Note: I taught our Elders Quorum class today, and was assigned the topic of the Mosaic Tabernacle as a Temple. Below are the notes and illustrations I used for my lesson.
Review of prior lesson on the exodus:
- Children of Israel escape Egyptian bondage (Ex. 14)
- Moses leads them out
- Parting of the Red Sea, Pharoah’s armies are drowned
- Lord begins to organize his people
- Manna rains down from heaven, sends Quail for meat (Ex. 16)
- Moses strikes the rock, and water comes out
- Lord covenants to Israel a peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests, an holy nation (Ex. 19:5-6)
- 10 commandments and Mount Sinai (Ex. 20)
- The people start to refuse to become what the Lord had offered them – “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Ex. 20:19). Foreshadowing…
- Many instructions, laws, covenants, etc. are delivered to Moses, which he delivers to the people, who all answer with one voice, “Yes, we will be obedient (Ex. 24:3, 7)
Moses goes up Mount Sinai again to receive instructions for 40 days and nights (Ex. 24:18). Matthew Brown – “As part of his ascension experience, Moses is said to have been washed, anointed, clothed in heavenly garments, called with names of honor, enthroned, and initiated into heavenly secrets” ((Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 1999. 58)). Joseph Smith noted that Moses received the “keys of the Kingdom,” and “certain signs and words” ((ibid.)).
Next 7 chapters are instructions to Moses of how to build the Tabernacle while he is at Sinai. Meanwhile the children of Israel are at base camp without their prophet, and things start to go bad.
Preliminary considerations – The Tabernacle functioned under the Aaronic priesthood, and as such things are different than we would expect from a temple functioning under the Melchizedek priesthood. But much of the symbolism and typology remains the same.
Also, because of the translation, editing, and copying of the Bible through many generations, particularly during Josiah’s reforms ((See Margaret Barker, “What Did King Josiah Reform?” in Welch, John W., David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely. Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2004. Link)), the Old Testament has some interpolations and insertions of Aaronic priesthood as the dominant authority throughout much of its history, even before the golden calf. Some things seem out of place, anachronistic, counterintuitive, or unlogical (see for example Ex. 33 verses 11 and 20). Some biblical scholars have noted that these are likely the result of later editing and rewriting.
Exodus 25 – Tabernacle, Tabernacle of the Congregation, Tabernacle of Witness or Tent of Witness, literally “Tent of Meeting” – Read Ex. 25:8-9 (first mention of Tabernacle). Translated from two Hebrew words:
“ohel” meaning “tent or covering” ((Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 1999. 57))
Garden of Eden as a prototype for the Tabernacle – temple functioned as a reversal of the effects of the Fall, and include many of the symbols in reverse order, going from the profane to the sacred:
The schematic drawing attempts to depict the sacred landscape of Genesis in simplified form. The first land to arise from the waters became the Mountain of the Lord, where the Lord created Adam. It is from this divine center that creation begins and extends out in all directions. The Hebrew for east means “faceward or frontward”; thus, driving Adam from before his face is part of the continuing eastward movement. Once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Adam’s eastward expulsion from the Garden is reversed when the high priest travels west past the consuming fire of the sacrifice and the purifying water of the laver, through the veil woven with images of cherubim. Thus, he returns to the original point of creation, where he pours out the atoning blood of the sacrifice, reestablishing the covenant relationship with God. ((Parry, Donald W. Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co, 1994. 134-35))
Construction of the Tabernacle – Exodus 25-27 –
- Holy of Holies = Celestial
- Holy Place = Terrestrial (Garden?)
- Courtyard = Telestial
- Altar & Laver = sacrifice, obedience, baptism, washing
- Menorah = tree of life, the cross, the light of the world (Christ).. Fall
- Table of shewbread and wine = fruit of the tree of life, sacrament, flesh and blood of Christ.. Atonement
- Altar of incense = prayer, sacred ritual prayer, before the veil
- Veil = separation from God… we can rend through the rending of Christ’s flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20)
- Ark of the covenant = throne of God, immortality and eternal life
Aaron’s holy garments (or all of Israel before their great sin) – Exodus 28 –
- Aaron’s garments consecrate him and allow him to minister as a priest. (Ex. 28:3). Consecrate being translated from the Hebrew words meaning to “fill the hand” – sacrificial emblems, olive oil, incense ((Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 1999. 89)). The “filled hand” is a widespread sign of offering sacrifice.
- Breastplate (Ex. 28:4; includes many of the following items)
- Ephod = apron
- Holman Bible Dictionary – “Priestly garment connected with seeking a word from God . . . In early OT history there are references to the ephod as a rather simple, linen garment, possibly a short skirt, apron, or loincloth. It is identified as a priestly garment… From its earliest forms and uses, it appears that the ephod was associated with the presence of God or those who had a special relationship with God… There are references to a special ephod associated with the high priest. It appears to have been an apron-like garment worn over the priest’s robe and under his breastplate… Woven of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet materials, it was very elaborate and ornate… The ephod was fastened around the waist by a beautiful and intricately woven girdle” ((Brand, Chad Owen, Charles W. Draper, and Archie W. England. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tenn: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. 499)).
- Broidered (embroidered) coat = garment worn next to the skin ((Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 1999. 82))
- Linen breeches (Ex. 28:42) = to cover nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach
- Mitre = a turban or round cap. Something wrapped around with white linen. Holman Bible Dictionary – “a type of headdress, probably a turban… In Zech. 3:5 the high priest Joshua received a clean mitre as a sign of the restoration of the priesthood” ((Brand, Chad Owen, Charles W. Draper, and Archie W. England. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tenn: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. 1145))
- Girdle = sash – Holman Bible Dictionary – “An ornate sash worn by the officiating priests… to gird up one’s loins means literally to tuck the loose ends of one’s outer garment into one’s belt. Loins were girded in preparation for running, battle, or for service for a master. The call to ‘gird your minds’ means to be spiritually alert and prepared” ((ibid., 653-654)).
- Bells on the hem (Ex. 28:35) = sound heard when he goes into the holy place, as an announcement ((Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 1999. 83))
- Golden crown (Ex. 28:36) = HOLINESS TO THE LORD. Taking upon him the name of the Lord, literally.
- Blue lace (Ex. 28:37) = a thread, a line, or cord; string to attach the crown, and secure it to the mitre. ((ibid., 84-85))
Aaron’s sons garments – Ex. 28:40 –
- Bonnet (hat or headdress)
Aaron and his sons were to be anointed, consecrated, and sanctified, and clothed in these holy garments so that they could minister in the priest’s office and come to the altar in the holy place. (Ex. 28:41-43; Ex. 29:29)
Exodus 29:4 – “And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.”
Clothing in the garments of the priesthood – Exodus 29:5-6
Exodus 29:7 – “Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.”
These things were done before the priests entered the holy place. They were preparatory or initiatory ordinances to become ritually clean to serve in the Tabernacle.
Other offerings of animal sacrifices were offered on the altar.
The Tabernacle was to be a place of meeting the Lord and speaking with Him – Exodus 29:42-46 “This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door [veil?] of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory… And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God… that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.”
All this was given to Moses while he was on Mount Sinai. The children of Israel, meanwhile, were beginning to build idols, “which shall go before us” (Ex. 32). Were desiring some intermediary to go before the Lord, now that Moses was gone, and they didn’t know if he was coming back (Ex. 32:1).
Golden Calf! Here is the turning point. Moses comes down and breaks the tablets in his anger (Ex. 32:19, symbolic of the covenant being broken, literally). The Lord chastises Israel for their great sin. They will no longer be able to become a kingdom of priests – “Ye are a stiffnecked people: if I came up into the midst of thee in a moment, I would consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee” (JST Ex. 33:5; see also Ezek. 24:17, 23). The children of Israel can no longer come into the presence of the Lord because of their wickedness, and breaking their covenants. The Lord commanded the Israelites to remove their “ornaments” (Ex. 33:4-6). Matthew Brown suggests that this might have been connected with the “robes of . . . glory” that the Israelites were required to remove. “These robes may be related to the ‘garments . . . for glory’ (i.e. temple robes) worn by the Israelite priests” ((ibid., 92; see also Exodus 28:2)). Here we see that all the people were preparing to wear the sacred robes, not just Aaron and his sons. But they were now unworthy of them.
Brigham Young once took note:
If they had been sanctified and holy, the children of Israel would not have traveled one year with Moses before they would have received their endowments and the Melchisedec Priesthood.” ((Brigham Young, JD 6:100; reference brought to my attention by John Tvedtnes.))
Moses, and later on Aaron, become the intermediary for the people (Ex. 33:7-11). They would go before the face of God, not the people. We get more insight into what happened here in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 84:17-27).
17 Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years.
18 And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.
Moses goes back up the mountain to get the stone tablets again, but this time the covenant did not include the “everlasting covenant of the holy priesthood” that the people were not prepared to receive anymore (JST Deut 10:2) ((Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 1999. 59)).
1 And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them. 2 But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage. (JST Ex. 34:1-2) ((ibid., 59))
For the rest of Israelite history until the coming of Jesus Christ, the temple performed its functions primarily through the Aaronic priesthood, the authority to perform outward and carnal ordinances, but not the authority to bring mankind into the presence of the Father. Christ restored what was lost through Israel’s iniquity, brought back the higher priesthood, reacquainted man with his Father, and restored the ordinances through which mankind may come once again into the presence of God. These ordinances have been restored again today.
(To see more Tabernacle illustrations see TempleBuilders.com.)