The Holy

And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.—Exodus 26:33

David Rice

The Holy was the first and larger of the two compartments of Israel’s Tabernacle. It is commonly considered to have outside dimensions of 10 20 cubits. This is evidently correct, but this information is given only indirectly in the scriptures.

The outside length of the structure is calculated from the figures respecting the side boards in Exodus 26:16-18 which says each side contained 20 boards, each 1 cubits wide, yielding 30 cubits overall. The inside width was 9 cubits, judging by verse 22 which says the back end of the Tabernacle contained 6 boards, presumably spanning the interior width between the two side walls. But as the Temple measures are given as 60 cubits long and 20 cubits wide in 1 Kings 6:2 (presumably exterior measurements), the inference from the proportions is that the Tabernacle would have been 10 cubits wide (exterior measurement). In this case the boards were evidently cubit thick.

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We therefore know the width of the structure, but what of its length? Exodus 26:33 tells us the interior was divided by a veil hung under the golden taches connecting the two parts of the white linen tapestry forming the ceiling of the “tabernacle” proper (Exodus 26:1). As verses 2 and 3 of the same chapter explain, each of the two parts of that tapestry was composed of five strips measuring 4 28 cubits. Five strips would be 20 cubits wide, and when they were joined together with golden taches, the length would be 40 cubits. This covering began at the front of the Tabernacle structure, which means the taches had to fall 20 cubits from the entrance of the structure. Under these taches the veil was hung. Thus do we reason that the Holy was 20 cubits long.

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The Gospel age is often represented by the number 2, or its greater magnitudes 20, 200, 2,000. A 20-cubit length for the Holy fits the symbolism. Perhaps two is used because the fruits of this age of the spirit are nourished by the two sources of instruction, the Old and New Testaments. The two fishes (Matthew 14:17), two pence (Luke 10:35), 20 years oppression by Jabin (Judges 4:3), 20 years of Samson (Judges 15:20), 20 years of the ark at Kirjath-Jearim (1 Samuel 7:2), 200 pennyworth of bread (Mark 6:37), 200 cubits to shore (John 21:8), 2,000 cubits from the ark to the Israelites (Joshua 3:4)—all relate in one way or another to the span of the Gospel age, or to the nourishment and care of the saints during it.

Furnishings of the Holy

The Holy contained three main items of furniture: the lampstand, the table of shewbread, and the incense altar. Each represents something concerning the development of the saints during the Gospel age. The lampstand, which produced light for the room, shows how our enlightenment comes as a result of using (burning) the holy spirit (oil), throughout the seven stages of the church (seven branches of the lampstand). The lampstand was made of a single talent of gold, perhaps 75 to 90 pounds (Exodus 25:39). Today the gold alone would be worth about a half million dollars. Such a precious piece of furniture represents the infinitely more precious class of saints who are fashioned with the hammer of experience for their divine service. (In contrast the apostate church, the wicked woman of Zechariah 5:7, is associated with a talent of lead, a much inferior metal.)

The description of the lampstand in Exodus 25:31-40 specifies three branches on either side, plus a central stem, allowing seven extremities each containing a lamp for burning. Each of the six branches was adorned with three sets of cups shaped like almond blossoms, with a knop (bud or bulb) and a flower; the center stem was adorned with four of these. (The NASB and NIV versions are helpful here.) Thus there is a total of 22 such sets. These might represent the original 22 books of the Old Testament writings which graced the early church. The Hebrews venerated these 22 books and associated the number of them with the 22 patriarchs from Adam through Jacob, and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 119, which is a tribute to the word of God, enhances this identification by containing 22 segments of eight verses each. The first letter of the eight verses in each octuplet is the same Hebrew letter; the psalm runs through the Hebrew alphabet from aleph to tau in the 22 sections.

However, our Bible contains also the New Testament, and in later times the books have been divided into a total of 66. If the three identified elements—bowls, knops, flowers—are numbered separately, this would total 66 in the entire lampstand. The three branches on one side, together with the center stem, would contain 39, and three remaining branches 27, which is the division of books in our Old and New Testaments. These correlations are sufficiently engaging to hold our attention, and should another, second, Scriptural testimony of these numbers some day come to our attention, it would increase our enthusiasm for the application. Until then we note these features with interest, even if with some reserve.

The flowers were stipulated to be almond flowers. The five petals of the almond blossoms are a fitting number to represent the new creation later represented by the five wise virgins of Matthew 25. Almonds, it is said, produce flowers before leaves, and the Hebrew word for almond means “hasten,” probably in observation of this early seasonal produce of the almond flowers. So with the church; they produce the lovely graces of the spirit before their leaves of profession and teaching will be observed by the world in the kingdom.

This meaning of the name “almond” explains Jeremiah 1:11,12, where the appearance of an almond rod, or branch, is a token from the Lord that “I will hasten my word to perform it.” In this passage it may refer prophetically to the raising of the saints early in the harvest as the work preliminary to the judgments of the Lord which follow shortly thereafter. Aaron’s rod that budded (Numbers 17) to establish his divine appointment to the priesthood was also of the almond tree.

The Table of Shewbread (Exodus 25:23-30)

The Table of Shewbread, like the Holy itself, was twice as long as it was wide, 2 cubits 1 cubit. It held two stacks of bread, just as we have the written Word of God in two parts, the Old and New Testaments. There is a parallel in the divine word between Jesus, the living Word of God, and the Scriptures, the written Word of God. Both had a difficult ministry of 3 years. In Jesus’ case they were literal years; with the two witnesses (of Revelation 11) they were figurative years, 3 360 = 1260 years from 539 to 1799.

Comparing Jesus’ experiences with Revelation 11:7-13 one finds a variety of parallels and contrasts between the two. Both were slain at the end of 3 years (their enemies rejoiced in both cases), Revelation 11:8 specifically connects the death of the witnesses to “where also our Lord was crucified,” both were raised three days later and ascended to heaven, and an earthquake was associated with both events. Jesus is God’s “faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14), the Scriptures are his “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:3). Jesus was identified by Moses and Elijah in the mount of Transfiguration; Moses and Elijah qualify as the two witnesses of Revelation 11:6 based on what they did.

In the shewbread we have a picture of both the living word (Jesus) and the written word (the Scriptures), similar to the manna in the wilderness. As regards Jesus, whose flesh was broken for our justification, notice that he is depicted at the same “level” in the Court, the Holy, and the Most Holy. In the Court the brazen altar was 3 cubits high, but the grating “in the midst” of it was halfway up, or 1 cubits high, where the sacrifices were placed. In the Most Holy the blood of redemption was placed on the ark which was 1 cubits high. In the Holy the bread was placed on the table whose height was 1 cubits. The consistent level depicts our Lord’s sacrifice for us in a uniform way. (Notice, too, in Hosea 3:2, the price of redemption for Israel is 1 homers of barley, the crop which specially represents Jesus.)

Specifics for the shewbread are not found in Exodus, but do appear in Leviticus 24:4-6. There were 12 cakes in two “rows.” The word row is Strong’s #4634, maarakah, “an arrangement; concr. a pile,” and we presume the meaning in this case is there were two stacks of shewbread, though the KJV, NASB, and NIV all use the word “row.” Topping each was frankincense, as though to emphasize the sweet perfume to God which the offering of Jesus was. The meal offering (Leviticus 2:1) was also accompanied with frankincense, and the shewbread was evidently a kind of meal offering. The shewbread was refreshed each sabbath day so that it was always fresh and wholesome, as a good type of our spiritual nourishment. The 12 loaves probably show that this is a figure of the spiritual nourishment for the 12 tribes of Israel, which would represent spiritual Israel during the Gospel age.

The Incense Altar (Exodus 30:1-10)

The measure of this altar was 2 cubits high 1 cubit square, again a 2 to 1 ratio as with the Holy itself. Oddly, this piece of furniture is not described where one would suppose. The account of specifics regarding the Tabernacle begins in Exodus 25. The materials are itemized; in verse 10 the ark of the covenant is described, then the table of shewbread (verse 23), and the candlestick (verse 31). But the incense altar does not appear until five chapters later. This may have something to do with Paul’s account of the furnishings in Hebrews 9:1-5 where the lampstand and table are mentioned but not the incense altar.

This altar was used for offering incense twice daily, at the time of the morning and evening sacrifice, as though to show that the ever-efficacious offering of Christ, once for all, is a sweet incense to God. Revelation 8:3,4 refers to this, indicating that by this means the prayers of the saints during the Gospel age are acceptable to God.

On this altar atonement was made once a year, “upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements” (Exodus 30:10). This process is described following the blood offering of the atonement sacrifices in the Most Holy: “He [Aaron] shall go out [from the Most Holy] unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel” (Leviticus 16:18,19).

The “children of Israel” included both the priesthood and the remainder of the people, and for this reason probably a mixture of blood from the bullock (for the priests) and the goat (for the people) was used. Thus is represented an atonement for both ages of redemption, the Gospel age and the Millennium.

Evidently the incense offering customarily involved the use of a censer of coals, as Leviticus 16:12 refers to a “censer full of burning coals of fire” on the incense altar. If the incense was sprinkled on the coals within a censer, and this slightly waved to circulate the aroma, it would explain why Revelation 8:4 depicts the incense as ascending “up before God out of the angel’s hand.” It may also explain why Paul said the golden censer was in the Most Holy where it was used on the Day of Atonement to ensure the cloud of incense would cover the ark of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4).

Aaron was to burn incense in the morning “when he dresseth the lamps” and at even (between the two evenings) when he lighted the lamps (Exodus 30:7,8). 1 Samuel 3:3 speaks of a time in the late evening “ere the lamp of God went out.” Perhaps these texts indicate that though the lamps burned daily, they did not necessarily burn through all 24 hours. In this case the daily (continual) lighting of the lamps would suffice to carry the picture of our constant enlightenment by the holy spirit.

The Two Hangings

In Hebrews 9:3 reference is made to the “second veil,” evidently considering both hangings as veils. However, in the Old Testament, the “veil” is exclusively the entrance into the Most Holy, and the “door” is exclusively the entrance into the Holy.

The Holy shows the present spirit-enlightened condition of the sons of God while we are still in bodies of flesh, and thus the five pillars on which the door was hung were set in sockets of copper (or perhaps brass or bronze if an alloy for strength and corrosion resistance was used). Copper represents perfect or justified humanity, so this fits. The sockets of the four posts supporting the veil were of silver, representing the spirit nature, as the Most Holy represents the actual spirit conditions of the new creature after passing to its heavenly reward. In both cases, however, the hooks and covering of the pillars were of gold, as our hopes, aspirations, and calling are all concerned with things divine (Exodus 25:32-37).

Both hangings were of the same material and design: white linen interwoven with threads of blue (faithfulness), purple (royalty) and scarlet (redemption), embellished with cherubim, perhaps representing the character attributes of God which we are called to develop. All of these are fitting symbols respecting the glorious call of the New Creation.

Technical Specifics

Because both interior compartments of the Tabernacle were nine cubits across, and the back and all other boards were evidently cubit thick, the interior floor of the Most Holy would be 9 9 cubits. Because of this lack of regularity, one wonders if perhaps the interior length of the Most Holy should be reduced to 9 cubits by hanging the veil on the backside of cubit posts. Both the boards of the Tabernacle and the posts of the veil were supported by silver sockets of the same weight (one talent) and presumably the same shape, which would be consistent with the posts and boards being of the same thickness, namely cubit.

If this was so, the interior volume of the Most Holy would be 9 wide 9 long 10 high, 810 cubic cubits altogether. If the volume of the ark of the covenant (1 1 2 cubits = 5.625 cubic cubits, not counting the lid with its golden cherubim) were divided into the volume of the Most Holy, the result would be 144.

If this positioning of the veil is correct, the length of the Holy is increased by cubit, measuring from the entrance at the edge of the golden side boards. The volume of the Holy would thus be 20 cubits long 9 cubits wide 10 cubits high, or 1845 cubic cubits. This is precisely the number of years between the first advent and the second advent of Christ, which is one measurable “length” of the Gospel age. (See Matthew 6:27, NASB, for a connection between cubits and years.) If we are reasoning correctly upon the Scriptural descriptions, this would be a second witness in the Old Testament for the many 1845-year parallels, from the end of Daniel’s various time prophecies backward in time.

The Sockets

The boards of the Tabernacle, which gave the structure rigidity and form, were 20 on the north and south sides, 6 in the back, and 2 additional corner boards in the rear whose placement is not clear. This totals 48 boards, each of which had two tenons, each set in one socket made from a talent of silver. These 96 sockets plus four more for the four posts supporting the veil make a total of 100. The number 100 is a connecting thread which joins various pictures of our Lord. For example, the gate was 20 5 cubits, the door and veil were evidently about 10 10 cubits; thus all three hangings were 100 square cubits, and each represents Christ’s sacrifice in a different aspect, as the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

The number 100 for the sockets is a fitting number to represent the foundation of God’s plan of atonement, namely the ransom sacrifice of our Lord. This silver was not a contribution, but the result of a necessary price of redemption for the soul of each adult male in the congregation (Exodus 30:12-16; 38:21-27; compare 1 Kings 20:39).

It is our great privilege and honor to antitypically dwell in this sacred place of the Most High, the Holy of the Tabernacle. To us belong the wondrous beauties of things divine, the expensive furnishings to provide us spiritual enlightenment, the Word of God for nourishment, and the opportunity daily to offer our praise, thanks, obedience, and adoration on the golden altar, after the pattern of our Lord. All of these provisions are very costly, but they have been given to us freely, as it is God’s grace and kindness to do. But we behold these treasures with spiritual eyes. Let us always value and treasure them, and appreciate better their true worth by applying ourselves to things spiritual, and thus fulfill our consecration to God.