Exodus 40

When we started our study of the Book of Exodus, we learned about the Israelite’s cruel slavery in Egypt. But we also saw how God raised up Moses to be their deliverer. After being rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, he grew up as a prince, but later fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian. When he was 80 years old, God called him out of Midian to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. After God sent ten plagues against the Egyptians, the stubborn Pharaoh let them go but later tried to recapture them at the Red Sea. God’s mighty works were displayed as the waters parted allowing the Israelites to cross over on dry land but later fell down and drowned the Egyptian army.

Time after time, the Lord showed his great power to the Israelites. But they continued to complain and ask to go back to Egypt. When Moses stayed on the mountain for 40 days, the Israelites convinced Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship and this made God want to destroy them and start over with Moses’ family. But Moses pleaded for mercy and led the people to choose to serve the Lord under the Ten Commandments and other of God’s laws. After this agreement was reached, God commanded them to build a tabernacle and its furnishings.

It has been a long journey through the Book of Exodus. Today we reach the last chapter which ends with the assembling of the tabernacle and its presentation to the Lord. The final chapter can be divided into three sections: (1) what God commanded (40:1-15), (2) what Moses did (40:16-33), and (3) how God responded (40:34-38). As we look through the chapter, let’s keep our eyes open for lessons God has for us.

  1. What God commanded (40:1-15)

    After all the articles had been made, the Lord instructed Moses to assemble the tabernacle. As with the instructions about building the tabernacle, God was very specific about when and how it was to be assembled.

    a. He commanded when to assemble the tabernacle (2a).

    The Lord told Moses to assemble the tabernacle on the first day of the first month. This gives us an idea of how long the Israelites had been in the wilderness and how long it took to build the tabernacle. How long do you think it took?

    “The tabernacle was erected (v. 1) about a year after the Exodus from Egypt: on the first day of the first month (v. 2), ‘in the second year’ (v. 17). The Exodus occurred on the 14th day of the first month (12:2, 6, 33-34). Since the people arrived at Sinai three months after the Exodus, they were at Sinai eight and one-half months. Part of that time (at least 80 days) Moses was on the mountain (40 days, 24:18; and another 40 days for the covenant renewal, 34:28). So perhaps about six and one-half months were involved in gathering the materials and constructing the tabernacle” (Hannah 161-62).

    b. He commanded how to assemble the tabernacle (2b-8).

    I recently hired a designer to make a logo for my work truck. After some failed attempts with other graphic designers, I was very specific with how the logo should be made. Because I was specific, the designer was able to make the logo exactly as I wanted. It pays to be detailed.

    God was careful to tell Moses exactly how the tabernacle was to be setup. He gave minute details about the constructions earlier, and now details of how things were to be setup.

    3 – the ark of the covenant partitioned off by a curtain
    4 – the golden table and lampstand
    5 – the golden altar of incense and the entrance screen
    6 – the altar of burnt offering outside the tabernacle
    7 – the laver between the altar and tabernacle
    8 – the court and its entrance screen

    c. He commanded to anoint the tabernacle and priests (9-15).

    God wanted the articles and priests to be anointed before service began. Anointing oil was used to sanctify thing and people for God’s service. You may remember that Samuel anointed Saul and then David to be kings. This was symbolic of setting them and, in the case of the tabernacle, the objects for God’s service.

    Do you consider yourself anointed for God’s service? I don’t mean to ask if you have had oil poured on your head, but if you have been set apart from the world to serve the one, true God.

    Romans 12:1-2“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

    God wants each believer to set himself or herself for His service. And doesn’t it make sense to do that? Shouldn’t we who have been set free from our sin, who have been forgiven by God, be willing to serve Him with the remainder of our lives? Yes, we should.

  2. What Moses did (40:16-33)

    After hearing what God commanded, how do you think Moses responded?

    a. He obeyed God’s commands (16).

    Verse 16 is a simple statement but also one that says a lot. Moses did what God had commanded. “Seven times in this chapter Moses is said to have done exactly as the Lord commanded him (vv. 19, 21, 23, 25-26, 29, 32)” (Hannah 162). After meeting with God on the mountain, Moses knew how important obedience was to Him. The Israelites had almost been destroyed for the sinful golden calf incident. God’s ways are to be obeyed in the exact way that He commands and no other way.

    This is a good time to think about an application. God wants you to obey Him as well. He has not commanded you to build a tabernacle of gold and precious materials, but He has commanded you to live your life the way He says is best. That involves keeping yourself from sin, reading and obeying the Bible, talking to God on a regular basis, attending church services, and having a thankful heart. Are you being obedient?

    b. He assembled the inside of the tabernacle (17-28).

    In this section, Moses placed various articles inside the tabernacle in the exact locations prescribed by the Lord.

    17 – started on the first day of the year
    18 – the tabernacle structure was erected
    19 – the tent covered the tabernacle
    20 – the stone tablets were placed in the ark, the poles and mercy seat were seated
    21 – the ark was placed behind the veil
    22 – the golden table on the north side
    23 – the bread was put on the table
    24 – the lamp on the south side
    25 – the lamp was lit
    26 – the altar of incense in front of the veil
    27 – incense was burned
    28 – the screen covered the entrance

    c. He assembled the outside of the tabernacle (29-33).

    In this section, Moses puts in place all the exterior articles which were commanded by the Lord.

    29 – the brass altar outside the tabernacle, with burnt and grain offerings
    30-32 – the brass laver was filled with water for washing Moses, Aaron, and the priests
    33 – the courtyard fence was raised and the entrance screen

    God told Moses to build the tabernacle and then to assemble it on the first day of the year. Moses did exactly as God commanded. The tabernacle and all its pieces were put together, the priests and furnishings were anointed, and then they waited for God’s response.

  3. How God responded (34-38)

    How do you think God responded to Moses’ obedience? Was he pleased with the people? Had they done all that He had commanded them? Let us see.

    a. His glory filled the tabernacle (34-35).

    As Moses, Aaron, and the others finished their jobs, they were suddenly aware that God was there. The cloud in the sky that had led them so far now lowered itself and covered the newly-assembled tabernacle. It so permeated the tent and was so filled with God’s glory that Moses could not enter the tabernacle.

    What was the purpose of the tabernacle? You might think of the sacrifices, the ark of the covenant, or other things, but the major purpose was to provide a physical location for God to show His presence to the people.

    Exodus 29:45“So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”

    “God’s promise (‘I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God,’ 29:45) was fulfilled as the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Hannah 162). This must have been an emotion-filled experience for those who had helped with the building project. The Lord Himself was filling the temple with His glory and was pleased with their work.

    b. He directed from the tabernacle (36-37).

    As in the past, the Lord used the cloud to show the Israelites when it was time to move to a new location. When the cloud was on the tabernacle, they knew it was time to unpack and settle down. But when the cloud was raised into the air, they knew it was time to pack up and go to a different location.

    c. He remained with them at the tabernacle (38).

    During the day, God showed His presence by a cloud, but at night, He used a fire to show His presence. The cloud and fire were evidence that God was still with His people and had not left them alone.

What a great feeling this must have been for God’s people. They could see clear evidence that God was with them. It reminds me of the song, “God Himself is with Us” by Gerhard Tersteegen.

God Himself is with us
Let us now adore Him
And with awe appear before Him
God is in His temple
All within keep silence
Prostrate lie with deepest reverence
Him alone God we own
Him our God and Savior
Praise His name forever

Do you feel that God is with you? Without a cloud or fire above the church building, you may wonder how we can know that He is with us. Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus promised to give his followers the Holy Spirit to live within them. And this is exactly what has happened to every believer today. We who have repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus have been given the Holy Spirit. He is evidence that we have been born again and that God will keep His promises to us.


During Moses’ time, our holy God instructed the people to build the tabernacle, to offer sacrifices, and to obey His commands. Those who wanted to know and serve the Lord, followed His commands and found forgiveness of their sins and a new meaning to their lives. After completing the tabernacle, they saw the pillar of cloud and God’s glory filling the tabernacle. They knew that God was with them.

During our time, our holy God has replaced the tabernacle, sacrifices, and pillar of cloud with a new way to know and serve Him. God sent His Son to be the final sacrifice for sins. This He did on the cross where He paid for the sins of the world. Now all who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus find complete forgiveness and a new life in Him. Every true believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment they believe. In this way, God is with us all the time.

While we have enjoyed studying the details of the tabernacle and how God worked with the Old Testament believers, we should be thankful that it is no longer necessary. Jesus has paid it all and opened the way for a close relationship with God the Father. And every day, we can know Him, pray to Him, learn from Him, and represent Him to others we meet.


Hannah, John D., “Exodus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, p. 161-62.

“God Himself is with Us (Tersteegen)” as viewed at http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/g/h/i/m/ghimself.htm on 1/28/2023.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981, pp. 319.

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