the lampstand in the bible

Though there are quite a lot of interpretations regarding this beautiful piece of art in the Bible, there are also quite a few things we can take away. In fact, there are seven things that should make up the lampstand Jesus describes in Revelation. These seven things are crucial to the idea of Christianity. They all contribute to what it means to be a Christian who is trying their best to serve God and His purposes.

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The lampstand in the Bible represents the church.

The lampstand is made of gold, which represents Christ’s divinity. It has seven branches, which represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord). The oil that it produces is an offering of praise to God (Exodus 25:31-40).

It is always kept lit and gives off light in a dark place (Exodus 25:31-40). It was made by God for the tabernacle and later for Solomon’s temple (Exodus 25:31-40).

the lampstand in the bible

The first time we see the word lampstand in the Bible is in Exodus 25:31, as God gives detailed instructions about the golden lampstand to be placed in the tabernacle the Israelites were building. It’s interesting to note just how precise God is in explaining how He wanted the lampstand to look. Since we can be assured there are no “wasted words” in the Bible, we know each detail and specification are important for some reason.

The lampstand was to be made of pure gold, hammered out to the perfect accuracy of God’s decree (Exodus 25:31). Gold was the most valuable of all metals (Psalm 119:127; 19:10). Gold is often spoken of in terms of being “tested by fire”; the Bible compares the testing of gold with the testing of the church in 1 Peter 1:7. Out of testing, or refining, will come the true people of God (see Zechariah 13:7–9; Job 23:10). Those who withstand the “fire” will be purified (see Numbers 31:23).

The lampstand as a whole was to be fashioned as a tree with the base and center shaft representing the trunk and with three “branches” on each side. The top of the shaft and of each branch was to be made like an open almond flower; each flower held an oil lamp (Exodus 25:32, 37). There are several passages in the Bible that speak about the almond tree, which was always the first tree to blossom and bear fruit in the spring, as early as February. The apostle Paul calls Christ the “firstfruits” because Jesus was the first to rise from the dead to everlasting life, and because of His resurrection all believers will also be raised (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; Romans 8:23).

God used Aaron’s rod as a sign to the Israelites of his unique priesthood. At one time, when Aaron’s priesthood was being challenged, God caused Aaron’s rod to bud and grow ripe almonds overnight; this miracle reaffirmed that the privilege of being chosen as High Priest only came through God’s appointment (Numbers 16:3;17:10). This was a “shadow of things to come” experience that pointed to Jesus, our God-ordained, life-giving High Priest forever (Hebrews 7:21).

In the tabernacle, the lampstand was to be placed in the first section, called the Holy Place (Hebrews 9:2). The lamp was to be tended by Aaron and his sons so that its light never went out. The lampstand was to give forth light day and night (Exodus 27:20–21). The lampstand’s being the only source of light points directly to Christ as being the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). Jesus is the “true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) and the only way anyone can come to the Father (John 14:6).

Jesus also calls His church the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), not of their own doing but because Christ is abiding in the church (John 1:4–5). A Christian who is shining with the light of Christ will live a godly life (1 Peter 2:9). Scripture is overflowing with references that compare and contrast light and darkness, believer and unbeliever, right up through the book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:20 Christ says the “seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The churches of Christ are to walk in the light of God (1 John 1:7) and spread the light of the gospel so that all people will glorify God (Matthew 5:16).

There is other symbolism in the lampstand: it was made of one piece, as Christ is one with His church (Colossians 1:8); the six branches (6 being the number of man) plus the main shaft equals seven lights (7 being the number of completion)—man is only complete in Christ (John 15:5).

The most important thing to note about the lampstand is that it points to Christ, as do all the elements of the tabernacle. The Bible is from beginning to end a testimony about Christ and God’s merciful plan of redemption. Praise the Lord, He has taken His children out of the darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Symbolism Behind the Golden Lampstand of the Wilderness Tabernacle

Golden Lampstand

The golden lampstand in the wilderness tabernacle provided light for the holy place, but it was also steeped in religious symbolism.

While all the elements inside the tabernacle’s tent of meeting were overlaid with gold, the lampstand alone—also known as the menorah, golden candlestick, and candelabrum—was constructed of solid gold. The gold for this sacred furniture was given to the Israelites by the Egyptians when the Jews fled Egypt (Exodus 12:35).

Golden Lampstand

  • The golden lampstand was a solid gold, cylindrical in form, seven-branched, oil-burning lamp, used in the wilderness tabernacle.
  • The lampstand is described in great detail in Exodus 25:31–39 and 37:17–24.
  • The practical function of the golden lampstand was to shed light in the holy place, but also represented the life and light God gives to his people.

Characteristics of the Golden Lampstand

God told Moses to make the lampstand from one piece, hammering in its details. No dimensions are given for this object, but its total weight was one talent, or about 75 pounds of solid gold. The lampstand had a center column with six branches extending from it on each side. These arms resembled the branches on an almond tree, with ornamental knobs, ending in a stylized flower at the top.

Although this object is sometimes referred to as a candlestick, it was actually an oil lamp and did not use candles. Each of the flower-shaped cups held a measure of olive oil and a cloth wick. Like ancient pottery oil lamps, its wick became saturated with oil, was lit, and gave off a small flame. Aaron and his sons, who were designated priests, were to keep the lamps burning continually.

The golden lampstand was placed on the south side in the holy place, opposite the table of showbread. Because this chamber had no windows, the lampstand was the only source of light.

Later, this type of lampstand was used in the temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues. Also called by the Hebrew term menorah, these lampstands are still used today in Jewish homes for religious ceremonies.

Symbolism of the Golden Lampstand

In the courtyard outside the tabernacle tent, all items were made of common bronze, but inside the tent, close to God, they were precious gold, symbolizing deity and holiness.

God chose the resemblance of the lampstand to almond branches for a reason. The almond tree blooms very early in the Middle East, in late January or February. Its Hebrew root word, shaked, means “to hasten,” telling the Israelites that God is quick to fulfill his promises.

Aaron’s staff, which was a piece of almond wood, miraculously budded, bloomed, and produced almonds, indicating that God chose him as high priest. (Numbers 17:8) That rod was later put inside the ark of the covenant, which was kept in the tabernacle holy of holies, as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to his people.

The golden lampstand, made in the shape of a tree, stood for God’s life-giving power. It echoed the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). God gave Adam and Eve the tree of life to show that he was their source of life. But when they sinned through disobedience, they were cut off from the tree of life. Even still, God had a plan to reconcile his people and give them new life in his Son, Jesus Christ. That new life is like the almond buds blossoming in springtime.

The golden lampstand stood as a permanent reminder that God is the giver of all life. Like all the other tabernacle furniture, the golden lampstand was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the future Messiah. It gave forth light. Jesus told the people:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)

Jesus compared his followers to light as well:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)

Bible References to the Golden Lampstand

  • Exodus 25:31-39, 26:35, 30:27, 31:8, 35:14, 37:17-24, 39:37, 40:4, 24
  • Leviticus 24:4
  • Numbers 3:31, 4:9, 8:2-4; 2
  • Chronicles 13:11
  • Hebrews 9:2.

the tabernacle in the bible

Before the Israelites worshiped God in the Temple (1 Kings 6), they had a mobile worship center known as the Tabernacle, which was formed during the time of Moses (Exodus 27).

But why would they need a portable temple? Why didn’t they just build the Temple right away? And what purpose does the Tabernacle in Exodus serve? This article will cover these questions and more.

Why Build a Portable Temple?
Scanning through a brief overview of Old Testament history, we see the Israelites leave Egypt, but they didn’t settle right away. Because of their fear of the giants who roamed the land which God had promised them (Numbers 13), the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land.

During those 40 years, they needed a place to worship God, but they couldn’t build a permanent temple structure because they wouldn’t live in the wilderness forever. Hence, God instructed them to build a temporary place of worship so that they could worship wherever they wandered.

Why did they need a specific place for God to dwell? Tabernacle means “to dwell.” Because God did not dwell in the hearts of humans until after Christ’s death and resurrection, he would dwell in a certain place during the time of the Old Testament. After Solomon built the Temple, he would dwell in the Holy of Holies, the most inner room of the temple where only the High Priest could enter his presence once a year (Hebrew 9:7). But, for the time being, he dwelt in the Tabernacle.

What Did the Tabernacle in Exodus Look Like?
In Exodus 27:9-19, God gives specific instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle. Although not as complex or ornate as the Temple, God laid out specific measurements and structures found within the Tabernacle.

A rectangular fence surrounded the Tabernacle. In the courtyard, between the fence and the tent (Tabernacle), you had the bronze altar (where they would perform sacrifices) and bronze laver (where the priests would wash their hands).

The tent itself had two separate rooms: The Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Only priests could enter the Holy Place. Inside that room contained an altar of incense, a lampstand (menorah), and table of shewbread, each with their own symbolic purposes. A veil separated the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.

Inside the Holy of Holies, the High Priest would see the Ark of the Covenant, which housed God (Exodus 37:1-9). Whenever they would move the Tabernacle from one location to the other, they would have priests carry the Ark with poles. Anyone who touched the Ark would die instantly (2 Samuel 6:7).

What Purpose Did the Tabernacle in Exodus Serve?
Until the time of Solomon (1 Kings 6), the Tabernacle offered a temporary, proper worship space for the Israelites and a temporary house for God. Plans for a new temple started a generation earlier:

“King David, Solomon’s father, lived in the royal palace, but he was concerned that God’s priests still had to serve Him in the 400-year-old, portable Tabernacle from the wilderness wanderings. David wanted to build a permanent house for God, and a resting place for the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chronicles 28:2). The prophet Nathan initially gave David approval to begin construction, but God spoke to Nathan in a dream. God said David would not be the one to build His house, even though David had a heart after God’s own heart. David would, however, draw up the plans and accumulate materials for the building (1 Chronicles 22:2-4; 22:14-17; 29:2-9).”

What Was the Meaning behind the Tabernacle in Exodus?
Symbolism had a great deal of importance in Israelite culture, so all of the elements within the Tabernacle would’ve had a deep meaning. It also allowed the Israelites to dwell with God and draw closer to him.

Also, through the sacrificial system held at the Tabernacle (bronze altar), the Israelites learned the gravity of their sinfulness and how much they needed a Savior. The ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, paid the penalty for us when he came to earth to “Tabernacle” with us.

Why Does The Tabernacle Matter for Christians Today?
Why should Christians care about a temporary temple that existed during the Old Testament?

First, John 1:14 makes it clear Christ “tabernacled” with us. He came and temporarily lived with us, dwelled with us. Just like the Tabernacle, his time on earth was temporary.

But he will come again, in a more permanent fashion. Just like the Israelites had the temporary Tabernacle, but built the Temple later on, as a more permanent dwelling place.

Second, we can appreciate that God resides in our hearts and not in a temporary dwelling space. We no longer have to offer up lambs for sacrifice, because Jesus was our sacrifice.

We no longer have to have one representative once a year to approach God, we can approach him every hour of every day, and pray boldly (1 John 5:14-15).

oil for the lamp in the tabernacle

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it from evening until morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations. He shall be in charge of the lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord continually.’”—Leviticus 24:1-4

Olive oil has long been a part of the world’s culture—not just in regards to food and health, but also in regards to religious worship.

In Leviticus 24 we see the children of Israel were commanded to bring pure oil of pressed olives to make the lamps burn continuously. There are a few things that are very interesting about this passage:

1. The children of Israel were involved in the upkeep and the maintenance of the temple. In fact, it was the children of Israel’s contribution that kept the light burning—it was not just the priests’ responsibility. The light of the temple required a community effort and commitment. Too many times in today’s culture we treat the temple of God (churches, synagogues etc.) as if it was someone else’s responsibility, when in fact the temple is our responsibility.

May your lamp burn bright and always for the Lord!

2. The Lord asked for a pure offering—an offering that came from pressed olives. When God asks for an offering He is looking for a pure offering, not a convenient offering. Many times the most costly offerings and sacrifices come from seasons of pressure where we have been crushed. Do not despise the situations or circumstances that give birth to pure oil in your life. These circumstances are making a way for a most beautiful and precious offering.

3. The light of the temple was supposed to burn continually. In 1 Corinthians 16:9 we are told that our bodies are temples. If we apply Leviticus 24:1-4 to our own lives, we are challenged to remember that the pure light of the Lord is to burn continually within us. This light is not something that we may turn on and off at our convenience—His light in us is meant to shine brightly continually. Too many times we turn off our light to be a part of things, conversations, or opportunities that we should not be participating in. This does not allow our light to burn continually before the Lord.

May your lamp burn bright and always for the Lord!

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