Exodus 25–27; 30: The Tabernacle

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 52–53

Exodus 25–27, 30 contain the Lord’s instructions to Moses about building the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a sacred place to the children of Israel, just as the temple is a sacred place to us today. This tabernacle was designed to be portable because the children of Israel moved often while in the wilderness. The instructions for building the tabernacle are very detailed, helping us understand that everything about a temple is important to the Lord as He teaches and inspires His people. A temple’s structure and furnishings teach us important principles that help us want to feel closer to Him and keep His commandments. The following tabernacle diagrams label each item or element in the tabernacle. Also included are some suggestions of what these elements help teach us about God and His plan for His children.Information from Exodus 25–27, 30 about the tabernacle replaces the usual sections entitled “Understanding the Scriptures” and “Studying the Scriptures.” Each item below includes a studying-the-scriptures type activity for you to complete in your notebook that should help you better understand how the tabernacle and its furnishings taught principles of the gospel.
the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle

chart(click to view larger)
ark of the covenant

Ark of the covenant

Only authorized people were allowed to touch the ark of the covenant (see Exodus 25:10–22), so there were poles attached to it so it could be carried. Inside the ark were the stone tables containing the law written by the Lord. Later, a pot of manna and Aaron’s budding rod were also placed inside it. The lid represents the presence of God and is called the mercy seat. Once a year the priest performed an ordinance at the mercy seat to make atonement for the people (see the information for Leviticus 16 on p. 60). What did the Lord say to Moses in Exodus 25:22 about the mercy seat?

table of shewbread

Table of showbread

The table of shewbread (see Exodus 25:23–30) held twelve large loaves of bread. The bread was changed each Sabbath and eaten by the priests. Although Exodus does not say so, Jewish tradition holds that wine was also placed on the table. What could the bread and wine represent?

sacred candlestick

Sacred candlestick or lampstand

The candlestick or lampstand (see Exodus 25:31–40) is a famous symbol of the Jewish faith and is frequently called by its Hebrew name menorah. The seven candle cups at the top were filled with pure olive oil, into which a wick was placed and lit. The number seven represents wholeness or perfection among the Hebrews. The parable of the ten virgins that Jesus told gives a clue about what oil in a lamp represents (see Matthew 25:1–13; D&C 45:56–59). Write what you think the oil symbolized.

altar of sacrifice

Main altar, or altar of sacrifice

All burnt offerings were performed on the altar of sacrifice (see Exodus 27:1–8). Sacrifice was the first thing an individual did when entering the tabernacle if he desired to progress any further. What does the Lord ask of His people today by way of sacrifice? (see 3 Nephi 9:19–20). Which of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel did this altar represent? (see Articles of Faith 1:4). Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “The real act of personal sacrifice is not now nor ever has been placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal that is in us upon the altar—then willingly watching it be consumed! Such is the ‘sacrifice unto [the Lord of] a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ (3 Nephi 9:20.)” (Meek and Lowly [1987], 94).

altar of incense

Altar of incense

Hot coals were placed on the altar of incense (see Exodus 30:1–10) each morning and evening when the high priest burned incense. Read Psalm 141:2 and Revelation 5:8; 8:3–4 and explain what you think this altar represented.


Laver, or water basin

The priests used the laver for washing (see Exodus 30:18–21) in preparation for entering the holy places of the tabernacle. In Moses’ time the laver was simply a large basin; however, when Solomon built a permanent temple he placed the laver on the backs of twelve oxen. What do you think the Lord was trying to teach His people by putting the laver in front of the entrance to the holier places of the tabernacle?