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[Heb. generally ohel, "tent," and mishkan, "dwelling place," from nakahs, "to dwell"; Gr. generally skeµneµ, "tent," "booth," "lodging," "dwelling place."] Any tent or temporary dwelling place, especially the tabernacle erected by Moses at Mount Sinai, God's sacred dwelling place (Ex 25:8, 9) and the centre of Hebrew worship for more than 4 cent., frequently called "Tent of Meeting" or "Tent of the Testimony." Under the theocracy God was Israel's Supreme Ruler, and in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle abode the visible glory symbolic of the Divine Presence (chs 25:22; 40:34, 35), sometimes called Shekinah, which, however, is a rabbinical term and is not found in the Bible. Mishkan, "dwelling place," designates the ohel, "tent," as the residence of the glorious "abiding Presence." The visible glory hovered above the mercy seat of the ark between the 2 cherubim (ch 25:22). The tabernacle was constructed in accordance with the "pattern" God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 25:9-40; cf. Heb 8:5; 9:23) see The Mosaic Tabernacle. The bulkier materials, such as the wood and the animal skins used in its construction, were obtainable in the vicinity of Sinai. The precious metals—the gold, silver, and brass—and the linen had obviously been brought by the people from Egypt (Ex 35:21-29; cf. 3:22; 12:35, 36). A tabulation of the various materials used in the construction of the tabernacle shows that it represented a considerable investment. The candlestick, or lampstand, with its lamps and utensils, was made from a talent of gold. Approximately 6 months were required for the construction of the tabernacle, and it was carried on during the last half of the 1st year after the departure from Egypt (chs 19:1; 24:18; 34:28; 40:2).

The tabernacle proper was a quadrangular tent, 30 cu. long by 10 cu. wide and 10 cu. high. The over-all dimensions are not precisely stated in the Exodus account, but are computed from the specifications given for the curtains and the boards, or frames, used in the walls of the tabernacle and from the corresponding but larger dimensions of Solomon's Temple (1 Ki 6:2). The tent was divided into 2 apartments, the 1st being known as "the holy place" (Ex 28:29), and the 2nd as "the most holy [place]," literally "Holy of Holies" (ch 26:33). The latter was a cube, 10 cu. on a side, and the holy place 10 cu. by 20 cu. The tabernacle was surrounded by a courtyard 50 cu. wide and 100 cu. long, enclosed by linen hangings 5 cu. high (see ch 27:18). This curtain-wall was suspended from 60 "pillars," probably of acacia wood (cf. ch 26:37) filleted with silver and resting in "brass" (that is, bronze) sockets. At the middle of the east end of the court was the entrance, which was formed by a separate curtain 20 cu. in length (see ch 27:9-17). In the eastern half of the court, near the entrance, were the altar of burnt offering (vs. 1-8) and the laver (ch 30:17-21). The tabernacle proper occupied a central position in the western half of the court. Its entrance likewise faced eastward. This portal consisted of a linen curtain suspended from 5 pillars of shittim (acacia) wood, which were overlaid with gold and rested in brass (bronze) sockets (ch 26:36, 37). Within the holy place, to the right (or north) as one entered, was the table for the "shew-bread," or bread of the Presence. This table was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold (ch 25:23-30). To the left (or south) was the 7-branched candlestick (actually a lampstand, which was made, together with its lamps and utensils, from a talent of pure gold (vs. 31-40). Before the veil that divided the holy place from the Most Holy Place—but considered as belonging to the latter (Heb 9:3, 4)—was the altar of incense, also made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold (Ex 30:1-10). Entrance into the Most Holy Place was through an elaborately embroidered linen curtain suspended from 4 "pillars" (ch 26:31-33). The only object within the Most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant, a chest made of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold, covered with a lid known as the "mercy seat," and surmounted on either end by a golden cherub (ch 25:10-22). The tabernacle structure consisted of a wooden framework and a threefold tent covering (ch 26:1-37). There were 48 acacia boards, or frames, each 10 cu. long by 11/2 cu. broad, overlaid with gold. These were held in place by tenons and anchored in silver sockets, 2 to a board, and bound together laterally by transverse wooden bars, 5 on each side. The innermost covering, which constituted walls and ceiling and was draped over these upright boards, was made of linen cloth skilfully embroidered with cherubim in blue, purple, and scarlet (vs. 1-6, also see The Mosaic Tabernacle). Outside of this linen curtain was another, of goat's hair, in 11 sections, each 30 cu. by 4 cu. Over this covering of goat's hair was a 3rd, or outer, tent (v 14) made of rams' skins from the flock, and another kind of leather, "badgers' skins" (KJV), "goatskins" (RSV). Into the courtyard came the priests and the Levites, as duty required, to conduct the services and to supply its needs. Members of the congregation also, apparently, entered within the gate of the court to present their sacrifices and to confess their sins.

During the original conquest of Canaan the tabernacle remained at Gilgal—the initial camp in Canaan and Joshua's headquarters—near Jericho (Jos 4:19, 20; 5:9, 10; 10:43; 14:6). With the completion of the conquest the tabernacle was moved to Shiloh, where it remained through the period of the judges (Jos 18:1; 1 Sa 1:3) until the capture of the ark by the Philistines; then Shiloh was evidently destroyed and ceased to be a centre of worship (1 Sa 4:3, 11, 21, 22; Ps 78:60-64; cf. Jer 7:12-14; 26:6, 9). During the reign of Saul the tabernacle was at Nob (1 Sa 21:1, 6), and during a considerable part of David's reign and until the dedication of Solomon's Temple it was at Gibeon (1 Chr 16:39; 21:29; 2 Chr 1:3-6). With the erection of the latter the tabernacle was brought, along with the ark and the sacred vessels, to the new structure (1 Ki 8:4; 2 Chr 5:5).

For further information on the various parts of the sanctuary see names of structural parts and of equipment and furnishings. For the priestly ministration and various services conducted in the sanctuary see Priest; Sacrifices and Offerings; Temple -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

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