A Brief Study of the Tabernacle

By Ellsworth A. Archer

Chapter 1



This Tabernacle model is constructed on an accurate scale of one inch to the cubit. The curtains the brazen alter, the laver, the seven golden candlesticks, the showbread table, the incense alter, the ark of the covenant with cherubim, are all carefully represented and made according to the instructions outlined in the Bible.


Exodus, Ch. 25-30; 35-40; Heb. 8:5

N the early Hebrew worship Jehovah did not meet with His people in a building but at consecrated altars which were erected for that purpose and were sacred to Him. The altars were made of stone on a hill or mountain, or on heaps of earth. Sometimes the people met in the shade of consecrated groves, but soon after the exodus (about 1500 B. C.) God commanded that a sanctuary be erected for His worship.

     As the Nomad chief had his tent in the midst of his tribe, so Jehovah, as the head of the Hebrew pilgrim nation, ordained that a tent or Tabernacle should be erected for Him, where He might meet and speak unto His people, and they might draw nigh to Him.

     This sanctuary, or tabernacle, was not to be planned by man, but God was the architect, and it was to be built according to the plan given to Moses on Mount Sinai by Jehovah Himself.

     According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even soshall ye make it. (Ex. 25:9)

. . See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed thee in the mount. (Heb. 8:5)

     It is interesting to note that this is the only building which Jehovah ever planned in detail, and, as far as we know, it is also the first building erected for His worship. While many houses and temples have been built for the worship of Jehovah since this time, probably none have been more interesting than the old Hebrew Tabernacle. In fact, they have all been patterned after it more or less. Even Solomon's great temple, which was built about 480 years later, although much larger, more beautiful and more costly, was patterned after the tabernacle.

     The Tabernacle is the grandest of all the Old Testament types of Christ. It is all one great object great object lesson of spiritual truth, In its wonderful furniture priesthood, and worship we see with a vividness that we find nowhere else the glory and grace of Jesus, and the privileges of His redeemed people.

      There are many practical and spiritual lessons taught in this wonderful building, and, as we study it, we can better understand that glorious temple of which Christ is the chief Cornerstone.

      Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:5)

     There are two accounts given of the construction of the Tabernacle. In Ex. 25 it tells how God called Moses up on Mount Sinai and imparted to him his plan concerning the Tabernacle. This is a type of Christ, because before the foundation of the world God planned a Redeemer for humanity. This was revealed through the types and prophecies long before He came to dwell among us. Then over in Exodus, chapters 35 to 40, is given the account of the building of the Tabernacle. This, too, is a type of Christ,, for a little over 1900 years ago came the actual fulfillment of these prophecies. Christ did come and dwell among men, not in a house made of wood and gold, but in a temple made of flesh and bone.

     And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

     There are over 50 chapters in the Bible given to the description of the Tabernacle, its parts and worship, besides many verses and portions of scripture which refer to it, while there are hardly two chapters given to creation. Then, too, the account of the Tabernacle occupies more space than any of the other Old Testament types. When we consider these facts we can better realize its importance in the plan of Jehovah and the spiritual lessons which we may obtain from it.

     The Tabernacle stood within a court, or an outer enclosure, 100 cubits (150 feet) long and 50 cubits (75 feet) wide. It was inclosed by curtains which were 5 cubits (7 1/2 feet) in height. The tabernacle itself was 30 cubits (45 feet) long, 10 cubits (15 feet) wide, and 10 cubits high. It stood 20 cubits (30 feet) from three of the walls, namely the north, the south, and the west walls, thus leaving a space 50 cubits square from the east wall, or in front of the tabernacle. In this court in front was the altar of burnt offering and the layer, and here was "where the sacrifices were offered and the worshipers assembled."

     The tabernacle was divided into two parts: the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place was 20 cubits long, 10 cubits broad and 10 cubits high, and the Most Holy Place was 10 cubits each way, or a cube. They were separated by a wail of beautifully woven linen - blue, purple and scarlet - on which were worked figures of cherubims. There were three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place: the golden candlestick, the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense; while in the Most Holy Place was but one piece of furniture-the Ark of the Covenant. A more detailed description of the tabernacle and its furniture will be given later.

     When the Lord has a particular work to be done he always has someone who is especially prepared to do that work; so, when the time came to erect the tabernacle, there were two men whose hearts God had filled with wisdom and knowledge and whom he told Moses to appoint to oversee the work. As the chief superintendent Bezaleel, of the tribe of Judah, was appointed. He was a man especially gifted, for we read about him as follows:

     And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship. To devise cunning works, to work in gold and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. (Ex- 31:3-5)

     And to him, as assistant, was given Aholiab of the tribe of Dan, who was also a skilled workman (Ex. 31:6). While to these men was given the general oversight and the more particular work to do, yet each one of the entire company was to have a share in it, for everyone was requested to help.

     The people responded most heartily to the call of Moses and gave jewels, gold, silver, brass, and most precious stones of different kinds. They also gave fine twined linen-white, blue, purple and scarlet-and they brought goats' hair, badgers' skins and rams' skins dyed red-all of these for an offering to the Lord; and they became so enthused with the spirit of giving that they kept right on until the ones in charge said that they brought more than could be used, so Moses commanded the people to stop giving (Ex. 36:5,6). That was indeed hilarious giving. Compare that with, the way it is frequently done today. People must be urged to bring their offering to the Lord, rather than commanded to cease bringing. Perhaps if everyone realized that diving to the Lord is as truly a means of grace as is singing, praying or testifying, many more would be anxious to develop this grace.

     These people gave not only of their possessions to help, but they also gave of their time and ability to assist in the great work of building the tabernacle. The men felled the shittim or acacia trees, of which there was an abundance in this part of the country. These were light and well adapted for use in the construction of a movable tent. The women wove and spun the blue and crimson hangings and did the needle work; and we read in Jewish history that even the children were permitted to have a share in building this great tabernacle for the worship of Jehovah.

     Thus every one, from the least to the greatest, rendered assistance. This was better than for a few to have done it all, for in this way each one had a personal interest in the tabernacle. The same applies today, not only in giving, but in every department of the Lord's work. Let each one do his part, then all may share in the blessing which always follows service:

"There's a work for me and a work for you,

Something for each of us now to do."

     When we consider the kind and the amount of material which was used in the construction of the tabernacle, it is evident that the cost must have been very great. Some have placed the value as high as $1,250,000; others at $1,500,000. Perhaps no one knows exactly, but following are a few figures which will give some idea of the cost of the entire structure. There were about 10~ tons of gold, silver and brass, besides the wood, skins and the various hangings used in its construction. From Ex. 25: 37-39 we learn that the golden candlestick was made of a talent of gold. A talent of gold was equal to about $30,000. Therefore, the candlestick alone was worth $30,000. The golden spoon, upon which the incense was carried, was probably worth $100, for in Numbers 7: 14 we read "One spoon of ten shekels of gold, full of incense." Since one shekel of gold was equal to $10, the value of the spoon would then be $100. Each silver socket, on which the boards of the tabernacle stood, was made from a talent of silver (Ex. 38:27). The value of a talent of silver was about $2050, and as there were two sockets under each board, the value of the foundation of one board alone was $4100. Thus we are able to obtain a little idea of the value of the entire structure.

     In considering the different kinds of material and colors used in the tabernacle, it is interesting to notice some of the things which they symbolized. The white represented purity and righteousness; the blue, heavenly; the purple, kingship, glory and royalty; the scarlet, sacrifice, suffering and death. You will notice that there was no black used. Black represented sin, and as the tabernacle was a type of Christ there was to be nothing in it which represented sin.

     Then there was the wood, which represented humanity, and the gold which represented divinity; the brass which denoted strength, and the silver which refers to the price of redemption. Again, you will notice that there was no steel nor iron used, as these were symbols of war and sorrow. Christ's kingdom represents peace. His kingdom is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 14:17).

     We will now turn from a consideration of the tabernacle to the people for whose benefit this wonderful building was erected. Many have no conception of the number there were in this camp of Israel. They were not just small wandering tribes like Indians or Arabs, but they were a nation. Picture in your mind a city the size of Chicago, Los Angeles, or some other of our large cities, and you will have some idea of the number of people who lived around the tabernacle. There were 625,550 men alone who left Egypt, most of whom were 20 years of age and older. Add to this the women and children, besides the Egyptians who went out with the Israelites, and you will find that 2,000,000 people is a very low estimate for this company.

     Now all of these people, or tribes as they were celled, lived around the court in tents in a well organized camp, the tents extending back for several miles in all directions.

    These tribes ranged in number from 32,200, the number in the tribe of Manasseh, which was the smallest, to 74,600, the largest tribe, that of Judah.. All of the rest ranged between these two. Following is the name and number of each individual tribe.:








































     These are the tribes of Israel, or the sons of Jacob You remember that Jacob had his name changed. On that night when he met and wrestled with the angel until the break of day, the angel asked him his name and he said "Jacob." Only one word, but filled with meaning, for in those days a person's name was an index to his character; so when he said that his name was Jacob, he was really saying "I am a deceiver, a trickster, a usurper." He confessed what he was. What would be our real name if we were called according to our character? But notice that when he confessed his real name the Lord changed it from Jacob, the supplanter, to Israel, a prince of God. Reader, have you had your name changed? From this time (about 1750 years B. C.) until the time of the captivity, the Hebrews were called Israelites, after Israel.

     About 975 B. C. came the division of the tribes, when the ten tribes separated to the north and the two, Judah and Benjamin, remained in the south. As Judah was the larger and more powerful tribe, they were naturally called Jews. This was especially true during the captivity, and they are still called Jews to the present time.

      To return to the tribes of Israel: Jacob had only 12 sons while there are 13 in the list above. Joseph, who was next to the youngest of the sons of Jacob and who was his favorite son, was not included in the number; but his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh became heads of two tribes. This made 13 in all, but the family of Levi was set apart for the priests' tribe, so was not counted as one of the regular tribes. However their inheritance was given to them from among the twelve. In the numbering of the tribes, the Levites, or priests' tribe, was numbered a little differently than the other 12 tribes. In these tribes the men 20 years old and upward were counted; while in the priest's family all of the male children from one month old and upward were counted. There were 22,000 males, one month old and upward among the Levites, who came out of Egypt.

     It is interesting to note that at the close of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness there were not as many men among the regular 12 tribes as there when they left Egypt. At that time there were 603,550, but after the 40 years wandering there were only 601,730 left, or 1,820 less than at the first. With the Levites it was different. When they came out of Egypt there were 22,000 males from one month old and upward, while at the close of the wandering there were 23,000, making a gain of 1000.

      Another interesting fact is that out of 625,550 men, most of whom were over 20 years of age when they left Egypt, only two ever entered the Promised Land, or the Land of Canaan. About two years after the Israelites had left Egypt 12 men were sent from Kadesh Barnea over into Canaan to spy out the land. When they returned they all gave the same report of the country but were divided in their opinion as to the possibility of their going over and taking possession of it then. Ten said they were not able to do it, but two of the men, Caleb and Joshua, believed they were. Caleb said:

     "Let us go up at once, and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it." Num. 13:30.

      But the people listened to the ten rather than to the two, and as a result died in the wilderness ---that is, all except Caleb and Joshua, who, because of their courage and faith in God, were permitted to enter the Promised Land.