Sometimes people get confused with the meaning of the use of the word “court” when it comes to the initial Tabernacle that Moses was ordered by God to construct in the wilderness. A court is usually defined as an open space within a confined area. In scripture we read of the “court of the Tabernacle“, the “outer court of the Tabernacle“. The purpose of this post is to provide clarification on the use of the different terminology used and also give scriptural references to the specific dimensions of each area and who was authorized within each specific designated area.
When a person approached what is commonly referred to as “the Tabernacle”, he or she found that a wall of white linen formed a barrier against them. all the way around ( 150′ by 75′ by 150′ by 75′) for 300 cubits (450 feet) except one stretch of 20 cubits (30 feet) that was different. It was known as The Entrance Gate. It was not formed of just white linen like the rest of the walled enclosure but was multi-colored in woven white, blue, purple and red. It was distinctive, and marked out the one way by which a sinner could gain access to the court of God’s house.
The primary court or the proper court of the Tabernacle was the area within the outer wall of curtains that enclosed the entire structure. The courtyard fence was a protective border for the tabernacle, which was actually located inside the protective wall. This primary wall and the enclosed area was known as the “court of the Tabernacle” (Exodus 27:9-12 NIV) or the “outer court of the Tabernacle”. The Tabernacle proper or complete structure was also known as the “Tent of Meeting” (Exodus 35:21 NIV).
Sometimes you hear people make reference to the “inner court” of the Tabernacle and they assume that this means the area within the fence or wall that surrounds the Tabernacle proper. There are in fact only three parts to the initial Tabernacle proper enclosure, the outer court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
What is the first physical object that the Jewish person (male or female) (Gentiles were not allowed within the Gate of the Tabernacle) see when the go through the gate? The brazen bronze alter (Exodus 27:1-8 NIV). The priests perform the actual burnt offerings, and the common person could lay hold of one of the horns on the four corners of this alter if they were seeking protection. Aside from that, I find nothing in scripture that indicates that they would proceed any further. They received forgiveness for their sins and then they left.
Note Leviticus 17:5-6 NIV which states: “This is so the Israelites will bring to the Lord the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the Lord, at the entrance to the tent of meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. The priest is to splash the blood against the altar of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”
What is the second physical object that the Jewish person sees”? The bronze laver. This laver was for the priests to wash from before ministering at the altar or in the holy place. This place for washing was not for common folks. Priests only. See Exodus 30:17-21 NIV
Do you think it likely that common folks would be allowed to wander around and perhaps mistakenly touch the bronze laver?
The next physical item the Jewish person saw within the courtyard was the curtain in front of the Holy Place. When God gave Moses instructions on how to build the actual desert tabernacle, he ordered that the tent be divided into two parts: a large chamber called the Holy Place and an inner room call the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place measured 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet high. On the front of the tabernacle tent entrance was a beautiful veil made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, hung from five golden pillars. Only priests at designated times where allowed within the Holy Place. See Exodus 26:31-35 NIV
And then there is the Holy of Holies, which only the High Priest could enter and then only once per year. The Holy of Holies was a perfect cube, 15′ by 15′ by 15′. Both the Holy Place and Holy of Holies were considered sacred. Do you think it likely that common people would be allowed to wander around and mistakenly touch the outside of either of these sacred rooms?
Scripture indicates that ceremonially clean common Jewish folks could enter through the gate and remain within the area of the entrance, they could upon need, seek forgiveness through their sacrifices and offerings (performed by the priests only on the brazen alter) and if necessary seek refuge by holding onto one of the horns at the brazen alter, but I can find nothing within scripture that indicates that common people had physical access to either the brass laver or anything beyond. Does it seem likely that they would be allowed to wander anywhere within the enclosure past the brazen alter? If I was Jewish and back in those times and heeded the Word of God as given to Moses, I for one would not be venturing anywhere near what God had not clearly given me access to. Considering what happened to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who were priests, (Leviticus 10:1-5 NIV), and Uzzah, who was also a priest (2 Samuel 6:1-7 NIV), I’m thinking that would be prudent.
And finally, am I glad that the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Holy Place was ripped in two from the top to the bottom when Jesus died on the cross for our sins?
Hebrews 10:19-21 NIV “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,”
Yes I am.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!