Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Happened to the Tabernacle? Part 1


Did you ever wonder what happened to the Tabernacle?

The Tabernacle was God's dwelling place from the time of Moses to the time of Solomon.  It was the place where the Israelites were to offer their sacrifices and to worship Yahweh.  Naturally it played a key role in the religious life of the nation for many centuries.  But eventually it was replaced by Solomon's Temple.  So what happened to the Tabernacle once the Temple was built?

Before we answer that question, let's follow the wanderings of the Tabernacle over the years.  It was constructed at the foot of Mount Sinai and the Israelites carried it along all throughout their 40 years of wilderness wanderings (Exod. 36-40).  It was situated at the very center of the camp with the Levitical tribe camping directly around it (Num. 1:53), and the other tribes encircling the Levites (Num. 2).

After Israel entered Canaan, the Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh (Josh. 18:1; 19:51), a city in the hill county that stood at the very center of Israelite territory.  It stood at Shiloh until the time of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:3).  However, during the time of David it seems to have moved around some: it seems to have been at Nob (1 Sam. 21:1-9) and then we find it at Gibeon (1 Chron. 16:39; 21:29), both of which are a few miles north of Jerusalem.  Shortly after Solomon became king, it was still at Gibeon (2 Chron. 1:3).

Yet when the Temple was completed, there was no need for the Tabernacle anymore.  In fact, for many years, the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle was empty!  The Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant during the time of Samuel, long before Saul even became king.  In 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites foolishly took the Ark into battle thinking that by doing so they could force God to give them a victory.  But God chose to allow the Israelites to be defeated and the Ark was captured by the Philistines.  The next two chapters of 1 Samuel record the fascinating story of the Ark's journey from one Philistine city to the next, as God demonstrated His power by knocking over a Philistine idol and sending a plague on the nation.  Eventually the Philistines decided to send the Ark back to the Israelites, but it never made it back to the Tabernacle.  Instead, it stayed in a city called Kiriath-jearim, several miles from Shiloh, Nob or Gibeon where the Tabernacle was during this time (1 Sam. 6:20-7:2).  Eventually David brought the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6) but it never again sat in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle.

So what happened to the Tabernacle?  Check back tomorrow and I'll show you the answer.  In the meantime, you can try and figure it out on your own.

Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.