Exodus, Lesson 23: The Tabernacle

Inside the Tabernacle 2 (610x350)As we continue to study Exodus, Moses is still on top of the Mount Sinai receiving instructions from God, so he and the Israelites may “do according to the pattern shown to [him] on the mountain.” 

In the last couple of lessons, we have looked at the items inside the tabernacle: The Ark of the Covenant, the table for the bread of presence, and the golden lampstand.  In today’s lesson, we will examine the actual tabernacle, the tent, in which God dwelled among His people, Israel.

The Tabernacle was a large covered tent (45 feet long x 15 feet wide x 15 feet high), which stood within an outer courtyard.  It was designed to break down into portable sections as the people of Israel made their way through the wilderness.  The supports for the tabernacle were made up of 48 frames, overlaid with gold, fitted into silver bases, and stabilized with long wooden bars (Exodus 26:15-30).  The covering was made of ten linen curtains clasped together and draped over the framing walls (Exodus 26:1-6).  

The Levites were in charge of disassembling and transporting the tent each time the camp of Israel moved to a new location (Numbers 3:14-37).  Oxen pulled wagons for the heavier items (Numbers 7:1-8). 

Four layers of different materials covered the tent from the inside to the outside.  These materials were: Linen of the finest quality, goat’s hair covering, ram skin covering dyed red, and possibly badger [tahash in Hebrew].


The Inner Curtains

Read Exodus 26:1-6

The cloth for this hanging was a tapestry made of white linen with blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics, with figures of cherubim woven into the fabric.

Colors and images for the first covering


–          We should know enough of Scripture to know what white usually represents.  What is that?


Blue: The word blue comes from the Hebrew word tekeleth.  That was the same blue color you see when you look into the sky (Note: The Hebrew word for heaven and sky, shemayim, are the same word).

John 3:13: No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven–the Son of Man.

John 6:51: [Jesus said:] “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

–          What then does the blue signify in light of the New Covenant to come?


Purple: Around the Mediterranean Sea, purple dye came from a species of shell fish or mussel from which the color was derived. That species was relatively rare and so purple dye was quite valuable.  In the Old Testament, we see a few references relating to the color purple.

Judges 8:26: Gideon received purple garments that the kings of Midian wore.

Esther 8:15: “Mordecai [Esther’s uncle] went from the king’s presence clothed in royal purple and white, with a great gold crown and a purple robe of fine linen.”

Daniel 5:16: King Belshazzar promised to cloth Daniel in purple if he could interpret the writing on the wall.

–          Purple was a color of what?


–          How does that symbolize what is inside the tent?


–          How does the color purple point forward to Christ?



Isaiah 1:18: “Come, let us discuss this,” says the Lord.  “Although your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”

The word scarlet comes from the Hebrew word tolaath, which is also the word for “maggot.”  Maggots live on what has died.  Death is the result of sin.  Therefore …

–          What does scarlet how takes place within the tabernacle?


2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

–          How does scarlet point forward to the Messiah?


The Cherubim

Putting it together: If you’ve read the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, in chapter 1, Ezekiel saw the throne of God in a vision.  He looked up into the sky (remember that’s also the same word for heaven) and saw cherubim, and above the cherubim he saw the throne of God.

–          When then did the cherubim testify as to what was behind it, not just in the Holy of Holies but also the Holy Place?


–          Discuss the presence of God within the Most-Holy Place (Holy of Holies) and in the Holy Place.


Diagram of Tabernacle and Courtyard (Lesson 23)

The First Outer Covering

Read Exodus 26:7-13

This is the first, inner layer of three layers, which served as a weatherproof canopy.  This was made of goat hide with the hair still on it.  This was pieced together from smaller curtains and held together by bronze clasps, forming one great covering of 66 by 45 feet.

Leviticus 16:7:10:

He [Aaron and the High Priests to follow] will take the two male goats and place them before the Lord at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting [Tabernacle].  After he casts lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat, he is to present the goat chosen by lot for the Lord and sacrifice it as a sin offering.  But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat is to be presented alive before the Lord for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

–          What does the sacrificed goat show and do?


–          What does the scapegoat represent?


–          Besides weather protection, how does the goatskin covering show what happens in the tabernacle?


–          How does all this point forward to Christ?


The Second Outer Covering

Read Exodus 26:14

Genesis 22:13: [After God has commanded God to sacrifice his son, Isaac,] Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.  So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.

–          Piece together the red color and the ram’s skin.  How do these two parts show what takes place in the tabernacle?


–          How does this point forward to what the prophesied Messiah will do?


In Exodus chapter 36 we will learn of one more covering over the second outer covering.  We will look at that when we get to that chapter.


The Framework

Read Exodus 26:15-30

The tabernacle’s framework was made of acacia wood plated with gold.  Its structure included wooden boards that were 15 feet long and 2 ¼ feet wide.  Each board had projections at the bottom that fit into silver bases.  Twenty boards formed each side, with six boards for the back of the tabernacle.  However, no boards were at the front, as that served as the entrance to the Holy Place.  The corners of the tabernacle framework had extra boards for strength and stability.  Five bars made of acacia wood, which were overlaid with gold, ran horizontally along each side and back, fitting into gold rings attached to the boards.


 Framework and Tabernacle Layers (Lesson 23)


The Curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies

Read Exodus 26:31-35

–          What was the purpose of this curtain? (vs. 33)


–          Based on what we learned earlier in this lesson, what does this curtain testifies as to what is behind it?


The Holy of Holies was that part of the tabernacle that the high priest entered once a year on the Day of Atonement to make “for himself, his household, and the whole assembly of Israel” (Leviticus 16:17).  The curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place signified that a sinful man was not to approach the most holy God except through the blood of atonement. 

Matthew 27:51 and Mark 15:38: [When Jesus died on the cross,] the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

–          The curtain in the Temple for the Holy of Holies being torn in two testifies to what taking place by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?


The Curtain for the Holy Place

Read Exodus 26:36-37

–          What was not explicitly stated that would be embroidered in this curtain?


–          What then were the embroiderings in this curtain?


–          Based on what we have seen for all the materials and imagery for the tabernacle, what does all of this testify as to whom is present within the tabernacle?