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The Purpose of the Wilderness Tabernacle

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On Mount Sinai, Moses received more than just the Ten Commandments. He was also given a set of elaborate instructions for building a Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was a temple of worship that involved specific protocols and procedures. These protocols purposely provided a possible means for God's people to dwell with Him per God's request.

Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

— Exodus 25:8

From the fall in Genesis until the Tabernacle construction, the Bible records people occasionally walking and talking with God but not dwelling with Him. As we shall see, within the framework of this Old Testament sanctuary, God draws His people closer to Himself through an intricate sacrificial system. Today, this arrangement can speak volumes about the specifics of such a great salvation and indescribable gift.

. . . how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation . . . ?

— Hebrews 2:3

Every detail that Christ accomplished to restore our relationship with God can be discovered in the particulars of the wilderness tabernacle.

It's About a Covenant Relationship

While reading the details of these instructions, it is easy to gloss over them without connecting them with the New Testament concept of a relationship with God through Christ.

I hesitate to use the word "relationship" because of its broad and adulterated use in the present culture. Modern interpretations of a relationship often bring many fickle "no strings attached" associations. As we shall see in this structure and throughout the entirety of Scripture, a covenant relationship, by God's standards, is a life and death matter and worthy of our comprehension and loyal application.

This Biblical portion of temple details can seem redundant and unnecessary if we view it as merely historical and Old Testament. But Paul informs us that there is a great reason to study these things.

For whatever was written in the past (Old Testament) was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.

— Romans 15:4

These things (Old Testament) happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction upon whom the ends of the age have come

— I Corinthians 10:11

"These things" are about the children of Israel's experiences in their wilderness journey to the promised land. These experiences are all related to their relationship with the God who delivered them.

Fifty chapters of the Bible are devoted to the wilderness tabernacle that was central to that relationship, which, I think we can safely assume, makes it a relatively important topic as far as God is concerned.

"These things" also contain the blueprint for faith. Residing within each material and measurement is a lesson in the necessities of being in fellowship with the God of creation. And Jesus is central to all.

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

— Hebrews 8:1‭-‬5

The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the Tabernacle is a shadow and type of heavenly thing. There are divine spiritual lessons that pertain to our spiritual life that can be discovered within the parameters of this template.

Jesus, Himself also made it clear to His followers that He is, in fact, the subject matter of "these things."

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

— Luke 24:27

John, too, makes the connection with Christ and the Tabernacle.

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.

— John 1:14


The Cross Is Key

From an introductory topical perspective, we can see how this structure connects us with Jesus, beginning with the furnishings' arrangement in the shape of a cross. This iconic shape was evident in the arrangement of tribes around the Tabernacle in their North, South, East, and West positions. All things in this meeting place will point to Jesus Christ and His crucifixion so that we might experience a restoration of our relationship with God. Paul, the author of a good portion of the New Testament, considered this His most valuable goal.

I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified

— I Corinthians 2:2


The Pattern Is Everywhere Throughout Scripture

According to Glen Carpenter, in his book Connections, seven physical structures in the Bible are built obviously and specifically for worship, beginning with The Tabernacle of Moses.

  1. The Tabernacle of Moses
  2. The Tabernacle of David
  3. The Temple of Solomon
  4. Zerubbabel's Temple
  5. The Temple of Herod
  6. The Temple of Ezekiel's Vision
  7. The Temple, which is the Body of Christ

Dinah Dye, the author of The Temple Revealed in Creation, teaches that the number seven in Scripture strongly connects with house-building fulfillment. This revelation helps correlate the creation account with a less visible macrocosm of a temple structure to build a kingdom family.

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them were finished. And on the seventh day, God ended His work which He had done, and He rested (took His seat upon the throne) on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

— Genesis 2:1-2.

Notably, similar language applies to both creation and house- and tabernacle-building in the book of Proverbs.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. And by knowledge, rooms are filled with all riches, precious and pleasant.

— Proverbs 24:3‭-‬4 LEB

Yahweh in wisdom founded the earth; he established the heavens in understanding. With his knowledge, depths broke open, and clouds dropped dew.

— Proverbs 3:19‭-‬20 LEB

This phraseology applies to the prophet Isaiah's prophecy of the coming Messiah.

And a shoot will come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from its roots will bear fruit. And the spirit of Yahweh shall rest on him— a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh.

— Isaiah 11:1‭-‬3 LEB

As it applies to the wilderness tabernacle, Bezalel, meaning "in the shadow of God," son of Uri, meaning "light," is assigned by God to skillfully design this structure. Aholiab also is included in this assignment. His name means "tent of my father."

And Bezaleel, and Aholiab, and every wise-hearted man, in whom Jehovah hath given wisdom and understanding to know to do every work of the service of the sanctuary, have done according to all that Jehovah commanded.

— Exodus 36:1 YLT98

The meanings of the names of those involved in its construction relate to the Tabernacle's purpose. It was to serve as a shadow of the Son of God, the Light of the world, who would connect us back to the tent (Tabernacle) of the Father.

In rabbinical literature Bezalel possessed such great wisdom that he could combine those letters of the alphabet with which heaven and earth were created; this being the meaning of the statement (Exodus 31:3): "I have filled him . . . with wisdom and knowledge," which were the implements by means of which God created the world"

— Wikipedia on Bezalel

The Bible also ends with this very same purpose. God creates a space and place to dwell and be in a relationship with the man He has made.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

— Revelation 21:3

Everything between these bookends of the Genesis creation to the Holy City in Revelation is the fundamental mechanism of that accomplishment.


"Connections" by Glen Carpenter

"The Temple Revealed in Creation" Dinah Dye

"The Tabernacle of Moses" Kevin J. Connor

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the Ark of the Covenant?

Answer: The Ark of the Covenant was a box in the Holy of Holies of the wilderness Tabernacle. This space was only accessed by the high priest once a year on behalf of Himself and the people.

The Ark contained the copies of the commandments which were seen as the relational agreement between God and man. There were two other items in the ark, an almond branch that budded, recognizing the right of the Aaronic priesthood, and a golden pot of manna as a memorial of God's provision for His people during their wilderness journey.

The Ark has also been referenced in Scripture as God's footstool and His presence was said to have dwelt between the two Cherubim. These were a part of the mercy seat that covered the box as types of guardians of His presence.

Question: What did the tabernacle teach us about God?

Answer: The Tabernacle teaches us that God is loving, merciful, and forgiving. It shows us that He made a great sacrifice on our behalf in order to dwell with us. All of the symbols and types in this structure point to the work that He did through His one and only Son Jesus in order to make dwelling with Him possible. He fulfilled every necessary detail.

© 2017 Tamarajo


Tamarajo (author) on November 30, 2019:

Hi Ty,

I haven't heard of these. Although I have seen replicas of the Tabernacle that are set up as teaching tools that educate on how Christ our High Priest is the fulfillment of all and what that all meant.

Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

God bless

Ty on November 20, 2019:

These specific tabernacles are back on the earth and have the same purpose as at the time of Moses, to bring the children of God into his presence.

Tamarajo (author) on November 19, 2019:

Hello Margo,

What a unique leading to incorporate things related to the Tabernacle in prayer. The All-Wise God is always up to something good like that.

I agree that there is great value in all the lessons the Tabernacle includes. It's like the schematic of what Christ did for us and it is the Gospel in its entirety.

This article is actually the first part of a 14 part series, if your looking for further study. There really is much much more. The next part can be accessed by clicking on the link that reads "part two". Otherwise, you can go to my profile page and all 14 parts can be accessed from there.

I'm pleased that this study was useful to you and I sincerely appreciate your visit and comment

God bless,


Margo Vaughn on November 18, 2019:

Thank you for writing such an informative article. I am a prayer intercessor and prayer warrior and am learning to incorporate things in prayer that relate to the tabernacle and I went looking for further information on the meaning of tabernacle. This gave me some great depth and information in understanding the ways of the Lord. This is not a topic I have seen discussed in church and I'm not sure a lot of Christians understand how important this information is. Really something I would love doing more research and study on.

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on November 28, 2017:

So many thanks for your encouragement and friendship. I will be reading all of the articles. Love ya Tam.

Tamarajo (author) on November 26, 2017:

Hello again Bob,

I get the blocks sometimes too. Many times rearranging and rewording a paragraph for 2 hours and it still doesn't sound right. But, ohhh, God's Word...cant seem to get away from it. I plot how to squirrel away time to dig even deeper and when I find, what is most often a much bigger revelation than I set out to discover, I can hardly wait to get it out there for anyone with interest. My greatest desire is to not only know it but be transformed by truly absorbing the depths of His truth. Treasures they are.

I'm glad to hear you will be continuing to pursue the teaching and writing. Keep up the good work editing too. I am learning myself to refine and improve and spend about the same amount of time doing that as I do on new material.

Music is fabulous too Bob, in fact much of the Old Testament is song and poetry we mostly think of the Psalms but Job actually is mostly of this type of style and structure. It sounds like your passion for this is strong and enduring. Passion makes it almost seem effortless doesn't it?

So glad your back and God bless!

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on November 24, 2017:

I know it's been a while. For some reason, I have not been able to put two words together coherently for a long time now. I am just now trying to ease back in to commenting and editing my old articles so they can attract a few readers. Anyway, I wanted to tell you that the symbolism of the article here makes me have to take notes. Every bit of it is so interesting. I will absolutely never forget the illustration of the tribes' positions making the cross. If I close my eyes right now, I see it! I was so enamored of our Jewish roots at one time I was trying to learn Hebrew. But, like everything else I try, I run into my learning disabilities and realize just how long it would take to learn the basics, (many many many years) so I just put it down and move on. What a horrible attitude, huh? The only thing I have been able to learn a bit and keep working at it is playing music. I blame that on my instrument because it is so awesome. Anyway, I'm off to take notes on your second article.

Tamarajo (author) on November 21, 2017:

Hi Bob, So good to hear from you. It's been awile. I am glad you enjoyed the first installment of what may be a very long series. As you have already observed in your comment there is so much more. Dinah Dye, who has studied these things for 3o or so years said "I used to know a little bit and now I know just a little bit more" The study of this structure is infinetely deep and filled with revelation as it concerns salvation. It seems like the deeper I dig the deeper the well gets.

I sincerely hope when all is said in done in this teaching that it will be a useful tool for anyone who desires to understand more concretely God's plan of salvation and pattern of worship. All of which are exhibted in this structure and throughout all that He has made. So many elements to come.

God bless, much love, and You have a Happy Thanksgiving too Bob!

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on November 21, 2017:

I have never enjoyed an article of yours more! I loved it! The Tabernacle has never been so crystal clear. It gives me chills when I see Jesus used all of the characteristics of, and objects in the Tabernacle to point to Himself. It becomes almost impossible to miss the significance of each thing as it's described. Any person of traditional Jewish heritage must be dismissing out of hand so many markers and symbols pointing to the Savior of Israel and of the world. Tam, I saved the article on Pinterest and will share it with my Ex-Jehovah's Witness Support Group on Facebook. I can't wait to read the second half. I thank God for using His people through the ages to call all of the sheep home. I thank God for each detail of the Tabernacle that would be another chance for someone blinded by Satan to the truth to be restored to full sight. The relation to the cross will be particularly meaningful to my Ex-JW support group who struggle with so many basic Christian symbols and foreshadowings. Have a happy happy Thanksgiving! Much love to you sister.

Tamarajo (author) on October 31, 2017:

Hi Dora,

I agree that true intimacy is God's ultimate goal. I hope this study of His purposeful design for a relationship with Him will strengthen and deepen our fellowship with both Him and others.

Thank you, Dora, for your visit and input.

God bless!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 31, 2017:

Tamarajo, I have even come to prefer "fellowship" to "relationship." Fellowship takes the relationship into intimacy where we actually communicate and share our feelings; some relationships are just nominal. Thanks for refreshing our minds on the real purpose of the tabernacle.

Tamarajo (author) on October 30, 2017:

Hi Bill,

What actually inspired this particular study is an up and coming event in our area that will host "The Tabernacle Experience" which is a life-size replica of the Tabernacle of Moses. It is a walk-through experience that will explain each path and piece and even includes some interactive features.

In preparation for this event, I encountered a lot of curiosity as to why we would want to look at an Old Testament structure so deeply. It is my hope that this study will help to inspire the worthiness and value of understanding God's sacrificial system and how that applies to our present faith in what God has done for us in Christ. I need this as much as anyone and I am learning so much myself from studying it.

I am glad to know that you have taught on this topic and welcome anything you have to add to the revelations and that includes corrections.

I get what you are saying about the concept of religion versus relationship and agree that it is a relationship that God is after. I only struggle with the phrase as it concerns the modern disconnect with the covenant (a life and death transaction) that made that possible and God's expectation of reciprocal love and loyalty as our response to that indescribable gift.

This disconnect may be why we see the fickleness of relationships across the board in both the world and in the church. I am hoping that this study might help us clear up some of those issues and see how relationships work through God's plan of a covenant. In concert with that, I hope that it will also help us to disconnect our worldly associations of the broader modern view of a relationship that looks more like a relatively flimsy contract designed for a "feel-good" benefit. Again, I address these same issues to my own ruts of misunderstanding that I am desiring to have transformed by the renewing of my mind.

Thank you for stopping by, Bill. I always appreciate your input.

God bless!

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on October 30, 2017:

I taught on the construction of the tabernacle a few years ago, and I love the meaning and the purpose of it. Thanks for refreshing my memory on the topic.

As far as "relationship," I kind of like the word. People ask what religion am I, and I tell them I don't have a religion. I have a relationship with the God of the Universe. Thanks for another one of your well written and enlightening pieces.