Construction details delivered to Moses are given in Exodus 25-28 and Exodus 30, and Exodus 35-40 gives details of the manufacture and initial set up.
The purpose of the Tabernacle is stated as:- Exodus 25:8-9 let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.
This admonishment of Moses, to ensure that the construction was in accordance with the divine pattern, follows a list of materials, that Moses is instructed to gather of the people of Israel given in Exodus 25:3-7.
It was designed, as a non-permanent, elaborate, tent style structure, suitable for pitching and transport as required in the wilderness journey. The basic design consisted of an open court area surrounded by a curtain partition and within the court, an enclosed tented structure divided into two parts, called the Holy Place and Most Holy Place.
Manufacture was completed and the tabernacle set up on the first day of the first month i.e. approximately one year after leaving Egypt (Exodus 40:2 On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.)
Construction was carried out on a voluntary basis, utilizing available skills of the nation under the direction of two chosen artificers Bezaleel and Aholiab. Exodus 31:1-11 the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee; The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle, And the table and his furniture, and the pure candlestick with all his furniture, and the altar of incense, And the altar of burnt offering with all his furniture, and the laver and his foot, And the cloths of service, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest’s office, And the anointing oil, and sweet incense for the holy place: according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.
Linear dimensions given in the Bible text are based on the ‘cubit’. This is said to be derived from the measurement of a male adult forearm including the hand. There is some variation in conversion of cubits to today’s standards, for visualisation purposes a cubit can be approximated to 0.5 meter (18 inches). To ensure consistency with the Bible record, dimensions given below are retained in cubits.
The figure below, gives a floor plan based on the details given in Exodus and the following table details the construction materials and sizes of the structures and furniture.
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