Understanding the Old Testament

The Tabernacle

All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

The Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai in the third month after leaving Egypt (Exodus 19:1), and did not move on from the mountain of God until the second month of the second year after the Exodus (Numbers 10:11-12). During those eleven months they received the Law as well as detailed instructions for constructing the Tabernacle and its furnishings. Then they constructed the Tabernacle and everything in it. The events in the book of Leviticus occurred during those eleven months.

The Court of the Tabernacle was approximately 150 feet long and 75 feet wide. Curtains about seven and one-half feet tall hung around the perimeter of this rectangular Court, presumably to shield the Court from curious eyes. (See Exodus 27:18.) Within the Court of the Tabernacle was the bronze altar for sacrifices (Exodus 27:1-3), the bronze laver for washing (Exodus 30:17-20), and the Tent of Meeting.

The Tent of Meeting—or the Tabernacle Tent—measured forty-five feet long, fifteen feet wide, and fifteen feet high. The entrance of the Tent, which faced east, led to the Holy Place. This outer two-thirds of the Tent measured 30’ x 15’ x 15’ and contained the Table of Showbread (Exodus 25:23-30), the Lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40), and the Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:1-10). All three were overlaid with gold.

The remainder of the Tent, measuring 15’ x 15’ x 15’, was called the Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies. It was separated from the Holy Place by a veil. (Exodus 26:31-33) Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10-16), which symbolized God’s presence. The lid of the Ark was called the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:17-22). The Ark and the Mercy Seat were both overlaid with gold. According to Hebrews 9:4, the Ark contained the “testimony” Moses received from God (Exodus 25:16, 21), a jar with manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded (Numbers 17:1-10).

Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and he could do so only once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 9:6-7).

All sacrifices had to be offered at “the place which the Lord your God will choose.” (Deuteronomy 12:5 and 12:11) That is where the Tabernacle—and later the Temple—would be located. Jerusalem would eventually be that place.

Question to ponder or discuss: When Jesus died, the veil between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the Temple was torn in two. (See Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45.) What do you believe that means?

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

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