Author: Ron Graham

History of Israel

The Tabernacle and the Priesthood
—And what it all means

Time ~ 3. Wandering in the Wilderness
Span ~ 40 years
Books ~ Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Figures ~ Moses
Begins with ~ Exodus from Egypt across Red Sea
Ends with ~ Entry into promised Land across Jordan

This lesson is about the making of the tabernacle and appointment of the priesthood at Mt Sinai.

You may not want to get bogged down in all the detail concerning this matter, so just choose those things which interest you from the Bible summaries.

1 The Tent and its Ministers

During the encampment at Sinai, God gave the Law to Moses on the mountain. Included in this law were instructions about the tabernacle and priesthood.

It was there in the wilderness that the tabernacle was crafted, and the priesthood was established.

2 Bible Summary (Exodus 25-31, 35-40)

Instructions for the tabernacle

Items of tabernacle furniture are in bold.
The chapter numbers shown in square brackets
are those referring to the actual construction.

3 Symbols and Shadows

These laws and religious institutions were symbolic representations of Christian priesthood and worship.

They were "the shadow of the good things to come" which we now enjoy (Hebrews 10:1).

Their symbolic relevance make them worthy of some meditation and understanding on our part.

The Tabernacle, the priesthood, and the grand assembly of the people, constituted "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38).

That congregation, tabernacle, and priesthood, was a symbol or foreshadowing of the real church of Christ —the kingdom of heaven— today (Hebrews 12:22-24, Hebrews 8:1-6).

You may not want to get bogged down in all the detail concerning this matter, so just choose those things which interest you from the Bible summaries.

4 Bible Summary (Leviticus 1-27)

5 Questions to Consider

6 Bible Summary (Numbers 1-10)

7 The Hebrew Writer's Description

The tabernacle and its appointments (Hebrews 9:1-10)

“Now indeed even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service, and an earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared. In the first part were the lampstand, the table, and the show bread; which is called the Holy Place. After the second veil was the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which was [see note below] a golden pot holding the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, of which things we can't speak now in detail.”

“Now these things having been thus prepared, the priests go in continually into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the services, but into the second the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offers for himself, and for the errors of the people. The Holy Spirit is indicating this, that the way into the Holy Place wasn't yet revealed while the first tabernacle was still standing; which is a symbol of the present age, where gifts and sacrifices are offered that are incapable, concerning the conscience, of making the worshiper perfect; being only (with meats and drinks and various washings) fleshly ordinances, imposed until a time of reformation.” [WEB]

Note: 1Kings 8:9 and 2Chron 5:10 say that when Solomon was putting the ark of the covenant into the temple, "There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets which Moses put in at Horeb". It appears that the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod had been lost, the ark having had a rough history. Back in the time of Moses, at the time the Israelites ate manna, a pot of it was placed before the testimony (Exodus 16:32-33). Then at the time Aaron’s rod budded, it was stored before the testimony (Numbers 17:1-11). So the tablets of testimony, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod were in the ark, in the holiest place, in the tabernacle, just as the Hebrew writer says. He was talking about the sanctuary of the tabernacle in Moses’s time, not the temple in Solomon’s time. Hope this helps.