Bible Studies - Sanctuary

19. Walls And Roof Of The Sanctuary

The wall of the inner sanctuary or those on the north, south, and west sides of the holy and most holy place, were made of shittim wood which was overlaid with gold making it appear as solid gold (Ex. 26:15, 29). Each piece of wood was 10 cubits long and 1 1/2 cubits wide, and was to have tenons in one end to stand up on (Ex. 26:16, 17). The wood represents the humanity of Christ, while the gold His perfect life.

This was the second of two walls; the outer wall was half its height being only 5 cubits high. The outer court as a whole represented what was going to happen here on earth, while the holy and most holy places contained within this inner wall as a whole represented what has been and is going on in the heavenly sanctuary. As this earth will one day be down away with, so the things that the outer court represented were to be done away with. Likewise as heaven lasts forever, so the things that the inner wall and what it contains represented will last forever. Therefore, the outer wall was made of fine linen and as with everything in the outer court represented something that was to be done away with – namely the ceremonial laws which were placed in the side of the ark, and were nailed to Christ’s cross (Col. 2:14). This inner wall was made of wood covered with gold and represented something that was never to be done away with – namely God’s Ten Commandments.

The ten commandments is the standard by which all Christians are to live for they will be judged according to them (Matt. 19:16-22; James 2:12). All of our acts have some amount of selfishness in them. When a person is doing their best through the aid of the Holy Spirit, their righteousness is still short. So Christ with His own Divine merit tops it up with the shewbread, the light from the candlesticks, and the incense which is burned upon the altar bringing up the righteousness of that person to the full height of the walls or the standard of the ten commandments (1 John 1:7, 9).

The south and the north sides were to have 20 boards each, while the west there were 6 boards and 2 boards for each corner (Ex. 26:18-25). The total number of boards is 48 which a multiple of 12 a very significant number to Israel because of the 12 tribes. We are not told the width of the corner boards, but we do know that Solomon’s temple was made to double the size of the original temple. In his temple the most holy place was 20 cubits long, 20 cubits wide and 20 cubits high, and the holy place was 40 cubits long, 20 cubits wide and 20 cubits high (1 Kings 6:20), being 60 cubits by 20 cubits in total. We can therefore conclude that the length of the south and north sides were 30 cubits, and the length of the west side was 10 cubits.

"The tabernacle was so constructed that it could be taken apart and borne with the Israelites in all their journeyings. It was therefore small, being not more than fifty-five feet in length, and eighteen in breadth and height." Patriarchs and Prophets by Ellen White, p. 347.

Each of these 48 boards had two sockets of silver under it into which the tenons went. These sockets were blocks of solid silver weighting one talent or approximately 34 kg each, and were to help hold the board in the upright position. There were 100 sockets in all – being 2 for each board and four for the veil (Ex. 38:27).

Along both sides and the western end of the tabernacle were rings of gold into which bars of shittim wood overlaid with gold were placed. There were five bars for each of these sides, with the four going through the rings and the fifth one going through the middle of the boards from one end to the other (Ex. 26:26-30). These bars held the boards upright and together as a solid golden wall.

As this wall represents the Ten Commandments the solid uprightness of it represents the solid uprightness of God’s Holy Law. They are all linked together and if you break one of them, you are in fact breaking them all. Those who break God’s law or teach others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of God (James 2:10-12; Matt. 5:19).

The roof of the Sanctuary was most probably flat, although Scripture does not tells so. It consisted of four layers of different material protecting the beautiful interior, the furniture, and the gold walls.

The first layer was made similar to the veils - fine linen died blue, purple, and scarlet. These like the veils were embroidered with cherubim in gold and silver thread. These cherubim were to represent the countless angels that wait upon the Lord day and night ready to serve Him (Dan. 7:10). There were ten of these curtains, each one being 28 cubits long and 4 cubits wide. They were divided into two lots of five curtains, which were to be coupled together to make one curtain. On the selvedge of both of these two curtains 50 loops of blue linen was made. These loops were held together with 50 taches or clasps of gold. Thereby making one big curtain that was 28 x 40 cubits, this was large enough to cover the roof and most of the golden walls. (Ex. 26:1-6.)

The second layer was slightly larger than the first and was made of woven goats’ hair. This is what Arabs still use in weaving their tents. It is very strong and protects them from rain and storms. There were eleven curtains 30 cubits long and 4 cubits wide. Five of these were to be coupled together, and the other six were to be coupled together with the extra one doubled over and was to be hung in the forefront of the Sanctuary. Like the first layer there were 50 loops along the selvedge of both curtains which were held together by 50 taches or clasps of brass to make one curtain of 30 cubits wide by 42 cubits long. Two cubits were hung down the front of the Holy Place veil while the rest more than covered the first curtain. (Ex. 26:7-14.)

The last two curtains were made of rams skins died red and badger or sealskins according to Ellen White. There is no size given for these last two covering, but it is assumed that they were large enough to cover the former two curtains giving the Sanctuary complete protection. (Patriarchs and Prophets by Ellen White, p. 347). The rams skins were dyed red being the colour of blood symbolising sacrifice. It therefore represents the sacrifice of Christ not only when He poured out His blood on Calvary, but the entire experience of His sacrifice to the very end of His redemptive work. The sealskins would have made the Sanctuary not as easy to see by someone who happened to pass by.

Outwardly the Sanctuary would not look a very important building, but on the inside it was a magnificent, costly building. This could be said of Jesus as He walked the earth, "In the eyes of the world He possessed no beauty that they should desire Him;" and "His appearance was uninviting." (Desire of Ages by Ellen White, p. 23; Testimonies for the Church Vol 4 by Ellen White, p. 373.)

When the building of the Sanctuary was completed and everything was put in its place, a cloud covered the holy and most holy places so that Moses could not enter them. The cloud remained over the tent of the congregation while Israel was to stay in that place. However, when it was time to move the cloud arose up into the air and Israel followed wherever it lead. Of a day time it was a cool cloud of shade, and of a night it was a cloud of fire to give warmth and light throughout all their journeys. (Ex. 40:34-38.)

In Deuteronomy 32:10-12 there is a lovely illustration of how God was there for and led His people:

"He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him."

God has also promised us that He would never leave nor forsake us, and that He would be with us even until the end of the world. (Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20.)

"No language can describe the glory of the scene presented within the sanctuary--the gold-plated walls reflecting the light from the golden candlestick, the brilliant hues of the richly embroidered curtains with their shining angels, the table, and the altar of incense, glittering with gold; beyond the second veil the sacred ark, with its mystic cherubim, and above it the holy Shekinah, the visible manifestation of Jehovah’s presence; all but a dim reflection of the glories of the temple of God in heaven, the great center of the work for man’s redemption." Patriarchs and Prophets by Ellen White, p. 349.

© S. D. Goeldner

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

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