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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 26

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


4. The tabernacle structure ch. 26

The tabernacle walls consisted of rigid supports with curtains hung over the boards. These draperies also evidently formed its ceiling. Most commentators believe that the tabernacle was a single structure, but a few believe it consisted of three separate structures one on top of the other. These structures were the tabernacle proper, a tent over it made of goat hair, and another tent of skins that covered both of these structures. [Note: Ibid., pp. 302-3.]

The tabernacle as a whole illustrates four different things according to Scripture. It represents the heavens where God dwells and from which He manifests Himself (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 9:23-24), the work of Christ (John 2:19-21; Hebrews 3:3-4; Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:11-12), the individual believer (1 Corinthians 6:19), and the church (1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 10:21).

Verses 1-14

The curtains 26:1-14

The extent to which these curtains were visible from inside the tabernacle is not clear in the text and has been the subject of debate by commentators. They were of four colors that some writers have interpreted as having symbolic significance on the basis of other biblical references to and uses of these colors. The colors were white (holiness), blue (heavenly origin and character), purple (royal glory), and crimson (blood and vigorous life). Blue was also the color of garments that people of high social standing wore (1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 24:4).

"Woven into the fabric of the curtains were images of cherubim, apparently intended to recall the theme of ’paradise lost’ by alluding to the cherubim which guarded the ’Tree of Life’ in Genesis 3:24." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 303.]

Some interpreters have seen in the goats’ skins separation from evil. The later prophets in Israel who dressed in goatskins called the people to holiness and separation from evil. Some have felt the rams’ skins dyed red taught the Israelites the importance of devotion to God since God specified the use of rams in some offerings of worship. A slightly different interpretation follows.

"Within the sanctuary, moving from the inside out, the curtains of fine linen were visible only to the priests who served in the presence of him who is purity and righteousness itself. The curtains of goats’ hair were reminders of the daily sin offering that was a kid from the goats (Numbers 28:15) and of our cleansing from sin (Leviticus 16). The covering of rams’ skins also recalled the sacrifice used in consecrating the priesthood (Leviticus 8); and it was deliberately dyed red, showing that the priesthood was set apart by blood. Finally, the protective coating of the sea cows’ [NIV; porpoise or dolphin, NASB; badger, AV, NKJV; goat, RSV] hides marked a protective separation between the dwelling place of God and the world." [Note: Kaiser, "Exodus," p. 459.]

The total area covered by these tapestries was 45 feet long by 15 feet wide by 15 feet high. The most holy place was a 15-foot cube and the holy place was 30 by 15 by 15 feet. Thus the tabernacle structure was only about one and a half modern parking spaces wide and a little more than two parking spaces long.

Verses 15-25

The boards 26:15-25

It is not clear whether these boards were solid or simply "frames" (NIV). The meaning of the Hebrew word (garesh, "boards") is uncertain. The latter view is probable. [Note: Durham, p. 372.] If they were solid, the priests would not have been able to see the colorful curtains hanging down over the outside of the tabernacle from within. If these boards were frames, they could have seen them, or at least the most interior covering, through the walls. The embroidered curtains seem to have been visible overhead in either case and may have reminded the priests of God’s celestial throne.

Verses 26-30

The bars 26:26-30

These were evidently rods that the priests threaded through the boards, or perhaps through rings attached to the boards, horizontally to give the boards stability and to hold them upright. They may have had significance to the Israelites, which some commentators have speculated upon, or they may have simply served a practical purpose.

Verses 31-35

The veil 26:31-35

The veil and curtains were alike in design and construction. The veil hung to act as a wall separating the holy and most holy places into two rooms. Some extrabiblical references to a second veil between the holy and most holy places have created confusion. [Note: See Henry van der Meulen, "One or two veils in front of the holy of holies?" Theologia Evangelica 18:1 (March 1985):22-27.] The Old Testament is clear that there was just one. The Book of Hebrews used the veil in the temple, which replaced this one in the tabernacle, as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s body. Torn in crucifixion, it opened the way for access into God’s presence (Hebrews 10:20; cf. Matthew 27:50-51; Mark 15:37-38; Luke 23:45-46).

Verses 36-37

The screen 26:36-37

This was a drapery, as were the veil and curtains, that served as the front doorway to the tabernacle.

"The techniques used for the Tabernacle-gilded frames and beams, with coverings-were those used for ’prefab’ structures (religious and otherwise) in Egypt for up to fifteen centuries before Moses." [Note: Kitchen, The Bible. . ., pp. 85-86.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Exodus 26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/exodus-26.html. 2012.
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