Dimensions of the Tabernacle Courtyard, Part 5
The following is an excerpt from an article entitled “Dimensions of the Court of the Tabernacle”
written by our friend Alek
“Chapters 27 and 38 of the Book of Exodus, among other things, describe the so-called Court of the
Tabernacle [ḥăṣar hammišəkān], that surrounded the Tent of Appointment [’ōhel mwō‘ēḏ], the copper
Laver [kîywōr] and the Altar of Burnt Offering [mizəbēḥa]. The Court was essentially a rectangular fence-
like structure that consisted of number of fabric sheets that were spread between equidistantly spaced
Just like the corner boards of the framework of the Tent of Appointment, the dimensions of the Court of
the Tabernacle have been subject to very long debate between Biblical scholars, Jewish and non-Jewish
alike. And even though many theories have been proposed that tried to identify and put all of the
elements of the Court together, up to this day no satisfactory solution had been found. (Has it now?)
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to describe and compare every proposed theory within the scope of
this article. Luckily this is not needed, as all of them rely on an incorrect reading of the original text,
primarily from the verses of Exod 27:18; 38:11 and 38:13, and thus all of them, in their very essence,
are fundamentally wrong.
Let's begin by recounting these problematic verses (Alek states that he is using the 1862 Young's
Literal Translation throughout the article because in his opinion it is the most accurate English
translation of the original Masoretic Hebrew text, however in an Old Testament English Translation
Accuracy test comparing 13 of the leading translations conducted by James Parkinson, Young’s Literal
Translation scored only a 54% on accuracy as in comparisons with 84% for the American Standard
Version [ASV, 1901], and 82% by The Emphasized Bible [Rotherham, 1902], but this is another
issue altogether and we will not go into that here).
“The length of the court is a hundred by the cubit, and the breadth fifty by fifty, and the height
five cubits, of twined linen, and their sockets are brass.” (Exod 27:18)
“And at the north side, a hundred by the cubit, their pillars are twenty, and their sockets of
brass twenty; the pegs of the pillars and their fillets are silver” (Exod 38:11)
“And at the east side eastward fifty cubits” (Exod 38:13)
It seems clear from aforementioned verses, that the dimensions of the Court were 100 cubits along the
length and 50 cubits along its width. Unfortunately, if you would now try to satisfy the rest of the
description by positioning 20 Pillars along Court's North and South sides, and 10 Pillars along its West
side and 3 + 3 + 4 Pillars along its East Side (Gate Side) you will see that this is simply impossible.”
“According to my calculations and most traditional opinions, each Pillar of the Court was 1 cubit wide. By
equidistantly or positioning of the Pillars around the perimeter, the total measurements of the Court
would be 100 cubits of Hangings + 20 cubits of Pillars = 120 cubits along its North and South sides
(length) and 50 cubits of Hangings + 10 cubits of Pillars = 60 cubits along its West and East sides
(width). Total perimeter of the Court Hangings would be equal to 100+50+100+50=300 cubits, and the
total perimeter of the Court itself would be equal to 120+60+120+60=360 cubits.”
Let’s review the texts once again from the NKJV,
“Then he made the courtyard on its south side; the hangings (curtains) of the court were of fine
woven linen, one hundred cubits long. There were twenty pillars for them, with twenty copper
sockets. The hooks of the pillars and their bands (curtain rods) were silver…”
(The north side likewise corresponding with the south side)
“…And on the west side there were hangings (curtains) of fifty cubits (in length), with ten pillars
and their ten sockets. The hooks of the pillars and their bands (curtain rods) were silver. For the
east side (the entrance side) the hangings were likewise fifty cubits. The hangings on one side of
the gate were fifteen cubits long, with their three pillars and their three sockets and the same
for the other side of the court gate; on this side and that were hangings of fifteen cubits, with
their three pillars and three sockets… The screen (the entrance curtain) for the gate of the court…
was twenty cubits in length, and the height along its width was five cubits, corresponding to the
hangings of the rest of the court. And there were four pillars with their four sockets of copper;
their hooks were silver, and the overlay of their capitals and their bands (curtain rods) were
silver. All the pegs of the tabernacle, and the court all around were copper.” (Exod 38:9-20)
From the foregoing we gain some valuable information which from the onset seems rather simple
enough but unfortunately is generally misunderstood, as can be attested to by some of the various
illustrations of the courtyard we have run across in our search for information on the tabernacle and its
Several key points are made here,
1) The length and width of the tabernacle enclosure (or courtyard) is established to be 100 hundred
cubits by 50 cubits (150 ft. x 75 ft.*)
2) The height of the lien curtain enclosure is confirmed to be five cubits (7 ½ ft.)
3) The distance between each pillar is established to be five cubits (7 ½ ft.) based upon the
measurements given in regards to the hangings (curtains) positioned on each side of the “gate”.
4) The number of pillars used to support the curtains on each of its four sides is established to be
twenty on the south and north sides and ten on the west and east sides, 20+20+10+10= 60 all
(*All calculations being based upon a scale of 1 cubit = 18 inches)
Now take a look at the following illustration, to the untrained eye (that is in regards to the Tabernacle and
its construction) this illustration appears to be perfectly fine, everything seems to be in its proper place,
the number of pillars on each of its four sides corresponding exactly with the written testimony above, so
what is wrong with this picture?
Well for starters both the length and width of the enclosure is incorrect, likewise the length of
the entrance curtain is incorrect, why is this you ask, did not the scriptures expressly state that
there were twenty post on both the south and the north sides and ten post on both the west
and the east side’s with four posts used in support of the entrance curtain?
Yes that is precisely what the scriptures stated, but likewise they stated that the length of the courtyard
was 100 cubits with five cubits intervening in between each post, and that the width was 50 cubits with
five cubits intervening between each pillar as confirmed in the statement that the hangings on each
side of the gate were fifteen cubits in length each, and that the “gate” itself was twenty cubits in length,
totaling 50 cubits all together.
Now you do the math, how many spaces are there between each post running along its length?
19! Correct? 5 x 19 equals what? Why 95 cubits, now along its width, how many spaces in
between? 9! Correct? 5 x 9 equals, Ah! 45 cubits.
What about the length of the curtains located on both sides of the entrance curtain, they appear to be
correct, 15 cubits right, but now take a closer look at the entrance curtain itself (highlighted in red), it
appears to be a bit short of its specified length by five cubits.
Many bible students have stumble over this very same thing (including myself) they can’t seem to
understand why the bible states that there were 20 post on the south and north sides and 10
post on the west and east sides and yet in many illustrations the count is 21 post on the south
and north sides and 11 post on the west and east sides, how do these people get these extra
The reason for this is quite simple (I don’t even know how I stumbled over it for so long myself) just
take a look at your common ruler or tape measure, does it begin with the digit (1) or the digit (0)?
Now take a look at the following illustration,
You see posts numbers 10 and 20 are what are termed as “anchor” post (corresponding to the
digit 0) and are not to be counted twice! They serve, as it were as anchors to the adjoining curtains and
therefore cannot be counted as number one in that series.
It is for this reason that the “gate” is said to have but four posts (Exod 27:16), post numbers 4-7.
Post number 3 serves as the “anchor” post of this particular section of curtains composing the entrance
curtain, thus as seen in our illustration of the entrance curtain (above) it appeared as though there are
five posts used in the “gate” rather than the four as mentioned in the scriptures, however post number 3
does not count in this instance.
So likewise post number 7 must not be counted twice, for although it is the last post supporting the
“gate”, it also serves as the anchor post for that part of the east section of curtains, lying to the north of
the gate, which as stated was to have only three post (Exod 27:15), post numbers 8-10.
Now typically one who did not properly understand this would look at a picture of the courtyard
illustrating 21 post on each side and 11 posts on each end and say that this was incorrect,
21+21+11+11= 64 post not 60 as it should be, but wait! We don’t have 64 posts, count them
yourself beginning at the bottom left hand corner, count each post in a counterclockwise
direction around the courtyard what’s the final tally? Ah! 60 just as it should be.
For further clarification we present the following as in an earlier post our friend Alek had stated,
“If you are saying that there is no additional length to be added to the dimensions of the court by the
pillars, this also means that there is no additional pillar to be added to the sides of the court. And we both
add (or rather -count) one extra (corner) pillar as the side of the court. You know, because we both know
better. So, it is either extra length and extra pillar, or it neither, extra length or extra pillar. Otherwise,
you are nothing but exploiting the rules of argument and logic.”
“The LORD is his own interpreter he will make it plain.”
“You shall also make the court of the tabernacle. For the south side there shall be hangings for
the court made of fine woven linen, one hundred cubits long for one side. And its twenty pillars
and their twenty sockets shall be bronze. The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver.
Likewise along the length of the north side there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long,
with its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of bronze, and the hooks of the pillars and their
bands of silver.” (Exod 27:9-11)
Examine for yourself, the curtains on both the north and south sides are precisely 100 cubits in length
and there are 20 pillars supporting each.
“And along the width of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits, with their
ten pillars and their ten sockets.” (Exod 27:12)
Once again curtains 50 cubits in length with 10 pillars in support, nothing more, and nothing less.
“The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits. The hangings on one side of the
gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets. And on the other side
shall be hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three sockets. For the gate
of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet
thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. It shall have four pillars and four sockets.”
Count it for yourself, see if it not correct as is stated.
These are the “hangings” (plural) of the court, (1) on the north side hangings 100 cubits in length,
(2) on the south side hangings 100 cubits in length, (3) at the rear or west end of the
courtyard hangings 50 cubits in length, and at the east end (or front of the Tabernacle enclosure)
two sets of hangings (numbers 4 and 5), both 15 cubits in length located on each side of the
“screen” or entrance gate, This gate likewise fits the definition of a hanging as it too is a cloth
suspended from above used as a blind or barrier to communication or vision, or as Strong’s states it:
Screen: (Strong’s # 4539) macak maw-sawk' from 5526; a cover, i.e. veil:--covering, curtain,
hanging. This screen or hanging measured 20 cubits in length.
Now take another look at the east end of the courtyard enclosure as purposed by our friend
Alek (the first diagram to the left). Does this diagram fit the specifications admonished by the
LORD? Note specifically the “gate of the court” (the entrance curtain) how long did the LORD say this
“screen” (or hanging) was supposed to be? “For the gate of the court there shall be a screen
twenty cubits long…” not four sections of curtains 5 cubits each amounting to 20 cubits, but one single
curtain 20 cubits long. Now even if we were to attempt to try an correct this problem (as depicted in the
second diagram to the right), by placing one long curtain on the outside of the pillars we would still run
into a problem, instead of having four independent sections of curtains amounting to 20 cubits (24 cubits
with addition of the pillars) we would now have one long curtain 24 cubits long, still wrong. Better to just
accept the LORD’s ways and means rather than attempt to improvise on our own.
Thus concludes our look at the Dimensions of the Tabernacle courtyard, it is hoped that some beneficial
light has been shed upon the subject.
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