The Temple in the Desert
An integral part of the retraining of Israel is to be at home with the Dwelling-Place of Yahweh. Beginning Exodus 35:4 the Tabernacle of the Lord is constructed using the ornaments that the Israelites have taken off at Horeb. The Tabernacle was constructed in a way that its parts were prefabricated. Later it will be Moses alone who will set it up in the sight of the people. Thus, Moses anticipates what Solomon will do centuries later with the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Tabernacle contains the Tent of Meeting further distancing Yahweh from the people. It is a movable Tabernacle that will precede the movements of Israel throughout its journeyings in the desert. The presence of the Lord so filled it up that even Moses can no longer enter the Tent of Meeting. Here was God’s dwelling place among men, the proto-type of the Temple of Jerusalem. With this image of the Tabernacle completed with the cloud settling on it by day while a fire shone on it by night, and Israel continuing in its journey whenever the cloud lifted, the book of Exodus ends.
There are three points in this short narrative that continues the idea of the distancing of Yahweh from Israel and the prominence of Moses
- The Tent of Meeting is enclosed within a super-structure that is the Dwelling.
- All the paraphernalia that reminds Israel of the covenant with Yahweh is placed in the Ark of the Covenant which in turn is placed in the Tabernacle’s Holy of Holies.
- Moses is the one who set up the Tabernacle making him the one who builds Yahweh’s dwelling in the desert. If Joshua is Moses’ errand boy, so Moses is Yahweh’s.
Not included in the liturgical selection for this day is the command of the Lord to have Aaron and his sons anointed for service in the Tabernacle. It must be remembered that Aaron and Moses are both from the family of Levi which rose to prominence because of the Golden Calf incident. Thus, following the book of Exodus is the book of Leviticus, the manual of Holiness. The Levites will be in charge of keeping watch over the holiness of Israel. Under the New Covenant however, the priesthood of Melchizedek — more universal than that of Levi — will take the place of the Levites. But that priesthood will serve, no longer in the Temple of Jerusalem, but under a new Temple, which is the Body of Christ.
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