Old Testament Tabernacle

Last week’s post dealt with encountering God and the reason he encamped with his people. Seeing a replica of the tabernacle in person gave me a whole new insight into how God planned out this Holy Place.  It also fascinated me that God inserted so much symbolism in the Old Testament tabernacle to show us Jesus.

Jesus revealed in the tabernacle- real life replica of the tabernacle erected in desert area with mountains in background

I’ve always been a fan of mystery books.  My passion began with Nancy Drew books and grew into Agatha Christie as an adult. I loved those “aha!” moments when the clues started coming together.  

When I began studying the Bible, it was fascinating to me how this book contained such an unbelievable amount of “aha!” moments in the same way.

God made it very clear that Jesus was the one who would repair our broken relationship. Jesus is revealed in the Tabernacle in many ways!

Here are just a few symbolic “clues” concealed within the tabernacle:

Tabernacle Layout

What did the Tabernacle Look Like?

The Tabernacle was built in the wilderness and a “portable” place of worship for the Hebrews in their period of wandering. It was the Holy Place where God “tabernacled” (took up temporary residence) with His people.

The instructions God gave for the building of the Tabernacle includes exact dimensions and detailed provisions that give us an up close and personal look of the Old Testament Tabernacle.

The Courtyard of the Tabernacle

There was only one entrance to the Tabernacle. (Exodus 27:16)

  • We see the symbolism of Jesus revealed in the tabernacle immediately with the one entrance into the courtyard.  No alternative ways to get inside existed.
  • There is one way to God, and that is through Jesus.

 “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Altar of Burnt Offering

  • Upon entering the courtyard, you would see the large Altar of Burnt Offering.  It was here that the people brought their perfect animal sacrifices as sin offerings. They would place their hands on the animal, symbolically transferring their sin to the animal. Its death atoned for their sin.
  • These Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus and the sacrifice of his life to atone for our sin.  Jesus was our perfect lamb.

“Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29   

Bronze Laver

  • Between the altar of burnt offering and the opening to the tabernacle was a basin called the Bronze Laver.  The priests used it for their ceremonial washings.  It was a requirement to wash their hands and feet before making sacrifices and before they entered the Holy Place. It was a continuous cleansing each time they went before their Holy God.
  • Jesus cleansed us once and for all with his death on the cross.

Jesus “provided purification for sins” Hebrews 1:3.

The High Priest

  • The High Priest’s role was to “act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” (Heb 5:10) It was a ritual repeated over and over to atone for sin.
  • The sacrifice Jesus made was for everyone, for all time, and was accepted by God as an atonement for our sin.  Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant.  

When Christ came as high priest, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made… He did not enter by means of the blood of the goats and calves, but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood.” Hebrews 9:11-12.

Jesus revealed in the tabernacle- replica of tabernacle erected in Negev desert under blue sky

The Holy Place

The Holy Place was the outer room of the tabernacle where priests conducted rituals to honor God. It contained the table of showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense.

  • Table of Showbread

Held the 12 loaves of bread which were offerings given in thanksgiving for God’s provision for his people:  God had sent Manna (bread) from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert.

Jesus himself said, “I am the bread of life  and “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  (John 6:51) God sent “true bread from heaven” (John 6:32) to provide for us.

  • The Golden Lampstand

The only light in the Holy Place held lamps filled with olive oil; attended day and night by the priests.

The lights symbolize Jesus, who John tells us is “the one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone”  John 1:9. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”  John 8:12

  • The Altar of Incense

It was the nearest piece of furniture to the Glory of God.  Only the High Priest attended it; the burning incense symbolized the continual prayers of intercession spiraling heavenward.

Jesus, our High Priest, is our mediator with God.  His intercession for our lives makes our prayers accepted before our Father. No holy incense needed!

“He is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

Tabernacle Curtain

This curtain separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (or “The Most Holy Place.”)

  • It separated our Holy God from our sinfulness.  Nothing unclean can be in the presence of God.  He is pure holiness and perfection.  Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  It was only one day a year; on the Day of Atonement.

When Jesus died, that curtain tore in two, symbolizing that by his sacrifice, he opened a way for our reconciliation with God.  God no longer sees our sin. He sees what Jesus did for us. We can now boldly approach the throne of God!

“We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body..”  Hebrews 10:19

The Holy of Holies

The Ark of the Covenant

  • The glory of God filled this space and settled on top of the Ark between the wings of the cherubim. It was God’s “throne” on earth. The top was the “Mercy Seat”. The High Priest sprinkled the blood from the sacrifice here once per year on the Day of Atonement.  God’s mercy forgave the sins of the nation.

The blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat represented the atoning blood of Jesus to come.  It represented our sins being placed upon Jesus.  His death would once and for all forgive our sin.  

Jesus in the Tabernacle

It is a blessing to have all the “clues” and see this “mystery” come together!  I’m in awe of how God carefully detailed the foreshadowing of Jesus in all the furnishings of the tabernacle in the Bible.

Jesus, God’s perfect lamb, shed his blood, once and for all, for the forgiveness of the sins of the world.  And not just for the Jews; not over and over. 

Jesus tore the veil separating us from God, removing it forever.  He is our bread of life, our sustenance. 

He is the light of the world; we never have to live in darkness. 

Jesus is our great High Priest and mediator and the one and only way to encounter God!

Jesus is our true tabernacle: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14.  God encountered us in a new tabernacle- through Jesus.  He truly is God with us- forever!



6 thoughts on “Old Testament Tabernacle”

  1. You need to dig deeper into the sanctuary. Dr. Alberto Treiyer has a tremendous book that the rabbis use, on the Day of Atonement. This was the annual cleansing of the sanctuary. Sarah Peck also has a fantastic book, Path to the Throne of God. There was a daily service, which involved the courtyard. Then there was the Holy Place ministry where only the priests entered. Then, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest (only) went into the Most Holy Place. Each silver and gold post had meaning. The bronze in the outer court had meaning. The garments of the priest and the curtains had meaning. (Blue and red make purple. Blue represents God’s law, mixed with the sacrifice of Christ brings a royal priesthood. Mercy(red blood) and truth (God’s law) kissed each other as David said. )

  2. It is interesting to me that your website, apparently, is focused primarily on ‘busy blessed women’. I am a 76 year old ‘man’ living alone here in the United States. I wanted to say ‘THANK YOU’ to ‘you’ for presenting ‘information’ that relates to ‘JESUS THE CHRIST’ being revealed in the ‘tabernacle’. I plan to use your ‘information’ in my daily devotions. I plan to share your ‘information’ with others, especially ‘men’, that I will meet with from day to day. Respectfully, Ralph King.

    1. Greetings Ralph! (Love your name, it was my dad’s name too 🙂 ) I actually have quite a few men who read my blog regularly; including my husband! God led me to start this blog as I was sitting in my women’s Bible study wondering where all the “younger” women were… Busy with life, families, jobs, etc I suppose. But I knew they were online, and I love to study the Bible. The writer’s conference I attended at the start said you have to have a “niche” to speak to. But you are right, there is nothing in what I write that speaks only to women. I guess it’s too late now to change it all, and God keeps opening doors (like yours!) to His Word, so I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing. I’m very glad you found my site and that it was helpful. And thanks so much for sharing- it is such an encouragement to me! God bless you Ralph!

  3. Going to the Tabernacle Experience at Wooddale Church was so amazing. I love how you described each part of the experience and how it foreshadowed the coming of Christ! Thank you, Ann!

    1. Thanks Cindy! It’s been great to go back and think about all the different aspects…So much more than meets the eye!

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