Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
Only a few decades ago, it was not unusual for books to be written and sermons to be preached about the various details of the Old Testament tabernacle. These usually came at the subject typologically, demonstrating how Christ fulfilled everything. They were often illuminating, even inspiring. But as Raymond Brown says in his commentary, most interpretations revealed ‘more of the expositor’s ingenuity than the message of Scripture.’
He goes on to quote Calvin:
‘Since nothing is enough for inquisitive men the apostle cuts out any opportunity for subtleties…in case too much discussion of these things might break the thread of his argument…philosophizing beyond reasonable bounds (as some do) is not only futile but also dangerous…we must show discretion and moderation in case we desire to know more than it has pleased God to reveal.’ (‘Christ above all’, p.152).
The comment at the end of verse 5 is quite tantalising. We might wonder what he would have said had he chosen to go into detail. (Rather like we may think, ‘I wish I could have been there for that Bible study Jesus gave the two on the road to Emmaus’: Luke 24: 27&32). But the writer of Hebrews intends to continue with his main aim: to demonstrate the superiority of the substance we have in Christ, over all the Old Testament shadows.
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