In Part 1 We discovered the first cross in the wilderness, now we can search for the second one. This one will take a bit more study simply because there is so much more to see with it. However, we don’t have to go very far to start our search for it. It is right at the heart of the cross we just found.
I’ve mentioned the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting many times already, and that is where we are going to look next. Moses describes it for us like this:
“So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. When Moses set up the tabernacle, he put the bases in place, erected the frames, inserted the crossbars and set up the posts. Then he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering over the tent, as the Lord commanded him. He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him. Moses placed the table in the tent of meeting on the north side of the tabernacle outside the curtain and set out the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him. He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him. Moses placed the gold altar in the tent of meeting in front of the curtain and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord commanded him. Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the Lord commanded him. He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing, and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses. Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.” (Exodus 40:17-33 NIV)
We will start our search with the Courtyard. It was 100 cubits by 50 cubits and was oriented east to west. It was made of linen curtains 5 cubits high and held up with posts mounted in bronze bases by silver hooks on silver bands. There was a post every 5 cubits all around the Courtyard. There was an entrance 20 cubits wide in the center of the east end. (See Exodus 27:9-15, 17-19 & 38:9-17) The cloth used in making not only the curtains for the courtyard, but the entrance curtains for the courtyard and the Tabernacle, the Shielding Curtain, and the first covering over the Tabernacle was linen. It was much finer than the linen of today. “Finely twisted linen” was so fine that the high quality fabrics made from it could not be distinguished from silk without a magnifying glass. Also, it was not the drab beige we see today either, but a very pure white.
A side note about the cubit mentioned here. It could be the common cubit which was about 18 inches long. This is the cubit that was used in trade. You bought and sold things, including land, using this cubit. But, Moses grew up in the royal household as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter and was educated in the royal university. Therefore he would have been very familiar with the royal Egyptian cubit of 20.6 inches. Historically, it is this cubit that was most commonly used, even outside of Egypt, for building, therefore, it is the one a lot of historians believe Moses would have used. However, I have found several references to one more cubit that shows up in the archeological records of ancient Israel and it is 25.43 inches long (1 meter). It is believed by some to have been handed down from Noah as the measurement given him by God. But there are many who disagree – for some reason they seem to think that nothing originated with anyone Hebrew – everything they knew and used was borrowed from other cultures. So how could they have a measurement that no one else in history ever used? I do not know why this prejudice exists among Biblical scholars, but I have encountered it many times. Personally, I believe more things originated with the Hebrews that were copied by others than the other way around.
So, which cubit would Moses have used? The short, common one, the royal one, or the even longer one? I’m inclined to think he would have at least used the royal cubit, but in reality, I believed he used the one meter cubit, after all, he was building a place to meet with the God of the universe. And God did say that He was going to “dwell with His people there”. So don’t you think Moses would have at least used the royal cubit for the sovereign God of the universe? If he did, that would mean everything would be a bit over 11% larger than we normally think of them. However, Moses recorded that God had told him, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:9) And he recorded 4 more times when God reminded him that he was to follow the patterns he had been shown. (Exodus 25:40; 26:30; 27:8; 31:11) And 4 times he records that things were made exactly as commanded (Exodus 39:32; 39:42,39:43; Numbers 8:4) As a woodworker, all the patterns I use include the dimensions I am to use in building the object in the pattern. So it is entirely possible that God included the length of the cubit he was to use as part of the patterns He gave Moses.
Therefore, if the “long” cubit was used in building the Tabernacle and all its furnishings as I believe, then they would have been over 41% bigger! So that means the Tent of Meeting would have been almost 25 1/2 feet by over 63 1/2 feet and a little over 21 feet tall, rather than the 15 – 22 1/2 feet by 45 feet and 15 feet tall normally claimed. (See Appendix A for a discussion on the true dimensions of the Tabernacle.) And the courtyard would be almost 212 feet by almost 106 feet instead of 150 feet by 75 feet with the curtains over 10 1/2 feet tall rather than 7 1/2 feet. And the same goes for everything else.
Now, back to our tour. There was only one entrance to the courtyard, and as stated earlier, it was on the east end. It had linen curtains hanging in it. This is how it was made, “The curtain for the entrance to the courtyard was of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen–the work of an embroiderer. It was twenty cubits long and, and like the curtains of the courtyard, five cubits high, with four posts and four bronze bases. Their hooks and bands were silver and their tops were overlaid with silver.” (Exodus 38:18-19 See also Exodus 27:16) How many times have you seen illustrations of these curtains neatly held open in nice pretty drapes? If you are like me, I am having a hard time thinking of a time when I have seen a depiction of them in any other way. However, reading through the account of Moses setting up the Tent of Meeting, I can find no mention of these curtains or the ones on the Tent itself being held open. I believe that they were both closed and you had to push them aside to enter. You entered through the curtains, not through an open gateway.
Now, did you notice the colors of these curtains? Blue, purple, scarlet, and white, the colors of royalty, but they had other meanings as well – deeper meanings as we will see. Some people think that the colors were embroidered on a white background because they “were the work of an embroiderer”, however, the term used is of a professional who worked with colors – one who mixed colors – either by weaving, dying, or by embroidery. So he could have been a weaver, a dyer, or an embroiderer, or someone who could do it all. I believe they were woven in stripes of blue, purple, scarlet and white. One of the biggest reasons is two of the curtains we will see later do have embroidery on them, and it would be hard to see it if it was on top of a background already covered by random patterns of colors. Because the colors are always listed in the same order, I think that is the order they were woven in – blue, purple, scarlet, and white. I don’t know why that particular order, nor are we told how wide each color is – although a set of curtains we will see later are made of panels 4 cubits wide that have all four colors in them. Therefore you would have each color appearing in sequence and it would repeat in whatever multiple of 4 you want to use in each 4 cubit panel. That means each color strip could be 1 cubit wide, 1/2 cubit wide, or 1/4 cubit wide, etc. However, once you get below 1/8th of a cubit for each stripe, you will not be able to see the stripes at much of a distance, the colors will all blend together. All of the curtains have almost the exact wording used in their instructions so it is reasonable to assume that they are all made alike with the color stripes of the same width. In fact, all of the curtains could have been made using those same 4 cubit panels. The Courtyard entrance curtain would have needed 5 panels 5 cubits long. The Tabernacle entrance would have needed 3 panels 10 cubits long although there might have been 4 panels, and the Shielding Curtain would have had 3 panels 10 cubits long.
I don’t see a significance to their width or their sequence other than purple can be made by combining the colors on either side of it, but the colors themselves are significant. To enter the courtyard you had to go through these curtains – you entered through an area of blue, purple, scarlet, and white stripes in an otherwise pristine white wall – why? Isaiah 53:4-5 tells us, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” When Jesus was beaten before He was crucified, His wounds would have been stripes of bloody red, and blue and purple bruises, interspersed with the white of His skin and bones. And these wounds are represented by the colors of the curtains in the entryway. And the purity of the white curtains of the Courtyard remind us that Jesus was pure, He was innocent – it was our guilt He was punished for, it was our sins He died for, He was sinless. The curtains of the Courtyard completely surround the Tabernacle and everything else involved in the religious observances that occurred here, so just as the curtains contain it all, what everything inside represents is contained in Jesus and His ministry in some way or another as we will see.
One thing I find interesting is that the entrance to the courtyard, the entrance to the Tent itself, and the entrance to the Most Holy Place inside the Tabernacle (also known as “The Veil”) are ALL through the same type of curtains (although the Veil also had cherubim embroidered on it). And there is one other “curtain” that was made of the same materials, the one that covered the entire Tabernacle, the one that made the “ceiling”. (Compare Exodus 38:18, 36:37, 36:35, and 36:8-13 respectively.) Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, . . ” (NASB Revised) The Shielding Curtain (or the Veil) represents Jesus’ broken body and shed blood, and since all three entrances are virtually identical, we can say that all three are representative of Jesus’ broken body, and therefore access to each area is “through Jesus”. And when you are in the Tabernacle itself you are completely covered by the broken body of Jesus as well. So let us enter the Courtyard through the veil of Jesus’ broken body.
The first thing we encounter after we enter the Courtyard is the Altar of Burnt Offering. It
was made of wood overlaid with bronze. It was 5 cubits square and 3 cubits tall. It had a horn at each corner and a bronze grating inside halfway up. It was carried with wooden poles overlaid in bronze that were mounted in bronze rings on opposite sides of the altar. All of the utensils needed for the sacrificial offerings and to maintain the fire were also made of bronze. (See Exodus 27:1-8 & 38:1-7) This is where the lambs were offered for all the sacrifices. This is where everyone came to confess their sins over the head of their sacrificial lamb before it was “offered up in smoke”. So what does this tell us of Jesus? The disciple John records this comment made by John the Baptist, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.'” (John 1:29) The author of the letter to the Hebrews seconds this, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10 & 14) It is here, at the Altar of Burnt Offering, that our sins are symbolically transferred to Jesus. It is also where those sins are symbolically burned out of existence when that “lamb” is sacrificed.
As we move on from the altar, the next thing we find is the Basin, or as some translations label it, the Laver. This is all we are told about its construction, “They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” (Exodus 38:8 NIV) (See also Exodus 30:17-18) It might seem like it did not hold much significance, but God told Moses, “Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.” (Exodus 30:19-21) If washing in its water would keep you from dying, then it would seem it was very important. So it was important, but what does it tells us about Jesus? Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) And he told the church in Corinth, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) And the Apostle John wrote, “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'” (Revelation7:13-14)
The basin reminds us of our need of cleansing and that only Jesus can provide what is needed. The apostle John says, ” . . . but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7 & 9 NASB Revised) The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22) Here he takes us all the way from the Basin, into the Holy Place, through the Veil, and into the Most Holy Place – all the way into the presence of God! In his “Revelation of Jesus Christ”, as part of the opening salutation, the Apostle John says, ” . . . And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, . . . ” (Revelation 1:5 KJV) So the Basin, or Laver, reminds us that it is by the blood of Jesus that we are cleansed from our sins.
Now we come to the Tent of Meeting itself. Unlike most tents of the day as it was built with both solid walls like a normal house and fabric and leather coverings like a normal tent. We will look at the coverings first.
The first covering of the Tabernacle was of 2 curtains 28 cubits by 20 cubits that were joined together by 50 gold clasps and had loops of blue material along the ends. Each curtain was made from 5 panels that were 4 cubits wide and 28 cubits long which were literally “united” into one curtain. These two curtains were then clasp together to form one larger covering for the Tabernacle. Once joined they made a covering that was 28 cubits x 40 cubits long. They were made of “finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by expert hands.” (Exodus 36:8 NIV) [Could also mean embroidered – literally says “the work of a thoughtful worker” It doesn’t say how it was done.] When it was placed on the Tabernacle, it would hang down equally on each side and on the west end. Obviously a much smaller overhang would be over the entrance curtain. (See Exodus 26:1-6 & 36:8-13) As we have already seen, the blue, purple, scarlet and white stripes of this “curtain” are representative of Jesus’ broken body, but also includes cherubim. In the Bible cherubim are always in the presence of God, so these cherubim embroidered on the curtain remind us of Jesus’ divinity, and that just as these cherubim were part of the curtain, Jesus’ divinity was inherently part of Him.
The second covering, God called it a “tent over the tabernacle” (Exodus 26:7 NASB Revised), was again made of 2 curtains only this time one was wider than the other. The smaller one was 30 cubits by 20 cubits and the larger one was 30 cubits by 24 cubits. They were made of goat hair and were joined together by bronze clasps so they made a covering that was 30 cubits by 44 cubits. Unless it was dyed, and there are no instructions to do so, this covering would have been a mottled, beige, tan, brown, and black – although there are some who claim it would have been made entirely of black goat hair. Either way it would have been just like every other tent in the camp. This covering is 2 cubits longer than the first so would hang down 1 cubit further on each side and on the west end. The rest would hang down over the entrance, however, the final panel on this side (the extra one) is folded in half so it will not hang down quite so far, but it will still cover the first covering. (See Exodus 26:9)
Over this was a covering of red dyed ram skins and then another of the hides of sea cows (NIV) neither of which are given any dimensions. The ram skins would at least completely cover all previous layers and most likely go clear to the ground on the north and south sides and the west end. The blood red covering reminds us that the blood of Jesus covers us and as God said, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11 NIV) It is a reminder that the blood of Jesus was shed in atonement for our sins.
Then comes the leather outer cover. It would definitely go clear to the ground on the north and south sides and the west end and would hang down far enough to cover all the other coverings over the entrance and provide enough protection from the elements for the entryway. It could be so low that, as with most tents of the day, the average person would need to duck to go under the edge of the tent as they entered, probably about 2 1/2 cubits or so above the ground. However, if it only hung down an additional cubit over the entrance like all the previous layers, it would be 5 cubits from the ground – the same level as the top of the Courtyard curtains. This leather covering would make the outside of the Tabernacle a nondescript brownish gray color that, over time, would weather to a shade which would blend into the desert background very well, and from ground level outside the courtyard, absolutely nothing of the entrance to the Tabernacle could be seen. (See Exodus 26:7-13 & 36:14-19) That reminds me of what Isaiah had to say about the coming Messiah, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2b) Like the Messiah to come, there was nothing external to the Tent of Meeting that would indicate its significance or the beauty inside, there really was nothing about it that would attract your attention and make you want to “check it out.” In fact, the only bit of color that could be seen would be the blue, purple, scarlet and white stripes of what little of the entrance curtains that would be peeking out from under the leather covering at the front of the Tent of Meeting but until you entered the courtyard, you could not even see that.
The solid walls of the “tent” were made of wood panels that were overlaid with gold and enclosed a space that was 30 cubits by 12 cubits. (See Appendix A for a discussion on the true dimensions of the Tabernacle.) Each panel was 10 cubits by 1 1/2 cubits. They each had 2 posts in the bottom that were placed in silver bases to hold them upright. Each of the silver bases weighed 75 pounds. The panels were joined together by some sort of couplings and held in place by 3 sets of 5 gold covered wooden poles. As a wood worker, I would interpret Exodus 26:28 (“The middle bar in the center of the boards shall pass through from end to end.” NASB) to indicate that one pole was inserted in a mortise that ran side to side through the middle of each panel and locked them all in place. Then 3 of the poles were inserted into rings on the outside of the panels. As they were inserted in the rings, they were also inserted into the loops along the edges of the first three coverings of the Tent to hold them down – the outer, leather, covering would be staked to the ground. The last pole in each set would be mounted outside the tent as well, near the top of the panels, so that it would help keep the coverings from chafing in the winds on the panels of the walls. (It is also possible that only the first two coverings were so mounted and that two of the poles were used to keep the coverings from chafing – the text does not mention how the ram skin covering was fastened down, it could be fastened like the first two or it could be staked like the outer cover.) (See Exodus 26:15-29 & 36:20-34) But none of this can be seen from the outside as it is completely hidden underneath all of the coverings. The Tabernacle is divided into two rooms by a curtain, the outer room is called the Holy Place and the inner room is the Most Holy Place.
It is this room, the Most Holy Place, that everyone is arguing about. No one seems to be able to agree on how big it was, and the size of this room will affect the size of the rest of the Tabernacle. But we are not concerned with its size right now, we are just getting an over view of the Tabernacle itself. (See Appendix A for a discussion on the true dimensions of the Tabernacle.)
Now, back to our tour, the next stop is the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and as we have already seen, it is through the blue, purple, scarlet and white striped curtains representing the broken body of Jesus. It is death for anyone but the priests to enter the Tabernacle, and the only reason we can go beyond this point is because Jesus has opened the way for us with His broken body and the cleansing of His blood.
The first area we enter is called The Holy Place. It has gold covered walls, and facing us is a curtain of blue, purple, scarlet and white like the two we have already come through, however, it also has cherubim embroidered on it so it is a little different than the others. And the “ceiling” is identical – blue, purple, scarlet and white with the cherubim
embroidered on it. And directly in front of us is the Altar of Incense. It was made of wood and was completely covered in gold. It was 1 cubit square and 2 cubits tall and had a horn on each corner. It had two wood poles covered in gold that were used to carry it and they were held in place by 2 gold rings on each side. (See Exodus 30:1-5 & 37:25-28) God gave some very specific instructions about both this altar and the use of the incense that was burned on it and in the censers that Aaron and his sons used. “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come.” (Exodus 30:7-8) “He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die.” (Leviticus 16:12-13) One of the things the smoke did was create a veil between the High Priest and the Ark – representative of Jesus our mediator who stands between us and a holy and righteous God, a God who is present everywhere, and in whose presence nothing evil can exist. (See Isaiah 33:10-16)
However, that is not all it represents. David wrote this in one of his psalms, “I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalms 141:1-2) The Apostle John wrote, “He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” (Revelation 5:7-8) And later he added, “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” (Revelation 8:3-4) And Paul tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes fur us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27) So the smoke of the burning incense represents not only the prayers of those who claim Jesus as Lord and Master of their lives, but also the work of the Holy Spirit in “correcting” those prayers into what they should be.
Behind the Altar of Incense is the Shielding Curtain, or Veil, as it is more commonly known. As I pointed out above, it is different from the entrance curtain. Here are the instructions God gave for it and the entrance curtains so you can see the differences, “They made the curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. They made four posts of acacia wood for it and overlaid them with gold. They made gold hooks for them and cast their four silver bases. For the entrance to the tent they made a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen—the work of an embroiderer; and they made five posts with hooks for them. They overlaid the tops of the posts and their bands with gold and made their five bases of bronze.” (Exodus 36:35-38) (See also Exodus 26:31-33 & 36-37)
“The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.” (Leviticus 16:2) So this veil was very important. It was a barrier between God and sinful man. As Isaiah wrote, “‘Now will I arise,’ says the Lord. ‘Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up. You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw; your breath is a fire that consumes you. The peoples will be burned to ashes; like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze. You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my power!’ The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: ‘Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?’ Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—” (Isaiah 33:10-15) Yes, the righteous can stand in God’s presence, but, as Solomon pointed out, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
This is the “veil” that the writer of Hebrews was referring to when he wrote, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22) He clearly identifies the veil as Jesus. So what can it tell us about Him?
This curtain is held up by 4 posts rather than 5 like the entrance curtain so there would be three expanses of curtains showing instead of the 4 at the entrance to the Tent. As we have seen, it represents Jesus our “shielding curtain”, and the three sections remind us of His threefold mission – He shields us from the punishment we deserve, He stands in our place before God, and His perfect life stands between us and judgment. Also, as the cherubim only appear in the presence of God, the cherubim embroidered on this curtain remind us of Jesus’ divinity.
When we pass though the Shielding Curtain we enter the Most Holy Place. This is where
God manifested His presence in a very special way. The room is square with three gold walls, the forth being the Veil we just came through, and the ceiling is a continuation of the curtain we saw in the Holy Place – blue, purple, scarlet and white with cherubim embroidered on it. There was only one thing in this area – The Ark of the Covenant. It was made of wood covered in gold. It was 2 1/2 cubits long, 1 1/2 cubits wide and 1 1/2 cubits high. It had two gold covered wooden poles fastened to it by two gold rings each that were used to carry it. And it had a solid gold covering that had a solid gold cherub at each end. The cherubim faced each other, but were looking down towards the cover, and had their wings uplifted to overshadow both them and the cover. So Raiders of the Lost Ark got it wrong. (See Exodus 25:10-22 & 37:1-9) What can we learn of Jesus from the Ark? “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.'” (Leviticus 16:2) After the Ark was built And Moses was putting the Tabernacle together, “He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him.” (Exodus 40:20-21) And later we find out, “When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.” (Numbers 7:89)
The Sh’khinah – The manifest presence of God – appeared between the wings of the cherubim, above the atonement cover or Mercy Seat, as it is commonly called today. God had Moses put the Tablets of Stone, on which were written the Law of the Covenant, inside the Ark. So The Atonement Cover was between the Presence of God and the Law – representing Jesus, the manifestation of God’s mercy.
So we’ve come on our tour from the camp into the presence of God, but that has been in a straight line, not a cross. For that we need to go back into the Holy Place because we did skip two things while we were there. When we go back in, we see on the right (against the
southern wall) an interesting light fixture, the Lampstand. It was made of solid gold and with the lamps and the utensils needed to care for them weighed 75 pounds. It had 7 branches and each branch had a lamp on it, for a total of 7 lamps. (Although I have seen one translation/interpretation that gives you 7 branches each with 7 cups and 7 lamps giving you 49 lamps with 1 additional cup and lamp on the top of the main “trunk” for a total of 50 lamps.) And it was decorated with an almond motif. (See Exodus 25:31-39 & 37:17-24) So what does this tell us of Jesus? “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12) He also said, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4-5) But He is not “in the world” any more so now what? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His listeners, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15) As Jesus pointed out, a light does no good unless it is out where people can use its radiance to see by. So as we take Jesus, the Light of the World, out into the world, we form the first arm of the cross.
The second item we missed is on the opposite wall. There we find the Table that held the Bread of the Presence. It was made of wood and was overlaid with gold. It was 2 cubits long, 1 cubit wide and 1 1/2 cubits high. It had 2 gold covered wooden poles fastened to it by
2 gold rings each that were used to carry it. (See Exodus 25:23-29 & 37:10-16) God instructed Moses, “Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times.” (Exodus 25:30) And what does this table and the bread say about Jesus? Jesus Himself claimed to be the Bread of Life. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” (John 6:35) And a bit later in the same conversation, He said, “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:50-51) Jesus is the Bread of Life Who came down to earth out of the presence of God bringing life for a hungry and dying world. And as we take Jesus the Bread of Life into that same hungry and dying world we form the second arm of the cross.
A cross hidden in the Tent of Meeting! No wonder Jesus said that Moses wrote about Him! Not only do all the objects in the Tent, but the curtains around the Tent, the objects in the courtyard, and the Tent itself all proclaim Jesus.
And there we have the second Cross in the Wilderness! One that reminds us that as we journey into the presence of God, we must also take Jesus out into the world. He came into this world to die on a cross, and we must take Him into a dying world so that they might live.
It is the size of the Most Holy Place, that everyone is arguing about. No one seems to be able to agree on how big it was, and the size of this room will affect the size rest of the Tabernacle. There is much discussion among the “experts” as to how big it was. Well actually, only about how wide it was. The Bible is very clear that the Tabernacle was 30 cubits long and no one has any argument over that, it is the description how the west end of the Tabernacle was to be constructed that is the issue, and how you interpret what the Bible says determines how wide entire structure was.
There are 6 normal panels and two corner panels, and the argument is over what is meant by the description of the 2 corner panels. The panels are normally 10 cubits tall and 1 1/2 cubits wide so with just the 6 normal panels you have 9 cubits. That means those who claim a 10 cubit width have a problem – how do you get two more panels of a size large enough to have 2 bases made of 75 pounds (1 talent) of silver each under them (See Exodus 38:27) on either end of the 6 panels and only use 1/2 a cubit per panel? And then there are those who think the Tabernacle was 15 cubits wide. They get this from a literal reading of Exodus 26:23-24, that in some translations says that the two corner panels were doubled which would make them 3 cubits wide each – so the 9 cubits of the normal panels plus the 6 cubits of the “doubled” panels gives you 15 cubits. But not all translations agree on what the correct English word is to use to translate the Hebrew word used here.
Here is what the NIV translators wrote, “Make six frames for the far end of the tabernacle, and make two frames for the corners at the far end. At these two corners they must be double from the bottom to the top, and fitted into a single ring: both shall be like that. So there will be eight frames and sixteen silver bases–two under each frame.” (Exodus 26:22-25) It is the words translated “double” and “ring” that are what is causing all the confusion. So, to try and clear up the confusion, I checked things out in the Lexicons I have available to me. It turns out that the Hebrew word translated double can also mean twin or twinned, coupled, or joined. And the word translated ring, can also refer to a signet used to stamp in sealing wax, the seal, or mark, in the wax that a signet makes, or a signet ring, and eventually it came to refer to just a regular ring as well. Looking at this as a wood worker, it makes much more sense to say that the two corner panels were designed in such a way that they could be joined to the side panels as well as the normal joinery that would join them to the adjacent end panels, and that these special joints were to “seal” them to the side panels. So these two panels had normal joinery in one edge that would connect them to the other panels in the end of the Tabernacle, but they also had a special type of joinery along the edge of one face that would be used to connect them to the end panels in the side walls.
So, if they were any larger than any of the other panels at all, it would only be by the thickness of the panels. That means that the interior dimensions of the Tabernacle would be the 30 cubits in length everyone agrees on by 12 cubits in width for the west end panels. And this would give us something interesting – if the Veil, or Shielding Curtain, was placed 12 cubits from the end wall, you would have 3 gold walls of 12 cubits each. Why would that be significant? The Bible gives three different lists for the tribes of Israel – the first is the list of the sons of Jacob – the “real” tribes; the second is the list of the tribes of the Exodus where the tribes of Levi – those claimed by God as His tribe – and Joseph are not listed but are replaced by Ephraim and Manasseh – Joseph’s promised double portion; and the third is in Revelation. In this list Ephraim is missing, but Levi returns and Dan is also gone, replaced by Joseph, which is very significant, but that is a whole different study of its own!
And one other thing, if the Most Holy place is 12 cubits square, then something interesting occurs with the first covering – well actually the first two coverings. The first one is made of 2 identical “curtains” that are 20 cubits wide and 28 cubits long and are joined together by 50 gold clasps right down the middle. Fully assembled it is 28 cubits by 40 cubits. If you center the 28 cubit length over the width of the Tent you will obviously have the same overhang on each side. So 28 cubits – 12 cubits = 16 cubits which would leave 8 cubits to hang down on each side of the Tabernacle. Now take that same overhang of 8 cubits from the 20 cubit width of 1/2 of the covering to use as the overhang on the west end of the Tabernacle and that leaves 12 cubits to go from the end of the Tabernacle to the place where the two halves of the covering are joined – and that is exactly where the Veil is located. Interesting isn’t it? And that leaves the 20 cubits of the other half of the curtain to cover the remaining 18 cubits of the Holy Place giving 2 cubits of overhang above the entrance. Now let’s add the next cover, the goat’s hair one. It is 30 cubits by 44 cubits which means it is 2 cubits longer so it would hang down 1 cubit further on each side and position it with the same 1 extra cubit of coverage on the west end. This covering was not joined in the middle, but had one part 20 cubits wide and the other 24 cubits wide. The extra panel on the wider side was to be folded in half and would be located over the entrance to the Tabernacle. So if we take 9 cubits from the 44 cubits of the cover, that leaves 35 cubits to cover the Tabernacle. As the tabernacle is only 30 cubits long, that means there would be 5 cubits hanging down over the entrance, but as we just saw, the last 4 cubit panel was folded in half so only 3 cubits actually hang down – and that means it hangs down exactly 1 cubit further than the first covering over the entrance as well as the sides and west end – something that cannot happen if the Tabernacle is any other width than 12 cubits!
And with each of the three successive inner layers being one cubit longer, you can easily position the rings for the gold covered poles so that you can tie them down. This would leave on set of poles to mount higher up on the walls to hold all the coverings away from the gold covered panels to keep them from chafing in the wind. The outer, leather cover, out be staked down, just like all the other tents.