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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Exodus 25:1-22

Harmony Of The Law Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Exodus 25:1-22

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Et loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.

2. Alloquere filios Israel ut tollant mihi levationem: ab omni viro cujus cor voluntarie dederit illam, sumetis levationem meam.

3. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass,

3. Ista autem est oblatio quam capietis ab eis, aurum et argentum, et aes,

4. And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair,

4. Et hyacinthum, et purpuram, et vermiculum cocci, et byssum, et pilos caprarum,

5. And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim-wood,

5. Et pelles arietum rubricatas, et pelles taxorum, et ligna sittim.

6. Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,

6. Oleum pro luminari, aromata pro oleo unctionis et pro thymiamate aromatum:

7. Onyx-stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.

7. Lapides onychinos, et lapides plenitudinum pro ephod et pro pectorali.

8. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.

8. Et facient mihi sanctuarium, ut habitem in medio eorum.

9. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

9. Omnino ut ego ostendam tibi similitudinem habitaculi, et similitudinem omnium vasorum ejus, sic facietis.

10. And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.

10. Facient etiam arcam e lignis sittim: duorum cubitorum et semis erit longitudo ejus, cubitus vero et semis latitudo ejus, cubiti item et semis altitudo ejus.

11. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it; and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.

11. Operiesque eam auro puro, intrinsecus et extrinsecus, operies inquam, eam, faciesque super eam coronam auream in circuitu.

12. And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.

12. Fundes quoque ei quatuor annulos aureos, quos pones ad quatuor angulos ejus: duos videlicet annulos in latere ejus uno, et duos annulos in latere ejus altero.

13. And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.

13. Facies praeterea vectes ex lignis sittim, quos cooperies auro.

14. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them.

14. Inducesque vectes in annulos qui erunt in lateribus illius arcrae, ut illis deferetur area.

15. The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it.

15. In annulis illius arcae erunt vectes, non removebuntur ab ea.

16. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.

16. Ponesque in arca testimonium quod dabo tibi.

17. And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.

17. Facies et operculum ex auro mundo: duorum cubitorum et dimidii erit longitudo ejus, cubiti vero et dimidii latitudo ejus.

18. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.

18. Facies etiam duos cherubim aureos: ductiles facies eos in duabus extremitatibus propitiatorii.

19. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.

19. Facies autem cherub unum in extremo hinc, et cherub alterum in extremo inde: ex propitiatorio facietis cherubim, duabus extremitatibus ejus.

20. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.

20. Expandentque cherubim duas alas superne tegentes alis suis propitiatorium, et se mutuo aspicient: ad propitiatorium erunt facies cherubim.

21. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.

21. Pones autem propitiatorium super arcam superne, et in arca pones testimonium quod dabo tibi.

22. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

22. Conveniamque tecum illuc, et loquar tecum e propitiatorio inter duos cherubim quod erit super arcama testimonii, quaecunque praecipiam tibi ad filios Israel.

2. Speak unto the children of Israel. If any caviller should raise a question as to the time in which I have thought fit to introduce this history, although I would not pertinaciously contend with him, still I have not only a probable, but a sure reason for my opinion. For it appears to me that I clearly gather from Exodus 33, that the tabernacle was already built before Moses brought down the first tables from the Mount; for it is there said, that in token of their divorce, in order that the people might know that they were repudiated by God, Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it separately for himself without the camp; not for his own peculiar use, because it is expressly said that he did not dwell there, but that he went out of the camp as often as he desired to consult God; whilst Joshua was its keeper and guardian, (aedituus.) But there is no doubt but that this took place previous to his second ascent to bring down new tables from the Lord; it is, therefore, clear that the tabernacle was already erected. If any object that it was not set up till the end of the second year, the reply is easy, that it was placed anew in its proper position, so that being everywhere surrounded by the children of Israel, it might have all its guards, according to the twelve tribes encamped in their due order; and again, that the tables were then actually deposited in the Ark of the Covenant, and by them God represented Himself, so that without them the tabernacle was in a manner empty; finally, that the solemn dedication is there treated of, for which the due season had not arrived, until in testimony of God's presence the covenant was deposited in the Ark, by way of pledge. In order the better to remove all ambiguity, we must briefly calculate the time. In the third month from their exodus the people reached Mount Sinai. On what day the Law was given is nowhere stated, unless we may probably conjecture that it was promulgated about the end of that month. Thus there will be eight months to be computed until the day on which the tabernacle was dedicated, and the tables deposited in the Ark of the Covenant, as Moses expressly says in the last chapter of Exodus; but, in the Book of Numbers, he relates that in the second month of that year the people removed the camp from that place, and departed to Kibroth-Hattaavah. Now, since between the dedication of the tabernacle and their departure only one month intervened, we must admit that the two ascents into the mountain had preceded in order of time.

Now, the question is, whether he was called to receive the first tables in the beginning of the fourth month? If this be allowed, he could scarcely have prescribed the building of the sanctuary before the end of the eighth month; for it would have been absurd to give the tables of God's paternal favor between the two ascents, while the separation of the tabernacle was testifying of their divorce from Him. Thus, then, I establish the fact, that four whole months were employed in this long and difficult work. And surely it was wonderful that so short a time should suffice; had not incredible activity surpassed all men's expectation, whilst they all emulously devoted themselves with unwearied labor to hasten the work. And it is probable, that after God had established His covenant, He immediately delivered the ordinances respecting the tabernacle and its adjuncts; lest the people should be without the external exercises of religion, which we have seen to be so very necessary. But after the completion of the work, Moses was again commanded to come nigh to God with Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders; and after the offering of sacrifices, he was taken up into the cloud to hold familiar communion with God, where he passed about a month and a half. Having returned, and being made aware of the rebellion of the people, the slaughter of the three thousand took place, and he commanded the people to mourn. How long he remained we know not, but it is probable that at least a month passed before he was recalled We have now more than nine months; and if we add the month and a half during which he was kept in the mount, we shall not be far from the end of the year. God then reconciled Himself to the people, and thus the legitimate dedication of the tabernacle soon followed, which took place in the second year at the beginning of the first month. The Passover having been celebrated, the sign of removal was given in the second month.

If any disagree with me, I would now have them answer me, how it is consistent that Moses, having detected the people's transgression, should then have begun to exhort them to the building of the sanctuary, whereas in his whole address there is no mention made of idolatry? Surely, all things well considered, we must be ready to confess that the people were still loyal when they so heartily consecrated their property to God. But the whole question is sufficiently settled by what I have alleged on the testimony of Moses, viz., that before he came down with the first tables the tabernacle was already in being, unless, perhaps, it be objected that it was another tabernacle, and different from that which was afterwards set up by God's command. But this is a very foolish cavil, for Moses had no authority to make an earthly dwelling-place for God, and to impose on it the sacred name whereby the sanctuary is always honored; and he expressly relates that God's glory appeared in it, in order that the people might more surely know that they were separated from God for their uncleanness, of which matter we shall again speak in its proper place. Again, the word lqch, lakach, implies that Moses took the tabernacle out of the camp, to transfer it to another place. If any one should now object that the tabernacle was arranged according to the pattern which Moses saw in the mount, the reply is easy, that Moses was not then first in the mountain instructed in the true worship of God and heavenly mysteries, when he was kept there forty days, but already before the promulgation of the Law; nor is there any doubt but that the same things were then shewn to him which he had learned before, in order that the people might be more disposed to diligent meditation on the Law. For, from the length of time, they might acknowledge that nothing was omitted which it would be useful for them to know; since, although God might have so instructed His servant in a moment that nothing should have been wanting, still He chose gradually, and as if at His ease, to form for Himself a perfect teacher; and this concession was made to the infirmity of the people. For thus we read in Exodus 19:9,

|Behold I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.|

And again, Exodus 20:21,

|And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness, where God was.|

From whence it is plain that there is no absurdity in saying that he had already seen the pattern of the tabernacle wherein God would be worshipped.

But lest any should object that I rest upon conjectures only, Moses himself plainly shews that, before he received the tables, God gave him instructions respecting the making of the tabernacle; for twice in chapter 25 it is said, |Thou shalt put in the Ark the testimony which I shall give thee,| verses 16 and 21; from whence it is clear that the tables were not yet given, when from God's command he described the whole structure; and thence we again infer that, when the tabernacle was set up, he went up into the mount to bring down the tables which were to be placed in the Ark. But, before he begins to treat of the construction of the tabernacle, he imposes a tribute upon the people, that each, according to his means, should contribute materials both for the tabernacle itself and for all its furniture. The heaving, or, trvmh, therumah, is here put simply for an offering; and is not, as in other passages, distinguished from another kind of sacrifice, which is called tnvphh, thenuphah. But the Israelites are simply commanded to bestow from their abundance what may suffice for the worship of God. It is indeed certain that all we have is God's, and that all He bountifully gives us is polluted unless we devote it to His glory. Still in His indulgence He permits us the free use of all, if only we testify that it remains under His power, and are ready to expend it as He shall command. Thus we duly offer alms, as sacrifices of, sweet-smelling savor; although the rich may not exhaust himself to poverty, but, whilst he relieves the poor, enjoys the goods which he possesses. In sum, whatever we offer to God is like the first-fruits, whereby we testify that all we have is consecrated to His glory. Now, although He required no assistance from the people for the building and adorning of His tabernacle, since it was He who, for the maintenance of them all, daily rained down manna from heaven; yet he would have every one, from the very least to the greatest, bring together, in testimony of their piety, whatever was necessary for the sacred work. But what He then would have spent on the visible sanctuary, He now requires for the building of His spiritual temple. Properly speaking, it is He alone that builds His Church; yet He uses the work of men, and will have many builders associated with Him, that the edifice of His Church may arise in some measure by the labor of men; as also He ascribes the praise of its prosperity and success to them. Meanwhile we offer nothing which He Himself has not bestowed; just as the Israelites gave nothing but what had been derived from his bounty alone. Therefore, He distributes the gifts of His Spirit in certain measures, (1 Corinthians 12:7;) that, as each has received more or less, he may employ it on the building of the Church. But this should be the best incentive to activity, that none is so poor or humble but that his offering is acceptable and pleasing, however small it may be, and almost worthless in the eyes of men. Moreover, it must be observed, that the tribute is not demanded authoritatively, but it is declared that each should freely offer what he pleased; for, from the beginning, Paul's word was true, that |God loveth a cheerful giver,| (2 Corinthians 4:7;) and all Scripture teaches us that no obedience is pleasing to God except what is voluntary; for, although the word ydvnv, yidbenu, is variously rendered by the translators, the sum comes to this, that the gift of each would be pleasing to God according to the cheerful alacrity of his mind. The old interpreter (i.e., the Vulgate) has it |qui offert ultroneus,| (he who offers voluntarily;) but this is rather paraphrastic than literal. Others differ from each other: some understand the relative as referring to the offering, and translate it, |whose heart shall have voluntarily given it;| others, |He who shall have shewn his heart liberal, or willing.| The second rendering is the right one.

3 And this is the offering. Hence, what I have before said is more fully continued, viz., that what the poor offer of their little will not be eclipsed by the abundance of the rich, since God deigns to reckon goats' hair among the sacred offerings not less than gold, purple, and precious stones. Again, by the varied and manifold contributions, He would shew, as in a glass, that a variety of gifts are necessary to the building of the spiritual temple, as Paul sets forth in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. The liberality of the rich was indeed more splendid; but, as they did not scruple to mix their gold and silver, blue, purple, and precious stones, with brass, iron, and other common materials, so also, now-a-days, those who aid the edification of the Church by their more excellent gifts, admit, without contempt or dislike, into fellowship poor brethren, to whom it is not given to equal them.

8 And let them make me a sanctuary. By first setting before them an inestimable recompense, God stirs up the people to give largely; for, although liberality is praised by all as a most excellent virtue, yet no one willingly deprives himself of his own to bestow it upon others, since all think that it is so much lost to themselves, unless they have some compensation in view. Wherefore, that they may expend cheerfully, God promises that He will dwell among them, than which nothing is more desirable. But we must beware of imagining anything inconsistent with the nature of God, for He who sits above the heavens, and whose footstool is the earth, could not be enclosed in the tabernacle; but, because in His indulgence for the infirmities of an ignorant people, He desired to testify the presence of His grace and help by a visible symbol, the earthly sanctuary is called His dwelling amongst men, inasmuch as there He was not worshipped in vain. And we must bear in memory what we have lately seen, that it was not the infinite essence of God, but His name, or the record of His name, that dwelt there. This was the object of the expressions; that the Israelites ought not to be slow or lazy in setting up the tabernacle, because by these means they would obtain for themselves an inestimable advantage. Another clause follows, that the artificers should copy the pattern shewn to Moses, and not dare to invent anything, since it would be a profanation to mix up anything human with the commands of God; on which matter we shall treat more diffusely when we speak generally of the types. Now is described the form of the Ark and its covering: for the composition of the tabernacle, and its various parts, which Moses now only slightly adverts to, will be presently repeated at greater length in chapter 32. But, although the tabernacle was called God's house, yet there was a more express image of His glory in the Ark of the Covenant; because the Law, whereby God bound the people to Himself, was there deposited. The material was shittim-wood, covered or overlaid with plates of gold. As to the species of the tree, not even the Hebrews are agreed among themselves, although we may conjecture that it was beautiful and costly; yet God would have gold over its whole surface, and even shining on its staves, that the dignity of the Law might be enhanced But here a question may arise, which introduces many others with it, how the sumptuous splendor both of the Ark, as well as the tabernacle and all its utensils, contributed to the worship of God? for it is certain that God would never be worshipped except agreeably to His nature; whence it follows, that His true worship was always spiritual, and therefore by no means comprised in external pomp.

But the great number and intricacy of the ceremonies were so far from awakening piety, that they were even the occasion of superstition, or era foolish and perverse confidence. Again, so many and such various rites seem to have had no other tendency than to feed curiosity. It will be therefore worth while briefly to premise something respecting this point. They are, in my judgment, at fault, who think that the eyes of the people were captivated by these magnificent sights, lest their religion, being stripped of all ornament, should become dishonored, when amongst the Gentiles their false worship was splendid even to a miracle; and thus a depraved rivalry might affect their minds, if the beauty of the tabernacle did not at least equal the pomp of others, as though the God they worshipped were inferior to idols. On the same grounds they imagine that the Jews were burdened with many observances; lest, if God had only sparingly and slightly exercised them, they would in their natural curiosity, have sought in all directions after profane trifles. They tell part of the truth, but not the whole; for I admit that this was given to the ancient people, in order that, when they saw the tabernacle so brilliantly ornamented, they might be inspired with greater reverence. I also admit that, by God's command, they were engrossed with many ceremonies, that they might not seek after strange ones; but if this had been the only object proposed in them, the whole legal service would have only availed for ostentation in its shadows and histrionic pomps. But it is most absurd to think that God so trifled with His people. We see, too, how honorably David and the Prophets speak of these exercises. It is, therefore, impiety to suppose that the legal rites were like farces composed in imitation of the Gentiles. In order, then, to preserve their honor and dignity, we must remember the principle to which we have lately alluded, viz., that all of them were arranged according to the spiritual pattern which had been shewn to Moses in the mount. (Exodus 25:40.) And this both Stephen, and the Apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews, wisely observed, when they would reprove the gross follies of the people who continued to be wrapped up in the external ceremonies, as if religion were comprised in them. (Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5.) Stephen and the Apostle, therefore, are our best expositors, that the tabernacle, the altar, the table, the Ark of the Covenant, were of no importance except in so far as they referred to the heavenly pattern, of which they were the shadows and images. Thence their entire utility, and even their legitimate use, depended on the truth, (which they represented.) For the slaughter of an ox profits nothing in itself, nay, it is but an unimportant thing; and so all the sacrifices, except that they were types, would have been thought nothing of. Whence we gather that there is the greatest difference between the ceremonies of the Law and the profane rites of the Gentiles, for they differ from each other not only inasmuch as God is the author of the one, and that the temerity of men has foolishly invented the other, but because among the Gentiles their religion was entirely comprised in these bare and empty pomps; whilst God, by these rudiments, which He gave to His people, elevated pious minds, as it were by steps, to higher things. Thus the Gentiles seemed to themselves duly to propitiate (their gods) when they offered victims; whilst the sacrifices of the Jews were acceptable to God, because they were exercises of repentance and faith. So the Law instructed the Jews in the spiritual worship of God, and in nothing else, though it were clothed in ceremonies agreeably to the requirements of the age. For, before the truth was fully made known, the childhood of the Church was to be directed by earthly elements, and thus, though there was great affinity and likeness between the Jews and Gentiles as regarded the external form of their religious service, yet its end was widely different. Moreover, when we would seek the body or substance of the ancient shadows, and the truth of the figures, we may learn them, not only from the Apostles, but also from the Prophets, who everywhere draw the attention of believers to the kingdom of Christ; yet their clearer explanation must be sought in the Gospel, where Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, shining forth, shews that their fulfillment exists in Himself alone. But, although by His coming He abolished these typical ceremonies as regards their use, yet at the same time He established the reverence justly due to them; since they have no claim to be held in esteem on any other grounds, except that their completion is found in Him; for, if they are separated from Him, it is plain that they are mere farces, since neither the blood of animals, nor the sweetness of fat, nor aromatic odors, nor candles, nor anything of that sort, have any power to propitiate God. This indeed must be remembered, that the Jews did not pay attention to the legal sacrifices in vain, since the promises were annexed to them; as often, therefore, as these sentences occur, |your iniquity shall be blotted out,| -- |ye shall appear before my face,| -- |I will hear you from the sanctuary,| we are reminded that all the ancient figures were sure testimonies of God's grace and of eternal salvation; and thus Christ was represented in them, since all the promises are in Him, yea, and amen. (2 Corinthians 1:20.) Yet it by no means follows from hence that there were mysteries hidden in all their details, since some, with mistaken acuteness, pass over no point, however trifling, without an allegorical exposition; as, in this passage, for instance, the dimensions of the ark afford them matter of speculation. But it will be enough for the sound and sober-minded to know that God would have His Law deposited in a handsome vessel, in order that its majesty should be recognized. He commanded that the ark itself should be carried with staves, that the hands of the Levites might not touch it, and thus that its sanctity might be the greater

16. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony. The title of |the testimony,| which is often given to the law, indicates that something more is contained in it than the rule of a just and holy life; viz., the compact whereby God bound Himself to His people, and His people to Himself; therefore the words |the table of the covenant,| are afterwards used instead of |the testimony.| Thus the word dt, gneduth, in this passage, and similar ones, is equivalent to a contract, which is commonly called a convention In this sense the Prophet in Psalm 114 calls by the name of testimonies, not only the Commandments, but whatever God hath delivered by the hand of Moses for the salvation of His people. In Psalm 14:7, the word testimony is added as if in explanation of the word law: |The law of the Lord is perfect; the testimony of the Lord is sure;| as in Isaiah 8:20, where it is said, |To the law and to the testimony,| it is not that two different things are referred to, but the utility of the law is commended, because it contains all that God would have testified to His people.

17 And thou shalt make a mercy-seat. The primary root of the verb kphr, caphar, from whence this noun is derived, is used for |to smear with pitch,| but in the Hiphil conjugation, it signifies either to expiate, or to purge, or to receive into favor; whence kphr, copher, is expiation, as we have seen elsewhere; and kphrt, caphoreth, a covering or lid. Yet I doubt not but that Moses alludes in this word to a metaphorical meaning, for the law requires a covering to conceal our transgressions. And it is probable that, when Paul calls Christ hilasterion, (Romans 3:25,) and John hilasmon, (1 John 2:2,) they both refer to this figure, because God was propitiated towards believers by the covering of the Law, so as to shew Himself favorable to them by hearing their vows and prayers. For as long as the law stands forth before God's face it subjects us to His wrath and curse; and hence it is necessary that the blotting out of our guilt should be interposed, so that God may be reconciled with us. Nor is it without reason that David exclaims, after he has proclaimed the righteousness of the law, |Who can understand his errors?| (Psalm 19:12.) Whence we gather that, without a propitiation, the law does not bring us near to God, but accuses us before Him. And assuredly, when I consider all things, it seems to me a tame explanation, that Moses spoke literally of the cover, when he would have the Cherubim turn their faces toward it, and God promises that He will give His answers from it. By these honorable distinctions it is exalted above the Ark.

18 And thou shalt make two cherubims. I have stated in my commentary on Genesis and elsewhere, that there are various opinions respecting the word cherub; but that those approach most nearly to the truth who make the k, caph, not a servile, but a radical letter, and take it generally for any image; for those who suppose the kto be a note of similitude, render it |like a boy;| which in itself is forced, and besides it is refuted by the words of Ezekiel, (Ezekiel 1:10, and Ezekiel 10:1,) who calls the forms of a calf, a lion, and an eagle by this name, as well as the human form. It is enough for me that the images were winged, which represented angels. Therefore, when Moses speaks of the angels, who were placed as guards to keep man away from approaching paradise, he calls them cherubim; not so much in reference to that time, as to keep the people in the doctrine of the Law But God appointed angels, by whom He exercises His dominion, and who are the ministers of His blessings, to be a symbol of His presence; for as often as He manifested Himself to believers by angels, He in a manner extended His hand to them. On this ground, David, and other Prophets, in order to encourage themselves to confidence in prayer, often speak of God as |dwelling between the cherubims,| (Psalm 80:1; 64:1; Isaiah 37:16;) as much as to say, that He conversed familiarly with His people, since His virtue exercises itself by His angels. That they covered the lid of the ark with their extended wings, I do not imagine to have been done to hide it, but to mark the readiness of their obedience, for the extension of their wings is equivalent to their being prepared for the performance of whatever God might command. Thus they are said to turn their faces towards the mercy-seat, because they are attentive to the will of God. Moreover, because the fullness of the Godhead resides in Christ, He justly declares that, in His descent upon earth, the heavens were opened that the angels might ascend and descend. Their looking towards each other indicates that harmony in which the angels are united for performing the commands of God. It is indeed a plausible conceit, that the two cherubim were the Old and New Testaments, which look from one to the other, and surround the mercy-seat, inasmuch as Christ is their common object; but this notion vanishes before the contradiction of many passages of Scripture.

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