Holman Bible Dictionary
KJV translation of the skin used to cover the tabernacle (Exodus 26:14; Exodus 36:19; Exodus 39:34 ), the ark, and other sacred objects (Numbers 4:6-14 ). The leather was also used for shoes (Ezekiel 16:10 ). Bible students do not agree on the kind of skin intended. The KJV translation of “badger skin” seems doubtful as the word used is not the normal word for badger. In addition, the badger was considered an unclean animal making it very doubtful that the skin of the badger would have been used as a covering for sacred objects. In addition, it is doubtful that the badger was plentious enough to provide the necessary hides. The translation of “goatskin” (RSV) also fails on the grounds that the word used is not a normal word for goat. Thus NRSV reads “fine leather” with a note that the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. Some have proposed the simple translation, “leather,” noting the similarity of the Hebrew and Egyptian words for leather (TEV). Others have proposed dolphin or “porpoise skins,” noting the similarities between the Hebrew and Arabic words for dolphin or porpoise (NAS). Still others have proposed “hides of sea cows” (that is, dugongs, REB)—sea creatures that have been found in the Red Sea (NIV). Would either the dolphin or dugong have been considered “clean” for the purpose of covering sacred objects; and, further, would the hides of these animals have been readily available to the small inland Israelite community? It is doubtful. There seems to be no clear answer to the question: What kind of hides were used as a covering for the tabernacle, ark, and other sacred objects?
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