Monday, December 04, 2006

Exodus 26

Exodus 26: The Tabernacle: The Tent itself


In the last chapter, we saw instructions from the LORD on building some of the articles to be used within the tabernacle, as part of the Israelites’ worship: The ark, the table, and the lampstand. In this chapter, we see instructions on building the tent itself.
  • The tabernacle curtains
    • There were to be ten curtains, each 12.5 x 1.8 metres, made out of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. A “skilled craftsman” (verse 1) was to work cherubim into the design of the curtains.
    • These ten curtains were to be joined together, to make two curtains—five curtains in each. They were then to make loops and gold clasps, so that the two could be joined together. (Only at one side, though, because I’m assuming the other side would be the door.)
  • The outer tent curtains
    • Another set of eleven curtains, were to be made, this time out of goat hair, for the outer tent, to go over the tabernacle. These curtains were also to be joined together into two big curtains—five were to go into the one curtain, and six into the other. (The sixth curtain was to be folded double, at the front.)
    • As with the inner curtains, these curtains were to have loops and clasps made, so that one end could be joined together, but this time the clasps were to be made of bronze, instead of gold.
    • Over top of this curtain was to be a covering made of ram skins, died red, and over that, a covering of hides of “sea cows” (or “dugongs”, as the NIV footnote tells me in verse 14).
  • The frame
    • The frames for the tabernacle were to be made of acacia wood, overlaid in gold.
    • Each was to be 4.5 metres long and 0.7 metres wide, with two parallel projections, and each was to have a base made out of silver.
    • There were to be twenty frames for the North side, twenty for the South side, six for the West side, and two for the East side. Special instructions are given for the last two frames, on the East side, but I don’t understand, so I’ll just quote it verbatim:

      Make six frames for the far end, that is, the west end of the tabernacle, and make two frames for the corners at the far end. At these two corners they must be double from the bottom all the way to the top, and fitted into a single ring; both shall be like that. So there will be eight frames and sixteen silver bases—two under each frame. (verses 22–25)

      I believe that the East and West ends are different because the West end was the entrance, and the East end housed the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. See the picture below, which is the best one I could find online (in about five minutes’ worth of searching).
    • Gold rings were also to be made, to hold the crossbars.
    • Crossbars were to be made for the frames, out of acacia wood overlaid in gold. There were to be five frames for each of the North, South, and West sides (fifteen in all).
  • The Most Holy Place
    • Within the tabernacle, there was to be a room called the Most Holy Place. This is where the ark was to be placed.
    • It was to be separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a curtain, of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and cherubim worked into the design by a skilled craftsman.
    • To hang the curtain, there were to be made four posts, of acacia wood overlayed with gold, standing in bases made out of silver.
    • Beside the Most Holy Place, on the North side, is where the table was to be placed. On the other side, the South side, the lampstand was to be placed.
  • The entrance
    • For the entrance to the tent, they were to embroider a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and finely twisted linen.
    • The five posts for this curtain were to be made of acacia wood, overlayed with gold, with bronze bases.
Here is a picture I found online, of the layout of the tabernacle, which should help you to picture all of this. I think it’s accurate, from what I can see, but if it’s not, please don’t complain to me.

(click the picture to see a bigger version.)


You have to remember, as you read this, that the Israelites were not yet in their promised land; they were still travelling in the desert. And, since the LORD is all knowing, He knows that they’re not going to get to the promised land for another forty years. So the tabernacle is being built in such a way that it’s portable; when the Israelites stop to camp somewhere, they set it up, and when it’s time to move on, they take it back down again. In a later chapter, the LORD will even go so far as to assign particular families who will be responsible for carrying the tabernacle, when it’s time to move on.

When it’s talking about the “frames” for the tabernacle, it specifies a certain number for the North side, a certain number for the South side, etc. This indicates that the Israelites were always to set the tabernacle up facing in a certain direction.

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