Friday, February 09, 2007

The Tent of Meeting

After my last post, I got to thinking about the diagram I had put up, of the Tabernacle. My problem is the “Tent of Meeting;” I’ve done the diagram as if the entire structure, including the Outer Court, and the Holy Place and Most Holy Place, are all part of something called the “Tabernacle,” whereas the little structure inside, holding the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, is called the “Tent of Meeting.”

But then I started rethinking it, and second-guessing myself. Is that really the case? Or is the phrase “Tent of Meeting” simply another name for the “Tabernacle?” (In which case, there isn’t really a name for that inner structure, that I’ve been able to find. Although it’s quite possible that it was mentioned in Exodus, and I just missed it, since I wasn’t trying to draw a diagram, at the time…)

I happened to be at church, last night, and ran into my pastor, and asked him about it. “When the Bible refers to the ‘Tent of Meeting,’ is it referring to the entire Tabernacle, or is it just referring to the inner structure? Is ‘Tent of Meeting’ just another word for ‘Tabernacle,’ or is it something different?” He didn’t know, off the top of his head, and he felt bad about it. (As an aside, I didn’t think it was anything he needed to feel bad about; why would anyone possibly need to know this information? (Unless that person were blogging about it, of course.) But he said something like “you don’t know the people I hang around with.” Must be a pastor thing…) (That’s one of the reasons I love my pastor; he knows his Bible, and has a gift for preaching, but he’s also got a good sense of humour.)

Anyway, he presented me with some photocopied pages out of a book, going into great, mind-numbing detail, about the Tabernacle. I started reading it, and immediately realized two things:
  1. The terminology was different; not everyone is using the terms “Tabernacle” and “Tent of Meeting” the same ways.
  2. It wasn’t answering the same question I was asking; it was concerned about whether there really was a Tabernacle, at all. Plus some confusion, because Moses had had a place called the “Tent of Meeting,” in the book of Exodus, where he used to meet with the LORD before the Tabernacle was ever built, and apparently that caused some people some confusion.
With regards to terminology, I’m reading from the New International Version (NIV), and they may be translating those passages a bit differently. For example, let’s look at Leviticus 16:23–24, in a few different translations. I’m adding my own emphasis in two places:

Then Aaron is to go into the Tent of Meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. He shall bathe himself with water in a holy place and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. (New International Version)

Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. He shall bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on his clothes, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. (New American Standard Bible)

And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people. (King James Version)

Then Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of meeting, shall take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Holy Place, and shall leave them there. And he shall wash his body with water in a holy place, put on his garments, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people. (New King James Version)

Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.

First of all, that first piece that I’ve italicized: three translations call it the “Tent of Meeting,” (with different capitalization, although I’m not too worried about that); one calls it the “tabernacle of the congregation,” and one calls it the “tabernacle of meeting.” So right away, I’m going to run into terminology problems, because different commentators are probably using different translations, and therefore different terminologies.

(I think I read somewhere that the King James Version, which translates it as “tabernacle of the congregation,” is a bad translation, because people didn’t actually congregate there. But that’s an aside.)

And there’s a reason that I italicized the second piece, as well. In the NIV, it says that Aaron is to go into the “Tent of Meeting,” take off his priestly garments, and then “come out” and offer sacrifices. That would indicate, to me, that it means that the Tent of Meeting is the inner structure, which Aaron would then come out of, to offer sacrifices at the altar, in the Outer Court. But then I look at the other translations, and some of them don’t say “come out,” they say “come forth.” My theory still works; if the Tent of Meeting is the inner structure, and Aaron was to come out of that structure and offer sacrifices in the Outer Court, it still makes grammatical sense to say “come forth”—it’s just not a slam dunk. If all of the translations had said “come out,” I could say “Aha! There! That proves that it’s the inner structure.”

All of this to say that my diagram from the last entry may not be correct. As I keep going through the Old Testament, if I have to make changes to it, I will. The book of Numbers will go into a lot of detail about the Tabernacle again, so that will give me another chance to look at things. It may very well be that “Tabernacle” and “Tent of Meeting” are two different terms for the same thing. I still think, for now, that the “Tent of Meeting” is actually the inner structure, but I’m keeping an open mind, as I continue to read.


Anonymous said...

So, if I am hearing you right....

You believe that the, "Tent Of Meeting" became part of the Tabernacle once it was finished and in place?

That would make sense to me if that were the case.

David Hunter said...

That hadn’t been my thought, but it could very well be the case. I was just thinking that there were two “tents,” an inner tent, called the “Tent of Meeting,” and an outer tent (with no ceiling), which housed the overall thing, and was called the “Tabernacle.” However, there was another tent called the “Tent of Meeting,” that Moses had used to talk to God before the Tabernacle was built, so that tent might very well have become the “Tent of Meeting” that ended up within the Tabernacle.

I really just do not know. :-)

Anonymous said...

My husband & I have been having the same questions & wondering if the terms were interchangeable or if there were 2 separate places. Without trying to research the rest of your blog I am wondering if you have come to a conclusion about the 2 terms?

David Hunter said...

Not as such, Anonymous (and Anonymous' husband). As I continued through Numbers, Deuteronomy etc. I didn't get any clearer on it, but neither was it of concern based on what I was reading.

What I mean by that is that I didn't come across any places where it was of importance how the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting relate to each other, or if they're different terms for the same thing. No instances where the difference (or same-ness) mattered to me as a 21st Century Christian.

The only place it might matter is if one were to create a diagram illustrating it, and post it on one's blog. But who would be foolhardy enough to do that? Er...

katrina said...

The Tent/Tabernacle of meeting represents a diagram of the human body. Do a diagram with the head as the holy of holies. All 7 represent the 7 steps to peace/freedom.

Anonymous said...

The Tent of the Meeting and the Tabernacle are the same in meaning. They are synonomous with "a dweelingg place". The whole structure is the Tabernacle. It hs different "rooms for diffrent fuctions> At one point Moses could not enter it because the glory of the Lord filled it. That would mean the whole Tabernacle nit just part of it.

Anonymous said...

From a Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jew:
I think the Tent of Meeting was originally a tent outside the camp that Moses could enter and meet with God. The Pillar of Cloud of God then rested outside at the entrance of the Tent when Moses was already inside (and Joshua spent time in the tent with Moses as well). At that point Moses saw God face to face in the Cloud, but not "the Glory of the Lord" which appears to be separate from the Cloud. When The Cloud lifted then Moses could exit the Tent.

I believe the Tabernacle was then added onto the original tent, and a new covering was placed on top of the combined structure. The Tabernacle became the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place. The Tent of Meeting was then the Holy Place. When The Tabernacle addition was completed the Ark of the Covenant was placed inside that section.

I think that because The Tabernacle addition made the entire structure that much more Holy, the entire structure is then referred to as "The Tabernacle".

Then The Cloud hovered over the entire structure (now more Holy), and the Glory of the Lord entered the Ark inside the Holy of Holies (the Tabernacle addition). Again I think the Glory of the Lord is different than the Cloud.
I think at that point Moses could no longer enter the "Tabernacle" (Tabernacle addition + original Tent of Meeting) because the priestly system for approaching God had been established. Aaron was consecrated as the High Priest and the other Priests had been trained in their service (their service only occurred in the original Tent of Meeting part of the entire Tabernacle - they couldn't enter the Holy of Holies, and the High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies 1x a year on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur).

Ha Mishkan means The Dwelling Place. I think it can refer to the Tabernacle addition that contained The Glory of the Lord, as well as the entire completed structure (Tabernacle addition + Tent of Meeting with new covering over all).

Anonymous said...

Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jew again:
I must apologize - I seem to have it wrong! I just heard a different explanation from someone who knows Hebrew.
Yes, the Pillar of Cloud and The Glory (Shekinah) are both God but separate. It is the Glory that resided in the Holy of Holies. This part I have correct.
But apparently the sections of Exodus that mention the Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle are not in chronological order. Exodus 40:34-38 is describing the first time God dwelled with them, which is after the entire Tabernacle was complete. Per my teacher, mention of "The Tent" appears to be the covering, The Ohel. All instructions for building the Tabernacle with the Tent covering were given in the beginning, and then Moses would meet with God as the pillar of cloud after the entire Tabernacle was constructed. There was no Tent of Meeting separate from The Tabernacle as I seem to have incorrectly assumed. Per my teacher, Moses acted as a Prophet and a Priest. However, he could never enter the Holy of Holies. My teacher thinks the Ohel (Tent covering) extended over the front of the Tabernacle (whole structure) like an awning. He thinks under the awning is where Moses "entered" the Tent of Meeting, and then God descended in front of it as the Pillar of Cloud.
So I am wrong to conclude that the Tent of Meeting existed first, and then the Tabernacle was added on later.
So my most humble apology to anyone I may have mislead! This is a good lesson for me that I should not speak unless I am absolutely sure that I have been fully educated on a subject first!
Again, my most humble apology to you all!!