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Exodus Chapter Forty


Exodus 40

Chapter Contents

The tabernacle is to be set up, Aaron and his sons to be sanctified. (1-15) Moses performs all as directed. (16-33) The glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle. (34-38)

Commentary on Exodus 40:1-15

(Read Exodus 40:1-15)

When a new year begins, we should seek to serve God better than the year before. In half a year the tabernacle was completed. When the hearts of numbers are earnest in a good cause, much may be done in a short time; and when the commandments of God are continually attended to, as the rule of working, all will be done well. The high-priesthood was in the family of Aaron till Christ came, and in Him, the substance of all these shadows, it continues for ever.

Commentary on Exodus 40:16-33

(Read Exodus 40:16-33)

When the tabernacle and the furniture of it were prepared, they did not put off rearing it till they came to Canaan; but, in obedience to the will of God, they set it up in the midst of their camp. Those who are unsettled in the world, must not think that this will excuse want of religion; as if it were enough to begin to serve God when they begin to be settled in the world. No; a tabernacle for God is very needful, even in a wilderness, especially as we may be in another world before we come to fix in this. And we may justly fear lest we should deceive ourselves with a form of godliness. The thought that so few entered Canaan, should warn young persons especially, not to put off the care of their souls.

Commentary on Exodus 40:34-38

(Read Exodus 40:34-38)

The cloud covered the tabernacle even in the clearest day; it was not a cloud which the sun scatters. This cloud was a token of God's presence to be seen day and night, by all Israel, that they might never again question, Is the Lord among us, or is he not? It guided the camp of Israel through the wilderness. While the cloud rested on the tabernacle, they rested; when it removed, they followed it. The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In light and fire the Shechinah made itself visible: God is Light; our God is a consuming Fire. Yet so dazzling was the light, and so dreadful the fire, that Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, till the splendour was abated. But what Moses could not do, our Lord Jesus has done, whom God caused to draw near; and who has invited us to come boldly, even to the mercy-seat. Being taught by the Holy Spirit to follow the example of Christ, as well as to depend upon him, to attend his ordinances, and obey his precepts, we shall be kept from losing our way, and be led in the midst of the paths of judgment, till we come to heaven, the habitation of his holiness. BLESSED BE GOD FOR JESUS CHRIST!

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Exodus


Exodus 40

Verse 2

[2] On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.

The time for doing this is, On the first day of the first month - This wanted but fourteen days of a year since they came out of Egypt. Probably the work was made ready just at the end of the year, so that the appointing this day gave no delay. In Hezekiah's time they began to sanctify the temple on the first day of the first month, 2 Chronicles 29:17. The new moon (which by their computation was the first day of every month) was observed by them with some solemnity; and therefore this first new moon of the year was thus made remarkable.

Verse 15

[15] And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.

Their anointing shall be an everlasting priesthood — A seal that their priesthood shall continue as long as the Jewish polity lasts. He signifies that this unction should be sufficient for all succeeding priests. None were afterwards anointed but the high-priests.

Verse 34

[34] Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

As when God had finished this earth, which he designed for man's habitation, he made man, and put him in possession of it; so when Moses had finished the tabernacle, which was designed for God's dwelling-place among men, God came and took possession of it. By these visible tokens of his coming among them, he testified both the return of his favour, which they had forfeited by the golden calf, and his gracious acceptance of their care and pains about the tabernacle. Thus God shewed himself well-pleased with what they had done, and abundantly rewarded them.

A cloud covered the tent — The same cloud which, as the chariot or pavilion of the Shechinah, had come up before them out of Egypt, now settled upon the tabernacle, and hovered over it, even in the hottest and clearest day; for it was none of those clouds which the sun scatters. This cloud was intended to be a token of God's presence, constantly visible day and night to all Israel. A protection of the tabernacle: they had sheltered it with one covering upon another, but after all, the cloud that covered it was its best guard: And a guide to the camp of Israel in their march through the wilderness. While the cloud continued on the tabernacle, they rested; when it removed, they removed and followed it, as being purely under a divine conduct.

And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle — The Shechinah now made an awful entry into the tabernacle, passing through the outer part of it into the most holy place, and there seating itself between the cherubim. It was in light and fire, and, for ought we know, no other-wise, that the Shechinah made itself visible. With these the tabernacle was now filled; yet as before the bush, so now the curtains were not consumed, for, to those that have received the anointing, the majesty of God is not destroying. Yet now so dazzling was the light, and so dreadful was the fire, that Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, at the door of which he attended, till the splendor was a little abated, and the glory of the Lord retired within the veil. But what Moses could not do, our Lord Jesus has done, whom God caused to draw near and approach, and as the fore-runner he is for us entered, and has invited us to come boldly even to the mercy-seat. He was able to enter into the holy place not made with hands; he is himself the true tabernacle, filled with the glory of God, even with that divine grace and truth which were figured by this fire and light. In him the Shechinah took up its rest for ever, for in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Exodus



40 Chapter 40


Verses 1-38

Exodus 40:1-38

Set up the Tabernacle.

The primary and universal obligation to the worship of Jehovah; the proper means to its right performance, with their evidences and fruits

I. What is implied in the injunction in the text?

1. The worship of Jehovah, at whose command the Tabernacle was erected.

2. The setting up of the Tabernacle, at God’s command, implied that He required a specific worship; and the doing this at the seasons expressed in the text, that He called for especial homage at particular times, and in an express manner; and a compliance with the direction was an evidence of obedience to the will of Jehovah.

3. But further, this setting up of the Tabernacle at God’s command implied His sovereign rule and authority among the Jews.

4. Again, as the setting up of the Tabernacle at God’s command implied His sovereignty, so a compliance with the injunction or direction implied a disposition to serve Him.

II. How it may be carried into effect by us.

1. It may be done by our punctual and devout attendance on Divine worship.

2. If we would carry the injunction in the text into effect suitably, we must duly observe and keep all the ordinances of God’s house.

3. I observe that the spirit of the commandment before us will be carried into effect in a more especial manner by us if we make Christ the Alpha and Omega--the beginning and the ending of all our religious worship--the great object of faith and adoration in all our ceremonial observances.

4. Lastly, that your services may be suitable, acceptable, and efficient, seek the teaching and direction of the Holy Spirit.

III. The evidences which will prove that it has been done.

1. In the first place, if you have set up your Tabernacle; if you are resolved that, whatever others do, as for you and your household ye will serve the Lord; and if you are enabled to approach Him in a suitable disposition, and by a right faith; then you will enjoy in your own souls all the blessings of His house, and the blessedness of those whom He causes to come near unto Him.

2. If you have set up your Tabernacle, and are led by the Spirit to serve God with your spirit, then you will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:9; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 4:11).

3. If we have set up our Tabernacle, and serve God in His Son, are led by His Spirit, and bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, then we shall be prepared for the rewards of the righteous, and to stand before the Son of man “at His appearing and His kingdom.”


1. As the command for the erection of the Tabernacle is given us by God, and every direction respecting it comes from Him, what presumption is it in any man to go about the formation of a different Tabernacle after his own fancy!

2. As the setting up of the Tabernacle was to be done forthwith at God’s commandment, and for the whole congregation, what madness for any to think of postponing the duty to a more convenient season!

3. As the Tabernacle is erected for God’s service, was to be resorted to at stated times, and attendance upon it is designed for our greatest good--as a Bethel, a house of mercy, a Bethesda, from which we may derive healing, how should we prize seasons, and means, and opportunities, of attending it! (J. Allport.)

The setting up of the Tabernacle on New Year’s Day

Out of materials specially provided by Him who holds in His hands the springs of action in men, and by artizans inspired by an extraordinary skill, and according to the pattern given to Moses, the Tabernacle was prepared, every part made ready and stored up for the day of erection. But God named that day Himself, and Moses waited for it.

I. And now I would have you notice the special day which God selected. It was the first day of the first month--that is, New Year’s Day; and the reason of this choice is of course to be looked for in a benevolent regard to the religious good of the Jewish people. It would fix a suitable season for a commemorative festival of the great blessing vouchsafed to Israel by a Tabernacle for the Divine presence among them--a festival, be it remarked, that was not forgotten by them in after times, for we read that, in the revival of religion under Hezekiah, it was on the first day of the first month that the House of God was sanctified for the pious and pure worship of the Lord. Moreover, this selection would, I suppose, make New Year’s Day, in the Jewish calendar, a day of religious observance. Consider, first, that the Christian’s body and the Christian’s spirit are together the Tabernacle of God. He is “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” “Know ye not,” saith the apostle to the Corinthian Christians, “that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” “He that dwelleth in love,” writes John, “dwelleth in God, and God in him.” And wherever this indwelling of God is, there and there only is there a Christian man or a Christian woman; wherever there is this indwelling of God, there and there only is the true antitype of the beautiful Tabernacle which was set up on the first day of the first month in the Jewish calendar. This is the true Tabernacle, too, in which God rests for ever, because He delights therein. Now mark: such a wonderful Tabernacle like that which was put up by Moses on the first day of the first month can only be made of materials which God has selected, and which God has gathered together for that work; for the light and the elements and the features and graces of the Christian character are His gift, such as holy trust, humble desire, love, meekness, gratefulness, praise, prayer, and joy in Christ. And again, those materials must be wrought up and combined according to the pattern which has been shown to us in the mount. Marvellous pattern! the living model of the character of Jesus, the true Tabernacle of the Father.

II. Israel’s obedience is exemplary to those who are already Christian men. There is some new work now for God to be done, or some old work for God to be done in a new spirit. For instance, responsibility of time to be more felt, and its management and use arranged with an increased Christian conscientiousness. The dedication of self to the Saviour has to be renewed, and everywhere and always remembered. Does not our work for Him who died for us want to be done secretly in the heart, openly in the family, and in the church, and in the world, with a new love, a new spirit, a new resoluteness, and a new will? Ah! a new year summons a Christian in a new manner of spirit unto obedience to his Divine Master. Let us, on such an occasion, listen to our Father’s voice, and on the first day of the first month set up our Tabernacle; and then be assured that through all the journeyings of the year, as upon the Tabernacle of Israel, shall the tokens of the Divine presence rest upon us.

III. For notice, in the next place, that on the first day of the first month, immediately the Tabernacle was set, the cloud of the Lord was upon it by day, and the fire of the Lord was upon it by night, and both continued to rest there through the journeyings of the people. Oh! it must have been a marvellous phenomenon, that under which the Almighty God thus certified His protection and guidance to the people. And it was a necessary phenomenon, too, under their novel circumstances. The desert was pathless, and they had no guide, and so by this they were conducted in their journeyings. It was adapted, too, to meet their wants: it was “the pillar of cloud by day” to screen them from the fierce sun, and it was “the pillar of fire by night“ to light up the encampment and warm the chill air. And is not Christian life a pilgrimage? Are we not strangers upon earth, seeking a better, a heavenly Temple? Could we reach it without a Divine Guide? And though we have not the same sensible proofs of God’s presence which were granted to Israel, is it not most assuredly with us just as it was with them? (C. P. Eyre, M. A.)

Tabernacle foreshadowings

The Tabernacle, as a whole, is a finger-post directing me to that mystic Person in whom “God in very deed dwelt with man upon the earth.” Its white-robed priest is the shadow of Him who was “holy, harmless, undefiled,” and whom I recognize as my true High Priest. Its bleeding lamb laid upon the altar is the likeness of that Lamb of God by whose precious blood I have been redeemed from all iniquity; its innermost sanctuary is the type of that heaven into which He has entered to make atonement for my sin; and its outer apartment is the analogue of the present world, in which we are to serve Him with the incense of our devotions, the light of our characters, and the fruit of our lives. The incarnation in the person of Christ, the mediation and expiation of His priestly work, and the consequent obligation under which His redeemed people lie to honour Him with unceasing service and shining holiness--or, putting it all into four words, incarnation, mediation, expiation, consecration--these are the things of which the Tabernacle, with its furniture, services, and attendants, were the special types; and as thus we condense its teachings into their essence, we come to a larger and more comprehensive view of the doctrines of the gospel itself, and discover that we have been studying the same truths, only under a different form. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

──The Biblical Illustrator