Exodus 38 – More on Building the Tabernacle
A. Items associated with the outer court.
1. (1-7) The altar (according to the command and description in Exodus 27:1-8).
He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood; five cubits was its length and five cubits its width; it was square; and its height was three cubits. He made its horns on its four corners; the horns were of one piece with it. And he overlaid it with bronze. He made all the utensils for the altar: the pans, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the firepans; all its utensils he made of bronze. And he made a grate of bronze network for the altar, under its rim, midway from the bottom. He cast four rings for the four corners of the bronze grating, as holders for the poles. And he made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with bronze. Then he put the poles into the rings on the sides of the altar, with which to bear it. He made the altar hollow with boards.
2. (8) The bronze laver (according to the command and description in Exodus 30:17-21).
He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
a. From the bronze mirrors of the serving women: Exodus 30:17-21 gave the original command to build this container for the water of ceremonial washing. Here only are we told that the bronze used to make the laver came, at least in part, from the polished metal mirrors of some of the women of Israel.
i. It is wonderful to think that these women gave up their ability to measure their own physical beauty to make this reservoir for the water of ceremonial washing. By analogy, it may be said that some are so focused on looking at themselves that they fail to look to Jesus. It is always time to surrender such a mirror to Jesus.
ii. From a New Testament perspective, one may say that believers experience the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26), and that the word of God is like a mirror (James 1:22-25).
iii. “It was highly significant that the brass of these mirrors was employed to construct that laver in which the priests must wash on approaching the altar or entering the Tabernacle. It is in the beauty of holiness men must worship, and by the surrender of everything of the flesh.” (Morgan)
iv. “Let those who view themselves oft in their looking-glasses take his counsel who said, ‘Art thou fair? Be not like an Egyptian temple, varnish without and vermin within. Art thou foul? Let thy soul be like a rich pearl in a rude shell.’” (Trapp)
b. The serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting: Apparently, there were a group of women in Israel who served God by regularly meeting to help the priests and the work of the tabernacle.
i. “The verb translated minister is rare and interesting, and is used in only one other place of women in the service of the sanctuary (1 Samuel 2:22). It really means ‘organized in bands for war’, but it is used of ordinary Levitical service (Numbers 4:23, etc.).” (Cole)
3. (9-20) The court with its pillars and linen fence (according to the command and description in Exodus 27:9-19).
Then he made the court on the south side; the hangings of the court were of fine woven linen, one hundred cubits long. There were twenty pillars for them, with twenty bronze sockets. The hooks of the pillars and their bands were silver. On the north side the hangings were one hundred cubits long, with twenty pillars and their twenty bronze sockets. The hooks of the pillars and their bands were silver. And on the west side there were hangings of fifty cubits, with ten pillars and their ten sockets. The hooks of the pillars and their bands were silver. For the east side the hangings were fifty cubits. The hangings of one side of the gate were fifteen cubits long, with their three pillars and their three sockets, and the same for the other side of the court gate; on this side and that were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets. All the hangings of the court all around were of fine woven linen. The sockets for the pillars were bronze, the hooks of the pillars and their bands were silver, and the overlay of their capitals was silver; and all the pillars of the court had bands of silver. The screen for the gate of the court was woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and of fine woven linen. The length was twenty cubits, and the height along its width was five cubits, corresponding to the hangings of the court. And there were four pillars with their four sockets of bronze; their hooks were silver, and the overlay of their capitals and their bands was silver. All the pegs of the tabernacle, and of the court all around, were bronze.
B. An inventory of the materials for the building of the tabernacle.
1. (21-23) The leaders of the work.
This is the inventory of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the Testimony, which was counted according to the commandment of Moses, for the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, son of Aaron the priest. Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD had commanded Moses. And with him was Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and designer, a weaver of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and of fine linen.
a. By the hand of Ithamar, son of Aaron the priest: This priest named Ithmar oversaw the Levites who had the responsibility of managing all these resources. They had a big job to do and seemed to do it well.
b. Which was counted according to the commandment of Moses: By some estimations the present-day value of the materials used in the tabernacle would total more than $13 million (DeWitt). Their combined weight would be almost 19,000 pounds (more than 9 tons or 8,500 kilograms). This was a significant project to manage.
i. “The exact calculation teaches the necessity of thoroughness and accuracy in all things connected with money for religious work.” (Thomas)
ii. Some wonder where Israel got all these resources out in the middle of the desert. But Exodus 12:36 reminds us that the children of Israel left Egypt with great resources because they had plundered the Egyptians, who willingly gave Israel what amounted to back wages for their years of slavery.
2. (24) The inventory of gold.
All the gold that was used in all the work of the holy place, that is, the gold of the offering, was twenty-nine talents and seven hundred and thirty shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary.
a. Twenty-nine talents: Some estimate a talent to equal about 70 pounds (32 kilograms). This means there was something like 2,030 pounds (920 kilograms) of gold used in the tabernacle.
3. (25-28) The inventory of silver.
And the silver from those who were numbered of the congregation was one hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary: a bekah for each man (that is, half a shekel, according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone included in the numbering from twenty years old and above, for six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty men. And from the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil: one hundred sockets from the hundred talents, one talent for each socket. Then from the one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, overlaid their capitals, and made bands for them.
a. The silver from those who were numbered: Exodus 30:13-16 described how the Israelites were to give silver as part of a census, a counting of the nation. This accounts for the high amount of silver given.
4. (29-31) The inventory of bronze.
The offering of bronze was seventy talents and two thousand four hundred shekels. And with it he made the sockets for the door of the tabernacle of meeting, the bronze altar, the bronze grating for it, and all the utensils for the altar, the sockets for the court all around, the bases for the court gate, all the pegs for the tabernacle, and all the pegs for the court all around.
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