This post is the fourth in a series entitled “Communion With God“. You can view the previous posts by selecting the “Communion With God” option under Post Categories on the main page of my blog. So far we’ve taken a introductory level look at the Old Testament Sacrifices, the Jewish Festivals and A Chosen People and Being Clean and Unclean. In this post we will take begin to look at the Tabernacle itself and it’s various components, commencing with the Materials that were used in the construction of the Tabernacle. This post is admittedly a little on the lengthy side but well worth the investment of time.
We must remember that the Israelites came out of Egypt as the people of God. They were descendants of Abraham, the first Hebrew. It is also important to keep in mind the oath that God swore to Abraham:
Genesis 15:13-14 “Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. “And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
And with great possessions they came out indeed, as it says:
Exodus 3:20-22 “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. “And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. “But every woman shall ask of her neighbour, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
Exodus 12:35-36 “Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the LORD had given the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.”
As the Israelites came to Mount Sinai the Lord instructed them as to what they were to bring as a free-will offering (spontaneous and voluntary giving) so that they could build the tabernacle. Notice what God spoke concerning His dwelling place the Tabernacle: (very important verses)
Exodus 25:1-9 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. “And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; “blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; “ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; “oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; “onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.”
These materials are listed exactly as God had specified (nothing more and nothing less) because they would each have specific symbolic meaning relating to the true Tabernacle in Heaven and Jesus Christ. Nothing could be left to chance or man’s imagination because if the Lord is to dwell here and pitch His tent with man, then man is to approach Him His way and no exceptions. The details of its construction would pattern in a temporal way, what God would one day do permanently through Jesus Christ. The Tabernacle would become a visible model of how we come to God through Jesus. Let’s look now at the materials to be used in the construction of the Tabernacle and keep in mind that we must examine the symbolism from a Hebraic backdrop. The Old Testament is filled with figurative language that can be interpreted in the light of the context of the Hebrew Bible:
Materials (ordered by God)
According to Exodus 38 they gave 2,800 lbs. of gold. Pure Gold throughout the scriptures speaks of divinity, that which cannot be reproduced by man. Gold is made by God and comes down from God. Gold speaks of the deity of Jesus Christ. It typifies the divine glory of the Lord Jesus as “the Son of God” and “God the Son”.
Silver came to 9,600 lbs. Throughout the Scriptures, silver figuratively speaks of redemption. It was always used as redemption money:
Exodus 30:16 “And you shall take the redemption money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.”
The tabernacle stood upon sockets of silver. Both Joseph and Jesus were sold for silver. Judas was paid off in silver as the Scriptures said. Silver is redemption money. Silver is symbolic of the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ and Him alone. It prefigures the preciousness of Christ as the ransom for sinners. Notice also that there is no silver mentioned in heaven. The people will already have been redeemed.
A total of 6,700 lbs. of bronze was given for use in those places where exceptional strength and heat resistance was important. Bronze has a melting point of 1,985 degrees. It was important in the altar where intense heat was present. They brought bronze not brass. Brass comes from a mixture of copper and tin where bronze comes from copper and zinc.
Bronze represents judgment. When Moses raised the bronze serpent it spoke of the power of the serpent being judged through the raising of the Son of God:
Numbers 21:9 “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
Bronze typifies the divine character of Christ who took upon Himself the fire of God’s wrath, holiness and justice by becoming a sin offering.
2 Cor 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Woven into or embroidered on the linen were blue, purple, and scarlet threads. The Hebrew word for blue means shellfish. A brilliant dye was excreted from this mollusk. This bright colour is always mentioned first. Man needed something to suggest the idea of heaven as a place from which God reveals Himself more fully than on earth. Therefore the colour blue represents heaven, the colour of the sky. Blue was always mentioned throughout the tabernacle to remind man that his destination is heaven and because of our Redeemer we are destined to be in God’s Presence. Blue speaks of that which comes down from above (“from above” is a Jewish idiom for heaven). Remember when the woman touched the blue hem of Jesus’ garment? We see the loveliness of the blue in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ who was not only heavenly in His origin but in His very nature and ways.
John 3:31 “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.
The Hebrews would get this color from mixing blue and scarlet together. This deep red-purple colour was a colour of royalty (Kingly).
Judges 8:26 “ornaments, pendants, and purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the chains that were around their camels’ necks.”
The colour purple typifies Jesus as King of king’s and Lord of lord’s, but there is another important truth. The mixing of blue and scarlet. Blue speaks of that which comes down from above, and scarlet, as we shall see, represents blood and death, sacrifice. Purple is a combination of both, which speaks of Christ as both God and Man, the Man who came from heaven to die. In some mysterious way He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh.
Isaiah 33:17 “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will see the land that is very far off.”
‘Scarlet thread’ (Sacrifice)
The scarlet was derived from an Eastern insect (worm) that infests certain trees. It was gathered, crushed, dried, and ground to a powder that produced a brilliant crimson hue. Scarlet speaks of sacrifice and typifies Christ in His sufferings. The crucifixion Psalm 22 quotes Jesus as saying – “I am a worm”. God somehow took upon Himself a body of flesh and blood and then died giving His life as a ransom for us all by being crushed in the mills of God’s justice.
Hebrews 9:26 “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
‘Fine Linen’ (Purity)
The linen was most interesting. Made from Egyptian flax, it was finely woven, brilliantly white, and bore a special name, “byssus”. This material was used for garments for royalty and persons of rank and has been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Linen in one tomb was found to have 152 threads per inch in the warp and 72 threads per inch in the woof. White linen always speaks of purity and righteousness:
Revelations 15:6 “And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands.”
Revelations 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Revelations 19:14 “And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.”
The fine-twined, white linen speaks of righteousness and typifies Jesus, the Son of Man, spotless, pure, and sinless.
I John 3:3-5 “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure…and you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”
‘Goats Hair’ (Cursed sin offering)
Goats were common in those days for their milk, their meat, their skin which was used for many things such as water bottles, etc., and their hair, which was very long, dark and course, was spun and woven into cloth. The goat was a sacrificial animal. The Goat’s Hair covering was the first above the tabernacle curtain. This drab colour tells us of Jesus in His humility and poverty. Goatskins were worn by the poor and throughout the Bible represented extreme poverty.
Hebrews 11:37 “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–”
And the hair speaks of Christ as the separated One, just as the hair must be separated from the goat, so Christ had to sacrifice His own covering in order to provide a covering for others.
Another interesting point about the goat is that it was used on the Day of Atonement. After the high priest completed the blood sprinkling in the holy of holies he would go into the court of the tabernacle and lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, confessing over it all the sins of the people. The goat was then led away, by a man standing ready, into the wilderness, and there let free, to signify the carrying away of Israel’s sins which God had forgiven. This reminds us of Jesus, humble and poor, becoming a curse for us, that we might have our sins carried away into the land of forgetfulness.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
And, have you ever wondered about the verse in Mark 14:51-52 NIV which reads “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” This happened when Jesus was being led away and I strongly suspect that this young man who was dressed in a linen garment and who then fled away naked, is also symbolic of the scapegoat.
‘Rams skins dyed red’ (Substitutionary sacrifice)
A ram is a grown male sheep and the head of the flock. A shepherd may have one or two rams in a flock of ewes to promote uniformity. The ram is forever in the eyes of the Jew as the substitute animal, faithful unto death. This is of course because God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac on that day when Abraham’s faith was revealed.
The ram’s skins were dyed red to represent the sacrifice of a substitute. So Jesus as the head of the human race, the last Adam, sacrificed His own life as a substitute for all who would put their trust in Him.
Hebrews 2:9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
‘Badger skins’ (Outward appearance-unattractive)
Badger skins were the final covering, the outer covering that everyone saw. They were tough and course and very plain in their appearance. But how does this speak of Christ? It speaks of what Christ was to man. There was no outward beauty to the tabernacle proper, so it was with Christ when He came to earth when He pitched His tabernacle among men. As the prophet foretold:
Isaiah 53:1-2 “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
What was Jesus to the Jews? nothing but a course, hard badger skin. What is Jesus to the world today? nothing but a course, hard badger skin. But to those of us who have opened up our hearts to Him He is much much more. He is the “altogether lovely One”, He is the “Rose of Sharon”, the “Lily of the Valley”, and the “Fairest among 10,000” to our souls. If anyone desired to look beyond the outer flesh covering they would see the transfiguration of Christ’s glory. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Jesus says, “Come and see”.
John 1:10-14 “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
‘Acacia Wood’ (Incorruptible humanity) also called Shittim Wood
The Shittah tree grew in the deserts of Sinai, and the deserts around the Dead Sea. The wood is hard, very heavy, indestructible by insects, and has a fine, beautiful grain. It was remarkably luxuriant in dry places, sometimes attaining a height of twenty feet. It had lovely yellow flowers and its insect-resisting Acacia wood was used in making mummy cases. This Acacia wood speaks of the incorruptible humanity of Christ, for we are told that His humanity would never see corruption.
Psalm 16:10 “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
Hebrews 10:5 “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.”
And that body He still possesses in a glorified form. “This same Jesus” is in heaven right now and one day will return for us and glorify us also:
1 John 3:2 “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
‘Oil’ (The Spirits anointing)
The oil was obtained by crushing the olive berries of the land. Oil, as we know, was the liquid used when the prophet, priest, and king were anointed in Old Testament times. And because of passages like:
1 John 2:20 “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.”
1 Samuel 16:13 “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.”
We have scriptural authority for seeing the oil as a type of the Holy Spirit.
In the Bible the olive tree is symbolic of many things:
Hosea 14:6 “His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.”
Psalm 52:8 “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.”
Judges 9:9 “But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?”
The Holy Spirit, then, as olive oil, is the One who possesses all that man needs for life and godliness. Richness, fertility, and beauty are all His in an abundant measure. Jesus was anointed by God as prophet, priest, and king. Everything Christ did was filled with richness, fertility, and beauty because He was the temple of the Holy Spirit and filled with all fulness:
John 3:34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.”
It is interesting that the olives weren’t beaten or pressed but crushed. So Jesus was crushed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb. Oil Press) and then by the very wrath of God on a Roman cross, as the Scriptures say:
Isaiah 53:10 “Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
The anointing oil was restricted for tabernacle use only, anyone violating the command was put to death. The olive oil was to be pure and nothing but pure because it represents the HOLY Spirit of Christ. The word “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew “Mashiach” (Messiah) which means “the anointed One”. It literally means “to smear” as with oil. The oil was also used to anoint the Holy Tabernacle and its furniture, and to light the golden lampstand.
‘Spices for the oil and incense’ (Sweet smelling fragrance to God)
There were three spices to be added to the frankincense and oil:
Exodus 30:34 “And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each.”
A powder from the hardened drops of the fragrant resin found in the bark of the Myrrh bush. The word means “a drop”.
A powder from the horny shell cover of a clam-like mollusk found in the Red Sea. When burnt, this powder emits a penetrating aroma. The Hebrew word means- “aromatic shell”. The Red Sea is an isolated warm water pocket of the Indian ocean and is known for its peculiar subspecies of mollusks.
A brownish pungent resin that exudes from the lower part of the stem of a Ferula plant. This herb plant is found at the Mediterranean Sea and has thick stalks, yellow flowers, and fern-like green foliage. It has a musky, pungent smell and is valuable because it preserves the scent of a mixed perfume, and allows of its distribution over a long period of time.
In these spices or perfumes we see Jesus as the sweet smelling aroma bringing joy to the Father’s heart. When mixed with the olive oil we see the sweet illuminating work of the Spirit of Christ, and when mixed with frank-incense we see the sweetness of prayer as a “sweet smelling aroma in God’s nostrils”. How fitting that these perfumes would point to Christ.
John 8:29 “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
It is amazing when you stop to think of how God dictated the precise details of even the materials and how their symbolism, right from the beginning, is woven into the very fabric of the Bible, God’s Word. When we say that the Tabernacle is a physical representation of a Spiritual reality, nothing is overlooked.
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Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!