Bible Studies - Sanctuary

7. How Long Did It Take To Build The Sanctuary?

The instructions or pattern for building the sanctuary were given to Moses shortly after God spoke and wrote the Ten Commandments on tables of stone. According to Exodus 19:1-11 we know that the law was spoken to Israel during the third month after leaving Egypt. It is therefore logical to concluded that the commencement of the building of the sanctuary was shortly after this.

Just after giving Moses all the instructions for building the sanctuary and again before Moses asks the whole of the congregation to bring free will offerings to built the sanctuary for God to dwell amongst them, Israel is reminded of the fourth commandment:-

"Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed." Exodus 31:13-17.

"Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death." Exodus 35:2.

It makes one wonder why God would remind His chosen people of one particular commandment at this point in time?

"Directions had just been given for the immediate erection of the tabernacle for the service of God; and now the people might conclude, because the object had in view was the glory of God, and also because of their great need of a place of worship, that they would be justified in working at the building upon the Sabbath. To guard them from this error, the warning was given. Even the sacredness and urgency of that special work for God must not lead them to infringe upon His holy rest day." Patriarchs and Prophets by E. G. White, page 313.

In Exodus chapters 36 – 39 we read in quite a bit of detail all that the crafts men and women made for the sanctuary. Chapter 39 concludes with these verses:-

"Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they. And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, . . . According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them." Exodus 39:32, 33, 42, 43.

What an awe-inspiring procession that must have been with all the builders of the sanctuary bringing what they had made unto Moses. With all the white linen curtain, the red, purple and blue curtains, the tent and it's coverings, the golden furniture – the ark, mercy seat, table of shew bread, altar of incense, and the candlesticks – with all their vessels, the brazen altar and laver. Along with all the clothing for the priests and the gorgeous special clothing for the High Priest. All were brought unto Moses who inspected it to make sure it was all made according to the pattern which God had given him. Being satisfied that all was made properly, Moses blessed them.

God instructed Moses that the sanctuary was to be set up on the first day of the first month of the 2nd year after leaving Egypt (Exodus 40:2, 17). Doing a little bit of maths we can conclude that the building of the sanctuary took less than nine months – the command to build it was given in the third month and the erection was in the first month of the 2nd year, therefore 12 – 3 = 9. Taking into account that the Israelites were released slaves, living in a desert, having all their food and water supplied by God, and that they were building an exquisitely beautiful building for God to dwell in, this is not a huge amount of time in which to accomplish such a task. Ellen White tells us in Patriarchs and Prophets, page 349, "A period of about half a year was occupied in the building of the tabernacle."

Now that it was all constructed it had to be assembled and all the furnishings placed in their proper place. God designed the sanctuary that it would be easy to set up and taken apart so that the Israelites could move camp whenever God told them to. Exodus 40:18-33 tells us how the sanctuary was set up and in what order. It concludes with, "So Moses finished the work."

"With eager interest the multitudes of Israel crowded around to look upon the sacred structure. While they were contemplating the scene with reverent satisfaction, the pillar of cloud floated over the sanctuary and, descending, enveloped it. 'And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.' There was a revealing of the divine majesty, and for a time even Moses could not enter. With deep emotion the people beheld the token that the work of their hands was accepted. There were no loud demonstrations of rejoicing. A solemn awe rested upon all. But the gladness of their hearts welled up in tears of joy, and they murmured low, earnest words of gratitude that God had condescended to abide with them." Patriarchs and Prophets by E. G. White, page 349.

© S. D. Goeldner

© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated August, 2020.

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