Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Candlestick in the Holy Place

Here are the directions the Lord gave Moses about making the candlestick for the tabernacle:
31 ¶And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
32 And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side:
33 Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick.
34 And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers.
35 And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick.
36 Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold.
37 And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it. (Exodus 25:31-37)
It has been noted by others that the candlestick was meant to represent the tree of life, and from reading the description in these verses, we can see why.  It was to have six branches coming out of it, three on each side.  The bowls from which the flame was to be were shaped like almonds.  The branches were also to have flowers in them.  There are enough tree-like features to identify it as a tree. 

It may seem to be a strange form for a tree, but it is a pretty good representation if you consider that an espaliered tree would look just like that.  Espalier is when someone trains a tree to grow against a wall, by cutting all branches on the front and back of the main trunk and training the side-by-side branches to grow against a garden wall.  It maximizes warmth and extends the tree’s growing season.  We are meant to associate this tree with the Lord’s garden, the Garden of Eden.  This is a guided, cultivated tree, just like eternal life is to be carefully guided and cultivated.
Why might the Lord have chosen an almond tree to be represented with this candlestick?  It so happens that the almond tree was a symbol of watchfulness and promise because of its early flowering in January and February.  It was much appreciated for this characteristic. 

It also happens that the place where Jacob had his dream of a ladder reaching to heaven was first called “Luz,” which means “almond tree” before it became known as “Bethel” or “house of God.”  Perhaps the Lord wanted to add this layer of meaning, associating almonds trees with idea of the climbing to God, together with this espaliered garden tree of life.

Also, consider the flame on this candlestick was fueled by olive oil, which is a symbol of the Holy Ghost.  It may be that it represented the idea that the inner fire of the Holy Ghost was an early promise of a future eternal life.