TABERNACLE (Heb. ’ōhel, mô‘ēdh, tent of meeting, mishkān, dwelling, Gr. skēnē, tent). The religious vitality of the Hebrews and the resilience of their social and political organization in the time of Joshua would indicate that the period of the wilderness wanderings was the truly creative era from which all that was best in subsequent Israelite history and religion took its rise. Under the dynamic spiritual leadership of Moses the children of Israel came to worship a cosmic deity whose vitality contrasted sharply with the capricious, decadent gods of ancient Near Eastern religion. The God of Sinai revealed himself as a supremely moral being whose leadership extended over the whole earth. He was the only true God, and he desired to enter into a special spiritual relationship with Israel as a means of his self-expression in the world.
Since this relationship demanded the undivided worship of the Israelites, it was of supreme importance for a ritual tradition to be established in the wilderness so that Israel could engage in regular spiritual communion with God. The nomadic nature of the sojourn in the Sinai Peninsula precluded the building of a permanent shrine for worship. The only alternative was a portable sanctuary that would embody all that was necessary for the worship of the Lord under nomadic conditions and could also serve as a prototype of a subsequent permanent building.
Such tent-shrines were by no means unknown in the ancient world. An early writer (c. 700 b.c.) spoke of a primitive Phoenician structure that was apparently placed on a cart and pulled by oxen. In pre-Islamic times the qubbah or miniature red leather tent with a dome-shaped top was used for carrying the idols and cultic objects of the tribe. Some qubbahs were large enough to erect on the ground, while others were smaller and were mounted on the backs of camels. Such tents were credited with the power of guiding the tribe in its journeys, and in time of war were particu- larly valuable for the degree of protection they afforded. The qubbah possessed an innate sanctity that was only slightly inferior to that of the sacred cultic objects it housed. It was used as a rallying point, a place of worship, and a locale for the giving of oracles. Since the majority of tents in antiquity were dark in color, the fact that the sacred shrine was a conspicuous red (cf.
At Sinai Moses was given a divine revelation concerning the nature, construction, and furnishings of the tabernacle (
Within this open court the various types of sacrificial offerings were presented and the public acts of worship took place. Near the center was situated the great altar of burnt offering made from acacia wood overlaid with bronze (
To the west end of the enclosure, parallel to the long walls, stood the tabernacle itself. A rectangular structure about forty-five feet by fifteen feet (fourteen by five m.), it was divided into two parts, a kjv, nasb; frame jb, mlb, niv, rsv; plank neb) is found on a Canaanite tablet describing the “throne room” (i.e., a trellis pavilion) of the deity El. When the vertical arms (yadhoth) were joined to the acacia frames, the same general effect would be produced. The resulting structure would be light in weight yet sufficiently sturdy for ritual purposes. The base of the trellis was set in a silver fixture, and the whole was held together by horizontal bars at the top, middle, and bottom.and a . The basic constructional material was acacia wood, easily obtainable in the Sinai Peninsula, fashioned into forty-eight “boards” some fifteen feet (five m.) in height and a little over two feet (one-half m.) in width, overlaid with gold. The Hebrew word qerashim (board
The completed tabernacle was divided into two compartments by a curtain on which cherubim were embroidered in red, purple, and blue, and which was suspended on four acacia supports. The outermost of these two areas was known as the Holy Place and was about thirty feet by fifteen feet (nine by five m.) in area. The innermost part of the tabernacle, theor the Most Holy Place was fifteen feet (five m.) square. The entrance to the tabernacle was screened by embroidered curtains supported by five acacia pillars overlaid with gold.
The wooden framework of the tabernacle was adorned by ten linen curtains (
The information furnished in Exodus makes it difficult to decide whether the tabernacle proper had a flat, somewhat sagging drapery roof, or one that was tentlike in shape with a ridgepole and a sloping roof. Present-day models of the tabernacle vary in their interpretation of this question. Historically speaking, if the influence of the desert tent was predominant, there may well have been some peak or apex to the structure. If, however, the tabernacle had anything in common with the design of contemporary Phoenician shrines, it probably had a flat roof.
Exodus 25:10-40 describes the furniture of the sanctuary. The Holy Place, or outer chamber of the tabernacle, contained a table for the bread of the Presence (kjv “shewbread”), a small acacia-wood structure overlaid with gold, measuring three feet (one m.) in length, eighteen inches (forty-six cm.) in breadth and a little over two feet (one-half m.) in height. According to
The furniture of the innermost shrine, the Most Holy Place, consisted only of the ark of the covenant. This was a small, boxlike structure of acacia wood, whose length was just under four feet (one and one-fourth m.), while the breadth and height were slightly above two feet (one-half m.). It was covered on the inside and outside with sheet gold and had golden rings and staves like the table of the bread of the Presence and the altar of incense. The lid of the ark, the “mercy seat,” was covered with solid gold. On each end was a golden cherub whose wings stretched toward the center of the lid. The precise appearance of the cherubim is a matter of some uncertainty, but in the OT they were generally represented as winged creatures having feet and hands. Some ivory panels unearthed at Samaria depict a composite figure having a human face, a four-legged animal body, and two elaborate, conspicuous wings.
The ark was the meeting place of God and his people through Moses, and contained the tablets of the law (
For over thirty-five years during the wilderness period the tabernacle stood at Kadesh, during which time the ordinary sacrifices were apparently not offered consistently (cf.
Under Joshua the first site of the tabernacle in Canaan was probably at Gilgal (
The subsequent history of the tabernacle is somewhat obscure. Saul established it at Nob, close to his home in Gibeah; but after he massacred the priests there (
When David wished to institute tabernacle religion in his capital city of Jerusalem, he prepared a place for the ark and pitched a tent in the tradition of the Gibeon tabernacle (
Some of the archaic technical terms associated with the tabernacle call for comment. The designation ’ōhĕl mō‘ēdh (
The word mishkan, commonly used to designate the tabernacle, is related to the ordinary Canaanite word for “dwelling place” and meant originally a tent, thus reflecting the nomadic background of tabernacle worship. A related verb, shakhan (kjv “dwell”), is used of God’s being “tabernacled” with his people (
Bibliography: F. H. White, Christ in the Tabernacle, 1875; D. W. Gooding, The Account of the Tabernacle, 1959; A. Jacob, God’s Tent, 1961; A. H. Hillyard, The Tabernacle in the Wilderness, 1965; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the, 1967; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the , 1970, pp. 430ff.——RKH
TABERNACLE. A transliteration of the Lat. tabernaculum, meaning a tent either with or without a wooden framework. The Gr. equivalent is σκηνή, G5008.
A number of words and phrases are employed in connection with the Tabernacle.
3) מִשְׁכָּ֥ן, “dwelling place” or “dwelling,” the place where God disclosed Himself to His people and dwelt among them. The root is “to dwell.”
4) מִשְׁכַּ֣ן הָעֵדֻ֔ת, “the tabernacle of the testimony” also occurs (
5) The general term מִקְדָּ֑שׁ, “holy place,” “sanctuary,” appears in
Plan of the Tabernacle
Altars preceded sanctuaries in Israel (
The outer court contained the altar of burnt offering and the bronze laver. The Tabernacle structure consisted of two divisions: the holy place and the holy of holies, or the most holy place. In the former stood the table of showbread on the N (the structure was oriented toward the E); the golden lampstand on the S; the golden altar of incense on the W against the veil leading to the most holy place. The innermost compartment held the Ark of the covenant, in which were deposited the two tables of the law, the pot of manna, and the rod of Aaron that budded. Its covering, a lid of pure gold, was the mercy seat, or propitiatory, overshadowed by two angelic figures called cherubim. At the mercy seat God met with His people in their need on the basis of shed blood.
The conservative position holds that the Tabernacle was made by Moses in the wilderness. It was constructed according to the pattern shown to him on the mount. It was to be the center of worship for the tribes of Israel in their wilderness travels. Centuries later, the Temple of Solomon was modeled after the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle, although primarily a provisional and temporary sanctuary for the journey from Sinai to Pal., nonetheless continued in use long after the settlement in Canaan.
The higher critical view maintains that the Tabernacle had only an ideal, not a historical, existence; that it was a product of priestly imagination in exilic or postexilic times. It was a miniature built on the model of the Solomonic Temple. The claim that it was constructed in the wilderness was put forth only to give sanction to the newly written “Priestly Code” (PC), or Levitical ritual, still preserved in the books of the Pentateuch. The details of the Tabernacle in PC (
The Tabernacle in Exodus and Numbers (PC)
Materials and furniture.
The Tabernacle was made from the voluntary gifts of Israel. Materials are listed in
The framework of the Tabernacle (
The coverings of the Tabernacle are described in
Court of the Tabernacle.
The description of the court is found in
b. Laver. The laver is described in
The curtains were held in place by forty-eight acacia frames. These frames consisted of two arms connected at the top, center, and bottom by cross rungs with two silver bases for each frame. The silver bases formed an unbroken foundation around the Tabernacle. The frames were also held together by five bars. The frames and bars were gold-plated. The front of the structure was enclosed by curtains. (
a. Holy place. The outer compartment or holy place, contained three pieces of furniture: (1) the table of showbread, (2) the golden lampstand, and (3) the golden altar of incense. The table was set on the N side of the holy place (
On the S side of the holy place stood the golden seven-branched lampstand. It was the most ornate of all the furniture. Of pure gold it had a central shaft (
b. Holy of holies. The smallest of all the parts of the sanctuary was the holy of holies, yet it was the most significant because of the ritual that was carried out there on the Day of Atonement, and because of the reiterated declaration that God Himself dwelt in the Tabernacle in the holiest of all, a dwelling represented by the Shekinah cloud over the innermost sanctuary.
Construction and consecration of the Tabernacle.
Moving the Tabernacle.
The Ark went before Israel in the crossing of the Jordan. They set up the Tabernacle at Shiloh, and the land was divided among the tribes there (
Historical references to the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle was erected at Sinai in the second year after the Exodus, two weeks before the Passover (
The journey of Israel took them from Horeb in Arabia to Kadesh-barnea in the Negev of Judah. Of the forty years spent marching to Canaan, almost thirty-eight were spent at Kadesh. The Tabernacle remained here through those years apart from one year spent going S to the Red Sea. During all these years the customary sacrifices were not offered (
During the period of the judges, Israel repeatedly fell into apostasy, and the Tabernacle services must have been performed in a formal, heartless manner, if at all. When war erupted with the Philistines in Samuel’s time, the people decided to bring the Ark of the covenant from Shiloh (
After the death of Eli and his sons it appears that Samuel presided over the religious exercises of the nation. He offered burnt and peace offerings. After the Ark was restored by the Philistines, it remained at Kiriath-jearim (
The next reference to the Tabernacle is at Nob with Ahimelech as high priest (
After David captured Jebus and built himself a palace, he prepared a place for the Ark of God and a tent on Zion (
With David’s removal of the Ark to Jerusalem there were both a Tabernacle with its altar at Gibeon and one with the Ark in Jerusalem, both soon to be replaced by the Temple. The Gibeon altar was in use to Solomon’s time. Notice also the occurrence of a reference to the “tent of meeting” in
The critical view of the Tabernacle, referred to briefly earlier in this treatment, is complex indeed compared with the accounts already discussed. One position of the critical camp is that the Tabernacle in the wilderness (
Many older critics considered the Tabernacle as only a projection backward of the Temple into Israel’s nomadic past; this was supposedly a product of the late priestly source (P or PC) without a shred of historical foundation. In all fairness it must be pointed out that more recent critical studies have admitted that this judgment was a far too sweeping and radical treatment of the Biblical data. In fact, the Wellhausen school explained the Tabernacle of
The weight of modern OT scholarship is opposed to the historicity of the Tabernacle treated in Exodus and Numbers (P). Some of the general arguments lodged against the historicity of the Tabernacle are that an unorganized body of Heb. slaves could never have accomplished the feat involved in constructing the Tabernacle with its demands for a high degree of artistic skill; that even Solomon in his reign had to hire skilled artists from Phoenicia for the Temple. Moreover, the highly organized priestly ministry with its elaborate ritual is out of keeping with the simple appointments indicated for the tent of meeting. Furthermore, the most cogent argument advanced against the historicity of the Tabernacle (in P) is the silence of the preexilic historical writers with reference to it. The claim is made that no genuine passage of history in that long period so much as hints of the existence of a Tabernacle with ministering priests and Levites. When references occur in the Chronicler (
Other objections to the historicity of the Tabernacle have not been lacking. The Tabernacle must be the creation of the imagination, it is argued, because the author has so poorly thought out the details of the structure. Moreover, the fundamental question has been posed as to whether such a structure was capable of standing at all. As a matter of architecture, the Tabernacle is pronounced an utter impossibility (Benzinger, EB IV, 4872). Furthermore, it is asserted that E knows nothing of a Tabernacle of this kind. That source speaks only of a tent that excludes the possibility of the Tabernacle in P (cf.
To elaborate further on the historical argument, historical tradition from the settlement in the land to the building of Solomon’s Temple is said to reveal no knowledge of any Tabernacle. Passages that do mention or imply the existence of the Tabernacle are treated with suspicion and are rejected. The conclusion is then drawn that the Tabernacle of P is just the Temple of Solomon read back into earlier days by a vivid priestly fancy. Simply stated, it was not the Temple that was built on the pattern of the Tabernacle, but the Tabernacle was constructed for the worship of Israel from the prototype of the Temple. A general observation is in order: one of the characteristic features of the critical school is the tenet that development always proceeds from the simple to the complex. Why is this principle departed from at this point when the Tabernacle and Temple are discussed?
The historicity of the Tabernacle
The historicity of the Tabernacle is of vital significance for the entire validity of the Scriptures. The main contentions of those who deny the historicity of the Tabernacle will be presented, and then will be followed by specific refutations.
Critical opinion claims that if Solomon’s Temple had been patterned after the Mosaic Tabernacle, the writers of Kings and Chronicles would have stated this fact. This position overlooks
Much is made of the argument from silence. Arguments from silence are notoriously precarious. The only way a silence of the historical books can be made out is to delete all such reference passages relative to the Mosaic Tabernacle as the work of a late redactor who allegedly inserted them to support his view that the Mosaic Tabernacle originated in the wilderness. No external evidence has been produced by any critic to sustain this position. If the evidence of the OT is heeded, it reveals a number of clear evidences.
Secondly, the sanctuary at Nob was the Mosaic Tabernacle (
Thirdly, the reference to the Mosaic Tabernacle at Gibeon precedes the building of Solomon’s Temple (
Critics claim the Mosaic Tabernacle could not have been made as Exodus describes it, because (1) the time was too short; (2) the Israelites were not qualified or artistically capable; and (3) they did not have sufficient materials for such a splendid building as the Mosaic Tabernacle. The argument as to time is amply answered by the fact that 600,000 able men for nine months could well have accomplished, with their wives and children, all that was needed for so circumscribed a structure. The objection as to their artistic ability is untenable in the light of the fact that in over 400 years they could well have learned something of the mechanical arts for which Egypt was justly famous. Furthermore, who can disprove that some of the famous works of Egypt of those days were not done by Israelite slave labor? The argument as to scantiness of material is refuted by the considerations that Israel had some preparation for their wilderness journey, that the amount of material involved is not in excess of what other ancient oriental peoples possessed, that a large part of what they needed could have come from what the Egyptians gave them to leave their land and from the spoils of the war with Amalek, and that a number of the materials required for the construction were available in the wilderness.
The Biblical account is said to have certain internal marks that reveal its unhistorical character. (1) It states the Tabernacle was made on a model supernaturally shown to Moses. (2) It continually refers to geographical locations of the Tabernacle when no previous instructions had indicated any such order. (3) The bronze altar was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze where a fire would burn constantly. (4) The Tabernacle is pictured, not as a temporary shelter for the Ark on the march, but as the only authorized sanctuary for the tribes of Israel before the time of Solomon. (5) The description of the Tabernacle found in P, “priestly code” (
In refutation of the first objection, it must be affirmed that there is no inherent impossibility that God should reveal the pattern of the Tabernacle to Moses in the mount (
The second objection is indeed difficult to comprehend, because it argues against the obvious. The Tabernacle had to be oriented in some way, and the most natural would be according to the four points of the compass. Moreover, there was no conscious imitation of the Solomonic Temple, because the account in Kings and Chronicles makes no reference to the four quarters of the earth.
The third argument assumes more than is stated. The text does not claim that a large fire constantly burned on an altar of wood. A reading of
The fourth contention is in exact conformity with a natural reading of Exodus, namely, the Tabernacle was meant to be the authorized sanctuary for the tribes before Solomon’s day. It is true that on occasion altars were built for sacrifice at locations other than the Tabernacle, e.g., by Gideon at Ophrah and by Samuel at Ramah (
The fifth objection is adequately answered by the observation that the description of the Tabernacle in P differs from the description of the tent in E, because two different structures are in view: one the Tabernacle proper (P) and the other the preliminary tent built by Moses. This explanation accounts for the variations in character and location of the two.
Perhaps the strongest proof advanced for the nonhistoricity of the Tabernacle is the alleged ignorance of the pre-exilic prophets concerning the Levitical system. Critics cite Amos in the 8th cent. b.c. (5:25,
Against the critical contention based on the words of Amos and Jeremiah, it can be stated as remarkable that former interpreters did not so understand the words of these prophets. Moreover, it can be easily shown that critics are far from agreement on this interpretation.
Finally, if the Lord had never commanded sacrifices for Israel, how did God order Jeremiah to pronounce a curse on the people of Jerusalem for transgressing the Lord’s covenant that He had made with their fathers in the wilderness, and that enjoined sacrifices to Him and not to idols (
The NT references to the Tabernacle at least imply that the sacred writers were agreed on the historicity of the Mosaic Tabernacle. Such citations were Peter’s words on the
Problems related to the tent of meeting and the Tabernacle
Because the position of Wellhausen is being re-examined from many vantage points and is being drastically re-evaluated, the account of
Upon further study the problems are not so formidable as first considered in the heat of an avid hypercriticism. Even the argument from silence is inconclusive.
Much of the difficulty in the critical position stems from the fact that it has tried to equate the tent of meeting and the Tabernacle, and then has complained of the resultant discrepancies. Allow the tent to be one structure and the Tabernacle another, and all will be seen to be harmonious. Regarding the vagueness of instructions, surely sufficient instructions were given to permit the workmen to build the structure, for
The fact that the verbs in
Theologically, the Tabernacle cannot be eliminated from the history of Israel in the wilderness. The presence of the Lord with them was the unifying factor in all their national traditions, repeatedly referred to in later books of the OT. They could not be without foundation in fact. They can be and are traceable to the Mosaic era, where Israel’s laws and sacrificial system began also.
The order seems to have been: (1) the tent outside the camp because of the sin of the golden calf worship (
The Tabernacle in the NT
Paul refers to “the washing of regeneration” (
The significance of the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle with its priests and their ministry was foundational to the religious life of Israel. The basic concept was that which underlay the theocracy itself: the Lord dwelling in visible glory in His sanctuary among His people (
The Tabernacle was the first sanctuary reared for the Lord at His command, and was rendered glorious and effective by His actual indwelling. The dwelling of God with man is the dominant theme of the symphony of the Tabernacle, all pointing to the future eternal communion with God. The Ark of the covenant with the propitiatory was the symbol of God’s meeting with His people on the basis of atonement (
IDB, IV, 498-506; HDB, IV, 653-668; ISBE, V, 2887-2898; EB, IV, 4861-4875; Jew Enc, XI, 653-656; J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד in Pentateuchal Sources,” JSS 5:50-65 (Jan. 60); A. Jacob, God’s Tent (1961); M. Haran, “Shiloh and Jerusalem; the Origin of the Priestly Tradition in the Pentateuch,” JBL, 81:14-24 (March 62); A. H. Hillyard, The Tabernacle in the Wilderness or The Reality of God in the Physical World (1965); V. W. Rabe, “Israelite Opposition to the Temple,” CBQ, 29:228-233 (April, 1967); J. Blenkinsopp, “Kiriath-jearim and the Ark,” JBL, 88:143-156 (June, 1969).(1878), 17-51; J. Strong, The Tabernacle of Israel in the Desert (1888); T. Whitelaw, Critics (1903); W. S. Caldecott, The Tabernacle: Its History and Structure (1904); E. C. Bissell, : Its Origin and Structure (1906); W. G. Morehead, Studies in the Mosaic Institutions (3rd ed. 1909), 31-90; J. Orr, Problem of the Old Testament (1926), 165-180; D. W. Gooding, The Account of the Tabernacle (1959); M. L. G. Guillebaud, “Tent over the Tabernacle,” EQ, 31:90-96 (April 59); M. Haran, “Nature of the
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
kort, sank’~-tu-a-ri: By "court" (chatser) is meant a clear space enclosed by curtains or walls, or surrounded by buildings. It was always an uncovered enclosure, but might have within its area one or more edifices.
1. The Tabernacle:
The first occurrence of the word is in
2. Solomon’s Temple:
The fundamental conception out of which grew the resolve to build a temple for the worship of Yahweh was that the new structure was to be an enlarged duplicate in stone of the tent of meeting (see Temple). The doubling in size of the holy chambers was accompanied by a doubling of the enclosed area upon which the holy house was to stand. Hitherto a rectangular oblong figure of 150 ft. in length and 75 ft. in breadth had sufficed for the needs of the people in their worship. Now an area of 300 ft. in length and 150 ft. in breadth was enclosed within heavy stone walls, making, as before, two squares, each of 150 ft. This was that "court of the priests" spoken of in
3. The Great Court:
In distinction from this "inner" court a second or "outer" court was built by Solomon, spoken of by the Chronicler as "the great court" (
4. Ezekiel’s Temple:
In Ezekiel’s plan of the temple yet to be built, the lines of the temple courts as he had known them in Jerusalem are followed. Two squares enclosed in stone walling, each of 150 ft., lie North and South of one another, and bear the distinctive names, "the inner court" and "the outer court" (
5. Temple of Herod:
In the Herodian temple the old nomenclature gives place to a new set of terms. The extensive enclosure known later as "the court of the Gentiles" does not appear under that name in the nodetitle; and compare G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 506- 9, with the reconstruction of Waterhouse in Sacred Sites of the Gospels, 111 ff). For the "women’s court," see Treasury.or in Josephus What we have in the tract Middoth of the Mishna and in Josephus is the mention of two courts, the "court of the priests" and "the court of Israel" (Middoth, ii.6; v. 1; Josephus, BJ, V, v, 6). The data in regard to both are difficult and conflicting. In Middoth they appear as long narrow strips of 11 cubits in breadth extending at right angles to the temple and the altar across the enclosure--the "court of Israel" being railed off from the "court of the priests" on the East; the latter extending backward as far as the altar, which has a distinct measurement. The design was to prevent the too near approach of the lay Israelite to the altar. Josephus makes the 11 cubits of the "court of Israel" extend round the whole "court of the priests, " inclusive of altar and temple (see
Many expressions in the Psalms show how great was the attachment of the devout-minded Hebrew in all ages to those courts of the Lord’s house where he was accustomed to worship (e.g.
W. Shaw Caldecott
(’ohel mo`edh "tent of meeting," mishkan, "dwelling"; skene):
A. STRUCTURE AND HISTORY
1. Earlier ""
2. A Stage in Revelation
3. The Tabernacle Proper
1. The Enclosure or Court
2. Structure, Divisions and Furniture of the Tabernacle
(1) Coverings of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:1-14; 36:8-19)
(a) Tabernacle Covering Proper
(b) Tent Covering
(c) Protective Covering
(2) Framework and Divisions of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:15-37; 36:20-38)
Arrangement of Coverings
(3) Furniture of the Sanctuary
(b) The Candlestick (Lampstand)
1. Removal from Sinai
2. Sojourn at Kadesh
3. Settlement in Canaan
4. Destruction of Shiloh
5. Delocalization of Worship
6. Nob and Gibeon
7. Restoration of the Ark
8. The Two Tabernacles
2. God’s Dwelling with Man
3. Symbolism of Furniture
Altars sacred to Yahweh were earlier than sacred buildings. Abraham built such detached altars at the Terebinth of Moreh (
1. Earlier "Tent of Meeting":
2. A Stage in Revelation:
No doubt this localization of the shrine of Yahweh afforded occasion for a possible misconception of Yahweh as a tribal Deity. We must remember that here and throughout we have to do with the education of a people whose instincts and surroundings were by no means monotheistic. It was necessary that their education should begin with some sort of concession to existing ideas. They were not yet, nor for long afterward, capable of the conception of a God who dwelleth not in temples made with hands. So an altar and a tent were given them; but in the fact that this habitation of God was not fixed to one spot, but was removed from place to place in the nomad life of the Israelites, they had a persistent education leading them away from the idea of local and tribal deities.
3. The Tabernacle Proper:
The tabernacle proper is that of which the account is given in Ex 25-27; 30-31; 35-40, with additional details in
The ground plan of the Mosaic tabernacle (with its divisions, courts, furniture, etc.) can be made out with reasonable certainty. As respects the actual construction, knotty problems remain, in regard to which the most diverse opinions prevail. Doubt rests also on the precise measurement by cubits (see Cubit; for a special theory, see W. S. Caldecott, The Tabernacle; Its History and Structure). For simplification the cubit is taken in this article as roughly equivalent to 18 inches.
A first weighty question relates to the shape of the tabernacle. The conventional and still customary conception (Keil, Bahr, A. R. S. Kennedy in HDB, etc.) represents it as an oblong, flat-roofed structure, the rich coverings, over the top, hanging down on either side and at the back--not unlike, to use a figure sometimes employed, a huge coffin with a pall thrown over it. Nothing could be less like a "tent," and the difficulty at once presents itself of how, in such a structure, "sagging" of the roof was to be prevented. Mr. J. Fergusson, in his article "Temple" in Smith’s DB, accordingly, advanced the other conception that the structure was essentially that of a tent, with ridge-pole, sloping roof, and other appurtenances of such an erection. He plausibly, though not with entire success, sought to show how this construction answered accurately to the measurements and other requirements of the text (e.g. the mention of "pins of the tabernacle,"
To avoid the difficulty of the ordinary view, that the coverings, hanging down outside the framework, are unseen from within, except on the roof, it has sometimes been argued that the tapestry covering hung down, not outside, but inside the tabernacle (Keil, Bahr, etc.). It is generally felt that this arrangement is inadmissible. A newer and more ingenious theory is that propounded by A. R. S. Kennedy in his article "Tabernacle" in HDB. It is that the "boards" constituting the framework of the tabernacle were, not solid planks, but really open "frames," through which the finely wrought covering could be seen from within. There is much that is fascinating in this theory, if the initial assumption of the flat roof is granted, but it cannot be regarded as being yet satisfactorily made out. Professor Kennedy argues from the excessive weight of the solid "boards." It might be replied: In a purely "ideal" structure such as he supposes this to be, what does the weight matter? The "boards," however, need not have been so thick or heavy as he represents.
In the more minute details of construction yet greater diversity of opinion obtains, and imagination is often allowed a freedom of exercise incompatible with the sober descriptions of the text.
1. The Enclosure or Court:
2. Structure, Divisions and Furniture of the Tabernacle:
In the inner of the two squares of the court was reared the tabernacle--a rectangular oblong structure, 30 cubits (45 ft.) long and 10 cubits (15 ft.) broad, divided into two parts, a holy and a most holy (
(1) to the coverings of the tabernacle,
(2) to its framework and divisions, and
(3) to its furniture.
(1) Coverings of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:1-14; 36:8-19).
The wooden framework of the tabernacle to be afterward described had 3 coverings--one, the immediate covering of the tabernacle or "dwelling," called by the same name, mishkan (
(a) Tabernacle Covering Proper:
The covering of the tabernacle proper (
(b) Tent Covering:
The "tent" covering (
(c) Protective Covering:
Finally, for purposes of protection, coverings were ordered to be made (
(2) Framework and Division of the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:15-37; 36:20-38)
Arrangement of Coverings:
Preference has already been expressed for Mr. Fergusson’s idea that the tabernacle was not flat-roofed, the curtains being cast over it like drapery, but was tentlike in shape, with ridge-pole, and a sloping roof, raising the total height to 15 cubits. Passing over the ridge pole, and descending at an angle, 14 cubits on either side, the inner curtain would extend 5 cubits beyond the walls of the tabernacle, making an awning of that width North and South, while the goats’-hair covering above it, 2 cubits wider, would hang below it a cubit on either side. The whole would be held in position by ropes secured by bronze tent-pins to the ground (
(1) the idea must be abandoned that the holy place was twice the length of the(20 X 10; it is to be observed that the text does not state the proportions, which are inferred from those of Solomon’s Temple), or
(2) Mr. Fergusson’s arrangement must be given up, and the division of the curtain be moved back 5 cubits, depriving him of his curtain for the porch, and leaving 10 cubits to be disposed of in the rear. Another difficulty is connected with the porch itself. No clear indication of such a porch is given in the text, while the 5 pillars "for the screen" (
The measurements in the above reckoning are internal. Dr. Kennedy disputes this, but the analogy of the temple is against his view.
(3) Furniture of the Sanctuary
The furniture of the sanctuary is described in
The furniture of the outer chamber of the tabernacle consisted of
(a) the table of shewbread;
(b) the golden candlestick:
(c) the altar of incense, or golden altar.
These were placed, the table of shewbread on the north side (
(a) The Table of Shewbread:
The table of shewbread was a small table of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, with a golden rim round the top, gold rings at the corners of its 4 feet, staves for the rings, and a "border" (at middle?) joining the legs, holding them together. Its dimensions were 2 cubits (3 ft.) long, 1 cubit (18 inches) broad, and 1 1/2 cubits (2 ft. 3 inches) high. On it were placed 12 cakes, renewed each week, in 2 piles (compare
(b) The Candlestick:
The candlestick or lampstand was the article on which most adornment was lavished. It was of pure gold, and consisted of a central stem (in
(c) The Altar of Incense:
The description of the altar of incense occurs (
1. Removal from Sinai:
We may fix 1220 BC as the approximate date of the introduction of the tabernacle. It was set up at Sinai on the 1st day of the 1st month of the 2nd year (
2. Sojourn at Kadesh:
The journey lay along the "great and terrible wilderness" between Horeb in the heart of Arabia and Kadesh-barnea in the Negeb of Judah; of the 40 years occupied in the journey to Canaan, nearly 38 were spent at Kadesh, a fact not always clearly recognized. The tabernacle stood here during 37 years (one year being occupied in a punitive journey southward to the shore of the Red Sea). During this whole time the ordinary sacrifices were not offered (
3. Settlement in Canaan:
4. Destruction of Shiloh:
During the period of the Judges the nation lost the fervor of its earlier years and was in imminent danger of apostasy. The daily services of the tabernacle were doubtless observed after a perfunctory manner, but they seem to have had little effect upon the people, either to soften their manners or raise their morals. In the early days of Samuel war broke out afresh with the Philistines. At a council of war the unprecedented proposal was made to fetch the ark of the covenant from Shiloh (
5. Delocalization of Worship:
For lack of a high priest of character, Samuel himself seems now to have become the head of religious worship. It is possible that the tabernacle may have been again removed to Gilgal, as it was there that Samuel appointed Saul to meet him in order to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings. The ark, however, restored by the Philistines, remained at Kiriath-jearim (
6. Nob and Gibeon:
We next hear of the tabernacle at Nob, with Ahimelech, a tool of Saul (probably the Ahijah of
7. Restoration of the Ark:
This removal by Saul, if he was the author of it, was recognized afterward by David as a thing done, with which he did not think it wise to interfere (of
8. The Two Tabernacles:
Hence, it was that there were now two tabernacles, the original one with its altar at Gibeon, and the new one with the original ark in Jerusalem, both under the protection of the king. Both, however, were soon to be superseded by the building of a temple. The altar at Gibeon continued in use till the time of Solomon. Of all the actual material of the tabernacle, the ark alone remained unchanged in the temple. The tabernacle itself, with its sacred vessels, was brought up to Jerusalem, and was preserved, apparently, as a sacred relic in the temple (
Though the tabernacle was historically the predecessor of the later temples, as a matter of fact, the veil was the only item actually retained throughout the series of temples. Nevertheless it is the tabernacle rather than the temple which has provided a substructure for much New Testament teaching. All the well-known allusions of the writer to the Hebrews, e.g. in chapters 9 and 10, are to the tabernacle, rather than to any later temple.
1. New Testament References:
2. God’s Dwelling with Man:
The suggestion which underlies all such New Testament references is not only that Christ, in His human manifestation, was both tabernacle and priest, altar and sacrifice, but also, and still more, that God ever has His dwelling among men, veiled no doubt from the unbelieving and insincere, but always manifest and accessible to the faithful and devout. As we have a great high priest who is now passed into the heavens, there to appear in our behalf in the true tabernacle, so we ourselves have permission and encouragement to enter into the holiest place of all on earth by the blood of the everlasting covenant. Of the hopes embodied in these two planes of thought, the earthly tabernacle was the symbol, and contained the prospect and foretaste of the higher communion. It is this which has given the tabernacle such an abiding hold on the imagination and veneration of the Christian church in all lands and languages.
3. Symbolism of Furniture:
The symbolism of the various parts of the tabernacle furniture is tolerably obvious, and is considered under the different headings. The ark of the covenant with its propitiatory was the symbol of God’s gracious meeting with His people on the ground of atonement (compare
See the articles on "Tabernacle" and "Temple" in Smith’s DB, HDB, EB, The Temple BD, etc.; also the commentaries. on Exodus (the Speaker’s Pulpit Commentary, Keil’s, Lange’s, etc.); Bahr, Symbolik d. Mosaischen Cult; Keil, Archaeology, I, 98 ff (English translation); Westcott, essay on "The General Significance of the Tabernacle," in his Hebrews; Brown, The Tabernacle (1899); W. S. Caldecott, The Tabernacle: Its History and Structure. See the articles in this Encyclopedia on the special parts of the tabernacle.
See also TEMPLE.
W. Shaw Caldecott
B. IN CRITICISM
I. CONSERVATIVE AND CRITICAL VIEWS
II. ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF THE CRITICAL THEORY EXAMINED
1. Not Stated, That the Temple Was Constructed after the Pattern of the Tabernacle
2. No Trace of the Tabernacle in Pre-Solomonic Times
3. The Tabernacle Could Not Have Been Built as Exodus Describes
4. Biblical Account Contains Marks of Its Unhistorical Character
5. Pre-exilic Prophets Knew Nothing of Levitical System of Which the Tabernacle Was Said to Be the Center.
I. Conservative and Critical Views.
The conservative view of Scripture finds:
(1) that the tabernacle was constructed by Moses in the wilderness of Sinai;
(2) that it was fashioned according to a pattern shown to him in the Mount;
(3) that it was designed to be and was the center of sacrificial worship for the tribes in the wilderness; and
(4) that centuries later the Solomonic Temple was constructed after it as a model.
However, the critical (higher) view of Scripture says:
(1) that the tabernacle never existed except on paper;
(2) that it was a pure creation of priestly imagination sketched after or during the exile;
(3) that it was meant to be a miniature sanctuary on the model of Solomon’s Temple;
(4) that it was represented as having been built in the wilderness for the purpose of legitimizing the newly-published Priestly Code (P) or Levitical ritual still preserved in the middle books of the Pentateuch; and
(5) that the description of the tabernacle furnished in the Priestly Code (P) (Ex 25-31; 36-40; Nu 2:2,17; 5:1-4; 14:44) conflicts with that given in the Elohist (E) (
The principal grounds on which it is proposed to set aside the conservative viewpoint and put in its place the critical theory are these:
II. Arguments in Support of the Critical Theory Examined.
(1) It is nowhere stated that Solomon’s Temple was constructed after the pattern of the Mosaic tabernacle; hence, it is reasonable to infer that the Mosaic tabernacle had no existence when or before the Solomonic Temple was built.
(2) No trace of the Mosaic tabernacle can be found in the pre-Solomonic period, from which it is clear that no such tabernacle existed.
(3) The Mosaic tabernacle could not have been produced as Exodus describes, and, accordingly, the story must be relegated to the limbo of romance.
(4) The Biblical account of the Mosaic tabernacle bears internal marks of its completely unhistorical character.
(5) The pre-exilic prophets knew nothing of the Levitical system of which the Mosaic tabernacle was the center, and hence, the whole story must be set down as a sacred legend.
These assertions demand examination:
1. Not Stated, That the Temple Was Constructed after the Pattern of the Tabernacle:
It is urged that nowhere is it stated that Solomon’s Temple was fashioned after the pattern of the Mosaic tabernacle. Wellhausen thinks (GI, chapter i, 3, p. 44) that, had it been so, the narrators in Kings and Chronicles would have said so. "At least," he writes, "one would have expected that in the report concerning the building of the new sanctuary, casual mention would have been made of the old." And so there was--in
2. No Trace of the Tabernacle in Pre-Solomonic Times
It is alleged that no trace of the Mosaic tabernacle can be found in pre-Solomonic times. On the principle that silence about a person, thing or event does not prove the non-existence of the person or thing or the non-occurrence of the event, this 2nd argument might fairly be laid aside as irrelevant. Yet it will be more satisfactory to ask, if the assertion be true, why no trace of the tabernacle can be detected in the historical books in pre-Solomonic times. The answer is, that of course it is true, if the historical books be first "doctored," i.e. gone over and dressed to suit theory, by removing from them every passage, sentence, clause and word that seems to indicate, presuppose or imply the existence of the tabernacle, and such passage, sentence, clause and word assigned to a late R who inserted it into the original text to give color to his theory, and support to his fiction that the Mosaic tabernacle and its services originated in the wilderness. Could this theory be established on independent grounds, i.e. by evidence derived from other historical documents, without tampering with the sacred narrative, something might be said for its plausibility. But every scholar knows that not a particle of evidence has ever been, or is likely ever to be, adduced in its support beyond what critics themselves manufacture in the way described. That they do find traces of the Mosaic tabernacle in the historical books, they unconsciously and unintentionally allow by their efforts to explain such traces away, which moreover they can only do by denouncing these traces as spurious and subjecting them to a sort of surgical operation in order to excise them from the body of the text. But these so-called spurious traces are either true or they are not true. If they are true, whoever inserted them, then they attest the existence of the tabernacle, first at Shiloh, and afterward at Nob, later at Gibeon, and finally at Jerusalem; if they are not true, then some other things in the narrative must be written down as imagination, as, e.g. the conquest of the land, and its division among the tribes, the story of the altar on the East of Jordan, the ministry of the youthful Samuel at Shiloh, and of Ahimelech at Nob.
(1) The Mosaic Tabernacle at Shiloh.
(b) that even if it was not a solid structure but a tent, it could be left at any moment without the ark, in which case it could not have been the Mosaic tabernacle of which the ark was an "inseparable companion"; while
(c) if it was the ancient "dwelling" of Yahweh, it could not have been made the dormitory of Samuel.
(a) while it need not be denied that the Shiloh sanctuary possessed posts and doors--
(b) as to the impossibility of the ark being taken from the tabernacle, as was done when it was captured by the Philistines, there is no doubt that there were occasions when it was not only legitimate, but expressly commanded to separate the ark from the tabernacle, though the war with the Philistines was not one. In
(c) As for the notion that the Shiloh sanctuary could not have been the Mosaic tabernacle because Samuel is said to have slept in it beside the ark of God, it should be enough to reply that the narrative does not say or imply that Samuel had converted either the holy place or the most holy into a private bedchamber, but merely that he lay down to sleep "in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was," doubtless "in the court where cells were built for the priests and Levites to live in when serving at the sanctuary" (Keil). But even if it did mean that the youthful Samuel actually slept in the Holy of Holies, one fails to see how an abuse like that may not have occurred in a time so degenerate as that of Eli, or how, if it did, it would necessarily prove that the Shiloh shrine was not the Mosaic tabernacle.
(2) The Mosaic Tabernacle at Nob.
That the sanctuary at Nob (
(a) that it had a high priest with 85 ordinary priests, a priest’s ephod, and a table of shewbread;
(b) that the eating of the shewbread was conditioned by the same law of ceremonial purity as prevailed in connection with the Mosaic tabernacle (
(c) that the Urim was employed there by the priest to ascertain the divine will--all of which circumstances pertained to the Mosaic tabernacle and to no other institution known among the Hebrews.
If the statement (
(3) The Mosaic Tabernacle at Gibeon.
The last mention of the Mosaic tabernacle occurs in connection with the building of Solomon’s Temple (
(a) that had it been so, David, when he fetched up the ark from Obed-edom’s house, would not have pitched for it a tent in the city of David, but would have lodged it in Gibeon;
(b) that had the Gibeon shrine been the Mosaic tabernacle it would not have been called as it is in Kings, "a great high place";
(c) that had the Gibeon shrine been the Mosaic tabernacle, Solomon would not have required to cast new vessels for his Temple, as he is reported to have done; and
(d) that had the Gibeon shrine been the Mosaic tabernacle the brazen altar would not have been left behind at Gibeon but would also have been conveyed to Mt. Moriah.
(a) if it was foolish and wrong for David not to lodge the ark in Gibeon, that would not make it certain that the Mosaic tabernacle was not at Gibeon. That it was either foolish or wrong, however, is not clear. David may have reckoned that if the house of Obed-edom had derived special blessing from the presence of the ark in it for three months, possibly it would be for the benefit of his (David’s) house and kingdom to have the ark permanently in his capital. And in addition, David may have remembered that God had determined to choose out a place for His ark, and in answer to prayer David may have been directed to fetch the ark to Jerusalem. As good a supposition this, at any rate, as that of the critics.
(b) That the Gibeon shrine should have been styled "the great high place" (
(c) The casting of new vessels for Solomon’s Temple needs no other explanation than this, that the new house was at least twice as spacious as the old, and that in any case it was fitting that the new house should have new furniture.
(d) That the brazen altar would not have been left behind at Gibeon when the Mosaic tabernacle was removed, may be met by the demand for proof that it was actually left behind. That it was left behind is a pure conjecture. That it was transplanted to Jerusalem and along with the other tabernacle utensils laid up in a side chamber of the temple is as likely an assumption as any other (see
3. The Tabernacle Could Not Have Been Built as Exodus Describes
It is maintained that the Mosaic tabernacle could not have been produced as Exodus describes:
(1) that the time was too short,
(2) that the Israelites were too little qualified, and
(3) that the materials at their disposal were too scanty for the construction of so splendid a building as the Mosaic tabernacle.
(1) does any intelligent person believe that 9 months was too short a time for 600,000 able-bodied men, to say nothing of their women and children, to build a wooden house 30 cubits long, 10 high and 10 broad, with not as many articles in it as a well-to-do artisan’s kitchen oftentimes contains?
(2) Is it at all likely that they were so ill-qualified for the work as the objection asserts? The notion that the Israelites were a horde of savages or simply a tribe of wandering nomads does not accord with fact. They had been bond-men, it is true, in the land of Ham; but they and their fathers had lived there for 400 years; and it is simply incredible, as even Knobel puts it, that they should not have learnt something of the mechanical articles One would rather be disposed to hold that they must have had among them at the date of the Exodus a considerable number of skilled artisans. At least, archaeology has shown that if the escaped bondsmen knew nothing of the arts and sciences, it was not because their quondam masters had not been able to instruct them. The monuments offer silent witness that every art required by the manufacturers existed at the moment in Egypt, as e.g. the arts of metal-working, wood-carving, leather-making, weaving and spinning. And surely no one will contend that the magnificent works of art, the temples and tombs, palaces and pyramids, that are the world’s wonder today, were the production always and exclusively of native Egyptian and never of Hebrew thought and labor! Nor
(3) is the reasoning good, that whatever the Israelites might have been able to do in Egypt where abundant materials lay to hand, they were little likely to excel in handicrafts of any sort in a wilderness where such materials were wanting.
Even Knobel could reply to this, that as the Israelites when they escaped from Egypt were not a horde of savages, so neither were they a tribe of beggars; that they had not entered on their expedition in the wilderness without preparation, or without taking with them their most valuable articles; that the quantities of gold, silver and precious stones employed in the building of the tabernacle were but trifles in comparison with other quantities of the same that have been found in possession of ancient oriental peoples; that a large portion of what was contributed had probably been obtained by despoiling the Egyptians before escaping from their toils and plundering the Amalekites whom they soon after defeated at Rephidim, and who, in all likelihood, at least if one may judge from the subsequent example of the Midianites, had come to the field of war bedecked with jewels and gold; and that the acacia wood, the linen, the blue, the purple and the scarlet, with the goats’ skins, rams’ skins, and seal skins might all have been found and prepared in the wilderness (compare Kurtz, Geschichte des alten Bundes, II, section 53). In short, so decisively has this argument, derived from the supposed deficiency of culture and resources on the part of the Israelites, been disposed of by writers of by no means too conservative pro-clivities, that one feels surprised to find it called up again by Benzinger in Encyclopedia Biblica to do duty in support of the unhistorical character of the tabernacle narrative in Exodus.
4. Biblical Account Contains Marks of Its Unhistorical Character
The Biblical account of the Mosaic tabernacle, it is further contended, bears internal marks of its completely unhistorical character, as e.g.
(1) that it represents the tabernacle as having been constructed on a model which had been supernaturally shown to Moses;
(2) that it habitually speaks of the south, north, and west sides of the tabernacle although no preceding order had been issued that the tent should be so placed;
(3) that the brazen altar is described as made of timber overlaid with brass, upon which a huge fire constantly burned;
(4) that, the tabernacle is depicted, not as a mere provisional shelter for the ark upon the march, but "as the only legitimate sanctuary for the church of the twelve tribes before Solomon"; and
(5) that the description of the tabernacle furnished in P (Ex 25-31; 36-40;
(1) why should the story of the tabernacle be a fiction, because Moses is reported to have made it according to a pattern showed to him in the Mount (
(2) How the fact that the tabernacle had three sides, south, north and west, shows it could not have been fashioned by Moses, is one of those mysteries which takes a critical mind to understand. One naturally presumes that the tabernacle must have been located somewhere and oriented somehow; and, if it had four sides, would assuredly suit as well to set them toward the four quarters of heaven as in any other way. But in so depicting the tabernacle, say the critics, the fiction writers who invented the story were actuated by a deep-laid design to make the Mosaic tabernacle look like the Temple of Solomon. Quite a harmless design, if it was really entertained! But the
(3) As to the absurdity of representing a large fire as constantly burning upon a wooden altar overlaid with a thin plate of brass, this would certainly have been all that the critics say--a fatal objection to receiving the story of the tabernacle as true. But if the story was invented, surely the inventor might have given Moses and his two skilled artisans, Bezalel and Oholiab, some credit for common sense, and not have made them do, or propose to do, anything so stupid as to try to keep a large fire burning upon an altar of wood. This certainly they did not do. An examination of
(4) The fourth note of fancy--what Wellhausen calls "the chief matter"--that the tabernacle was designed for a central sanctuary to the church of the Twelve Tribes before the days of Solomon, but never really served in this capacity--is partly true and partly untrue. That it was meant to be a central sanctuary, until Yahweh should select for Himself a place of permanent habitation, which He did in the days of Solomon, is exactly the impression a candid reader derives from Exodus, and it is gratifying to learn from so competent a critic as Wellhausen that this impression is correct. But that it really never served as a central sanctuary, it is impossible to admit, after having traced its existence from the days of Joshua onward to those of Solomon. That occasionally altars were erected and sacrifices offered at other places than the tabernacle--as by Gideon at Ophrah (
(5) With regard to the supposed want of harmony between the two descriptions of the tabernacle in P and E, much depends on whether the structures referred to in these documents were the same or different.
(a) If different, i.e. if the tent in E (
(b) if on the other hand the tent in E was the same as the tent in P (Calvin, Mead in Lange, Konig, Eerdmans, Valeton and others), then the question may arise whether or not any contradiction existed between them, and, if such contradiction did exist, whether this justifies the inference that P’s tent was unhistorical, i.e. never took shape except in the writer’s imagination.
That the tent in E was not P’s Mosaic tabernacle has been argued on the following grounds:
(a) that the Mosaic tabernacle (assuming it to have been a reality and not a fiction) was not yet made; so that E’s tent must have been either the tent of Moses or a provisional tent;
(b) that nothing is said about a body of priests and Levites with an ark and a sacrificial ritual in connection with E’s tent, but only of a non-Levitical attendant Joshua, and
(c) that it was situated outside the camp, whereas P’s tabernacle is always represented as in the midst of the camp.
The first of these grounds largely disappears when
On the other hand if E’s tent was the same as P’s, the narrative does not require to be broken up; and
The second supposed proof that E’s tent was not P’s but an earlier one, namely, that P’s had a body of priests and Levites, an ark and a complex ritual, while E’s had only Joshua as attendant and made no mention of ark, priests or sacrifices, loses force, unless it can be shown that there was absolute necessity that in this paragraph a full description of the tabernacle should be given. But obviously no such necessity existed, the object of the writer having been as above explained. Driver, after Wellhausen (GJ, 387), conjectures that in E’s original document
The third argument against their identity is their different location--E’s outside and P’s inside the camp. But it may be argued (a) that the translation in the Revised Version (British and American) distinctly relieves this difficulty. For if Moses used to take and pitch the tabernacle outside the camp, the natural implication is that the tabernacle was often, perhaps usually, inside the camp, as in the Priestly Code (P), and only from time to time pitched outside the camp, when Yahweh was displeased with the people (Eerdmans, Valeton). Or (2) that "outside the camp" may signify away, at an equal distance from all the four camps ("over against the tent of meeting"--in the
5. Pre-exilic Prophets Knew Nothing of Levitical System of Which the Tabernacle Was Said to Be the Center.
That the pre-exilic prophets knew nothing about the Levitical system of which the tabernacle was the center is regarded as perhaps the strongest proof that the tabernacle had no existence in the wilderness and indeed never existed at all except on paper. The assertion about the ignorance of the pre-exilic prophets as to the sacrificial system of the Priestly Code has been so often made that it has come to be a "commonplace" and "stock-phrase" of modern criticism. In particular, Amos in the 8th century BC (5:25,26) and Jeremiah in the 7th century BC (7:21-23) are quoted as having publicly taught that no such sacrificial ritual as the tabernacle implied had been promulgated in the wilderness. But, if these prophets were aware that the Levitical Law had not been given by Moses, one would like to know,
(1) how this interpretation of their language had been so long in being discovered;
(2) how the critics themselves are not unanimous in accepting this interpretation--which they are not;
(3) how Amos could represent Yahweh as saying "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Yea, though ye offer me your burnt-offerings and meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts" (5:21,22), if Yahweh had never accepted and never enjoined them;
(4) how Jeremiah could have been a party to putting forward Deuteronomy as a work of Moses if he knew that Yahweh had never commanded sacrifices to be offered, which Deuteronomy does; and
(5) how Jeremiah could have blamed Judah for committing spiritual adultery if Yahweh had never ordered the people to offer sacrifice.
In reply to
(1) it will scarcely do to answer that all previous interpreters of Amos and Jeremiah had failed to read the prophets’ words as they stand (
(2) it is conveniently forgotten that Bohlen (Introduction to Genesis, I, 277) admitted that some of the Pentateuch "might possibly have originated in the time of Moses," and when quoting
(3) removed by holding that, if prior to the days of Amos Yahweh did accept the burnt offerings and meal offerings of Israel, these were not sacrifices that had been appointed in the wilderness, because Yahweh Himself appears to intimate (
(4) Jeremiah’s action in putting forward or helping to put forward Deuteronomy as a work of Moses when he knew that it represented Yahweh as having commanded sacrifices to be offered both in the wilderness and in Canaan (
(5) it passes comprehension how, if Yahweh never commanded His people to offer sacrifice to Him, Jeremiah could have represented Yahweh as enjoining him to pronounce a curse upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem because they transgressed the words of Yahweh’s covenant, which He had made with their fathers in the day when He brought them out of the land of Egypt, by running after other gods to serve them, setting up altars and burning incense unto Baal and even working lewdness in Yahweh’s house (
It may now be added in confirmation of the preceding, that the various references to a tabernacle in the
I, critical: De Wette, Beitrage; von Bohlen, Genesis; Georg, Judische Feste; Reuss, Geschichte der heiligen Schriften des AT; Graf, de Templo Silonensi; Kuenen, The; Wellhausen, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels; HDB and EB, articles "Tabernacle," II, conservative: Bredenkamp, Gesetz und Propheten; Kurtz, Geschichte des alten Bundes; Havernick, Einleitung; Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses; Riehm, Handworterbuch, and Herzog, RE (ed 1; edition 3 is "critical"), articles "Stiftshutte"; Baxter, Sanctuary and Sacrifice; Bissell, : Its Origin and Structure; Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament; Whitelaw, Old Testament Critics.