A Reader Challenge

A lovely dance took place in the tabernacle as the priests went about their duties—a sort of tango coordinating the activities inside the Holy Place with those taking place out in the courtyard.

Just as the knife was put to the sacrifice, for example, a priest in the Holy Place removed the used up coals from the golden altar and placed them in a golden vessel.

Just as the blood of the lamb was being sprinkled on the brazen altar, another priest was trimming five of the seven lamps in the Holy Place. The central leader of the lampstand as well as one side lamp would be tended to later.

Everyone left the Holy Place and, out in the courtyard, the sacrifice was skinned, cut into pieces and salted. A sort of intermission followed, during which the priests and people gave themselves to solemn prayers of praise, a recital of Ten Commandments, and the declaration of the Shema.

The designated “incensing priest” then brought two assistants with him to the brazen altar. One assistant filled his golden censer with incense and the other filled his with freshly burning coals from the altar. As they walked into the Holy Place, a large instrument called the “Magrephah” was sounded so that everyone in the courtyard knew the incense was about to be burned. Inside, the assistants spread the coals on the golden altar and prepared the incense before leaving the incensing priest there alone.

The command was given and the incensing priest laid the incense on the coals. As the fragrant smoke filled the Holy Place, there was silence in the outer court as everyone fell down and spread their hands in worship.

When the time of silent prayer was ended, the priests who had earlier trimmed the five lamps, returned to rekindle the remaining two. The central leader (sometimes called “the western” because it pointed that direction toward the Holy of Holies) and one of the side lamps were trimmed, replenished with oil and lit at the same time a priest by the brazen altar took the next steps with the sacrifice. Pressing his hands onto each piece of the disassembled animal, he scattered them, one by one, upon the brazen altar’s grill. Then, using brass tongs, he methodically reordered the pieces so that the animal seemed to be reassembled in the fire.[1]

These are only a few of the activities in the Tabernacle, but I find it interesting that certain events in the Holy Place were purposely paired with events taking place in the courtyard. Here they are:

  1. The sacrifice was slain as dead coals were removed from the incense altar.
  2. Blood was sprinkled on the brazen altar as five of the candlestick’s lamps were trimmed.
  3. The was silence in the courtyard as smoke filled the Holy Place.
  4. The members of the sacrifice were first scattered then reassembled on the fire as the central leader and another lamp were trimmed and relit in the Holy Place.

Now it’s your turn. Put on your spiritual thinking cap and comment on one (or more) of these coupled activities. What do you think is the significance of pairing them? What connection do you find between these coordinated tasks? I don’t profess to have the answers here, but I’d really love to hear what some of you think.

[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 1994), pp. 124-133

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