Tabernacle Studies

Edited by Eugene Higgins

The Coverings (Ex 26:14; Phil 2:5-11)

There were two sets of coverings and two sets of curtains. The coverings consisted of an outer covering of badgers’ (or seals’) skins and an inner covering of rams’ skins dyed red. The outer set of curtains was made of goats’ hair and the inner set of fine linen with blue, purple, and scarlet. The outer set of curtains (the goats’ hair) was called the tent and the inner set (the fine linen) was called the tabernacle.

Badgers’ skins (Ex 26:14)

1. General specifications:

a) Color – dull blue, grey, or dark brown

b) Measurements – none given

c) Purpose – to protect from sun’s scorching rays and desert storms.

2. Typical significance: Humiliation – Phil 2:7-8

a) The skin belonged to an amphibious animal – belonging to the land but living in the water. Thus its skin protected it in unnatural surroundings.

b) In Ezekiel 16:10 Israel, the bride, is provided with shoes made from this skin. Thus a protection from contact with the earth was provided for her. This speaks of the sinlessness of Christ – no defilement in or on Him.

c) The color of the skins was not attractive. “No beauty that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53:2; John 1:10). The world only sees Christ as a man, an outcast. Its opinion is “He hath no form nor comeliness.”

Rams’ skins dyed red (Ex 26:14)

1. General specifications:

a) Color – red

b) Measurements – none given

c) Purpose – a covering for the tent. In Exodus 26:1 we read “Thou shalt make the Tabernacle with ten curtains.” The word for Tabernacle is “mishkan.” After the addition of the goats’ hair curtain in 7-13, verse 14 reads “Thou shalt make a covering for the tent.” The word for tent is “ohel.” The difference is important.

2. Typical significance: Consecration unto death – Hebrews 10:5-7

a) “Ram” means “strong one.” Full of strength and vigor (Ps 114:3-4).

Notice some occurrences of “the ram”:

The ram of substitution (Gen 22).

The ram of identification (Lev 1- burnt offering).

The ram of reconciliation(Lev 3 – peace offering).

The ram of restitution (Lev 5 – trespass offering).

The ram of consecration (Ex 29).

The ram is connected with sacrifice, especially in Exodus 29 where it is linked with the devotedness of the priest to the service of God as indicated in his consecration. This suggests our blessed Lord in the full vigor of a perfect life, living only for God and yielding Himself up in absolute devotionwhich was only measured by the Cross (Luke 2:49; 22:42; John 2:17; 9:4; 12:27; 18:11).

b) To obtain this covering the animal must die. The skins replaced the fig leaves in Genesis 3. The covering was provided through death (John 10:18; Phil 2:8). In the offerings the skin was the priest’s portion after the animal’s death (Lev 7:8). Christ is the believer’s covering of righteousness (1 Cor 1:30).

c) Dyed red or reddened. This would indicate that the skins had been taken from slaughtered victims. It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. See also 1 John 1:7; Heb 9:13, 14, & 26. Note the suggestion of blood-shedding in Isaiah 63:1 (dyed garments) and Revelation 6:4 (red horse).

The Curtains (Ex 26:1-13)

Goats’ Hair – Ex 26:7-13

1. General specifications:

a) Color – black; woven into a coarse cloth commonly used for making tents (Ex 35:26).

b) Measurements – 30 cubits wide by 44 cubits long, made up of 11 curtains or sections, each 4 cubits long and grouped in two sets of 6 and 5.

c) Purpose – to cover the fine linen curtain of the tabernacle.

2. Typical significance of the materials: expiation (paying the penalty) for sin (Rev 1:5-6).

a) The “goat” is prominent in sacrifices for sin especially at national convocations. It was a sin offering during the following feasts: Unleavened Bread (Num 28:22), Pentecost (Lev 23:15-19), Trumpets (Num 29:1-5), Atonement (Lev 16), and Tabernacles (Num 29). It was also prominent in the sin offering in Leviticus 4. Therefore we conclude that the goats’ hair curtain pointed to Christ as the great Sin-offering for the iniquities of His people (Isa 53:10; 2 Cor 5:21)

b) It was hair that was spun into yarn and woven into cloth (Ex 35:26). On the animal, it was the outermost covering, protecting it from the rain, heat, and cold. Thus indicating separation as something coming between the animal and its surroundings. The long hair of the Nazarite spoke of his separation from everything that would defile (Num 6:5). Christ was the True Nazarite.

c) It was black. The color seems to be associated with mourning, and especially mourning for sin (Matt 11:21; Rev 6:12).

d) The curtains were attached by fifty loops on each side of each curtain and fifty clasps of brass to couple the loops. “Brass” is associated with Judgment: the brazen serpent (Num 21:9), the heavens as brass because of Israel’s sin (Deut 28:23). See also Revelation 1:15. The brass clasps therefore remind us that at the cross the Savior suffered the outpouring of Divine judgment against sin (Isa 53:10; Zech 13:7). Thus in the goats’ hair curtain we have prefigured Christ Who became the Sin-offering – He Who was separated from sin and sinners, taking sin upon Himself and bearing its judgment.

3. The Arrangement of the Curtains

a) Breadth: 30 cubits. The curtain would completely cover the framework and touch the ground on either side. In order to become sin for us, the Savior came right down to earth – to where “we lay in want and shame, He found us blessed be His Name!”

b) Length:

i) The first part was made up of 5 sections, each 4 cubits, and covered the west end of the tabernacle (10 cubits) and came over the “holy of Holies” up to the veil (another 10 cubits).

ii) The second part was made up of 6 sections, each 4 cubits, and covered the holy place (20 cubits) and one section hung down over the door of the Tabernacle (Ex 26:9, 12). This section (4 cubits) was doubled back above the door and was the only part of the goats’ hair curtain that could be seen. It served to designate to all who came there the blessed purpose for which God had established a dwelling-place with man – to deal with his sin (Isa 53:6; 1 Peter 3:18; Rom 5:20).

The Fine Linen (Ex 26:1-6)

1. General specifications:

a) Color – White, with embroidery work of blue, purple, and scarlet.

b) Measurements – 28 cubits wide x 40 cubits long, made up of 10 curtains or sections each 4 cubits long and grouped in two sets of 5.

c) Ornamentation – Cherubim were embroidered in the various colors on the white background.

d) Purpose – to form the inside “ceiling” of the Tabernacle, seen only by the priestly family.

2. Typical significance: Manifestation of righteousness (Rev 19:8).

a) Fine Linen – worn by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:4). This underlines the need for spotless purity in God’s presence. It tells us of the spotless holiness and righteousness of the Lord Jesus manifested in every act, word, and thought in His daily life.

b) Blue – the heavenly color (Ex 24:10; John 3:13; John 6:58).

c) Purple – the royal color (John 19:2).

d) Scarlet – typifies at least two things:

i) Since it is obtained from the cochineal worm through crushing; it suggests suffering and sacrifice (Luke 22:44). This is the worm spoken about in Psalm 22:6.

ii) The emblem of glory (Rev 17:3-4)

In summary, the fine linen speaks of Christ’s holy, spotless humanity as illustrated in the Gospel of Luke; the blue points to His divine character or His heavenly character as seen in the Gospel of John; the purple of His royal character is what Matthew emphasizes in his Gospel account. The scarlet reminds us of His humiliation and subsequent glory, as seen in Mark’s record. All are blended together in one blessed Person, as the blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen formed one fabric.

Fifty loops of blue on each edge of each curtain were joined by couplings of gold. In the blue and the gold we have heavenly grace and divine energy perfectly joined in Him.

The cherubim, as representatives of God’s judicial authority (Genesis 3:24), are not inconsistent here because they not only remind us that sinful man has no access to God but also that all judgment has been committed to Him who is Himself “the Son of Man” (John 5:22, 27).

This curtain formed the ceiling of the Tabernacle so that to contemplate and appreciate the beauty above, the priests had to look up; here we have Christ in all His sinless perfection and glory at the Father’s right hand in heaven.

“Behold Him there, the once-slain Lamb,
Our sinless, spotless righteousness;
The Great unchangeable “I am,”
The King of Glory and of Grace.”