The Tabernacle

Concise Bible Dictionary:

This is variously styled the “tabernacle of testimony, or of witness,” the “tabernacle of the congregation,” or “tent of meeting.” It was the place recognized by Jehovah, where, as dwelling among them, He met His people, and where in separation from the outer world His will was made known. It was to be made after the pattern shown to Moses in the mount, and when it was completed Moses bore witness that it had been constructed as the Lord had commanded. It is worthy of notice that none of its details were left to the ingenuity of Moses: he had simply to carry out his instructions. We read in the New Testament that the things made were patterns of things in the heavens, but not the very image of them; they were patterns of things that were before God, which were not to be materialized.
The tabernacle with its sacrifices was God’s way of displaying Himself, and His way for man’s approach to Himself. Any one drawing near to the tabernacle would see first its court, a space enclosed with curtains hanging from pillars. This was a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits broad. On entering the court by its one gate the first thing approached was the brazen altar. This altar was the place of approach for the people. The burnt offering was the ground of acceptance for a people on earth. The place of approach for the priestly family was the golden altar in the holy (place); but the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest (Heb. 9:88The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: (Hebrews 9:8)).
Between the brazen altar and the holy (place) stood the laver, at which the priests washed their hands and feet whenever they drew near to minister. The holy (place) contained the table of shewbread on the north, the golden candlestick on the south, and the altar of incense “before the vail” in the center. Here the priests ministered daily, burning sweet incense: type of Christ’s intercession, and of the perfections of His Person and work, not seen here as meeting man’s need, but as for the delight of God, His Father. The lamps were burning “continually,” but apparently only in the night (compare Ex. 30:7-87And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. 8And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:7‑8); Lev. 24:2-32Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. 3Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the Lord continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations. (Leviticus 24:2‑3); 2 Chron. 13:1111And they burn unto the Lord every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the showbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the Lord our God; but ye have forsaken him. (2 Chronicles 13:11)). The light typified the manifestation of God by the Spirit, the seven lamps being figurative of heavenly completeness. Twelve loaves were constantly on the table, typical of Israel in association with Christ before God, and of God’s bounty which will be administered through Israel (twelve loaves) to the earth in the kingdom. The holy (place), or “first tabernacle” refers to the things of Israel. Inside the second veil was the holy of holies, in which was the ark with the cherubim, typical of the throne of God. It figured the approach which Christians now have to the presence of God, because Christ has made a new and living way for them by entering in Himself as their great Priest (Heb. 10:1919Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Hebrews 10:19)).
The tabernacle was a rectangle, measuring ten cubits in breadth, and thirty cubits in length, which was divided into ten cubits for the holy of holies and twenty for the holy (place). The sides were formed of boards of acacia wood, ten cubits in height, set by tenons into silver sockets, each board having two sockets. The boards were kept together by horizontal bars throughout, and were all covered with gold. If the whole tabernacle be taken as typical of Christ, then the gold and the wood may point to His divinity and His humanity, or the gold may be taken as typical of divine righteousness. Internally all was gold and embroidered work: the wood was not seen.
The whole was covered with curtains, the innermost being of rich embroidered work of various colors; then curtains of woven goats’ hair; then coverings of rams’ skins and badgers’ skins—typical of entire preservation from outward evil. There were three distinct parts in the entire covering: the tabernacle, the tent, and the covering (Ex. 35:1111The tabernacle, his tent, and his covering, his taches, and his boards, his bars, his pillars, and his sockets, (Exodus 35:11)). The inner curtains, which were of such widths that the junctions of each set did not fall in the same place as the one next to it, formed the tabernacle (mishkan); the set of curtains of goats’ hair were the tent (ohel) of the tabernacle (see TENT); and the rams’ skins and badgers’ skins formed the covering (mikseh). An embroidered hanging formed the door, or the first veil. Exodus 25-27 gives God’s approach to man; Exodus 28-30, man’s approach to God; and Exodus 35-40 the gifts for the tabernacle and its construction.
The tabernacle as a whole may be said to typify—
1. God coming forth in a Man (His own Son) and on the basis of redemption, filling the universe with the light of His glory.
2. The provision made by God for approach to Himself by a redeemed people. Much light is thrown on the tabernacle in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but what is there taught presents often a contrast rather than a comparison to what pertained to the earthly tabernacle.
The tabernacle may also be considered as God’s house, and thus a type of the saints in their present place. The temple was for the ordered and established kingdom. In Revelation 21, after alluding to the kingdom and the eternal state, the Spirit goes back to the thought of the tabernacle.
The tabernacle was carried about during the forty years in the wilderness (see CAMP), and when the Israelites entered the land it was apparently placed first at Gilgal (Josh. 9:66And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us. (Joshua 9:6)). Afterward it was at Shiloh (Josh. 18:11And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them. (Joshua 18:1)). While here it was forsaken of God because of the idolatry and wickedness of the people (Psa. 78:6060So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; (Psalm 78:60); Jer. 7:12,1412But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. (Jeremiah 7:12)
14Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. (Jeremiah 7:14)
; Jer. 26:6, 96Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. (Jeremiah 26:6)
9Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord. (Jeremiah 26:9)
). The ark was taken by the Philistines and was not returned to the tabernacle; nor, when David removed the ark, did he restore it to the tabernacle, but placed it on Mount Zion. We next read of the tabernacle as being at Nob (1 Sam. 21:1-61Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? 2And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. 3Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. 4And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. 5And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. 6So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the showbread, that was taken from before the Lord, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away. (1 Samuel 21:1‑6)). Afterward it was at Gibeon (1 Chron. 16:3939And Zadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon, (1 Chronicles 16:39); 1 Chron. 21:2929For the tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. (1 Chronicles 21:29); 2 Chron. 1:3-63So Solomon, and all the congregation with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for there was the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness. 4But the ark of God had David brought up from Kirjath-jearim to the place which David had prepared for it: for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem. 5Moreover the brazen altar, that Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the Lord: and Solomon and the congregation sought unto it. 6And Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before the Lord, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it. (2 Chronicles 1:3‑6)). When the temple was built, the tabernacle was brought up, with the ark and the holy vessels. The ark was placed in the most holy place, and the staves drawn out, for it had found its settled rest. The tabernacle gave place to the house, the latter glory of which will yet be greater than ever (2 Chron. 5:4-94And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark. 5And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up. 6Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude. 7And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims: 8For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. 9And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day. (2 Chronicles 5:4‑9); Hag. 2:99The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:9)).