Structural Integrity — Exodus Chapter 26
This blog post will cover the devotionals #177-184 for Exodus Chapter 26.
**Pictures will be added at a later date.
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[#177] Exodus 26:15-30
Now that we’ve discussed materials and furnishings, let’s move on to the structure. The vertical tabernacle boards that would form the walls would be made of shittim (acacia) wood (devotional #165) overlaid with gold. Each board would be ten cubits (fifteen feet) long (tall) and 1.5 (2.25 feet) cubits wide. The bottom end of each board would have two tenons—little pieces of wood jutting out to be inserted into mortices—or, as Exodus 38:27 calls them, ‘the sockets of the sanctuary’. This has long been a common way of joining things at right angles. They were to make twenty boards on the south side, which were to be set in forty silver sockets (foundations)—two sockets for the two tenons on each board. The same quantities of boards and sockets were to be made for the north side of the tabernacle. For the west side, six boards were to be made. They were to make two boards for each of the tabernacle’s corners, to be coupled together below and above into one ring. These corner pieces would total eight boards and sixteen silver sockets. It’s possible that each pair of sockets would hold a tenon from each of the two neighboring boards, which would stabilize the base of the wall. To stabilize the sides, they were to make connecting bars of shittim wood overlaid with gold. Five bars ran along each of the three sides and joined the boards together by passing through rings in the boards. The middle bar of the boards would reach from end to end. The center, stabilizing bar reaching from one end of the tabernacle to the other reminds me of Christ’s arms stretched out on the cross, securing Salvation for humanity. The rings to hold the bars were to be made of gold. Altogether, the boards would form walls that measured roughly forty-five feet on the long (north and south) sides and fifteen feet on the west end (these measurements include the corner boards). Now, Exodus gives the overall sanctuary size but not the dimensions of the two apartments (aka the Holy Place and Most Holy Place). However, 1 Kings 6 shows that Solomon’s temple (modelled proportionately after the wilderness sanctuary—but twice the size) was split unevenly. Two-thirds belonged to the Holy Place and one-third to the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place was roughly thirty feet of the length, and the Most Holy Place was the other fifteen feet. Thus, the Most Holy Place was a perfect cube, measuring fifteen feet wide, long, and high. We’ll see how the two apartments were separated in devotional #179. The way the structure was designed made it easy to take down and set up. It was to be reared up according to the pattern God showed Moses in the mount and appeared to be made of solid gold. The light from the candlestick’s lamps reflected on the gold boards and furniture, along with the curtains and their cherubim. The gold itself reflected the curtains’ colors, appearing like the rainbow. Between the various colors in the coverings, walls, furniture, and hanging vails, the sight was just a small taste of the glorious, Heavenly temple.
[#178] Exodus 26:1-13
While the tabernacle had sturdy walls, it was called a tent. Its ceiling would be made of ten fine-twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet curtains (devotionals #158-161). We’ll discuss their decorative angel features in devotional #181. Each curtain was a single piece of fabric—twenty-eight cubits (forty-two feet) long by four cubits (six feet) wide. Five would be coupled together along their long edges to make one large curtain (forty-two by thirty feet), and the same for the other five curtains. On the long edge of one large curtain, fifty blue loops were to be made on the selvedge (finished outer-edge border), and likewise in the second curtain’s seam, so they could clasp each other. These two curtains would be coupled together to make a tabernacle (tent) with fifty gold ‘taches’, which Strong’s Concordance defines as ‘knobs’ or ‘belaying pins’ (we’ll look at this concept more closely in devotional #182). Many refer to these parts as ‘clasps’. Once clasped, the two huge curtains would measure forty-two feet by sixty feet. What the Bible calls the ‘length’ of the curtains would be draped across the width of the tabernacle. Thus, the curtain would hang down 13.5 feet of the fifteen-foot-tall wall (leaving the bottom cubit of wall exposed). On the roof, the eastern edge of the curtain would be flush with the front edge of the tabernacle, so there would be an overhang of fifteen feet of curtain on the back end. Next, they were to make eleven goat hair curtains (devotional #162)—each a single piece of fabric—as a second covering for the tabernacle. Each was to be a single piece of fabric—thirty cubits (forty-five feet) long by four cubits (six feet) wide. Five would be coupled together along their long edges to make one large curtain (forty-five by thirty feet), and the same for the other six to make another (forty-five by thirty-six feet). Again, fifty loops were to be made on the on the long edge of one large curtain, and likewise on the second curtain’s seam. Another fifty taches / clasps were to be made and put into the loops to couple the tent together into one. However, these taches were to be made of brass instead of gold. Once clasped, the two curtains would measure forty-five by sixty-six feet. Like the length of the colorful interior curtains were to be draped across the width of the tabernacle, the same was to be done with the goat hair covering. However, instead of bringing the east edge flush with the front edge of the tabernacle, the seam between the fifth and sixth small curtains would be lined up there. This would leave the sixth curtain hanging over the front of the tabernacle—which they’d double (fold up in half). This would act as a three-foot-long valance (a decorative drapery hung at the canopy to hide the curtain fittings and/or frame). The other sixty feet (from the other ten curtains) ran along the top of the tabernacle to the back. Verse 12 says that the half curtain that remained would hang over the backside of the tabernacle. This refers to half of one of the two large curtains (the one made of five smaller panels). Since that curtain measured thirty feet, half of it was fifteen feet—which hung over the back end (on top of the fifteen feet of the colorful interior curtain). Verse 13 says that the length of this curtain would have a remaining (extra) cubit (1.5 feet) of overhang on each side of the tabernacle, which would cover the section left exposed by the shorter interior curtain. Now, if we measure back over both curtain layers, we can see that the clasped seams of each curtain lay directly two-thirds of the way back into the tabernacle—which (as we saw in devotional #177) is exactly where the separation was between the two apartments. We’ll look at this in devotional #179.
[#179] Exodus 26:31-37
A vail (curtain) was to be made like the ceiling curtain from devotional #178, with fine twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet, and the cherubim. They were to make its hooks of gold and the four sockets of silver. The vail was to be hung on four pillars made with shittim wood overlaid with gold. Verse 33 specifies that it was to be set up ‘under the taches’. Some people claim that the taches / clasps of the coverings didn’t line up here for different reasons, but between this verse and our measurements (from devotional #178)—it’s perfectly clear that they did line up. This vail (aka ‘the second vail’) would allow them to separate the two apartments in a way that still let the High Priest pass from one to the other. This was the vail that was torn in half when Jesus died (see Matthew 27:51)—and it was done in the sight of the priests ministering in the temple. In His day, the vail was replaced yearly, so it never would’ve reached a point of weakness. Furthermore, as we learned in Genesis devotional #30, this vail was four inches thick, and so heavy that it took three hundred men to manage. These factors show that no man could’ve torn that himself—it was a miracle intended by God. Next, they were to make and erect the hanging tent door the same way as the dividing vail between the two apartments, but with five pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks were also to be gold, but their five sockets would be cast of brass instead of silver. It does say that this vail was to be made with needlework, but it’s suggested that it was woven with patterns rather than angels like the other vail and inner covering. This hanging (aka ‘the first vail’ or ‘the door of the tent / tabernacle’) was what closed the east end of the sanctuary. The offerings would be presented at this door. As we saw with the doorposts the night of the Passover, doors are very significant in Scriptures. In Revelation 3:19, 20, Jesus says that He stands at the door and knocks, and will enter to (and dine with) any that hear His voice and open the door. In other words, He would take possession of their hearts and minds. Conversely (but very fittingly), Jesus plainly stated (in John 10:1-21) that He is the door of the sheep, by which one must enter the sheepfold (to be saved). Thus, the door swings both ways! Now, the earthly sanctuary’s two apartments represented the Heavenly Sanctuary’s Holy Places. On the interior [Most Holy Place] side of the inner vail was to be placed the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony. On the exterior [Holy Place] side of the vail was to be set the other three furnishings. The table of showbread was on the north side—and could be seen at the right as one entered the Holy Place. Opposite the table—on the left (south side)—was the candlestick and its seven lamps. And the altar of incense (which we’ll discuss in Exodus 30) would stand just in front of the vail—seen directly ahead as one entered the Holy Place.
[#180] Exodus 26:7-14
The goat hair curtain was the second layer (from the inside out). Next, they were to make another covering for the tent with the red-dyed rams’ skins (devotional #163), and a final, outer covering of the ‘badger’ skins (devotional #164). The Bible doesn’t dictate how large these two outer layers were to be, or if they were made of multiple parts, but it’s probably reasonable that they were each made of a single piece and were quite a bit larger than the first two layers. These four layers were arranged in this order to provide complete protection. Having this many layers, especially with these materials, should provide protection from rain or sun. While the Sinai wilderness rarely sees rain, the sanctuary would eventually be taken into Canaan—where it would see plenty of moisture. This structure would last for over five centuries until replaced with Solomon’s permanent one. How would they cover the tabernacle with these heavy curtains? Without some type of center support, the outer two or three coverings might have sagged in the middle. This would’ve provided easy access for water, and the weight of any potential snow would’ve broken them apart. It could’ve also created destabilizing stress on the walls. Tents in Moses’ time had a raised center, so it’s possible that the sanctuary did as well, and it just wasn’t mentioned. However, there is another (unmentioned) possibility. Exodus 35:18 mentions ‘the pins of the tabernacle (and of the court)’ and ‘their cords’. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘pins’ as ‘stakes’, ‘pegs’, or ‘nails’. Exodus 38:20, 31 says that these pins were made of brass. While the instructions for the tabernacle’s construction were laid out meticulously, there’s no real information concerning these pins and cords. However, Jewish historian Josephus discusses how the top of every board (and pillar for the court hangings) had cords (ropes) attached. The ends of the ropes were each attached to a cubit-long pin that was driven into the ground up to its head. This anchoring system served to steady the tabernacle in the high winds. We see the same system discussed in the Bible concerning the dwelling tents (Isaiah 54:2 is a special promise that uses the concept of a tent and its stakes and cords). It is suggested by many that the overhang of at least two of the roof coverings laid on top of these cords to avoid them touching the ground. I wonder if the cords weren’t fastened to the top of each board, but passed over them all the way across the boards on the other side wall. These could’ve acted as rafters for the coverings to lay over on the roof. However they did it, we can assume there was some type of support for the heavy covers. We’ll peek at one possibility in devotional #184.
[#181] Exodus 26:1,31
The tabernacle’s innermost ceiling curtain and the inner vail were to have cherubim of ‘cunning work’. Strong’s Concordance gives many definitions for ‘cunning’, but it starts out more specifically as ‘plait’ or ‘weave’—which involves making a single strand by interlacing three threads. This, of course, quickly brings the mind to the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and the three-fold cord that isn’t quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). A cunning worker was one who did embroidery, and these cherubim were to be embroidered with gold and silver threads into the curtains. Like the light reflected off the golden candlestick (and, as we’ll see in devotional #177, the gold-plated walls), the light would also make these angels glitter brilliantly. Yet, like the embroidered angels wouldn’t shine on their own, angels only possess the glory given to them by God. Only One equal to God could save mankind—and that One was what the entire sanctuary represented. In devotionals #170 and 171, we saw the significance of the cherubim on the mercy seat of the ark. What about here, on the curtains? These cherubim represent the angels employed in the service of the Heavenly Sanctuary and as ministering spirits to God’s people on Earth (see Hebrews 1:14). All the Heavenly beings serve to minister to fallen man. They actively carry out the plans laid out to reconcile rebellious men to God. They eagerly work with God to return man to morality. The meekest of men are aided by the mightiest angels when they faithfully call upon God’s promises. God enlisted men to cooperate with Him and His angels in Salvation. The Gospel has been entrusted to us who “are laborers together with God”. As angels communicate with human instruments, they are to communicate their messages to others. We learned about these things in devotionals #175 and 176. Angels delight to be in God’s presence, which was in the tabernacle. While many illustrations differ in how the angels were embroidered (they were smaller than a hand, as large a man, or anything in between)—the Bible doesn’t specify. Either way, these striking angel embroideries would serve as a reminder to the people for all these things.
[#182] Exodus 26:6,11,13
In devotional #178, we learned that ‘taches’ (or clasps) is defined by Strong’s Concordance as ‘belaying pins’. I wanted to come back and expand on this concept because I found such incredible symbolism in it. Belaying pins are devices used on sailing vessels to secure rigging lines (used to work the sail and support the masts and spars). They have a round handle with a cylindrical shaft. The shaft is inserted into a hole in several wooden pin rails (which line the inside of the bulwarks) up to the handle’s base. A line is led under and behind the pin’s base and up around the top in a figure-eight at least four times. Any extra line is coiled and stored by looping a bight (loop) from the top section of the final strand over and beneath the coil, twisting it and slipping that over the top of the belaying pin to secure the coil. Now, there are so many spiritual parallels that these terms bring to mind. (A) We know that the tabernacle (sanctuary) was designed to be a dwelling place for God among His people, who are often referred to as a temple. Ephesians 2:20-22 says, “…You are built on the foundation…Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; in Whom all the building, fitly framed together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord: in Whom you are also built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” Obviously, from a practical point, we see the precise fitting together of tabernacle’s physical structure, and from a spiritual perspective, we’re framed together (connected to each other) like the above passage says. However, (B) like the loops and taches (clasps) coupled the two curtains together, Heaven and Earth (God and humanity) clasped hands via Christ. We wouldn’t always need a Mediator though, because (C) the temple veil being torn in half at Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51) represented the breaking down of the wall of partition between man and God—which was accomplished by Christ’s death (see Ephesians 2:11-22). (D) The Bible has many stories concerning miraculous, life-saving events in connection with boats / ships (sailing vessels). We often parallel Salvation with getting in Christ, the boat (think, Noah’s ark, etc.). (E) A bulwark is an extension of the ship’s sides above the deck. The dictionary defines ‘bulwark’ as ‘a defensive wall’ and ‘a person, institution, or principle that acts as a defense’. Strong’s Concordance defines it as ‘army’, ‘host’ ‘intrenchment’, ‘rampart’, ‘trench’, or ‘wall’. These terms are used heavily throughout the Bible in connection with Salvation, and Isaiah 26:1 discusses a song to be sung in Judah: “We have a strong city; God will appoint Salvation for walls and bulwarks.”(F) The shaft of the belaying pin reminds me of the nails that were driven through Christ’s hands, and (G) the wooden pin rails are like the cross. (H) The coil being secured parallels our Salvation being secured. (I) The figure-eight makes me think of the serpent on the pole, which represents Christ on the cross. All they had to do to be cured of the serpent bites was to look—in faith—and live.
[#183] Exodus 26:1-37 (Part 1)
Every detail of the construction of the sanctuary was important, so there had to be a reason why God gave such specific numbers in each aspect. Let’s look at the quantities used in the design of the tabernacle. It could be suggested that the (A) four coverings related to different aspects of Christ’s nature and character. (1) The inner covering could be correlated with His divinity. That’s who He is/was first, but since He came to Earth as a man, and mankind can’t yet handle seeing unveiled divinity, it was covered up (see Exodus 33:18-34:9). Thus, it’d make sense that the inner covering was completely covered up from the outside so that none of the Israelites (outside of the priests) could see it. This covering had (B) ten curtains, and I think it could be a fair assumption that this had connection with the ten commandments, considering they’re the transcript (foundation, basis, etc.) of God’s divine character. This curtain had (C) fifty gold taches (clasps). We learned that gold represents divinity, so it seems appropriate that this was the metal used on this curtain. (2) The second covering (of goat hair) could be correlated with Christ’s humanity. This would make sense because He clothed His divinity in humanity when He came to Earth. John 1:14 says that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”, and explains that we beheld His glory—as the Son of God—through His grace and truth (in other words, His character). He did this so humanity might partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3, 4). Christ (as God) was immortal. As man, He was very much mortal. Thus, He likewise clothed immortality with mortality so that our mortality might be clothed with immortality (see 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54 and 2 Corinthians 5:4). Even though this covering wasn’t as beautiful as the inner covering, it was an important aspect of the sanctuary. Similarly, humanity will never compare to divinity in beauty and/or glory, but the fact that Christ became a man—and chose to remain that way forever more—is a gorgeous testament to the sacrifice for, and the eternal connection He has with, man. This covering had (D) eleven curtains. I can’t help but think of the eleven faithful disciples Christ had, and how they went on to continue His work on Earth after He ascended and entered the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin His work there. This curtain had (E) fifty bronze taches (clasps). We know that this metal is more in line with humanity (as opposed to gold and divinity), so it makes sense that bronze was used on this curtain instead of gold. (3) The third covering was made of red-dyed ram skins, and it covered the second covering. Revelation 19:13 says “He was clothed with a covering dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.” Christ, as the Lamb of God, died on the cross, and His blood covered the sins of mankind. There are many Scriptures about this, like Romans 4:7 and Psalm 32:1; 85:2, which say that those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered are blessed (also see Proverbs 10:12 / 1 Peter 4:8 and John 1:29 / 1 John 1:7). Christ’s love is revealed through His shedding of blood for the forgiveness (covering) of sins. (4) The fourth covering, though debated as to exactly what it was, was said to be drab and unattractive. It’d make sense that this represented the way in which Christ drew men unto Himself. Isaiah 53:2 depicts Him as having no physical features that’d attract men to Himself. In other words, it’d be something else that’d draw men unto Him. John 12:32 says that it’d be Him being lifted up from the Earth. It’d be His character of self-sacrificial love alone that’d attract humanity to Him. Thus, all these coverings would represent the character of Christ—His robe (covering) of righteousness.
[#184] Exodus 26:1-37 (Part 2)
Let’s finish with the quantities’ significance. The two inner coverings each had (F) fifty sets of loops/clasps. In devotionals #136-137, we learned that Israel was to count fifty days from ‘the feast of unleavened bread’ (Passover), where they first put the sickle to the corn. Then they’d keep ‘the feast of weeks’ (Pentecost), where they’d give a tribute of a freewill offering to God based on how much He had blessed them. This was a feast of gratitude for their grain and freedom. Maybe the fifty loops/clasps were connected with this period of harvest and their gratitude for freedom from the bondage of sin. Following the connection between the second feast (Pentecost) and the sanctuary, it’d be appropriate to see if it correlates with the other two feasts as well. It’s easy to see how the first feast (Passover) would be connected, considering the sacrificial animal and its blood on the dwelling, the eating of the animal and unleavened bread, etc. Recall, from devotional #138, that the third feast (‘the feast of tabernacles’) came just after the Day of Atonement (which is directly connected to the sanctuary), where they’d been assured of forgiveness and could rejoice in peace and gratitude for God’s goodness and mercy. They lived in tabernacles (or booths) during this feast to remind them of their time living in tents during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. It seems appropriate that God dwelled among them in a tent like they did themselves. Now, Genesis 1:14 discusses ‘seasons’, which Strong’s Concordance defines as ‘appointed times’, and specifically, ‘festivals’. There are four seasons, and this was the earliest reference to the Holy Feasts that we just mentioned. Interestingly, the inner veil (that separates the two apartments) is supported by (G) four pillars. Perhaps the four pillars symbolically separated the three seasons of feasts. There could be many other reasons for having four pillars, but one idea that comes to mind is the pillars’ relationship to the Most Holy Place, which houses the ten commandments. Commandment #4 (concerning the Sabbath) is the most important one, as God clearly indicated throughout His instructions and reminders to Israel during their journey. It could be that there were four pillars to symbolize the importance of the Sabbath as one of the pillars of God’s government. Meanwhile, the outer veil (the entrance to the sanctuary) had (H) five pillars. In devotional #180, we discussed the possibility of the outer coverings being supported and/or raised away from the roof. Some scholars suggest that this extra (center) pillar may have served as the tent pole on the front end to support those covers. Interestingly, the Pentateuch (‘five books’)—the first books of the Bible, written by Moses, serve as the foundation of theology. Thus, it could be said that these books were represented by the five pillars of the sanctuary’s entrance. In keeping with this, the sanctuary walls were comprised of (I) fifty-four boards, and I can’t help but think about the fact that, if the two vails were replaced with boards, they would’ve totaled sixty-six (as the width of the tabernacle was six boards)—which is the total number of books in the Bible. Matthew 7:24-27 discusses building our house on the rock so that it has a good foundation to withstand any weather that comes our way. We know that the rock represents Jesus—the Word of God. Thus, the walls, like the rest of the sanctuary, represent Jesus as our foundation, and even our house. Like the ten curtains, the measurements used in the walls of the sanctuary dealt in (J) lengths of ten. The boards that formed the walls were ten cubits in length, and the Most Holy Place measured ten by ten by ten cubits (fifteen feet each). This number is said to represent completeness, and Colossians 2:9, 10 says that we’re complete in Him where all the fulness of the Godhead dwells.