Chapter 2 Section A
Sanctuaries in Earlier Dispensations
As understood and applied herein, the designation “temple” is restricted to mean an actual structure, reared by man, hallowed and sanctified for the special service of Deity, such service including the authoritative administration of ordinances pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and not merely a place, however sacred the spot may have become. If sacred places were to be classed with sacred buildings as essentially temples, the category would include many a holy Bethel rarely considered as such. In the more extended application of the term, the Garden in Eden was the first sanctuary of earth, for therein did the Lord first speak unto man and make known the Divine law. So too, Sinai became a sanctuary, for the mount was consecrated as the special abode of the Lord while He communed with the prophet, and issued His decrees. The sanctity of such places was as that of Horeb, where God spake unto Moses from the midst of the flame; and where, as the man approached he was halted by the command: “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” A temple, however, is characterized not alone as the place where God reveals Himself to man, but also as the House wherein prescribed ordinances of the Priesthood are solemnized.
Prior to the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and indeed during the early stages of the memorable journey from Egypt, the people of Israel had a certain depository for sacred things, known as the Testimony. This is definitely mentioned in connection with the following incident. Under Divine direction a vessel of manna was to be preserved, lest the people forget the power and goodness of God, by which they had been fed:
“And Moses said. This is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt.
“And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations.
“As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.”
There appears little room for doubt that the Testimony here referred to was a material structure, and that its name is suggestive of Divine witness as to its sacred character. Inasmuch as the account of the exodus contains no mention of the making of such a structure, and moreover as its existence and use were definitely affirmed before the people had had time or opportunity to shape it in the wilderness, it would seem that they must have brought the sacred Testimony with them from Egypt. This incident is of interest and importance as indicating the existence of a holy sanctuary during the formative stages of Israel’s growth as a nation, and while the people were in subjection to idolatrous rulers. This application of the term Testimony must not be confused with later usage by which the tables of stone bearing the divinely inscribed Decalogue are so designated. It is to be noted further that the Tabernacle, wherein was housed the Ark of the Covenant containing the sacred tables of stone, is distinctively called the Tabernacle of Testimony. These several uses of the term lead to no ambiguity if the context be duly considered in each case.
The Provisional Tabernacle
While Moses communed with the Lord on Sinai, the people, left for a time to themselves, set up a golden calf in imitation of Apis, an Egyptian idol; and in consequence of their idolatrous orgies, the Lord’s anger was kindled against them. During the period of their consequent estrangement, before a reconciliation had been effected between Jehovah and His people, Divine manifestations ceased within the camp and only afar off could the Lord be found. In connection with this condition we read of the establishment of a temporary place of meeting-possibly the dwelling tent of Moses, which became sanctified by the Divine Presence. Thus runs the record:
“And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out into the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.
“And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.
“And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.
“And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.”
That the tent here called the Tabernacle of the Congregation is not the elaborate and costly structure specially built as the Lord directed, is evident from the fact that the greater and more enduring Tabernacle had not been constructed at the time referred to in the scripture last cited. Unlike the later Tabernacle, which was set up in the center of the camp with the tribes massed about it in specified order, this Provisional Tabernacle was pitched outside the camp-afar off-perhaps as an indication of the Lord’s withdrawal following Israel’s idolatrous turning away from Him. That the Provisional Tabernacle was, however, a holy sanctuary is attested by the personal communion therein between Jehovah and His servant Moses.
The Tabernacle of the Congregation
From amidst the clouds, and to the accompaniments of thunders and lightning’s on Sinai, the Lord gave unto Moses the law and the testimony. Not alone did Moses there talk with the Lord in person, but by Divine command, Aaron and his sons Nadab and Abihu, together with seventy of the elders of Israel, went up upon the mountain and did see God, even the God of Israel. Over Sinai the glory of the Lord abode for many days: “And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.”
When he descended Moses bore with him the commission to call upon the children of Israel for contributions and offerings of their substance and all their precious things, such as would be suitable for the construction of a sanctuary for service in the wilderness.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.
“And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass,
“And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair,
“And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood,
“Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,
“Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.
“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
“According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”
The response of the people was so liberal and prompt that a surplus of material was soon amassed.
“And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make.
“And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing.
“For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”
Divine direction was manifest in the appointment of men who should be in charge of the labor. Bezaleel, the son of Uri, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, were designated by revelation as the master craftsmen under whose direction the other workers should labor until all had been finished in direct accord with the revealed pattern and plan. And when so finished it was the embodiment of the best in material and workmanship.
The Tabernacle stood in an outer enclosure or court, walled in by canvas screens with entrance curtains finely embroidered. The curtains that formed the walls of the court were suspended from pillars, which stood at intervals along the sides of an oblong. The longer walls ran east and west, with the main entrance to the enclosure on the eastern side. Of the two squares within the curtains, the easterly was reserved for assemblies of the people, while the square to the west constituted the more sacred area pertaining to the Tabernacle itself.
The entire space so enclosed covered one hundred cubits east and west and fifty cubits north and south, or approximately one hundred and fifty feet by seventy-five feet. In the easterly section, and therefore removed from the Tabernacle, stood the altar of burnt-offerings. Between the altar and the Tabernacle stood the laver; this was a large vessel of brass standing upon a pedestal and containing water for the ceremonial cleansing of the hands and feet of the priests. It is interesting to note that the laver and its supporting pedestal were made by special contribution of the women, who gave their brazen mirrors for this purpose. The Tabernacle stood with its longer axis east and west, and with its entrance on the easterly side. The structure was but thirty cubits long by ten cubits broad, or forty-five by fifteen feet; these are the dimensions given by Josephus, and they are practically in accord with the description in Exodus, which states that the walls comprised twenty boards on a side, each board one and a half cubits wide; at the west end there were six boards, each one and a half cubits wide or nine cubits in all; these with the angle posts would make the entire breadth equal to that given by Josephus, ten cubits. The boards of the walls were held together by tenon-joints having sockets of silver, two to each board; the boards themselves were overlaid with gold and were provided with rings of the same metal to receive the bars, which also were overlaid with gold.
It will be seen that the Tabernacle was but a small structure, entirely unsuited to the accommodation of large assemblies, but it is to be remembered that for such it was never intended. Within the Tabernacle, only the appointed bearers of the Priesthood officiated; and of these none but the few actually engaged in the service of the day could be admitted.
The Tabernacle was divided by a curtain, specifically called the Veil, into two compartments, the outer of which was known as the Holy Place, and the inner as the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies. Josephus and some others state that the Tabernacle comprised three parts; the third division, however, was really outside the main tent and appeared as a porch at the east end, five cubits deep, and extending across the entire front. The Veil, which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, was of fine workmanship, “of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work,” and was embroidered with cherubim. It was hung upon four pillars of wood overlaid with gold; the hooks were of gold and the sockets of silver. The wood used for these pillars, as indeed that used in other parts of the structure, was the rare, costly, and durable shittim or acacia, sometimes known as thorn-wood. Beyond the Veil the enclosure was most holy, and therein was placed the Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat bearing the sacred cherubim, the description of which appears in the record as follows:
“And Bezaleel made the ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half was the length of it, and a cubit and a half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half the height of it:
“And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about.
“And he cast for it four rings of gold, to be set by the four corners of it; even two rings upon the one side of it, and two rings upon the other side of it.
“And he made staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold.
“And he put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, to bear the ark.
“And he made the mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half was the length thereof, and one cubit and half the breadth thereof.
“And he made two cherubims of gold, beaten out of one piece made he them, on the two ends of the mercy seat:
“One cherub on the end on this side, and another cherub on the other end on that side: out of the mercy seat made he the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
“And the cherubims spread out their wings on high, and covered with their wings over the mercy seat, with their faces one to another; even to the mercy seatward were the faces of the cherubims.”
Outside the Veil, yet within the Tabernacle, was the Holy Place; in this were placed the table of shewbread, the altar of incense, and the golden seven-branched candlestick.