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Notebook: Introduction To The Tabernacle (4)

J Grant

The Coverings of the Tabernacle (Ex 26.1-14)

The Tabernacle structure in which was the Holy Pace and the Holiest of All was covered by four sets of "curtains", although note must be taken that three different words are employed to describe them.

Curtain: "Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen" (Ex 26.1); "And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair" (v.7). This is, therefore, used of the curtain of fine twined linen and of the curtain of goats’ hair. It indicates that the "curtain" hangs down as a drape.

Tent: "And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle" (Ex 26.7). This is used only of the curtain of goats’ hair. It indicates a temporary dwelling, a tent or home for nomadic people.

Covering : "And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins" (Ex 26.14). Strong comments that these two coverings were "a twofold blanket of skins on the outside of the walls, like a weather boarding".

The curtains of fine twined linen

There were ten of these curtains, each measuring 28 cubits long by 4 cubits wide. Five of the curtains were sewn or "coupled together" to form two curtains, each measuring 28 cubits long by 20 cubits wide. Cherubims were embroidered on the curtains using threads of blue, and purple, and scarlet. The two curtains were formed into one, 28 cubits broad by 40 cubits long, by making 50 loops of blue on the edge of both curtains joining them together with 50 taches or clasps of gold.

This curtain is described as being of fine twined linen, blue, purple, and scarlet. It appears, therefore, that the dominant colour on this curtain was the white of the linen, whereas on the others it was blue.

Fine linen speaks of righteousness, confirmation of which is found in Revelation 19.8: "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints". In the Tabernacle curtains it signifies the righteousness of the Lord Jesus.

The cherubims have already been noted, in connection with the Ark, to be the guardians of the presence of God. On the fine linen curtain they appear again, still guarding the holy righteousness of His presence. Embroidered on the curtains they reminded all who looked on them that the presence of God had not to be taken lightly or to be treated with less than the reverence which He is due. These cherubims were jealous guardians of His presence, as they were when they were placed with a flaming sword at the east of the Garden of Eden "to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen 3.24). Now, although they looked down on the Mercy Seat, in the Holiest of All, on the blood that now allowed man to approach Him, their very presence on the curtains emphasised that what marked the Holiest of All was true of all work in the Tabernacle, for no matter where a priest was within the tent he could look up and see the skilfully worked cherubims.

The dimension of the curtains, 28 cubits long by 4 cubits wide signifies a perfect work (seven), which is for all the world (four). The work of the Lord Jesus is indeed perfect and it is certainly for the entire world.

The covering of goats’ hair

The goats’ hair to which reference is made here was not goats’ skin with the hair still attached. It was material made from the spinning together of the hair of goats to form a smooth, dark, cashmere-like cloth (see 35.26). This material was used by the nomadic people as a covering for their tents, and reference is made to it when the bride to be in the Song of Songs states, "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar…" (Song 1.5), likening her beauty to the black goats’ hair coverings of the tents.

The covering of goats’ hair consisted of curtains measuring 30 cubits long by 4 cubits wide. Each curtain was therefore two cubits longer than the curtains of fine twined linen, and in total eleven were made. Five of these curtains were sewn together to form one curtain measuring 20 cubits wide by 30 cubits long. The other six were sewn together to form one curtain 24 cubits long by 30 cubits wide. The two curtains were then joined together by making 50 loops on the edge of the two curtains and connecting them with clasps of brass. The sewing of them together and the means by which the two curtains were joined by clasps was similar to that employed in the fine twined linen curtains, with two exceptions. First, the loops are not said to be of blue, indeed no colour is given, and, second, the clasps are of brass and not of gold.

Garments of goats’ skin were recognised as being the dress of the prophet or the man of God: "they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins (Heb 11.37). But it must not be overlooked that it was not goatskin but the woven hair from the goat that was used for the Tabernacle.

The lesson is that the goats’ hair does speak of the Lord Jesus as the Prophet of God, of One who had no roughness about Him, but with a fineness of character and words that were unique to Him. Even although He was rejected and His teaching regarded as being of no consequence, His steps dogged constantly by men who sought to slay Him, His words derided and despised, His fine character was never roughened.

Note that no one would see this curtain. Underneath it was the linen curtain and on top of it was placed the rams’ skins dyed red. There are some features that are for the eye of God and cannot be appreciated by worshippers. The faithfulness of this Prophet and all that this involved is pictured here.

The covering of rams’ skins and badgers’ skins

Little is written regarding these two coverings. No dimensions are noted and there are no instructions for the sewing of them together. Two features, however, can be discerned. First, the two coverings must have been of a size to cover the structure of the Tabernacle, and, second, the rams’ skins dyed red were placed under the badgers’ skins.

Doubt exists as to the exact meaning of the word "badger" and it has been suggested that the reference could be to an antelope or even a porpoise. The point is that it was a skin that was able to protect the Tabernacle structure from the rains, for even in Sinai the rains came.

The ram speaks of consecration. When the priests were consecrated into their office the ram of consecration was slain and the blood was placed upon the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and great toe of the right foot of Aaron and his sons (Ex 29.20; Lev 8.22-24) indicating that they were completely consecrated to the service of God. Looking at the covering of rams’ skins, therefore, there is seen the consecration of the Lord Jesus, the red dye speaking eloquently of consecration that was to death.

Once again, as with the covering of goats’ hair, this curtain was hidden. The consecration of the Lord is also something that is beyond human understanding. There was with Him devotion and consecration which was for heaven alone.

The outer covering was dark, possibly black or dark brown. This is what the onlooker saw. None of the beauty of the interior, or of the beautiful curtains of fine twinned linen would be visible; all that was seen was an apparently small insignificant looking structure that had no outward ornamentation to give it beauty. This also speaks of the Lord Jesus. An appreciation of His glory and of His beauty is only possible for those who can enter into the Holy Place as priests. In this present day of grace all believers are priests, therefore, all believers can enjoy His beauty, but only if they take time to enter the Holiest and engage in worship. What is stated prophetically as the response of Israel to the One who would come, "…when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Is 53.2), shows that it was not His way to appeal to the outward senses. Only those who knew Him as Lord could appreciate the great beauty which is His. The dark outward covering of the Tabernacle did not appeal to natural senses, but the interior beauty overwhelmed the worshipper.


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