Friday, December 29, 2006

Exodus 31

Exodus 31: The Tabernacle: Specific workers; the Sabbath


This chapter continues God’s instructions for building, and using, the Tabernacle.

First, He appoints two workers, whom He has given special ability “to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship” (verses 4–5): Bezalel, and Oholiab as his assistant. God also says that He has given all of the craftsmen skills, for working on the Tabernacle, even though He has given special skill to Bazalel and Oholiab.

With this out of the way, the LORD gives instructions for the Sabbath:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

“‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.’”

(verses 12–17)

Notice that, as is sometimes the case, God has not only given instructions, but has also given the reasons why He is giving these instructions.

Finally, at the end of this chapter, the LORD gives Moses “the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God” (verse 18). As I think I’ve mentioned, most people think of these tablets as being inscribed with the 10 Commandments, but this text seems to indicate that they might have more than just those ten rules; it may be all of the rules that the LORD has given to Moses while he’s been up on the mountain.


I don’t really have anything special to say about this chapter. Seems pretty straightforward, except that I find it very interesting that God actually wanted to include Bezalel and Oholiab’s names in the Bible—since the book of Exodus was written, for the rest of time, people have known to whom God gave skills for building the Tabernacle.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Exodus 30

Exodus 30: The Tabernacle: altar of incense, atonement money, basin for washing, anointing oil, and incense


This chapter continues with instructions for building and preparing the tabernacle.
  • The Altar of Incense
    • They were to build an alter, for burning incense. It was to be a half metre long, a half metre wide, and a metre high, with horns built into it, and was to be made of acacia wood. It was then to be overlaid with pure gold.
    • As with other implements of worship, it was to be carried with poles—made out of acacia wood, overlaid with gold—and was to have rings built into the sides, for the poles.
    • It was to be placed in front of the curtain, which was before the ark of the Testimony, where God met with the High Priest.
    • The High Priest (Aaron, to start with) was to burn fragrant incense on this altar whenever he tended to the lamps—that is, every morning, and every day at twilight. They were not to offer any other offerings, nor any other incense, on this altar, other than this specific burning of incense. (The actual incense to be used is described below.)
    • Once a year, the High Priest was to make atonement on the horns of this altar, made with “the blood of the atoning sin offering” (verse 10).
  • Atonement Money
    • At the census, each Israelite who was twenty years old or more was to pay a half shekel as an offering to the LORD. Verse 12 says they were to do this “[w]hen you take a census of the Israelites to count them”—I’m not sure if this was a one-time thing, or a recurring thing that happened on a regular basis, when censuses were taken.
    • My footnotes say that a “half shekel” is “about six grams”, but it doesn’t say six grams of what. Gold? Silver? Possibly bronze?
    • A reason is given for this atonement offering: “Then no plague will come on them when you number them” (verse 12b).
    • Interestingly, this offering of a half shekel was to be given by everyone; the rich were not to give more, and the poor were not to give less.
    • The money collected from this offering was to be used for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It was to be “a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for [their] lives” (verse 18).
  • Basin for Washing
    • Between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar was to be a bronze basin, filled with water, where the priests were to wash their hands and feet.
    • Interestingly, no specifications are given for how to build this basin, except that it’s to be made of bronze; no instructions for how big it was to be or anything else.
    • Any time a priest entered the Tent of Meeting, or presented an offering to the LORD by fire, he was to wash in the basin, first, so that he would not die.
  • Anointing Oil
    • They were to make some oil, which would be used for anointing the Tent of Meeting, the ark, and numerous other implements used in worship.
    • The oil was to be made out of:
      • six kilograms of liquid myrrh
      • three kilograms of fragrant cinnamon
      • three kilograms of fragrant cane
      • six kilograms of cassia
      • four litres of olive oil
    • Once these items were consecrated, they would be “most holy”, and anything that touched them would become holy (verse 29).
    • Aaron and his sons were also to be anointed with this oil, so that they could serve God as priests.
    • This oil—and even this recipe for oil—was to be considered sacred by the Israelites. They were not to use it for any other purpose, and were not to make any other oil using this formula. Anyone who made a perfume like it, or put it on anyone other than a priest, was to be “cut off” from the Israelites (verse 33).
  • Incense
    • The incense for burning on the altar of incense was to be the work of a perfumer. It was to be a fragrant blend of gum resin, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense, all in equal amounts, ground into powder. (I don’t know what any of those things are, except that verse 34 says that resin, onycha, and galbanum are “fragrant spices”.)
    • As with the anointing oil, this recipe for incense was to be considered holy to the LORD. No other incense was to be made with this formula, and anyone who made incense for his own enjoyment was to be cut off from the Israelites.


As with some of the other offerings/sacrifices I’ve mentioned, I don’t really understand the offering of incense, which was to be burned on the altar of incense every morning and every day at twilight.

I always find it interesting, in the Old Testament laws and commandments, when specific mention is made of rich vs. poor. In the atonement money above, both the rich and the poor were to give a “half shekel”, no more, no less. Were I to guess—which is about all I can do—I would say that this was more of a lesson for the rich than it was for the poor: Before God, there is no rich or poor; all are alike. You can’t buy your way into righteousness, because God doesn’t really need your money—it’s all His anyway. I’m guessing that a half shekel wasn’t a burdensome amount, or less probably would have been demanded of the poor, but since I don’t know how much a “half shekel” really was, that’s only a guess.

In the Old Testament, cleanliness was often associated with righteousness, and in both the Old and the New Testaments, uncleanliness is associated with sinfulness. (Not literally—being dirty isn’t a sin. It’s used as a metaphor. Of course, Matthew 15:1–20 shows us that the Pharisees in Jesus’ day didn’t understand that.) So it’s not surprising that the priests were commanded to wash in the basin, before entering the Tent of Meeting, or before presenting an offering to the LORD.

I once had a discussion with someone—who, I should mention, is more knowledgeable about such things than I am—about whether being “cut off” from the Israelites means being cast out from the community, or if it meant being executed. I believed then, and still do, that being cut off means being cast out of the community; the Old Testament laws have no problem mentioning when someone is to be executed for crimes, so I see no reason for it to play coy in cases such as this. However, because, as I say, this person is more knowledgeable about this than I am, I should mention that when the Old Testament talks about someone being “cut off from his people” as in verses 33 and 38, it might mean that they should be executed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Exodus 29

Exodus 29: Consecration of the priests


This chapter outlines instructions that had to be followed in order to “consecrate” Aaron and his sons to be priests. The word “consecrate” simply means to dedicate for a particular purpose; they were not allowed to serve the LORD as priests until these steps were taken, to dedicate them for the purpose of serving Him.

First, they were to make some bread, out of fine flour (with no yeast), some cakes mixed with oil, and some wafers spread with oil. They were to put these into a basket, and present them, along with a young bull and two rams, without defect. Aaron and his sons were then to wash, put on the garments described in Chapter 28, and be anointed with oil.

Once this was done, Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands on the bull’s head, and then slaughter it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. (It says in verse 11 that they were to slaughter it “in the LORD’s presence”.) They were to take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle it on the horns of the altar; the rest was to be poured out at the altar’s base. Then certain parts of the bull—the fat from the bull’s “inner parts”, the covering of the liver, and both of the kidneys, with the fat still on them (verse 13)—were to be burned on the altar. The rest of the bull was to be burned outside the camp. Verse 14 tells us that the bull was a “sin offering”.

They were then to sacrifice one of the young rams. Its blood was to be sprinkled on all sides of the altar, and it was then to be cut into pieces, washed, and burned on the altar. A different reason is given for this sacrifice:

It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire. (verse 18b)

Next, they were to take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands on its head, slaughter it, and put some of the blood on their right earlobes, right thumbs, and right big toes. They were then to sprinkle more of its blood on all sides of the altar, then take some of the blood back off the altar, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his sons, and their clothes. This would consecrate the priests, and their clothes.

They were now to take certain parts of the ram—the fat, the tail, the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, both kidneys with the fat still on them, and the right thigh—along with some of the bread made without yeast, and Aaron was to wave them in front of the LORD as a “wave offering”. It was then to be burned on the altar as a burnt offering. The ram’s breast was then to be waved in front of the LORD as another wave offering, after which it would belong to Aaron and his sons, who were to eat it. Verses 27–28 go on to say that the thigh and breast of rams presented as fellowship offerings were always to belong to Aaron and his sons—i.e. the priests—as a lasting ordinance. Verse 33 tells us that this ram was sacrificed to make atonement for Aaron and his sons, for their ordination and consecration.

The priests were then to take the “ram of ordination”—the second ram—cook its meat in a holy place, and eat it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Noone else is allowed to eat this meat, and nor are the priests or anyone else allowed to eat any of the meat which is left over until the next day, because it is sacred.

The garments that were made for Aaron were to be passed on to his descendents, and every time a new son took over as High Priest, he was to be ordained in these clothes. When a new High Priest was ordained, he was to wear the clothes for seven days, while ministering before the LORD in the Holy Place.

The process for ordaining Aaron and his sons was to take seven days. (The word “ordain” simply means to appoint to a clerical post.) Each day, a bull was to be sacrificed as a sin offering, to make atonement for their sin. The altar was also to be purified, anointed, and consecrated. After the seven days, the alter would be “most holy”, and anything that touched it would become holy (verse 37).

God also gave instructions (verses 38–41) on offerings that were to be made every day. Every morning, the priests were to sacrifice a year-old lamb, along with two litres of fine flour mixed with a litre of oil from pressed olives, and a litre of wine as a “drink offering”. They were to offer the same thing again at twilight. These two sacrifices were to be permanent sacrifices, made every day:

For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. (verses 42–43)

Following all of these instructions would consecrate the Tent of Meeting, the altar, and Aaron and his sons.

Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God. (verse 45)


As it says in verse 14, the bull which was slaughtered was a “sin offering”. This is because Aaron and his sons, although they were the High Priest and the Priests, were sinful. This was the fundamental problem with the Old Testament sacrificial system, and why it could never have led to actual salvation: The people who were serving the LORD couldn’t take away the sins of the Israelites, because they had their own sin to deal with. Any time any of them approached the LORD, they had to offer a sacrifice, because of that sin. (I’m not a scholar, but I wouldn’t say that the sacrifice took care of the sins; it just served as a reminder. Only Jesus can take away sins.) Actually, “problem” isn’t the right word; God ordained this system, so it wasn’t flawed. It was never intended to take away sins. It was intended to remind the Israelites of their sin, and point ahead to Jesus’s sacrifice.

Although the sacrifices for sin make sense to me, the other offerings don’t make as much sense. Some of the offerings mentioned in this chapter are explicitly for sin, while others are simply described as “a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire” (verses 18, 25, and 41). I’m wondering if this has something to do with the Israelites “proving” their faith to Him? These sacrifices—which would not be cheap, for the Israelites—would show that they care more about following God than about their possessions?

Elsewhere, a type of sacrifice called a “fellowship offering” will also be mentioned. I don’t know if that’s another type of sacrifice, or just a special name for the sacrifices mentioned here, which are “a pleasing aroma to the LORD”.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Exodus 28

Exodus 28: The Tabernacle: the ephod, the breastpiece, and other priestly garments


Continuing with our examination of God’s instructions for building the tabernacle, we come, in this chapter, to instructions for the priests’ attire.

The chapter starts with a general paragraph, that Moses is to gather Aaron and his sons, and have them serve God as priests. They are to have sacred garments to wear, while they serve the LORD as priests, made out of gold, yarn (blue, purple, and scarlet), and fine linen.
  • The Ephod
    • First off, I guess we should look at what an “ephod” is, since this isn’t a term we use anymore. From what I can tell, it’s simply a garment, to which the breastpiece will be attached; different definitions I found online ranged from calling it a “vest” to saying that it was “a ‘skirt’ with two shoulder straps”. I would put up a picture, but because there seems to be some confusion as to what exactly it would look like, I’m not sure which pictures would be accurate.
    • At any rate, it was to be made of gold, yarn (blue, purple, and scarlet), and finely twisted linen.
    • It was to be fastened by having two shoulder pieces attached to its corners.
    • The waistband was to be of one piece with the ephod, made out of the same materials.
    • On each shoulder piece was to be attached an onyx stone, mounted in a gold filigree setting, and on the stones were to be engraved the twelve names of Israel’s sons (six on each stone). They were to be engraved “the way a gem cutter engraves a seal” (verse 11).
    • To attach the ephod, there were to be gold filigree settings, and two braided chains of pure gold—like a rope—attached to the settings.
  • The Breastpiece
    • The breastpiece, like the ephod, was to be made of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. It is described in verse 15 as “a breastpiece for making decisions”—we’ll see why in a minute.
    • It was to be 22 centimetres by 22 centimetres, and folded double.
    • On the breastpiece were to be mounted four rows of precious stones, in gold filigree settings, three to a row, to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Each stone was to be engraved with the name of one of the tribes. The stones were to be: a ruby, a topaz and a beryl in the first tow; a turquoise, a sapphire and an emerald in the second; a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst in the third; and a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper in the fourth. (The footnote for verse 20 in the NIV mentions that the precise identification of some of the stones mentioned in the Hebrew is uncertain.)
    • Whenever Aaron—or the High Priest—entered the Holy Place, he was to be wearing the breastpiece, as a continuing memorial before the LORD.
    • The Urim and Thummim were also to be kept in the breastpiece, so that Aaron (or the High Priest) would “always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD” (verse 30). See the Thoughts section, below for what little info I have on the Urim and Thummim.
  • Other Priestly Garments
    • The Robe: The priest’s robe was to be made of blue cloth. It was to be all one piece, with an opening in its centre for the head. (There was to be a woven edge around the opening, so that it wouldn’t tear.) Around the hem of the robe were to be bells and pomegranates, in an alternating pattern. Aaron—or the High Priest—was to wear the robe when entering the Holy Place, and the sound of the bells would be heard when he entered and when he left, so that he would not die.
    • A “plate” was to be made, of pure gold, which would be attached to the High Priest’s turban with a blue cord. It was to be engraved with the phrase HOLY TO THE LORD. Verse 38 says:

      It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD.
    • For Aaron—and, I assume, subsequent High Priests—there was to be a tunic and a turban, made of fine linen, and an embroidered sash. There were also to be tunics, sashes, and headbands for Aaron’s sons, “to give them dignity and honor” (verse 40). After Aaron and his sons were given these garments, they were to be anointed and ordained—consecrated to serve the LORD as priests.
    • Linen undergarments were also to be made for the priests, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Any time any of the priests entered the Tent of Meeting or approached the altar to minister in the Holy Place, they were to wear these garments, so that they would not “incur guilt and die” (verse 43).


The Bible doesn’t give a lot of details about the Urim and Thummim; what they were, what they looked like, or how they were used. One site I read mentioned that, “because the words Urim and Thummim are plural, and in most cases do not connote an object, the device or process could be referred to as Urim and Thummim rather than ‘the’ Urim and Thummim.” Another definition I found, by looking it up on Google, posited that the Urim and Thummim were: “Sanctified crystals, which form a grid for communication using sacred Light and sound patterns that form geometries working with harmonics on given magnetic grids.” And yet another definition theorized that they were “lots thrown to determine God’s answers to yes-no questions.” So, overall, what I can say is not much more than what I get from the text itself; the Urim and Thummim were used for getting the LORD’s answer when making decisions, in some undetermined manner.

Notice the careful way in which Aaron, or the High Priests to come after him, were to enter the Holy Place. The bells on the bottom of the robe were there so that they would not die, when they entered the Holy Place. This is a concept which becomes very important throughout the Old Testament: God is a Holy God, and must not be taken lightly. In these days of “God is my friend and Jesus is my brother”, we sometimes forget how awesome, how Holy, and how un-understandable God really is. I’m not saying that God is not the friend of the Christian; He is. And I’m not saying that Jesus isn’t our brother; when you become a Christian, you are adopted as a son or daughter of God, making Jesus your adopted brother. But we have to be careful not to forget who God is. Just because He is your friend, it doesn’t make him any smaller, any less powerful, or any less Holy! Remember, Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”—the God being described in the Old Testament, Whom the Israelites could not approach lightly for fear of death, is the same God who sent His Son to die for our sins, so that we could be close to Him.

Notice also that when Aaron—and the High Priests who came after him—are offering the sacred gifts the Israelites have consecrated, they are bearing the Israelites’ guilt before the LORD. This is an example of the fact that Old Testament worship, for the Israelites, was a picture of what Christ would do for us, on the cross; the concept that there is no forgiveness for sins without blood, or that Aaron and his descendents are bearing sin before the LORD, on behalf of the Israelites, are pointing to a day when Christ would bear our sins on the cross, and cleanse us of our sin with his blood.

The best place to see this is in the book of Hebrews, much of which is concerned with proving the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice over the Old Testament sacrificial system.

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14)

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1–4)

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Exodus 27

Exodus 27: The Tabernacle: The altar, the courtyard, and oil for the lampstand


This chapter continues the instructions for the tabernacle, and related items.

  • The Altar of Burnt Offering
    • The altar was to be 1.3 metres high, 2.3 metres long, and 2.3 metres wide. It was to be made of acacia wood, overlayed with bronze. (All of the utensils for the altar were also to be made of bronze.
    • There were to be horns made for the altar, on each of the four corners, of one piece with the rest of the altar.
    • As with some of the other implements in the tabernacle, the Israelites were to build poles for carrying the altar—out of acacia wood overlayed with bronze—and rings were to be built into the altar, where the poles would be inserted.
    • The altar was to be hollow, not solid wood and bronze. I’m wondering if this is because the Israelites had to carry it, and bronze is fairly heavy, but that’s just a guess on my part.
  • The Courtyard
    • The courtyard was to be 46 metres long on the South and North sides, and 23 metres long on the West and East sides.
    • Curtains were to be made for each side, out of finely twisted linen, with posts, bronze bases for the posts, and silver hooks and bands on the posts, for hanging the curtains. I’m not sure if the posts themselves were supposed to be bronze; otherwise, I’m not sure what they were to be made of. There were to be twenty posts and bases for the South and North sides, and ten posts and bases for the East and West sides.
    • The entrance was to have an embroidered curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and finely twisted linen. It was to have four posts and bases.
  • Oil for the Lampstand
    • Pressed olive oil was to be used for the lampstand.
    • Aaron and his descendents were to keep the lampstand burning from evening until morning. It’s specified that this is to be “a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come” (verse 21).


I don’t have anything to say about this chapter, that I can think of. I’ll probably think of something right after I hit Submit

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.