Day 45 (Feb. 14): The Tabernacle is completed, the Lord’s glory fills the Tabernacle, the Fiery Cloud

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Exodus 39:32-40:38

Numbers 9:15-23

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. A side-note question, since it is Valentines’ Day: Does the Bible say anything about secular holidays?  I know some of them have roots with saints.  And, what about the secular ways of Christian holidays, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, in particular?

A. Holidays (our modern version of HOLY days) are an important part of the Old Testament, as we will read about in Leviticus.  Unfortunately, many of the holidays we celebrate are often detached from their religious origins, and while I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, that detachment is just one more example of our society becoming more secular — to its detriment.  The Bible doesn’t, as far as I know, say anything about secular holidays, instead choosing to focus on the ways that we should follow God.  I think that’s a good standard: Don’t fret the “fake” holidays, and pay attention to the real ones of the church.  For Jews (most of our Christian holy days will have to be examined later), each of the holy days that will be set up in the next volume will be of particular significance.  For example, we’ve already learned about one: Passover, one of the most important holy day seasons in Jewish culture to this day.  There will be more to come.

Q. (39:32): Any idea how long it took the Israelites to construct everything for the Tabernacle?

A. If we track the math, we get a figure of something like nine months.  In Exodus 19, we have the people receiving the Law three months after leaving Egypt, and in this reading, God instructs Moses to set things up on the first day of the new (second) year.  That gives us a period of roughly nine months, which I would say is a good educated guess.

Q. Can you tell us exactly what went on inside the Tabernacle with all of its parts.  Utensils are something I never thought about being there?

A. 39:33-41 gives a good summary, but here goes.  Working our way in: the cloth certain/ fence was the outside layer, which opened in one place to the inner courtyard.  The courtyard contained the brass: the altar and its grate, and the washbasin for the priests.  The courtyard was where most of the sacrifices were made.  That brings us to the sacred tent, which in the outer section (called the holy place), contained the menorah, the table and utensils, and the altar of incense.  ONLY priests were allowed to enter this after they had washed in the bronze basin to be ritually clean. Finally, we have the inner section of the tent, which was covered by the curtain. This is where the Ark resided and cover resided (called the mercy seat).  And this final section is called the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies.  ONLY the High Priest was permitted to enter into what was considered to be God’s very presence, and even then it was only at a certain time, which we shall read about.  There you go: the Tabernacle in a nutshell.

Q. (40:9): What does it mean to make something holy?  Anointing just means to pour oil over something, right?

A. The word holy means “set apart” for a particular purpose of God, which was often done with oil or other fragrant liquids such as perfume.  We will see three instances where oil is used for offices: the priest, the king, and the prophet.  Also, its worth pointing out here that the term “Christ” or “Messiah” means “anointed one”; that is, one chosen to do God’s work.  So keep this anointing in the back of your mind, as we will see it on a regular basis.

Q. (40:31): I was wondering about what they washed.  I think God had told us before.  It’s just the feet and hands?  Maybe it’s washing the feet because it’s holy ground.  And wash the hands because anything they touch inside would be holy?

A. You’ve got the right idea on the reasons for the particular parts that were washed.  The washing was technically just a symbolic gesture: they’re not instructed to scrub or use soap.  Keep in mind there is no such thing as basic sanitation at this point, and the water was very likely not pure or clean itself.  (Side note: wine and fermented drinks were safer for consumption than water itself in this era!)  Anyway, it was not the “cleanliness” of the water itself that was important in this case, it was the act of washing in submission to God’s commands in order to do His service as a priest.

Q. (40:34-38) So, on their journeys, they carried the Ark and all the other parts to the Tabernacle and reconstructed it when the cloud — God — stopped?

A. We will see this in action later, I think in Numbers. But yes, that’s right.

Q. I’m also wondering about food.  God still gave them manna and quail every day?  Is this all they ate or did they have to go dig roots and other vegetation?  And, what about the cattle?  Are these just questions that are not important to the message?  I’m just trying to picture their ways of life and sustenance.

A. It appears that He did provide the manna, but I don’t think it says anything about providing quail every day.  Besides the manna provision, there is really no other way they could have fed that many people otherwise.  But it appears it got old for the people.  We can see an example of this in Numbers 12, when the people begin to complain about being sick of eating manna.  Bad things happen when the people start complaining in Numbers.

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