Tabernacle


Tabernacle
Model of the tabernacle in Timna Park, Israel

The Tabernacle (Hebrew: משכן‎, mishkan, "residence" or "dwelling place"), according to the Hebrew Torah/Old Testament, was the portable dwelling place for the divine presence from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan. Built to specifications revealed by God (Yahweh) to Moses at Mount Sinai, it accompanied the Israelites on their wanderings in the wilderness and their conquest of the Promised Land. It contained the Ark of the Covenant which was eventually placed in the First Temple in Jerusalem. The First Temple in Jerusalem superseded it as the dwelling-place of God among the Israelites. There is no further mention of the Tabernacle after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in c. 587 BCE.

The fullest description of the Tabernacle describes an inner shrine (named Holy of Holies) housing the Ark and an outer chamber (Holy Place), with a golden lampstand, table for showbread, and altar of incense.[1] This description is generally identified as part of the Priestly source (P),[1] written in the 6th or 5th century BCE. Many scholars contend that it is of a far later date than Moses, and that the description reflects the structure of the Temple of Solomon, while some hold that the description derives from memories of a real pre-monarchic shrine, perhaps the sanctuary at Shiloh.[1] According to the 19th century "Higher Criticism" school of Julius Wellhausen, an earlier, pre-exilic source (E) describes the Tabernacle as a simple tent-sanctuary.[1]

Contents

Meaning

The English word "tabernacle" is derived from the Latin tabernāculum meaning "tent" or "hut", which in ancient Roman religion was a ritual structure.[2]

The word sanctuary is also used for the Biblical tabernacle, as well as the phrase the "tent of meeting". The Hebrew word Mishkan implies "dwell", "rest", or "to live in", referring to the "[In-dwelling] Presence of God", the Shekhina (or Shechina, based on the same Hebrew root word as Mishkan), that dwelt within this divinely ordained structure.

Description

Model of the tabernacle compound in tent form

The commandments for its construction are taken from the words in the Book of Exodus when God says to Moses: "They shall make me a sanctuary, and I will dwell (ve-shakhan-ti) among them. You must make the tabernacle (mishkan) and all its furnishings following the plan that I am showing you." (Exodus 25:8-9) Thus the idea is that God wants this structure built so that it may be a "dwelling", so to speak, for his presence within the Children of Israel during their wandering in the desert.

Scholars of the "Higher Criticism" school believe there are two accounts of the tabernacle in Exodus, a briefer account and a longer one. Traditional scholars believe the briefer account describes a different structure, perhaps Moses's personal tent. The Hebrew nouns in the two accounts are different, one being most commonly translated as "tent of meeting," while the other is usually translated as "tabernacle".

Elohist account

Exodus 33:7-10 refers to a "tent of meeting", which was set up outside of camp, and the pillar of cloud, symbolizing the divine presence, was visible at its door. The people directed their worship toward this center.[1] "Higher Criticism" scholars attribute this description to the Elohist source (E),[1] which is believed to have been written about 850 BC or later.[3]

Priestly account

The more detailed description of a "tabernacle" is in Exodus 25-31 and 35-40, which describes an inner shrine (Holy of Holies) housing the Ark and an outer chamber (Holy Place), with a seven-branched lampstand, table for showbread, and altar of incense.[1] An enclosure containing the sacrificial altar surrounded these chambers.[1] This description is identified by "Higher Criticism" scholars as part of the Priestly source (P),[1] written in the 6th or 5th century BC. Some scholars believe the description is of a far later date than Moses, and that it reflects the structure of the Temple of Solomon; others hold that the passage describes a real pre-monarchic shrine, perhaps the sanctuary at Shiloh,[1] while traditional scholars contend that it describes an actual tabernacle used in the time of Moses and thereafter.

The detailed outlines for the tabernacle and its leaders are enumerated in the Book of Exodus:

  • Chapter 25 [1] : Materials needed, the Ark, the table for 12 showbread, the Menorah.
  • Chapter 26 [2] : The tabernacle, the beams, partitions.
  • Chapter 27 [3] : The copper altar, the enclosure, oil.
  • Chapter 28 [4] : Vestments for the priests, ephod garment, ring settings, the breastplate, robe, head-plate, tunic, turban, sashes, pants.
  • Chapter 29 [5] : Consecration of priests and altar.
  • Chapter 30 [6] : Incense altar, washstand, anointing oil, incense.

Builders

The erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred vessels, as in Exodus 40:17-19; from the 1728 Figures de la Bible

In chapter 31 [4] the main builder and architects are specified:

"God spoke to Moses, saying: I have selected Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, by name. I have filled him with a divine spirit, with wisdom, understanding and knowledge, and with all types of craftsmanship. He will be able to devise plans as well as work in gold, silver and copper, cut stones to be set, carve wood, and do other work. I have also given him Oholiab son of Achisamakh of the tribe of Dan. I have placed wisdom in the heart of every naturally talented person. They will thus make all that I have ordered, the Communion Tent, the Ark of the Covenant, the ark cover to go on it, all the utensils for the tent, the table and its utensils, the pure menorah and all its utensils, the incense altar, the sacrificial altar and all its utensils, the washstand and its base, the packing cloths, the sacred vestments for Aaron the priest, the vestments that his sons wear to serve, the anointing oil, and the incense for the sanctuary. They will thus do all that I command." (Exodus 31:1-11)

Organization

The Tabernacle was during the Exodus, wandering in the desert and conquest of Canaan a portable tent draped with colorful curtains called a "tent of meeting".[5] It had a rectangular, perimeter fence of fabric, poles and staked cords. This rectangle was always erected when the Israelite tribes would camp, oriented to the east. In the center of this enclosure was a rectangular sanctuary draped with goat-hair curtains, with the roof made from rams' skins.[6]

Inside, the enclosure was divided into two areas, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.[7] These two areas were separated by a curtain or veil. Inside the first area were three pieces of furniture: a seven-branched oil lampstand on the left (south), a table for twelve loaves of show bread on the right (north) and an altar for incense-burning (west), straight ahead before the dividing curtain.

Beyond this curtain was the cube-shaped inner room known as the (Holy of Holies) or (Kodesh Hakodashim). This area housed the Ark of the Covenant (aron habrit),[8] inside which were the two stone tablets brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses, on which were written the "10 Commandments."

Subsequent history

During the conquest of Canaan, the main Israelite camp was at Gilgal, (Joshua 4:6; 4:19) and the Tabernacle was probably erected outside the camp.

After the conquest and division of the land among the tribes, the Tabernacle was moved to Shiloh in Ephraimite territory (Joshua's tribe) to avoid disputes among the other tribes (Joshua 18:1; 19:51; 22:9; Psalm 78:60). It remained there during the 300-year period of the judges (the rules of the individual judges total about 350 years [1 Kings 6:1;Acts 13:20], but most ruled regionally and some terms overlapped).[citation needed]

The subsequent history of the structure is separate from that of the Ark of the Covenant. After the Ark was captured by the Philistines, King Saul moved the Tabernacle to Nob, near his home town of Gibeah, but after he massacred the priests there (1 Samuel 21-22), it was moved to Gibeon. (1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:2-6, 13)

When the Ark was eventually returned to Jerusalem, where it was placed "inside the tent David had pitched for it" (2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 15:1), not in the Tabernacle, which remained at Gibeon. The altar of the Tabernacle at Gibeon was used for sacrificial worship (1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 1 Kings 3:2-4), until Solomon finally brought the structure and its furnishings to Jerusalem to furnish and dedicate the Temple. (1 Kings 8:4)

There is no further mention of the Tabernacle after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in c. 587 BCE.

Incorporated into Temple in Jerusalem

God asked for a stationary abode:

"And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying, Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in [any] house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle"..."And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." (2 Samuel 7:4-6, 12-13).

Although King David himself was not allowed to build the temple, because he was a man of war, God promised that his son would build it. After David died, his son Solomon built the Temple, following the pattern revealed to Moses and incorporating all the elements of the Tabernacle. However, the Book of Chronicles says that the LORD himself gave the plans for the temple to David and he wrote them down "under the hand of the LORD."

"All this, said David, the LORD made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern." (1 Chronicles 28:19)

Compare Exodus 37-40 and 1 Kings 6-8, 2 Chronicles 3-7.

Significance for Sabbath

The concluding instructions for the Tabernacle's construction are stated at the end of the Book of Exodus, chapter 31,[4] and in that same chapter, immediately following the words about the Tabernacle, God reminds Moses about the importance of the Jewish Sabbath:

"God told Moses to speak to the Israelites and say to them: You must still keep my sabbaths. It is a sign between me and you for all generations, to make you realize that I, God, am making you holy. Keep the Sabbath as something sacred to you. Anyone doing work shall be cut off spiritually from his people, and therefore, anyone violating it shall be put to death. Do your work during the six week days, but keep Saturday as a Sabbath of Sabbaths, holy to God. Whoever does any work on Saturday shall be put to death. The Israelites shall thus keep the Sabbath, making it a day of rest for all generations, as an eternal covenant. It is a sign between me and the Israelites that during the six weekdays God made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day, he ceased working and rested." (Exodus: 31: 12-17). [7]

The rabbis of the Mishna derive from this juxtaposition of subject-matter, the fact that the commandment to rest on the Sabbath day, as stated in Genesis 2:1-3 "Heaven and earth, and all their components, were completed. With the seventh day, God finished all the work that He had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day, and he declared it to be holy, for it was on this day that God ceased from all the work that he had been creating to function." [9] is not pushed aside by the commandments to construct the Tabernacle. Not only that, but the very definition of what constitutes "work" or "activity" that must not be done by any Israelite, on pain of death (only when there was a Sanhedrin, and only with acceptable witnesses present), is defined by the 39 categories of activity needed for the construction of the Tabernacle and for its functioning as the center of the sacrifices enumerated in the Book of Leviticus.

Relationship to the Golden Calf

Some rabbis have commented on the proximity of the narrative of the Tabernacle with that of the episode known as the sin of the Golden Calf which begins in the Book of Exodus 32:1-6.[10] Maimonides asserts that the Tabernacle and its accoutrements, such as the golden Ark of the Covenant and the golden Menorah were meant as "alternates" to the human weakness and needs for physical idols as seen in the Golden Calf episode. Other scholars, such as Nachmanides disagree and maintain that the Tabernacle's meaning is not tied in with the Golden Calf but instead symbolizes higher mystical lessons that symbolize God's constant closeness to the Children of Israel.

Blueprint for synagogues

Mishkan Shilo synagogue is a replica of the Biblical Tabernacle

Synagogue (mishkan) construction over the last two thousand years has followed the outlines of the original Tabernacle, which was of course also the outline for the temples in Jerusalem until they were destroyed. Every synagogue has at its front an ark, aron kodesh, containing the Torah scrolls comparable to the Ark of the Covenant which contained the tablets with Ten Commandments. This is the holiest spot in a synagogue equivalent to the Holy of Holies.

There is also usually a constantly lighted lamp, Ner tamid, or a candelabrum lighted during services, near this spot similar to the original Menorah. At the center of the synagogue is a large elevated area, known as the bimah where the Torah is read. This is equivalent to the Tabernacle's altars upon which incense and animal sacrifices were offered. On the main holidays the priests, kohanim, gather at the front of the synagogue to bless the congregation as did their priestly ancestors in the Tabernacle from Aaron onwards.

Prayer

Twice a day, a priest would stand in front of the golden prayer altar and burn fragrant incense. Other procedures were also carried out in the Tabernacle.

Christian references

The Tabernacle is mentioned several times in the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament. For example, according to Hebrews 8:2 Jesus serves as the true high priest in heaven, which is the true tabernacle, of which the earthly tabernacle was merely a "copy and shadow" (Hebrews 8:5).

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Tabernacle." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  2. ^ William Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People (London, 1922), p. 209; John Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion (Indiana University Press, 2003), pp. 113–114; Jerzy Linderski, "The Augural Law", Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.16 (1986), pp. 2164–2288. Tabernāculum is a diminutive of taberna, meaning "hut, booth, tavern."
  3. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 48
  4. ^ a b http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=2&CHAPTER=31
  5. ^ [first] diagram according to Talmud
  6. ^ [second] diagram according to Talmud
  7. ^ [third] diagram according to Talmud
  8. ^ [fourth] diagram according to Talmud
  9. ^ http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=1&CHAPTER=2
  10. ^ http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=2&CHAPTER=32

External links


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • TABERNACLE — (Lat. tabernaculum, tent ; taberna, hut ; the word renders the Heb. mishkan), the portable sanctuary constructed by the Children of Israel in the wilderness at the command of God. (The word has no connection with the Festival of Tabernacles –… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Tabernacle — • Vessel holding the Blessed Sacrament • Old Testament precursor to the Temple Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Tabernacle     ♦ …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • tabernacle — [ tabɛrnakl ] n. m. • 1120; lat. tabernaculum « tente » 1 ♦ Relig. Tente des Juifs de l Antiquité. Fête des tabernacles, célébrée après la moisson sous des abris de feuillage (fête appelée par les juifs fête des Cabanes, des Tentes). Spécialt… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • tabernacle — TABERNACLE. s. m. Tente, pavillon. En ce sens il n a d usage qu en parlant des tentes, des pavillons des Israëlites. Retourne, Israël, dans tes tabernacles. la feste des tabernacles. l Ecriture marque que saint Pierre à la Transfiguration de N. S …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Tabernacle — Tab er*na*cle, n. [F., fr. L. tabernaculum, dim. of taberna nut. See {Tabern}.] 1. A slightly built or temporary habitation; especially, a tent. [1913 Webster] Dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob. Heb. xi. 9. [1913 Webster] Orange trees… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tabernacle — [tab′ər nak΄əl] n. [ME < LL(Ec) tabernaculum, the Jewish tabernacle (transl. of Heb ohel in ohel moed, tent of meeting) < L, tent, dim. of taberna, hut, shed, TAVERN] 1. Archaic a) a temporary shelter, as a tent b) a dwelling place 2. the… …   English World dictionary

  • tabernacle — (n.) mid 13c., portable sanctuary carried by the Israelites in the wilderness, from O.Fr. tabernacle (12c.), from L. tabernaculum tent, especially a tent of an augur (for taking observations), dim. of taberna hut, cabin, booth (see TAVERN (Cf.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • tabernacle — Tabernacle, Et pavillon, Tabernaculum. Le tabernacle de nostre corps, ou l esprit est logé, Custodia corporis …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • Tabernacle — Tab er*na*cle, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Tabernacled}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Tabernacling}.] To dwell or reside for a time; to be temporary housed. [1913 Webster] He assumed our nature, and tabernacled among us in the flesh. Dr. J. Scott. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tabernacle — index domicile, dwelling, habitation (dwelling place) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • tabernacle — ► NOUN 1) (in the Bible) a tent used as a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant by the Israelites during the Exodus. 2) a receptacle or cabinet in which a pyx containing the reserved sacrament may be placed in Catholic churches. 3) a meeting… …   English terms dictionary


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