Tabernacles and Temples in the Bible
The First Tabernacle
There is a ‘progressive revelation’ of God’s dwelling place through the Word of God.
The First Taberncale was the Tabernacle of Moses set up in the book of Exodus while the Children of Israel we in the wilderness on their way to the promised land
The Tabernacle of Moses was the first of it’s kind, but was a temporary tent. It was designed to be portable and moved with Israel through their wilderness wanderings.
Once Israel settled in the promised land, the Tabernacle was finally set up in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1; 19:51), and was the centre of Israel’s worship for around 300 years.
It was at Shiloh that The Prophet Samuel was raised, under the Priest Eli, in the Tabernacle. (1 Samuel 1 - 3).
The Ark and the tabernacle continued at Shiloh, from around 1444 B.C. to 1116 B.C.
At this time, the Ark of the Covenant was lost in battle to the Philistines (1 Samuel 4-6) and even once recovered never returned again to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. Since the Ark represented the Glory of God, when the ark was lost, Eli’s daughter in law named her son Ichabod (meaning the glory has departed) declaring:
1 Samuel 4:22
:22 And she said, "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured."
The Tabernacle of David
Once the Ark was recovered from the Philistines, it was taken to Kirjath Jearim (1 Samuel 6:20-7:1) where it stayed through the reign of King Saul until the time of King David who brought it to the City of David (2 Samuel 6).
Here, David set up a Tabernacle (come to be known as the Tabernacle of David).
This was also a tent, like Moses’ Tabernacle in the wilderness.
2 Samuel 6:17
:17 So they brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
We are told very little about David’s Tabernacle, except for a couple of prophetic references to it in Amos 9:11 and Acts 15:16.
What we do know is that David did not construct this Tabernacle like Moses’ one. David’s Tabernacle did not have a Holy of Holies and other partitioned sections. It was also far more accessible to people, whereas Moses Tabernacle was largely only open to the Priests and only the High Priest could access certain areas.
We are also shown that David’s Tabernacle was a place where sacrifices and offerings were made continually.
David also included music into the Tabernacle worship (see 1 Chronicles 16:4-6 & 16:37-43)
1 Chronicles 16:4-6
:4 And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the LORD God of Israel:
:5 Asaph the chief, and next to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, and Obed-Edom: Jeiel with stringed instruments and harps, but Asaph made music with cymbals;
:6 Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests regularly blew the trumpets before the ark of the covenant of God.
The Temple of Solomon
David knew that this Tabernacle he had set up was temporary and he desired to build God a specific Temple that would no longer just be a tent, but a building.
God told him he was not to be the one to build the Temple, but instead that his seed after him would do it.
Speaking to David, God said the following:
2 Samuel 7:12-13
:12 "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
:13 "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
In the natural, this referred to Solomon, who built the Temple, but is prophetically referring to Jesus who was THE Seed who built God’s house (the church) and who’s throne is established forever. Solomon’s throne was not established forever by God, showing that he was not really the one God was referring to here.
God was speaking specifically about ‘The Seed’ - Jesus, who was to build God’s house.
David spent his entire life stockpiling wealth for the building of the Temple that his son Solomon was to construct.
He stockpiled incredible wealth in gold that today would total in the Billions! David’s desire was to see a Temple constructed for God that would be totally magnificent, and did not want to give God a ‘cheap’ looking house.
Solomon then took this wealth, added to it and built The Temple. (1 Kings 5-6). The ark was then brought to the Temple and God’s glory filled it like He had filled Moses’ Tabernacle in the wilderness. (1 Kings 8)
The Temple in the New Testament
This Temple was eventually destroyed through Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and then rebuilt in the time of Ezra (Ezra 3-5). This was Zerrubbabel’s Temple (Ezra 6:15,16; Haggai)
Although there was a Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day HE was THE Temple, as God’s presence dwelt within Him. Speaking of Jesus we are told:
:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The word ‘dwelt’ here means: to tent or encamp, to reside (as God did in the Tabernacle of old)
When Jesus died, the veil in the Temple at Jerusalem was torn in 2, showing that God’s presence no longer dwells in a building made with man’s hands.
God’s Temple is now the church, where God resides
2 Corinthians 6:16
:16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."
Finally the book of Revelation speaks of the Temple of God in heaven, until eventually in Revelation 21 we are shown the New Jerusalem, which according to John’s Revelation has no Temple!
:22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
This is THE final fulfillment of God’s desire to dwell among His people, and not need an earthly tabernacle of Temple to do so. Just like in Genesis, God dwells with His people.