Exodus 26 – Coverings and Curtains for the Tabernacle
A. Four sets of curtains for the tent itself.
1. (1-6) The fine linen curtain.
“Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them. The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits. And every one of the curtains shall have the same measurements. Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. And you shall make loops of blue yarn on the edge of the curtain on the selvedge of one set, and likewise you shall do on the outer edge of the other curtain of the second set. Fifty loops you shall make in the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is on the end of the second set, that the loops may be clasped to one another. And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, so that it may be one tabernacle.”
a. Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen: The tabernacle was a tent with a frame and a series of elaborate coverings. This section describes the first covering, the one seen from the interior of the tabernacle.
i. The plans for the tabernacle were revealed to Moses from the inside out, starting with the interior furniture and then working out. We approach the sanctuary from the outside in, but God builds the sanctuary from the inside out. He works in His people according to the same pattern.
b. Fine woven linen…with artistic designs of cherubim: The designs on this covering were visible only from the inside of the tabernacle. Therefore, on the inside of the tabernacle, one saw cherubim all around – as one would see in heaven (Psalm 80:1, Isaiah 37:16, and Ezekiel 10:3).
i. In association with the cherubim on the ark of the covenant, Trapp noted: “Golden-winged images, made by God’s special appointment, and set out of sight. Hence then is no warrant for the use of images in churches.”
c. Five curtains shall be coupled: The fine linen curtain was made by sewing together five curtains, each one 42 feet (14 meters) long and 6 feet (2 meters) wide. They were first joined in sets of five, and then joined together for a covering 42 feet (14 meters) by 60 feet (20 meters).
d. Make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps: The sets of five curtains were not to be sewn to each other, but joined by a system of loops on the fabric and gold clasps to link the loops from one set of five curtains to the other set of five curtains.
e. So that it may be one tabernacle: The spiritual principle illustrated with this method of joining the curtains is unity in diversity. It is the same idea of Romans 12:5: we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
i. Trapp suggested a slightly different application of this idea: “The coupling of these two great curtains together, to make one tabernacle, might signify that the saints both in heaven and earth to make but one Church.” (Trapp)
2. (7-13) The curtain made of goats’ hair.
“You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair, to be a tent over the tabernacle. You shall make eleven curtains. The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; and the eleven curtains shall all have the same measurements. And you shall couple five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the forefront of the tent. You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain of the second set. And you shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. The remnant that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. And a cubit on one side and a cubit on the other side, of what remains of the length of the curtains of the tent, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and on that side, to cover it.”
a. Make curtains of goats’ hair: The second covering was made of goats’ hair, producing a fabric dark, thick, and coarse – somewhat like felt. This covering was made by joining together five and six strips of fabric with each strip being 45 feet (15 meters) long and 6 feet (2 meters) wide.
i. According to Kaiser, this goat hair “Came from long-haired goats and most likely was black in color. It was a coarse material that often was used to weave tents. Felt would be a modern equivalent.”
b. Couple the tent together, that it may be one: The set of five strips and the set of six strips were joined together with a series of loops and bronze clasps. The inner covering or curtain used gold clasps, but this second covering used bronze.
c. The remnant that remains…shall hang over the back of the tabernacle: Since the goats’ hair layer was six feet (2 meters) longer than the fine linen layer, the extra length covered over the back portion of the tent.
d. A cubit on one side, and a cubit on the other side: Since the goats’ hair covering was wider by 3 feet (2 meters), this layer completely covered over the fine linen layer.
i. Therefore, the fine linen layer – the “heavenly” set of coverings – was completely obscured and overlapped by the dark covering of goats’ hair. It was not open to observation, even in part. Heaven remained hidden to all except those who entered in through the door of the tabernacle.
3. (14) Two sets of coverings: ram skin dyed red, and badger skin.
“You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.”
a. You shall also make a covering of ram skins: The covering of ram skins was like fine leather dyed red. No specific size or arrangement is mentioned for the assembling of this covering.
i. Kaiser described the ram skins as “Skins that had all the wool removed and then were dyed red; it was like our morocco leather.”
b. A covering of badger skins above that: The outer covering of badger skins (or, perhaps porpoise or sea-cow skins) was a durable and water resistant outer covering. It wasn’t particularly beautiful to look at, but it was extremely comfortable.
i. When these four layers of curtains were laid on one another, the result was very dry and very dark tent. The only light came from the lampstand described in the previous chapter.
B. The framing system for the tabernacle.
1. (15-25) Boards for the sides of the tent.
“And for the tabernacle you shall make the boards of acacia wood, standing upright. Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the width of each board. Two tenons shall be in each board for binding one to another. Thus you shall make for all the boards of the tabernacle. And you shall make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards for the south side. You shall make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards: two sockets under each of the boards for its two tenons. And for the second side of the tabernacle, the north side, there shall be twenty boards and their forty sockets of silver: two sockets under each of the boards. For the far side of the tabernacle, westward, you shall make six boards. And you shall also make two boards for the two back corners of the tabernacle. They shall be coupled together at the bottom and they shall be coupled together at the top by one ring. Thus it shall be for both of them. They shall be for the two corners. So there shall be eight boards with their sockets of silver; sixteen sockets; two sockets under each board.”
a. For the tabernacle you shall make the boards of acacia wood: Each board was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Each board was 15 feet (5 meters) high and 2 feet 3 inches (about .75 meter) wide.
b. Twenty boards for the south side: The north and south sides of the tabernacle had 20 boards each. The back (westward) side was six boards wide with two corner boards, for a total of eight boards across the back.
i. Scholars debate if the surrounding boards made a solid wall around the tabernacle, or were more of a frame with the fabric coverings providing the wall. The idea of a solid wall seems more likely.
c. Coupled together at the top by one ring: Each board was joined together by a system of tenons (tabs) with rings, through which ran bars. Each board had four rings through which the bars ran, and the corner boards had eight rings, four on two sides to accommodate the corners.
d. So there shall be eight boards with their sockets of silver; sixteen sockets: Each board rested on two sockets of silver, each socket made with one talent of silver. Therefore each board rested on a base of 264 pounds (120 kilos) of silver.
i. Silver is the metal associated with redemption and payment for sin (Exodus 21:32, Leviticus 5:15, 27:3, 27:6, Numbers 18:16, and Deuteronomy 22:19). Jesus was betrayed for silver (Matthew 26:15). The tabernacle’s foundation was silver – pointing to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
ii. Perhaps the dual nature of the foundation had to do with the two sources of revelation – the Old and New Testaments.
iii. The silver of redemption also separated the tabernacle from the dirt of the desert floor. This is an illustration of the truth that Jesus’ redeeming work separates us from the world.
2. (26-30) Bars to join together the boards.
“And you shall make bars of acacia wood: five for the boards on one side of the tabernacle, five bars for the boards on the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, for the far side westward. The middle bar shall pass through the midst of the boards from end to end. You shall overlay the boards with gold, make their rings of gold as holders for the bars, and overlay the bars with gold. And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain.”
a. And you shall make bars of acacia wood: Each bar was made of acacia wood and overlaid in gold. Seemingly, the bars ran the entire length of each side, linking together each board into one system.
b. The middle bar shall pass through the midst of the boards from end to end: Four bars ran horizontally on each side, linking each board. One bar – the middle bar – was invisible, running in the middle of each board.
i. This speaks to both the visible and the invisible unity among God’s people. The system of linking bars was both visible and invisible.
c. According to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain: The repetition of this phrase (Exodus 25:9, 25:40 and here in 26:30) suggests that Moses received a vision of exactly how the tabernacle should look. He had to communicate this vision to the craftsmen who did the actual building.
i. God works the same way in leaders today. He gives them a vision of what His work should be, and the leader passes it on to others who will do much of the actual work. Moses could not have remained silent about what God had shown him, or the work would never have gotten done.
C. Two barriers: the veil and the screen.
1. (31-33) The veil.
“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.”
a. You shall make a veil: The veil, made of fine linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarn, with artistic design of cherubim, hung on four pillars made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, set on silver sockets.
i. The ancient Jews said the later veil of the temple was as wide as four fingers, so that no one could possible see into the Most Holy place.
b. With an artistic design of cherubim: From this, we know that the interior of the tabernacle was filled with gold and the pattern of cherubim.
c. The veil shallbe a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy: The veil separated the tent into two compartments. The first compartment was the holy place, which was the larger room, first entered, with the table of showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense. The second compartment was the Most Holy place, a smaller room with the Ark of the Covenant.
i. This veil was a barrier, and no priest could go beyond the veil into the Most Holy place except the high priest. He could only enter once a year, and that on the Day of Atonement.
ii. Spiritually speaking, in dying for our sins Jesus with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).
iii. In the temple, this veil was torn from top to bottom at the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:51), showing that through His death, there is no longer a barrier to the Most Holy place.
iv. Now the Most Holy Place is open to us: brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is His flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20). The torn veil of Matthew 27:51 also symbolizes the broken body of Jesus, through which we have access to the Most Holy Place.
v. “When at last the Man in whom all perfections were realized, had made full atonement for sins, the symbol of separation was destroyed.” (Morgan)
vi. “How many there are who never get beyond the dividing vail! They know the brazen altar of Atonement, the laver of daily washing, the golden altar of intercession; but they are never admitted to that blessed intimacy of communion which sees the Shechinah glory between the cherubim and blood-sprinkled mercy-seat.” (Meyer)
vii. Centuries later (in 63 b.c.), the ancient Roman general Pompey pushed aside the priests and walked right into the Most Holy place of the temple – and was astonished to see there was no idol or statue (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 14 chapter 4).
2. (34-35) The arrangement of furniture in the two rooms of the tabernacle.
“You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy. You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand across from the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side.”
a. Put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy: The Ark of the Covenant (here called the ark of the Testimony) was behind the veil in the Most Holy place.
b. Set the table outside the veil: The table of showbread was on the north side of the tabernacle (on the right as one entered the tabernacle) and the lampstand was toward the south (on the left as one entered the tabernacle).
i. The furniture in the holy place spoke of three great obligations of walking with God: prayer (the altar of incense), fellowship (the table of showbread), and to receive illumination (the lampstand).
3. (36-37) The screen for a door.
“You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five sockets of bronze for them.”
a. Make a screen for the door of the tabernacle: The same color scheme – blue and purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen thread was used to make a covering for the east entrance of the tabernacle. This was the only way to enter the structure.
b. Five pillars of acacia wood: The screen hung from hooks on five pillars. Each pillar was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold and set on a foundation of bronze.
i. Since bronze (or brass) must be made with a refining fire, it pictures purity and endurance through trial. The entrance to the tabernacle hung on a symbolic foundation of what Jesus did for us.
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission