Since my last post was about Purim, we missed Trumah Torah Portion. Therefore, I’ll comment on two Torah portions today – Trumah and Tetzaveh. It is not difficult to combine them, since both portions contain God’s instructions to Moses concerning the Tabernacle which was to be erected, the priesthood, which was to serve in it, and the services, which were to be held in this tabernacle.
The Tabernacle: earthly or heavenly?
“And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them. 9 In accordance with all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle and of all its furniture, so you shall make it”  these are the instructions to Moses that we find in this portion. The tabernacle was to be a sanctuary for the Lord to meet with his people and to dwell among them. There is an abundance of details regarding this building project, and sometimes we wonder why it was necessary for Scripture to provide all these details. The creation of the world is described in only two chapters; why would the building of the temporary sanctuary occupy twelve chapters of this Book?
These chapters are seen as prophetic by the New Testament writers. From a NT perspective, the tabernacle in Exodus pointed forward to future spiritual realities. The instructions we find in Exodus, especially the recurring words: “according to the pattern … shown you on the mountain,” are used in the New Testament (in particular, in the Epistle to the Hebrews) to establish the theological statement that there is a heavenly tabernacle. The earthly one was “…the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” According to the writer of Hebrews, this heavenly tabernacle is the real permanent heavenly dwelling place of God – unlike the earthly tabernacle, which was merely a temporary copy of the true one. “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
Moreover, even though this heavenly tabernacle is interpreted prophetically and eschatologically in the New Testament, it is still seen as a symbol of the future reality to come. The New Testament writers looked forward to God’s final redemption, when “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them”. The vision of the new creation in Rev.21:1 and the vision of the New Jerusalem in Rev.21:2, are summed up by this announcement: “the tabernacle of God is with men.” Thus, the final expectation of New Testament faith—the expectation of the new, redeemed, transformed world where God dwells with His people—is expressed here through this beautiful image of the heavenly tabernacle: “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God”.
Not with the Hands
For the New Testament writers, everything in the description of this earthly tabernacle had a spiritual and typological meaning: the ark, the lampstand, the priesthood – all pointed forward to the future spiritual reality in Jesus. Let us see some examples.
- THE ARK
The tabernacle, with its inner sanctuary, and especially the mercy seat, was the point of contact between heaven and earth. There God promised to meet with His people. “You shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the covenant that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat… I will deliver to you all my commands for the Israelites”.  According to the New Testament, just as God once encountered His people and spoke “from above the mercy seat,” now God encounters His people in Jesus. In Romans 3:25, Paul calls Jesus “God’s hilastērion”. Even though most translations render this word as “sacrifice of atonement” or “place of atonement,” in fact, this is exactly the same Greek word that the Septuagint uses for the “mercy seat” in the tabernacle: “the redemption … in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement (mercy seat) by his blood, effective through faith.” Using this term, Paul, in fact, redefines the “mercy seat”. “In declaring Jesus to be God’s mercy seat,’ Paul announces that … the saving encounter with God is possible only through the means that God himself provides” – and that from now on, God has provided this means only in Jesus Christ.
- THE LAMPSTAND
We read in Exodus: “You shall make the seven lamps for it; and the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. 38 Its snuffers and trays shall be of pure gold”. In the Book of Revelation, we find an interesting allusion to this text: “And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” Here we see both continuity between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, and discontinuity. Once again, the historical material from the Hebrew Scriptures is considered prophetic in the New Testament. Yet there is an obvious “upgrade” here: while Ex. 25 speaks of the seven-branched menorah, lampstand, which stood outside the second curtain in the Tabernacle, in Revelation we see the Son of Man “in the midst of the seven lampstands”. The message is clear: the Son of Man transcends any earthly High Priest, just as the seven heavenly lampstands transcend the earthly one.
- THE HIGH PRIEST
In the Torah portion Tetzaveh, we find a detailed description of the priesthood and its ordination. Once again, we find that the New Testament sees these things in the Hebrew Scriptures as types and shadows of the realities to come. We have to be aware that “understanding of the high priest in Hebrews is predicated on the high priest’s distinctive role in Jewish tradition. Ex. 29:1-35 and Lev. 8-9 recount the establishment of the priesthood, where Moses ordains Aaron as the first high priest.” The priesthood, culminating in the High priest, was appointed by God; the priests were the means through which God was approached. Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus serves as High Priest in the true heavenly tabernacle: His entrance into this tabernacle also means his entrance into the very presence of God in the heavenly realm.
However, as always, we find here not only continuity but also a novelty. Hebrews is very clear in contrasting Jesus as the perfect High Priest, with imperfect human priests of the old-covenant era. The old-covenant priests were “subject to weakness” and “were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office”. Christ, on the other hand, filled out completely God’s ultimate plan for the High Priest: He is perfect, blameless, without sin, He doesn’t need to make atonement for himself, and He “holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” – therefore, as the High Priest, He is evidently superior to the mortal priests who were imperfect and temporary.
 Heb. 9:24
 G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (p. 619). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 The Jewish Annotated New Testament (p. 412). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
 Heb. 7:24
If these articles whet your appetite for studying in-depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insights, I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding eTeacher courses (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, if you like the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books, you can get them here .