Camping Around the Tabernacle

According to the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, the tribes of Israel camped around the tabernacle in the wilderness under silk banners whose colors corresponded to the colors of the tribal stones of the High Priest’s breastplate.[i]

The tribes did not camp according to the birth order of Israel’s sons: 

  • Leah: Reuben (1), Simeon (2), Levi (3), Judah (4), Issachar (9), Zebulon (10)
  • Bilhah (Rachel’s handmaid):  Dan (5), Naphtali (6)
  • Zilpah (Leah’s handmaid): Gad (7), Asher (8)
  • Rachel: Joseph (11), Benjamin (12)

Instead, the four camps of 3 clans each dwelled around the tabernacle with their silk colored banners which portrayed the symbol of their camp. 

The camp of Judah whose symbol was the Lion was located east of the tabernacle.  It consisted of the clans of Judah (sardius), Issachar (topaz), and Zebulon (carbuncle).  “Arise, 0 Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered, and Thine adversaries be driven away before Thee” was written on their banners.   

The camp of Reuben whose symbol was a stag instead of a young ox was located to the south.  It consisted of the clans of Reuben (azmorad), Simeon (sapphire), and Gad (adamant).  “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is One” was written on their banners.  The Targum indicates that it was Moses decision for their banners to have a stag instead of a young ox so the incident with the golden calf would not be remembered against them. 

The camp of the Levites surrounded the Tabernacle with all the other camps set up beyond them.  Moses, Aaron & his sons camped to the east, Kohath camped to the south, Gershom camped to the west, and Merari camped to the north.  In one way, the location of the Levites around the tabernacle is comparable to the living creatures which surrounded the throne of God while the other camps around the Tabernacle were like the 24 thrones in heaven (Rev. 4:2-8).   Incidentally, the 24 thrones in heaven probably correspond to the 24 divisions of the Levitical priests (1 Chron. 24:1-18) so it appears the camp of the whole nation of Israel foreshadowed a time in which all believers would be part of a royal priesthood.

The camp of Ephraim whose symbol was a young man was located to the west.  It consisted of the clans of Ephraim (ligure), Manasseh (agate), and Benjamin (amethyst).  On their banners was written:  “And the Cloud of the Lord was over them, in the going forward of the host.”

The camp of Dan whose symbol was a basilisk serpent was located to the north.  It consisted of the clans of Dan (chrysolite), Asher (beryl), and Naphtali (jasper).  On their banners was written: “And in his encampment shall he say, Return, 0 Lord, and dwell in Thy glory in the midst of the myriads of Israel.”  Most agree that the eagle is the counterpart of the serpent.

God was enthroned in the center of the camp similar to:

  • The chariot seen in Ezekiel’s vision:  “Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings… As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.”  (Ezek 1:4-6, 10-11) 
    • The faces of the living creatures correspond to the four camps of Israel.  The face of the man corresponds to Ephraim, the lion to Judah, the ox to Reuben, and the eagle to Dan.
  • John’s vision in Revelation 4:2-8:  “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.  6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:  “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”   
    • Here again, the living creatures seem to represent the clans of Israel as they had camped around the tabernacle in the wilderness.  The one like a man corresponds to Ephraim, the lion to Judah, the calf to Reuben, and the flying eagle to Dan.  I believe God desired Dan to be similar to a swift eagle but instead he became a serpent as Israel prophesied in Genesis 49:17.  When the end comes, the descendants of Dan may be where the eagles are gathered since they are not listed among the 144,000 (Luke 17:37, Rev. 19:17, 21).  In other words, they will be eaten by birds of prey.
  • The Holy Spirit dwelling within the heart of believers.  If this is the case, how can our flesh be like the creatures which surround the throne and/or the camps which surrounded the tabernacle? 
    • Mankind was made in the image of God but we are still being conformed into the unique person He desires us to be so in this sense we are like the living creature that was “like a man.”  We are also like Ephraim who was lost and scattered to the 4 parts of the earth.  Similarly, we needed to be drawn back into relationship with the Lord like Ephraim will be.
    • When I think of a lion, I think of the powerful king of the jungle.  Maybe that’s why Jesus is called the Lion of Judah.  The Bible tells us that God’s servants will reign as kings forever but first the fleshly lion within us needs to be tamed (Rev. 22:5).  We need to remember that lions are powerful creatures when they hunt but even they know when to eat, play with the cubs, and rest.
    • The ox was a clean animal suitable for sacrifice.  We might venture to say it was of higher worth or quality than a sheep.  We are sheep who follow a loving Shepherd.  We are expected to be living sacrifices holy and pleasing to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). We need to walk in the Spirit instead of fulfilling the desires of the flesh which is similar to worshipping the golden calf called “self.”  One day, I suspect we will be transformed into powerful oxen who lead instead of remaining as sheep which only follow.   
    • Eagles are swift birds.  When Jesus brought the mixed multitude out of Egypt, He destroyed Pharaoh’s army and carried His people on wings of eagles and brought them to Himself (Exodus 19:4).  When we trust in the Lord, He renews our strength.  Isaiah 40:31 also tells us we will rise up with wings like eagles’ and run or walk without being weary or faint.

What else can we say about the mixed multitude that camped around the tabernacle?  Numbers 10:35-36 says, “So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said:  “Rise up, O Lord!  Let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.”  36 And when it rested, he said:  “Return, O Lord, To the many thousands of Israel.”  Oddly enough, this is what was written on the banners of the camps of Judah and Dan.  Fortunately today, the Holy Spirit dwells within us (believers) all the time wherever we go.  We should be careful not to commit apostasy so He will remain within us and so we never experience the fate of God’s enemies.  

[i] Palestinian Targum on the Book of Numbers, Section of the Torah XXXIV. Bemidbar


The Building of the Tabernacle

Building the Tabernacle in the wilderness was a major undertaking and required items that were willfully donated for the project.  Exodus 35:30-35 tells us there were two men chosen who were filled with the Spirit of God and gifted with skills to carry out their assignment of making the Tabernacle, its furnishings, incense, anointing oil, and priestly clothing.  The first was Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  The second man was Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  These two designed the tabernacle according to the pattern given to them and led other artisans to complete the project.  The tabernacle was finally set up at the close of the book of Exodus on the first day of the first month.  All of the furnishings were put in their proper place and everything was anointed in order to consecrate them.  In addition, Aaron and his sons were consecrated for 7 days so they could begin their priestly service.  Everyone rejoiced when the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Many years later, Solomon had a temple built for the Lord.  He used the plans that were given to him by his father, David.  Three groups of people worked on this project:  Solomon’s men, Hiram’s men (King of Tyre), and the Gebalites.  It is interesting to note that Huram was Hiram’s master craftsman.  Huram was the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan and his father was a man of Tyre (2 Chron 2:13-14).  This temple was also filled with the cloud of the Lord’s glorious presence (2 Chron. 5:13).

After the Babylonian captivity, people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin returned and began the task of rebuilding the temple.  The Samaritans wanted to help them build the temple claiming they worshiped the same God since the time of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria.  The Jews refused saying King Cyrus only commanded them to build the temple (Ezra 4).   The temple was eventually completed after a period of opposition and was dedicated to the Lord with joy.  This temple was eventually defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes IV and was later cleansed and rededicated.  Since that time, the Feast of Dedication also known as Hanukkah has been celebrated annually to remember this event (John 10:22).  This same temple was renovated and expanded by King Herod, an Idumean (Edomite).

Since Jesus death and resurrection, believers in Christ have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Believers work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to build this temple by putting to death the deeds of the old man so the new man can obey the guidelines for this temple (God’s commandments) by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Because the bodies of individual believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit, they must be careful not to defile their bodies through sexual immorality.  The Spirit also gives each individual believer spiritual gifts to build up the corporate body of Christ (1 Cor. 3:9-15).  God expects believers to use these gifts to bring honor and glory to Him.

At some point in the future, the Jews will build another temple using the plans of Ezekiel.  Many items and furnishings have already been made in preparation for it.  Some people believe that descendants of the tribe of Dan will join the Jews in constructing the temple and that the Anti-Christ will be a descendant of the tribe of Dan.  Some believe this descendant will be of Greco-Roman descent from Europe or the United States while others believe he will be of Syrian-Grecian descent from the Middle East.   It is too early to say who will be the Anti-Christ or exactly who will be involved in the construction of the temple at this point.  One thing is sure.  The Anti-Christ will defile the Most Holy Place one day by setting up an abomination of desolation and declaring himself to be God but we can be sure his end has already been predetermined.  In addition, this temple will be cleansed and rededicated because the rightful heir to the throne, Jesus Christ is coming at the appointed time. 

The Tabernacle Part 2

The Tabernacle and its courtyard contained various furnishings that Moses was commanded to make according to the designs the Lord gave him.   We discussed the structure of the Tabernacle and Courtyard in the last post.  This time, we shall look at the furniture.

Just as Jesus was the gate of the sheep pen, He’s also the gate of the courtyard through which everyone must come in order to have eternal life. 

People who came to the Tabernacle should have had one goal in mind — to worship the Lord.  Before that could take place, sin against God and trespasses against others had to be atoned, forgiveness received, and restitution made according to God’s commandments.  This always required an offering at the altar of sacrifice.

The Sacrificial Altar was 7 ½ feet long, 7 ½ feet wide, and 4 ½ feet high [5 cubits L X 5 cubits W X 3 cubits H].  It was made of planks, was hollow inside, and had a horn on each of the 4 corners.  This altar was overlaid with bronze instead of gold.  It had a grate of bronze netting with a bronze ring on each corner (4 in all) – placed under rim of altar, half way up the altar.  Pots for the ashes, shovels, basins, meat hooks, and fire pans for the altar were made of bronze.  Poles for the altar were overlaid with bronze, placed into the rings — one pole on each side to carry it.

The Sacrificial Altar was necessary in order to properly lift up offerings to the Lord.  The sin and guilt sacrifices provided atonement and forgiveness for sin and trespasses.  Whole burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings, and peace offerings were primarily offered after these to draw near to the Lord and worship Him.  The symbolism of the offerings was manifested in the work of Christ when He died for us but it was also a picture of what will happen to the righteous and the wicked when the Day of Judgment comes.

A Bronze Laver was also in the courtyard.  It was set on a bronze base between the altar and the Tabernacle of Meeting.  It was made from the bronze mirrors of the women who served at the door of the Tabernacle of Meeting.   The laver was filled with water with which Moses, Aaron, and his sons washed their hands and feet whenever they came near the altar or went into the Tabernacle of Meeting.

I believe the water contained in the bronze laver can be compared to Jesus who is the source of Living Water.  Zechariah 13:1 explains water is necessary to cleanse His people from sin and impurity. 

Christians usually see their position in Christ as secure because of Jesus’ sacrifice and often forget the need to regularly cleanse their hands and feet at the laver to restore fellowship with God that is occasionally broken due to sins and trespasses. 

James 1:23-25 compares the Word of God to a mirror in which we, as believers need to examine ourselves regularly.  When we fail to obey God’s word, we have sinned.  Ephesians 5:26 tells us Jesus gave His life so that we could be sanctified and cleansed with “the washing of the water of the word.”  When we look into the mirror of God’s word, we are often convicted of sins or trespasses.  First John 1:9 encourages us to acknowledge our sins so that God will forgive them and purify us from all unrighteousness.  This is what washing oneself at the laver which was made from bronze mirrors is all about.

Once our fellowship with the Lord and others is restored, we are free to move into the Tent of Meeting where previously only the priests could go because we are members of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto God.  The first section of the Tabernacle is the Holy Place where we encounter the menorah.  It was made from a single piece of pure hammered gold.  It had a central shaft with six branches (3 on each side).  Each branch had 3 cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with a ring of outer leaves and petals.  The central shaft had 4 cups shaped like almond blossoms each with a ring of outer leaves and petals.  There was also a ring of outer leaves where each branch joined the central shaft.  Seven lamps were mounted on the menorah that burned pure olive oil.  The accompanying tongs and trays used to service the menorah were made of pure gold too.

Revelation 4:5 shows us that seven Spirits of God were burning before the throne.  This matches the imagery and location of the menorah.

Most of the time, people say the menorah represents Christ who was the light of the world.  They may even associate it with the Holy Spirit because it was fueled by olive oil.

Let’s see if we can glean any other meaning from the menorah. 

Note the description of the menorah and its almond blossoms.  Usually   almond blossoms have 5 petals.  The number 5 represents grace.  The number 3 represents the resurrection or new life of/in Christ.  The number 6 represents man.  Therefore, man can receive new life by God’s grace through faith in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Together with the Spirit of God, mankind is made complete which is represented by the number 7.

Remember, Aaron had to tend the menorah daily.  The lamps needed to be cleaned, the wicks needed to be changed, and the supply of oil had to be re-filled.  The same can be said of our lives.  Think about and do what needs to be done in your spiritual life each day so you can walk by the power of the Holy Spirit and let your light shine before men.

Isaiah 11:1-2 unveils the menorah in this way, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”  NKJV

It is evident from this passage that the Spirit of the Lord (YHWH) is the central shaft with the branches being the other characteristics of the Spirit.  If the menorah were placed on its side, it would be easy to see that the opposite/paired branches correspond to each other like a chiastic structure that points to the central shaft of the Spirit of the Lord.  All of these rested upon Jesus, the Son of David.  Ask God to allow them to rest on you as well.

In addition to the menorah was a table for the Bread of the Presence (Showbread).  The table was 3 feet long, 18 inches wide, and 18 inches high [2 cubits L X 1 cubit W X 1.5 cubit H].  This table was made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold.  It had a rim around it that was a handbreadth wide with a molding of gold around it.  Four gold rings for the poles were attached to corners near the legs and rim of the table.  Poles of acacia wood covered with gold were placed through these rings and used to carry the table in a manner similar to that of the Ark of the Covenant.  Dishes, pans, bowls, and pitchers of pure gold were made for use with this table.  This implies that there was also a drink offering such as wine to accompany the twelve loaves of bread and frankincense that were placed on the table each Sabbath (Lev. 24:5-9).

Many have tried to understand the purpose of the Table of Showbread.  In Hebrew, showbread is called lechem happaniym which can be translated as the “Bread of the Faces” or “Bread of the Presence.”  The Greek Septuagint uses artous tees protheseoos which is translated as “bread loaves of the place setting.”  Taken together, these translations can give us some understanding of the purpose of this bread. 

First of all, it was a holy offering given to the Lord.  The people from the 12 tribes of Israel gave flour to the priests who used it to bake 12 loaves of bread to place in the presence of the Lord.  They were arranged on the table in two rows with 6 loaves and frankincense in each row.  Even though the bread was put on the place setting of the Lord, He didn’t eat this bread.  The High priest and his sons ate it in a holy place because it was an offering made by fire (Ex. 25:30; Lev. 24:5-9).    

Nonbelievers might say that the bread didn’t magically disappear during the week because God doesn’t exist; therefore the priests ate it for Him.  That’s not what is going on here.  Consider this.  Many people desire to come into God’s presence but can’t due to sin against God, trespasses against others, and the physical limitations between heaven and earth.  The priests were commanded to set this table before the Lord and they obeyed.  Whether they realized it or not, their actions were saying, “Lord, this bread is a holy offering for You.  Come be with us and eat with us.”  Eventually, God overcame man’s limitations and did better than what they pleaded for by sending Jesus, the Bread of Life to physically be in the presence of His people.  During that time, the Son of Man ate and drank with His friends face to face.  Even after Jesus died as an offering for sin and rose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and asked them, “Have you any food here?”  They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb and He took it and ate in their presence.   This showed that Jesus still intended to fellowship with His people even though He would soon return to heaven (Revelation 3:20-21).  Although Jesus is now in heaven, He accomplished the goal of making it possible for us to come boldly through the veil into the Most Holy Place and one day see Him face to face (Heb. 10:19-23).  Certainly, we’ll eat together at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb at the appointed time.

The last thing in the Holy Place was the Altar of Incense which stood before the veil and the Ark of the Covenant which was on the opposite side of the veil in the Most Holy Place.  The Altar of Incense was sometimes referred to as the Golden Altar because it was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold.  It measured 7 ½ feet long, 7 ½ feet wide, and 4 ½ feet tall [1 cubit L X 1 cubit W X 2 cubits H].  It had a molding of gold all around it with horns on each of its 4 corners.  There were 2 gold rings, under the molding on both sides (total of 4) through which 2 poles of acacia wood overlaid with gold were positioned.  

Aaron, the High Priest was to burn incense on this altar every morning and at dusk as he tended the lamps of the menorah.  The incense that was burned on this altar was of a particular recipe—equal parts of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, made according to the art of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy for the Lord.  No other incense was to be used on this altar.  Anyone who made any like it to smell it was to be cut off from his people.  This altar was not for other kinds of offerings.  Once a year the High Priest made atonement for it with the blood of the bull and the goat on the Day of Atonement to purify it and set it apart from the uncleanness of the people of Israel.

There’s not much the Bible says about the Altar of Incense except that the incense is the prayers of the saints who live throughout the four corners of the earth (Revelation 5:8).  Of all the prayers that have ever been offered, surely Jesus’ prayers were most holy – especially the prayers He offered the night He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal.   Surely this is thematically connected to the Day of Atonement.  Like the incense, Jesus was unique because He was sinless.  After appearing to His disciples over 40 days, Jesus returned to heaven in the clouds in a manner similar to the rising smoke of incense as it was burned many years ago.

On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest could enter past the Altar of Incense and the veil into the Most Holy Place to stand before the Ark of the Covenant.  The ark was 3 ¾ feet long, 2 ¼ feet wide, and 2 ¼ feet high [2.5 cubits L X 1.5 cubits W X 1.5 cubits H].  It was made of acacia wood which the Greek Septuagint calls incorruptible wood.  The ark was overlaid inside and outside with gold and had a molding of gold around the top of it.  Four gold rings were attached to its 4 feet, 2 rings on each side.  Poles of acacia wood were overlaid with gold and passed through the rings so the ark could be carried without touching the ark itself.  These poles were not to be removed.

The cover for the Ark of Covenant was known as the Mercy Seat.  It was 3 ¾ feet long, 2 ¼ feet high [2.5 cubits L X 1.5 cubits H] and made of pure gold.  It had 2 cherubim on it (one cherub at each end) which were one with the cover.  The cherubim faced each other with their wings spread out toward each other and covered the top of the cover.  The Mercy Seat was God’s throne where God met with Moses and His High Priests, from between the two cherubim which were on it.

The Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant are often thought of as God’s portable throne and footstool.  As such they can be compared to heaven and earth (Is. 66:1).  As a single unit, it was both a throne of judgment and grace.  In some ways it was comparable to Ezekiel’s vision of God’s chariot (Ezek. 1:4-28). Finally, it was a copy of what was in heaven (Rev. 11:19).

Most importantly, the Ark of the Covenant portrayed Israel’s salvation and relationship with God.   It contained the Testimony which established the marriage covenant between God and His people.  The ark was made of incorruptible wood which signified Jesus who was sinless.  The molding of gold around the top of the ark could represent Jesus’ kingly crown or kingdom.  The Ark held a jar of manna in the wilderness which depicted Jesus as the source of life. The Ark also contained the rod of Aaron which had been used to perform awesome wonders in Egypt.  This same scepter had budded, blossomed, and brought forth almonds signifying God’s choice concerning Aaron and the house of Levi during rebellious times.  This staff demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles including resurrection and the authority to rule God’s kingdom.

Now that we’ve looked at the furniture of the Tabernacle, we should regularly:

  • Remember to approach God with praise and thanksgiving for His grace and mercy.
  • Confess our sins and trespasses and make any necessary restitution to others so we can be cleansed. 
  • Offer our entire lives to Him in worship. 
  • Walk in the Spirit and not give in to the desires of the flesh. 
  • Eat the Lord’s Supper, remembering His death for us and our marriage covenant with Him until He returns. 
  • Offer our petitions to the Lord including intercession for others. 
  • Remember that one day we will stand before His throne face to face. 

The Tabernacle Part 1

After Jethro left Moses to return to his country, the people of Israel came to the Sinai Desert and set up camp in front of Mount Sinai.  It was here that God intended to marry His people Israel. 

Once the people were washed, sanctified, and had separated themselves for 3 days, God came and spoke the Ten Words or Ten Commandments to the people.  These words were the basis of the original marriage covenant that God had with His people.  The Jews and Christians identify the first two differently.  Here is a summary of what God said:

  1. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.  (The idea here is that we need to know that the Lord really does exist and He is the one who brought His people out of Egypt.)
  2. You are not to have any other gods besides Me nor make images of anything in heaven, earth, or sea in order to worship them because I’m a jealous God and will punish the children of the sins of the parents to the 3rd and 4th generation.  I will show mercy (chesed) to 1000th generation of those who love me and obey my commandments.
  3. Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath (7th) day and keep it holy by refraining from work because it has been blessed and set aside for rest since the time of creation.
  5. Honor your parents so you’ll live long in the Promised Land.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not give false witness/evidence against your neighbor.
  10. Do not covet (desire) your neighbor’s things.

God gave His people additional rulings or judgments (mishpatim) to follow as well.

After the marriage covenant was agreed to by the people, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders went up the mountain where they saw God and ate and drank with Him.  They must not have been on the top of the mountain but somewhere on the slope because later God wanted Moses to come up higher.  After telling the men to stay until they returned, Moses and Joshua went higher upon the mountain.  Moses then met with God for 40 days and nights. 

The location of the men on the slope of Mount Sinai represented how all priests could enter into the Holy Place of the Tabernacle while only the High Priest could come into the Most Holy Place.  Even though Moses and Joshua were not actual High Priests, they were types of Jesus, our High Priest and therefore able to ascend higher on the mountain.  The rest of the people were waiting beyond the boundary at the base of the mountain. 

Once Moses was with Him on the mountaintop, God asked Moses to take up a collection from the people in order to make the Tabernacle.  According to Exodus 25:3-7, the contributions included:

  • gold, silver and bronze
  • blue, purple and scarlet thread.
  • fine linen, goat’s hair, dyed ram skins
  • acacia-wood
  • oil for the light
  • spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense
  • onyx stones and other stones for the ritual vest and breastplate.

At that time, God showed Moses a pattern for the Tabernacle and its furnishings which would allow God to dwell among His people.  The Tabernacle and the items associated with it were to be built according to the precise instructions and pattern God gave Moses because they were a copy of heavenly things. 

The Tabernacle was made of a total of ten linen (shesh) curtains that were 42 feet long and 6 feet wide [28 X 4 cubits].  They were woven with blue, purple, and scarlet thread.  In addition, cherubim were woven into them.  Two sets of five curtains were joined together at the edge of the outermost curtains which had 50 blue loops each.  Fifty gold fasteners held the loops of both sets of curtains together in order to form a single unit.

The curtains of the Tabernacle were held upright on posts which were 15 feet long X 2 ¼ feet wide [10 X 1.5 cubits].  Each post had 2 projections which were inserted into 2 silver sockets.  There were 20 posts overlaid with gold for the south side, 20 more for the north side, and 8 posts for the west (back) side – that’s 6 with 1 extra on each corner.  The extra post on each corner was joined with another post to form a single corner using a single ring on each end.  Five crossbars for each side (N, S, W) were overlaid with gold and mounted mid-way up on the posts through gold rings.

A linen curtain (veil) was made with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and cherubim woven into it.  This curtain divided the Holy and Most Holy Place and was hung below the fasteners on 4 posts using gold hooks.  These posts were made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold.  They stood in 4 silver sockets like the others.

The cherubim on the curtains should remind us of the ones placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to prevent mankind from going back into the garden after Adam and Eve sinned.  As you imagine what the Tabernacle looked like, contemplate what the priests’ fellowship with God in the Tabernacle may have been like.

As you consider that, ponder the significance of the three main colors which were woven into the white linen. The colors of the Tabernacle fabric represent different things:

  • white > righteousness
  • blue > heaven; Holy Spirit
  • purple > royalty
  • scarlet > blood of atonement

Gold is one of the metals that are prevalent in the Tabernacle. It represents God’s kingdom and kingship.

Now let’s looks at the 3 coverings of the Tabernacle.

The first covering was made of eleven curtains of female goat (ez) hair.  Each curtain was 45 feet long and 6 feet wide [30 X 4 cubits].  This covering was composed of 1 set of five curtains and a 2nd set of six curtains with the sixth curtain folded double at the front.  One edge of each set of curtains had 50 blue loops on their outermost edge.  Bronze fasteners held the loops of both sets together to form a single unit.  The half curtain which remained hung over the back of the tabernacle.  The extra 18 inches [1 cubit] on each side hung over the bottom of the tabernacle.  The original covering made of female goat hair most likely represented the incarnate Christ who was born of a virgin woman.

The second covering was made of red dyed ram (ayil) skins and represented the blood atonement provided to God’s people by the blood of Christ. 

The third or final covering for the Tabernacle was made of tachash.  This Hebrew word is often translated as badger, sea cow, or porpoise in English; however, the Greek Septuagint uses the word huakinthinos which can be translated as jacinth or deep blue.  This led me to believe the final covering was made of ram skins which were dyed blue.  Since blue can represent the Holy Spirit, I believe the final covering represents the power of the Holy Spirit which came down on Jesus as a dove.

The Tabernacle was erected according to the pattern shown to Moses on the mountain.  Two things we should note about the Tabernacle are that:

  • All of the posts were set in silver sockets.  It is quite possible the silver shekels given as atonement money were used to make the silver sockets of the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:15).  Silver metal represents redemption.
  • Multiples of 5 are frequent in the sizes (when measured in cubits) of the Tabernacle and its furnishings.  Most Biblical scholars recognize that the number 5 represents grace.  Since this is the case, grace was not something new after Jesus’ resurrection but was present in the original pattern of the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle was set up inside the courtyard.  The courtyard was a place where anyone could enter.  It was made of curtains of finely woven linen:

  • The south side was 150 feet [100 cubits] long and was supported on 20 posts in 20 bronze sockets. 
  • The north side was also 150 feet [100 cubits] long and was supported on 20 posts in 20 bronze sockets.
  • The west side (width of courtyard) was 75 feet [50 cubits] long and was supported on 10 posts in 10 bronze sockets.
  • The east side was also a total of 75 feet [50 cubits] long but was divided into two sides (with a gateway in between them) – each side was 22 ½ feet long [15 cubits] and had 3 posts and 3 sockets. 
  • The gate was 30 feet [20 cubits] long and had 4 posts and 4 sockets.  It was made of linen woven with blue, purple, and scarlet thread. 
  • Silver hooks and rings were used to hang the curtains on the posts.  The posts were banded with silver and stood in bronze sockets.

Biblical scholars agree that bronze represents judgment.  One day, everyone will come to God’s courtyard in order to approach God’s white throne, stand before the Lord, and be judged.  In the meantime, we should obey Colossians 2:6-7 which says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

In a way, these verses reveal that Jesus is the silver socket in which we stand by faith.

1 Thessalonians 3:8, 12-13 tells us, “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord…. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” 

If we desire a life of fellowship with the Lord now and eternal life later, we must trust in Jesus.  Only Jesus is able to make us stand blameless on the Day of Judgment.  This can only be accomplished because of the atonement He provided for us. 

Those who do not trust in Christ are not under the atonement covering of Christ.  They have not been redeemed.  They stand in the bronze sockets of the world which are outside the Tabernacle of Meeting. When the Day of Judgment comes, they will not stand and they will never be permitted to come into the eternal Promised Land.

Where do you stand?