Sacred Texts  Bible  Bible Commentary  Index 
Exodus Index
  Previous  Next 

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Exodus Chapter 26

Exodus 26:1

exo 26:1

(cf. Ex 36:8-38). The Dwelling-Place. - This was to be formed of a framework of wood, and of tapestry and curtains. The description commences with the tapestry or tent-cloth (Exo 26:1-14), which made the framework (vv. 15-30) into a dwelling. The inner lining is mentioned first (Exo 26:1-6), because this made the dwelling into a tent (tabernacle). This inner tent-cloth was to consist of ten curtains (יריעת, αὐλαίαι), or, as Luther has more aptly rendered it, Teppiche, pieces of tapestry, i.e., of cloth composed of byssus yarn, hyacinth, purple, and scarlet. משׁזר twisted, signifies yarn composed of various colours twisted together, from which the finer kinds of byssus, for which the Egyptians were so celebrated, were made (vid., Hengstenberg, Egypt, pp. 139ff.). The byssus yarn was of a clear white, and this was woven into mixed cloth by combination with dark blue, and dark and fiery red. It was not to be in simple stripes or checks, however; but the variegated yarn was to be woven (embroidered) into the white byssus, so as to form artistic figures of cherubim ("cherubim, work of the artistic weaver, shalt thou make it"). חשׁב מעשׂה (lit., work or labour of the thinker) is applied to artistic weaving, in which either figures or gold threads (Exo 28:6, Exo 28:8, Exo 28:15) are worked into the cloth, and which is to be distinguished from רקם מעשׂה variegated weaving (Exo 26:36).

Exodus 26:2

exo 26:2

The length of each piece was to be 28 cubits, and the breadth 4 cubits, one measure for all; and five of these pieces were to be "joined together one to another," i.e., joined or sewed together into a piece of 28 cubits in length and 20 in breadth, and the same with the other five.

Exodus 26:4

exo 26:4

They were also to make 50 hyacinth loops "on the border of the one piece of tapestry, from the end in the join," i.e., on the extreme edge of the five pieces that were sewed together; and the same "on the border of the last piece in the second joined tapestry." Thus there were to be fifty loops in each of the two large pieces, and these loops were to be מקבּילת "taking up the loops one the other;" that is to say, they were to be so made that the loops in the two pieces should exactly meet.

Exodus 26:6

exo 26:6

Fifty golden clasps were also to be made, to fasten the pieces of drapery (the two halves of the tent-cloth) together, "that it might be a dwelling-place." This necessarily leads to Bhr's conclusion, that the tent-cloth, which consisted of two halves fastened together with the loops and clasps, answering to the two compartments of the dwelling-place (Exo 26:33), enclosed the whole of the interior, not only covering the open framework above, but the side walls also, and therefore that it hung down inside the walls, and that it was not spread out upon the wooden framework so as to form the ceiling, but hung down on the walls on the outside of the wooden beams, so that the gilded beams were left uncovered in the inside. For if this splendid tent-cloth had been intended for the ceiling only, and therefore only 30 cubits had been visible out of the 40 cubits of its breadth, and only 10 out of the 28 of its length-that is to say, if not much more than a third of the whole had been seen and used for the inner lining of the dwelling, - that is to say, if not much more than a third of the whole had been seen and used for the inner lining of the dwelling, - it would not have been called "the dwelling" so constantly as it is (cf. Exo 36:8; Exo 40:18), nor would the goats'-hair covering which was placed above it have been just as constantly called the "tent above the dwelling" (Exo 26:7; Exo 36:14; Exo 40:19). This inner tent-cloth was so spread out, that whilst it was fastened to the upper ends of the beams in a way that is not explained in the text, it formed the ceiling of the whole, and the joining came just above the curtain which divided the dwelling into two compartments. One half therefore, viz., the front half, formed the ceiling of the holy place with its entire breadth of 20 cubits and 10 cubits of its length, and the remaining 18 cubits of its length hung down over the two side walls, 9 cubits down each wall, - the planks that formed the walls being left uncovered, therefore, to the height of 1 cubit from the ground. In a similar manner the other half covered the holy of holies, 10 cubits of both length and breadth forming the ceiling, and the 10 cubits that remained of the entire length covering the end wall; whilst the folds in the corners that arose from the 9 cubits that hung down on either side, were no doubt so adjusted that the walls appeared to be perfectly smooth. (For further remarks, see Exo 39:33.)

Exodus 26:7

exo 26:7

The outer tent-cloth, "for the tent over the dwelling," was to consist of eleven lengths of goats' hair, i.e., of cloth made of goats' hair;

(Note: The coverings of the tents of the Bedouin Arabs are still made of cloth woven from black goats' hair, which the women spin and weave (see Lynch's Expedition of the United States to the Jordan and Dead Sea).)

each piece being thirty cubits long and four broad.

Exodus 26:9

exo 26:9

Five of these were to be connected (sewed together) by themselves (לבד), and the other six in the same manner; and the sixth piece was to be made double, i.e., folded together, towards the front of the tent, so as to form a kind of gable, as Josephus has also explained the passage (Ant. iii. 6, 4).

Exodus 26:10

exo 26:10

Fifty loops and clasps were to be made to join the two halves together, as in the case of the inner tapestry, only the clasps were to be of brass or copper.

Exodus 26:12

exo 26:12

This tent-cloth was two cubits longer than the inner one, as each piece was 30 cubits long instead of 28; it was also two cubits broader, as it was composed of 11 pieces, the eleventh only reckoning as two cubits, as it was to be laid double. Consequently there was an excess (העדף that which is over) of two cubits each way; and according to Exo 26:12 and Exo 26:13 this was to be disposed of in the following manner: "As for the spreading out of the excess in the tent-cloths, the half of the cloth in excess shall spread out over the back of the dwelling; and the cubit from here and from there in the excess in the length of the tent-cloths (i.e., the cubit over in the length in each of the cloths) shall be spread out on the sides of the dwelling from here and from there to cover it." Now since, according to this, one half of the two cubits of the sixth piece which was laid double was to hang down the back of the tabernacle, there only remained one cubit for the gable of the front. It follows, therefore, that the joining of the two halves with loops and clasps would come a cubit farther back, than the place where the curtain of the holy of holies divided the dwelling. But in consequence of the cloth being a cubit longer in every direction, it nearly reached the ground on all three sides, the thickness of the wooden framework alone preventing it from reaching it altogether.

Exodus 26:14

exo 26:14

"The other coverings were placed on the top of this tent: one made of rams' skins dyed red, "as a covering for the tent," and another upon the top of this, made of the skins of the sea-cow (תּחשׁים, see at Exo 25:5).

Exodus 26:15

exo 26:15

The wooden framework. - Exo 26:15, Exo 26:16. The boards for the dwelling were to be made "of acacia-wood standing," i.e., so that they could stand upright; each ten cubits long and one and a half broad. The thickness is not given; and if, on the one hand, we are not to imagine them too thin, as Josephus does, for example, who says they were only four fingers thick (Ant. iii. 6, 3), we have still less reason for following Rashi, Lund, Bhr and others, who suppose them to have been a cubit in thickness, thus making simple boards into colossal blocks, such as could neither have been cut from acacia-trees, nor carried upon desert roads.

(Note: Kamphausen (Stud. und Krit. 1859, p. 117) appeals to Bhr's Symbolik 1, p. 261-2, and Knobel, Exod. p. 261, in support of the opinion, that at any rate formerly there were genuine acacias of such size and strength, that beams could have been cut from them a cubit and a half broad and a cubit thick; but we look in vain to either of these writings for such authority as will establish this fact. Expressions like those of Jerome and Hasselquist, viz., grandes arbores and arbos ingens ramosissima, are far too indefinite. It is true that, according to Abdullatif, the Sont is "a very large tree," but he gives a quotation from Dinuri, in which it is merely spoken of as "a tree of the size of a nut-tree." See the passages cited in Rosenmller's bibl. Althk. iv. 1, p. 278, Not. 7, where we find the following remark of Wesling on Prosper. Alpin. de plantis Aeg.: Caudicem non raro ampliorem deprehendi, quam ut brachio meo circumdari possit. Even the statement of Theophrast (hist. plant. 4, 3), to the effect that rafters are cut from these trees 12 cubits long (δωδεκάπηχυς ἐρέψιμος ὕλη), is no proof that they were beams a cubit and a half broad and a cubit thick. And even if there had been trees of this size in the peninsula of Sinai in Moses' time, a beam of such dimensions, according to Kamphausen's calculation, which is by no means too high, would have weighed more than twelve cwt. And certainly the Israelites could never have carried beams of this weight with them through the desert; for the waggons needed would have been such as could never be used where there are no beaten roads.)

To obtain boards of the required breadth, to or three planks were no doubt joined together according to the size of the trees.

Exodus 26:17

exo 26:17

Every board was to have two ידות (lit., hands or holders) to hold them upright, pegs therefore; and they were to be "bound to one another" (משׁלּב, from שׁלב in Chald. to connect, hence שׁלבּים in Kg1 7:28, the corner plates that hold together the four sides of a chest), not "pegged into one another," but joined together by a fastening dovetailed into the pegs, by which the latter were fastened still more firmly to the boards, and therefore had greater holding power than if each one had been simply sunk into the edge of the board.

Exodus 26:18

exo 26:18

Twenty of these boards were to be prepared for the side of the dwelling that was turned towards the south, and forty sockets (אדנים foundations, Job 38:6) or bases for the pegs, i.e., to put the pegs of the boards into, that the boards might stand upright; and the same number of boards and sockets for the north side. תּימנה, "southward," is added to נגבּה לפאת in Exo 26:18, to give a clearer definition of negeb, which primarily means the dry, and then the country to the south; an evident proof that at that time negeb was not established as a geographical term for the south, and therefore that it was not written here by a Palestinian, as Knobel supposes, but by Moses in the desert.

The form of the "sockets" is not explained, and even in Exo 38:27, in the summing up of the gifts presented for the work, it is merely stated that a talent of silver (about 93 lb.) was applied to every socket.

Exodus 26:22

exo 26:22

Six boards were to be made for the back of the dwelling westwards (ימּה), and two boards "for the corners or angels of the dwelling at the two outermost (hinder) sides." למקצּעת (for cornered), from מקצּע, equivalent to מקצוע an angle (Exo 26:24; Eze 46:21-22), from קצע to cut off, lit., a section, something cut off, hence an angle, or corner-piece. These corner boards (Exo 26:24) were to be "doubled (תּאמם) from below, and whole (תּמּים, integri, forming a whole) at its head (or towards its head, cf. אל Exo 36:29) with regard to the one ring, so shall it be to both of them (so shall they both be made); to the two corners shall they be" (i.e., designed for the two hinder corners). The meaning of these words, which are very obscure in some points, can only be the following: the two corner beams at the tack were to consist of two pieces joined together at a right angle, so as to form as double boards one single whole from the bottom to the top. The expressions "from below" and "up to its head" are divided between the two predicates "doubled" (תּאמים) and "whole" (תּמּים), but they belong to both of them. Each of the corner beams was to be double from the bottom to the top, and still to form one whole. There is more difficulty in the words האחת אל־הטּבּעת in Exo 26:24. It is impossible to attach any intelligible meaning to the rendering "to the first ring," so that even Knobel, who proposed it, has left it unexplained. There is hardly any other way of explaining it, than to take the word אל in the sense of "having regard to a thing," and to understand the words as meaning, that the corner beams were to form one whole, from the face that each received only one ring, probably at the corner, and not two, viz., one on each side. This one ring was placed half-way up the upright beam in the corner or angle, in such a manner that the central bolt, which stretched along the entire length of the walls (Exo 26:28), might fasten into it from both the side and back.

Exodus 26:25

exo 26:25

Sixteen sockets were to be made for these eight boards, two for each. - Exo 26:26-29. To fasten the boards, that they might not separate from one another, bars of acacia-wood were to be made and covered with gold, five for each of the three sides of the dwelling; and though it is not expressly stated, yet the reference to rings in Exo 26:29 as holders of the bars (לבּריחים בּתּים) is a sufficient indication that they were passed through golden rings fastened into the boards.

Exodus 26:28

exo 26:28

"And the middle bar in the midst of the boards (i.e., at an equal distance from both top and bottom) shall be fastening (מבריח) from one end to the other." As it thus expressly stated with reference to the middle bar, that it was to fasten, i.e., to reach along the walls from one end to the other, we necessarily conclude, with Rashi and others, that the other four bars on every side were not to reach the whole length of the walls, and may therefore suppose that they were only half as long as the middle one, so that there were only three rows of bars on each wall, the upper and lower being composed of two bars each.

Exodus 26:30

exo 26:30

"And set up the dwelling according to its right, as was shown thee upon the mountain" (cf. Exo 25:9). Even the setting up and position of the dwelling were not left to human judgment, but were to be carried out כּמשׁפּטו, i.e., according to the direction corresponding to its meaning and purpose. From the description which is given of the separate portions, it is evident that the dwelling was to be set up in the direction of the four quarters of the heavens, the back being towards the west, and the entrance to the east; whilst the whole of the dwelling formed an oblong of thirty cubits long, ten broad, and ten high. The length we obtain from the twenty boards of a cubit and a half in breadth; and the breadth, by adding to the nine cubits covered by the six boards at the back, half a cubit as the inner thickness of each of the corner beams. The thickness of the corner beams is not given, but we may conjecture that on the outside which formed part of the back they were three-quarters of a cubit thick, and that half a cubit is to be taken as the thickness towards the side. In this case, on the supposition that the side beams were a quarter of a cubit thick, the inner space would be exactly ten cubits broad and thirty and a quarter long; but the surplus quarter would be taken up by the thickness of the pillars upon which the inner curtain was hung, so that the room at the back would form a perfect cube, and the one at the front an oblong of exactly twenty cubits in length, ten in breadth, and ten in height.

Exodus 26:31

exo 26:31

To divide the dwelling into two rooms, a curtain was to be made, of the same material, and woven in the same artistic manner as the inner covering of the walls (Exo 26:1). This was called פּרכת, lit., division, separation, from פּרך to divide, or מסך פּרכת (Exo 35:12; Exo 39:34; Exo 40:21) division of the covering, i.e., to hang this "upon four pillars of gilded acacia-wood and their golden hooks, (standing) upon four silver sockets," under the loops (קרסים) which held the two halves of the inner covering together (Exo 26:6). Thus the curtain divided the dwelling into two compartments, the one occupying ten cubits and the other twenty of its entire length.

Exodus 26:33

exo 26:33

"Thither (where the curtain hands under the loops) within the curtain shalt thou bring the ark of testimony (Exo 25:16-22), and the curtain shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy" (הקּדשׁים קדשׁ the holy of holies). The inner compartment was made into the most holy place through the ark of the covenant with the throne of grace upon it.

Exodus 26:35

exo 26:35

The two other things (already described) were to be placed outside the curtain, viz., in the holy place; the candlestick opposite to the table, the former on the south side of the dwelling, the latter towards the north.

Exodus 26:36

exo 26:36

For the entrance to the tent they were also to make a curtain (מסך, lit., a covering, from סכך to cover) of the same material as the inner curtain, but of work in mixed colours, i.e., not woven with figures upon it, but simply in stripes or checks. רקם מעשׂה does not mean coloured needlework, with figures or flowers embroidered with the needle upon the woven fabric (as I asserted in my Archologie, in common with the Rabbins, Gesenius, Bhr, and others); for in the only other passage in which רקם occurs, viz., Psa 139:15, it does not mean to embroider, but to weave, and in the Arabic it signifies to make points, stripes, or lines, to work in mixed colours (see Hartmann die Hebrerinn am Putztisch iii. 138ff.). This curtain was to hang on five gilded pillars of acacia-wood with golden hooks, and for these they were to cast sockets of brass. In the account of the execution of this work in Exo 36:38, it is still further stated, that the architect covered the heads (capitals) of the pillars and their girders (חשׁקים, see Exo 27:10) with gold. From this it follows, that the pillars were not entirely gilded, but only the capitals, and that they were fastened together with gilded girders. These girders were either placed upon the hooks that were fastened to the tops of the pillars, or, what I think more probable, formed a kind of architrave above the pillars, in which case the covering as well as the inner curtain merely hung upon the hooks of the columns. But if the pillars were not gilded all over, we must necessarily imagine that curtain as hung upon that side of the pillars which was turned towards the holy place, so that none of the white wood was to be seen inside the holy place; and the gilding of the capitals and architrave merely served to impress upon the forefront of the tabernacle the glory of a house of God.

If we endeavour to understand the reason for building the dwelling in this manner, there can be no doubt that the design of the wooden walls was simply to give stability to the tabernacle. Acacia-wood was chosen, because the acacia was the only tree to be found in the desert of Arabia from which planks and beams could be cut, whilst the lightness an durability of this wood rendered it peculiarly suitable for a portable temple. The wooden framework was covered both within and without with hangings of drapery and other coverings, to give it the character of a tent, which is the term really applied to it in Exo 27:21, and in most instances afterwards. The sanctuary of Jehovah in the midst of His people was to be a tent, because, so long as the people were wandering about and dwelt in tents, the dwelling of their God in the midst of them must be a tent also. The division of the dwelling into two parts corresponded to the design of the tabernacle, where Jehovah desired not to dwell alone by Himself, but to come and meet with His people (Exo 25:22). The most holy place was the true dwelling of Jehovah, where He was enthroned in a cloud, the visible symbol of His presence, above the cherubim, upon the capporeth of the ark of the covenant. The holy place, on the other hand, was the place where His people were to appear before Him, and draw near to Him with their gifts, the fruits of their earthly vocation, and their prayers, and to rejoice before His face in the blessings of His covenant grace. By the establishment of the covenant of Jehovah with the people of Israel, the separation of man from God, of which the fall of the progenitors of our race had been the cause, was to be brought to an end; an institution was to be set up, pointing to the reunion of man and God, to true and full vital communion with Him; and by this the kingdom of God was to be founded on earth in a local and temporal form. This kingdom of God, which was founded in Israel, was to be embodied in the tabernacle, and shadowed forth in its earthly and visible form as confined within the limits of time and space. This meaning was indicated not only in the instructions to set up the dwelling according to the four quarters of the globe and heavens, with the entrance towards sunrise and the holy of holies towards the west, but also in the quadrangular form of the building, the dwelling as a whole assuming the form of an oblong of thirty cubits in length, and ten in breadth and height, whilst the most holy place was a cube of ten cubits in every direction. In the symbolism of antiquity, the square was a symbol of the universe or cosmos; and thus, too, in the symbolism of the Scriptures it is a type of the world as the scene of divine revelation, the sphere of the kingdom of God, for which the world from the very first had been intended by God, and to which, notwithstanding the fall of man, who was created lord of the earth, it was to be once more renewed and glorified. Hence the seal of the kingdom of God was impressed upon the sanctuary of God in Israel through the quadrangular form that was given to its separate rooms. And whilst the direction in which it was set up, towards the four quarters of the heavens, showed that the kingdom of God that was planted in Israel was intended to embrace the entire world, the oblong shape given to the whole building set forth the idea of the present incompleteness of the kingdom, and the cubic form of the most holy place its ideal and ultimate perfection.

(Note: The significant character of these different quadrangular forms is placed beyond all doubt, when we compare the tabernacle and Solomon's temple, which was built according to the same proportions, with the prophetic description of the temple and holy city in Ezek. 40-48, and that of the heavenly Jerusalem in Rev 21 and 22. Just as in both the tabernacle and Solomon's temple the most holy place was in the form of a perfect cube (of 10 and 20 cubits respectively), so John saw the city of God, which came down from God out of heaven, in the form of a perfect cube. "The length, and the breadth, and the height of it were equal," viz., 12,000 furlongs on every side (Rev 21:16), a symbolical representation of the idea, that the holy of holies in the temple will be seen in its perfected form in the heavenly Jerusalem, and God will dwell in it for ever, along with the just made perfect. This city of God is "the tabernacle of God with men;" it has no longer a temple, but the Lord God of Hosts and the Lamb are the temple of it (Rev 21:22), and those who dwell therein see the face of God and the Lamb (Exo 22:4). The square comes next to the cube, and the regular oblong next to this. The tabernacle was in the form of an oblong: the dwelling was 30 cubits long and 10 broad, and the court 100 cubits long and 50 bread. Solomon's temple, when regarded as a whole, was in the same form; it was 60 cubits long and 20 cubits broad, apart from the porch and side buildings. In Ezekiel's vision not only is the sanctuary a square of 500 reeds (Eze 42:15-20; Eze 45:2), but the inner court (Eze 40:23, Eze 40:27, Eze 40:47), the paved space in the outer court (Eze 40:19), and other parts also, are all in the form of squares. The city opposite to the temple was a square of 4500 reeds (Eze 48:16), and the suburbs a square of 250 reeds on every side (Eze 48:17). The idea thus symbolically expressed is, that the temple and city, and in fact the whole of the holy ground, already approximate to the form of the most holy place. Both the city and temple are still distinct from one another, although they both stand upon holy ground in the midst of the land (ch. 47 and 48); and in the temple itself the distinction between the holy place and the most holy is still maintained, although the most holy place is no longer separated by a curtain from the holy place; and in the same manner the distinction is still maintained between the temple-building and the courts, though the latter have acquired much greater importance than in Solomon's temple, and are very minutely described, whereas they are only very briefly referred to in the case of Solomon's temple. The sanctuary which Ezekiel saw, however, was only a symbol of the renewed and glorified kingdom of God, not of the perfected kingdom. This was first shown to the holy seer in Patmos, in the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, as it appeared in a perfect cubical form.)

Yet even in its temporal form, it was perfect of its kind, and therefore the component parts of the quadrangular building were regulated by the number ten, the stamp of completeness.

The splendour of the building, as the earthly reflection of the glory of the kingdom of God, was also in harmony with this explanation of its meaning. In the dwelling itself everything was either overlaid with gold or made of pure gold, with the exception of the foundations or sockets of the boards and inner pillars, for which silver was used. In the gold, with its glorious, yea, godlike splendour (Job 37:22), the glory of the dwelling-place of God was reflected; whilst the silver, as the symbol of moral purity, shadowed forth the holiness of the foundation of the house or kingdom of God. The four colours, and the figures upon the drapery and curtains of the temple, were equally significant. Whilst the four colours, like the same number of coverings, showed their general purpose as connected with the building of the kingdom of God, the brilliant white of the byssus stands prominently out among the rest of the colours as the ground of the woven fabrics, and the colour which is invariably mentioned first. The splendid white byssus represented the holiness of the building; the hyacinth, a dark blue approaching black rather than bright blue, but the true colour of the sky in southern countries, its heavenly origin and character; the purple, a dark rich red, its royal glory; whilst the crimson, a light brilliant red, the colour of blood and vigorous life, set forth the strength of imperishable life in the abode and kingdom of the holy and glorious God-King. Lastly, through the figures of cherubim woven into these fabrics the dwelling became a symbolical representation of the kingdom of glory, in which the heavenly spirits surround the throne of God, the heavenly Jerusalem with its myriads of angels, the city of the living God, to which the people of God will come when their heavenly calling is fulfilled (Heb 12:22-23).

Next: Exodus Chapter 27