Gleanings In Exodus
42. The Boards
That which is now to occupy us is the framework and foundation of the Tabernacle proper. The sides of the Tabernacle were comprised of boards of acacia wood, fitly framed together, standing upon a base of silver sockets. The Tabernacle stood on the west side of the Court, facing the gate. Its solid framework was made up of forty-eight boards, twenty being used on the north side, twenty on the south, six on the west, with a corner-board at each end; the eastern or front side being the entrance, having five pillars between which was suspended an "hanging for the door," which will come before us for separate consideration in a later article (D.V.). Each of the boards was overlaid with gold.
"The north and south sides of the Tabernacle were each composed of twenty hoards. Thus the length of the holy building would be thirty cubits (forty-five feet), the boards being a cubit and a half in breadth. Its height was ten cubits (fifteen feet), its width was exactly the same, namely, ten cubits (fifteen feet). Each board was maintained in its place by two tenons, or hands, which again were grasped by two sockets of silver. Then in order to bind the whole in one compact body of strength and security, five bars of shit-the wood with gold—same as the boards—ran along the two sides, and also along the end at the west; fifteen bars in all being inserted in rings of gold attached to the boards. The third, or middle bar, stretched across the whole length of the building—forty-five feet; of the length of the other cross-bars we are not informed. The corner-boards at the extreme end—north and south—were coupled together at top and bottom by rings of gold, in addition to the tenons and silver sockets at the base. These corner-boards then would knit the ends so firmly by their fastening of rings, tenons, and sockets, or blocks of silver, that a breakdown was impossible, while the sides were equally upheld and maintained by the bars. Here then we have the Rock of Ages embodied in the Tabernacle" (Mr. W. Scott.)
There has been much confusion on the part of the commentators concerning the typical import of the Boards and that which secured them together. Many who have seen Christ displayed in the Curtains and in the different Vessels, depart from this primary interpretation when they come to the Boards, and regard them as portraying believers in their individual and corporate relationships. That much connected with the Tabernacle may have a secondary application to the saints we do not deny, but that everything in it points first and foremost to our Savior we are fully assured, and it is with Him that our hearts need most to be engaged; so with the primary signficance of our type we shall now proceed. There are seven things connected with the Boards that claim our careful attention: —
1. Their Materials.
"And thou shalt make Boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood . . . And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold"—(vv. 15, 29). As we have had occasion before to remark, the acacia wood foreshadowed our Lord’s humanity, particularly the incorruptibility of it, the Greek version of the O.T. actually translating it "incorruptible wood." It is of paramount importance that we should hold fast to and testify of the fundamental truth conveyed in this typical wood—the real and the untainted Manhood of the Lord Jesus. Error here is most serious and solemn, affecting as it would our estimate of the Savior’s person. There are those who, in their zeal to maintain His absolute Deity, entertain an inadequate conception of His humanity. But His Manhood was just as real as His Godhood. It was not simply that He assumed a human body, but that He became Man in the full sense of that term, having a human spirit and soul and body. "In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren" (Heb. 2:17). "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (Heb. 2:14). Therefore is He called "the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
But in becoming Man, the Lord of glory took unto Himself a spotless and perfect humanity, expressly designated "that Holy Thing" (Luke 1:35). The Son of man "did no sin" (1 Pet. 2:22) and that because "He knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21) and that because "in Him was no sin" (1 John 3:5). He ever was and always remained "the Holy One of God." To question this is to cast dishonor both on the Father and on the Son, and undermines the very foundation on which the Christian’s peace is based. Some carelessly, or profanely, talk of "Jesus assuming our sinful and our mortal nature," but such could never be, or He had Himself needed a Savior. Not only did Christ commit no sin, but He was entirely incapable of sinning. Nor were the seeds of death in His Manhood: He did not die from pain and weakness, but laid down His life of Himself (John 10:18), and in death He saw "no corruption" (Acts 2:27). The Virgin-birth and the immaculate nature of the Savior lie at the very foundation of the Gospel message: without them there would be and could be no announcement of good news for poor sinners.
Inseparable from His humanity is the glorious truth of our Redeemer’s Deity. This also is a fundamental part of our faith and underlies all true evangelical testimony. "Unto you is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord’" (Luke 2:11). None but a Divine Savior could meet the deep need of fallen creatures: the endurance of God’s curse was wholly beyond the resources of human weakness—His Deity alone could sustain the weight of redemption. If the acacia wood foreshadowed the humanity of Christ, the gold spoke of His Divine nature and glory. In the two conjoined we have set before us God manifest in flesh. "The Word was God . . . the Word became flesh" (John 1:1, 14). A profound mystery we grant, yet a blessed truth on which the faith of God’s elect rests with unquestioning confidence.
2. Their Dimensions.
"Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board" (v. 16). "In all structures if there is to be symmetry, there must be accuracy of measurements, and for this there must be a standard. In Scripture it was the cubit, or ammah, from a word meaning ‘mother.’ It was the length of the ‘mother-arm,’ the forearm, as the chief and prominent part of the arm, from the elbow to the tip of the finger: that which is used in all work. It was thus a standard taken from man, not above him. God’s requirements are absolutely reasonable and righteous, not going beyond human capacity. And yet how true it is that not one of the fallen sons of Adam could measure up to that perfect human standard: ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ But God delighted in man, and even the measurement of the heavenly city is by the human standard (Rev. 21:17). If God is to be in any measure apprehended by His creatures, it must be, not in that unutterable glory and infinity which no one knoweth but the Son, but rather in the One who humbled Himself and was found in fashion as a man. How amazing! God is manifested in the flesh, and we are invited to appropriate the standard of measurement (which is in our hands and by which we have been condemned) to Him, and to see how perfectly He has measured up to the fullest requirements of God" (Mr. Ridout).
How profoundly suggestive and significant that in the very unit of measurement which Jehovah ordered Moses to employ, we are reminded of our Lord’s incarnation, and that more than a hint is given of His Virgin birth—the word "cubit" being of the feminine gender, not masculine! He was and is God, but He became flesh. So the length of the Boards reiterates and emphasizes the same truth. Ten, as we have seen previously, is the number which speaks of the Divine measure of human responsibility. What is here so blessedly foreshadowed, then, is the Son of God become Man, perfectly glorifying His Father in the place of human accountability. Beautiful is it to ponder in this connection the closing words of v. 15: "And thou shalt make boards for the Tabernacle of shittim wood standing up" What a contrast this points! We are all fallen creatures; not so the perfect Man, who was "separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26). He was upright in all His ways. Ten cubits was the height of every board. Each part of Christ’s life was of an unvarying standard. Nothing was out of proportion. Looking at each of the ten commandments we cannot say that Christ kept one more perfectly than the others. Each was fully, constantly, and consistently obeyed by Him.
"A cubit and a half shall be the breadth of each board." This is not the first time that we have had this particular measurement: the Ark was, too, a cubit and a half in breadth and a cubit and a half in height (Ex. 25:10); the Mercy-seat was also a cubit and a half in breadth (25:17). Both the Ark and the Mercy-seat portray the Lord Jesus in the combined glory of His person as the God-man. Thus the breadth—that which gives form and character to a thing—reminds us that while these Boards prefigure our Savior in the place of human responsibility, they also tell us that it was One who was more than Man who honored and magnified the Law.
3. Their Sockets.
"And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons and two sockets under another board for his two tenons" (v. 19). These forty sockets of silver were for the twenty boards on the south side; in vv. 20, 21 we find that the same provision was made for the twenty boards on the north side; while in v. 25 we learn that the eight boards at the western rear had also two sockets each. Thus there were ninety-six in all. Each board was maintained in its place by the two tenons or "hands" which fitted into and were grasped by the silver sockets.
The ninety-six silver "sockets" formed the foundation, and upon them rested the whole fabric of the tabernacle. This tells us, in language too plain to be misunderstood, that redemption is the basis on which Christ has become the meeting-place between the ineffably holy God and His inherently sinful people. It was only through redemption that the perfect humanity and Divine glory of Christ could avail us. Had He not "given Himself a ransom for us," He must have forever remained alone (John 12:24). He was in Himself the "true" and "perfect" Tabernacle, but only by the gift and sacrifice of Himself could He bring us nigh to God. It is because in the Gospel He is set before our eyes "crucified" (Gal. 3:1), that Christians have confidence before God. Reconciliation rests upon redemption by ransom.
It was the preciousness of redemption which was typically expressed in the "sockets of silver." This is definitely established by the fact that all the silver used in connection with the Tabernacle was derived from "the atonement money" (Ex. 30:16). As we hope to deal with this more fully when we come to Exodus 30, a brief summary must here suffice. In Exodus 30:12 we learn that when Moses took the sum of the number of Israel that every man was required to give a ransom for his soul. This ransom consisted of half a shekel (by comparing Exodus 30:13 with Leviticus 27:3 it will be found that this was a silver coin, in value about 2/6 or 62 cents: the rich might not give more, nor the poor less (v. 15). Concerning this atonement-money God ordered Moses to "appoint it for the service of the Tabernacle (v. 16)—a part of this "service" being to make the silver sockets for its foundations.
It was elsewhere taught Israel that it was the blood "that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11)—typified by the blood of animals. The blood of their sacrifices came nearest to exhibiting the mode of atonement; but in Exodus 30 the silver "atonement-money" proclaimed the preciousness of Christ’s atonement. The significance of both types may be seen by noting how the Holy Spirit has set each aside, because the Reality has been manifested. Just as we are told in the presence of the one "sacrifice for sins" that it was not possible "that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4), so we appreciate the design of the atonement-silver when, beholding Him in whom is treasured up all redemption wealth, we read, "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold" (1 Pet. 1:18).
We must not further enlarge on this fascinating topic, but ere passing from it attention must be called to two most remarkable statements in the Psalms which plainly anticipated the replacing of the shadows by the Substance. In Psalm 49 the costliness of redemption is emphasized by affirming that it lies far beyond the resources of human riches: "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it (the type) ceaseth forever" (vv. 6-8). This finds its sequel in 1 Peter 1:18, 19. In Psalm 50 we find Jehovah saying "I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds," which finds its sequel in Hebrews 10:4. Thus Psalm 49 disallows the silver and gold which once pointed to the precious ransom, while Psalm 50 disallows the sacrificing of bulls and goats which once foreshadowed the precious blood.
4. Their Meaning.
The relation of the Boards to the Tabernacle, to its holy vessels, and to the ministrations of the priests therein, supplies the key to their distinctive significance. Without these Boards there had been no tabernacle to house its furniture and no place for the priests to serve in. Moreover, without them the beautiful Curtains could not have been displayed. Upon the golden Boards, held together by the golden bars, resting in their silver sockets, were sustained all the weight of the Curtains and Coverings. So on the God-man was hung all the weight of the Divine government and all the glories of His Father’s house. In Him has been completely realized what was typified by Eliakim—read carefully Isaiah 22:20-25. It is this which brings out the meaning of the other numerals here. There were forty-eight boards in all and ninety-six sockets: thus we have 6x8 or 4x12 and 12x8. Six is the number of man and eight that of a new order or a fresh beginning. This would point to Christ as "the Second Man" (1 Cor. 15:47), the Head of the new race, the "new man" (Eph. 2:15). Four is the number of earth, and twelve of governmental perfection: so that 4x12 and 8x12 would suggest the governmental claims of God vindicated on earth by the Head of the Church, the "New Man."
That which is foreshadowed in the Boards is the Person of Christ as what sustained His work. The massive framework of the golden Boards was to the Curtains and Coverings, suspended from them, what the poles are to a tent. "They upheld and sustained the glorious display of the blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen cherubim, as also the goats’ hair curtains. Thus what the Lord Jesus Himself was, and is, viz., Son of God, Son of Man, that He has made manifest in His life, and above all, in His death on the cross: and His blessed work there, derives all of its unspeakable value and eternal efficacy from Himself. It is faith in Him that is salvation: ‘He that believeth on the Son hath life.’ May there not be a tendency to separate too much the work of the Lord Jesus from His person? to preach the death of the blessed Lord without sufficiently preaching also the Lord Himself?
"The boards and bars have the same relation to the Tabernacle itself, as the truth contained in the first two chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews has to the rest of the Epistle. In the first two chapters, the great foundations of faith are laid. The Lord Jesus Christ is presented to us as the Son; the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person; God, the Creator—the Sustainer of all things. He is also presented to us as the Son of Man, partaker of flesh and blood in order to die; the Firstborn from the dead; all things put under Him; anointed above His fellows; not ashamed to call them brethren. On these great truths respecting Christ, depend all the other great verities connected with the value of His sacrifice; the glory and power of His priesthood; the eternal salvation, the eternal redemption, and the eternal inheritance which are obtained for us by His blood" (Mr. G. Soltau).
5. Their Distribution.
Twenty of the acacia Boards, overlaid with gold, were used for the south side of the Tabernacle (v.18), twenty were used on the north side (v. 20), two boards were used for the corners of the two sides at the rear; and six more completed the back (v. 25). Thus the numeral which is most prominent here is two, one of the scriptural meanings of which is testimony or witness: "in the month of two or three witnesses the truth shall be established." So also when Christ sent forth the disciples to bear testimony unto Him it was by two and two. Therefore is the second person of the Godhead called "the faithful and true Witness" (Rev. 3:14). Thus have we another hint here of the distinctive significance of our present type—it is the person of the Lord Jesus with His two natures; Divine and human.
Separate consideration should be given to the two "corner boards" see vv. 23, 24. It was these which gave increased stability to the whole structure. "Our thoughts naturally turn to the two occasions on which the Lord is spoken of in Scripture with reference to the corner; ‘Behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a Stone, a tried Stone, a precious corner Stone, a sure foundation’ (Isa. 28:16). ‘The Stone, which the builders refused, is become the Head-stone of the corner.’ (Ps. 118:22). Here we have presented to us, a corner-stone as foundation, and a corner-stone crowning the building: the beginning and the end. The whole strength of the edifice depending on the firmness of the foundation corner-stone; and the whole compactness, and knitting together of the building as one depending on the head-stone of the corner. God laid the foundation in the death of His Son; He completed the building in His resurrection. The walls of living stones rest securely on this Rock of Ages, and are bound everlastingly together on the top-stone. The corner-boards of the Tabernacle may have some reference to these blessed truths" (Mr. G. Soltau).
6. Their Couplings.
"Two tenons shall there be on one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the Tabernacle" (v. 17). As the margin informs us, the Hebrew word rendered "tenons" is literally "hands," and it is to be regretted that the translators did not use this word in the text itself. These "hands" grasped the Boards and held them securely in place. Most beautifully did they prefigure the God-man in His voluntary humiliation, dependent upon and in subjection to the Father. As the perfect Servant He was upheld and sustained by the hands of God the Father from above, the Spirit below ministering to Him. Of old the Spirit of prophecy cried "Let Thy hand be upon the Man of Thy right hand, upon the Son of Man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself" (Ps. 80:17). So in one of the Messianic Psalms (see 5:5) we find the dependent One saying, "My times are in Thy hand" (Ps. 31:15). Beautiful is it to hear Him crying from the cross, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" (Luke 23:46). But how blessed to know that He is now seated on "the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3)! Thus we see, once more, there is a spiritual significance to the minutest detail in these Tabernacle types.
7. Their Bars.
These are described in much detail in verses 26-29, to which we would ask the reader to turn. The "bars" were employed to unite the Boards together firmly and solidly. "Each of the boards terminated, as to the lower extremity, in two tenons, which were inserted into mortises in two sockets of silver. The boards were also sustained in their upright position and linked together by five bars of shittim wood, overlaid with gold, which ran through rings or staples of gold inserted in the boards. The middle bar of the five ran the whole length of the Tabernacle, uniting all the twenty boards together; the other four bars, of which two were placed above, and two below the middle bar, are not described as running all the length, but perhaps only extended half the distance, namely, fifteen cubits each. A similar number of bars coupled the boards composing the north side, and also the west end of the Tabernacle. On the whole therefore there were forty-eight boards and fifteen bars" (Mr. Soitau).
The typical meaning of these "bars" is not difficult to perceive, though they point to that which lies altogether beyond our finite grasp. They served to give unity to the structure by securely linking the Boards together. The wooden Boards, overlaid with gold, portrayed the two natures in Christ: the "bars" pointed to the perfect union between them. Though very God of very God, and also very Man of very Man, yet is our Savior not two persons, but one—the God-man. Though totally distinct, yet are His two natures perfectly and forever joined together, though none of us can say where nor understand how they meet. How significant, then, that these very "bars" which united the boards were themselves made of wood overlaid with gold! May the Spirit of God continue to unfold to us the glories of our Divine Savior.