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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 40

 

 

Verses 1-8

The Dwellingplace Is Set Up (Exodus 40:1-8).

We note again that the order goes from the most holy (the Ark) to the least holy (the hangings of the court) as is customary when dealing with the details of the Dwellingplace.

Exodus 40:1

‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “On the first day of the first month shall you raise up the Dwellingplace of the Tent of Meeting. And you shall put in it the Ark of the Testimony, and you shall screen the Ark with the veil. And you shall bring in the Table, and set in order the things that are on it; and you shall bring in the Lampstand, and light its lamps. And you shall set the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the screen of the entrance to the Dwellingplace. And you shall set the altar of burnt-offering before the entrance of the Dwellingplace of the Tent of Meeting. And you shall set the laver between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and shall put water in it. And you shall set up the court round about, and hang up the screen of the entrance of the court.’

On the first day of the first month.” That is on the month of Abib (Nisan) round about March or April. It was the official New Years day.

Moses is now commanded to set up the Dwellingplace, and place the furniture in it, commencing with the Most Holy Place. The Ark of the Testimony is placed in it, containing within it the covenant tablets, and the veil is then to be put in place immediately, to screen the Ark. Moving to the Holy Place, the Table, Lampstand and altar of incense are to be put in place, and the showbread placed in order on the Table, and the lamps lit on that first evening. The screen for the Sanctuary is then to be set up. And finally, moving into the court, the bronze altar and the laver, the latter filled with water, are to be put in place. Then the outer screens are to be erected, together with the entrance screen.

So even before all is sanctified great care is taken to preserve the holiness of each section in descending order.

It will be noted that the altar of incense is to be placed ‘before the Ark of the Testimony’, that is in as close proximity to it as the veil will allow, and probably as we have seen between the ends of the two bearer-poles for carrying the Ark, which protrude into the Holy Place (1 Kings 8:8). It is noteworthy that this altar is always mentioned last of the furniture in the Holy Place, and this in spite of its prominent position. That is because it deals with a man’s approach to God rather than God’s approach to man. That is why when it was first introduced it was only dealt with after all those things which covered God’s approach to man. The text is consistent.


Verses 9-11

The Anointing With Holy Anointing Oil Of The Dwellingplace and All Its Furniture (Exodus 40:9-11).

Once again the anointing begins in the inner Sanctuary, then to the brazen altar and its vessels, then to the laver and its accompaniment and then to the priests themselves (the only holy things that leave the Dwellingplace regularly).

Exodus 40:9-11

‘And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the Dwellingplace, and all that is in it, and shall sanctify it and all its furniture: and it shall be holy. And you shall anoint the altar of burnt-offering, and all its vessels, and sanctify the altar: and the altar shall be most holy. And you shall anoint the laver and its base, and sanctify it.’

All is then to be anointed with the holy anointing oil to ‘sanctify’ it, that is to set it apart to its holy purpose. It is now Yahweh’s. All in the Sanctuary is holy, that is set apart to and belonging to Yahweh. The bronze altar is ‘most holy’ in contrast to all else in the court, a warning to all but the priests not to approach it too closely except when necessary. It is not more holy than the Sanctuary and its contents (compare Exodus 30:29).


Verses 12-15

The Installing of ‘the Priest’ and His Assistants (Exodus 40:12-15).

Exodus 40:12-15

‘And you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the Tent of Meeting, and shall wash them with water. And 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. And you shall bring his sons, and put coats upon them; and you shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to me in the priest's office: and their anointing shall be to them for an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.’

The installing of the priests follows. Firstly ‘The Priest’, and then his assistants in the priestly office. It commences with the washing of water to remove earthiness and physical defilement. Then Aaron is clothed by Moses in the holy garments set apart for ‘The Priest’, and Moses anoints him with the holy anointing oil and ‘sanctifies’ him, that is, sets him apart to a holy purpose and as belonging to Yahweh.

After this the sons are brought forward and Moses is to dress them in their priestly robes, and anoint them so that they too may minister in the priestly office as assistants to ‘the Priest’. And this anointing is to be seen as setting them and their descendants apart for ever in an everlasting priesthood, as long as the anointing continues. The provision is always that if they prove unworthy the anointing will cease. There are no genuine anointed Aaronic priests today.

In Leviticus 8 only Aaron is specifically anointed on the head (Exodus 40:12), although his sons share in that anointing by the sprinkling on them of the oil (Exodus 40:30). This may be what is in mind here.

The point is not that their anointing will follow the same pattern as their father’s, but that they too will be anointed with the holy anointing oil. He was exclusively ‘the anointed Priest’ (Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 6:22; Leviticus 16:32 etc.). The oil was poured on him (Exodus 29:7; Leviticus 8:12) but only sprinkled on his sons (Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30). Eleazar would have oil poured on him when he later became ‘The Priest’.

However it may be that ‘and you shall anoint them (when you anoint them as Priest), as you anointed their father, that they may minister to me in the priest's office: and their anointing shall be to them for an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations’, refers to the future when each Priest will be anointed from among the sons of Aaron on his inauguration as High Priest.

Today it is all who are truly His who are set apart as priests in accordance with His promise to make His people a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9), and all, both male and female, are anointed with the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27; 2 Corinthians 1:21), and sanctified as set apart to a holy purpose and as belonging to Him (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:14). And all are assistants to the One Who uniquely and for ever is ‘The Priest’, our great High Priest (Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:21). And that priesthood does not involve a continuation of physical sacrifices, for the final sacrifice was offered once for all in Christ (Hebrew 10:12), but a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and dutiful service (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5), and involves showing forth the excellencies of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).


Verse 16-17

‘Thus did Moses. In accordance with all that Yahweh commanded him, so did he. And it came about in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the Dwellingplace was raised up.’

So Moses did exactly as he was commanded, and on the New Years Day the Dwellingplace was raised up and fully furnished and sanctified. The Israelites erected the Dwellingplace on the first day of the first month, almost exactly one year after the they left Egypt (Exodus 40:2; Exodus 40:17). This was about nine months after Israel had arrived at Mount Sinai (compare Exodus 19:1). The making of the Dwellingplace had taken less than six months, a sign of their genuine dedication and enthusiasm. What a great day it was that it was now ready.


Verses 18-33

‘And Moses reared up the Dwellingplace, and laid its sockets, and set up its frames, and put in its bars, and reared up its pillars. And he spread the tent over the Dwellingplace, and put the covering of the tent over it (above upon it); as Yahweh commanded Moses. And he took and put the Testimony into the Ark, and set the staves on the Ark, and put the mercy-seat on top of (above upon) the Ark: and he brought the Ark into the Dwellingplace, and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the Ark of the Testimony; as Yahweh commanded Moses. And he put the Table in the Tent of Meeting, on the side of the Dwellingplace northward, outside the veil. And he set the bread in order on it before Yahweh, as Yahweh commanded Moses. And he put the lampstand in the Tent of Meeting, over against the Table, on the side of the Dwellingplace southward. And he lit the lamps before Yahweh, as Yahweh commanded Moses. And he put the golden altar in the Tent of Meeting before the veil: and he burnt on it incense of sweet spices; as Yahweh commanded Moses. And he put the screen of the entrance to the Dwellingplace. And he set the altar of whole burnt-offering at the entrance of the Dwellingplace of the Tent of Meeting, and offered on it the whole burnt-offering and the meal-offering; as Yahweh commanded Moses. And he set the laver between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it, with which to wash. And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet at it. When they went into the Tent of Meeting, and when they came near to the altar, they washed; as Yahweh commanded Moses. And he reared up the court round about the Dwellingplace and the altar, and set up the screen of the entrance of the court. So Moses finished the work.’

So finally the Dwellingplace was established, and as each part was put in place the activity for which it was prepared also took place. The Testimony was put in the Ark. The showbread was set in order on the Table, the Lampstand was lit, incense was offered on the altar of incense, a whole burnt offering and meal offering was offered on the bronze altar, and they washed their hands and feet in the laver. So was each given its first use.

Note how often the phrase ‘as Yahweh commanded Moses’ appears. In this chapter it occurs seven times, the number of divine perfection. It also appeared seven times in the previous chapter. Thus there were two series of seven (or fourteen in all). And further to this there were expressions which indicated the same thing. Thus there is great emphasis on the fact that the Dwellingplace is in accordance with the divine pattern, and continual emphasis on the fact that Yahweh has been obeyed.

He spread the tent over the Dwellingplace, and put the covering of the tent over it.” Here we see the distinction made between the Dwellingplace proper, the tent of goats’ hair, and the outer covering of skins. The distinction is not, however, always maintained, and the whole is sometimes called the Dwellingplace.


Verses 34-38

Yahweh Commissions the Dwellingplace (Exodus 40:34-38).

All the work having been completed and the Sanctuary set up Yahweh comes and sets His seal on it. We may analyse this last passage as follows:

a The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Yahweh filled the Dwellingplace and Moses was unable to enter into the Tent of Meeting because the cloud abode on it and the glory of Yahweh filled the Dwellingplace (Exodus 40:35-36).

b When the cloud was taken up from over the Dwellingplace, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys (Exodus 40:36).

b But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey until the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40:37).

a For the cloud of Yahweh was on the Dwellingplace by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys (Exodus 40:38).

Note that in ‘a’ the cloud covering the Tent of Meeting and the glory of Yahweh filling the Dwellingplace is mentioned twice as dual witness to the unique occurrence on this first erection of the Dwellingplace, then in the parallel we are told that the cloud was on the Dwellingplace, and the fire by night, making the third and complete witness. In ‘b’ when the cloud was take up they went on, and in the parallel if it was not taken up they did not go on.

Exodus 40:34-35

‘Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Yahweh filled the Dwellingplace. And Moses was not able to enter into the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud abode on it, and the glory of Yahweh filled the Dwellingplace.’

Once the Dwellingplace was set up the cloud covered it and the glory of Yahweh filled it. The result was that such was the glory that even Moses, who had experienced so much of the glory of Yahweh, could not enter it. Note the repetition of the covering by the cloud and the entering of the glory of Yahweh. Something repeated twofold is certain and sure (Genesis 41:32). In the old Tent of Meeting Moses had been able to enter it because the cloud remained outside. But that was not Yahweh’s dwellingplace.

That the Tent of Meeting referred to is the Dwellingplace is confirmed by the fact that:

1) The Dwellingplace is in context constantly called the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 40:2; Exodus 40:6; Exodus 40:12; Exodus 40:24; Exodus 40:26; Exodus 40:29; Exodus 40:32).

2) That the cloud would necessarily accompany the glory to veil it.

This excessiveness of glory was necessarily only for a short time. It was a short term manifestation, followed by the lesser manifestation of cloud and fire. That the glory gradually faded, as did the glory on Moses’ face, is revealed by the fact that activity would, of course, take place within the Sanctuary. Aaron had to enter it twice daily to light and dress the lamps (Exodus 27:20-21). Incense had to be offered twice daily (Exodus 30:7-8). The showbread had to be placed (Leviticus 24:8). (See also Leviticus 10:13). Thus we must assume that such manifestation as remained became restricted to the Most Holy Place. But the cloud clearly hovered above the Dwellingplace so that it could be seen, and probably the fire also.

Exodus 40:36-38

‘And when the cloud was taken up from over the Dwellingplace, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys, but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of Yahweh was on the Dwellingplace by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.’

The pillar of cloud and fire now abode in or on the Dwellingplace. And while it remained there it was clear that Yahweh wished to remain there. But when the pillar ‘was taken up’ then it was time to move on. And the pillar would then go before them. Yahweh was fulfilling His promise to be among them to the letter. (See Numbers 9:15-23). But the very verb ‘was taken up’ (niphal - ‘was come up’) may suggest an outside agency. Yahweh was not limited to the Dwellingplace.

The graciousness of God is revealed in that the pillar was always discernible, either as cloud or fire. The cloud could be seen in the daylight, and the fire in the darkness. They knew that He was there.

So the book which began with Israel being brought into bondage under one king ends with Israel being led into freedom under another King, One Who dwelt in unapproachable glory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 40:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-40.html. 2013.

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