Exodus 26: The Tabernacle

1 “Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be the same size. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another.

-1 Cubit is roughly 1.5 feet in American measurements. It is the length from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow of the average man. This means dimensions of 28 x 4 cubits would be 42 x 6 feet in length. There are two sets of five of these curtains coupled to one another which makes the total dimensions 210 x 30 feet for each set, 420 x 60 feet in all. There are different interpretations for the blue, purple, and scarlet colors but the most common seem to be blue for heaven, purple for royalty, and red for blood. The coloring of these curtains themselves seem to point to Christ and how He will descend from heaven as a man, be the Son of God who is the king, and die for our sins with His blood. This series of curtains being described is only the first of four layers that cover over the top of the tabernacle. Recall that the Cherubim is always used as a guard; these woven images of cherubims most likely represent the Holiness of the tabernacle itself and make in fact be an indication that there are real invisible cherubim guarding the tabernacle.

4 And you shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set. Likewise you shall make loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in the second set. 5 Fifty loops you shall make on the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite one another. 6 And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to the other with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be a single whole.

-The purpose of these fifty clasps is to join the first set of five curtains to the second set. Fifty clasps are created on only one of the four sides of each curtain so they can be joined together but also removed when they need to be moved. It would seem that you don’t need as many as fifty clasps to tie the curtains together but it is likely the number 50 had additional significance as it is a number God uses often such as Pentecost. A massive 420 x 60 curtain would be more difficult to transport than two 210 x 30 feet one. I once saw an episode of the show Mythbusters where the team tried to fold a piece of paper with the dimensions of 170 ft x 220 ft which is the same ratio of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. They tried to bust a myth that you could not fold a piece of paper more than 7 times which they were able to prove but with great difficulty. The problem lies with the more times you fold, the exponentially thicker and tougher to fold it becomes. To fold a 210 x 30 curtain to a portable size, it would take seven folds to get to about 6 x 8 ft depending on how its folded. To make this smaller would take great difficulty and forced to fold an eighth time. For a 420 x 60 ft curtain, the same method folding seven times would be 12 x 16 which is very large to transport and it would take great difficulty to fold an eight time and it would still be 12 x 8 or 6 x 16. God truly thought of everything, didn’t He?

7 “You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make. 8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains shall be the same size. 9 You shall couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and the sixth curtain you shall double over at the front of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the second set. 11 “You shall make fifty clasps of bronze, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together that it may be a single whole. 12 And the part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 And the extra that remains in the length of the curtains, the cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it.

-The previous curtain was only the first layer, now there is a second layer with larger dimensions and and sixth layer in the second set to cover the front. The dimensions are 30 x 6 cubits which is 45 x 9 feet. The five curtain set together is 225 x 45 and the six curtain set is 270 x 54 feet. Again, there are fifty clasps on one side of each so they can be joined together but also taken apart for transport. Even dimensions of 270 x 54 can still be reduced to roughly 13 x 9. with seven folds. That is sizable but not as difficult as 12 x 16 would be or 24 x 16 which this eleven curtain set would be if sewn together.

14 And you shall make for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and a covering of goatskins on top.

-The ESV which is the version I have been using has a different translation than other versions. Many other versions say rammed skin dyed red and badger skin as the two materials instead. The word translated “tanned” in the ESV but “dyed red” in other versions is the Hebrew word “adam” which can mean to show blood or to be reddened. When someone gets a sun tan, their skin is reddened if they are out in the sun too long. So this still refers to redness even though its easy to assume it means a tan color. Those like me with very little experience cooking might not realize that one can“tan” meat but not necessarily cook it to a tan color. The word for “goatskins” in ESV but “badger skins” in other translations is the Hebrew word “Tachash” which is considered to mean “animal hide” but it is unknown which animal. The idea is that it is very ugly so a badger might make more sense and is how the King James Version translation shows it. Other translations have also used “sealskin” or “Porpoise skin” in its place as well.

-Regardless of the actual material, the point of this one verse is that there were too additional layers on top of the colored fine linen and the goat hair layers making four in all. Fine linen covered by goat hair covered by reddened ram skins covered by ugly animal hides. These top two layers aren’t given dimensions but it may be assumed they were the same size as the goat’s hair layer because these two are weatherproof while the linen and goat’s hair layers would be effected. This seems to symbolize that being far from God is ugly but it is progressively more attractive the closer you get to God. Here is a picture of the four curtains and what they might have looked like: http://www.knowyourmessiah.com/tabernaclem_files/image001.gif

15 “You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood. 16 Ten cubits shall be the length of a frame, and a cubit and a half the breadth of each frame. 17 There shall be two tenons in each frame, for fitting together. So shall you do for all the frames of the tabernacle. 18 You shall make the frames for the tabernacle: twenty frames for the south side; 19 and forty bases of silver you shall make under the twenty frames, two bases under one frame for its two tenons, and two bases under the next frame for its two tenons; 20 and for the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side twenty frames, 21 and their forty bases of silver, two bases under one frame, and two bases under the next frame. 22 And for the rear of the tabernacle westward you shall make six frames. 23 And you shall make two frames for corners of the tabernacle in the rear; 24 they shall be separate beneath, but joined at the top, at the first ring. Thus shall it be with both of them; they shall form the two corners. 25 And there shall be eight frames, with their bases of silver, sixteen bases; two bases under one frame, and two bases under another frame. 26 “You shall make bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, 27 and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the side of the tabernacle at the rear westward. 28 The middle bar, halfway up the frames, shall run from end to end. 29 You shall overlay the frames with gold and shall make their rings of gold for holders for the bars, and you shall overlay the bars with gold. 30 Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.

-For simplicity sake, here is a picture of what is being described: http://raebear.net/faith/biblestudy/exodus/seg3_sinai/tabernacle_structure_clip_image002.jpg . Just imagine this amazing golden structure covered in layers of curtains with the top being ugly badger or some other such animal’s skin. It must have seemed ridiculous to gentiles, perhaps too to the Israelites being told this. The larger room is the Holy Place and the smaller room is the Holy of Holies.

31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. 35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.

-From the picture posted above, it looks like there are three curtains but there is actually only one that is behind the four pillars. Here is another picture representing the Holy of Holies: http://av.goodseed.com/tabplace/images/tab-holy-of-holies.jpg . This is the veil that tore when Jesus was crucified as written in Matthew 27:51, “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…”. This symbolized that the separation of man from God which required a priest performing specific rituals and sacrifices to enter only once a year was now open to all because of the payment of Jesus on the cross. But for now, this signified God’s “Holiness” which means “separate”. This of course does not mean God is less Holy but rather we are made Holy like God when we accept Jesus and receive the Spirit. This veil also had Cherubim images sewn in which signifies that they are protecting this entrance and will kill any who enter except the high priest once a year after performing the proper rituals.

36 “You shall make a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. 37 And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia, and overlay them with gold. Their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five bases of bronze for them.

-This is a similar veil but without the Cherubim sewn in which covered the entrance into the tabernacle and the Holy Place.

Sources:)

http://raebear.net/faith/biblestudy/exodus/seg3_sinai/tabernacle_structure.php

http://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_Curtain_Coverings.htm

http://www.knowyourmessiah.com/tabernaclem.htm

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