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Gleanings In Exodus

46. The Outer Court


Exodus 27:9-19

The Tabernacle proper, which has already been before us, stood in an open space of ground, an hundred cubits long, by fifty cubits broad, and was enclosed by hangings of fine twined linen. These linen curtains were suspended from sixty pillars, twenty of which stood on the south side, twenty on the north, ten on the west, and ten on the east. The Scriptures do not expressly state of what these pillars were made, but there is good reason to conclude they were of shittim wood. This open space, in which the priestly compartments and the dwelling-place of Jehovah stood, formed the third division of the Tabernacle as a whole, and was designated "the Court." The Court was in form a parallelogram, or double square, being twice the length of its breadth. On its eastern side was a gate or entrance, which was also made of fine linen, but rendered attractive by the same beautiful colors which were wrought into the Veil.

It is striking to note that neither the Court nor the Holy Places were paved. The Tabernacle rested upon the bare sand of the desert. This was in significant contrast from its golden-sheeted sides and beautiful inner ceiling. Thus, more than a hint was given for the priests to look up, where all was glorious and gorgeous, and tells us that there is nothing down here to satisfy the heart. In striking contrast from the Tabernacle we read of Solomon’s Temple that "the floor of the House he overlaid with gold, without and within" (1 Kings 6:30), foreshadowing the blessed fact that in the Millennium this world will no longer be a wilderness to God’s people; for when Christ is present in it again, then shall be fulfilled that word, "As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Num. 14:21).

Immediately around the Court of the Tabernacle were the tents of the Levites; beyond, but encircling them, were grouped the twelve Tribes, three on either side; thus forming a square of vast extent. Consequently, even the Court itself was thoroughly screened from the eyes of the wilderness nomads. The Tabernacle therefore formed the center of Israel’s camp. Outside the Tent, a fire was kept constantly burning, on which the bodies of the sin-offerings were consumed, and where the refuse was destroyed. In contemplating the Court, let us notice:

1. Its Hangings.

"And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of a hundred cubits long for one side" (v. 9). As we have before pointed out, the "fine linen" is the emblem of righteousnesses (Rev. 19:8). The spotless white walls which surrounded the Tabernacle on every side were a standing witness to the holiness of Him whose dwelling it was. This was in striking contrast from the unholiness of those who inhabited the surrounding tents, which were made, most probably, from goats’ hair, of a very dark color. There is a reference to this in Song of Solomon 1:5: "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem; as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon": black as the tents of Kedar, comely as the curtains of Solomon. The dark-colored cloth woven from goats’ hair is commonly used for making tents in the East to this day. There would be, then, a most vivid contrast between the white linen surrounding Jehovah’s dwelling-place and the dark fabric of the Israelites’ tents.

The white walls of the Tabernacle’s Court served both as a barrier and a protection. To those without, the holiness, of which it spoke, was an exclusion to all who would approach the Divine Courts otherwise than as God Himself had ordered. To those within, it served as a shield, a shelter, an adornment, a glory, a defense. It was the thought of these spotless curtains around the sacred precincts, in which stood the atoning altar and the cleansing laver, which moved David to sing, "How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord" (Ps. 84:1, 2).

2. Its Pillars.

These were sixty in number, placed at intervals of five cubits all around the Court. The material from which they were made is not expressly stated. The words of v. 10, "and the twenty pillars thereof (i.e., of the south side) and their twenty sockets shall be of brass," have led some to conclude that the pillars themselves were made of brass; but it is to be noted that the words "shall be" are supplied by the translators, there being no verb in the original—the modifying clause "of brass" referring only to the "sockets." That the columns themselves were not made of brass seems clear from their omission in Exodus 38:29-31. Nor were they made of silver, for that metal was only used in the foundations and in the upper ornamental parts; whilst gold was employed in covering boards in the Tabernacle and in the construction of certain vessels inside, but was not found at all in the Court.

We believe that these "pillars" were made of shittim wood, and that, for three reasons. First, the other "pillars," i.e., those used for the door and for the support of the Veil (26:32, 37) were of wood, therefore in the absence of any word to the contrary here, we naturally conclude that these also were made of the same material. Second, because from a careful comparison of the twenty-nine talents of gold (Ex. 38:24), the hundred talents of silver (Ex. 38:25, 27). and the seventy talents of brass (Ex. 38:29 with the sizes of the different vessels and the amount of metals required for them, it seems clear that they would not leave sufficient to make sixty pillars for the Court out of the remainder. Third, the typical meaning of the Court requires "wood" rather than one of the metals.

A "pillar" speaks of support and strength. The sixty which were stationed around the sides of the Court sustained the white curtains. There is a word in Song of Solomon 3:6, 7 which seems to borrow its imagery from our present type: "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchants? Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; three score valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel." Note first the allusion to "the wilderness!" There a procession is seen: a palanquin or curtained-litter (for this is the literal meaning of the Hebrew word here rendered "bed") is seen, surrounded by all the marks of royalty and majesty; sixty mighty ones are about it. The "litter" was the temporary resting-place of the king. So the Tabernacle was God’s resting-place, in the midst of Israel, during their wilderness wanderings. The "ark" was the symbol of His presence, and as 2 Samuel 7:2 tells us "the ark of God dwelleth within curtains," while in Numbers 10:33, 35 a "resting-place" is also mentioned in connection with it. Around the ark in the Holy of Holies, were these sixty pillars of the Court, like the "sixty valiant men" about the wilderness resting-place of Solomon. The typical significance of this will appear in our next division.

3. Its Meaning.

Like everything else connected with this first dwelling-place of God on earth, the antitypical significance of the Court is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and in Him alone. It is really pitiful to witness the attempts that have been made to refer the curtains and the pillars to the saints of this New Testament dispensation. Neither individually nor in their corporate capacity are they here in view. The Court is called the "Tent of the Congregation" (Ex. 39:40); it was the appointed place of assembly, where the Israelites came together and worshipped Jehovah, and where He met with them (Ex. 29:42, 43). Now it is in Christ, and in Him alone, that God and His people meet together. The Court, then, spoke of Christ as the Meeting-place between God and His people.

The Court foreshadowed Christ on earth tabernacling among men, accessible to all who sought Him, but His glory beheld only by those who drew near in faith (John 1:14). In the opening paragraphs we have pointed out that the Court was unpaved, the Tabernacle resting upon the bare earth of the desert. This pointed to Christ as "a Root out of a dry ground"—Israel (Isa. 53:2). But although the floor of the Court was the dust of the wilderness, yet was it a sacred enclosure, so that he who entered it stood on holy ground; from Leviticus 16:6, 16 we learn that even the Court itself was termed "the holy place." This tells us that Christ, though "a Root out of a dry ground," was none other than "the Holy One of God." We may add, these linen hangings were suspended from pillars seven and a half feet in height, so that all on the outside would be prevented from seeing what was done on the inside; thus making it a truly separated and holy place.

The distinctive spiritual significance of the Court is intimated by its order of mention in Exodus 27. First there is a description of the brazen altar (vv. 1-8), and then follow the details concerning the Court. This is very striking. The natural order would be to have told of the Court first, and then of the altar which stood within it. But here again God’s thoughts are different from ours. As we have seen, the altar speaks of the place where sin was dealt with: the consequence of this is, that entrance is afforded into the place where God meets with His people. Thus, that which the altar typified was the basis of the privileges foreshadowed by the Court. As soon as the Israelite entered the sacred precincts, the first object to meet his eyes was the standing witness to both the justice and the grace of God. The altar testified that his sins had been put away through the sacrifice offered thereon. It was there God showed, typically, that He is just and the Justifier of the believing sinner (Rom. 3:26).

It is to be carefully noted that the Court was for an elect and redeemed people. There are several references in the Psalms to this: "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy Courts" (Ps. 65:4); "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His Court with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name" (Ps. 100:4). But most blessed is it to note that in the Old Testament types of the Court there was a definite hint and foreshadowing of Gentiles also entering into and partaking of God’s grace (Lev. 17:8, 22:18; Numbers 15:14-16). The "stranger" had the same liberty of approach to the altar as had an Israelite. Thus, at that early date, it was intimated "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved"
(Rom. 10:12, 13).

The sixty pillars around the Court told of the strength and sufficiency of that Refuge into which the believing sinner has fled: "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe" (Prov. 18:10). That the pillars were made of "wood" was in harmony with the promise, "And a Man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest" (Isa. 32:2). That these pillars were sixty in number (5 x 12 or grace and perfect government), tell us it is the grace which reigns in righteousness by Christ Jesus that is our defense. This. like the sixty valiant men about Solomon’s litter, is a guard of honor around us, so that none can lay anything to our charge. That there was an interval of five cubits between each pillar, intimates that no matter which aspect of our salvation we contemplate, all is of grace alone. The spotless white hangings suspended from them, depicted the fitness of the Lord our Righteousness to be the One in whom His God and our God could meet with us.

4. Its Dimensions.

In contemplating this we must first consider the measurements of the linen hangings which surrounded the Court, and then the space enclosed by them. From v. 9 we learn that the linen hangings were a hundred cubits long on the south side, ditto on the north side (v. 11), fifty on the west side (v. 12), and thirty on the east side (vv. 14, 15)—the other twenty there being accounted for by the "gate," which differed from the curtains on either side of it, in that it was of "blue and purple and scarlet" (v. 16). Thus there was a total length of these white hangings of two hundred and eighty cubits. The factors of this total would be 7 x 4 x 10, which speak of perfection on earth, seen in human responsibility fully discharged.

It is striking to note that the length of the white hangings surrounding the Court was identical with the length of the curtains which were spread over the inner Tabernacle. "The curtains of the Tabernacle present Christ, Christ in His nature and character, and Christ in His future glories and judicial authority; but as so presented He was for the eye of God, and for the eye of the priest. As such He could not be seen from without, only within. The fine twined linen hangings (of the Court) present Christ also, but not so much to those within as to those without. They could be seen by all in the camp. It is therefore the presentation of Christ to the world, Christ in the purity of His nature. He could thus challenge His adversaries to convict Him of sin. Pilate had to confess again and again that there was no fault in Him; and the Jewish authorities, though they sought with eagle-eyed malice, failed to establish, or even produce, a single proof of failure. Not a single speck could be detected upon the fine twined linen of His holy life, His life of practical righteousness which flowed from the purity of His being" (Mr. E. Dennett). Thus, the linen hangings of the Court being of equal length with the Curtains of the inner tabernacle tell us that Christ manifested on earth the same holiness as He had and does before God in heaven!

The linen hangings which formed the walls of the Court were divided by "pillars," which were erected at intervals of five cubits: note in vv. 9, 10 there were "twenty" pillars for the "hundred cubits" of linen on either length. The white linen spoke of righteousness, five is the number of grace; thus, these measurements pronounced that the grace of God to poor sinners is not bestowed at the expense of justice, but, as Romans 5:21 declares, "As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness, unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." Five is, again, the dominating number in the measurements of the enclosure: as 5:18 tells us, "the length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty everywhere, and the height five cubits." How small was the Court in comparison with the camp! Hebrews 13:13, read in the light of that whole Epistle, indicates that the "Camp" refers to the religious world, Christendom—the sphere of nominal Christian profession. The smallness of the Court in contrast from the vastness of the Camp (for how few was accommodation provided!) contains more than a hint of the fewness of those, from among the crowds of professing Christians, that really enter God’s presence! God’s "flock" is only a "LITTLE one" (Luke 12:32); only the "few" are in the Narrow Way (Matthew 7:14). Are you one of the favored "few"?

5. Its Sockets.

"And their sockets of brass" (v. 18). This detail needs no lengthy comment. The "sockets" formed the foundation for the pillars. The "brass" of which they were composed speaks of endurance, capacity to bear the action of fire: type of Christ suffering, but not being consumed by, the outpoured judgment of God upon the sinner’s Substitute. Thus, once more, are the saints reminded of that upon which all their blessings are based.

6. Its Hooks and Fillets.

"The hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver" (v. 11). These "fillets" were connecting-rods from pillar to pillar, and the hooks would link the linen hangings to the fillets. They bring out a most important detail in our present type. As we pointed out in an earlier article, "silver" is the symbol of redemption, and it was through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus that Divine righteousness and Divine grace were united. There is an inseparable connection between Christ our Righteousness and Christ our Redeemer: these two must never be separated. Righteousness could never have been imputed to us unless the Lord Jesus had ransomed us by His blood. The worshipping Israelite would see that the boards of the Tabernacle owed their stability to the fact that the atonement-money had been paid, for they rested on silver sockets. He would also perceive that the fine linen curtains of the Court hung securely from silver chapiters and rings, made from the same ransom-money. Beautifully has this been commented upon by one writing of the blessedness of those who had entered the court:—"While outside, the wall shut off, now that he is inside, it shuts him in. Instead of being opposed by ‘righteousness,’ he is now surrounded by it. God is just, and as long as the sinner is rejecting Christ He must be against him; but once the latter has come to Him through Christ all is reversed; He is ‘just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). But how can this be? It can be in the way set forth in this fine linen wait; the linen ("righteousness") was not suspended to the brass ("judgment"), but was connected with it by means of silver rods that joined pillar to pillar. Thus, typically we have the truth as it is plainly stated in Romans 3:24, ‘Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’" (Mr. C. H. Bright).

Thus, the redeemed Israelite who entered the Court was shut in by walls of righteousness upheld by the tokens of redemption. This is the blessed portion of every sinner who has fled to Christ for refuge. Because Christ was made sin for him, he has been made "the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). "For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19). The Christian is vested with that which meets every requirement of God’s holiness. What cause, then, has each believing reader to join with the writer in saying, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10).

7. Its Gate.

"And for the gate of the Court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four" (v. 16). This "hanging" which formed the entrance to the Court is closely connected in thought with the Veil and the Gate of the Tabernacle. Each of them served as a door, hiding the interior from one approaching from the outside. All were made of the same materials, and the colors are mentioned in the same order; the dimensions of all were alike, each measuring one hundred square cubits. The same truth was embodied in each of these typical curtains: there could be no access to God of any kind—whether of comparatively distant worship, or of closer intimacy—except by Him who said "I am the Way." The Israelite who came to the brazen altar with his offering must pass through this gate of the Court; the priest who placed incense on the golden altar must enter by the door of the Tabernacle; the high priest who entered the Holy of Holies on the day of atonement must do so through the Veil, thus realizing the thrice repeated proof of the only way of access to God.

The antitypical teaching of the Gate is brought before us in John 10:9, where Christ says, "I am the Door, by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved." But as another has observed, "It is not thinking about the Door, or believing that He is the Door, but entering the Door, that saves. Many need help right on this point. There are (figuratively speaking) crowds of semi-believers around the Gate. They believe it is the Gate, and the only one, but they do not take the step. They are always saying, ‘Let me hide myself in Thee,’ instead of hiding, in Him once for all. Oh! why not dare to trust Him now, at once and forever? You say that you do not feel that He accepts you . . . How can you, as long as you remain outside? Jesus makes no promise to the one who does not enter, but to the one who does. Enter in, and then, feeling or not, you may know that you are saved, because He says so. The Altar was inside the Gate, not outsider How, then, can you know that you are saved until you enter? Come, just as you are, in all your sinfulness, with no feeling, with no consciousness of any ‘marks of grace,’ and as a sinner believe in the sinner’s Savior."


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