The Three Tabernacles

John Plunkett

Feast of Tabernacles - Day 1

October 24th 2018

Today is the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles!  

In the Hebrew: Chag ha Sukot, which can mean the Feast of Huts, Booths, Pavilions, Cottages, Coverts or Tents – all of them "temporary dwellings."

So, whichever of these you’re staying in, that’s fine!

This is the first day of the Feast of Temporary Dwellings.  In this sermon today, I would like to discuss the subject of tabernacles – temporary dwellings.


A few years ago, Trish and I joined a group of church brethren at a camp-out at the Cape Lookout State Park on the lovely Oregon coast.  Our hardier souls camped in tents.  And the less hardy souls – including Trish and me – stayed in a motel!  As it turned out, the tents were probably more luxurious than the motel! 

Many brethren camp for fun each summer; and some few – a very few nowadays, I believe – still camp at the Feast of Tabernacles each autumn.  This, of course, is in complete obedience to God’s commands concerning our living arrangements during His Feast of Tabernacles:

Leviticus 23:
33:  And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 
34:  “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord.’ 

But did you know that the LORD God of the Old Testament and the Jesus Christ of the New Testament also spent some time “camping”?

Continuing in Leviticus 23:

35:  On the first day {that’s today!} shall be a holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
36:  Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day
{which I still believe should be called “the Last Great Day”} shall be an holy convocation unto you.  It is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no servile work therein.
37:  These are the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations.

Like all the others of God’s Sabbaths and Holy Days, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day are holy convocations solemn assemblies.  The LORD God has commanded His people – those who are able – to meet together on these days.  

Just so there’s no mistake, the LORD God repeats this instruction for confirmation:

Verse 39:  Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month {that’s today}, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath.

Now, please notice these specific instructions:

40a:  And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook…

Please notice that He doesn’t actually say what His people are supposed to do with those boughs and branches – just that they’re supposed to take some of them for inclusion in the Feast.

We have assumed in the past that they were supposed to have built their sukkahs – their Feast of Tabernacles temporary dwellings – from these boughs and branches that they had collected.  But the scripture doesn’t actually say so.

Also, some Bible scholars have noted that, if this assumption were true, a couple of thousand Israelite families would quickly denude even the largest local forests and palm groves – to the point of no return – no re-growth.

40b: … And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41:  And you shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year.  It shall be a statute forever in your generations: you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42:  You shall dwell in booths
{sukot} seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
43a:  That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt…

And the New Covenant spiritual antitype of that great event, too, of course!  Sin!

But that is not the only reason!  God tells us elsewhere (e.g. Deuteronomy 14:23) of other reasons and purposes for His Feast of Booths. 

But just to complete the quote from Leviticus 23:

43b: … I am the LORD your God.

As already mentioned, not very many church brethren camp in tents or trailers at the Feast anymore, as many more did in the less affluent years gone by, when Feast camping was quite common.  Today, most of the brethren stay in hotels, motels, condos or cottages for the Feast.  And that’s O.K.!  

The important thing is not that we must construct our temporary dwellings of palm, willow and other tree branches.  In fact, as already mentioned, during the years that many thousands of Israelites made their way to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, if they all would have cut branches from the trees en route, they would have very soon totally and permanently clear-cut the whole area!

No.  Whether your Feast dwelling is made of tree branches, canvas, nylon, plastic, wood, brick or metal, the main thing, if your health allows, is that you reside in a temporary dwelling.  Condos, hotels and motels are still temporary dwellings, so the correct symbolism is still there.


But did you know that Jesus camped? 

And very frequently too!  There are some implications that, as a human being, once His public ministry began, He occasionally – probably quite often even – slept outdoors.

Did you ever wonder what He meant when He made this statement?:

Matthew 8:
18:  Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
19:  And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, “Master, I will follow you wherever you go.”
20:  And Jesus said unto him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.”

It appears that, although His mother and step-father evidently did have a home back in Nazareth, once His ministry began, He was permanently “on the road”!

But, if you think about it, His entire, human, physical sojourn on earth was one 33-year-long “camp-out.” 

At the time of His miraculous human conception, He had voluntarily moved away from His permanent, comfortable home in Heaven, where He had lived for eternity with His Father:

John 1:14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

The word “dwelt” here is translated from the Greek verb skenoo, which literally means to set up or to live in a tabernacle or a tent. 

A valid paraphrase of this phrase would be:

The Word became flesh and tabernacled -- or tented -- or camped -- among us.

But Jesus’ human sojourn was not His first “camping trip” to earth.  As the LORD/YHWH of the Old Testament era, He frequently lodged in temporary dwellings whenever He was visiting the Israelites.  For approximately five hundred years – from Moses’ time to Solomon’s time – He dwelt in tents – probably as many as three different ones!  Maybe even more!

These tents were, of course, portable, so that He could stay with the Israelites during their travels. 

But, He had no complaints about staying in a mere tent.  As He told Nathan and David, this was according to His own will, pattern and purpose:

II Samuel 7:
1:  And it came to pass, when the king
{David} sat {Hebrew: yashab} in his house {bayith}, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies;
2:  That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell
{yashab} in a house {bayith} of cedar, but the ark of God {His portable, physical, temporary throne} dwells {yashab} within curtains.”
3:  And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart; for the LORD is with you.”
4:  And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying,
5:  “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Shall you build me an house
{bayith} for me to dwell {yashab} in?
6:  Whereas I have not dwelt
{yashab} in any house {bayith} since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent {ohel} and in a tabernacle {mishkan}.
7:  In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spoke I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, ‘Why build you not me a house
{bayith} of cedar?’

In my next sermon, we’ll get into the stone temple that David had a hand in designing.


But, did you hear me say, earlier, that there may have been three Tent-Tabernacles?

Yes!  But, just as a side-point, and I’m not sure if this is at all significant; in his Acts 28 account, Luke mentions that Paul travelled through a place close to Rome called (in the Greek) “Treis Tabernai” and is variously rendered in different English language Bibles as Three Tabernacles, Three Huts, Three Taverns, Three Inns, or Three Hotels!

Yes, the great LORD God of the Old Testament lodged in temporary dwellings whenever He visited the Israelites.  For approximately five hundred years, from Moses’ time to Solomon’s time, He stayed in tents – portable palaces – during the times when the Israelites were travelling. 

The scriptures indicate that there were probably more than just one Tent-Tabernacle – possibly at least three. 

Consider, once again, this time in I Chronicles, what the LORD said to David via Nathan the prophet when the idea of a more permanent stone temple was up for discussion:

I Chronicles 17:5:
For I have not dwelt in a house
{bayith} since the time that I brought up Israel, even to this day, but have gone from tent {ohel} to {ohel} to tent, and from one tabernacle {mishkan} to another. 

For a brief period before the "main," best-known Tent-Tabernacle was built back in Moses' time, there appears to have been an initial, temporary one. 

Although the pattern for the "main" Tabernacle was given by God in chapters 25 to 31 of the book of Exodus, its construction did not begin until the time described in chapter 35.  But in chapter 33, before the construction of the main tabernacle had begun, we read this:

Exodus 33:
7:  And Moses took the
{NKJV, Geneva: "his"} tabernacle, and pitched it without {outside} the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it “the Tabernacle of the congregation.”  And it came to pass, that everyone which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without {outside} the camp.
8:  And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.

This tabernacle can’t have been the main, portable house of the LORD that He had designed and which the the Israelites took with them on their journeys – because, according to the description in Numbers 2, that one was to be located, not outside the camp – not afar off from the camp – but at the very centre of the camp.

The second and main Tent-Tabernacle is well known by everyone and is described more fully in the next section of today’s sermon.

The third Tent-Tabernacle in which God dwelt during His visits to the Israelites is mentioned in these verses:

I Chronicles 15:1:
And David made him houses
{bayith} in the city of David, and prepared a place {maqowm: home} for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent {ohel}.

I Chronicles 16:1:
So they brought the ark of God and set it in the midst of the tent
{ohel} that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God.

This was evidently not the original, second, main Tent-Tabernacle!


Of the three Tent-Tabernacles, the one that we might think of as the “main” one (which was the second one) – the one that we are most familiar with – was first introduced to the Israelites in Exodus 25, where we read of the LORD God requesting a special offering from His people in order to gather together the materials for His new temporary dwelling:

Exodus 25:
1:  And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying,
2:  “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that gives it willingly with his heart
{N.B.} you shall take my offering”…

Please notice that the LORD God only wanted offerings from people who really wanted – from their hearts – to give. 

3:  And this is the offering which you shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass,
4:  And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair,
5:  And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood,
6:  Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,
7:  Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate.
8:  And let them make me a sanctuary
{miqdash: sacred or holy place}; that I may dwell {shakan: to rest or to lodge} among them.
9:  According to all that I show you, after the pattern of the
tabernacle {mishkan}, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it… 
Verse 40:  And look that you make them after their pattern, which was showed you in the mount.”

Pattern?  What pattern?  Pattern of what?  What pattern had the LORD showed them "in the mount" (likely Mount Sinai)?

Here’s what the well-respected Bible commentator, John Gill wrote on verses 9 and 40:

The sanctuary was to be made in all respects exactly according to the view of it that Moses now had upon the mount from God, and which he was to communicate to the workmen for their instruction and direction; after the pattern of the tabernacle, and of the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it: and by the "pattern" is not meant an idea of it, impressed on the mind of Moses, or a picture of it which was shown him, but a little edifice representing it in all its parts, a perfect model of it.

Moses was showed the model of the tabernacle, so also of the candlestick, and of all its appurtenances, and of every other vessel in it; and he is strictly charged to look carefully and diligently to it, that everything be done exactly according to the model he had a view of, in which everything was particularly described, and nothing was left to the will, humour, and fancy of men.

Here is God's answer to this question in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 8:
4b:  ... there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
5:  Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, “See,” said He
{the LORD God}, that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount.”

John Gill again in his commentary on verse 5: 

The example and shadow of heavenly things… 
Things respecting the person, office, and grace of Christ; the priests themselves were types of Him; the places they ministered in were an exemplar of the heavenly places, as the word may be rendered, where Christ is; and the things they ministered were shadows of the good things which are by Christ; and the shadows were mere representations; dark, obscure, glimmering ones, and were fleeting and transitory.

As Moses was admonished of God…
(Moses) was a peculiar favourite of God, and was the mediator between God and the people of Israel, and what he received was… wise; what he delivered to the people was what he received from God; and what was thus delivered ought to be received as from God: and this admonition… was given him when he was about to make the tabernacle; the Levitical one, with everything appertaining to the worship of God in it: this is ascribed to Moses, though it was made by others, because it was by his direction, and under his care and oversight; and he had this admonition at the beginning of it; and at the finishing of it he looked upon it, and saw that it was all done as the Lord had commanded.

For see, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the Mount; 
Moses was taken up into a mountain with God, even Mount Sinai; and while he was there, a pattern was given him of the tabernacle and all its utensils; this was not a device of his own, but was shown him by God; and this pattern reached to every particular thing; and great care and circumspection were used that the most minute thing answered to it. 

But this Tent-Tabernacle did not only picture God’s heavenly throne.
Ironically, it also pictured the frail, human bodies of God’s people!  So wrote the apostles Peter and Paul:

II Peter 1:
13:  Yes, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle
{Greek: skenoma}, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
14:  Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle
{skenoma} even as our Lord Jesus Christ has showed me.

Peter obviously knew that he was drawing close to the end of his human life – a time of life that Paul also mentions in the same vein:

II Corinthians 5:
1:  For we know that if our earthly house
{oikia} of this tabernacle {skenos} were dissolved, we have a building {oikodome} of God, a house {oikia} not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2:  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house
{oiketerion} which is from heaven:
3:  If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4:  For we that are in this tabernacle
{skenos} do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
5:  Now He that has wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6: Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7:  (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8:  We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Please notice Paul’s contrast between our temporary, earthly, human tent-tabernacles {skenos} and the more permanent, heavenlybuildings {oikodome} – the “houses {oiketerion} that we are promised to receive from heaven in the future.


After the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, the Tent-Tabernacle was not taken directly to Jerusalem!  It was pitched in various places: Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob and Gibeon. 

At the dedication of the first stone temple, Solomon brought the original Tent-Tabernacle from Gibeon to Jerusalem and into the new temple:

 II Chronicles 5:
1:  Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the LORD was finished: and Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated; and the silver, and the gold, and all the instruments, put he among the treasures of the house of God.
2:  Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.
3:  Wherefore all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto the king in the feast which was in the seventh month.
4:  And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark.
5:  And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up.

On Day 4 of the Feast, we'll further examine this transition from Tent-Tabernacle to stone temple!


So then, was the Tent-Tabernacle a shoddy, second-rate structure? 

No! It certainly was not!   Remember that it was the LORD's portable palace and was built to His very own design and standards!

Bezaleel, Aholiab, and other top craftsmen were the very best of their field and were called by name.  Literally!  Aholiab means “Father’s Tent.”  Bezale-el means “In the shadow of God.”

They were hand-picked by the LORD God Himself.  Just as you and I were!

Just like the master-craftsmen that God chose, the materials collected for the tabernacle were also all of the very highest quality: the hand-crafted acacia wood, the very finest linen, the gold, silver and brass. 

Some commentators have calculated that over fifteen tons of gold, silver and brass were used in its construction! 

(For a detailed description of its materials and construction, may I recommend that you read “The Tabernacle” by William Brown?)

Where did all these materials come from? 

They came from the Israelites, a people who were usually so very self-centred and wayward!  But in this case, many of the Israelites were very keen and super-generous:

Exodus 35:
20:  And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses.
21:  And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all its service, and for the holy garments.
22:  And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the LORD.
23:  And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers’ skins, brought them.
24:  Every one that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought the LORD’S offering: and every man, with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it.
25:  And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen.
26:  And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.
27:  And the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate;
28:  And spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.
29:  The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.

Please notice these phrases:
• Whose heart stirred him up
• Whose spirit was willing
• Whose hearts were willing
• As many as had a willing heart

Willing, willing, willing!  Over and over again!

We read earlier, back in Exodus 25, that God asked for contributions of materials and labour; but only from those with willing hearts – not from any who did not give willingly!


Now, this offering for the Tent-Tabernacle project was a special offering.

Three times a year – not seven, by the way (Exodus 23:14-15; Deuteronomy 16:16) – God's people were and still are commanded to take up different kinds of offerings than the Tent-Tabernacle one.  We call them “Holy Day Offerings.”  

But I believe that the requirement is the same.  I believe that God only wants contributions from people with willing hearts.  If our hearts are not wholeheartedly in it, then we may as well not bother, because God will reject those offerings.


Please don't think that this is some kind of “sales-pitch” to coerce you into increasing the amount of your Holy Day Offerings.  All of us know by now that, although God really does appreciate our willing offerings, He does not actually need them!  He owns the whole universe, and all the material in it.  John the Baptist said that God is able, if He wanted to, to raise up mere stones to do His work (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8).

The amount of our offerings is of secondary importance.  It is best, if possible, to plan our offering amounts before the Holy Days themselves – and if possible, prior to the beginning of God’s sacred year.

Here are the main points, asking more questions: 

Your past generosity tells our Father and Jesus that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes!”  

So, on this first day of God’s Feast of Tabernacles, as we thank Him for all that He has so richly blessed us with – and continues to do so – let me take this opportunity to say a big “Thank you” to all of you for your continuing willing generosity and faithfulness.

And for continuing to have your hearts in our little group’s tiny part in the great Work of the living God!