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For other uses, see Tabernacle (disambiguation).
Model of the tabernacle in Timna Park, Israel
The Tabernacle (Hebrew:
, mishkan, "residence" or "dwelling place"), according to
the Hebrew Bible, was the portable dwelling place for the divine presence from the
time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan. Built
to specifications revealed by God (Yahweh) to Moses at Mount Sinai, it accompanied
the Israelites on their wanderings in the wilderness and their conquest of the
Promised Land. The First Temple in Jerusalem superseded it as the dwelling-place of
God. There is no mention of the Tabernacle in the Tanakh after the destruction of
Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in 587 BCE.
The fullest description of the Tabernacle describes an inner shrine (named Holy of
Holies) housing the Ark of the Covenant and an outer chamber (Holy Place) with a
golden lampstand, table for showbread, and altar of incense. This description is
generally identified as part of the Priestly source (P), written in the 6th or 5th
century BCE. Many scholars contend that it is of a far later date than Moses, and
that the description reflects the structure of the Temple of Solomon, while some hold
that the description derives from memories of a real pre-monarchic shrine, perhaps
the sanctuary at Shiloh. Traditional scholars contend that it describes an actual
tabernacle used in the time of Moses and thereafter. According to historical
criticism an earlier, pre-exilic source (E) describes the Tabernacle as a simple tentsanctuary.
The English word "tabernacle" is derived from the Latin tabernāculum meaning "tent"
or "hut", which in ancient Roman religion was a ritual structure.
The word sanctuary is also used for the Biblical tabernacle, as well as the phrase the
"tent of meeting". The Hebrew word mishkan implies "dwell", "rest", or "to live in",
referring to the "[In-dwelling] Presence of God", the shekhinah, based on the same
Hebrew root word as mishkan), that dwelt within this divinely ordained structure.
The 19th-century naturalist Eduard Rüppell equated the Arabic word "tucash"
(dugong) with "tahash" (tabernacle). From this he deduced that the Tabernacle was
covered with hides from the dugong or sea cow, and designated the animal "Halicore
tabernaculi". Modern academic opinion considers this reading of "tahash"
Model of the tabernacle compound in tent form
The commandments for construction of the Tabernacle are taken from the words in
the Book of Exodus when God says to Moses: "And let them make Me a sanctuary,
that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the
tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof, even so shall ye make it." 
Historical criticism has identified two accounts of the tabernacle in Exodus, a briefer
account and a longer one. Traditional scholars believe the briefer account describes a
different structure, perhaps Moses's personal tent. The Hebrew nouns in the two
accounts are different, one being most commonly translated as "tent of meeting,"
while the other is usually translated as "tabernacle".
Exodus 33:7-10 refers to a "tent of meeting", which was set up outside of camp with
the pillar of cloud visible at its door. The people directed their worship toward this
center. Historical criticism attributes this description to the Elohist source (E),
which is believed to have been written about 850 BCE or later.
The more detailed description of a tabernacle is in Exodus 25-27 and 35-40, which
describes an inner shrine (Holy of Holies) housing the Ark and an outer chamber (Holy
Place), with a seven-branched lampstand, table for showbread, and altar of incense. 
An enclosure containing the sacrificial altar surrounded these chambers. This
description is identified by historical criticism as part of the Priestly source (P),
written in the 6th or 5th century BCE.
Some scholars believe the description is of a far later date than Moses, and that it
reflects the structure of the Temple of Solomon; others hold that the passage
describes a real pre-monarchic shrine, perhaps the sanctuary at Shiloh, while
traditional scholars contend that it describes an actual tabernacle used in the time of
Moses and thereafter. This view is based on Exodus 36, 37, 38 and 39 that describe in
full detail how the actual construction of the Tabernacle took place during the time
The detailed outlines for the tabernacle and its priests are enumerated in the Book of
Exodus 25: Materials needed, the Ark, the table for 12 showbread, the
Exodus 26: The tabernacle, the beams, partitions.
Exodus 27: The copper altar, the enclosure, oil.
Exodus 28: Vestments for the priests, ephod garment, ring settings, the
breastplate, robe, head-plate, tunic, turban, sashes, pants.
Exodus 29: Consecration of priests and altar.
Exodus 30: Incense altar, washstand, anointing oil, incense.
The erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred vessels, as in Exodus 40:17-19; from the
1728 Figures de la Bible
In chapter 31
the main builder and architects are specified:
"God spoke to Moses, saying: I have selected Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of
the tribe of Judah, by name. I have filled him with a divine spirit, with wisdom,
understanding and knowledge, and with all types of craftsmanship. He will be
able to devise plans as well as work in gold, silver and copper, cut stones to be
set, carve wood, and do other work. I have also given him Oholiab son of
Achisamakh of the tribe of Dan. I have placed wisdom in the heart of every
naturally talented person. They will thus make all that I have ordered, the
Communion Tent, the Ark of the Covenant, the ark cover to go on it, all the
utensils for the tent, the table and its utensils, the pure menorah and all its
utensils, the incense altar, the sacrificial altar and all its utensils, the washstand
and its base, the packing cloths, the sacred vestments for Aaron the priest, the
vestments that his sons wear to serve, the anointing oil, and the incense for the
sanctuary. They will thus do all that I command." (Exodus 31:1-11)
There was a set of strict rules to be followed for the Tabernacle set on the Old
Testament. For example: "For the LORD had said to Moses, 'Exempt the tribe of Levi
from the census; do not include them when you count the rest of the Israelites. You
must put the Levites in charge of the Tabernacle of the Covenant, along with its
furnishings and equipment. They must carry the Tabernacle and its equipment as you
travel, and they must care for it and camp around it. Whenever the Tabernacle is
moved, the Levites will take it down and set it up again. Anyone else who goes too
near the Tabernacle will be executed.'" (Numbers 1:48-51 NLT),
The Tabernacle during the Exodus, the wandering in the desert and the conquest of
Canaan was a portable tent draped with colorful curtains called a "tent of meeting". 
It had a rectangular, perimeter fence of fabric, poles and staked cords. This rectangle
was always erected when the Israelite tribes would camp, oriented to the east. In the
center of this enclosure was a rectangular sanctuary draped with goat-hair curtains,
with the roof made from rams' skins. Over the rams' skins was placed a covering of
"tachash skins", a term of uncertain meaning which has been variously translated as
blue processed skins, badger skins, dolphin skin, beaded skins, etc.
According to Encyclopaedia Judaica, "The AV and JPS translation badger has no
basis in fact."
"and great was the surprise of those who viewed these curtains at a distance,
for they seemed not at all to differ from the color of the sky" —Josephus (c. 94
Inside, the enclosure was divided into two areas, the Holy Place and the Most Holy
Place. These two areas were separated by a curtain or veil. Inside the first area
were three pieces of furniture: a seven-branched oil lampstand on the left (south), a
table for twelve loaves of show bread on the right (north) and the Altar of Incense
(west), straight ahead before the dividing curtain.
Beyond this curtain was the cube-shaped inner room known as the "Holy of Holies") or
(Kodesh Hakodashim). This area housed the Ark of the Covenant (aron habrit),
inside which were the two stone tablets brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses on
which were written the Ten Commandments, a golden urn holding the manna, and
Aaron's rod that budded and bore ripe almonds. (Hebrews 9:2-5, Exodus 16:33-34,
Numbers 17:1-11, Deuteronomy 10:1-5.)
Top view, parallel projection of tabernacle.
Tabernacle Tent dimensions according to the Book of Exodus
Tabernacle Tent and Courtyard dimensions according to the Book of Exodus
See also: Korban, Animal sacrifice#Judaism, and Burnt offering
Twice a day, a priest would stand in front of the golden prayer altar and burn fragrant
incense (Exodus 30:7-10). Other procedures were also carried out in the Tabernacle:
The Daily Holocaust: Leviticus 6:8-30
Guilt Offerings and Peace Offerings: Leviticus 7
Ceremony of Ordination: Leviticus 8
Octave of Ordination: Leviticus 9
Wine forbidden to Priests in the Tabernacle: Leviticus 10:8-15
Day of Atonement: Leviticus 16
Sacrifice only at the Tabernacle: Leviticus 17
Ordeal for suspected adulteresses: Numbers 5:11-29
Dedication of Nazirites: Numbers 6:1-21
Preparation of Ashes of a Red Heifer for Water of Purification: Numbers 19
During the conquest of Canaan, the main Israelite camp was at Gilgal, (Joshua 4:19;
5:8-10) and the Tabernacle was probably erected within the camp: Joshua 6:14 "...and
returned into the camp." (see Numbers 1:52-2:34 "...they shall camp facing the tent of
meeting on every side.")
After the conquest and division of the land among the tribes, the Tabernacle was
moved to Shiloh in Ephraimite territory (Joshua's tribe) to avoid disputes among the
other tribes (Joshua 18:1; 19:51; 22:9; Psalm 78:60). It remained there during the 300-year
period of the Biblical judges (the rules of the individual judges total about 350 years
[1 Kings 6:1; Acts 13:20], but most ruled regionally and some terms overlapped).
The subsequent history of the structure is separate from that of the Ark of the
Covenant. After the Ark was captured by the Philistines, King Saul moved the
Tabernacle to Nob, near his home town of Gibeah, but after he massacred the priests
there (1 Samuel 21-22), it was moved to Gibeon. (1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 2 Chronicles
The Ark was eventually brought to Jerusalem, where it was placed "inside the tent
David had pitched for it" (2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 15:1), not in the Tabernacle,
which remained at Gibeon. The altar of the Tabernacle at Gibeon was used for
sacrificial worship (1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 1 Kings 3:2-4), until Solomon finally brought
the structure and its furnishings to Jerusalem to furnish and dedicate the Temple.
(1 Kings 8:4)
There is no mention of the Tabernacle in the Tanakh after the destruction of
Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in c. 587 BCE.
Relationship to the Golden calf
Some rabbis have commented on the proximity of the narrative of the Tabernacle with
that of the episode known as the sin of the Golden calf recounted in Exodus 32:1-6.
Maimonides asserts that the Tabernacle and its accoutrements, such as the golden
Ark of the Covenant and the golden Menorah were meant as "alternates" to the
human weakness and needs for physical idols as seen in the Golden calf episode. 
Other scholars, such as Nachmanides disagree and maintain that the Tabernacle's
meaning is not tied in with the Golden Calf but instead symbolizes higher mystical
lessons that symbolize God's constant closeness to the Children of Israel. 
Blueprint for synagogues
The Mishkan Shilo synagogue is a replica of the Jewish Temple
Synagogue construction over the last two thousand years has followed the outlines of
the original Tabernacle. Every synagogue has at its front an ark, aron kodesh,
containing the Torah scrolls, comparable to the Ark of the Covenant which contained
the tablets with Ten Commandments. This is the holiest spot in a synagogue,
equivalent to the Holy of Holies.
There is also usually a constantly lighted lamp, Ner tamid, or a candelabrum, lighted
during services, near a spot similar to the position of the original Menorah. At the
center of the synagogue is a large elevated area, known as the bimah, where the Torah
is read. This is equivalent to the Tabernacle's altars upon which incense and animal
sacrifices were offered. On the main holidays the priests, kohanim, gather at the front
of the synagogue to bless the congregation as did their priestly ancestors in the
Tabernacle from Aaron onwards (Numbers 6:22-27).
New Testament references
The Tabernacle is mentioned several times in the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New
Testament. For example, according to Hebrews 8:2-5 and 9:2-26 Jesus serves as the true
climactic high priest in heaven, the true tabernacle, to which its counterpart on earth
was just a symbol and foreshadow of what was to come (Hebrews 8:5).