BIBLE STUDY SERIES #167, 168 and 169

29 January, 1995

THE TABERNACLE COURT - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Through this present series of Bible Studies we are tracing God's Great Plan for the re-development of His Creation to accord with His own perfect omniscient will. We began with God's Call to Abram, and saw the development of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob into the tribes of Israel which passed through the formative national experience of Egyptian bondage and the miraculous Exodus.

In imagination, we are accompanying those Israelites as they pass through their further experiences at the foot of Mount Sinai, and we are presently viewing, from the Scriptural account, the plans for the construction of a great teaching aid and focal institution of national worship the plans for which Moses is receiving from Yahweh, The Almighty God. Israel is through this experience, receiving instruction regarding the form of association which they, as a nation, are to have with Yahweh, the Almighty God of that nation. The portable tent of national worship, called the Tabernacle, is presently being described to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, and we had followed the Exodus account to Exodus 27:1-8, wherein we had read the description of the great Copper or Bronze (AV "Brazen") Altar of Burnt Offerings which was to stand in the court of this Tabernacle on our last two programmes. Today, we pick up the Biblical story at Exodus 27:9-19. Let us read that account. As is my usual custom, I shall introduce comments where I believe they will be appropriate and helpful. Verse 9 of Exodus 27 reads thus:

9. And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:

Before we proceed, I shall pause after that first verse to note something regarding the meaning of the word "tabernacle" as used in that verse. I shall read Appendix 40 found in The Companion Bible; a note which comments upon "The Names of The Tabernacle." It says: "It is important to distinguish the different words used by the Holy Spirit to describe the Tabernacle, and to express His design. They are variously translated in the A.V. They are distinguished severally in the notes; and are here brought together, so that the different shades of meaning may be compared and understood. It is called:
1. The House (Beth).
2. The Tabernacle (Mishkan) = dwelling-place, from shakan, to dwell: or, habitation, indicating it as containing the presence of Jehovah in the Light called Shechinah, ep. Ex. 25.8.
3. The Tent ('Ohel). Erected as a special place of worship before the Tabernacle was set up. Hence to be always distinguished from the Tabernacle proper. Its full title was
4. 'Ohel Moh'ed = Tent of assembly, or of the congregation.
5. The Tabernacle of witness, 'ohel ha-eduth. = The Tent as containing the tables of the Law, which were an abiding witness to their covenant with Jehovah. (See Ex. 16.32-34; 25.21.)
6. Sanctuary. Heb. kodesh, or holy place.
In this connection it is well to notice that congregation is 'edah, which is general; while assembly is kahal, which is more local and partial."

If we consult Young's Concordance under the word "tabernacle" and seek out the matching reference to that first verse, we find that the word for "tabernacle" used here is "mishkan", which is number 2 in that list in Appendix 40 of The Companion Bible, to which attaches the meaning "dwelling place" and it relates to the concept of the temporary location of the Shechinah Glory. Now let us consider the rest of our passage. We have just read that, on the south perimeter of the court, the hangings are to be of "fine twined linen of one hundred cubits length. Again, as we have noted before, the Tabernacle dimensions are generally measured as multiples of five, the number which, in Scripture, denotes Grace.

The New Bible Dictionary contains a useful note under the Item "Linen." Various words in ancient writings are translated "linen", as it explains. The words "fine linen" (as in our present verse) are a translation of the Hebrew word which Young's Concordance calls "shesh." Most linen in the ancient world was exported from Egypt, according to that reference. It continues "Linen the Israelites brought along from Egypt was used for the ten curtains of the tabernacle..." Other notes in the entry will be more useful as we consider the clothing of the priests so we shall leave the rest for a subsequent occasion with one exception which I will mention before we close today's talk. Now, having read of the south side of the court being measured at 100 cubits, let us pick up our Scripture reading at verse 10:

10. And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
11. And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
12. And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.
13. And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits.
14. The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
15. And on the other side shall be hangings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
16.And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four.
17. All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass.
18. The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass.
19. All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass.

As I have previously explained, the translators of the A.V. generally used the word "brass" where it might better have been translated "copper", or perhaps "bronze." In light of this, it is odd that, in one isolated instance in the Bible, they did translate the Hebrew word, "nechosheth" correctly as "copper." For the curious, that lone occurrence is located in Ezra 8:27, whereas the same word is translated "brass" in one hundred places and in thirty-eight more instances it is given various other renderings, chiefly "brasen". The metals of the Tabernacle grade from gold down through silver to copper or bronze. It is symbolically noteworthy that there is no iron used in the construction of the Tabernacle.

The supporting pillars were to be of shittim (acacia) wood, standing five cubits apart and all of them five cubits in height. They stood in bronze sockets which sat on the ground beneath them, and their tops, which were capped by silver chapiters, were braced by "fillets" which may be described as being like a thin silver bracing rod or wire attached to each of the pillars. Cords of Goats' hair stretched downward on either side of the wall of cloth and were attached to bronze or copper pins which, like tent pegs, were driven into the ground to keep the whole structure from swaying or falling. The "fine twined linen" cloth was suspended from the supporting structure by silver hooks.

A. Widdison, in his "Outlines of Lectures on the Tabernacle in the Wilderness" speaks of the shittim wood pillars as representing "individual believers, standing for God in the world, displaying God's character..." Of the copper or bronze sockets, he notes that "all is established on atonement" while the silver fillets were to be a symbol of "A divine bond which linked them all together", thoughts which are further developed in a spiritual sense by Pastor Maureeen Gaglardi's observations.

Concerning the hangings of the cloth fence which surrounded and marked out the Court of the Tabernacle, Pastor Maureen Gaglardi in the first volume of her "The Path of the Just" makes this statement: "It was made of fine twined linen, was pure white in colour, and presented a very striking contrast to the black goats' hair tents of Israel's dwelling places all around it..." She proceeds to explain that this, in symbol, contrasted the righteousness of God with the sin of man, and that there was only one door, one way in, as Nicodemus discovered, concerning entrance into the Kingdom, a point also made earlier by Mr. Widdison who stated that "It is God's picture of Christ - Christ who said 'I am the door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.'".

As I said earlier, when I was reading a quotation from the New Bible Dictionary regarding "Linen", that reference concludes the passage with one particularly pertinent point which I will quote. It states "The body of Christ was wrapped in linen according to Mt. xxvii.59 and parallel texts. According to Rev. xix.8 the Bride of the Lamb is clothed in fine linen, which is the righteous deeds of the saints. In Rev. xix.14 the eschatological armies are described as arrayed in fine white linen."

There, surely, is a clue to the spiritual lesson and meaning which God intended ancient Israel, and doubtless ourselves also, to see in this tabernacle material. fine linen is the righteousness of saints, and is the material of the high priest's garments, as we shall be examining on a later programme. fine linen is the garment of Christ's burial, but those grave wrappings were left folded in the grave as a witness to the facts thereof at His Resurrection.

We shall continue our study of this Court on our next programme.

5 February, 1995

THE TABERNACLE COURT - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Through this present series of Bible Studies we have been following God's Great Plan for the renewal of His Creation to accord with His own perfect design. We had seen the development of a chosen line from the Call of Abram and down through the lives of Isaac, Jacob (who was re-named Israel) and Jacob's descendants, who now form the Tribes of Israel. Emerging from Egyptian bondage through the Exodus, they are, as we study the Scriptural account, now at Mount Sinai where Moses is receiving instructions from The Almighty God for the construction of the national focus of worship, called "The Tabernacle." We have studied the Scriptural record through Genesis and now Exodus, to Chapter 27, wherein we have been looking at the Court which is to surround the Tabernacle tent whenever and wherever it is to be set up during the God-guided wandering of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness of Sinai.

On the last programme, we quoted Exodus 27:8-19 for the description of the Court. Today, we are going to take a second look at that Court which surrounds the Tabernacle itself. We learned on the last programme that it was to measure one hundred cubits along each of the south and north sides, and fifty cubits at each end. As the height of the surrounding wall of "fine-twined linen" hangings was to be "five cubits" there is, once again, the repetition of the fact that almost all the measurements pertaining to this Tabernacle appear to be multiples of the number five, which, in Scripture, symbolises "Grace."

The New Bible Commentary has an item on "The Court of the Tabernacle" which I will quote as it is relatively short. It says: "The tabernacle stood within an enclosed court, to which all ceremonially clean Israelites had access, and within which the altar and the laver were placed. The enclosure was formed by a wall of linen fabric 150 ft. long by 75 ft. wide, and 7 1/2 ft. high (18). Bronze pillars resting in bronze sockets supported the hangings upon silver hooks, and further support was given by the silver tie-rods (the fillets of verses 10, 11, 17) which connected the pillars. At the eastern end a space 30 ft. wide was left for the entrance (13-15). Whereas the fabric for the sides of the court was plain linen, the screen for this entrance was of embroidered material similar to that of the tabernacle itself (16; see xxvi.36,37)."

The Commentary's final words on the subject cover verse 19 of Exodus 27, which says "All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass." Concerning this verse, the Commentary points out that the reference to "brass" pertained to "all except those expressly stated to be of gold or silver." The pins of verse 19, it explains, were tent-pegs. Once again I should mention that where the A.V. says "brass" a better translation would be "copper" or "bronze." Incidentally, this reference, unlike some others, indicates that the shittim wood pillars were to be sheathed in that metal.

Depending upon the type of cubit used in the measures quoted, we may arrive at some idea of the size of this court. The standard Hebrew cubit was 6 handbreadths or palms, which is about 17.5 inches long, while the long or "royal" cubit was seven palms or about 19.8 inches according to the item "Weights and Measures" in The New Bible Dictionary. Using these quantities, one might estimate the dimensions of the Court at 146 x 73 feet if the standard cubit was the unit used, or, if measurement was given in royal cubits, 165 x 82.5 feet.

The Commentary appears to have settled upon an estimate for the dimensions which used as a basis the standard Hebrew cubit. However the estimate found in A. Widdison's booklet, "Outlines of Lectures on the tabernacle in the Wilderness" notes that the curtains would measure about nine feet in height, and be some 490 feet long. A quick calculation thus reveals that he is computing the whole perimeter of the Court using the royal cubit for his estimate.

Biblical symbolism, however is lost if we attempt this sort of translation. The measures, retained in cubits, would be 300 cubits for the perimeter and 5 cubits in height, or a total of 1500 square cubits of fine twined linen. Pastor Maureen Gaglardi, in volume I of her "The Path of the Just" makes a suggestion which parallels one which I have previously made on this programme, namely, that the cubic measures of 2,000 cubic cubits within the Holy Place, and 1,000 more cubic cubits within the Holy of Holies, of the Tabernacle tent represent years of the Christian and Millennial dispensations. However she also points out that the 1500 square feet of linen in the curtains surrounding the Court as one approached the Tabernacle tent could reasonably stand for the previous period of 1,500 years after Sinai leading to the Crucifixion of Our Lord; a suggestion which I find most interesting for it cannot be far out if we have an accurate assessment for the Exodus.

Keil and Delitzsch commit almost four pages of their Commentary to this feature, and perhaps we may complete today's study by quoting some of their observations. They begin by noting that "The COURT of the dwelling was to consist of... 'hangings' of spun byssus, and pillars with brass (copper) sockets, and hooks and fastenings for the pillars of silver. The pillars were of course made of acacia-wood; they were five cubits high, with silvered capitals... and carried the hangings, which were fastened to them by means of the hooks and fastenings. There were twenty of them on both the southern and northern sides, and the length of the drapery on each of these sides was 100 cubits..." Repeating the descriptive items which will, by now, be familiar, they proceed to add some points which may assist our further understanding. The front or eastern side is divided into side pieces, literally "shoulders", they explain, each 15 cubits long with three pillars, and a doorway of 20 cubits length, with a hanging like that which formed the entrance to the tabernacle tent itself, supported upon four pillars.

Keil and Delitzsch specifically dismiss the design supplied by some other commentaries, which would call for 56 pillars, as they favour a full 60, all of which were connected by rods of silver. On this matter, they comment "As the rods connecting the pillars of the court were of silver, and those connecting the pillars at the entrance to the dwelling were of wood overlaid with gold, the former must have been intended for a different purpose from the latter, simply serving as rods to which to fasten the hangings, whereas those at the door of the dwelling formed an architrave." That word, incidentally, for those who do not have a dictionary handy, has at its root the idea of a chief beam, and refers in essence to the framework which surrounds a door or window.

Speaking of "all the vessels of the dwelling in all the work thereof" they explain "i.e. all the tools needed for the tabernacle." They amplify this, saying "The vessels of the dwelling are not the things required for the performance of worship, but the tools used in setting up the tabernacle and taking it down again." They comment concerning the need for a surrounding court that the nation was unholy, and "could not come directly into the presence of Jehovah until the sin which separates unholy man from the holy God had been atoned for. Although, by virtue of their election as the children of Jehovah, or their adoption as the nation of God, it was intended that the Israelites should be received by the Lord into His house, and dwell as a son in his father's house; yet under the economy of the law, which only produced the knowledge of sin, uncleanness, and unholiness, their fellowship with Jehovah, the Holy One, could only be sustained through mediators appointed and sanctified by God: viz. at the institution of the covenant, through His servant Moses; and during the existence of this covenant, through the chosen priests of the family of Aaron. It was through them that the Lord was to be approached, and the nation to be brought near to Him. Every day, therefore, they entered the holy place of the dwelling, to offer to the Lord the sacrifices of prayer and the fruits of the people's earthly vocation. but even they were not allowed to go into the immediate presence of the holy God. The most holy place, where God was enthroned, was hidden from them by the curtain, and only once a year was the high priest permitted, as the head of the whole congregation, which was called to be the holy nation of God, to lift this curtain and appear before God with the atoning blood of the sacrifice and the cloud of incense (Lev. xiv.). The access of the nation to its God was restricted to the court. There it could receive from the Lord, through the medium of the sacrifices which it offered upon the altar of burnt-offering, the expiation of its sins, His grace and blessing, and strength to live anew."

Keil and Delitzsch indicate that "the dwelling itself represented the house of God", and the surrounding court, "the kingdom of the God-King, the covenant land or dwelling-place of Israel in the kingdom of its God." The copper indicated the earthly side of this kingdom, the silver and the white byssus-hangings, the holiness of this site for the kingdom of God. The combined use of the metals indicates the union of the court with the sanctuary, "i.e. the union of the dwelling-place of Israel with the dwelling-place of its God, which is realized in the Kingdom of God."

May we contemplate, this week, the forthcoming fullness of that connection for our own lives, and especially so those who recognize, as does our Federation, their own identity with that ancient nation in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon lands of the earth today. We shall continue our studies next week.

12 February, 1995

OIL FOR THE LAMPS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

This present series of Bible Studies is following the Biblical outline of God's Great Plan for the renewal of His Creation to accord with His own perfect will. We had followed the development of a chosen line from the Call of Abram, down through the lives of Isaac, Jacob (who was re-named Israel) and Jacob's descendants, who now form the Tribes of Israel. In The Exodus, they emerged from Egyptian bondage and they are, as we pick up the Scriptural account, now at Mount Sinai where Moses is receiving instructions from The Almighty God for the construction of the national focus of worship, called "The Tabernacle."

Having studied the record in Genesis and having now passed on to Exodus 27, we have gained a verbal picture of the Court of the Tabernacle, and the great copper or bronze Altar of Sacrifice.

On the last programme, we quoted Exodus 27:8-19 for the description of that Altar, and today, before we move to the next chapter, we will just read and consider the closing words of Exodus 27, which state:

20. And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.
21. In the tabernacle of the congregation without the vail, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.

Olive oil has been favourably described as a healthy form of oil for cooking, and for salads. It had a general use in ancient times as a fuel for lamps in the homes of ancient Israel. Olive trees had a symbolic as well as a useful physical purpose in Scripture in the same manner as did the Vine, the Fig Tree and the Pomegranate. The Northern Tribes of Israel kept The Grape Vine as their national symbol, and its fruit was used symbolically by Christ in His parables. Probably most listeners will bring to mind the words of Christ to His Israelite disciples in John 15:5, "I am the vine, ye are the branches." The Southern Kingdom of Judah had as its symbol the Fig Tree, and its good and evil fruit, in two baskets, exemplified the two sorts of people within that nation in the parable of Jeremiah 24. As we shall be finding in the next chapter of Exodus, and again, in a later chapter, The form of the Pomegranate was designated as a symbolic embellishment, in several different colours, upon the hem of the blue robe of the ephod which was to be worn by the High Priest.

In a like manner, the Olive Tree was the symbol for the combined nation of Israel while two olive trees are frequently used where the Nation of Israel, though split into the two distinct nations called the House of Israel and the House of Judah, was nevertheless being treated together as one people in prophecy. Thus the Olive was an heraldic device shared by all the Tribes, and it is so used in Jeremiah 11:10-18, Hosea 14, Haggai 2:19, Zechariah 4 and also by St. Paul in Romans 11 and in the Revelation to St. John in Revelation 11:4. As olives are crushed and beaten to yield the precious oil, it is through pressure that this oil is collected.

Israel, then, was to bring forth oil for fuel, as we see, to be used in maintaining the flames in the lamps which were held aloft by the Menorah lampstand. I think that we may also perceive another meaning for that oil if we consider the meaning of the flames of the lamps. These lamps were, as we discovered when we studied the Menorah some weeks ago, related to that collection of lamps in the New Testament Book of Revelation, in the midst of which the vision of the Glorified Christ was seen by Saint John.

I said at that time that we might take from that account the lesson that the whole functioning Menorah represented Christ Himself, in which His body might represent the acceptable ecclesia, cleansed by His blood. In symbol, Christ is described as having eyes "as a flame of fire", a countenance "as the sun shineth in his strength" and feet "as if they burned in a furnace." St. John records the words which The Glorified Christ gave to him at that time. The actual "candlesticks", above which the flames burned, were, and are, a symbolic representation of "the seven churches." We must conclude that the flaming oil has its own meaning distinct from that of the churches, and it is the duty of those churches to uphold the lamps containing this oil while it ignites in flames to produce light.

On a former programme, I explained that the volume of that part of the Tabernacle tent which the Menorah lampstand was to illumine, and which is termed "The Holy Place", was 2,000 cubic cubits, and this could represent the expected 2,000 years of the Christian dispensation between the time of Christ's First Advent and that of His Second Advent even as the further 1,000 cubic cubits within the Holy of Holies might represent the expected millennial reign to follow His Appearing. The light of the Menorah composed of the witness of the historic succession of Christian Churches would, then, be within the equivalent of the Tabernacle Holy Place, the time of the so-called "Christian Dispensation." Other authorities and Bible students than myself have, in the past, drawn the same conclusion so I am not the only one that has suggested it.

Thus the injunction that the children of Israel must bring "pure oil olive beaten for the light" was to insure that they and their descendants would have before them in this obligation the constant awareness and reminder through that familiar symbolism that the nation of Israel had a vital role to play in sustaining the supply of fuel to form the flames which the seven churches, Christ's body, would be delegated to uphold.

There is one aspect of this matter which may need to be underscored. Revelation 3:1 links "the seven Spirits of God" and "the seven stars" that are mentioned in Revelation 1:16 and again in verse 20 where they are revealed to be "the angels of the seven churches." Young's Concordance explains the meaning of the word "angel" used here as "messenger, agent." Let us review the list of those "Seven Spirits", which we can locate by consulting Isaiah 11:1-2 in order to confirm that they are, indeed, aspects of true knowledge concerning The LORD. Isaiah 11:1-2 states "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD."

The seven spirits, then, are: 1. "of the LORD", 2. "of wisdom", 3. (of) "understanding", 4. "of counsel", 5. (of) "might", 6. "of knowledge", 7. "of the fear of the LORD." This is not quite the same thing as describing The Holy Spirit Himself. Note that the list includes "wisdom", "understanding", "counsel", "knowledge" and "fear of the LORD." These are qualities attainable by humans who are guided by The Holy Spirit. These human reactions are created as diligent human minds produce illumination from what we may term "the oil of understanding." As we find in Matthew 25, it is this oil which the foolish virgins of Christ's parable find to be lacking in their lamps when arrival of "the bridegroom" is announced. Upon becoming aroused when Christ's impending arrival is proclaimed, at The Second Advent, and upon making the discovery that their lamps have gone out, they plead for a share from those virgins who are described as "wise", but they are told to go and "buy." One does not "buy" the Holy Spirit, so this oil is not meant to represent such, and it must, then, be that "oil of understanding" of which Isaiah speaks.

When "The Church" seeks to hold up Christ before the world but does NOT sustain, indeed DISMISSES WITH CONTEMPT, the Kingdom witness of National Israel which so obviously permeates the entire body of The Scriptures, it supplies distorted, partial and scrambled signals, and thus destroys any hope of establishing a true understanding of that Gospel which it professes to proclaim. Those lamps upheld by the churches of Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation, and in particular that of the church of Laodicea which appears to represent especially the church of our own day, will not receive a sufficient supply of that Israelitish olive oil fuel which we might call the "oil of understanding" and such a light will eventually be extinguished.

Aware of this impending disastrous development, a number of groups of Bible students which did have that "oil of understanding" back in 1919 AD, were responsible for the formation of our British-Israel-World Federation. This was done in order to insure that a constant supply of that Israelitish olive oil of understanding might continue to be available to those who wished to obtain for themselves a timely supply, and that the church's ability to uphold a flaming lamp for a light of witness to the world might not be extinguished and the church, in consequence, become irrelevant.

May our listeners be found among the "wise virgins" of Christ's parable. In the last days, this prophetic parable shows us, a sizable portion of those expecting to receive status in Christ's Kingdom will not have oil, and will in consequence be in a state of consternation at their exclusion. May we continue to make available that olive oil of understanding to the churches of our day, so that their light may not be extinguished like that of the lamps belonging to those foolish virgins who were forced, too late, to attempt to acquire the oil to fuel their lamps. "Buy now", we might say, and avoid the rush! God is working through His Israel peoples, manifestly those of the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred nations, preparing the groundwork for the emergence of His Kingdom upon the earth as it is already established in heaven. Ill-equipped "foolish virgins" need not apply when the bridegroom comes. It will be too late then, to acquire the preparatory wisdom for positions of substance within His Kingdom structure. A word to the wise is said to be sufficient!

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