Exodus 26

The Construction of the Tabernacle
Exodus 26
Exodus 26. Having described the golden vessels of the sanctuary, this chapter looks at the coverings and structure of the tabernacle. The tabernacle as a whole is a type of Christ as the dwelling place of God (John 14:10; John 2:21).

Linen Curtains (26:1-6)

And thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of twined byssus, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubim of artistic work shalt thou make them. 2 The length of one curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits — one measure for all the curtains. 3 Five of the curtains shall be coupled one to another, and the other five curtains coupled one to another. 4 And thou shalt make loops of blue on the edge of the one curtain at the end of the coupling; and likewise shalt thou make them in the edge of the outermost curtain in the other coupling. 5 Fifty loops shalt thou make in the one curtain, and fifty loops shalt thou make at the end of the curtain in the other coupling: the loops shall be opposite to one another. 6 And thou shalt make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, that the tabernacle may be one whole. vv.1-6 The Curtains of the Tabernacle. These curtains, which connected together, would cover the entire dwelling place and form the tabernacle. The total surface area they would need to cover is about 1,000 square cubits: 10×30 for the sides and top (900 total), and 10×10 for the rear. The total that Moses was to make was ten curtains of 28 cubits by 4 cubits, for a total of 1,120 square cubits. Five would be coupled together, making two equal curtains of 20×28 cubits, which would be coupled together with golden clasps, connecting the fifty loops on the edges of the curtains. The ten curtains speak of man’s responsibility, which Christ took up as a man, and in doing so displayed His many glories. It is evident that the curtains would not reach the ground on the sides of the tabernacle, stopping one cubit short at nine cubits down from the top. The curtains would be made of white linen, and into the linen would be woven blue, purple, and scarlet, and then cherubim would be embroidered in the curtain. These curtains represent the glories of Christ as seen by God, and also by believers (priests). They were not visible from without. It could be seen from within only by looking up at the ceiling of the tabernacle. The colors speak of the glories of Christ in various aspects. Blue is the heavenly character of Christ as presented in John’s gospel. Purple is the glory of Christ in connection with all mankind (His universal royalty) as presented in Luke’s gospel. Scarlet is the glory of Christ in connection with Jewish royalty as presented in Matthew’s gospel. The fine linen (white), or byssus, speaks of the spotless holy humanity of the Lord Jesus.

Goats’ Hair, Rams’ Skins Dyed Red, and Badger Skins (26:7-14)

7 And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make them. 8 The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits — one measure for the eleven curtains. 9 And thou shalt couple five of the curtains by themselves, and six of the curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the front of the tent. 10 And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the outermost curtain of the coupling, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain in the other coupling. 11 And thou shalt make fifty clasps of copper, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent, that it may be one whole12 And that which remaineth hanging over of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the rear of the tabernacle. 13 And the cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in 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. 14 And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers’ skins over that. vv.7-14 The Coverings of the Tabernacle. There were three layers of coverings that were added on top of the curtain of the tabernacle to make a “tent over the tabernacle”. The first layer was goats’ hair, then was rams’ skins dyed red, and finally a covering of badgers’ skins over that. Similar to the curtain, these coverings were made of smaller curtains, four cubits wide, and thirty cubits long. Instead of two groups of five for a total of ten curtains, these coverings had one group of five and one of six, for a total of eleven curtains together. But the front part doubled over, such that the total width was forty qubits, the same as the inner curtain. The length of the coverings across the tabernacle was thirty cubits, which is would make the coverings hang one cubit lower on the sides of the tabernacle, perhaps even reaching the ground? The sections of the coverings were connected with clasps of copper through loops in each section. The coverings represent aspects of Christ’s humanity. He was here as a perfect man for God: whatever God required of man, Christ was. The “goats’ hair” speaks of Christ as a true or faithful prophet, speaking the Word of God. Spun goats’ hair would have produced a rough cloth such as prophets were known to wear (Zech. 13:4; Matt. 3:4). “Rams’ skins dyed red” speak of Christ’s consecration or full devotion to the will of God, all the way to the point of death (dyed red, as blood). There was a “ram of consecration” (Ex. 29:26). “Badgers’ skins” speak of Christ’s perfect separation from sin and defilement. Badgers have a tough hide, immune to attack (although perhaps not attractive), making good shoes (Ezek. 16:10).

Boards, Sockets, and Bars (26:15-30)

15 And the boards for the tabernacle thou shalt make of acacia-wood, standing up; 16 ten cubits the length of the board, and a cubit and a half the breadth of one board. 17 One board shall have two tenons, connected one with the other: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle. 18 And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward. 19 And thou shalt make forty bases of silver under the twenty boards; two bases under one board for its two tenons, and two bases under another board for its two tenons. 20 And for the other side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards. 21 And their forty bases of silver; two bases under one board, and two bases under another board. 22 And for the rear of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards. 23 And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle at the rear; 24 and they shall be joined beneath, and together shall be united at the top thereof to one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners. 25 And there shall be eight boards, and their bases, of silver, sixteen bases; two bases under one board, and two bases under another board. vv.15-25 The Boards and Bases. The walls of the tabernacle were made of large boards, one and a half wide by ten cubits long, made from acacia wood and overlayed with gold. The thickness of the boards is not specified, but if they were half a cubit thick that would make the total width of the tabernacle 10 cubits. We cannot be sure of this however. The north and south walls were made of twenty boards for a total of thirty cubits long, and the rear wall was six boards or nine cubits. An extra board was added to each corner for a total of eight boards on the rear. The corners were secured with a ring. It is impossible to know exactly how this was done, but Moses saw it in the pattern that was shown him! Each board had two tenons on the bottom that fit into bases of silver. The boards themselves would not touch the sand, but would be supported by silver bases. The boards no doubt represent Christ, with perfect humanity and perfect deity seen in the materials of the boards. The whole structure of the tabernacles was of the same materials as the ark. The curtains that covered the tabernacle were held up by this structure of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Is shows is that the varied glories of Christ, whether as Son of man, Son of David, etc. are all dependent on and sustained by the truth of the His eternal Person. But, as we remarked earlier, the tabernacle has a secondary application to the church as the habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:21-22). In this sense, the boards also represent individual believers, seen in Christ’s place before God (gold covering wood). We are able to stand upright before God on the basis of the redemptive work of Calvary (silver).
26 And thou shalt make bars of acacia-wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle, 27 and five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle at the rear westward; 28 and the middle bar in the midst of the boards reaching from one end to the other. 29 And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make of gold their rings, the receptacles of the bars, and shalt overlay the bars with gold. 30 And thou shalt set up the tabernacle according to its fashion, as hath been shewn thee on the mountain. vv.26-30 The Bars and Rings. The method for joining the boards into one solid wall was via rings in the boards, and bars or poles slid through those rings. There were five bars on each side of the tabernacle. We do not know exactly where those five bars were placed, except the center bar on each side ran the entire length of the tabernacle. This means the other four bars were of somewhat shorter length. This has caused many to conclude that the remaining four bars on the sides were half the length of the center bars, and located upper right, upper left, bottom right, bottom left, on each side. Again, we cannot be certain of how it was done, but we can be sure that Moses saw all these details in the pattern that Jehovah showed him in the mountain. The expression “in the midst of the boards” could indicate that, coupled with the boards being a half cubit thick, there was a groove or a hole to bored in the center of each board for the center bar. However, scripture only speaks of golden rings as the receptacles of the bars, so it us hard to say. What then do the bars represent? Perhaps the bars represent the Spirit of God as the One who unites believers together. Some bars joined smaller groups of boards, while the center bars ran the entire length of the Tabernacle. Someone has suggested that the smaller groups of boards would represent local assemblies, formed by the Spirt of God, and the full side represents the whole body of Christ. It is the same Spirit that gathers believers to the name of the Lord Jesus in a local assembly (Matt. 18:20) and also unites all believers into one body!1 Another has suggested that the shorter bars represent other things that bond believers together, such as love, mutual faith, service, etc. while the longer bars represent the supreme uniting bond of all believers, the Spirit of God.2

The Inner or Second Veil (26:31-34)

31 And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined byssus; of artistic work shall it be made, with cherubim. 32 And thou shalt attach it to four pillars of acacia-wood overlaid with gold, their hooks of gold; they shall be on four bases of silver. 33 And thou shalt bring the veil under the clasps, and bring in thither, inside the veil, the ark of the testimony; and the curtain shall make a division to you between the holy place and the holiest of all. 34 And thou shalt put the mercy-seat on the ark of the testimony in the holiest of all. vv.31-34 The Inner Veil. The purpose of the veil was to “make a division to you between the holy place and the holiest of all”. It was a thick curtain of rich colors that all speak of aspects of Christ’s character, and on the curtain with careful needlework were the cherubim, the executers of God’s judgment. The veil restricted access into the holiest of all. Notably, when Christ died, the veil of the temple was “rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The veil speaks of Christ’s flesh (Heb. 10:20). If He had not gone to the cross, the way into the holiest would never have been made manifest. It was in the death of Christ, symbolized by the rending of the veil, that He has made a way of access for the believer into the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-22; Eph. 2:18), through His work on the cross, whereby the holy and righteous claims of God against sin have been answered. The veil was hung from four pillars by hooks of gold. The pillars were of the same construction as the boards of the tabernacle, complete with bases of silver. The forty-eight boards had two silver bases each, and the four pillars had each a silver base, for a total of one hundred silver bases! The veil would separate that inner chamber, the “holiest of all”, where the “ark of the the testimony” would be placed, complete with the mercy seat.

The Outer or First Veil (26:35-37)

35 And thou shalt set the table outside the veil, and the lamp-stand opposite to the table on the side of the tabernacle southward; and thou shalt put the table on the north side. 36 And thou shalt make for the entrance of the tent a curtain of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined byssus, of embroidery. 37 And thou shalt make for the curtain five pillars of acacia-wood, and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be of gold; and thou shalt cast five bases of copper for them. vv.35-37 The Holy Place and Its Curtain. Outside the veil was the was the holy place. In it would be put the lamp stand and the table of showbread. A curtain would be made for the entrance of the Tabernacle, and it would be hung on five pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold, and also golden hooks. The bases for these five pillars would be made of copper, rather than gold. The outer curtain was made of the same fabrics as the inner vale, but the cherry bin are carefully excluded. In order to enter the holy place one had to be a priest; in type one who has come to the brazen altar and dealt with the issue of sin. As such, he is able to step over the sockets of brass and enter into that which speaks of the heavenly places, with the figures of spiritual food and light. It is not the speak of the immediate presence of God, and so the cherubim are not found. God’s heart is such that He will give access wherever he can!
  1. E.C. Pressland
  2. E. Dennett