Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 9

The outer room of the tabernacle

Hebrews 9:2

Hebrews 9:1-5 contains a description of the holy place that was God’s house in this world. It was the holy tent called the tabernacle. Moses built it, but his instructions came from God (Exodus chapters 25 and 26).

This was the only place where Israel’s priests could serve God by their special ceremonies. God was present there in a special way. Nowhere else was like it. After several centuries, Solomon replaced the tabernacle with a building called the temple, in Jerusalem. The design and the furniture of the temple were similar to the tabernacle.

The tabernacle had two rooms. This verse describes the outer room, called the Holy Place. A few priests would enter this room each day in order to serve God there. There were three pieces of furniture in this room.

The lampstand was a piece of furniture that held 7 lamps. Like everything else in the two rooms, it was gold. The lamps burned oil from a fruit called the olive. The priests had to look after the lamps so that they would burn continuously through the night (Exodus 27:20-21).

12 loaves of bread stood on a table in the outer room. The priests replaced the bread each Sabbath (Saturday). And they ate it in a holy place (Leviticus 24:5-9).

The other object was an altar for incense. An altar is a table where priests burn things. Perhaps that is what the word ‘table’ means in this verse. Ezekiel 41:22 describes it as both an ‘altar’ and a ‘table’. Incense is a substance that has a sweet smell. The priests burned it daily (see Exodus 30:34-38 and Luke 1:8-11).

The basic meaning of these objects was that God was present with his people.

·        A lamp would burn in their homes each night. And in the same manner, the lamps burned in God’s house, that is, the tabernacle or temple.

·        There were 12 loaves because there were 12 tribes (large families) in Israel. There was a special place for those loaves in front of God. And that showed that all the families of God’s people had a special place in front of him. In other words, God cared about them all.

·        The smoke from the incense rose towards heaven. And so did the people’s prayers (Psalm 141:2). So the incense meant that God would hear his people’s prayers.

Next part: The Holy of Holies behind the curtain (Hebrews 9:3)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.