IV. Tabernacle outer court structure
A.) The Tent or Tabernacle was the focal point of worship as the Jews traveled. Camped in front of the east entrance were the tents of Moses and his brother Aaron. The tribe of Levi, who ministered to the things of the Lord concerning the Tabernacle, were camped on the remaining 3 sides by families: The Kohathites, the Gershonites and the Merarites. Each family had a particular responsibility or ministry to the Tabernacle, including breaking camp, wrapping the furniture and transporting it on their shoulders. Because they ministered to the things of God, they , as the priestly tribe, had to live as close as they could to the Tabernacle tent. There's a lesson here for us, who are spiritual priests, to make sure we camp as close to the Presence of God as possible so we may be able to rightly handle the things of God!
B.) The other 12 tribes camped directly behind the Levites, 3 tribes on each of of the 4 sides, with the tribe of Judah behind the tent of Moses, at the eastern gate. An overview of the camp would show the Tabernacle in the center, with the Levitical priesthood positioned between the Tabernacle and the other tribes. The population of the tribes covered an area of 12 square miles, with smaller tribes positioned north and south, and the larger numbered tribes camped east and west. An arial view of the camp would give the appearance of a cross, which is exactly what everything in and about the Old Testament points to, speaks of and encompasses.
C.) Outer Court: ( Exodus 27:10-19 )The Bible measures the court in cubits, 100x50, which would measure approx 150'x 75'. In the study of Bible numerics, the number 100 is found associated with "chosen ones"; 50 connected to the Holy Ghost, ( poured out on the 50th day); 70, used with exile; and 5, the number of Grace. Using all the numbers found in the courtyard measurements of the Tabernacle we see a message confirming the plan...the Holy Ghost, (50), leading the exiled,(70), chosen, (100), people back to their homeland, by the Grace of God,(5).
The court was surrounded by 60 wood pillars, 20 on each side, and 10 at each end.( The Scripture is silent about the type of wood that was used, and where the Bible is silent on issues, we make no presumption, so that we neither add to or delete from the Word. It's a dangerous practice to take a stand or build a doctrine on issues where there is no Scriptural support, or 2 or 3 Biblical witness for confirmation.). On top of each pillar or board, were silver chapiters, (decorative top caps), with silver hooks, on which a linen drape was hung, surrounding the outer court. The pillars, stabilized with cords that were tied to brass stakes or staves, were sunk deep into the ground and secured in the groove of a brass socket. The deeper the board was sunk, the more stable it was against adverse weather conditions and storms.
All of the above serve as types and shadows of the Lord in His redemptive work. Like the wood pillars or boards, He, too, was of the earth, for humanity came from the dust of the earth. It was predicted that the Messiah would be born of flesh, (.Isaiah 9:6) It was never thought He would be angelic or of superhuman ilk, but always, the prophecies concerning Him and His appearance referenced to humanity, earthly.( 1 Tim 3:16..God, manifest in the flesh; Galatians 4:4: "..when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, made of a woman..") Brass speaks of durability, a tough and enduring material that can withstand high heat. Even it's natural color, gold, speaks of Divinity. So it is, within the framework of the boards, the brass stakes and the nails, we have a picture of Yeshua: stable; giving us the security of our salvation; our human Pillar and Socket. Robed in flesh, the Eternal Spirit of God, incarnate in the body of a man, endured the fiery chastisement of judgment on the cross. Then He descended deeply into the bowels of the earth, where He secured the keys of death and hell for us. It was His stability and strength that enabled Him to be driven into the earth, as the Brass Stake, to secure the pillar. Our Salvation, also, was made sure that day when He allowed the nails to be deeply driven into His hands and feet on Calvary's cross. We need to be driven as deeply as we can into Yeshua, that our lives may be stabilized against the storms and adversities of this life! As the Pillar was anchored into the Socket, we need to be anchored into Yeshua!
D.) Silver Chapitar: This was a headcap or valance with hooks that the linen drapes hung upon. It was formed from silver melted down from the silver shekels brought by the congregation to the priests for their ransom offering.( History records that this is the fund from which sacrificial animals were purchased for Temple rites.) As brass was the metal symbolizing Divinity , silver was a symbol of redemption or atonement. (Exodus 30:11-16, and Exodus 38:28.) Each person had to being a shekel for himself..no one could pay for another, and the price was the same for everyone. As they brought their atonement offering, their name was recorded by the priest as part of their redemption.
The New Testament records the price paid to Judas was 30 pieces of silver, for the One Who become the world's Atonement! The money they paid Judas was taken from the fund used to buy sacrificial animals, and so it was, that the final Sacrifice made for the Jewish nation was paid for by the ransom fund. Yeshua was, indeed, dying a Ransom for the world! Everyone's atonement costs the same..Calvary! Those who accept what was done on Calvary, and continue to keep His word will have their name recorded in the Lamb's book of Life by the High Priest of our Salvation, Yeshua, (Jesus Christ).
E.) The White Linen Drapes that hung on the chapiters are symbolic in color and material of purity and righteousness. Rev 19:8 refers to " the righteousness of the saints" dressed in white linen. But, in our humanity, we have no righteousness of our own. Isaiah tells us that OUR righteousness is "as filthy rags", and Jeremiah 23:6 reveals that our ONLY righteousness is the LORD!
What a beautiful picture we have here of Yeshua: He hung upon the wooden cross, as did the linen curtains. He, Pure and Holy, by virtue of hanging , became our Righteousness, Ransom and Redemption. The Jews were ransomed by shekels, but 1 Peter 1:18,19 tells us we are not redeemed any longer by silver or gold, but by the precious blood of Yeshua.
F.) The Eastern Gate: This was the gate that formed the entrance into the outer court . It was 30' wide, with 4 supportive pillars, upon which the curtains hung, making 3 separate entrances within the one gate. It was wide and tall enough to accompany any size sacrifice or offering.
There are significant spiritual analogies within this picture of the gate. God is not willing that anyone perish, and the door of Salvation is open to anyone, regardless of the size or enormity of their sin or situation. In the Old Testament, there was no door to the garden, because there was no sin there, and Adam had direct communication with the Father. He was always in the presence of God. After Adam's fall, God evicted him from the garden and and placed angels in front of the garden to guard it. Adam could not get past the angels, for they protected the entrance with a flaming sword, and so Adam was barred from the garden and the intimate Presence of God. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that our sin has separated us from God, so now, in order to gain entry into His Presence, we need to enter through the only Door opened to us, Yeshua. John 14:6 tells us Jesus said "..no man cometh to the Father but by Me", because He had become the Door of Salvation. ( John 10:9. God was IN Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself through the flesh of the man, Yeshua. Yeshua, by virtue of what He did on Calvary as the Son, (flesh), becomes the Door of our acceptance. Yeshua also revealed Himself to be " the Way, the Truth and the Life", ( John 14:6 ), which we can relate to the gate. Over each entrance could be written:
(WAY) (TRUTH) (LIFE)
LORD JESUS CHRIST
Eternal Spirit Savior Messiah
Father Son Anointed
One gate, ( door ), containing 3 entrances;
One God, containing 3 manifestations:
Father, in creation; in the Son, for redemption; as the Holy Spirit in men.
There were 4 pillars that supported the gate that contained the entrance, just as there are 4 Gospels that support the record of the New Testament, each telling part of the life and ministry of Yeshua as the writer saw and lived it with Him. Each writer presented Him from a different vantage point:
Matthew presented Yeshua, the king;
Mark presented Yeshua, the Man;
Luke presented Yeshua, the Servant;
John presented Yeshua, our God.
V. Court Furniture
A.) The Altar: (Exodus 27: 1-8)The altar was constructed from shittum or acacia wood because it was dependable and durable, and it was plentiful in the dry desert. It was considered incorruptible and well suited for the adverse weather conditions of the area. The wood was overlaid with brass, a durable metal that would withstand temperatures of high heat. The altar, itself, measured 3x5 cubits; low enough to accommodate anyone of any stature. Steps were forbidden, ( even though many artists have included steps in their concept of the altar!), so that there would be no possibility of revealing the nakedness of the priest as he ministered. (Exodus 20:26. God's standard of modesty dictates the appearance of the thigh as nakedness. Exodus 28:42.)
The altar speaks in types and shadows of Yeshua, Who, in His humanity, was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah as "a root out of dry ground", as was the acacia wood. (Isaiah 53:2) Yeshua, in His humanity, was incorruptible, and, as was the brass, He was dependable and durable, even withstanding the high heat of God's chastisement in judgment of the sin He took upon Himself for us, enduring the cross for us. The preparation of the wood, overlaid with brass, again speaks of the dual nature of the incarnation..Eternal Spirit clothed in humanity; God, in a body He had prepared for Himself. (Hebrews 10:5) Even in the measurements, we find a message in numbers: 5, the number of Grace, and 3, the number of resurrected life. The altar was low enough so that any man could approach it, keeping no one from atonement. To come to the altar today, is not to make an animal sacrifice for atonement, (for the final atonement for our sin was sacrificed for us on Calvary), but to come to an altar of repentance. The altar is a place where we sacrifice self rule, and kill the carnal man, which can enable us to walk in newness of the Spiritual life we will find in Yeshua. This can only be accomplished at the altar by the Grace (5) of God, through His Spiritual rebirth (3) in us. We come to the altar by the Grace of God, (5),Who loves us and calls us to repentance that we might have eternal life through the resurrection, (3), power of Yeshua! Like the altar construction, there are no steps....no steps of self righteousness; no steps of self effort or works or of self improvement . The only step we can take is that first step towards Him in Godly sorrow and repentance. James tells us, Chapter 4:8, "..if we will draw nigh unto Him, He will draw nigh unto us." The altar was 5c square, equal on all sides. God is an "equal opportunity Savior", not willing that any should perish, but all have eternal life. He is no respector of persons, and the altar is open to all. The meaning of the word "altar" was " a high place; that which lifts up". Because the sacrifice that was brought was lifted up and placed on the altar, to be bound, slain and offered. By virtue of that sacrificial substitute, the offerer was then " lifted up" into fellowship with God. This is a type and shadow of Calvary, which became the ultimate "altar", where Yeshua, the Lamb of God, was lifted up between heaven and earth so that those, for whom He was a substitute for, could be reconciled unto the Father, for "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." (2 Corinth 5:19)
1.) Horns of the Altar: (Exodus 27:2)The Scripture describes the altar and the horns as being one piece, not added on as a separate piece. The horns were symbolic of the altar's strength and power, just as the horns of an animal denote it's strength and power;( the deer's antlers; ram's horns, etc.). Since the animal was never a willing sacrifice, it was anchored to the horns of the altar as it was slain and offered.
The horns of the altar are a type of the sacrificial Lamb of God, Yeshua, Who is the strength of our Salvation. He was anchored to the altar of Calvary by love and was a willing sacrifice, the price paid for our sin. Matthew 28:18 tells us He said "all power in heaven and earth is given to me", and so we see Yeshua as the power of the altar, securing the sacrifice, becoming "Horn of Salvation", (2 Sam 22:3).
The total picture of the altar is a perfect type and shadow of the Messiah. Hebrews 13:10 tells us He is our altar; He is the Horn of our Salvation, for He is the power of that altar..and He is the sacrificial Lamb of that altar, for as Abraham prophesied to his son Isaac, there would be a day that " God would provide HIMSELF a Lamb for a burnt offering", speaking of the incarnation, when God was IN Christ. (Genesis 22:8) Do you need power for your life? Do you need strength? Seek Yeshua! He is One with His Power..all power is in Him. The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled upon the horns of the altar...the most effective power has His blood on it, through His Name! If you are seeking healing, wisdom, power, strength or direction, seek Yeshua..Like the horns of the altar, He is One with His power!
2.) Ashes (Exodus 27:3) There were 5 tools used to tend the ashes: pans; shovels; fleshooks; basons, and firepans. When the fire of judgment met the sacrifice, the ashes were the evidence of God's acceptance. The priests were careful to use the shovels and the bason to carry the ashes, which contained the blood and carcass of the animal, to a designated clean place outside the camp.
3.) Fire: The flame from the altar was never to be extinguished, and the coals were carried by censers to the Holy place to light the lampstand and the altar of incense. The fire that burned the sacrifice represented God, for He is described as "a consuming Fire", (Deut 4:24), manifesting His acceptance by consuming the offering, reducing it to ashes. Aaron's sons tried to use another source of fire, and it was recorded, in Leviticus 10:1,2, that the Lord would not accept "strange fire" and devoured them by fire.
John said, (Matthew 3:11), that when Jesus would come, He would baptize us with the Holy Ghost and,(even), fire. A fire consumes, purges and cleanses, which is why fire is synonymous with the Holy Ghost, for He purges and cleanses the carnal lusts and desires of a believer that keeps that Fire burning in his life. Any actions that are generated by intellectual carnal knowledge concerning Spiritual issues is "strange fire", and unacceptable to God. That's why we are commanded, not suggested, to be " filled with the Spirit", so that our walk and conversation are always led by the Spirit. The book of Numbers, 19th chapter, teaches how the ashes of the red heifer sacrifice, mixed with water, were used to cleanse defilement. The ashes, (which contained the flesh and blood of the red heifer), and water, were applied to a defiled and unclean person. In essence, these "waters of separation" purified a man's defilement, and rendered him clean and now able to come into the Presence of God. It was the blood and water that cleansed him...a shadow of the work on the cross! Yeshua was the Ultimate Sacrifice that was taken outside the camp, and suffered for OUR defilement. It was His blood, mingled with water, that flowed from His body when pierced by the soldier's spear. The same 2 elements that purged a man's defilement in the Old Testament are found flowing at Calvary, cleansing man's defilement, washing Him free! Today, the blood is still flowing from Calvary when it is applied through the Name of Yeshua, mixed with the waters of baptism. Through baptism, we see the "waters of separation" still actively separating man from his defilement, for they are seen in the light of the New Testament as an act for the "remission of sins". (Acts 2:38)
The 5 utensils used in conjuction with the work of the altar are, in type, 5 tools active in the church today in the work of the ministry. After the sacrifice and ascension, Yeshua placed within the church, (Ephesians 4:11-13), the 5 fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the express purpose of "...perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith,...unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Without the sacrifice, there would have been no need for the tools; without Yeshua, there would be no need for 5 ministries, for without Him, there would be no gospel! Biblical numerics equate 5 with Grace; God blessing the church with everything we need " to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18) There were also 5 priests and 5 different offerings.
B.) Laver (Exodus 30:18)The laver was constructed from the brass mirrors the Egyptians gave the Jews when they left. There is no record as to the shape or size of the laver, but very specific instructions about its function. When Moses anointed the High Priest, Aaron, and his sons, they had to be totally washed at the laver, and upon subsequent visits into the tabernacle, they had to wash both hands and feet. They could not enter the tabernacle without washing, "..that they die not", (Exodus 30:21) The laver was positioned between the altar and tent of the tabernacle. One could not go from the altar directly into the tent to minister before the Lord without first washing at the laver.
In this picture of the priest, his ministry and the laver, there is a parallel of man's responsibility to the gospel today. We, the believer, have a ministry as a priest, according to Rev. 1:6. He has made us "..kings and priests unto God.." And as such, before we can proceed from the altar of repentance into the deeper walk and presence of the Lord, we must come by the way of the laver. As Aaron and his sons were totally washed, we, too, are admonished to baptized, calling upon His Name for the washing away of sin. (Acts 2:38; 22:16) Without this washing at the laver of baptism, we cannot enter into the things of God, according the Mark 16:16: " He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.." As believeth not shall be the believer enters daily into the presence of the Lord, he need not be totally bathed, (immersed by baptism), but a daily washing by the word, and by handling and walking in the Spirit.
Next: Tabernacle Structure