The Significance of Numbers in the Construction and Service of the Tabernacle

 •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Three is the number bespeaking abundant testimony. " In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established " (Matt. 18. 16). It speaks first of all of Divine testimony in all its stability and permanence as seen in the testimony of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Three Persons were represented in the Tabernacle:-
1. GOD-His presence filled the Holy of Holies, dwelling upon the Mercy Seat, the place where He can righteously meet the vilest sinner without abating one iota of the claims of His holiness.
2. CHRIST, typified as to His Deity, Manhood and atoning death as seen in the Ark and Mercy Seat.
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT-typified in the light of the Golden Candlestick, and in the anointing Oil.
Three sections composed the Tabernacle:-
1. The Holiest of All, the Holy of Holies
2. The Holy Place, or Sanctuary.
3. The Court of the Tabernacle.
Three metals entered in the construction of the Tabernacle:- 1. Gold—typifying the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also of Divine righteousness as seen in the Mercy Seat. 2. Silver-typifying redemption as seen in the half shekel of silver being called " atonement money." 3. Brass-typifying the death of Christ as meeting man's responsibility towards God. This is seen in the Brazen Altar, the one and only approach to God.
Three liquids were employed in the service of the Tabernacle:-
These were blood, water, oil, the three witnesses referred to in 1 John 5:88And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (1 John 5:8), " And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit [typified in the oil], and the water [the, word of God], and the blood [atonement]: and these three agree in one."
1. Blood witnesses to the death of Christ, as meeting the question of guilt.
2. Water witnesses to the death of Christ, as meeting the question of state-" BORN of water, and of the Spirit " (John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)).
Oil, typifies the Holy Spirit of God, the Divine Agent, whereby man can be born again, of which John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5) affirms the necessity, if we have to do with God. These will be explained in greater detail later on.
Three things were in the Holiest of All:-
1. The Ark.
2. The Mercy Seat.
Three things were in the Holy Place:-
1. The Table of Shewbread, typifying Christ, the Food of His people.
2. The Golden Candlestick, Christ the light of His people.
3. The Golden Altar, the place of worship and intercession.
Three things were in the Court of the Tabernacle:-
2. The Brazen Altar, typifying the necessity of an atoning sacrifice, if sinners are to be blessed.
3. The Brazen Laver filled with water, typifying the cleansing quality of the Word of God applied to the worshipper, emphasizing that holiness is necessary for those who would approach God for Sanctuary service.
Three entrances marked the Tabernacle:-
1. The Gate of the Court, the entrance for the sinner.
2. The Hanging for the Door of the Tent, that is the entrance to the Holy Place for the priest.
3. The Vail, that formed the entrance from the Holy Place into the Holiest of All, the entrance for the High Priest on the Great Day of Atonement.
Three kinds of sacrifices were enumerated.
They all spoke of Christ as the great Sacrifice for sin:—
1. Of the herd-a bullock.
2. Of the flock-a sheep, or goat.
3. Of fowls-turtle doves, or young pigeons.
Three sons of Levi in the persons of their descendants carried out the Levitical service of the Tabernacle:-
1. The Sons of Merari (3200) carried the boards, bars, pillars, sockets, pins, etc.
2. The Sons of Gershon (2630) carried the curtains, the hanging of the Court, etc.
3. The Sons of Kohath (2750) carried the Holy Vessels. (See Num. 4.)
Three colors were employed in the curtains:-
1. Blue, the heavenly color, typifying Christ the Heavenly Man.
2. Purple, the color of the Emperor, typifying Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords, who will reign universally.
3. Scarlet, the kingly color, typifying Christ King of Israel.
Three classes composed the nation
- 1. " The children of Israel "-" the common people "- " the people."
2. The Levites.
3. The Priests.
" The common people " (Lev. 4:2727And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; (Leviticus 4:27)) stood in contrast to the sacred or set-apart classes, the Levites and Priests. Yet their relation to Jehovah called for holiness of ways before Him.
The Levites attended to the taking down, and putting up, of the Tabernacle, and its transport as it journeyed from place to place.
The Priests attended to the Sacrifices, Golden Candlestick, Shewbread Table, Golden Altar of Incense, etc.
Let it be clearly understood that believers in this dispensation stand for all three classes. In our domestic, business, and everyday life we are " common people," yet belonging to the House of God demands holiness of walk on our part. As serving the Lord we are performing what answers to the service of the Levites. Finally, all believers are priests. The Apostle Peter, addressing believers, wrote, " Ye... are... an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:55Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)); whilst the Apostle John tells us that God " hath made us kings and priests [literally, a kingdom of priests] unto God and His Father " (Rev. 1:66And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:6)). All believers are priests to God, and have " boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus " (Heb. 10:1919Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Hebrews 10:19)).
The significance of the number FOUR
Four curtains, or coverings of the Tabernacle
set forth Christ in His universal relation to men:-
1. Curtains of fine twined linen, and blue and purple and scarlet with cherubims of cunning work set forth the four glories of the Son of God:-
2. Blue setting forth Christ as the One from Heaven;
3. Purple, symbolizing His glory as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Son of Man;
4. Scarlet, typical of His glory as King of Israel;
Cherubims worked in the curtains set forth Christ in His judicial character in His relation to Heaven and earth, whether in grace or judgment.
Goats' Hair Curtains set forth Christ in His prophetic office, as we have seen.
Rams' Skins dyed red set forth Christ's devotedness to God, obedience to His will, the color red signifying that His obedience led to death itself.
Badgers' Skins which were outside set forth what Christ was in the eyes of the natural man, no beauty in Him that He should be desired. In contrast, the beautiful curtains inside met the eyes of the priests as they ministered in the Sanctuary.
Foursquare was the Brazen Altar, symbolizing that the atoning death of Christ is not merely for the few, the elect, but that " Christ... gave Himself a Ransom for ALL " (1 Tim. 2:66Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:6)). " 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 3:1616For 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)). The Altar foursquare invites from the four quarters of the earth. No sinner but is welcome to the pardoning grace of God.
Four horns on the Altar intensifies the foregoing, for the horns symbolize the whole strength of the Altar.
Foursquare was the Golden Altar of Incense, and four were the number of its horns, showing that all, who come by the way of the Brazen Altar, are welcome to the Golden Altar of Incense. That is to say that all, who are saved, are fitted to be worshippers. But all alas! do not come by the way of the Brazen Altar. So we find that while the Brazen Altar had the ample measurement of five cubits in length and five in breadth (foursquare), and three cubits high, the Golden Altar of Incense (typical of worship and intercession) is but one cubit in length, and one cubit in breadth (" foursquare shall it be," (Ex. 30:22A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. (Exodus 30:2)), and two cubits high, thus bringing out the truth that whilst the invitation goes out to all, all do not respond.
Four pillars upheld the hanging of the Gate of the Court of the Tabernacle, symbolical of the universal presentation of the Gospel of the grace of God. This was the only entrance into the sacred enclosure, and seems to say, " Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature " (Mark 16:1515And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)).
Four was the number of the " principal spices " (Ex. 30:2323Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, (Exodus 30:23)), which with oil compounded " the holy anointing oil." The anointing of the Tabernacle, of its Sacred Vessels, of its High priests and priests, teaches us that God had in view the presentation of Himself as ready to bless universally, and that on the ground of what Christ was to Him in all His fragrance as THE ANOINTED ONE, for that is the meaning of the word, Messiah, in the Hebrew, and its equivalent, Christ, in the Greek.
The first of the spices mentioned was myrrh. To obtain its sweetness it had to be bruised. So Christ was " bruised for our iniquities " (Isa. 53:55But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)), and made atonement for our sin. In life and death how fragrant was He to the Father, who sent Him. It is thus that the Holy Spirit (typified by the oil) can present Him to God in all that ineffable delight that He ever gave to the heart of God.
Love that on death's dark vale,
Its sweetest odors spread,
Where sin o'er all seemed to prevail,
Redemption's glory shed."
Four was the number of the " sweet spices " (Ex. 30:3434And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: (Exodus 30:34)). Tempered together they made a perfume pure and holy, " the pure incense of sweet spices " (Ex. 37:2929And he made the holy anointing oil, and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of the apothecary. (Exodus 37:29)), which, beaten " very small," was to be put before the Testimony in the Tabernacle of the Congregation. Both this and the holy anointing oil remind us of the fourfold presentation of Christ in the four Gospels-Matthew setting forth Christ in His kingly character, " the Lion of the Tribe of Judah "; Mark presenting Him as the obedient Servant of God in lowly grace; Luke, as the Man, Christ Jesus; John portraying Him in His own proper Person, the Son of the Father, the Eternal Word, which became flesh. Each of these four Gospels narrates the death of our Lord. What a fragrant presentation of our Lord in life and in death.
The holy anointing oil was to be poured on no man's flesh. The sacred perfume was not to be made for private consumption on pain of death, thus showing that the blessed Lord stands alone in His life and death, and in their wonderful results, which are to bring blessing to a redeemed universe.
The significance of the number FIVE and its multiples.
Five is the number speaking of human responsibility. Its multiples only intensify the thought of responsibility.
It is the figure with its multiple ten that is stamped on the human frame. Five fingers on each hand, ten in all, speaks of human responsibility in work; five toes on each foot, ten in all, our responsibility in walk; the five senses-seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling-represent the whole range of human receptiveness in its responsibility to God.
To this may be added the Ten Commandments, which written upon two tables of stone, five on each, summarize human responsibility whether Godward or man-ward.
Five cubits was the length, five cubits the breadth of the Brazen Altar.
They symbolize that sacrifice must meet human responsibility, if man is to be blessed.
Ten cubits high were the boards of the Tabernacle, typifying man in his responsibility before God. Later we shall show how this was met.
Twenty was the number of the boards on the south side of the Tabernacle; twenty boards on the north side; forty sockets of silver provided for the south side; forty sockets for the north side; one hundred sockets of silver in all provided for the boards, and the pillars, and the hanging of the Vail. (See Ex. 38:2727And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the vail; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket. (Exodus 38:27).)
Five bars bound the twenty boards into one compact structure. Five pillars and five sockets of brass marked the entrance to the Holy Place.
Ten curtains of fine twined linen were required for the covering of the Tabernacle.
One hundred cubits of linen, supported by twenty pillars, resting on twenty sockets of brass, were required for the south side of the Court; a similar number for the north side; for the breadth fifty cubits of hanging, supported by ten pillars, resting on ten sockets of brass.
Fifteen cubits of hanging were suspended on either side of the Gate of the Court, making thirty in all.
Twenty cubits of hanging of blue and scarlet and purple and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework, were needed with pillars four and sockets of brass four. This entrance set forth Christ as the only Way to God, and the four pillars and sockets set forth the universal aspect of the presentation of Christ; as the only Savior for mankind.
Twenty gerahs, we are specifically informed, made up the half shekel of silver, demanded of all males from twenty years old and upward as " atonement money." This produced one hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and three score and fifteen shekels of silver, computed to weigh about four tons of silver. One hundred talents were used for the one hundred sockets of silver. The residue was used in the hooks and filleting of the sixty pillars of the Court, twenty on the south side, twenty on the north side, ten westward, ten eastward.
We content ourselves with giving these details, as they will be explained more fully later on. Suffice it to say that the number five and its multiples are employed in a striking way in the construction of the Tabernacle.
The significance of the number SEVEN
Seven is the number denoting Divine perfection. Six is the number denoting the height of human attainment, which must ever come short of perfection.
The seventh day marked the completion and perfection of God's creatorial work. "The seven Spirits which are before His throne " (Rev. 1:44John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; (Revelation 1:4)) denote the perfection of the activities of God, the Holy Spirit. Seven was the number of the branches of the Golden Candlestick. Seven was the number of the items that went to furnish the Tabernacle:-
1.The Ark. 5. The Brazen Altar.
2.The Mercy Seat. 6. The Brazen Laver.
3. The Shewbread Table. 7. The Golden Altar of
4. The Golden Candlestick. Incense.
The first five set forth God coming out to man, making Himself known as a pardoning God on the ground of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord on the cross. The last two set forth the worshipper's going in to God, setting forth the work of Christ as our High Priest, as the first five set Him forth as the Apostle of our profession. It is in this order they are set forth in Scripture.
The significance of the number TWELVE
Twelve is the number that sets forth administration. Twelve is the number of months in the year,
setting forth God's administration in nature.
Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, setting forth God's administration in government on behalf of His earthly people.
Twelve was the number of loaves on the Show-bread Table, setting forth God's administration in the support and maintenance of His people.
Twelve was the number of the names engraved on the shoulder plates of the High Priest, setting forth the Lord's administration in the support and maintenance of His people.
Twelve was the number of precious stones in the breastplate of the High Priest, setting forth our Lord's administration in love in the representation of His people in the presence of God. He appears " in the presence of God for us " (Heb. 9:2424For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: (Hebrews 9:24)).
Twelve was the number of the Apostles of our Lord, setting forth His administration in Christianity.
They were bidden to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. The Church is `.` built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone " (Eph. 2. 20).
Twelve is a number that strongly marks the structure of the Holy City,
symbolizing the Church in administrative display in the Millennium (Rev. 21). It had
Twelve Gates.
Twelve Foundations. Twelve names in the Foundation.
Twelve kinds of precious stones in the Foundation.
Twelve Gates.
Twelve Pearls in the twelve Gates.
Twelve thousand furlongs was the breadth, and length and height of the City.
One hundred and forty-four cubits (12 x 12) was the measure of the Wall.
Twelve manner of fruits were borne on the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God during the twelve months of the year.
The significance of the number FORTY
Forty is compounded of ten times four.
Ten is the full measure of man's responsibility Godward and man-ward, four representing that which is universal. It sets forth the full measure of probation and testing.
Forty days was the period that the Flood prevailed upon the earth, a universal catastrophe.
Forty days was the time that Noah waited after the waters of the Flood decreased before he opened the window of the Ark, and sent forth the raven, a waiting time before a new world order began.
Forty years old was Moses when he fled from Egypt: forty years later God commissioned him to become the deliverer of His people; forty years later he died.
Forty years marked the length of the wilderness journey of the children of Israel, the period of their testing.
Forty years marked the length of the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon,
a period of testing as how they would fulfill their responsibility towards God and man in the position of being Kings over God's earthly people.
Forty days was the time given for Nineveh to repent, and avert the destruction of their great city. God gives ample time for every person in the world to repent.
Forty days was the length of the Lord's temptation in the wilderness. Surely He was a universal Figure, and upon His triumph over Satan depended the blessing of the whole world.
Forty days was the period between the Lord's glorious resurrection and His ascension to Heaven, a long enough period to fully establish before many witnesses that He had indeed risen from the dead in the triumph of His finished work of atonement on the cross.
A good deal more might be said on this interesting subject, but space forbids.
Some may reason that God would not stoop to mark His revelation with specific numbers, carrying a special meaning in their use. Astronomers and naturalists testify to the way God has stamped numbers upon His material creation. For instance, Indian corn is set in rows, which are always even and never odd. A farmer looked for twenty-seven years to find a " cob " with an odd number of rows without success. One other instance of numbers stamped on creation may suffice. The period of gestation with:- 21 ( 3 x 7) days 28 ( 4 x 7) days 56 ( 8 x 7) days 63 ( 9 x 7) days 98 (14 x 7) days 147 (21 x 7) days 280 (40 x 7) days
Note how all the periods are multiples of seven. Can we say this is a mere coincidence, or is it a design of God? Clearly the latter. God is the God of nature, and the God of revelation, and He has seen fit to stamp numbers on both.
In Dan. 8. 13, we read: " Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint Said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? " We quote this passage for the expression " that certain saint." We are told by a competent authority this expression bears the significance of " a certain unknown person." In the margin of our Authorized Bible we read this person is described as " the numberer of secrets, or the wonderful numberer," in the Hebrew the name " Palmoni," meaning a wonderful numberer, as the margin states. Does it not look as if there is appointed some angel, whose province is to deal with numbers?