Gleanings In Exodus
39. The Lampstand
The particular piece of the Tabernacle’s furniture which is now to engage our attention, is, in our English Bibles termed the "Candlestick," but we believe that this is a very faulty rendition of the Hebrew word. Why term it a "Candlestick" when no candles were burned thereon? It strikes the writer that such a translation is a relic of Romish perversion. "M’nourah" means "lightbearer" or "lampstand," and thus we shall refer to it throughout this article. The fact that it had "seven lamps" (Ex. 25:25, 37) and that these were fed with "oil" (Lev. 24:2, 4) is more than sufficient to warrant this correction.
The Lampstand was in the Holy Place. This was the chamber entered by none save the priestly family, and was the place where these favored servants of Jehovah ministered before Him. It was therefore the place of communion. In keeping with this, each of the three vessels that stood therein spoke of fellowship. The Table, with its twelve loaves, pointed to Christ as the Substance of our fellowship, the One on whom we feed. The Lampstand foreshadowed Christ as the power for fellowship, as supplying the light necessary to it. The Incense-altar, prefigured Christ as maintaining our fellowship, by His intercession securing our continued acceptance before the Father.
The fact that the Lampstand stood within the Holy Place at once shows us that it is not Christ as "the Light of the world" which is typified. It is strange that some of the commentators have erred here. The words of Christ on this point were clear enough: "As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world" (John 9:5)—then only was He manifested here as such. So again in John 12:35, 36 He said to the people, "Yet a little while is the Light with you . . . while ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." But they loved darkness rather than light. The world rejected the Light, and so far as they were concerned extinguished it. Since He was put to death by wicked hands, the world has never again gazed on the Light. He is now hidden from their eyes.
But He who was put to death by the world, rose again, and then ascended on High. It is there in the Holy Place, in God’s presence, the Light now dwells. And while there—O marvelous privilege—the saints have access to Him. For them the veil is rent, and thus the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies are no longer two separate compartments, but one; and, the substance of all that was shadowed forth by the sacred vessels in each is now the wondrous portion of those who, by grace, are "built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).
Black shadows rest upon the world which has cast out the Light of Life: "the way of the wicked is as darkness" (Prov. 4:19). It is now night-time because the "Dayspring from on High" is absent. The Lampstand tells of the gracious provision which God has made for His own beloved people during the interval of darkness, before the Sun of righteousness shall rise once more and usher in for this earth that morning without clouds. The Lampstand is for the night season! Therefore the illuminating Lampstand speaks of Christ neither in the days of His first advent nor of the time of His second advent, but of the interval between, when those who have access into the true sanctuary walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). Let us now consider: —
1. Its Composition.
"And thou shalt make a Lampstand of pure gold: of beaten work shall the lamp-stand be made" (v. 31). Unlike the ark and the table of shewbread, no wood entered into the composition of the Lamp-stand. It was of solid gold. But there is one word here which has been overlooked by almost all the commentators, and by losing sight of it their interpretations have quite missed the mark. The Lampstand, though made of pure gold, was "of beaten work," that is to say, the talent of gold from which it was made was wrought upon by the hammers of skilled workmen until it was shaped into a beautiful and symmetrical form. Only by Divinely-given wisdom could they evolve from a solid talent of gold this richly ornamented vessel with base, shaft and branches, in consistent proportions (Ex. 31:6).
What is before us now in our present type is the more noteworthy in that the Lampstand was the only vessel or portion of the Tabernacle which was made of "beaten work." It is in striking contrast from the "golden calf" which Aaron made, for that was cast in a mould (Ex. 32:4). What is idolatrous or according to man’s mind, can be quickly and easily cast into shape; but that which has most of all glorified God and secured the redemption of His people was wrought at great cost. Clearly, the "beaten gold" here speaks of a suffering Christ glorified, glorified as the reward of His perfect but painful Work.
That the "pure gold" speaks of the divine side of things is obvious, for the One that is here prefigured was none other than the God-man. It was His deity which sustained His humanity. Had Christ been merely a creature He had completely succumbed to the storm of Judgment which burst upon Him. It was His deity which enabled Him to suffer within the compass of a brief span what otherwise would have been the eternal portion of all His people. But after all, the primary thought in the "gold" is glory as Hebrews 9:5 teaches us, and the beaten gold plainly foreshadowed the glorification of Him who was beaten with many stripes on our behalf.
"Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it" (v. 39). This would be worth more than five thousand pounds, upwards of twenty-five thousand dollars. A "talent" was one hundred and twenty lbs., so that sufficient gold was provided to ensure the Lampstand being of a goodly size. Most probably it stood higher than the Table or the Incense-altar, for by its light the priests were enabled to attend to the one and minister at the other. Thus was foreshadowed not only the preciousness of the person of our Redeemer, but also His sufficiency to make manifest the perfections of the Godhead.
2. Its Construction.
The pattern of the Lampstand is described in Exodus 25:31-36. It consisted of one central stem, with three lateral branches springing from either side. Each branch was adorned with knops, flowers and bowls. The "knops" seem to have been buds, probably of the almond; the "bowls" were for holding the oil which fed the lights. Upon the end of each branch was the bowl or lamp. All was of one piece, beaten out by workmen endowed with divine skill.
The seven lamps while an intrinsic part of the Lampstand itself, may also be contemplated separately. This seems clear from the fact that in Numbers 8:2 we read, "When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the Lampstand." The accuracy of the type here is most impressive. The sevenfold radiance of the Lampstand speaks of Christ as the "brightness of God’s glory" (Heb. 1:3). It tells of His perfections as the Light. It is worthy of note that when the white light is broken into its varied parts we have just seven colors, as seen in the rainbow. But it is equally clear that the seven "lamps" also symbolize the Holy Spirit in the plenitude of His power and perfections—the "seven Spirits which are before His throne" (Rev. 1:4). That the type appears to overlap at this point, or rather, has a double application, only shows its marvelous and minute accuracy, for in His ministry toward and in believers, the Spirit works as "the Spirit of Christ" (Rom. 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11).
The fact that the seven lamps were supported by the Lampstand foreshadowed the fact that the Spirit. given to us, has come from our glorified Redeemer. There are several scriptures which prove this. The Lord Jesus said to His apostles, "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send from the Father" (John 15:26). On the day of Pentecost, when explaining the outpouring of the Spirit’s gifts, Peter distinctly attributed them to the ascended Christ: "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Spirit He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear" (Acts 2:36). So also in Revelation 3:1 Christ is spoken of as "He that hath the seven Spirits of God."
3. Its Ornamentation.
"And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the Lampstand out of the one side, and three branches of the Lampstand out of the other side: Three bowls made like unto almonds, a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, a knop and a flower; so in the six branches that come out of the Lampstand" (vv. 32, 33). Mr. S. Ridout has offered an illuminating suggestion that the "knop" might portray the rounded unopened bud, so that the central stem and each of its branches would be ornamented with that which set forth the, three stages of the almond—the bud, the flower and the ripened fruit. He has also pointed out how that this suggestion receives confirmation in what is recorded of Aaron’s rod in Numbers 17: "Behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and blossomed blossoms and yielded almonds" (v. 8). Thus the three stages of life were also seen on the branches of the Lampstand—bud, flower, fruit.
The prominence of the "almond" on the Lampstand supplies an important key to its interpretation. It corresponds closely, though it is not exactly parallel in thought with what is foreshadowed in the "acacia (shittim) wood" in the other vessels. The "wood" speaks of the incorruptible humanity of Christ. The "almond" is the emblem of resurrection, here the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which, of course, presupposes His incarnation. It is not so much the holiness of His humanity which is here foreshadowed, as it is the glory of the Risen One—the "almonds of gold"!
The "almond" is the first of all trees in Palestine to bud, manifesting the new life of spring as early as January. The Hebrew word for "almond" means "vigilant," and is used with this significance in Jeremiah 1:11, 12: "And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. And Jehovah said unto me, Thou hast well seen; for I am watchful over My word to perform it." God has seen to it that His every promise has been vindicated and substantiated in a risen Christ. That the "almond" is the emblem of resurrection is further established in Numbers 17. The twelve rods, cut off from the trees on which they grew, were lifeless things. The budding of Aaron’s rod manifested a re-impartation of life—the work of God. Aaron’s rod not only exhibited the signs of life, but produced the full results of it, in bud and flower and fruit—and that of the "almond"! So, too, our Savior was, according to the flesh, "a rod out the stem of Jesse" (Isa. 11:1) and was "cut off" (Dan. 9:26) out of the land of the living. But on the third day He rose again from the dead. Mr. Ridout has strikingly pointed out that just as there was first the bud, then the flower, and then the almond fruit on Aaron’s rod, and on each branch of the Lampstand so was there a manifest gradation in the evidences of Christ’s resurrection!
"The stone rolled away, the empty tomb, the linen clothes lying in quiet order and the napkin lying by itself—no sign of a struggle, but the witness that the Prince of life had risen from His sleep of death; these may be called the ‘buds,’ the first signs of His resurrection. The angel who rolled away the stone and sat on it (Matthew 28:2), the ‘young man sitting on the right side’ of the tomb (Mark 16:5, 6), the ‘vision of angels’ seen by the women which came early to the sepulcher (Luke 24:23); the two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain (John 20:12)—these may be called the ‘flowers’—the more advanced witnesses of His resurrection. Lastly, His own personal manifestations to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to the women, to the two disciples at Ermmaus, to the gathered disciples in the upper room, to them again when Thomas was present; again at the Sea of Tiberius, and at a mountain in Galilee—these and other ‘infallible proofs’ might be called the full almond fruit. The empty tomb might have been a precious boon to faith, and was enough for John (John 20:8); the testimony of the angels would have been stronger testimony; but the crown of all was to behold Him, to hear Him, to see Him eat, hear Him speak, this was indeed the full fruit."
4. Its Position.
As we have already seen, the Lamp-stand was one of the three pieces of furniture which were in the holy place. But there is a word in Exodus 40:24 which defined its location still more precisely, "And He put the lampstand in the tent of the congregation over against the table, on the side of the Tabernacle southward."
Like everything else in Scripture the points of the compass are referred to with a moral and spiritual significance. Briefly, we may say that the "west" is the quarter of prosperity and blessing: see Exodus 10:19; Deuteronomy 33:23; Joshua 8:12; Isaiah 59:19. The "east," the opposite quarter, tells of sharp distress and Divine judgment: see Genesis 3:24, 13:11, 41:6; Exodus 10:13, 14:21; Isaiah 46:11. The "north"—the Hebrew word means "obscure, dark"—is the direction from which evil comes: see Jeremiah 1:14, 4:6, etc. The sunny "south," the opposite quarter from the north, tells of warmth light, and blessing: see Job 37:17; Psalm 126:4; Luke 12:55; Deuteronomy 33:3; Acts 27:13. It is most significant then that the Lampstand was placed on the south side of the Tabernacle, the more so when we discover that the Hebrew word for "south" means "bright, radiant"!
5. Its Significance.
There are a number of details which enable us to fix the typical meaning of the Lampstand. First, the fact that it was made of beaten gold and was ornamented with almonds shows that it is the suffering Christ now risen and glorified which is here foreshadowed. Second, its being set in the Holy Place intimates that it is Christ hidden from the world, enjoyed only by the priestly family. Third, its seven lamps of oil tell of the sufficiency of the Spirit as Christ’s gift to His people. Fourth, the time when the Lampstand was used furnishes another sure key to its interpretation. It was for use in the Holy Place during the night: "Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the Lord (Ex. 27:21). It thus typified the maintenance of light within the true Sanctuary during the time that our Lord was absent from the earth, that is, while the nation of Israel is no longer God’s witness here below.
That which was most prominent in connection with the Lampstand was its seven branches, supporting the lighted "lamps." These, as we have seen, foreshadowed the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is this which brings out the distinctive aspect of our present type. It is the Spirit as the gift of Christ—the result: of His death and resurrection—the "beaten work" and the "almonds" to His people. It is the Spirit shining in their hearts to give them "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). It is the Spirit within the Sanctuary, glorifying Christ, taking of the things of Christ and showing them to His people. It is the operations of the Spirit directed by the glorified Son of God. The several purposes which were served by the seven lighted lamps portray the leading aspects of the Spirit’s ministry to Christ’s people.
First, the lighted lamps revealed the beautiful workmanship of the Lampstand itself: "And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against the face of it" (v. 37) cf. Numbers 8:2. This tells us of the principal design of the Spirit’s ministry toward and in the saints. As the Savior promised, "He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14). This He does by revealing to us the perfections of Christ, by making Him real to us, by endearing Him to our hearts. It is only by the Spirit that we are enabled to behold and enjoy the excellencies of Him who is "fairer than the children of men." It is in His light alone that we "see light" (Ps. 36:9).
Second, the Lampstand was placed opposite the Table, so as to cast its light upon its contents: "And he put the Lamp-stand in the tent of the congregation over against the Table" (Ex. 40:24). The shewbread remained on the Table seven days, when it became the food of Aaron and his sons, who were bidden to "eat in the Holy Place" (Lev. 24:8, 9). There they refreshed themselves with that which had delighted the eye of God. Can we think of them sitting down and enjoying such a feast in darkness? Impossible. Light was a necessity: without it all would have been confusion and disorder. This teaches us that it is only by the ministry and power of the Spirit that Christians can perceive Christ as the Bread of God to sustain His people. It is only by the Spirit we are enabled to feed on Christ and draw from His fullness, that the new man may be nourished and strengthened.
Third, the Lampstand is mentioned in connection with the burning of incense on the Golden-altar: "And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it" (Ex. 30:7, 8). Apart from the light furnished by the Lamp-stand the priests could not have seen the golden altar and would have been unable to minister thereat. This altar speaks both of worship and supplication. Here too the aid of the Spirit is indispensable. Apart from Him we can neither praise nor petition Christ as we ought.
Fourth, the Lampstand is said to shed its light "before the Lord" (Ex. 40:25). The antitype of this is specially brought before us by the Spirit in the closing book of Scripture. There we see Christ vindicating the government of God. There the "seven lamps" which are "the seven Spirits of God" are expressly said to be "burning before the Throne" (Rev. 4:5), while in Revelation 5:6 they are seen in connection with the Lamb as He rises to administer judgment. The Lampstand shining "before the Lord" will find its accomplishment when Christ overthrows the foes of God and reigns till He hath put all enemies under His feet. This will be during the Millennium when Christ, in the fullness of the Spirit’s power, shall be manifested as the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal. 4:2).
There is a very remarkable Scripture in Isaiah 11 which gives us the final anti-typical fulfillment of the sevenfold radiance of the Lampstand. There we read, "there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (vv. 1, 2). There is here a sevenfold reference of the relation of the Holy Spirit to Christ during His Millennial reign, note verse 4. But observe carefully the arrangement here. Mark the absence of any "and" between "Him" and "the Spirit of wisdom," and so between the second and third and between the third and fourth mentionings of the Spirit. The order corresponds exactly with the construction of the seven—branched Lampstand "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him:" this is separated from the other six by the absence of a connecting "and" to what follows, reminding us of the one central stem. The next six references are arranged in three pairs (as the "ands" show), like the three pairs of branches growing out of the central stem!
6. Its Covering.
"And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the Lampstand of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, etc., and they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers’ skins" (Num. 4:9, 10). This point needs not to be developed at length as the typical significance of these coverings has been dealt with in previous articles. In the "cloth of blue" we have emphasized the Divine glory of Christ, and are reminded that only saints in priestly communion can recognize and enjoy the Light of life as the Holy One. As we see the "blue" folded and concealed in the "badgers’ skins we have a solemn portrayal of the fact that the ungodly are without any knowledge of the true Light: "The way of the wicked is as darkness" (Prov. 4:19).
7. Its History.
Only twice is the Lampstand referred to after the Pentateuch is passed, but in each case the connection is a most striking one. First, in 1 Samuel 3 the Spirit has informed us that Jehovah revealed Himself to young Samuel in the Temple or Tabernacle "ere the lamp of God went out" (v. 3), and a most solemn communication did He give him. The Lord announced that He would do a thing in Israel "at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle." This "thing" was the sore judgment which fell upon the degenerate sons of Eli. The prophetic and dispensational application of this is obvious. Ere the long Night of Israel’s unbelief is ended, God will bring upon them the Great Tribulation and judge them for their sins.
The second reference is in Daniel 5. Here again a night scene is presented to our view. Belshazzar, attended by his debauched courtiers and concubines, in the midst of a drunken revelry, gave orders that the "golden vessels" which had been taken from the Temple when his grandfather captured Jerusalem, should be brought in and drunk out of Heaven’s response was prompt: "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand and wrote over against the Lampstand upon the plaster of the wall" (v. 5). This time it was a message of woe pronounced upon the Babylonians, pointing forward to the end of the times of the Gentiles, when the vials of God’s wrath shall be poured out upon this Christ-rejecting world.
The appropriateness of these two messages of judgment being linked with the Lampstand is evident. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). "God is light" means, He is ineffably holy, and therefore must punish sin: it brings before us the other side of the truth. Light exposes and burns as well as warms and illumines! For believers the Light is the Light of life; but for unbelievers it will yet blind and overwhelm: that is why the Judgment-seat in the great Assize is a "great white Throne. How thankful should every Christian reader be that we are "children of light." Christ is the Light to His people—Proverbs 4:18, 2 Corinthians 4:6; in His people—Ephesians 1: 18, 5:13, 14; through His people—Matthew 5:14-16.