Exodus 40 Bible Commentary

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible

(Read all of Exodus 40)
This chapter contains the order for setting up the tabernacle, and placing the furniture of it where it was the will of God it should be put, Exodus 40:1 and for the anointing it, and all its vessels, and also Aaron and his sons, Exodus 40:9 all which were accordingly done, the tabernacle was reared up, and everything was put in its proper place, Exodus 40:16 upon which a cloud covered the tent, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, so that Moses could not enter; which cloud afterwards was a direction in their journeys, by night and by day, Exodus 40:34.

Verse 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses,.... When the tabernacle, and the work of it, were finished, and he had taken a survey of it, and everything belonging to it, which appeared to be done as was ordered:

saying; as follows.

Verse 2. On the first day of the first month,.... Which was the month Nisan, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it; which was the month the children of Israel came out of Egypt, out of which they had now been a whole year, excepting fourteen days:

shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation; the tabernacle, which had a tent or covering over it, to which the people were gathered at times for religious service.

Verse 3. And thou shall put therein the ark of the testimony,.... The ark or chest where the law was, a testimony of the divine will, and which was to be put into the most holy place of the tabernacle:

and cover the ark with the vail; not with the propitiatory or mercy seat, as the Targum of Jonathan; for though that was a covering or lid to the ark, yet not a vail; this was the vail that divided between the holy place and the most holy, and so covered or hid the ark from the sight even of the priests that went into the holy place.

Verse 4. And thou shall bring in the table,.... The table of shewbread, which was to be set in the holy place:

and set in order the things that are to be set in order upon it; besides the dishes, spoons, covers, and bowls, there were the twelve loaves of shewbread to be set in two rows:

and thou shall bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof; which was to be brought and set in the same holy place with the shewbread table; and though the lamps were to be lighted by Aaron, the priest of the Lord, he being not yet consecrated, the office was performed by Moses.

Verse 5. And thou shalt set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the testimony,.... Not in the most holy place where the ark was, but over against it in the holy place:

and put the hanging of the door of the tabernacle; the door of entrance into the holy place, where there were to be no other things set but those now mentioned, the shewbread table, the candlestick, and the altar of incense; and these being brought in, the hanging was to be put up, which hid the sight of the above things, and forbid the entrance of the people there.

Verse 6. And thou shall set the altar of the burnt offering,.... Where the sacrifices of the people were to be brought, and offered up by the priests; and this was to be set up in the open court, as it was proper it should, both because of the smell and smoke of the sacrifices:

before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation; just a little before the entrance into the holy place.

Verse 7. And thou shall set the laver,.... As is directed in Exodus 30:18.

Verse 8. And thou shall set up the court round about,.... Which consisted of various hangings, east, west, north, and south; see Exodus 27:9.

Verses 9-11. And thou shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle,.... In this, and the two following verses
Exodus 40:10, orders are given for the anointing of the tabernacle and its vessels, the altar of burnt offering and its vessels, the laver and its foot, whereby they were consecrated for divine use and service, according to Exodus 30:26

Verse 15. And thou shall anoint them as thou didst anoint their father,.... For Aaron was first anointed, and then his sons:

that they may minister unto me in the priest's office; which they might not do before their anointing, though separated for it, and called unto it:

for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations; that is, this ceremony of anointing was to be used in all ages at the investiture of the high priest with his office, until the Messiah should come, who would put an end to the Aaronic priesthood; for not common priests, only the successors of the high priest, were anointed in later times; this present unction serving for all the priests that should follow in successive generations, so long as the priesthood continued.

Verse 16. Thus did Moses,.... He set up the tabernacle, and every thing in its place, and anointed them, and Aaron and his sons:

according to all that the Lord commanded him, so did he; by which he approved himself to be a faithful servant in the house of God.

Verse 17. And it came to pass in the first month, in the second year,.... Of the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt;

on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up; so that this was in the spring of the year, about the vernal equinox, on a new year's day, that this was done, which was beginning the year well: it was within a fortnight of a year after their coming out of Egypt, and when they had been about five months and a half in building the tabernacle; for such a time it seems they were in doing that, and which, considering the many things to be done, and in the winter season, it shows great dispatch. Where was the place, in which the tabernacle was reared up, is not said: it is {d} observed, that near the southwest corner of that part of Mount Sinai, which is called Mount Episteme, there is a little hill called Araone by the Arabs, and by the Greeks the tabernacle of the testimony, where they say Aaron was consecrated, and first performed the offices of the priesthood: probably, says a learned man {e}, on this hill was placed the tabernacle of the congregation, which Moses was ordered to place without the camp afar off; but he seems to mistake the tent of Moses, or however the little tabernacle erected before the grand one was made, for this tabernacle in Exodus 33:7 which he seems to refer to; it is more probable that it was now reared up in the midst of the camp of Israel, see Numbers 2:2.

{d} Pocock's Travels, p. 147. {e} Clayton's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 350.

Verse 18. And Moses reared up the tabernacle,.... Not of himself, but with the help of others:

and fastened the sockets, and set up the boards thereof; fixed the silver sockets all around, which were the foundation of the building, and placed and established the shittim boards in them:

and put in the bars thereof; to keep the boards close and tight:

and reared up his pillars; the pillars that supported the vail between the holy and holy of holies, and those on which the hanging for the door of the tabernacle was put, as well as the several pillars all around the court of the tabernacle for the hangings of that.

Verse 19. And he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle,.... Which were curtains of goats' hair:

and put the covering of the tent above upon it; which was of rams' skins died red, and over that another covering of badgers' skins:

as the Lord commanded Moses; Exodus 26:7.

Verse 20. And he took and put the testimony into the ark,.... The ten commands, called the "testimony," because they testified and declared what was the will of God with respect to things to be done, or not done. The Targum of Jonathan says, he put the broken pieces of the tables into it; but what became of them, or were done with them, we nowhere read; and it does not appear that any other, but those that Moses hewed by the order of God, were put into the ark; see Deuteronomy 10:1

and set the staves on the ark; that it might be ready to be carried whenever a remove was necessary:

and put the mercy seat above upon the ark; together with the cherubim.

Verse 21. And he brought the ark into the tabernacle,.... Into that part of it called the holy of holies:

and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; the vail which divided between the and most holy place, and so kept out of sight the ark of the testimony within, from being seen by any, even by the priests in the holy place:

as the Lord commanded Moses; Exodus 26:33.

Verse 22. And he put the table in the tent of the congregation,.... In the holy place; for there the shewbread table, which is here meant, was put:

upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail; on the north side of the tabernacle, at a little distance from the walls, which were the curtains and boards, even in the holy place on the outside of the vail, which divided from the most holy place.

Verse 23. And he set the bread in order upon it before the Lord,.... The shewbread, the twelve cakes of it, in two rows, six in a row:

as the Lord had commanded Moses: Exodus 25:30.

Verse 24. And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation,.... In the same place, the holy place: over against the table: the shewbread table:

on the side of the tabernacle southward: directly opposite to the table.

Verse 25. And he lighted the lamps before the Lord,.... The seven lamps belonging to it: this, though it was the business of the priests of Aaron, and his sons, yet they not being at present invested with their office, was done by Moses, who in this and several other things mentioned in this chapter officiated as a priest:

as the Lord commanded Moses, Exodus 25:37.

Verse 26. And he put the golden altar,.... The altar of incense; so called because it was overlaid with gold, and to distinguish it from the altar of burnt offering, which was covered with brass: to this altar there is an allusion in Revelation 8:3

in the tent of the congregation, before the vail; in the same place, the holy place, where the shewbread table and candlestick were, and these were all the furniture of it; and this was put, not within the vail, but before it, over against the ark, as that stood within it, Exodus 40:5.

Verse 27. And he burnt sweet incense thereon,.... Which is another branch of the priestly office exercised by Moses, and which he would never have done had he not had a command from God for it, as follows:

as the Lord commanded Moses; he commanded Moses indeed to order and direct Aaron to do this, but he being not yet consecrated, Moses, being the Lord's priest, did it.

Verse 28. And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle. That is, at the door of the holy place, all being brought into it that were to be placed there.

Verse 29. And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation,.... Of which see Exodus 40:6

and offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering; either the burnt offering the meat offering of the daily sacrifice, as Jarchi interprets it, see Exodus 28:38 or it may be rather the burnt offering and meat offering of the consecration of Aaron and his sons, Exodus 29:1

as the Lord commanded Moses; in the places referred to.

Verse 30. And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar,.... Of which position, see Exodus 30:18

and put water there to wash [withal]; for the priests to wash their hands and feet with; a type of that laver or fountain opened for the house of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem to wash in, Zechariah 13:1.

Verse 31. And Moses, and Aaron, and his sons, washed their hands and their feet thereat. This laver was for the priests, and Moses, officiating as a priest, washed in it, with Aaron, and his sons, whom he was now about to consecrate to the priest's office, and invest with it by offering sacrifice for them; Jarchi says this was on the eighth day of the consecration.

Verse 32. When they went into the tent of the congregation,.... Not only at this time, but at all other times:

and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; to the altar of burnt offering to offer sacrifice; and also to the altar of incense, and burn incense on that; for before whatever service they performed in the tabernacle they washed:

as the Lord commanded Moses; Exodus 30:20 this phrase is near twenty times expressed in this and the preceding chapter, to show that everything was done by the workmen, and everything put in its proper place by Moses, exactly according to the will of God; no one pursuing his own fancy and private judgment, but all consulting the mind of God, and acting according to that.

Verse 33. And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar,.... Which consisted of hangings one hundred cubits long and fifty broad; see Exodus 27:9, &c.

and set up the hanging of the court gate; which was at the east end of it; and the hanging was of twenty cubits, hung upon four pillars, Exodus 27:16

so Moses finished the work; of the tabernacle, in making it by workmen, and in rearing it up by the help of others; and as the former was the work of some months, so the latter, it is highly probable, was the work of some days, at least, in doing all that is said to be done in this chapter relative to it; for though it is said to be reared up on the first day of the first month, yet not then fully set up, or everything done requisite to the use and service of it; see Numbers 7:1.

Verse 34. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation,.... The outside of it; this cloud was the same with the pillar of cloud that went before the Israelites, as soon almost as they came out of Egypt; and led them through the Red sea, and conducted them to Mount Sinai; only it now appeared in a different form, not erect as a pillar, but more expanded, so as to cover the tabernacle without;

and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle; the inside of it, not the most holy place only, but the holy place also: this was an uncommon brightness, lustre, and splendour, a glorious stream of light, which the eye of man could not well bear to behold; such a glory filled the temple of Solomon at the dedication of that, 1 Kings 8:11 and was an emblem of Christ, the brightness of his Father's glory, dwelling in and filling the tabernacle of the human nature, where the Godhead, the Shechinah, the divine Majesty, dwells bodily, Hebrews 1:3 Colossians 2:9.

Verse 35. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation,.... He had been there before, both in the holy, and in the most holy place, to see that the furniture of each were put as the Lord directed, which being done he came out again; and now a cloud being on the outside of it, and the glory of the Lord within, he was so struck with an awe and reverence of the divine Being, of whose presence these were a symbol, that he could not engage his heart, or had not boldness to go into the tabernacle until he was called, Leviticus 1:1 for so it follows:

because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle; there was something, no doubt, very venerable in the spreading cloud, as well as very striking in the refulgent glory, which commanded distance, even to a person that had been used to converse with God; Moses, that went into the midst of the cloud where the Lord was, now could not or durst not go into the tabernacle it covered; and he who then was not deterred by the sight of the glory of God, which was like devouring fire, Exodus 24:16 now could not, or at least thought it not proper and advisable to enter into the holy place erected for the service and worship of God; the chief reason of which may be, because, as yet, he had not a call to enter, as he then had, and as we find was afterwards given him, Leviticus 1:1 and perhaps another reason may be, because he was now no longer a priest; Aaron and his sons being invested with the priestly office, whose business it was to draw nigh to God; and indeed the call he afterwards had was not to come into the tabernacle, but was a call unto him out of it.

Verse 36. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle,.... By the Lord himself, or it removed by his order, that is, rose up and stood above the tabernacle, and appeared in the form of a pillar, and went before it:

the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; the motion of the cloud was a direction to set forward and continue their journey as long as it lasted; but when it rested and abode upon the tabernacle, then they stopped and rested also, as is suggested in the following verse Exodus 40:37, see Numbers 9:17 thus the saints are to be followers of God as dear children, and to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes or directs, and walk after the Spirit, the dictates and directions thereof; so the wheels in Ezekiel's vision went and stood, as did the living creatures, and the spirit in them, Ezekiel 1:19.

Verse 37. But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not,.... Even if it continued so two days, or a month, or a year, as very probably it sometimes did; which will in some measure account for the long continuance of the Israelites in the wilderness, see Numbers 9:22

till the day that it was taken up: or, "of its ascent" {f}, being "lifted up," or going upwards, higher in the air, right over the tabernacle, or perhaps more to the front of it; the word used before in this and the preceding verse has the signification of ascending upwards.

{f} wtleh "sustolli ejus," Montanus.

Verse 38. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day,.... Or over it {g}, it covered it, when it abode upon it, and rested; and stood on high over it when it moved and the people journeyed:

and fire was on it by night; the same phenomenon which had the appearance of a cloud in the day time shone like fire in the night time: or "fire was in it" {h}; that is, in the cloud; so it appeared in the night, and was, as the Targum of Jonathan here calls it, a pillar of fire; the same with the pillar of cloud and fire, which departed not from the people all the while they were in the wilderness, Exodus 13:21 and this was

in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys; whether by night or by day; for in hot countries they travel much by night; and as the cloud was both a shelter from the heat of the sun in the daytime, and a direction of their way; so the fire by night was of the same use for direction, and might be also terrifying to wild beasts in the wilderness, who are afraid of fire, and so be a security to the Israelites from them; all which is an emblem of the guidance and protection, light, joy, and comfort, the church of God has from his gracious presence, while in the wilderness of this world; see Isaiah 4:5.

{g} Nkvmh le "supra tabernaculum," Drusius. {h} wb "in ea"; Fagius, Junius & Tremellius; Drusius.