Exodus Chapter 38
Here is an account, I. Of the making of the brazen altar (ver. 1-7), and the laver, ver. 8. II. The preparing of the hangings for the enclosing of the court in which the tabernacle was to stand, ver. 9-20. III. A summary of the gold, silver, and brass, that was contributed to, and used in, the preparing of the tabernacle, ver. 21, &c.
B. C. 1491.
1 And he made the altar of burnt offering of shittim wood: five cubits was the length thereof, and five cubits the breadth thereof; it was foursquare; and three cubits the height thereof. 2 And he made the horns thereof on the four corners of it; the horns thereof were of the same: and he overlaid it with brass. 3 And he made all the vessels of the altar, the pots, and the shovels, and the basons, and the fleshhooks, and the firepans: all the vessels thereof made he of brass. 4 And he made for the altar a brazen grate of network under the compass thereof beneath unto the midst of it. 5 And he cast four rings for the four ends of the grate of brass, to be places for the staves. 6 And he made the staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with brass. 7 And he put the staves into the rings on the sides of the altar, to bear it withal; he made the altar hollow with boards. 8 And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the looking-glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Bezaleel having finished the gold-work, which, though the richest, yet was ordered to lie most out of sight, in the tabernacle itself, here goes on to prepare the court, which lay open to the view of all. Two things the court was furnished with, and both made of brass:–
I. An altar of burnt-offering, v. 1-7. On this all their sacrifices were offered, and it was this which, being sanctified itself for this purpose by the divine appointment, sanctified the gift that was in faith offered on it. Christ was himself the altar to his own sacrifice of atonement, and so he is to all our sacrifices of acknowledgment. We must have an eye to him in offering them, as God has in accepting them.
II. A laver, to hold water for the priests to wash in when they went in to minister, v. 8. This signified the provision that is made in the gospel of Christ for the cleansing of our souls from the moral pollution of sin by the merit and grace of Christ, that we may be fit to serve the holy God in holy duties. This is here said to be made of the looking-glasses (or mirrors) of the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle.
1. It should seem these women were eminent and exemplary for devotion, attending more frequently and seriously at the place of public worship than others did; and notice is here taken of it to their honour. Anna was such a one long afterwards, who departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day, Luke ii. 37. It seems in every age of the church there have been some who have thus distinguished themselves by their serious zealous piety, and they have thereby distinguished themselves; for devout women are really honourable women (Acts xiii. 50), and not the less so for their being called, by the scoffers of the latter days, silly women. Probably these women were such as showed their zeal upon this occasion, by assisting in the work that was now going on for the service of the tabernacle. They assembled by troops, so the word is; a blessed sight, to see so many, and those so zealous and so unanimous, in this good work.
2. These women parted with their mirrors (which were of the finest brass, burnished for that purpose) for the use of the tabernacle. Those women that admire their own beauty, are in love with their own shadow, and make the putting on of apparel their chief adorning by which they value and recommend themselves, can but ill spare their looking-glasses; yet these women offered them to God, either,
(1.) In token of their repentance for the former abuse of them, to the support of their pride and vanity; now that they were convinced of their folly, and had devoted themselves to the service of God at the door of the tabernacle, they thus threw away that which, though lawful and useful in itself, yet had been an occasion of sin to them. Thus Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner, when she became a penitent wiped Christ’s feet with her hair. Or,
(2.) In token of their great zeal for the work of the tabernacle; rather than the workmen should want brass, or not have of the best, they would part with their mirrors, though they could not do well without them. God’s service and glory must always be preferred by us before any satisfactions or accommodations of our own. Let us never complain of the want of that which we may honour God by parting with.
3. These mirrors were used for the making of the laver. Either they were artfully joined together, or else molten down and cast anew; but it is probable that the laver was so brightly burnished that the sides of it still served for mirrors, that the priests, when they came to wash, might there see their faces, and so discover the spots, to wash them clean. Note, In the washing of repentance, there is need of the looking-glass of self-examination. The word of God is a glass, in which we may see our own faces (see Jam. i. 23); and with it we must compare our own hearts and lives, that, finding out our blemishes, we may wash with particular sorrow, and application of the blood of Christ to our souls. Usually the more particular we are in the confession of sin the more comfort we have in the sense of the pardon.
– Matthew Henry Commentary