Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
See Exo 40:17.
The directions given in Lev 24:5-9 are here presupposed, and must have been issued before this chapter was written.
Most holy - In Exo 40:9 the tabernacle and its utensils are said to be rendered holy by the anointing; the altar and its utensils are in Exo 40:10 said to be "most holy". The difference does not express a higher degree of holiness: it is only used as a caution. The position of the altar exposed it to the chance of being touched by the people when they assembled in the court, while they were not permitted to enter the tabernacle. The tabernacle itself, with all that belonged to it, is called most holy in Exo 30:29.
On the first day of the month - That is, on the first of the month Nisan Exo 12:2; Exo 13:4, one year, wanting fourteen days, after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. They had been nearly three months in reaching the foot of Mount Sinai Exo 19:1; Moses had spent eighty days on the mountain Exo 24:18; Exo 34:28, and some time must be allowed for what is related in Exo. 24, as well as for the interval between the two periods which Moses spent on the mountain Exo. 33:1-23. The construction of the tabernacle and its furniture would thus appear to have occupied something less than half a year.
The tent-cloth was spread over the tabernacle-cloth, and the covering of skins was put over the tent-cloth. See Exo 26:1 note.
The testimony - i. e. the tables of stone with the Ten Commandments engraved on them Exo 25:16; Exo 31:18. Nothing else is said to have been put into the ark. These were found there by themselves in the time of Solomon Kg1 8:9; Ch2 5:10. The pot of manna was "laid up before the testimony" Exo 16:34; Aaron's rod was also placed "before the testimony" Num 17:10; and the book of the law was put at "the side of the ark" Deu 31:26. The expression "before the testimony" appears to mean the space immediately in front of the ark. Most interpreters hold that the pot of manna and Aaron's rod were at first placed between the ark and the veil, and afterward within the ark Heb 9:4. It is very probable that the pot and the rod had been put into the ark before it was taken by the Philistines, but that they were not sent back with the ark and the tables. Sa1 4:11; Sa1 6:11.
Moses performed these priestly functions (Exo 28:1 note), before the holy things with which they were performed were anointed. The things had been made expressly for the service of Yahweh, by His command, and in this fact lay their essential sanctity, of which the anointing was only the seal and symbol. Aaron and his sons, on similar ground, having had the divine call, took part in the service of the sanctuary as soon as the work was completed Exo 40:31. But Moses took part with them, and most likely took the lead, until they were consecrated and invested Lev. 8 and publicly set apart for the office.
Before the vail - That is, opposite to the ark, in the middle between the table of showbread on the North and the candlestick on the South.
On the distinction between the tent as the outer shelter and the tabernacle as the dwelling-place of Yahweh, which is very clear in these verses, see Exo 26:1 note. The glory appeared as a light within and as a cloud on the outside.
Compare the entrance of the high priest into the holy of holies on the day of atonement, Lev 16:2, Lev 16:13. For special appearances of this glory in the tabernacle, see Num 14:10; Num 16:19, Num 16:42.
The tabernacle, after it had accompanied the Israelites in their wanderings in the wilderness, was most probably first set up in the holy land at Gilgal Jos 4:19; Jos 5:10; Jos 9:6; Jos 10:6, Jos 10:43. But before the death of Joshua, it was erected at Shiloh Jos 18:1; Jos 19:51. Here it remained as the national sanctuary throughout the time of the Judges Jos 18:8; Jos 21:2; Jos 22:19; Jdg 18:31; Jdg 21:19; Sa1 1:3; Sa1 4:3. But its external construction was at this time somewhat changed, and doors, strictly so called, had taken the place of the entrance curtain Sa1 3:15 : hence, it seems to have been sometimes called the temple Sa1 1:9; Sa1 3:3, the name by which the structure of Solomon was afterward commonly known. After the time of Eli it was removed to Nob in the canton of Benjamin, not far from Jerusalem Sa1 21:1-9. From thence, in the time of David, it was removed to Gibeon Ch1 16:39; Ch1 21:29; Ch2 1:3; Kg1 3:4; Kg1 9:2. It was brought from Gibeon to Jerusalem by Solomon Kg1 8:4. After this, it disappears from the narrative of Scripture. When the temple of Solomon was built, "the tabernacle of the tent" had entirely performed its work; it had protected the ark of the covenant during the migrations of the people until they were settled in the land, and the promise was fulfilled, that the Lord would choose out a place for Himself in which His name should be preserved and His service should be maintained Deu 12:14, Deu 12:21; Deu 14:24.
In accordance with its dignity as the most sacred object in the sanctuary, the original ark of the covenant constructed by Moses was preserved and transferred from the tabernacle to the temple. The golden altar, the candlestick and the showbread table were renewed by Solomon. They were subsequently renewed by Zerubbabel, and lastly by the Maccabees (see Exo 25:23.) But the ark was preserved in the temple until Jerusalem was taken by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar Ch2 35:3; Jer 3:16. It was never replaced in the second temple. According to a rabbinical tradition, its site was marked by a block of stone.