The Israelites, a nomadic tribe roaming about through Chaldea, Assyria, and Caanan. and finally locating in the land of Goshen in Egypt, naturally accumulated wealth by trading with the natives through whose countries they passed. They increased their flocks through attention and by seeking the well-watered localities for pasture. They industriously converted the wool from the sheep, and the hair from the goats and camels, into cloth, and wove grass fibers into fabrics, from all of which they made tents, rugs, clothing, and other useful articles. But, possibly, their greatest wealth was acquired just before they left Egypt, when we are told that they “spoiled the Egyptians” Exodus 11: 2, 12: 35-36.
Now, when the Lord spoke through Moses, requesting an offering from every man who would give with his heart and in accordance with his means for the building of the Tabernacle, the people responded with gold, silver, brass, blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine linen; goats’ hair, rams’ skins, shittim wood, oil, spices, sweet incense and precious stones. In addition, every wise hearted among them gave personal services as needed. So great was their response that Moses finally gave commandment, saying: “Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the Sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing more wealth.
The Architecture of the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle, Tent, or Portable Temple, being so constructed that it could be readily taken down, moved from place to place, and erected at will, was especially adapted to the needs of a nomadic people. Being constructed on geometrical and scientific principles, it readily lent itself to a practical system of removal and erection which was essential in the case of so large and costly a structure. The Tabernacle consisted of an oblong or rectangle, called the Court, in the rear half of which was the tent or covering of the Sanctuary. Under this Tent, the Holy and Most Holy Places were defined by partitions of boards and pillars, securely joined by means of rods, rings, etc. A careful study of the entire structure reveals an architectural gem, servicably conceived, beautifully designed, mystically embellished, celestially canopied, and inspiring the beholder with profound reverence and peaceful security in the thought of an ever present and Indwelling God, and typifying the encampment of the Angels of the Lord around about them that fear Him.
The Court of the Tabernacle
The Court, the walled curtain of which surrounded the enclosure containing the Holy and Most Holy Places, with their furnishings – the Tent, Laver, Altar of Sacrifice, bowls and other sacrificial utensils – was oblong in shape; “100 cubits long and 50 cubits wide” (200 feet by 100 feet – A cubit was a Standard of measurement adopted by ancient builders, the distance from the elbow to the end of the middle finger.) Exodus 27: 9-19; 38: 9.
This court was enclosed by a wall “5 cubits high” (10 feet), composed of linen and canvas, supported by pillars of brass, which rested in sockets of brass. The pillars were ornamented at the top with capitals of silver, to which were attached hooks of silver to hold in place the rods. The rods kept the pillars an equal distance apart and supported the canvas or linen wall. This wall was further supported by guy ropes attached to pins driven into the ground on both sides. This enclosure, composed of 60 pillars of brass, filleted with silver, with their 60 capitals of silver, 60 sockets of brass, and 120 hooks of silver, was only broken on the eastern side by the entrance, which was “20 cubits wide” (40 feet). This entrance, or gate curtain, was of fine twined linen, wrought with needle work in the most gorgeous shades of blue, purple, and scarlet. One can visualize its appearance and effect as it stood in the midst of the encampment of Israel.
The Altar of Burnt-Offering
The Altar stood in the midst of the eastern half of the oblong Court enclosure, the sacrificial tables and utensils being upon the left of the main entrance within the Court. The Altar of Burnt-offering was the instrument used for the purpose of reconciling man with his Maker. The Altar was 5 cubits long, 5 cubits broad and 3 cubits high (10 feet by 10 by 6). It was a large hollow case, made of shittim wood, overlaid with brass, and ornamented with huge wooden horns overlaid with brass, one for each of the four corners.
A grating or network of brass, having a ring at each of its four corners, was hung in the middle of the top of the Altar, and on it was laid the wood for the fire which consumed the sacrifice. On two sides of the Altar were rings of brass, through which were laid staves of shittim wood overlaid with brass, to carry it from place to place. The pots, shovels, basins, flesh-hooks and fire pans, as well as all other vessels or utensils necessary to the service of the Altar, were made of brass. Exodus 27: 1-8; 38: 1-7.
The Brazen Laver
The Holy Place contained three articles of furniture, the Altar of Incense, which stood in the center, the Golden Candlestick with all its vessels, which stood on the left side center, and the Table of Shewbread with its dishes, spoons, covers, and bowls, which stood on the right side center. The priests entered the Holy Place each day to offer incense, and to renew the lights in the Golden Candlestick.
The Altar of Incense
The Golden Altar or Altar of Incense was made of shittim wood overlaid with pure gold. In form, it was two cubits high and one cubit broad (four-square, 4 feet by 2) on each of the four sides. Upon the top edge round about, it was ornamented with a crown of gold of unique design. On the four corners were horns made of shittim wood overlaid with pure gold, in shape like unto rams’ horns. Under the crown, on each of two sides, were four rings of gold, two on each side, through which the staves, made of shittim wood overlaid with gold, were passed. These staves were for carrying it. Exodus 39: 38. The Censer was placed on the top center of the Golden Altar, and in it sweet incense was burned every morning. Exodus 30: 1-10.
The Golden Candlestick
The Golden Candlestick was made of pure gold of “beaten work” with a central shaft ornamented with knobs, flowers, and bowls. There were six branches going out of its sides, three branches out from one side and three out from the other. All the branches, like the shaft, were ornamented with knobs, flowers, and bowls. The bowls were made after the fashion of almonds. On the top of the shaft, and on each one of the six branches, were lamps large enough to hold sufficient oil and cotton to burn all night. Exodus 26: 31-39; 37: 17-24.
The Biblical text does not define the height or breadth of the candelabrum. However, proportionate harmony with the rest of the furniture would suggest a height of 3 cubits (6 feet) and a breadth of 2 1/2 cubits (5 feet).
The Table of Shewbread
by Rev. David Hamilton of Mishkan Ministries