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by Dr Surya Kumar Daimari  
11/02/2014 / Bible Studies

Continued from CH-I, P-5


1. SANCTUARIES in the Old Testament:

In the Bible, the "Sanctuary" is referred to a place which is set apart or sanctified for God. It means, it is a place, where God's presence is there. The tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon with its precincts are the examples of a Sanctuary (Ex 25:8; Lev 16:33; I Chr 22:19; Is 63:18; Ps 74:71).

The Heb words, "qadesh" and "miqodash" and Gr word "hagion" give the idea of separation or holiness. Any other place on earth which is set apart or sanctified by God's presence is also known as sanctuary such as Jerusalem, Zion and Shiloh are also called the Sanctuary which is His Holy Abode (Deut 26:15; Ps 68:4-5), His Holy Temple (Mich 1:2; Heb 2:20; Jn 2:4,7), His High Sanctuary (Ps 102:19) and His Holy Heaven (Ps 20:6).

The term "Sanctuary" was also used of the high places of heathenism (Is 16:12; Ez 28:18; Amos 7:9). There were a wide variety of Canaanite sanctuaries as excavated at Megiddo, Ai, Shechem and Beth-sha.

In the NT, the believer's body is called a sanctuary of God (II Cor 6:16). The Heaven is also our sanctuary where Jesus our High Priest sits on the right hand of the Throne of the Majesty (Heb 8:1-2).


The Heb word for 'temple' is "hekal" which means a 'palace' or 'large building'. The word is also used of the temples in Jerusalem, the sanctuary at Shiloh (I Sam 1:9; 3:3), of God's heavenly abode (II Sam 22:7; Ps 11:4). It is also used of the heathen temples (Joel 13:5). The other Heb word is "bayith" meaning 'house' which is used either of a pagan deity or of God's temple in Jerusalem. The Greek word for temple is 'Naos' which means "Sanctuary or Shrine".

The Pagan Temples:

Temples were built by both the Israelites and the non- Israelites in parallel. There are mentions of temples of the Canaanites as well as the temples of Babylon (II Chr 36:7; Ezr 5:14) and Egypt (Jer 43:12-13). A number of Canaanite shrines or temples have been excavated in the land of Palestine. The excavation reveals the typical floor system of a heathen or pagan temple. Interestingly, there are many similarities between a Jewish temple and that of the heathenism. The heathen sanctuary, generally consisted of three rooms,

1. The antechamber, Porch giving admittance of entrance to the main sanctuary.
2.The sanctuary, with posts to support the roof beams and stone benches often with an altar for offerings;
3.Holy of holies or the inner most shrine, usually on a raised platform approached by steps, containing a pedestal or niche for the image of the deity. #1

Examples of Pagan temples in the Bible excavated:

i.The temple of El- berith at Shechem, Judges 9:46
ii.The temple of Dagon at Ashdod, ISam 5:2-4
iii.The temple of Ashtaroth at Bethshan, ISam 31:10


The Heb word for "Tabernacle" is "Sukkot" which means "booths". The word is very significant because the people of Israel dwelt in the tents while sojourning in the wilderness. There are two other Heb words for tabernacle . They are "ohel" and "mishkan". "Ohel" refers to the tent while "mishkan" to the wooden frame. Tabernacle was a place where God Himself dwelt and met with His people, a place where God choose to show his presence. The tabernacle was built by God's command and according to His own plan. God said to Moses,
"Let them make me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them" Ex 25:8
"According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of all the instruments thereof even so shall ye make it". Ex 25:9

(1) The Structure of Tabernacle:

(a) The Court:
The court was 100 x 50 cubits i.e. (150x75) ft or (46x23) m N and S in length, E and W in broad and five cubits i.e. 7.5ft or 2.3m high around the tabernacle placed in the W half of the courtyard. The courtyard was enclosed by a fence of pillars of acacia wood five cubits high. The bottom of the fence was secured by sockets or bronze plates. The pillars were fixed by ropes and pegs and had hooks overlaid with silver and silver bands, called fillets around the neck. The fence was again enclosed by curtains made of fine twined linen which formed a continuous screen from the doorway all around the corners to the doorway again . The entrance to the court was a five cubits, i.e., 7.5ft or 2.3m high and 20 cubits, i.e., 30 ft or 9m long curtain made of beautifully embroidered blue, purple and scarlet fine twined linen. When entering the court one had to lift this curtain at the bottom.

In the E half of the court stood an altar, called either the "brazen" altar or the altar of burnt offering . Between the altar and the entrance of the tabernacle stood the laver of washing . Ex 27:9-19; 38:9-20

(b) The Tabernacle:

The Tabernacle inside the court was divided into two parts-
(1) The Tabernacle proper in Heb is "mishkhan". It refers to the wooden frame and the linen curtain.
(2) The Tent in Heb, it is the "Ohel"- a covering upon the tabernacle. Ex 26:7

The Tabernacle proper was made of boats of acacia wood, fifteen feet high and 2/4
feet wide standing upright which were plated with sheets of gold. Each side of the
wall considered of 20 frames and each frame had two tendons at its foot to fit into
the socket. Eight frames formed the rear; six were identical in size to those on the sides, and two were one- half cubit wide. Bars of acacia wood were made to run across the frames, five bars on each side of the tabernacle and also five bars for the rear of the building facing westward. The frames were overlaid with gold, and gold rings were made to hold the bars which were also overlaid with gold.

The roof of the tabernacle was made of goat's hair tarpaulins. There were eleven of these tarpaulins, each forty five feet across and six feet wide. Five of these tarpaulins were connected into one wide section and the other six were used for another wide section. The sixth tarpaulin hung down to form a curtain across the front of the sacred tent. Fifty loops were used along the edges of each of these two wide pieces ,to join them together with fifty bronze clasps. Thus the two widths became one. The tent extended 1.50 ft over the sides allowing an extra fold at the front and overlapping at the back. On the top of these blankets was placed a layer of ram's skins, dyed red, and over them a top layer of goat's skins. This completes the roof covering. The door of the tabernacle was closed by a screen which was supported by five pillars that were covered with gold. The inside of the tabernacle was decorated with ten curtains of fine twisted linen over that of the door curtains of fine twisted linen over that of the door curtains embroidered of "Cherubim of cunning work" Ex 26:1; 36:8

The tabernacle proper was divided into two compartments.
1. The Holy place and
2. The Holy of Holies.

These two compartments were separated by the veil, in Heb 'Paroket'. The veil was made from the blue, purple and scarlet fine twisted linen with Cherubim embroidered into cloth.

(1) The Holy Place:

The Holy place was 20 cubits long and 10 cubits wide (i.e., 30 ft x 5ft). It contained-
(i)the table of showbread,
(ii)the golden lamp- stand, and
(iii) the altar of incense
(see notes on furniture)

(2) The Holy of Holies:

The Holy of Holies was 10 cubits (i.e., 15 ft) square. It contained,
(i) the ark of the covenant, a sacred chest which was a symbol of the divine presence of God.
(ii) The mercy seat; The ark had a lid called the mercy seat or covering. On the ends of the lid were placed two Cherubim probably beaten out of gold. It was between these Cherubim #2 that the "Shekinah glory" rested (Ex 25:22 cf Ex 40:34-35; Lev 16:2).
(iii) The two tablets of stone.
(iv) A golden pot of miraculously preserved manna and
(v) Aaron's rod that budded. (see notes on furniture)

3.The Functions of Tabernacle:

No one , except the high priest, ever entered the Holy of Holies, and he went in only once a year on the "Day of Atonement", to make atonement for the sins of the people of Israel.

Regular daily sacrifices were performed by the priests at the tabernacle both in the morning and in the evening. Whenever an individual had sinned and repented of his sin the lamb was sacrificed and the blood of the lamb was applied only on the horns of the altar of sacrifice in the court. But when the anointed high priest sinned or the congregation sinned, the bullock was sacrificed. The blood was brought into the holy place and sprinkled before the veil, before the law of God- and the blood was also placed on the horns of the altar of incense.

#1 Huber L Drumright, John Rea "Temple"
In Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia (p- 1672)
Moody Press, Chicago.

#2 Notes on Cherub (Cherubim): Cherub is thought to be a celestial being of angelic order. The Cherubim were pictured as winged lions and bulls, having human faces guarding temples and palaces. According to the biblical representations they possess human likeness but with animal characteristics. In the Bible, we see the Cherub guarding the way to the tree of life. Later, we see the representation of Cherubim in the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies. Ezekiel identified them as the "living creatures" (Eze 1:5; 10:20). They are also identified with the living creatures of Rev 4:6.

#2 Help from: Harris, Lindell O,
Wicliffe Encyclopedia, p- 326
Moody Press, Chicago.

To be continued

Name of the Author of this article: Dr. Surya Kumar Daimari, MA,M.Ed, PGDTE,D.Min.(Doctor of Ministry)
The author is a freelance writer.
Book published: The Names of the Believers in the Bible in Types and Symbols .

Article Source: WRITERS

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