall fill all the earth (Ps. 72:19; Hab. 2:14). 

Exo 40:35 Moses wasn’t able to enter into the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud stayed on it, and Yahweh’s glory filled the tabernacle-
This implied that Moses wished to enter but couldn't, perhaps preparing him for his later experience of being unable to enter the promised land as he wished. But typically these things look ahead to how Moses and the legal system associated with him created a desire to enter into God's glory, and into the Kingdom- but failed to achieve it. And so they looked ahead to the achievement of the Lord Jesus. Likewise the glory in the later temple precluded the priests from entering it (1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chron. 5:14; 7:2).


Exo 40:36 When the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys-

"Onward" is Heb. 'to pull up', alluding to the pulling up of tent pegs. The process of moving onward would have been a major, regular upheaval. They would've preferred to stay where they were. And this is a feature of our wilderness journey after our Red Sea baptism; we are always being moved on further, in various ways. And this goes right against the conservatism which is such a major part of the human condition.

Exo 40:37 but if the cloud wasn’t taken up, then they didn’t travel until the day that it was taken up-
They didn’t know their itinerary ahead of time, each day and night they would’ve wondered whether they’d be called to move on or not. Their lives in this sense had no stability. If the Red Sea crossing represents our baptisms (1 Cor. 10:1,2) then this speaks of our lives afterwards being under God’s leadership and guidance, we in that sense cannot map out how we would wish our journey to be. There was no prior warning how long they were to remain in any one place; sometimes they stayed a year in one place, at other times they had to travel even by night. This was all at the commandment or word of the Lord. If the Red Sea deliverance represents our baptism, the wilderness journey is like our journey through life towards the promised land of God’s Kingdom. We are led by an Angel, and the path we take is determined by God. Sometimes we are suddenly and unexpectedly asked to move forward; sometimes quickly, travelling by night, as it were; other periods of our lives can appear static and leading nowhere. But in all these situations we are still being led- if we remain obedient to the word of God.

Exo 40:38 For the cloud of Yahweh was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys-
Practically this meant that they were shielded from the desert heat in the day time, and kept warm at night. Such was (and is) Yahweh's sensitivity to His people in their wilderness journey towards the Kingdom.

Ex. 13:21 also says that there was a pillar of cloud in the day time and a pillar of fire by night. But at the time of the Exodus, there was a pillar of cloud for the Egyptians and a pillar of fire to give light in the night for the Israelites (Ex. 14:20,24). Could this mean that the meaning of time was collapsed at this time? It was night for the Israelites but daytime for the Egyptians? Is. 42:16, amidst many exodus / Red Sea allusions, speaks of how God makes the darkness light before His exiting people. The many Johanine references to the Lord Jesus being a light in the darkness for His followers would then be yet more elaborations of the idea that the Lord Jesus is the antitype of the Angel that led Israel out of Egypt (Jn. 8:12; 12:35,46). Num. 9:21 says that the pillar of cloud was with the Israelites at night, and sometimes it was taken up in the night and they therefore had to move on. Does this mean that there were times when the meaning of time was collapsed during their journey, and the night was made as the day (perhaps Ps. 139:12 alludes to this experience)? When Yahweh came down on Sinai, He was enveloped in a cloud of fire- suggesting that there was no day and night for Him (Ex. 24:15-17; Dt. 5:22).