Exodus 40

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said “Moses, 2on the first day of the first month I want you to set up the sanctuary, the new meeting tent. 3Place the chest containing the commandments and set up the curtain to hide it from view. 4Bring the table in and arrange the things on it and bring in the lampstand and prepare its lamps. 5Put the gold incense altar in front of the chest containing the commandments and set up the curtain panels at the entrance to the sanctuary. 6The altar of burned offerings should be set up in front of the entrance to the sanctuary of the meeting tent. 7Set the basin between the tent and the altar and fill it with water. 8Set up the panels enclosing the courtyard all around. Hang the section that will serve as the gateway for the courtyard.

9“Then use the anointing oil to sprinkle the sanctuary and everything in it, including the furnishings, so that it will be dedicated to me. 10Sprinkle the oil on the altar for burning offerings and on all its tools; in this way you will dedicate the altar to me, and it will be especially sacred. 11Do the same for the basin and its stand.

16“Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the meeting tent and bathe them with water. 13Put the special priestly clothes on Aaron. Pour oil on his head to set him apart to my service. 14Then do the same for his sons. Bring them forward and dress them, 15and then use the anointing oil to set them apart just as you did for their father so that they, too, will be set apart to my service. When you anoint them, they will enter a permanent priesthood from this time on.”

16Moses did everything exactly as the LORD told him. 17In the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, the sanctuary was erected. 18Moses had the sanctuary set up. The bases were laid, the frames were lined up, the poles were raised, and the posts were stood in place. 19The tent was spread over the arrangement and the covering of skins and leather on top of that, just as the LORD had described to Moses. 20He placed the stone tablet of Rules in the chest, inserted the carrying poles and placed the cover on it. 21He brought the chest into the sanctuary and set up the curtain panels to screen the chest as the LORD had instructed him. 22He set the table in the tent on the north side of the sanctuary outside the linen screen, 23and put the special bread on it as the LORD had said. 24He placed the lampstand in the meeting tent, across from the table on the south side of the sanctuary 25and set up the lamps as the LORD had commanded. 26He placed the golden altar in the tent in front of the screen 27and poured sweet-smelling incense on it as the LORD had commanded. 28He also placed the curtain screen for the entrance to the sanctuary. 29The altar for burning offerings was set up at the entrance of the sanctuary where offerings of burned and grain offerings were made as the LORD had instructed Moses. 30He put the basin between the meeting tent and the altar, and filled it with water, 31so that Moses and Aaron and his sons could wash their hands and feet 32each time they entered the meeting tent and each time they approached the altar. This was just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 33Then he had them set up the courtyard around the sanctuary tent and the altar, and set up the panels at the gate.

And so, the work was finished.

34Then the cloud settled over the sanctuary tent and the light of the LORD filled it. 35Moses could not enter the tent because the cloud had covered it and the LORD’s light had filled it.

36So, whenever the cloud was lifted from the tent, the Israelites would set out on the next stage of their journey. 37But as long as the cloud was there, they stayed where they were until the next time the cloud lifted. 38The LORD’s cloud was on the sanctuary during the day, and the fire glowed at night in full view of all the Israelites at each stop along their journey.


1-15: God tells Moses that the first day of the month is the day to put it all together. “The sanctuary of the tent of meeting” probably means that the sanctuary replaces the tent of meeting as the place where God will be present in the camp. The tabernacle is to be set up in a specific order. Then it and all the sacred furnishings are to be anointed with the special anointing oil (30:22-29). Then Aaron and his sons are to be brought forward and ordained according to the instructions given earlier (29:4-9).

16-33: Moses does everything as ordered, with one small addition: in verse 31 we read for the first time that Moses, along with Aaron and his sons, is taking part in the hand washing, which means that Moses is also authorized to enter the most holy place and minister before the ark of the covenant.

34-38: The curious cloud settles upon the tabernacle as soon as it is completed, and Moses is not able to enter it. It is explained that the arrival and departure of the cloud is to be the signal for when they are to set up camp and break camp.


The details of the sanctuary and the priestly garments and the sacrifices and the festivals are tedious to read, but they lead to the establishment of the people of Israel as God’s people, which leads to their settlement eventually in what will become the nation of Israel, which leads to centuries of victories and defeats, until God steps into the picture again, this time as a baby born in Bethlehem.