You know those chapters (upon chapters and chapters) in the Old Testament that give detail (after painstaking detail) of how many cubits and what kind of cloth and exactly which kind of wood the Israelites were supposed to use? Those chapters (upon chapters and chapters) have got to be the reason the Old Testament can be so hard to read cover to cover. We all (ok, “we all” meaning “I myself”) get lost somewhere in Leviticus and Numbers and it’s just really hard to get through. Genesis is fun! Leviticus and Numbers, well, lets just say it has to be a labor of love sometimes.
Well, finally someone decided to do something about it!
A group of people in California were assigned from their church leaders to build the Tabernacle. They were given the blueprint – straight from the scriptures – and told to get to work. What they built has toured from California as far as Michigan. We were lucky enough to get some tickets when it stopped near our small town.
The tour started in the foyer of BYU’s religious studies building. There were a good handful of displays to help us understand what the priest and high priest would have been wearing, the materials the Tabernacle was made of, and some comparisons of the Tabernacle to Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple, and then modern day LDS temples. The little exhibits, by themselves, were really interesting, and made the tour more meaningful.
Then we got to go outside and enter the first gate. Our tour guide talked about the theme of ascension. In Solomon’s Temple, there would been actual steps to each transition area symbolizing ascending closer to the place of God. But in the Tabernacle, this was accomplished more in the way of separation. All people could come to the first gates of the Tabernacle. All Israelites could come up to the alter of sacrifice. All the priests could come as far as into the second gate. But only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, or the place where God dwelt. Our tour guide a lot of the symbolism to us. I felt like I knew the basics of the Tabernacle already, but she was able to point out things I had never thought of before.
We got to see the alter, the laver, the menorah, the shewbread, and the alter of incense. Then we passed through the third gate decorated with cherubim and the symbolic colors blue, scarlet, and purple seen so much in the Tabernacle, and inside into the Holy of Holies. There we saw a replica of the Ark of The Covenant with Moses’ stone tablets, an almond branch, and the manna inside.
(I kept waiting for someone to make a “Raider’s of the Lost Ark” comment about our faces melting off, or something. But apparently I was the least spiritually minded person in there because nobody else seemed to be thinking of that. I’m glad I didn’t say anything!)
It was an amazing little field trip. My 1st grader came home so excited to tell his dad everything he had seen! I’m so glad we got a chance to go. It was a perfect way to make really old stories about very different people who lived a very, very long time ago come to life.
(Sorry my pictures are so bad. I had one kid pulling on my arm telling me he had to go to the bathroom, another complaining that his stomach hurt, but no, he didn’t think he was going to throw up, and the lighting inside the tabernacle was meant to be as close to authentic as possible – which means it was dark except for a few little yellow LED lights.)
Here is a little youtube video touring the tabernacle replica we got to see.
This second video explains much of the symbolism of the Hight Priest. It is FASCINATING!