Monday, October 8, 2018

The Covering of the Tabernacle Equipment

5 And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering veil, and cover the ark of testimony with it:
6 And shall put thereon the covering of badgers’ skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof.
7 And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon:
8 And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.
9 And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister unto it:
10 And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put it upon a bar.
11 And upon the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put to the staves thereof:
12 And they shall take all the instruments of ministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put them on a bar:
13 And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon:
14 And they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basins, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers’ skins, and put to the staves of it. (Numbers 4:5-14)
In these verses as I was reading I noticed that the Tabernacle equipment was to be covered before it was moved. This emphasized its sacredness and how it was set apart for holy use.

But I also noticed that the manner of covering the objects was not always the same. Moving inward:
·      Altar of sacrifice – covered by purple cloth, then altar vessels/censers/fleshhooks/shovels/ basins, then badger skin.
·      Instruments of ministry in sanctuary – covered by blue cloth, then badger skin.
·      Golden altar of incense – covered by cloth of blue, then badger skin.
·      Candlestick, tongs, snuffers, oil vessels – covered in blue, then badger skin.
·      Shewbread table – covered by blue cloth, then table utensils & shewbread, then scarlet cloth, then badger skin.
·      Ark of the covenant – covered by veil, then badger skin, then blue cloth.

This caused me to ask more questions. Why are some things covered in blue, others by scarlet, and others in purple? Why are some things covered with badger skin on top and the ark isn’t? Is there a progression of change in color as one approaches the holy of holies? Are there any types of Christ present here? Is there a gradation of holiness represented by color or position or number of coverings?

After pondering these different things, it seems to me that there is sophisticated symbolism at work here, teaching things about the Messiah, His nature, and His mission.

First, let’s think about the colors. Blue, scarlet, and purple are used a lot in the robes of the high priest. Blue, with its easy association with the sky, makes us think of the divine and of holiness. Scarlet makes us think of blood, and therefore man in his mortal condition. Purple has several associations. It was a very expensive color at that time, so it was confined to those who had wealth, usually royalty. Also, the color happens to be a mix between blue and red, so it could be in itself a type of Christ, who had both divine and mortal parentage.

The purple cloth that covered the altar of sacrifice says something about the high price of that sacrifice, the fact that Jesus is king of Israel, and His divine-mortal nature.

Many of the things in the holy place were covered with a blue cloth, then with badger skin. The blue makes me think of divinity and badger skin of mortality as well.

The shewbread table, however, had a different kind of covering pattern. The table was first covered with blue cloth, then all the table utinsels and shewbread was placed on it, then covered by scarlet cloth, then badger skin. Why the scarlet?   I think the scarlet was in consideration of how the shewbread represented the twelve tribes of Israel, who were mortal, sinful, and who needed redemption. The shewbread was carried on the blue-covered table, which I think teaches something about how divine power and grace carries us.

The ark of the covenant was first covered with the veil (which separated the holy place from the holy of holies). This made the space under the veil a miniature holy of holies and ensured no unhallowed eyes would see it. Then badgerskin, as all the other things were, and then topped with blue out where all would see it! And the ark would be carried out front. This, I think, teaches first how Christ was a visible example to all of us. Also, I think that blue on the outside teaches that after He died, or passed through the veil, He rose from the dead and regained His glory and ascended into heaven.

That’s a lot of stuff to teach just with the preparations for getting rady to move the Tabernacle! It seems the Lord wanted the priests and Levites to ponder those things and know of His mission even in day-to-day tasks.