That God Would Dwell Among Them
In Exodus 25:8 the Lord clearly revealed the purpose for the tabernacle—it was to be the house of the Lord. The Hebrew word which is translated “tabernacle” actually means “tent” or “dwelling” (Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. “tabernacle,” p. 434).
When God commanded Moses to build a tabernacle in the camp of the Israelites, He stated its purpose: “that I may dwell among them” (Exodus) Within the tabernacle, the presence of God was represented by the ark of the covenant—a wooden box, covered with gold, containing the written record of God’s covenant with His people (see Exodus 25:10–22).
The ark was kept in the holiest, innermost room, separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a veil, symbolizing the separation of the human race from God because of the Fall of Adam.
Your tour begins in the Camp of Israel, right outside the Gate of the Tabernacle. As you go through the Gate, you will see the Altar of Sacrifice.
Altar of Sacrifice
All burnt offerings performed within the tabernacle took place on this altar. It was hollow, five cubits square and three cubits high, or about 7½ x 7½ x 5 feet in dimension. It was made of shittim wood overlaid with brass plates.
It had four horns on its corners. Upon these horns the blood of the sacrifice was to be smeared. By laying hold of these horns, a person could find asylum and safety (see 1 Kings 1:50; 2:28), although not if he was guilty of premeditated murder (see Exodus 21:14). Sometimes the horns were used to bind the animal or intended sacrifice.
Laver of Water
This, like the altar of sacrifice, was made of brass. It stood between the altar of sacrifice and the tabernacle. It was used by the priests for cleansing, preparatory to entering the tabernacle.
In Solomon’s day, when a permanent temple was constructed, the laver was set on the backs of twelve oxen (see 1 Kings 7:23–26).
The Table of Shewbread
Twelve loaves of unleavened bread were placed each Sabbath on the table of shewbread, a word meaning “bread of the presence” in Hebrew (see Exodus 25:30). The loaves were eaten in the holy place every Sabbath as “an everlasting covenant” (see Leviticus 24:5–9).
The candlestick provided light for the holy place and was kept constantly burning. It symbolizes the Holy Ghost and emphasizes the need to live by the light of the Spirit in this life.
The Altar of Incense
Each morning and evening, the high priest burned incense here. Incense is a symbol of prayer, just as the smoke from the altar rose before the veil every morning and evening. So Israel was expected to raise their prayers regularly before the Lord.
The altar’s position before the Holy of Holies also shows the importance of prayer in preparing to enter the Lord’s presence. The linen veil separates the holy place from the Holy of Holies. Embroidered on the veil in purple, blue, and scarlet are embroidered figures called cherubim, or angels of God.
The Holy of Holies and Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant: The Ark of the Covenant was the central focus of the Holy of Holies and the place where God met and talked with Moses. It was God’s throne in Israel. The Ark contained a pot of manna, symbolizing God’s mercy and constant provision; Aaron’s rod that budded, representing priesthood authority; and the Testimony (or the Tablets of the Law, containing the Ten Commandments), reminding the people of God’s holy nature and laws.