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Go to Bible: Exodus 26
“you are to make the tabernacle.” The Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place, was to be made of wood which was covered on the inside by skillfully woven tapestry, and on the outside by much more durable material.
Interestingly, the outer dimensions of the tabernacle are never given in the Bible. The measurements of Solomon’s Temple are given in 1 Kings 6:2 as 20 cubits wide by 60 cubits long, and that seems to be twice as big as the tabernacle, which would then be 10 cubits wide and 30 cubits long. Also, the sides of the tabernacle were to be made of 20 boards one and a half cubits wide, which would make the tabernacle itself 30 cubits long (Exod. 26:16-18). The west side of the tabernacle (the back side) was made of six boards one and a half cubits wide, which would seem to make the tabernacle 10 cubits wide (Exod. 26:22). However, there is some scholarly debate about that because it is not known exactly how the 20 boards were connected to one another—the Bible does not say. The “cubit” used to make both Moses’ Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple seem to be the short cubit of about 18 inches (c. 45.7 cm).
[For more on the cubit, see commentary on 2 Chronicles 3:3.]
“finely twisted linen.” The yarn (or thread) that the Tabernacle was to be made from was to consist of different colored threads—usually blue, purple, and scarlet as we see in Exodus 26:1—that were woven together to make a multi-colored type of yarn, that was then woven into the cloth of the Tabernacle itself. It was grand and very beautiful. The cloth of the ephod, breastplate, and waistband worn by the High Priest was to be of fine linen and have blue, purple, and scarlet, but added gold (Exod. 28:6, 8, 15). The gold was beaten into thin plates and then cut into thin wires or strands that were woven into the cloth (Exod. 39:3). The curtains of the courtyard of the Tabernacle that separated the outside world from the Tabernacle courtyard were just said to be of “finely twisted linen,” and so its natural color would have been white, but the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard of the Tabernacle was made of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet, so the entrance to the Tabernacle courtyard would have really stood out and been like the Tabernacle curtains themselves.
“purple.” Purple dye was rare and very expensive (see commentary on 2 Chron. 3:14).(top)
|Exo 26:2||- (top)|
“and the other five curtains should be coupled one to another.” So there are two sets of five curtains coupled to each other.(top)
|Exo 26:4||- (top)|
|Exo 26:5||- (top)|
|Exo 26:6||- (top)|
“curtains of goats’ hair.” The standard goat in biblical times in the Middle East had black hair, so most tents were black (cp. Song 1:5). One of the unique attributes of goat hair that made it excellent tent material is that when it is dry, it shrinks, so it breathes well and can be quite cool, but when it gets wet it swells and if tightly woven can become quite water repellent. It was for that reason that most tents, such as the ones Abraham would have lived in, were made of goat hair.(top)
|Exo 26:8||- (top)|
“into one set...into another set.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “by themselves,” that is, into one set by themselves, and the other six curtains into a set by themselves.
“in the front of the tent.” Exodus 26:9 is the first time in the Bible that the Tabernacle is called a “tent,” and it is called that six times in this chapter alone (Exod. 26:9, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 36). The Hebrew word translated as “tent” is 'ohel (#0168 אֹהֶל), which is the common word for tent. This “tent” is commonly referred to as the “Tabernacle,” which is a translation of the Hebrew word mishkan (#04908 מִשְׁכָּן), which means “dwelling place,” the place where one dwells or lives. In fact, it could be argued that “Dwelling Place” would be a more informative translation of mishkan than “Tabernacle” (The CEB and NJB translate mishkan as “dwelling,” but since the English word “dwelling” can be a noun or a verb depending on the context, “Dwelling Place” is clearer).
The Tabernacle (“Dwelling Place”) is also referred to as the “Tent of Meeting.” The Hebrew phrase is 'ohel mo'ed, in which 'ohel (#0168) means “tent,” and is followed by mo'ed (#04150 מוֹעֵד or מֹעֵד) which means a “meeting” or a “place for a meeting.” Thus the 'ohel mo'ed is the “Tent of Meeting,” because it was the place where people met with God. The phrase 'ohel mo'ed was translated as the “tabernacle of the congregation” in the King James Version, but that translation does not bring out the meaning of the Hebrew text very well. Exodus 27:21 is the first place the Tabernacle, the “Dwelling Place” is referred to as the “Tent of Meeting”
Exodus 26:9 uses the word “tent,” and at that time, tents had a sloped roof (or top) to shed rain. However, most of the modern drawings of the Tabernacle show it with a flat roof, which is largely due to scholars trying to fit the coverings that are described in Exodus onto the Tabernacle. But there is no compelling reason to believe the roof was flat, and since rain would have fallen on it, especially once Israel settled in the Promised Land, it is more reasonable to assume that this “tent” had a normal tent shape, even if the roof was only slightly sloped.(top)
|Exo 26:10||- (top)|
|Exo 26:11||- (top)|
“the tent…the tabernacle.” The Hebrew word translated as “tent” is 'ohel (#0168 אֹהֶל), which is the common word for tent, and the word translated as “Tabernacle” is mishkan (#04908 מִשְׁכָּן), which means “dwelling place,” the place where one dwells or lives (see commentary on Exod. 26:9).
The shape of the Tabernacle has been a subject of debate for many years. Most scholars think that it had a flat roof because that seems to fit the coverings better than a sloped roof. However, the Tabernacle is called a “tent” many times in Scripture, and tents had sloped roofs, even if they were not too steeply sloped.(top)
|Exo 26:13||- (top)|
“dugong.” A mammal quite like a manatee that lives in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba. See commentary on Exodus 25:5.(top)
“You are to make the boards for the tabernacle.” These boards would give the Tabernacle strength and stability, and they were covered on both the inside and the outside with coverings; finely woven cloth on the inside, and durable skins on the outside.(top)
“The length of each borad is to be ten cubits.” Ten cubits is 15 feet (4.57 meters), which would make the Tabernacle quite an imposing structure. The average tent that people lived in would be barely high enough for a man to stand inside, and thus perhaps around six or seven feet or less (and the Israelites were not generally as tall as people in Western society are now). Although the Tabernacle was behind the white curtains of the courtyard, the people could still see the top of the Tabernacle standing out over that outer curtain.(top)
|Exo 26:17||- (top)|
|Exo 26:18||- (top)|
|Exo 26:19||- (top)|
|Exo 26:20||- (top)|
|Exo 26:21||- (top)|
|Exo 26:22||- (top)|
|Exo 26:23||- (top)|
|Exo 26:24||- (top)|
|Exo 26:25||- (top)|
“You are to make bars of acacia wood.” The Tabernacle had horizontal bars on the inside that strengthened and stabilized it. The bars were for the north, south, and west sides but the east side, the entrance, did not have bars.(top)
|Exo 26:27||- (top)|
|Exo 26:28||- (top)|
|Exo 26:29||- (top)|
|Exo 26:30||- (top)|
“You are to make a curtain of blue, and purple, and scarlet.” This was the curtain that separated the Holy Place (the outer room of the Tabernacle) from the Holy of Holies (the innermost room of the Tabernacle).
[For more on the curtain and finely twisted linen, see commentary on Exodus 26:1.](top)
|Exo 26:32||- (top)|
|Exo 26:33||- (top)|
“the ark of the testimony.” This is the ark of the covenant, here called “the ark of the testimony” because it held the tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them, which testify to the covenant God made with Israel when God promised to be Israel’s God and the Israelites promised to obey God (Exod. 24:3-8; cp. Exod. 19:3-6).(top)
“place the table.” This is referring to the table with the Bread of the Presence on it.
“outside the curtain.” That is, the curtain that leads to the Holy of Holies.(top)
“For the entrance of the tent you are to make a screen.” The front of the “Tent,” the Tabernacle, was to be covered with curtains so that people could not see inside it. So the Tabernacle was built with curtains all around it, and then outside it was a courtyard, that had the bronze altar of sacrifice and the laver for washing, and the courtyard was surrounded by linen curtains, whose natural color would have been white (see Exod. 27:18).
[For more on the curtain and finely twisted linen, see commentary on Exodus 26:1.](top)
|Exo 26:37||- (top)|