Verse 21. "The tabernacle of the congregation" - The place where all the assembly of the people were to worship, where the God of that assembly was pleased to reside, and to which, as the habitation of their king and protector, they were ever to turn their faces in all their adorations.
"Before the testimony" - That is, the ark where the tables of the covenant were deposited. See chap. xxv. 16.
Aaron and his sons] These and their descendants being the only legitimate priests, God having established the priesthood in this family.
"Shall order it from evening to morning" - Josephus says the whole of the seven lamps burned all the night; in the morning four were extinguished, and three kept burning through the whole day. Others assert that the whole seven were kept lighted both day and night continually; but it appears sufficiently evident, from 1 Sam. iii. 3, that these lamps were extinguished in the morning: And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep, &c. See also chap. xxx. 8: And when Aaron LIGHTETH THE LAMPS AT EVEN. It appears therefore that the business of the priests was to light the lamps in the evening; and either to extinguish them in the morning, or permit them to burn out, having put in the night before as much oil as was necessary to last till daylight.
"A statute for ever" - This ordering of the lamps night and morning, and attendance on the service of the tabernacle, was a statute that was to be in full force while the tabernacle and temple stood, and should have its spiritual accomplishment in the Christian Church to the end of time.
Reader, the tabernacle and temple are both destroyed; the Church of Christ is established in their place. The seven golden candlesticks were typical of this Church and the glorious light it possesses, Rev. i. 12-20; and Jesus Christ, the Fountain and Dispenser of this true light, walks in the midst of them. Reader, hast thou that celestial flame to enlighten and animate thy heart in all those acts of devotion which thou professest to pay to him as thy Maker, Redeemer, and Preserver? What is thy profession, and what thy religious acts and services, without this? A sounding brass, a tinkling cymbal.
TERTULLIAN asserts that all the ancient heathens borrowed their best notions from the sacred writings: "Which," says he, "of your poets, which of your sophists, have not drunk from the fountain of the prophets? It is from those sacred springs that your philosophers have refreshed their thirsty spirits; and if they found any thing in the Holy Scriptures which hit their fancy, or which served their hypothesis, they took and turned it to a compliance with their own curiosity, not considering those writings to be sacred and unalterable, nor understanding their true sense, every one altering them according to his own fancy."-Apologet.
The reader's attention has already been called to this point several times in the preceding parts of this work, and the subject will frequently recur. At the conclusion of chap. xxv. 31 (See's note at "chap. xxv. 31") we had occasion to observe that the heathens had imitated many things in that Divine worship prescribed by Moses; but in application to their own corrupt system every thing was in a certain measure falsified and distorted, yet not so far as to prevent the grand outlines of primitive truth from being discerned. One of the most complete imitations of the tabernacle and its whole service is found in the very ancient temple of Hercules, founded probably by the Phoenicians, at Gades, now Cadiz, in Spain, so minutely described by Silius Italicus from actual observation. He observes that though the temple was at that time very ancient, yet the beams were the same that had been placed there by the founders, and that they were generally supposed to be incorruptible; a quality ascribed to the shittim wood, termed xulon ashpton, incorruptible wood, by the Septuagint.
That women were not permitted to enter this temple, and that no swine were ever suffered to come near it. That the priests did not wear party-coloured vestments, but were always clothed in fine linen, and their bonnets made of the same. That they offered incense to their god, their clothes being ungirded; for the same reason doubtless given chap. xx. 26, that in going up to the altar nothing unseemly might appear, and therefore they permitted their long robes to fall down to their feet. He adds, that by the laws of their forefathers they bore on their sacerdotal vestments the latus clavus, which was a round knob or stud of purple with which the robes of the Roman knights and senators were adorned, which these priests seem to have copied from the breastplate of judgment made of cunning work, embroidered with purple, blue, &c. See chap. xxviii. 15. They also ministered barefooted, their hair was trimmed or cut off, and they observed the strictest continency, and kept a perpetual fire burning on their altars. And he farther adds that there was no image or similitude of the gods to be seen in that sacred place. This is the substance of his description; but as some of my readers may wish to see the original, I shall here subjoin it. Vulgatum (nec cassa fides) ab origine fani Impositas durare trabes, solasque per aevum Condentum novisse manus: hic credere gaudent Consedisse Deum, seniumque repellere templis. Tum, queis fas et honos adyti penetralia nosse, Foemineos prohibent gressus, ac limine curant Setigeros arcere sues: nec discolour ulli Ante aras cultus: velantur corpora lino, Et Pelusiaco praefulget stamine vertex. Discinctis mos thura dare, atque, e lege parenturn Sacrificam LATO vestem distinguere CLAVO. Pes nudus, tousaeque comae, castumque cubile, Irrestincta focis servant altaria flammae. Sed nulla effigies, simulacrave nota Deorum Majestate locum, et sacro implevere timore. Punicor., lib. iii., ver. 17-31. This is such a remarkable case that I think myself justified in quoting it at length, as an extraordinary monument, though corrupted, of the tabernacle and its service. It is probable that the original founders had consecrated this temple to the true God, under the name of la EL, the strong God, or rwbg la EL GIBBOR, the strong, prevailing, and victorious God, Isa. ix. 6, out of whom the Greeks and Romans made their Hercules, or god of strength; and, to make it agree with this appropriation, the labours of Hercules were sculptured on the doors of this temple at Gades.
In foribus labour Alcidae Lernaea recisis Anguibus Hydra jacet, &c., &c.