The Silver Sockets

And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.--Exodus 30:16

David Stein

Since the doctrine of the ransom is the foundation of God's plan for the redemption of mankind, it would seem logical to find some picture of it in the Tabernacle types.

Consider the following from Exodus 26:15-25 about the construction of the Tabernacle itself. Of particular interest are the silver sockets which served as the foundation of the Tabernacle: "And thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood standing up. Ten cubits shall be the length of a board, and a cubit and a half shall be the breadth of one board. Two tenons shall there be in one board, set in order one against another: thus shalt thou make for all the boards of the tabernacle. And thou shalt make the boards for the tabernacle, twenty boards on the south side southward. And thou shalt make forty sockets of silver under the twenty boards; two sockets under one board for his two tenons, and two sockets under another board for his two tenons. And for the second side of the tabernacle on the north side there shall be twenty boards: And their forty sockets of silver; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board. And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards. And two boards shalt thou make for the corners of the tabernacle in the two sides. And they shall be coupled together beneath, and they shall be coupled together above the head of it unto one ring: thus shall it be for them both; they shall be for the two corners. And they shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board."

Each of the forty-eight boards of the Tabernacle had two tenons, cylinders of wood which plugged into two silver sockets and gave the boards a firm, unmovable foundation. Since each board had two sockets, the forty-eight boards required ninety-six silver sockets. There were four more silver sockets supporting the four pillars within the Tabernacle holding the inner vail dividing the Holy from the Most Holy. Thus the total number of silver sockets was one hundred.

The source of the silver used to make the sockets came from a special collection: "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls."--Exodus 30:11-16

This collection which is associated with the numbering of Israel is called in verse 12 "a ransom for his soul" and in verse 16 "the atonement money." Both expressions remind us of the atonement price Jesus paid with his life. How was this "atonement money" used? The context tells us that it was to be used for the service of the Tabernacle. A more specific answer is given in Exodus 38:25-27: "And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men. And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the vail; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket."

Most of the "ransom" and "atonement money" was used to make the hundred silver sockets! So they are scripturally associated with the twin concepts of ransom and atonement. The Tabernacle foundation beautifully connects with Jesus as the foundation of the church.

There is more to this lesson. We see that each silver socket weighed one talent. This weight or quantity of silver is associated with the value of a man's life. "And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king: and he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver" (1 Kings 20:39).

This text specifically defines the value of a man's life as one talent. Thus the value of each silver socket is the value of a man's life. In the case of our lesson, the life can be none other than Jesus' life, especially as a ransom for the life forfeited by Adam--another man's life.

There is one more lesson that relates the silver sockets to Jesus. There are exactly 100 of them. The number 100 seems to be another symbol of Jesus. Further confirmation of the number 100 as a symbol identifying Jesus and the atonement he made for us may be seen in the firstborn redemption price. While they were in the wilderness, God made a change in the worship of Israel. Prior to the giving of the law, the firstborn male of each family eventually became the priest for the family. But under the Mosaic Law, God chose the Levites as the priestly tribe. In this exchange described in Numbers chapter 3, we are told there were 273 more firstborn than Levites. Therefore a special redemption had to be made for them. Numbers 3:47 (also Numbers 18:16) specifies the redemption price: "Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs)."

The redemption price is exactly 100 gerahs (five shekels, 20 gerahs per shekel). So the number 100 is associated with the redemption price. It is even more intriguing when we consider that this same redemption price for a firstborn was given earlier as a lamb! (Exodus 13:13) Thus the Bible confirms that 100 gerahs equals one lamb and authenticates the symbol.

A further observation of the symbolic use of the number 100 is found in the gate of the courtyard. It contained an area of 100 square cubits (20 cubits wide by 5 cubits high). Similarly the door to the Tabernacle was 100 square cubits (10 cubits wide by 10 cubits high). In each case, the portals represent Jesus as the way into and through the narrow way.

Considering the ransom to be shown in the foundation sockets is consistent in yet another way. Each board fit snugly into the sockets by means of two tenons. The heavy silver sockets would act as a firm foundation for the Tabernacle. The boards would seem to be a good type of the individual members of the church. Our standing in Christ is two-fold. We are founded in Jesus by virtue of our justification--our standing is in his righteousness. Second, we are sanctified by his blood. Sanctification is the process by which we are set apart unto God's holy service and prepared for our station beyond the vail.

In the Bible silver is a general symbol of truth. The silver sockets not only depict the value of the ransom sacrifice--the perfect life of Jesus--but additionally suggest that this is a truth of precious importance to us if we are to honor our heavenly Father and make our calling and election sure.

Prophetic Epilogue

In Revelation 16:21 we read about mighty hailstones each weighing a talent bombarding the earth. This symbolic picture combines two symbols. Hail is water that has frozen. Water is a general symbol of truth. Hard water [ice] would seem to be a picture of "hard" truths, that is, truths that are not particularly appreciated because of the pain they cause. What truths might these be? Perhaps they would include truths associated with the value of life--the weight of a talent. By the sacrifice of his life, Jesus purchased mankind which makes him the legitimate ruler and king. The nations do not want to have their rulership terminated. But this prophecy and that of Psalm 2 indicate that Jesus, as the rightful king, will break the nations in pieces. This "hard" truth is not quickly accepted and is thus seen as a great plague.

If we make the general connection of the weight of a talent with the value of life, we might also see an extension to the truth about the value of human life in general which has been violated by rulers and governments to their shame during the whole rule of sin and death. They will have to learn the hard way that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16).