Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Moses is commanded to set up the tabernacle, the first day of the first month of the second year of their departure from Egypt, Exo 40:1, Exo 40:2. The ark to be put into it, Exo 40:3. The table and candlestick to be brought in also with the golden altar, Exo 40:4, Exo 40:5. The altar of burnt-offering to be set up before the door, and the laver between the tent and the altar, Exo 40:6, Exo 40:7. The court to be set up, Exo 40:8. The tabernacle and its utensils to be anointed, Exo 40:9-11. Aaron and his sons to be washed, clothed, and anointed, Exo 40:12-15. All these things are done accordingly, Exo 40:16. The tabernacle is erected; and all its utensils, etc., placed in it on the first of the first month of the second year, vv. 17-33. The cloud covers the tent, and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle, so that even Moses is not able to enter, Exo 40:34, Exo 40:35. When they were to journey, the cloud was taken up; when to encamp, the cloud rested on the tabernacle, Exo 40:36, Exo 40:37. A cloud by day and a fire by night was upon the tabernacle, in the sight of all the Israelites, through the whole course of the journeyings, Exo 40:38.
The first day of the first month - It Is generally supposed that the Israelites began the work of the tabernacle about the sixth month after they had left Egypt; and as the work was finished about the end of the first year of their exodus, (for it was set up the first day of the second year), that therefore they had spent about six months in making it: so that the tabernacle was erected one year all but fifteen days after they had left Egypt. Such a building, with such a profusion of curious and costly workmanship, was never got up in so short a time. But it was the work of the Lord, and the people did service as unto the Lord; for the people had a mind to work.
Thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things, etc. - That is, Thou shalt place the twelve loaves upon the table in the order before mentioned. See Clarke's note on Exo 25:30.
For their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood - By this anointing a right was given to Aaron and his family to be high priests among the Jews for ever; so that all who should be born of this family should have a right to the priesthood without the repetition of this unction, as they should enjoy this honor in their father's right, who had it by a particular grant from God. But it appears that the high priest, on his consecration, did receive the holy unction; see Lev 4:3; Lev 6:22; Lev 21:10. And this continued till the destruction of the first temple, and the Babylonish captivity; and according to Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and others, this custom continued among the Jews to the advent of our Lord, after which there is no evidence it was ever practiced. See Calmet's note Exo 29:7 (note). The Jewish high priest was a type of Him who is called the high priest over the house of God, Heb 10:21; and when he came, the functions of the other necessarily ceased. This case is worthy of observation. The Jewish sacrifices were never resumed after the destruction of their city and temple, for they hold it unlawful to sacrifice anywhere out of Jerusalem; and the unction of their high priest ceased from that period also: and why? Because the true priest and the true sacrifice were come, and the types of course were no longer necessary after the manifestation of the antitype.
He spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle - By the tent, in this and several other places, we are to understand the coverings made of rams' skins, goats' hair, etc., which were thrown over the building; for the tabernacle had no other kind of roof.
And put the testimony into the ark - That is, the two tables on which the ten commandments had been written. See Exo 25:16. The ark, the golden table with the shew-bread, the golden candlestick, and the golden altar of incense, were all in the tabernacle, within the veil or curtains, which served as a door, Exo 40:22, Exo 40:24, Exo 40:26. And the altar of burnt-offering was by the door, Exo 40:29. And the brazen laver, between the tent of the congregation and the brazen altar, Exo 40:30; still farther outward, that it might be the first thing the priests met with when entering into the court to minister, as their hands and feet must be washed before they could perform any part of the holy service, Exo 40:31, Exo 40:32. When all these things were thus placed, then the court that surrounded the tabernacle, which consisted of posts and hangings, was set up, Exo 40:33.
Then a cloud covered the tent - Thus God gave his approbation of the work; and as this was visible, so it was a sign to all the people that Jehovah was among them.
And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle - How this was manifested we cannot tell; it was probably by some light or brightness which was insufferable to the sight, for Moses himself could not enter in because of the cloud and the glory, Exo 40:35. Precisely the same happened when Solomon had dedicated his temple; for it is said that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord; Kg1 8:10, Kg1 8:11. Previously to this the cloud of the Divine glory had rested upon that tent or tabernacle which Moses had pitched without the camp, after the transgression in the matter of the molten calf; but now the cloud removed from that tabernacle and rested upon this one, which was made by the command and under the direction of God himself. And there is reason to believe that this tabernacle was pitched in the center of the camp, all the twelve tribes pitching their different tents in a certain order around it.
When the cloud was taken up - The subject of these three last verses has been very largely explained in the notes on Exo 13:21, to which, as well as to the general remarks on that chapter, the reader is requested immediately to refer. See Clarke's note on Exo 13:21.
For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day - This daily and nightly appearance was at once both a merciful providence, and a demonstrative proof of the Divinity of their religion: and these tokens continued with them throughout all their journeys; for, notwithstanding their frequently repeated disobedience and rebellion, God never withdrew these tokens of his presence from them, till they were brought into the promised land. When, therefore, the tabernacle became fixed, because the Israelites had obtained their inheritance, this mark of the Divine presence was no longer visible in the sight of all Israel, but appears to have been confined to the holy of holies, where it had its fixed residence upon the mercy-seat between the cherubim; and in this place continued till the first temple was destroyed, after which it was no more seen in Israel till God was manifested in the flesh.
As in the book of Genesis we have God's own account of the commencement of the World, the origin of nations, and the peopling of the earth; so in the book of Exodus we have an account, from the same source of infallible truth, of the commencement of the Jewish Church, and the means used by the endless mercy of God to propagate and continue his pure and undefiled religion in the earth, against which neither human nor diabolic power or policy have ever been able to prevail! The preservation of this religion, which has ever been opposed by the great mass of mankind, is a standing proof of its Divinity. As it has ever been in hostility against the corrupt passions of men, testifying against the world that its deeds were evil, these passions have ever been in hostility to it. Cunning and learned men have argued to render its authority dubious, and its tendency suspicious; whole states and empires have exerted themselves to the uttermost to oppress and destroy it; and its professed friends, by their conduct, have often betrayed it: yet librata ponderibus suis, supported by the arm of God and its own intrinsic excellence, it lives and flourishes; and the river that makes glad the city of God has run down with the tide of time 5800 years, and is running on with a more copious and diffusive current.
Labitur, et labetur in omne volubilis aevum.
"Still glides the river, and will ever glide."
We have seen how, by the miraculous cloud, all the movements of the Israelites were directed. They struck or pitched their tents, as it removed or became stationary. Every thing that concerned them was under the direction and management of God. But these things happened unto them for ensamples; and it is evident, from Isa 4:5, that all these things typified the presence and influence of God in his Church, and in the souls of his followers. His Church can possess no sanctifying knowledge, no quickening power but from the presence and influence of his Spirit. By this influence all his followers are taught, enlightened, led, quickened, purified, and built up on their most holy faith; and without the indwelling of his Spirit, light, life, and salvation are impossible. These Divine influences Are necessary, not only for a time, but through all our journeys, Exo 40:38; though every changing scene of providence, and through every step in life. And these the followers of Christ are to possess, not by inference or inductive reasoning, but consciously. The influence is to be felt, and the fruits of it to appear as fully as the cloud of the Lord by day, and the fire by night, appeared in the sight of all the house of Israel. Reader, hast thou this Spirit? Are all thy goings and comings ordered by its continual guidance? Does Christ, who was represented by this tabernacle, and in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, dwell in thy heart by faith? If not, call upon God for that blessing which, for the sake of his Son, he is ever disposed to impart; then shalt thou be glorious, and on all thy glory there shall be a defense. Amen, Amen.
On the ancient division of the law into fifty-four sections, see the notes at the end of Genesis (Gen 50:26 (note)). Of these fifty-four sections Genesis contains twelve; and the commencement and ending of each has been marked in the note already referred to. Of these sections Exodus contains eleven, all denominated, as in the former case, by the words in the original with which they commence. I shall point these out as in the former, carrying the enumeration from Genesis.
The Thirteenth section, called שמות shemoth, begins Exo 1:1, and ends Exo 6:1.
The Fourteenth, called וארא vaera, begins Exo 6:2, and ends Exo 9:35.
The Fifteenth, called בא bo, begins Exo 10:1, and ends Exo 13:16.
The Sixteenth, called בשלח beshallach, begins Exo 13:17, and ends Exo 17:16.
The Seventeenth, called יתרו yithro, begins Exo 18:1, and ends Exo 20:26.
The Eighteenth, called משפטים mishpatim, begins Exo 21:1, and ends Exo 24:18.
The Nineteenth, called תרומה terumah, begins Exo 25:2, and ends Exo 27:19.
The Twentieth, called תצוה tetsavveh, begins Exo 27:20, and ends Exo 30:10.
The Twenty-First, called תשא tissa, begins Exo 30:11, and ends Exo 34:35.
The Twenty-Second, called ויקהל vaiyakhel, begins Exo 36:1, and ends Exo 38:20.
The Twenty-Third, called פקודי pekudey, begins Exo 38:21, and ends Exo 40:38.
It will at once appear to the reader that these sections have their technical names from some remarkable word, either in the first or second verse of their commencement.