Exodus 26:7-14 (ESV)
“You shall also make curtains of goats' hair for a tent over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make. The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains shall be the same size. You shall couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and the sixth curtain you shall double over at the front of the tent. You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in the second set.
“You shall make fifty clasps of bronze, and put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together that it may be a single whole. And the part that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. And the extra that remains in the length of the curtains, the cubit on the one side, and the cubit on the other side, shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it. And you shall make for the tent a covering of tanned rams' skins and a covering of goatskins on top.”
This section describes the second through fourth layers of covering to go over the tabernacle. There are many distinctions to note. Curiously, the word “tent” is used here for the first time. However, the previous section seems to describe a flat roof. That’s hard to imagine for a tent as it would pool rainwater. Also, the description of the frame in the next section doesn’t include a ridgepole, so we can’t be sure that the roof wasn’t flat. Still, these people made a lot of tents and standard tent-making things may be assumed.
The second layer is slightly larger than the ornate first layer. That may be for protection or may be to leave room for a ridgepole or some other spacing between it and the first layer. The second layer is made of goat hair, which was a standard tent material in Old Testament times due to its durability and rain repellent properties. Nowadays the only goat hair fabrics we see are exotic types such as angora and cashmere, but back then all types of woven goat hair were common.
The last two layers are only briefly mentioned. No details are given, but the goal is obviously weather proofing. Such a short description provides latitude for things like a ridgepole to help the drainage. Note: the word for the last layer’s material is difficult to translate. The ESV says, “goatskins.” The New King James says, “badger skins.” The NIV says, “hides of sea cows.”
Yes, there are sea cows in the Red Sea.
The Israelites were expert tentmakers, and they were on the move, so it’s not surprising that the tabernacle is basically a tent. God often calls us in areas where we bring something to the table. That’s why there are many excellent spiritual surveys designed to help you discern what your gifts are.
We shouldn’t just ask God to show us what we should do, but also show us who we are to be. Who is God calling you to be? What gifts and talents has He given you? Where might that be leading?
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