And look that thou make, etc. - This verse should be understood as an order to Moses after the tabernacle, etc., had been described to him; as if he had said: "When thou comest to make all the things that I have already described to thee, with the other matters of which I shall afterwards treat, see that thou make every thing according to the pattern which thou didst see in the mount." The Septuagint have it, κατα τον τυτον τον δεδειγμενον σοι· according to the Type-form or fashion, which was shown thee. It appears to me that St. Paul had this command particularly in view when he gave that to his son Timothy which we find in the second epistle, 2 Timothy 1:13; : Ὑποτυπωσιν εχε ὑγιαινοντων λογων, ὡν παρ ' εμου ηκουσας . "Hold fast the Form of sound words which thou hast heard of me." The tabernacle was a type of the Church of God; that Church is built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone, Ephesians 2:20-22; : the doctrines, therefore, delivered by the prophets, Jesus Christ, and his apostles, are essential to the constitution of this church. As God, therefore, gave the plan or form according to which the tabernacle must be constructed, so he gives the doctrines according to which the Christian Church is to be modeled; and apostles, and subordinate builders, are to have and hold fast that Form of sound words, and construct this heavenly building according to that form or pattern which has come through the express revelation of God.
In different parts of this work we have had occasion to remark that the heathens borrowed their best things from Divine revelation, both as it refers to what was pure in their doctrines, and significant in their religious rites. Indeed, they seem in many cases to have studied the closest imitation possible, consistent with the adaptation of all to their preposterous and idolatrous worship. They had their Iao or Jove, in imitation of the true Jehovah; and from different attributes of the Divine Nature they formed an innumerable group of gods and goddesses. They had also their temples in imitation of the temple of God; and in these they had their holy and more holy places, in imitation of the courts of the Lord's house. The heathen temples consisted of several parts or divisions: The area or porch;
The ναος or temple, similar to the nave of our churches;
The adytum or holy place, called also penetrale and sacrarium; and,
The οπισθοδομος or the inner temple, the most secret recess, where they had their mysteria, and which answered to the holy of holies in the tabernacle.
And as there is no evidence whatever that there was any temple among the heathens prior to the tabernacle, it is reasonable to conclude that it served as a model for all that they afterwards built. They had even their portable temples, to imitate the tabernacle; and the shrines for Diana, mentioned Acts 19:24, were of this kind. They had even their arks or sacred coffers, where they kept their most holy things, and the mysterious emblems of their religion; together with candlesticks or lamps, to illuminate their temples, which had few windows, to imitate the golden candlestick in the Mosaic tabernacle. They had even their processions, in imitation of the carrying about of the ark in the wilderness, accompanied by such ceremonies as sufficiently show, to an unprejudiced mind, that they borrowed them from this sacred original. Dr. Dodd has a good note on this subject, which I shall take the liberty to extract.
Speaking of the ark, he says, "We meet with imitations of this Divinely instituted emblem among several heathen nations. Thus Tacitus, De Moribus Germanorum, cap. 40, informs us that the inhabitants of the north of Germany, our Saxon ancestors, in general worshipped Herthum or Hertham, i.e., the mother earth: Hertham being plainly derived from ארץ arets, earth, and אם am, mother: and they believed her to interpose in the affairs of men, and to visit nations: that to her, in a sacred grove in a certain island of the ocean, a vehicle covered with a vestment was consecrated, and allowed to be touched by the priests only, (compare 2 Samuel 6:6, 2 Samuel 6:7; 1 Chronicles 13:9, 1 Chronicles 13:10;), who perceived when the goddess entered into her secret place, penetrale, and with profound veneration attended her vehicle, which was drawn by cows; see 1 Samuel 6:7-10. While the goddess was on her progress, days of rejoicing were kept in every place which she vouchsafed to visit; they engaged in no war, they handled no weapons; peace and quietness were then only known, only relished, till the same priest reconducted the goddess to her temple. Then the vehicle and vestment, and, if you can believe it, the goddess herself, were washed in a sacred lake."
Apuleius, De Aur. Asin., lib. ii., describing a solemn idolatrous procession, after the Egyptian mode, says, "A chest, or ark, was carried by another, containing their secret things, entirely concealing the mysteries of religion."
And Plutarch, in his treatise De Iside, etc., describing the rites of Osiris, says, "On the tenth day of the month, at night, they go down to the sea; and the stolists, together with the priest, carry forth the sacred chest, in which is a small boat or vessel of gold."
Pausanius likewise testifies, lib. vii., c. 19, that the ancient Trojans had a sacred ark, wherein was the image of Bacchus, made by Vulcan, which had been given to Dardanus by Jupiter. As the ark was deposited in the holy of holies, so the heathens had in the inmost part of their temples an adytum or penetrale, to which none had access but the priests. And it is remarkable that, among the Mexicans, Vitzliputzli, their supreme god, was represented under a human shape, sitting on a throne, supported by an azure globe which they called heaven; four poles or sticks came out from two sides of this globe, at the end of which serpents' heads were carved, the whole making a litter which the priests carried on their shoulders whenever the idol was shown in public - Religious Ceremonies, vol. iii., p. 146.
Calmet remarks that the ancients used to dedicate candlesticks in the temples of their gods, bearing a great number of lamps.
Pliny, Hist. Nat., lib. xxxiv., c. 3, mentions one made in the form of a tree, with lamps in the likeness of apples, which Alexander the Great consecrated in the temple of Apollo.
And Athenaeus, lib. xv., c. 19, 20, mentions one that supported three hundred and sixty-five lamps, which Dionysius the younger, king of Syracuse, dedicated in the Prytaneum at Athens. As the Egyptians, according to the testimony of Clemens Alexandrinus, Strom., lib. i., were the first who used lamps in their temples, they probably borrowed the use from the golden candlestick in the tabernacle and temple.
From the solemn and very particular charge, Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount, it appears plainly that God showed Moses a model of the tabernacle and all its furniture; and to receive instructions relative to this was one part of his employment while on the mount forty days with God. As God designed that this building, and all that belonged to it, should be patterns or representations of good things to come, it was indispensably necessary that Moses should receive a model and specification of the whole, according to which he might direct the different artificers in their constructing the work. We may observe that the whole tabernacle and its furniture resembled a dwelling-house and its furniture.
2. That this tabernacle was the house of God, not merely for the performance of his worship, but for his residence.
That God had promised to dwell among this people, and this was the habitation which he appointed for his glory.
That the tabernacle, as well as the temple, was a type of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. See John 1:14, and John 2:19, John 2:21.
That as the glory of God was manifested between the cherubim, above the mercy-seat, in this tabernacle, so God was in Christ, and in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
As in the tabernacle were found bread, light, etc., probably all these were emblematical of the ample provision made in Christ for the direction, support, and salvation of the soul of man. Of these, and many other things in the law and the prophets, we shall know more when mortality is swallowed up of life.