A Brief Study of the Tabernacle

By Ellsworth A. Archer

Chapter 5


(Exodus 26)

     Just back of the laver stood the tabernacle. As already stated, its dimensions were 30 cubits long, 10 cubits broad, and 10 cubits high. The frame was of upright boards of acacia wood covered with gold, forming the sides of the structure, which was oblong in shape. There were 48 boards used in the construction of the sanctuary, 20 each on the north and south sides, and 8 on the west side or the back. Each of the boards on the two sides were 10 cubits in length and 1 in breadth; the thickness is not given. Of the boards at the back, or the west side, six were the regular size, 1 cubits broad, while the two corner boards were but cubit each, thus making the back 10 cubits broad. These boards were set by “means of tenons (literally, ‘hands' or projections) at the foot; two for each board, set in silver `sockets' or bases." ("A talent for a socket." Ex. 38:27.) There were rings of gold in the boards, and through these passed four horizontal bars which held the parts together. There was also a middle bar which extended through the boards from end to end.

     The tabernacle faced the east, where the entrance was. At this entrance a magnificent curtain of blue, purple and scarlet, 10 cubits square, hung from 5 pillars overlaid with gold set in bronze sockets. The hooks were of gold, and the capitols were overlaid with gold.

     There is a difference of opinion as to the shape of the top of the tabernacle. From the illustration, you will observe that this model is made flat. Some think it was tent like in shape, but the Bible does not seem to indicate this, so this model is made as described there. The covering for the tabernacle consisted of four different kinds of curtains.

     From the outside, the tabernacle appeared to be rather an unpretentious building with a very rough covering. But as one approached and began to investigate and learn what was inside, it was found to be beautiful beyond compare; and the farther in, the more costly and precious it was. So it is with the Kingdom of Christ, the farther one goes into it the greater beauties there are to see. Those who have not entered in see no beauties. Isaiah describes the condition of such when he says:

     For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. (Isa. 53:2.)

     The outer covering of the tabernacle was made of badger or seal skin. Commentators seem to agree that "badger" is not the correct translation, but that it should be porpoise or seal skin. The fact that badgers were very scarce in that part of the country and seals more plentiful, would help to bear out this theory. The using of seal skins for the covering of tents, or as a protection from lightning, is mentioned by Pliny, an ancient Roman writer. Be that as it may, this outer covering was heavy leather, sufficiently strong to protect the udder curtains and the contents of the tabernacle from sand, dirt and rain.

     The covering under this was ram's skin dyed red. This was the only covering that was not supposed to be seen, either from the inside or from the outside; but it had to be there because God had commanded that it should be put there.

     The next covering--which is really the second one --was of white goats' hair, and was made of 11 curtains, each 30 cubits long and 4 cubits wide. These were joined together, 5 on one side and 6 on the other, so as to make 2 curtains, which in turn were joined together by 100 bronze loops-50 on each side-into one large curtain 30 by 44 cubits. This curtain was larger than any of the rest, and hung down over the front of the tabernacle. One has said it was to hide the golden chapiters from the outside as no one but the priests were permitted to see these. So no one but the fully consecrated believer can behold the glory of God.

     Another thought suggests itself in connection with the extra length of this curtain, and that is: the Lord not only gives life and grace, but he gives more abundant life more abundant grace.

     I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10.)

     And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14.) Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. (Eph. 3:20.)

     The last covering-or in reality the first one-formed the covering of the tabernacle proper, and was made of 10 curtains of fine twined linen--blue, purple and scarlet, with figures of cherubim worked in it. Each of the 10 curtains was 28 cubits long and 4 cubits broad. They were joined together in sets of 5 by 100 gold rings, 50 on each side, so as to form one large curtain 28 by 40 cubits. The contrast between this inner covering and the badger's skin without represents the lowliness and humility of Christ's earthly state and the beauty and glory of His inner presence as He is revealed to His people.