A. The supplies for this building project.
1. (1-2) God tells Moses to ask for an offering.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”
a. Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: Before God told Moses what the offering was for, He told Moses to take an offering. God wanted Israel to be motivated by a willing heart more than by a specific need.
i. Our giving should not be primarily because of need. We should primarily give because our willing heart compels us.
b. Bring Me an offering: God is a rich God and can use any method of providing He wants. Yet He usually uses the willing hearts of His people as the way to support His work.
i. “All the materials for the building of the Tabernacle were to be supplied by the people themselves. This was not because God could not have provided everything in some other way.” (Morgan)
ii. This is because God wants to develop giving hearts within us. When we become givers we become more like God, who is the greatest giver: For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).
iii. Therefore we must be givers, not so much because God or the church needs our money, but because we must be conformed into the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).
c. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart: God only wanted contributions from those who gave willingly. God is not interested in coerced or manipulated giving. In the New Testament this idea is echoed in 2 Corinthians 9:7: So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
d. You shall take My offering: The offering didn’t belong to Moses, it didn’t belong to the elders, and it didn’t belong to Israel itself. God said you shall take My offering. The offering belonged to God, and was held by Moses and the nation on God’s behalf.
2. (3-7) The specific materials to be gathered.
“And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.”
a. This is the offering which you shall take from them: Each of these materials were used in building a structure God commanded Moses to build. Each of these materials has a symbolic or a spiritual representation relevant to the building.
i. In the proportion of the finished tabernacle, the present day value of these materials total more than $13 million (DeWitt). Their combined weight would be almost 19,000 pounds (8,600 kilos).
b. Blue: The dye for this color was extracted from a shellfish, seemingly in several different hues.
c. Purple: The dye for this color came from the murex snail. It was a purple-red color.
d. Scarlet: The dye for this color came from the dried and powdered eggs and bodies of a particular worm (coccus ilicis) which attaches itself to the holly plant.
e. Fine linen: This term translates an Egyptian word. The Egyptians knew (and undoubtedly taught the Jews) how to make fine linen.
i. “Egypt excelled in the production of linen, especially twined linen, where every thread was twisted from many strands.” (Cole)
f. Goat hair: Coverings made from this material were typically black and coarse, similar to our modern felt.
g. Rams’ skins: This customarily had the wool removed and was like fine leather.
h. Badger skins: This difficult to translate phrase may also refer to the skins of porpoises or manatees (the sea cow).
i. Acacia wood: This wood is harder and darker than oak. It is also very durable because wood-eating insects avoid it.
i. “This acacia is known to have been plentiful in Egypt, and it abounds in Arabia Desert, the very place in which Moses was when he built the tabernacle; and hence it is reasonable to suppose that he built it of that wood, which was every way proper for his purpose.” (Clarke)
3. (8-9) The purpose and pattern of the tabernacle.
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.”
a. Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them: The purpose of the tabernacle was to be the dwelling place of God. The idea was not that God exclusively lived in that place, but that it was the specific place where men could come and meet God.
i. Sanctuary: “Means ‘holy’ place or ‘the place set apart.’ Everything about the tabernacle was holy. The same word in 1 and 2 Chronicles refers to the temple.” (Kaiser)
b. The pattern of the tabernacle: This first representation of God’s dwelling place would be a tabernacle – a tent – and not a permanent structure.
i. “The word ‘tabernacle’ (miskan) appears for the first time her of its 139 OT occurrences. It is from the word ‘to dwell’ (sakan) and is the place where God dwells among his people.” (Kaiser)
ii. "The Hebrews were meant to feel that the God of their fathers was a fellow-pilgrim, that where they pitched He pitched, that their enemies, difficulties, and long toilsome marches were His." (Meyer)
c. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings: It is evident that God not only described the tabernacle and its furnishings to Moses, but also did show him something of its structure and arrangement. There was a vision that accompanied the giving of these words.
i. The pattern of the tabernacle was according to a heavenly reality. It was a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5). Therefore, it had to be made according to exact dimensions, being somewhat of a “scale model” of the area around God’s throne in heaven.
ii. “The pattern means almost ‘architect’s model.’“ (Cole)
B. Instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant.
1. (10-11) The basic structure of the Ark of the Covenant.
“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around.”
a. They shall make an ark: The first item God told Moses to build was the ark, later called the Ark of the Covenant. This was the most important single item associated with the tabernacle, modeled after the throne of God in heaven.
i. “The most important feature is described first of all, because it was the symbol of the approach to God.” (Thomas)
b. They shall make an ark of acacia wood: The Ark of the Covenant was essentially a box (an ark is a box, not a boat). It was made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, 3 foot 9 inches long; 2 foot 3 inches wide; and 2 foot 3 inches high.
2. (12-15) The rings and the poles for the Ark of the Covenant.
“You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.”
a. You shall cast four rings of gold for it: The Ark didn’t have handles and was not to be carried by lifting it directly in one’s hands. Instead, it was to be carried by inserting gold-overlaid wood poles into gold rings at each corner of the Ark.
b. The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it: The poles were to remain inserted in the rings, and to be the only proper source of contact with the Ark. Apart from touching the poles, it was forbidden to touch the Ark of the Covenant.
i. In 2 Samuel 6:6-7, Uzzah touched the Ark to keep it from falling off a cart but he did not touch it at the poles and God struck him dead. Uzzah was wrong in his thinking that God would let the Ark be damaged; in fact, it did not fall off the cart, and no thanks to Uzzah. Uzzah was also wrong in his thinking that there was something less pure about the ground than his act of pure disobedience.
3. (16) The contents of the Ark.
“And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.”
a. You shall put into the ark the Testimony: God instructed Moses to put the Testimony - that is, a copy of the law - into the Ark of the Covenant.
b. Which I will give you: God told Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant to hold the law even before the law was given. Later, God would instruct Israel to put other things in the Ark as well - the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4).
3. (17-22) The mercy seat.
“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.”
a. You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold: The mercy seat - actually, the lid to the Ark - was to be made of pure gold, and made with the sculpted figures of cherubim. In the picture provided by the Ark of the Covenant, it was as if God dwelt between the two cherubim, and met Israel there.
i. “In Israel, cherubim symbolized God’s attendant and messenger spirits (Psalm 104:3,4) and so were not considered a breach of Exodus 20:4, since no man worshipped them.” (Cole)
ii. Kaiser translates the ancient Hebrew word kapporet with the phrase, “atonement cover.” “The ark was the place of atonement or propitiation, hence the place where God was rendered favorable to his people.” (Kaiser)
b. And there I will meet with you: God met with Israel in the sense that He met with the representative of Israel (the high priest) in peace because of the atoning blood on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:14-15).
c. I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim: It was as if God, looking down from His dwelling place between the cherubim, saw the law in the Ark - and knew we were guilty of breaking His law. But atoning blood of sacrifice was sprinkled on the mercy seat, so that God saw the blood covering the breaking of His law - and forgiveness could be offered.
i. It is remarkable that even before God gave Moses the tablets of the Ten Commandments, God made provision for Israel’s failure under the law.
ii. In Romans 3:25, the Greek word for propitiation (hilasterion) is also used in the Septuagint (an early translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, read in the days of the New Testament) for the “mercy seat.” Therefore it can be rightly said that “Jesus is our mercy seat.” He is the place and the means of our redemption.
C. Instructions for building the table of showbread.
1. (23-29) Dimensions and materials for the table of showbread.
“You shall also make a table of acacia wood; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height. And you shall overlay it with pure gold, and make a molding of gold all around. You shall make for it a frame of a handbreadth all around, and you shall make a gold molding for the frame all around. And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs. The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table. And you shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be carried with them. You shall make its dishes, its pans, its pitchers, and its bowls for pouring. You shall make them of pure gold.”
a. You shall also make a table of acacia wood: This table was to be made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold; 3 feet long, 1 foot, 6 inches wide, and 2 feet, 3 inches high.
b. The rings shall be close to the frame, as holders for the poles to bear the table: This table was also to have rings and poles necessary to carry it, as well as accompanying dishes, pans, and so forth, all made out of pure gold.
i. “We are fortunate in having, on the Arch of Titus, a carved representation of this table (as well as of the golden lampstand). The model pictured is that from Herod’s Temple but, to judge from the description in Exodus, it followed closely the Exodus pattern.” (Cole)
2. (30) The purpose for the table of showbread.
“And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always.
a. And you shall set the showbread on the table before Me always: On the table of showbread were set twelve loaves of showbread - literally, “bread of faces.” This was bread associated with, and to be eaten before, the face of God.
i. “In the East a table was always the symbol of fellowship. Thus the people were reminded of the possibility created of constant communion with God.” (Morgan)
ii. Meyer calls the showbread “presence-bread.” Bread is necessary for survival, and the link was a reminder that fellowship with God was just as necessary for man.
iii. “Lechem panim literally, bread of faces; so called, either because they were placed before the presence or face of God in the sanctuary, or because they were made square, as the Jews will have it.” (Clarke)
b. Showbread: According to Leviticus 24:5-9, showbread was made of fine flower, and twelve cakes of showbread - one for each tribe of Israel - set on the table, sprinkled lightly with frankincense. Once a week, the bread was replaced and normally only priests could eat the old bread.
D. Instructions for building the lampstand.
1. (31-36) The lampstand itself.
“You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece. And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower; and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almond blossoms, each with its ornamental knob and flower. And there shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold.”
a. You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold: The lampstand was hammered out of pure gold, with no specific dimensions given, but after the pattern of a modern-day menorah. It had one middle shaft with three branches coming out of each side, for a total of seven places for lamps.
b. Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch: The repetition of the almond blossom motif was important because it was the first tree to blossom in the springtime. It reminded everyone of new life and the fresh nature of God’s ongoing work.
i. “A glance at any reproduction of the Arch of Titus will make the main outline plain, although the exact metaphorical sense of some of the technical terms used is not quite clear.” (Cole)
2. (37-40) The lamps for the lampstand.
“You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it. And its wick-trimmers and their trays shall be of pure gold. It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”
a. You shall make seven lamps for it: The tabernacle represented the court of God’s throne, and Revelation 4:5 describes Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. The seven lamps represent the presence of the Holy Spirit in heaven.
b. So that they give light in front of it: Since the tabernacle itself was a completely covered tent, the only source of light was the lamps of the lampstand.
i. “The symbolism might be that of the light which God’s presence brings to His people (Numbers 6:25), remembering that light, in the Old Testament, is also a symbol of life and victory (Psalm 27:1).” (Cole)
ii. “ ‘A talent of pure gold’ was about seventy-five pounds.” (Kaiser)
c. According to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain: The principle first mentioned in Exodus 25:9 - that the tabernacle and its furnishings were to be built according to the specific, revealed pattern - is here again emphasized. It had to be a proper representation of the heavenly reality.
©2013 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission