Exo 25.31-40 tells us about the Lampstand, or “Menorah.” The Menorah consisted of a base, shaft, cups, knops and flowers. The shape of the Menorah is somewhat controversial. Some say it looks like what we see on the Arch of Titus, with its base. Others believe the base was a tripod and the branches were in a “V” shape.
Even though we seldom see it this way, the tripod base may have been how it looked, with branches in a “V” shape, with the middle lamp closest to the Holy of Holies. This lamp had several names, but one of the names was the “western lamp.” That would only make sense if it was in a “V” shape. Another name was the “Ner Elohim” or “light of God. This middle lamp was from a central shaft, with the branches coming out of it. This is what Yeshua had in mind in John 15.5, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”
In the Talmud, Yoma 39b and in the book “History of the Jewish People: Second Temple Era” by Mesorah Publications, p. 153, it says, “During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot for the Yom Kippur sacrifice did not come in the right hand of the High Priest, the ribbon did not turn white as a sign of forgiveness, the western lamp on the Menorah did not burn all day, the doors of the Sanctuary opened by themselves indicating that the enemy would enter easily. Then Rabban Yochanon Ben Zakkai rebuked them and said: ‘Temple, O Temple, why are you so frightened? I know that you will finally be destroyed, because Zechariah Ben Ido has prophesied about you (Zech 11.1): Open your doors, O Lebanon, that fire may devour your cedars'” (Yoma 39.b). To have a western lamp, it is thought that the Menorah’s branches were in the shape of a “V” with this lamp closest to the veil in the Holy Place. Also, notice these manifestations started the same year Yeshua was rejected and crucified.
The Menorah was on the southern wall. We would think that the Menorah ran parallel to the wall, and it has been depicted like that, but according to this description in the Talmud (Yoma 39b) the western lamp did not burn all day. If we have a standard “Menorah” at the standard place everyone puts it running parallel to the southern wall, the western lamb would be the one to the far right when looking at it.
However, it is generally thought that the Menorah stood with its back to the paroket (veil) that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The branches were “open” facing away from the veil. That would make the Ner Elohim (the middle light) the “western” most lamp and closest to the Holy of Holies. This would then correctly allude to the fact that this middle lamp was a picture of the Messiah, and his life was extinguished (light kept going out). This manifestation started the year Yeshua was killed (30 AD).
Zech 4.1-14 and Rev 11.1-4 tells us about the “two witnesses” personifying the Torah (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), and these are seen as the two olive trees and two menorot (menorah’s). Num 16.41 through 17.11 tells the story of why Aaron’s rod budded with almonds. It also alludes to the fact that Messiah would be related to a descendant of Aaron (Zech 6.11-13; Jer 23.5-6, 33.15-16; Yeshua was first cousin and related to Yochanon Ha Matvil, or John the Immerser, who was a priest). The probable site for Mount Sinai is a mountain called “Jabal Al-Lawz” which means “almond mountain.” The Torah may have been given there. Is that where Aaron got his rod? This rod pictures a “dead branch” (Yeshua-Isa 11.1) coming alive (resurrected by sprouting blossoms). An almond tree is called the “hastening tree” because it is the first tree to blossom in the spring.
Jer 1.11-12 tells us about a vision Jeremiah sees, and he sees a rod of an almond tree (shaqed in Hebrew). The Lord says he is “watching” (shaqad) over his word to perform it. This a word play. The almond comes in the spring, so he is saying that his word will come to pass with no delay, an early execution. Yeshua was resurrected in the spring.
Over and over again we have the sign of the almond. The bowls (cups) on the Menorah will be shaped like an almond. This tells us that the Menorah will have some connection to the concept of resurrection (Aaron’s rod budding; Jeremiah’s almond tree vision). We also have the witnesses in Zechariah and Revelation compared to the Menorah. We are told that the Menorah is like eyes of God in Zech 4.10. It symbolizes the light of God that gives us light (understanding), but the other aspect is how the Lord will search out our hearts (Zeph 1.12; Rev 3.16).
So, the Menorah is a very interesting piece of furniture in the Mishkan/Temple, and it is controversial. We have depictions of a menorah on the Arch of Titus, but we have different depictions of it on ancient mosaics and on some drawings found in houses. Solomon made ten menorot (2 Chr 4.7) and it could be possible that the one on the Arch of Titus be one of those. We don’t really know, so we can’t say the one on the arch is the menorah that was in the Holy Place either.
Now we are going to take a look at the curtains of the Mishkan. In Exo 25.1-7, we learn that the Lord wanted certain materials raised as a “terumah” (contribution). It was to be a free-will offering and they were to raise gold, silver, brass, techelet (blue), argamon (purple), tolat shannai (scarlet), shesh (linen), rams skins dyed red, porpoise skins (dugong), shittim wood, oil, spices, onyx stones and setting stones.
Lets talk about the techelet and the argamon colors according to Jewish tradition. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, getting this color was a problem. People were using any type of blue for the tzitzit. The family that produced the two dyes for techelet (blue) and argamon (purple) disappeared. Nobody knew what happened to them. One of the problems is the people who did certain things and made certain things are unknown. There was a special herb in the incense that made it rise straight up. But that herb is a mystery because the family that made it is gone and these “recipes” were passed down from generation to generation. They guarded these secrets and they never told anyone else how to do it. The recipes for some of the bread offerings were hidden, too. These families may have been killed or sold into captivity and the Talmud criticizes these families for keeping these things secret.
Within fifty years of the destruction of the Temple, the availability of the techelet blue was running out. Professor Yigael Yadin discovered in some caves in Qumran a whole packet of letters from Bar Kochba. He gives the letters to David Ben Gurion and says, “We now have the last letters of the last president of Israel two thousand years ago.” In these letters Bar Kochba (who led a revolt against the Romans in 132-135 AD) says they have run out of techelet blue. He asks the Sanhedrin if it was permissible to use other colors of blue for their tzitzit. The letter from the Sanhedrin was in the stack of letters found, and it said they had considered his question and their answer was “No.” If they did not have techelet, then they should not have blue in the tzitzit. Why? Their reasoning was they did not have the authority to change what God said.
There have been various descriptions of the sea creature the techelt came from, but they are vague. It was a creature that washed up on the shore of the every seventy years. You could extract they dye from a gland. This creature is called the “Chilazon” and there were many opinions about what this creature was. Some thought it was a squid, others thought it was a sea shell. They finally came to the conclusion that it was a certain type of murex shell.
Archaeologists discovered that there was a huge dye industry along the coast of Israel at Dor. The Phoenicians were big in this industry and when they didn’t control Dor, Israel did. Some of the techelet blue and the argamon purple came from Dor. They discovered some big pits and the pits were filled with murex shells, the probable creature called the chilazon where the techelet and argamon came from. What was interesting was the shell. At a certain point, there was a hole that had been drilled into this shell. They took a living murex shell and they drilled there, and there was a little gland and it was a deep blue color. They used that gland for the blue and believe they have found the source of the techelet.
To have a Temple, there is a list of things that is needed. This list would include a floor plan, music, a liturgy, ceremonies and all of the things listed in Exo 25.1-17. They not only need the raw materials, but they need the technology and skill needed to make these things. The biblical colors are also needed. The techelet was solved and God had called several people to search out the techelet blue. But they had another problem. They did not know if the argamon was purple, red, orange or whatever, but they knew it came from the same murex shell creature. But, they did not know how to get it.
In Part 49, we will pick up here with the search for the argamon.