Number and Size of the Boards. There were forty-eight boards in the wall of the sanctuary, twenty on each side and eight at the west end. The forty boards on the north and south sides, and six boards on the west (exclusive of the two corner boards), were all of one size, - ten cubits long and one and one-half cubits wide, or not less than twenty-seven inches by fifteen feet. This wall was twice as high as the wall of the court. Ex. 12, 18,26,22,23,25.
Reputable Jewish writers state that the boards were one-half a span thick. A span is one-half of a cubit, or at least nine inches. Accordingly the boards were about four and one-half inches thick. Probably this is about correct; at any rate, it was necessary that they be thick enough for the middle bar to "shoot through the boards," reaching "from end to end." Ex. 36: 33. Accepting this measure, each board contained a little more than 150 board feet. How much did one board weigh? One square foot of seasoned oak one inch thick weighs about four and one-half pounds. Therefore one board weighed approximately 700 pounds without the gold plating.
The Corner Boards. Whenever the boards at the west end are mentioned, it is always "six boards, and two boards . . . for the corners," Ex. 26:22,23, indicating that the corner boards were different from the others. They were the same length as the others; their width, however, was not the same. The Bible nowhere directly gives their width. How, then, may it be determined? The second covering,in the roof of the sanctuary was thirty cubits long - just long enough "to cover it." Ex. 26:7,8,13. The combined height of two sides of the sanctuary was twenty cubits, thus leaving ten cubits for its width. The total width of the six regular boards for the west wall was nine cubits. This left one cubit for the width of the two corner boards, or one-half cubit for each. Our King James version of Exodus 26:27 reads, "five bars for the two sides westward." Moffatt renders this, "five bars for the back or western side." His rendering of verse 24 explains that the two corner boards formed "a double support" so that instead of the west end being double, it was the corner boards that were double.
Significance of the 48 Boards. The number of boards, 48 in all, was divinely dictated to Moses, whom God so frequently admonished to follow the pattern. This cannot be passed by without loss in our spiritual understanding of the sanctuary, "every whit" of which uttereth His glory. Ps. 29:9, margin. As noted in a previous chapter, Solomon speaks of the sixty court pillars of the sanctuary wall as "threescore valiant men. . . of the valiant of Israel," all holding swords, "being expert in war." These sixty pillars of strong "victorious" brass, bound together with the white linen wall, representing the righteousness of Christ, were like a bodyguard of well-trained loyal soldiers, forming a wall of protection around the sanctuary.
Likewise, the forty-eight boards, standing "upright," with the imprint of heaven upon them and bound together in solid rank by bars and pillars, formed another wall of protection. Why was this protection doubled? Was it not to indicate that, as in the case of Pharaoh"s dream which was doubled unto him, because "the thing is established by God?" Gen. 41:32. Like this double protection, so the 144,000, which is a multiple of both 60 and 48, serve as a double protection, so to speak, in the temple eternal. Like the Levites who were the teachers of ancient Israel and who camped close around the earthly sanctuary to do its service and to care for it as it was moved from place to place, so the 144,000 serve in a double capacity. They are not only teachers of redeemed Israel, but as they follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth, they witness to other worlds of His saving grace.
Significance of the Corner Boards. The corner boards of the sanctuary correspond to the corner stone of the temple built later. Christ is "the precious corner stone," Isa. 28:6; "in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are
builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Eph. 2:19-22. His children are to be "as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." Ps. 144:12. The special purpose of the corner boards was to "couple together" all the boards into one tabernacle, Ex. 26:24; and it is the work of Christ to bind together the members of His household into one body.
Shittim Wood. In his Bible Dictionary, Smith tells us that the shittim wood used in the sanctuary was the wild acacia of the desert - the tree of "the burning bush." In fact, Sinai itself is so called from Seneh, or acacia bush. The word shittim is the plural form of the word shittah, the tree itself being called the shittah tree. It was a small thorny tree, one of specially enduring quality, requiring much patient labor to prepare it for use, and therefore of unusuat value. These boards were "made boards," Ex. 36:20, and from their size it seems evident that each one was made of many smaller places solidly cemented, or in some way fastened together.
Shittim wood was one of the articles mentioned among the gifts that the people were to bring for the sanctuary: "Every man with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it," Ex. 35:24; and without doubt this expensive and beautiful timber was part of the spoils brought out of Egypt, which the Lord foreknew would be needed for the sanctuary.
It is quite likely that some of the Israelites, while slaves in Egypt, were employed in making such boards for Egyptian palaces and temples. Removing the thorns, hewing and smoothing and fitting the pieces together is a fit symbol of the removal of the thorns from our carnal nature, the hewing and polishing that we must undergo before we can be fitted into the heavenly temple. How encouraging to know that God does not consume time on worthless material! He sees the "enduring quality" and unusual value" of each child of His, and with much patient labor He removes the thorns and does much polishing and fitting until we are ready for our place in His temple.
Carved Boards Covered With Gold. Were the boards carved with figures of angels? The Bible does not say. But Bezaleel was chosen by God to do important work in the construction of the sanctuary because, among other talents, he was gifted "in carving of timber" "to make any manner of cunning work." Besides this natural gift, God filled him with His Spirit "in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship." Ex. 31:3,5; 31-33. If the boards were not carved, there was little left to be carved - merely some parts of the incense altar and the ark. In Solomon's temple "the cedar of the house within was carved." "He carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims." I Kings 6:18,29. Since Solomon used the wilderness tabernacle as a guide, we may with considerable safety conclude that the boards of the sanctuary were also carved with figures of cherubim. But whether the boards were carved with angel figures and afterward covered with gold, or whether the gold on the boards reflected in their resplendant mirrorlike surface the gold angels embroidered on the two veils and the inner covering which formed the ceiling, the lesson is the same - Christ is the gold; we are the "wood, I Cor. 3:12, and as the boards were completely covered with gold, so we must be completely covered with His righteousness before we can occupy a place in His temple.
Each of the forty-eight boards was "heavily plated," G.C. 411, on both sides with pure gold. "This was not simply for ornamentation, but to teach us that the temple of God must be the same outside and in. In our lives must be seen what we profess to believe." R. S. Owen in R&H, March 26, 1925, pp. 11,12.
The Amount of Gold Used. The total amount of gold used in the sanctuary was twenty-nine talents and 730 shekels. Ex. 38:24. Suppose we allow five talents and the 730 shekels for the candlestick (made of one talent, Ex. 25:39), the mercy seat with its two cherubim, the covering of the ark, the table and its dishes, the incense altar, the nine pillars - five for the door and four for the veil, the golden censer, the gold embroidery, and the fifty taches used for the inner covering, there would be twenty-four talents left for the fortyeight boards, or one-half talent for each board. A talent of gold weighed about two hundred pounds. Half a talent added to the weight of the wood in
one board would make each board weigh about eight hundred pounds. The total weight of the gold used was more than 5800 pounds or nearly 3 tons. Its total value was $877,000.00 which in today's money value would be approximately $87,700,000 - an incomprehensible sum!
Gold a Type. Gold always represents special value, and as previously noted, wherever used in the sanctuary it represents the Almighty, Job 22:25, margin. The gold used in the sanctuary was pure gold, gold tried in the fire until all the dross had been removed. Only thus could it represent Christ; and only by being thus purified; by becoming partakers of the Divine nature, can we be fitted for our place in His temple. That this may become a reality, God has promised to make the redeemed "more precious than fine gold," Isa. 13:12. This assurance should enable us to accept and appreciate Peter's admonition to "rejoice" in the "fiery trials" of this life, for these are God's workmen to develop the fine gold - gold purified in the fire seven times. I Peter 4:12,13.
Wood a Type. Shittim wood entered into the construction of every part of the sanctuary where wood was used, and as already noted, wherever used, wood was a type of humanity. Our life accomplishments unless wrought in God are represented as "wood, hay, and stubble." I Cor. 3:12. How thankful we can be that all the wood was completely covered with gold: Only as we are completely "hid with Christ in God" Col. 3:3, can we be safe in the day when "the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but listen "he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." I Cor. 3:13-15. What unbounded mercy toward frail and erring humanity when, in spite of our mistakes, we truly desire to serve God!
The next verse shows that Paul is here speaking of us as the temple of God, for he goes on to say: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." I Cor. 3:16,17; 6:19,20, italics supplied. When we are thus hid in Christ we can truthfully sing:
"Not I, but Christ be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ be seen, be known, be heard; Not I but Christ in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ in every thought and word.
Christ, only Christ, no idle word e'er falling,
Christ, only Christ, no needless, bustling sound, Christ, only Christ, no self-important bearing,
Christ, only Christ, no trace of 'I' be found."
The Bars. There were five bars on the north, south, and west walls of the sanctuary, and five pillars on which hung the veil (or door) forming the east wall. Like the boards, these bars and pillars were made of shittim wood, everlaid with gold. The middle bar was made "to shoot through the boards from one end to the other." Ex. 26:28; 36:31-33. The other four bars passed through gold rings - "four" on each board. These bars helped to hold the boards in their "upright" position, and the walls, fastened together by the corner boards, kept them in unity as one body, thus forming one temple. The pillars, on which the two veils hung, and their connecting bars also helped to hold the walls firm. PP 347.
The Bars A Symbol. This unity is as important in the spiritual temple as in the temple made with hands. Paul says, "I. . . beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called (our vocation - not avocation - in life is to become fitted for the heavenly temple), with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (as brothers standing,
like the boards, side by side, and upright) endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Eph. 4:1-3. The boards never quarreled among themselves.
What are the five powers that hold the body of Christ in "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," that it may be "one body, and one spirit?" Paul gives us this answer; "One hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Eph. 4:3-6. The middle bar, running through all the boards from one end to the other, is like the everlasting arms of our heavenly Father, the "Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Together with the middle bar, the other four bars and the two corner boards representing Christ, bind all the boards firmly together into "the church of the living God." I Tim. 3:15. 'Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness." I Tim. 3:16.
The Foundation of Silver Sockets. "Of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the veil; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket." Ex. 38:27. Each of the forty-eight boards stood on two tenons, which fitted into two sockets. These sockets were blocks of solid silver, which helped to hold the boards in their upright position. Each weighed one talent, about one hundred pounds. Two hundred pounds, or more, of silver formed the foundation for each board. Counting the four silver sockets under the four pillars that supported the second veil, there were in all one hundred sockets of silver. Thus the total weight of the silver sockets (100 talents) was at least 10,000 pounds, or five tines of solid silver!
How was this great mass of silver provided? As previously noted, all the other gifts brought by the people for the sanctuary were entirely voluntary. Not so with the silver. By the express command of God, a half shekel of silver was brought as redemption money for every man old enough to go to war - every "soldier" of God's army. Ex. 38:25,26. At 32 cents for one half-shekel the 603,550 men numbered, Num. 1:46, brought $193,136 in silver.
Value of the Gold and Silver used. Ex. 38:24-28. One talent of silver was equal to 6,000 half shekels. Two talents under each board were therefore equal to 12,000 half shekels. Thus each board rested on the redemption money of 12,000 "soldiers." At $1,920 for a silver talent, the one hundred sockets were worth $192,000 which in today's money value would be about $19,200,000- an enormous sum. Besides this were 1,775 shekels of silver for other parts. Ex. 38:28. Their value at 32 cents per half-shekel, was $1,136. This amount added to the one hundred talents for the sockets (192,000) gives $193,136, the full and exact amount of the redemption money of the 603,550 men numbered. This in today's money value would be about $19,313,600. Adding all this to the
$87,700,000 of gold used in the boards, we have $107,013,600 - an incomprehensible amount. All this was of the spoils of Egypt, the richest country in the world at that time.
âWe might get some idea of the wealth of Egypt at that time were we to visit its great museum in Cairo. In this museum is the mummy of King Tutankhamen, commonly called "King Tut," one of the ancient rulers of Egypt. The inner coffin (there are three) in which is encased this mummy, is of solid gold valued at much more than $1,000,000. Some of the tombs of Egyptian rulers contained more than $20,000,000 of treasures. (See My Visit to King Tut's Golden Room, pages 4-9, by H.M.S. Richards. Used by permission).
Why such tremendous expenditure - not only of gold and silver, but brass, of which there were about 9,000 pounds, Ex. 38:29, margin, and other expensive material? - Only to help us get some faint realization of the infinite cost of our salvation. It cannot be measured. We cannot comprehend it. It will be the science and the song of the redeemed throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Even the angels cannot fathom it; but they do "desire to look into" it. I Peter 1:12.
The Foundation Sockets as Symbols. Who is the foundation of the house of God, the dwelling place of the Most High? - "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." I Cor. 3:11. âThus saith the Lord God, behold I lay in Zion. . . a sure foundation.â Isa. 28:16. The very habitation of God rests on the redemption effected for each soul by the stoning blood of Christ.
"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand, All other ground is sinking sand."
Without this solid foundation the tenons would surely sink into the shifting sand, and the building would fall.
God's Protection Over His People. In Solomon's temple "the floor of the house" was "overlaid with gold," I Kings 6:30, but in the portable sanctuary built by Moses, no mention is made of a floor. Evidently. then, its floor was the ground. Num. 5:17. Did the court of the sanctuary and the camp of Israel become a muddy place in time of rain? Each time Israel camped, the location for the sanctuary was selected by Christ Himself in the pillar of cloud, and that spot was holy ground, divinely protected. The cloud protected not only the sanctuary, but "as a canopy" it extended "above the host," by day sheltering them from the heat, and at night "illuminating their encampment." PP 282.
Artists frequently show these coverings in the form of a sloping roof, and some think that at least the two outer coverings were for protection from rain, and that therefore there must have been a ridgepole for proper drainage. But nowhere does the Bible so state. Not human device but God by many coverings Himself was their protection. "On the day that the tabernacle was reared up ... so it was alway; the cloud covered it by day, and appearance of fire by night." Num. 9:15,16. Isaiah puts it this way; "And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain." Isa. 4:5,6. With this promise, we have no need to be concerned that the rain would make a muddy place around the tabernacle, or that in the roof there must have been a ridgepole.
As of old the cloud was "a defence," Isa. 4:5, "constantly assuring them (the people) of the divine Presence," PP 282, so today every true Christian may have the same constant assurance of the presence, protection, and guidance of Him, who, represented in the cloud, led Israel all the way to the promised Land.