Temple 101- The Mishkan (Tabernacle)

When studying the Temple, it is very similar to studying anatomy. You start with the basics and you build on that, studying the various changes, organs and developments in order to understand the whole. In the same way, in order to understand the Temple you have to start with the Mishkan, or Tabernacle.

In Exodus 3.9 God says that he has heard the cry of Israel in Egypt and he is sending Moses to Pharaoh so that he may bring his people out of bondage. We know from Ezek 20.40, Jer 3.17 and Isa 2.2 that Jerusalem is God’s throne and all nations will come to it. Jerusalem is the capital of the world, but a lot has to happen before then. Moses does indeed bring Israel out of Egypt as God’s “sent one” or apostle (shaliach) and they come to Mt Sinai. He gives the Torah and in Exo 25.8 he says “And let them construct a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell within them.” In Hebrew it is “asooli mikdash (sanctuary) v’shkanti (to dwell-notice the “shkan” which forms a part of the word “mishkan”) b’tawcham (in them).”

So, here we have the instruction to build a sanctuary (mishkan) and the Lord wants to dwell “within” his people. We have an allusion to the new birth in this command to build a mishkan. Whatever he tells them to build will teach us about the redemption and salvation and being born again. Now, In Exo 24.5 it says that Moses built an altar “at the foot of the mountain” and the covenant was ratified in blood. The term “at the foot of the mountain” is “tachat” in Hebrew and it means “under” the mountain. What does that mean?

The Torah, just given, must be approached by emunah, faith. Faith is confidence and it is based on three things. Having a right attitude (love), obeying the commands of God (mitzvot) and the knowledge of God (da’at-Hos 4.6). Being “under” the mountain is an allusion to a wedding chupah (canopy) that is over the heads of the bride and groom. Jer 2.2 says that the Lord “betrothed” himself to Israel at this time. So, allegorically speaking, Sinai is like a chupah “over” the people and the Torah is the wedding agreement, or covenant. If you approach God and the Torah by faith, the mountain won’t “fall” on you.

Yeshua alludes to this concept in Mark 11.22 when he says that we are to have faith in God. If we do, we can say to this mountain to be taken up and cast into the sea. But, if we don’t obey in faith, the mountain will fall on you and you will be crushed and the wind will carry you away (Dan 2.34-35). We know that “shkan” in Hebrew means “to dwell” and it is the root for the word “shekinah” which is God’s indwelling presence.

God wants to build a “mishkan” (see the “shkan” there?) to dwell “within” (b’tawcham) his people. But, can a building contain or hold God? No, and Solomon said as much in 1 Kings 8.27, so there are other concepts being conveyed here. In Exo 25.9, right after the command to build the Mishkan, God says that it should be built according to the pattern (“tavnit” or blueprint) that the Lord will show Moses.

So, Moses will have a “blueprint” to go by and he was not to deviate from it. The Mishkan is related to the dwelling of God on earth. Jer 17.12 says “a glorious throne (kiseh) on high from the beginning is the place (makom) of our sanctuary (mikdash). O, Lord, the hope (mikveh) of Israel…” In other words, the Lord is the Mishkan, or sanctuary/Temple, and he is the hope (a sure thing) of his people. God’s throne is in heaven, but this will be his throne on earth. Eventually, the Temple will be built at the “shin of God” in Jerusalem. And you never turned your back on the Holy of Holies (the throne room) because the Ark was there containing the Word of God.

Another name for the Holy of Holies is “devir” which means a place for speaking, and it is related to the word “davar” which means the “word” (John 1.1). The Mishkan is a picture of the Messiah. It is the habitation of God where the very presence (shekinah) of God is manifested. It is the House of Kedusha. Ezek 43.10-12 says that we should study the Mishkan/Temple of God because it will instruct us. It is like a university where we go and learn the things of God. When we look at the Mishkan in the past, it will tell us about the future (Ecc 1.9;3.15; Rom 15.4). Mt Sinai was where God was and it was “adamat kodesh” or holy ground. The Mishkan mas meant to carry that kedusha with Israel as they traveled, which became holy ground. In that way, Israel would not have to travel to Sinai everytime tbey offered a sacrifice or went to worship (Josephus).

Posted in Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, The Tanach, The Temple, Understanding the New Testament

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