The Beautiful Veil: Exodus 26:31-37

Exodus 26:31‑37  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The framework of the Tabernacle, considered in the last chapter, comprised the Tabernacle proper; that is, the holy place, and the most holy. Outside of this, as will be seen in due course, there was the court of the Tabernacle, completing the threefold division. But inside the framework there were only these two—the holy place and the holy of holies. So far, however, this division has not been shown; but provision is now made for it in the direction given in the following scripture concerning the veil,
“And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: and thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.
“And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. And thou shalt put the mercy-seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side. And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework. And thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them” (vss. 31-37).
(1) There are several distinct points in the description of the veil to be considered. As to its materials, it will be perceived that they correspond in every particular with those of the curtains forming the Tabernacle (26:1). As in these, therefore, so in the veil, it is Christ who is presented—Christ in what He is as to His nature and character, Christ in what He will be as Son of man and Son of David in the future glories of His millennial reign, and Christ, moreover, as Son of man invested with supreme judicial power. There is one difference to be noted. In the curtains of the Tabernacle the fine twined linen comes first; here the blue has the precedence, and the fine twined linen comes last. The reason is that the curtains display Christ in connection with the earth, and hence the absolute purity of His nature is the first thing declared; whereas the veil shows Christ rather in connection with heaven, and consequently the blue—His heavenly character—is prominent. The interpretation of the veil is found in the epistle to the Hebrews: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh” (Heb. 10:19-2019Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (Hebrews 10:19‑20)) (Heb. 10:19-2019Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (Hebrews 10:19‑20)). From this two things may be gathered. First, that just as the veil in the Tabernacle concealed the scene of the immediate presence and manifestation of God, so the flesh of Christ, Christ in incarnation, concealed from the natural eye the presence-chamber of God. He was God manifest in flesh; but His flesh, at the same time, was calculated to blind the eyes of men to this astounding fact. The second is, that just as the veil was the only way into the most holy place, so Christ is the only way to God. He thus said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:66Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)).
The supports of the veil were threefold. There were, first, the pillars, then the hooks, and lastly, the sockets of silver (Ex. 26:3232And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. (Exodus 26:32)). The pillars were of shittim wood, overlaid with gold—as seen in the boards. This symbolizes, as shown more than once, the person of Christ in His two natures, human and divine—as the God-man. The lesson then is—inasmuch as the veil was supported by these pillars—that everything in redemption depends upon the person of Christ. If He had not been man, He could not have died for our sins; and if He had been only man, His sacrifice could not have availed for all His people. But being God and man, He could make propitiation for the sins of His people and for the whole world (1 John 2:22And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)) The whole value of His work flows from His person; and hence the importance of holding fast the true Scriptural teaching on this point, and of guarding this most blessed doctrine on every hand. If the truth of the person of Christ could be undermined, the whole fabric and structure of redemption would be endangered. Hence the care and, it may be added, the delight of the Spirit of God to testify to it in every shape and form, in figure and type, as well as in distinct words. The hooks were of gold. Gold is divine righteousness. If thee, as shown, everything in redemption depends upon the person of Christ, it is equally true, as seen in the fact that the veil was suspended upon these hooks of gold, that everything likewise depends upon the display of God’s righteousness in Christ. Or it might be affirmed more directly still, that Christ holds the place of the way to God in divine righteousness. For since He glorified God on the earth, and finished the work which He gave Him to do, God’s righteousness was seen in raising Him from the dead, and setting Him at His own right hand. All that God is, is concerned, and righteously concerned, in placing and sustaining Him in the position He thus occupies. The sockets were of silver—figure of the blood of atonement. This carries us down to the foundation of all—the work which Christ wrought out on the cross. These two things—the blood and the veil—are conjoined in the passage already cited from the Hebrews. God will never have it forgotten that the cross is the foundation of everything, of the blessing both of the church and of Israel, as well as of the reconciliation of all things. And the delight of His own heart in what Christ is and has done, is sufficiently revealed in the fact, that every minute thing in connection with His sanctuary points to the one or the other—all alike revealing, if in different aspects, Christ and His work.
The position of the veil is most important. “And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy,” (vs. 33). It thus shut off, as before explained, the holiest of all, in which the ark of the testimony—the throne of God on earth—was placed, so that none might enter there, save Aaron once a year on the great day of atonement (Lev. 16). And what, it may be asked, was the meaning of this? The answer may be given in the words of Scripture: “The Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing?” (Heb. 9:88The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: (Hebrews 9:8)). If then, on the one hand, as we have seen, the veil, as a figure of Christ, teaches the blessed truth that it is through Christ alone that access can be obtained to God, the veil in itself; on the other hand, speaks of distance and concealment. God indeed could not fully reveal Himself, could not righteously go out to the sinner, or bring the sinner in to Himself, until the question of sin should be taken up and settled once and forever. This Christ did, and, as a consequence, immediately that He gave up the Spirit, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom (Matt. 27). The veil therefore in the Tabernacle showed that the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest, and by that, not only proved that the question of sin was not yet dealt with, but also that the people were sinners, and as such unfit for the presence of God. Both gifts and sacrifices were offered on their behalf, but these could not make them that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, or they would have possessed an indefeasible title to enter the holiest. No; it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins; and hence, with guilt bound upon their consciences, they dared not come into the presence of a holy God; and He (be it said with all reverence) could not go out to them, for God in His holiness is a consuming fire.
The existence of the veil therefore reveals the contrast between the position of Israel and that of believers. Israel was shut out, never had access into the holiest; Moses, owned in grace as the mediator, and Aaron as the high priest, once a year, were alone permitted to enter. But now every believer enjoys this precious privilege. (See Heb. 10:19-2219Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21And having an high priest over the house of God; 22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19‑22).) The veil is rent; for “Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:11-1211But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:11‑12)). Inside the rent veil is therefore our only place of worship; and we can enter with all boldness, because Christ by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Nor should another contrast be forgotten. Even when Aaron did enter the holiest, he was not in the presence of God as the believer now is. God was only revealed then as Jehovah; but now believers know Him as their God and Father. Hence the apostle says, “Through Him (Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:1818For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)) (Eph. 2:1818For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:18); see also John 20:1717Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17)). While therefore we are filled with admiration at the wisdom of God, as seen in the depicted glories and adumbrations of Christ in the Tabernacle, we are constrained to bow before Him with adoring praise as we learn, by contrast, the grace that has brought us into the full enjoyment of all here typified, and of even larger blessings than these.
(2) The arrangement of the holy furniture follows (vss. 33-35). It will be needful to remember once again that the altar of incense is not yet described, because it is a symbol of approach (and hence belongs to the last division of this section). The articles given are all symbols of display. Leaving on this account, for the present, any detailed exposition, a brief notice may be given of the arrangement in this scripture. The ark, first of all, was to be put into the holiest, and the mercy-seat upon the ark of the testimony—with “the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat” (Heb. 9:55And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. (Hebrews 9:5)). Nothing else was found in the most holy place, because, as before explained, it was the scene of the presence and manifestation of God. There, dwelling between the cherubim, He was approached with the incense from off the golden altar, and with the blood of the sacrifices on the day of atonement; and there Moses stood to receive communications for the people. The beautiful veil shut it off from the holy place. It was therefore the inner compartment of the Tabernacle. Outside the veil, in the holy place, the table of shewbread and the candlestick were arranged; the former on the north, and the table on the south side. To borrow the language of another, “Outside the veil were the table with its twelve loaves and the golden candlestick. Twelve is administrative perfection in man; seven, spiritual completeness, whether in good or evil. The two are found outside the veil, inside which was the most immediate manifestation of God, the Supreme, but who hid Himself, as it were, in darkness. Here was light and nourishment; God in power in union with humanity; and God giving the light of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is that we have twelve apostles attached to the Lord in the flesh, and seven churches for Him who has the seven Spirits of God. The twelve tribes were, for the time being, what answered externally to this manifestation. it is found in the new Jerusalem. The primary idea is the manifestation of God in man and by the Spirit.” And these two truths are connected—shown to be connected by the relative positions of the table and the candlestick; the light of the candlestick indeed ever testifying to the truth embodied in the table at shewbread.
(3) The last thing connected with this part of the subject is the “hanging for the door of the tent,” This “hanging” shut off the court of the Tabernacle from the holy place, and formed the doorway into it. It occupied the same position in reference to the holy place, as the beautiful veil did in respect of the holy of holies. When therefore the priests came from the court (not yet described), they passed through this “hanging” into the holy place to accomplish their service. Its materials correspond with those of the beautiful veil. But there is one important difference. There were no cherubim embroidered on the “hanging.” Otherwise it was the same; and hence the typical teaching of the one will apply to the other. What, then, is the significance of the omission of the cherubim? These, it will be remembered, set forth the Son of Aran in His judicial character. The “hanging,” then, equally with the veil, is a figure of Christ—with His judicial character carefully excluded. The reason is obvious. In the “hanging” He is presented in grace, to those that were without, as the way into the position and privileges of priests, as the way into the presence of God in this character. The pillars are also made of the same material, as well as the hooks; and point likewise to the person of Christ, and to divine righteousness, as accomplished and displayed in Him at the right hand of God. But there are five pillars instead of four. This may arise from what has been already stated—that the “hanging” is Christ in presentation to the world in grace, and thus brings with it the thought of responsibility man-wards. The sockets were of brass instead of silver. Brass, as ever, is divine righteousness testing man in responsibility. This will be more fully explained in the next chapter; but it is easily understood that Christ presented in grace, is Christ presented to, and hence a test of, responsible man. The moment, however, the question of his sins is settled, not only before God, but also for his own conscience, Christ is become for him the way into God’s presence. Thereafter everything is socketed in silver, for he stands now upon accomplished atonement; in Christ he has redemption through His blood.
Everything still portrays Christ. It may be, and undoubtedly is, difficult to interpret some of the minute details; if, however, Christ is before the soul, some ray of His glory will soon be discovered, Let there but be patience and conscious dependence, combined with watchfulness against the activity of the mind, and the Spirit of God will delight to unfold these shadows to the souls of His people.