Tabernacle [N] [T] [E] [S]

The structure referred to in Scripture as the tabernacle was the center of the worship of Yahweh by the people of Israel from shortly after the exodus until it was replaced by Solomon's temple around 960 b.c. The term "tabernacle" is sometimes used to refer to one part of a larger complex: the tent-like structure that stood within a court enclosed by linen curtains. At other times the term describes the entire complex. The inner structure was comprised of gold-plated planks linked together and standing on edge. They formed three sides of a rectangle, with the fourth closed by a heavy curtain. The whole was draped with several layers of cloth and leather. Here God was understood to be especially present for his people. Even more important, the tabernacle and the sacrificial system connected with it are understood by the Bible to be richly symbolic of truths concerning God and the possibility of human fellowship with him.

The first references to the tabernacle appear in Exodus 25, where Moses begins to receive the instructions for making this structure. These instructions continue through chapter 31. Then, after a three-chapter interlude dealing with the golden calf episode and its aftermath, chapter 35 resumes the story of the tabernacle, reporting how the complex was built. This report repeats the previous instructions almost word for word. The report carries on through chapter 40, where the book reaches its climactic conclusion with God's glory filling the tabernacle.

Part of the significance of the tabernacle is seen through the placement of this block of material in the Book of Exodus. The book contains three segments: chapters 1-15, the account of the deliverance from Egypt, culminating in the Red Sea crossing; chapters 16-24, the account of the journey to Sinai, culminating in the sealing of the covenant; and chapters 25-40, the account of the building of the tabernacle, culminating in its being filled with the glory of God. This literary structure shows that the ultimate need of the people was not for deliverance from physical oppression or from theological darkness, but from alienation from God. Deliverance from bondage and from spiritual darkness are not ends, but means to the end of fellowship with God. This is the significance of the title "tabernacle (or "tent, " Heb. ohel [l,hoa]) of meeting." Apparently first applied to the interim tent where Moses met God before the tabernacle was complete ( 33:7 ), the phrase aptly sums up the function of the tabernacle. Not only does the structure symbolize the presence of God with his people; it also shows how it is that sinful people can come into, and live in, the presence of a holy God.

The incident of the golden calf, which is reported between the instructions for the tabernacle and its building, highlights both the significance and function of the tabernacle. The people recognized they needed divine protection and guidance, especially in the light of Moses' inexplicable failure to return from the mountain ( 32:1 ). And they were sure they could not have these unless God was tangibly present with them. The tragedy of the story is that at the very moment they were demanding that Aaron meet their needs, God was giving Moses the instructions that would meet those needs in a much more complete way than Aaron's feeble efforts ever could.

When human needs are met in God's way the results far surpass anything we could conceive on our own. The golden calf could hardly compare to the tabernacle. In the tabernacle there was beauty of design, color, texture, and shape. There was a satisfying diversity in objects and spaces. There was a sense of motion through separate stages from the profane to the sacred. There was a profound, yet evident, symbolism capable of conveying multiple truths to different persons.

Moreover, the impact upon people is profoundly different when our needs are met in God's way. Here, instead of limited gifts and no participation ( 32:3-4 ), everyone has something to contribute, whether in talent or material ( 35:4-10 ). Here persons give freely, without coercion ( 35:21 , contra 32:2 ). Here work is done according to Spirit-imparted gifts, not according to rank or appearance (35:30-36:2). And here, instead of further alienation from God ( 32:9 ), the glory of God's presence is revealed in the midst of human life ( 40:35 ).

Thus, Exodus 32-34 is an integral part of the whole final segment of the book, illustrating by contrast the same truths that chapters 25-31 and 35-40 teach in a positive way.

Beyond a tangible representation of the presence of God, the tabernacle also is intended to teach by visual means the theological principles whereby that presence is possible. It is necessary to exercise care at this point because the Bible does not explain all the visual symbolism, and it is possible to expend too much energy in speculation. However, the main lines are clear enough. The color white, which was especially prominent in the linen curtains of the court, calls attention to the purity of God and the necessary purity of those who would live in his presence. Blue speaks of God's transcendence; purple, of his royalty; and red, of the blood that must be shed if a holy God is ever to live with a sinful human. The accents of gold and silver that occurred throughout the structure speak of the riches of the divine kingdom and its blessings. Possibly the multiple coverings over the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies speak of the security that attends those who live with God.

The most significant symbolism is surely that found in the arrangement of spaces and objects. The court itself speaks of the separation between God and the sinner. It is impossible for us to come into the presence of God in our normal state. This gulf is further reinforced by the veil at the door of the Holy Place, and by the one that closed off the Holy of Holies. It is impossible that good intentions and honest effort can ever bring us to God. We come in the ways he has dictated, or not at all.

Then, how is it possible for us to come into that Presence which is life itself? The tabernacle shows the way. The first object encountered is the altar. Here, in the starkest visual terms, is the representation of the truth that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" ( Heb 9:22 ). But the altar raises its own questions: How can a bull or a sheep or a goat die in the place of a person who has been made just a little lower than God himself ( Mic 6:6-8 )? For the Old Testament believer, the solution to this enigma was, in many ways, a mystery. Nevertheless, there is no other way to the Holy of Holies than past the altar.

Behind the altar is the laver. Here we are reminded that God is clean. "Clean" describes the essential character of God, who is faithful, upright, merciful, and true. To be unclean is to fail to share that character, and that which does not share God's character cannot exist in his white-hot presence ( Isa 6:5 ). Thus, it is necessary for those who would come into his presence to be washed and made clean ( Psalm 51:7 ), and the laver represents both that necessity and that possibility.

Inside the Holy Place three objects demand attention. On the right is a table with twelve loaves of bread on it. In pagan temples this is where the gods were believed to sit and eat. But in Israel's tabernacle this is where God was understood to feed his people ( Psalm 23:5 ). He had no need of food ( Psalm 50:12-13 ), but Israel was famished for him ( Psalm 107:9 ; Isa 65:13 ). On the left was the lampstand where the light was never permitted to go out. This represented the light that God was to his people in the darkened world of sin ( Psalm 27:1 ). Directly in front of the worshiper at the far end of the space was the altar of incense. Here incense burned day and night, symbolizing both the sacred presence and the prayer of worshipers that can rise to God like sweet perfume at any moment of the day ( Psalm 141:2 ; Rev 8:3-4 ). Thus, the objects in the Holy Place were the evidence of the blessings that are for those who live in the presence of God: light, sustenance, and communion.

In all the pagan temples the innermost space was reserved for the idol, the visual expression of the pagan insistence that the divine is clothed with this world, and that this world is the body of the divine. Alone of all the ancient peoples, the Hebrews insisted this is not true. God is not part of this world, and may not be represented by any natural object. So what was in the innermost space of the tabernacle? A box! We usually refer to the object with the a.d. 1611 term "ark, " but that is just an archaic word for "box." A box to represent the presence of God? To be sure it was a beautifully ornamented box, with winged figures of some sort molded into its golden top. But for all that, it was still just a box.

Why would the Hebrews use something as mundane as a box to convey the presence of the almighty God? Negatively, a box simply cannot be worshiped as somehow being God. It is neither a human figure nor a natural object. To be sure, some translations have God sitting "upon" the cherubim, but the Hebrew does not use the preposition "upon." Rather, it uses no preposition, or "with respect to" — a clear attempt to avoid even that potential confusion of object and reality. If it is desired to have an object that will remind persons of God's real presence while underscoring the prohibition of images, a box is an excellent choice.

But the ark has positive significance as well. It represents the true basis of divine-human relations. Those relations do not rest upon ritualistic manipulationmagicas idol-worship assumes. Rather, the basis is covenant, a relationship of mutual commitment whereby grace is responded to in obedience, especially on an ethical plane. Surrender, trust, and obedience are the operative principles, not magical identification. How appropriate that all these truths should be represented in the box in the Holy of Holies. Aaron's rod represents the delivering grace of God, both in the exodus events and in God's selection of the priests as mediators; the manna represents God's sustaining grace; and the tablets of the Ten Commandments summarize the terms of the relationship. The ark tells us that we cannot manipulate the essence of God; we can only remember what he has done for us and relate to him and one another accordingly.

The sad truth is that the human spirit is not able to fulfill the terms of the covenant, no matter how pure the initial intentions may have been. As the Hebrews first broke their covenant with God in less than six weeks, so every human who has ever lived has learned that living for God is not a matter of good intentions. Every one who has ever sought to live for God has discovered that when all has been done, we have fallen far short of God's moral perfection. What then is to be done? The covenant was sworn to with the most solemn oaths. Now it lies broken in the presence of God, calling out for justice. How can God be Justice and Love at the same time? The answer is the "cover" (mercy-seat). The Hebrew word for the nullification of the effects of sin is kapar [r;p'K], "to cover." It is surely not a coincidence that the lid of the box is called "the cover." For this lid not only covers what it is in the box; it is also the place where covering for sin, particularly unconscious sin, is made once a year through sprinkling the blood of a sacrificial animal upon that cover ( Lev 16:11-17 ). The broken covenant, calling out for the death of those who swore in the name of God that they would be obedient or die, was satisfied by a representive sacrificial death.

But this brings to the fore the question raised by the great altar in the court outside. If the fundamental tenet of the Hebrew faith, God's transcendence, is true, if God cannot be magically manipulated through the creation, then of what ultimate good is the sacrifice of one bull, or, for that matter, tens of thousands of bulls? This seems a hopeless dilemma. God's justice cannot be satisfied magically, but it must be satisfied. God cannot simply ignore it. To do so would be to destroy the whole basis of a world of cause and effect.

This is the dilemma that came to such a dramatic resolution for the persons of the first century a.d., who suddenly realized what the coupling of Jesus Christ's divinity and his unjust death and his glorious resurrection meant. Here was the perfect sacrifice! Here was the one to whom the sacrificial system and the tabernacle pointed. That system and that structure had no magical efficacy in themselves. They were only efficacious in removing sin insofar as they pointed to the One who could indeed die for all. If God could die and then return to life, that death could indeed be in the place of all who would ever live and sin.

This is the vision that captured the writer of the Book of Hebrews and is recorded in chapter 9 of that book. He realized that the tabernacle and the sacrificial system were simply symbolic of an eternal reality. The language used there might suggest that the author thought the earthly tabernacle was a copy of an eternal heavenly one. But to take that position is to miss the point of the passage. The author is saying that the earthly tabernacle and the sacrifices offered there are representative of eternal, spiritual truth: the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ for all eternity. The tabernacle represents truth, not some other material entity. The author is possibly using the language of Platonic philosophy, but the biblical philosophy of transcendence is diametrically at odds with Plato's insistence that this world is unreal. That the writer of Hebrews knows this is evident in 9:25-26, where he shows that Christ is not being continually sacrificed in some heavenly reality, but that he died once for all here on earth, and so here fulfilled what the tabernacle was all about.

John N. Oswalt

See also Aaron; Altar; Ark; Exodus, Theology of; Hebrews, Theology of; Israel; Moses; Offerings and Sacrifices; Priest, Priesthood; Temple

Bibliography. P. F. Kiene, The Tabernacle of God in the Wilderness of Sinai; M. Levine, The Tabernacle: Its Structure and Utensils; S. F. Olford, The Tabernacle: Camping with God; S. Ridout, Lectures on the Tabernacle; A. B. Simpson, Christ in the Tabernacle.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Tabernacle'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.
Tabernacle [N] [T] [B] [S]

  • A house or dwelling-place ( Job 5:24 ; 18:6 , etc.).

  • A portable shrine (Compare Acts 19:24 ) containing the image of Moloch ( Amos 5:26 ; marg. and RSV, "Siccuth").

  • The human body ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 2 Corinthians 5:4 ); a tent, as opposed to a permanent dwelling.

  • The sacred tent (Heb. mishkan, "the dwelling-place"); the movable tent-temple which Moses erected for the service of God, according to the "pattern" which God himself showed to him on the mount ( Exodus 25:9 ; Hebrews 8:5 ). It is called "the tabernacle of the congregation," rather "of meeting", i.e., where God promised to meet with Israel ( Exodus 29:42 ); the "tabernacle of the testimony" ( Exodus 38:21 ; Numbers 1:50 ), which does not, however, designate the whole structure, but only the enclosure which contained the "ark of the testimony" ( Exodus 25:16 Exodus 25:22 ; Numbers 9:15 ); the "tabernacle of witness" ( Numbers 17:8 ); the "house of the Lord" ( Deuteronomy 23:18 ); the "temple of the Lord" ( Joshua 6:24 ); a "sanctuary" ( Exodus 25:8 ).

    A particular account of the materials which the people provided for the erection and of the building itself is recorded in Exodus 2540 -40. The execution of the plan mysteriously given to Moses was intrusted to Bezaleel and Aholiab, who were specially endowed with wisdom and artistic skill, probably gained in Egypt, for this purpose ( Exodus 35:30-35 ). The people provided materials for the tabernacle so abundantly that Moses was under the necessity of restraining them ( 36:6 ). These stores, from which they so liberally contributed for this purpose, must have consisted in a great part of the gifts which the Egyptians so readily bestowed on them on the eve of the ( Exodus 12:35 Exodus 12:36 ).

    The tabernacle was a rectangular enclosure, in length about 45 feet (i.e., reckoning a cubit at 18 inches) and in breadth and height about 15. Its two sides and its western end were made of boards of acacia wood, placed on end, resting in sockets of brass, the eastern end being left open ( Exodus 26:22 ). This framework was covered with four coverings, the first of linen, in which figures of the symbolic cherubim were wrought with needlework in blue and purple and scarlet threads, and probably also with threads of gold ( Exodus 26:1-6 ; 36:8-13 ). Above this was a second covering of twelve curtains of black goats'-hair cloth, reaching down on the outside almost to the ground ( Exodus 26:7-11 ). The third covering was of rams' skins dyed red, and the fourth was of badgers' skins (Heb. tahash, i.e., the dugong, a species of seal), Exodus 25:5 ; 26:14 ; Exodus 35:7 Exodus 35:23 ; 36:19 ; 39:34 .

    Internally it was divided by a veil into two chambers, the exterior of which was called the holy place, also "the sanctuary" ( Hebrews 9:2 ) and the "first tabernacle" (6); and the interior, the holy of holies, "the holy place," "the Holiest," the "second tabernacle" ( Exodus 28:29 ; Hebrews 9:3 Hebrews 9:7 ). The veil separating these two chambers was a double curtain of the finest workmanship, which was never passed except by the high priest once a year, on the great Day of Atonement. The holy place was separated from the outer court which enclosed the tabernacle by a curtain, which hung over the six pillars which stood at the east end of the tabernacle, and by which it was entered.

    The order as well as the typical character of the services of the tabernacle are recorded in Hebrews 9 ; 10:19-22 .

    The holy of holies, a cube of 10 cubits, contained the "ark of the testimony", i.e., the oblong chest containing the two tables of stone, the pot of manna, and Aaron's rod that budded.

    The holy place was the western and larger chamber of the tabernacle. Here were placed the table for the shewbread, the golden candlestick, and the golden altar of incense.

    Round about the tabernacle was a court, enclosed by curtains hung upon sixty pillars ( Exodus 27:9-18 ). This court was 150 feet long and 75 feet broad. Within it were placed the altar of burnt offering, which measured 7 1/2 feet in length and breadth and 4 1/2 feet high, with horns at the four corners, and the laver of brass ( Exodus 30:18 ), which stood between the altar and the tabernacle.

    The whole tabernacle was completed in seven months. On the first day of the first month of the second year after the Exodus, it was formally set up, and the cloud of the divine presence descended on it ( Exodus 39:22-43 ; 40:1-38 ). It cost 29 talents 730 shekels of gold, 100 talents 1,775 shekels of silver, 70 talents 2,400 shekels of brass ( Exodus 38:24-31 ).

    The tabernacle was so constructed that it could easily be taken down and conveyed from place to place during the wanderings in the wilderness. The first encampment of the Israelites after crossing the Jordan was at Gilgal, and there the tabernacle remained for seven years ( Joshua 4:19 ). It was afterwards removed to Shiloh ( Joshua 18:1 ), where it remained during the time of the Judges, till the days of Eli, when the ark, having been carried out into the camp when the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, was taken by the enemy ( 1 Samuel 4 ), and was never afterwards restored to its place in the tabernacle. The old tabernacle erected by Moses in the wilderness was transferred to Nob ( 1 Samuel 21:1 ), and after the destruction of that city by Saul ( 22:9 ; 1 Chronicles 16:39 1 Chronicles 16:40 ), to Gibeon. It is mentioned for the last time in 1 Chronicles 21:29 . A new tabernacle was erected by David at Jerusalem ( 2 Samuel 6:17 ; 1 Chronicles 16:1 ), and the ark was brought from Perez-uzzah and deposited in it ( 2 Samuel 6:8-17 ; 2 Chr 1:4 ).

    The word thus rendered ('ohel) in Exodus 33:7 denotes simply a tent, probably Moses' own tent, for the tabernacle was not yet erected.

    These dictionary topics are from
    M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
    published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

    [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
    [T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
    [B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
    [S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

    Bibliography Information

    Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Tabernacle". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .
  • Tabernacle

    A tent, booth or dwelling.

    Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine. The light shall be dark in his TABERNACLE, and his candle shall be put out with him. ( Job 18:5-6 )

    Source: A King James Dictionary. (Used with permission. Copyright © Philip P. Kapusta)

    Bibliography Information

    "Entry for 'Tabernacle'". A King James Dictionary.
    Tabernacle. [N] [T] [B] [E]

    The tabernacle was the tent of Jehovah, called by the same name as the tents of the people in the midst of which it stood. It was also called the sanctuary and the tabernacle of the congregation. The first ordinance given to Moses, after the proclamation of the outline of the law from Sinai, related to the ordering of the tabernacle, its furniture and its service as the type which was to be followed when the people came to their own home and "found a place" for the abode of God. During the forty days of Moses first retirement with God in Sinai, an exact pattern of the whole was shown him, and all was made according to it. ( Exodus 25:9 Exodus 25:40 ; 26:30 ; Exodus 39:32 Exodus 39:42 Exodus 39:43 ; Numbers 8:4 ; Acts 7:44 ; Hebrews 8:5 ) The description of this plan is preceded by an account of the freewill offerings which the children of Israel were to be asked to make for its execution. I. THE TABERNACLE ITSELF.--

    1. Its name . --It was first called a tent or dwelling , ( Exodus 25:8 ) because Jehovah as it were, abode there. It was often called tent or tabernacle from its external appearance.
    2. Its materials . --The materials were-- (a) Metals: gold, silver and brass. (b) Textile fabrics: blue, purple, scarlet and fine (white) linen, for the production of which Egypt was celebrated; also a fabric of goats hair, the produce of their own flocks. (c) Skins: of the ram, dyed red, and of the badger. (d) Wood the shittim wood, the timber of the wild acacia of the desert itself, the tree of the "burning bush." (e) Oil, spices and incense for anointing the priests and burning in the tabernacle. (f) Gems: onyx stones and the precious stones for the breastplate of the high priest. The people gave jewels, and plates of gold and silver and brass; wood, skins, hair and linen; the women wove; the rulers offered precious stones, oil, spices and incense; and the artists soon had more than they needed. ( Exodus 25:1-8 ; 35:4-29 ; 36:5-7 ) The superintendence of the work was intrusted to Bezaleel, of the tribe of Judah, and to Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, who were skilled in "all manner of workmanship." ( Exodus 31:2 Exodus 31:6 ; Exodus 35:30 Exodus 35:34 )
    3. Its structure. --The tabernacle was to comprise three main parts, --the tabernacle more strictly so called, its tent and its covering. ( Exodus 35:11 ; Exodus 39:33 Exodus 39:34 ; Exodus 40:19 Exodus 40:34 ; Numbers 3:25 ) etc. These parts are very clearly distinguished in the Hebrew, but they are confounded in many places of the English version. The tabernacle itself was to consist of curtains of fine linen woven with colored figures of cherubim, and a structure of boards which was to contain the holy place and the most holy place; the tent was to be a true tent of goats hair cloth, to contain and shelter the tabernacle; the covering was to be of red ram-skins and seal-skins, ( Exodus 25:5 ) and was spread over the goats hair tent as an additional protection against the weather. It was an oblong rectangular structure, 30 cubits in length by 10 in width (45 feet by 15), and 10 in height; the interior being divided into two chambers, the first or outer, of 20 cubits in length, the inner, of 10 cubits, and consequently and exact cube. The former was the holy place , or first tabernacle , ( Hebrews 9:2 ) containing the golden candlestick on one side, the table of shew-bread opposite, and between them in the centre the altar of incense. The latter was the most holy place , or the holy of holies , containing the ark, surmounted by the cherubim, with the two tables inside. The two sides and the farther or west end were enclosed by boards of shittim wood overlaid with gold, twenty on the north and twenty on the south side, six on the west side, and the corner-boards doubled. They stood upright, edge to edge, their lower ends being made with tenons, which dropped into sockets of silver, and the corner-boards being coupled at the tope with rings. They were furnished with golden rings, through which passed bars of shittim wood, overlaid with gold, five to each side, and the middle bar passing from end to end, so as to brace the whole together. Four successive coverings of curtains looped together were placed over the open top and fell down over the sides. The first or inmost was a splendid fabric of linen, embroidered with figures of cherubim in blue, purple and scarlet, and looped together by golden fastenings. It seems probable that the ends of this set of curtains hung down within the tabernacle, forming a sumptuous tapestry. The second was a covering of goats hair; the third, of ram-skins dyed red and the outermost, of badger-skins (so called in our version; but the Hebrew word probably signifies seal-skins). It has been commonly supposed that these coverings were thrown over the wall, as a pall is thrown over a coffin; but this would have allowed every drop of rain that fell on the tabernacle to fall through; for, however tightly the curtains might be stretched, the water could never run over the edge, and the sheep-skins would only make the matter worse as when wetted their weight would depress the centre and probably tear any curtain that could be made. There can be no reasonable doubt that the tent had a ridge, as all tents have had from the days of Moses down to the present time. The front of the sanctuary was closed by a hanging of fine linen, embroidered in blue, purple and scarlet, and supported by golden hooks on five pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold and standing in brass sockets; and the covering of goats hair was so made as to fall down over this when required. A more sumptuous curtain of the same kind, embroidered with cherubim hung on four such pillars, with silver sockets, divided the holy from the most holy place. It was called the veil, (Sometimes the second veil, either is reference to the first, at the entrance of the holy place, or as below the vail of the second sanctuary;) ( Hebrews 9:3 ) as it hid from the eyes of all but the high priest the inmost sanctuary, where Jehovah dwells on his mercy-seat, between the cherubim above the ark. Hence "to enter within the veil" is to have the closest access to God. It was only passed by the high priest once a year, on the Day of Atonement in token of the mediation of Christ, who with his own blood hath entered for us within the veil which separates Gods own abode from earth. ( Hebrews 6:19 ) In the temple, the solemn barrier was at length profaned by a Roman conqueror, to warn the Jews that the privileges they had forfeited were "ready to vanish away;" and the veil was at last rent by the hand of God himself, at the same moment that the body of Christ was rent upon the cross, to indicate that the entrance into the holiest of all is now laid open to all believers by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." ( Hebrews 10:19 Hebrews 10:20 ) The holy place was only entered by the priests daily, to offer incense at the time of morning and evening prayer, and to renew the lights on the golden candlesticks; and on the sabbath, to remove the old shew-bread, and to place the new upon the table. II. THE SACRED FURNITURE AND INSTRUMENTS OF THE TABERNACLE. --These are described in separate articles, and therefore it is only necessary to give a list of them here.
    4. In the outer court. The altar of burnt offering and the brazen laver . [ALTAR; LAVER]
    5. In the holy place. The furniture of the court was connected with sacrifice; that of the sanctuary itself with the deeper mysteries of mediation and access to God. The first sanctuary contained three objects: the altar of incense in the centre, so as to be directly in front of the ark of the covenant ( 1 Kings 6:22 ) the table of shew-bread on its right or north side, and the golden candlestick on the left or south side. These objects were all considered as being placed before the presence of Jehovah, who dwelt in the holiest of all, though with the veil between. [ALTAR; SHEW-BREAD; CANDLESTICK CANDLESTICK ]
    6. In the holy of holies, within the veil, and shrouded in darkness, there was but one object, the ark of the covenant, containing the two tables of stone, inscribed with the Ten Commandments. [ARK] III. THE COURT OF THE TABERNACLE, in which the tabernacle itself stood, was an oblong space, 100 cubits by 50 (i.e. 150 feet by 75), having its longer axis east and west, with its front to the east. It was surrounded by canvas screens--in the East called kannauts -- 5 cubits in height, and supported by pillars of brass 5 cubits apart, to which the curtains were attached by hooks and filets of silver. ( Exodus 27:9 ) etc. This enclosure was broken only on the east side by the entrance, which was 20 cubits wide, and closed by curtains of fine twined linen wrought with needlework and of the most gorgeous colors. In the outer or east half of the court was placed the altar of burnt offering, and between it and the tabernacle itself; the laver at which the priests washed their hands and feet on entering the temple. The tabernacle itself was placed toward the west end of this enclosure. IV. HISTORY. --"The tabernacle, as the place in which Jehovah dwelt, was pitched in the centre of the camp, ( Numbers 2:2 ) as the tent of a leader always is in the East; for Jehovah was the Captain of Israel. ( Joshua 5:14 Joshua 5:15 ) During the marches of Israel, the tabernacle was still in the centre. ( Numbers 2:1 ) ... The tribes camped and marched around it in the order of a hollow square. In certain great emergencies led the march. ( Joshua 3:11-16 ) Upon the tabernacle, abode always the cloud, dark by day and fiery red by night, ( Exodus 10:38 ) giving the signal for the march, ( Exodus 40:36 Exodus 40:37 ; Numbers 9:17 ) and the halt. ( Numbers 9:15-23 ) It was always the special meeting-place of Jehovah and his people. ( Numbers 11:24 Numbers 11:25 ; 12:4 ; 14:10 ; Numbers 16:19 Numbers 16:42 ; 20:6 ; 27:2 ; 31:14 ) "During the conquest of Canaan the tabernacle at first moved from place to place, ( Joshua 4:19 ; 8:30-35 ; 9:6 ; 10:15 ) was finally located at Shiloh. ( Joshua 9:27 ; 18:1 ) Here it remained during the time of the judges, till it was captured by the Philistines, who carried off the sacred ark of the covenant. ( 1 Samuel 4:22 ) From this time forward the glory of the tabernacle was gone. When the ark was recovered, it was removed to Jerusalem, and placed in a new tabernacle ( 2 Samuel 6:17 ; 1 Chronicles 15:1 ) but the old structure still had its hold on the veneration of the community and the old altar still received their offerings. ( 1 Chronicles 16:39 ; 21:29 ) It was not till the temple was built, and a fitting house thus prepared for the Lord, that the ancient tabernacle was allowed to perish and be forgotten. V. SIGNIFICANCE. --(The great underlying principles of true religion are the same in all ages and for all men; because mans nature and needs are the same, and the same God ever rules over all. But different ages require different methods of teaching these truths, and can understand them in different degrees. As we are taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the tabernacle was part of a great system of teaching by object-lessons, and of training the world to understand and receive the great truths which were to be revealed in Jesus Christ and thus really to save the Jews from sin By Jesus dimly seen in the future, as we clearly see him in the past. (1) The tabernacle and its services enabled the Jews, who had no visible representation of God, to feel the reality of God and of religion. (2) The tabernacle as the most beautiful and costly object in the nation and ever in the centre of the camp, set forth the truth that religion was the central fact and the most important, in a persons life. (3) The pillar of cloud and of fire was the best possible symbol of the living God,--a cloud, bright, glowing like the sunset clouds, glorious, beautiful, mysterious, self-poised, heavenly; fire, immaterial, the source of life and light and comfort and cheer, but yet unapproachable, terrible, a consuming fire to the wicked. (4) The altar of burnt offering, standing before the tabernacle was a perpetual symbol of the atonement,--the greatness of sin, deserving death, hard to be removed and yet forgiveness possible, and offered freely, but only through blood. The offerings, as brought by the people were a type of consecration to God, of conversion and new life, through the atonement. (6) This altar stood outside of the tabernacle, and must be passed before we come to the tabernacle itself; a type of the true religious life. Before the tabernacle was also the laver, signifying the same thing that baptism does with us, the cleansing of the heart and life. (8) Having entered the holy place, we find the three great means and helps to true living, --the candlestick, the light of Gods truth; the shew-bread, teaching that the soul must have its spiritual food and live in communion with God; and the altar of incense, the symbol of prayer. The holy of holies, beyond, taught that there was progress in the religious life, and that progress was toward God, and toward the perfect keeping of the law till it was as natural to obey the law as it is to breathe; and thus the holy of holies was the type of heaven. --ED.)

    [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
    [T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
    [B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
    [E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

    Bibliography Information

    Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Tabernacle'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.