The supporting structure for the four coverings of the tabernacle consisted of wooden frames overlaid with gold. These frames were held together with five bars each. Gold rings on each frame accommodated the bars, with each bar in the middle position on the north, west, and south sides running from one end to the other end. The position of the four other bars on the three sides is not specified in the account. Each frame had two tenons that fitted into silver bases. A covering of fine twisted linen, of blue (or blueish purple), purple (reddish purple), and scarlet yarn, embroidered with cherubs was positioned first on the tabernalce framework. One embroidered cherub appears to have been visible in each frame. The covering itself consisted of two large sections, with each section being made up of five cloths. Each cloth measured 28 cubits in length and 4 cubits in width (42 feet x 6 feet [c. 12.8 meters x c. 1.8 meters]), and five of these cloths were joined together to form one large cloth. The two large cloths were joined by means of 50 gold clasps that connected the 50 loops of blue (or blueish purple) yarn on the edge of one large cloth with that of the matching 50 loops on the edge of the other large cloth. (26:1-6, 15-17, 26-29; see the Notes section.)
The second covering for the tabernacle consisted of goats’ hair. In design, this longer covering was much like that of the shorter linen covering, a covering that did not reach down to the ground by at least one cubit [18 inches [c. 46 centimeters]) on each side. The second covering consisted of two sections made from eleven cloths that measured thirty cubits by four cubits (45 feet x 6 feet [c. 13.7 meters x c. 1.8 meters] each. Five of the cloths were joined to form one large cloth, and the six remaining cloths were joined to make the other large cloth. The two large cloths were joined with 50 copper (or bronze) clasps that connected the 50 loops on the edge of one large cloth with that of the matching 50 loops on the edge of the other large cloth. Being two cubits (36 inches [c. 92 centimeters] longer than the linen covering, the second covering did hang down to the bottom of the north and south sides of the tabernacle. Next came a covering of tanned (or red) ram skins and finally another covering of skins. There is uncertainty about the material from which the fourth coverning was made. According to the Septuagint, they were hyacinth-colored skins. Although not mentioned in the account, ropes must have been attached to the last covering, and these ropes would have been securely fastened to tent pins in the ground. (26:7-14; see the Notes section.)
On both the north and the south sides, twenty wooden frames overlaid with gold were attached by means of tenons to forty silver bases, and on the west side (or rear) of the tabernacle, there were six of these frames and two silver bases under each frame. Additionally, two frames served as corners at the rear of the tabernacle, with only a half cubit (9 inches [c. 23 centimeters]) adding to the inside dimension of the structure. The individual gold-overlaid wooden frames measured 10 cubits (15 feet [c. 4.6 meters]) in length and in height, and 1.5 cubits (27 inches [c. 69 centimeters]) in width. Based on the dimensions of the frames, the inside measurements of the tabernacle would have been 30 cubits (45 feet [c. 13.7 meters] in length, 10 cubits (15 feet [c. 4.6 meters]) in width, and 10 cubits (15 feet [c. 4.6 meters]) in height. (26:15-25)
The tabernacle consisted of two sections — the Holy and the Most Holy. A fine twisted linen curtain, of blue (or blueish purple), purple (or reddish purple), and scarlet yarns, embroidered with cherubs, separated the two compartments. This curtain hung from gold hooks attached to four gold-overlaid wooden pillars or posts that were secured in four silver bases. In the Most Holy, the “ark of the testimony” was placed. The table for the showbread was in position on the north side of the Holy, and the lampstand was across from it on the opposite side. A screen at the entrance of the tabernacle was made like the curtain that separated the Holy from the Most Holy, but it hung from gold hooks attached to five gold-overlaid wooden pillars that were secured in five copper or bronze bases. It is likely that the place where the two large cloths of the linen covering were joined with gold clasps was positioned over the pillars from which the curtain separating the Holy from the Most Holy was suspended from the gold hooks. Accordingly, the Most Holy would have been a cube of 10 cubits (15 feet [c. 4.6 meters]) on each side, and the Most Holy would have measured 20 cubits (30 feet [c. 9.2 meters]) in length and 10 cubits (15 feet [c. 4.6 meters]) in width and height. (26:31-37)
According to the account, Moses had the benefit of seeing the pattern for the tabernacle and its furnishings. Therefore, he was in position to follow through on the command to have everything constructed just as he had been shown on Mount Sinai. (26:30; see the Notes section.)
There is archaeological evidence for a cubit of approximately 17.5 inches (44.5 centimeters), but 18 inches (c. 46 centimeters) for a cubit (as commonly found in many reference works) is used in Werner Bible Commentary because it reduces the number of fractions involved when calculating cubit measurements in inches, feet, centimeters, and meters.
The wood is commonly considered to have been acacia wood because of its suitability for the framework of the tabernacle and its availability on the Sinai Peninsula.
Verse 9 states that the sixth cloth was to be doubled over at the front of the tabernacle. This would mean that, from the top of the tabernacle, about three feet (c. 91 centimeters) of the covering would have hung down on the east or entrance side of the tabernacle. The remaining part of the covering would have added three feet (c. 91 centimeters) to the length of the material that covered the west side. (Verse 12)
The ark represented God’s presence, and so the reference to it as the “ark of the testimony” (25:22; 26:33, 34) could indicate that it served as a testimony or witness that God was present in the midst of the Israelites. Another possible significance for the designation “Ark of the Testimony” would be that in it the “testimony” (the two tablets of stone inscribed with the Ten Commandments) was stored. The tablets served as a testimony respecting the commands the Israelites were obligated to observe, and this testimony would be a witness against them if they failed to live up to these commands.
Without actually having the pattern for the tabernacle and its furnishings, one cannot be sure about how everything should be portrayed visually.