Bible Experiment – Tent of Meeting vs Tabernacle

Posted by Scott Thompson on Jan 27, 2011 in Bible Experiment, Musings |

I’ve actually been wrestling with this concept for a while now, before we started the Bible Experiment. I’ve been looking at different translations, original languages, commentaries, even the twitterverse to try to figure out whether there is a difference between the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle or if they are essentially synonyms.  As I was reading Exodus 26 & 27 this morning, I think I finally found my answer.Forgive my somewhat barbaric use of Hebrew, but I’m less than a novice.  In chapter 27 the words that are translated Tent of Meeting are ohel mowed, literally meaning a nomad’s physical tent and a meeting or appointed time. This describes a physical place. A tent, the construction of which was described in great detail in the past few chapters.  But if you go back to chapter 26 (or many other places for that matter) the word translated as Tabernacle is mishkan, which is best understood as the dwelling place.

Why the language lesson you ask? Well, I still don’t know if there is any physical distinction between the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting.  What I discovered is that it doesn’t really matter. What God was trying to remind me of is that I can go to a holy place (tent of meeting) and still not encounter God (the dwelling place).  I can study the scriptures and not encounter God. I can lead a Bible study and not encounter God. I can do all kinds of Christiany things and not encounter God. Whether the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle were physically distinct or not isn’t the point. See, as a believer, as a disciple of Christ, I take the tabernacle (the dwelling place) with me wherever I go. I am the dwelling place.  I am the holy of holies. The Holy Spirit, the Creator God, the Word, lives inside of me, fills me, indwells me.

I’ve known this for sometime. This is not new revelation for me. But, because of my love of learning, at times I get hung up on these rather academic issues.  I obsess over them because I think there is some new profound truth lurking there. Sometimes there is.  Other times, like this one, there is a very old truth that I should be better at recognizing. Sometimes a need a reminder to get my nose out of the commentaries and get back to living out my faith. In this case, I need to concern myself less with this historical trivia and more with where and to whom am I going to take his dwelling place today. How am I going to make disciples today? How am I going to expand the kingdom today?

1 Comment

Tomsan Kattackal
Jun 15, 2011 at 7:33 am

I was searching for a literal translation of “tent of meeting” and after much consideration arrived at “period tent”. I was not sure whether it is a correct translation and after googling I realized that a period tent means a nomads’ tent, as you have said. (I reached here because of googling!)

Tomsan Kattackal



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