THE FURTHER PROGRESS OF THE WORK
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE FURNITURE FOR THE HOLY OF HOLIES (Exodus 37:1, Exodus 37:9)
AND FOR THE HOLY PLACE (Exodus 37:10-28)
THE MAKING OF THE HOLY OIL AND OF THE INCENSE (Exodus 37:29).
On the history of the construction of the tabernacle follows naturally that of the construction of its furniture. The order of dignity is followed, as in Exodus 25:1-40; and the furniture of the holy of holies taken first. Exodus 37:1-9 correspond to Exodus 25:10-20. Exodus 37:10-16 to Exodus 25:23-29; Exodus 37:17-24 to Exodus 25:31-39 of the same; and Exodus 37:25-28 to Exodus 30:1-5. Exodus 37:29 is an abbreviation of Exodus 30:23-25, and Exodus 30:34, Exodus 30:35.
Bezaleel made the ark. The particular maker of the various parts and contents of the tabernacle is not elsewhere pointed out. Thus this mention of Bezaleel is emphatic, and seems intended to mark the employment of the highest artistic skill on that which was the most precious of all objects connected with the new construction.
Beaten out of one piece. Rather, "of beaten work," as the same word is translated in the corresponding passage, Exodus 25:18.
His snuffers. Or, "tongs," as in Exodus 25:38.
The incense altar here occurs in its right place, among the furniture of the outer chamber of the tabernacle—not, as in Exodus 30:1-6, out of place.
The holy anointing oil. For the composition of the oil, see Exodus 30:23-25; for the uses whereto it was to be applied, Exodus 30:26-30. The pure incense of sweet spices. The composition of the incense is given in Exodus 30:34, Exodus 30:35. It is there said to have been "a confection after the art of the apothecary—tempered together, pure and holy." The combination of artistic power with practical knowledge in Bezaleel and Ahollab calls to mind cinque-cento Italy, and the wonderful grasp of art and science possessed by Michael Angelo and Benvenuto Cellini
Art's highest efforts should be concentrated on what is most essential to the work in hand.
"Bezaleel made the ark." Bezaleel, "filled with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" (Exodus 35:31), while he entrusted most of the rest of the work to others, reserved to himself the construction of the ark, with the cherubim and mercy seat. The ark was clearly the central object of the newly devised structure, that towards which the eyes of all would be directed, on which the thoughts of all would rest, which, itself unseen, dominated the entire edifice and formed its material basis and raison d'etre. Shrined in the holy of holies, shrouded from sight by the veil, never seen but by the high-priest once a-year, yet known to occupy the innermost penetrale of the sanctuary, and to lie there in the light of the Divine presence constantly, it challenged the attention of all, and occupied a unique position among the sacred objects which the sanctuary was to contain. Bezaleel, the master-artist, felt that there was a call on him to construct it. What wealth of loving work he lavished on the construction, with what rich and delicate tracery of fanciful ornament he adorned it, no one can say. The ark never returned from Babylon; and the master-work of the master-artist of these times has been lost to humanity. But his choice asserted some important principles, and deserves imitation through all ages. It pointed out—
I. THAT THE LAW OF ORNAMENT IS NOT ONE OF GENERAL UNIFORM ELABORATION UP TO A CERTAIN HEIGHT, BUT ONE OF SPECIAL CONCENTRATION UPON A POINT OR POINTS. Compare Magdalen Tower with the Houses of Parliament, the western front of the Parthenon with the ordinary porch of a church of the Jesuits, the facade of St. Zeno at Verona with even the front of St. Mark's at Venice, and it will at once be seen how superior is ornament concentrated to ornament dispersed, elaboration of certain parts, set off by the comparative plainness of others, to diffusion generally of equal elaboration everywhere. A sense of heaviness, of over-loading, of weariness, is produced by the one plan, a feeling of unmixed pleasure by the other.
II. THAT THE CONCENTRATION SHOULD BE ON SUCH PARTS OF THE WORK AS ARE MOST ESSENTIAL TO IT. If a campanile or bell-tower be the work in hand, the concentration should be towards the chamber in which the bells are hung, as in the great campanile of St. Mark's, Venice. If a college, towards the parts common to all, the chapel, hall, library; if a sepulchral monument, towards the tomb; if a palace, towards the state-rooms; and the like. Here, in this case of the tabernacle, the concentration was towards the holy of holies. Most properly. And on the ark: since, of the holy of holies, the ark was the glory.
In Christian churches, according as preaching, or the administration of the sacraments, or the elevation of the thoughts to heaven, are regarded as the main object of sacred buildings, the concentration of artistic effort will naturally be towards the pulpit, or towards font and altar, or towards the roof. Examples of the first are common in Germany and Switzerland, of the second in Roman Catholic churches generally, of the third in English churches of the Tudor period, e.g. Henry the Seventh's Chapel in Westminster Abbey, and the like.
For further Homiletics, see those on chs. 25. and 30.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The furnishing of the tabernacle.
I. ALL WAS ACCOMPLISHED AS GOD HAD COMMANDED.
1. Successfully. It might have been feared that though the tabernacle was erected there would be some failure in this more delicate and ornate work; but all is perfectly executed even to the smallest details. In the work of him whom God has called by name there will be no failure. His work will be presented faultless, and every word which God has spoken will be fulfilled.
2. Faithfully: as they failed in nothing, so they added nothing. In God's work there must be no alloy of human devices. In worship, ordinances, life, our sole guide must be God's commandment.
II. THE CONTENTS OF THE TABERNACLE: THE FOURFOLD ADORNMENT OF THE BELIEVER'S LIFE.
1. The ark, the meeting-place of righteousness and peace. The heart in which God's law is set, on which the atonement rests, and which is bathed in the glory of the Divine love. There is, in a word, living faith.
2. The table of shew-bread: a yielded life, the sacrifice presented before God of body, soul, and spirit.
3. The candlestick: "ye are the light of the world."
4. The incense altar, the uplifting of holy desire and intercession for all men. Are these things found in us? They may be. It is the work to which Christ has been called, and he is waiting to accomplish it in us.—U.
The ark, the table, and the candlestick.
See Homily on Exodus 25:10-40.—J.O.
The altar of incense.
See Homily on Exodus 30:1-11; 34-38.—J.O.