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Exod 40 - setting up the tabernacle.jpg
The Tabernacle (Hebrew: משכן, mishkan; "Name means::dwelling", from שכן, shekan; "to dwell"; Latin: tabernaculum meaning "tent") was the portable dwelling place of God as He traveled with the people of Israel for four hundred seventy-nine years, before the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Another frequent designation is Hebrew: אֹ֣הֶל מֹועֵד֩, ohel mo'ed, tent of meeting (Exodus 27:21 ).


The tent

Bible record: Exodus 26

The Tabernacle proper was a tent of acacia wood (a symbol of man, hard to work with and prone to have many knots[1]) overlaid with gold (a metal of royalty or deity[1]), standing height::10 cubits high, length::30 cubits long, and breadth::10 cubits broad, covered with curtains of goat hair, ram's skins dyed red and porpoise skins. (Indeed the English word skin derives from the Greek σκείν or skein, which itself derives from the Hebrew shekan to dwell, of which mishkan is the present participle.[1]) The sides of the tabernacle were not whole, but were composed of acacia boards, each ten cubits long and 1.5 cubits broad. Each board had five rings of gold spaced at regular intervals; five bars of acacia wood overlaid with gold and thrust through the rings held each of the three sides of the Tabernacle together. Each board had two protuberances, or tenons, at its base, and sockets of silver (a metal of redemption[1]) held the boards together by their tenons. The tent used twenty boards on the south side, twenty on the north side, and six boards on the west side, with two corner boards added to finish the west side. The east side of the tent was open, and five pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold guarded that entrance. A screen of blue and purple and scarlet formed the east "wall" and hung on hooks of gold. Each pillar rested on a socket of bronze (a metal of judgment[1]).

The tent was covered first with ten curtains of blue, purple, and scarlet, decorated with cherubim. Each curtain was 28 cubits long and 4 cubits broad. Five curtains were joined together in each of two sets, and then the two sets were joined by fifty blue loops on each edge, with clasps of gold holding the loops. Next came a covering of goat hair, consisting of eleven curtains, each thirty cubits long and four cubits broad. The curtains were joined in sets of five and six, and the sixth curtain was doubled. The two sets were joined by fifty clasps of bronze joining fifty pairs of loops. Last of all came a covering of red ram skins and a covering of porpoise skins.

The inside of the tent was divided into two compartments, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The partition between the two was located ten cubits from the west wall and guarded by four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. A veil of blue and purple and scarlet, decorated with cherubim, hanging on the four pillars, divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The veil hung on hooks of gold, and each pillar rested on a socket of silver.

The courtyard

Bible record: Exodus 27:9-19

The tabernacle courtyard surrounded this tent; it was 100 cubits long, 50 cubits broad, and 5 cubits high. Twenty pillars stood on the south side, twenty on the north, and ten pillars each on the east and west sides. Each pillar was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, rested on a bronze socket, and had a silver hook. On these hooks hung curtains of white linen, except for a twenty-cubit gate on the east side of the courtyard. Those curtains were of blue, purple, and scarlet. Each pillar had two guy ropes to secure it, one on the inside and the other on the outside, secured to a bronze peg.

The furniture

The Tabernacle had the following articles of furniture: a bronze altar, a bronze laver, a seven-candle lampstand, the table of showbread, an altar of incense, and, of course, the ark of the covenant The ark was the one piece of furniture placed inside the Holy of Holies. The altar of incense rested in the Holy Place next to the veil dividing it from the Holy of Holies. The lampstand stood on the south side of the Holy Place, and the table of showbread to the north. The bronze altar and bronze laver rested outside the tent.

Incense and Oils

God also gave Moses specific recipes for a special oil for anointing the Tabernacle, and for the incense to burn on the altar of incense and in a bronze censer before the ark of the covenant on the day of atonement. The recipe for the holy incense is given here. The anointing oil was to be made from five hundred shekels of myrrh, two hundred fifty shekels each of cinnamon and fragrant cane, five hundred shekels of cassia, and a hin of olive oil. With this oil Moses was to anoint the tent, the ark of the covenant, and all the other articles of Tabernacle furniture, and also to anoint Aaron and his sons. (Exodus 30:22-33 )

The fuel for the lampstand was to be clear pressed olive oil. (Exodus 27:20-21 )


Bible record: Numbers 4

The procedure for taking down the Tabernacle and preparing its components and furniture for transport was necessarily elaborate, because the penalty for touching any of the furniture in an improper manner was death. First, Aaron and his sons took down the partition veil that defined the Holy of Holies and draped it over the ark of the covenant. Then they covered this with porpoise skin and then with blue linen, and inserted its carrying poles. To prepare the table of showbread they first spread a blue cloth on it, then placed its dishes and pans and other utensils on this cloth. Then they would spread a scarlet covering and then a porpoise skin covering, and insert the carrying poles. They would cover the lampstand and the altar of incense with blue cloth and then with porpoise skins. The altar of incense had its own carrying poles, while the lampstand had a set of carrying bars that it rested on. Lastly they would place the utensils for the altar of incense and the table of showbread into a blue cloth, cover them with porpoise skin, and place them on a set of carrying bars.

Outside, they removed the ashes from the bronze altar and covered it with a purple cloth. Then they placed the bronze utensils for this altar onto this cloth, spread a porpoise skin over these, and insert the carrying poles.

Then and only then would the Kohathites carry out all the articles of furniture, under the supervision of Eleazar, son of Aaron.

The Gershonites would next take down all the courtyard and tent coverings and hangings (except the partitioning veil for the Holy of Holies, which was draped over the ark of the covenant) and carry them away, under the supervision of Ithamar, son of Aaron.

Then the Merarites would take down all the pillars, boards, bars, and sockets, and carry these away. Ithamar would also supervise this work.

Camp arrangement and marching order

Bible record: Numbers 2 , Numbers 10

The Tabernacle was at the center of the massive camp of the Israelites. Directly next to the Tabernacle courtyard, Moses and Aaron and the sons of Aaron would camp to the east, before the Tabernacle gate. The Kohathites would camp to the south, the Gershonites to the west, and the Merarites to the north.

The remaining Israelites would camp further away from the Tabernacle. The tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun would camp on the east side and would constitute the first rank in the marching order. The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad would camp on the south side and would constitute the second rank. The tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin would camp on the west side and would constitute the third rank. Finally the tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali would camp on the north side and would constitute the fourth and last rank.

The precise marching order was as follows: First the three tribes to the east would move out. While this was happening, the Levites would prepare the sacred objects and take down the Tabernacle, so that when the three eastern tribes had moved out, the Gershonites and the Merarites would fall in behind them, carrying the Tabernacle hangings and structural elements. The southern tribes would move out next, and then the Kohathites would fall in behind the second rank, carrying the ark of the covenant and the other Tabernacle furnishings. The western and northern ranks would move out third and fourth, respectively.

When the Israelites arrived at their next camp site, the tribes of the first rank would pitch their camp, each by its own standard. Then the Gershonites and Merarites would arrive and start erecting the Tabernacle while the tribes of the second rank pitched their camp to the south. Thus when the Kohathites arrived with the sacred furnishings, the Tabernacle and its courtyard would be ready and waiting for them. The tribes of the third and fourth ranks would arrive last of all and pitch their camps to the west and north.

Dedication and consecration

On the third day of the third month in the year of the Exodus of Israel (3 Sivan 2513 AM, or May 29, 1491 BC), the Israelites arrived at the base of Mount Sinai.[2] On that day, God proclaimed the Ten Commandments to the people.[3] On the next day, Moses built an altar, erected twelve pillars to represent the twelve Tribes of Israel, and received sacrifices offered by the firstborn of each tribe. On that same day, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel climbed the mountain to see the glory of God. Then everyone came down the mountain, except Moses, who remained at the top (and also Joshua, who stayed further down the slope). He remained for six days, and then God spoke to him and gave him the instructions for the Tabernacle, and also the sacerdotal garments (including the breastplate of judgment) and the procedures for the dedication of the Tabernacle and the consecration of Aaron and his sons. This happened on Authorized::10 Sivan 2513 AM. Moses spent a total of forty days on the mountain top.[4]

On 14 Tammuz 2513 AM (July 9, 1491 BC), the golden calf incident occurred.[5] After this, Moses ordered the people to set up a temporary tent of meeting outside the camp, where Moses alone would commune with God. Moses interceded for the people, and then God ordered him to cut two more stone tablets and bring them back to the mountaintop, where Moses spent another forty days.[6] After this, on or about Funded::1 Elul 2513 AM, Moses collected an offering for the construction of the Tabernacle, plus a capitation tax of one-half shekel each from the adult men. The offered construction materials were so abundant that Moses ordered the people to stop giving.[7]

Construction of the parts and furnishings of the Tabernacle seems to have begun on or about Construction begun::3 Ethanim 2514 AM. The work required about six months.[8]

On Construction completed::1 Abib 2514 AM, the Tabernacle was completed and erected. On that occasion, the glory of God filled the enclosure.

On Dedicated::1 Zif 2514 AM, God ordered Moses to take the first general census of the Israelites[9] and to anoint the Tabernacle and begin the process of consecration for Aaron and his sons.[10] The consecration process (Exodus 29 ) required seven days, and at the end of that time, God kindled the fire in the bronze altar for the first time.

Sadly, Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu brought strange fire into the Holy of Holies on or about the tenth day of the second month ({{#show:Nadab (son of Aaron)|?Died}}), and died. After that, God made the ordinance for the day of atonement, to take place on 10 Ethanim of every year thereafter.

Career of the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle moved with the camp of Israel until Israel entered Canaan. Apparently it was erected semi-permanently at Shiloh during the era of the Judges. Finally, King David erected the tabernacle in Jerusalem, (2_Samuel 6:17 ) where it stood until the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Solomon.[11]

See Also

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Brown, Alan B., MDiv, ThM; personal interview with User:Temlakos on 8 December 2008
  2. James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, pgh. 194
  3. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 195-196
  4. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 197-198
  5. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 200
  6. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 202-205
  7. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 207-208
  8. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 210
  9. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 214-215
  10. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 216.
  11. Jimmy Albright, "Tabernacle," in The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Brand C, Draper C, and England A, eds. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2008, pp. 1550-1552