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(Last updated 6/23/00)


Scripture speaks of several "Temples" in the Bible, all of which are an image of the Heavenly Temple. The first such representation was the "Tabernacle" (Mishkan) as first seen in the book of Exodus, beginning in chapter 25. The last earthly Temple is mention in the book of Ezekiel.

We are told by Ezekiel to study this Temple, as it contains great mysteries about God and His creation. The Tabernacle/Temple, and its associated priesthood, feasts, services and implements, is literally a parable, involving elements of both time and space, given to us by God Himself.

Finally, we have the Lord Himself represented as the "Temple" of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:22. It is said that of the 613 commandments given from God in the Torah, all but 90 have something to do with the Temple. Hence, this is a critical area of study.


The Bible gives indication that Moses was caught up in the Shekinah of God in verses such as Exodus 24:15-18. While in the presence of God (in Heaven?) Moses was shown heavenly items to which he was to use as the pattern for their earthly counterparts:

Exodus 25:8-9 - "And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. According to the pattern of the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it."

The book of Hebrews attests to the same thing:

Hebrews 8:5 - "... who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the Tabernacle. For He said 'See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain'."

Extra-Biblical Jewish writings state that the Tabernacle and its furnishings/implements are indeed an image of what is in heaven:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 149a - "... the structure of the Tabernacle corresponds to the structure of heaven and earth."

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 231a - "Now, the Tabernacle below was likewise made after the pattern of the supernal Tabernacle in all its details. For the Tabernacle in all its works embraced all the works and achievements of the upper world and the lower, whereby the Shekinah was made to abide in the world, both in the higher spheres and the lower. Similarly, the Lower Paradise is made after the pattern of the Upper Paradise, and the latter contains all the varieties of forms and images to be found in the former. Hence the work of the Tabernacle, and that of heaven and earth, come under one and the same mystery."

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 235b - "Now, the lower and earthly Tabernacle was the counterpart of the upper Tabernacle, whilst the latter in its turn is the counterpart of a higher Tabernacle, the most high of all. All of them, however, are implied within each other and form one complete whole, as it says: "that the tabernacle may be one whole" (Ex. XXVI, 6). The Tabernacle was erected by Moses, he alone being allowed to raise it up, as only a husband may raise up his wife. With the erection of the lower Tabernacle there was erected another Tabernacle on high. This is indicated in the words "the tabernacle was reared up (hukam)" (Ex. XL, 17), reared up, that is, by the hand of no man, but as out of the supernal undisclosed mystery in response to the mystical force indwelling in Moses that it might be perfected with him."

Menacoth 29a - "It was taught: R. Jose b. Judah says, An ark of fire and a table of fire and a candlestick of fire came down from heaven; and these Moses saw and reproduced, as it is written, And see that thou make them after their pattern, which is being shown thee in the mount. Will you then say the same [of the tabernacle], for it is written, And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which hath been shown thee in the mount! — Here it is written ‘according to the fashion thereof’, whilst there ‘after their pattern’."

b.Hag. 12b - ZEBUL is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem and the [heavenly] Temple and the Alter are built, and Michael, the great Prince, stands and offers up thereon an offering, for it is said: I have surely built you a house of habitation [ZEBUL] a place for you to dwell in forever (1Kn. 8:13) And where do we derive that it is called heaven? For it is written: Look down from heaven, and see, even from your holy and glorious habitation. (Is. 63:15)

The same concept is found when speaking of the first Temple. Here David receives the heavenly design idea and passes it along to his son Solomon, whom God had chosen to do the building:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 164a - Then he began to expound to them this verse: A song of degrees for Solomon (li-shelomoh). Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord guard the city, the watchman waketh but in vain (Ps. CXXVII, 1-2). Said he: ‘Was it Solomon who composed this Psalm when he built the Temple? (for li-shelomoh could be understood to mean "of Solomon"). Not so. It was King David who composed it, about his son Solomon, when Nathan came to him (David) and told him that Solomon would build the Temple. Then King David showed unto his son Solomon, as a model, the celestial prototype of the Temple, and David himself, when he saw it and all the activities connected with it, as set forth in the celestial idea of it, sang this psalm concerning his son Solomon.

On a related note, Jewish tradition forbids the construction of a building designed to look like the Temple, as well as the seven-branched Menorah:

RoshHaShannah 24b - Abaye replied: The Torah forbade only those attendants of which it is possible to make copies, as it has been taught: A man may not make a house in the form of the Temple, or an exedra in the form of the Temple hall, or a court corresponding to the Temple court, or a table corresponding to the [sacred] table or a candlestick corresponding to the [sacred] candlestick, but he may make one with five or six or eight lamps, but with seven he should not make, even of other metals.

Jewish literature has a lot to say about the heavenly Temple, including numerous references to a mysterious figure known as "Metatron," who is given such an exalted position, that at times he is even "confused" with God Himself. This Metatron figure bears a great likeness to Yeshua.

The book of Hebrews (especially chapters 4-8) also alludes to the heavenly tabernacle and priesthood and how they correspond to the earthly ones. Our Hebrews study, scheduled for the summer of 2000 will address this in detail.


God gives the arrangement of the tribes, as they were to be grouped around the Tabernacle, in Numbers, chapters 2. In the following chapter, He goes into further detail, giving the assignments of the tribes of the three children of Levi as well as their children (a total of eight grandchildren). The tribes of Levi did not have a place with the other twelve, rather these children and grandchildren were placed in the area closest to the Tabernacle. The three children were Merari, Gershon and Kohath. The eight grandsons of Levi were; Libni, Shimei, Amram, Izehar, Hebron, Uzziel, Mahli and Mushi (see Numbers 3:17-20).

This resulted in a final total of 24 groups, represented by 24 elders, (all mentioned by name) who surrounded the Tabernacle. The breakdown is as follows:

(1) Moses' family
(12) The 12 tribes
(3) The tribes of the 3 sons of Levi
(8) The tribes of the 8 grandsons of Levi

There is an obvious parallel to the book of Revelation:

Revelation 4:4 - "Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting."

Alternatively, the twenty-four elders could be associated with either the 24 courses of the priesthood that each served twice a year for one week throughout the year. Some also consider the possibility of them being the heads of the 12 tribes plus the 12 Talmidim of Yeshua (the 12 "apostles.")

As the twelve tribes can be seen in the diagram above surrounding the tabernacle, so too in Revelation are these tribes part of the "gates" surrounding New Jerusalem as seen in Revelation:

Revelation 21:12-13 - "Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west."

Note that these are the gates that only those who followed His commandments (Torah) may pass through (Revelation 22:14).


God's presence would manifest itself above the ark of the covenant, first mentioned in Exodus 25. God, in his holiness could not reside in this "unclean" earth, nor in the same fashion with His chosen people after the sin of the golden calf. Therefore, He had to create a special means for Himself to be manifest among His people as their atonement.

Midrash Rabbah Exodus 50:4 - Why was the ark-cover called kapporeth?- Because it made atonement (me-kapper) for Israel.

There is an interesting concept in Judaism that the ark weighed nothing. (It is said that it actually "carried" its bearers along.) Figuring the dimensions and construction materials of the ark, and its contents, the weight of it would have been far too much for the four carriers to bear -- in fact it would have snapped the poles or broken off the golden rings they passed through!

It is also said that the ark took up no space. The reference below shows that when they placed the ark in the sanctuary and measured from the sides of the ark to each wall, the sum of those measurements equalled the distance measured directly from one wall to the other!

Megilah 10b - R. Levi further said: We have a tradition from our ancestors that the ark took up no room. It has been taught to the same effect: ‘The ark which Moses made had round it an [empty] space of ten cubits on every side’. Now it is written, And in front of the Sanctuary was twenty cubits in length [and twenty cubits in breadth], and it is also written, And the wing of the one cherub was ten cubits and the wing of the other cherub was ten cubits. Where then was the ark itself? We must therefore conclude that it stood by a miracle [without occupying any room].

All of this would indicate that although it was originally built by human hands, and it could be seen and touched, the ark was truly "not part of our world," it resided in "spiritual space."