Setting Up the Sanctuary, 1-38
40:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses: 40:2 “On the first day of the first month you are to set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting. 40:3 You are to place the ark of the testimony in it and shield the ark with the special curtain. 40:4 You are to bring in the table and set out the things that belong on it; then you are to bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 40:5 You are to put the gold altar for incense in front of the ark of the testimony and put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. 40:6 You are to put the altar for the burnt offering in front of the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting. 40:7 You are to put the large basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it. 40:8 You are to set up the courtyard around it and put the curtain at the gate of the courtyard. 40:9 And take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and sanctify it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy. 40:10 Then you are to anoint the altar for the burnt offering with all its utensils; you are to sanctify the altar, and it will be the most holy altar. 40:11 You must also anoint the large basin and its pedestal, and you are to sanctify it.
40:12 “You are to bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 40:13 Then you are to clothe Aaron with the holy garments and anoint him and sanctify him so that he may minister as my priest. 40:14 You are to bring his sons and clothe them with tunics 40:15 and anoint them just as you anointed their father, so that they may minister as my priests; their anointing will make them a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.” 40:16 This is what Moses did, according to all the LORD had commanded him—so he did.
40:17 So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month, in the second year. 40:18 When Moses set up the tabernacle and put its bases in place, he set up its frames, attached its bars, and set up its posts. 40:19 Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 40:20 He took the testimony and put it in the ark, attached the poles to the ark, and then put the atonement lid on the ark. 40:21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, hung the protecting curtain, and shielded the ark of the testimony from view, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
40:22 And he put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the curtain. 40:23 And he set the bread in order on it before the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
40:24 And he put the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table, on the south side of the tabernacle. 40:25 Then he set up the lamps before the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
40:26 And he put the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain, 40:27 and he burned fragrant incense on it, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
40:28 Then he put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. 40:29 He also put the altar for the burnt offering by the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the meal offering, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
40:30 Then he put the large basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing. 40:31 Moses and Aaron and his sons would wash their hands and their feet from it. 40:32 Whenever they entered the tent of meeting, and whenever they approached the altar, they would wash, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
40:33 And he set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and the altar, and put the curtain at the gate of the courtyard. So Moses finished the work.
40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 40:35 Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 40:36 But when the cloud was lifted up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on all their journeys; 40:37 but if the cloud was not lifted up, then they would not journey further until the day it was lifted up. 40:38 For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, but fire would be on it at night, in plain view of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
God now lives among the people, fulfilling the promise of Ex 29:45. In fact, the glory of his presence is so powerful that not even Moses dares to enter the tent.
The cloud is mentioned six times in these final five verses. It was first seen in Ex 13 at the sea, and most recently in Ex 24. It was a visible sign of God’s glory, Ex 13:21–22; 14:19–24; 16:7–10; 24:16–18; 33:9–10, 22; 34:5.
Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting – ‘In light of what we have seen in chapters 32–34, it is important to remind the people of God’s holiness, that there are times when even Moses may not come near.’ (Enns)
Access to God must not be taken for granted. ‘In a manner of speaking, God is too present in the tabernacle and so Moses cannot enter.’ (Enns)
Settled on it (the tent of meeting) – The verb is related to the word for ‘tabernacle’, and indicates that God had come to dwell among his people.
As Bruckner remarks, ‘the conclusion to Exodus is key to understanding the context of the books of Leviticus and Numbers. They set up the tabernacle in the first month of the second year (vv. 2, 17). The Lord’s “call” to Moses from the tent, which comes promptly in Leviticus 1:1, is the beginning of further Sinaitic Levitical legislation. We find a narrative account of Aaron’s ordination and the death of his older two sons by fire in Leviticus 8–10. Numbers 1:1 begins with Moses and the Lord in the tent of meeting one month later. The legislation continues for another twenty days until Israel’s leaving Mount Sinai is taken up in a longer narrative, “The cloud lifted … [and they] set out from … Sinai” (Num. 10:11).’
Bruckner again: ‘The book of Exodus ends as the exit from Egypt had begun, with the visible cloud of the Lord’s presence leading, protecting, and providing. Yahweh had been present to them, calling them out of bondage. God had built their trust by providing for their daily wilderness needs. God had given them a new life based on teaching just laws. God had judged sin. God had called them to remember their deliverance, to worship, to sacrifice, and to celebrate as a community in the Lord’s presence. God had revealed the goodness of the name of Yahweh. God had forgiven and restored the people, even in their rebellion. Finally, the Lord was present in the midst of their encampment.’
All their journeys – Just as the Lord had led his people out of Egypt, so now he guides them through the wilderness. ‘More is at stake, however, than guidance. The Lord had been guiding them since the exit from Egypt. The more significant denouement that transformed human history was that God had begun to dwell on earth in the midst of one people. Once God had begun to transform one people, other cultures would begin to know the reality of the enduring presence of God.’ (Bruckner)