See also Tabernacle
(’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