Chapter 2 Section B
The rich fabrics of delicate workmanship forming the walls and roof of the Tabernacle were protected by coarser hangings of goats’ hair, and these in turn by a covering of skins. The structure as completed is referred to in the scripture sometimes as the Tent of the Congregation and at others as the Tabernacle of the Congregation; the former expression occurs thirteen times, the latter one hundred and thirty-three times; yet notwithstanding this difference, the original in each case was Ohel Moed, the best authenticated translation of which is the Tent of Meeting. Let it not be supposed, however, that this means in the ordinary sense a meeting-house, for the meeting here expressed is not that of a concourse of worshippers, but the place of communion between God and His Priesthood. The Tent of Meeting, or the Tabernacle of the Congregation, in Israel, was the Lord’s tent wherein He met the authorized representatives of His people.
On the first day of the second year following Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the Tabernacle was set up for the first time, and all the sacred furniture was disposed according to the direct commands of the Lord. The veil was hung, and the place was consecrated as a most holy spot, ineffably sacred as the dwelling place of Jehovah. Then, even as on Sinai a cloud had shrouded the temporary abiding place of God, so was it with the Tabernacle:
“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
“And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
“And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:
“But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
“For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”
The all-pervading and all-controlling thought in the erection of this portable sanctuary was that of expressing the close association between Jehovah and His people. The people were to consider themselves specifically the people of God, and amongst them should be His dwelling, surpassing in a transcendent degree the presence of the gods of wood and stone housed among the idolatrous nations with whom Israel had to contend. This thought was expressed in the earliest commandment respecting the building of the Tabernacle: “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”
Even more truly indispensable than Tabernacle or Temple, in the maintenance of close relationship with Deity, is the Priesthood. It was therefore to be expected that with the establishment of a holy sanctuary, appointments and ordinations should be made whereby men would be truly set apart to the sacred offices of the Priesthood. While Moses was the great high priest of Israel, standing at the head of a distinctive dispensation of Divine authority and power, there were many priestly functions pertaining to the less exalted orders, and unto these Aaron and his four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer, and Ithamar, were set apart. As the Tabernacle had been built under express direction extending even into minute detail, so the ministrations of the Priesthood were prescribed and the order of worship was established, whereby the people should be reminded that amongst them dwelt Jehovah, before whom they should set none other gods.
The Tabernacle was prepared primarily for migratory service; its parts therefore were separately finished and so fitted as to permit of easy putting together or taking apart. When set up within its court, the Tabernacle occupied the place of honor in the center of the camp.
On the east, and therefore immediately before the entrance to the court, were the tents of the Priests; while on the other three sides the Levites were encamped. These, being closest in attendance have been likened to the body-guard of the Great King whose throne was within the sanctuary; and beyond them were stationed the other tribes in order of established precedence. While dismantled and in transit, when the people were on the march, the Tabernacle still held the central place; its bearers were the Levites, and the whole army of Israel was its guard.
Until Israel had become permanently established in the land of promise, the Tabernacle of the Congregation had but temporary resting places. As the people moved the sanctuary was carried, until it found a somewhat more permanent home at Shiloh. There, at the door of the Tabernacle, the final apportionment of Canaan among the tribes was made. There it remained during the period of the Judges, and until after the Ark of God had been allowed to pass from the custody of Israel to that of the Philistines, because of sin. The glory of the sanctuary was largely lost, and though the Tabernacle continued in existence its sacred service was in abeyance. Sadly was the truth declared, “The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.” There is evidence that for a short time during the reign of Saul, the Tabernacle was established at Nob; for there we find the priest Ahimelech maintaining the service of the shew-bread, but the Ark of the Covenant was certainly not there. We next learn of the Tabernacle having been set up at Gibeon, though the conditions resulting in its removal thither are not fully stated. The Ark was housed in another tent, and finally both were brought into the splendid Temple of Solomon by which all earlier sanctuaries were superseded.
The Third Tabernacle
Yet another tent of sanctuary was made and used in Israel prior to the erection of the great Temple. This we may call for convenience the Third Tabernacle; it was erected by David the king, in his own city, as a shelter for the Ark of the Covenant. As already cited, the scriptural record tells of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines, and of its return to Israel. This incident occurred during the latter part of the administration of the Judges, before Israel had bowed to a king in Canaan.
Throughout the reign of Saul, the Ark remained under the roof of a private dwelling; wherein, however, a priest was maintained for its care and ministry. One of the early acts of David after he became king, was to plan the removal of the Ark to a more suitable situation. In the course of this removal, Uzzah was stricken, because without authority he essayed to take hold of the sacred vessel; and this manifestation of Divine displeasure so affected David that he delayed his purpose of setting up the Ark in his own city and placed it in another private house-that of Obed-edom the Gittite. While the Ark remained beneath that roof the household was blessed and prospered. In course of time the original plan was carried into effect and the Ark was set up in a tent specially prepared for its reception in the City of David: “And they brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.”
Thus, during the reign of David there were two places regarded as sanctuaries; and the worship of the people was divided. Solomon appears to have acknowledged the sanctity of both places-the resting place of the Ark at Jerusalem and the place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation at Gibeon. Through him both shrines were again brought together.
The Temple of Solomon
Scarcely had the Ark of the Covenant been deposited at the capital of the kingdom-the City of David,-when the king became desirous of erecting for its accommodation a more enduring shelter than the tent in which it had been installed with pomp and ceremony. It appears that the conscience of the king was troubled by the thought that he was better housed than was the sanctuary of the Lord: “Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains.” It was David’s desire to build a suitable House for the Lord and Nathan the prophet at first encouraged the undertaking. The Lord spake to Nathan however, and directed him to decline the king’s proffered gift. Although Jehovah had been without a fixed place recognized by the people as His, though as He said He had not dwelt in a house amongst Israel, but had gone from tent to tent and from one tabernacle to another, though as the context implies, the Lord had been neglected in the long delay attending the erection of a house to His name, nevertheless David could not be honored with the commission or even the permission to build such a house for he was accounted a man of blood. Let us not undertake to judge the extent of David’s offending; to do so would be to usurp the Divine prerogative; it is enough for us to know that even the gift of royalty may be declined if there be aught requiring reconciliation between the mortal and his God. David, however, was permitted to provide means and to gather material which afterward should be used in the erection of the Temple, moreover, the very site on which the great building was subsequently erected was chosen and sanctified through his agency. A great pestilence had fallen upon Israel, and the Angel of the Lord, sent forth with the warrant of destruction, was seen by David, standing, sword in hand, on Mount Moriah at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. That spot, hallowed by the presence of a heavenly messenger, though that messenger was the Angel of Death, was marked by the erection of an altar, as the Lord directed through the prophet Gad.
As David realized that his years of life were few, he laid upon Solomon, his son and chosen successor, the solemn charge to build the house he had been forbidden to build. The king dwelt pathetically upon his own disqualification, and then repeated the Lord’s promise of acceptance at the hand of Solomon. The scriptural record runs thus:
“So David prepared abundantly before his death.
“Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the Lord God of Israel.
“And David said to Solomon. My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God:
“But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.
“Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days.
“He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father: and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.
“Now, my son, the Lord be with thee; and prosper thou, and build the house of the Lord thy God, as he hath said of thee.
“Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the Lord thy God.
“Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfill the statues and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed.
“Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the Lord an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto.
“Moreover there are workmen with thee in abundance, hewers and workers of stone and timber, and all manner of cunning men for every manner of work.
“Of the gold, the silver, and the brass, and the iron, there is no number. Arise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee.
“David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying,
“Is not the Lord your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side? for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the Lord, and before his people.
“Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the Lord God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the Lord.”
David gave Solomon detailed instructions as to the design and specifications of the house and its appurtenances, the plan of the porch and that of both the main structure and the accessory buildings, “and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit.” Furthermore he gave directions as to the ministry of the various courses of Priests and Levites, “and for all the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and for all the vessels of service in the house of the Lord.