Coverings and Curtains
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 26. We continue our study of the construction of the tabernacle.

Exodus 26

1Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them.
2The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.
3The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other five curtains shall be coupled one to another.
4And thou shalt make loops of blue upon the edge of the one curtain from the selvedge in the coupling; and likewise shalt thou make in the uttermost edge of another curtain, in the coupling of the second.
5Fifty loops shalt thou make in the one curtain, and fifty loops shalt thou make in the edge of the curtain that is in the coupling of the second; that the loops may take hold one of another.
6And thou shalt make fifty taches [tacks of clasps; the word ”clasp” is a better word] of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle.
7And thou shalt make curtains of goats' hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make.
8The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure.
9And thou shalt couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle.
10And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the coupling, and fifty loops in the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second.
11And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one.
12And the remnant that remaineth of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle.
13And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent, it shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it.
14And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins.

In chapter 38 of the book of Exodus, there is a repetition of this same material, with the exception that Bezaleel is creating the material. Here the instruction is given to Moses concerning the creation of the materials.

We have been considering the tabernacle and its furnishings for quite some time. We want now to consider what is described as the curtains and the covering of the tabernacle. The roof is composed of four different coverings. If we examine each of these four different coverings, we will be reminded again that the tabernacle speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. The description which we read is presented from the inside out. We will study it or approach the study of it, shall I say, from the opposite direction:

Exodus 26

14And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers' skins.

The last statement describes the outside covering of the tabernacle. All that is said about it in the Word is that it is a covering of badgers' skins.

Appearance of the Outer Covering

We said that we would see in the covering the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems to me significant that the tabernacle which met the eyes of ordinary people, people who never got on the inside, would be described as unlovely and unattractive. For believe me, that is the way the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to people in His day, and that is the way the Lord Jesus Christ appears to people in our day who really do not know Him. Turn, please, to chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah, which is a confession actually of some individual who found the Lord Jesus Christ in appearance as the badgers' skins of the tabernacle.

Isaiah 53

1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

“The arm of the Lord” is an Old Testament name for Jesus Christ. He is saying, “Who believes what we say? Who has seen the Lord Jesus Christ as He really is?” Then he explains what he meant by that:

Isaiah 53

2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

I do not think that this passage of Scripture means that the Lord Jesus Christ was essentially an ugly man, but I do believe it means that there was nothing to attract people to Him other than from a spiritual standpoint. Individuals who had spiritual perception and spiritual insight could behold the Lord Jesus Christ in all His beauty.

If you were to talk about the tabernacle, you could not talk about a very attractive building, practically speaking. Go back, please, to Exodus, chapter 26, as I remind you of something else. We have referred to this covering as a badgers' skin covering because that is the word used in our translation. Actually the Hebrew word that is translated “badgers' skins” does not speak of the animal we know as a badger, but rather is a word that speaks of a fish. We would emphasize that because when the tabernacle was built in the wilderness the skin that made up the outer covering was not made of animal skins. It was made of sealskin or fish skin, if you please. These were found only in the Nile River and in the Red Sea.

When the tabernacle was built, the children of Israel had been a long time in the wilderness. You realize that they must have had to carry these badgers' skins with them from the land of Egypt into the wilderness, a great supply of them–enough to cover the building and to go along the sides part way and down over the back part way. That would take a tremendous number of porpoise skins. It would take a tremendous number of badgers' skins, as the text says. They would have had to have a supply that they had prepared with their own hands for a specific purpose.

Significance of Badgers' Skins

I wonder what it was. I wonder why the children of Israel carried these badgers' skins with them from the land of Egypt. Badgers' skins, as such, are mentioned in only one other place in the Bible. Turn, please, to see why these badgers' skins were accumulated in the manner in which they were, providing a supply of materials for the outer covering of the tabernacle:

Ezekiel 16

10I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.

Notice the statement “I shod thee with badgers' skins”. Badgers' skins were used by the Israelites to provide coverings for their feet, to provide shoes for their feet.

Ezekiel, chapter 16, should not be considered without a reference to two other passages of Scripture. Turn, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 8. After we have made this little side excursion in the Scripture, I think we will be able to profit from a very good spiritual lesson:

Deuteronomy 8

1All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
2And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
3And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
4[Notice this verse particularly] Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

Think about that last statement for a moment. “Neither did thy foot swell during forty years of marching over the hot desert sand.”

God's Provision In the Wilderness

Turn, please, to Deuteronomy, chapter 29. Why should the feet of these Israelites swell as they made their journey through the wilderness?

Deuteronomy 29

5And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.

There are two things related to the children of Israel as they marched in the desert that God thought worthy of preserving in the Word of God. One of them is that they made this march for forty years and did not have any foot trouble. The same shoes that they wore out of the land of Egypt lasted through forty years of wilderness wandering. The shoes with which they started out from Egypt were the same shoes that they wore into the land of Canaan.

I suspect that all of us have had foot trouble at some time or another. Some of our foot trouble is due to the fact that our shoes are old and misshapen, the arches in them are broken down, etc. But these Israelites marched forty years with the same shoes and their feet did not swell one time. This is worthy of notice, so worthy of notice that Nehemiah had to mention it when he was talking about the goodness of God, and Nehemiah did not even belong to that generation. Turn, please, to the book of Nehemiah and notice with me chapter 9. Nehemiah is talking about God's provision and he draws an illustration from past history.

Nehemiah 9

19Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.
20Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
21Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.

The miracle of water coming out of the rock is worth talking about. It is a miracle. Manna rained down from Heaven is worth talking about. It is a miracle. But what is so unusual about feet that don't swell? The thing that is unusual is that God made a provision for them that was worthy of notice. He fixed it so that their shoes never got too tight. They did not have fallen arches. Their feet did not swell. Why did they not just make them some other shoes? The answer is found in the first covering of this tabernacle.

God said to them, “I want all you have. I want you to make a covering for the tabernacle out of all the badgers' skins you have accumulated in the land of Egypt.” Remember that human nature is the same at any age. It would do no violence to the Scriptures for us to assume that some of those Israelites said, “But God, what will we do? These shoes we've got are pretty thin. It won't be long until we need some more shoes. What will we do for foot covering?” God said, “Leave that to me. Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added” (Matthew 6:33). I firmly believe that one of the lessons related to the badgers' skins is that when we give our all, we cannot suffer for it. God won't let us.

If you use a covering for feet, of course you use one that will give protection, and that is the basic lesson of the badgers' skin covering. As the badgers' skins protected all the other curtains of the tabernacle, as the badger's skins protected those who worshipped in the tabernacle from the heat of the day and from the moon by night–it was dangerous in that country–and from the rain, so our Lord Jesus Christ provides for us our divine protection. We see in the covering of the tabernacle, then, a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Ram as a Substitute

I would suggest that in the badgers' skin covering you have seen what the Lord Jesus Christ is able to do for those who commit everything fully and completely to Him. Many people never see anything but the badgers' skin covering, but some go on to know the Lord, and when they do, they are able to penetrate the badgers' skin covering and to come to the second covering that we will consider–the next to the last if we begin inside and work out. This covering is described in chapter 26 of Exodus, verse 14, with as simple a phrase as was the badgers' skin covering:

Exodus 26

14And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red,…

That is the second covering, working from the outside in. If you will ignore the unattractiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ to the natural man, and ask God to open your eyes spiritually to Him, you will be astounded at what you will see. If you ever do that, one of the first things you will see is the rams' skins dyed red; you will never appreciate what the Lord Jesus Christ is represented as meaning in the succeeding coverings unless you see Him as He is represented in the rams' skins dyed red. We do not need to take the time to talk about red. When we see it in the Scriptures, we know that it stands for the blood of the sacrifice. Here it is simply a double emphasis on that truth, for all we need to know if we are to understand the significance of the rams' skins is the significance of the ram in this picture.

The first time a ram is mentioned is in chapter 15 of the book of Genesis. You know the story fairly well, I think. God made a covenant with Abraham. Abraham said, “How will I be sure that You will keep it?” God said, “Get your ram. Get you some turtle doves. Split the ram in two. Split the turtle doves in two. Stand by and watch it. See what happens.” God himself walked through the sacrifice, and He said to Abraham, “That is how you will know. It is not on the basis of what you do, but on the basis of a sacrifice. That is why you can depend on Me.”

In chapter 22 of the book of Genesis, Abraham and Isaac were on top of the mountain. Isaac was to be a sacrifice, you remember. The wood was there, the altar was there, and Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Where is the sacrifice?” Abraham by faith said, “God will provide a sacrifice.” But he went on and obeyed the injunction of God, you will remember. His son was bound and laid upon the altar, and Abraham was ready to plunge the knife of sacrifice when the angel of the Lord said, “Don't. Wait. Turn.” Abraham turned and looked, and in the bushes a ram was caught. Abraham sacrificed the ram instead of his son. Ever after that you will find the ram mentioned in the Scriptures as the animal of substitution.

It is called the ram of consecration in Exodus, chapter 29, because it is the sacrifice God chose as a substitute for the life of men in response to the demands of sin. So it is significant, I think, that the second covering to which our attention should be drawn is rams' skin dyed red. I repeat, if you look at the tabernacle from the outside, if you look at the tabernacle with natural eyes, all you will see is an unattractive brown covering. But if you penetrate the brown covering and your spiritual eyes are open, you will see rams' skin dyed red, or symbolically, you will see the Lord Jesus Christ as a substitute for you.

Significance of the Goat's Hair Covering

As we penetrate the red covering, because though salvation is instantaneous, spiritual growth is not, the covering that is brought to our attention is described in more details than the covering at which we have just looked. Will you glance at the paragraph in chapter 26 that begins with verse 7:

Exodus 26

7And thou shalt make curtains of goats' hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make.
8The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure.
9And thou shalt couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle.
10And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the coupling, and fifty loops in the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second.
11And thou shalt make fifty taches [clasps] of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one.
12And the remnant that remaineth of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle.
13And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent, it shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it.

The covering of goats' hair was made up of individual curtains attached one to another. Five were attached together in one section; six were attached together in another section. On the edge of each of the large curtains made by putting five together in one section and six together in another section, were loops of material. The loops were fastened together with clasps of brass holding the entire curtain together. Part of the curtain came down on one side, part on the other side, and part at the back.

Here is something significant; let us not bypass it: The sixth, or the eleventh curtain as it is referred to in the Scripture, would come down all the way over the tabernacle in that fashion, but instead it was doubled back so that even though all of the goats' hair coverings was hidden by the rams' skins dyed red, this part that was doubled back was visible at all times. What was the significance of that? There is no point in our studying the tabernacle if we do not recognize that there was more than practical suggestion in all of this. As we seek for the significance, the first thing that we had better settle in our minds is the color of the curtains. It was black. Some models of the tabernacle show it white, due to a lack of full investigation of the Word. Those who show the covering white assume that the goats of the land of Palestine were the same color as most of them are in America. This is not the case. The only goats known in the land of Palestine were black. That is why in the Song of Solomon, chapter 1, verse 5, the Shulamite woman said, “I am black as the tents of Kedar.” The tents of Kedar were tents made of black goats' hair. So let us establish immediately in our thinking that the color of this covering was black.

As I suggested earlier, red needs no explanation because when we see red in the Scripture, we always think of sin and of death. We are looking at the portrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some see Him only as the badgers' skin covering–dull and unattractive and unlovely. Others see Him as a substitute in the rams' skin dyed red. Some do not go any further. If they do, they come to the goats' hair covering, and they understand why the Lord Jesus Christ could be represented by the rams' skin dyed red, why the Lord Jesus Christ could be the substitute for men.

Sin Offering and a Scapegoat

Will you notice verse 7 of Exodus, chapter 26. The word “hair” is in italics. That means that the word was not in the original text; the translators put it in. There is nothing wrong with putting it in because if you talk about the skins of goats you will talk about goats' hair. But I believe it emphasizes something better to leave it out, for the attention must be focused not upon the hair, but upon the goat. Turn, please, to the book of Leviticus, chapter 9; for as we saw the significance of the ram in the Scriptures, it is important for us to see the significance of a goat in the Scriptures.

Leviticus 9

1And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel;
2And he said unto Aaron, Take thee a young calf for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the LORD.
3And unto the children of Israel thou shalt speak, saying, Take ye a kid of the goats for a sin offering; and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, for a burnt offering;

Did you notice the statement “a kid of the goats for a sin offering”? Turn, please, to the book of Leviticus, chapter 16, and let us notice the manner in which the goat offering was used. The illustrations that were given in Leviticus, chapter 9, are further emphasized in Leviticus, chapter 16:

Leviticus 16

5And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

The rest of the chapter tells how the two goats were used. Look at verse 8:

Leviticus 16

8And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.

Then the chapter tells how the goat that was designated as belonging to the Lord was used, and how the goat that was designated as a scapegoat was used. Two facts related to sin are illustrated in the chapter. We will be talking about the sacrifices in the tabernacle later, so we will give just a brief statement about it now. When an individual brought the two goats, he put his hand on the head of one, and when he did so he identified himself with it; it was killed as a representative sacrifice for his sins, a substitute for his sins, a sin-bearer, if you please. Then he put his hand upon the other goat, and when he did so, all his sins were acknowledged and were transferred from him to that goat; that goat became known as the scapegoat. It was put out into the wilderness as far from the camp as it could be.

Two great facts about sin are illustrated. One is that sin is forgiven by virtue of a sacrifice; and not only is sin forgiven, but sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west. Just as certainly as the scapegoat was turned loose in the wilderness, never to be remembered again, your sins and mine are forgotten, never to be remembered against us any more forever.

You should rejoice in that truth because there are a lot of people who are burdened with sin that is already forgiven. They are torturing themselves about it. They say, “I don't know whether God can forgive me. Maybe God can forgive me, but I cannot forgive myself.” The scapegoat tells the story, not only of the sacrifice for sin as do the rams' skins dyed red, but also as the removal of sin as the goat's hair.

God's Grace In Relation to Man

Someone says, “What is the significance of eleven?” It is interesting that the Bible does not say anything about the number eleven as such. God tells us to consider this number not as eleven, but as six and as five. He said, “Divide the curtains into six; divide them into five.” Six is the number of man. Five is the number of grace. These curtains illustrate God's grace in relation to man; if the Lord Jesus Christ had not become the scapegoat, bearing in full the penalty of sin, then we would not know anything about the grace of God.

We will go from this covering to the one beneath it, but before we do, I would like for you to keep in mind that these two curtains were joined by loops, and the loops were joined by clasps of brass. We have learned in our study of the tabernacle that brass is significant of judgment. How fitting that when we are talking about the black goats' skin covering, which represents Christ bearing the sins of the world, clasps of brass, an indication of God's judgment, should hold the curtains together.

The Last Curtain

When we come to the last curtain, which formed the ceiling of the tabernacle, we will find curtains sewn together as were the curtains of goats' hair, not six and five this time, but five and five. Five individual curtains are sewn together to make a large curtain, and another five are sewn together to make another large curtain, and then those two curtains had made in them a hundred loops of blue. Those loops of blue were joined together with clasps, and those clasps were made not of brass, which speaks of judgment as were the goats' hair coverings, but of gold, which speaks of the deity of Christ.

When you get into the tabernacle–inside, mind you, for that is the only way you can see this covering–and look up, the things that attract your attention are the gold clasps, speaking of the deity of Christ. Notice that not only were the clasps made of gold, but the loops were of blue. We have already noticed the significance of colors in our study of the tabernacle. Blue is a reminder of Heaven. When the blue loops and the gold clasps came together, it was as though God was saying in a double fashion that your security and certainty are related to Heaven and to God.

The curtains were made of fine-twined linen. They were embroidered in blue, with purple, and with scarlet; and the embroidery work depicted cherubim. We have noticed the significance of the color and will not emphasize it again. We have noticed the significance of the cherubim and will not emphasize them again save to say that when you were inside the tabernacle and looked up to the ceiling, it was embroidered all over with cherubim. You were reminded of God's protection because cherubim in the Word of God are the symbol of protection.

Significance of Numbers

Did you notice that these ten curtains, as they are described in detail in the first six verses of chapter 16, suggest the significance of the number ten–five curtains in one section and five curtains in another. Did you notice that there is a division? Ten is the number of division. When the Ten Commandments are presented in the Word of God, they are divided into two tables. When the Bible speaks about fingers, it speaks of five on one hand and five on another. When it speaks about toes, it speaks about five on one foot and five on another. It speaks about ten virgins. Five of them were wise, and five of them were foolish. Follow the number ten through the Bible and that is the way it is always. So when we come to the curtains, there is a division.

What held those curtains together? Clasps of gold. How many clasps? The number is significant. Fifty clasps of gold held those curtains together. I would like to ask you something. If those fifty clasps of gold had not been there, could there have been unity to the roof of the tabernacle? Could there have been any security for the roof of the tabernacle? I think you will recognize that there would have been chaos because the little loops that were intertwined would not have held permanently in the winds of the desert. The clasps of gold held them securely.

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

What is the significance of fifty in the Scriptures? Fifty is the number of Pentecost. These fifty clasps of gold represented all that Pentecost means to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. What happened on the day of Pentecost? Well, all that some people can see on the day of Pentecost are the cloven tongues of fire. All they can hear is the sound of a rushing, mighty wind and people speaking in tongues other than their own. Those are the mere physical accompaniments of Pentecost, and they have passed from the scene. There is no sound of a rushing, mighty wind today. There are no cloven tongues of fire, and there is no speaking in tongues such as occurred on the day of Pentecost. But the purpose for which the Holy Spirit came is still going on. What was that purpose? Turn, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 12, and notice verse 1:

I Corinthians 12

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

Paul goes on and describes various spiritual gifts that were bestowed upon the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He said in verse 11:

I Corinthians 12

11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

That is, dividing to every man individually as the Holy Spirit desires. The Holy Spirit may give to one the gift of healing. He may give to another the gift of prophecy. He may give to another the gift of teaching. He may give to another the gift of knowledge. But it is the Holy Spirit Who bestows the gifts, and He does not bestow the gifts for the purpose of division, nor does He bestow the gifts for the glory of one individual above another individual in the Body of Christ. He gives the gift for the purpose of all. Look at verse 13, for this is what occurred on the day of Pentecost:

I Corinthians 12

13For by one Spirit are [the correct verb is ”were”] we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14For the body is not one member, but many.

He goes on to illustrate that. Have you ever stopped to consider how disorganized you would be in a matter of moments if your foot decided to be your tongue and your tongue decided to be your foot? Confusion would result. The only things that keep your foot in a foot's place and your hand in a hand's place are the control centers of your brain. When those control centers are damaged in any fashion, then your foot quits acting like a foot, and your hand quits acting like a hand. The only Person who can take people of many divergent opinions and put them together in one fellowship and have order and not confusion is the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that where the Holy Spirit is Lord, then there is liberty (II Corinthians 3:17); when He is not Lord, there is confusion. The only way you and I can get along together in the Body of Christ, since I am a pigheaded Yankee and you are not, is for the Holy Spirit to take full control of our lives. That is the only way.

Conclusion

The only things that kept these curtains from falling apart and confusion resulting were the fifty clasps of gold. I believe that those fifty clasps of gold were significant of the work of the Holy Spirit in relating individual believers to the Lord Jesus Christ and to one another. May I remind you, Dear Ones, that you will never be right until your relationship with Jesus Christ is right through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. You know what happens if one member of your body gets out of joint. You don't hold your finger way off over here and wave it around all by itself and say, “I feel so sorry for my finger. It is out of joint.” Someone may say, “How are you?”, and you may say, “I am terrible. My finger is out of joint.” If you turn your ankle, you don't hold your foot out away from yourself and say, “I am so sorry for my ankle.” Someone says, “How are you?”, and you say, “My ankle hurts, so I hurt all over.”

Beloved, that is exactly what happens when you or I get out of fellowship. The whole Body of Christ suffers for us. That is why it is so important for us to be rightly related to Christ, as the clasps of gold were rightly related to the loops to one another and to the curtains.


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