THE OLD TESTAMENT HOUSE OF THE LORD: FOUR
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Four” is taken from The Tabernacle of the Congregation, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries, found in the Kindle Library)
Table of Contents
Interaction and Common Aspects of the Seven Furnishings
Sides of the Tabernacle
The Holy Place: Furnishings; Door; Walls; Ceiling; Veil; and Floor
The Holy of Holies
The Two Curtains and Two Coverings
The Linen Fence—its Pillars, Sockets, Gate, Joinings, Pins, and Cords
Interaction and Common Aspects of the Seven Furnishings
Have you ever thought about the common factors that linked the seven holy furnishings? First of all, the Altar of Burnt Offering and the Laver were together in the Courtyard of the Tabernacle, so they had placement in common—a common location. The Table of Showbread, the Lampstand and the Altar of Incense were together in the Holy Place. The Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat were together in the Holy of Holies. Their common placement suggests that they tend to be grouped together in spiritual fulfillment.
There was much interaction among the seven furnishings. On occasion, the blood was taken from the sacrifice on the Altar of Burnt Offering and brought into the sanctuary, there to be sprinkled on the Mercy Seat or before the Veil; or perhaps put on the horns of the Altar of Incense, depending on the particular observance.
Because of the heavy work of sacrifice at the Altar of Burnt Offering the priests would become very sweaty and dirty. If a priest were then to go into the Tabernacle to minister at the Table of Showbread, the Lampstand, or the Altar of Incense, or the Mercy Seat, he first had to wash at the Laver.
We can see from these examples that there was much interaction among the seven holy furnishings of the Tabernacle. It is true today that the actions of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ are interrelated and depend on each other for the accomplishment of their purposes. This is why competition among Christian groups can never be more than the futile striving of ambitious people (I Corinthians 1:13).
The incense cups from the Table of Showbread were used to put incense on the Altar of Incense, and also on the golden censer during the Day of Atonement. The hot coals were picked up by means of the golden tongs from the Lampstand. The incense from the Altar of Incense covered the Lampstand and the Table of Showbread.
On the Day of Atonement the anointed priest slew a young bull at the Altar of Burnt Offering, bathed at the Laver, took a censer from the Lampstand, filled the censer with coals from the Altar of Incense, took a cup full of incense from the Table of Showbread, went behind the Veil and put the incense on the glowing coals in the golden censer he was carrying, and then sprinkled some of the blood of the young bull on the Mercy Seat and before the Mercy Seat.
The Day of Atonement was a most important observance of the Hebrew religious year. All the vessels of the Tabernacle worked together on that day. So it is that the Body of Christ is built up and operates by that which every part supplies.
There were other common factors among the seven holy vessels. For example: both the Altar of Burnt Offering and the Altar of Incense had four horns. This signifies that the sacrifice of Christ, and worship and supplication, are to go to the ends of the earth.
… so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
Also, horns in the Scriptures mean power—power to push back an enemy. There is great power in the cross of Christ, power to overcome the enemy. There is tremendous power also in the prayer and praise of the Altar of Incense. Power is revealed by the four horns on these two altars.
The Ark, the Altar of Incense, and the Table of Showbread had crowns. The crowns speak to us of the lordship of Christ, and also of the crown awaiting each overcomer. The Mercy Seat and the Lampstand were both created from solid gold beaten into shape. These two furnishings in particular reveal the Persons and work of the Godhead.
Both the Altar of Burnt Offering and the Laver contained bronze. Bronze in the Scriptures represents the fire and strength of God’s judgment. The Mercy Seat, Lampstand, and the Laver were created from solid metal—no wood was included; this they had in common. The Mercy Seat, the Laver, and the Lampstand remind us of the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit of I John 5:7. The Altar of Burnt Offering, the Table of Showbread, and the Lampstand had in common that specific utensils were included with them. Perhaps these utensils, symbols of human service, were included with them because the three furnishings represent critical elements in the salvation of people.
If we include the Laver as part of the Altar of Burnt Offering, we have the primary aspects of salvation: (1) the atonement made by the offering of Christ—the Altar of Burnt Offering; (2) the cleansing of water baptism—the Laver; (3) the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ, the born-again experience—the Table of Showbread; and (4) the Holy Spirit through whom we are baptized into the Body of Christ—the Lampstand.
The remaining three holy vessels have more to do with our service toward God than they do with our own salvation. They meet God’s requirements rather than our needs, speaking broadly. The turning point between our needs and God’s needs is the fourth of the holy furnishings, the Lampstand. It is at the Lampstand that we begin to change from the saved person, occupied primarily with the meeting of his own needs, into the servant of the Lord who is intent on meeting God’s needs.
The Altar of Incense, the Lampstand, and the Altar of Burnt Offering were the three vessels that contained the Lord’s fire—a fire that was to be kept burning.
The Altar of Burnt Offering and the Laver had in common that they were lighted by the sun. The three vessels of the Holy Place were lighted (at night) by the Lampstand. The two vessels in the Holy of Holies were lighted by the Glory of God.
The seven holy furnishings had in common that they were carried on the shoulders of the Kohathite Levites rather than in wagons, as were the remaining parts of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
There probably were many other characteristics held in common among two or more of the seven holy furnishings of the Tabernacle. But we will end for now our discussion of the physical characteristics of the seven pieces of furniture of the Tabernacle. How well can you remember the facts we have discussed?
Sides of the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle building had wooden walls on both sides and a wooden wall on the rear (western end) of the structure. There was a door on the front made of material hung on five pillars, or posts. The three walls were constructed of wide, thick boards standing on end, having two tenons inserted in heavy silver sockets. The sockets were placed on the ground.
This long, rectangular, barn-like building was about fifteen feet across, fifteen feet high, and forty-five feet in length. It was partitioned off by the cloth Veil into two rooms. The front (eastern) room was the Holy Place. It occupied two-thirds of the length, being about thirty feet long.
The Holy Place: Furnishings; Door; Walls; Ceiling; Veil; and Floor
The rear room on the western end, the Holy of Holies, was cubical in proportion, fifteen feet wide, high, and long. The roof was fine twisted linen protected by a tent of black goats’ hair wool, a covering of red leather over the black goats’ hair, and a final covering of porpoises’ skins over the red leather. There were five bars running horizontally through rings on the outside of the three wooden sides. Now, let’s look at some of these parts in more detail.
The north, south, and west walls were constructed from thick, heavy boards standing in sockets of silver placed on the wilderness floor. The floor of the Tabernacle, from the Holy of Holies to the outer court, was the desert ground.
God wants His saints to have their feet on the ground. When Moses and Joshua were at the beginning of their ministries, God made them take off their shoes. This means all our works are to be removed and taken out of the way when we come before the Lord.
All of our pretenses, facades, hypocrisy, conniving, self-centeredness and self-seeking, personal ambition and so forth must be stripped from us if we are to approach God.
No matter how ornate were the glorious and beautiful robes of the high priests; no matter how costly and gleaming the golden vessels of the sanctuary, the stunning blues, purples and crimsons of the Veil, the door of the sanctuary and the gate of the Court; the woven cherubim in the sparkling white linen; in spite of all of this spectacular glory and beauty the floor of the Tabernacle remained the dust of the earth. For man was made from the dust of the earth, and it is wholesome for people to recall this fact every once in a while.
And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of Shittim wood standing up. Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board. Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle. (Exodus 26:15-17)
The thickness of the boards is not mentioned, but the other dimensions that are stated suggest one-fourth cubit (four and one-half inches) of thickness for each board, thereby forming the inside dimensions of symbolic significance for the Holy and Most Holy places.
The boards were fifteen feet long, twenty-seven inches wide, and perhaps four and one-half inches thick. Each board was anchored by means of two pegs, or tenons, in the lower end of the board, set into two sockets of silver estimated at one hundred twenty-five pounds apiece.
If you can visualize the picture, each of the forty-eight boards being of this massive size and anchored in a total of six tons of silver, and then covered with four layers of heavy material, you can see that the strongest wind blowing through the wilderness could not move the Tabernacle of the Congregation, just as the forces of Hell can do nothing against the Body of Christ once it has been built on Christ.
And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward. And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons. And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards: And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board. (Exodus 26:18-21)
The silver for the Tabernacle was obtained from an offering required of every Israelite man of twenty years and older. The half shekel of silver was an “atonement” for their souls (Exodus 38:25-28).
And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards. (Exodus 26:22)
This last verse (Exodus 26:22) contains the expression “sides of the tabernacle westward.” It seems likely that there was only one side on the western end of the Tabernacle. The western end is the back wall of the Holy of Holies, and it is very unlikely that it was shaped like a blunt arrow, which is the only way there could have been two sides on the west end.
The Amplified Bible refers to it as the “west side.” (The Amplified Bible, Old Testament. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965.) Rotherham translates it “the hinderpart of the habitation westward.” (The Emphasized Bible, translated by Joseph Bryant Rotherham, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, reprinted 1971.) Apparently the Hebrew phraseology is difficult to convey in English, so we probably should ascribe this obscurity to problems within the translation of the Scripture from Hebrew into English. In any event, there seems to have been just one side on the west, and it was constructed from six boards.
And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides. (Exodus 26:23)
Scholars have worked with the two corner boards in different ways. The solution appealing to us is that the two corner boards were ripped and mitered, and joined at right angles, forming two corner sections—one each for the northwest corner and the southwest corner.
This would make a better joint than just butting the corners, and would account for the inside dimensions of the room. Allowances had to be made for the thickness of the Veil and the thickness of the boards so the inside dimensions of the room would be exact.
Has it occurred to you as we have gone along that we have had to say several times, it must have been like this or it must have been like that?
It certainly would make our task a lot simpler if God would show us what the Tabernacle looked like. God showed the Tabernacle to Moses while Moses was up in Mount Sinai. God commanded Moses to make all things according to the pattern showed to him in the mountain. Moses did not have to rely on the written directions. He had seen the Tabernacle as God wanted it constructed.
So it is today. We cannot construct the Church of Christ solely from the directions in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit must assist us and give us the Spirit of revelation. If we do not have the current revelation of the Holy Spirit, and attempt to build just from what is written, too much will be left to human judgment. The result will be strife, arguing, divisions in the Body of Christ.
It is time now for the Holy Spirit to be put in charge (by us) of the building of the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit must become much more prominent in church government and operation as we approach the coming of the Lord. “Saul’s day” is quickly coming to a close. It is time for our “King David” from Heaven, the Lord Jesus, to come into His own inheritance in the Church and the world.
Still speaking of the two corner boards, the Scripture states:
And they shall be coupled together beneath, and they shall be coupled together above the head of it unto one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners. (Exodus 26:24)
This is speaking of the reinforcing of the corner sections with rings.
And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board. And thou shalt make bars of Shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle, And five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, for the two sides westward. (Exodus 26:25-27)
Again we come to the statement “the two sides westward.” The Amplified Bible renders this, “five bars for the boards of the rear end of the tabernacle, for the back wall to the west.” (The Amplified Bible, Old Testament.) Rotherham translates, “five bars for the boards of the side of the habitation, at the hinderpart westward.” (The Emphasized Bible.)
Again, there apparently was only one side on the west. The problem seems to be merely one of translation of Hebrew into English. No writer on the Tabernacle whom we have studied indicates more than one side on the west.
And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end. (Exodus 26:28)
There were five bars running horizontally around the three wooden sides of the Tabernacle, inserted in rings of gold. There has been some discussion about how these bars were placed, especially the middle bar. The opinion that seems reasonable to us is that the middle bar ran the whole length of each of the three sides, while the two bars above and the two bars below were somewhat shorter, but long enough to give the necessary added strength to the walls.
The long bar in the middle of the shorter bars presents the same design as the long branch of the Lampstand with the shorter branches on each side. We mentioned previously that the number five speaks of beginnings, especially in the sense of entrance. The Altar of Burnt Offering was five cubits square; five pillars supported the hanging for the door of the sanctuary; the Altar of Incense was the fifth of the seven holy furnishings and stood at the entrance to the Holy of Holies.
The fence around the Court of the Tabernacle was five cubits high. The fifth day of creation was the beginning of animal life. The fifth Levitical convocations was the Blowing of Trumpets, which marked the first day (New Year’s Day) of the Jewish civil, or agricultural year.
The Blowing of Trumpets symbolizes the beginning of spiritual warfare and the coming of the King, who is announced by trumpets. In the symbolism of the wilderness wanderings, the silver trumpets were made after Mount Sinai (after Pentecost, the fourth feast—Sinai and Pentecost are related in symbolic meaning) and reveal the organizing of the congregation of wandering sheep of Israel into the host of the Lord that always follows the Ark of the Covenant into battle against the enemies of God. The number five appears to speak of the beginning, the entrance into the Kingdom of God.
The five bars suggest to us that the Body of Christ, the fulfillment of the symbolism of the Tabernacle building, is held together, first of all, by Christ Himself—the long bar running around the outside of the building; just as Christ is shown by the long central branch of the Lampstand. Additional support is then given to the Body of Christ by the four ministries of Ephesians, Chapter Four: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the shepherd-teachers.
It is possible that the fifth bar, the one representing Christ, ran through holes drilled through the sides of the boards rather than being on the outside, and served to keep the boards in perfect alignment. This design would follow the concept that, while Christ Himself is invisible He is in the four apostolic ministries and keeps them in alignment.
There are four ministries and four Gospel accounts. Four is the number of the light of God, the communication of the Holy Spirit. But Christ is central to all. He Himself is the Center of the Christian Church.
We have said the number five indicates the entrance into the Kingdom of God. So it is that the Body of Christ, as symbolized by the Tabernacle building, is the beginning, after Christ, of the Kingdom of God in the earth. First came Christ, the King of the Kingdom. Next the entire Body of Christ will be brought to the fullness of perfection in the beauty of holiness. Finally the Presence of God in His Tabernacle will fill the whole earth and God will be all in all.
The long center bar represents Christ who is the Center and Circumference of all things. The other four bars reveal the “gifts to men,” or the “gifts consisting of men” as Rotherham has it, of Psalms 68:18 (The Emphasized Bible). The four ministries are the ascension gifts of Christ. The four ministries are the expressions of the resurrected Christ through spiritually-gifted people, people given by the Lord for the building of the Body of Christ.
The apostles are those who are sent from the side of Christ to establish the Church on the foundation, which is Christ. The evangelists are God’s heralds who go everywhere, bringing the good news of the Savior and of the Kingdom of God.
The prophets keep the Church in touch with the burden of the spirit realm. They hear from God the burden for the hour and bear witness of the immediate Word from the Lord. It always is the will of Christ that the Church know the Lord’s immediate thinking, not only what He said hundreds of years ago.
The apostles establish; the evangelists herald the good news; the prophets keep on announcing the present burden of the Holy Spirit, not only to the Church universal but also to particular groups of Christians.
The pastors and teachers work among the Christians, feeding them with the Word of God and guiding them as they begin to grow. The pastors and teachers remain on guard in case “wolves” enter in and attempt to harm the Lord’s sheep, or try to lead them off so the false apostles, prophets, and teachers can satisfy their own lusts.
When the four ascension ministries, the apostle, prophet, evangelist, and shepherd-teacher, are all moving in the Holy Spirit, the members of the Body of Christ will grow toward maturity—the standard of maturity being the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
There also were four basic ministries under the old covenant: the patriarch, the prophet, the administrator-warrior, and the priest-teacher. There was an intermingling of these ministries in people, as is true in the new covenant ministries as well.
Abraham and Job were patriarch-prophets. Moses was an administrator-prophet. David was an administrator-warrior-prophet. Daniel was an administrator-prophet. Ezekiel was a priest-prophet. There were some ministries more sharply defined, such as Elijah the prophet, Nehemiah the administrator, and Aaron who was a priest-teacher.
The five bars of the sides of the Tabernacle represent the ministries of Christ given to His Church. The one bar longer than the others is our Lord Jesus. The four shorter bars are the ascension gifts given to the Church so the Church may be founded on the Rock, Christ, and may be built up in Him. The four ministries are expressions of His resurrection life.
And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars: and thou shalt overlay the bars with gold. And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount. (Exodus 26:29,30)
We have seen, then, that the interior of the Holy Place was glorious to behold. The white linen, with its blue, purple, and scarlet colors was seen at the door, on the ceiling, and on the Veil. Also, in the ceiling and Veil were fashioned the cherubim. On the pillars and walls was the polished fine gold of the Tabernacle.
Within the Holy Place were the Table of Showbread, Lampstand and Altar of Incense. The room was lighted at night by the seven lamps of the Lampstand. The area was filled with the fragrance of the perfume from the Altar of Incense.
Every aspect of the room and its furnishings is symbolic of the Person and work of Christ; of the growth of the individual Christian into spiritual maturity; of the coming of the Body of Christ to the fullness of Christ; and of the setting up of the Kingdom of God on the earth. How great God is! How greatly to be praised in His holiness!
In contrast to the lavish interior was the floor of the Tabernacle. The floor was the earth, the wilderness ground. God does not want us to forget that we are creatures of the dust; and while He has elected to lift us to the throne of glory, yet it is none of our doing.
Adam was formed from the dust of the ground just as Christ was formed from God Himself. Adam was ground just as Christ is God, being of the Substance of God.
When a man is standing on the ground in his bare feet there is nothing between him and that from which he was formed—no invention, no covering, no device, no deception. God wants us to come to Him that way. He wants us to be absolutely honest, sincere, without pretense, invention, device of any kind. It is just God and I—not even another human being until we are ready for God-ordained relationships.
There are times when we must come to God that way. If we attempt to throw up a protective screen or pretense of any kind, God immediately strips it away so He and we can see exactly what we are in personality, in imagination, in motive, in word, in behavior.
The great acacia boards were completely covered with gold and then stood up on end. Each board had two tenons on the bottom. Each tenon was inserted in a silver socket having a weight of one hundred twenty-five pounds, making a total of two hundred fifty pounds of foundation for each of the forty-eight boards.
The Tabernacle building is a portrayal of the Body of Christ, the Anointed Deliverer, the Servant of the Lord. Every member stands upright in the Lord. Every member is the same height; there are no priests among the believers. Christ is our priest. Every member of the Body of Christ is a human being (acacia wood) covered with the Glory of God in Christ (gold). Each member of the Body of Christ is anchored immovably in the redemption (silver) of Christ.
The great weight of silver symbolizes the purchase price of our redemption, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us was sold into the bondage of sin and death through the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The blood of Christ is the purchase price of the mortgage that Satan has on the spirits, souls and bodies of mankind. The blood is the full price, and Christ has paid it for every person.
Thus the Body of Christ is anchored in the “silver” of Christ’s redemption. It is this “silver” that separates the Christian from the rest of the people of the earth, who still are in the bondage of sin and death.
The Holy Place of the Tabernacle was a rectangular room about fifteen feet wide, fifteen feet high, and thirty feet long. The dimensions are approximate but they give an idea of the actual size and shape of the Holy Place. The Veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. (Exodus 26:33)
On the north side of the Holy Place was the Table of Showbread. On the south side of the Holy Place was the Lampstand. On the west side of the Holy Place, standing just before the Veil, was the Altar of Incense.
The door of the Tabernacle, on the east side, was constructed from material hung on five pillars, or posts.
And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework. And thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of Shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them. (Exodus 26:36,37)
And he made an hanging for the tabernacle door of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, of needlework; And the five pillars of it with their hooks: and he overlaid their chapiters and their fillets with gold: but their five sockets were of brass. (Exodus 36:37,38)
There were three hangings included in the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The first hanging was the gate of the Court leading into the area surrounded by the linen fence. The second hanging was the door of the Tabernacle, where so many events of significance occurred. The third hanging was the Veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
All three hangings were of the same colors: purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen (white). The expression “wrought with needlework” implies that the colors were worked into the linen in a beautiful and detailed manner.
The material of the door of the Tabernacle was hung on five pillars, or posts, constructed from acacia wood. The wood was covered with gold. The hooks for the hanging and the other joinings were of gold. The pillars were crowned with ornamental gold capitals. The pillars stood in sockets of bronze.
The number five speaks, as we have said, of an entrance. In this case it is the entrance into the Body of Christ. By one Spirit we are baptized into the Body of Christ.
The pillars of gold-covered wood represent the victorious saints, who are “pillars in the temple of God.” The gold capitals speak of the authority and power given to the saints through their Lord, Christ.
The sockets of bronze reveal that both Christ and His saints are rooted and established in God’s judgment. Those who stand at the entrance to the Temple of God have been through the fire with God and have had their senses exercised to judge between good and evil. They have chosen, in Christ, to love righteousness and hate sin. They have, through Christ, overcome the ancient dragon, the accuser of the brothers.
The glory within the Christian must be anchored in God’s Word of judgment. The golden pillars must be founded in the bronze of judgment. The fire of God must try every work, separating the light of Christ from any darkness in the individual.
The Israelite standing with his sacrifice at the door of the Tabernacle could gain some idea of the beauty of the interior from the gold, blue, purple, crimson and white of the door. For him to go into the Holy Place would have resulted in his death. But he could at least imagine what it looked like!
The door of the Tabernacle, or door of the Tent (both mean the same thing), was the place where God met Israel. The Altar of Burnt Offering was there, as was the Laver. It was the center of the activity of the Tabernacle. The door of the Tabernacle is mentioned several times in Scripture, in Leviticus and Numbers in particular. Be on the lookout for the door of the Tabernacle, or door of the Tent, as you study about the Tabernacle.
The interior walls of the Holy Place were the gold with which the acacia boards were covered.
The ceiling of the Holy Place was especially interesting. It was the linen curtain, the first piece of material thrown over the acacia-board sides. The acacia boards with the linen curtain constituted the Tabernacle proper. The second material, the black goats’ hair, was a tent over the Tabernacle. The third and fourth layers of material, the red leather and the porpoises’ skins, were coverings over the goats’ hair tent.
The ceiling was beautiful to behold. It was of sparkling white linen with colors of blue, purple, and scarlet. Figures of cherubim were worked in it. At the far end of the Holy Place was the Veil, also showing forth the blue, purple and scarlet hues skillfully worked, and cherubim woven into the material.
And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of Shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. (Exodus 26:31-33)
We shall notice a little later that the first two layers of material that covered the Tabernacle boards, that is, the curtain of linen, and the curtain of goats’ hair that formed a tent over the curtain of linen, were each composed of two large pieces of material held together by clasps (taches—Authorized Version). The clasps were positioned directly over the four posts holding up the Veil.
The two large sections of the linen curtain were joined (clasped together) over the Veil, and the two large sections of the goats’ hair tent were joined over the Veil. Evidently the Lord wants us to regard the separation marked off by the Veil as a significant division, a line of demarcation.
The four posts were wood covered with gold, holding up the Veil on hooks of gold and resting in silver sockets, similar to the sockets of the boards that formed the sides and western end of the Tabernacle building. The Veil was about fifteen feet square, being fashioned from the same blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen as the door of the Tabernacle and the gate of the Court.
Figures of cherubim were woven in the material of the Veil. This was not true of the door of the Tabernacle or of the gate of the Court.
The only occasion on which anyone went beyond the Veil into the Holy of Holies was the annual Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement the high priest burned incense in a golden censer in the Holy of Holies and sprinkled blood upon and before the Mercy Seat. Otherwise, the Ark of the Covenant and the covering Mercy Seat remained invisible throughout the year.
It was the counterpart of this Veil in Herod’s Temple that was torn asunder when Christ was crucified (Mark 15:38).
In all the glory and beauty of the Tabernacle, God did not want the priests ever to forget they were only men made from the dust of the ground. They came before Him walking on their bare feet on the face of the earth, with nothing between them and the earth from which they were created. If they did wear sandals it was not recorded when their clothing was specified.
And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. (Exodus 28:4)
The Holy of Holies
Behind the ornate Veil was the smaller room called the Holy of Holies (Most Holy Place). It was a cube, about fifteen feet on a side. The walls, ceiling and floor were identical to those of the Holy Place.
Located within the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat (Atonement Cover) serving as the lid. It was here that God dwelled between the Cherubim of Glory. The light from the golden Lampstand did not enter this area. It was dark except for the light of the Glory of God.
Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest dared to enter the Holy of Holies and make an atonement for himself and for the people. This was the most awesome day of the Jewish year and the anointed priest entered in danger of his life.
The Veil of the Temple of Herod was torn on the occasion of the crucifixion of Christ. Now, through His blood, every believer may come boldly to the Throne of God and find forgiveness, wisdom, and strength to help in time of need.
Only someone who had once stood trembling in awe and fear at the door of the Tabernacle, waiting for the high priest to emerge, still alive after having made an atonement before the Mercy Seat, could ever fully appreciate the fact that now every person—Jew and Gentile alike—who puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ may come before God, a privilege once reserved for the high priest, and him but once each year.
There is only one reason for this reversal: it is that the sacrifice of Christ was so perfect, so completely fulfilling of all that God requires, that what was once the fearful responsibility of one man in the whole world, the anointed priest of the nation of Israel, is now available to every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of the earth through the blood of God’s Offering, Christ. Each of us may come boldly at any time before the throne of grace that we may obtain help as we strive to overcome the forces of darkness.
The Two Curtains and Two Coverings
There were four layers of material placed over the forty-eight upright boards from which the sides of the Tabernacle building were constructed. The first layer was the linen curtain, which we have just discussed in connection with the Holy Place. The linen was sparkling white with hues of blue, purple and scarlet. Cherubim were wrought in the linen curtain as a design. The upright boards of the Tabernacle, with the fine linen that formed the ceiling and hung down over the outside of the boards, constituted the dwelling place of the Lord.
The second layer of material, which was placed over the fine linen, was the curtain of goats’ hair. The goats’ hair curtain apparently was black and woolen in texture. The goats’ hair curtain was a tent—it was the tent over the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle, the place of God’s dwelling, was the gold and the fine linen. But there was a tent of goats’ hair material that covered the linen. The goats’ hair was placed over the linen curtain and covered the top and sides of the building.
The third layer of material, which covered the goats’ hair, was rams’ skins dyed red. It was a red leather covering. The fourth layer of material, which covered the rams’ skins dyed red, was the badgers’ skins, believed by modern scholars to have been the skins of dolphins, or porpoises. In any case, it was a rough, weatherproof outer covering over the first three layers of material.
Can you think of a more vivid picture of the Christian? In the heart of the Christian is the righteousness of God. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. This is the fine linen, pure and white.
Also in the heart of the believer is the blue, revealing that salvation comes down from Heaven; the purple of the lordship of Christ; and the crimson of the broken body and shed blood of Christ, the continual eating and drinking of which gives life to the disciple. The figures of the cherubim in the linen ceiling portray the spiritual power that governs the life of the disciple of Christ.
Next is the black goats’ hair curtain. This is the tent. The “tent” of the Christian is his body, and the Scripture states that the body of the Christian is “dead because of sin” (Romans 8:10). Covering the black tent (body of the Christian) is the protection of the blood of Christ, the atonement, the rams’ skins dyed red.
Over the entire structure is a tough hide. Christians do not make much progress until they develop a thick skin. Frail, wilting, timid people who are looking for an excuse to not serve the Lord will quickly find such an excuse. They will soon be offended, either by the world or by members of the churches. A Christian has to be strong and resilient to survive in this life.
Israel never did fully possess the land of Canaan (Judges 2:2). The tribes did not have enough faith to follow the Lord into the land of promise. We miss God’s gift when we do not have the faith to follow Christ where He leads us. We must keep on pressing along, day after day, week after week, year after year, and take many blows and discouragements without quitting.
Notice why the lazy servant buried his talent:
And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. (Matthew 25:25)
“I was afraid.”
This is where the covering of porpoises’ skins comes into use. We must be able to survive all kinds of blows from the environment without letting trouble get past the outer covering into our heart where it can interfere with what God is doing within us.
It was necessary for the Tabernacle and its holy furnishings to have a weatherproof covering to protect them from the elements. It is necessary for us also to have a tough covering so we will not give up when the journey becomes difficult.
First, righteousness in the heart; next, the law of sin and death in the body; covering the sin of our body is the blood of the Lord Jesus; finally, a tough hide so we can persevere through whatever comes against us while God is dealing with our inner man. Meanwhile our spirit and soul are becoming strong enough to embrace holiness of word, deed, imagination and motive.
Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them. The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure. The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other five curtains shall be coupled one to another. (Exodus 26:1-3)
This is a description of the linen curtain that constituted the Tabernacle proper, the other three layers being the Tent and the coverings. The linen curtain that formed the ceiling of the Tabernacle was made of ten smaller curtains. These were sewn together into two sections of five curtains each.
Each section was twenty-eight cubits (forty-two feet) long, and twenty cubits (thirty feet) wide. The two sections, each twenty-eight by twenty cubits in size, were fastened together over the Veil.
The total width was forty cubits. Twenty cubits covered the Holy Place. Then came the golden clasps that fastened to loops of blue. Of the remaining twenty cubits, ten covered the Holy of Holies and ten hung down over the back (western end) of the Tabernacle.
The length of the curtains was twenty-eight cubits. Since the Tabernacle was ten and one-half cubits wide (outside dimension) and ten cubits high, the linen curtains cleared the ground by about a cubit on each side.
There were fifty taches (clasps) of gold that held together the two sections of the linen curtain.
Next came the curtain of black goats’ hair, the “covering upon the tabernacle.”
And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make. The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure. And thou shalt couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle. (Exodus 26:7-9)
The construction of the goats’ hair curtain was similar to that of the linen curtain. The eleven curtains, thirty cubits long and four cubits wide, were sewn into two large sections, one section having six curtains and one having five.
The two sections were made one whole curtain by means of fifty clasps of bronze. Being thirty cubits long instead of twenty-eight cubits, the goats’ hair curtain nearly reached the ground on either side. The two sections were joined over the Veil.
Forty cubits of the curtain covered the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, and the western end.
However, the section that had six curtains instead of five had one of the four-cubit pieces left over. This piece came down over the front of the Tabernacle, over the door, and then doubled back, making a kind of band across the top of the door—“and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle.”
The third material was the first of the two outer coverings—the rams’ skins dyed red.
And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins. (Exodus 26:14)
The coverings were for the “tent,” that is, for the goats’ hair curtain; whereas the goats’ hair curtain was a tent over the actual Tabernacle of the Lord, which consisted of the linen curtains and the gold-covered boards.
The final, outer covering was the badgers’ (porpoises’) skins.
The ram was the animal used for the consecration of the priests. When Aaron and his sons were consecrated, a ram was offered for a burnt offering. Another ram was termed the “ram of consecration,” and its blood was put on the tip of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot; also on the sons of Aaron in the same manner (Leviticus 8:22-24).
No doubt God intends for us to view the rams’ skins covering of the Tabernacle as having to do with the priestly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as portraying the covering of Christ’s blood over our sinful flesh.
There were two sets of fifty clasps directly over the Veil that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. One set of fifty gold clasps joined the two sections of the linen curtain. One set of fifty bronze clasps joined the two sections of the tent of goats’ hair.
The Holy Place speaks of the Church Age, and the Most Holy Place portrays the coming Kingdom Age.
The number fifty is symbolic of Pentecost, and also of the Year of Jubilee. The fifty bronze, and then fifty gold, reveal that the transition from the present Church Age to the Kingdom Age will include judgment and deliverance (redemption) in the earth. The great earth-wide redemption (Jubilee) will be accomplished by the fire and sword of God’s Word, which is the majesty and power of Christ (the fifty bronze clasps); and by a surpassingly great outpouring of the Holy Spirit (the fifty gold clasps).
The Kingdom Age will be a Millennial Jubilee, a period of time during which there will be extraordinary blessing and revelation, as the Glory of God covers the whole earth as the “waters cover the sea.”
Following the Millennial Jubilee will be the eternal new heaven and earth reign of Christ. On the new earth will be the holy city, the new Jerusalem, which is the spiritual fulfillment of the Glory of God dwelling between the cherubim of the Lid of Atonement (Mercy Seat) of the Ark of the Covenant.
We meet our old friend, number five, the number that symbolizes entrance into the Kingdom of God, in the segments of the linen curtain and the goats’ hair tent. The five segments of the linen curtain covering the Holy Place speak of the righteousness of Christ that ensures that the Church remains acceptable to God.
The five segments of the linen curtain that covered the Holy of Holies and hung down over the back of the Tabernacle reveal that the same righteousness of Christ that covers us now will continue to be necessary throughout the coming Kingdom Age. The blood will keep on protecting the Lord’s people until each is perfect.
Then on throughout eternity the spiritual being of each member of the Body of Christ will unfold and develop in the image of the Almighty God as the result of abiding in His Presence and beholding His Person and His Face.
Five segments of the goats’ hair curtain covered the Holy Place, showing that the mortal body of the Christian is being brought forward to the Day of Redemption, at which time the body of the saint will be redeemed. The sixth segment of the goats’ hair tent, that hung down over the door and was folded double, typifies the nature of man, which must be “doubled back” (circumcised) if he is to be received of God.
God always makes His covenant with people with fire, with the sword, and with blood. We must be circumcised in heart. There must be a point at which Christ “kills our flesh.” We cannot abide in Christ and continue in our old self-seeking ways. The Lord brings us into death to self, and then renews us by means of His Spirit. Until we accept the deaths the Lord sends our way we can never experience the fullness of resurrection life.
The five segments of the goats’ hair tent that covered the Holy of Holies and hung down over the back of the building suggest to us that the fleshly nature of people will still be present during the Millennium. The “rod of iron” is necessary because mankind will continue to be capable of rebellion. The Scripture states that after the thousand-year Kingdom Age Satan is able to “deceive the nations” (Revelation 20:8).
The visions of the prophets show us that the thousand-year Kingdom Age will be a period when righteousness is learned by God’s people. The Spirit will be “poured upon us from on high,” and the “work of righteousness shall be peace;” (Isaiah 32:1, 15-18; 40:11; 42:3,4; 54:13,14; Malachi 3:3). God will “cause righteousness and praise to spring forth” (Isaiah 61:11).
The ten cubits of goats’ hair that hung down over the back of the Tabernacle, the western end, reveal the fact that all sin in God’s creation will have been judged and put away by the end of the Kingdom Age. The new heaven and earth reign of Christ will be a new beginning—a new creation indeed!
The Holy Place of the Tabernacle, which is symbolic of the Body of Christ, is the means by which the Kingdom of God will enter the earth. The Church has the keys of the Kingdom. We are, as James says, a kind of firstfruits of God’s creatures. The Kingdom of God will be perfected during the Kingdom Age. Then the Kingdom of God will develop and expand forever, as God in Christ in the Body of Christ reigns over the new earth.
The Linen Fence—Its Pillars, Sockets, Gate, Joinings, Pins and Cords
And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side: And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver. And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten. And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits. The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three. And on the other side shall be hangings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three. And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four. All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass. The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass. (Exodus 27:9-18)
The Courtyard of the Tabernacle was a large area, rectangular in shape, enclosed by the linen fence. Its one gate faced the east as did the door of the Tabernacle. The material used for the fence was a high quality, pure white linen.
When someone standing on the outside viewed the Tabernacle arrangement, the first impression was the whiteness of the linen fence, seventy-five feet wide and one hundred fifty feet long, approximately. The same impression was true when standing on the inside and looking toward the linen fence. The viewer was surrounded by whiteness, reaching a height of seven and one-half feet.
Clean white linen, as used in the Scripture, symbolizes the righteous behavior of the saints (Revelation 19:8). It is the righteousness of God through Christ, first imputed (ascribed) to the Christian and then fashioned in his personality until he is able to act and think righteously. The conduct of the saint of God, the Christian disciple, must be free of the influence of unclean spirits.
There were one thousand five hundred square cubits (300x5) of material in the linen fence; two thousand cubic cubits of volume in the Holy Place (20x10x10); and one thousand cubic cubits of volume (10x10x10) in the Holy of Holies.
One thousand five hundred was the approximate number of years from the building of the Tabernacle to the first coming of Christ. Two thousand years, we believe, will be the period of time from the first coming of Christ until the second coming of Christ, although that time period may be cut short (Romans 9:28). According to the Book of Revelation there will be one thousand years from the second coming of Christ until the descent of the new Jerusalem to the earth.
How wise, knowing, and powerful God is that He can lay out four thousand five hundred years of history like that. Truly, God is God!
There was no roof over the Courtyard of the Tabernacle. It was lighted by the sun. The Altar of Burnt Offering and the Laver were located in the Courtyard, at the door of the Tabernacle building. It is believed that the Tabernacle building itself, under its tent and two coverings, was placed toward the western end of the Court.
The fine twisted linen fence of the outer Court was hung on pillars, or posts. It seems likely that the pillars were made from acacia wood. There were twenty pillars on the north side, twenty pillars on the south side, and ten pillars on the west side.
On the east side was the gate of the Court. There were three pillars on each side of the gate and four pillars holding up the gate material, making a total of ten pillars on the east side. There was a total of sixty pillars, making it necessary for there to be two posts (pillars) at each corner.
The fence was five cubits high and the number of pillars was five times twelve. Twelve represents the family of God. Five is the number of entrance to the things of God. The linen fence symbolically separates the Kingdom of God from outer darkness. All people within the fenced area, the Court of the Tabernacle, are within the righteousness of God in Christ. All who are outside of the linen fence are outside of God’s righteousness, outside of God’s family (Ephesians 3:15).
Each pillar of the fence was set in a socket of bronze. Bronze speaks of the judgment of God, that is, the Word of God expressing itself in the rewarding of righteousness and the destruction of sin.
A horrible situation exists when a person is living his life without reference to God’s judgment. The thoughts, motives, imaginations, words and deeds of the person are a chaos of righteousness and unrighteousness whether or not the person is a Christian. When God’s Word works in judgment in our lives, then we begin to be able to judge between the good and evil in what we think and do.
Little by little God separates the light from the darkness in us. Judgment always falls on sin wherever it may be found. That which has been accepted as righteous by the Lord always lives and cannot be destroyed. Therefore God’s judgment is a desirable force to have working in our lives, and we ought always to run to the Holy Spirit in order that all that we think and do may be brought into judgment.
The hooks of the posts, by means of which the linen was hung and the posts were tied to stakes driven into the ground, were of silver. Silver represents the price of redemption, the value exchanged that is necessary to set free a person who has been sold into slavery. The price must be paid if redemption is to occur. The price of our redemption was and remains the blood of Christ.
The joinings, or “fillets” as King James has it, may have been rods of silver connecting each pillar to the adjacent pillar, thereby running around the perimeter of the fence. Three purposes would have been served by such rods: as drapery rods to keep the curtain from sagging between posts; as additional strength to hold the posts upright; and as measuring rods to keep the posts the correct distance apart.
Such silver rods would symbolize the common bond of redemption that connects each believer to every other person who has been redeemed by Christ. The rods would support each pillar against the desert winds, helping each pillar to remain standing, to keep upholding God’s righteous ways, as typified by the white linen of the fence material.
The gate of the Court was the familiar blue, purple, crimson, and pure white linen found in the Veil, the linen curtain, and the door of the Tabernacle. The linen of the gate was intricately wrought with skillful needlework. There were four pillars holding up the gate materials, which were twenty cubits wide and five cubits in height. On each side of the gate were three pillars on which was hung the ordinary linen material of the fence.
Every Israelite who approached the gate of the Court, bringing his animal to be sacrificed at the Altar of Burnt Offering that stood within the Court area, saw the blue of Heaven, the purple of royalty, and the red blood of sacrifice portrayed on the gate material through which he passed with his sacrifice.
He had to walk between two of the four pillars on which the gate was hung, the four pillars suggesting to us the four Gospel accounts, and also the four ascension gifts of Christ—the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastor-teachers.
Each acacia-wood pillar was topped with an ornamental silver cap, reminding us again of our need to be redeemed through the blood of Christ. Every man, woman, boy and girl in the world, until he or she has been redeemed, is in the possession of Satan. We were sold into the slavery of sin and death when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. No man, no woman, no girl, no boy, has in his or her possession the price of his redemption. We are spiritually destitute.
But then comes our “kinsman,” the One who chose to call Himself the Son of Man. He gave His body and blood as the payment—to pay off the mortgage Satan holds on our spirit, soul and body. Christ paid off the mortgage. Now we have been set free to choose to obey righteousness, to enter the Kingdom of God.
Before Christ paid our redemption we did not have the ability to choose to live righteously. We belonged to the kingdom of darkness. Only the blood of Christ has the value needed to pay the price of our redemption. All the righteous deeds of the most law-abiding, moral person cannot, under any circumstance, add up to the purchase price of his redemption. Only the body and blood of Christ can provide redemption for human beings.
The pillars were held upright against the wilderness winds just as a tent post is held up today. There were cords fastened to silver hooks on the pillars and then tied down to bronze pegs, or pins, driven into the wilderness ground. It does not specify what material the cords were made of. Perhaps they were leather thongs taken from the same material as the red leather covering of the Tabernacle building.
(“The Old Testament House of the Lord: Four”, 3206-1)