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they might catch, through the slight, leaf-covered roof, a glimpse of the starlit sky; and there, surrounded by the obvious proofs of God's bounty, they were reminded of that unchanging goodness which had guided their fathers through the desert, and had given to them that beautiful land upon which His eye watches from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.'
Besides these three festivals, two others of a purely spiritual character were instituted. As those just described were eminently feasts of rejoicing, so were the others festivals of serious contemplation and of self-affliction. On the first day of the seventh month, 'a day of memorial, or a day of blowing the trumpet' was commanded to be kept. Its character is not described in the Bible beyond being designated as a day on which no work was to be done, and solemn sacrifices were to be offered to God. But Jewish tradition, working out every allusion of Scripture, considers it as the commencement of the religious year, and moreover, as the beginning of a season of penitence, which culminates in the “Day of Atonement' solemnized on the tenth of the same month. On this, the most sacred day of the year, a complete fast is to be kept from even till even: body and soul are alike to be afflicted for the sins and transgressions of the past; forgiveness is to be prayed for in all humbleness; the soul is to be restored to purity, and the heart to repose and peace. In this sense the Day of Atonement is still observed by the Jewish people, who justly regard it as the most spiritual, the sublimest of their festivals.
At the three great agricultural festivals, every Israelite was commanded to worship in the common Temple of Jerusalem, and to present his offering to the Lord. Thus three times in the year, caravans and multitudes of Israelites from every part of the land might be seen journeying towards Jerusalem. Many, if not called away by urgent
duties, would remain in the holy city during the weeks that intervened between Passover and Pentecost. As the precincts of Jerusalem could not contain this mighty host of pilgrims, tents were pitched all round the town, forming one great camp, and there a scene of indescribable animation and eager interest presented itself. The flocks and herds grazed round the tents, and the camels that had come laden with provisions, dotted the adjoining fields and plains.
The code of laws concludes with an earnest exhortation to the children of Israel, to listen to and obey the voice of God's servant Moses : • Behold, I send a messenger before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, obey his voice, provoke him not, for he will not pardon your transgressions ; for My name is in him.'
When Moses proclaimed the words of the Lord to the people, they all promised obedience with one voice. This covenant between God and Israel was ratified in a peculiar manner. Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent the young men of the children of Israel, and they offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed thank-offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the Book of the Covenant, and read before the ear of the people : and they said, All that the Lord has said shall we do and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you on the condition of all these words.'
After the sacrifice, Moses and Aaron, accompanied by Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,
went up to Mount Sinai, where the glory of the Lord appeared to them. And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet like a work of pellucid sapphire, and like heaven itself in its clearness. But Moses alone ascended to the top of the mountain, which was enveloped by a thick cloud. On the seventh day, God called Moses, who then passed within the cloud and remained there, withdrawn from the sight of the people, for forty days and forty nights.
41. THE TABERNACLE.
[Exod. XXV.-XXVII. XXX.]
When the chief moral and civil laws had been given to the Israelites, and had been accepted by them with cheerful readiness, it was important that the observance of their faith should be secured and strengthened by outward symbols and a regular form of worship. It was above all deemed desirable to establish some visible sign of God's presence among the people. The idea that the spirit of the Almighty dwelt among them, and led them in their wanderings, was soul-stirring and encouraging; it intensified religious belief; it cheered the desponding, and roused the indolent. To keep this thought before their minds with the utmost vividness, a permanent dwelling-place for the glory of the Lord, or a “ Tabernacle,' was to be constructed. Hallowed by the sanction of God, it was to be like a banner around which they should rally when menaced by outward enemies; it was to be an unfailing safeguard against their own fatal weakness, when tempted to lean towards idolatry.
During the forty days and nights which Moses spent on Mount Sinai, he was instructed by the Lord in all the details of the Tabernacle and its service; and when he
returned to the Israelites, he proceeded at once to carry out the precepts he had received.
Let us picture to ourselves the holy edifice as it stood when completed.
The Tabernacle consisted of three distinct parts—the Holy of Holies, the Sanctuary or Holy, and the Court. The two former were the Tabernacle in the stricter sense. This was thirty cubits long, ten cubits broad, and ten cubits high, and formed therefore an oblong square, the longer sides being those extending from east to west. It was made of boards of acacia wood plated with gold, each of which was ten cubits long and one cubit and a half broad. The boards, in order to be fixed in the ground, were each provided at the end with two tenons, which fitted in sockets of silver. But only the northern, southern, and western sides were in this manner framed of wood. At the eastern side was the entrance, which was covered with a curtain of blue, red, and crimson, and twined byssus. This curtain, which formed a square of ten cubits, was supported by five pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold, fixed by means of golden hooks and five sockets of brass. The fifth side (or the ceiling) consisted of a costly covering, composed of carpets or curtains of twined byssus, and blue, red, and crimson, with figures of the Cherubim interwoven ; over it was a covering of goats' hair made of eleven curtains; and over this a third covering of rams' skins dyed red, and a fourth of badgers’ skins, both of which were not only spread over the ceiling, but hung down at the sides without, as a protection against the injurious influences of the weather.
The structure just described was divided into two parts of a different degree of sanctity by a splendid curtain adorned with the images of the Cherubim, and suspended immediately under the loops and hooks of the first covering, so that the western part was ten, and the eastern
twenty cubits long. The former was the Holy of Holies, the latter the Sanctuary or the Holy. This curtain also hung, like that of the whole Tabernacle, on pillars of gilt acacia wood, but they were only four in number, fixed by means of hooks of gold and four sockets of silver. Golden nails were here likewise applied to fasten the curtain to the pillars.
Around the Tabernacle was a Court, one hundred cubits long, fifty cubits broad, and formed by pillars and curtains five cubits high: the pillars were of wood not plated with metal, twenty on each of the longer sides, ten on the shorter ones; the curtains were of fine twined linen. The entrance into the Court was from the east, so that when the sun rose, it might send its first rays upon it.' Exactly in the middle was a door, twenty cubits wide, overhung with a curtain of the same materials and workmanship as that before the Sanctuary. The Court had no covering above, but was exposed to the air ; and from without it was, like the Tabernacle, fastened in the ground by pins and tent-ropes.
Within the Court stood two holy implements.
1. The Altar of Burnt-offering. It was formed of hollow boards of acacia wood covered with brass, and filled with earth. It was three cubits high, and five long and broad. At the four corners were four horns of the same wood, overlaid with brass. It had a border, and under it a grate or network of brass, probably in order to receive whatever might fall from the altar, especially wood and ashes. To the altar belonged various vessels of brass, as pots and basins, forks and fire-shovels.
2. The Laver, in which the priests washed their hands and feet before they commenced their sacred duties. It stood between the altar and the curtain of the Sanctuary. It was made of brass, chiefly of the looking-glasses of the women who served at the door of the Tabernacle.'