The Spiritual Significance of the Tabernacle, Part 22
The following comments found under the title, “Who could enter the Tabernacle?” were made by our
friend Alek on his blog; “The Desert Tabernacle” comments which at this juncture in our study we feel
need a little further clarification.
His comments were as follows:
“Aaron and his descendants were designated as priests to do the ritual service in the Tabernacle (Exod
28:1). The more menial labor of the Tabernacle was assigned to the rest of the tribe of Levi (Num 1:47).
In general, a person offering an animal was to bring it to the door of the Tent of Meeting. This seems to
mean the entrance into the Tent, into the Holy Place, suggesting that the person making the offering was
to bring it inside the courtyard, but outside of (in front of) the curtain or screen (the parochet, Exod 26:
36) separating the Holy Place from the Courtyard. Also, the descriptions of some rituals seem to indicate
proximity to the Altar of Burnt Offering. See Lev 1:11
However, after the events described in Numbers 17 (we would suggest that one read the record of
events leading up to this, beginning with Chapter 16 to get the full story), the people say that anyone
who comes near to the Tabernacle will die (Num 17:12, 13). After which the Lord stated,
“Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear
sin and die.” (Num 18:22)
This means that people (non-Levites) were allowed to come to the Tabernacle only for ritual purposes.
Otherwise, they could not approach the Tabernacle under the threat of death.”
Questions to be Pondered
Our thoughts on who could enter the Tabernacle based upon the testimony of the Scriptures is that none
save the Priests and the Levites were allowed entry into the tabernacle enclosure, this includes the
courtyard, however it’s true that some statements seem to contradict these thoughts.
If one reads Lev 1:2-9 it appears that the people were permitted not only to bring their offerings into
the courtyard right up to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, but likewise to sacrifice them at or near
The question then is how do we coincide this with everything we have learned thus far about who could
and who could not look upon the “holy things” of the tabernacle?
Were the Israelites actually permitted in the courtyard, if not how do we explain the statements of
Who was authorized to sacrifice?
Perhaps the following expert taken from “Notes on the Tabernacle”, Page 383 might shed some light.
Free Will Offerings before the Law
The sacrifices offered by Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others before the giving of the Law at
Mt. Sinai and the institution of the Aaronic priesthood were all burnt-offerings which represented the
offers appreciation of God’s grace and favor unto them; and perhaps also their appreciation of the fact
that a sacrifice for sin, and the shedding of innocent blood was necessary (Heb. 9:22), as God himself
had indicated when he made the coats of skins for Adam and Eve. (Gen. 3:21) We are quite sure that
Abel must have appreciated this, for he offered of the “firstlings of his flock” rather than the mere
“fruit of the ground” as did his brother Cain. (Gen. 4:3–5)
“The sacrifices which these offered were not sin-offerings. They did not offer up sacrifices according to
the types of the Law; as the Day of Atonement sacrifices, for instance. This whole arrangement of the
Jewish Law, by which the sacrificing was taken out of the individual’s hand and put into the
hands of the priests, was a new departure in God’s dealings.
“Abraham, we know, presented offerings before the establishment of the priesthood. The exact time in
which Job lived we do not know. We merely know that he was Job of Uz, and walked before God with a
perfect heart; but we think we are justified in supposing that he did not live during the law dispensation,
with its typical sacrifices. If this be true, his course was in full line with Abraham’s course when he offered
up sacrifices. When Abraham was stayed from offering his son, he offered up the ram caught in the
thicket, as the Lord directed.
“What these patriarchs did in the matter of offering up sacrifices was evidently a token on their part of
appreciation of God and of the fact that a sacrifice for sins was necessary, just as Abel brought the
firstlings of his flock and offered them to God, though he was not called to be a priest; but none of these
sacrifices was accepted in the same sense that the sacrifices were accepted under the law. None of these
sacrifices ever made the offer himself perfect, nor did they atone for anyone else; they were merely the
same as a prayer would be, a manifestation of a good desire of heart and of appreciation of God and a
desire to reverence him, and recognition of the fact that sin required some atonement. So when the
Lord showed how this sin-atonement was to be made, he pictured the work of this Gospel age.
He appointed a priest to represent the Lord Jesus, and under-priests to represent the church. A
work of sacrifice was done on a particular day of the year, the Atonement Day, representing a
work of this Gospel Age in which these `better sacrifices’ for sin are offered; and under this
larger arrangement (the anti-type of the typical) no one is permitted to offer the sacrifice
except a priest, God thus indicating that the work is entirely under his supervision and
Once the Tabernacle was established in the midst of the Camp, no individual Israelite had the
right to slay and to offer his own sacrifice. They were thereafter to be brought to the Court of
the Tabernacle, there to be presented to the anointed priesthood, to be offered upon the altar
of the Lord.
We turn once again to Leviticus, this time to Chapter 17 verses 1-9
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, to his sons, and to all the children of
Israel, and say to them,‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded, saying: “Whatever
man of the house of Israel who kills (sacrifices) an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or who kills
it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting to offer an
offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed
to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people, to the
end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, that
they may bring them to the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to the priest, and
offer them as peace offerings to the Lord. And the priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of
the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and burn the fat for a sweet aroma to the
Lord. They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the
harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.”’
“Also you shall say to them: ‘Whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who
dwell among you, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it to the door of
the tabernacle of meeting, to offer it to the Lord, that man shall be cut off from among his
It is with the giving of the Law at Sinai, that a distinction was made in the matter of the sacrifices. Before
this, the sacrifices were all in the nature of free will burnt offerings! With the coming of the Law this was
changed so that now there were mandatory sacrifices, such as the sin-offerings and the trespass-
offerings, and those that might be offered of the free will, such as the burnt-offerings and the peace-
offerings. The former were not recognized as having a “sweet savor unto the LORD,” but the latter
Here we see that only the priests were authorized to sacrifice, every sacrifice was to be brought to
them in order that it might be presented before the Lord, sacrificing an animal otherwise was punishable
by death. In other words the people did not sacrifice the offerings themselves, they merely presented (or
offered) them for sacrifice; it was the priest’s duty to do the actual sacrificing.
Just as in the antitype, we merely present ourselves at the door of the tabernacle, the presentation
matter is ours, however the acceptance of the offering as a sacrifice is wholly the Lord’s—the High Priest’s
And yet the question still remains were the Israelites permitted within the courtyard? Our text taken
from Leviticus Chapter 17 clears up the issue as to who was authorized to do the actual sacrificing but
it still leaves the issue of whether or not the people were permitted within the courtyard unclear, it still
seems to indicate that they were to present their offerings at the door of the tabernacle of
meeting, so how do we explain this?
Perhaps we should first determine just what the “tabernacle of meeting” is, and in regards to
the “door”, we might ask, which door? For in truth there was more than one.
According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th ed.) the word “Tabernacle” means “a transient
shelter; a tent.” The Hebrew terms as used in connection with the ancient Tabernacle are used quite
Kodesh, or mishkan: the holy, sacred or consecrated place;
Ohel: tent (Exod. 26:11–14, 36);
Ohel moedh: tent of meeting.
The terms kodesh and mishkan, since they have reference to that which is holy or consecrated, have
been applied to the:
WHOLE TABERNACLE in Exod. 25:8 “and let them make me a sanctuary (kodesh)”; Exod. 25:9
“the pattern of the tabernacle (mishkan)”; Lev. 12:4 “nor come into the sanctuary (mishkan).”
THE COURT in Lev. 6:16 “the holy (kodesh) place, in the court of the tabernacle (mishkan) of
meeting”; Lev. 6:26 “the holy (kodesh) place… in the court of the tabernacle of meeting.”
THE HOLY in Exod. 26:33 “The Vail shall be a divider for you between the holy (kodesh) place
(i.e. the “holy”) and the Most Holy.”
THE MOST HOLY in Exod. 26:33 “between the holy and the most holy (ha-kodesh)”; Lev. 16:2
“into the holy (kodesh) place within the vail.”
Thus we understand that when one mentions the “tabernacle of meeting” they could be referring to
any one of a number of places. And yet it is stated that they should bring their offering to the door of
the tabernacle of meeting. Now generally our first thought when mentioning a “door” is the First Vail,
the “door” to the “holy”, but is the only door to the tabernacle of meeting?
In Verse 5 of Leviticus Chapter 1 it states that the (brazen) altar is by (or located near) the door of
the tabernacle of meeting. Once again our first thought is the door to the tabernacle proper, but… is not
the altar likewise equally located by (or near) the door to the courtyard?
But says one, I thought the entrance curtain was referred to as the “gate”, that it was the First Vail
which was referred to as the “door”?
This is true but nevertheless both are referred to as “entrances”, both as “screens”, (coverings), and
both as “gates”.
Exod 35:15 “…the screen for the door at the entrance of the tabernacle”
Exod 35:17 “… the screen for the gate of the court”
Exod 27:16 "For the entrance to the courtyard…”
In reference to the “door” or “First Vail, our Lord in Matt 7:13, 14 symbolically speaks of the door to
the tabernacle as a “gate”, viz.
“Enter by the narrow gate… because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to
life (life inherent, immortality)…” This is THE “gate” of which our Lord spoke that few there are
He likewise in turn speaks symbolically of the gate to the courtyard as a “door”, note the following.
The screen (or “hanging”) of the door to the Court was distinctively different from the pure white
curtains surrounding the other sides. The Hebrew word macak (Strongs #4539) is used exclusively for
the four-colored, embroidered linen used at the three entrances: the Court, the Holy and the Most Holy.
The Hebrew word for the plain white hanging of the Court is qela (Strongs #7050).
This door represents our Lord Jesus who said of himself, “I am the door. Whoever enters through
me, will be saved” (John 10:9, NIV).
In essence both of these entrances can be referred to as the door to the tabernacle of meeting, one a
door to the court of tabernacle of meeting, the “holy place”, which includes the entire enclosure, i.e. the
court and the tabernacle together, and the other a door specifically to the tabernacle proper itself, to the
Holy and Most Holy. You will likewise note that both of these “doors” are positioned near the altar that is
to say they are both located exactly the same distance from the altar.
The first door was approachable to the Israelites, but not accessible; the second door was neither
approachable nor accessible, in fact it was not even visible as it was hidden behind the curtain wall.
The Israelites were only permitted to bring their offerings to the door to the court of the tabernacle of
meeting, the entrance curtain; there they would present their offering to the priests who in turn on behalf
of the individual would bring the offering into the courtyard to be sacrificed upon the Lord’s altar.
Now it’s only natural that some may still have trouble excepting this, but then they would be left
explaining precisely why then the Lord went through all the trouble of concealing the various “holy
things” from the people. For example why bother to cover the brazen altar and conceal it from
their sight in their travels when they would eventually see it anyways when they entered the
courtyard to present their offerings?
Likewise please explain why the Lord pass an ordinance expressly forbidding the Levites who
were working in the courtyard from attempting to gaze inside the Tabernacle as the priests
entered or exited, and yet at the same time felled to mention the same restrictions to the
Israelites who were supposedly sacrificing in the courtyard? Would not the same rules apply?
There is only one conclusion and that is that there weren’t any Israelites in the “holy place”, the
courtyard, they were not permitted within this enclosure.
“The sanctuary of the Tent of Meeting is a compelling illustration of the idea of an invisible God. The
objects of worship in other cultures and temples were at least periodically exposed to the public eye to
testify to the greatness of the god being represented. The Tent of Meeting hid from the eyes of the
people everything that was to prove the glory of God. An ordinary Israelite only saw the gate kept by
the cherubim, the pillar of cloud of God’s presence, and the smoke of the perpetual offering rising from
the altar in the Court. Only the Levites saw what was contained in the Court (the altar, the laver
and the curtain posts which were set in copper sockets and adorned with silver chapiters, rods
and hooks), only the Levites witnessed the ceremonies that took place there.
The entrance to the first chamber of the sanctuary (The Holy) was only for priests authorized to
serve, while only the high priest could ever enter the second chamber (The Most Holy), where
the Ark of the Covenant was located.
The entire worship carried out behind the three veils had to be experienced internally, spiritually, without
the support of one’s usual senses. Since an average Israelite had to camp at least a half mile away,
his religiousness had to be internal, spiritual, directed toward heaven where God really dwells, and who, in
the Tent of Meeting only chose to express the truth of his eternal existence, which is invisible to man.”
“The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom” Nov/Dec 2002, Page 5
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