The Tabernacle in the Wilderness has been the source of much study on my part but there is a special person in my life, my uncle, who expanded my knowledge, not only on this subject, but many of God’s wonders contained in scripture. This article would not be possible without his help. My uncle is home with Jesus now and I miss him. I’d like to dedicate this article to my uncle for all his words of wisdom.
This will be a technical dive into the construction of the Tabernacle; please bear with me, we need this information for the practical application later on.
A Place to Worship
Leading up to the construction of the Tabernacle the children of Israel had just left Egypt. The final destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is just over a month ago. Before they had a functioning government, before they even had a homeland, God desired to dwell with His people and for them to have communion with Him.
God chose a Tabernacle as the setting for fellowship with Him. The first physical model was constructed after a pattern. What pattern? Ex. 25:8-9 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. So where do you think this pattern is located?
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
First off this isn’t a pup tent. The materials and design of the sanctuary, the furniture, and the courtyard of the Tabernacle are recorded in Ex. 25-27 with one exception; the laver is recorded in Ex. 30:17-21. Actual construction is recorded in Ex. 36 – 38.
Covering No 1 – Fine-Twined Linen
This covering was constructed out of (10) separate pieces of material. Each piece was (6’x42′). (5) Pieces were sown together, along with the other (5) and we end up with two pieces (30’x42′) long. These two pieces have, along one edge, 50 blue loops which when used with fasteners (golden taches) created one piece totaling (60’x42′) [This will drape across the top of the Tabernacle and down each side] Ex. 26:13 And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent. [There is a reason the curtain didn’t quite make it to the ground. Perhaps, in another article, we can discuss this.] The seam, golden taches, would line up directly above the veil, 30′ from the front. This covering was white with embroidered cherubims. Blue, purple, & scarlet colors were used.
Covering No 2 – Woven Goats’ Hair
We would call this a wool covering. (11) Curtains measuring 6’x45′: (5) pieces sown & (6) pieces sown. Again one edge of each piece had loops, but this time fastened with brass taches. The extra piece was to hang over the back. [This covering does go all the way to the ground and there is extra material to create a watershed on the back side of the building.] Ex. 26:12 And the remnant that remaineth of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle.
Covering No 3 – Ram Skins dyed red.
No actual dimensions are given as such but it was to be made after the pattern of the 2nd covering. These skins, sown together, were to be dyed red.
Covering No 4 – Badger Skin
Again this covering was patterned after the 2nd covering. The badger, as we think of it is a small animal. This was, in my opinion, an aquatic mammal also known in earlier times as a sea cow. We call them manatee today. They inhabited the regions of the Red Sea & Persian Gulf. In a National Geographic article, Luis Marden viewed riding crops made of translucent amber rawhide from the Manatee. Contained within this same article was a list of names this animal was known by through the ages. You guessed it; the Badger was one of them. Translucent: to see through but not clearly. Now perhaps we can understand the dying of the ram skins now that we have a see through, waterproof, covering over top.
The Footer – Called sockets, the footer was an ingenious design for a removable foundation. Each socket, weighing 125 lbs., was solid silver with holes cast into them to accommodate the dowel pin for the board and the brass spikes that fixed it to the ground. There were (2) socket blocks per board. (100) sockets made up the entire foundation totaling (6) tons of silver. The foundation was most likely level with the ground by cutting trenches the height of the silver sockets.
The Walls – Were constructed of wood and overlaid with gold. There were (20) boards in the two long sides and (8) boards for the back. Each board measured 27″x15′ and had two holes drilled on the end, probably both, for the tenons or dowel rods. There were two short boards for the corners of the back wall measuring 9″x15′. Based upon the way the corners come together, I believe the thickness of these boards to be 3″. These multi-board walls were joined together with rings that were attached to the boards. Long rods were then inserted into the rings running the length of the walls (Actually there were (5) rods per wall). There were three rows of these rings. The three walls were joined together by a coupling at the base and rings at the top. The rings & long rods were overlaid with gold. [I am skipping a lot for the sake of time and attention.]
This divider most likely did not extend to the top. The center bar was solid so the veil would not be able to completely touch the wall. It divided the holy place from the most holy place. The veil was put in place using (4) pillars, or posts & golden hooks attached to the pillars. The pillars were overlaid with gold. The veil was constructed with linen & embroidered cherubims. Blue, purple, & scarlet colors were used like the first covering. (Perhaps just like it)
The Front Door
(5) Pillars with chapters (fancy tops) were set at the entrance of the holy place. All of the components, including the pillars were overlaid with gold. How tall was it? Well the courtyard height was 7 1/2 feet. The veil, in my opinion, was 7 1/2 feet tall. I suspect that the door was 7 1/2 feet tall as well. It was constructed with the fine twined linen & embroidered as described before.
The courtyard was a (150′ x 75′) rectangle, 7 1/2 feet tall. Each pillar, (60) in all, was supported upright with brass sockets under them. The hangings were of the fine twined linen we have described already. The ropes, or cords, were used to frame the space between each pillar where the hangings attached.
The Ark of the Covenant – Located behind the veil. (45″ x 27″ x 27″) There were (2) rings mounted on the two sides for the two poles used to carry it. All overlaid with gold.
The Mercy Seat – (45″ x 27″) with two cherubims facing each other all crafted in pure gold. The bible says it was crafted from a single piece of smelted gold. This rested on top of the ark. This is where God would meet with them. Ex. 25:12-22 Ex. 25:22 “…I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat…”
Table of Shewbread – (36″ x 18″ x 27″) It had a border & decorative crown on the top edges. Rings were also added for the carrying poles. All overlaid with gold. This was placed on the right hand side as you enter the holy place.
Candlestick – This thing had all kinds of pieces which supported (7) lamps. And, you guessed it, all overlaid with gold. This would be on your left hand side.
Alter of Incense – (18″ x 18″ x 36″) The table had four horns, on each corner, overlaid with gold. Rings were also added for carrying. This was positioned center stage right before the veil.
The Laver – Polished brass. The priests would use it to wash themselves before entering the holy place.
The Brazen Alter – (7 ½’ x 7 ½’ x 4 ½’) Wood overlaid with brass. The grate was of solid brass. This is where the sacrifices were offered.
Where did they get the gold?
When the last plague hit Egypt the Egyptians wanted the Israelites gone. They were afraid of God now and gave the freed slaves their possessions including their gold and precious stones. Ex 12:35-36.
What a Building
Imagine how beautiful a structure this must have been. In the setting sun as you looked upon this Tabernacle the translucent outer cover revealed the underlying red dyed ram skins and let’s not forget the glitter of the exposed gold. A magnificent yet totally mobile Tabernacle was a monument to almighty God. What did God think about this structure? In Ex 40 the Tabernacle is setup, anointed and the priests are prepared for service: at the point where man did as God instructed we see God’s response in verses 34 & 35. The glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.
This was a very long setup for such a short application; God wants to have communion with us. Look at the extent, and the priority, God had for the Tabernacle. God wants a relationship with us. This isn’t just about going to church although I think that applies; salvation is a relationship, not a list of commands.
Our relationship is not earned by keeping the golden rule; salvation, made possible by the blood of Jesus, gives us the desire, and the ability, to keep the golden rule.