A ’Model‘ Way to study the Tabernacle

Duncan Maxwell

Precious Seed

WHY THE TABERNACLE?

According to Revelation chapter 15 verse 5 to chapter 16 verse 1 the tabernacle would appear to be the throne room of God from which will emanate the righteous wrath of a holy God in judgement upon the earth. The earthly throne, Exod. 25. 8, 9, l6, 21, 22, would eventually be forgotten, Jer. 3. 16- 17. Where better can we learn of God than in His dwelling place described by Moses in the book of Exodus?

WHY A MODEL?

The ‘eye-gate’ to the mind is a superior method of learning to the spoken word, especially when we consider the complications of translation from an original language. Chalk board, charts, flannel graphs and PowerPoint are all proven methods of illustration. Likewise, a model. Model making is not necessarily suited to everyone, but with a little manual dexterity, some artistic appreciation and a modicum of common sense, much can be achieved.

THE PURPOSE

The purpose in building a model of the tabernacle will, in part, determine the size and method of transportation. If, for example, the purpose is to use it in various places, then the size is important. Models of the tabernacle are generally large and may require more than a car to transport! The building of a model requires dedication and discipline to examine each detail given in scripture and finding a means of representing that detail to the scale you have chosen. The ideas of others have been recorded in the many books published on the subject and there is no limit to the research you can undertake. The challenge is to put together a result in which you are reasonably satisfied that you have produced a useful representation of that defined in scripture. I faced this challenge some years ago when reading a book entitled The Tabernacle of Israel - Its Structure and Symbolism by JAMES STRONG.

This book is described as ‘an exhaustive, scholarly investigation of the structure and components of the tabernacle, by the renowned author of Strong‘s Exhaustive Concordance’. In his conclusion, Strong challenges the reader not to disregard his presentation for lack of real and thorough examination. Strong‘s presentation is substantially different from all I had seen and noted since my teenage years.

I determined to build a model in accordance with his suggestions. I had a purpose. It was to see how closely Strong‘s presentation related to scripture and see if the assembly of the parts was practical. Your purpose might be quite different, in that if you use it as a Sunday School lesson, it may simply be cardboard painted, or simplified in detail. Where detail is important, some parts and some furniture may be constructed to different scales for illustrative purposes.

THE PREPARATION

The scale chosen defines the size and the first decision is where to store it while constructing and when complete. Rather than debating the size of a cubit, make the scale relate to the cubit as all the scriptural dimensions are in cubits. For example, a scale of one half inch = one cubit would make the courtyard 50” x 25”; anything less makes it difficult to manufacture parts and the furnishings would be so small that they would require to be simple cardboard replicas. I suggest a scale (1/2” = one cubit) to illustrate the relationship of the dwelling place to the courtyard and use a larger scale (1” = one cubit) for construction of the tent, in order to make parts of a reasonable size. A good lexicon such as Gesenius and a concordance should be well studied before proceeding too far with building. Be prepared to spend much time and study even on small details. Historical research and reference to books published by a variety of authors can be useful in comparing ideas. When you have satisfied your own mind in relation to scripture, you then face the challenge of replicating the detail on your scale model.

THE PROBLEMS

The pattern was given to Moses; Bezaleel was given the Spirit of God in wisdom and understanding and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, together with Aholiab as an assistant. No one today can claim to exactly replicate the tabernacle; the best that can be done is to endeavour to interpret scripture to give a measure of understanding of the subject. The Hebrew word ohel means ‘a tent’. The Hebrew word mishkan means ‘a residence’, ‘a dwelling place’. At the erection of the tabernacle, Moses places the ohel over the mishkan, Exod. 40. 19. In the English text, in some places tabernacle is used to translate both words.

Regarding the boards of the mishkan, the thickness is not specified and there is no clear definition of the meaning of ‘doubled in the corners’. The arrangement of the five bars on the sides and end of the mishkan has caused much controversy.

Why are there no fillets between the pillars supporting the veil? With no fillets they require to be stayed but there is no mention of them requiring stays. What type of embroidery goes on the curtain of the mishkan?

There is no clear understanding of the Hebrew word tachash translated in our English Bibles as ‘badger skin’. The fire on the brazen altar was to burn continuously, yet there is no clear instruction for carrying the fire when the camp moved.

These are but a few of the problems and, perhaps, some are unresolveable because of the sparse nature of the scripture data.

THE PRIESTHOOD

Aaron, the high priest, and his sons were an integral part of the tabernacle and the presentation of offerings. The nation of Israel denied God’s desire by refusing to become a nation of priests, Exod. 20. 19. Jacob said of Simeon and Levi, ‘Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land’, Gen. 34. 30. Yet, God in His grace and mercy establishes the priesthood out of the tribe of Levi.

The golden altar, or altar of incense, the laver and the anointing oil were specified only after the description of the high priest’s garments. Study the stones on the shoulders, and the breastplate, and the character represented in the blessing of Jacob, Gen. 49, and of Moses, Deut. 33.

This leads you to the offerings and the Day of Atonement. While not part of the model, it is integral to the understanding of the total operation and the activity that surrounds the other items of furniture; the brazen altar, the laver, the table of shewbread, the lampstand, the altar of incense and the ark of the covenant with the mercy seat. All of these items can be modelled as their details are studied. The best commentary on the subject of the priesthood is the Epistle to the Hebrews, which you should study to appreciate the symbolism of the tabernacle.

PERSONAL ENJOYMENT

This ‘Model’ study is not for the fainthearted but is to be recommended to anyone with a passionate desire to understand and appreciate the scriptures relating to the tabernacle. It is the most thorough, exhaustive and spiritually enlightening study I have ever pursued. My attention was directed to many scholarly books on the subject and my knowledge expanded by a word study of every situation. To be able to share the knowledge with others as it surfaced was a delight. It is truly a revelation that God’s desire is to be with His people, ‘Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them’, Exod. 25. 8, in the tabernacle, in the temple, on the earth for 33 years, and in the eternal state. ‘The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them’, Rev. 21. 3.

What a thrill to link every aspect of the tabernacle with our Great High Priest ‘who is set on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man’, Heb. 8. 1-2.

ENCOURAGEMENT

So, if you need a hobby that will also be spiritually profitable or something practical to do during the long winter evenings, make a start on building your own model of the tabernacle. You will be remarkably blessed in so doing.