These are some of my notes for Sunday April 25, 2010 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.
Books referenced in these notes are:
1. New American Commentary: Exodus by Douglas Stuart
2. IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas
3. The Stone Chumash, edited by Nosson Scherman
This verse corrects our common understanding of the Tabernacle and later Temple. At first glance they seem to be places of communal worship and/or places of sacrifice. But here God says their purpose is to be a holy place where He could dwell among His people. The priests, the purification rituals, and the sacrifices existed in order to maintain the sanctity of the place so it remained a place fit for the holy God to dwell. And verses like Ex 20:24 and Deu 12:7 show that God’s purpose in dwelling among the people was to bless them.(BBCOT, Stuart)
Thanks to Hebrews 8:5 we typically take the notion of the earthly tabernacle being a copy of one in Heaven quite literally, but it is perhaps more metaphorical and representative than that, for the interior of the tabernacle bears resemblance to Egyptian shrines, the tabernacle camp resembles Egyptian war camps, and the use of tents for public ceremonial functions date back to centuries before the Exodus.(Stuart)
“Mercy seat” is from the Hebrew kapporet, whose root kpr refers to “atonement” or “reconciliation”, a process that brings two groups together rather than remain enemies. In another form kpr means “cover”, thus another common translation is “atonement cover”. (Stuart)
We don’t exactly know what a cherub is supposed to look like. They are typically considered something similar to winged sphinxes, composite being mixing animal and human characteristics, bizarre and terrifying guards of temples and royalty. Jewish tradition sees the cherubim on the Ark as humans with wings and children’s faces, one a boy and one a girl.(Stuart, Stone Chumash)
“Between the two cherubim” and “mercy seat” seem to imply the golden covering is a sort of throne, but it is linguistically and symbolically more likely that the image is instead that of a footstool, which is in keeping with Ex 24:10 and Is 6:1’s image of men only seeing God’s lower body in visions. (Stuart)
Two year old lambs: That is, a male lamb, aka a ram, morning and night. These rams would be valuable commodities, because they would be perfect specimens, good for breeding. These sacrifices are called the tamid, or “perpetual” sacrifices, to be made daily, as long as the covenant between God and Israel continued. As whole burnt offerings these rams, flour, oil, and wine qualify as sin offerings. (BBCOT, Stuart)
While there is a great deal of effort put in by the priests to maintain the ritual holiness of the tabernacle, God here plainly states what truly sanctifies the tabernacle: His presence.
A sort of return to the promise made in Ex 6:7, but also the continuation of a theme begun with the Exodus that would continue on during the rest of OT history: Not only does Israel now have a god, they have the only supreme God, who is to be worshiped alone, all other deities being either inferior or nonexistent. (Stuart)