God told Moses to build a tabernacle, which is a tent, with a specific design.
As GOD began giving Moses instructions atop Mount Sinai, He instructed Moses to build the tabernacle and its furnishings.
To fund the work, GOD told Moses to have Israel take up a collection of specific items as a free will offering:
1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, that they take first fruits from everyone who gives it willingly from the heart. Thus you shall take My first fruits. 3 This is the offering you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; 4 blue, purple, and scarlet cloth, fine spun linen; and female goats’ hair, 5 ram skins dyed red and skins dyed blue, and incorruptible wood; 6 oil for the light, and incense for anointing oil and for the composition of incense; 7 sardius stones, and stones for the carved work of the breastplate and the full-length robe. 8 Also, you shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will appear among you. 9 According to all I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, so you shall make it.Exodus 25:1-9 OSB
GOD was specific about how these items were to be built, and He somehow showed Moses specific designs to follow.
The tabernacle had a number of furnishings. GOD continued by giving specific instructions regarding these items.
The Ark of the Covenant
10 “Thus you shall make the ark of testimony from incorruptible wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold; inside and out you shall overlay it and shall make on it a wreath of gold all around. 12 You shall cast four golden rings for it and put them on its four corners; two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 You shall make poles of incorruptible wood and overlay them with gold. 14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. 15 The poles shall remain fixed in the rings of the ark. 16 Then you shall put into the ark the testimonies I will give you.
17 “You shall also make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 Then you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimonies I will give you. 22 There I will make Myself known to you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of testimony, about everything I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.Exodus 25:10-22 OSB
The Golden Table
23 “You shall also make a golden table of pure gold; two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 24 You shall make for it golden wreaths twisted all around, and also a crown of a handbreadth all around, 25 and you shall make a twisted wreath of gold for the crown all around. 26 You shall make four golden rings for it and put the rings on the four corners of its four legs under the crown. 27 The rings shall be bearings for the poles, so they may bear the table with them. 28 And you shall make the poles of incorruptible wood and overlay them with pure gold, that the table may be carried with them. 29 You shall make its dishes, censers, bowls, and cups of pure gold, that you may offer drink offerings with them; 30 and you shall set the bread on the table before Me continually.Exodus 25:23-30 OSB
The Golden Lampstand
31 “You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold which shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, branches, and bowls, and its stem and corolla shall be of one piece. 32 Six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side and three branches out of the other. 33 Three bowls shall be made like almonds on each branch, with its ornamental knobs and lilies—and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. 34 On the lampstand itself four bowls shall be made like almonds, and each with its ornamental knob and lilies. 35 There shall be a knob under the first two branches of the same, a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. 36 Their knobs and their branches shall be of one piece; all of it shall be one hammered piece of pure gold. 37 You shall make its seven lamps, and you will lay the lamps upon them. From this one presence they will shine outward. 38 You shall make its funnels and dishes of pure gold. 39 It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. 40 And see to it you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.Exodus 25:31-40 OSB
1 “Now you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen, with blue, purple, and scarlet fabric, and you shall weave them with artistic designs of cherubim. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits and the width of each curtain four cubits. Each curtain shall have the same measurements. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. 4 You shall make loops of blue yarn on the edge of the curtain of one set, and likewise you shall do on the outer edge of the curtain of the second set. 5 Fifty loops you shall make in the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain at the end of the second set, that the loops may be clasped to one another. 6 You shall make fifty clasps of gold and couple the curtains together with the clasps, that it may be one tabernacle.
7 “You shall also make curtains of goats’ hair skins to be a tent over the tabernacle. You shall make eleven such curtains. 8 The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; and the eleven curtains shall all have the same measurements. 9 You shall couple five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the forefront of the tent. 10 You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain of the second set. 11 You shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. 12 The remaining remnant of the tent’s curtains, that is, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 A cubit on one side and a cubit on the other side of the remaining length of the tent’s curtains shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and on that side, to cover it. 14 You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and blue skins as coverings above that.
15 “You shall make the tabernacle posts out of incorruptible wood. 16 Ten cubits shall be the length of each post, and a cubit and a half its width. 17 Two joints shall be made in each post for binding one to another. Thus you shall do for all the posts of the tabernacle. 18 Thus you shall make the posts for the tabernacle, twenty for the north side. 19 You shall make forty bases of silver for the twenty posts: two bases for each of the two joints of the posts. 20 For the second side of the tabernacle, the south side, there shall be twenty posts, 21 and their forty bases of silver: two bases for each of the posts’ two joints. 22 For the far side of the tabernacle, westward, you shall make six posts. 23 You shall also make two posts for the two back corners of the tabernacle. 24 They shall be coupled together at the bottom and at the top by one ring. Thus it shall be for both of them. They shall be equal. 25 So there shall be eight posts with their sixteen bases of silver, two bases for both sides of each post.
26 “You shall make bars of incorruptible wood: five for the posts on one side of the tabernacle, 27 five bars for the posts on the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the posts of the side of the tabernacle toward the sea. 28 The middle bar shall pass through the midst of the posts from end to end. 29 You shall overlay the posts with gold, make their rings of gold as holders for the bars, and overlay the bars with gold. 30 Then you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern shown you on the mountain.
31 “You shall then make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet fabric and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. 32 You shall hang it upon the four posts of incorruptible wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold upon four bases of silver. 33 You shall hang the veil on the posts. Then you shall bring the ark of the testimony in there behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the holy of holies. 34 You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the holy of holies. 35 You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand across from the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side.
36 “You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle woven of blue, purple, and scarlet fabric and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. 37 You shall make five posts for the veil and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five bases of bronze for them.Exodus 26:1-37 OSB
The Altar of Burnt Offerings
1 “Now you shall make an altar of incorruptible wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide—the altar shall be square—and its height shall be three cubits. 2 You shall make horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 Also you shall make a crown around the altar; and its cover, its libation bowls, its flesh-hooks, its incense bowl, and all its utensils you shall make of bronze. 4 You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze; and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5 You shall put them below under the grate of the altar, that the grate may be midway up the altar. 6 You shall make poles for the altar of incorruptible wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 The poles shall be put in the rings, and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to carry it. 8 You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain, so shall you make it.Exodus 27:1-8 OSB
The Outer Court
9 “You shall also make a court for the tabernacle. For the west side there shall be hangings for the court made of fine woven linen, one hundred cubits long for one side. 10 And its twenty posts and their twenty bases shall be bronze. The hooks of the posts and their bands shall be silver. 11 Likewise along the east side shall be curtains one hundred cubits in length, with its twenty posts and their twenty bases of bronze, and the hooks of the posts and their bands of silver. 12 And along the width of the court on the north side shall be curtains of fifty cubits, with their ten posts and ten bases. 13 The width of the court on the south side shall be curtains of fifty cubits, with their ten posts and ten bases. 14 The length of the curtains on one side shall be fifty cubits, with their three posts and three bases. 15 On the other side shall be curtains of fifteen cubits, with their three posts and three bases. 16 For the gate of the court there shall be a veil twenty cubits long, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet fabric and fine woven linen, made by a weaver. It shall have four posts and four bases. 17 All the posts around the court shall be overlaid with silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their bases of bronze.
18 The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits on each side, the width fifty on each side, and the height five cubits, made of fine woven linen, and its bases of bronze. 19 All the utensils, all the instruments, and all the pegs of the court shall be of bronze.Exodus 27:9-19 OSB
Oil to Burn Lamps
20 “You shall also command the children of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually 21 in the tabernacle of testimony, outside the veil before the testimony. Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the Lord. It shall be an ordinance forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.Exodus 27:20-21 OSB
Altar of Incense
1 “Now you shall make an altar of incense of incorruptible wood. 2 You shall make it a cubit in length and a cubit in width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 You shall overlay its grating, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a rim of gold all around. 4 Two gold rings you shall make for it under the molded rim on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. 5 You shall make the poles of incorruptible wood and overlay them with gold. 6 You shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the testimonies, where I will make Myself known to you. 7 Aaron shall burn on it fine compounded incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. 8 When Aaron lights the lamps in the evening, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer strange incense on it, or an offering made by fire, or a sacrifice; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. 10 Now Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year, purging it with the blood of purification throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”Exodus 30:1-10 OSB
17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 18“You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of testimony and the altar. You shall put water in it, 19 for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and feet with water from it. 20 When they go into the tabernacle of testimony, they shall wash with water, lest they die, or when they come near the altar to minister and to offer whole burnt offerings to the Lord. 21 So they shall wash their hands and feet with water when they go into the tabernacle of testimony, lest they die. It shall be an ordinance forever to them—for him and his genealogy after him.”Exodus 30:17-21 OSB
GOD was specific about the design of these instruments. The tabernacle and its furnishings were the centerpiece of Israel’s formal public assemblies prior to the temple’s construction under King Solomon.
A word of caution, however: Do not equate the tabernacle assemblies and activities with the Israelite’s worship. While it is true that the children of Israel worshiped at the tabernacle, the worship was their personal bowing down before GOD, in their hearts and in their bodies.
Sacrifices were offered at the tabernacle and it was the place where GOD made Himself known to Israel at specific times. However, because of the evolution of “Christian tradition” over the centuries, there is a tendency to equate an appearance at church assemblies with worshiping GOD. That mindset is inaccurate. Likewise, appearing—and even offering sacrifices at the tabernacle or the temple that followed thereafter—were not in-and-of-itself worship.
Lastly, note that this tabernacle and its furnishings provided important shadows for subsequent meaning that is fulfilled in Jesus. As the first century writer of Hebrews put it:
1 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.Hebrews 8:1-8 NIV