The Tabernacle in the Wilderness


Jehovah of old walked in Eden and held communion with Adam. He visited the patriarchs, the fathers of the nation, but He never had a home on earth until the Tabernacle was erected in the midst of His redeemed people.

    - The Human Intention, Exodus 15:2 - “I will prepare Him an habitation” said the people.

    - The Divine Request, Exodus 25:8 - “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them,” said Jehovah.


The Tabernacle

Three questions might be asked regarding this Tabernacle: (1) What is a Tabernacle? (2) Why was the Tabernacle built? And (3) How was the Tabernacle constructed? 

    1. The Tabernacle was the Place of the Divine Presence. When the tabernacle was finished, the glory of Jehovah so filled the sacred enclosure that Moses, the mediator, could not enter (Exodus 40:35).

    2. The Tabernacle was to meet a Divine Purpose. Moses didn’t build a tabernacle and then invite God to come into it. Instead, it was God who conceived the plan and instructed Moses on how it was to be built, for He desired to dwell among His redeemed and chosen people.

    3. The Tabernacle was constructed according to a Divine Pattern. “Look that thou make them after the pattern which was showed thee on the mount,” (See Exodus 25:40). It was because these things had a spiritual meaning that they were to be made according to a heavenly pattern.

The Tabernacle was “a pattern of things in the Heavens” (Hebrews 9:23), a “figure for the time then present” (Hebrews 9:9), and “a shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). It was positioned in the midst with the tribes encamped in perfect order around it. The pattern of the Tabernacle was as follows: The Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies.

The Purpose of the Tabernacle:

    - For God, it was a Tabernacle (that is a dwelling place).

    - For Israel, it was a teacher instructing them in the things of God.

    - For the Nations, a Testimony. Declaring the glory of God.


The Court (Exodus 27:9-19)

A wall of white linen symbolizes divine righteousness. God distinguishes between holy and unholy. There is also a distinction between the outside and the inside. The sinner approaching God’s presence must be convicted of righteousness.  

The Gate  

The gate of the court was to be made of fine twined linen, symbolizing the purity of Christ. [Consider the colors: blue represents His heavenly origin, purple - His harmonizing ability, and Scarlet - His humility in life and death] This was the only way into the tabernacle and everyone coming into God’s presence must come by the way of this gate. The gate was large enough and accessible to all who approached regardless of age, ability, or authority. They all had to enter through the same gate. At the gate was the place of personal decision. One could decide to remain on the unholy outside in rejection or step, by faith, into the precinct of the holy inside.

Acceptance and Assurance Inside the Court  

    - Encircled by a wall of righteousness. What was dreaded on the outside gives peace on the inside.

    - Supported by a foundation of divine justice. Brass sockets and pins indicating that sin had been righteously judged.

    - Protected by the unbroken line of redemption (silver chapters, fillers, and hooks made from the redemption silver).

    - Privileged to assemble with God’s people and to listen to the announcements of God’s word.


The Brazen Altar

The Brazen Altar sets forth the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 


In Relation to God: His Grace and His Government

The Place of the Altar

The place of the altar relative to the other pieces of furniture teaches us that God comes out from the mercy-seat by way of the Table of showbread, the Golden Lamp stand, and out to the brazen altar. This is a display of the grace of God when God acts in His Sovereignty and devises the means whereby He can come out and reveal Himself to man. 

The Purpose of the Altar

The altar represents the claims of God as a holy and righteous God. He has claims that must be satisfied before He can, in mercy, meet with man and bless him. The sacrifice reduced to ashes, and the blood poured out reminds us that God in government declares, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” 


In Relation to Christ:

The Suitability of Christ to Meet God’s Claims 

The substance of the altar was wood and brass and this twofold composition would set forth the perfect humanity and the deity of the Savior. This unique unity gave Him the suitability to meet God’s claims. Remove His deity and His blood cannot atone. Remove His humanity and no blood remains. But this perfect combination enables Him to bear the judgment and shed His blood and so meet the righteous claims of God. 

The Sufficiency of Christ to Meet Man’s Need 

The altar, as to its shape, was foursquare, and this would suggest a universal presentation of the cross-work of Christ. The altar, as to its size, was the largest piece of furniture in the tabernacle. The altar was capable of holding within itself every sacrifice that was commanded to be offered. So Christ, in Himself, by His one sacrifice fulfilled all the offerings, and became the answer to the sinner’s need. 


In Relation to Man:

The Position of the Altar 

The altar was positioned just inside the gate and was easily accessible. It was unavoidable and unmistakable to the approaching Israelite. This was the way of approach to God, and the sinner must come to God by way of the cross.

The Provision of the Altar 

The provision of the altar teaches us that herein lies its value both to God and man. The sinner does not rest upon the unique character of Christ, nor His wondrous birth, or sinless life, but rather upon His finished work of reconciliation; and so the sinner appropriates the Savior by an act of faith. “By faith I lay my hand on that dear head of Thine; with a broken and contrite heart I stand and there confess my sin.” 


The Brazen Laver

The brazen laver had to do with the work of the priests and their entering in to engage in the service of the sanctuary. Three lines of truth may be developed relative to the brazen laver. The Laver emphasizes the purity of God, exposes the pollution of man, and explains the provision of Christ. 

It Teaches the Purity of God 

They who minister before the Lord must be clean. The laver warns that no defilement may approach the Lord. Every time the priest entered into the Holy Place, he must wash. Purity of the heart is a necessity for seeing God. “Without holiness no man shall see The Lord.” Washing at the laver was a matter of necessity and not a matter of opinion. 

It Teaches the Pollution of Man 

In the inauguration of the priesthood we learn that the priest was CALLED, then CLEANSED, CLOTHED, and CONSECRATED. The priest on the day of his consecration was brought to the door of the tabernacle and washed all over with water. This washing was performed for the priest by another person. The priest had no hand in it whatsoever, and throughout the entire period of his priesthood this act was never repeated. However, the once cleansed priest could easily defile his hands and his feet. Hands speak of work and feet speak of walk, and we also like the priest in Israel, can become defiled and require cleansing our hands and our feet.

The priest approaching the laver would see himself reflected both in the laver and in the water that was in the laver, thus reminding him of the need for daily cleansing. The standard of holiness as seen in the person of Christ and also revealed in the Word, teaches us the need for being clean before the Lord. 

It Teaches the Provision of Christ  

He, who demands purity, provides the purifying stream. The laver would be filled with water that gushed from the smitten rock. The laver then was filled with water and not with blood.

The Altar was for the sinner, but the laver was for the priest. It was blood shed and sprinkled at the altar, but water to cleanse at the laver. For priestly sanctuary service the laver was indispensable, and the daily cleansing was needful. Christ revealed that in the Word is the measure of our practical cleansing. “Sanctify them through thy truth; Thy Word is truth” says John 17:17. “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of the water by The Word” (Ephesians 5:26). “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).


The Tabernacle: Its Symbolic Meaning

The Door 

The gate to the court was for the common people. It measured 5 cubits high and 20 cubits long and was upheld by four pillars. But the door was ten cubits high and ten cubits wide, and was only for the priests. The priest approaching God for fellowship and worship should have a higher appreciation of Christ than the sinner who approaches the gate for salvation. 

The Pillars 

The pillars were five in number, and may remind us that Christ in glory is presented in a fivefold manner by the five writers of the epistles: Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude. The pillars were upheld by sockets of brass and crowned with golden chapters. The sufferings of the cross were at the base, and the crown of glory was at the top. The hanging was of pure linen with the variegated colors like the gate. 

The Curtains and Coverings  

Approaching from the outside, the order was:

    - The Badger skins

    - Rams’ skins, dyed red

    - Goat’s Hair curtains

    - Fine twined linen

1. Badger Skins - This is termed a covering, presenting Christ as the separate one. “And shod thee with badger skins” (See Ezekiel 16:10). This reference to badger skins sheds light on the meaning of this covering.

2. Rams’ Skin, Dyed Red - This is also termed a covering, presenting Christ as the substitute. The ram is the animal of substitution, as it takes the place of another. Take the case of Isaac in Genesis 22 and the firstborn in Exodus 12.

3. The Goat’s Hair Curtains - These are termed the tent, presenting Christ as the sin offering. The goat was pre-eminently the sin offering. Compare Leviticus 16:5-10. On the Day of Atonement the sin offering took precedence over the burnt offering. In Matthew 25:32-33 the goats represent sinners. 

4. The Fine Twined Linen Curtains - Termed the tabernacle, presenting Christ as the supreme one. Only the priests who functioned in the Holy Place were able to see and admire the beauty of these innermost curtains. 

The Fine Twined Linen: the man of holy character – PURITY.

The Blue – the man of heavenly origin – DEITY.

The Purple – The man of harmonizing ability – DIGNITY.

The Scarlet – The man of humble character – HUMILITY.

The Cherubim – The man of highest position – MAJESTY. 

Join all the glorious names of wisdom, love, and power, that mortals ever knew, that angels ever bore; All are too mean to speak HIS worth, too mean to set His glories forth. 


The Boards

The solid structure of the tabernacle was composed of forty-eight boards. Twenty boards formed the North Wall and twenty boards formed the south wall. Six boards formed the west wall, plus two corner boards (or mitered boards).

All these boards were made of shittim wood and overlaid with gold. Here again we have a combination of that which speaks of Christ’s humanity and deity with each board expressing the same fundamental truth. Christ is seen in each board and also in the structure as a whole. 

Christ’s Humanity: Expressed in the Incorruptible Shittim Wood 

The shittim wood once grew as a tree in the desert, having an earth connection. Christ also grew as a tender plant out of the dry ground.

    - His incarnation and His life on earth.

    - The tree had to be cut down in its prime in order to be used.

    - Christ was cut off in the midst of His years at Calvary.

    - These boards were overlaid with gold and were standing up.

    - His resurrection was proof of His Deity.

Christ’s Deity: Expressed in the Overlay of Pure Gold 

Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness by the resurrection out from among the dead. Each board standing up and overlaid with pure gold sets forth Christ, the eternal Son, in the divine glory and dignity of His person. 

Redemption: Expressed by the Silver Sockets  

See Exodus 30:12-16. This silver was the atonement money, so Christ in His resurrection is proof of atonement made and the work completely finished to God’s satisfaction. 

Unity: Expressed by the Bars 

These bars would give balance and stability to the whole structure, suggesting that the perfect balance of Christ gives unity to every aspect of His character. The position of the five bars would suggest that Christ had a perfect balance. See below: 

Christ fulfilled the law toward God and man.

    Two bars on top – There is a balance Godward.

    Two bars beneath – There is a balance manward.

Continuity of character in the person of Christ.

    One bar in the midst. This bar extended the whole distance from end to end.

Dignity: Expressed by the Rings 

There were three rings in each board, and since the number three is indicative of heaven and the trinity, we are reminded that “IN HIM” dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. 


The Golden Lamp Stand (Exodus 25:31-36, Exodus 37:17-23, Exodus 39:37, Exodus 40:24-25) 

This provided divine light in The Holy Place in the power of The Holy Spirit. The lamp stand with its vessels was beaten out from one talent of pure gold - a talent being approximately 120 pounds in weight. Gold was the first thing mentioned in connection with the gifts to be given by the redeemed people for the building of the tabernacle. The lamp stand was not cast in some man-made mould. It was not made in sections then fabricated into a finished article. It was beaten into shape and beauty from one block of pure gold.

The Ornamentation of the Lamp Stand was as follows:

    - One central stalk with a main branch on the perpendicular.

    - Three branches springing from each side and corresponding to each other.

    - Ornamented with bowls, knops, and flowers.

Compare this with Isaiah 11:1-2: A Rod out of the stem of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Note also the Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Might, Knowledge, and Fear of the Lord. Compare also with 1 Timothy 3:16 (Great is the mystery of Godliness). Consider the following: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, appeared to angels, preached to the nations, believed on in the world, and received up into glory. 

Its Position

    - It was in the holy place.

    - It stood upon the desert sand.

    - It was placed on the south side.

Its Purpose

    - To give light in the holy place.

    - To shine upon itself and thus exhibit its beauty.

    - To provide light for the priest to function first at the table of communion and then at the altar of worship.

Its Perfection

    - Seven lamps setting forth light in perfection.

    - Pure white light can be broken into seven colors (the rainbow).


The Table of Showbread (Exodus 25:23-30 and Exodus 40:22-23, and Leviticus 24:5-9) 

This is the first mention of a table in the Scriptures and it teaches the true basis of fellowship or communion between God and His people. 

The Glory of the Person of Christ 

The Materials: Shittim Wood overlaid with Pure Gold. This sets forth the Humanity and Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. These truths must be received with scriptural accuracy, and held with spiritual energy, guarded with holy jealousy, and then confessed with heavenly power. 

The Glory of the Purity of Christ  

Pure Gold – Pure Bread – Pure Frankincense: From eternity to eternity, Christ ever retains his Holy Character. He is the Holy God. He became the Holy Child. He lived as the Holy Man. He was holy in birth, in life, and in death. He is the Holy One. 

The Glory of the Position of Christ  

    1. The Perpetuity of His Position: The Showbread was always before the face of God. So, Christ in glory is accepted before God in Perpetuity.

    2. The Power of His Position: The bread accepted by God became the food of the priests. This bread sustained the priests in their ministry in the sanctuary. So Christ is the food of His people and He is able to sustain them.

The Glory of the Provision of Christ 

Christ provides a communion between God and His People. Consider 2 Corinthians 6:14-18: What FELLOWSHIP hath Righteousness and Unrighteousness? What COMMUNION hath Light and Darkness? What CONCORD hath CHRIST and Belial? What PART hath Believer with Infidel? What AGREEMENT hath Temple of God with Idols? 


The Golden Altar (Exodus 30:1-10, 34, 38, and Exodus 37:25-28) 

Some contrasts, comparisons, and connections between the two altars:

    - They were both constructed with shittim wood. The Brazen Altar was strengthened with brass. The Golden Altar was beautified with gold.

    - The Brazen Altar was outside, in view of all the people. The Golden Altar was inside and in view only by the priests.

    - The Brazen Altar had no crown – Christ in His humiliation. The Golden Altar had a crown – Christ in His exaltation.

    - Both altars were foursquare, a sign of solidity and equality. At the Brazen Altar, Christ is seen dying for the whole world. At the Golden Altar He is interceding for the whole church.

    - Both altars had four horns. Horns on the Brazen Altar constituted the strength for and protection of any guilty sinner laying hold upon them. Horns on the Golden Altar provided strength and refuge for the weakest saint in the presence of God.

    - On the Day of Atonement blood was shed at the Brazen Altar, but it was put on the horns of the golden altar.

Worship can only be offered on the basis of an accepted sacrifice. 

In connection with the service of the priest at the Golden Altar, it is interesting to note the composition of the incense. See Exodus 30:34-38. The time when the priest offered the incense was morning and evening. Every day of the year except one: The Day of Atonement. Also, note the things that prevented a priest from functioning at the altar. See Leviticus 21:16-24. 


The Veil (Exodus 26:31-32, Matthew 27:51, and Hebrews 10:19-20) 

A number of veils are spoken of in the scriptures, but each one conveys the same idea of that which comes between and hides. There may be differences of judgment in the interpretation of certain parts of the tabernacle or things connected with it, but the spiritual significance of the veil is beyond dispute, because Hebrews 10 makes it clear. 

The Construction of the Veil 

    - It was construction according to a Divine Pattern.

    - It was cunning work of fine twined linen.

    - It had colors of blue, purple, and scarlet.

    - It had cherubim, which indicated that God’s presence was guarded.

The Position of the Veil 

Between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, signifying that the way into the holiest was not yet open. The presence of God could not be entered, and His glory could not be seen so long as there was an unrent veil and an unstained mercy seat. Note that four pillars supported the veil, and the life of Christ is presented and supported by a fourfold testimony. 

The Rending of the Veil 

Take note – It was the veil of the temple that was rent. While they were different veils they presented the same truth. The Historical Fact: Matthew, Mark and Luke record the rending of the veil. It took place when Christ had finished the work on Calvary. It took place while the priest would be in the temple. The Divine Act:

    - It was rent from the top to bottom.

    - It was a divine miracle, an act of God.

    - It was rent in the midst.

    - It gave direct access into the presence of God.

    - It was rent throughout.

    - It was a finished work, indicating that God’s claims were fully met.


Done is the work that saves, once and forever done;

Finished the righteousness that clothes the unrighteous one

Why stand ye then without in fear

The Blood of Christ invites you near. 


The Ark and the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:10-22) 

The construction of the Ark, in Exodus 25:10-11, was of shittim wood (the wood of the wilderness). This represents His humanity. The gold was used, setting forth the glory of His Deity. The golden crown of the Ark, in Exodus 25:11, foreshadowed the person of Christ, glorified in the presence of God, and crowned with glory and honor.

The carrying of the Ark is found in Exodus 25:12-15. The Ark was to be carried by the rings and the staves; this way its weight would be felt (compare 2 Samuel 6 with 1 Chronicles 15). The contents of the Ark, in Exodus 25:16, are important and symbolize the following: 

    The Tables of The Law = The Purity of Christ (See Exodus 16 and 21)

    The Golden Pot of Manna = The Provision of Christ (See Exodus 16:33)

    Aaron’s Rod that Budded = The Priesthood of Christ (See Numbers 17:10)

[Note: compare this with Hebrews 9:4] The Covering of the Ark is in Exodus 25:17.

The cherubim over the Ark, in Exodus 25:18-21, set forth the attributes of God as necessarily characterizing the action of His throne (justice and judgment). Compare Genesis 3:24 with Psalm 39:14. At the mercy seat, justice and judgment have been fully measured out.

Consider the cloud overshadowing the Ark, in Exodus 40:36-38:

1. The Cloud was their gathering center - When the cloud stood still, the people encamped around in orderly fashion.

2. The Cloud was their guide - When the cloud moved, the people followed (from Egypt to Canaan)

3. The Cloud was their guard - In time of trouble, it stood between them and the foe.

4. The Cloud was their guarantee - As long as the cloud was there, they knew that God was in their midst.

The communication at the Ark is seen in Exodus 25:22. It was here at the mercy seat that God communicated with the people through the person of the anointed priest.

The mercy seat was sustained and measured by the Ark of the testimony. It could only be a mercy seat when sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice. The blood was on the gold. Death was a necessity before God, in His righteousness, could show mercy. (Romans 3:24-26 says, “…The redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”)