Did the wilderness tabernacle have a flat roof?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Tabernacle in the Wilderness stands as a central symbol of worship and divine presence in the Old Testament scriptures. As described in the book of Exodus, it was a portable sanctuary constructed under the divine guidance of God Himself. One aspect of its architecture that has been subject to interpretation and debate is the nature of its roof. Specifically, the question arises: Did the Tabernacle have a flat roof? In this study, we will delve into the relevant biblical references to explore the structure of the sanctuary’s roof and uncover insights into its design.

Exodus 26:1-14 – The Construction of the Sanctuary

To understand the roof of the Tabernacle, we must first examine the detailed instructions given by God to Moses regarding its construction. In Exodus 26:1-14, God provides meticulous instructions concerning the materials and dimensions of the Tabernacle. This passage outlines the framework of the structure, including the use of acacia wood, fine linen curtains, and various coverings.

Exodus 26:14 – The Covering of Ram Skin Dyed Red

One significant aspect of the Tabernacle’s construction is found in Exodus 26:14, which states: “You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.” This verse indicates that there were multiple layers of coverings over the Tabernacle. The first layer, made of ram skins dyed red, would have provided protection and insulation.

Exodus 26:15-30 – The Tabernacle’s Framework

Further insight into the Tabernacle’s roof structure can be found in Exodus 26:15-30, where God instructs Moses regarding the construction of the framework and the arrangement of the curtains. These verses detail the use of upright frames, crossbars, and sockets of silver to support the structure.

Exodus 36:8-13 – The Skilled Artisans

Exodus 36:8-13 provides additional details about the construction of the Tabernacle, emphasizing the role of skilled artisans in carrying out God’s instructions. Bezalel, Oholiab, and other craftsmen are mentioned as being filled with wisdom and understanding to complete the work according to the specifications given by God.

Exodus 40:17-33 – The Erection of the Tabernacle

In Exodus 40:17-33, we read about the final stages of the Tabernacle’s construction, culminating in its erection and dedication. Moses follows God’s commands precisely, setting up the Tabernacle, arranging its furnishings, and anointing it with oil.

Leviticus 1:1-17 – Sacrifices at the Tabernacle

While the book of Leviticus primarily focuses on laws and regulations regarding sacrifices and worship, it does not provide additional insight into the Tabernacle’s roof structure.

The Possibility of a Flat Roof

The following points show that the tabernacle in the wilderness probably had a flat roof:

  1. The outside curtains (Exodus 26:8) were 30 cubits long, the precise length needed to form a flat roof and to reach down either side as a top for the gold-plated board walls. A gable roof would increase the length of covering needed for the roof and similarly decrease the remaining length available for covering the sides. More or less of the lower part of the gold-plated boards would thus be left exposed. But gold was otherwise kept for the interior of the building. The fact that the inner curtain was two cubits shorter than the outer which covered it shows that the outer curtains were made to protect it, and that they probably reached to the floor.
  2. No ridgepole is recorded, nor is the use of one mentioned. In addition, there is nothing to indicate that the five “pillars” were different in length.
  3. There is no mention of any ways of covering triangular gable ends, and it would be unreasonable that the ends were left exposed. The veil which was between the holy place and the most holy did not reach to the top of the building, so that light from the Shekinah might be seen above it from the first apartment of the sanctuary.
  4. The tabernacle was temporary, movable structure made during the wilderness experience, until the erection of a more permanent building in the Promised Land. The little amount of rainfall in the dry, wilderness would not make a flat roof a problem.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Bible provides detailed instructions regarding the construction and arrangement of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. It seems likely that the roof was flat. However, the precise architectural details of the roof remain subject to interpretation. Further research and archaeological evidence may provide additional clarity on this intriguing aspect of the Tabernacle’s design.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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