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Verses 1-37

The Tabernacle Proper

This, which in the Hebrew is called ’the dwelling’ (see on Exodus 25:9), consists of an oblong tent, 30 cubits long, 10 broad, and 10 high, and stands within the ’court of the tabernacle’ (Exodus 27:9 -f.). It is formed of a frame of open woodwork, over which are spread four layers of coverings, the undermost being of linen embroidered with figures of cherubim, the second of goathair cloth, the third of ramskin, and the outermost of sealskin. Internally, therefore, the tabernacle had the appearance of rows of panels enclosing a pattern of cherubim. The tabernacle was divided into two chambers by means of a veil suspended from the roof at a distance of 10 cubits from the back wall. The innermost chamber, or Holy of Holies, was therefore in shape a perfect cube of 10 cubits in the side. The roof, of which nothing is said, is best understood as flat. At the time of the conquest and settlement in Canaan, we hear of a tabernacle being set up at Shiloh, where it seems to have remained during the time of the Judges (Joshua 18:1; Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:3). In the time of David it seems to have been at Nob (1 Samuel 21:1), and afterwards at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 21:29), where it was at the beginning of Solomon’s reign (2 Chronicles 1:13). After the building of Solomon’s temple we hear no more of it, its furniture being then transferred to the more permanent building.

1-14. The Coverings.

1-6. The undermost covering. This is of linen ornamented with cherubim of ’cunning work,’ i.e. of tapestry or embroidery. Ten pieces of material, each 28 × 4 cubits, are sewn together in two sets of five (Exodus 26:3), which are then joined at their edges by means of loops and golden ’taches,’ i.e. clasps (Exodus 26:4-6), to form one large covering 40 cubits long and 28 wide. Of this length, 30 cubits are taken up with the roof, leaving 10 cubits to hang down the back. The front is left open, to be afterwards closed with a separate hanging (Exodus 26:36). Of the breadth, 10 cubits form the roof, leaving 18 to hang down and form the two sides. The covering, it will be observed, does not reach the ground at the sides, but this is not necessary, as there is a base running all round supporting the wooden frame (Exodus 26:19).

7-13. The second covering. This is of goathair and is spread over the first. By joining eleven pieces, each 30 × 4 cubits, a covering is obtained 44 cubits long and 30 wide. The ampler width allows this covering to reach the ground at the sides. The extra length of 4 cubits is partly taken up by doubling back the edge a distance of 2 cubits, leaving 2 cubits the distribution of which is not clear (Exodus 26:12-13).

14. The outer coverings. Over the goathair covering are spread two others, one of red leather made of ramskin, and the other, the outermost, of sealskin: see on Exodus 25:5. The purpose of these opaque and heavy curtains is to exclude the light.

15-30. The wooden framework supporting the coverings.

15. The boards, as they are here called, are not solid, as then they would have been very heavy, and the cherubim embroidered upon the inner covering would not have been visible at all. It is best, with Professor Kennedy, to take them to be open frames consisting of two uprights connected with cross rails. These frames are 10 cubits in height and 1½ in width, and are kept upright by being let down with tenons and mortises into sockets (Exodus 26:19), which rest side by side upon the ground, and form a continuous base or plinth all round. Rigidity is secured by means of long bars running round the structure (Exodus 26:26). 18. The length of the side being 30 cubits, twenty frames are required for each side.

22. Sides] RV ’hinder part’: the W. end is meant. The tabernacle is 10 cubits in width, measured from curtain to curtain. As only six frames, amounting to 9 cubits, are required for the end, it would appear that 1 cubit was taken up with the thickness of the side frames with their stiffening bars. The frames were probably 6 in. deep and the bars 3 in.

23, 24. The exact meaning of these vv. is obscure, but they suggest that the two corners of the back wall were strengthened by means of an extra frame in the form of a sloping buttress. In Exodus 26:24 read with RV, ’they shall be double beneath, and in like manner they shall be entire unto the top thereof unto one (or, the first) ring.’ The foot of the additional frame would be set back a little, giving the appearance of being ’double beneath,’ and the frame would slope in to the top of the upright, where it would be fastened to it.

25 Eight boards] i.e. six upright and two extra for the sloping buttresses.

26-28. In order to give rigidity to the upright frames five bars are run along the three sides of the tabernacle through rings attached to the frames. The middle bar runs from end to end; the others, it is implied, do not (Exodus 26:28).

27. The two sides westward] RV ’the hinder part westward,’ as in Exodus 26:22.

31-33. The dividing veil. This is of the same material as the inner covering, linen tapestry, embroidered with cherubim, and is supported upon four pillars at a distance of 10 cubits from the back wall or 20 cubits from the entrance (see on Exodus 26:33). It screens off the Most Holy Place.

33. Under the taches] under the joining of the covering forming the roof which was at a distance equal to five widths of the material counting from the entrance: see on Exodus 26:1-6.

36. The hanging curtain forming the door, RV ’the screen.’ This closes the tabernacle on the E. side, and is supported by five pillars dividing the entrance into four equal spaces.

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