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Exodus 25:10-40

The Ark of the Covenant

25:10 1 “They are to make an ark 2  of acacia wood – its length is to be three feet nine inches, its width two feet three inches, and its height two feet three inches. 3  25:11 You are to overlay 4  it with pure gold – both inside and outside you must overlay it, 5  and you are to make a surrounding border 6  of gold over it. 25:12 You are to cast four gold rings for it and put them on its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other side. 25:13 You are to make poles of acacia wood, overlay them with gold, 25:14 and put the poles into the rings at the sides of the ark in order to carry the ark with them. 25:15 The poles must remain in the rings of the ark; they must not be removed from it. 25:16 You are to put into the ark the testimony 7  that I will give to you.

25:17 “You are to make an atonement lid 8  of pure gold; 9  its length is to be three feet nine inches, and its width is to be two feet three inches. 25:18 You are to make two cherubim 10  of gold; you are to make them of hammered metal on the two ends of the atonement lid. 25:19 Make 11  one cherub on one end 12  and one cherub on the other end; from the atonement lid 13  you are to make the cherubim on the two ends. 25:20 The cherubim are to be spreading their wings upward, overshadowing 14  the atonement lid with their wings, and the cherubim are to face each other, 15  looking 16  toward the atonement lid. 25:21 You are to put the atonement lid on top of the ark, and in the ark you are to put the testimony I am giving you. 25:22 I will meet with you there, 17  and 18  from above the atonement lid, from between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will command you for the Israelites.

The Table for the Bread of the Presence

25:23 19 “You are to make a table of acacia wood; its length is to be three feet, its width one foot six inches, and its height two feet three inches. 25:24 You are to overlay it with 20  pure gold, and you are to make a surrounding border of gold for it. 25:25 You are to make a surrounding frame 21  for it about three inches broad, and you are to make a surrounding border of gold for its frame. 25:26 You are to make four rings of gold for it and attach 22  the rings at the four corners where its four legs are. 23  25:27 The rings are to be close to the frame to provide places 24  for the poles to carry the table. 25:28 You are to make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold, so that the table may be carried with them. 25  25:29 You are to make its plates, 26  its ladles, 27  its pitchers, and its bowls, to be used in pouring out offerings; 28  you are to make them of pure gold. 25:30 You are to set the Bread of the Presence 29  on the table before me continually.

The Lampstand

25:31 30 “You are to make a lampstand 31  of pure gold. The lampstand is to be made of hammered metal; its base and its shaft, its cups, 32  its buds, and its blossoms are to be from the same piece. 33  25:32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand, 34  three branches of the lampstand from one side of it and three branches of the lampstand from the other side of it. 35  25:33 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, and three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on the next 36  branch, and the same 37  for the six branches extending from the lampstand. 25:34 On the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms, 25:35 with a bud under the first 38  two branches from it, and a bud under the next 39  two branches from it, and a bud under the third 40  two branches from it, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. 25:36 Their buds and their branches will be one piece, 41  all of it one hammered piece of pure gold.

25:37 “You are to make its seven lamps, 42  and then set 43  its lamps up on it, so that it will give light 44  to the area in front of it. 25:38 Its trimmers and its trays 45  are to be 46  of pure gold. 25:39 About seventy-five pounds 47  of pure gold is to be used for it 48  and for all these utensils. 25:40 Now be sure to make 49  them according to the pattern you were shown 50  on the mountain. 51 

1 sn This section begins with the ark, the most sacred and important object of Israel’s worship. Verses 10-15 provide the instructions for it, v. 16 has the placement of the Law in it, vv. 17-21 cover the mercy lid, and v. 22 the meeting above it. The point of this item in the tabernacle is to underscore the focus: the covenant people must always have God’s holy standard before them as they draw near to worship. A study of this would focus on God’s nature (he is a God of order, precision, and perfection), on the usefulness of this item for worship, and on the typology intended.

2 tn The word “ark” has long been used by English translations to render אָרוֹן (’aron), the word used for the wooden “box,” or “chest,” made by Noah in which to escape the flood and by the Israelites to furnish the tabernacle.

3 tn The size is two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. The size in feet and inches is estimated on the assumption that the cubit is 18 inches (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 267).

4 tn The verbs throughout here are perfect tenses with the vav (ו) consecutives. They are equal to the imperfect tense of instruction and/or injunction.

5 tn Here the verb is an imperfect tense; for the perfect sequence to work the verb would have to be at the front of the clause.

6 tn The word זֵר (zer) is used only in Exodus and seems to describe something on the order of a crown molding, an ornamental border running at the top of the chest on all four sides. There is no indication of its appearance or function.

7 sn The “testimony” is the Decalogue (Exod 24:12; 31:18; Deut 4:13; 9:9; 1 Kgs 8:9); the word identifies it as the witness or affirmation of God’s commandments belonging to his covenant with Israel. It expressed God’s will and man’s duty. In other cultures important documents were put at the feet of the gods in the temples.

8 tn The noun is כַּפֹּרֶת (kapporet), translated “atonement lid” or “atonement plate.” The traditional translation “mercy-seat” (so KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) came from Tyndale in 1530 and was also used by Luther in 1523. The noun is formed from the word “to make atonement.” The item that the Israelites should make would be more than just a lid for the ark. It would be the place where atonement was signified. The translation of “covering” is probably incorrect, for it derives from a rare use of the verb, if the same verb at all (the evidence shows “cover” is from another root with the same letters as this). The value of this place was that Yahweh sat enthroned above it, and so the ark essentially was the “footstool.” Blood was applied to the lid of the box, for that was the place of atonement (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 269-270).

9 tn After verbs of making or producing, the accusative (like “gold” here) may be used to express the material from which something is made (see GKC 371 §117.hh).

10 tn The evidence suggests that the cherubim were composite angelic creatures that always indicated the nearness of God. So here images of them were to be crafted and put on each end of the ark of the covenant to signify that they were there. Ezekiel 1 describes four cherubim as each having human faces, four wings, and parts of different animals for their bodies. Traditions of them appear in the other cultures as well. They serve to guard the holy places and to bear the throne of God. Here they were to be beaten out as part of the lid.

11 tn The text now shifts to use an imperative with the vav (ו) conjunction.

12 tn The use of זֶה (zeh) repeated here expresses the reciprocal ideas of “the one” and “the other” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 26, §132).

13 sn The angels were to form one piece with the lid and not be separated. This could be translated “of one piece with” the lid, but it is likely the angels were simply fastened to it permanently.

14 tn The verb means “overshadowing, screening” in the sense of guarding (see 1 Kgs 8:7; 1 Chr 28:18; see also the account in Gen 3:24). The cherubim then signify two things here: by their outstretched wings they form the throne of God who sits above the ark (with the Law under his feet), and by their overshadowing and guarding they signify this as the place of atonement where people must find propitiation to commune with God. Until then they are barred from his presence. See U. Cassuto, Exodus, 330-35.

15 tn Heb “their faces a man to his brother.”

16 tn Heb “the faces of the cherubim will be” (“the cherubim” was moved to the preceding clause for smoother English).

17 sn Here then is the main point of the ark of the covenant, and the main point of all worship – meeting with God through atonement. The text makes it clear that here God would meet with Moses (“you” is singular) and then he would speak to the people – he is the mediator of the covenant. S. R. Driver (Exodus, 272) makes the point that the verb here is not the word that means “to meet by chance” (as in Exod 3:18), but “to meet” by appointment for a purpose (וְנוֹעַדְתִּי, vÿnoadti). The parallel in the NT is Jesus Christ and his work. The theology is that the Law condemns people as guilty of sin, but the sacrifice of Christ makes atonement. So he is the “place of propitiation (Rom 3:25) who gains communion with the Father for sinners. A major point that could be made from this section is this: At the center of worship must be the atoning work of Christ – a perpetual reminder of God’s righteous standard (the testimony in the ark) and God’s gracious provision (the atonement lid).

18 tn The verb is placed here in the text: “and I will speak”; it has been moved in this translation to be closer to the direct object clause.

19 sn The Table of the Bread of the Presence (Tyndale’s translation, “Shewbread,” was used in KJV and influenced ASV, NAB) was to be a standing acknowledgment that Yahweh was the giver of daily bread. It was called the “presence-bread” because it was set out in his presence. The theology of this is that God provides, and the practice of this is that the people must provide for constant thanks. So if the ark speaks of communion through atonement, the table speaks of dedicatory gratitude.

20 tn “Gold” is an adverbial accusative of material.

21 sn There is some debate as to the meaning of מִסְגֶּרֶת (misgeret). This does not seem to be a natural part of the table and its legs. The drawing on the Arch of Titus shows two cross-stays in the space between the legs, about halfway up. It might have been nearer the top, but the drawing of the table of presence-bread from the arch shows it half-way up. This frame was then decorated with the molding as well.

22 tn Heb “give.”

23 tn Heb “which [are] to four of its feet.”

24 tn Heb “houses”; NAB, NASB “holders.”

25 tn The verb is a Niphal perfect with vav consecutive, showing here the intended result: “so that [the table] might be lifted up [by them].” The noun “the table” is introduced by what looks like the sign of the accusative, but here it serves to introduce or emphasize the nominative (see GKC 365 §117.i).

26 tn Or “a deep gold dish.” The four nouns in this list are items associated with the table and its use.

27 tn Or “cups” (NAB, TEV).

28 tn The expression “for pouring out offerings” represents Hebrew אֲשֶׁר יֻסַּךְ בָּהֵן (’asher yussakh bahen). This literally says, “which it may be poured out with them,” or “with which [libations] may be poured out.”

29 sn The name basically means that the bread is to be set out in the presence of Yahweh. The custom of presenting bread on a table as a thank offering is common in other cultures as well. The bread here would be placed on the table as a symbol of the divine provision for the twelve tribes – continually, because they were to express their thanksgiving continually. Priests could eat the bread after certain times. Fresh bread would be put there regularly.

30 sn Clearly the point here is to provide light in the tent for access to God. He provided for his worshipers a light for the way to God, but he also wanted them to provide oil for the lamp to ensure that the light would not go out. Verses 31-36 describe the piece. It was essentially one central shaft, with three branches on either side turned out and upward. The stem and the branches were ornamented every so often with gold that was formed into the shape of the calyx and corolla of the almond flower. On top of the central shaft and the six branches were the lamps.

31 tn The word is מְנֹרָה (mÿnorah) – here in construct to a following genitive of material. The main piece was one lampstand, but there were seven lamps on the shaft and its branches. See E. Goodenough, “The Menorah among the Jews of the Roman World,” HUCA 23 (1950/51): 449-92.

32 sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 342-44) says that the description “the cups, knobs and flowers” is explained in vv. 32-36 as three decorations in the form of a cup, shaped like an almond blossom, to be made on one branch. Every cup will have two parts, (a) a knob, that is, the receptacle at the base of the blossom, and (b) a flower, which is called the corolla, so that each lamp rests on top of a flower.

33 tn Heb “will be from/of it”; the referent (“the same piece” of wrought metal) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

34 tn Heb “from the sides of it.”

35 tn Heb “from the second side.”

36 tn The text uses “one” again; “the one…the one” means “the one…and the next” in the distributive sense.

37 tn Heb “thus.”

38 tn For clarity the phrase “the first” has been supplied.

39 tn For clarity the phrase “the next” has been supplied.

40 tn For clarity the phrase “the third” has been supplied.

41 tn Heb “will be from it.”

42 tn The word for “lamps” is from the same root as the lampstand, of course. The word is נֵרוֹת (nerot). This probably refers to the small saucer-like pottery lamps that are made very simply with the rim pinched over to form a place to lay the wick. The bowl is then filled with olive oil as fuel.

43 tn The translation “set up on” is from the Hebrew verb “bring up.” The construction is impersonal, “and he will bring up,” meaning “one will bring up.” It may mean that people were to fix the lamps on to the shaft and the branches, rather than cause the light to go up (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 277).

44 tn This is a Hiphil perfect with vav consecutive, from אוֹר (’or, “light”), and in the causative, “to light, give light.”

45 sn The first word refers to something like small tongs or tweezers used to pull up and trim the wicks; the second word refers to fire-pans or censers.

46 tn “are to be” has been supplied.

47 tn Heb “a talent.”

48 tn The text has “he will make it” or “one will make it.” With no expressed subject it is given a passive translation.

49 tn The text uses two imperatives: “see and make.” This can be interpreted as a verbal hendiadys, calling for Moses and Israel to see to it that they make these things correctly.

50 tn The participle is passive, “caused to see,” or, “shown.”

51 sn The message of this section surely concerns access to God. To expound this correctly, though, since it is an instruction section for building the lampstand, the message would be: God requires that his people ensure that light will guide the way of access to God. The breakdown for exposition could be the instructions for preparation for light (one lamp, several branches), then instructions for the purpose and maintenance of the lamps, and then the last verse telling the divine source for the instructions. Naturally, the metaphorical value of light will come up in the study, especially from the NT. So in the NT there is the warning that if churches are unfaithful God will remove their lampstand, their ministry (Rev 2-3).

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