The directions given to Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle are found in Exodus chapters 25 to 27, and the account of the performance of the work, in Exodus chapters 35 to 40.
The Tabernacle was a house constructed of a series of boards of shittim (acacia) wood, “overlaid” or plated with gold, set on end into sockets of silver, and firmly fastened together by bars of the same wood, also covered with gold.
The Tabernacle proper was 10 cubits (15 feet; 4.5m) wide, 10 cubits high and 30 cubits (45 feet; 13.5m) long, with it’s opening (entrance) on the east side.
NOTE: Bible Measurements are calculated in cubits.
The boards of the Tabernacle proper were put as near together as possible. They were mortised into the sockets, and moisture would swell the joint and tighten it. The fact that they were joined in the same way in the Most Holy as they were in the Holy, illustrates that the union and fellowship which we now enjoy are a counterpart and foretaste of what we will have when united with our Lord.
There were 20 boards on the north side, and 20 on the south side; plus there were six boards in the back of the Tabernacle, as well as two corner boards—so a total 48 boards making up the Tabernacle proper. Each board was set in two sockets of silver, so we have 96 sockets of silver. Plus four sockets of silver for the pillars that held up the vail giving a total of 100 sockets of silver in relation to the Tabernacle Proper.
Calculating the Tabernacle Proper
The outside length of the structure is calculated from the figures respecting the side boards in Exodus 26:16-18 which says each side contained 20 boards, each 1½ cubits wide, yielding 30 cubits overall for the Tabernacle’s outer side measurement. The inside width of the Tabernacle was 9 cubits, judging by verse 22 which says the back end of the Tabernacle contained 6 boards, presumably spanning the interior width between the two side walls. But as the Temple measures are given as 60 cubits long and 20 cubits wide in 1 Kings 6:2 (presumably exterior measurements), the inference from the proportions is that the Tabernacle would have been 10 cubits wide (exterior measurement), as the Tabernacle floor plan was half the size of the Temple of Solomon. Thus the boards were evidently ½ cubit thick.
(Diagram: The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, Nov./Dec. 2002, “The Holy,” Br. David Rice).
Exodus 26:33 tells us the interior was divided by a vail (“curtain”—NIV) hung under the golden taches (“hooks”—NIV) connecting the two parts of the white linen tapestry forming the ceiling of the Tabernacle proper (Exodus 26:1).
Exodus 26:2-3 explains that each of the two parts of that tapestry was composed of five strips, with each strip measuring 4 cubits wide and 28 cubits long. Five strips would be 20 cubits wide. When the two five-strip sections were joined together with golden taches, the length would be 40 cubits. This covering began at the front of the Tabernacle structure, which means the taches fell 20 cubits from the entrance of the structure. Under these taches the vail was hung. Thus do we reason that the Holy was 20 cubits long.
(Diagram: The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, Nov./Dec. 2002, “The Holy,” Br. David Rice).
The Number Two (2)
The Gospel Age is often represented by the NUMBER 2, or its greater magnitudes 20, 200, 2,000. A 20-cubit length for the Holy fits the symbolism. Perhaps two is used because the fruits of this age of the spirit are nourished by the two sources of instruction, the Old and New Testaments.
The following examples of two in the Bible all relate in one way or another to the Gospel age, or to the nourishment and care of the saints during it :-
- two fishes (Matthew 14:17)
- two pence (Luke 10:35)
- 20 years oppression by Jabin (Judges 4:3)
- 20 years of Samson (Judges 15:20)
- 20 years of the ark at Kirjath-Jearim (1 Samuel 7:2)
- 200 pennyworth of bread (Mark 6:37)
- 200 cubits to shore (John 21:8)
- 2,000 cubits from the ark to the Israelites (Joshua 3:4)
In both Exodus 26:26-29 and Exodus 36:31-34, we read of the instructions God gave Moses regarding the making of crossbars that held the boards together for the three frames of the Tabernacle. Here is an illustration of this:
As illustrated above, on three sides of the Tabernacle’s frames there were two bars end to end spanning the length on the upper side, two on the lower side, and one bar went end to end in the middle. Thus five bars altogether on each of the three frames/sides, which equals a total of 15 crossbars.
The Number Five
The NUMBER 5 in the Bible represents the Church, (the new creation) because it depends on the two elements indispensable for its development, the spirit (two) and blood (three).
Here are several instances where five is symbolic of the new creation: the five wise virgins in Matthew 25, Christ feeding 5000; in the time of Joseph the proportion of grain stored was one part in five (Genesis 41:34); in Numbers 31:27-31 the Lord’s share of the goods collected by the Israelites was 1 part out of 50 or out of 500 depending on the circumstance. As with the 2, 20, 200, and 2,000 discussed earlier, this number also appears in various orders of magnitude: 5, 50, 500, and 5,000.
The Number Fifteen (15)
The NUMBER 15 appears to symbolize deliverance, with the associated ideas of restoration, restitution, and healing. Here are some other Biblical examples of this:
- Hosea 3:1-5—Fifteen pieces of silver were paid by Hosea for the deliverance of the woman who represents the nation of Israel.
- 2 Kings 20:1-6—Hezekiah’s prayer was answered, his life was spared, and God granted him fifteen additional years of life.
- John 11:18—When Lazarus was raised from the dead, the distance between Bethany and Jerusalem was mentioned as “fifteen furlongs” symbolizing the journey of mankind from the misery of sin to the deliverance of Peace.
- Genesis 7:20—The waters of the Great Flood covered the tallest mountains by fifteen cubits reminding us that the flood of knowledge in the kingdom covering everything will effect the full deliverance, healing, and restoration of mankind by destroying every imperfection of sin. Genesis 7:24 says “the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days”—ten times fifteen. Ten often symbolizes earthly wholeness or completeness. Perhaps this one hundred fifty indicates the complete deliverance of Noah and his family.
- Genesis 31:41—Jacob served Laban fourteen years as debt for acquiring Laban’s two daughters as wives. Thus the fifteenth year was one of final deliverance from this debt to his father-in-law.
- Leviticus 23:6, 34—The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles both commenced on the fifteenth day of the month (Nisan 15 and Tishri 15).
- Ezekiel 40:22, 31—In Ezekiel’s Temple, there were fifteen steps to the Sanctuary of the House of the Lord—the place of deliverance, healing, and restoration.
- Numbers 33:3—Israel’s deliverance from Egypt occurred on Nisan 15.
- Micah 5:5—the deliverers of Israel when the “Assyrian” attacks are seven shepherds and eight principal men (princes)—a total of fifteen deliverers.
- Esther 9:18—the Jews celebrate their deliverance from the enemy on the fifteenth day of the twelfth month.
Often symbols of the sacrifice of Jesus are implicitly associated with the number fifteen.
Let us now go back to our original verses from Exodus 26 and 36 concerning the fifteen crossbars in total. This may beautifully represent how love binds the church together.
“The love of Christ constraineth us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
The crossbars, covered with gold, represent the divine love Jesus has for the church, the same love expressed by those in the church. That there were fifteen bars suggests deliverance.
Perhaps the most dramatic deliverance effected by love is deliverance from fear. Love delivers from fear and substitutes trust.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).
The Tabernacle proper represents the two conditions of all who undergo a change of nature from human to spiritual. There are 2 phases or stages of the new life to which we are begotten by the holy Spirit. The tabernacle was composed of 2 compartments (see Exodus 26:33):
The Holy (Leviticus 16:17, 20, 23)
The Holy was 10 cubits wide x 20 cubits long. It was the first compartment of what is sometimes termed the “Tabernacle of the congregation” (Exodus 38:8, KJV) or “Tent of Meeting.”
The Holy represents the present condition of all those begotten of GOD through the Word of Truth (James 1:18) who FULLY consecrate their human nature to death, that they might become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
During the Gospel age, such are called to consecrate and sacrifice their human nature in God’s service, and to inherit instead the spiritual nature—as members of the Body of Christ. These enjoy the inner light of the golden candlestick, while others are in outer darkness; these eat of special spiritual food, represented in the unleavened bread of presence, and offer incense at the golden altar, acceptable through Christ Jesus.
The spiritually-minded creature in the Holy BY FAITH looks forward through the rent vail into the Most Holy, catching glimpses of the glory, honor and immortality beyond the flesh; which HOPE is—as an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast, entering into that which is beyond the vail. (Hebrews 6:19; 10:20)
Only those of the Levites who were consecrated to the work of sacrificing (the Priests only) had access to the Tabernacle; so only those of the household of faith who are consecrated to WILLINGLY SACRIFICE, even unto death, enter the divine conditions represented in the Tabernacle.
Only those whose consecrations have been accepted “in the Beloved” are represented as being in this Holy condition.
If we would attain the prize of the high calling which is of God in Christ Jesus, and enter through the Holy into the Most Holy, we must follow in the footsteps of Jesus, our Leader and Head—the High Priest whom we confess (Hebrews 3:1 NIV). Here are the ways in attaining the prize and please our Heavenly Father:-
(1) By faith in Christ’s ransom-sacrifice, represented in the Brazen Altar, we enter through the gate to the Courtyard—the veil of unbelief and sin is passed. This step is one which our Lord Jesus never took, because not being of Adamic stock, but holy, harmless, separate from sinners, he never was outside the Court condition.
(2) Renouncing our justified human wills, and all our human aspirations and hopes, we pass the first vail, or veil of human-mindedness—counting the human will as dead; henceforth consulting not it, but the will of God only. We now find ourselves as “new creatures” in the Holy—in the first of the “Heavenlies” or Holies (Ephesians 2:6—see Diaglott), and begin to be enlightened by the golden candlestick (God’s Word) respecting spiritual things, “the deep things of God,” and to be refreshed and strengthened daily with the Truth, as represented in the shew-bread, lawful for only the Priests to eat (Matthew 12:4). Thus enlightened and strengthened, we should daily offer up sacrifices at the golden altar, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ—a sweet perfume to our Father (1 Peter 2:5).
The Most Holy
The Most Holy was a perfect cube measuring 10 cubits on all sides—the only part of the tabernacle that was BALANCED, which represents the condition of divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
We attain to the Most Holy by faithfully overcoming in the Gospel Age. We enter there, beyond the second veil, through death. These, after having completed their consecration in death, are fully changed, born from the dead in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:6, Hebrews 10:20, 1 John 3:2).
The volume of the ark of the covenant (the only furnishing within the Most Holy) was 5.625 cubic cubits (1½ x 1½ x 2½). The volume of the interior of the Most Holy was 810 cubic cubits (9 x 9 x 10). Dividing this volume of the Most Holy by the volume of the ark of the covenant produces a significant number: 144, a number relating to the church.
Revelation 14:1 describes a group of 144,000 standing upon symbolic “Mount Sion” with the symbolic “Lamb.” This refers to the overcoming Bride of Christ. Since the ark represents the Church that will gain the prize of the high calling in the condition that the Most Holy represents (the presence of God, the divine nature), the appearance of 144 does not seem accidental. The number 144 is not 144,000, for the scale of the Tabernacle does not permit the building of a Most Holy containing 144,000 arks. However, the factor of 1,000 is contained in the picture, since the exterior dimensions of the Most Holy were 10 cubits by 10 cubits by 10 cubits or 1,000 cubic cubits.
The (second) vail (as discussed in Study 9 of “Beauties of the Tabernacle” on this website and titled “The Gate. The Door. The Vail.”) was “a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it” hung “with gold hooks on 4 posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on 4 silver bases.” .” (See Study 4 of “Beauties of the Tabernacle.”) It was hung “from the clasps.” (Exodus 26:31-33, NIV)
The (second) vail represents Christ (as do the gate and door).
Passing through this second vail into the Most Holy, involves “the death of the HUMAN body” (Tabernacle Shadows, p.22). Both the fleshly mind and fleshly body must be left behind before we can enter into the “holiest of all.” We will then be in the spirit realm, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Br. Charles T. Russell—Tabernacle Shadows.
Br. Anton Frey—Notes on the Tabernacle.
Br. David Rice—The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine (Nov/Dec 2002 Edition).
Br. David Stein—The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine (Nov/Dec 2005 Edition).
Suggested Further Reading
STUDY 1: An Introduction To The Tabernacle And It’s Purpose
STUDY 2: The Pillar of Cloud By Day And The Pillar of Smoke By Night https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/09/09/study-2-the-pillar-of-cloud-by-day-and-the-pillar-of-smoke-by-night/
STUDY 4: The Court (“Holy Place”)
STUDY 5: The Camp. The Israelites.
STUDY 6: The Levites
STUDY 7: The Priests. The Day of Atonement.
STUDY 8: The Tabernacle Coverings
STUDY 9: The Gate. The Door. The Vail.