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Adam Clarke Commentary

Exodus 38


Bezaleel makes the altar of burnt-offering, Exodus 38:1 -7. He makes the laver and its foot out of the mirrors given by the women, Exodus 38:8 . The court, its pillars, hangings, etc., Exodus 38:9 -20. The whole tabernacle and its work finished by Bezaleel, Aholiab, and their assistants, Exodus 38:21 -23. The amount of the gold contributed, Exodus 38:24 . The amount of the silver, and how it was expended, Exodus 38:25 -28. The amount of the brass, and how this was used, Exodus 38:29 -31.

Verse 1

The altar of burnt-offering - See Clarke's note on Exodus 27:1 ; and for its horns, pots, shovels, basins, etc., see the meaning of the Hebrew terms explained, Exodus 27:3 -5 (note).

Verse 8

He made the laver - See Clarke's note on Exodus 30:18 , etc.The looking-glasses - The word מראת maroth, from ראה raah, he saw, signifies reflectors or mirrors of any kind. Here metal, highly polished, must certainly be meant, as glass was not yet in use; and had it even been in use, we are sure that looking - Glasses could not make a Brazen laver. The word therefore should be rendered mirrors, not looking-glasses, which in the above verse is perfectly absurd, because from those maroth the brazen laver was made. The first mirrors known among men were the clear, still, fountain, and unruffled lake; and probably the mineral called mica, which is a very general substance through all parts of the earth. Plates of it have been found of three feet square, and it is so extremely divisible into laminae, that it has been divided into plates so thin as to be only the three hundred thousandth part of an inch. A plate of this forms an excellent mirror when any thing black is attached to the opposite side. A plate of this mineral, nine inches by eight, now lies before me; a piece of black cloth, or any other black substance, at the back, converts it into a good mirror; or it would serve as it is for a square of glass, as every object is clearly perceivable through it. It is used in Russian ships of war, instead of glass, for windows. The first artificial mirrors were apparently made of brass, afterwards of polished steel, and when luxury increased they were made of silver; but they were made at a very early period of mixed metal, particularly of tin and copper, the best of which, as Pliny tells us, were formerly manufactured at Brundusium: Optima apud majores fuerant Brundisina, stanno et aere mixtis - Hist. Nat. lib. xxxiii., cap. 9. But, according to him, the most esteemed were those made of tin; and he says that silver mirrors became so common that even the servant girls used them: Specula (ex stanno) laudatissima Brundisii temperabantur; donec argenteis uti caepere et ancillae; lib. xxxiv., cap. 17. When the Egyptian women went to the temples, they always carried their mirrors with them. The Israelitish women probably did the same, and Dr. Shaw states that the Arabian women carry them constantly hung at their breasts. It is worthy of remark, that at first these women freely gave up their ornaments for this important service, and now give their very mirrors, probably as being of little farther service, seeing they had already given up the principal decorations of their persons. Woman has been invidiously defined by Aristotle, an animal fond of dress, (though this belongs to the whole human race, and not exclusively to woman). Had this been true of the Israelitish women, in the present case we must say they nobly sacrificed their incentives to pride to the service of their God. Woman, go thou and do likewise.Of the women - which assembled at the door - What the employment of these women was at the door of the tabernacle, is not easily known. Some think they assembled there for purposes of devotion. Others, that they kept watch there during the night; and this is the most probable opinion, for they appear to have been in the same employment as those who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in the days of Samuel, who were abused by the sons of the high priest Eli, 1 Samuel 2:22 . Among the ancients women were generally employed in the office of porters or doorkeepers. Such were employed about the house of the high priest in our Lord's time; for a woman is actually represented as keeping the door of the palace of the high priest, John 18:17 : Then saith the Damsel that Kept The Door unto Peter; see also Matthew 26:69 . In 2 Samuel 4:6 , both the Septuagint and Vulgate make a woman porter or doorkeeper to Ishbosheth. Aristophanes mentions them in the same office, and calls them Σηκις, Sekis, which seems to signify a common maid-servant. Aristoph, in Vespis, ver. 768: - Homer, Odyss., ψ, ver. 225-229, mentions Actoris, Penelope's maid, whose office it was to keep the door of her chamber: - And Euripides, in Troad., ver. 197, brings in Hecuba, complaining that she who was wont to sit upon a throne is now reduced to the miserable necessity of becoming a doorkeeper or a nurse, in order to get a morsel of bread.Sir John Chardin observes, that women are employed to keep the gate of the palace of the Persian kings. Plautus, Curcul., act 1, scene 1, mentions an old woman, who was keeper of the gate.Anus hic solet cubitare, custos janitrix.Many other examples might be produced. It is therefore very likely that the persons mentioned here, and in 1 Samuel 2:22 , were the women who guarded the tabernacle; and that they regularly relieved each other, a troop or company regularly keeping watch: and indeed this seems to be implied in the original, צבאו tsabeu, they came by troops; and these troops successively consecrated their mirrors to the service of the tabernacle. See Calmet on John 18:16 .

Verse 9

The court - See Clarke on Exodus 27:9 .

Verse 17

The hooks - and their fillets - The capitals, and the silver bands that went round them; see Clarke's note on Exodus 26:32 .

Verse 21

This is the sum of the tabernacle - That is, The foregoing account contains a detail of all the articles which Bezaleel and Aholiab were commanded to make; and which were reckoned up by the Levites, over whom Ithamar, the son of Aaron, presided.

Verse 24

All the gold that was occupied for the work, etc. - To be able to ascertain the quantum and value of the gold, silver, and brass, which were employed in the tabernacle, and its different utensils, altars, etc., it will be necessary to enter into the subject in considerable detail.In the course of my notes on this and the preceding book, I have had frequent occasion to speak of the shekel in use among the ancient Hebrews, which, following Dean Prideaux, I have always computed at 3s (shillings), English. As some value it at 2s. 6d., and others at 2s. 4d., I think it necessary to lay before the reader the learned dean's mode of computation as a proper introduction to the calculations which immediately follow.Currency (British pound) s.(shilling) d.(penny1/12 shilling) Hebrew Money A Hebrew drachm 9 Two drachms made a beka or half-shekel, which was the tribute money paid by every Jew to the temple 1 6 Two bekas made a shekel 3 0 Sixty shekels made a mina. 9 0 0 Fifty minas made a talent 450 0 0 A talent of gold, sixteen to one 7200 0 0 Attic Money, according to Mr. Brerewood An Attic drachm 7.5 A hundred drachms made a mina 3 2 6.0 Sixty minas made a talent 187 10 0 A talent of gold, sixteen to one 3000 0 0 Attic Money, according to Dr. Bernard An Attic drachm 8.25 A hundred drachms made a mina 3 8 9.00 Sixty minas made a talent 206 5 0 A talent of gold, sixteen to one 3300 0 0 Babylonian Money, according to Mr. Brerewood A Babylonish talent of silver containing seven thousand Attic drachms 218 15 0. A Babylonish talent in gold, sixteen to one 3500 0 0. Babylonian Money, according to Dr. Bernard A Babylonish talent in silver 240 12 6 A Babylonish talent in gold, sixteen to one 3850 0 0. Alexandrian Money A drachm of Alexandria, containing two Attic drachms, as valued by the Jews 1 6 A didrachm of Alexandria, containing two Alexandrian drachms, which was a Hebrew shekel 3 0 Sixty didrachms or Hebrew shekels made a mina 9 0 0 Fifty minas made a talent 450 0 0 A talent of gold, sixteen to one 7200 0 0. Roman Money Four sesterciuses made a Roman denarius 7.5 Ninety-six Roman denariuses made an Italic mina, which was the same with a Roman libra 3 0 0 Seventy-two Roman libras made a talent 216 0 0 There were twenty-nine talents seven hundred and thirty shekels of Gold; one hundred talents one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels of Silver; and seventy talents two thousand four hundred shekels of Brass.If with Dean Prideaux we estimate the value of the silver shekel at three shillings English, we shall obtain the weight of the shekel by making use of the following proportion. As sixty-two shillings, the value of a pound weight of silver as settled by the British laws, is to two hundred and forty, the number of penny-weights in a pound troy, so is three shillings, the value of a shekel of silver, to 11 dwts. 14 22/31 grains, the weight of the shekel required.In the next place, to find the value of a shekel of gold we must make use of the proportion following: As one ounce troy is to 3. 17s. 10d., the legal value of an ounce of gold, so is 11 dwts. 14 22/31 grains, the weight of the shekel as found by the last proportion, to 2. 5s. 2 42/93d., the value of the shekel of gold required. From this datum we shall soon be able to ascertain the value of all the gold employed in the work of this holy place, by the following arithmetical process: Reduce 2. 5s. 2 42/93d. to the lowest term mentioned, which is 201,852 ninety-third parts of a farthing. Multiply this last number by 3000, the number of shekels in a talent, and the product by 29, the number of talents; and add in 730 times 201,852, on account of the 730 shekels which were above the 29 talents employed in the work, and we shall have for the last product 17,708,475,960, which, divided successively by 93, 4, 12, and 20, will give 198,347. 12s. 6d. for the total value of the gold employed in the tabernacle, etc.The value of the silver contributed by 603,550 Israelites, at half a shekel or eighteen pence per man, may be found by an easy arithmetical calculation to amount to 45,266. 5s.The value of the brass at 1s. per pound will amount to 513. 17s.The Gold of the holy place weighed 4245 pounds.The Silver of the tabernacle 14,602 pounds.The Brass 10,277 pounds troy weight.The total value of all the gold, silver, and brass of the tabernacle will consequently amount to 244,127. 14s. 6d. And the total weight of all these three metals amounts to 29,124 pounds troy, which, reduced to avoirdupois weight, is nearly ten tons and a half. When all this is considered, besides the quantity of gold which was employed in the golden calf, and which was all destroyed, it is no wonder that the sacred text should say the Hebrews spoiled the Egyptians, particularly as in those early times the precious metals were probably not very plentiful in Egypt.

Verse 26

A bekah for every man - The Hebrew word בקי beka, from בקי baka, to divide, separate into two, seems to signify, not a particular coin, but a shekel broken or cut in two; so, anciently, our farthing was a penny divided in the midst and then subdivided, so that each division contained the fourth part of the penny; hence its name fourthing or fourthling, since corrupted into farthing.There appear to be three particular reasons why much riches should be employed in the construction of the tabernacle, etc.1. To impress the people's minds with the glory and dignity of the Divine Majesty, and the importance of his service.2. To take out of their hands the occasion of covetousness; for as they brought much spoils out of Egypt, and could have little if any use for gold and silver in the wilderness, where it does not appear that they had much intercourse with any other people, and were miraculously supported, so that they did not need their riches, it was right to employ that in the worship of God which otherwise might have engendered that love which is the root of all evil.3. To prevent pride and vainglory, by leading them to give up to the Divine service even the ornaments of their persons, which would have had too direct a tendency to divert their minds from better things. Thus God's worship was rendered august and respectable, incitements to sin and low desires removed, and the people instructed to consider nothing valuable, but as far as it might be employed to the glory and in the service of God.

Exodus 38

  1 And he made the altar of burnt offering of shittim wood: five cubits was the length thereof, and five cubits the breadth thereof; it was foursquare; and three cubits the height thereof.
  2 And he made the horns thereof on the four corners of it; the horns thereof were of the same: and he overlaid it with brass.
  3 And he made all the vessels of the altar, the pots, and the shovels, and the basins, and the fleshhooks, and the firepans: all the vessels thereof made he of brass.
  4 And he made for the altar a brazen grate of network under the compass thereof beneath unto the midst of it.
  5 And he cast four rings for the four ends of the grate of brass, to be places for the staves.
  6 And he made the staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with brass.
  7 And he put the staves into the rings on the sides of the altar, to bear it withal; he made the altar hollow with boards.
  8 And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
  9 And he made the court: on the south side southward the hangings of the court were of fine twined linen, an hundred cubits:
  10 Their pillars were twenty, and their brazen sockets twenty; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver.
  11 And for the north side the hangings were an hundred cubits, their pillars were twenty, and their sockets of brass twenty; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
  12 And for the west side were hangings of fifty cubits, their pillars ten, and their sockets ten; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
  13 And for the east side eastward fifty cubits.
  14 The hangings of the one side of the gate were fifteen cubits; their pillars three, and their sockets three.
  15 And for the other side of the court gate, on this hand and that hand, were hangings of fifteen cubits; their pillars three, and their sockets three.
  16 All the hangings of the court round about were of fine twined linen.
  17 And the sockets for the pillars were of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver; and the overlaying of their chapiters of silver; and all the pillars of the court were filleted with silver.
  18 And the hanging for the gate of the court was needlework, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen: and twenty cubits was the length, and the height in the breadth was five cubits, answerable to the hangings of the court.
  19 And their pillars were four, and their sockets of brass four; their hooks of silver, and the overlaying of their chapiters and their fillets of silver.
  20 And all the pins of the tabernacle, and of the court round about, were of brass.
  21 This is the sum of the tabernacle, even of the tabernacle of testimony, as it was counted, according to the commandment of Moses, for the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, son to Aaron the priest.
  22 And Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses.
  23 And with him was Aholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver, and a cunning workman, and an embroiderer in blue, and in purple, and in scarlet, and fine linen.
  24 All the gold that was occupied for the work in all the work of the holy place, even the gold of the offering, was twenty and nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary.
  25 And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
  26 A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.
  27 And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the veil; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket.
  28 And of the thousand seven hundred seventy and five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, and overlaid their chapiters, and filleted them.
  29 And the brass of the offering was seventy talents, and two thousand and four hundred shekels.
  30 And therewith he made the sockets to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the brazen altar, and the brazen grate for it, and all the vessels of the altar,
  31 And the sockets of the court round about, and the sockets of the court gate, and all the pins of the tabernacle, and all the pins of the court round about.

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