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In Hebrew, ohel moed, literally, “tent of meeting.” Also called mishkan, the sanctuary which was a symbol of God’s presence among the Children of Israel. According to the Bible, the Tabernacle was built by the Israelites in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt (Ex. 25-27). It became the first sanctuary where sacrifices were offered and services were conducted by priests and Levites. Bezalel and Oholiab were the principal artists in charge of building and decorating it. The Tabernacle, a square portable tent, stood on the western side of its forecourt, pointed in the direction of the Promised Land. The forecourt was enclosed by wooden columns draped with blue, purple, and scarlet hangings. At the entrance to the Tabernacle stood the laver, a copper basin where the priests washed before they brought the sacrifices on the altar. The acacia-wood altar was overlaid with copper and had four horns. Within the Tabernacle in the Holy Place stood the gold overlaid wooden table holding the twelve shewbreads. There, too, was the seven-branched candelabra, accessible by stairs. The gilded incense altar was centered in front of the veil that hung from four gilded pillars and hid the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies held the Ark of the Covenant and the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. By day a dark cloud and by night a fiery cloud rested upon the Tabernacle. It was located in the center of the camp, and, forming a living square around it, the twelve tribes of Israel marched on their 40-year journey to the Promised Land.

When the Children of Israel settled in Canaan, the Tabernacle rested at Shiloh, almost in the center of the Land. In the time of King David, the service in the sanctuary took on a new significance as the favored center of worship. After an overwhelming victory over the Philistines, the king built a splendid new Tabernacle on Mt. Zion. Then, dancing at the head of a procession of Levites who played musical instruments, David brought the Holy Ark to its new sanctuary in the capital, and Jerusalem became the holy city in Israel. Until King Solomon built the Temple, the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion was the place of worship for the nation.

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