The Coverings Of The Tabernacle

(Exodus 26:1-14; 36:8-19)

The Badgers’ Skins

“Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” (Matt. 16:13).

The outside covering of the tabernacle is said in the common version to be “badgers’ skins.” There is the greatest difference of opinion as to what these coverings were. The Revised Version says, “seal skins.” Authorities do not agree at all as to what animal is intended. They talk about a weasel, a wolf, a porpoise, a sea cow, and many other animals including an antelope. All agree on the color being ash grey. In the end, most admit that it cannot be clearly known what the Hebrew word translated, “badgers’ skins” indicates. Even this is suggestive. It is like the diverse opinions among men, of the One whom Bruce Barton styled, “The Man whom nobody knows.” His people know Him; but when here, the world knew Him not. Even those who accepted Him as a “teacher come from God,” differed in their opinions; “Some say that Thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets” (Matt. 16:14). “If He were a prophet, [he] would have known” said Simon in his heart (Luke 7:39). Like the world, Simon “knew him not” (John 1:10). They said, “Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3) and, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (John 7:15). The Pharisees called Him a “deceiver” Matt. 27:63) and a “malefactor” (John 18:20) and a disturber of the people (Luke 23:5). They called Him a “gluttonous” man and a “winebibber,” “a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matt. 11:19).

What Men Saw

All the world saw was the badger skin covering, and there was no beauty that they should desire Him (Isa. 53:2). Some saw the Grace and the Glory beneath, but not many. Nathanial joyfully confessed, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49) and Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Peter expressed the faith of the eleven when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16); John and others saw not only the rams’ skins dyed red, and the curtains of goats’ hair, but the under curtains of glory and beauty. He wrote, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of Grace and Truth” (John 1:14). John the Baptist saw the rams’ skins dyed red (John 1:29) and the curtains of goats’ hair, while Nathanial saw the glory beneath (John 1:49-51).

All the coverings of the tabernacle can be seen in Isaiah 53. In verses 2 and 3, you have the outside covering of ash grey, “no form nor comeliness”; “no beauty that we should desire Him”; “despised and rejected of men.” From verses 4 to 7, are the rams’ skins dyed red; “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” Verses 9 and 10 are the goats’ hair curtain: “Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.” The goat was the sin offering. That which carried the sin of the people away on the day of atonement (Lev. 16:21) was a hairy goat, upon whose head the sins of the people were confessed. Our sins were laid on Christ. His soul was made an offering for our sins (Isa. 53:10). The last two verses of Isaiah 53 contain a description of the resurrection triumph and glory of the Lord Jesus, answering to the curtains of glory the priest saw as he looked upward from the holy place by the light of the golden candlestick. “He made intercession for the transgressors” (v. 12). Thus all the coverings are seen in that remarkable chapter; from that which was outside and seen by all, to that which was inside and seen only from the holy place.

The Rams’ Skins

“A ram caught in a thicket by his horns” (Gen. 22:13).

One of the first great Calvary chapters of the Bible is Genesis 22. In that chapter the Lamb of God is pictured as “a ram caught in a thicket by his horns” (Gen. 22:13). In verse 8 of the same chapter, Abraham calls the coming One “a lamb.” “My Son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” The lamb suggests innocence, submission, and perfection to meet the need of men. A ram suggests fullness of strength, while the horns of the ram are the symbols of its power and might. A thicket is a growth of wild thorns and briars, the result of indolent neglect (Prov. 24:30-31). “A ram caught in a thicket by his horns”! This is Calvary. God can say so much with a few words. A brief description of a picture and the reverent heart can see weakness and might combined on that middle cross outside Jerusalem, where the wild souls of men did what the determinate counsel of God afore determined to be done. The might of Christ held Him in that place of weakness. Jerusalem was a place of neglected ground where thorns abounded. There the mighty One was caught and held by his own inherent strength that He might die.

This was the source of the dyed rams’ skins; Calvary, where in voluntary submission and unwavering endurance, the Mighty One was held in a place of weakness and death; there the rams’ skins were dyed red.

The Covenant Ram

Before the ram was offered for Isaac on Mt. Moriah, Abraham offered a ram with other sacrifices when God made that everlasting covenant with him (Gen. 15:9). It was between the divided pieces of a ram that the smoking furnace and the burning lamp passed when God made the promise to Abraham; a promise that waits even yet for its final fulfillment.

In connection with the consecration of the priests, both in Exodus 29 and in Leviticus 8, it is a ram that is used and that is called “the ram of consecration.” Thus, the ram stands for God’s unconditional promise, for substitution, and for the High Priestly consecration of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Goats’ Hair

“And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities” (Lev. 16:22).

The hair of the goat became the covering of the tabernacle. Where the sins of the people were laid, the covering of hair was woven into a curtain to cover the glory of the tabernacle. What is this but the transference of our sins to Christ! He was a prophet, a faithful witness; He became our substitute, our sin-bearer.

Thus, the curtains tell the story of the One the world did not know, becoming obedient unto death, and bearing our sins with the sins of all His people, to bring us to those curtains that so beautifully display the glory of God. Yes, to bring us as priests, beneath those expressions of wonder and loveliness, in the holy place; where we can look up, and see the fine linen, the blue, the scarlet, the purple, with cherubim of cunning work. This was God’s lovely picture of the Person of Christ when He was made flesh, and tabernacled amongst us (John 1:14). By men of the world He was despised; in His heart was willing obedience to death. “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished” (Luke 12:50). He ever thought of the cross. This was the red covering.

He was a prophet for God. He wore the goats’ hair coverings which was the ordinary garb of a prophet. He spoke the Word of God in truth and cared not for the person of men (Matt. 22:16). He was a faithful witness (Rev. 1:5). He glorified God (John 17:4). This was the goats’ hair covering.

The Beautiful Covering Above The Holy Place

“He ever liveth to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25).

Beneath the glory men saw, was the glory of what He was in Himself. This could only be represented by a combination of all that was lovely and pure, wrought with cherubim of glory. This weaving of gold wire into the fabric was something that Bezaleel alone could do. The forming of the glorious cherubim was his work alone. Bezaleel was an embroiderer; the Hebrew word for embroiderer is the very word used in Psalm 139:15, and translated “curiously wrought,” when in this Psalm the Spirit is speaking of the preparation of the body of our Lord.

No matter how one approached the most holy place, the story was the same. It was Christ all the way: Christ in the gate and the altar, or Christ in the curtains. Should you approach from the outside, it must be through the lovely door, by the altar of sacrifice and by the laver of regeneration; then through the inner door that was Christ again. Or should you examine this mystery from above by removing the curtains one by one, the revelation is the very same: Christ all the way and Christ the goal at last.

Fine Linen First

A word could be said about the fine linen being mentioned first, instead of last, in the over curtains of the tabernacle. (Compare Exod. 26:1 with Exod. 26:31, etc.) When Aaron looked onward as he entered the Tabernacle, whether it were the gate, the door, or the veil, the fine linen is mentioned last and the blue first in the curtains (Exod. 27:16; 26:36; 26:31). All these curtains typified our Lord in His life down here. He was God manifest in the flesh. Down here the reverent heart first thought of His exaltation and of His title of honor. He was Lord Jesus. The Word was made flesh.

But in resurrection on the throne, Ezekiel sees “a Man,” and then describes His glory. John in Patmos hears of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, before he is told of His glory and sees it manifested. Daniel also says, “One like unto the Son of Man,” before he tells the story of His surroundings. It is the fine linen first.

When we see our Lord, we shall see a Man. His face, His hands, His feet, His side: this will fill us with joy as we contemplate the revelation of His glory. The angels from heaven who would comfort the hearts of His disciples with the assurance of His coming again said, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Our Lord Himself, giving His last message to His waiting people said, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). The angels said “Jesus”; and our Lord said, “I Jesus”; it is His human name, the name of Bethlehem and of Calvary; the name of Sychar’s well, and of the upper room. This was the name Mary Magdalene knew; and the name Peter loved. It was the name of the fine linen of His pure and lovely humanity. As the priest looked up, he mentions the linen first, though when he looked onward, the fine linen is mentioned last. Down here, God emphasized His deity; that will not be necessary up there. His face, His hands, His side will draw us to Him where, “The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.”

The Prince At The Door.

“There was no room…in the inn” (Luke 2:27).

When George V was crowned king, his eldest son went to the old Welsh castle of Carnarvon to be received as Prince of Wales. Accompanied by David Lloyd George, greatest of living Welshmen he approached the castle door. All within was still. The door was closed and barred. He knocked, but there was no answer. He knocked the third time and the bar was drawn, the door was flung wide, and, as he entered, the castle was glorious with light and the hall vocal with song. The prince had come unto his own, and his own received him with singing welcome. It was not so with the Prince of Peace. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. He was in the world and the world was made by him, but the world knew Him not. To dream such a thing is absurd. It is too wonderful, too strange, too humanly impossible not to be true. It is incredible, but it is history. It belongs to faith, but it is fact. There was no room for Him. (From The King’s Business).

“Chiefest Among Ten Thousand”

Oh! He’s stronger than the strongest,
He’s far better than the best,
And His love has lasted longest—
It has stood the hardest test.
The sinfullest may trust Him,
Nor their welcome ever doubt,
For He’s pledged His word of promise
That He’ll never cast them out.

He’s the tenderest of the tender,
He’s the fairest of the fair,
He will be your soul’s defender—
You may rest in safety there.
Though fierce enemies surround you,
You are safe from all alarms,
For in love He’ll put around you
His strong, everlasting arms.

He the winds of trouble hushes
When the storm is raging high,
And each foe for us He crushes
When to Him for strength we fly.
He’s a refuge from the billows
When by storm’s we’re sore oppressed,
And the softest of all pillows
Is His tender, loving breast.

He’s the Lord of life and glory,
Now exalted far on high;
But we love to tell the story
Of His coming down to die.
And He’s coming, quickly coming,
All His glories to display;
And we’ll see Him and be like Him
Through that bright, eternal day.