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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Exodus

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FRAMEWORKS: Exodus 25

 

INTRODUCING THE TABERNACLE :

 

Understanding something of the Tabernacle, it's size and structure and purpose, can only be found in the following chapters and we encourage any reader who does not want to omit reading these chapters not to miss reading the following notes which we hope will put the following chapters in context. We hope, if you've never read these chapters before, you will give them a try and we invite you to imagine how these descriptions were worked out by the top Israelites' Spirit-empowered craftsmen [see later].

 

General: These 7 Chapters of Exodus, 25 to 31, will appear for many modern readers of the Bible, an apparently alien, almost irrelevant part of Scripture that seems to cover a set of instructions that are not so much descriptions of ongoing law, ongoing behaviour to be followed, but mostly instructions for originally building and using an elaborate tent and the things that went in it, the Tabernacle. It was otherwise known as the ‘tent of meeting' (1 Chron 6:32).

Location: In Samuel's time it had been at Shiloh (1 Sam 1:3,24, 3:3) and later at Nob in Saul's time (1 Sam 21) before being moved to Gibeon (1 Chron 21:19), before Solomon replaced it with the temple (1 Chron 6:32).

Size & Function: It comprised a rectangular frame thought to be approximately 45 feet long, 15 feet wide and 15 feet tall, covered with curtains and outer coverings. Its function was to be the focal point for Israel as the dwelling place of God in their midst AND the meeting place between God and people who sought to come to Him, either to express their devotion, or to express their repentance when they had knowingly done wrong and wanted to clear their conscience before God according the ways He had laid down. There was also a courtyard to be erected with ‘fencing' all round.

Portability: It had to travel with Israel in all their travels from Mount Sinai onwards for the forty years in the wilderness and then into the Promised Land. It thus had to be quickly demountable and easily carried whenever Israel were on the move and then quickly erected again when they came to a stop. The movements of Israel were governed by the cloud of the glory of the Lord that hung over the Tabernacle, and which would then start to move off (Ex 40:36,37).

Uncertainties:

Sizes: We have used the word ‘approximately' because sizes given were in cubits but there is uncertainty over exactly what that was.

Movement: It is difficult to comprehend (and we are not told) what periods of remaining stationary versus travelling occurred and whether or not, in reality, the Tabernacle was erected every single time they stopped. The design details, it has been suggested, were not entire so we are left to guess some of the details and interpret others, but it is clear that Moses had these things in his mind having been told them by God on the mountain (Ex 25:40, 26:30 & 27:8) and so it would seem he simply only recorded the main parts and would have verbally directed those tasked with constructing it.

Lighting Inside: The inside was divided into two rooms: The furthest from the front was the Most Holy Place, an inner sanctum, (where God was said to reside) about a third of the depth of the room, where the ark was housed and which would only be entered once a year by the high priest. The second was the Holy Place that was two thirds of the length where daily procedures were carried out. The Holy Place was lit only by one large candlestick with a seven oil-burning lights. For a room approximately 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and high this was not a lot. Although there was a door opening there is uncertainty about whether this would be kept open or shut while the priest was ministering inside.

The Key Points: Certain denominations in the past have gone to great lengths teaching on ‘types' or how parts of the tabernacle typified spiritual truths. What this tends to do, apart from creating a somewhat elitist form of theology, is miss the main issue: this was a mobile structure that:

•  had its origins with God,

•  was to be considered a holy place for limited contact with God,

•  was also to be the focal point of carrying out specific procedures ‘before God' as expressions of the piety of the priests and the people that we will seek to clarify in the notes with the text, i.e. keeping it as simple as possible. A way of understanding why these things were done, as we will see in the text, is to ask, what would be conveyed in the understanding of the people of Israel who used the tabernacle?

As far as ‘the public' were concerned these procedures laid out in the Scriptures focused largely on bringing sacrifices and offerings to God at the Tabernacle (as you'll find in Leviticus.

Many of the regulations involving the priesthood were to distinguish them from all others in Israel, as the intermediaries between God and the people, that they were to be holy, utterly different and separated from the rest of the nation, in order to increase the sense of specialness of being able to draw near to God.

 

 

FRAMEWORKS: Exodus 25: For Inside the Tabernacle

 

v.1-9 Offerings for the Tabernacle

v.10-16 The Ark

v.17-22 The Atonement Cover

v.23-30 The Table

v.31-40 The Lampstand

    

 

v.1-9 Offerings for the Tabernacle

 

v.1 The LORD said to Moses,

v.2 “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering . You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.

v.3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze;

v.4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair;

v.5 ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood;

v.6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense;

v.7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast-piece.

v.8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.

v.9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

 

[Notes: In what follows in respect of both the articles and the Tabernacle itself, to make reading easier and avoid copious explanatory notes, we have taken the modern figures for dimensions rather than the Hebrew dimensions of the original text.

In this first section the Lord invites people to bring precious metals or other materials that can be used to create this ‘sanctuary' (dwelling place on earth) for God.]

 

 

v.10-16 The Ark

 

v.10 “Have them make an ark [That is, a chest] of acacia wood—3.75 feet (1.1m) long, 2.25 feet (68cm) wide, and high.

v.11 Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it.

v.12 Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other.

v.13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.

v.14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it.

v.15   The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.

v.16   Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you.

 

[Notes: The ark (of the covenant) becomes the key most important (and only) article kept within the Most Holy Place. Eventually it was to hold the tablets of stone on which were the Ten Commandments [Ex 25:16,21, 40:20], and beside it, Aaron's staff (see Num 17), and the jar of manna [Ex 16:34]. The box was wooden but overlaid with gold sheet, and had rings on either side through which long carrying poles could be inserted for when it needed to be moved.]

 

 

v.17-22 The Atonement Cover

 

v.17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold (same size as v.10)

v.18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover.

v.19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends.

v.20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover.

v.21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you.

v.22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

 

[Notes: This is essentially a lid for the ark, made of gold, with two angels cast into it, facing towards each other and there the presence of God was said to come.]

 

 

v.23-30 The Table

 

v.23 “Make a table of acacia wood—3 feet (90cm) long, 1.5 feet (45cm) wide and 2.25 feet (68cm) high.

v.24 Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold molding around it.

v.25 Also make around it a rim a handbreadth 3 inches (7.5cm) wide and put a gold molding on the rim.

v.26 Make four gold rings for the table and fasten them to the four corners, where the four legs are.

v.27 The rings are to be close to the rim to hold the poles used in carrying the table.

v.28 Make the poles of acacia wood, overlay them with gold and carry the table with them.

v.29 And make its plates and dishes of pure gold, as well as its pitchers and bowls for the pouring out of offerings.

v.30 Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times.

 

[Notes: There is also a table to be put in the outer room [see later] on which was placed bread which would be replaced daily. It was a wooden table overlaid with gold sheet and it also had rings through which carrying poles could be inserted. There were also to be various utensils for use in the Tabernacle, all made of gold.]

 

 

v.31-40 The Lampstand

 

v.31 “Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them.

v.32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other.

v.33 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand.

v.34 And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms.

v.35 One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all.

v.36 The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.

v.37 “Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it.

v.38 Its wick trimmers and trays are to be of pure gold.

v.39 About 75 pounds (34kg) of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories.

v.40 See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

 

[Notes: The lamp standard used to light the Holy Place has seven lamps. The rest of the detail is simply to allow the worker in gold to know what to do to make it strong as well as ornamental. It was filled daily with oil for helping the wicks to burn. It has become a symbol for Judaism and is otherwise known as the Menorah.]

         

    

Continue to Chapter 26