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Notebook: Introduction To The Tabernacle (5)

J Grant

The Boards of the Tabernacle (Ex 26.15-30)

It was necessary to have under the covers of the Tabernacle a structure strong enough to take the weight of the curtains, a structure that would stand firmly and not be subject to movement that would weaken it. It was also required that this structure could be quickly dismantled, and would be able to stand the handling required in transporting it and re-erecting it quickly. It had also to be portable, that is, built in a way that would enable it to be handled conveniently, as the Levites were required to carry it to place its component parts on the six covered wagons pulled by oxen that had been given to Moses for this purpose (Num 7.1-3). The exceptions to that were the holy vessels, the Ark, the Altar of Incense, the Brazen Altar etc. As the Children of Israel journeyed these were carried by the Kohathite branch of the Levites (Num 7.9). It should not be thought that these wagons were a worldly expedient. Moses enquired of the Lord when he received them and the Lord replied, "Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service" (Num 7.5).

The construction of the boards

The inside structure of the Tabernacle consisted of boards made from acacia wood. Each board was 10 cubits high and 1 cubits broad but no note is given of their depth. Each of them was overlaid with gold (v.29). On the south side of the Tabernacle twenty boards were to be erected (v.18); on the north side twenty boards (v.20); on the west side six boards with two additional corner boards (vv.22-23). There were no boards for the east side as this is where the entrance to the Tabernacle was and pillars supported the structure on that side. In total, therefore, there were forty-eight boards, all overlaid with gold.

On the base of each board there were two "tenons". The meaning behind the word is that of a hand, indicating that the base of the boards had two peg-like joints fitting into the sockets forming the foundation on which the structure stood. Differences of opinion exist as to how the corner boards, which were at the rear of the Tabernacle, were fitted.

The length of the Tabernacle structure was 30 cubits, being 20 boards each of 1 cubits. Nowhere is the width of the structure stated. On the west side, however, there were six boards of 1 cubits, making 9 cubits in total plus the two corner boards which, if they were placed alongside the six boards, would make eight giving a total width of twelve cubits. This does not, however, take into account the joining of the boards at the corners but it appears to be a reasonable supposition to make, taking the undernoted points into account, that the means of joining the corners reduced the inside width to ten cubits.

• The thickness of the side boards, or however else they were joined together, would reduce the inside dimensions.

• A width of 10 cubits would make the Holiest of All a complete cube.

• The Holiest of All in Solomon’s temple was a complete cube, twenty cubits in length, breadth, and height.

The sockets

Under each of the boards there were two sockets, making a total of forty on the north side, forty on the south side, and sixteen on the west side with four for the pillars of the vail (Ex 36.20-30), 100 in total. These sockets were made of silver which the people gave as atonement money and which was to be used "for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Ex 30.16). The sum of the adult males of the Children of Israel was to be taken and each numbered soul was to give half a shekel to make an atonement for their souls (Ex 30.15). The total number was 603,550 (Num 2.32), and therefore the total value of silver paid as atonement money was 301,775 shekels. From this silver were cast the sockets for the boards and the sockets on which stood the pillars supporting the veil. Each socket weighed one talent (Ex 38.27). It was necessary to have sockets of sufficient substance to bear the considerable weight of the boards and the coverings. 300,000 shekels were used for the sockets, resulting in each socket containing 3,000 shekels (one talent equalled 3,000 shekels - see Ex 38.25) the atonement money for 6,000 men. As there were two sockets under each board the atonement money for 12,000 men supported one board. On this foundation depended the strength of the whole structure! The whole foundation of the Tabernacle rested on the silver of atonement. Fellowship with God can only be based on redemption.

The bars

In order to give added stability to the boards, bars made of shittim wood overlaid with gold were placed through gold rings fitted to the boards. Five bars were made for the three sides of the Tabernacle, north, south, and west. On each side the middle bar reached from end to end, but the other four bars appear to have been of half length and thus two were placed above and two beneath the middle bar.

Some consider that the middle bar was hidden from view, running through a hole drilled in the boards. The view of the writer is that the middle bar, like the other four, ran through rings on the outside of the boards.

The significance of the boards, sockets, and bars

All agree that the silver socket foundation on which the Tabernacle stood speaks of redemption. The payment of the atonement money by currency of silver confirms this fact; the work of God in salvation is firmly based on the principle of redemption. Fellowship with God rests on the redemption purchased at the Cross.

The boards are typical of the Lord Jesus Christ, being made of shittim wood overlaid with gold. The boards come into contact with the sockets of silver and "mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Ps 85.10). Again, as in the Ark, the humanity of the Lord is seen in the incorruptible shittim wood: He who is the seed of the woman, the second man, the Lord out of heaven; He who was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and yet incorrupt and incorruptible.

The gold is typical of His deity: He who is the "Mighty God", the One in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; Immanuel, God with us; He who in becoming a man lost nothing of His deity and before whom Thomas stood and rightly said, "My Lord and my God (Jn 20.28). Blessed indeed are those who have not seen but have believed in the resurrection of the One who is both God and man.

The corner boards provided the needed stability to the rear of the structure. They cannot be regarded as having the same significance as the "chief corner stone" (Eph 2.20), for the structure in view there is a stone building, but nevertheless they can be regarded as being essential to the strength of the Tabernacle. This is typical of the fact that there is no weakness in Him, nor is there any possibility that He could fail. Nor can His work fail. That which is founded on the firm rock of redemption is, for all eternity, an unfailing work.

The bars, which also contributed to the strength of the structure, bound it together. All the truth in Scripture concerning the Lord Jesus stands together, and to deny any of it weakens the total. His deity, humanity, work of redemption, and all else taught in the Word of God must be accepted completely. It stands bound together!

The structure, therefore, is typical of the Lord Jesus, for it is only through Him and His work that worshippers can approach God. It is true that in the day of grace believers are seen as "lively (living) stones…built up a spiritual house" (1 Pet 2.5), but the fact that the boards are made of shittim wood overlaid with gold tends to the view that in the Tabernacle they speak of the Lord who maintains the whole structure for the glory of God and the blessing of His people.


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