Psalm 52:8 says, “But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.” One of the early church fathers – I can’t remember which one and I don’t have the time or inclination to try to find out – claimed that this Psalm was allegorically stating that virginity was the highest calling within Christianity. Man, some people can make the Bible say whatever they want. Right? Take an obscure passage or command and turn it. And usually this turning is about selfishness and/or culture. The church, for a time, downplayed marriage and venerated celibacy as the ultimate sacrament. Also, allegory was extremely popular. And why not, it is a means of making anything mean anything. O, look that green olive tree in the temple, that is clearly an allegory for celibacy. So, a culture driven spiritual leader ripped a passage right out of its context and gave it a completely foreign meaning. Good thing that would never happen today.
Exodus 38:1-20 is about the construction of the altar of offering, the laver of bronze, and the courtyard. There is only one addition found in this passage, and that difference has caused a lot of discussion. More on that later. We are dealing with an account of the construction of things for which we have already been given instructions for construction. So, there is a lot of repeating information. The author could have said simply, “And they constructed the altar, the laver, and the courtyard.” Twenty verses could have been chiseled down to one statement. But sometimes we need reminders, don’t we?
And with the altar and the laver, there was this reminder of the importance of being clean before approaching the Presence of Yahweh. Sacrifices had to be made; blood had to be shed. Otherwise, the people would remain in their sin. Forgiveness sealed with innocent blood and the people could be in the Presence of God. And before the priests could approach they had to wash their hands and feet in this bronze laver, which is later called a “sea”. A sea of washing before approach. It is a reminder of the holiness of God and of our need to be cleaned; to be sanctified.
The courtyard was a reminder that all could gather to worship. There was only one courtyard – no court of women or court of Gentiles. No! One court and one entrance into the court. And the court was constructed so that if you were outside the court you could see the Tabernacle from your tent, but if you were on the inside, you could not see your tent. The Tabernacle is the focus. The Presence of Yahweh is the focus. The only distinction was that the priests could enter into the holy place and the high priest could enter the holiest place once a year on the Day of Atonement. A distinction that does not exist today because Jesus is the curtain through which we, all of us, enter into the Presence of Yahweh. The court of women was a man-design to demonstrate male superiority.
And that brings us to verse 8. The laver was made of the bronze – or copper – of the mirrors of the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. In verses 29-30 we are given a list of things made out of donated bronze and the laver is not mentioned. Okay . . . What and why? We don’t know. Some have tried to construct an answer here that leaves the laver as somehow inferior to the articles mentioned in verses 29-30. Again, the real answer is we don’t know. But the even more curious question is “Who are these women and where did they serve?” The word “serve” is primarily a military term, but it is used of the Levites and their service in the Tabernacle. But the Tabernacle is in the process of being constructed here. So, if the Tabernacle is what is being referenced, the women would be those who were chosen to serve at the door of the Tabernacle after it had been finished. We have no idea what that service was. We do find the same phrase in 1 Samuel 2:22 where we are told the sons of Eli slept with these women. Were they cultic prostitutes? If so, that was definitely not their original service. Maybe, the people took what God deigned to be a service of women and turned it. Maybe men could not stand to have women doing any real significant service and so they turned God’s design, once again, into their own design. Most nations surrounding the Israelites had cultic prostitutes. So, these women serving at the door of the Tent of Appointed Meeting? They must be for . . . our selfish gratification. It is a complete disrespect of a God designed service. Here is what I know; God did not plan on these women to be relegated to mere play things for men. This is holiness turned. And women are still called to serve in holiness. Respect! Walter