Framework of the Tabernacle
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 26. We have been discussing the tabernacle from various aspects. We come now to the actual framework of the tabernacle itself.

The first covering of the tabernacle was a badgers' skin covering. The second covering was rams' skins dyed red. The third covering was black Palestinian goats' hair. The fourth covering or inner covering was made of fine-twined linen embroidered in blue, purple, and scarlet. Some people refer to this as the ceiling of the tabernacle because it is the portion that is seen from the inside.

The framework of the tabernacle of forty-eight boards of shittim wood was overlaid with gold. There were twenty on one side, twenty on the other, six on the back, with a corner board at each end of the front, for the east end was a door made of a curtain supported by five pillars. These boards were a cubit and a half wide and ten cubits high. At the bottom they had two little sprouts, if you want to call them that; the Bible calls them the “tenons.” We will be thinking about them in more detail later.

Each of these boards fit into a socket of silver. The boards were held together by three bars up and down the side of the tabernacle. I say three, one after the other, five deep if you keep in mind that these in the top do not go all the way through. The one in the middle went all the way through the side of the tabernacle from the very end to the very front. The bars above and below went only part way; the bars went through rings of gold.

Size of the Tabernacle

The size of the tabernacle is a bit difficult to determine accurately; we will not give you the overall size of the tabernacle in feet as we have that of the court and the pieces of furniture, etc. The reason is that the size of the corner boards at the back of the tabernacle–one on each corner, bound together with rings at the top and bottom, this holding the whole building together–is not given. They have been figured out on a scale basis by a great many different people, and there is a difference of opinion as to their exact size. For reasons known to the Lord, the size of those corner boards is not given. We are not interested in the size of the tabernacle in feet, except to give you a general idea of how big it is.

If you will keep in mind tht we are not giving you the exact size of the tabernacle because of these two corner boards, we would like to suggest an approximate size. The walls of the tabernacle were 17 1/2 feet high. We are using a 21 inch cubit for the measurement. It was approximately 32 1/2 feet wide, and the building itself was 52 1/2 feet long. If you will keep those figures in mind, you will have some idea about the size of the tabernacle.

Spiritual Significance of the Framework

The thing we have been interested in primarily is the spiritual significance of the tabernacle and of the various things related to it. So we want to notice what lessons are provided for us in the framework of the tabernacle, keeping in mind that we are talking about the forty-eight boards to which we have referred. The first thing is to find what the Word has to say about the framework. Look at chapter 26 of the book of Exodus, verse 15:

Exodus 26

15And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up.
16Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board.
17Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle.
18And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward.
19And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons.
20And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards:
21And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
22And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards.
23And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides.
24And they shall be coupled together beneath, and they shall be coupled together above the head of it unto one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners.
25And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board.
26And thou shalt make bars of shittim wood; five for the boards of the one side of the tabernacle,
27And five bars for the boards of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the boards of the side of the tabernacle, for the two sides westward.
28And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end.
29And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars: and thou shalt overlay the bars with gold.
30And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount.

This passage of Scripture presents everything that we have tried to present to you in summary, but this is the reason for it.

Redemption Money of Silver

Turn, please, to chapter 30 of the book of Exodus, verse 11:

Exodus 30

11And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
12When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
13This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
14Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
15The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
16And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

These passages of Scripture are the basis for the things that we will be saying. We want you to have them so that when you meditate upon what we have said, you will be able to see the reason for what we have said.

Turn, please, to chapter 38 of the book of Exodus:

Exodus 38

25And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
26A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.
27And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the vail; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket.
28And of the thousand seven hundred seventy and five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, and overlaid their chapiters, and filleted them.

This last passage describes the amount of silver that was taken in at this numbering. It was a tremendous amount. We are also told the use for the silver. If you will keep in mind that the ninety-six sockets of silver were buried in the desert sand and weighed 125 pounds each, you can realize why there had to be as much silver as there was in this particular taxation, for that is what it was. Keep in mind that the passages of Scripture indicated that everything out of which the tabernacle was made was a willing offering. The people willingly gave so much that Moses had to tell Bezaleel to stop bringing the money and materials. There was much more than enough.

But this silver was not left up to the free will of the individuals. It was something that was demanded of every young man who was to go into what we would refer to as the armed forces today. It was called “redemption money”. We will be thinking more about it later.

The Books of the Framework

For the present, I would like for us to consider the material out of which the boards of the tabernacle were made. We have considered these materials before when we were looking at the furniture of the tabernacle, so there is no need to repeat their significance in detail. The boards were made of shittim wood, our text says. That was the acacia wood that grew in the desert in the immediate area where they were. It was an incorruptible wood; nothing could cause it to decay or to deteriorate in any way. The boards were overlaid with gold. What was said of the boards was said of the bars that supported the boards. What was said of the bars was said of the corner boards.

We have discovered that acacia wood is significant of the incorruptible humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ–His perfect manhood. Gold is representative of His deity. So, as we remember that the boards of the tabernacle, as well as the other parts of the tabernacle, are significant of the Lord Jesus Christ, we see in the boards the God-man, the Lord Jesus, deity and humanity combined.

Turn with me, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 22. We have referred to the boards of the tabernacle as the framework. The framework supported the coverings. We have not considered the coverings as yet. When we do, we will find that in a special way they are significant of all the attributes of deity, all the attributes of the glory of God. So we can say that as the framework of the tabernacle supported the coverings, the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ supported all the attributes of deity, or manifested all the attributes of deity. They could never have been revealed to man had Jesus Christ not come to the earth. That is why when Jesus said to Philip, “Have I been so long time with you, Philip, yet have you not known the Father?”, He was declaring His unity with the Father (John 14:9). This was prophesied in this portion of the Word:

Isaiah 22

20And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
21And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
22And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
23And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house.
24And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.

Christ Upholds the Glory of God

At this point in the history of the nation of Israel, affairs were sad indeed, for there was no one dependable to lead them. So God said He would raise up a person by the name of Eliakim, and He speaks of him in the manner we have read here. Yet even as we read this, we realize He must be speaking about someone beyond Eliakim, because Eliakim could not possibly fulfill all of these characteristics. This is not unusual. Remember that the Ethiopian eunuch, on his way back home from Africa, was reading from chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah when Philip joined himself to the chariot. The Ethiopian eunuch said to Philip, “Does the prophet speak of himself or of another?” (Acts 8:34). The Word of God says that Philip opened the Bible then and preached unto him Jesus, because chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah was not speaking of any mortal man; it was speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eliakim was a nail in a temporary place, but there was One who was to come after him Who was indeed a nail in a sure place, upon Whom hung all the glory of the Father's house. Some of you, I am sure, know Who that is.

Turn, please, to the book of Revelation, where we see the permanent nail upon which is hung all the glory of the Father's house. In chapter 1 of the book of Revelation there is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. He describes Himself in verse 18:

Revelation 1

18I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Notice in chapter 3, verse 7, of the book of Revelation this same individual is speaking:

Revelation 3

7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

These are almost identically the same words as Isaiah, chapter 22, which reminds us that as the framework of the tabernacle upheld all the curtains, the Lord upholds all the glory of God.

The bars which held these boards together must come in for notice, but we pass them by with only a comment, since we know the material of which they were made–acacia wood and gold–and their number. The number has repeatedly been called to our attention, for it is the most prominent number which occurs in the tabernacle. It is the number five, the number of grace. Everywhere we look inside and outside the tabernacle, we are reminded of the grace of God.

We are not saying that the people who worshiped in the tabernacle understood these things. Perhaps to them this was no more than a lovely building with no spiritual significance. You may say, “If that is true, why are we studying it?” The answer is found in chapter 9 of the book of Hebrews and in chapter 10 of I Corinthians. The Holy Spirit has preserved the record that we may profit spiritually by an examination of the tabernacle.

Christ, Our Daysman

We mentioned when we were looking at the framework of the tabernacle that each of these boards had two prongs. The Bible calls them “tenons”. If you did not have a dictionary, you would not know what a tenon is because it is not a word that we use in everyday language. You might realize what prongs are, and there might be in your mind a figure of two straight little pieces of shittim wood that fit into sockets; but you would still not know the spiritual significance which I believe God would have us understand.

Remember this: Without these tenons, the boards had no security. They could not stand upright. Without these tenons, the tabernacle could not have stood. The word “tenon” is a translation of the Hebrew word yawd . The thing that intrigues me about this word is that the only place it is translated “tenon” is in the portion of the Word which we have read. Elsewhere it is translated by words that, to my mind, have a real significance.

Let us look at some of these places. Turn, please, to the book of Job, chapter 9. Job was going through a tremendous trial, and he was like us; there were times when he felt he had no contact with God. There were times when he looked at the holiness of God and looked at his own unrighteous self and he knew that there was no reason from a human standpoint why he should have contact with God. He expressed it in a way that is indelibly impressed upon our minds. Perhaps the following has been your testimony at some time or other:

Job 9

30If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
31Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.

Snow water was just about the purest water that could be had in Job's day. He said, “God, if I bathe in the purest water there is, yet thou wilt plunge me in the ditch. My own clothes won't want to associate with me. I am so dirty; I am so unworthy.” In verse 32 he explains why he feels this way:

Job 9

32For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.

“We are just not on the same level,” he said. “There is no way that we can be in contact one with the other.” Then in verse 33 he said:

Job 9

33Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

Job was saying, “If there were just someone who was a go-between. If there were someone who could reach out with one hand and take hold of the hand of God, and reach out with the other hand and take my hand and bring us together, then we could have some fellowship.” Well, thank God there is a daysman, and Job knows it now. That daysman is the Lord Jesus Christ, because the Lord Jesus Christ reached out with His hand, took hold of the hand of God, reached down with the other hand, and took hold of Job's hand and brought them together.

What has all this to do with the tenons on the boards? Just this: The word that is translated “tenon” is translated “hand” in verse 33. I don't believe that is an accident. I believe the Holy Spirit in His wise choice of words in the original text selected a word to describe the prongs on the end of the board that would remind us today that as those prongs supported the board so the pierced hands of the Lord Jesus Christ reached out to us in salvation and made possible our union with God.

An Illustration of God's Love

Turn, please, to the book of Hosea, chapter 13. Hosea is one of the loveliest books in the Bible. It is one of the most heartrending books, I think, in the Bible. Perhaps you are familiar with its story. Hosea's wife was unfaithful to him and became a prostitute in the streets, well known to everyone. But Hosea loved her devotedly. According to all the civil law, he should have had nothing to do with her; but God said to Hosea, “I want you to get her and bring her home, and I want you to love her as though none of this had happened. I want you to shower upon her more love than you ever gave her before she became unfaithful.” Hosea said, in so many words, “God, why do you want me to do that?” God said, “Because I want to illustrate to my people, Israel, how I love them. They are as sinful as your wife has been. They are as unfaithful as she ever dared to be. I want them to understand that I love them. The only way they will be able to understand is if you give them this object lesson.”

Read the book of Hosea sometime with that thought in mind and you will see that it is a heartrending book indeed. God made some promises concerning the nation of Israel in the story, and one of them is found in verse 14:

Hosea 13

14I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

Did you notice the word “power” in that verse? That word “power” is the translation of the Hebrew word yawd which is also translated “tenon” or “prong”. Once again I see the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in choosing a word to describe the support of the walls of the tabernacle that speaks of divine power. That is exactly what this word is talking about.

Turn, please, to II Chronicles, chapter 30, and notice another use of this word. The following is a bit of advice to the nation of Israel:

II Chronicles 30

8Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.

Notice the word “yield” in that verse. It is our Hebrew word yawd . When the Holy Spirit described two prongs on the end of these pieces of wood that helped to support the walls of the tabernacle, He used a word that accurately describes the Savior whom the board represents. Certainly you are aware that it was the hand of the Savior that provided our salvation, and you are aware that it was the power of the Savior that provided our salvation. You are aware that it was only because He yielded Himself as a willing sacrifice for your sins and mine that the glory of our God can even faintly be manifested in us.

Provision for Sin

The next thing we want to notice in the framework follows naturally–the place where these prongs fit into the sockets of silver. The sockets of silver were made of the redemption money that was paid by every young man when the census was taken, or the numbering was made, with the idea that these young men would go into the army. You will remember that they were told that the money had to be paid or the plague would come. There was a time in the history of the nation of Israel when the money was not paid and the plague came. It was that time when God said that the Devil moved David to number the children of Israel. The payment of the half-shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary, was an indication that God was making provision for sin before it was ever committed.

Let that sink in, will you? Notice the wonderful provision of God. Have you stopped to think about it? Did the Lord Jesus Christ die for all your sins up to the moment you received Him as your Savior? You say, “Well, yes, I think He did, because He forgave those sins.” You are right. He died for all the sins you committed up until the time when you became a Christian. But have you sinned since you became a Christian? You have, haven't you? Will He have to die all over again? No, you know better than that. So you realize, do you not, that God made provision for your sins even before you sinned? Christ died for the sins that you will commit tomorrow.

“Oh,” you say, “if that is true, then I can just do as I please.” Don't talk like that. The Apostle Paul said, “God forbid.” That is not the exact translation from the Greek. It was the strongest thing the translators could say. It would be the same as if we would say today, “Perish the thought!” Anyone who talks about sinning all he wants to sin just because the sacrifice has already been provided has no appreciation of the depth of salvation or the cost of redemption. People who are born again do not talk like that.

Just as certainly as the half-shekel was demanded before the people were numbered, sacrifice has been made for your sin and mine before it has been committed. From those half-shekels were made the sockets upon which the boards were placed, upon which the glory of God was manifested. The bars that held the boards together were very important. The boards would have been all awry if it were not for those bars. The boards on the end of the tabernacle–corner boards–were tremendously important. The whole building would have collapsed without them. But do you realize that with all of that there could have been no building had it not been for the foundation, the sockets of silver? Do you remember where the tabernacle was pitched? Not on a rock, not on hard ground–it was pitched in the shifting desert sands. It never could have stood had it not been anchored in sockets of silver.

A Permanent Salvation

Your salvation and mine is as permanent as those sockets of silver. People who try to provide their own salvation are building on shifting sands. Perhaps the Lord Jesus Christ had that in mind when He told the story of the man who built his house upon the sands, and when the winds and the rains came the house could not stand (Matthew 7:27). This tabernacle never could have stood the winds of the desert had it not been anchored in sockets of silver. Thank God that it was, and that because you and I are anchored in sockets of silver today in even a greater way, we are able to stand. Do you remember what Peter said?

I Peter 1

18Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

So our redemption is surer than the type.

Liberty, Not License

Turn, please, to the Gospel of Matthew for a lovely little story that was based upon this very thing.

Matthew 17

24And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
25He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him [that is, anticipated him] , saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
26Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
27Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

Many times when this story is told, the application is that these were Romans who came and asked for Roman tax money, but that is not true. These were officers from the temple, as the word for “tribute” in the original text indicates; and they were asking for the money that was ordinarily paid by the young men at the time they were numbered. It had deteriorated into a practice of taking money from everyone for the temple service once a year.

These individuals came to Peter and said, “Does your master pay this tribute, this money, to the temple, this silver to the treasury?” Without thinking he replied, “Yes.” He went into the house to talk to the Lord about it. Notice the statement in verse 25 that the Lord prevented him (that means He anticipated him) and said, in so many words, “Peter, I know what you are going to ask Me. Before you ask Me, I want to ask you something. Do the kings of the earth take taxes or tribute of their own people, or of strangers?” Peter immediately said, “Of strangers.” Then Jesus said, “That means that the citizens of the kingdom are free, does it not?” Peter got the point. He did not need any more explanation. He realized what the Savior was saying.

In verse 27, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them.” May we pause for a brief digression? I wish we were as conscientious as the Savior was. He said, “Peter, we don't have to pay that tribute money. We don't have to, and I want you to understand that. We have been freed from that. We are at liberty. But lest we offend them, we will pay it.”

The liberty of the grace of God is a wonderful thing. Oh, what a relief it is to know the freedom of the grace of God! But my heart is grieved sometimes when I realize that many Christians turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4) and cause their good to be evil spoken of (Romans 14:16). They are careless about causing others to stumble (Romans 14:21). The Apostle Paul had this vision, you will remember, when he said, “The grace of God has delivered me from the problem of eating meat that has been offered to idols. I can eat it and not get indigestion. It doesn't bother me at all. But you know, it bothers some people. If my eating that kind of meat would cause my brother to stumble, I would not eat any meat while the world stands” (I Corinthians 8:13). I wish we could have that spirit of sacrifice. I am afraid most of us do not.

Jesus said, “So we won't offend them, go down to the sea and cast a hook and take the fish that first comes up. When thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money. That take and give unto them for thee and for me.” This is a stomping ground for the so-called higher critics. They say, “What was the miracle in that? The kind of fish in that area that Peter hooked up were fish that were in the habit of swallowing their young–that is, taking them into their mouths for protection–and when they did, often they took in foreign objects. They could very easily have taken in some silver. There is no mistake in that,” they say. They are right as far as the kind of fish is concerned because the word for “fish” in the original text describes that kind of fish. But there is a miracle here in the fact that Jesus said to Peter, “Take the first fish that comes up, and you shall find a piece of money.” That is the way the translators put it, but what the Lord Jesus Christ said was, “You will find a shekel.” It is the very same word that we have been looking at in the book of Romans. That is a miracle.

You may say, “But I thought a half–shekel was what was needed to pay the tax.” That is exactly right. A half shekel is about $.62. Did you notice what the Savior said in the last part of verse 27? “Take that piece of money and give it to them for Me and for thee.” A half–shekel was all that was needed, but there were two of them. Notice how accurate the Lord is.

All this brings to mind the reason for the minute description of the framework of the tabernacle–not so that we may build some day, but so we may be reminded that the story of the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemption runs through the whole Scripture. It is not something related to the New Testament; it is related to all the Word of God.

Conclusion

There is a very interesting study in this same framework if you want to apply the material related to the framework of the tabernacle to individual Christians who, the Word of God says, are fitly framed together to form a habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). It is a good lesson that it would profit you to follow through the Word of God.


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