Chapter 7: The Structure – The Boards, the Vail and the Door

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

by Brian Currie, N. Ireland








Some authors would relegate typology to the imagination of preachers from a past generation, but we have the authority of God, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the apostles for such teaching.  If this statement is correct then the validity of typology must be accepted without question.

God – in the Inspired Scriptures

Note the following verses: Heb.8.5 states regarding the Old Testament priests that they “serve unto the example [‘pattern’, ‘representation’] and shadow [‘sketch’] of heavenly things”; “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these” Heb.9.23; “the law having a shadow of good things to come” Heb.10.1; “which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” Col.2.17.

The Lord Jesus

Again we turn to the infallible Scriptures: “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself … ‘all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me’” Lk.24.27,44; “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me … For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me” Jn.5.39,46.

The Holy Spirit – by Inspiration

Once more we call on the Scriptures to testify: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house” Heb.3.1,2; “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present” Heb.9.8,9.

The Apostles

Nothing could be clearer than these Scriptures which were written by the apostle Paul: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” Rom.15.4; “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” 1Cor.10.11.

We come to consider this building described in the Old Testament and we trust we will find rich truth about God’s assembly and learn more of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Volumes have been written about it and multitudes of sermons have been preached on it.  We shall seek to unfold something of its meaning, being more suggestive than dogmatic.


We see from Ex.25.8 that the Lord said, “Let them make Me a sanctuary …”  The Hebrews were used to building since, in Egypt, they built store houses for Pharaoh.  If God is going to dwell among them they must be a special people!  The big thing about the nation was that they were redeemed!  Only after redemption do we learn that God would dwell among them.

Thus there must be redemption, both by blood, Exodus chapter 12, and by power, Exodus chapter 15.  They enjoyed redemption so much that they sang about it: “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord” Ex.15.1.  The order of the chapters in the Book of Exodus is spiritually significant:

Chapters 1-11: they are slaves;

Chapter 12: they are saved through the redeeming blood of the Pascal lamb;

Chapter 13: they are sanctified – there is the feast of unleavened bread;

Chapter 14: they are separated – they cross the Red Sea;

Chapter 15: they are satisfied – they are singing;

Chapter 16: they are sustained – they have the manna;

Chapter 17: they are set upon – the enemy is Amalek;

Chapter 18: Jethro’s suggestion – helpers may be beneficial;

Chapter 19: they are at Sinai – now they are in a condition to receive the details of the Tabernacle.


We need to be consistent regarding the symbolic use of the various materials.  These are listed in Ex.25.3-8:

Gold, v.3: with respect to Christ it has the adjective “pure” and highlights His Deity; with respect to us it pictures Divine righteousness imputed;1

Silver, v.3: this came from the atonement money and prefigures redemption;

Brass, v.3: really this is copper: it is not an alloy.  It shows righteousness demanded;

Blue, v.4: this depicts the heavenly Man, the Son of God presented in John’s Gospel, and refers to His essential glory;

Purple, v.4:  this was used by the Romans: Lydia was a seller of purple.  It represents Christ in Mark’s Gospel as the Son of man, and manifests His universal glory;

Scarlet, v.4:  the very opening of Matthew’s Gospel displays Him as the Son of David; that is His kingly glory.  This is followed by the Son of Abraham, and shows His sacrificial glory;

Fine linen, v.4: presents the righteousness displayed by a holy Man and so it is Luke’s Gospel, and our Lord’s moral glory;

Goats’ hair, v.4: this exhibits Christ as prophet;

Rams’ skins dyed red, v.5:  foreshadows His strength in consecration, even to death;

Badgers’ skins, v.5: these are not naturally attractive and point us to the words of Isaiah: “… He hath no form nor comeliness … there is no beauty that we should desire Him” Isa.53.2;

Shittim wood, v.5: this depicts humanity, either His or ours.  When His humanity is in view it is incorruptible wood, teaching us His imperviousness to sin;

Oil, v.6: this is a consistent emblem of the Holy Spirit;

Spices, v.6:  various spices demonstrate His fragrance;

Onyx, v.7:  an onyx stone was on each shoulder of the high priest and had the names of the tribes engraved, six on each stone, indicating that believers are upheld by Divine power.

1.  Pollock, A.J. “The Tabernacle’s Typical Teaching”. The Central Bible Truth Depot, undated.

As we approach the Holiest of all, the metals become more precious (there was wood also): in the court there was copper and silver; in the holy place copper, silver, gold and pure gold; in the Holiest gold and pure gold.  Note also the liquids: in the court there was blood and water; in the holy place blood and oil; in the Holiest blood only.

Covering Materials

We generally refer to the whole structure and all the coverings as “the Tabernacle”.  However, as we dig a little deeper we find there are three words used of covering materials in Ex.35.11 and 40.19.  These are “tabernacle”, “tent” and “covering”: “the tabernacle, his tent, and his covering” Ex.35.11, and “he spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent above upon it; as the Lord commanded Moses” Ex.40.19.


This refers to the curtains of fine twined linen: “thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen … couple the curtains together with the taches: and it shall be one tabernacle” Ex.26.1,6.  The word used here is mishkan, which means ‘a habitation, a dwelling place’.


The “tent” was specifically the goats’ hair covering: “couple the tent together, that it may be one” Ex.26.11.  The word used is ’ohel, which is the word for a nomad’s tent, used to indicate the transience of the wilderness life.


The coverings are of rams’ skins and badgers’ skins.  Note the language of Ex.26.14: “thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red.  And a covering above of badgers’ skins”.  This is the third word we mentioned, mikceh, which means ‘a covering’.

The first two covering materials relate to His Person: fine twined linen to the Godward aspect and goats’ hair to the manward aspect.  The second two relate to His work: rams’ skins to the Godward aspect and badgers’ skins to the manward aspect.

Coming now to the details of the structure, we see that there are five parts to the structure of the Tabernacle building, which is at the rear (west) of the court:

  • The Curtains and their Splendour – Ex.26.1-13
  • The Coverings and their Shelter – Ex.26.14
  • The Boards and their Structure and Sockets – Ex.26.15-30
  • The Vail and its Separation – Ex.26.31-35
  • The Door and its Support – Ex.26.36,37

The first two have been profitably expounded in the previous chapter and we come now to the final three:


Their Substance

The material used is shittim wood, v.15, overlaid with gold, v.29.  Despite the nation having been trained in the manufacture of, and construction with, bricks while in Egypt, there are no bricks anywhere in the Tabernacle.  God does not need Egyptian materials and methods to advance His work.

Shittim Wood

Trees and wood in Scripture usually speak of humanity.  For example, in Jotham’s parable recorded in Judges chapter 9, Abimelech’s reign is depicted by a tree being invited to reign over the other trees.  In Daniel chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree in the midst of the earth which grew unto heaven and was then cut down, referred to Nebuchadnezzar himself.  When reference is made to our Lord Jesus the shittim wood highlights His unique humanity.  This tree grew in the wilderness, and so we note Isa.53.2, “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground …”  This is Him as the woman’s seed, Gen.3.15; “made [‘born’ R.V.] of a woman” Gal.4.4.  His humanity was unique in that it was sinless.  Even though He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” 1Pet.2.24, He never was tainted with sin.

He was neither mortal (subject to death) nor sinful (subject to judgment); He was impeccable.  It has often been pointed out that there have been three kinds of humanity in the world.  Before the Fall, Adam’s was innocent humanity; we share in fallen humanity; the Lord Jesus had the uniqueness of holy humanity.  His humanity was neither innocent nor fallen since both these were capable of sinning.  His was holy and was incapable of sinning.  Thus, it is not a matter that He could sin but chose not to, but the fact is that He could not sin; that was impossible.

“Acacia wood does not speak of incorruptible humanity, as is often taught, because it applies to believers today.”2  In a number of ways, we are depicted in the wood for the Tabernacle.  The wood was:

2.  Leckie, A.L. “The Tabernacle and the Offerings”. Precious Seed Publications, 2012.

Some expert eye examined the trees and decided which would be useful.  A very discerning eye was upon each believer when chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.


The trees were cut down, which illustrates that each believer was taken out of the world at conversion, when born from above.


All the beauty of the tree was removed.  We had nothing in which to glory.  Salvation was and is all of God and all glory belongs to Him.  “That no flesh should glory in His presence … that, according as it is written, ‘He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord’” 1Cor.1.29,31, quoting from Jer.9.23,24.


The trees had to be made fit for use in the Tabernacle, where all had to be according to the pattern.  Not all those who are saved are suitable to be received to the fellowship of the assembly.  We recall that with respect to the Temple all shaping had to be done before the article was brought to take its place as the pattern demanded.  “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building” 1Kgs.6.7.


As indicated above, with respect to Christ, gold has the adjective “pure” and highlights His Deity; with respect to us it implies Divine righteousness imputed.  At the moment of conversion we were overlaid with gold; not pure gold.3  It does not picture the righteousness of Christ, but as stated in 2Cor.5.21: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”; also, Rom.3.22: “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe”.

3.   Pollock, A.J., ibid.

In total there are forty-eight boards (twenty on the north side plus twenty on the south side plus six normal boards plus two corner boards on the west).  Forty-eight equals six (the number of man) times eight (the number of a new beginning), and thus has the connotation of man being renewed.  Leckie points out that the expressions “in Christ Jesus” or “in Jesus Christ” occur forty-eight times in the Greek New Testament.4  Here we have the present-day believer in his Godward aspect; we are seen in Christ.

4.  Leckie, A.L., ibid.

We come now to consider the boards which were manufactured from the acacia wood:

Their Standing

“And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up” v.15.

Due to our sinfulness we never had a standing in God’s presence.  “If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” Ps.130.3.  “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or who shall stand in His holy place?” Ps.24.3.  Only Gabriel could absolutely claim, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God” Lk.1.19.  We recall that such a posture gave dignity to both Elijah and Elisha, 1Kgs.17.1; 18.15; 2Kgs.3.14; 5.16.

In Christ we have a new standing.  When he returned, the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15 got new shoes; had he stayed away he never would have had this new standing.  We read: “the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand” 1Cor.15.1;
“by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand …” Rom.5.2; and “this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand

Their Size

“Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board” v.16.

The number ten highlights our responsibility.  For example, we have ten toes and ten fingers, indicating our responsibility as to where we go and what we touch.  The Ten Commandments place on our shoulders the responsibility of God’s moral code.  Note the accuracy of Rom.8.4: “the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”; it is neither a work for us nor by us, but in us.

The height of the ark is a cubit and a half, so that our standing is in full accord with the throne.  It is also the height of the grate of the brazen altar, so our standing is also in keeping with the altar.  However, our state may be somewhat different and we need to challenge ourselves in this matter.

Their Stability

The stability of the boards came from a number of sources, as follows:

Foundation of Silver – v.19

“And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons” v.19.

Each of the forty-eight boards was founded on two sockets of silver, totalling ninety-six sockets.  Then holding the vail were four more sockets, giving a final total of one hundred sockets, which gives ten squared (102).  In the Tabernacle, when we have numbers squared it indicates that there is an intensity in view.  These sockets were made from silver, obtained from the atonement money, thus we learn that full and intensive responsibility is met in the redemptive work of Christ.

We learn from Ex.38.27 that the weight of silver forming the foundations is one talent per socket and one talent weighs approximately 120 pounds (54.4 kg), which gives a total weight of 5.36 imperial tons (5.44 metric tonnes) of silver.  This allows us to appreciate the quality and quantity of the preciousness of redemption.  This is underlined by a few Scriptures: “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious …)” Ps.49.6-8; “… ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot …” 1Pet.1.18,19.

The support of the boards illustrates a dual aspect of redemption.  Firstly, the two tenons (literally ‘hands’) went into the socket and this allowed the shoulders at the base of the board to rest on the socket of silver.  With both ‘hands’ receiving redemption and the ‘shoulders’ resting on redemption it teaches what happens when we are redeemed.  Note the differing prepositions used in the New Testament in connection with believing: John uses eis, which gives the meaning ‘to believe into’, and answers to the hands receiving: “whosoever believeth in [eis] Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world … that whosoever believeth in [eis] Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” Jn.3.15,16; whereas Paul usually uses epi, giving the meaning ‘to rest on’, and answers to the shoulders resting: “Believe on [epi] the Lord Jesus Christ …” Acts 16.31; “Whosoever believeth on [epi] Him shall not be ashamed” Rom.10.11.

Two hands indicate that there is no possibility of the boards slipping out of the sockets: “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.  My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one” Jn.10.28-30.

Fellowship of Other Boards – v.17

“Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another” v.17, A.V.; “Two tenons shall there be in each board, joined one to another” v.17, R.V.; “One board shall have two tenons, connected one with the other” v.17, J.N.D.

From each of the above translations we see the emphasis is on the fact that the boards stood shoulder to shoulder, without gaps.  In 1Cor.12.21 the human body is used to illustrate how close each member of the body is to another member: “the eye cannot say unto the hand, ‘I have no need of thee:’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”  There is a very close interdependence, and gaps should not be seen.  The unity of the body is essential if the body is to function as God intended.  “We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” Rom.12.5; this is positional truth.  “Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” Phil.1.27; this is practical truth.

Fixity of Corner Boards

The corners of a building are especially vulnerable, since they are exposed to the elements on both axes, north-south and east-west.  We may see an illustration in Acts 6.1: “there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration”.  The ‘corners’ were opening and needed special treatment to stop the structure coming apart.  In Phil.4.3 the “true yokefellow” was called upon to hold the ‘corners’ together.  There is a great need for those who will bind the saints together despite different personalities and idiosyncrasies.

Firmness of the Bars – vv.26-29

There were five bars for each side of the Tabernacle (north, south and west), which were designed to keep the boards in line.  The middle one went from end to end: “the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end” v.28.  This implies that the other four bars did not, but were spaced, two near the top, going halfway and meeting at the centre, and two near the bottom, similarly going halfway and meeting in the centre.  Some propose that going “from end to end” means ‘shooting through’, which requires a hole to be drilled at the middle of the board, through its breadth (one and a half cubits).  To give structural stability this would have required a board about one cubit thick.  The dimensions would be ten cubits high, one and half cubits broad and one cubit thick.  Depending on the density of acacia wood and its moisture content the approximate weight of a board could be as much as two and a half tons, before it was overlaid with gold!  It would have been impossible to carry it through the wilderness, even though the Merarites had four wagons and eight oxen to assist them, Num.7.8.

Hastings’ Bible Dictionary5 suggests the word “boards” can mean ‘frames’, that is, ladder-like frames, with the middle bar going from end-end.  The word is different from Ex.27.8 with respect to the altar: “Hollow with boards shalt thou make it”.  That word means ‘planks’.  The word for the boards for the framework is only used outside the Tabernacle in Ezek.27.6: “the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory”, which means they ‘have made thy [rowing] benches of ivory inlaid’.  This word comes from a root meaning ‘to split off’.  The suggestion is that the benches on which they sat when rowing were frames overlaid with ivory.

5.  Hastings, J. (Ed.) “Hastings’ Bible Dictionary”, second edition. T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1909.

Some suggest the middle bar depicts the Holy Spirit.  This proposition must be rejected since the bars are made from acacia wood, picturing humanity.  The bars illustrate men who add stability to the structure and keep the boards in line, standing shoulder to shoulder.  The five bars may imply the five gifts highlighted in Eph.4.11: “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”.  The uniqueness of the middle bar, going from end to end, is that it touches every board.  Is this not the evangelist, who carries the gospel to all the world; and every saved person must in some way have been in touch with the evangelical message?  The evangelist’s sphere of labour is the world and his message is the gospel.  He is not called upon to direct sinners to himself, but rather to Christ.  Thus he could easily depict the middle bar that was hidden.

Alternatively, the bars may depict what we read in 1Thess.5.14,15: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.  See that none render evil for evil”.  Unruly means ‘disorderly, out of step’, which implies that some boards are leaning too far forward.  Feebleminded means ‘fainthearted’, which implies that some boards are leaning too far back.  All must be brought into line, and correction is a difficult and thankless task.  How can it be done?  The need is for righteous men (‘bars overlaid with gold’) securely held, as seen in Rev.1.16: “He had in [en] His right hand seven stars” – security.  In Rev.1.20 we learn about the support: “the seven stars which thou sawest in [epi, ‘on’] my right hand” – support.  What He does for the “seven stars” He does for these righteous men.

If correction is given in the atmosphere of love it is easier to accept.  Raven6 suggests that, counting all the bars, there are five on each side and five along the back, which totals fifteen.  He then notes there are fifteen qualities of love in 1Cor.13.4-7: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

6.  Raven, C.H. “God’s Sanctuary”. John Ritchie Ltd., Scotland, 1991.

In v.29 we read of the rings of gold: “make their rings of gold for places for the bars”.  Remarkably there is no wood in the rings, so all is of the Divine nature, which gives the boards the capacity to yield to the bars.  When these men seek to help us, we should not ‘pull away’ and resent their advice.  Phil.4.5 teaches the importance of unity: we are directed to “let your moderation be known unto all men.”  The word “moderation” is translated “gentleness” by Darby and “forbearance” in the Revised Version.  It takes grace to accept correction and to acknowledge that I am wrong, but the Divine nature allows us to yield.  Men who are Spirit led will not instruct us in a way that will take us away from the Lord.

Fastening of the Pins and Cords – Ex.35.18; 38.20

These seem so small and insignificant yet their jobs are quite important.  If all the saints displayed their qualities there would be less failure. Note 1Pet.1.5:  “kept by the power of God [answering to the pins] through faith [answering to the cords] unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”


The Restriction

The vail portrayed a very clear message: ‘No Entry!’  We will consider the background to this restriction.

Moses was invited to come into the holy place, where God communicated with him: “there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims …” Ex.25.22.  Regarding the golden altar he received this instruction: “thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee” Ex.30.6.  We read that “when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with Him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and He spake unto him” Num.7.89.

However, when all seemed well there came the rebellion of Nadab and Abihu: “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not.  And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” Lev.10.1,2.

In the previous chapter, Lev.9.24, we read that “there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”  This was the holy fire and came from heaven, but they used “strange fire”, which was the common fire from the camp.  This was produced by man, and it is possible that people could offer something to God in the power of human intelligence and have nothing spiritual, which leads to a lack of reverence, over-familiarity and a casualness.  “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” Phil.3.3.

They “died before the Lord”.  They sinned by fire and died by fire, which highlights the serious principle of sowing and reaping!  They were not burned to ashes; they were carried out in their coats and their garments were not even singed!  There was no doubt that this was Divine judgment, when they trivialised holy things; see also Acts 5.1-11, regarding Ananias and Sapphira.  In Daniel chapter 3 there is a contrasting story concerning Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.  They were cast into the burning fiery furnace but v.27 reads, “And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was a hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.”

This whole sorry episode concerning Nadab and Abihu seems to have been the result of drunkenness, thus the instruction to Aaron in Lev.10.9: “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die …”  We also read regarding a priest, “Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court” Ezek.44.21, then regarding the king, “It is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” Prov.31.4,5.

Strong drink led to the partaker being controlled by another spirit, that of alcohol, which led to a breakdown in reverence and separation.  In these present days when social drinking is encouraged, it would be a safeguard, particularly for the rising generation, to ponder the following passages.  The first mention of wine and drunkenness is in Genesis chapter 9, with respect to Noah and his son.  Then there is Genesis chapter 19 and the sordid story of Lot and his daughters.  In Numbers chapter 6, the Nazarite had to refrain from anything of the vine, which is a warning to others to refrain.  The wise man said, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” Prov.20.1.  The language of Isa.28.7 is very strong indeed: “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.”  We could go on, but the dangers associated with wine are very clear and the safest stance is total abstinence.

Thus there came the restriction: “And the Lord said unto
Moses, ‘Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat’” Lev.16.2.

The Construction

Colours – v.31

These present the Lord Jesus Christ, as seen in the four Gospels:

Fine twined linen: this is His righteous, perfect, holy manhood as presented in Luke’s Gospel, where we find His moral glory;

Blue: the heavenly colour presents the heavenly Man in John’s Gospel.  Here we see His essential glory as the Son of God;

Purple: in Mark’s Gospel He is the Son of man and His universal glory is displayed;

Scarlet: In Matthew’s Gospel He is displayed as the Son of David.  That is His kingly glory.

The differing dimensions are interesting: the gate was twenty cubits wide by five cubits high, equalling one hundred square cubits, whereas the door of the tent and the vail were both ten cubits by ten cubits, equalling one hundred square cubits.  Thus, while the area was the same in each case, the door and vail were higher and narrower than the gate, illustrating
that the truth they present is higher and more restricted.  It is not for the world.

As with the gate of the court, the colours are mentioned before the material and blue is first.  The gate teaches us of a Man Who came from heaven, but now, on the inside, it is a Man Who has returned to heaven.  As the priest approached he was aware of One Who was here; that is the fine twined linen, but it is emphasised that He is now in heaven, and so there is the blue, and He is destined to reign, as noted in the purple and scarlet.

Because of where He is and His ministry on on our behalf, we can approach: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” Heb.4.14-16.

Cherubim – v.31

These were guardians of God’s righteousness.  There were no cherubim at the gate since all righteous demands were satisfied by the altar, but as we approach the throne there must be an appreciation of God’s righteous requirements: “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” Heb.2.17.  The better word is ‘propitiation’ rather than “reconciliation”, since people are reconciled, but sin is not; sin is judged.  Propitiation is this truth in its Godward aspect and speaks of the satisfaction that God has received in the death of His Son.  God makes this propitiation good to us in our experience.  We do not enter His presence without due reverence and understanding that our acceptance is on the basis of the work of One Who has satisfied every claim of the throne.

Cunning Work – v.31

“Cunning” is a verb, which means ‘to think, esteem, make a judgment’, implying that our approach is not thoughtless.  We come with a thoughtful, prayerful and spiritual exercise.  It is not haphazard and unprepared.  We remember that Mary’s box was full of precious ointment that she had prepared at home and lavishly gave to Him when the appropriate occasion had arrived.  Our spiritual offering may be seen
in Heb.13.15: “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise
to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

Columns (Pillars) – v.32

We are not left to guess the design and number of the pillars.  Ex.27.16 states, “And for the gate of the court … their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.”  In Ex.26.32, for the vail, the instruction is, “Thou shalt hang it upon four pillars”.  In Ex.26.37 we are told there are five pillars for the door of the tent: “thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shittim wood”.

When we are directed to four pillars it emphasises the four Gospel writers.  Four is the number for the world, the universal number.  Matthew writes for the Jew, Mark for the Roman, Luke for the Gentile and John for the world.  However, when we have five pillars it is not stretching our thoughts to see in them the five authors of the Epistles: Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude.  Regarding the gate, the material of the pillars is not mentioned, the sockets are of copper and the hooks of silver, but here (for the vail) they are to be made of shittim wood overlaid with gold, the sockets are of silver and the hooks are of gold.

In the world, it is “not I”, and we stand in the appreciation of justice satisfied.  Paul records, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” Gal.2.20.  Here, as we think of the Tabernacle structure, we are not seen in relation to the world but as associated with the habitation of God and we stand in appreciation of the mighty price paid for our redemption.  “Ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” Eph.2.22, and this allows us access: “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” Eph.2.18.  On what basis?  “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” Eph.2.13.  In the court the hooks were of silver, which pictures Calvary for the redemption of the world.  Here the hooks of gold are teaching us the wonder of Divine righteousness appreciated by priestly men.

The Separation

There are three areas that are drawn to our attention, namely, the court, the holy place and the Holiest of all; and there are three men who function in these areas, namely, the Levites, the priests and the high priest.  These show the lines of demarcation both of places and of personnel.  The word “vail” comes from a root which means ‘to break apart or divide’.  “Thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy” Ex.26.33.

The vail was never a means of entry, thus it is called the “vail of the covering”: “And they brought … the vail of the covering” Ex.39.33,34; “he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the Lord commanded Moses” Ex.40.21.  It covered the ark during transit, so that the ark was not seen by any save the high priest.  It separated between what spoke of us, the priestly family, and what spoke of Him exclusively.

Note the following expressions which confirm that the vail is a covering: “the vail shall divide … between the holy place and the most holy” Ex.26.33; “within the vail” Ex.26.33; “without the vail” Ex.26.35; “before the vail” Ex.40.26.

The Invitation

We never read that the vail of the Tabernacle was rent.  In each of the three ‘Synoptic Gospels’ we read “the veil of the temple was rent”; “in twain” (Matthew and Mark); “in the midst” (Luke).  There are three references to the “veil” in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  In each of them it is the vail of the Tabernacle and in none of them is the vail rent.  The veil of the Temple was rent to show that the ‘Shekinah’ no longer resided in the holy place: God had left Judaism.  The rocks, the high priest’s garments and the veil of the Temple were all rent.  The veil was rent in the midst, not at the side, but just where the ark and mercy seat would have been.  God, Who formerly shut Himself in, is now coming out and inviting us near!  Heb.10.18 ends the doctrinal part of the epistle and v.19 commences the practical section; thus v.19 commences with “Having therefore”.  In this ensuing paragraph, Heb.10.19-25, there are three possessions and three exhortations.  We shall briefly look at the first three:

Three Possessions

“Boldness to enter into the holiest.”

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” v.19.  This is because our sins are gone.  Our way in is described in v.20:

  • By a new: that is, ‘a freshly slain’ way.  The sacrifice of Christ always will be fresh to God.  We remember Rev.5.6: “… a Lamb as it had been slain”.
  • And living way: if Aaron had brought another priest with him into the Holiest it would have been a deadly way because they would have been slain instantly, but we are not under the threat of death, because He is alive.
  • Through the veil: the Epistle to the Hebrews is based on the Tabernacle in its pristine glory.  It is not all worn and shabby.  In the Tabernacle we see Judaism at its best and we learn that Christianity is better than it at its very best, not at its ragged worst.
  • His flesh: this is the way, not the veil.  The veil is His Person, not His work.  It took His blood, v.19, and His flesh, v.20, to let us in! On this basis, we have boldness to enter the Holiest.
“A high priest.”

“And having a high priest over the house of God” v.21.  Most agree that this is more accurately translated as having a great priest.  Why is He a great Priest?  It is because He can take us to where none other could have done: to the other side of an unrent vail, into the Holiest.

“Our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” v.22.  Neither the hearts sprinkled nor the bodies washed are literal.  These imply the judicial and moral cleansing that takes place at the new birth, John chapter 13, and the washing of regeneration, Titus chapter 3.


As with the gate of the court and the vail, the colours are mentioned before the material and blue is first.  This reveals our Saviour as the Man back in the glory Who has invited us near, yet there is the reminder of sin, seen in the goats’ hair pelmet over the door.

We have previously noted the significance of the five pillars, which teach us concerning our privilege of being accepted as we approach the presence of the Lord, which all five writers of the Epistles describe:

  • Paul wrote, “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” Eph.2.18; “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” Rom.5.2;
  • James wrote, “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” Jms.1.6;
  • Peter wrote, “If ye call on the Father”, or ‘since ye invoke the Father’ 1Pet.1.17;
  • John wrote, “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” 1Jn.3.22; “this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us” 1Jn.5.14.
  • Jude wrote, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” Jude v.20.

The sockets of brass in reality were of copper (“bases of copper” J.N.D.), which, like the sockets for the pillars of the court, teach us of Divine righteousness that is demanded.  These sockets were produced of the same material as the brazen altar, so the boards, in type, had the altar as a foundation.  For the vail the sockets were of silver and these were inside and so all measured up to the Man in the glory and the wonderful, immeasurable price of redemption.

The hooks were of gold, as were those of the vail, whereas in the court the hooks were of silver.  We think of priestly men going into the sanctuary and they look up to the wonder of Divine righteousness.  They look down to the copper and see that every deficiency is answered at the cross, while looking up they appreciate all is of God.