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Grace. Truth. Family.

Exodus 27 – The Tabernacle vs. The Temple

We’ve had some fun the past few weeks measuring the different pieces of furniture and the Tabernacle itself right in the auditorium. But how does all this match up against the size of Solomon’s Temple?

Remember, King David desired to build God a temple, that the Lord might dwell in a house rather than in a tent (2 Sam 7:2). God allowed David’s son Solomon to build the temple. Solomon’s motto must have been, “Go big or go home,” because he certainly built the temple significantly bigger than the Tabernacle.

Just about everything that Solomon built was a large step above what was made for the Tabernacle, but let’s look at just one item of furniture before moving on to the structure of the buildings themselves.

The Bronze Altar that Moses built for the Tabernacle was 5 cubits long x 5 cubits wide x 3 cubits high (Ex 27:1). A cubit equals about a foot and a half, so the dimensions of his altar were 7.5’ x 7.5’ x 4.5’.

Now let’s compare that to Solomon’s altar. 2 Chronicles 4:1 gives us the dimensions: 20 cubits long x 20 cubits wide x 10 cubits high. That measures out to 30’ x 30’ x 15’.

Putting the two next to each other, we see the significant difference (all of the following diagrams are made to scale):

 

Wow! When put next to each other, Solomon’s altar dwarfs the original one. This makes sense, because Moses’s altar was made to be portable. It had to be carried from place to place in the wilderness for many decades, as well as carried around the land of Israel as well. Solomon’s altar certainly was not movable, but neither was his temple designed to go from location to location.

Now let’s take a look at the structure of the building itself. The Tabernacle was 45’ long x 15’ wide x 15’ high (see last week’s blog for comments on the width of the building; Ex 26:16-21). Solomon’s Temple, as you might imagine, was significantly larger. We get the dimensions in 1 Kings 6:2-3: 60 cubits long x 20 cubits wide x 30 cubits high (90’ x 30’ x 45’).

Again, it is helpful to see a visual comparing the two:

 

This too is impressive, and to add to it we should keep in mind that Solomon’s Temple was much more than just the temple building. It had a porch and side rooms and other elements that the Tabernacle itself did not have.

Solomon did a lot of other things at a much grander scale than the Tabernacle. We don’t know the dimensions of the cherubim upon the Ark’s mercy seat, but we know that Solomon made two giant cherubim for inside the Holy of Holies (I assume these were in addition to the ones on the mercy seat, since we don’t have evidence that Solomon re-did the Ark of the Covenant). These cherubim were each 15’ tall x 15’ wide (wing tip to wing tip; 2 Kgs 6:23-28)! That means that if these were placed in the original Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, their heads would’ve scraped the ceiling and their wings would’ve touched the walls.

We could continue our comparisons by bringing into the conversation the Second Temple, Herod’s upgrades, and Ezekiel’s Temple. But for now, it’s important to keep in mind that the splendor of any of these buildings is simply a reflection of the glory of the God who dwelt in them. May we, the temple of God’s Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19), keep this in mind as we consider how we are being ever changed from glory to glory to reflect the awesomeness of our Savior.

5 Comments

  1. Pastor Bryan, I Appreciate You and your weekly Messages from the Services I have had to Miss. I’ve been terrible Sick but I on the mend!!! Whoo-Hoo!!! I am Deeply Saddened I Missed Mrs. Mary Dorin’s Funeral and Celebration at the church. She was one of the very first Ladies I met when we came to Bethany In 1972 (I Believe). Thank You Very Much Once Again.
    God Bless

  2. Thank you for the design details. Could you please clarify the purpose of the Tabernacle vs the Temple. If the one was purely to carry the presence of God and the other as a gathering place, what would you consider the modern day Church Building to be in your opinion. Thank you

    • Thanks for the note, Retha. The Tabernacle and Temple both had overlapping purposes: it was the place that God chose to specially dwell among His people at that time. God is omnipresent, meaning that He is everywhere all at once (Ps 139:7-12), but His presence was especially connected with these structures as a center for community worship. Both were places where God’s presence dwelt and both were gathering places of worship.

      The modern day church building would simply be a building. In the New Testament, the word “church” is used two main ways, neither of which are referring to an actual structure: either the local gathering of professed believers, or the universal body of all believers in Christ. Local church vs universal church. But neither is a building. So the buildings we call “church” today, though they are convenient places to gather and worship, are not biblically mandated as the temple and Tabernacle were. The NT tells us that we believers are the temple (both our physical bodies house the presence of God and as a universal church we are the temple; 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19-20).

      Thanks for the question. Hope that helps!

  3. Just read your comments comparing the tabernacle and temple; very helpful. In reading the account of thetemple’s dedication in 1 Kings 6 there is a description of the “outrageous” (my quotes) number of animals that were sacrificed, presumably as an act of worship(?). I believe the sacrificial system was mandated to preserve the believer’s fellowship with God and Ps 40:6 clearly puts the mechanism in it’s proper context. So what’s going on with all those innumerable sacrifices in 1 Kings?

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