Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Directions Concerning the Sanctuaryand Priesthood - Exodus 25-31
To give a definite external form to the covenant concluded with His people, and construct a visible bond of fellowship in which He might manifest Himself to the people and they might draw near to Him as their God, Jehovah told Moses that the Israelites were to erect Him a sanctuary, that He might dwell in the midst of them (Exo 25:8). The construction and arrangement of this sanctuary were determined in all respects by God Himself, who showed to Moses, when upon the mountain, a pattern of the dwelling and its furniture, and prescribed with great minuteness both the form and materials of all the different parts of the sanctuary and all the things required for the sacred service. If the sanctuary was to answer its purpose, the erection of it could not be left to the inventive faculty of any man whatever, but must proceed from Him, who was there to manifest Himself to the nation, as the Holy One, in righteousness and grace. The people could only carry out what God appointed, and could only fulfil their covenant duty, by the readiness with which they supplied the materials required for the erection of the sanctuary and completed the work with their own hands. The divine directions extended to all the details, because they were all of importance in relation to the design of God. The account therefore is so elaborate, that it contains a description not only of the directions of God with reference to the whole and every separate part (ch. 25-31), but also of the execution of the work in all its details (ch. 35-40).
The following is the plan upon which this section is arranged. After the command of God to the people to offer gifts for the sanctuary about to be erected, which forms the introduction to the whole (Exo 25:1-9), the further directions commence with a description of the ark of the covenant, which Jehovah had appointed as His throne in the sanctuary, that is to say, as it were, with the sanctuary in the sanctuary (Exo 25:10-22). Then follow - (1) the table of shew-bread and the golden candlestick (Ex 25:23-40), as the two things by means of which the continual communion of Israel with Jehovah was to be maintained; (2) the construction of the dwelling, with an account of the position to be occupied by the three things already named (ch. 26); (3) the altar of burnt-offering, together with the court which was to surround the holy dwelling (Ex 27:1-19). This is immediately followed by the command respecting the management of the candlestick (Exo 27:20, Exo 27:21), which prepares the way for an account of the institution of the priesthood, and the investiture and consecration of the priests (ch. 28 and 29), and by the directions as to the altar of incense, and the service to be performed at it (Exo 30:1-10); after which, there only remain a few subordinate instructions to complete the whole (Ex 30:11-31:17). "The description of the entire sanctuary commences, therefore," as Ranke has aptly observed, "with the ark of the law, the place of the manifestation of Jehovah, and terminates with the altar of incense, which stood immediately in front of it." The dwelling was erected round Jehovah's seat, and round this the court. The priests first of all presented the sacrifices upon the altar of burnt-offering, and then proceeded into the holy place and drew near to Jehovah. The highest act in the daily service of the priests was evidently this standing before Jehovah at the altar of incense, which was only separated by the curtain from the most holy place.
(cf. Exo 35:1-9). The Israelites were to bring to the Lord a heave-offering (תּרוּמה from רוּם, a gift lifted, or heaved by a man from his own property to present to the Lord; see at Lev 2:9), "on the part of every one whom his heart drove," i.e., whose heart was willing (cf. לבּו נדיב Exo 35:5, Exo 35:22): viz., gold, silver, brass, etc.
תּכלת, ὑάκινθος, purple of a dark blue shade, approaching black rather than bright blue. ארגּמן, πορφύρα (Chald. ארגּון, 2 Chron, Exo 2:6; Dan 5:7, Dan 5:16; - Sanskrit, rgaman or rgavan, colore rubro praeditus), true purple of a dark red colour. שׁני תּולעת, literally the crimson prepared from the dead bodies and nests of the glow-worm,
(Note: Glanzwurm: "the Linnean name is coccus ilicis. It frequents the boughs of a species of ilex; on these it lays its eggs in groups, which become covered with a kind of down." Smith's Dictionary, Art. Colours. - Tr.)
then the scarlet-red purple, or crimson. שׁשׁ, βύσσος, from שׁוּשׁ to be white, a fine white cotton fabric, not linen, muslin, or net. עזים goats, here goats' hair (τρίχες αἰγείαι, lxx).
מאדּמים אלים ערת rams' skins reddened, i.e., dyed red. תּחשׁ is either the seal, phoca, or else, as this is not known to exist in the Arabian Gulf, the φῶκος = φώκαινα of the ancients, as Knobel supposes, or κῆτος θαλάσσιον ὅμοιον δελφῖνι, the sea-cow (Manati, Halicora), which is found in the Red Sea, and has a skin that is admirably adapted for sandals. Hesychius supposes it to have been the latter, which is probably the same as the large fish Tn or Atm, that is caught in the Red Sea, and belongs to the same species as the Halicora (Robinson, Pal. i. p. 170); as its skin is also used by the Bedouin Arabs for making sandals (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 861). In the Manati the upper skin differs from the under; the former being larger, thicker, and coarser than the latter, which is only two lines in thickness and very tough, so that the skin would be well adapted either for the thick covering of tents or for the finer kinds of ornamental sandals (Eze 16:10). שׁטּים עצי acacia-wood. שׁטּה for שׁנטה, the true acacia (acacia vera), which grows in Egypt and on the Arabian peninsula into a tree of the size of a nut-tree, or even larger;
(Note: See Abdallatif's Merkwrdigkeiten Aegyptens, and Rosenmller, Althk. iv. i. pp. 278-9. This genuine acacia, Sont, must not be confounded, according to Robinson (Pal. 2, 350), with the Acacia gumnifera (Talh). Seetzen also makes a distinction between the Thollhh, the Szont of the Egyptians, and the Szeil, and between an acacia which produces gum and one which does not; but he also observes that the same tree is called both Thollhh and Szeil in different places. He then goes on to say that he did not find a single tree large enough to furnish planks of ten cubits in length and one and a half in breadth for the construction of the ark (he means, of the tabernacle), and he therefore conjectures that the Israelites may have gone to Egypt for the materials with which to build the tabernacle. But he has overlooked the fact, that it is not stated in the text of the Bible that the boards of the tabernacle, which were a cubit and a half in breadth, were cut from one plank of the breadth named; and also that the trees in the valleys of the peninsula of Sinai are being more and more sacrificed to the charcoal trade of the Bedouin Arabs (see p. 366), and therefore that no conclusion can be drawn from the present condition of the trees as to what they were in the far distant antiquity.)
the only tree in Arabia deserta from which planks could be cut, and the wood of which is very light and yet very durable.
Oil for the candlestick (see at Exo 27:20). בּשׂמים perfumes, spices for the anointing oil (see at Exo 30:22.), and for the incense (הסּמּים, lit., the scents, because the materials of which it was composed were not all of them fragrant; see at Exo 30:34.).
Lastly, precious stones, שׁהם אבני probably beryls (see at Gen 2:12), for the ephod (Exo 28:9), and מלּאים אבני, lit., stones of filling, i.e., jewels that are set (see Exo 28:16.). On ephod (אפד), see at Exo 28:6; and on חשׁן, at Exo 28:15. The precious stones were presented by the princes of the congregation (Exo 35:27).
With these freewill-offerings they were to make the Lord a sanctuary, that He might dwell in the midst of them (see at Exo 25:22). "According to all that I let thee see (show thee), the pattern of the dwelling and the pattern of all its furniture, so shall ye make it." The participle מראה does not refer to the past; and there is nothing to indicate that it does, either in Exo 25:40, where "in the mount" occurs, or in the use of the preterite in Exo 26:30; Exo 27:8. It does not follow from the expression, "which is showed thee in the mount," that Moses had already left the mountain and returned to the camp; and the use of the preterite in the passages last named may be simply explained, either on the supposition that the sight of the pattern or model of the whole building and its component parts preceded the description of the different things required for the completion of the building, or that the instructions to make the different parts in such and such a way, pointed to a time when the sight of the model really belonged to the past. On the other hand, the model for the building could not well be shown to Moses, before he had been told that the gifts to be made by the people were to be devoted to the building of a sanctuary. תּבנית, from בּנה to build, lit., a building, then a figure of anything, a copy of representation of different things, Deu 4:17.; a drawing or sketch, Kg2 16:10 : it never means the original, not even in Psa 144:12, as Delitzsch supposes (see his Com. on Heb 8:5). In such passages as Ch1 28:11-12, Ch1 28:19, where it may be rendered plan, it does not signify an original, but simply means a model or drawing, founded upon an idea, or taken from some existing object, according to which a building was to be constructed. Still less can the object connected with תבנית in the genitive be understood as referring to the original, from which the תבנית was taken; so that we cannot follow the Rabbins in their interpretation of this passage, as affirming that the heavenly originals of the tabernacle and its furniture had been shown to Moses in a vision upon the mountain. What was shown to him was simply a picture or model of the earthly tabernacle and its furniture, which were to be made by him. Both Act 7:44 and Heb 8:5 are perfectly reconcilable with this interpretation of our verse, which is the only one that can be grammatically sustained. The words of Stephen, that Moses was to make the tabernacle κατὰ τὸν τύπον ὅν ἑωράκει, "according to the fashion that he had seen," are so indefinite, that the text of Exodus must be adduced to explain them. And when the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews cites the words, "See that thou make all things κατὰ τὸν τύπον τὸν δειχθέντα σοι ἐν τῷ ὄρει" (according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount), from Exo 25:40 of this chapter, as a proof the Levitical priests only served the type and shadow of heavenly things (τῶν ἐπουρανίων); it is true, his words may be understood as showing that he regarded the earthly tabernacle with all its arrangements as only the counterpart and copy of a heavenly original. But this interpretation is neither necessary nor well founded. For although the author, by following the Sept., in which בּתניתם is rendered κατὰ τὸν τύπον, the suffix being dropped, leaves it just a possible thing to understand the τύπος shown to Moses as denoting a heavenly tabernacle (or temple); yet he has shown very clearly that this was not his own view, when he explains the "patterns of things in the heavens" (ὑποδείγματα τῶν ἐν οὐρανοῖς) and "the true" things (τὰ ἀληθινά) of both the tabernacle and its furniture as denoting the "heaven" (οὐρανός) into which Christ had entered, and not any temple in heaven. If the ἐπουράνια are heaven itself, the τύπος showed to Moses cannot have been a temple in heaven, but either heaven itself, or, more probably still, as there could be no necessity for this to be shown to Moses in a pictorial representation, a picture of heavenly things or divine realities, which was shown to Moses that he might copy and embody it in the earthly tabernacle.
(Note: The conclusion drawn by Delitzsch (Hebrerbrief, p. 337), that because the author does not refer to anything between the ἐπουράνια and their ἀντίτυπα (Exo 9:24), the τύπος can only have consisted of the ἐπουράνια themselves, is a mistake. All that the premises preclude, is the intervention of any objective reality, or third material object, but not the introduction of a pictorial representation, through which Moses was shown how to copy the heavenly realities and embody them in an earthly form. The earthly tent would no more be a copy of the copy of a heavenly original in this case, than a palace built according to a model is a copy of that model. Moreover, Delitzsch himself thinks it is "not conceivable that, when Moses was favoured with a view of the heavenly world, it was left to him to embody what he saw in a material form, to bring it within the limits of space." He therefore assumes, both for the reason assigned, and because "no mortal has ever looked directly at heavenly things," that "inasmuch as what was seen could not be directly reflected in the mirror of his mind, not to mention the retina of his eye, it was set before him in a visible form, and according to the operation of God who showed it, in a manner adapted to serve as a model of the earthly sanctuary to be erected." Thus he admits that it is true that Moses did not see the heavenly world itself, but only a copy of it that was shown to him by God.)
If we understand the verse before us in this sense, it merely expresses what is already implied in the fact itself. If God showed Moses a picture or model of the tabernacle, and instructed him to make everything exactly according to this pattern, we must assume that in the tabernacle and its furniture heavenly realities were to be expressed in earthly forms; or, to put it more clearly, that the thoughts of God concerning salvation and His kingdom, which the earthly building was to embody and display, were visibly set forth in the pattern shown. The symbolical and typical significance of the whole building necessarily follows from this, though without our being obliged to imitate the Rabbins, and seek in the tabernacle the counterpart or copy of a heavenly temple. What these divine thoughts were that were embodied in the tabernacle, can only be gathered from the arrangement and purpose of the whole building and its separate parts; and upon this point the description furnishes so much information, that when read in the light of the whole of the covenant revelation, it gives to all the leading points precisely the clearness that we require.
The Ark of the Covenant (cf. Exo 37:1-9). - They were to make an ark (ארון) of acacia-wood, two cubits and a half long, one and a half broad, and one and a half high, and to plate it with pure gold both within and without. Round about it they were to construct a golden זר, i.e., probably a golden rim, encircling it like an ornamental wreath. They were also to cast four golden rings and fasten them to the four feet (פּעמת walking feet, feet bent as if for walking) of the ark, two on either side; and to cut four poles of acacia-wood and plate them with gold, and put them through the rings for carrying the ark. The poles were to remain in the rings, without moving from them, i.e., without being drawn out, that the bearers might not touch the ark itself (Num 4:15).
Into this ark Moses was to put "the testimony" (העדת; cf. Exo 40:20). This is the name given to the two tables of stone, upon which the ten words spoken by God to the whole nation were written, and which Moses was to receive from God (Exo 24:12). Because these ten words were the declaration of God upon the basis of which the covenant was concluded (Exo 34:27-28; Deu 4:13; Deu 10:1-2), these tables were called the tables of testimony (ch. Exo 31:18; Exo 34:29), or tables of the covenant (Deu 9:9; Deu 11:15).
In addition to this, Moses was to make a capporeth (ἱλαστήριον ἐπίθεμα, lxx; propitiatorium, Vulg.), an atoning covering. The meaning operculum, lid (Ges.), cannot be sustained, notwithstanding the fact that the capporeth was placed upon the ark (Exo 25:21) and covered the tables laid within it; for the verb כפר has not the literal signification of covering or covering up either in Kal or Piel. In Kal it only occurs in Gen 6:14, where it means to pitch or tar; in Piel it is only used in the figurative sense of covering up sin or guilt, i.e., of making atonement. Ch1 28:11 is decisive on this point, where the holy of holies, in which the capporeth was, is called הכּפּרת בּית, which cannot possibly mean the covering-house, but must signify the house of atonement. The force of this passage is not weakened by the remark made by Delitzsch and others, to the effect that it was only in the later usage of the language that the idea of covering gave place to that of the covering up or expiation of sin; for neither in the earlier nor earliest usage of the language can the supposed primary meaning of the word be anywhere discovered. Knobel's remark has still less force, viz., that the ark must have had a lid, and it must have been called a lid. For if from the very commencement this lid had a more important purpose than that of a simple covering, it might also have received its name from this special purpose, even though this was not fully explained to the Israelites till a later period in the giving of the law (Lev 16:15-16). It must, however, have been obvious to every one, that it was to be something more than the mere lid of the ark, from the simple fact that it was not to be made, like the ark, of wood plated with gold, but to be made of pure gold, and to have two golden cherubs upon the top. The cherubim were to be made of gold מקשׁה (from קשׁה to turn), i.e., literally, turned work (cf. Isa 3:24), here, according to Onkelos, נגיד opus ductile, work beaten with the hammer and rounded, so that the figures were not solid but hollow (see Bhr, i. p. 380).
"Out of the capporeth shall ye make the cherubs at its two ends," i.e., so as to form one whole with the capporeth itself, and be inseparable from it.
"And let the cherubs be stretching out wings on high, screening (סככים, συσκιάζοντες) with their wings above the capporeth, and their faces (turned) one to the other; towards the capporeth let the faces of the cherubs be." That is to say, the cherubs were to spread out their wings in such a manner as to form a screen over the capporeth, with their faces turned towards one another, but inclining or stooping towards the capporeth. The reason for this is given in Exo 25:22. There - viz., above the capporeth that was placed upon the ark containing the testimony - Jehovah would present Himself to Moses (נועד, from יעד to appoint, to present one's self to a person at an appointed place, to meet with him), and talk with him "from above the capporeth, out from between the two cherubs upon the ark of testimony, all that I shall command thee for the sons of Israel" (cf. Exo 29:42). Through this divine promise and the fulfilment of it (Exo 40:35; Lev 1:1; Num 1:1; Num 16:19), the ark of the covenant together with the capporeth became the throne of Jehovah in the midst of His chosen people, the footstool of the God of Israel (Ch1 28:2, cf. Psa 132:7; Psa 99:5; Lam 2:1). The ark, with the tables of the covenant as the self-attestation of God, formed the foundation of this throne, to show that the kingdom of grace which was established in Israel through the medium of the covenant, was founded in justice and righteousness (Psa 89:15; Psa 97:2). The gold plate upon the ark formed the footstool of the throne for Him, who caused His name, i.e., the real presence of His being, to dwell in a cloud between the two cherubim above their outspread wings; and there He not only made known His will to His people in laws and commandments, but revealed Himself as the jealous God who visited sin and showed mercy (Exo 20:5-6; Exo 34:6-7), - the latter more especially on the great day of atonement, when, through the medium of the blood of the sin-offering sprinkled upon and in front of the capporeth, He granted reconciliation to His people for all their transgressions in all their sin (Lev 16:14.). Thus the footstool of God became a throne of grace (Heb 4:16, cf. Exo 9:5), which received its name capporeth or ἱλαστήριον from the fact that the highest and most perfect act of atonement under the Old Testament was performed upon it. Jehovah, who betrothed His people to Himself in grace and mercy for an everlasting covenant (Hos 2:2), was enthroned upon it, above the wings of the two cherubim, which stood on either side of His throne; and hence He is represented as "dwelling (between) the cherubim" הכּרבים ישׁב (Sa1 4:4; Sa2 6:2; Psa 80:2, etc.). The cherubs were not combinations of animal forms, taken from man, the lion, the ox, and the eagle, as many have inferred from Ezek 1 and 10, for even the composite beings which Ezekiel saw with four faces had a human figure (Eze 1:5); but they are to be regarded as figures made in a human form, and not in a kneeling posture, but, according to the analogy of Ch2 3:13, standing upright. Consequently, as the union of four faces in one cherub is peculiar to Ezekiel, and the cherubs of the ark of the covenant, like those of Solomon's temple, had but one face each, not only did the human type form the general basis of these figures, but in every respect, with the exception of the wings, they were made in the likeness of men. And this is the only form which would answer the purpose for which they were intended, viz., to represent the cherubim, or heavenly spirits, who were stationed to prevent the return of the first man to the garden of Eden after his expulsion thence, and keep the way to the tree of life. Standing upon the capporeth of the ark of the covenant, the typical foundation of the throne of Jehovah, which Ezekiel saw in the vision as רקיע דּמוּת רקי "the likeness of a firmament" (Eze 1:22, Eze 1:25), with their wings outspread and faces lowered, they represented the spirits of heaven, who surround Jehovah, the heavenly King, when seated upon His throne, as His most exalted servants and the witnesses of His sovereign and saving glory; so that Jehovah enthroned above the wings of the cherubim was set forth as the God of Hosts who is exalted above all the angels, surrounded by the assembly or council of the holy ones (Psa 89:6-9), who bow their faces towards the capporeth, studying the secrets of the divine counsels of love (Pe1 1:12), and worshipping Him that liveth for ever and ever (Rev 4:10).
The Table of Shew-Bread (cf. Exo 37:10-16). - The table for the shew-bread (Exo 25:30) was to be made of acacia-wood, two cubits long, one broad, and one and a half high, and to be plated with pure gold, having a golden wreath round, and a "finish (מסגּרת) of a hand-breadth round about," i.e., a border of a hand-breadth in depth surrounding and enclosing the four sides, upon which the top of the table was laid, and into the four corners of which the feet of the table were inserted. A golden wreath was to be placed round this rim. As there is no article attached to זר־זהב in Exo 25:25 (cf. Exo 37:12), so as to connect it with the זר in Exo 25:24, we must conclude that there were two such ornamental wreaths, one round the slab of the table, the other round the rim which was under the slab. At the four corners of the four feet, near the point at which they joined the rim, four rings were to be fastened for בּתּים, i.e., to hold the poles with which the table was carried, as in the case of the ark.
Vessels of pure gold were also to be made, to stand upon the table (cf. Exo 37:16). קערת, τὰ τευβλία (lxx), large deep plates, in which the shew-bread was not only brought to the table, but placed upon it. These plates cannot have been small, for the silver קערת, presented by Nahshon the tribe prince, weighed 130 shekels (Num 7:13). כּפּת, from כּף a hollow hand, small scoops, according to Num 7:14, only ten shekels in weight, used to put out the incense belonging to the shew-bread upon the table (cf. Lev 24:7 and Num 7:14): lxx θυΐ́σκη, i.e., according to the Etymol. Magn., σκάφη ἡ τὰ θύματα δεχομένη. There were also two vessels "to pour out," sc., the drink-offering, or libation of wine: viz., קשׂות, σπονδεῖα (lxx), sacrificial spoons to make the libation of wine with, and מנקּיּת, κύαθοι (lxx), goblets into which the wine was poured, and in which it was placed upon the table. (See Exo 37:16 and Num 4:7, where the goblets are mentioned before the sacrificial spoons.)
Bread of the face (פּנים לחם), the mode of preparing and placing which is described in Lev 24:5., was to lie continually before (לפני) Jehovah. These loaves were called "bread of the face" (shew-bread), because they were to lie before the face of Jehovah as a meat-offering presented by the children of Israel (Lev 24:8), not as food for Jehovah, but as a symbol of the spiritual food which Israel was to prepare (Joh 6:27, cf. Joh 4:32, Joh 4:34), a figurative representation of the calling it had received from God; so that bread and wine, which stood upon the table by the side of the loaves, as the fruit of the labour bestowed by Israel upon the soil of its inheritance, were a symbol of its spiritual labour in the kingdom of God, the spiritual vineyard of its Lord.
(cf. Exo 37:17-24). The Candlestick was to be made of pure gold, "beaten work." מקשׁה: see Exo 25:18. For the form תּיעשׂה instead of תּעשׂה (which is probably the work of a copyist, who thought the reading should be תּעשׂה in the Niphal, as the י is wanting in many MSS), see Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 52, and Ewald, 83b. "Of it shall be (i.e., there shall issue from it so as to form one complete whole) its ירך" (lit., the loins, the upper part of the thigh, which is attached to the body, and from which the feet proceed, - in this case the base or pedestal, upon which the candelabrum stood); its קנה, or reed, i.e., the hollow stem of the candelabrum rising up from the pedestal; - "its גּבעים," cups, resembling the calix of a flower; - כּפתּרים, knobs, in a spherical shape (cf. Amo 9:1; Zep 2:14); - "and פּרחים," flowers, ornaments in the form of buds just bursting.
From the sides of the candlestick, i.e., of the upright stem in the middle, there were to be six branches, three on either side.
On each of these branches (the repetition of the same words expresses the distributive sense) there were to be "three cups in the form of an almond-flower, (with) knob and flower," and on the shaft of the candlestick, or central stem, "four cups in the form of almond-flowers, its knobs and its flowers." As both ופרח כּפתּר (Exo 25:33) and וּפרחיה כּפתּריה (Exo 25:34) are connected with the previous words without a copula, Knobel and Thenius regard these words as standing in explanatory apposition to the preceding ones, and suppose the meaning to be that the flower-cups were to consist of knobs with flowers issuing from them. But apart from the singular idea of calling a knob or bulb with a flower bursting from it a flower-cup, Exo 25:31 decidedly precludes any such explanation; for cups, knobs, and flowers are mentioned there in connection with the base and stem, as three separate things which were quite as distinct the one from the other as the base and the stem. The words in question are appended in both verses to משׁקּדים גּבעים in the sense of subordination; ו is generally used in such cases, but it is omitted here before כפתר, probably to avoid ambiguity, as the two words to be subordinated are brought into closer association as one idea by the use of this copula. And if כפתר and פרח are to be distinguished from נביע, the objection made by Thenius to our rendering משׁקּד "almond-blossom-shaped," namely, that neither the almond nor the almond-blossom has at all the shape of a basin, falls entirely to the ground; and there is all the less reason to question this rendering, on account of the unanimity with which it has been adopted in the ancient versions, whereas the rendering proposed by Thenius, "wakened up, i.e., a burst or opened calix," has neither foundation nor probability.
"and every pipe under the two branches shall be out from them (be connected with them) for the six (side) pipes going out from the candlestick;" i.e., at the point where the three pairs of the six side pipes or arms branched off from the main pipe or stem of the candlestick, a knob should be so placed that the arms should proceed from the knob, or from the main stem immediately above the knob.
"Their knobs and their pipes (i.e., the knobs and pipes of the three pairs of arms) shall be of it (the candlestick, i.e., combined with it so as to form one whole), all one (one kind of) beaten work, pure gold." From all this we get the following idea of the candlestick: Upon the vase there rose an upright central pipe, from which three side pies branched out one above another on either side, and curved upwards in the form of a quadrant to the level of the central stem. On this stem a calix and a knob and blossom were introduced four separate times, and in such a manner that there was a knob wherever the side pipes branched off from the main stem, evidently immediately below the branches; and the fourth knob, we may suppose, was higher up between the top branches and the end of the stem. As there were thus four calices with a knob and blossom in the main stem, so again there were three in each of the branches, which were no doubt placed at equal distances from one another. With regard to the relative position of the calix, the knob, and the blossom, we may suppose that the spherical knob was underneath the calix, and that the blossom sprang from the upper edge of the latter, as if bursting out of it. The candlestick had thus seven arms, and seven lights or lamps were to be made and placed upon them (העלה). "And they (all the lamps) are to give light upon the opposite side of its front" (Exo 25:37): i.e., the lamp was to throw its light upon the side that was opposite to the front of the candlestick. The פּנים of the candlestick (Exo 25:37 and Num 8:2) was the front shown by the seven arms, as they formed a straight line with their seven points; and עבר does not mean the side, but the opposite side, as is evident from Num 8:2, where we find מוּל אל instead. As the place assigned to the candlestick was on the south side of the dwelling-place, we are to understand by this opposite side the north, and imagine the lamp to be so placed that the line of lamps formed by the seven arms ran from front to back, by which arrangement the holy place would be better lighted, than if the candlestick had stood with the line of lamps from south to north, and so had turned all its seven lamps towards the person entering the holy place. The lamps were the receptacles for the wick and oil, which were placed on the top of the arms, and could be taken down to be cleaned. The hole from which the wick projected was not made in the middle, but at the edge, so that the light was thrown upon one side.
The other things belonging to the candlestick were מלקחים tongs (Isa 6:6), i.e., snuffers, and מחמּות snuff-dishes, i.e., dishes to receive the snuff when taken from the wicks; elsewhere the word signifies an ash-pan, or vessel used for taking away the coal from the fire (Exo 27:3; Lev 16:12; Num 17:3.).
"Of a talent of pure gold (i.e., 822,000 Parisian grains) shall he make it (the candlestick) and all these vessels," i.e., according to Exo 37:24, all the vessels belonging to the candlestick. From this quantity of gold it was possible to make a candlestick of very considerable size. The size is not given anywhere in the Old Testament, but, according to Bhr's conjecture, it corresponded to the height of the table of shew-bread, namely, a cubit and a half in height and the same in breadth, or a cubit and a half between the two outside lamps.
The signification of the seven-armed candlestick is apparent from its purpose, viz., to carry seven lamps, which were trimmed and filled with oil every morning, and lighted every evening, and were to burn throughout the night (Exo 27:20-21; Exo 30:7-8; Lev 24:3-4). As the Israelites were to prepare spiritual food in the shew-bread in the presence of Jehovah, and to offer continually the fruit of their labour in the field of the kingdom of God, as a spiritual offering to the Lord; so also were they to present themselves continually to Jehovah in the burning lamps, as the vehicles and media of light, as a nation letting its light shine in the darkness of this world (cf. Mat 5:14, Mat 5:16; Luk 12:35; Phi 2:15). The oil, through which the lamps burned and shone, was, according to its peculiar virtue in imparting strength to the body and restoring vital power, a representation of the Godlike spirit, the source of all the vital power of man; whilst the oil, as offered by the congregation of Israel, and devoted to sacred purposes according to the command of God, is throughout the Scriptures a symbol of the Spirit of God, by which the congregation of God was tilled with higher light and life. By the power of this Spirit, Israel, in covenant with the Lord, was to let its light shine, the light of its knowledge of God and spiritual illumination, before all the nations of the earth. In its seven arms the stamp of the covenant relationship was impressed upon the candlestick; and the almond-blossom with which it was ornamented represented the seasonable offering of the flowers and fruits of the Spirit, the almond-tree deriving its name שׁקד from the fact that it is the earliest of all the trees in both its blossom and its fruit (cf. Jer 1:11-12). The symbolical character of the candlestick is clearly indicated in the Scriptures. The prophet Zechariah (Zac 4:1-14) sees a golden candlestick with seven lamps and two olive-trees, one on either side, from which the oil-vessel is supplied; and the angel who is talking with him informs him that the olive-trees are the two sons of oil, that is to say, the representatives of the kingdom and priesthood, the divinely appointed organs through which the Spirit of God was communicated to the covenant nation. And in Rev 1:20, the seven churches, which represent the new people of God, i.e., the Christian Church, are shown to the holy seer in the form of seven candlesticks standing before the throne of God. - On Exo 25:40, see at Exo 25:9.