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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 9 - Verse 2

Verse 2. For there was a tabernacle made. The word "tabernacle" properly means, a tent, a booth, or a hut, and was then given by way of eminence to the tent for public worship made by Moses m the wilderness. For a description of this, see Ex 25. In this place the word means the outer sanctuary or room in the tabernacle; that is, the first room which was entered—called here "the first." The same word—skhnh—is used in Heb 9:3 to denote the inner sanctuary, or holy of holies. The tabernacle, like the temple afterwards, was divided into two parts by the veil, Ex 26:31,32, one of which was called "the holy place," and the other the holy of holies." The exact size of the two rooms in the tabernacle is not specified in the Scriptures, but it is commonly supposed that the tabernacle was divided in the same manner as the temple was afterwards; that is, two-thirds of the interior constituted the holy place, and one-third the holy of holies. According to this, the holy place, or "first tabernacle" was twenty cubits long by ten broad, and the most holy place was ten cubits square. The whole length of the tabernacle was about fifty-five feet, the breadth eighteen, and the height eighteen. In the temple, the two rooms, though of the same relative proportions, were of course much larger. See a description of the temple See Barnes "Mt 21:12".

In both cases, the holy place was at the east, and the holy of holies at the west end of the sacred edifice. The following cut will furnish a good illustration of the tabernacle when set up, with the principal coverings removed.

The first. The first room on entering the sacred edifice, here called the "first tabernacle." The apostle proceeds now to enumerate the various articles of furniture which were in the two rooms of the tabernacle and temple. His object seems to be, not for information, for it could not be supposed that they to whom he was writing were ignorant on this point, but partly to show that it could not be said that he spoke of that of which he had no information, or that he undervalued it; and partly to show the real nature of the institution, and to prove that it was of an imperfect and typical character, and had a designed reference to something that was to come. It is remarkable that, though he maintains that the whole institution was a "figure" of what was to come, and though he specifies by name all the furniture of the tabernacle, he does not attempt to explain their particular typical character nor does he affirm that they had such a character. He does not say that the candlestick, and the table of shewbread, and the ark, and the cherubim, were designed to adumbrate some particular truth or fact of the future dispensation, or had a designed spiritual meaning. It would have been happy if all expositors had followed the example of Paul, and had been content, as he was, to state the facts about the tabernacle, and the general truth that the dispensation was intended to introduce a more perfect economy, without endeavouring to explain the typical import of every pin and pillar of the ancient place of worship. If those things had such a designed typical reference, it is remarkable that Paul did not go into an explanation of that fact in the epistle before us. Never could a better opportunity for doing it occur than was furnished here. Yet it was not done. Paul is silent where many expositors have found occasion for admiration. Where they have seen the profoundest wisdom, he saw none; where they have found spiritual instruction in the various implements of divine service in the sanctuary, he found none. Why should we be more wise than he was? Why attempt to hunt for types and shadows where he found none? And why should we not be limited to the views which he actually expressed in regard to the design and import of the ancient dispensation? Following an inspired example, we are on solid ground, and are not in danger. But the moment we leave that, and attempt to spiritualize everything in the ancient economy, we are in an open sea without compass or chart, and no one knows to what fairy lands he may be drifted. As there are frequent allusions in the New Testament to the different parts of the tabernacle furniture here specified, it may be a matter of interest and profit to furnish an illustration of the most material of them.

The candlestick. For an account of the candlestick, see Ex 25:31-37. It was made of pure gold, and had seven branches, that is, three on each side and one in the centre. These branches had on the extremities seven golden lamps, which were fed with pure olive oil, and which were lighted "to give light over against it"; that is, they shed light on the altar of incense, the table of shew, bread, and generally on the furniture of the holy place. These branches were made with three "bowls," "knops,"and "flowers, occurring alternately on each one of the six branches; while on the centre or upright shaft, there were four "bowls," "knops," and "flowers" of this kind. These ornaments were probably taken from the almond, and represented the flower of that tree in various stages. The "bowls" on the branches of the candlestick probably meant the calyx or cup of that plant from which the flower springs. The "knops" probably referred to some ornament on the candlestick mingled with the "bowls" and the "flowers" perhaps designed as an imitation of the nut or fruit of the almond. The "flowers" were evidently ornaments resembling the flowers on the almond tree, wrought, as all the rest were, in pure gold. See Bush's Notes on Exod. xxv. The following beautiful cut, drawn on this supposition, will probably give a tolerably correct view of the ancient candelabrum or candlestick. I introduce this cut as being a fine illustration furnished by Professor Bush of the candlestick itself; with the views which he has expressed of its spiritual reference, however, I have no sympathy, The candlestick was undoubtedly designed to furnish light in the dark room of the tabernacle and temple; and, in accordance with the general plan of those edifices, was ornamented after the most chaste and pure views of ornamental architecture of those times—but there is no evidence that its branches, and bowls, and knops, and flowers, had each a peculiar typical significance. The sacred writers are wholly silent as to any such reference, and it is not well to attempt to be "wise above that which is written." An expositor of the Scripture cannot have a safer guide than the sacred writers themselves. How should any uninspired man know that these things had such a peculiar typical signification? The candlestick was placed on the south, or left hand side of the holy place as one entered, the row of lamps being probably parallel with the wall. It was at first placed in the tabernacle, and afterwards removed into the temple built by Solomon. Its subsequent history is unknown. Probably it was destroyed when the temple was taken by the Chaldeans. The form of the candlestick in the second temple, whose figure is preserved on the "Arch of Titus" in Rome, was of somewhat different construction. But it is to be remembered, that the articles taken away from the temple by Vespasian were not the same as those made by Moses; and Josephus says expressly that the candlestick was altered from its original form.

And the table. That is, the table on which the shewbread was placed. This table was made of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold. It was two cubits long, and one cubit broad, and a cubit and a half high; that is, about three feet and a half in length, one foot and nine inches wide, and two feet and a half in height. It was furnished with rings or staples, through which were passed staves, by which it was carried. These staves, we are informed by Josephus, were removed when the table was at rest, so that they might not be in the way of the priests at they officiated in the tabernacle. It stood lengthwise east and west, on the north side of the holy place.

And the shewbread. On the table just described. This bread consisted of twelve loaves, placed on the table every Sabbath. The Hebrews affirm that they were square loaves, having the four sides covered with leaves of gold. They were arranged in two piles, of course with six in a pile, Le 24:5-9. The number twelve was selected with reference to the twelve tribes of Israel. They were made without leaven; were renewed each Sabbath, when the old loaves were then taken away to be eaten by the priests only. The Hebrew phrase rendered "shewbread" means, properly, "bread of faces," or "bread of presence." The Seventy render it artouv enwpiouv foreplaced loaves. In the New Testament it is, h proyesiv twn artwn —the placing of bread; and, in Symmachus, "bread of proposition," or placing. Why it was called "bread of presence" has been a subject on which expositors have been much divided. Some have held that it was because it was before, or in the presence of the symbol of the Divine Presence in the tabernacle, though in another department; some, that it was because it was set there to be seen by men, rather than to be seen by God. Others that it had an emblematic design, looking forward to the Messiah as the food or nourishment of the soul, and was substantially the same as the table spread with the symbols of the Saviour's body and blood. See Bush, in loc. But of this last mentioned opinion, it may be asked, where is the proof? It is not found in the account of it in the Old Testament, and there is not the slightest intimation in the New Testament that it had any such design. The object for which it was placed there can be only a matter of conjecture, as it is not explained in the Bible; and it is more difficult to ascertain the use and design of the shewbread than of almost any other emblem of the Jewish economy. Calmet. Perhaps the true idea, after all that has been written and conjectured, is, that the table and the bread were for the sake of carrying out the idea that the tabernacle was the dwelling-place of God, and that there was a propriety that it should be fitted up with the usual appurtenances of a dwelling. Hence there was a candlestick and a table, because these were the common and ordinary furniture of a room; and the idea was to be kept up constantly that that was the dwelling-place of the Most High by lighting and trimming the lamps every day, and by renewing the bread on the table periodically. The most simple explanation of the phrase "bread of faces," or "bread of presence," is, that it was so called because it was set before the face, or in the presence of God in the tabernacle. The various forms which it has been supposed would represent the table of shewbread may be seen in Calmet's Large Dictionary. The preceding cut is the usual illustration of it. If the loaves were piled above one another, as they are represented in the cut, they were probably separated by thin plates of gold, or some other substance, to keep them from moulding. The Jews say that they were separated by plates of gold.

Which is called the sanctuary. Marg., "Or, holy." That is, the holy place. The name sanctuary was commonly given to the whole edifice, but with strict propriety appertained only to this first room.

{a} "tabernacle" Ex 26:1,35 {b} "table" Ex 11:4 {c} "shewbread" Ex 25:30 {1} "sanctuary" "holy"

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