The Lampstand

Exodus 25:31-40 (NASB)

31 "Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.
32 "Six branches shall go out from its sides; three branches of the lampstand from its one side and three branches of the lampstand from its other side.
33 "Three cups shall be shaped like almond blossoms in the one branch, a bulb and a flower, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms in the other branch, a bulb and a flower--so for six branches going out from the lampstand;
34 and in the lampstand four cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers.
35 "A bulb shall be under the first pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the second pair of branches coming out of it, and a bulb under the third pair of branches coming out of it, for the six branches coming out of the lampstand.
36 "Their bulbs and their branches shall be of one piece with it; all of it shall be one piece of hammered work of pure gold.
37 "Then you shall make its lamps seven in number; and they shall mount its lamps so as to shed light on the space in front of it.
38 "Its snuffers and their trays shall be of pure gold.
39 "It shall be made from a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils.
40 "See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.

Details of Construction

Exodus 25:31-40 gives a general description of the lampstand (Menorah). It was hammered from one piece of solid gold as opposed to several pieces being joined together. It had 7 branches and there were bulbs and flowers design on the branches. According to Jewish traditions, the Menorah was 18 handbreadths (4.5 feet) high. It weighed one talent (100 lbs).

In A.D. 70, the Romans carried the booty of the Jerusalem Temple to Rome. A stone relief of that Menorah can be viewed in the Triumphal Arch of Titus, located just north of the Coliseum in Rome. This is the most accurate depiction we have of the Menorah.

In 1999, the Temple Institute had constructed a Menorah suitable for the next Holy Temple. According to the Institute, it was built to the exact specifications of the Torah. This Menorah however is hollow. It was built with a bronze substructure, which was then immersed in a vat of gold. It is thus plated with almost 95 lbs. of "one piece of gold".

The Service of the Lampstand

The original Menorah was placed adjacent to the south wall, just across the room from the table of showbread in the Holy Place of Moses' Tabernacle. Jewish tradition says it stood obliquely toward the east and toward the south. Some Rabbinic sources say the three eastern lamps faced northwest toward the center lamp and the three western lamps faced southeast toward the center lamp. The center lamp faced northeast toward the middle of the room. This center lamp was also called the "Western Lamp" because it stood just west of the three eastern lamps. Each lamp held "six eggs" measure of oil which would last half a day.

In the tabernacle in the wilderness, the lamps of the newly constructed menorah were cleaned by the priests in the morning and lit in the evening with the consecrated fire from the altar. Later tradition says that the center lamp burned continuously, both day and night, on the same amount of oil. Rabbis called this "the miracle of the Menorah."

Tradition from the days of the Second Temple says that a priest would service the lamps, except the two most easterly, twice every day, morning and evening. He trimmed and refilled the lamps that were still burning. If he found any lamps extinguished, he removed the wicked and old oil from those which had become extinguished, supplied fresh oil, and re-lighted them from the center lamp. But the center lamp might only be re-lighted by fire from the altar itself. The two eastern lamps were left burning until after the morning service. The center lamp was left burning all day and was refilled in the evening.

Related Topics

Hanukkah - Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jews around the world usually in December. Part of the celebration is to light a nine-branched Menorah. Read this article to learn the story of Hanukkah and the origin of the nine-branched Menorah.

Talmudic Evidence for the Messiah at 30 C.E. - From the year 30 C.E. until the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., every night for 40 years, the center lamp went out on its own no matter what attempts and precautions the priests took to safeguard against it. Read more about this and other miracles that happened in 30 C.E.

References

Edersheim, Alfred. "The Temple - Its Ministry and Services As They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ." http://www.ccel.org/e/edersheim/temple/temple.htm [Originally published: 1874]

Church, J.R. "Pope Asked to Return Temple Menorah." http://bibeltemplet.net/Menorah.html April 1996.

"The Real Story of Chanukah." http://www.jacsweb.org/spirituality/chanukah.html