9/13/2009 The Tabernacle of Moses, according to Exodus 26, 27.

The Tabernacle, what was it, really?

By Mel Copeland

The Tabernacle of Moses - what is it? Most people reading the scriptures relating to it regard it as a meeting place of the Children of Israel. It was a tent, also called a Tent of Refuge, a tent of meeting, where the oracles of God are reported to have been received. Within the tent were a few furnishings which included a table containing a lamp and shew bread and another the place where the oracles were received was the Ark of the Covenant. Atop the Ark was placed a solid gold plate whose ends were hammered into the form of two cherubim. The wings of the cherubim faced the center of the gold plate. Near the tabernacle was the altar where animals were sacrificed.

On the surface this description of the Tabernacle of Moses is not particularly unusual
, except that the gold plate of the two cherubim seemed to contradict one of the commandments contained on the two tablets of the covenant within the Ark. For one of the Ten Commandments listed on the two stone tablets within the Ark of the covenant was: "thou shalt have no graven images before me." Also, keeping in mind the events that led up to the giving of the Ten Commandments, we are even more perplexed that the Two Cherubim are upon the gold plate
called the Mercy Seat, an unusual name since the first time Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments he saw the people sacrificing to a golden calf.

Moses had sought refuge in the land of Midian and was taken in by the tribe of Jethro. He had been a high official of the Egyptian pharaoh and had accidentally killed another official. Moses (meaning "drawn out") had been abandoned by his mother as a child. At the time the Jews were being persecuted and the first born sons were threatened. To save the child the mother put him in a wicker basket and cast him into the Nile. The basket was discovered by a maid of the pharaoh's daughter and the child was adopted by the daughter and raised by her in the palace of the pharaoh. One day, as an adult, Moses was shown some fabric that belonged to him as a child that was made after the fashion of the Hebrews. He was told that his mother was a Hebrew. After that Moses became reconciled to his people and got into a dispute over their persecution by the pharaoh and killed a man. As punishment he was sent into the desert of Sinai in exile. There he was taken in by the family of Jethro and he married one of his daughters.

One day Moses saw an unusual cloud, thunder and lightning, atop the mountain nearby, which was called Sinai. He went up to see what it was and encountered a burning bush from which he heard a voice that proceeded to tell him to return to Egypt and gather them back to Mount Sinai. He quarreled with the voice for a while, complaining that even if he were to go back to Egypt the people would not believe his mission; "besides, who shall I say sent me?" he asked. Tell them that "I am that I am hath sent thee," (YHVH) the voice answered. From that day forward the voice of God was known as YHVH or Yahwah.

After much tribulation Moses and the tribes of Israel held in captivity in Egypt were able to escape, crossing the Red Sea, and began their sojourn in the Sinai desert. They were camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai and Moses was compelled to go up the mountain, where he ended up spending forty days isolated from the people. By the end of the forty days the people had gotten impatient and convinced the brother of Moses and other leaders to fashion an idol that would lead them. They built a golden calf. As Moses was descending from the mountain carrying two tablets called the Ten Commandments, he saw them reveling around the golden calf. At the base of the mountain he shouted out at the people and threw the two tablets of the Ten Commandments down at them, breaking them. The people were then persuaded to break up their golden calf and abandoned the worship of idols. Moses returned with a new set of Ten Commandments and the design of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was a tent designed to hold a chest, called the Ark of the Covenant, which would contain the Ten Commandants. It would also be the place where samples of the manna from heaven were stored. For now, it was a chest that contained the commandments and other oracles as Moses began to receive them and recite them to Aaron, his brother, who had been anointed as high priest of the congregation.

The Tabernacle was given as a
gift. "Bring me your gold and silver," God said to the tribes, and I will give you a gift. It was a quite unusual gift, but we will let you judge for yourself as to what it is.
Design Parameters
Exodus 26 identifies a structure that really is not a tent. It's a building made out of large wooden planks. Over the beams of the building was placed a tent covering consisting of three covers. The first cover was made out of linen, atop it was placed a cover made out of rams skins died red, and atop it was placed a cover made out of badger skins. It appears that the badger skin cover contained the pelt of the animal.

There were 58 boards total, about 2.25" wide by 12' long. The length of the Tabernacle was 20 boards, or 45' and the width was 10 boards or 22.5' wide. The height of the Tabernacle was 10 cubits or 15 feet. (There are 18 inches to a cubit.)

The most unusual part of this structure was the fact that each board had two gold pins, or tenons,
on the bottom that plugged into the ground where two silver sockets were placed to receive them. The device looked very much like a modern integrated circuit module:
This is what the Tabernacle most resembled. It differed from other tents at the time. Around 3,500 years ago (1200 B.C. -1500 B.C.) a design was given to Moses that was unlike the tents of its time. The tents carried by the nomads of the desert, as can be seen in modern Bedouin tents, were large, sufficient to hold a large family. They were supported by poles and their coverings could be skins of their cattle (sheep or goats) or camels. Modern Bedouin tents which I saw outside of Jerusalem on the way to the Dead Sea in 1985 were black. Most significantly the tents then and now can be packed up and carried atop the backs of camels. The Tabernacle, on the other hand, because of the boards, could not have been carried on the backs of camels. The 58 boards, each 2'x15,' had to be carried by wagons. The wagons, in turn, would have required oxen to pull them. But this is not the only logistic headache offered by the gift of the Tabernacle to the Children of Israel.

The bars and the boards of the
Tabernacle were fully gilded, covered with gold. It would have been the brightest, shining thing in the desert, no doubt, as the coverings reached about half way down the sides of the Tabernacle, leaving the rest of the boards exposed to the wind and sand of the desert. One sandstorm would probably clean the gold off of the exposed sides, I should think. But this was not the only problem they would have had with the gilded boards and bars. When packing up to move, the people would have to wrap the components in linen, at the least, in order to prevent them from being scratched in transit. In truth, YHVH asked the people of Israel to raise a most unusual building and carry it around for forty years, wandering wherever the cloud and fire that appeared with the Tabernacle would lead them. That was the other peculiar thing about the Tabernacle. Atop its Mercy Seat (the gold plate with the Two Cherubim) would appear a cloud or smoke by day and a fire by night. When YHVH was ready to lead them to another pasture in the desert a cloud, smoke or fire would appear over the Tabernacle and begin to move off in a new direction. The sign was not connected with the wind, so we can't regard the phenomena as being affected by the wind.

This was not the only str
ange thing about the Tabernacle. Around it was placed a court enclosed by 20 pillars along its length and 10 pillars on each side of its width. At the Western Gate were raised six more pillars that were 15 feet high, and between the six pillars were four pillars, each 30 feet high. Between all of the pillars were fabrics, each tailored to fit the height. The fabrics alternated in color, red, blue and purple. The colors fanned out along the sides of the Tabernacle would have resembled the jewelry found in Egyptian tombs whose wings carried jewels colored alternately red, blue and purple. Purple was the sign of royalty, and it would have been recognized as such by anyone that had seen it at the time. It was the court of a very unusual king whose voice was reported to come from the Mercy Seat atop the Ark of the Covenant.

The pillars
also had sockets in the ground to which they were fitted. The sockets were made out of bronze. It is possible the pillars around the circumference of the court were made out of wood, for they appear to have been 7.5 feet high. The six pillars on either side of the gate that were 15 feet high may have been made out of bronze and most likely the pillars that were 30 feet high were made out of bronze. Thus, in addition to the great weight of the boards and bars of the tabernacle and their three coverings of linen, rams skins and badger skins, we have the weight of the gold tenons and their silver sockets. The gold tenons are odd, since gold would not have been the best material if one were using the tenons as devices to stabilize the boards. We know that the winds of the desert would tend to destabilize the boards. Thus, a pin in the bottom that is inserted in the ground would provide stability, anchoring the boards to the ground. Since the time the Tabernacle was introduced was the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age, we may wonder why bronze was not chosen as the tenons of the Tabernacle or even better, iron. They chose to use gold
for the tenons and silver for the sockets, two very soft metals that would have provided more grief than stability, I should think.

The Tabernacle of Moses according to Exodus 26 and 27. Click on image for larger view.

ere are other things unusual about this building. The beams or bars of the ceiling were connected to their boards by means of gold rings. The scriptures don't say exactly how the boards and bars fit together, except that each bar slipped through a gold ring attached to two boards. We can assume that a leather tether fastened the gold ring to the two boards. When we examine the probable reason for the use of the gold rings (once again bronze would have been cheaper and stronger), we can conjecture that the entire building could be raised by means of a center gold ring. In the center of the structure was a gold ring. The question one might have would be "how?" I suspect that they could take three of the four tall, 30 foot high pillars and form them into a tripod, by means of which the Tabernacle could be raised. With a pulley and a few strong hands, which they had plenty of, the Tabernacle could be raised in a matter of minutes and its gold tenons carefully positioned over their silver sockets in the ground. To do this the boards would have to be laid on the ground in their respective positions with the bars connected to them, slipped through their gold rings. All of the bars of the ceiling were secured together my means of gold rings and no doubt leather tethers.

From a functional assessment, the Tabernacle was designed as a building that
could be moved around the desert like a tent, raised and taken down relatively easy. The court and its pillars and hangings and bronze sockets; the boards, bars, gold tenons, silver sockets, gold rings and three curtains did not make the moving of the structure easy. They would have had to have a large number of wagons and their oxen to pull them. There are stories in the wanderings of the Children of Israel following Moses and the Tabernacle that reflect hard days without water and food. Moses struck a rock (the rock of Moriah) and produced water to save them. Then came the manna from heaven which appear to have been grains of edible material that appeared on the ground. In all of this privation they could not use as a source of food the animals that drew the wagons. For it is clear that the Tabernacle was a lot of baggage which could not be abandoned, since the entire wealth of the tribes was carried in it. When the Tabernacle was given to the people it was with this offer: bring me your gold and your silver and I will give you a gift. To calculate the proper amount of gold and silver needed for the rings, boards, bars and tenons one would conceivably have to build a mock-up of the device to examine the loads on the structure and size of the gold and silver components. In sum this is what would have had to be packed up and moved:

Parts list:


Exodus 27 says the court was 100 cubits long (150 feet), each side with 20 pillars and 20 bronze sockets and their hangings; the hooks holding the fabric to the pillars were of silver. Each pillar appears to have been 5 cubits (7.5 feet) high.
The width of the court was 50 cubits (75 feet) which contained ten pillars (7.5 feet high) with their ten bronze sockets, hooks and hangings; ten pillars were on both the east and west side.
Six pillars 15 cubits (22.5 feet) high, their hangings, silver hooks and bronze sockets at the gate.
Four pillars at the Western Gate, 20 cubits (30 feet) high, their hangings, silver hooks and bronze sockets.
Total pillars:
60 each 7.5 feet high by about 3-4 inches in diameter. (total 450 feet)
6 each 22.5 feet high by about 4 inches in diameter. (total 135 feet)
4 each 30 feet high by about 4 inches in diameter. (Total 120 feet)
Total: 705 feet of pillars
60 each hangings made of linen, (about 20 red, 20 blue, 20 purple) (1), 7.5 feet long and about 7 feet wide (75 feet court width divided by 10 pillars = 7.5 feet width per hanging, not counting the width of the pillars). The pillars should have been ~4" wide to withstand the wind blowing upon the fabric, for the hangings would have behaved like the sails of a boat. The fabric wound in one roll: 450 foot roll 7 feet wide.
6 hangings at the gate: 135 foot roll about 5 - 7 feet wide.
4 hangings of the Western Gate: 120 foot roll at least 7 feet wide. (The hangings of the gate should have been wider to account for the greater height and scale.)
Total Boards:
58 plus two doors, 15 feet high by about 2 feet wide, about 900 board feet.
Total gold and silver:
116 each estimated, at least 6"H by 3" W x 2"D (about the standard size of a gold bar, 400 Troy ounces, about 27. 4 pounds). Estimated value at $800 per ounce $46,400.
116 silver sockets approximating the same volume of the gold, if not more.
29 gold rings holding the 58 boards; plus 1 center gold ring; possibly 50 more gold rings at the intersections of the bars, holding them together. Weight unknown. Each ring should have been at least 3" internal diameter to account for the diameter of the bars.
Unspecified amount of gold to cover and maintain the bars and boards of the Tabernacle.
1 gold plate comprising the Mercy Seat, about 1.5 cubits wide (27") by 2 cubits long (36") and ~2" thick. The thickness of the two ends of the plate should be sufficient to be hammered, formed into the Two Cherubims. The wings of the Two Cherubim were probably secured to the bodies by means of sockets.
~420 silver hooks for the fabric of the court, assuming each of the 60 pillars, 6 pillars at the gate and 4 pillars of the gate (70 total) secured their hangings with six hooks (which seems to be a bit low; probably more were required).
Tent Coverings:
1 linen covering embroidered with cherubim, 28 x 40 cubits (42 feet x 60 feet, in ten panels about 6 feet wide)
1 rams skin covering died red, 28 x 40 cubits (42 feet x 60 feet, in ten panels about 6 feet wide)
1 badger skin covering, 30 x 44 cubits (45 feet x 66 feet, in eleven panels about 6 feet wide).

Electrical Parameters

The gold tenons placed in their silver sockets may explain some sort of stabilizing or anchoring feature of the Tabernacle, but the use of gold and silver to perform this function seems quite odd, if not daft. First of all, the gold tenons and their silver sockets would not be seen except when the device is being moved. Bronze or iron could have served the function of stabilizing the structure a bit better, I should think.

Since the device resembled a modern integrated circuit module I wondered whether it had electrical properties that might
explain the phenomena of a smoke by day and fire by night. I inquired with a physicist at the University of Florida, Dr. Martin Uman, (Resume at ece.ufi.edu) who is renown for his research with lightning. Some of his research involves shooting rockets with wires attached to the ground into thunderclouds to measure lightning strikes. He would know whether the device had any relationship to being an electrical capacitor or lightning conductor. Comments received from Dr. Uman suggest that the device was not any more exceptional than any other metal building that is grounded. The gold tenons in the gold covered boards, plugged into their silver sockets in the ground, describes a simple metal building that is grounded which will behave like any other metal building that is grounded. Lighting strikes would go directly to the ground, but the tabernacle would not be any more likely to receive a lightning strike than any other building. It was not designed as a lightning conductor in the sense that it would have been like a lightning rod in the desert.

The other question related to the Mercy Seat, whether the gold plate with its Two Cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant, directly below the Center Gold Ring in the ceiling
, could serve as a surface where sparks would be seen or generated, transferred from the structure to the Mercy Seat. The criteria of the sparks would be that the voltage should be sufficient to electrocute someone who is nearby, since it was reported that high priests did fall dead at the Mercy Seat from time to time. As a consequence the high priests were required to wear cords tied to their waist by means of which they could be pulled out of the Tabernacle if stricken. This is the context of the conversation with Dr. Uman:

1. Was the Tabernacle a lightning processor from antiquity?

Dr. Uman answered: "For what it is worth, a metal (gold) box that is reasonably
well grounded is safe to be in if struck by lightning. An object of that size in the open in Florida would be randomly struck by   lightning once every 50 years or so. It would not cause or draw lightning. I would say that silver sockets on the ground are unusual. Why do you think that is other than a construction device, that the structure has something to do with electricity rather than being an expensive religious structure?"

2. Does the device have something to do with electricity, rather than being an expensive religious structure?

Mel wrote: "When I first saw the device I asked a similar question. They could
have used the gold tenons plugged into silver sockets in the ground to secure the boards. Recognizing that the device dated from the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age (King David moved it from its place in Shiloh about 1,000 B.C. to the Temple Mount) one might think the tenons and sockets could have been made out of less expensive and stronger material, such as bronze. The tenons would not have been seen in any case. It is possible that the nomads needed a means of stabilization that was easy to install and reinstall. Tenons
nails would have been a good answer. It is certain that the wind in the desert would have caused the boards of the device to shake and it would have been necessary to keep the secure the bases of the boards.

"The gold plate (Mercy Seat) on the chest (ark) in the center of   the building requires explanation. Altars were in use in all
religions, as is true of the Jews, but the concept of the Mercy Seat was new. I think it
having the design of a plate with two poles placed in the center of the device, below the center gold ring, must have had some electrical properties.

"The Hydro-Quebec device (See article, "Lightning Tamers...") had a ceiling made out of a net, which,
according to the article on the Hydro-Quebec research, was unusual. When I read this it occurred to me that the ceiling of the tabernacle was also like a net, though the gold-covered bars of the ceiling followed a basic design for the beams of a   building's ceiling. Many palaces would have had guilt ceilings, even as we see today in Renaissance buildings. So a gilded ceiling is not unusual.

"The placement of the Mercy Seat may have been viewed as a modified
altar where God was fed the blood of the animal sacrifice. Near the Ark was a table where the shew bread of the sacrifice was placed. If the device would not particularly have attracted lightning, then the only regular electrical property of the device would have been through static electricity, in which case one must ask what   the distance would have had to be from the ceiling to the Mercy Seat, in order to produce a spark. The testimony on the device said they would see a cloud on the Mercy Seat by day and a fire by night. This suggests that the fire was not visible during the day, leaving us to contemplate that they observed a spark.

"...When I
saw the Hydro-Quebec net, it occurred to me that the tabernacle may have had properties similar to an antenna, in which case the Mercy Seat might have functioned like a radar feed. I don't know the physics behind the Hydro-Quebec ceiling-net. Lightning is observed as jagged, where the electricity moves at angles and in terms of a rectangular building would arc through the corners (recognizing that electricity travels on the external surface of a conductor).

"Today we raise antennas and antenna fields to receive signals from   outer space, and we may recall the hopes of SETI to make contact
with another civilization. The Jews were attempting to make contact with God, according to the instructions given to Moses, and they recorded their contact with God both through the receipt of oracles and in the physical presence of a cloud or smoke by day and a fire by night.

"If the device had no unusual electrical properties
since it was   grounded the only thing to account for would be what happened on the Mercy Seat and how. I suspect it can be explained by physics, including a fire and smoke produced on the Mercy Seat. If physics could duplicate the fire and smoke, then it would cause us to take different look at the Judeo-Christian religion. For the instructions given to Moses would essentially have been: "Build this device and it will produce fire and smoke."

"The augury received by the priests would have been subjective, but
the fire and smoke would not, since it was observed by the tribe.

"All together the device is strange. The tribe hauled it around the
desert for 40 years. The size of the boards and the three curtains would have been bulky and heavy, requiring several wagons. Modern  Bedouins carry tents of great size and pack them  on their camels.  One would think that the tabernacle (called a  tent of refuge) would have sufficed made out of hides or fabric only, similar to that of the Bedouins. The addition of the boards to serve as sides is peculiar. Also the court that was raised around the tabernacle, with its tall bronze poles (at least 12 feet high) and their fabrics (hangings), would have required a number of more wagons.  Why build a device that required a train of wagons dedicated to move it around when one could achieve the same result (in theory) with a Bedouin-style tent?

"The testimony about the device says that some priests were struck
dead before the Mercy Seat. Apart from a normal physical problem, such as a stroke or heart attack, I would think that if there were a strong electrical field at the Mercy Seat and if it were to jump to a person next to it, then electrocution would have  occurred. This would prompt one to ask:

"How much of an electrical charge would it take to electrocute a   person at the Mercy Seat? and
What would be the setup required to produce such a charge?

"Finally, since the device was used in the Sinai desert, we can
presume there were not too many thunderstorms or that lightning was not frequent. It certainly was not frequent enough to produce the regular observations of smoke and fire on the Mercy Seat. Thus, there may be another physics answer to explain the smoke and fire. The description of the tabernacle and the testimony involving it is quite strange, to say the least. If much of the testimony could be explained by physics, we would nevertheless   still be left with the question of how Moses discovered it."

3. Can the Tabernacle generate static electricity?

Dr. Uman replied: "To generate static electricity inside a metal box, the source needs to be inside the box, like rubbing cat's fur on glass. As far as I know, such rubbing together of dissimilar materials by hand in very dry weather can produce sparks that are less than an inch in length. Friction machines such as the Van der Graff [See http://science.howstuffworks.com/vdg2.htm, ed. note] can make sparks up to a foot long, again in very dry weather (the desert?). The process does not work in high humidity.

Maybe those clever Israelites had some sort of hand cranked machine
that could make sparks and set objects on fire. Benjamin Franklin killed his thanksgiving turkey with lab-generated static electricity, but he had rudimentary capacitors (Leyden jars) to store increasing amounts of charge as he made it. Maybe my ancestors had invented the whole show 3000 years previously. The ancient Greeks knew about static electricity (via rubbing together of dissimilar materials) and wrote about it."

4. The exceptional burden of transporting the Tabernacle

Mel's reply, concerning the burden of the Tabernacle:
[beginning with a list of the parts of the Tabernacle and its Court, as discussed in our Introduction] "...Recognizing that the testimony says the device was carried around the desert of Sinai for 40 years, we can conclude that the baggage train for the tabernacle and its court would have been an exceptional burden for a people, even today. And in addition to the fabric required for the hangings and coverings of the tabernacle there would have been a need for more linen wrappings to protect the boards and bars of the tabernacle from being abraded during transport.

"Since everything fit into sockets in the ground, raising the structure would have amounted to digging holes. It would thus have had to be placed where holes could be dug. Raising the tabernacle should have taken a few minutes. By setting up the 30 foot long pillars of the gate in a tripod over the parts of the tabernacle, one could raise the entire structure in a matter of minutes with a line attached to the center gold ring. All of the parts would have to be laid on the ground below the tripod, with the bars inserted into the rings attached to the boards and all of the bars secured together. By lifting on the tripod the boards could be guided into their sockets on the ground.

"This describes a heavy burden to transport and protect from the
abrasion of transport and sand storms. The device was also quite noisy. Job 36.29 asks, 'Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of the tabernacle?'

"Psalm 19.1 says
'...he set a tabernacle for the sun.' It would obviously shine from the gold covered boards that would flash before the eyes of those passing through the gate of the court. The people in their tents around the tabernacle would have been accustomed to the noise of their tents flapping in the wind, but the tabernacle's hangings must have been especially noisy.

...The burden of the tabernacle and its court was one of extreme difficulty, of transport, of protection from the wind and of noise. If I were among the people answering to Moses, I would have said 'You're

"I was thinking about St. Elmo's Fire and another phenomena,
Ball Lightning. The fire and smoke seen on the Mercy Seat also led the people around the desert. When it, usually a cloud, was seen to lift up above the tabernacle the camp would pack up and follow it. If it were a cloud produced from dew upon the tent covering evaporating, the cloud drifting away would have gone in the direction in which the wind was blowing. But the testimony would have seen through this effect, since the people might have held suspect anyone who would convince them to chase clouds. In a wikipedia search on both phenomenon I was struck by the comments on Ball lightning, which the article says is little understood and not necessarily constrained to thunderstorm activity. It can occur in a dry climate in clear weather.

"My inquiry with you seems to rule out thunderstorm activity, leaving
the phenomenon seen atop the Mercy Seat as either a product of static electricity or phenomena akin to the plasma of St. Elmo's Fire or Ball Lightning. As for the static electricity, I can see how it can be generated by the friction of the gold tenons in their silver sockets during a slight wind. According to your comment, the electrical charge would have to move from and to the ground up the inside of the gilded structure. Since all surfaces of the boards and bars were covered with gold, there would have been a path for the charge to go between the center gold ring and the gold tenons plugged into the ground. The question at hand would then be the amount of energy that could be stored in such a charge and how much the charge would have to be to arc to the Mercy Seat, sufficient to produce St. Elmo's Fire or Ball Lightning effects. The climate, being dry, would suggest the effect would not be St. Elmo's Fire, leaving only the alternative of Ball Lightning.

"The phenomena of Ball lightning can be accounted to the lifting up from the Mercy Seat and over the
Tabernacle. The cloud lifting up above the Tabernacle and leading the tribes to a new camp is a bit harder to explain. The cloud is the most commonly observed form, however, and it became a characteristic describing God, from the original sighting by Moses atop Mt. Sinai to even modern descriptions of the presence of God at each Jewish wedding, where it
the Shekinah would appear beneath
the wedding canopy and be a witness to the ceremony
[Ed. note: The canopy is called the Chuppah; the Shekinah is in Christian theological terms the Holy Spirit, though, in contrast, the Hebrew word is feminine; See a related work on Jewish Wedding tradition, "Acceptable Day.html"]

While past generations may have written off the tabernacle as a structure produced in the faith derived from Sinai, the fact is we have today the essential knowledge to go beyond explanations of faith and describe the phenomena through the science of physics.

"Because the Tabernacle and its court produced such a burden and was reported as being dangerous for priests to enter, some being struck down at the Mercy Seat; because  the device  plugged into the ground, because it was built out of boards, when a fabric structure was the norm; because it was covered in gold in a sandstorm prone region; because the device was strung together using cords and gold rings fitted around the bars; because the center of the device was a chest which had atop it a plate of gold whose ends were shaped into Two Cherubim, I concluded that the device is the most unusual and impractical structure ever conceived. The Two Cherubim appeared to have the shape of idols, which were forbidden in the scriptures carried within the chest (The theme of the Two Cherubim was carried into the Temple of Solomon as two pillars standing before the sacred enclosure containing the Ark and its Mercy Seat.) The scale of the temple, incidentally, was twice the size of the Tabernacle, standing the box on its side. David had moved the Tabernacle from Shiloh to the Temple Mount (with the court?) and his son, Solomon, concluded that God needed a more permanent structure.

"Since the tabernacle was moved to the Temple Mount we can conclude that
the phenomena of the smoke and fire seen in the desert continued in Jerusalem. No doubt the smoke and fire discontinued its habit of moving above the Mercy Seat, heading away from the structure that contained it, i.e., the Temple of Solomon, otherwise we would have seen reports of God's desire to move out of the temple and back to the Tabernacle which could be moved.

"I doubt that the
Tabernacle and its court is just another invention of man. It is quite strange and carried a most impractical design. Because of its bizarre design and affects I thought it worthwhile to see if it could be explained using modern scientific knowledge. While the faith derived in Sinai says that God is capable of all things, and while it can be written off as a miracle of God, I wonder whether there was a higher intelligence involved in the design and application of the Tabernacle. If the design and affects can be explained and duplicated by modern science, then we would be left with the final question dealing with the source of Moses' information. How did he get it? He certainly would not have known that the structure he built would produce the fire  and smoke.

"I would have to rule out that Moses and his people had a whirligig or
device that they could turn to produce static energy sufficient to produce the fire and smoke. If they had such a device it would have been listed with the equipment, since the equipment of the Tabernacle is listed in great detail. The instructions of Exodus, in fact, explain how to build it.

"The answer for the fire and smoke must be explained in terms of natural
affects. The knowledge of such a device and its affects would not have been available when it was first seen, about 1200 B.C. Again, because the device sometimes caused the death of a priest before the Mercy Seat, it is not likely that there was an attendant nearby turning a wheel against a fabric to produce electricity, and it is not likely they had wiring between such a device and the gold plate of the Mercy Seat.

"Could, then, static electricity be generated between the tenons and the
center gold ring, and could the box serve as a capacitor storing the energy until it jumped to the Mercy Seat?  A capacitor is an electric element used to store charge temporarily, consisting in general of two metallic plates separated by a dielectric (nonconductor of direct current). The two metallic plates would be the structure of the Tabernacle, of gold covered boards and bars and their gold tenons. The other plate would be the Mercy Seat, a solid gold plate with two upright poles (cherubim). One may ask whether the dielectric, if it is not the air between the center gold ring and Mercy Seat, could be associated with the coverings. The first cover was made out of linen, which should have been a static enabling material. The second covering was made out of rams skins died red, which I presume would be a nonconductor; the final covering on top of the structure was of badger skins, which I presume included the fur of the animal. We know that rubbing a comb through the hair can produce static electricity, and people 3,500 years ago did have combs, often made out of ivory, but usually wood. I'm wondering now whether the static moving from the tenons over the boards and bars and across the linen covering which drapes down its sides might produce a charge that would transfer through the nonconductor, which would be the ram's skin died red, to the badger skins with their fur. I always wondered about the badger skins, how odd they would have been selected. I concluded that it would have been for their fur and perhaps their temperament. But the appearance of the Tabernacle with the badger skins atop would have been grayish, displaying the color of the badger fur, and not particularly noteworthy. I wondered why the rams' skins died red were not put on top of the structure. Then it would have been spectacular to see. As it was what one would see in approaching it would be a rectangular building covered with gold with a dull grayish cover.

"If the badger skins had their fur, one might wonder whether the fur
faced outward or inward. If it faced outward it would have been a good collector of dust; turned inward it would have served to insulate the Tabernacle and possibly interact with the linen and gold structure under it. The interaction would be through the nonconductor of rams skin died red.

"My final thought with regard to the static charge, of the
Tabernacle being a capacitor storing energy that would arc to the Mercy Seat, leads me to wonder whether Ball Lightning might occasionally be associated with that capacitor. In any event, the tabernacle, the strangest device ever built on earth
seems to tempt or beg scientific explanation."

Dr. Uman's reply: "Static electricity is generated when two insulators are rubbed together. Two conductors, like gold and silver, won't produce appreciable charge. Sandstorms have been reported to produce sparks of  up to meter length via charging from collisions of different kinds of particles. Ball lightning is uncommon enough given lightning. Unlikely in the desert. St. Elmo's fire could be common on a metal structure in a dry climate if there are charged clouds overhead. Such clouds are  usually thunderstorms but can be other types of charged clouds on  occasion. Perhaps the literature describes cloud appearance over the  desert."

5. Could the phenomena of smoke and fire have been Ball Lighting?

Mel's reply: Thanks. That seems to leave the possibility of St. Elmo's Fire being produced during times when charged clouds appear in the desert. This must have been frequent enough to coincide with the prophecies received at the Mercy Seat by Aaron, Moses' brother, and the high priests that followed him. When Moses first received the commandments atop Mt. Sinai, there was observed a cloud(s) and lightning coming from the mountain (suggesting volcanic activity?). When the tabernacle was about to be moved, a cloud would appear above it and lead it off to a new site. I suspect this would have been no more than three times a year, where Spring and Fall pastures would hold them in one place during those seasons. I don't think the receipt of prophecies or instructions from God three times a year would be persuasive, consistent communication from God. The priests in Egypt and others of Baal made their living through their oracles from the gods and would have had to have a regular, constant communication going in order to justify the abundance brought to them for the altars. This criteria ought to apply also to the oracular activity involving the Hebrew priests. Hence, if the oracles and cloud of God had coincidence, I doubt that the desert climate would have accommodated the need for a cloud as often as the oracles were expected.

"This turns us back to a regular electrical generator, one that could produce the effect sufficient to supply the expectation for regular communications with God. Accepting that gold and silver only functioned as a conductor, then the only other parts of the device that could produce static electricity would be the coverings, one rubbing against another (linen against the rams skin; rams skin against the badger skin) and the gold frame of the building (linen against the gold frame). Would this, then, have established the building as a capacitor?

"If the building were a capacitor and produced charges from time to time from the center gold ring to the Mercy Seat, the length of the spark required to reach that distance must have been at least 8-9 feet, since the height of the building was 1
5 feet (10 cubits) and I suspect that the height of the Mercy Seat, atop its chest, would have been no greater than a kitchen counter top or a church altar, about 36-38 inches. It seems here that the Tabernacle stretches the expectations of science. Of course, there may be something that science may have missed as relating to the known physics of electrical charges, in which case an experiment with a box duplicating in scale the Tabernacle and its materials might supply the answer.

"The design of the device is so unusual it is hard to believe that generations of the Jews would testify to it, and the books received through it, if it actually did not function as the books reported. The tent simply had no elements in its construction and use that coincided with any known structure of its time
or our time, except as a capacitor. Though it was called a Tent of Refuge and a tent of meeting, it was rather small, being 22.5 feet wide by 45 feet long. That's about the size of a small 1,000 sq. ft. apartment. Recognizing this, what happened on the Mercy Seat would have been witnessed only by a few: the high priest and possibly his assistants. The congregation would not have fit into the Tabernacle and would have witnessed external activity, such as the cloud or fire lifting up above it, beckoning them off into the desert."
Post Script E-mail): "I publish a newspaper on the internet and came across an article from the Georgia Institute of Technology on a "microfiber fabric that makes its own electricity." The article is linked on my website, Maravot News: http://www.maravot.com/Maravot_News.html. I think the badger skin fur rubbing against the rams skin, and perhaps the gilded boards where it covered the sides of the Tabernacle,  may have produced the electricity."

Dr. Uman's reply: "You need to get some of those materials and try."

Mel's reply: "...I don't have the means or expertise to
conduct such a test...Using your calculations I would agree that natural physical phenomena would not account for the voltage necessary to produce a fire and smoke on the Mercy Seat... "

Reflections on the Tabernacle and its gift

Nothing has caused more bloodshed in the world than claims by men on the Bible, on the one hand, the failure of men to honor Promises in the Bible on the other hand, and worst of all, the ignorance of those who pretend to solve disputes in the Middle East, in particular, and the world in general without knowledge of, and consideration for, the Biblical sources of those disputes. People in all lands seem to enjoy using the Bible for their own personal pleasure, their own guarantee of God's favor, and the justification to kill others on God's behalf, whilst others, atheists, like Sigmund Freud, pontificate in their land of fantasy, how religion has no bearing upon their world. In these times, as we witness extremists, such as Islamists, attempting to murder innocent civilians around the world, the relevance of religion does have impact, whether one believes or not. In truth, the conversation on religion needs to be addressed and changed. The scripture complains "..I speak of peace you speak of war"; perhaps in the end the answer to peace is hidden in the Tabernacle, as it is said, For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his Tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. (Psalm 27.4)

Wars over the divine blessings have changed the borders of most of the world's nations, drenching the earth with blood in the process, over the past two thousand years; and those who thought to be bystanders, ambivalent to the goings on in any case, as was Freud, usually themselves become victims in time.

For reasons beyond my grasp, the author (God) of the Bible decided to set his Seat in the middle of Canaan [Palestine]. He calls Himself many names, including Adonai or Baal, meaning Lord; Elohim, a plural form of El, God, and YHVH (meaning I Am that I am).

The root of the Western World's present (and past) problems is the Bible; and it begins with a Promise to the Children of Abraham which the Jews have claimed for their inheritance, without thinking about the other Children of the Inheritance. The other children of Abraham were promised inheritances as well, the eldest of whom was Ishmael, whose foundation brought forth the Nations of Islam.

Rooted in the restoration of the nation of Israel is a claim made by the Jews through the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and UN Resolution of 1947 to the effect that the Jews had a right to return to their homeland, Eretz Israel, based upon the Covenant made between God and Abraham, as explained in the book of Genesis and subsequently clarified through the other four Books of Moses and the later prophets. The contract with Israel provided for the exile of the Children of Israel to all the nations of the earth (because of their failure to uphold their part of the covenant); and, then, in a time called the Latter Days, they would be restored to their land and redeemed to God. One of the things that was promised in the restoration was the Tabernacle:

Isaiah 4.3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called Holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem.
4.4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the Spirit of Judgment, and by the Spirit of
4.5 And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her
assemblies, a Cloud and Smoke by Day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense.
4.6 And there shall be a Tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.

A commentary relating to this verse of Isaiah is in the Talmud (Bavli LLXXXX1D): The soul of a righteous man is balanced against the whole world. Isaiah 13.12 - I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

Now the Zohar says God took his most precious possession and brought it down to them, saying, Israel, now you have my pledge; so I will never part from you. So I will place my Mishkan (dwelling) in
your midst. Thus we can anticipate how the Cloud of God and the Tabernacle in which it resides, is his most precious possession. And in all the sayings of God it becomes a criteria all of his disciples have used to measure the coming of his Anointed One (Messiah).

...What kind of man would most likely fall into this precious concern? It would be the Righteous Man, the Son of Righteousness. As it is said: Zohar. The human beings will perceive wondrous, precious wisdom never known by them before: all these are destined to alight on King Messiah so that he may judge the world.

The Egyptians note the descent of a people upon Egypt around 1500 B.C., down to 1200 B.C., following the sack of the Mycennaean Civilization and Troy, among whom were the Pulusti, who were generally called Sea Peoples. The Sea Peoples also included Shardana (from Sardinia) and SikulsThe Children of Abraham – we speak of the sons of Israel, his grandson – fell into captivity in Egypt for 400 years or so as a result of a long drought in Canaan. After the 400 years, as prophesied, a savior, Moses, was sent to them to lead them out of Egypt. When the people were drawn out of Egypt, Moses gave them five books called the Penteteuch, or Five Books of Moses, or simply called the Torah. In the books were the Ten Commandments which have pretty well made their impact upon the laws of most nations, including the US Constitution and the Charter of the United Nations. Just before the Children of Israel finally entered the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, encountering Jericho first, Moses required the people to pass between two mountains where blessings and curses were issued:

Deut. 28.58 If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God;
28.59 Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and...the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other..and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night...


Deuteronomy 30.1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
30.2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
30.3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whether the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
30.5..and the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
30.6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
30.7 And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.
30.18..I denounce unto you .. ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it [if you break this covenant-- ed. note].
30.19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live..that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Connected with the Tabernacle is this hope expressed by Isaiah:

Isaiah 33.10 Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.
33.17 Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
33.20 Look upon
Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a Tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.


1) I was disappointed to find in a
google search on the Tabernacle that prevailing experts on the structure promote illustrations of the Tabernacle that don't resemble the description of Exodus 26-27. While one may argue that the Bible is subject to interpretation, verses that describe the hangings of the court as being alternating red, blue and purple fabrics should at least be represented in any illustrations of the Tabernacle and its court. Also, the height of the six pillars that line the two sides of the gate should be represented (three pillars each 22.5 feet high, left and right, as you enter the gate; the four pillars of the gate that are 30 feet high should also be noted). The Tabernacle's covering also did not cover the boards as shown by some Tabernacle internet sites which may be viewed at: www.the-tabernacle-place.com and www.hebroots.com. These erroneous representations of the Tabernacle cast doubts on the scholars' credibility on other Biblical issues.

The design of the Gate is most interesting. If one were to
arrange the six pillars (three on each side of the gate) and four pillars of the gate in the form of a "mini-court" placed inside the court and arranged against four of the pillars of the court, the design would reduce the amount of space available to the actual court. If the "mini-court" were placed outside of the court, as an entryway to the gate, with the four pillars first, and the three side pillars on each side matching up to four of the center pillars of the court, a porch is created. However, there is a problem with the design of the "mini-court" in either case, since its higher hangings would block the view of any goings on in the Tabernacle complex. The four center pillars of the court would also serve in both cases as the actual gate, and to function as a gate at least two of their four hangings would have to be removed from their hooks on their pillars. In actual fact such a design would be described with two gates, and this kind of design is not indicated in Exodus 26-27.

The Western Gate of the Tabernacle Court
is probably after this manner: The three side pillars and their hangings, on each side of the gate and the four pillars of the Gate should be set in line, in lieu of the ten pillars on the western side of the Court. The four pillars of the Gate would have three hangings, all of which would be pulled up from the ground to about the height of seven and one half feet (the height of the court pillars). Each of the four pillars of the gate would have hooks or cleats to fasten lanyards secured to the feet of the four hangings. Pulling on the lanyards would cause the three hangings of the gate to rise, much like a curtain over a window is pulled up and secured. Pulling the three hangings of the gate up would allow a grand view of any proceedings at the altar before the Tabernacle. For instance, when Moses or Aaron the high priest, or another high priest, would address the people from the Tabernacle, the presentation could be viewed by those seated before the Tabernacle Court, outside the walls as it were. It is clear that the full congregation of the tribes of Israel surrounding the Tabernacle would not fit within the Court and that in a special presentation or feast the people would be observing from outside the Court. To observe a feast they would have to raise the three hangings of the four pillars of the Gate. Also, when raised the three hangings of the Gate would allow for the transport of animals dedicated to the feasts through the Gate. Of interest is the fact that the three pillars on each side of the Gate have the same height as the Tabernacle is wide. One could use a pillar to mark off the width of the Tabernacle (22.5'), when resetting it in a new camp; the six pillars could be laid out, in fact, to mark out the dimensions or circumference of the Tabernacle.

When the Tabernacle was moved to the Temple Mount and then replaced by the Temple of Solomon the essential design of the Tabernacle was carried into the Temple.
The description of the Temple is in 1 Kings chapter 6.

Related links:

Interesting article, telegraph.co.uk, April 12, 2006, " 'Church of the Ark' found on West Bank."
Page on Shiloh, where the Tabernacle resided after entering Canaan, until the time of David, bibleplaces.com


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launched 2.18.08
Updated: 2.19.08; 2.26.08; 9.13.09

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Copyright © 1981-2009 Mel Copeland. All rights reserved