Tabernacle

According to the Hebrew Bible, the tabernacle (Hebrew: מִשְׁכַּן, mishkān, meaning "residence" or "dwelling place"), also known as the Tent of the Congregation (אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵד֩ ’ōhel mō‘êḏ, also Tent of Meeting, etc.), was the portable earthly dwelling place of Yahweh (the God of Israel) used by the Israelites from the Exodus until the conquest of Canaan. Moses was instructed at Mount Sinai to construct and transport the tabernacle[1] with the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness and their subsequent conquest of the Promised Land. After 440 years, Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem superseded it as the dwelling-place of God.

Model of the tabernacle in Timna Valley Park, Israel
The tabernacle, engraving from Robert Arnauld d'Andilly's 1683 translation of Josephus.

The main source describing the tabernacle is the biblical Book of Exodus, specifically Exodus 25–31 and 35–40. Those passages describe an inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, created by the veil suspended by four pillars. This sanctuary contained the Ark of the Covenant, with its cherubim-covered mercy seat. An outer sanctuary (the "Holy Place") contained a gold lamp-stand or candlestick. On the north side stood a table, on which lay the showbread. On the south side was the Menorah, holding seven oil lamps to give light. On the west side, just before the veil, was the golden altar of incense.[2] It was constructed of 4 woven layers of curtains and 48 15-foot tall standing wood boards overlaid in gold and held in place by its bars and silver sockets and was richly furnished with valuable materials taken from Egypt at God's command.

This description is generally identified as part of the Priestly source ("P"),[2] written in the sixth or fifth century BCE. However while the first Priestly source takes the form of instructions, the second is largely a repetition of the first in the past tense, i.e., it describes the execution of the instructions.[3] Many scholars contend that it is of a far later date than the time of Moses, and that the description reflects the structure of Solomon's Temple, while some hold that the description derives from memories of a real pre-monarchic shrine, perhaps the sanctuary at Shiloh.[2] Traditional scholars contend that it describes an actual tabernacle used in the time of Moses and thereafter.[4] According to historical criticism, an earlier, pre-exilic source, the Elohist ("E"), describes the tabernacle as a simple tent-sanctuary.[2]