The Court, The Altar and the Laver

H Rhodes, Leeds

Part 4 of 8 of the series Outline Studies of the Tabernacle

Category: Exposition

The dimensions of the court were 100 cubits by 50 cubits and 5 cubits in height, that is, 175 feet by 87½ feet, and nine feet high, Exod. 27. 9-18; 38. 9-20.

The court contained 60 pillars made of brass, 20 being on each of the north and south sides, and 10 on each of the west and east sides. Four of these pillars on the eastern side supported the entrance curtain. Each pillar stood in a socket of brass, probably buried in the soil of the wilderness; they were joined to each other by connecting rods. The hooks and fasteners, and also what are called the chapiters, were all made of silver. These pillars were further supported by cords and pins. Thus we observe that the metal forming the foundation of the pillars was brass., while the metal crowning the pillars was silver. These pillars supported on all sides the fine white linen curtain. The entrance curtain of fine twined linen suspended on four of the pillars was coloured blue., purple and scarlet.

Points to Note

  1. The prominence of the number five and its multiples, suggesting the thought of man in place of responsibility1.
  2. Our Lord’s presentation to the world of a pure and holy life (symbolised by the white linen) was based on a life under the constant discernment of God (sockets of brass), thereby ever bringing to the Father pleasure in the Son.
  3. The crowning purpose of this life on earth was to accomplish redemption (silver). Being nine feet high, the top of the court would be beyond the reach of the Israelite.
  4. The curtain, like our Lord’s life, was perfectly symmetrical on all sides; it ended as it began. It was like the fine flour of the meal offering, Lev. 2. 1; no irregularities marked Him.
  5. There was only one entrance, situated on the east side, suggesting that the Lord came right to where we were, Ps. 103. 12; Luke 10. 33.
  6. The entrance was a curtain, not a bolted door. Anyone could enter through sacrifice, Lev. 17. 5; 19. 21, being chosen by God, Psa. 65. 4, including the child, 1 Sam. 3. 15, and the distressed woman in prayer, 1. 10. But the people knew that sin without sacrifice meant death upon approach, Num. 17.13.
  7. The colours (speaking of the grace and glory of Christ) were attractive to all seeking God. If we are to be blessed we must see in Christ more than a Man who lived a holy life. We must own what is indicated by the blue, namely that He came down from heaven, John 3. 31-36; and by the purple, namely the colour of imperial majesty, that He is King of Kings and Lord of lords; and by the scarlet (or worm scarlet, see Newberry’s margin, Exod. 27. 16), which dye was taken from a worm and speaks of the Lord’s humility when He became a “worm, and no man”, Ps. 22. 6; 1 John 1. 1-5.
  8. The four pillars that upheld the entrance curtain are like the four Gospels in which Christ is presented to the world: Matthew - His royalty (purple); Mark - His service (scarlet); Luke - His Manhood (white); John - His deity (blue). Four is the universal number; Isa. 11. 12; Ezek. 37. 9.

The Altar

In Exodus 38. 30, the altar is called the brazen altar; in Exodus 38. 1, the altar of burnt offering; in Exodus 29. 37, an altar most holy.

It was by far the largest of all the holy vessels and it confronted every one who passed through the entrance curtain. It was five cubits square and three cubits high, namely 8| ft. by 5|ft. It was made of shittim wood overlaid with brass, with four horns at the corners. It had a network of brass midway, and rings and staves by which it was carried.

Points to Note

  1. The altar was made of wood which grew in the wilderness, peculiar for its whiteness and durability. This is suggestive of the human nature of the Lord Jesus; He was holy at His birth, Luke 1. 35, in His life, Heb. 7. 26, and in death He saw no corruption, Ps. 16. 10; Acts 2. 27-31; 13. 34-37.
  2. “Hollow with boards shalt thou make it”, Exod. 27. 8, implies the self-emptying or humility of Christ; see Phil. 2. 7 Newberry margin.
  3. The brass symbolizes the power of the Lord Jesus to sustain the fire, both of divine wrath and divine approval, Lev. 9. 23, 24. The Hebrew word for “burn” when used in connection with the altar means “to burn as incense”. Therefore whatever was offered on the altar was offered for God’s acceptance. It is also called the table of the Lord in Malachi 1. 7.
  4. It was emphatically the meeting place between a holy God and sinful man, where the great transaction took place. There was manifested divine approval of the great act of substitution. Death stands on the threshold of life; “without shedding of blood is no remission”., Heb. 9.22. God demanded an acceptable sacrifice. “Christ, . . . through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God”., 9. 14; Eph. 5. 2.

The Laver

This was made of brass from the mirrors of the women in Israel, Exod. 38. 8. No dimensions are given, and nothing is known of its size or shape; the priests alone were to wash thereat.

Points to Note

  1. Anyone drawing near to God must come both to the altar and to the laver. At the altar our sinful nature is dealt with; at the laver, our sinful ways. Blood meets the need of one and the water the need of the other, 1 John 5. 6. The altar tells of Christ’s finished work; the laver of the work He is now finishing in the saints. The altar says “without shedding of blood is no remission”, while the laver says, “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord”, Heb. 12. 14; 1 Pet. 1. 15.
  2. The women surrendered that which had reflected what they were by nature, that it might reveal all that was unsuited to the presence of God, namely defilement.
  3. The water is a type both of the Spirit of God, John 7. 38- 39; Titus 3. 5, and the Word of God, Eph. 5. 26; John 13.10; 15. 3; 17.17.

Footnotes

1 *Five is the figure with its multiple ten that is stamped on the human frame. Five fingers on each hand, ten in all, speak of human responsibility in work; five toes on each foot, ten in all, our responsibility in walk; the five senses - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling - represent the whole range of human receptiveness in its responsibility to God. To this may be added the Ten Commandments, which written upon two tables of stone, five on each, summarise human responsibility whether Godward or manward. The Tabernacle’s Typical Teaching, by A. J. Pollock.