The Boards And Bars Of The Sanctuary


Exodus 26:15-30. The Boards and their Bars were made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, as were the pillars of the Entrance Door to the Sanctuary. There were twenty Boards on each of the North and South sides and six Boards on the West side of the Tabernacle, plus two Boards to strengthen the western wall at its corners. The Boards were held together by five Bars, the middle one of which passed through the centre of the Boards, as you can see.

Before we consider the Sanctuary’s construction details, it is helpful to see the significance of God’s dwelling place in the Bible. The first mention of the house of God is when Jacob has his dream at Beth-El (‘house of God’) while fleeing from Esau, Genesis 28:10-22. This is confirmed when Jacob returns to Beth-El, Genesis 35:1-15: God appears to him there, speaks to him there, and the house of God is there God’s dwelling place.

Jacob goes down to Egypt, where Joseph is. A few hundred years pass. Following the Exodus from Egypt, around 1450 BC, God appears to Moses at Mount Sinai and dictates to him the design of the Tabernacle and gives the Ten ‘Words’, Exodus 34:28, the Ten Commandments. The Tabernacle was to be God’s dwelling place, Exodus 25:8-9.

Later on in Israel’s history, around 1000 BC, the Temple was built in Jerusalem: King David did much of the preparation and his son, King Solomon, oversaw the building. God then dwelt in the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Psalm 132:13-14.

However, due to the repeated sinfulness of Israel and her kings, God’s glory departed from the Temple and it was no longer His dwelling place.

In the New Testament, we read that: Jesus Christ is the “Word (who) became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us”, John 1:14. God dwelt in Christ; as the apostle, Paul wrote “in Christ, all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell bodily”, Colossians 2:9.

Furthermore, those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ become a dwelling place of God: Paul prays that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”, Ephesians 3:17. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” 1 Corinthians 6:19.

Then, corporately, the believers in Christ are the church, which Paul terms “the holy temple in the Lord” and “the dwelling place of God in the Spirit”, Ephesians 2:21-22. “The house of God, the church of the living God”, 1 Timothy 3:15.

At the end of the New Testament, we read “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men and He shall dwell with them and be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God”, Revelation 21:3, as New Jerusalem comes down to the new earth out of heaven from God, Revelation 21:2 / Revelation 2:10. Throughout the Bible, God desires a dwelling place and reveals the details of that dwelling place to people who are attuned to Him.

To return to the wooden Boards overlaid with gold in the Tabernacle design, the two-fold composition of the Boards and Bars is explained as follows:

Gold: the first mention of gold in the Bible is in Genesis 2:11-12. It was ‘in the hills’ already, as created by God, and is spoken of as ‘good’, just as God said of everything He had made in Genesis chapter 1. Because it is precious and was created directly by God, gold stands for ‘divine’.

Wood, because wood grows out of the earth, and because Adam was made by God from something He had already made (i.e. the dust of the earth), wood stands for ‘human’, as in Psalm 1:1-3.

In the wording of Exodus 26:15-30, the Boards are mentioned as being made of acacia wood as early as verses 15-16. God specifies to Moses the size of each Board, the number of Boards, the fact that they are to be standing upright, how they are fixed into silver sockets to stand, the number of Boards on each wall and how to strengthen the corners are all specified. Then the wood of the Bars is mentioned.

Only right at the end of the account is it specified “you shall overlay the Boards with gold”, Exodus 26:29, the Bars too. The delay in mentioning the gold overlay gives us an indication that the wood (signifying the ‘human’ element) has to be worked on and fitted, and qualified in order to have the gold, the ‘divine’ element, as its overlay.

Peter gives us the reason: we humans must have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” and realise we “have been given precious and exceeding great promises, that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature”, 2 Peter 1:4.

We must be the wooden Boards that are standing up in the silver sockets, not lounging around in or harking back to the garlic and onions of Egypt, Numbers 11:5-6. The wood is no longer growing in soil or even in the desert sand. Between the Boards and the desert is a significant quantity of silver: two silver sockets, each weighing 57 kilos (125 lbs), form the base for each Board.

Silver in the scriptures is used as the purchase/redemption price of a life (20 silver shekels for Joseph in Genesis 37:28, 30 silver shekels for Jesus in Matthew 26:14-15). When the wood is robustly standing in the silver sockets it means that we have a testimony that we belong to God; we concede “we are not our own, we have been bought with a price”, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

When many ‘Boards’ together have the same testimony, we are “those who have obtained a like precious faith in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ”, 2 Peter 1:1.

Then comes the gold overlay “that you might become partakers of the divine nature”, 2 Peter 1:4, and “glorify God in your body”, 1 Corinthians 6:20.

There were two ‘extra’ boards, strengthening the corners of the western side (to the left on the picture). This west-facing wall is called the ‘thigh’ in Hebrew, Exodus 26:23, implying strengthened standing in the body of Christ.

These extra Boards strengthened the corners, the weakest part of the structure, in the same way as the pillars at the Door of the Sanctuary and the Veil.

The Boards each had an individual standing in the two silver sockets, but they were strongly connected together by the Bars. There were five Bars, four of which passed through rings on the outside of the Boards, plus the middle Bar which passed through the centre of each Board. There are two interpretations of the five Bars:

1. They refer to the lowliness, meekness, longsuffering (patience) and love plus the uniting bond of peace, in Ephesians 4:1-3, that are required for us all to walk worthily of our calling

2. They refer to the five classes of gifted persons the ascended Christ gave to equip the saints for building: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, in Ephesians 4:11.

Since the Bars are made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, the most lovely human virtues plus the divine appointment, it seems to me that both may be correct.

The tragedy of church history (in our own age as much as in previous ages) is that appointed, gifted ones have not shown sufficiently the worthy virtues, either towards one another or towards the people they shepherd and teach.

The virtues come first, in order to keep the oneness of the Spirit, Ephesians 4:3; the gifted ones and their equipping come afterwards, in order that the body of Christ may be built up until we all arrive at the oneness of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God and maturity in Him, Ephesians 4:12-13.

God’s plan of salvation and His purpose in building are not individualistic in the book of Exodus. The wood may have come from different acacia trees, but all the Boards ended up fashioned and fitly framed together in one structure, that was God’s dwelling place, Ephesians 2:21.

The children of Israel numbered many hundreds of thousands in their family Passover meals and exit from Egypt. Yet God brought them out into the wilderness to experience one food source and one water source, with one goal of God’s speaking, the one centre for worship, one building – the Tabernacle: “Let them build Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them”, Exodus 25:8.

The dwelling place of God is the one purpose for which we have been purchased by God with the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ (the Messiah).

There are two long walls of Boards, one signifying the Jews and the other the Gentiles. Neither could profit under the law nor could keep the commandments of God. The only hope was the promised Messiah, in whose blood all might be brought near again. All the ‘Boards’ stand in His redemption only.

Now any man in Christ is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold, they have become new, 2 Corinthians 5:17. The new creation in Messiah of one new man, Ephesians 2:15, is corporate: Jewish believers and Gentile believers are saved by His grace through faith alone, Ephesians 2:8, that nobody may boast.

Through Jesus the Messiah/Christ we both have access in one Spirit to the Father, Ephesians 2:18. In Him, we are fitted together as the Boards in the Tabernacle so that God may have His dwelling place in the (one) Spirit, Ephesians 2:22. God is operating powerfully in us to accomplish this, “to Him be the glory in the church and Christ Jesus for evermore”, Ephesians 3:20-21.

Entering through the Door to the Sanctuary into the first room, the Holy Place, the gold of the Boards is shining all around and the Cherubim covering is overhead.

This is why we must be sanctified wholly (our entire spirit, soul and body) to be preserved without blemish as shining Boards in the house of God, 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Here are the furnishings of the Tabernacle, the Showbread Table, the Lampstand and the Golden Incense Altar.


"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."