TABERNACLE (Heb. Okel Hoed= tent of meeting, sell., between God and man; LXX. Skene, Vulg. Tabernaculum Fcederis), or, more fully, " tabernacle of the congregation," was the tent first erected by Moses in the desert as a visible symbol of the divine Pres ence in the midst of the people. It was the place where he went to receive his inspira tions as their representative when they " came to seek Jehovah." A cloudy pillar descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle while " the Lord spake to Moses." The detailed description of the tabernacle contained iu Ex. xxv. seqq., xxxvi. seqq., renders more than a brief outline superfluous in this place. Suffice it to mention that it was divided into the " sanctuary" proper—which formed the front part, and the dimen sions of which were 20 cubits in length, 10 in width, and 10 in height—and the "holy of holies," which was 10 cubits square and 10 high, A kind of court-yard, formed by curtains suspended between columns, ran round the tabernacle, 100 cubits long and 50 wide. The entrance was toward the east—the rising of the sun—and closed by another costly curtain, into which, like unto the first covering, figures of " cherubim" were woven. The 'surrounding court was much larger on this eastern than on the western side, for here it was that the people assembled for the purpose of worship. Here also stood the altar, made of acacia-wood, upon which a perpetual fire was kept burning, and the brazen laver. The sanctuary contained the gilded table with the showbread to the right, the golden candlestick with the seven branches to the left, and between both the "golden altar," or the " altar of incense," upon which the high-priest burned incense in the morning and evening. In the holy of holies, the holy ark, or ark of the covenant, alone was kept; a box of acacia-wood, plated with pure gold both in and outside, containing the two tables of the Ten Commandments. On the top of it were the two cherubim, their faces turned toward each other; and between them there was the symbolical presence of Jehovah (the Shechinah), to which Moses appealed for guidance.
Only once a year, on the Day of Atimement, the high-priest was allowed to enter the holy of holies, while the sanctuary was the ordinary place of the priests, and the court that of the Levites. The tribe of Levi was also that to which the place nearest to the tabernacle, around which the 12 tribes were grouped, was assigned, as it also was the duty of its members to convey the building from place to place during the migrations.
.The tabernacle, after the people had settled in Canaan, was erected at Shiloh, where, it was still found at the time of Saul, although the ark of the covenant itself had been carried away by the Philistines, in the time of Eli, and when restored, placed at Kirjath jearim. Nor was the tabernacle of Shiloh the only sanctuary, as it was intended to be. We find other local sanctuaries with priests—at Bethel, Nob, Sichem, Mizpah, etc.—at which even Samuel worshiped. as in legally instituted places. When David is reported to have removed the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem, nothing is said about the tabernacle of Shiloh; on the contrary, David erected a new one on purpose for the ark. It seems probable that it was removed at some time or other from Shiloh to Nob, and thence to Gibeon, from whence Solomon seems to have fetched it away, with all its vessels, thus putting an end to the double worship that under David had divided the faithful between Gibeon, where Zadok officiated, and Jerusalem with Asaph's worship. Nothing is further known of the tabernacle, which, besides being a symbol of God's presence, had also served the purpose of a visible political and religious link between the tribes. As a safeguard against idolatry and unlimited sacrificial worship, however, it did not prove effective enough.