The Tabernacle Court

The tabernacle court, 27. 9-19; 38. 9-20, was a 100 by 50 cubit cordoned off area (about a quarter of the size of a modern football pitch). Both north and south walls had twenty silver-capped pillars, standing upon brazen sockets, with silver hooks and connecting-rods (JND); the western and eastern walls had ten such pillars. Apart from the eastern wall’s twenty-cubit wide gate ‘of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework’ the court’s fencing was a five-cubit high, fine twined linen (shesis, bleached) hanging, pegged into place by brazen pins. The single entrance into the tabernacle court taught that there is only one way to God: Christ Jesus, John 14. 6.

Just outside the tabernacle entrance was placed a water-filled laver, 30. 17-21; 38. 8. Of an undefined size, it was made of ‘the looking glasses of the women … which assembled at the door of the tabernacle’, 38. 8. Before entering the tabernacle, or approaching the brazen altar, the priests washed their hands and their feet in the laver (representing the cleansing effect of God’s word, John 17. 17). Similarly, Christians need daily cleansing through reading scripture, Eph. 5.26, which, like those looking glasses, shows its readers their true character, Jas. 1. 23, 24. 

The largest piece of tabernacle furniture, and the first to be met on entering the eastern gate, was a blood-spattered brazen altar.2 Its acacia wood boards and four horns (to which the sacrifices were bound, Ps. 118. 27) were all covered with fire-resistant brass, Deut. 33. 25; Jer. 1. 18. Brass vessels, including pots, shovels, basins, fleshhooks, and firepans were made for its service. A brazen grate reached to its midpoint, enhancing oxygenation, and intensifying its divinely ignited, never-dying fire.3 Carrying staves were slotted into this grate’s four corner rings. As a most holy altar, which sanctified everything that touched it,4 the altar was atoned for by seven days of sacrifices, 29. 36, 37. Every sacrifice burned to Jehovah at the door of the tabernacle was offered on this altar, including daily morning and evening burnt offerings, 29. 38-46; Lev. 1. 3, 5. This altar and its sacrifices looked forward to Calvary and pictured Christ, through whom we offer spiritual sacrifices to God, and upon whom we feed our souls every day, Heb. 13. 10, 15, 16. As the fire of the brazen altar was generated by Jehovah and never extinguished, Christians feed the fire in their hearts by meditating on Christ. The prominence of the brazen altar teaches the importance of believers keeping the cross always before them.

On the first day of the second month, when everything was completed, Moses reared up the tabernacle, anointing every item with the holy oil and placing it correctly.5 The day climaxed when the cloud of God’s presence ‘covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’, 40. 34. When that cloud, which guided Israel through ‘that great and terrible wilderness’, sheltered them from the heat of the sun and gave light at night, ‘was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys’, 40. 36.6 Once the priests had carefully wrapped the sanctuary furniture, the Kohathites carried it with the staves, Num. 4. 1-20. With the help of two carts, the Gershonites moved the tabernacle, its covers, the court hangings and its gate, vv. 21-28; 7. 7. Using four carts, the Merarites transported the tabernacle boards, bars and pillars, vv. 29-33; 7. 8. In this way Israel travelled through the wilderness to the Promised Land. As the Levites expended great energy in carrying the tabernacle through the wilderness, so it takes hard work to bear a testimony for Christ in this world.

ItemLength (cubits)Breadth (cubits)Height (cubits)Material
Ten tabernacle curtains284-Fine twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet
Eleven tent curtains304-Goats’ hair
Two outer coverings---Rams’ skins dyed red and sea-cow skins
Forty-eight boards-10Acacia and gold
Fifteen bars---Acacia and gold
The vail---Fine twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet 
Four vail pillars---Acacia, gold, and silver
ArkAcacia and gold
Incense altar112Acacia and gold
Table21Acacia and gold
Golden lampstand---Gold
Five entrance pillars---Acacia, gold, and brass
Entrance hanging---Fine twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet
Laver---Brass
Brazen altar553Acacia and brass
Sixty court pillars---Acacia, silver, and brass
Court gate20-5Fine twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet
Court hanging280-5Fine twined linen

Endnotes

1

Unless otherwise stated, references are from Exodus.

2

20. 26; 27. 1-8; 38. 1-7; 40. 6, 7, 29; Lev. 6. 12, 13; 9. 22; Num. 4. 13-15; 16. 36-40; Heb. 13. 10.

3

29. 34-43; Lev. 6. 12, 13; 9. 24.

4

29. 37; 40. 10; Matt. 23. 18-20.

5

30. 22-33; 39. 32-43; 40. 1-33.

6

See also Deut. 8. 15; Ps. 105. 39.

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