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Shemot/Exodus 40:18-19 And Moshe erected the Tabernacle ... as the L-rd had commanded Moshe.
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Nearly at the end of the account of the construction and setting to work of the Tabernacle, we find this text only two verses after, "This Moses did; just as the L-RD had commanded him, so he did" (Shemot 40:16, JPS). Isn't this just repetition, not really adding anything to the narrative or our understanding, theAbravanel asks? No, he answers, for verse sixteen "confirms that Moshe fulfilled the commandment to make the Tabernacle," while these verses and those that follow confirm that "Moshe fulfilled the commandment to set up the Tabernacle." Two distinctly different operations that could have been done by different people - indeed, after this first time, it will be the priests and the Levites who will put up and take down the Tabernacle. But, as Gunter Plaut points out, this first time, "the final realisation of his vision belongs to him"; Moshe is allowed to assemble and commission all the pieces himself and see that everything comes together correctly to match the vision HaShem showed him: "As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made" (27:8, NASB).
In one way, verses 18-34 mirror Creation. Moshe clearly didn't create anything ex nihilo, but the choice of verbs and structure suggest that the process and the seven days of creation were in the writer's mind. The verb is the Hif'il 3ms prefix form of the root , "to rise or arise" (Davidson), with a standard vav-conversive to make the sense past tense and the next step in a narrative sequence. Looking at how is used in its Hif'il voice, we see a range of meanings such as "to raise, lift up, set up, bring into existence, establish". Moshe brought the Tabernacle into existence from its component parts - he created the Tabernacle. Umberto Cassuto amplifies the idea by noting that "at the end of each passage is re-iterated, like an echo reverberating seven times, 'as the L-rd commanded Moshe'"1. The block culminates with, "When Moshe had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the L-RD filled the Tabernacle" (40:33-34, JPS), reflecting the creation account's "On the seventh day G-d finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And G-d blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it G-d ceased from all the work of creation that He had done" (B'resheet 2:2-3, JPS).
Working from the definite article in , theBaal HaTurim comments that, "It does not say that Moshe erected 'a' Tabernacle, rather 'the' Tabernacle, because this included the Tabernacle on high. For as the Pesikta Rabbati states: When the Jews established a Tabernacle in this world, the Holy One, Blessed is He, commanded the angels to build a Sanctuary for Him in the spiritual realms." Moshe is credited not just with assembling or bringing into existence the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Jewish tradition also credits him with being causal in the erection of the Heavenly Tabernacle, of which he had seen the plans by HaShem when on Mt. Sinai. The writer to the Hebrews might share that view, as he writes, "For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by G-d, saying, 'See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain'" (Hebrews 8:5, ESV). Did Moshe see just a set of plans, or did he see a complete assembled Tabernacle? We can even see the progression forward from that point; the Hebrews author points out that, "it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Messiah has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of G-d on our behalf" (9:23-24, ESV). The earthly Tabernacle needed to be consecrated by the blood of the animals that Moshe slaughtered; the heavenly Tabernacle by Yeshua's own blood, as it says: "when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (vv. 11-12, ESV). Yeshua obtained the blood of His own offering on the cross, at a point in earthly time centuries after Moshe first consecrated the Tabernacle.
We also find the concept of setting up a tabernacle in John's first description of Yeshua, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14, ESV); using the quainter old word, Yeshua tabernacled or pitched His tent among us. Creation too is a part of Yeshua's work as Rav Sha'ul wrote to the Ephesians: "to create a single New Man out of the two" (Ephesians 2:15, NJB). Yeshua created the One New Man from Jews and Gentiles who believed in Him; not creation ex nihilo, but from the existing groups of Jew and Gentile.
When Moshe had finished setting up and consecrating the Tabernacle, "the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the L-RD filled the Tabernacle" (Shemot 40:34, JPS). The same thing happened when Solomon finished the construction and dedication of the Temple: "Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the L-RD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the L-RD, because the glory of the L-RD filled the L-RD's house" (2 Chronicles 7:1-2, JPS). When Yeshua entered the heavenly Tabernacle with His blood, "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split, and the tombs were opened" (Matthew 27:51-52, NASB). After Peter and John had been arrested for teaching about Yeshua and then released, the early church gathered to pray "And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of G-d with boldness" (Acts 4:31, NASB). When we set up a Tabernacle - a holy space, time or work as directed by the Spirit - should we not expect that there will be a significant response in this world as the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds thins down and the spiritual breaks through into the physical. Just as Moshe brought the Tabernacle into existence and Yeshua brought the One New Man into existence, so we in this generation as part of the One New Man, are bringing the kingdom into existence around us, by our words and our actions - the boundary thins and the spiritual breaks through into this world; "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves" (2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB).
Going back to Pesikta Rabbati, the early rabbis allowed themselves to speculate a little: "The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: When the Tabernacle stood in this world, I commanded Aharon and his sons that they be ones to bless you; but in the time-to-come, I, with My very own glory, will bless you, for it is written, 'May the L-RD, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion' (Psalm 134:3, JPS)" (Pesikta Rabbati 5:11).2 They see a day when instead of the priests being G-d's agent for blessing, G-d Himself will be among His people and will bless them. On Patmos, John heard a loud voice crying, "Behold, the tabernacle of G-d is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and G-d Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4, NASB), echoing several texts from the prophets; the early rabbis knew those texts as well as John - this is, in that sense, not new and perhaps they were not so far off the wall as we might think.
When we set up a tabernacle for G-d, we enable G-d to use us to bless people now, until that time comes when He does it Himself. We walk among the people, "a fragrance of Messiah to G-d among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NASB). We share His blessing with those who will hear, "we speak out of a sincere heart, as people sent by G-d, standing in G-d's presence, living in union with the Messiah" (v. 17, CJB). We are His hands and feet, bringing comfort and compassion in His name to those who suffer. We are His stewards, able to distribute from His treasury where there is need or poverty. Creating a tabernacle for G-d empowers us to participate in the creation of the kingdom!
1. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1983, 965-223-456-7
2. - William Braude (tr.), Pesikta Rabbati, Yale Judaica Series, Volume XVIII, 1968, Yale University Press
Further Study: Isaiah 4:4-6; Luke 12:40-46
Application: Have you created a tabernacle for G-d in your life? Have you made space for Him in your life so that He can establish His kingdom in and around you and bless His people? File a planning application today and start clearing the ground!
© Jonathan Allen, 2016
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