Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. First-fruits: offerings, of some of the best and choicest of their goods. (Challoner) — This was the first time such a voluntary offering was made by the Hebrews. (Menochius) — It is a lesson for Christians to be liberal for God’s service. (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Scarlet twice dyed. Aquila and Symmachus have transparent. This colour is often confounded with purple, as our Saviour’s robe is styled scarlet by St. Matthew xxvii. 28, and purple by St. John xix. 2. It was dyed with a worm called shani in Hebrew. (St. Jerome, ep. ad Fabiol.) — Fine linen, byssus. Hebrew shésh, “of six folds,” or it may mean cotton, which was highly esteemed by the ancients; (Arabic version; Herodotus) and it is not probable that Moses would have passed over it unnoticed. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Setim-wood. The wood of a tree that grows in the wilderness, which is said to be incorruptible, (Challoner) as the Septuagint intimate. It is perhaps the Acacia, which is very black and hard. St. Jerome in Joel iii. 18, says it resembles our white thorn.
Ver. 7. Onyx, emeralds. (Calmet) — The ephod and the rational. The ephod was the high priests upper vestment; and the rational his breast-plate, in which were twelve gems, &c. (Challoner) — Ephod means a kind of girdle or stole, peculiar to priests, or used by others only of the highest distinction, (Calmet) and in religious solemnities. (St. Jerome, ad Marcel.) Josephus (Antiquities ii. 8,) describes it as different from what it was in the days of Moses. Many other alterations had then taken place; the Urim and Thummim were disused, &c. The Pallium is in imitation of the high priest’s ephod. The rational is so called, because by it the high priest was enabled to give his oracles, chap. xxviii. 15. (Calmet) — The precise import of the Hebrew cheshen, which Protestants render breast plate, is not known. It was certainly fastened on the ephod over the breast, and consisted of 12 stones, on which the names of the 12 patriarchs were engraven. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Sanctuary, or tabernacle, to serve as a portable temple. Such alone were probably used at that time. The high priest entered into this holy place once a year. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Ark, to contain the tables of the law, as a constant memorial of the alliance made between God and his people, ver. 16. In, or on the side of it, were also placed the rod of Aaron, (Numbers xvii. 10.) and the golden urn, containing manna, Hebrews ix. 3. Hence the pagans perhaps took occasion to keep their secret mysteries in an ark, cista secretorum. (Apuleius, Met. 2.) (Calmet) — The ark was three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches high, and as much in breadth. (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Gold (deaurabis). Our method of gilding was not yet discovered. — Crown, or border, resembling “waves,” (kumatia) Septuagint.
Ver. 14. Carried on them, when exposed in solemn processions. These were covered along with the ark: and other bars were used to remove the ark during the journeys in the desert, Numbers iv. 6. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Testimony, the law which testifies the will of God to us. (Menochius) — An authentic record. Jeremias (xxxii. 11,) uses præceptum in the same sense. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. A propitiatory: a covering for the ark; called a propitiatory, or mercy-seat, because the Lord, who was supposed to sit there upon the wings of the cherubims, with the ark for his footstool, from thence shewed mercy. It is also called the oracle, ver. 18 and 20, because, from thence, God gave his orders and his answers. (Challoner) — It was the lid or covering of the ark, from kapha, “to cover, efface,” &c. (Calmet) — Here the hanan, or cloud representing God, rested, (Leviticus xvi. 2.) and the divine oracles were audibly given: for which reason, God is said to sit upon the cherubims, the mercy-seat being his footstool, Psalm lxxix. 2.
Ver. 18. Cherubims, symbolic figures, which Moses does not perfectly describe, and therefore we cannot pretend to know their exact form. Some represent them as young men, with their wings joined over the propitiatory, in a contrary direction to those of birds, in order to form a throne for God, and bending towards Him, with profound respect. Others only admit their heads, with six wings: while many suppose, that they resembled those compounded figures mentioned, Ezechiel i. 5. and x. 20. They denote some extraordinary figure not found in nature, 3 Kings vii. 29. An order of angels is known by this name. Yet the four animals, or cherubims, represent the saints, Apocalypse v. 8, 10. The different forms under which they appear, set before us their various perfections. Their wings denote agility, &c. The Egyptians adored Anubis, under the form of a man, with a dog’s head. Isis had the head of a cow, Apis that of a bull. They placed a sphinx at the entrance of their temples, to shew that their theology was enigmatical. God condescended perhaps to satisfy the inclinations of his people, by representing the mysteries of religion under similar forms, Wisdom xviii. 24. (Calmet) — Would he have allowed such things, if they were so dangerous, as to be inseparable from idolatry! (Haydock)
Ver. 23. A table: on which were to be placed the twelve loaves of proposition; or, as they are called in the Hebrew, the face bread; because they were always to stand before the face of the Lord in his temple: as a figure of the eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament, in the church of Christ; (Challoner) which shews that Christ must be present in the eucharist. (Worthington) — By this bread, renewed at the public expense every sabbath-day, the Israelites made profession that they were indebted for their food to God’s providence; and in gratitude, offered him this sacrifice, with incense and wine, ver. 29. The priests alone were to eat these loaves (1 Kings xxi.) at the expiration of the week. (Tirinus)
Ver. 25. Polished, (interrasilem, sculptured and plain, at equal distances). Hebrew, “Thou shalt make all round at the top, a ledge (border) of a hand’s breadth,” &c. The tabernacle was the tent of God, the king of Israel: and food and lights were on that account placed before him, (Calmet) though he stood not in need of them. The idolatrous priests set all sorts of meats before Bel, Daniel xiv. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Dishes. (acetabulum.) Properly a vessel to hold vinegar, but used for various purposes. — Bowls, or vials full of wine. (Tostat) — Censers, to contain incense, &c., chap. xxxvii. 16. The first term, karuth, might also mean vessels to contain the flour and oil of which these loaves were made, Numbers vii. 13. The Levites made the bread themselves, (1 Paralipomenon xxii. 29,) and even sowed the corn, and did every thing about it. (St. Jerome in Malachias i. 7.) The second term, coputh, may denote vessels to keep incense; the third, monkiuth, instruments to clean either the floor or the table, &c. All these vessels seem mended to accompany the table of shew-bread. — Cups, used for libations (chap. xxxvii. 16; Numbers iv. 7) of wine, on the sabbath. Kossuth signifies a porringer or dish, like the ancient patera. Whether wine was placed on this table, we cannot determine. But we read of salt, (Calmet) which was to accompany all God’s sacrifices, Leviticus ii. 13.
Ver. 30. Loaves. There were 12, containing each six pints of flour, made up in a square form, without leaven. They were placed in two rows, one above the other, and were kept separate by plates of gold. (Calmet) See Leviticus xxiv. 5.
Ver. 31. A candlestick. This candlestick, with its seven lamps, which was always to give light in the house of God, was a figure of the light of the Holy Ghost, and his seven-fold grace, in the sanctuary of the church of Christ. (Challoner) — It contained a talent of gold, or above 113 lb.; worth £5475 sterling, including the snuffers, &c., (ver. 39,) and had seven branches, adorned alternately with cups, bowls, or knobs, and lilies; (Haydock) or with cups, pomegranates, and lilies. The shaft was adorned with 15, the branches with only 12 of these ornaments. All was of massive gold, mokssé. — Bowls, sphærulas, globes, apples, &c. (Calmet) — Thou shalt make. The Hebrew thiásse, has evidently the letter i redundant, and rejected by the best manuscripts. (Kennicott, Dis. i.) (Houbigant)
Ver. 33. Cups. Hebrew, “cups which produce almonds or nuts;” that is three buds of flowers, out of which comes the stalk, as fruit does from the flower. The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages use the word chalice, or cup, for a flower full-blown. The height of this candlestick is undetermined; but it would not exceed five feet.
Ver. 37. Against. The table of proposition on the north, and that of perfumes in the middle, before the veil. (Tirinus) — The lamps might be detached from the rest, (Calmet) and were trimmed every evening to burn all night; but, in the day, four were extinguished. (Bonfrere)
Ver. 38. Put out, with the oil, &c. Nothing was to be treated with disrespect that had been dedicated to God’s service. (Haydock) — Alexander adorned the temple of Apollo with a grand candlestick, resembling a tree laden with fruit; (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxiv. 3,) and Dionysius the younger made a present of one to the prytaneum of Athens, which had 365 lamps upon it. They stood on the ground, and burnt oil, being the more necessary, as the ancient temples had generally no windows. The Egyptians, according to St. Clement of Alexandria (strom. 1,) were the first who introduced them into their temples. (Calmet) — Solomon set up ten candlesticks, five on the north, and five on the south of the holy place, 3 Kings vii. 49.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Offerings prescribed for making the tabernacle, the ark, the candlestick, &c.
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to the children of Israel,* that they bring first-fruits to me: of every man that offereth of his own accord, you shall take them.
3 And these are the things you must take: Gold, and silver, and brass,
4 Violet and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine linen, and goats’ hair,
5 And rams’ skins dyed red, and violet skins, and setim-wood:
6 Oil to make lights: spices for ointment, and for sweet-smelling incense:
7 Onyx stones, and precious stones to adorn the ephod, and the rational.
8 And they shall make me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in the midst of them:
9 *According to all the likeness of the tabernacle which I will shew thee, and of all the vessels for the service thereof: and thus you shall make it:
10 Frame an ark of setim-wood, the length whereof shall be of two cubits and a half; the breadth, a cubit and a half; the height, likewise, a cubit and a half.
11 And thou shalt overlay it with the purest gold, within and without; and over it thou shalt make a golden crown round about:
12 And four golden rings, which thou shall put at the four corners of the ark: let two rings be on the one side, and two on the other.
13 Thou shalt make bars also of setim-wood, and shalt overlay them with gold.
14 And thou shalt put them in through the rings that are in the sides of the ark, that it may be carried on them:
15 And they shall be always in the rings, neither shall they at any time be drawn out of them.
16 And thou shalt put in the ark the testimony which I will give thee.
17 Thou shalt make also a propitiatory of the purest gold: the length thereof shall be two cubits and a half, and the breadth a cubit and a half.
18 Thou shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle.
19 Let one cherub be on the one side, and the other on the other.
20 Let them cover both sides of the propitiatory, spreading their wings, and covering the oracle, and let them look one towards the other, their faces being turned towards the propitiatory wherewith the ark is to be covered.
21 In which thou shalt put the testimony that I will give thee.
22 Thence will I give orders, and will speak to thee over the propitiatory, and from the midst of the two cherubims, which shall be upon the ark of the testimony, all things which I will command the children of Israel by thee.
23 Thou shalt make a table also of setim-wood, of two cubits in length, and a cubit in breadth, and a cubit and half in height.
24 And thou shalt overlay it with the purest gold: and thou shalt make to it a golden ledge round about.
25 And to the ledge itself a polished crown, four inches high; and over the same another little golden crown.
26 Thou shalt prepare also four golden rings, and shalt put them in the four corners of the same table, over each foot.
27 Under the crown shall the golden rings be, that the bars may be put through them, and the table may be carried.
28 The bars also themselves thou shalt make of setim-wood, and shalt overlay them with gold, to bear up the table.
29 Thou shalt prepare also dishes, and bowls, censers, and cups, wherein the libations are to be offered, of the purest gold.
30 And thou shalt set upon the table loaves of proposition in my sight always.
31 Thou shalt make also a candlestick of beaten work, of the finest gold, the shaft thereof, and the branches, the cups, and the bowls, and the lilies going forth from it.
32 Six branches shall come out of the sides, three out of one side, and three out of the other.
33 Three cups as it were nuts to every branch, and a bowl withal, and a lily: and three cups likewise of the fashion of nuts in the other branch, and a bowl withal, and a lily. Such shall be the work of the six branches, that are to come out from the shaft:
34 And in the candlestick itself shall be four cups in the manner of a nut, and at every one bowls and lilies.
35 Bowls under two branches in three places, which together make six, coming forth out of one shaft.
36 And both the bowls and the branches shall be of the same beaten work of the purest gold.
37 Thou shalt make also seven lamps, and shalt set them upon the candlestick, to give light over against.
38 The snuffers also, and where the snuffings shall be put out, shall be made of the purest gold.
39 The whole weight of the candlestick, with all the furniture thereof, shall be a talent of the purest gold.
40 *Look, and make it according to the pattern that was shewn thee in the mount.
2: Exodus xxxv. 5.
9: Hebrews ix. 2.
40: Hebrews viii. 5.; Acts vii. 44.