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Exodus 39-40 Listen
1 And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the LORD commanded Moses.
2 And he made the ephod of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.
3 And they did beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into wires, to work it in the blue, and in the purple, and in the scarlet, and in the fine linen, with cunning work.
4 They made shoulderpieces for it, to couple it together: by the two edges was it coupled together.
5 And the curious girdle of his ephod, that was upon it, was of the same, according to the work thereof; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen; as the LORD commanded Moses.
6 And they wrought onyx stones inclosed in ouches of gold, graven, as signets are graven, with the names of the children of Israel.
7 And he put them on the shoulders of the ephod, that they should be stones for a memorial to the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses.
8 And he made the breastplate of cunning work, like the work of the ephod; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.
9 It was foursquare; they made the breastplate double: a span was the length thereof, and a span the breadth thereof, being doubled.
10 And they set in it four rows of stones: the first row was a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this was the first row.
11 And the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.
12 And the third row, a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.
13 And the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper: they were inclosed in ouches of gold in their inclosings.
14 And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, every one with his name, according to the twelve tribes.
15 And they made upon the breastplate chains at the ends, of wreathen work of pure gold.
16 And they made two ouches of gold, and two gold rings; and put the two rings in the two ends of the breastplate.
17 And they put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings on the ends of the breastplate.
18 And the two ends of the two wreathen chains they fastened in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod, before it.
19 And they made two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, upon the border of it, which was on the side of the ephod inward.
20 And they made two other golden rings, and put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart of it, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod.
21 And they did bind the breastplate by his rings unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it might be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate might not be loosed from the ephod; as the LORD commanded Moses.
22 And he made the robe of the ephod of woven work, all of blue.
23 And there was an hole in the midst of the robe, as the hole of an habergeon, with a band round about the hole, that it should not rend.
24 And they made upon the hems of the robe pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined linen.
25 And they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates upon the hem of the robe, round about between the pomegranates;
26 A bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, round about the hem of the robe to minister in; as the LORD commanded Moses.
27 And they made coats of fine linen of woven work for Aaron, and for his sons,
28 And a mitre of fine linen, and goodly bonnets of fine linen, and linen breeches of fine twined linen,
29 And a girdle of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, of needlework; as the LORD commanded Moses.
30 And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
31 And they tied unto it a lace of blue, to fasten it on high upon the mitre; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Here's the description of the priestly garments. We saw this description back in Exodus 28 (see notes). This was a beautiful garment with an ephod that was absolutely dazzling - a finely woven garment. The ephod bore 12 different stones in four rows of three on it representing the Tribes of Israel. As mentioned in chapter 28, the outfit did not include shoes. The high priest served in his bare feet.
Beginning in verse 8 we see a rather detailed description of the breastplate worn by the high priest. For a closer look at the breastplate, click here to see the recreation included with the Exodus 28 notes.
And the delivery is made (Exodus 39:32-43)
32 Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they.
33 And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, the tent, and all his furniture, his taches, his boards, his bars, and his pillars, and his sockets,
34 And the covering of rams’ skins dyed red, and the covering of badgers’ skins, and the vail of the covering,
35 The ark of the testimony, and the staves thereof, and the mercy seat,
36 The table, and all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread,
37 The pure candlestick, with the lamps thereof, even with the lamps to be set in order, and all the vessels thereof, and the oil for light,
38 And the golden altar, and the anointing oil, and the sweet incense, and the hanging for the tabernacle door,
39 The brasen altar, and his grate of brass, his staves, and all his vessels, the laver and his foot,
40 The hangings of the court, his pillars, and his sockets, and the hanging for the court gate, his cords, and his pins, and all the vessels of the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of the congregation,
41 The cloths of service to do service in the holy place, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and his sons’ garments, to minister in the priest’s office.
42 According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work.
43 And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.
You know that feeling of dread you have when you receive a piece of furniture that is tightly compacted into a flat box labeled "Some assembly required"? Imagine how Moses must have felt when the contractors roll up to his tent door with the news that they're all done, "And here's your Tabernacle." Assembled? No! There it is in ready-to-assemble pieces all over his front yard. The delivery included the furniture as well as the priests' clothing...everything. Not a problem for Moses though; look at Exodus 39:43, "And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them."
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
3 And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with the vail.
4 And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.
5 And thou shalt set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the hanging of the door to the tabernacle.
6 And thou shalt set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
7 And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and shalt put water therein.
8 And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang up the hanging at the court gate.
9 And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy.
10 And thou shalt anoint the altar of the burnt offering, and all his vessels, and sanctify the altar: and it shall be an altar most holy.
11 And thou shalt anoint the laver and his foot, and sanctify it.
12 And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water.
13 And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.
14 And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats:
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.
It's not everyday that you take delivery of a Tabernacle. So...how long has it been since they left Egypt? It has been just two weeks short of one year - nine months since they arrive at Mount Sinai. According to verses 2 and 17, it appears from the text that it only took Moses one day to assemble everything. I'm guessing he had help. In these 15 verses we see that God gives specific instructions to Moses on when to start assembling it and how to proceed.
Here are those instructions:
We actually don't see the appointment of Levites to assist the priests until Numbers 3 (see notes). At this point in time the firstborn of the families were the consecrated ones. We are not told who actually assisted Moses in the setup.
Moses puts it all together (Exodus 40:16-33)
16 Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he.
17 And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up.
18 And Moses reared up the tabernacle, and fastened his sockets, and set up the boards thereof, and put in the bars thereof, and reared up his pillars.
19 And he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent above upon it; as the LORD commanded Moses.
20 And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark:
21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded Moses.
22 And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail.
23 And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses.
24 And he put the candlestick in the tent of the congregation, over against the table, on the side of the tabernacle southward.
25 And he lighted the lamps before the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses.
26 And he put the golden altar in the tent of the congregation before the vail:
27 And he burnt sweet incense thereon; as the LORD commanded Moses.
28 And he set up the hanging at the door of the tabernacle.
29 And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering; as the LORD commanded Moses.
30 And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.
31 And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat:
32 When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the LORD commanded Moses.
33 And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.
So, how long does it take to build a Tabernacle like this? Here's what we know. God told Moses to assemble the Tabernacle on a date that marked their one-year anniversary of freedom from Egypt. Well, technically, the Passover and release didn't take place until the 14th day of the month and this assembly date is on the first day of the first month of the second year. It took them three months to reach their current location at Sinai. Moses spent 80 days up on the mountain talking with God. That left about six months to do the work. I don't know how long it stayed in Moses' yard before assembly, but with the assembly orchestrated to take place fourteen days before the Passover, it would appear that the workers must have been on a carefully-timed schedule for finishing the project. We aren't told who helped erect the tabernacle, but since it only took one day to assemble, he certainly had laborers to assist. You'll notice that the new laver of the Tabernacle gets a good workout for the ceremonial washings, Aaron and his sons in verse 12.
34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
36 And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:
37 But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
So what makes this Tabernacle so special? Here it is - the presence of God. Nobody goes in (including Moses) when God is there. His appearance was in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; we know this as the Shekinah Glory. Click here for more details on the Shekinah Glory. When it would stay, Israel would stay; when it would move, Israel would move. Israel was never lost in the wilderness. They were always in the exact location where God wanted them; his presence among them proves that.
The twelve-day dedication ceremony of the tabernacle is seen in Numbers 7 (see notes).
For a history of the tabernacle and ark of the covenant, click here.