Hebrews chapter 9 The Tabernacle

A few notes on verses 1-10

"God having provided something better for us.." Hebrews 11:40

Overall theme

Having shown the superiority of the new priesthood, in which Christ the King and High priest is superior to Aaron, involving a new covenant, now the author presents the new sacrifice of Christ together with the new sanctuary to which the sacrifice of Christ gives access.

The overall theme is redemption.


The new priestly service of Christ the High Priest is shown in Chapter 8 along with the need and the efficacy of the new covenant. This chapter new speaks of the new sanctuary which the sacrifice of Christ has given access.

Hebrews 8:13 (NIV) By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

Verses 1-5 speaks of the earthly sanctuary

Hebrews 9:2 (NKJV) 2For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary;

Versus 6-10 speaks of the limitations of this sanctuary

Hebrews 9:9 (NKJV) 9It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-

Verses 1-5 speaks of the earthly sanctuary

The verses speaks of the tabernacle, which Moses was given divine instruction to build in Exodus. In everything; the materials it was made from, the floor plan, the furniture along with its location, the orientation which it was to be laid out and the location of the tribes of Israel encamped around it ALL have significance, and all point to various characteristics of God and Christ in particular.

This is not the place to spend much time examining the elements of the Tabernacle, but any serious student of the Bible will want to spend considerable effort in understanding its structure, operation and fulfilment in Christ.

The Tabernacle = house or dwelling place.

1.      "the tabernacle of the congregation," rather "of meeting", i.e., where God promised to meet with Israel Ex 29:42

2.      the "tabernacle of the testimony" Ex 38:21 & Nu 1:50 which does not, however, designate the whole structure, but only the enclosure which contained

3.      the "ark of the testimony" Ex 25:16,22 Nu 9:15

4.      the "tabernacle of witness" Nu 17:8

5.      the "house of the Lord" De 23:18

6.      the "temple of the Lord" Jos 6:24

7.      a "sanctuary" Ex 25:8

Its layout

The tabernacle or tent of meeting was a structure that was oblong, running east to west, with the opening facing east.

Essentially it was a box within a box within a box:

The (Outer) Court

The Holy Place

The Most Holy Place or Holiest of All (Heb 9:3) (also called by some Holy of Holies) (Ex 26:33)

The outer curtains or fence forming the (outer) court (Ex 27).

The entire operations of the tabernacle was protected from view by a curtain, forming the outer court, 100 x 50 x 5 cubits (Ex 27:18) i.e. 45 x 23 x 2.3 m. The linen represents righteousness.

The Entrance

The entrance was on the east side, protected by a screen (Ex 27:16).

There is only one way to the Most Holy, which was barred with a veil, furthermore, there is only one gate into the tabernacle.

John 10:9 (NKJV) I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

The Brazen Alter

On entering the tabernacle, one would be faced with the brazen alter, a very large device, about 2.2 m square on which sacrifices were burned daily. Brass because it was triable by fire, able to bear judgement.

On entering the Court, one can go no further unless an offering is made.

The Laver of brass

The laver of brass is called the "sea" in Solomon's temple (on which we stand in heaven - see Revelation 4). No dimensions were recorded in Scripture because the extent to which washing occurs has no dimensions. To a Christian water has great significance, not only due to Baptism, but due to the need to be constantly washed from our filthiness obtained from our rubbing with the world, that pollutes us.

To the Levite, it was used for cleansing, which is the same for the Christian. The water represents the word of God - it prepares one to enter the Holy Place, see: John 15:3, 17:17 and Ephesians 5:25-26

Ephesians 5:26 (NIV) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

In John 13 we see the washing of the disciples feed by Jesus, representing the removal of the pollution from the world which has soiled our feet; needed before one has fellowship. It is the Word of God - taken daily - that is required to keep ourselves clean, unblemished, from the world.

The Holy Place (or Tabernacle)

Beyond the Laver, walking west one comes to a box, 15 x 4.5 x 4.5 m which is made of rectangular boards standing on end, fitted into silver sockets, with rods of gold running longways to act as stays, with the entire structure overlayed with a four of layers of cloth: 1. linen with blue, scarlet and purple embroidery of cherubim, 2. goats hair, 3. rams skin dyed red, and 4. then badgers skin (sea cows in NIV). The box had an entrance, on the east end, closed with a curtain.

On entering the box, or second room, one would find that it was divided into half - the second half cut-off from the first. The box or second room is called the Tabernacle[2] and in it one would find a table with 12 loaves of bread on the northern side and on the other side the Lamp stand with seven branches burning oil for light. A little further in is the Golden Alter of Incense, made of wood overlayed with gold (Christ as man and divine), on which Aaron was to burn sweat incense morning and evening. The incense gave a cloud that represents the glory of God. It belonged to the Most Holy and is never separated from it.

The long room was divided into two, the first called the Holy Place. The second occupied by God himself, was entered once a year, by an appointed man, the High Priest. It was cut off from the rest of the tabernacle by the veil. Immediately in front of the veil, and forming part of the third room, the Holy of Holies is the Golden Alter, on which incense was burnt.

If one could enter the Holy of Holies - and no one could without dying, except on the Day of Atonement - one would find the Ark of the Covenant.

Ark of the Covenant was a box of acacia wood overlayed with gold (ie wood = incorruptible wood (Septuagint) = humanity of Christ, overlayed with gold = divine beauty) on which was a lid, called the Mercy Seat of solid gold. Over the Mercy Seat were two cherubims facing each other with their wings touching (Ex 25:17). In the Ark was a golden pot containing manna, Aaron's rod that budded and the tablets of the covenant (Hebrews 9:4).

The peculiar thing about this box (the Tabernacle) is, if one examined it closely, was the fact that the most beautiful layer was on the inside, the dullest was on the outside, hence when viewing the Tabernacle, one could only see the layer called badgers skins in the KJV, but some believe to be porpoise skins or sea cows - which were grey and non-descript. Indeed, only by looking up whilst standing in the Tabernacle could one view the beautiful embroidered linen.

Isaiah 53:2 (NKJV) For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.


The entire structure was designed by God.

There was only one Tabernacle - only one meeting place. Its location was appointed by God. There is only one place, one way by which we can find salvation:

John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

The importance of each element, especially the Ark, is epitomised by two events that is recorded in the Old Testament. The Ark was never to be touched.

1.      The case where David returns the Ark and Uzzah who steadies because it had been placed on a cart, died instantly (1 Sam 6:4-8). There is only one way to approach God, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ - there is no short cut.

2.      The case where the Philistines returns the Ark on a cart, pulled by two cows (who had never pulled anything before), who take the Ark to Beth Shemesh. On arrival the men of Beth Shemesh opened the Ark, which angered God, who killed 50,070 men (1 Sam 6:19). One cannot look upon the broken law without the shedding of blood.

The entire Tabernacle has to do with redemption:

Hebrews 9:22 (NKJV) 22And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

1.      A sinner needs be redeemed.

2.      The first-born needs to be redeemed.

3.      The Law provided methods to do so - all of which pointed towards God.

4.      To obtain redemption, a ransom is needed.

Hebrews 9:1-5 The Tabernacle

The glory of the old is now outlined, but again it shows the inferiority to it when compared with the antitype - heaven.

Is a type of the perfect found in heaven.

Note the tense of the sentences - all past - a new and living way has now been established.

Aaron for 359 days ministered at the golden alter, on one day of the year he went past the golden alter, into the Holy of Holies.

(4) The term "golden censer" has confused some but it is clearly the Golden Incense Alter (Ex 30:1, 6-9) which belonged to the Most Holy. Incense and prayers are only for believers (John 17:9)

(5) The cherubim of glory symbolised the presence of God acting as guardians of the majesty of God.

Hebrews 9:6-10 The Priests Contrasted or the limiting features of the tabernacle

Aaronic priests are earthly.

Christ is heavenly - high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The section speaks of two parts of the tabernacle.

(6) Services - morning and evening along with daily sacrifices, attending lamps, attending Golden Alter

Weekly - show bread was changed on Sabbath morning.

(7) Day of Atonement

Incense is used which formed a cloud in which the presence of God was found.

Two sets of sacrifices

1. needed by Aaron himself as a sin offing.

2. needed for the sin of the people.

Blood is sprinkled on and before the mercy seat to make atonement (covering) for the people.

A scape goat was let loose into the wilderness bearing "all the iniquities of the children of Israel.."

The offering was for the errors of the people - sins of ignorance (Lev 4:2, 5:15, Number 15:22-24)

Note presumptuous sin is dealt with in accordance to Numbers 15: 30, 31.

Note also sacrifices did not make provision for forgiveness, see Ps 51:16 compared with 51:13

(8) There was no access with liberty - only one person per year. Compare this with 10:19-22

Hebrews 10:19, 20 (NKJV) Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

The Jew had no place as we do, to draw nigh in confidence (Romans 5:1-3).

Note "while as the first tabernacle was yet standing": encompasses all tabernacles and temples and the law. The true tabernacle is found elsewhere, which Christ is the Minister (Heb 8:2).

Two points:

  1. A veil was present to keep people out.
  2. The ceremony was repeated endlessly

(9-10) The imperfections are pointed out.

[1] Note that the actual sermon deviated somewhat from the notes.

[2] Tabernacle properly, although the whole was referred to as "the tabernacle", but God could only reside in the inner most sanctuary - the rest being polluted by man.

DL Simon (CCC Aug 2006)
Hebrews\Hebrews - chapter 9 v 1 to 10.doc