Tabernacle - Exodus 26. 1-30

H Rhodes, Leeds

Part 5 of 8 of the series Outline Studies of the Tabernacle

Category: Exposition

The tabernacle proper was made of boards covered with gold. Each board was ten cubits high by one and a half cubits wide; there were twenty boards on each of the south and north sides and six boards at the western end, with two extra boards at the corners which gave increased stability to the structure. Five bars of wood overlaid with gold ran through rings on the outside, two at the top and two at the bottom, the central one running along the whole length. Each board stood on two sockets of silver weighing one talent each. Thus the foundation on which the house was built was firm and costly, amounting possibly to £50,000 at present-day values.

The entrance curtains were of the same coloured material as the gate of the court, but “cherubim” were also added to the colours on the inner veil that separated the holy place from the holiest of all. The inner veil was supported on four pillars standing on foundations of silver, but the outer one was supported on five pillars standing on foundations of brass; see Exod. 26. 31-32; 36-37.

The four coverings are described in Exodus 26. 1-14. The inside covering was of the same material as the veil, consisting of ten pieces of material each twenty-eight cubits long and four wide. They were joined together by fifty loops of blue and hooked together by hooks of gold, thus forming a covering of twenty-eight cubits by forty. The next covering was of “goats’ hair”. This consisted of eleven pieces of material, again four cubits in width but thirty in length, namely larger in every way than the inner covering. The colour of the loops joining these pieces is not specified, but they were joined by hooks of brass. No details are given of the two remaining coverings - the “rams’ skins dyed red” and the “badgers’ skins”.

Points to Note

1. The costly foundation of this house of God, amounting to one hundred talents of silver, was obtained from the “atonement money”, Exod. 30. 12-16. Differing foundations from other view-points are found in Scripture. In Matthew 16. 18, the Lord Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church”, namely on the confession that Jesus is the Son of God. In Isaiah 28. 16, God said, “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone ... a precious corner stone, a sure foundation”; see 1 Pet. 2. 6. Referring to his preaching of the gospel in Corinth, Paul wrote, “I have laid the foundation”, 1 Cor. 3. 9-11; see also 2. 2. Thus Christ’s atoning death as the church’s foundation is here foreshadowed:

On Christ salvation rests secure,
The rock of ages must endure;
Nor can that faith be overthrown,
That rests upon the Living Stone.

2. The boards provide us practical lessons for today. In Ephesians 2. 20-22, Paul wrote, “Jesus Christ himself . . . In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”. These boards once had their natural roots in the earth. They required the laying of the axe to the roots, the cutting and shaping by the craftsman, the carrying from the wilderness, the covering with gold, the placing of each pair of tenons into the two sockets of silver, the knitting together one with the other, before God could dwell therein. All this suggests the ways of God by His Spirit, through the gospel, in separating us from our earthly sources of supply, and fashioning and forming and clothing us with divine righteousness and linking us with our fellow believers in the fellowship of the Lord’s people. The two tenons, or “hands”, would speak of death and resurrection, namely of Christ, by which alone we have a standing before God. The covering of gold would reflect the light of God’s glory.

3. Each of the three entrance curtains presented the same area of material. The court entrance was twenty cubits by five, making one hundred square cubits; the two tabernacle entrances were ten by ten, making one hundred square cubits. The entrance to the tabernacle, being ten cubits high, indicates the meeting of the claims of God, whereas the court entrance suggests the wideness of God’s mercy to mankind. Our Lord Jesus is “the way” to God, as well as “the door”.

4. The inner covering would tell us of Christ as He is known in the presence of God. Being twenty-eight cubits long it would not touch the earth on either side of the structure, whereas the covering of goats’ hair, being thirty cubits long, would. Blue loops and gold hooks speak of heavenly glory.

5. The goats’ hair would ever remind the Israelite of the great day of atonement; see Lev. 16. 5. The hooks of brass in this covering would remind us of the Lord’s life on earth, perfectly sustaining the circumstantial trials that properly belonged to sinful man.

6. The rams’ skins dyed red would suggest the consecration of the Lord Jesus even unto death; see Lev. 8. 22-30. The badgers’ skins were coarse but strong, and suggest the outward appearance of Christ to the people among whom he moved; see Isa. 53. 3.

7. The four coverings viewed together would show the degrees of a believer’s appreciation of Christ. This is illustrated in John 9. Here is a man whose eyes are opened by the Lord.

  1. When asked “How were thine eyes opened?”, he replied, “A man that is called Jesus”, v. 11. Here is what answers to the badgers’ skins.
  2. In verse 31 he refers to Christ as “a worshipper of God” and as One who “doeth his will”. Here is what answers to the rams’ skins, namely consecration.
  3. In verse 17 he says, “He is a prophet”; here we discern the covering of goats’ hair, Zech. 13. 4.
  4. Finally in verse 35 he is asked by the Lord, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”, and he worshipped Him, v. 38. This answers to the multi-coloured inner covering.

The man had surely travelled in the experience of his soul from the outside to the inside, there to behold the beauty of the Lord, Ps. 27. 4.