What was the Israelites' tent of meeting?
The "tent of meeting" is another name used for the Jewish tabernacle that was built as a place of worship for the people of Israel during their 40-year wilderness journey after leaving Egypt ("tabernacle" means tent). The design or pattern for this tent of meeting was given to Moses by the Lord on Mount Sinai (Exodus 25—27).
The Lord specifically identified the two men who were to lead the team that would build the tent of meeting: "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship … And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan" (Exodus 31:2-3, 6a). These gifted men led many others who constructed the tent of meeting using contributed materials from the community of Israel.
The tabernacle functioned as a mobile house of worship. Its parts could be assembled and disassembled by the Levites and moved as needed during their journey. God detailed its construction and its maintenance: "But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle" (Numbers 1:50). In its courtyard, the Levitical priests, beginning with Aaron and his sons, offered animal sacrifices as atonement for the sins of the people. Inside, in the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant sat as the base for the presence of God.
After the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, the tabernacle was set up at Gilgal (Joshua 4:19). It was later moved to Shiloh (Joshua 18:1), where Joshua's tribe lived, and remained there during the next three hundred years as judges ruled Israel. During the time of King Saul, the tent of meeting was moved to Nob before being returned to Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39). Upon completion of the temple, Solomon had the tabernacle brought to the temple mount (1 Kings 8:4), and the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies inside the temple. The tent of meeting is not mentioned in the Old Testament after this time, and it is unclear what happened to it. Interestingly, Jewish synagogues are often modeled on the outline of the original tent of meeting.
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the tent of meeting is used to illustrate the differences between the Law of Moses and the atonement of Christ. Hebrews 9:11-12 says, "But when Christ 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."
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