Exodus 38


‘They built the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood, three cubits high; it was square, five cubits long and five cubits wide. They made a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar were of one piece, and they overlaid the altar with bronze. They made all its utensils of bronze—its pots, shovels, sprinkling bowls, meat forks and firepans. They made a grating for the altar, a bronze network, to be under its ledge, halfway up the altar. They cast bronze rings to hold the poles for the four corners of the bronze grating. They made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. They inserted the poles into the rings so they would be on the sides of the altar for carrying it. They made it hollow, out of boards.’ Exodus 38:1-7

The Altar Of Burnt Offering

The altar was made according to the command and pattern in Exodus 27:1-8. The Burnt Offering Altar was the first item to be seen after entering through the Door into the Tabernacle’s Outer Court. It was an impressive construction, made from acacia wood overlaid with bronze, it stood 1.4 metres high and 2.3 metres wide and broad, square. Exodus 38:1-7.

Wood is a biblical figure of man, Psalm 1:1 / Psalm 1:3 / Jeremiah 5:14. Acacia wood is a strong, high-quality wood, signifying the best humanity, that of Jesus. Bronze in the Bible speaks of God’s judgement, particularly His judgement over our rebellious thinking and speaking against Him as in Numbers 16:29-40 / Jude 11.

Since the wood is overlaid with the bronze, the Burnt Offering Altar reminds us of man under God’s judgement for our rebellion against Him. Since the wood is acacia wood, this speaks of Jesus bearing the judgement of God for us on the cross.

At the Burnt Offering Altar the priests sacrificed various Offerings to God, some offerings were for their own sins and for the sins of the people. The point of the burnt offering was that, by it, a person might become accepted before God and forgiven, Leviticus 1:4.

For the burnt offering a male animal was sacrificed, a ram, a goat, a bullock or a turtle-dove or a pigeon, Leviticus 1:3-17. The offering had to be without blemish, the very healthiest and best available. This foreshadows the Lord Jesus, Who was examined by Pontius Pilate, who declared “I find no fault in Him at all”, John 18:38.

The blood of the offering was poured out around the base of the altar, foreshadowing the Lord Jesus, whose precious blood flowed out when His side was pierced on the cross by a Roman spear, John 19:34 / 1 Peter 1:19.

The whole concept of blood sacrifices is quite disturbing to the 20th-century western mindset. Some explanations may help to understand God’s perspective in the Bible.

In Ezekiel 18:4, God says, “all souls are Mine. The soul that sins shall die”. The penalty of sin is death, Romans 6:23. Sin was defined by the law, the ‘Torah’, the first five books of the Bible. The righteous requirement of the law was without pity, Deuteronomy 19:21.

This then is the legal position, we belong to God, He made us and we are His by right. But we have done our own thing, lived our own life without God, we have sinned. We always try and make out that our sinfulness is not so bad.

However, in God’s eyes everything matters, every last little thing. Since we have robbed our lives back for ourselves from God to Whom we really belong, we have sinned. According to the righteous requirement of the law, we should die for our sins.

However, there is a provision, “the life of the flesh (of a burnt offering or sacrifice) is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul,” Leviticus 17:8 / Leviticus 17:11.

So, either you must die, or the offering can die in your place, a life for a life. If the offering dies, then, through its lifeblood, there is atonement for your soul, at-one-ment, restoration to the God to Whom you belong, Leviticus 1:4.

After its blood was poured out, the burnt offering was entirely consumed by burning, the only products being ashes and aroma. The ashes were removed from the camp to a “clean place,” Leviticus 6:8-13. The burning offering was a pleasing, sweet aroma to God, Leviticus 1:9 / Leviticus 1:13 / Leviticus 1:17, to make the person accepted before God and forgiven, Leviticus 1:3-4.

In Ephesians 5:2, Paul shows us clearly that the burnt offering was an exact picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, who “loved us and gave Himself up for us” on the cross, “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma”.

Psalm 22 describes graphically and prophetically the utterances of Jesus from the cross as God lays upon Him the sins of the entire world, Psalm 22:1, and the agony of being crucified, Psalm 22:14.

Then follows the heat of the fire of death, Psalm 22:14-15, the burnt offering. In His final gasp, the offering is complete and Jesus cries “It is finished!”, John 19:30. “He has done it!” Psalm 22:31.

The final part of the fulfilment, the carrying of the ashes to a ‘clean place’, came as Jesus’ dead body was taken down from the cross, John 19:41-42. John, an eye-witness to all this, wrote “he who has seen bears testimony, true testimony, so that you also may believe,” John 19:35.

When we were at the Door of the Outer Court we heard the words of Jesus “I am the Door; if any man enters through Me he shall be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture,” John 10:9. Jesus is not only the Door, He also tells us “I am the Good Shepherd,” John 10:11, to help us to enter through the Door.

Furthermore, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep,” John 10:11, so Jesus is the offering at the Burnt Offering Altar as soon as we get through the Door.

This is the good news of the Burnt Offering Altar, whether we are Jew or Gentile, we are all under God’s judgement because of our evil thinking, speaking and doing. However, the Lord Jesus, “Who did no sin, neither was there any deceit found in His mouth,” 1 Peter 2:22, became the offering slaughtered in our place.

By believing in His death, “carrying up our sins in His body onto the tree,” 1 Peter 2:24, we can be made acceptable to God, restored to the Shepherd and to His flock, 1 Peter 2:25. Then we can enter into His courts with praise and thanksgiving, Psalm 100:3-4.

A lamb was burnt at the Burnt Offering Altar every morning and every evening, Exodus 29:38-42. Learn to come to this altar every day to confess your sins to God and to remember, ‘by offering thanks and praise, Hebrews 13:15, that the Lord Jesus died in your place to forgive you and to cleanse you from all sin by His blood, 1 John 1:7-9 / Hebrews 8:12 / Hebrews 9:14, so that you might live not for yourself but to Him, 2 Corinthians 5:15. The Burnt Offering Altar and the Laver form a combined experience of Christ.

The Basin For Washing

‘They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.’ Exodus 38:8

The bronze basin was made according to the command and pattern in Exodus 30:17-21. The Laver was a large bronze basin containing water. The Bible does not record its size or dimensions.

Having entered through the Door into the Tabernacle’s Outer Court, the priests had to wash their hands and feet at the Laver before they could either enter into the Sanctuary Building or make any offering to the Lord at the Burnt Offering Altar.

God warned Moses that if the priests did not wash they would die. It is therefore a serious requirement that we ‘wash’ as we come to handle any of the things of the Lord because those who believe in the Lord Jesus are considered priests in the New Testament sense, 1 Peter 2:9 / Revelation 1:5-6.

The New Testament speaks of washing in two ways.
1. Baptism, Acts 22:16 / Acts 16:31-33.

2. The washing of the water in the Word, John 13:8-10 / John 15:8 / Ephesians 5:26.

All of which is in according to the pattern in Exodus 29:39, ‘Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight’, at least twice daily, in the morning and evening.

After having believed in the Lord Jesus and experienced that He is the Door through which we enter into God’s kingdom, we should come to Him every day in a simple and sincere way.

We need to read the Word of God in the Bible so that we can live by Him, Matthew 4:4 and we need to confess our sins to God because He is faithful and righteous to forgive and cleanse us, 1 John 1:7-9.

When God forgives, He forgets, Hebrews 8:12. This is the combined experience of the Laver and the Burnt Offering Altar. It is important to read the Bible, because the Word of God washes us, our ‘hands’ and ‘feet’, especially from the dirtiness of the world around us.

It gives us God’s perspective on our human conduct in the world and on the thoughts of our minds and hearts, Genesis 6:5. When Ephesians 5:26 speaks of the washing of the water in the Word, the word for washing is ‘laver’ in Greek.

As we read His Word, the Lord shines into our hearts and speaks to us, mostly in our conscience. According to God’s shining and enlightening, we will need to confess and ask for His forgiveness and cleansing. Only then are we qualified to approach the Sanctuary Building.

The effect of the washing, ‘laver’ in the Word is to cleanse, Psalm 119:9. This results in us taking God’s side more and more in our lives. We become set apart to God. ‘Holy’ or ‘sanctified’, ‘holified’ means just that, set apart to God. Such sanctified people are called ‘saints’ in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 1:2.

Saints are believers in Christ who have experienced the washing of God’s Word in their lives. We may have been greedy persons, swindlers, drunkards, abusers of drugs, thieves, liars, fornicators, homosexuals, involved with pornography, etc. before we came to the Door in the curtains of the Outer Court.

But do not be deceived, no one can inherit the kingdom of God like this, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. We are washed at the Laver and set apart to God, sanctified, as a result, we are justified at the Burnt Offering Altar by faith in Jesus’ death on the cross as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. John 1:29.

The message Jesus preached was ‘time’s up. Change your mind and believe the good news’, Mark 1:15, ‘The time is fulfilled. Repent and believe the gospel’. Peter, Andrew, James, John and the other disciples of Jesus did just that, they changed their minds and began to follow Jesus.

They left their old environment because they had found something so real and true, the reality of the Tabernacle, Jesus. They admired the Door, His character, His power, His teaching, He had washed their feet at the Last Supper, and they saw the offering as He died, John 13:4-11.

The disciples became set apart to God amidst a totally hostile environment. But this was not the end, Jesus rose from the dead. He came back to them, not just to tabernacle among them, but dwell in them, as God’s dwelling place, the Sanctuary.

Notice the text tells us that there were women who were serving at the entrance of the tabernacle, this is significant in the fact that the mirrors of women who served were also contributed.

These mirrors were made of polished bronze, and the women’s sacrifice of these mirrors truly demonstrated their desire to serve the Lord instead of looking at themselves in mirrors.

The Courtyard

‘Next they made the courtyard. The south side was a hundred cubits long and had curtains of finely twisted linen, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The north side was also a hundred cubits long and had twenty posts and twenty bronze bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The west end was fifty cubits wide and had curtains, with ten posts and ten bases, with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The east end, toward the sunrise, was also fifty cubits wide. Curtains fifteen cubits long were on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, and curtains fifteen cubits long were on the other side of the entrance to the courtyard, with three posts and three bases. All the curtains around the courtyard were of finely twisted linen. The bases for the posts were bronze. The hooks and bands on the posts were silver, and their tops were overlaid with silver; so all the posts of the courtyard had silver bands. The curtain for the entrance to the courtyard was made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer. It was twenty cubits long and, like the curtains of the courtyard, five cubits high, with four posts and four bronze bases. Their hooks and bands were silver, and their tops were overlaid with silver. All the tent pegs of the tabernacle and of the surrounding courtyard were bronze.’ Exodus 38:9-20

The court with its pillars and linen fence were made according to the command and pattern in Exodus 27:9-19.

The family of Gershon were responsible for carrying and setting up the curtains of the Outer Court, the Coverings of the Tabernacle, the curtain Door to the Sanctuary, the curtain Door to the Outer Court, together with all the ropes and fixings required for securing these curtains, Numbers 3:25-26.

The family of Merari were responsible for carrying and setting up the Boards, the Bars and the Pillars and Sockets of the Outer Court, Numbers 3:36-37.

Curtains Of The Outer Court

The tents were probably black and brown, set in contrast with the sandy and rocky colours of the desert, Exodus 27:9-19.

In the centre of their camp, you would see the white linen curtains of the Tabernacle’s Outer Court, approximately 46 metres long, 150 feet, 23 metres wide, 75 feet, and 2.3 metres tall, 7.5 feet. It was so noticeable against the surrounding rather drab colours of the camp and wilderness.

It was impossible to see inside the Tabernacle from the camp outside: the tall, white, fine twined linen curtains made a separation between the outside world and the beauty that was contained in the Tabernacle.

In the Bible, white linen signifies righteousness, Revelation 19:8. God in His nature is right and just. He, therefore, expects us, His created people, to act rightly and justly, this is what righteousness means. Psalm 92:15 tells us the Lord is upright and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Psalm 45:7 predicts that the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, will love righteousness and hate wickedness. Because God is righteous, we find that the Levites, who God called to be priests to serve Him in the Tabernacle, were instructed to wear fine white linen garments, Exodus 28:39-43.

Likewise, in the New Testament, Revelation 19:6-9 speaks of the “wife of the Lamb”, the bride of Christ, who is seen clothed in fine white linen.

The “wife of the Lamb” is a corporate bride, composed of all those people who have accepted God’s saving invitation to be joined to Him at this marriage feast and have prepared themselves, as seen by their garments, they are all dressed in fine white linen, as were the priests of the Tabernacle, Revelation 19:8 informs us that the fine linen is their righteous acts.

By way of contrast, in Isaiah 64:6 we read that all our “righteousness” are like filthy rags and that our sins have blown us right off course from God’s righteousness. Therefore, our sins have separated us from God, Isaiah 59:2.

Just as Adam’s sin caused him to be separated from God and the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:23-24, so we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23. Therefore, the white linen curtains of the Outer Court remind us that we are separated from God, due to our sins, because He is righteous.

The fine white linen curtains of the Outer Court were supported by pillars, at least 56 of them. The pillars were set in base sockets of bronze and capped with silver capitals. The bronze base sockets symbolise God’s judgement on those who sin against Him, as seen in Numbers 16:29-39 and Numbers 21:4-9.

In Numbers 21, the children of Israel murmured against God. In a judgement on their sin, God sent serpents into the camp to bite the children of Israel and many of them died. As Moses prayed for the people, God told him to make a bronze serpent and to put it on a pole. Anyone who looked on the bronze serpent would not perish.

In his Gospel, John shows us that the Lord Jesus Christ is the reality of the bronze serpent lifted up from the earth. As the crucified Son of Man, He bore God’s righteous judgement for us, so that ‘whoever believes in Him will not perish for ever but be saved from God’s judgement and receive eternal life,’ John 3:14-17.

The capitals on top of the pillars were made from silver, symbolising the ransom price God placed on each of the children of Israel, Exodus 30:11-16. God desires to redeem people, not to condemn them, but to satisfy His righteousness a price must be paid. When Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, the price paid was thirty pieces of silver, Matthew 26:15 / Zechariah 11:12-13.

Exodus 12:1-13:16 shows the other side of redemption: the way to redeem the life of the first-born son was by the sacrifice of a lamb at Passover.

God sacrificed His only Son, Jesus the Lamb of God, John 1:29, at Calvary, as the final Passover Lamb, 1 Corinthians 5:7, during the Feast of Passover in 33 AD, in order to redeem mankind, that is to buy us back from sin and all its effects, Romans 5:6 / Romans 5:18.

When we see the white curtains of the Outer Court, we are reminded that our sins have separated us from God, Isaiah 59:2 / Romans 3:23. When we read the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, we see His compassion and love for people and we also see His condemnation of hypocrisy and sin, John 8:10-11.

We see in Jesus Christ a man who loves righteousness and hates lawlessness, Hebrews 1:9, the Son of God in whom God the Father delights, Matthew 17:5, the Son who is the bright shining of God’s glory and the express image of God’s righteous person, Hebrews 1:3.

Just like the curtains of the Outer Court, the righteousness of Christ is supported by His judgement of sin and capped by His desire to redeem us, to bring us, the unrighteous ones, back to God, 1 Peter 3:18.

The good news is that although we start off outside the Tabernacle, separated from God, there is a way into the Outer Court, a Door, colourful and welcoming, beckoning us to come inside.

The Materials Used

‘These are the amounts of the materials used for the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the covenant law, which were recorded at Moses’ command by the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. (Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made everything the LORD commanded Moses; with him was Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan—an engraver and designer, and an embroiderer in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen.) The total amount of the gold from the wave offering used for all the work on the sanctuary was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. The silver obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel—one beka per person, that is, half a shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of 603,550 men. The 100 talents of silver were used to cast the bases for the sanctuary and for the curtain—100 bases from the 100 talents, one talent for each base. They used the 1,775 shekels to make the hooks for the posts, to overlay the tops of the posts, and to make their bands. The bronze from the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels. They used it to make the bases for the entrance to the tent of meeting, the bronze altar with its bronze grating and all its utensils, the bases for the surrounding courtyard and those for its entrance and all the tent pegs for the tabernacle and those for the surrounding courtyard.’ Exodus 38:21-31

It was Ithamar the priest who oversaw the Levites who had the responsibility of managing all these resources and make no mistake about it, this was a huge task which they managed really well.

The amount of gold mentioned here was huge, twenty-nine talents is an estimated 70 pounds, which means that an estimated 2,030 pounds of gold were used in the tabernacle. That’s equivalent to £60645.95, in today’s money.

The amount of silver mentioned here is also huge. The silver seems to have amounted to about four times the weight of the gold, but its value of it was very much less. This would be equivalent to £74350.70, in today’s money.

We may wonder where the Israelites managed to get all this silver from but Exodus 30:13-16 describes how the Israelites were to give silver as part of a census, counting of the nation.

The amount of bronze mentioned here is also staggering, which isn’t surprising when we consider all the items which were made from bronze. The bronze of the offering had been brought by the people in answer to the invitation of Moses, Exodus 35:24 / Exodus 38:30 / Exodus 38:31.

The sockets were made of bronze, Exodus 36:38, and the altar and grate were made of bronze, Exodus 36:1 / Exodus 36:4. The vessels are also made of bronze, Exodus 36:3. The sockets of the court were made of bronze, Exodus 36:11 / Exodus 36:14 / Exodus 36:15 / Exodus 36:17 / Exodus 36:19. And finally, the pins of the tabernacle and the court were made of bronze, Exodus 36:20.

We don’t need to wonder where the Israelites got all this wealth, remember God said they wouldn’t leave Egypt empty-handed, the Israelites obtained all of the material from Egypt, Exodus 12:36.

Since the Israelites freely received much of these precious metals from the Egyptians, they in turn freely gave the same to Moses for the construction of the tabernacle.

We must remember that all the precious metals would have been considered to be their own individually, but they were willing to give to the collective possession of the entire nation. When individuals give to a collective effort, they demonstrate their eagerness to be as one, 2 Corinthians 8:4.

Go To Exodus 39