Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Altar, of holocausts, in the open air, before the tabernacle. (Tirinus) — Four square, or five cubits in length and breadth, and three in height, which the Rabbins measure from the grate, (ver. 5,) or middle of the altar’s height. So high the altar was sunk in the earth, (Calmet) or was built of unhewn stone, on which the wood of the altar rested, being secured by plates of brass above, from the heat of the fire. It was hollow within, and had neither top nor bottom fixed to it. (Menochius)
Ver. 2. It. The altar, wood. The horns were for ornament, and were made of brass. Upon them also they might hang the grate, and instruments for sacrifice. (Calmet) — Some of the pagan altars consisted of the horns of animals, (Ovid) and were designed to shew what a number of victims had been offered in their temples. Their gods had frequently horns on their heads. (Spencer, Rit. iii. 4.)
Ver. 3. Pans, &c. The Septuagint have, “a crown or border, for the altar, and its covering, and its cups, and flesh-hooks, and fire-place, or pan.” Hebrew also has five terms; which Calmet renders: 1. a small kettle to receive the ashes under the grate; 2. fire-shovels; 3. bowls to receive blood (mozrokoth, which term the Vulgate does not perhaps notice); 4. flesh-hooks; 5. chafing-dishes. The Protestant version has also the basins or broad cups, phialas, of the Septuagint (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Midst. Hanging down half way. On this, the wood designed to consume the victim, was placed. The Septuagint and Vulgate refer which to the rings, and the present Hebrew refers to the grate, or net. But it seems to be inaccurate. The rings were fixed about the middle of the altar’s height, to the same holes, through which the bars intended for its removal were put. The altar stood upon feet, which took up half the height, and let in air below the grate, to fan the fire, and to prevent the brass from melting. All the altars described in the table of Isis, are of this nature. (Calmet) — The Septuagint do not distinguish the grate from the hearth, or little altar, (arula) as they use the word hearth, escharaboth, (ver. 4. and 5,) and place it about the middle of the altar, or where the feet supported the box or frame of the altar, which was almost a yard high. The hearth may therefore denote the bottom of the frame, where the grate was suspended by four rings.
Ver. 9. Court. This inclosed the tabernacle, and the altar of holocausts, being 50 yards long and 25 broad. At the bottom or western end, there were ten pillars, and on the north and south 20, ornamented in the same manner, and supporting curtains of cotton. But on the eastern side, 10 yards were left, with four pillars in the middle, for an entrance, supporting a richer veil, and on either side three pillars of brass, adorned with circles of silver, as all the rest were. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Engraving. Hebrew and Chaldean, “circles,” adorning the chaptrels, (Menochius; ver. 17,) or rather the body of the pillars. The chaptrels were covered with plates of silver.
Ver. 19. Tabernacle, with respect to this court; for surely the utensils prescribed in the former chapter, were to be of gold. The Septuagint do not mention the tabernacle. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Pestle. That it may be as free from dregs as possible; quasi luxurians defluxerit. (Colum. xii. 50.) The Hebrew and Septuagint are silent about the pestle. The olives must, however, be a little bruised, before they will yield their oil. (Haydock) — Always: four of the seven lamps were extinguished every morning. ( Josephus, [Antiquities?] iii. 9; 1 Kings iii. 3.) Hecateus (ap. Eusebuis, præp. ix. 4) assures us, that a light was kept always burning in the tabernacle. The temple of Hercules, at the Straits, its priests and ceremonies, bore some resemblance with the tabernacle and usages prescribed by Moses. It was probably erected by the Phenicians. (Calmet) — “The wood seemed to be incorruptible. Women and swine are kept at a distance. White linen covers the priests at the altar; that which adorns their head is most beautiful, and brought from Pelusium. Et Pelusiaco præfulget stamine vertex. They offer incense in long ungirded robes, but the vestment in which they sacrifice, is distinguished with a Latus clavus, or with broad studs of purple, (like the Roman senators.) They go barefoot, their hair is shaved, and they observe continency, castumque cubile. They keep a perpetual fire burning on the altars. But no images or statues of the gods have filled the place with majesty and sacred fear.”
Sed nulla effigies, simulacraque nota Deorum,
Majestate locum & sacro implevere timore. (Sil. Italic. iii.)
Ver. 21. Aaron. Here God declares that the sons of Aaron are chosen by him to perform this office. They were not anointed priests till chap. xxix. (Haydock) — Light. Thus God admonishes us to let our good works always shine before men. (Ven. Bede, Taber. iii. 1.)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The altar: and the court of the tabernacle, with its hangings and pillars. Provision of oil for lamps.
1 Thou shalt make also an altar of setim-wood, which shall be five cubits long,* and as many broad, that is four square, and three cubits high.
2 And there shall be horns at the four corners of the same: and thou shalt cover it with brass.
3 And thou shalt make for the uses thereof pans to receive the ashes, and tongs and flesh-hooks, and fire-pans: all its vessels thou shalt make of brass.
4 And a grate of brass in manner of a net; at the four corners of which, shall be four rings of brass,
5 Which thou shalt put under the hearth of the altar: and the grate shall be even to the midst of the altar.
6 Thou shalt make also two bars for the altar, of setim-wood, which thou shalt cover with plates of brass:
7 And thou shalt draw them through rings, and they shall be on both sides of the altar to carry it.
8 *Thou shalt not make it solid, but empty and hollow in the inside, as it was shewn thee in the mount.
9 Thou shalt make also the court of the tabernacle, in the south side whereof southward there shall be hangings of fine twisted linen of a hundred cubits long for one side.
10 And twenty pillars with as many sockets of brass, the heads of which, with their engraving, shall be of silver.
11 In like manner also on the north side there shall be hangings of a hundred cubits long, twenty pillars, and as many sockets of brass, and their heads with their engraving of silver.
12 But in the breadth of the court, that looketh to the west, there shall be hangings of fifty cubits, and ten pillars, and as many sockets.
13 In that breadth also of the court, which looketh to the east, there shall be fifty cubits.
14 In which there shall be for one side, hangings of fifteen cubits, and three pillars and as many sockets.
15 And in the other side, there shall be hangings of fifteen cubits, with three pillars and as many sockets.
16 And in the entrance of the court there shall be made a hanging of twenty cubits of violet and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen, with embroidered work: it shall have four pillars, with as many sockets.
17 All the pillars of the court round about shall be garnished with plates of silver, silver heads, and sockets of brass.
18 In length the court shall take up a hundred cubits, in breadth fifty, the height shall be of five cubits, and it shall be made of fine twisted linen, and shall have sockets of brass.
19 All the vessels of the tabernacle for all uses and ceremonies, and the pins both of it and of the court, thou shalt make of brass.
20 Command the children of Israel that they bring thee the purest oil of the olives, and beaten with a pestle: that a lamp may burn always,
21 In the tabernacle of the testimony, without the veil that hangs before the testimony. And Aaron and his sons shall order it, that it may give light before the Lord until the morning. It shall be a perpetual observance throughout their successions among the children of Israel.
1: Exodus xxxviii. 6.
8: Exodus xx. 24.