A tent, booth, pavilion, or temporary dwelling. For its general meaning and uses, see TENT. In the Scriptures it is employed more particularly of the tent made by Moses at the command of God, for the place of religious worship of the Hebrews, before the building of the temple. The directions of God, and the account of the execution of them, are contained in Exodus 25:1-40, and the following chapters. This is usually called the tabernacle of the congregation, or tent of assembly, and sometimes the tabernacle of the testimony.
The tabernacle was of an oblong rectangular form, thirty cubits long, ten broad, and ten in height, Exodus 26.15-30; 36.20-30; that is, about fifty-five feet long, eighteen broad, and eighteen high. The two sides and the western end were formed of boards of shittim wood, overlaid with thin plates of gold, and fixed in solid sockets or vases of silver. Above, they were secured by bars of the same wood overlaid with gold, passing through rings of gold which were fixed to the boards. On the east end, which was the entrance, there were no boards, but only five pillars of shittim wood, whose chapters and fillets were overlaid with gold and their hooks of gold, standing in five sockets of brass. The tabernacle thus erected was covered with four different kinds of curtains. The first and inner curtain was composed of fine linen, magnificently embroidered with figures of cherubim, in shades of blue, purple, and scarlet; this formed the beautiful ceiling. The next covering was made of fine goats’ hair; the third of rams’ skins or morocco dyed red; and the fourth and outward covering of a thicker leather. See BADGERS’ SKINS. We have already said that the east end of the tabernacle had no boards, but only five pillars of shittim wood; it was therefore closed with a richly embroidered curtain suspended from these pillars, Exodus 27:16.
Such was the external appearance of the sacred tent, which was divided into two apartments by means of four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold, like the pillars before described, two cubits and a half distant from each other; only they stood in sockets of silver instead of brass, Exodus 26:32 36:36; and on these pillars was hung a veil, formed of the same materials as the one placed at the east end, Exodus 26:31-33 36:35 Hebrews 9:3. The interior of the tabernacle was thus divided, it is generally supposed, in the same proportions as the temple afterwards built according to its model; two-thirds of the whole length being allotted to the first room, or the Holy Place, and one-third to the second, or Most Holy Place. Thus the former would be twenty cubits long, ten wide, and ten high, and the latter ten cubits every way. It is observable, that neither the Holy nor the Most Holy place had any window. Hence the need of the candlestick in the one, for the service that was performed therin.
The tabernacle thus described stood in an open space or court of an oblong form, one hundred cubits in length, and fifty in breadth, situated due east and west, Exodus 27:18. This court was surrounded with pillars of brass, filleted with silver, and placed at the distance of five cubits from each other, twenty on each side and ten on each end. Their sockets were of brass, and were fastened to the earth with pins of the same metal, Exodus 38:10,17,20. Their height was probably five cubits, that being the length of the curtains that were suspended on them, Exodus 28:18. These curtains, which formed an enclosure round the court, were of fine twined white linen yarn, Exodus 27:9 38:9,16, except that at the entrance on the east end, which was of blue and purple and scarlet and fine white twined linen, with cords to draw it either up or aside when the priests entered the court, Exodus 27:16 38:18. Within this area stood the altar of burntofferings, and the laver with its foot or base. This altar was placed in a line between the door of the court and the door of the tabernacle, but nearer the former, Exodus 40:6,29; the laver stood the altar of burnt-offering and the door of the tabernacle, Exodus 38:8. In this court all the Israelites presented their offerings, vows, and prayers.
But although the tabernacle was surrounded by the court, there is no reason to think that it stood in the center of it. It is more probable that the area at the east end was fifty cubits square; and indeed a less space than that could hardly suffice for the work that was to be done there, and for the persons who were immediately to attend the service. We now proceed to notice the furniture which the tabernacle contained.
In the Holy Place to which none but priests were admitted, Hebrews 9:6, were three objects worthy of notice: namely, the altar of incense, the table for the show-bread, and the candlestick for the showbread, and the candlestick for the lights, all of which have been described in their respective places. The altar of incense was placed in the middle of the sanctuary, before the veil, Exodus 30:6-10 40:26-27; and on it the incense was burnt morning and evening, Exodus 30:7,8. On the north side of the altar of incense, that is, on the right hand of the priest as he entered, stood the table for the show-bread, Exodus 26:35 40:22,23; and on the south side of the Holy Place, the golden candlestick, Exodus 25:31-39. In the Most Holy Place, into which only the high priest entered once a year, Hebrews 9:7, was the ark, covered by the mercy-seat and the cherubim.
The gold and silver employed in decorating the tabernacle are estimated at not less than a million of dollars. The remarkable and costly structure thus described was erected in the wilderness of Sinai, on the first day of the first month of the second year, after the Israelites left Egypt, Exodus 40.17; and when erected was anointed, together with its furniture, with holy oil, Exodus 40:9-11, and sanctified by blood, Exodus 24:6-8 Hebrews 9:21. The altar of burnt offerings, especially, was sanctified by sacrifices during seven days, Exodus 29:37; while rich donations were given by the princes of the tribes for the service of the sanctuary, Numbers 7:1.
We should not omit to observe, that the tabernacle was so constructed as to be taken to pieces and put together again, as occasion required. This was indispensable; it being designed to accompany the Israelites during their travels in the wilderness. With it moved and rested the pillar of fire and of cloud. As often as Israel removed, the tabernacle was taken to pieces by the priests, closely covered, and borne in regular order by the Levites, Numbers 4:1-49. Wherever they encamped, it was pitched in the midst of their tents, which were set up in a quadrangular form, under their respective standards, at a distance from the tabernacle of two thousand cubits; while Moses and Aaron, with the priests and Levites, occupied a place between them.
How long this tabernacle existed we do not know. During the conquest it remained at Gilgal, Joshua 4:19 10:43. After the conquest it was stationed for many years at Shiloh, Joshua 18:1 1 Samuel 1:3. In 2 Samuel 6:17, and 1 Chronicles 15:1, it is said that David had prepared and pitched a tabernacle in Jerusalem for the ark, which before had long been at Kirjath-jearim, and then in the house of Obed-edom, 1 Chronicles 13:6,14 2 Samuel 6:11,12. In 1 Chronicles 21:29, it is said that the tabernacle of Moses was still at Gibeon at that time; and it would therefore seem that the ark had long been separated from it. The tabernacle still remained at Gibeon in the time of Solomon, who sacrificed before it, 2 Chronicles 1:3,13. This is the last mention made of it; for apparently the tabernacle brought with the ark into the temple, 2 Chronicles 5:5, was the tent in which the ark had been kept on Zion, 2 Chronicles 1:4 5:2.
Feast of Tabernacles. This festival derives its name from the booths in which the people dwelt during its continuance, which were constructed of the branches and leaves of trees, on the roofs of their houses, in the courts, and also in the streets. Nehemiah describes the gathering of palm-branches, olive branches, myrtlebranches, etc., for this occasion, from the Mount of Olives. It was one of the three great festivals of the year, at which all the men of Israel were required to be present, Deuteronomy 16:16. It was celebrated during eight days, commencing on the fifteenth day of the month Tishri, that is, fifteen days after the new moon in October; and the first and last days were particularly distinguished, Leviticus 23:34-43 Nehemiah 8:14-18. This festival was instituted in memory of the forty years’ wanderings of the Israelites in the desert, Leviticus 23:42,43, and also as a season of gratitude and thanksgiving for the gathering in of the harvest; whence it is also called the Feast of the Harvest, Exodus 23:16 34:22. The season was an occasion of rejoicing and feasting. The public sacrifices consisted of two rams and fourteen lambs on each of the first seven days, together with thirteen bullocks on the first day, twelve on the second, eleven on the third, ten on the fourth, nine on the fifth, eight on the sixth, and seven on the seventh; while on the eighth day one bullock, one ram, and seven lambs were offered, Numbers 29:12-39. On every seventh year, the law of Moses was also read in public, in the presence of all the people, Deuteronomy 31:10-13 Nehemiah 8:18.
To these ceremonies the later Jews added a libation of water mingled with wine, which was poured upon the morning sacrifice of each day. The priests, having filled a vessel of water from the fountain of Siloam, bore it through the water gate to the temple, and there, while the trumpets and horns were sounding, poured it upon the sacrifice arranged upon the altar. This was probably done as a memorial of the abundant supply of water which God afforded to the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert; and perhaps with reference to purification from sin, 1 Samuel 7:6. This was accompanied with the singing of Isaiah 12:1-6: "With joy shall ye draw water from the wells of salvation;" and may naturally have suggested our Savior’s announcement while attending this festival, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink," John 7:37,38. The first and eighth days of the festival were Sabbaths to the Lord, in which there was a holy convocation, and in which all labor was prohibited, Leviticus 23:39 Numbers 29:12,35; and as the eighth was the last festival day celebrated in the course of each year, it appears to have been esteemed as peculiarly important and sacred.