« PreviousContinue »
had a proclamation made; and “the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much."
We can well imagine the general excitement, while bringing in these contributions, and while the work was going on; "the women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue and of purple and of scarlet, and of fine linen :” “the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breast-plate," and spices, etc., and we are told “the children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord.”
So the preparation for the Tabernacle progressed in the camp, while the great lawgiver was busy in his work of preparing the laws. Idleness and its brooding sensations had given way to pleasant employment and activity. People were everywhere watching the progress of the work, were improved by the various criticisms made on the artistic skill of the workmen, and were ready to offer further contributions of precious metals or stones; all were interested, all were alive to the advancing beauty and richness of the work, and all full of pleasant anticipations as to events which were to occur on its completion.
T was completed in the tenth month after their arrival at
Sinai.! Much of the carving was exceedingly elaborate, and the whole work formed indeed a great undertaking, if
we consider the place where it was done and the means at their disposal. But on the first day of the new year, the Tabernacle, all complete, was set up, and it was an object which in itself might very well enlist their admiration. It had of course no solidity of architectural forms, for it had all to be of a nature to admit of its being moved; but it had the peculiar gracefulness which drapery always gives, and the materials were also of the richest kinds.
Plan of the Tabernacle and its Court. A, A, Court. B, B, Tabernacle. 1, Altar of burnt-offerings. 2, Laver. 3, Table of Shew.
bread. 4, Golden Candlestick. 5, Altar of Incense. 6, Ark of the Covenant.
There was, first, a rectangular enclosure one hundred and eighty-four feet long by ninety-two in width, and nine feet in height, made by curtains of fine twined linen, hung to pillars of brass filleted with silver, twenty on each side, and nine at each end. The eastern end, where was the entrance, had the curtains of blue, and purple, and scarlet colors, with cords to draw them up or aside.
This outer part enclosed the court; and entering it by the richly-draped eastern end, the spectator would have just before him, an altar for burnt-offerings, nine feet on each side, and five and a half in height. Beyond it was the laver, made of brass, a contribution by the women, who had given their metallic looking-glasses for this purpose. Then, lastly, beyond the laver was the Tabernacle, which was rectangular also, fifty-five feet long, and one third of this in width and height: the two sides and the western end made of shittim-wood, secured by bars of the same wood overlaid with gold. At its eastern end were five pillars of this wood standing in sockets of brass, the capitals and fillets overlaid with gold, and the hooks of gold. This end was covered by a richly-embroidered curtain, supported by the columns, and made to be drawn so as to give admittance. The whole Tabernacle was lined at the sides and ceiling first with a curtain of fine linen, richly embroidered with figures of cherubim. Next over this was a covering of fine goats'hair; then one of rams'-skins, dyed red; and finally there was an outer covering of a thicker kind of leather.
To one entering the Tabernacle at this eastern end, there would be on his right hand a table three feet eight inches long, by one foot nine inches in width, and two feet eight inches in height, overlaid with gold, with a border of gold, and its dishes and bowls of gold. On this twelve loaves of bread were to be perpetually kept, with perhaps flour also. Opposite this, on the left, was a large golden candlestick with six branches, the branches and shaft, with the appertaining lamps, etc., all of beaten gold. Then, further on and central, was the altar of incense, nearly two feet square, and three feet seven inches high, with a rich border around and horns at the corner, all of which were covered with gold. On this altar incense was to be burned every morning and evening.
This first chamber of the Tabernacle was called the Holy Place, and to it none but priests were admitted : beyond it and separated from it by four pillars set in sockets of silver, and with capitals of gold, and by curtains as at the main entrance, was the Most Holy Place, into which only the High Priest could enter, and for duty but once a year. It was eighteen feet two inches in each of its dimensions, and had in its centre the "Ark of the Covenant," a chest covered within and without with fine gold. This was four feet six inches long, by two feet eight inches in each of its other dimensions; on it was “ The Mercy-seat,” of the same dimensions as the top, and made of pure gold. On this merey-seat he placed “two cherubims of gold, beaten out of one piece made he them, on the two ends of the mercyseat; one cherub on the end on this side, and another cherub on the other end on that side; out of the mercy-seat made he the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims spread out their wings on high, and covered with their wings over the mercy-seat, with their faces one to another; even to the mercy-seat-ward were the faces of the cherubims."
Cherubims were allegorical figures among the ancient Hebrews. Their form was sometimes compounded of that of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle, the well-known symbols of might and power (see Ezek, i. 10; compare Rev. iv. 6, 7). In the ark or chest were deposited, now, the two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments, and a pot of manna which was to have the peculiarity of preserving its soundness. Afterward, the rod of Aaron was added, which just before being placed there had budded and brought forth fruit.
All this workmanship had been the engrossing topic of thought, and the subject for pleasing observation in the Israelitish camp for months; and now, when the tabernacle was put up, the multitudes gazed upon it with that deep interest and satisfaction which we have in seeing any successful works of our own hands, especially when the religious sentiment in them is also predominant. They could not ho
1 See also Gen. iii. 24; Ezek. x. 5, 19; Ps. lxxx. 1; xcix. 1; Ezek. x. 14, etc. Ezekiel's visions have numerous allusions of this kind, and Layard says that sculptured figures of this description are frequent on the palace walls at Nineveh.
2 Heb. ix. 4.
to vie, in their nomadic life, with the solid grandeur of the Egyptian temples ; but here was the utmost that gold and silver and elaborate ornamental carving and fine needlework could produce, and also what the mind always acknowledges with satisfaction,—the beauty of drapery in rich colors; and most of all, in any comparisons with Egypt, the God for whom this temple was prepared had shown himself the only true God, before whom all Egyptian power, whether in wizard or priest or monarch or armed force, had succumbed.
So the multitude, in dense crowds around, or from good points of observation on the adjoining eminences, watched to see part after part of the Tabernacle and the walls of its court erected, and to see the golden furniture carried in, and the altars and laver put in position; and when this was done, they were contemplating the full effect, when suddenly their attention was drawn to a motion in the pillar of cloud which had so long been their mysterious companion and guide. The cloud floated along over the new erections, and then descended and enveloped them entirely, and “the glory of the Lord" filled the Tabernacle, so that even Moses himself was not able to enter amid the dazzling effulgence, until its first overwhelming brightness had abated. And ever after this, when they were in encampment, directly over the Tabernacle rested the cloud by day and the pillar of fire through the night. When the cloud ascended, they knew that the signal for an onward movement was given : while it continued to rest over this holy place, they were quietly to remain.
On this first occasion of the descent of the cloud, their hearts beat with indescribable emotions; their eyes were filled with tears of a deep joy; a soft murmur of the gratified but awed multitude spread over the plain and hill-sides. God, they felt, was approving their work, and had come to dwell more directly among them than ever before.