Exodus 27:1–8, An altar. As we continue our tour of the Tabernacle of Moses, the Torah takes us next to the bronze altar of sacrifice just inside the tabernacle’s door. Everything occurring in the tabernacle revolved around this altar—EVERYTHING! This fact is highly significant, since this altar points to the “altar” of the cross on which Yeshua the Messiah died for our sins. This is one truth that the mainstream church has gotten wonderfully right: the cross and what happened there is the central point of the gospel message. One cannot read the writings of the apostles and fail to see this unless one is sadly spiritually naive and spiritually blind!
Just inside the door of the tabernacle was the altar of sacrifice. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with bronze, which is a prophetic picture of Yeshua the Messiah bearing the judgment for men’s sins on the cross. The blood of the sacrifice was poured out on the ground at the base of the altar symbolically picturing Yeshua shedding his blood at the cross. Two lambs were offered at the altar morning and evening (Exod 29:38–42). This pictures our need to come humbly before our Father in heaven morning and evening in prayerful devotion as living sacrifices to confess our sins, to praise and thank him for saving us from the penalty of our sins, which is death (Ps 51:16–17; Heb 13:15; 1 John 1:7–9; Rom 6:23).
The Altar of Sacrifice in More Details. Upon understanding that the Person and work of Yeshua is the way into spiritual life, light and truth, one must also recognize that one’s sin liability keeps one from a having personal relationship with one’s Creator. The broken fellowship with our Father in heaven due to our uncleanness because of our sin is the reason for this. For one to have a relationship with a sinless, perfect, totally set-apart or holy Elohim,the sin problem has to be dealt with. Sin must be atoned for along with the resulting guilt, shame and penalty (i.e. death) that sin brings. In the Tabernacle of Moses, the liability and effect of sin is dealt with at the altar of the red heifer outside the gate of the tabernacle, which represents the work of Yeshua at the cross (Heb 13:10–13). There one was purified and made ready to come into the actual tabernacle. Upon doing so, the first thing one encountered when entering the tabernacle was the altar of sacrifice where both kosher animals and unleavened bread (made of the finest flour and the purest olive oil) were offered, and a wine libation was poured out twice daily (morning and afternoon, Num 28:1–8). These all picture the body of Yeshua being broken and slain for sinful man and our need to “eat” his body and “drink” his blood in a spiritual sense to which the communion elements of the Lord’s supper taken on the Passover during the seder meal symbolically point (John 6:35–58).
The fire on the altar was to be kept burning at all times; it was never to go out (Lev 6:13). Additionally, before ministering at the altar, a priest was to always wash his hands and feet at the bronze laver (Exod 30:17–21), and to put on the priestly robes (Lev 6:10). These activities are prophetic shadows that point to the ministry of Yeshua before the throne of the Father in heaven. There, as our heavenly high priest, he, in an ultimate state of purity and perfection is ever making intercession for his saints and reconciling us to the Father (Eph 2:18; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 7:25–26; 8:1–2, 5–6; 9:11–22; 10:19–22; 1 John 2:1).
At the twice daily offering (the morning shacharit and the afternoon minchah), a yearling lamb was sacrificed on the north side of the altar, or its left side as viewed from the holy of holies, which represents the throne of Elohim. (Furthermore, north is significant since Scripture seems to indicate that the third heaven where Elohim dwells is in the northern region of the sky [Isa 14:13].) The lamb’s blood was then sprinkled round about the altar as an atonement for sin, while a wine libation was poured out onto the altar, and unleavened bread was cooked and offered at the same time on the altar (Num 28:1–8; Lev 1:11). The fact that the lamb was killed on the north or left side of the altar is prophetically significant, since it points to Yeshua’s first coming as the Suffering Servant Messiah, the Lamb of Elohim. The left side is significant, since the left hand (usually the weaker hand), in Jewish thought, represents grace and mercy, while the right hand (usually the stronger hand) represents strength, power and judgment. At his first coming, Yeshua was like a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa 52:13–53:12, especially note 53:7), as he spilled his blood as an atonement for men’s sins (Isa 53:5–6,10). Upon his death and glorious resurrection, he returned to heaven where he took his rightful place as the right arm of YHVH Elohim (Acts 7:55–56; Rom 8:34). At Yeshua’s second coming, he will come, this time not as a lamb led to the slaughter, but in power and glory as a regnal warrior on a white stallion to judge the wicked and to reward the righteous. After that, he will assume his rightful position as King of kings and Lord of lords over the earth during the Millennium as revealed in the Book of Revelation.
Now let’s consider the actual construction of the altar of sacrifice to see how it pointed prophetically to Yeshua in other ways. First, it was constructed of acacia wood overlaid in bronze. Wood and trees represent men (Ps 1:1, 3; Jer 5:14). Yeshua was a carpenter. Second, bronze speaks of judgment. Yeshua, a man who worked in wood (representing humanity) as a carpenter and died on a tree and took the fire of Elohim’s judgment upon himself for humanity’s sins.
Next, all the animals slaughtered in the sacrificial system were similar, in modern terms, to the minimum amount due on a credit card statement of a bill so huge one cannot possible pay the balance; therefore, one can only afford to pay the minimum amount due until somehow, miraculously, someone will step in to pay the full amount. Yeshua paid that monstrously huge sin debt for each of us at the cross.
The very first sacrifice offered on the bronze altar was lit by fire from heaven (Lev 9:22–24). This signifies that the blood of Yeshua delivers us from the wrath of Elohim, and that our Father in heaven thankfully accepts Yeshua’s offering for man’s sin (Rom 5:9).
YHVH sent fire from heaven once to light the altar of sacrifice (Lev 9:22–24), but it was up to the Levitical priests to maintain that fire. The fire had to be constantly fed and the old ashes had to be removed to keep the fire burning. Similarly, when a person is redeemed spiritually and born again by the Spirit of Elohim, he has to maintain the spiritual fire in his life to ensure that it doesn’t die out due to lack of spiritual fuel, or get choked due to the ashes of the religious traditions of men (Mark 7:9–13), dead works or the cares of this world (Matt 13:22). Such are those who have grown lukewarm in their faith (Rev 3:14–21) and have lost the first love of Yeshua (Rev 2:4) and the joy of their salvation (Ps 51:12).
Offerings were made on the altar of sacrifice in the morning and in the evening. This teaches us that minimally twice daily the saint needs to come before YHVH’s throne in heaven and at the altar to there leave their prayers and confess their sins (1 John 1:9), while drawing close to our loving Creator in communion and devotion of service to him.
Exodus 27:9–19, Court of the tabernacle. The tabernacle’s outer court was approximately 150 feet long by 75 feet wide (or 11,250 square feet, which is about one-fourth of an acre) in size.
The curtains of the outer court (Exod 27:9–19) were made of fine white linen and was seven-and-a-half feet tall. The linen curtains speak of robes of righteousness the bride of Yeshua will wear on her wedding day (Rev 19:8).
Sixty pillars supported the outer curtain. They were set in heavy bronze (or brass) bases topped by silver capitals. These pillars represent redeemed humanity wearing robes of righteousness. Wood symbolizes humanity, while bronze symbolizes judgment against man because of sin, and silver represents redemption or Elohim’s ransom price for man’s sin.
The Outer Curtain in More Details
The outer curtain was approximately 150 feet long by 75 feet wide and seven and-a-half feet tall. The curtain was just tall enough so that a tall man could not look over the top and see inside. The curtain was made of fine-twined white linen which stood in stark contrast to the surrounding gray-brown drab desert surroundings. White linen represents robes of righteousness. The priests wore white linen robes (Exod 28:39–43) and the bride of Yeshua is expected to wear such garments (Rev 19:8). YHVH’s people are called a nation or kingdom of priests (Exod 19:6; 1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). Men’s righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa 64:6) and our sins have separated us from Elohim (Isa 59:2), but YHVH has made provision for man’s sins to be washed away and for man to become white as wool or snow (Isa 1:18).
This curtain formed a barrier between man and Elohim, between the profane or polluted and the sacred and pure. The height of the curtain was just a little taller than a tall man to teach unsaved man that the way of salvation is not impossible for him to achieve, yet it is just beyond his reach, as well, without coming through the prescribed way—through the door of the curtain. The curtain was supported by 60 (6 x 10) pillars. Six is the number of man while ten represents ordinal perfection. The pillars were set in bronze bases and capped with silver capitals. Bronze represents Elohim’s judgment against man’s sin and silver represents redemption or sinners being redeemed from deserved judgment (Ezek 18:4; Rom 3:23; 6:23). Examples of bronze representing sin and judgment include the brass serpent on the pole in Numbers 21. This was a picture of Yeshua taking upon himself the judgment for man’s sins (John 3:14-17). The silver capitals represent the ransom price YHVH laid upon each of the children of Israel age 20 and upwards (Exod 30:11-16). The small amount of silver each Israelite paid for a ransom for their sins was but the minimum amount due on each person’s huge and impossible-to -pay sin debt charged on each man’s spiritual credit card. Thankfully, Yeshua redeemed each sinner not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood (1 Pet 1:18-19).
The ropes holding up the posts and pillars were made of goat hair. This is another picture of the redemptive sacrifice of Yeshua and of the price of man’s sin paid by his shed blood.
The outer curtain was white and luminescent from the light of the glory cloud; approximately seven-and-one-half feet tall so that an ordinary man could not peer over the top; the only access in was through the gate. This glowing curtain separated the bleak and drab wilderness outside from the paradise inside; darkness from light, profane from the set-apart (kadosh), death from life, confusion from order. The gate wasa four-colored woven tapestry representing the Person and work of Yeshua: purple for royalty or kingship, white for righteousness, blue for divinity or heaven and red for blood; Yeshua is the door of the tabernacle or sheepfold—he is the way to the Father, the way, life and truth; the gate was wide, but not tall—just above the height of a tall man; it was the only way into the tabernacle.
Exodus 27:16–17, Gate of the court. The door of the outer court curtain contained three colors woven into white linen fabric: blue, purple, crimson, and white. These four colors speak of different attributes of Yeshua, whom Scripture likens to the door of salvation (John 10:1–18). These four colors combine to form a full picture of Yeshua, the Redeemer and Savior of Israel. Only through him can man come to the Father, have salvation, eternal life and inhabit the glorious New Jerusalem pictured by the glory cloud over the Holy of holies in the tabernacle. The four colors also correspond to the four faces of the living beings around the throne of Elohim (Ezek 1).
Crimson symbolizes the human aspects of Yeshua, for red is the color of man and red clay from which YHVH created man (adam). Some Bible commentators believe this points to the Gospel of Mark, which reveals the nature of Yeshua at the pashat (the simpleor plain level) of biblical understanding. Some see this as corresponding to the ox cherubim and the tribe of Ephraim, which had on its banner an ox. According to Hebrew roots commentator and linguistic scholar James Trimm, “Mark presents the Messiah as the servant (the servant who purifies the Goyim in Isa 52:13, 15) the “my servant the Branch” of Zech 3:8 who is symbolized by the face of the Ox in Ezekiel 1 (the Ox being a servant, a beast of burden). Mark does not begin with an account of the birth of Messiah as do Matthew and Luke because, unlike the birth of a King, the birth of a servant is unimportant, all that is important is his work as a servant which begins with his immersion by [John]. Thus Mark’s simplified account omits any account of Yeshua’s birth or preexistence and centers on his work as a servant who purifies the [people of the nations].”
White symbolizes the righteousness of Yeshua. Some Bible commentators believe this points to the Gospel of Luke which reveals the nature of Yeshua at the remez (the hint) level of biblical understanding. Some see this as corresponding to the man cherubim and the tribe of Reuben, which had on its banner an man. Trimm writes that, “Luke wrote a more detailed account for the high priest Theophilus (a Sadducee). The Sadducees were rationalists and sticklers for details. Luke presents Yeshua as the “Son of Man” and as “the man whose name is the Branch” (Zech 6:12) who is presented as a high priest and is symbolized by the face of the man in Ezekiel 1. Luke wants to remind by remez (by implication) the high priest Theophilus about the redemption of the filthy high priest Joshua (Zech 6) and its prophetic foreshadowing of a ‘man’ who is a Messianic “Priest” and who can purify even a high priest.”
Purple symbolizes the regal or kingly aspects of Yeshua. Some Bible commentators believe this points to the Gospel of Matthew, which reveals the nature of Yeshua at the drash (the allegorical or homiletical) level of biblical understanding. Some see this as corresponding to the lion cherubim and the tribe of Judah, which had on its banner an lion. Trimm writes, “Matthew presents his account of Yeshua’s life as a midrash to the Pharisees, as a continuing story tied to various passages from the Tanakh (for example Matt 2:13–15 presents an allegorical understanding of Hos 11:1). As a drash level account Matthew also includes a number of parables in his account. Matthew presents Messiah as the King Messiah, the Branch of David (Jer 23:5–6 and Is. 11:1f) symbolized by the face of the lion in Ezekiel 1.”
Blue symbolizes the heavenly of divine aspects of Yeshua. Some Bible commentators believe this points to the Gospel of John, which reveals the nature of Yeshua at the sod (the mystical) level of biblical understanding. Some see this as corresponding to the eagle cherubim and the tribe of Dan, which had on its banner an eagle. According to Trimm, “[John] addresses the mystical Essene sect and concerns himself with mystical topics like light, life, truth, the way and the Word. [John] includes many sod interpretations in his account. For example [John] 1:1 presents a sod understanding of Genesis 1:1. [John] 3:14; 8:28 and 12:32 present a sod understanding of Numbers 21:9 etc.” (all of Trimm’s references are from the internet site: http://www.jios.org/The%20Synoptic%20Solution_jt.html)
Exodus 27:20–21, They shall bring pure oil. Olives, olive oil and the olive tree are very significant ancient biblical symbols. Most notably, olive oil was used for anointing and for burning in the seven-branched menorah—a picture of redeemed Israelite believers comprised of many different congregations (Rev 1:12–13). This olive oil was pure and the olives were beaten or pressed to produce oil for light (Exod 27:20).
How does this relate to the believer’s life, so that one can be the light of the world that Yeshua commanded us to be? (See Matt 5:14–16 cp. Acts 14:22; Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 3:12; 1 Pet 4:12–14; Jas 1:2–3.)
The priests attended to the menorah to keep it burning continually from evening till morning. This reminds us of Yeshua’s Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1–13), where Yeshua’s exhorted his disciples to be like the wise virgins who kept their lamps trimmed and full of oil as they were watching and waiting for their bridegroom to come.
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the level of oil in each virgin’s lamp was the factor that determined whether they would be allowed entrance into the bridegroom’s wedding or not. Therefore, what is the significance of olive oil (the fuel for the lamps) scripturally? There are several.
- Olive oil was used in consecrating kings and priests for YHVH’s service (see 1 Sam 16:13; 1 Kgs 1:39; Lev 8:12).
- Olive oil symbolizes YHVH’s rich blessings on one’s life, and was used for consecrating the tabernacle and its contents (Lev 8:10).
- Olive oil was a medicinal agent for healing (Isa 1:6; Luke 10:34).
- Olive oil is also a scriptural metaphor for YHVH’s anointing on one’s life (see Ps 23:5; 133:2; Zech 4:12–14).
- Olive oil is a biblical metaphor for gladness or joy (note Ps 45:7; Prov 27:9; Isa 61:3; Heb 1:9).
- Olive oil speaks of healing by the laying on of hands (read Mark 6:13; Jas 5:14).
- Olive oil is a symbol of prosperity (see Deut 32:24).
- In Jewish thought, olive oil is also a metaphor for Torah, since it is a comfort to the head and body even as are the words of the Torah (Everyman’s Talmud, by Abraham Cohen, p. 134).
- Oil in the Parable of the Ten Virgins oil is generally recognized to be a symbol of the blessing and anointing of YHVH’s Set-Apart Spirit functioning in one’s life. Let’s not forget that the anointing or influence of YHVH’s Spirit is the spiritual force leads one into YHVH’s Torah-truth (John 15:26; 16:13). The five foolish virgins’ lack of oil speaks of their lacking YHVH’s anointing and blessing, that their lives were not fully consecrated to him, that they were deficient in YHVH’s Spirit and were not walking in the fullness of his Torah-truth. Torah teacher, Dean Wheelock characterizes the foolish virgins’ lack of oil in this way:
The foolish squander their oil, their precious oil of Torah instruction, which tells them how to live their lives in a righteous manner. Meanwhile the wise hang on to their Torah learning, and thereby save their oil for that time when it is needed. And the time when it will be most needed is when Messiah arrives to take us to the wedding. Then we will need all of the Torah oil we can muster. That is what the “foolish virgins” were missing. They did not have an adequate supply of understanding of the Torah, they were not living a Torah-centered life, they had not prepared themselves adequately to be the wife of the Messiah Yeshua, the one who as the “Living Torah” when he walked the earth some two thousand years ago. (Hebrew Roots Magazine, Sept./Oct. 1997, article entitled “Oil For Our Lamps,” by Dean Wheelock, p. 10)
In the Scriptures, how is the lamp viewed metaphorically? (Read 2 Sam 22:29; Ps 119:105; Prov 6:23.) Believers are to be leading lives reflective of YHVH’s light and are to be lamps or lights shining in the darkness of this world (note Matt 5:14; Luke 12:35; Phil 2:15).
The ceramic lamps used in biblical times are an apt symbol of our physical lives, which the Scriptures describe as vessels of clay, which contain the Spirit of YHVH, for the spirit of man is the candle or lamp of YHVH burning inside of man (Prov 20:27) and, our lives are earthen vessels that contain YHVH’s spiritual light (2 Cor 4:6–7). At the same time, the pure gold menorah in the tabernacle shows us that although we may now be mere vessels of clay as we walk this earth, it is our spiritual destiny, upon receiving our glorified bodies at the resurrection to be spiritually like gold in that we will be like Yeshua—pure, transparent and incorruptible (1 John 3:2).