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"The Multicolored Cover and Cherubim of the Tabernacle of Moses: Pt 1 Exodus 26:1 Explained"

Updated: Feb 18

Illustration created for The Tabernacle Man by Gilbert Contreras – Beryl Martin, Inc. 2008

Exodus 26:1 JPS 1917

Moreover, thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains:

of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet,

with cherubim the work of the skillful workman shalt thou make them.

4 Coverings of the Tabernacle

The roof was constructed of four separate coverings: (a) an inner wall hanging of multicolored wool and linen with cherubim; (b) a covering made of goat hair similar to a nomadic tent; (c) a covering of ram skins dyed red; (d) and a covering of skins from the mysterious tachash creature. In part one we will focus our study on the inner wall hanging of multicolored wool and linen with cherubim.

Historical Context Important

The structure or framework of the tabernacle of Moses was covered by four separate coverings. Each covering was comprised of four different materials. The Bible does not reveal the purpose of each covering. This missing purpose leads many to speculate and often becomes more of a reaffirmation of their interpretive bias.1

Both Judaism and Christianity understand our bodies and souls to be God’s Temple (see also Silberberg, The Inner Dimension of Plag Hamincha,; Hecht, What was the Holy Temple? (reference 1) and 1 Corinthians 6:19. Therefore, in these four-part series, I intend to first, examine the historical or practical use of each cover and second, offer personal application of each cover of the tabernacle as it applies to our bodies and soul as our temples or in this study, tabernacles.

First Cover - Inner Layer with Cherubim

Working our way from the inner part of the tabernacle, the first covering was comprised of ten separate sections woven from a twisted, six-ply, white linen “warp” (vertical) and a “weft” (horizontal) made from wool yarn each spun with six-ply threads of blue, purple, and scarlet.

The picture above is skeins of wool yarn spun for me by my good friend Daniel Smith from Utah. You will notice that the white linen is missing in the skeins because the multicolored yarn (weft) is what the spindle carries through the white linen warp. My professor for costuming in my university theater program taught us how to distinguish between the warp and the weft by remembering the voice of the fictional character Elmer Fudd, the archenemy of Buggs Bunny. The horizontal weft “goes weft to right! Daniel built a machine (see video below) from Legos to spin the multicolored thread. He is an amazing craftsman.

Free-will Offerings

The materials were gathered from free-will offerings. No one was forced to participate in the construction of the tabernacle. Likewise, the weaving of the first curtain was a labor of love and devotion (Exodus 35:29 JPS 1917).

“The children of Israel brought a freewill offering unto the LORD; every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all the work, which the LORD had commanded by the hand of Moses to be made.”

Colors of the First Covering

These curtains were beautiful and contain all of the colors revealed throughout the rest of the structure.

  • Blue is the color of the sky and is a reminder of the heavenly realm above (Exodus 24:10, Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1).

  • Red or scarlet reminder of the blood of the korban (blood offerings) was meant to draw a sinful person closer to the Lord as they sought redemption and restoration (Isaiah 1:18).

  • Purple was the color of the robes of kings and royalty (Judges 8:26) and a reminder of the majesty of the Lord.

  • White is the color of the warp – represents purity, cleansing, and the holy attribute of the Lord (Psalm 51:7, Isaiah 1:18).

The Practical Purpose of the Covering

As we will learn in future lessons this inner cover will be protected by the second layer. Without protection, the colorful wool of the first covering would soon fade and become damaged if it were exposed to intense sunlight and harsh and drastic changes in temperature between day and night, sandstorms, and sudden rain showers of desert life. Just underneath this cover is the holy vessels of the holy place which are overlaid with gold.

The white cherubim symbolically act as guardians of the sacred space of the tabernacle. They hover over the holy place and the holy of holies. This layer is the closest to the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant, the two tablets outlining God’s standards of living, Aaron’s rod of authority, and the pot of manna reminding the nation of God’s provision in the desert.

The Spiritual Purpose of the Covering

This cover is closest to the divine presence or glory of the Lord, the shekinah. The woven cherubim are daily reminders of the heavenly realm and the separation of the mundane physical dimension of this world from the holiness required of a life lived in the service of the Almighty. This a reminder that when we enter the presence of the Almighty, we must approach him with a spirit of worship with a heart filled with adoration and praise.

We are standing on holy ground.

The design of the cherubim-clad cover connects us to our need for holiness. Our need for a covering of holiness. A reminder that we belong to the Lord above (Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 26:18) and we have become a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9). There are times in our lives when the burdens of this world weigh us down and we feel spiritually stagnant like we are standing on the dry, parched and cracked soil of a harsh desert. Approaching the Lord in a spirit of worship we are commanded "to be holy as he is holy" (Leviticus 20:7).

In difficult times we may feel like we have failed God by not living by the spiritual principles outlined in the Bible. Whether the problems in our life came about at the hands of someone else or we brought them upon ourselves, we seek renewal and restoration. Whether our sins, misdeeds, and mistakes were intentional or unintentional, our earthly tabernacle (our souls) searches for forgiveness through repentance and restitution. Our souls need to be cleansed of the spiritual pollution that invades our earthly tabernacles.

You Can Return!

You can return to God. You can regain your spiritual strength. Life may unfold in ways we never anticipated. Spiritually, some falter and go astray. Restoration is possible through repentance and restitution. However, there are times when we have not sinned. We have not faltered but we experience a period of spiritual stagnation. We crave moments of refreshing and seek to draw close to our Lord for a sense of connection, wholeness, peacefulness, and direction in our life. In those moments we may feel as if God has abandoned us. When our calling seems to bring more hardship than joy. In those painful and vulnerable times in our life when we think God has forsaken us and we are spiritually dry and empty.

What is our spiritual covering in these times? May I suggest our first covering is the spiritual community to which we belong. The physical structure where we worship is important. The building can be a reminder of joyful moments in our lives. Holidays and special events with friends and family. It can also be a reminder of painful moments within the congregation. If we have been away for a while, it may not be easy walking through the door again. Our minds will tell us we will not be welcome. A hundred excuses will pop up why we should not go through the doors. Yet, deep down inside there is a place in our hearts where we know the house of prayer, our clergy, and those we are close to in the congregation provide us with a protective covering of prayer. We do not walk alone. Like the cherubim on the inner covering, we are surrounded by the messengers of the Almighty. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

In the desert places of our soul may we sense the Shekinah, the presence of God amid our earthly

tabernacles. May we enter his gates with praise and thanksgiving. May we once again return to

the place where we are standing on holyground surrounded by angels from on high. The purpose of the first covering reveals our need for and our . . .

Hungering and Thirsting for a Covering of Holiness for Our Souls - Nephesh.

Return Again

Return again, return again Return to the land of your soul Return again, return again Return to the land of your soul

Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again Reborn again

Return again, return again Return to the land of your soul Return again, return again Return to the land of your soul

Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again

Return again, return again Return to the land of your soul Return again, return again Return to the land of your soul

Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again

Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again Return to who you are, return to what you are Return to where you are born and reborn again Reborn again, ooh

by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Used here for non-commercial use only.


1 On the one hand, many Christian commentators go to great lengths to explain the symbolic meaning and the types and shadows represented by each covering as it relates to the redemptive nature of Jesus. On the other hand, Chasidic writings draw heavily from Jewish mystical thoughts of Kabbalah. Many English-speaking students of the Bible find the insights of mystical Judaism fascinating but difficult to understand without years of immersion alongside a Rabbi.

Although well-meaning, the type and shadow approach, too often, is devoid of any discussion of the historical context of the verses being studied. The study of types and shadows method to scripture can be rewarding and inspirational. One must be careful not to see a type or shadow in every passage.

When the type or shadow is stretched so far from the plain sense of the verse to support a particular denominational bias, the commentator’s symbolic interpretation leaves me frustrated. In those cases, I am left wondering, if everything is a shadow of things to come, then what was the understanding of the original audience and early readers of scripture?

Without the plain sense of the scripture indicating the purpose for each covering, we are left with the speculation of the commentary we are reading. My approach is to fall somewhere in the middle of both ends of the interpretive spectrum.

After reading this blog you may conclude I too have delved into a speculative interpretation of this portion of scripture that is far removed from the historical context.

2 This is the short video of the machine Daniel Smith created to spin the multicolored wool yard.

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