The End of Exodus
Why deliverance from Egypt is not the climax of the book
The book we call Exodus is named such because the Lord delivered the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. But out of the forty chapters in Exodus, only the first twelve are devoted to Israel’s life in and leave from Egypt.
The last and longest section of Exodus is devoted to a portable dwelling place called the tabernacle. From Exodus 25 to 40, we read about instructions and constructions. The reputation of this part of Exodus for readers is not stellar because the minutiae, the level of detail, is intense. These chapters cover:
The kinds of contributions the people were to make (25:1–9)
Instructions for the ark of the covenant (25:10–22)
Instructions for the table of bread (25:23–30)
Instructions for the golden lampstand (25:31–40)
Instructions about the tabernacle design and measurements (26:1–37)
Instructions about the bronze altar that stood in the courtyard (27:1–8)
Instructions about the courtyard of the tabernacle (27:9–19)
Instructions about oil for the lampstand (27:20–21)
Instructions about the garments and consecration of the priests who work at the tabernacle (28:1—29:46)
Instructions about the golden altar of incense (30:1–10)
Instructions about the bronze basin that stood in the courtyard (30:17–21)
The details are many, and readers can find themselves lost among the linens and cubits and multiple metals. But notice the obvious: the instructions about the tabernacle and its furniture are lengthy. The inclusion of such lengthy instructions surely highlights the importance of the tabernacle.
After covering the specifics of what the Israelites were to do in making the tabernacle, the last part of Exodus describes the fulfillment of these instructions. More details!
The contributions for the tabernacle (35:4–29)
Constructing the tabernacle linens, loops, curtains, bases, and frames (35:30—36:38)
Making the ark of the covenant (37:1–9)
Making the golden table of bread (37:10–16)
Making the golden lampstand (37:17–24)
Making the golden altar of incense (37:25–29)
Making the bronze altar that stood in the courtyard (38:1–7)
Making the bronze basin that stood in the courtyard (38:8)
Making the courtyard (38:9–20)
Making the priestly garments (39:1–43)
The section of Exodus 25—40 is lengthy and heavily detailed, and it shows a pattern of command and completion. The instructions (25—31) are followed (35—40). The tabernacle and all its furniture were crafted and set up.
In Exodus 40, the final chapter of the book, we’re told that “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34). This climactic scene in Exodus is the filling of the tabernacle with the glory and presence of God.
The tabernacle represented the presence of God with the Israelites. He had come to dwell with them, to lead them, to sustain them. A substantial portion of Exodus (25—40) was devoted to the tabernacle plans and their completion because the point of redeeming the Israelites from Egypt was for communion with the living God who had come to save and dwell with them.
The sheer number of chapters regarding this tent of meeting is a signal to interpreters of its importance.
At the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites are dwelling in Egypt. By the end of Exodus, the Israelites are out of Egypt and God is dwelling with them. At the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites are building things for Pharaoh. As the book closes, they are building things for God.
God had come to tabernacle among his people, so read the details in Exodus 25—40 with a renewed appreciation. Bask in the cubits and the colors. Rejoice over the furniture of gold and bronze. Read the instructions slowly, and let the rhythm of repetition leave you in awe at what God was doing in their midst. The event of the exodus was for the purpose of communion. The book is a story of redemption and relationship, of freedom and fellowship.
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