Exodus 27:9-19; 38:9-20  
I’m not sure about you, but I have always tended to view the stories and the objects of the Bible to be much larger than they really were.  I have never really figured out why I have a tendency to do this except that perhaps since I cherish the Bible so deeply and it is a HUGE part of my life, I tend to do the same with the content in the Bible.  Before we begin to look at the elements of the tabernacle in parallel with the life of Christ, I thought it might be good to lay out the overall camp of the Israelites.  As we look particularly at the outer courtyard today, perhaps it may surprise you to learn of its actual size as it did me!  What do you think of when you think of the tabernacle?  How big is it?  What is its function?

I used to picture the tabernacle as a fence of some sort surrounding some other objects and this complex being surrounded by millions of people camping in tents.  The priests had their duties offering sacrifices there and whatever else priests did, the Ark of the Covenant was there and there was an altar for burnt offering.  I could recall something about a menorah, a table with bread on it and an altar for incense, but I didn’t know much more beyond that. As far as size goes, I would have guessed that since there were possibly millions of people wandering the desert, this structure, in my mind, had to be at least the size of a large shopping mall; perhaps even the size of a large stadium.

Digging Deeper:  Read Exodus 27:9-21; 38:9-20.  What impression of the outer courtyard do you have as you read these verses?  What pictures come to mind?

Outer Courtyard

Tabernacle Complex

The actual size of the courtyard was approximately 75 feet wide, by 150 long and stood 7.5 feet high (23m x 46m x 2.5m).  If you are familiar with an American NFL football field, this would be approximately one quarter of the field.  It would extend from the goal line to the 25 yard line and from sideline to sideline.  That’s certainly not the size of the whole stadium that I first envisioned!  A fence of white linen stood in a rectangle with an opening on the eastern side of the structure for the people to enter.  Bronze and silver posts and bases were made to hold the white linen fence.  The actual tabernacle itself (the white divided rectangle inside the blue box above) was housed within this fence as well as the bronze altar and the bronze laver.

The tabernacle complex was at the center of the Israelite camp.  The Israelites were camped around the tabernacle complex in a very orderly fashion designed by God.  Three tribes were camped on each compass point of the complex and when God led them to a new area, each of the families and clans were to march out and resettle in the order God prescribed.

Digging Deeper:  Read Numbers 2:1-3:39 for the full description of how the Israelites were to be arranged.


Israel Camp Layout in the Wilderness

War Camp
This camp arrangement was not uncommon in the Ancient Near East (ANE).  Those who might have seen the Israelites passing through the dessert would likely have viewed this as a war camp.  When a pharaoh or a king would lead his troops, the arrangement of the camp would be very similar.  There would be an outer courtyard and a structure much like the tabernacle (divided into two rooms) within the courtyard.  The inner most room (comparable to the Most Holy Place) would have been where the king or the pharaoh would reside while the outer room (the Holy Place) would be where he would meet his commanding officers.  One of the major differences from the Israelite camp, however, was that the innermost room would contain idols to the gods that were worshiped, whereas the Israelites had God Himself.  We will learn more about these rooms in the tabernacle, but for now, consider the differences between the pagan war camp and the camp of Israel.

The Most Holy Place was where the King’s manifest presence (God Himself) would reside and the Holy Place was where the priests, who were set apart by the King for service, would come to do their duties and “tend” to the King.  The very God of the Universe was on the move with His people through the wilderness!

Take a moment and read through Exodus 15: 13-18.  The Israelites were not casually wandering the desert; the nations would tremble and were in fear at the sight of the Israelites camp, particularly as they came in to settle the land promised by God!  God himself was leading the people of Israel to His holy land and it was by His desire that the Israelites would conquer and displace those whom God chose!  He was their commanding warrior!  I’m not sure about you, but I never pictured a war camp with God as the commanding warrior.  What an amazing picture!

Digging Deeper:  What stood out for you in your study today?  Does this description of God dwelling with the people as their warrior King leading His people into battle match up with how you first thought of the Israelites wandering the desert?  Does this change any perceptions you may have had?  I would love to hear your comments!

God’s grace and peace to you until next time!

Days of Elijah
by Robin Mark
Copyright: ©1996 Song Solutions Daybreak

These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the Word of the Lord, yes
And these are the days of his servant, Moses
Righteousness being restored
And these are the days of great trial
Of famine and darkness and sword
So we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord

Behold he comes
Riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice
It’s the year of jubilee
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes

And these are the days of Ezekiel
With dry bones becoming as flesh
And these are the days of his servant, David
Building the temple of praise, yes
And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are all white in the world
And we are the laborers that are in your vineyard
declaring the word of the Lord

Behold he comes
Riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice
It’s the year of jubilee
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes

You Are Holy
By: Michael W. Smith
Copyright: ©1994 Imboden Music / Martha Jo Publishing

You are holy (You are holy)
You are mighty (You are mighty)
You are worthy (You are worthy)
Worthy of praise (Worthy of praise)

I will follow (I will follow)
I will listen (I will listen)
I will love You (I will love you)
All of my days (All of my days)

I will sing to (You are Lord of Lords)
And worship (You are King of kings)
The King who (You are mighty God)
Is worthy (Lord of everything)
I will love and (You’re Emanuel)
Adore You (You’re the Great I am)
And I will bow down (You’re my Prince of peace)
before You (Who is the Lamb)
I will sing to (You’re my living God)
And worship (You’re my saving grace)
The King who (You will reign forever)
Is worthy (You are ancient of days)
I will love and (You are alpha, omega)
Adore You (beginning and end)
And I will bow down (You’re my Savior, Messiah)
Before You (Redeemer and friend)
You’re my Prince of Peace
And I will live my life for You
(Repeat above 2x)