The Curtains of the Tabernacle

Exodus 26:1‑14  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
There were four curtains or coverings for the Tabernacle:-
Curtains of fine twined Linen.
Curtains of Goats' flair.
Covering of Rams' Skins dyed red.
Covering of Badgers' Skins.
As remarked before, the instructions as to the coverings are given before those concerning the boards. It is just these surprises that show us the beauty and accuracy of Scripture, and emphasize Divine inspiration. The coverings all speak of Christ, whereas the boards are typical of believers, " builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit " (Eph. 2. 22). It is the full truth about Christ that enables us to understand the place and blessing the believer has in Him. Christ is the key that unlocks all doors of blessing and happiness.
The Curtains of fine twined linen constituted the Tabernacle (Hebrew, Mikseh).
The Curtains of Goats' Hair constituted the Tent, or Covering (Hebrew, Ohel).
The Rams' Skins dyed red were called a Covering (Hebrew, Mikseh).
The Badgers' Skins were called a Covering (Hebrew, Mikseh).
Numbers Stamped upon the Curtains
There were ten curtains, five curtains were looped one to the other by loops of blue; the other five curtains were looped one to the other by similar loops. These two fives were fastened together by fifty taches, or small hooks, made of gold. Thus it became one Covering. The reader will notice how the number five and its multiples are stamped upon the Curtains, speaking typically of responsibility
Godward and Manward having been met by our Lord when He died upon the cross.
The length of each Curtain was twenty-eight cubits and their breadth four cubits. Twenty-eight cubits (4 x 7) by four cubits resolves each length into seven SQUARES of four cubits each. Seven is the number of Divine perfection, four sets forth that which is universal. Surely this prefigures Christ. He is the transcendent Figure of all ages. He is the One Person of universal and paramount importance in all time. Many have snatched at world-wide dominion. He alone shall reign universally, as likewise His atoning death has in view the whole world. " God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)). Others have been great, virtuous and good, but all save our Lord have come short of perfection. He alone could be marked by what the figures seven and four typify.
The Curtains of Fine Twined Linen
These were the innermost curtains, furthest removed from the observer outside, the nearest to the priests, as they ministered inside. The word, Tabernacle, does not suggest anything temporary. The idea of the Tabernacle is a Dwelling Place, and when God chooses a Dwelling Place it is an everlasting choice. The Tabernacle in the wilderness was only temporary, but then it was a type, which had to pass away. What is typified is not temporary but eternal.
In the New Testament we find God dwelling amongst His people, and when the end of time shall have come, and the fixed eternal state reached, we find these words, " Behold the Tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them [just as He did typically in the wilderness], and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God " (Rev. 21. 3). The Curtains were " of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them " (Ex. 26:11Moreover 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. (Exodus 26:1)). Though we dealt briefly with these materials in our first Chapter, we will add some further details here.
Fine twined linen typified the holy spotless Humanity of our Lord. " Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness " (Psa. 132:99Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. (Psalm 132:9)), and we know they were actually clothed in fine linen. " Fine linen is the righteousness [literally righteousnesses] of saints " (Rev. 19:88And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. (Revelation 19:8)), is another Scripture that confirms the thought of what fine twined linen stands for, a symbol of holiness in life and walk. Christ was pre-eminently and absolutely holy in His walk.
Blue sets forth the heavenly character of our Lord's Humanity. He became a true Man when born of the Virgin at Bethlehem, but all the moral qualities of His life were heavenly in their origin. So we find the Lord saying, " And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in Heaven " (John 3. 13). " The second Man is the Lord from Heaven" (1 Cor. 15. 47).
Purple sets forth Christ's glory as Son of Man, as King of kings and Lord of lords. Purple is the color of the emperor. An emperor is strictly a King of kings. The ex-Emperor of Germany was Emperor in virtue of the fact that Germany embraced four kingdoms, Prussia, Saxony, Wurtemburg, and Bavaria. None but Christ has the right absolutely to wear the purple, and it is a joy to His people to know that He will reign universally as King of kings and Lord of lords, the true world Emperor.
" Outstretched His wide dominion
O'er river, sea and shore.
Far as the eagle's pinion,
Or dove's light wing can soar.
Scarlet is the kingly color. The Gospel of Matthew presents Christ as the King of Israel. At the time of the crucifixion the soldiers in mockery put on Christ a scarlet robe, mocking Him, saying, " Hail, King of the Jews—(Matt. 27:2929And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! (Matthew 27:29)). Christ has been rejected by His earthly people, but He will yet reign over them as their King, their Messiah, God's anointed One.
Cherubims speak of judgment. Cherubims guarded the tree of life when our first parents were driven out of the Garden of Eden. Fire was between the cherubims in Ezek. 10:66And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubims; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels. (Ezekiel 10:6). When Christ, who has borne the judgment of sin at the cross, takes up the question of judgment for those who have refused His grace and love, it will be righteous judgment.
There will be no miscarriage of judgment then. Every wrong will be punished, and right will be vindicated. The poet sang:
" Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God behind the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own."
Christ will bring in the true " New Order " that men are vainly trying to introduce, leaving Him out, who alone can bring it in.
Whilst all this is true, yet the cherubims worked with cunning work on these Curtains set forth that Divine judgment has been met by our Lord at the cross of Calvary. Thus the worshipper has all the peace of a purged conscience.
How gloriously do these Curtains typify Christ in His personal purity and official glories, leaving one with a glowing sense of His perfection and triumph. He is indeed perfection, which will finally permeate to the ends of the earth, reminding us of the Scripture, " All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee " (Psa. 22:2727All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. (Psalm 22:27)).
The loops of blue and taches of gold bring out the thought that everything for God, and for us, is secured on the ground of Divine righteousness (gold) and heavenly grace (blue).
The Curtains of Goats' Hair
As we have seen in our note in Chapter 1, goats' hair garments are typical of the prophet, so these Curtains of Goats' hair, eleven in number, and two cubits longer than the fine twined linen Curtains, set forth Christ as the Prophet. Moses prophesied of Christ in his day. " The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken (Dent. 18. 15).
As the beautiful inner Curtains constituted the Tabernacle, so the Goats' Hair Curtains constituted the Tent, which speaks of that which is temporary, a wilderness provision as long as it is needed. The Tabernacle typified the universe of eternal bliss that lies ahead of every believer. Thank God, the wilderness is not forever.
The extra Curtain with its extra length allowed for these to overlap the beautiful inner Curtains, which latter were only for the eyes of the priests in the Holy Place.
We often limit the idea of a prophet to one who foretells future events. The main idea of the prophet is that of a forth-teller, as well as a foreteller. The Prophet brings his hearers into God's presence as to their state before Him. How fully Christ carried this out. " Sir, I perceive that Thou art a Prophet " (John 4:1919The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. (John 4:19)), cried out the startled woman at the well of Sychar, as in three or four brief sentences the Lord laid bare the secrets of her guilty past. It is ever so. The prophet to be effective must reach the conscience of his hearers. The prophet, whether addressing a sinful nation, as Isaiah and others did in their day, or those, who prophesy in this dispensation (Rom. 12. 6), must aim at the conscience to be effective. It is true that truth enters the mind through the conscience rather than through the intellect. The intellect grasping the truth without the conscience being affected becomes " knowledge [that] puffeth up " (1 Cor. 8:11Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (1 Corinthians 8:1)).
The Covering of Rams' Skins Dyed Red
The word, Covering, is not used in connection with the curtains of fine twined linen. It is, however, specifically used for the rams' skins and the badgers' skins. The Curtains present Christ personally, the Coverings, qualities that marked Him when on earth. We shall see this clearly as we proceed.
The first mention of the ram in connection with the Tabernacle throws light on the subject. Two rams were employed on the occasion of the consecration of Aaron and his sons. The second Ram was slain, and its blood was not only sprinkled on the Altar round about, but it was put upon the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right, hand, the great toe of the right foot of Aaron and his sons, claiming them in their walk and ways for God. It was called " a Ram of consecration." In this we learn that the Ram sets forth consecration, the skins dyed red, showing how far that consecration could go in the case of our Lord, even to death.
This was our Lord's consecration to the will of His Father. " Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God " (Heb. 10:77Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. (Hebrews 10:7)), and that led Him to the death of the cross.
This then was the motive power that carried Christ from the glory into this dark world, and maintained Him in His devoted service, and supported Him, even at the moment of sorest trial in Gethsemane's garden, where His sweat was as it were great drops of blood. He cried in bitterest anguish, " O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt " (Matt. 26:3939And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)). His will was the same as God's will, and this carried Him through the sorest trial of all, the cross itself, where consecration was exhibited to the full. Verily, the Rams' skins were dyed red. Precious Savior!
The Covering of Badgers' Skins
There has been a good deal of inquiry as to what was meant by badgers' skins. The badger is an animal unknown in Bible lands. Whatever these skins were they were common among the children of Israel, for we read, " And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine
linen, and goats' hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins brought them " (Ex. 35:2323And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins, brought them. (Exodus 35:23)). The only other place where Badgers' skins are mentioned apart from this outer covering of the Tabernacle is Ezek. 16:1010I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. (Ezekiel 16:10), where it says, " I... shod thee with badgers' skins," giving the idea of something coarse and durable, suitable for foot-wear. It is generally thought it may refer to the tough skin
of the seal or dolphin, which animals are abundant in the Red Sea. Such skin would be very durable, and resist sun and rain.
The so-called badgers' skins formed the outermost covering of the Tabernacle. Does this not typify how Christ appeared to the people of Israel? Did not Isaiah prophesy centuries before He came into the world, how the world would treat Him. " He hath no form nor comeliness: and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men: a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not " (Isa. 53:2, 32For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:2‑3)).
It is tragic to see Him " the altogether lovely One," in God's estimation as " a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground " (Isa. 53. 2), the one Object on earth that Heaven could look upon with perfect complacency, unrecognized by man in His true character. " He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." (John 1:10, 1110He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:10‑11)). Such is man in his fallen estate.