Exodus, Lesson 32: Construction of the Tabernacle: The Final Lesson

The Tabernacle (610x352)Moses had again given the Ten Words to the Israelites after He returned from Mt. Sinai a second time.  This time his face was shining.  So, he covered His face when we dealt with the people as Moses but uncovered His face when he was delivering to them God’s Word.

We now enter the last chapters of Exodus, where Exodus covers, a second time, most of the material from chapters 25:10-30:10.  Nearly everything from the earlier chapters is restated here, sometimes verbatim.  What primarily change here in these chapters are the tenses of the verbs: what had been ordered (and, thus, was in the future tense) is now being completed.  And so we will be skipping large portions of the text to cover only material that is new.


Sabbath Regulations 

Read Exodus 35:1-3

The only new material is God’s instruction not to light fires on the Sabbath.

–          If the people were not allowed to light fires on the Sabbath, what did that mean about what future work was not to done, even on the Sabbath?


Read Exodus 36:2-7

–          Thinking back to Exodus 32 and the amount that Aaron gathered for the golden calf, how did these offerings differ?


–          What did Moses have to command because more than enough was collected?


Read Exodus 38:1

Here, what Exodus 27:1 simply called “the altar” is here called “the altar of whole burnt offering.”  Perhaps, this was to distinguish this altar for the altar of incense just mentioned, which we skipped because it was a repeat of earlier material.


Read Exodus 38:8


Excursus: The Serving Women

What is interesting to note is that this verse mentions those who made the contribution so the bronze laver could be built.  They were “the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of the meeting.”

If you remember the story of High Priest Eli in 1 Samuel, he had sons who did not exemplify the holy life God had called His people to live.  There, we also hear a mention of the serving women first mentioned in Exodus.

1 Samuel 2:22: Now Eli was very old.  He had heard everything that his sons were doing to the Israelites, and how they had sex with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

  1. What we can piece together is that the women who served in such a way started about this time during the exodus.
  2. Such service was still going on during the time of the judges; how much beyond that is unknown.
  3. Like other service done for God and His people, those who served were susceptible to corruption like all other people.
  4. We don’t know what their service was.
    1. It’s possible, but this is just conjecture, that they dedicated themselves to a life of prayer and fasting, as we hear about later in the case of Anna at the time of Christ mentioned in Luke 2: 36-37.
    2. It’s possible they were women, who ideally, devoted themselves to a life of virginity to serve the Lord with praying and fasting, as some suppose happened in the case of Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:39).  Note: This was the Church’s tradition on how Mary served before Gabriel called her to become the mother of Jesus.


Read Exodus 38:21

This verse is the only place that Exodus calls the Tabernacle the “Tabernacle of the Testimony.”  This is a rare term for the Tabernacle, only mentioned outside Exodus in the book of Numbers (1:50, 53; 10:11).  The term “testimony” refers to the covenant relationship that God has with His people.  Thus, the term testimony reveals that it is in the Tabernacle where God meets with His people.

We’ll look into this more fully when we explore Christian worship as the fulfillment of Old-Covenant worship.


Presentation of the Tabernacle to Moses

Read Exodus 39:32, 42

Excursus: More Echoes of Creation

Last week, we looked extensively at Exodus 34:10 and how it connected to God’s initial creation of the world.  There, God exuberantly responded on renewing the Covenant with His people.  For, and through His people, He said He would create (Hebrew: bara) marvels as He also initially created the world.

In the beginning, when God spoke, He brought life into being through His words.  By His use of bara, God was also making known that He was giving life in His covenant with Israel.  This time, however, it would be spiritual life where only spiritual death held sway because of our fall into sin.

In Exodus 39:32, we find another tie-in to creation.  Moses’ use of “All the work … was finished” echoes Genesis 2:1-2: “So the heavens and the earth were finished … and by the seventh day God had finished his work which he had done.”  Moses also saw the work and blessed the Israelites, which also echoes back to creation in Genesis 1:22, 28, and 31.

What is the significance of this?  It shows that the redemption of Israel and the construction of the Tabernacle is a re-creation account.  Through the Tabernacle, God will be among His people like He was in the original creation before the fall into sin.  The Tabernacle will be God’s vehicle to be present among His people in a way where He gives life in a fallen, death-filled world.


The Tabernacle is Assembled

Exodus 40:1-16 covers God instructing Moses to assemble (finally!) the Tabernacle.  Exodus has covered the material earlier in this section.  What is worth noting is the purpose that anointing something/someone does.

Read Exodus 40:9-10

–          Discuss what being “made most holy” (ESV translation) means.


–          Thus, what does God do through the use of anointing oil?


Read Exodus 40:17-33

–          When the Tabernacle is going up, what refrain do we hear in the text, stating who decides the placement and the objects in and around the Tabernacle? (vs. 19,21, 23, 25, 27, 29, and 32)


–          What does this litany of refrains reinforce to the people concerning the worship of God (remember the golden-calf incident)?


Excursus: Exodus 40:33: Moses finished his work

When we read in Exodus 40:33 that “Moses finished his work,” such wording in the book of Exodus brings us again to the creation account.  Moses wrote in Genesis 2:2 that God “finished his work” on the 7th day of creation.  In the same way that Exodus earlier used bara (create) to reveal that God would give life in His covenant with Israel, we find something similar here.

As God brought about life in creation, so also will He bring about spiritual life through what He will do at the Tabernacle/Temple.

  1. The same “Spirit of God” that oversaw the building of the sanctuary in Exodus 31:3 oversaw the formation of the universe in Genesis1:2.
  2. The Lord instructed Moses, seven times, to build the Tabernacle by saying “Yahweh said” (Exodus 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 12).  Yahweh spoke the world into being in seven days (Gen 1:1-2:3).  “Yahweh said,” wasn’t simply repetition but taught the power of the Word to do what it says.
  3. The seventh, “Yahweh said,” (Exodus 31:12-17) and the 7th day of creation concerned (Genesis 2:1-3) the Sabbath.  Thus, the final “Yahweh said” is to teach that worship of God is being brought into God’s rest for you, not about what you do for God.
  4. After Moses fulfilled each “Yahweh said,” in these verses, we hear “as the Lord had commanded” (40:19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, and 32).  Thus, although Moses was doing the doing, it was God working though Him to accomplish His will.
  5. Exodus’ description of how the Tabernacle was “finished” (39:32) and how Moses “saw” the work (39:43) recalls how God “finished” His work in creation (Gen 2:1-2) and “saw” that it was good (Gen 1:31).  Again, the idea is inculcated that, through the Tabernacle, God will be creating something.  This time, however, it will to give spiritual life because of the spiritual death inherited from Adam.  


God’s Glory Enters the Tabernacle

Read Exodus 40:34

–          What happened at the Tabernacle that earlier happened on Mt. Sinai?


–          If Yahweh made His presence known on Sinai, away from the people, what does Yahweh making His presence at the Tabernacle show to the people?


–          What two modes of presence can we extrapolate from this verse with God’s presence for us in the New Covenant?


Read Exodus 40:35-38

Here, at the end of Exodus, we hear about two types of clouds.  First, we have the cloud that appeared to the Israelites when they left Egypt.  God’s presence was a pillar of cloud day and a pillar of fire by night, through which God led the people of Israel into freedom.

Wherever the Israelites camped, the cloud was over where they camped.  The Israelites didn’t break camp and continue on their journey until the cloud lifted to guide them on their way.  That was how God guided Israel (for more detail, read Numbers 9: 15-23).

The other cloud mentioned in these closing verses of Exodus is distinct from the cloud that rested over the Tabernacle.  This cloud filled the Tabernacle, so that even Moses could not enter this place.  Exodus calls this cloud, “The glory of the LORD.”  So, God was revealing more of His glory where a person could not be because of his inborn sin.

After the Tabernacle was put in place, the glory of the Lord, in the form of a cloud, filled the Tabernacle.  This showed that God had, obviously, accepted the Tabernacle as His dwelling place.  The Lord later revealed His presence to His people in the same way when the Temple in Jerusalem was finished (see 1 Kings 8:10-11).


Next Week: Putting it all together:  Old Covenant Worship folding into the New Covenant