Technical Layout for the Tabernacle of Moses

Here is my technical model of the Tabernacle, which follows the "letter of the Law", so to speak, found in the book of Exodus. It serves as the basis for my three "Messianic Images", which are admittedly more artisticly driven then they are technical. For instance, my first image (which depicts the rib cage of Christ) doesn't show the boards on the South, as they would obstruct the view of the interior that I wanted to show. This technical layout is meant to "bridge the gaps" between symbolic art, Biblical scholarship, and sound reason.

Since Moses never told us the depth of the boards, the length of the tenons, or the exact positioning of the corner boards and pillars, EVERY model (out of the many you can find online) has to make assumptions here. Mine is no different. To be honest, it is impossible for anyone to know exactly how the Tabernacle was laid out, without an amazing archeological find. In other words, one of the boards would have to be found and measured to "prove" one's theoretical layout. That being said, I think that a very strong case can be made for the above layout using deductive reasoning and mathematics, as you will see below.

As I've protrayed in my "Messianic Images", it's my belief that the boards were mini representations of Noah's Ark (which was 300x50x30 cubits). Since Scripture doesn't specifiy the length of the two tenons under each board or the board's depth, I used the mathematical relationship between the two related dimensions that we know for certain--the width of both the Ark and the boards. Since Noah's Ark was 50 cubits wide, and the boards were 1.5 cubits wide, we can easily determine the mathematical scale between the two objects, which is 1 to 33.333 (infinitely repeating 3's). This ratio can now be applied to the two unknown dimensions, making the visible board length (the upper portion not covered by the silver bases) 9 cubits and the board depth 0.9 cubits. 0.9 cubits may seem like an odd number but not when the Tabernacle's support bars are factored in. If these support bars were 0.1 cubits in diameter (1.8 inches), that would effectively round the width of the boards to an even 1 cubit.

  Width Visible Length
(not including tenon)
Depth
(not including bars)
Noah's Ark 50 300 30
Tabernacle Board 1.5 9 (+1 for tenons) 0.9
Ratio 50/1.5=33.333 300/9=33.333 30/0.9=33.333
Dimensions in cubits. 1 cubit =18 inches, measured from elbow to fingertips

It should be noted here, for those thinking my measurements are wildly inventive, that several Jewish Rabbis and authorities agree that the boards were essentially 1 cubit thick. A quick internet search on your part will validate my claim. Click here, for instance, to read a Tabernacle description given at Jewish Encyclopedia.com. In like manner, the reputable New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia also supports the 1-cubit board thickness and says of the silver bases that they were "about 1 cubit high". Click here to read their Tabernacle description.

Now, if this theory holds any water (pardon the pun), a good working layout should be able to be built by using these deduced dimensions. Here's how the measurements work out when the boards are 0.9 cubits thick. I'm assuming that the support bars of the Tabernacle (5 on each side) were 0.1 cubits (1.8 inches) in diameter, which would, in effect, make the 0.9 cubit thickness of the walls an even 1 cubit. The other assumption is that the width of the pillars corresponded to the depth of the walls, making them each 0.9 cubits wide (again, Scripture is silent here).

Here's how the measurements add up...

I was surprised to find that, not only does the layout work, but it makes several strong mathematical connections between the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon (which David modeled after the Tabernacle in many ways). Look at how many scale similarities there are between this Tabernacle Model and the Temple, all producing the exact same ratio of 1 to 2.222 (infinitely repeating 2s):

  Tabernacle (theoretical model) Temple
(Scriptural dimensions)
Mathematic
Ratio
Holy of Holies 9 by 9 20 by 20 20/9=2.222
Nave 18 by 9 40 by 20 40/18=2.222
Vestibule 4.5 by 9 10 by 20 10/4.5=2.222
Front Opening 6.3
(3.15 on either side of the center, 5th, pillar)
14
(by Ezekiel's measurements)
14/6.3=2.222
Interior Opening 2.7
(allows 0.1 cubit clearance on each side for the Ark to be taken out for battles)
6
(by Ezekiel's measurements)
6/2.7=2.222
Front Pillar Depth 1.8
(If we add the depths of the two touching pillars on either side, 0.9+0.9=1.8)

4
The two visibly prominent pillars named Boaz & Jachin had a known circumference of 12 cubits each. For a diameter of 4, I am rounding Pi to 3, though it is actually 3.14159265. This is in keeping with a rounding precedent set in 1Kings 7:23, where the Scripture writer apparently also rounds Pi to 3 to determine the diameter/circumference relationship of the bronze laver, when he says the diameter of the laver was 10 cubits, while its circumference was 30.

Notice that both the Temple and this Tabernacle model have 2 pillars visible from the outside.

These two pillars beautifully express God's Messianic promise to King David--that He would establish his throne forever through one of his descendants. Boaz (Hebrew for "In strength") and Jachin (Hebrew for "Yahweh will establish") serve as foundational pillars, upon which rest the hopes of the entire human race.

 

4/1.8=2.222
Dimensions in cubits.

Most other Tabernacle layouts that I've seen have configured the boards in such a way to produce a perfectly cubed Holy of Holies of 10x10x10 cubits. They reason that since the Temple's Holy of Holies was cubed (20x20x20), this should be reflected in the Tabernacle's design, and 10 is a much easier number to work with, especially since the total board height is known to be 10 cubits.

I agree that the Tabernacle's Holy of Holies should be a perfect cube, just like the Temple's. In John's Revelation, the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven also formed a perfect cube (with 12,000 stadia given for its length, width, and height). Evidently, this cube design is important for some reason. But why not a cube of 9x9x9 cubits for the Tabernacle? Remember that in my model the tenons are 1 cubit tall, leaving 9 cubits of gold showing above the silver bases. It works fine if you're only measuring the gold walls (without the silver bases). The Temple sat on a foundation also, and it's not counted in its 20 cubit height.

Furthermore, it's possible that the 1-cubit silver bases were sunken into the ground. First, the bases would have been laid down in their pattern, and then sand would be brought in to "bury" them, just shy of the brim. That way, when the boards' tenons were inserted into these bases, which were securely sunken into the ground, the Tabernacle would measure exactly 9 cubits tall, giving us our perfect cube of 9x9x9.

There are a number of reasons (nine to be precise) that I like this silver-base-burying hypothesis:

1) It would make for a much more solid foundation. Imagine trying to set up these heavy 15-foot tall gold-plated boards in desert winds. If these bases were not sunken into the earth, they would be extremely tippy during the setup process, threatening to crush a poor Levite worker.

2) The Temple walls were golden from floor to rafters. No silver was seen inside the Temple, so why should there be silver seen inside the Tabernacle?

3) The Tabernacle, symbolically speaking, grew up into the Temple like a living organism. Like a tree! That may be one of the reasons why the Temple walls were engraved with Palm trees everywhere you looked. The silver bases, then, are like the seeds planted in the earth, and the boards' tenons are the roots. The Tabernacle springs up out of the ground and becomes the Temple in the course of time. Quite a beautiful metaphor when you think about it.

4) Accentuating this Temple/Tree motiff, Psalm 92:12-13 reads, "The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord..."

5) Sinking one's foundations is a commonplace, architecturally sound building practice. God Himself speaks of sunken foundations when He asks Job, "Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone?" (Job 38:4-7)

6) Jesus, who is the Cornerstone which the builders rejected, said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit." (John 12:24) The burying of these silver bases may beautifully prefigure the burial of Jesus Christ, who was raised on the third day. They destroyed "this Temple", but He raised it up, as promised, on the third day, becoming the sure foundation of the Church. He is the vine, and we are the branches. He is both the Root and the Head of that living organism called the Church.

7) One might argue that the Scripture no where says that these bases were buried, but the objector must admit that neither does it say that they were not to be buried! That being the case, this hypothesis does not violate the "letter of the Law" in the least bit. Furthermore, it seems to me that, for the reasons already mentioned above, this theory more beautifully sheds light on the "spirit of the law".

8) Another might argue that this would be too much work to haul in sand for this purpose. Well, they were wandering in a desert, so there was no shortage of sand.... And who says it had to be easy? Being a Levite was hard work. One silver base alone weighed almost 100 pounds. And there were 96 of them to place! The gold-plated boards, even if they were of a hollow construction design, must have been terribly heavy. Remember that God said to Adam, "By the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread." Building this "House for the Bread of God's Presence" was a sweaty job, but well worth the effort and the expense.

9) A 9x9x9 Holy of Holies more forcefully drives home my opening hypothesis, that the boards are mini representations of Noah's Ark at a precise scale of 1 to 33.333, this being the age of Jesus Christ, our Cornerstone, when He was crucified and buried. In other words, this may be more than the imagination of an artist (if I may call myself an artist) running wild, associating visual images in an arbitrary manner. There's sound logic behind these associations. It's hard to argue with mathematics.

All this aside, my theory, while I believe it to be a sound one, is still just a theory. If an archeologist some day finds these Tabernacle boards, measures them, and proves me wrong, I would be very willing to revise my theory. The Truth of the Gospel has stood for some 2,000 years without my Tabernacle theories. The risen Lord Jesus doesn't depend on me and my little mind to "prove" His existence. His resurrection is an irrefutable, historical fact, deserving our unswerving faith. The Apostles saw Him, and they laid down their lives in order to make it known to the world that Jesus is risen! The world has never been the same.

One last line of reasoning that mathematiclly supports this Tabernacle Model involves its coverings. The coverings of the Tabernacle (with known dimensions) would very neatly fit with the model described above. The following diagrams show how the first two coverings would lay on top of the Tabernacle (Scripture doesn't give dimensions for the third covering). Note that the boards appear to be lying down on top of the curtains; this is done merely to show, in a 2-dimensional image, the reach of the coverings as they would drape over the sides of the Tabernacle.This view also gives you an idea of how the 5 connecting bars may have been positioned (orange lines representing the 4 bars which passsed through exterior rings, and brown lines representing the long bar passing through the middle of the boards).

The First Covering (Exodus 26:1-6)
--Purple, blue, red material with intertwined linen
--10 strips of material (4x28 cubits each)
--2 sets of 5 pieces sewn together
--Joined together by 50 clasps of gold, just in front of the Holy of Holies (gold vertical line in above image)

Total Length: 40 cubits, plus gold clasp allowance
Total Width: 28 cubits

Consistently short (about 0.5 cubits) on all 3 sides, thus preventing the holy fabric from touching the ground during setup. Probably stretched over and secured with tent cords and pegs to prevent sagging.


The Second Covering (Exodus 26:7-14)
--Goat's hair
--11 strips of material (4x30 cubits each)
--1 set of 5 pieces sewn together, and 1 set of 6 pieces (w/ 1st one folded back in half at the entrance)
--Joined together by 50 clasps of bronze directly over the 4 pillars of the Holy of Holies (bronze vertical line in above image)

Total Length: 42 cubits, plus bronze clasp allowance
Total Width: 30 cubits

Consistently long (about 0.5 cubits) on all 3 sides, but not touching the ground due to the outstretched tent cords of the 1st covering (see diagram below).

It should be noted how the heavy, folded-back first panel of the covering at the entrance (4 cubits folded back to 2) is perfectly supported by the five front columns.

The Tabernacle boards are shown as if lying down to demonstrate how the coverings would hang over the sides, and how the side support bars may have been laid out (orange colored lines on exterior, brown passing through middle)

You see that the first covering would come just shy of reaching the ground (by half a cubit actually), keeping this sacred material from ever touching the ground in the setup process. Notice how perfectly symmetrical the shortness is on the three sides. In the above illustration, the purple covering has a gold line down the middle and faint seam lines. That's because this covering was made of two separate pieces (each made of five 4-cubit-wide strips sewn together) that were joined together in the middle with 50 golden clasps (the yellow line). Interestingly, these golden clasps fall just in front of the Holy of Holies, reminiscent of the gold chain that Solomon draped in front of the Temple's Holy of Holies like a necklace.

This first covering was probably held in place with tent stakes and cords, to prevent interior sagging, forming an exterior, triangular "side chamber". Once this was staked down, the second covering would be put on. The stretched out cords and stakes of the first would then prevent the second from touching the ground during setup.

Again you'll notice that the second covering overlaps in a perfectly symmetrical fashion (again by half a cubit), this one including the tops of the two visible entrance pillars under its protection as well. The clasped joining is slightly offset from the first covering's, providing a good weather barrier while allowing some ventilation of the altar's incense smoke.

This last image shows how the coverings would drape over the edges, once they were secured with tent pegs and cords. For this demonstration, I have the 1-cubit silver bases buried in sand, for reasons discussed above. The red line is the first covering pulled taught with tent cords and pegs; the black line is the second covering of goat's hair; and the brown line is the third ram skin covering. I've included the third, though we don't know its dimensions, to show how the Tabernacle's tent-like shape possibly inspired the Side Chamber design of Solomon's Temple.

The blue lines represent a scaled-down outline of Solomon's Temple, which had side chambers in three stories that grew wider from floor to floor. The first floor was 5 cubits wide and 5 cubits tall; the second was 6 cubits wide and 5 cubits tall; and the third floor was 7 cubits wide and 5 cubits tall. Solomon achieved this, according to Scripture, by these tiered support structures along the walls of the Temple that you see above. The larger man shows the scale of the Tabernacle, while the smaller man, standing in one of these treasury side-chamber rooms, shows the scale of the Temple in this example.

You can also see the blue outlines of Boaz and Jachin, the two pillars in front of Solomon's Temple which were 18 cubits tall and had capitals that were 5 cubits tall (23 cubits total). The blue horizontal line which cuts through the two capitals represents the 20-cubit interior height of the Holy of Holies, while the the topmost line represents the overall interior height of the Temple (30 cubits).


Why have I gone through all this trouble?

As you can see, I have spent countless hours on this project. Scripture study. Online research. Mathematical puzzling. Computer illustrations..... It's been alot of work. You might find yourself wondering, "What's the point? Why go through all this trouble? Why spend all this time on a mere theory?"

In conclusion, let me list a few motivating factors that have driven me forward in this project:

1) I love to contemplate the Scriptures. God's inaudible voice is indescribably beautiful to me. This project has captivated my mind with wonderful themes, especially the wounds of our Lord, bringing me much joy in the process. I wish the whole world could know this joy!

2) The human heart loves a good mystery. We love to puzzle. People spend millions of dollars every year, trying to find things that will get our minds churning. I sometimes think that this is why God seems to hide His face from us. It's not so much that He is displeased with us; He just knows that it's in our best interest to learn how to seek Him. He knows that the human mind delights in "being blown away" by things mysterious and unattainably deep. Let me tell you, there is no mystery deeper than God. His voice is as the sound of many waters. What a joy it is to dive down to explore the depths of that Endless Ocean!

3) I didn't want to release these "Messianic Images" without having done my homework first. Saint Paul instructed Timothy, "Do your best to show yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." I may be a Catholic layperson now, but I did attend Seminary as a Protestant preparing for ministry. Theology has to be taken very seriously, and I never want to present "half-baked" ideas to the public. I believe that I am "doing my best", as Saint Paul exhorts, but whether I am "approved by God" is yet to be seen. The Lord knows how sincerely I desire to be faithful and completely orthodox, and I trust that He will refine me and my works however He sees fit and in His time. In all things, I want everything I say and do to be in keeping with the teachings of Christ as expressed through His one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. All of the priests I have consulted so far have told me that, while being admittedly theoretical in nature (lacking certain archealogical "proofs"), the images express ideas that are entirely consistent with Catholic doctrine. May God keep me there, and may He have mercy on me should I err unintentionally.

Jesus, I trust in Your mercy.

4) Perhaps most importantly, this has been a labor of love. I believe that these images have the potential of shedding some light into dark places. Skeptics may be encouraged to examine the claims of Christ a little more seriously, while lukewarm souls may be encouraged to contemplate the wounds of Christ more deeply, causing them to glow with a burning love for the Savior. Let every heart adore Him!

For the sake of this potential good, I don't want my work to be dismissed lightly, which means that I need to present the strongest logic I can conceive of, with the help of the Lord. This is my aim. I have done my best.

Now it's up to you to decide whether you agree with me or not. I could say that it doesn't matter to me whether or not you agree, because I'm not really interested in winning an argument so that I can puff out my chest and say "I win!" On the other hand, I do care; for I'm convinced that there are beautiful truths to contemplate here that will stir your heart with love for God and His dear Son. That's something I care deeply about, and if one more soul burns a little brighter as a result of my work, all the hours I've poured into this project will have been well spent.

May God be praised!


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