Exodus 25–31 Instructions For Building the Tabernacle.
Exodus 35–40 the Work Done and Blessed.
Key Notes: The artisans endowed with the Holy Spirit. The ark of the covenant. The table of show-bread.The lamp-stand and the incense altar. The bronze altar of sacrifice and the wash-basin. The ephod. The spiritual message of the tabernacle and its furnishings. How exacting is God?
The Tabernacle tells us how God thinks about sin and redemption. It is the Old Testament model that illustrates the New Testament plan of salvation. The details have small messages, but the overall structure and worship activity enable us to understand the big picture, the Cross of Christ. When our study is done, the Tabernacle will show us a blue-print of how we may enter the presence of God. The New Testament fulfills the promise of permanent and enduring remission of guilt and penalty that the Tabernacle could not, as Hebrews 9:11–28 emphasizes.
The two texts describing the building of the tabernacle overlap—the instructions for building and the actual process-- so that we may weave them together. A model of the Tabernacle is at the end of the lesson.
“Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. “ (Ex.25:8)
God condescended to limit Himself in such a way that Israel could recognize His presence and worship appropriately. He ordained that there would be a worship center at the center of their camp wherever they went. It had to be made small and light so that it could be carried, very sturdy, yet preserving beauty and holiness, even hiddenness under rough desert conditions. The sanctuary was a tent surrounded by a curtain fence. There were six main objects on the sanctuary grounds: a large bronze altar at the entrance of the fence; a large bronze basin (the laver) for priestly washing in the court-yard; a golden table with twelve loaves of bread, a floor-mounted golden candelabra with seven lamps, and a gold incense altar inside the tent. The most holy object, called the ark of the covenant, was a small gold chest or box with two angels on top of it, set in the inner sanctum of the tent behind a veil.
Moses was ordered to attend to detail three times.
“According to all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and all of its furniture, so you shall make it. (25:9, 40; 26:30)
25:1–9 To begin the process, the LORD told Moses to solicit offerings for the tabernacle.
35:20–29 Those with willing hearts brought gold, silver and bronze, jewelry, fabrics, skins, and acacia wood. Some women spun yarn and brought beautiful fabrics of linen as well as goat’s hair for the tent.
Acacia is a desert tree that would yield sturdy poles but the wood was probably too small to be made into planks except for the small furniture. We understand that the wooden frames for the tabernacle were open and rectangular.
36:5–7 The people brought more than was needed and the word went out to stop bringing material!
38:21–31 The donated gold totaled 29 talents and 730 shekels. (A talent was about 80 lb.).
Silver collected from the census ( a half shekel for each person) totaled 100 talents and 1775 shekels. The silver was cast into bases for the sanctuary and the veil, as well as hooks and decorations of the pillars.
Bronze for the bases of the door of the tabernacle and the gate of the courtyard, the bronze altar and other items amounted to 70 talents, 2400 shekels. All of this they had brought from Egypt. As God had promised," they shall come out with great possessions." Gen.15:14
36:1–11 God chose Bezalel of Judah to be the chief artisan.
He was filled with the Spirit of God,
a designer, engraver, and carver of metals, stone and wood,
with ability and intelligence, knowledge and craftsmanship,
skilful in embroidering and weaving,
inspired to teach. 35:34
Comment: Although we think of the Holy Spirit’s work only in the area of mental direction and spiritual energy, He is active in other human activities, here in arts and crafts--drawing, carving, making jewelry and fabrics, and teaching these skills to others.
36:8–19 They were joined by people with skilful hands to make linen curtains woven with blue, purple and red designs. The curtains were linked with loops and clasps to make a covering that draped over the sides and back of the Tabernacle, nearly reaching the ground. Goats’ hair tenting covered the linen with outer coverings of ram and goat-skins.
36:20–34 Upright frames for the tabernacle L 15’x W 27” with mortise and tenon joints were overlaid with gold and set on silver bases. Thus the building would be 15’ high. If the north and south sides of the building were 20 frames long, the building must have been 45 ft. long. The rear was 6 frames or about 15ft wide.
We do not know the dimension of the Holy of Holies, but infer that it was a cube 15’ on a side, based on the width and height of the Tabernacle, and the dimensions of Solomon’s and Ezekiel’s temples which had a cubic Inner Sanctum.
36:35–38 The linen veil that separated the inner sanctum from the outer room of the tabernacle was embroidered with angels (cherubim). He also made a screen for the door of the tabernacle.
37:1–9 Bezalel made the ark of the covenant. This most holy article was a small gold-covered and gold-lined box L 45”x W 27”x H 27”. It had rings at the feet (25:12) with poles attached to them so that it could be carried high without being touched. The box was covered with a gold lid with two cherubim facing each other, their wings over them, shadowing the lid. I visualize the angels kneeling in an attitude of prayer.
The cover of the ark, called in Hebrew “kapporet” or mercy seat, is related to a word for atonement or propitiation (kippur) , as in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. (Lev.16). That day was the most holy day of the year for Israel, when the High Priest went alone into the Holy of Holies to make sacrifice for all Israel and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. Sins of the people for the whole year were atoned on that day by sacrifice and repentance.
God said He would meet them there and communicate His will.
“There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you of all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.” (Ex.25:22)
It is believed that the visible glory of God, the “Shekineh”, glowed between the cherubim.
The Greek OT (LXX) word in Exodus for “mercy seat” is “hilasterion”, translated “propitiatory” . Paul uses it in Romans to explain Christ’s sacrifice for us.
“…Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation (Gr. hilasterion) through faith in His blood, to be received by faith.” (Rom.3:24–25KJV).
Thus the ark of the covenant is linked to the Cross of Christ where the wrath of God was finally satisfied and atonement made for our sins.
In time, the Ark of the Covenant would contain the two tables of the Law, a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. (Heb.9:4). To us, the Law represents the Father; the manna, Christ the bread of life; and the almond rod that budded (Num.17:8), the Holy Spirit who gives life. So the Ark gives us multiple spiritual messages.
37:10–16 The next item was a table for bread, L 36”x W‘” x H 27”. Bezalel overlaid the table with gold, to be carried on gold-covered poles through rings. Its function was to display twelve loaves of bread representing the twelve tribes, called the Bread of the Presence. (Ex. 25:30). Twelve loaves were baked each Sabbath and laid on the Table. (Lev.24:5–9). It was food for the priests.
Jesus said to them,” I am the Bread of Life; he who follows Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." (Jn.6:35)
37:17–24 Bezalal made a lamp-stand to hold seven lamps, three on each side and one in the center. It was fabricated from a single piece of pure gold (25:36), decorated with flowers and capitals as ends of the stems. The cups for the lamps were almond-shaped. The dimensions are not listed, although they were given to Moses (25:40), but it had to be high enough to give light to the sanctuary, with the lights arranged so that they gave light in front of the candelabra, suggesting reflectors. (25:37).
The lamps burned pure olive oil. 27:20–21.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying ‘I am the Light of the World; he who follow Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn.8:12)
37:25–29 He made the incense altar‘” square and 36” high. Like the other articles, it was outfitted with gold rings and poles to transport it. Special incense was made by the perfumer and burned on it morning and evening. (30:7–9). It was important also in the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement as well as other sacrifices. Lev.4:7
The incense altar is a symbol of prayer.
“Let my prayer be counted as incense before Thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” (Psa.141:2)
“…golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints….” (Rev.5:8)
“And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.” (Lk.1:10–11).
That day in the life of Zechariah the priest, father of John the Baptist, God set in motion the coming of the Messiah, a prayer that had been offered up by His people for hundreds of years. (Lk.1–2)
38:1–7 He made a large bronze altar, L 7.5’ x W 7.5’ x H 4.5’, from an acacia wood frame with horns on the corners, a grate resting on a ledge half way down inside , as well as rings and poles for transporting it.
A lamb was offered every morning and evening in sacrifice on the altar. Thus there was a continual burnt offering at the door of the tent of meeting, the Tabernacle (Ex.29:38–46). In addition, the altar was used for peace offerings (Lev.3), purifications (Lev.12, 14) and sacrifices for sin (Lev.4) or guilt (Lev.5:14-).
“…we have been sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb.10:10)
38:8 He made a large bronze basin for priestly ceremonial washing from women’s mirrors. The laver was provided so that “Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister…they shall wash with water lest they die. They shall wash their hands and their feet….” (Ex.30:19)
Jesus said,“He who has bathed need not to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over….” (Jn.13:10)
38:9–20 The court-yard was 150’ long north and south, 75’ long east and west. The entrance was on the east. The pillars of the fence were bronze, decorated with silver . The hangings were linen. The screen for the gate was embroidered with blue, purple and red threads.
39:1 The priests were given holy garments for their ceremonial duties, “for glory and for beauty.” (28:2).
39:2–7 The undergarment (“ephod”) was a sleeveless linen body-stocking decorated with blue, purple and red threads. It was clipped together at the shoulders with two jewels, onyx stones set in gold, inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes, six on each stone. In spirit, Aaron was to carry the nation on his shoulders. 28:12
The ephod was later sometimes detached from the tabernacle and the priest, and used by itself as an object of worship. We suppose that it was hung on a torso that would resemble a human being and thus could become a kind of idol. Judg.8:27–28
39:8–21 Gold chains on the ephod clips held a square breast piece of twelve jewels arrayed in four rows, inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes. The stones were fastened together with gold filigree. [Estimating each to be an inch in diameter, some of these gems would be very valuable in today’s market; topaz, emerald, diamond, and sapphire. Together with the others, they made a dazzling display of color on the chest of the High Priest. ] They were sewed to a linen cloth that was folded to make a pouch. The pouch contained two objects, Urim and Thummim of which we know little except that they were used to determine the will of God in controversial matters. With this breastplate, Aaron also bore the judgment of the twelve tribes on his heart. (28:30). Mercifully, this burden was given months after the golden calf scandal.
The priests had three daily reminders of the twelve tribes—these two pieces of jewelry and the twelve loaves of show-bread. They had to pray always and for everyone.
39:22–26 The ephod was covered with a blue robe, tied with a binding and decorated on the skirts with pomegranates of blue, purple, scarlet and white material alternating with golden bells. When Aaron moved around in the Inner Sanctum, the bells would ring and assure the worshipers that he was alive. 28:35
39:27–31 Linen coats, pants, a turban for the high priest and caps for his sons were embroidered with needle-work. A crown of gold on the high priests turban had an inscription sewed onto it: “Holy to the Lord.”
“It shall be upon Aaron’s forehead and Aaron shall take upon himself any guilt incurred in the holy offerings….”(28:38). A later high priest, Eli, would pay dearly for sinful corruption of the sacrificial system. ISam.2:12–17; 22–36
29–1–37 The priests were instructed to perform a ceremony of ordination that involved sacrifices.
First there was a meal offering of unleavened bread and oil.
Then a bull for a sin offering was sacrificed. Blood from the bull was to touch the horns of the altar and consecrate it.
As with the bull, a ram was offered after the priests had laid their hands on it (to transfer sin and guilt), burning the whole carcass on the altar.
The blood from a second ram was touched to the right ear, thumb and great toe of the priests, indicating the dedication of the whole person to the priesthood. Part of the ram with bread and oil was waved before the Lord and then burned. The breast of the ram was waved and then cooked for the priests to eat. 29:31
39:32–43 They brought all the components together under Moses’ supervision and blessing.
40:1–33 As the Lord commanded, they erected the tabernacle , put the ark in the inner sanctum and hid it behind the curtain. They brought the table of bread, the lamp-stand, and the golden altar of incense into the Holy Place. The table for bread was put on the north side of the holy place, and the lamp-stand opposite in on the south side. The altar of incense was positioned in front of the veil that separated off the Holy of Holies. They set the altar for burnt offering (the brazen altar) at the door of the tabernacle and the laver between the altar and the Tabernacle. The laver was filled with water for the priests to wash their hands and feet. The court was strung out and its screens hung. The tabernacle and its contents were anointed with holy oil. Aaron and his sons were washed at the door of the Tabernacle and dressed in their sacred robes. The offerings were completed as the Lord commanded.
“…as the Lord commanded Moses.” is repeated eight times. (40:16,’, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32)
40:34–38 When it was finished, the cloud covered the Tabernacle and filled it. Moses could not go in because of the cloud and the glory. The cloud stayed with them. When it lifted, they moved, a cloud by day and a fire by night.
A diagram of the Tabernacle is at the end of this discussion
We can tour through the Tabernacle and let it teach us the Way, almost as simple as the five colors that teach children the plan of redemption.
I. No one can enter the Lord’s courts without a sacrifice. At their ordination, Aaron and his sons made sin offerings and burnt offerings. (Ex.29:10–18). These sacrifices were made at the brazen altar at the entrance to the tabernacle grounds. The priest did not enter until the sacrifice was made.
”Indeed, under the Law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. “ (Heb.9:22)
II. Once inside the tabernacle precincts, any ceremonial defilement was washed off by the priests at the laver.
“He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over.” (Jn.13:10)
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (IJn.1:9). Such cleansing should be done daily.
III In the Tabernacle, as a kingdom of priests (IPet.2:5,9), we enjoy the daily duties and activities of the spiritual life. We have bread to eat, light to see by and the incense of prayer. We feed ourselves with the Bread of Life. The Holy Spirit illuminates our thoughts and directs our actions. We pray to the Father in Jesus' name.
IV. The remaining question is how do we get home. The object of many board games is to get HOME, to reach completion, to make it. HOME in the Christian life is the presence of God. That is represented by the Holy of Holies. But in the Tabernacle, only the High Priest entered there. The veil restrained even the priests from seeing the Shekinah glory of God.
“These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing.” (Heb.9:8)
“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom and the earth shook….” (Matt.27:50–51)
“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith with our heats sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb.10:19–22)
Jesus has made a way for us into the presence of God. Let us enjoy our privilege.
To simplify yet again,
Everyone who comes to God comes by the altar, the sacrifice Christ made for us on the Cross. No one comes on personal merits, only on Jesus' merits.
These elements are part of the normal Christian life
Daily cleansing by confession and repentance.
Light as the Holy Spirit reveals Scripture to us.
Daily feasting, meditating on Christ.
Prayer that is incense offered to God.
The exceptional element is our direct access to God, with the opportunity to see His glory now and to dwell with Him in eternity.
PS. Considering how exacting God’s demands were in the details of the Tabernacle, and how many times we are told Moses did as he was commanded, we wonder how if there is any latitude that God allows in the doctrine of our salvation. Suppose, for example, that I was taught that there is no original sin or that people who never heard of Christ could still be saved? What if I believe that God does not know the future, or I pray to saints or deny the Virgin Birth of Christ, or I don’t go to church, or I don't believe in Hell?
Hebrews warns us against
Neglect of the message. Heb.2:1–4
Falling away (3:7–18), shrinking back. 10:38
Remaining immature. 5:11–14
Standing off (apostasy). 6:4–8
Sinning deliberately. 10:26–31
A root of bitterness. 12:15
Refusing God’s revelation. 12:25
These warnings are global and not particular. They do not address specific heresies or specific sins. We have false ideas in doctrine but we may believe that moral lapses are much more important.
“If I can’t know for sure that my beliefs are perfectly correct, how can I know whether my beliefs are correct enough to attain salvation? In the end, I realized that salvation by orthodoxy has the same problems as salvation by works. We can’t know whether our beliefs are perfect enough. Salvation was never meant to rest on our own perfection, whether that be perfection of action or perfection of thought. Salvation comes by grace. Salvation comes to us through the work of God in Christ, freely offered to us—a redemptive act that is powerful enough to forgive both our sins and our heresies. ”
--N.L.Tinkham in “Stones of Remembrance”. Wheaton Coll. 2006, p.127.