The Tabernacle – The Veil

Exo 26:31-34 Exo 36:35-36

A. Its construction

1. dimensions

15′ x 15′ in the tabernacle;
30′ x 45′ in Solomon’s temple,
increased to 30′ x 60′ by Herod

2. color

the same scheme and theme as the innermost curtain
a ground of fine linen, then the blue, purple, and scarlet tapestry woven on it with a cherubim design

3. “texture”

sturdy, heavy tapestry, not easily moved by nearby traffic or windy conditions
yet it was portable

4. installation

suspended on gold hooks from 4 posts positioned underneath the “seam” in the coverings making up the tent

5. posts

gold-overlaid acacia wood set in silver bases
posts at least 15’+ tall

B. Its use

1. to separate

the two rooms one from the other
the tabernacle/temple staff from the ark
all but the high priest from the immediate presence of God

2. to cover

the ark while it was being transported. (Numbers 4:5-6)
accomplished by Aaron and his sons before the ark was removed from the Most Holy Place
then covered by a manatee skin followed by a solid blue cloth after which the carrying poles were inserted

3. to protect

all others in the vicinity of the ark
from certain death – see
Leviticus 16:2 2 Samuel 6:3-7

C. Its significance

1. different from any other veil/curtain referenced in Scripture

evidenced by singular use of words in both Old and New Testaments

פּרכת poroket and καταπέτασμα katapetasma refer with one exception (Hebrews 9:3) to the curtain dividing the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in either temple or tabernacle

פּרכת poroket is a noun meaning “curtain,” or “veil.” It is found in twenty-five places with primary reference to the “veil” separating the holy of holies from the remainder of the tabernacle structure (cf. Exo. 26:31 ff.; Exo. 40:3 ff.; Lev. 4:6, 17; 16:2, 12 ff.; Num. 4:5; 18:7). 2Ch. 3:14 refers to that same curtain in the temple. In addition, פּרכת poroket denotes the curtains located in the general tabernacle structure (Exo. 38:27; 39:24).

καταπέτασμα katapetasma is the dynamic equivalent for the Hebrew פּרכת poroket (see above), denoting the two “curtains,” or “veils,” that separate the holy place from the outer court of the temple, and the holy of holies from the holy place. This term is found in six contexts, each of them highly significant.

Mat. 27:51; Mar. 15:38; Luk. 23:45 constitute the three synoptic gospel references to the tearing of the veil that separated the most holy place from the remainder of the sanctuary. The occasion of this shearing of the “veil, or curtain” was the death of Christ — a sacrifice that signaled the effective end of the old covenant legislation. The ritual requirements maintained the strict sanctity of the holy of holies, allowing only the high priest to draw back that veil just once a year in order to offer sacrifice for the people of Israel before the ark of the covenant. This inner sanctuary constituted the symbolic (though very real) dwelling place of God on earth. When this curtain was torn in two at the crucifixion of Christ, it signaled the end of restricted access to God. Now all who trust in the redemptive work of the Savior can gain unrestricted access to the very throne room of God in heaven.

Heb. 6:19; 9:3; 10:20 refer to this temple “veil” in contexts that explain the full significance of Christ’s sacrificial death and ongoing, eternal high priestly ministry in heaven on behalf of his peoples. In Heb. 9:3 it is clear (by implication) that καταπέτασμα katapetasma also refers to the outer curtain separating the priestly holy place from the general areas of temple worship. Renn, Expository Dictionary

2. a curtain, not a wall

Just like the main tabernacle structure, it was from the beginning designed as a temporary thing. Its temporary nature persisted throughout the centuries of “temple” life also. What it signified would at some point in history be eliminated, thus permitting free or freer access to the presence of God.

3. represents all that hinders man from experiencing the presence of God

It served as a constant reminder until Calvary that there were limits to how closely and under what conditions sinful man could approach a holy God. In that sense, it cannot be a type of Christ since it is our sinfulness and not Christ that keeps us distant from God. It also served to remind ancient Israel that animal sacrifices were insufficient to achieve all that was necessary to enter the Most Holy Place.

4. symbolism in the rending of the veil Hebrews 10:20-23

The parallel is between the rending of the veil in the Temple and the “rending” of the body of Christ on Calvary. Just as free access to the Most Holy Place was made possible and obvious by the tearing in two of the Temple veil, so our free access to God’s presence, to the throne of grace, has been made possible by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

“Hence, on our Lord’s death, the veil of the temple was “rent from the top to the bottom” signifying that, by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ, whereby his flesh was torn and rent, we have a full entrance into the holy place, such as would have been of old upon the rending of the veil. This, therefore, is the genuine interpretation of this place; we enter with boldness to the most holy place through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, by virtue of the sacrifice of himself, wherein his flesh was rent, and all hinderances taken away. Of all which hinderances the veil was an emblem, until it was rent and removed.” John Owen, Hebrews, Vol. 4

As by rending the veil in the temple, the holy of holies became visible and accessible; so by wounding the body of Christ, the God of heaven was manifested, and the way to heaven opened. John Wesley, Note on Hebrews 10:20


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