on Hebrews 9 :2
For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein - The sense is here very obscure, and the construction involved: leaving out all punctuation, which is the case with all the very ancient MSS., the verse stands thus: Σκηνη γαρ κατεσκευασθη ἡ πρωτη εν ᾑ ἡ τε λυχνια, κ. τ. λ. which I suppose an indifferent person, who understood the language, would without hesitation render, For, there was the first tabernacle constructed, in which were the candlestick, etc. And this tabernacle or dwelling may be called the first dwelling place which God had among men, to distinguish it from the second dwelling place, the temple built by Solomon; for tabernacle here is to be considered in its general sense, as implying a dwelling.
To have a proper understanding of what the apostle relates here, we should endeavor to take a concise view of the tabernacle erected by Moses in the wilderness. This tabernacle was the epitome of the Jewish temple; or rather, according to this as a model was the Jewish temple built. It comprised,
1. The court where the people might enter.
2. In this was contained the altar of burnt-offerings, on which were offered the sacrifices in general, besides offerings of bread, wine, and other things.
3. At the bottom or lower end of this court was the tent of the covenant; the two principal parts of the tabernacle were, the holy place and the holy of holies.
In the temple built by Solomon there was a court for the Levites, different from that of the people; and, at the entrance of the holy place, a vestibule. But in the tabernacle built by Moses these parts were not found, nor does the apostle mention them here.
In the holy place, as the apostle observes, there were,
1. The golden candlestick of seven branches, on the south.
2. The golden altar, or altar of incense, on the north.
3. The altar, or table of the show-bread; or where the twelve loaves, representing the twelve tribes, were laid before the Lord.
1. In each branch of the golden candlestick was a lamp; these were lighted every evening, and extinguished every morning. They were intended to give light by night.
2. The altar of incense was of gold; and a priest, chosen by lot each week, offered incense every morning and evening in a golden censer, which he probably left on the altar after the completion of the offering.
3. The table of the show-bread was covered with plates of gold; and on this, every Sabbath, they placed twelve loaves in two piles, six in each, which continued there all the week till the next Sabbath, when they were removed, and fresh loaves put in their place. The whole of this may be seen in all its details in the book of Exodus, from chap. 35 to Exodus 40:1. See Calmet also.
Which is called the sanctuary - Ἡτις λεγεται ἁγια· This is called holy. This clause may apply to any of the nouns in this verse, in the nominative case, which are all of the feminine gender; and the adjective ἁγια, holy, may be considered here as the nominative singular feminine, agreeing with ἡτις. Several editions accent the words in reference to this construction. The word σκηνη, tabernacle, may be the proper antecedent; and then we may read ἁγία, instead of ἅγια: but these niceties belong chiefly to grammarians.
on Hebrews 9 :2
For there was a tabernacle made - The word "tabernacle" properly means a tent, a booth, or a hut, and was then given by way of eminence to the tent for public worship made by Moses in the wilderness. For a description of this, see Exodus 26. In this place the word means the "outer sanctuary" or "room" in the tabernacle; that is, the "first" room which was entered - called here "the first." The same word - σκηνή skēnē - is used in Hebrews 9:3 to denote the "inner" sanctuary, or holy of holies. The tabernacle, like the temple afterward, was divided into two parts by the veil Exodus 26:31, Exodus 26:33, one of which was called "the holy place," and the other "the holy of holies." The exact size of the two rooms in the tabernacle is not specified in the Scriptures, but it is commonly supposed that the tabernacle was divided in the same manner as the temple was afterward; that is, two-thirds of the interior constituted the holy place, and one-third the holy of holies. According to this, the holy place, or "first tabernacle" was twenty cubits long by ten broad, and the most holy place was ten cubits square. The whole length of the tabernacle was about fifty-five feet, the breadth eighteen, and the height eighteen. In the temple, the two rooms, though of the same relative proportions, were of course much larger. See a description of the temple in the notes on Matthew 21:12. In both cases, the holy place was at the east, and the Holy of Holies at the west end of the sacred edifice.
The first - The first room on entering the sacred edifice, here called the "first tabernacle." The apostle proceeds now to enumerate the various articles of furniture which were in the two rooms of the tabernacle and temple. His object seems to be, not for information, for it could not be supposed that they to whom he was writing were ignorant on this point, but partly to show that it could not be said that he spoke of that of which he had no information, or that he undervalued it; and partly to show the real nature of the institution, and to prove that it was of an imperfect and typical character, and had a designed reference to something that was to come. It is remarkable that though he maintains that the whole institution was a "figure" of what was to come, and though he specifies by name all the furniture of the tabernacle, he does not attempt to explain their particular typical character, nor does he affirm that they had such a character.
He does not say that the candlestick, and the table of show-bread, and the ark, and the cherubim were designed to adumbrate some particular truth or fact of the future dispensation, or had a designed spiritual meaning. It would have been happy if all expositors had followed the example of Paul, and had been content, as he was, to state the facts about the tabernacle, and the general truth that the dispensation was intended to introduce a more perfect economy, without endeavoring to explain the typical import of every pin and pillar of the ancient place of worship. If those things had such a designed typical reference, it is remarkable that Paul did not go into an explanation of that fact in the Epistle before us. Never could a better opportunity for doing it occur than was furnished here. Yet it was not done. Paul is silent where many expositors have found occasion for admiration. Where they have seen the profoundest wisdom, he saw none; where they have found spiritual instruction in the various implements of divine service in the sanctuary, he found none.
Why should we be more wise than he was? Why attempt to hunt for types and shadows where he found none? And why should we not be limited to the views which he actually expressed in regard to the design and import of the ancient dispensation? Following an inspired example we are on solid ground, and are not in danger. But the moment we leave that, and attempt to spiritualize everything in the ancient economy, we are in an open sea without compass or chart, and no one knows to what fairy lands he may be drifted. As there are frequent allusions in the New Testament to the different parts of the tabernacle furniture here specified, it may be a matter of interest and profit to furnish an illustration of the most material of them.
(Without attempting to explain the typical import of every pin and pillar of the tabernacle, one may be excused for thinking, that such prominent parts of its furniture, as the ark, the candlestick, and the cherubim, were designed as types. Nor can it be wrong to inquire into the spiritual significancy of them, under such guidance as the light of Scripture, here or affords elsewhere. This has been done by a host of most sober and learned commentators. It is of no use to allege, that the apostle himself has given no particular explanation of these matters, since this would have kept him back too long from his main object; and is, therefore, expressly declined by him. "Yet," says McLean, his manner of declining it implies, that each of these sacred utensils had a mystical signification. They were all constructed according to particular divine directions, Exodus 25. The apostle terms them, "the example and shadow of heavenly things," Hebrews 8:5; "the patterns of things in the heavens, Hebrews 9:23; and these typical patterns included not only the tabernacle and its services, but every article of its furniture, as is plain from the words of Moses, Exodus 25:8-9. There are also other passages which seem to allude to, and even to explain, some of these articles, such as the golden candlestick, with its seven lamps, Revelation 1:12-13, Revelation 1:20; the golden censer, Revelation 8:3-4; the vail, Hebrews 10:20; the mercy-seat, Romans 3:25; Hebrews 4:16; and, perhaps, the angelic cherubim, 1 Peter 1:12." It must, however, be acknowledged that too great care and caution cannot be used in investigating such subjects.)
The candlestick - For an account of the candlestick, see Exodus 25:31-37. It was made of pure gold, and had seven branches, that is, three on each side and one in the center. These branches had on the extremities seven golden lamps, which were fed with pure olive oil, and which were lighted "to give light over against it;" that is, they shed light on the altar of incense, the table of show-bread, and generally on the furniture of the holy place. These branches were made with three "bowls," "knops," and "flowers" occurring alternately on each one of the six branches; while on the center or upright shaft there were four "bowls," "knops" and "flowers" of this kind. These ornaments were probably taken from the almond, and represented the flower of that tree in various stages. The "bowls" on the branches of the candlestick probably meant the calyx or cup of that plant from which the flower springs.
The "knops" probably referred to some ornament on the candlestick mingled with the "bowls" and the "flowers," perhaps designed as an imitation of the nut or fruit of the almond. The "flowers" were evidently ornaments resembling the flowers on the almond-tree, wrought, as all the rest were, in pure gold. See Bush's notes on Exodus 25. The candlestick was undoubtedly designed to furnish light in the dark room of the tabernacle and temple; and in accordance with the general plan of those edifices, was ornamented after the most chaste and pure views of ornamental architecture of those times - but there is no evidence that its branches, and bowls, and knops, and flowers each had a special typical significance. The sacred writers are wholly silent as to any such reference, and it is not well to attempt to be "wise above that which is written." An expositor of the Scripture cannot have a safer guide than the sacred writers themselves.
How should any uninspired man know that these things had such a special typical signification? The candlestick was placed on the south, or lefthand side of the holy place as one entered, the row of lamps being probably parallel with the wall. It was at first placed in the tabernacle, and afterward removed into the temple built by Solomon. Its subsequent history is unknown. Probably it was destroyed when the temple was taken by the Chaldeans. The form of the candlestick in the second temple, whose figure is preserved on the "Arch of Titus" in Rome, was of somewhat different construction. But it is to be remembered that the articles taken away from the temple by Vespasian were not the same as those made by Moses, and Josephus says expressly that the candlestick was altered from its original form.
And the table - That is, the table on which the showbread was placed. This table was made of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold. It was two cubits long, and one cubit broad, and a cubit and a half high; that is, about three feet and a half in length, one foot and nine inches wide, and two feet and a half in height. It was furnished with rings or staples, through which were passed staves, by which it was carried. These staves, we are informed by Josephus, were removed when the table was at rest, so that they might not be in the way of the priest as they officiated in the tabernacle. It stood lengthwise east and west, on the north side of the holy place.
And the show-bread - On the table just described. This bread consisted of twelve loaves, placed on the table, every Sabbath. The Hebrews affirm that they were square loaves, having the four sides covered with leaves of gold. They were arranged in two piles, of course with six in a pile; Leviticus 24:5-9. The number twelve was selected with reference to the twelve tribes of Israel. They were made without leaven; were renewed each Sabbath, when the old loaves were then taken away to be eaten by the priests only. The Hebrew phrase rendered "show-bread" means properly "bread of faces," or "bread of presence." The Septuagint render it ἄρτους ἐνώπιους artous enōpious - foreplaced loaves. In the New Testament it is, ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἄρτων hē prothesis tōn artōn - "the placing of bread;" and in Symmachus, "bread of proposition," or placing. Why it was called "bread of presence" has been a subject on which expositors have been much divided.
Some have held that it was because it was "before," or in the presence of the symbol of the divine presence in the tabernacle, though in another department; some that it was because it was set there to be seen by people, rather than to be seen by God. Others that it had an emblematic design, looking forward to the Messiah as the food or nourishment of the soul, and was substantially the same as the table spread with the symbols of the Saviour's body and blood. See Bush, in loc. But of this last-mentioned opinion, it may be asked where is the proof? It is not found in the account of it in the Old Testament, and there is not the slightest intimation in the New Testament that it had any such design. The object for which it was placed there can be only a matter of conjecture, as it is not explained in the Bible, and it is more difficult to ascertain the use and design of the show-bread than of almost any other emblem of the Jewish economy."
Calmet. Perhaps the true idea, after all that has been written and conjectured is, that the table and the bread were for the sake of carrying out the idea that the tabernacle was the dwelling-place of God, and that there was a propriety that it should be prepared with the usual appurtenances of a dwelling. Hence, there was a candlestick and a table, because these were the common and ordinary furniture of a room; and the idea was to be kept up constantly that that was the dwelling-place of the Most High by lighting and trimming the lamps every day, and by renewing the bread on the table periodically. The most simple explanation of the phrase "bread of faces," or "bread of presence" is, that it was so called because it was set before the "face" or in the "presence" of God in the tabernacle. The various forms which it has been supposed would represent the table of showbread may be seen in Calmet's Large Dictionary. The Jews say that they were separated by plates of gold.
Which is called the sanctuary - Margin, "Or, holy." That is, "the holy place." The name sanctuary was commonly given to the whole edifice, but with strict propriety appertained only to this first room.
on Hebrews 9 :2
9:2 The first - The outward tabernacle. In which was the candlestick, and the table - The shewbread, shown continually before God and all the people, consisting of twelve loaves, according to the number of the tribes, was placed on this table in two rows, six upon one another in each row. This candlestick and bread seem to have typified the light and life which are more largely dispensed under the gospel by Him who is the Light of the world, and the Bread of life.