The LORD describes how the court (or courtyard) was to be built. It was to surround the tabernacle. It provided a special place where the people of Israel could meet with and worship their LORD. The account of the courtyard’s construction was recorded in Exodus 38:9 – 20.
The LORD specified that the court or courtyard of the tabernacle was to be one hundred cubits long on the south side as well as the north side. This would make it around 150 feet or 45.7 meters in length. The width of the court was to be fifty cubits on both the east and west sides, which is 75 feet or 22.8 meters. It was also to be five cubits tall (7.5 feet or 2.3 meters). A reason for the wall to be 7.5 feet tall was to separate the courtyard for a special purpose. Any people on the outside would not be able to look into the place where they were to meet with and worship their God.
The border of the courtyard was to be made of hangings (curtains) that were to be five cubits tall (7.5 feet or 2.3 meters). Since the tabernacle itself was 15 feet tall, it could be seen from outside the courtyard, but no one could simply view the court or courtyard in a casual manner. The hangings or curtains were to be made of fine twisted linen. There is no mention of the color required for the curtains that comprise the wall of the courtyard.
The hangings (curtains) that made up the outer wall of the courtyard were to be supported by twenty pillars on the north and south sides, ten pillars on the east side, and six pillars on the west side (three pillars on each side of the gate). These six pillars did not include the four pillars that were a part of the gate.These pillars were to be placed about 7.5 feet (or 2.3 meters) apart.
These hangings (curtains) were to be hung using twenty pillars (or posts) on both the north and south sides, and ten pillars on the west side. Though not specifically mentioned here, there might have been horizontal boards attached to the pillars, making a ladder-like frame on which to hang the curtains. This would make it similar to the “frame” (or “board” in the NASB) that makes up the walls of the tabernacle itself (Exodus 26:16).
On the east side of the court, there was to be the gate that was the entrance to the courtyard. The gate was to be a screen of twenty cubits wide (30 feet or 9.1 meters). And its screen, like the Holy of Holies, was to be made with blue and purple and scarlet material (probably wool) and fine twisted linen. The gate needed to be of the finest craftsmanship, the work of a weaver. This was designed to show the worshipper that the courtyard was a special place. The entrance was to be supported with their four pillars and their four sockets.
Each pillar was to have a bronze socket as its base. A socket served as the base or “foot” of the pillar. Bronze, being an alloy, was not as valuable as silver or gold, and it might have symbolized the earthiness of sinful humans approaching their holy LORD. It would also serve a practical purpose of being durable and lighter to carry.
The courtyard was where the people could enter and worship the LORD. Because of the height of the walls around the courtyard (7.5 feet), the people could not casually look into it. They had to enter by the gate in order to fellowship with their LORD. They could not enter the tabernacle—only the priests could do that. But the courtyard was a place where the people could worship by offering their sacrifices and their praises to the LORD (Psalms 100:4, 116:19).
When the tabernacle was replaced with a permanent temple (1 Kings 6), it also had this outer court, where only those of Israel, those of God’s covenant could enter. In the late 1800s, a stone inscription written in Greek was found in Jerusalem dating to Jesus’s time. It was a warning to non-Jews from entering the outer court of the temple.
The holy God desired to live among His people, because He has chosen them to be His “own possession among all the peoples” (Exodus 19:5). He wanted to live in close fellowship, in covenant. For this reason, He commanded them to build a courtyard as a special place to enter which separated the sacred area where He might be met, and any breach of covenant healed. In New Testament times, believers are exhorted to boldly enter the true Holy Place in heaven to petition our High Priest (Jesus) to find mercy and help in time of need, and have our consciences cleaned from our sins (Hebrews 4:16; 9:14).
9 “You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side there shall be hangings for the court of fine twisted linen one hundred cubits long for one side; 10 and its pillars shall be twenty, with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver. 11 Likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings one hundred cubits long, and its twenty pillars with their twenty sockets of bronze; the hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be of silver. 12 For the width of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits with their ten pillars and their ten sockets. 13 The width of the court on the east side shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets. 15 And for the other side shall be hangings of fifteen cubits with their three pillars and their three sockets. 16 For the gate of the court there shall be a screen of twenty cubits, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen, the work of a weaver, with their four pillars and their four sockets. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be furnished with silver bands with their hooks of silver and their sockets of bronze. 18 The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, and the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits of fine twisted linen, and their sockets of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle used in all its service, and all its pegs, and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.
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