The Curtains and Coverings

Exodus 26:1-14

Having described the furnishings of the two inner chambers, except for the Altar of Incense, Yahweh turns to the design and materials to be used in the construction of the Tabernacle. Curtains, loops, clasps, coverings, frames, bases, crossbars, posts, hooks are specified by material, size, number and color. In Exodus 26:1-2, Yahweh commands Moses to —

Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman.

The INNER CEILING and WALL COVERING of the two rooms of the Tabernacle was composed of ten finely twisted linen curtains, richly ornamented, each forty-two feet in length and six feet wide. These were coupled together in fives, breadth to breadth, thus giving a total length of forty-two feet and a breadth of sixty feet, which would not only reach across the Tabernacle, which was fifteen feet in width, but would overlap its sides.

The two sets of five twisted linen curtains were linked together by fifty loops of blue in each, which were fastened with fifty clasps of gold—firmly uniting the whole together in one solid piece. The curtains were attached to upright acacia wood frames and acacia wood crossbars that were overlaid with gold.

What we have before us is Christ incarnate providing a dwelling place on earth for God. These linen curtains pointed to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and exhibited the holiness of His nature. The CURTAINS were made not merely of linen, but FINE LINEN. In Revelation 19:8, we encounter Christ’s bride, the Church, dressed in this material as well as the Holy Spirit’s definition of what FINE LINEN symbolizes—

Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

The FINE LINEN stands for THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE SAINTS. The word ACTS is added by the translators. BRIGHT and CLEAN is the opposite of the way God views our righteous in Isaiah 64:6—

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousness is like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Christians are made righteous—pure and holy—because they are in Christ, not because of anything they have done! Therefore, the FINE LINEN typified the manifested holiness of and righteousness of Christ. From His birth to His death, Jesus is without sin—the spotless Lamb of God.

Notice this is FINE TWISTED LINEN. We have seen so far that with each furnishing in the Tabernacle portrays Christ’s righteousness and suffering. The ACACIA wood of the Ark of the Covenant is a twisted wood. This wood bears touch-me-not thorns symbolizing that God is holy and unapproachable except for the blood sprinkled on the Atonement Cover. On the Table is the pierced, unleavened Bread of the Presence made of crushed FINE FLOUR, sprinkled with frankincense, which comes from the tears of the bark of Boswellia tree. The Lampstand is hammered out of one piece of pure gold. And now, we discover the curtains are made of FINE TWISTED LINEN. What these profound images picture is summarized by the prophet in Isaiah 53:4-5—

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

With our spiritual lenses focused, we look at the Tabernacle and its furnishings and see hammered to the Cross the twisted body of Jesus, who bore our sins and sorrows as He was pierced and crushed by God’s wrath so we might be reconciled to Him and have peace.

Coming to His death, we see the spotless Lamb of God—bright and clean—shining in all His purity! The world hangs Him between two thieves. One thief continues to mock Him, the other is moved by our Lord’s sinlessness to the point of seeking to His kingdom and His righteousness. Then Luke 23:47 records—

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

Yes, the finely twisted linen curtain foreshadowed this moment!

BLUE, PURPLE and SCARLET YARN were worked into the naturally white curtains by skilled craftsmen to embroider CHERUBIM. Each of the colors brings out a separate perfection in the Person of our blessed Redeemer.

WHITE signifies Christ’s purity, holiness, righteousness, sinlessness!

BLUE is the celestial color—it signifies Christ came from heaven. The Gospels carefully bear testimony to the heavenly source of that One who was laid in the manger. The angels were sent to announce Him as “Christ the Lord.” Jesus told Nicodemus—

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

Though He was VERY MAN, yet Jesus walked in the uninterrupted consciousness of His DEITY as a Pilgrim and Stranger on this earth. He never once forget where He came from and where He was going.

PURPLE is emblematic of ROYALTY. We discover an instance of this color being fulfilled when the Roman soldiers expressed their scorn for Israel’s King by going through a mocked coronation. The soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”

From His birth to His death, the royal color, PURPLE was Christ’s. Matthew’s Gospel records His genealogy in PURPLE, showing that He is the Son of David. He tells of the Magi who come seeking, “The King of the Jews.” Of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the King, announcing, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Still move vividly did the PURPLE shine in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and when Pilate placed over His cross the inscription, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Not only is Jesus, the King of the Jews, HE IS KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, who is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. At the end of the Tribulation Period, He will return to this earth with the hosts of heaven, not as an unwelcomed Pilgrim and Stranger, but as its Ruler.

SCARLET is the color of blood, vividly suggesting the sufferings of Christ. Scarlet dye is obtained from “tolaath shani,” meaning scarlet-worm. In Psalm 22:6 our holy Lord in the midst of His anguish as the sin-offering on the cross, ponders—

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.

God crushed Jesus like a worm for our iniquities. He took our place as a worm, He went down into death, crushed under the wrath and judgment of God. His precious blood was shed to put away our scarlet sins. Isaiah 1:18 summons—

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

The SCARLET can be seen in Gethsemane, when being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. His anguish came not from the fear of death, but of bearing the sins of the world.

The Scriptures teach that SUFFERING PRECEDES GLORY and SCARLET also is the emblem of glory. It’s not surprising to find purple and scarlet associated with Babylon the Great in the last days. At its fall the merchants will weep, mourn, and cry out: “Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!”

Satan is the great counterfeiter—fine linen, purple and scarlet—but no blue! Earth’s capital of the last days will be the antithesis of heaven—inspired by the Antichrist—this city will be demonic and worldly! Yet, it will have an air of greatness! People will cherish the counterfeit instead of the real.

Embroidered into the fine linen were CHERUBIM. As the priests ministered in the Holy Place and gazed upward, there above their heads were the embroidered forms of these heavenly creatures. CHERUBIM are the guardians of the Garden of Eden, they flank the Throne of God, and golden ones are part of the Atonement Cover on the Ark of the Testimony.

In Ezekiel’s visions of God, the four living creatures—cherubim—represent Christ, each having a face of a man, lion, ox and eagle. Of course, the Gospel of Luke depicts Jesus as the Son of Man, Matthew as the lion-King, Mark as the ox-Servant, and John as the eagle-God.

We’re not told what the embroidered cherubim looked like on the curtains, but four colors were present in their features. If they looked like the ones Ezekiel saw, they certainly symbolized Christ, who came from heaven to be the Redeemer-King!

In any case, the four colors are in harmony with the four Gospels. Matthew is the Gospel in Purple, Mark in Scarlet, Luke in White, and John in Blue.

Angels kept sacred vigil and attended to Jesus after the Devil tempted Him in the wilderness. It was part of their duty to watch over Him. Even the Devil knew it. He took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and said—

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “`He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus told Peter when He drew the sword at Gethsemane—

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

These embroidered angelic beings show the heavenly host were at Christ’s disposal during His first coming and they probably picture His Second Coming as well. For Jesus said in Matthew 16:27—

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

The curtains in the Tabernacle speak of the complete unfolding of God’s revelation of Himself in Christ. The fine twisted linen with its four colors and embroidered cherubim, typified, distinctively, neither the Deity nor the humanity of Jesus, but the person of the God-man and the varied glories manifested by Him while He tabernacled among men.

Since these curtains formed the inside ceiling and wall covering of the most holy place and the holy place, only the priests ever saw them. This suggests that none but those having access to God are able to appreciate the perfections of His Son as they were manifested by Him during His earthly ministry. The rank and file of the Jews saw in Him no beauty that they should desire Him. His moral loveliness was lost upon them—it only served to condemn their moral ugliness, and thus aroused their enmity. The few, not the many, would proclaim with the apostle John—

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

It is the same today. Christ is sill despised and rejected. The unregenerate have no capacity to discern His excellencies. A good Man, the best of men, He is acknowledged to be; but as the Holy One of God (the white), the Lord from heaven (the blue), the King of kings (the purple), and the One who because of His sufferings will yet come back to this earth and reign over it in power and glory (the scarlet), He is unknown!

Verses 3-4—

All the curtains are to be the same size—twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide. Join five of the curtains together, and do the same with the other five. Make loops of blue material along the edge of the end curtain in one set, and do the same with the end curtain in the other set.

The fact that the curtains run from the ceiling down the walls to the floor of the Tabernacle suggests that Christ made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. He came from heaven to earth to save us!

The purpose of the loops and clasps is stated in verses 5-6—

Make fifty loops on one curtain and fifty loops on the end curtain of the other set, with the loops opposite each other. Then make fifty gold clasps and use them to fasten the curtains together so that the tabernacle is a unit.

The Tabernacle is a UNIT—it is one whole. There are TEN CURTAINS. TEN is the number of human responsibility. Hence, there are Ten Plagues on Egypt and Ten Commandments. It is not surprising to find two sets of five curtains.

The Ten Commandments are divided into two sets of five. The first five are joined by the words—THE LORD YOUR GOD and show our responsibility to Him. The last five don’t have these words, since they show our responsibility to one another. The Ten Curtains grouped together in two sets of fives speak of Christ, as the Representative of His people, meeting the whole of their obligations, both Godward and manward. He loved God with all His heart, and His neighbor as Himself—He was the only One who perfectly discharged these responsibilities.

There are FIFTY BLUE LOOPS in one curtain. Possibly, these loops symbolized the Son being linked to His heavenly Father’s will.

Of significance is the fact that CURTAIN comes from the Hebrew word that means TO TREMBLE or QUIVER, as suspended curtains sometimes do. A similar root with a similar meaning is the Hebrew word for FEAR.

Jesus was the dependent One, not relying upon His own strength, but cleaving ever to His Father. He was perfectly obedient, because He perfectly depended upon the will of the Father. The FEAR OF THE LORD characterized Him. Isaiah 11:2 predicted of Jesus—

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

The FIFTY GOLDEN CLASPS on each curtain along with the FIFTY BLUE LOOPS might seem unimportant, but, without them, there would have been no unity. They pointed to the unity and uniformity of the character and life of Christ. He is God and Man united as ONE TABERNACLE.

Exodus 26:7-14 contains the instructions for one more curtain and two coverings—

Make curtains of goat hair for the tent over the tabernacle—eleven altogether. All eleven curtains are to be the same size—thirty cubits long and four cubits wide. Join five of the curtains together into one set and the other six into another set. Fold the sixth curtain double at the front of the tent. Make fifty loops along the edge of the end curtain in one set and also along the edge of the end curtain in the other set. Then make fifty bronze clasps and put them in the loops to fasten the tent together as a unit. As for the additional length of the tent curtains, the half curtain that is left over is to hang down at the rear of the tabernacle. The tent curtains will be a cubit longer on both sides; what is left will hang over the sides of the tabernacle so as to cover it. Make for the tent a covering of ram skins dyed red, and over that a covering of hides of sea cows.

The second curtain was made of GOAT’S HAIR. THE GOAT was preeminently the animal used in the SIN OFFERING. In fact, in connection with Israel’s great feasts under the Law when the people were collectively represented before God, the goat was the one used in their sacrifices. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were celebrated together. During the seven days of this feast, a GOAT was slain for a sin offering to make atonement according to Numbers 28:17.

The next feast was WEEKS or PENTECOST and Leviticus 23:19 calls for the sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering.

Next came THE DAY OF ATONEMENT, when the High Priest sprinkled the blood of one goat on the Covenant Cover and then as he placed his hands on the head of a second goat, he confessed the sins of the nation and the goat was led away into the wilderness, never to return.

Finally, came the Feast of Tabernacles, when Israel rested from their toil and rejoiced in the blessings of God. This feast lasted for eight days, and on each day a goat was slain as a sin offering.

There is another feature about GOATS. They invariably are used in a bad sense in Scripture. We read of the separation of the sheep from the goats in respect to the good and bad nations. When Christ was made sin on the Cross, He experienced separation from God the Father. Hence, the GOAT HAIR CURTAIN pictures the blackness of sin.

Another significant observation is found in the fact that the GOAT HAIR CURTAIN is covered with the covering of RAM’S SKIN DYED RED. This is a beautiful picture of the blood of Christ covering the sins of those in Him.

There is no doubt that the GOAT HAIR CURTAIN pointed to Jesus the Great Sin Offering—who takes away the sin of the world. On the Cross, Christ propitiated God’s wrath and washed away sin, just as the slain goat did on the Day of Atonement. And as the live goat, Jesus carried away forever the sin of those who have trusted Him as Lord and Savior.

It should be observed that the word BLUE in used in connection with the LOOPS of the FINE TWISTED LINEN CURTAINS, but omitted with the GOAT SKIN CURTAINS. Why? Because many are unable to comprehend Christ’s heavenly character and glory (symbolized by BLUE) when think of Him on the Cross.

Deuteronomy 21:23 states, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” Except for a small remnant, the Jews have despised, abhorred, looked down, and even scorned the idea of their Messiah hanging on the tree of Calvary. Paul, therefore, writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18—

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The two coverings of the Tabernacle provide protection for all that was underneath. Inside one was protected from the extreme heat, cold, wind, sand and occasional rain storms of the desert. In Christ, the believer is protected from the wrath of God.

Interestingly, the only occurrence of this Hebrew word for COVERING outside of Exodus is the COVERING on NOAH’S ARK—another foreshadowing of God protecting those in Christ from His wrath.

COVERINGS OF ANIMAL SKINS speak of God’s grace and mercy. Adam and Eve sinned and immediately they experienced the shame of nakedness. In blind, sinful depravity, they tried to cover their shame with aprons made of fig leaves. God, however, rejected the works of their hands as a covering for sin.

Instead the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. They fell under the death penalty for sin. God would have been completely righteous in showing no mercy at all, but instead He provided a covering. An animal had to die so the coverings of skin could be made. This became the standard for all substitutionary sacrifices thereafter; there was to be no deviation. A sacrificial animal had to be brought before God as a substitute for the individual’s sin.

The RAM SKIN DYED RED COVERING pointed to Jesus as our Substitute. God told Abraham to go to Mount Moriah and sacrifice his son Isaac, but as he was about to plunge the knife into Isaac, the angel of the LORD stopped him. Genesis 22:13-14 records—

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

Of course, on that very same mountain God provided His only begotten Son as the once and for all sacrificial Substitute for sin. The purpose of Christ coming to earth was accomplished—He gave His life as a ransom for many! That’s pictured by RAM SKIN DYED RED COVERING.

The outer COVERING was made of the HIDES OF SEA COWS, that is the PORPOISE—a marine animal plentiful in the Nile region. Porpoise skin is very durable and was used for such things as shoes. Thus, it provided perfect protection against the elements of the desert.

Only this outer covering was visible to the public. There was nothing beautiful about it. It was bleached by the sun and wind of the desert. This outer covering gave no indication of the beauty of the interior of the Tabernacle.

This outer covering speaks of Christ’s unattractiveness of His physical appearance as well as His lack of charisma. The very two things the world looks for in their leaders, Jesus was not. He was neither a charmer nor a dazzler. Isaiah 53:2-3 asserts—

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

We understand our reaction to physical unattractiveness, but why did Israel despise and reject Him? Well, outwardly, Christ made Himself of no reputation—born in a manger, brought up in despised Nazareth was not the Jews idea of a Messiah! “Isn’t this the carpenter?” was the people’s estimation of Jesus! He’s ordinary!

They could see none of His spiritual grace, the heavenly beauty, or even the moral perfections, which lay beneath the outward form! The religious leaders of Israel said of Him in John 9:29—

We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.

Because of their own willful spiritual blindness, all they would see was the COVERING OF HIDES OF SEA COWS when they looked at Jesus.

This exposed covering is a fitting picture of the Lord’s body as He bore our sins. They placed a crown of thorns on His head, spit on Him, struck Him and scourged Him. They pierced His side when He was hanging on the Cross, and they exposed Him to humiliating shame. All of this caused the onlookers to be further convinced of His unattractiveness, which in itself was fulfillment of the OT prophecies.

So today the world sees no beauty in Jesus Christ. He is blasphemed, and His name is used in vain. But praise God there are those who recognize their sinful condition and realize that their only hope is to trust in Christ.

Just as a person had to come to the inside of the Tabernacle to see its beauty, a person needs to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to enter into fellowship with Him in order to appreciate the beauty of His holiness.

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