The Old Testament Tabernacle is a diagram of God’s intention for our human nature. The Tabernacle was the pattern of His plan for a permanent dwelling place for Himself among His people. It was a symbolic picture of the New Testament Church, which is where He dwells today
According to biblical record, Moses constructed the Tabernacle in response to a command from God. The Tabernacle was both the place of ritual worship and the central location for Israel’s sacred objects. It was first constructed as a portable tent, but later moved to become permanent under Joshua.
The tabernacle was a portable temple that served as the center of Jewish worship for over 400 years. It was located in the courtyard of the sanctuary (which was part of Jerusalem’s great wall) and not just any old scrap of cloth could serve as a covering for the tabernacle; it had to be woven with pure gold thread. The entire structure was richly decorated: it had glowing lamps and ornate furniture, floor coverings made of fine linen and carpets woven by priests in blue, purple, and scarlet threads.
In the biblical narrative, the tabernacle is presented as a sacred space for God’s presence to dwell with his people. The word “tabernacle” translates from Hebrew as “tent,” and is sometimes referred to with this same term in both the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and Christian Old Testament. The tabernacle was constructed of the finest materials.
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Diagram of Old Testament Tabernacle
The tabernacle consisted of a tent-like structure (the tabernacle proper) covered by rug-like coverings for a roof, and an external courtyard (150 feet by 75 feet). The whole compound was surrounded by a high fence about 7 feet in height. The fence was made of linen hangings held by pillars.
The tent (tabernacle proper) was divided into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The tent was made of acacia wood boards overlaid with gold and fitted together to form the walls, measuring 45 by 15 feet. On top, four layers of curtains acted as a roof to shield the tabernacle from sun and rain: The innermost layer was woven with fine linen and embroidered with figures of cherubim (angels), the second layer was made of goat’s hair, the third layer was made of rams’ skins dyed red, and the outermost layer was made of porpoise skins. The curtains were pinned to the ground with loops and clasps.
The specific layout of the tabernacle and its courtyard is significant because it illustrates God’s prescribed way for man to approach Him.
The whole compound was surrounded by a high fence with only one entrance. A person could not simply come from any direction into the tabernacle as he pleased — he had to enter through the one gate, which was always located to the east (so that people were facing west when they entered the tabernacle — a direct opposition to the pagan sun worshippers of the day who always faced east). Upon entering the gate, he encountered the brazen altar, where he was to present his animal offering, and then hand the reigns over to the priests, who make atonement and intercession for him in the tent.
This setup informed the Israelites that they could only come to God in the way He prescribed. There was no other way. As we will see even more clearly in the following sections, God is using the Old Testament tabernacle to tell us that we, too, must come to Him only through the way He has provided for us — Jesus Christ.
When Was The Tabernacle of Moses Built
Tabernacle, Hebrew Mishkan, (“dwelling”), in Jewish history, the portable sanctuary constructed by Moses as a place of worship for the Hebrew tribes during the period of wandering that preceded their arrival in the Promised Land. The Tabernacle no longer served a purpose after the erection of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem in 950 BC.
Israel’s earliest sanctuary was a simple tent within which, it was believed, God manifested his presence and communicated his will. The elaborate description of the Tabernacle in Exodus is believed by some to be anachronistic, for many scholars consider the narrative as having been written during or after the Babylonian Exile (586–538 BC—i.e., after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple).
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biblical literature: Instructions on the Tabernacle
Also interspersed in the story (chapters 25–31) are God’s detailed instructions to Moses for building and furnishing the Tabernacle,…
The entire Tabernacle complex—whose specifications were dictated by God, according to the biblical account—consisted of a large court surrounding a comparatively small building that was the Tabernacle proper. The court, enclosed by linen hangings, had the shape of two adjacent squares. In the centre of the eastern square stood the altar of sacrifice for burnt offerings; nearby stood a basin holding water used by the priests for ritual ablutions. The corresponding position in the western square was occupied by the ark of the Law situated in the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle was constructed of tapestry curtains decorated with cherubim. The interior was divided into two rooms, “the holy place” and “the most holy place” (Holy of Holies). The outer room, or “holy place,” contained the table on which the bread of the Presence (shewbread) was placed, the altar of incense, and the seven-branched candelabrum (menorah). The inner room, or Holy of Holies, was thought to be the actual dwelling place of the God of Israel, who sat invisibly enthroned above a solid slab of gold that rested on the Ark of the Covenant and had a cherub at each end. This Ark was a gold-covered wooden box containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments.