The Tabernacle, The History of the Tabernacle - Lesson 9
Before we delve deeper into the details of the makeup of the tabernacle and its furnishings I would like to present a lesson concerning its history.
Accounts of its history are given in various places in the scriptures but in many periods on the timeline of Israel nothing is given about the tabernacle or its use.
But overall the history of the tabernacle is a history that parallels the history of the nation of Israel itself.
Both Israel and the tabernacle came into existence at the same time for both were given the divine purpose of revealing Godís ever increasing revelation of himself to mankind.
God desired that his message come though the line that was begun by faithful Abraham, a line that produced Isaac, and Jacob and Jacobís twelve sons.
God chose Israel to be the proclaimer of that message by which He intended to divinely bless the world and the tabernacle was a means in how this blessing would be accomplished.
In our study we find the children of Israel in the desert after the greatest exodus has taken place of a people from one nation to another.
All that these people knew was of Egypt for many generations had passed since Joseph, the son of Jacob had died.
God heard their cries, sending Moses to lead them back to the land of their fathers, a land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
They had increased in size from seventy people in Jacobís time to an estimated population of more than 3 million.
They were a motley group of mostly liberated slaves who were only acquainted with hard labor performed for the Egyptians.
They did not know war, self government and their knowledge of God was very limited.
There was no written word of God and anything that they did know had been passed to them from generation to generation.
God chose to take them to the promised land by a circuitous route and that gave Him much time for instruction, aimed at the establishment of the nation which was to be called Israel.
We read of this in Exodus 13:17, And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: 18But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.
So they traveled by way of the wilderness to the Red Sea to Mount Sinai where God began to establish them as a nation.
From Egypt, the Israelites sojourned 45 days before reaching Mt. Sinai.
Exodus 16:1, And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.
While they were in the wilderness, God gave them laws through Moses to govern themselves, the first requirement of nation building.
Moses communed with God on Mt. Sinai on several occasions, two of which lasted 40 days.
During the first 40 day occasion God gave Moses the pattern for the tabernacle.
I imagine that Moses fully intended to begin construction of the tabernacle when he returned from the mountain but instead of construction he was faced with a crisis situation, a crisis of rebellion.
Remember the Israelites earlier had heard God deliver the Decalogue which is the ten commandments and had heartily agreed to keep it but because of Moses extended absence they quickly reverted to idolatry.
Mosesí interceded on behalf of the people and prevailed upon God from consuming Israel in His wrath.
Exodus 32:10-11,14, Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? ÖÖ.. 14And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
God knew his man, God knew Moses would beseech him on behalf of the people.
After this the construction of the tabernacle did not begin for another 42-days, or four months and 11 days after the Israelites departure from Egypt.
During the next seven months, named and anointed workers constructed it from freewill offerings of the congregation and according to the pattern God gave Moses.
So according to Exodus 40:17 the tabernacle was completed and set up in the first month on the second year.
Exodus 40:17, And it came to pass in the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up.
Moses put its bases in place, set up its frames, attached its walls, bars, and posts.
He spread the coverings over the walls of the tabernacle, placed the testimony in the ark and in the most holy place, placed the tables of bread and incense, the curtains, the laver with its water, the altar, and then constructed the courtyard, with its curtained gate.
It was at this time that the pillar of cloud, which had guided them from Egypt, covered the tabernacle and the glory of the Lord filled it.
We read of this in Exodus 40:34-38, Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35And 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. 36And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: 37But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. 38For 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 presence of the cloud over the tabernacle signified the guiding presence of the Lord.
When it rested over the tabernacle, they were to rest, and when it was taken up, they were to follow.
Some fifty days later, the pillar of cloud was taken up for the first time and the Israelites began their journey to the Promised Land.
Numbers 10:11-13, And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. 12And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. 13And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
They had been at Mt. Sinai for 11 months and 20 days.
While they were there, God had revealed to them everything necessary for their well-being, which was dependent on their obedience.
We, in our age, have that revelation, plus much more, but it is given to us for the same reason, to be used for our well being and that well being is still tied to obedience.
In Deuteronomy 1:2 we find that their move from Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to Kadesh-barnea, located in the southern part of the Promised Land, was an 11-day journey.
Yet, it took them almost 40 years to complete the trip to the Promised Land.
We are to find out why by reading the fifteen chapters which deal with this period of history.
Numbers 11-26 open up to us a complaining people, a godless people, a people who lusted after the flesh.
These chapters reveal to us the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron against Moses, the nationís rebellion at Kadesh-barnea, the rebellion of Korah in seeking the priesthood, and Israelís sin through the teaching of Balaam.
For 38 years of that 40-year period, there is a complete silence since the events covered in the 15 chapters deal with only the first and last years of the 40 years of wandering.
Much of this period was literally years of waste and waiting, which is always the result of disobedience.
The second census of Israel shows how disobedience holds and hinders back the promises of God for after almost forty years the Israeli population of men able to go out to war decreased by 1,820.
In Numbers 33:19-49 we find a summary of their journey during the wilderness wanderings.
These verses locate the various encampments after their departure from Mt. Sinai and on their way to Shittim, which is on the plain of Moab bordering the Promised Land.
I will just read a portion of Numbers 33:19-49, verses 19-37 which shows the lack of advancement in the wilderness for it shows a wandering people, under the discipline of God, getting ready to enter into a land promised by God.
Numbers 33:19-49, And they departed from Rithmah, and pitched at Rimmon-parez. And they departed from Rimmon-parez, and pitched in Libnah. And they removed from Libnah, and pitched at Rissah. And they journeyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelathah. And they went from Kehelathah, and pitched in mount Shapher. And they removed from mount Shapher, and encamped in Haradah. And they removed from Haradah, and pitched in Makheloth. And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath. And they departed from Tahath, and pitched at Tarah. And they removed from Tarah, and pitched in Mithcah. And they went from Mithcah, and pitched in Hashmonah. And they departed from Hashmonah, and encamped at Moseroth. And they departed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan. And they removed from Bene-jaakan, and encamped at Hor-hagidgad. And they went from Hor-hagidgad, and pitched in Jotbathah. And they removed from Jotbathah, and encamped at Ebronah. And they departed from Ebronah, and encamped at Ezion-gaber. And they removed from Ezion-gaber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.
The words used to indicate movement, departed, removed, journeyed and went indicate Israel moving to a new site.
In this passage, Numbers 33:19-49, these words ,departed, removed, journeyed and went are used 28 times so the tabernacle was assembled and disassembled multitudes of times before the people were allowed to enter the promised land.
When they entered the Promised Land they camped at Gilgal which means "rolling away" (Josh. 4:19), which is between the Jordan River and Jericho.
More than likely the tabernacle was set up here for the five years it took them to conquer the land from the Canaanites.
At the end of the five years, the whole congregation assembled at Shiloh which became a city of the tribe of Ephraim.
Joshua 18:1, And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.
It was at Shiloh that the seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance, had the land divided to them by lots.
Shiloh was about 20 miles north of the area that would become the capital of Israel, the city of Jerusalem.
Here the tabernacle was initially set up and used in various forms and in other locations until the time of Solomonís temple.
The arrival of the tabernacle at Shiloh marked the beginning of a bright future but the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines, the ark having been brought from Shiloh, began a very dark period in Israelís history.
In 1 Samuel 4 we are given witness to see the Israelites defeated by the Philistines who captured the ark.
Also, they destroyed Shiloh which possible affected the tabernacle at this time as alluded to in Psalms 78:60-61, Jer. 7:12 and 26:6.
It was at that time God determined to make his permanent dwelling in Jerusalem
We read of this in Psalm 78:67-68, Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved. And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.
At this point the histories of the ark and the tabernacle follow different directions.
There is no scriptural mention of the tabernacle for the next 70 years.
This may indicate its partial destruction but other scripture such as I Chronicles 21:29, which mentions the tabernacle and its altar located at Gibeon in Davidís day and 2 Chronicles 1:5 which mentions the brazen altar that Bezaleel had made being now used by Solomon, means that at least parts of it had survived the years from its beginning in the wilderness.
2 Chronicles 1:1-6. And Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly. 2Then Solomon spake unto all Israel, to the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and to the judges, and to every governor in all Israel, the chief of the fathers. 3So Solomon, and all the congregation with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for there was the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness. 4But the ark of God had David brought up from Kirjathjearim to the place which David had prepared for it: for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem. 5Moreover the brazen altar, that Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the LORD: and Solomon and the congregation sought unto it. 6And Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before the LORD, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it.
So scripture indicates a division of the original tabernacle.
Perhaps some of its parts, curtains, and veils were burnt, and the walls, pillars, and some furniture looted.
1 Chronicles 17:5, indicates that there were alterations to the tabernacle during its history for God recalls that he had gone from tent to tent and from one tabernacle to another.
1 Chronicles 17:5 reads, For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.
The next mention of the location of the tabernacle is at NOB in 1 Samuel 21:1-9.
Nob was a priestly city in Benjamin about 2.5 miles north of Jerusalem
When and why the tabernacle was taken there is not clear.
Its mention is connected to the incident of David eating the Shewbread and his receiving the sword of Goliath which occurred at NOB.
Jesus refers to this in Mark 2:26 and Matthew 12:2-6 by referring to David entering the house of God to get and eat the shewbread.
Saul, the king of Israel, on being told of the priests providing bread to David and his men, destroyed the city, and killed 85 priests.
From Nob it was relocated to Gibeon; for it is mentioned there about 10 to 15 years later during Davidís reign as king.
1 Chronicles 16 which the priests that were ministering there and includes verse 39, And Zadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon,
The tabernacle was that which was a unifier of the nation and it seemed to always have a life to it in one form or another.
David built a tabernacle in Jerusalem to house the ark, which is the only holy vessel ever mentioned in use at the tabernacle of David.
Apparently, the other vessels remained with the Mosaic tabernacle at Gibeon.
This is alluded to 1 Sam. 21:6; 1 Chronicles 21:29 and 2 Chronicles 1:3-5.
So at times there were two tabernacles, The Ark tabernacle in Jerusalem and the sacrificial tabernacle in Gibeon.
The nation continued to go to Gibeon to make their animal sacrifices (1 Chronicles 16:37-40).
The two tabernacles may explain why there were two High Priests during Davidís reign.
2 Sam. 8:15-17, And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people. 16And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 17And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;
The original (Mosaic tabernacle was moved from Gibeon to Jerusalem when Solomon dedicated the temple there.
2 Chronicles 5:5, And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up.
So once the temple was dedicated the Mosaic tabernacle is no longer mentioned and its history ends in obscurity.
We do know that the Ark of the Covenant and the holy vessels were relocated to the new temple.