Temple #2: The Tent

God’s presence eventually migrates from the temple of Eden to a new temple that will take on the mobile form of a tent. Sure, a tent may not seem all that glorious, but could anything human hands ever build compare to Eden, let alone God’s Heavenly temple? And so, God instructs Moses on how to design this new temple and it’s there that we find the first spiritual gift listed in the Bible: Craftsmanship.

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” (Ex 31:1-5)

And so, just as the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters and played into the creation of the world and the temple in Eden, so He now hovers over this new temple by empowering these workers to build it. And that’s not the end of the connections between Eden’s temple and Moses’ tabernacle. As scholar Richard S. Hess points out,

The story of Bezalel and his partner Oholiab is the story of the spirit of creation. It is no accident that similar vocabulary appears in the creation of the world in Genesis 1 and that of the tabernacle in the second half of Exodus. The writers shared a view that the universe, the Garden of Eden and the tabernacle all functioned as special abodes of God and as distinctive centres for the place of divine encounters with creation, humanity and Israel. For this reason the parallels at the end of the creation and building accounts have been observed as points at which God recognizes the work and dedicates it to his good purpose by blessing it. (Hess, Richard S. “Bezalel and Oholiab: Spirit and Creativity.” Presence, Power and Promise. Kindle Locations 1655-1658.)

Hess then goes on to show the similarities between the two accounts.

Exodus 39:43: Moses saw…. behold…. they had done it…. so had they done it…. Moses blessed.

Genesis 1:31, 2:3: God saw…. he had made…. behold…. God blessed….

Exodus 40:33: Moses finished the work.

Genesis 2:2: God finished his work….

Exodus 39:32: ….all the work…. was finished….

Genesis 2:1: ….the heavens and the earth were finished….

So now we have a temple, but where is God’s presence? After all, what good is a temple if God’s presence isn’t there? The migration of the presence from Eden to the tabernacle takes place shortly after it’s built in Exodus 40:34-35.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

God’s presence is clearly there in the tent in the form of “glory,” something that Mark S. Smith calls, “the aura or effulgence of divine presence.” (Smith, Mark S. “The Three Bodies of God in the Hebrew Bible.” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 134, no. 3, 2015, p. 488. JSTOR.)

God has moved from Eden to a new home amidst His people—and while He is omnipresent, this sacred space will continue to be a special place where His glory dwells. His presence will dwell within a special room in the tent known as the Holy of Holies. This place is so sacred that only the high priest (the Pope, if you will) was allowed to enter it—and he was only allowed to do so once a year on the Day of Atonement. Approaching such a place came with a fair amount of warning seeing as how God told Moses to, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat” (Lev 16:2).

Even the way that Israel set up camp around this sacred space seemed to communicate warning; for the Levites (the clan chosen to be the priests of the temple) camped “around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel” (Num 1:53). It’s almost as though the Levites were making a human wall around this sacred space to make sure that no child kicked a soccer ball too close to the presence of God, because who knows what might happen if they did?

Want to continue the conversation? Take the long journey with my book/audiobook, The Rush and the Restor take a shorter path with my condensed version, Fantasy IRL.


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