Monday, June 28, 2010

Exodus 28

Selection of the Levites as priests (vs. 1-5)--The tribe of Levi became the priestly tribe of Israel. In this section the Lord established the lineage of Aaron as High Priest, but all of Levi’s sons (he had three) played a role in the religious ceremonies. Those will be spelled out in detail later in the Law. The priests--High Priest and regular--were to wear elaborate garments, and those of the High Priest are detailed in this chapter. The clothing is listed in verse 4: “a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle.” These garments are “holy” (v. 4), and made of “fine linen” (v. 5).

The ephod (vs. 6-14)--This was a sacred vestment originally worn only by the High Priest, but eventually by ordinary priests as well (I Sam. 22:18). Apparently, any such garment worn over the human trunk was called an “ephod,” because at least once David wore one (II Sam. 6:14). The garment consisted of two pieces, which hung from the neck, thus covering both back and front. It had two onyx stones on it, each engraved with six of the names of the sons of Israel (vs. 9-10). “You shall set them in settings of gold” (vs. 11-13). Two chains of pure gold were also on the ephod (v. 14).

The breastplate (vs. 15-30)—It’s called the “breastplate of judgment” (v. 15). It was also to be made of “fine woven linen” (v. 16). The most outstanding feature of the breastplate was it four rows of precious stones, three in a row, each stone being engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes (vs. 17-21). It was about 10 inches square (a “span,” v. 16). There were two chains of gold on the breastplate, which fit through two golden rings and attached to the ephod (v. 22-25). Also attached to the breastplate was something called the “Urim and Thummin,” literally, “the lights and the perfections.” We do not know exactly what they were, except that, at times, God imparted to Israel through the High Priest some direction and counsel. Numbers 27:21 reads, in part, “He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the LORD for him by the judgment of the Urim.” I Samuel 28:6 says, “And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.” So God communicated at times through the means of the Urim and Thummin. They were apparently material objects, but of what composition is subject to speculation.

The robe (vs. 31-35)—The robe of the ephod was to be “all of blue” (v. 31). On the hem of the robe, “you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around” (vs. 33-34). This was very important. Its sound was to be heard when the High Priest went into the “holy place before the LORD and when he comes out, that he may not die” (v. 35). The significance of this is not explained, other than that’s what Jehovah wanted.

On the High Priest’s head (vs. 36-39)—A plate of pure gold was to be placed on the High Priest’s forehead, engraved with the words “Holiness to the Lord.” It was attached to the turban (vs. 37, 39) by a blue cord. The importance of this is described in verse 38: “So it shall be on Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” The relation to something on the High Priest’s head to the iniquity of the people is not immediately evident, but then, the commands of God don’t always make sense to us, and they don’t need to. If He says it, that’s all we need.

The tunic and trousers (vs. 40-43)—The priests were also to wear a tunic with a sash around it (v. 40), and “linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs” (v. 42), “that they do no incur iniquity and die” (v. 43). This entire outfit was to be perpetual for the priests of the old law (v. 43).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Exodus 27

The altar (vs. 1-8)—In these verses, Moses is given instructions regarding the building the altar of sacrifices. It was about 8 feet long and wide and 4 feet high (v. 1, again, depending on the measurement of a cubit). It had horns on each corner (v. 2), and there were various pans, shovels, basins, and forks for maintenance (v. 3). And, like the ark, it was to be borne by two poles, made of acacia wood (v. 6), slipped through “four bronze rings at its four corners” (v. 4). In this case, everything was to be overlaid with bronze (brass), not gold. “Bronze” is probably a better word than the KJV’s “brass,” being an alloy of copper and tin widely in use at the time.

The court (vs. 9-19)—The entire tabernacle structure lay north and south. It was about 50 yards long, 25 yards wide, and 7 ½ feet high. The curtains for the court were to be of “fine woven linen” (v. 9), with twenty pillars and twenty sockets of bronze (v. 10). “The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver” (v. 10). It must have been lovely. It was certainly expensive! But again, only the best for the Lord. The opening (“gate”) of the court had a screen about 30 feed in width, “woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. It shall have four pillars and four sockets. All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze” (vs. 16-17). All the utensils for the service of the tabernacle (unless otherwise noted) were to be of bronze (v. 19).

The oil for the lamp (vs. 20-21)—The golden candlestick, as explained earlier, was to be in the “Holy Place,” outside the “Most Holy Place”. The oil to light the lamps on the candlestick were to be of “pure oil of pressed olives…to cause the lamp to burn continually” (v. 20). The priests were to attend to the lamps all night to keep them burning. Josephus says that four of the lamps were extinguished in the morning, while three were kept burning all the time. But Exodus 30:8 and I Samuel 3:3 seem to indicate that the lamps did not burn during the day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exodus 26

The inner and outer curtains of the tabernacle (vs. 1-14)—Here we have, in detail, how the tabernacle was to be constructed. Ten inner curtains were to be made with “fine woven linen” (v. 1), and they were to be of uniform length and width: “every one of the curtains shall have the same measurements” (v. 2). Verses 3 through 6 tell how they were to be attached; I will only mention that, once again, the materials were to be of the highest quality. There were to be 11 outer curtains, a second covering, and their construction is described in verses 7-14. They were to be made of goats’ hair (v. 7), and they, too, “shall all have the same measurements” (v. 8). Their attachment (vs. 9-13) was similar to the inner curtains. There was a third covering “of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that” (v. 14).

The structure of the tabernacle (vs. 15-30)—The building itself was to be built of acacia wood. The length of the boards, how they were to be attached and coupled together, and so forth are all given in detail. It is not terribly interesting, unless one is an architect, I suppose. But that doesn’t make this material unimportant. All things were to be done “according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain” (v. 30). When God gives details, He expects to be obeyed. The tabernacle was very important to the children of Israel, of course, and thus they will follow these instructions to the letter, as is recounted later in the book.

The veil (vs. 31-35)—We have here explained the fashioning of the veil, which was to be situated between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. It was to be “woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim” (v. 31). The hooks upon which it hung were to be of gold, with four sockets of silver (v. 32). Again, the most precious materials were to be used. Some crucial information is then given: “you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy. You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand across from the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side” (vs. 33-35). To briefly sum that up, the ark of the covenant was to be in the “Most Holy Place,” with the lampstand and table for the showbread in the Holy Place (the altar of incense would also be there). The veil would divide the two locations. The various ceremonies regarding these items will be described later in the Law.

The screen for the door (vs. 36-37)--The last two verses of the chapter speak of a screen (or “hanging,” KJV) for the door of the tabernacle. Given our conception of a “screen,” the word “hanging” might be better, because it to was to be “woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver” (v. 36). To hold up the screen, “five pillars of acacia wood,” overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold and sockets of bronze were to be fashioned. Again, only the best, which is what God deserves.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Exodus 25

Materials for the tabernacle (vs. 1-9)—For the next several chapters, the Lord is going to give Moses instructions regarding the items used in the tabernacle (and later, the temple), and the building thereof. The information here can get a little tedious, unless one is into this sort of thing. But, there is a reason behind everything God does. This tabernacle was to be the place where the children of Israel worshipped God, and where He spoke to them. As is due a holy, perfect God, He demanded a pure, perfect tabernacle. More than once, He will tell Moses “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” (v. 9). Jehovah wanted things a certain way, and Moses was to follow that pattern, just as we today are to “hold the pattern of sound words” (II Tim. 1:13).

These first verses list the materials God wants in building the tabernacle. Moses was to get them from the people as a freewill offering; for once, they demonstrate their willingness to please God (Ex. 36:5). The items God asks for are the best and most valuable (vs. 3-7), which, again is only right—God should be given the first and the best.

The ark of the covenant (vs. 10-22)—The ark was a chest; its dimensions are given in verse 10—if we grant a cubit to be 18 inches, then the ark would be 45 inches long (not quite four feet), and 27 inches wide and high. It was to be made of acacia wood (“shittim wood”, KJV), which cannot be precisely identified today. The ark was to be overlaid completely in gold (v. 11). There were to be four rings of gold on the four corners (v. 12), also of gold, and four poles of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, to put into the rings for the purpose of transport (vs. 14-15). The two tables of stone, which God had not yet given to Moses, were to be placed inside the ark. A “mercy seat” of pure gold was to be placed on top of the ark (vs. 17, 21); God would “speak with you from above the mercy seat” (v. 22). The seat was to be made of pure gold, as were two “cherubim” (angels) who would be placed on the top of the ark as well, facing each other, their wings spread above the mercy seat (vs. 18-20). As we shall see, the ark was to be located in the “Most Holy Place” of the tabernacle.

The table for the showbread (vs. 23-30)—The next instructions concern a table for “showbread”; more instructions regarding the showbread are found in Leviticus 24:5-9, and which I shall discuss when I reach that point. Here God simply tells Moses how to build the table upon which the showbread was to be placed. The table was to be of acacias wood (v. 23), three feet long, 18 inches broad, and two feet three inches high (v. 23)—about the size of a small coffee table. It, too, was to be plated with pure god (v. 24). A frame of golden molding was to be built all around the table (v. 25), and four rings were to be placed on each of the corners, with poles for the rings (vs. 26-28). The rings were of pure gold, the poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Moses was also to make various dishes, pans, pitchers, and bowls “for pouring” for the table (v. 29), all of which were to be of pure gold. The showbread was to always be on the table; it would be changed every Sabbath. Nobody was supposed to eat it but the priests. Again, see Leviticus 24:5-9 for more information regarding that.

The lampstand (vs. 31-40)—A golden lampstand would illuminate the Holy Place in the tabernacle (and temple). It would be made of one talent of solid gold (v. 39, very expensive). The lampstand would have seven lamps (the holy number, v. 37), with various ornamentations that I won’t describe here. The reader can peruse those at his/her leisure. But, again, the lampstand was to be of solid gold, as were all its ornaments and utensils. The chapter ends with God admonishing Moses once again, “see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain” (v. 40). God wants things done His way, not ours. It would be nice if religious people today would adhere to that dictum.