The cloud covered and the glory of God filled the Tabernacle

For everything that was written in the past [Old Testament] was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 (NIV)

لان كل ما سبق فكتب كتب لاجل تعليمنا حتى بالصبر والتعزية بما في الكتب يكون لنا رجاء. رومية ١٥‏:٤

Summary: The Tabernacle of the Wilderness is a rich source of spiritual instruction. The visible presence of the glory of God filling and overshadowing the tabernacle demonstrated its significance to the children of Israel during their wilderness journey. Afterwards the glory of the God came to Solomon’s Temple on Mount Moriah. In the New Testament, the glory of God is associated with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Muslim friends have discarded the precious scriptures of the Al-Mighty Creator of the 

Because Muslims reject the authentic writings of the divine prophets, they don’t enjoy the wealth of spiritual truth found in the Old Testament. 1

Universe, who in His love and grace revealed many illuminating and divine truths to His ancient prophets, such as Adam, Ibrahim, and Musa. As a result, they are in spiritual darkness regarding God’s teachings that are contained within these blessed scriptures. Our prayer is that they will open their hearts to the valuable lessons that God teaches us in these holy scriptures.

Tabernacle & God’s glory

The prophet Moses (Musa) wrote that the Shekinah 2 glory of the LORD abode and filled the Tabernacle during the 40 years of Israel’s wilderness journey. It was a visible and practical demonstration of God dwelling with His redeemed people. We might ask ourselves, on what basis could the glory of the LORD fill and overshadow the Tent of Meeting? Surely, it could not have been the result of Israel’s faithfulness in keeping the Holy Commandments of God, because they sinned frequently during their wilderness journey. Rather, the grace of God was founded upon sacrificial offerings; and, as a result, the glory of God could be manifested in connection with Tabernacle and its furnishing.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled (shakan, שָׁכַן) upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels. Exodus 40:34-38 (NIV)

ثم غطت السحابة خيمة الاجتماع وملأ بهاء الرب المسكن. فلم يقدر موسى ان يدخل خيمة الاجتماع. لان السحابة حلّت (שָׁכַן ، سكينة) عليها وبهاء الرب ملأ المسكن . وعند ارتفاع السحابة عن المسكن كان بنو اسرائيل يرتحلون في جميع رحلاتهم .  وان لم ترتفع السحابة لا يرتحلون الى يوم ارتفاعها. لان سحابة الرب كانت على المسكن نهارا. وكانت فيها نار ليلا امام عيون كل بيت اسرائيل في جميع رحلاتهم. خروج ٤٠‏:٣٤-٣٨

Muhammad and Sakina

Al-Baqara of the Qur’an refers to the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, where it mentions that it was with assurance or tranquility (Sakina, سكينة) which is an Arabic word that is related to the Hebrew Shakan (abide, rest, שָׁכַן). Evidently, Muhammad had heard the Arabic Jews refer to the Shekinah that accompanied the Ark of the Covenant. Since the Arabic and Hebrew words are similar, Muhammad must have had some vague notion that the Ark was accompanied with a special sign of tranquility. 

And (further) their Prophet said to them: “A Sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark of the covenant, with (an assurance [سكينة]) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if ye indeed have faith.” al-Baqarah 2:248 (Yusuf Ali’s translation)

And their Prophet said to them, ‘The sign of his kingship is that the Ark will come to you, in it a Shechina from your Lord, and a remnant of what the folk of Moses and Aaron’s folk left behind, the angels bearing it. Surely in that shall be a sign for you, if you are believers.’ (A.J. Arberry’s translation)

وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نِبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ آيَةَ مُلْكِهِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ التَّابُوتُ فِيهِ سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَبَقِيَّةٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ آلُ مُوسَى وَآلُ هَارُونَ تَحْمِلُهُ الْمَلآئِكَةُ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لآيَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ سورة البقرة ٢‏: ٢ ٤ ٨

In addition to the Qur’an, the hadiths refer to a cloud that came over a man and frightened his horse.  Muhammad claimed that this cloud was the As-Sakina, making a possible reference to the Shekinah cloud that accompanied the Israelites during their wilderness journey.

531. Narrated Al-Bara’: A man was reciting Surat Al-Kahf and his horse was tied with two ropes beside him. A cloud came down and spread over that man, and it kept on coming closer and closer to him till his horse started jumping (as if afraid of something). When it was morning, the man came to the Prophet, and told him of that experience. The Prophet said, “That was As-Sakina (tranquility) which descended because of (the recitation of) the Qur’an.” Sahih al- Bukhari, Vol. VI, Book LXI. Chapter 11, No. 531, p. 492.

Before the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad lacked peace and tranquility, so he recited a poem by Ibn Rawaha, praying to Allah for calmness and Sakina.

Narrated Al-Bara: When it was the day of Al-Ahzab (i.e. the clans) and Allah’s Apostle dug the trench, I saw him carrying earth out of the trench till dust made the skin of his abdomen out of my sight and he was a hairy man. I heard him reciting the poetic verses composed by Ibn Rawaha while he was carrying the earth, “O Allah! Without You we would not have been guided, nor would we have given in charity, nor would we have prayed. So, (O Allah), please send Sakina (i.e. calmness) upon us and make our feet firm if we meet the enemy, as they have rebelled against us. And if they intend affliction (i.e. want to frighten us, and fight against us) then we would not (flee but withstand them).” The Prophet would then prolong his voice at the last words. Sahih al- Bukhari, Vol. V, Book LIX. Chapter 28, No. 432, p. 300-301. See also Vol. VIII, No. 617 and Vol. IX, No. 342.

Since Sakina means calmness and tranquility, this narration is merely a reference to Muhammad’s frightened state and his prayer for peace and calmness before the battle.

In the case of the Israelites, the Shekinah presence of the LORD and the angel of God protected them from the mighty armies of the Egyptians. The Israelites did not have to lift a finger, because God was protecting them.

Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them,
coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. Exodus 14:19-20 (NIV)

فانتقل ملاك الله السائر امام عسكر اسرائيل وسار وراءهم . وانتقل عمود السحاب من امامهم ووقف وراءهم .
فدخل بين عسكر المصريين وعسكر اسرائيل وصار السحاب والظلام واضاء الليل . فلم يقترب هذا الى ذاك كل الليل .  خروج ١٤‏:١٩-٢٠

The cloud and the glory of God were manifested when God wrote the Decalogue upon the two stone tablets.

These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me. Deuteronomy 5:22 (NIV)

هذه الكلمات كلم بها الرب كل جماعتكم في الجبل من وسط النار والسحاب والضباب وصوت عظيم ولم يزد. وكتبها على لوحين من حجر واعطاني اياها  تثنية ٥‏:٢٢

While there are some vague, limited, and incomplete references to the Shekinah in the Qur’an and Muslim traditions, the Ka’aba in Mecca lacks a Sakina tradition that is so outstanding in the case of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Muhammad had to pray for peace and tranquility (sakina), because he rejected the true mission of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) who promised to give His peace to those who believe in Him. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV)

سلاما اترك لكم .سلامي اعطيكم .ليس كما يعطي العالم اعطيكم انا .لا تضطرب قلوبكم ولا ترهب . يوحنا ١٤‏:٢٧

Temple & God’s glory

Next in Israel’s history, we read that the glory of the LORD filled the Temple during its dedication. No longer was worship associated with the Tent of Meeting or the Tabernacle. It was now associate with the beautiful and magnificent Temple on Mount Moriah where Abraham had previously sacrificed a ram for Isaac. The people of Israel had to journey to the sacred Temple for special religious occasions, such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14, Deuteronomy 16:16, 2 Chronicles 8:13). Again, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:1-4, when the people offered sacrifices, the glory of God came and filled the Temple. And, just like the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Temple is rich with spiritual and symbolic truth too.

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD. 2 Chronicles 7:1-4 (NIV)

وبنو يساكر تولاع وفوّة وياشوب وشمرون اربعة. وبنو تولاع عزّي ورفايا ويريئيل ويحماي ويبسام وشموئيل رؤوس بيت ابيهم تولاع جبابرة بأس حسب مواليدهم. كان عددهم في ايام داود اثنين وعشرين الفا وست مئة. وابن عزي يزرحيا وبنو يزرحيا ميخائيل وعوبديا ويوئيل ويشّيّا خمسة. كلهم رؤوس. ومعهم حسب مواليدهم وبيوت آبائهم جيوش اجناد الحرب ستة وثلاثون الفا لانهم كثّروا النساء والبنين.٢ اخبار ٧‏:١-٤

Tragically, the people of Israel were unfaithful to the grace and privilege that God had extended to them. As a result, we read in the book of Ezekiel (10:4, 19 and 11:23) that the glory of God departed from the temple. Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. As foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, when the time of millennium blessing comes to the world, the glory of the LORD will return to a new earthly temple to be built on Mount Zion in the city of Jerusalem.

The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east.
Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. Ezekiel 43:4-5 (NIV)

فجاء مجد الرب الى البيت من طريق الباب المتجه نحو الشرق.
فحملني روح وأتى بي الى الدار الداخلية واذا بمجد الرب قد ملأ البيت. حزقيال ٤٣‏:٤-٥

Lord Jesus Christ & God’s glory

Several hundred years after the canon of the Old Testament closed, the glory of God once again appeared to mark the occasion of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ when it shone around the shepherds. As prophesized throughout the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ was born of the blessed virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, was the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for the sins, and is now ascended to glory. Consequently now, we see the glory of God associated with the Lord Jesus Christ. So, rather than the glory of God being associated with a tabernacle or a temple or any other building or holy site, we find God’s glory associated with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:9 (NIV)

واذا ملاك الرب وقف بهم ومجد الرب اضاء حولهم فخافوا خوفا عظيما.  لوقا ٢‏:٩

While on the Mount of Transfiguration, the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ became gloriously bright and a cloud settled upon Him and three of His disciples, Peter, John, and James.  Here again we see the cloud and the glory of God associated with the Savior.

29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Luke 9:29, 34-35 (NIV)

وفيما هو يصلّي صارت هيئة وجهه متغيرة ولباسه مبيضا لامعا .
وفيما هو يقول ذلك كانت سحابة فظللتهم .فخافوا عندما دخلوا في السحابة .
وصار صوت من السحابة قائلا هذا هو ابني الحبيب .له اسمعوا. لوقا ٩‏:٢٩ ، ٣٤-٣٥

Before His crucifixion upon the cross of Calvary, the Lord Jesus promised His disciples that He would come again in a cloud with great glory. His first coming into the world was to be the lowly, suffering, sacrificial Lamb of God, but at His second coming, He will be the judge who judges the world in righteousness, and then He will reign supreme as Lord of Lords and King of Kings over the nations of the world. This prophecy of the Lord Jesus shows him coming as the Son of Man in a cloud and with great glory.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Matthew 24:30 (NIV)
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Luke 21:27 (NIV)
They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” Revelation 17:14 (NIV)

وحينئذ تظهر علامة ابن الانسان في السماء .وحينئذ تنوح جميع قبائل الارض ويبصرون ابن الانسان آتيا على سحاب السماء بقوة ومجد كثير. متى ٢٤‏:٣٠
وحينئذ يبصرون ابن الانسان آتيا في سحابة بقوة ومجد كثير. لوقا ٢١‏:٢٧
هؤلاء سيحاربون الخروف والخروف يغلبهم لانه رب الارباب وملك الملوك والذين معه مدعوون ومختارون ومؤمنون.  رؤيا يوحنا ١٧‏:١٤

Forty days after his resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ arose from the grave and ascended in a cloud to heavenly glory.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1:9 (NIV)

ولما قال هذا ارتفع وهم ينظرون. واخذته سحابة عن اعينهم. أعمال الرسل ١‏:٩

In the book of Acts, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, saw the glory of God associated with the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ.  

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 (NIV)

واما هو فشخص الى السماء وهو ممتلئ من الروح القدس فرأى مجد الله ويسوع قائما عن يمين الله. أعمال الرسل ٧‏:٥٥

Hence, Christian worship is not directed toward an earthly Qibla of cloth, wood, or stone. Rather, it is directed towards heaven and the eternal God who has revealed Himself in the person of the Son who wrought eternal redemption that we might have a personal and living relationship with our blest and eternal God. Truly, the words of the prophet Isaiah have been fulfilled, God has visited planet earth as Emmanuel—which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ sets aside any physical structure or religious ritual. The Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, is risen and is alive in heavenly glory!

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)

لان الله الذي قال ان يشرق نور من ظلمة هو الذي اشرق في قلوبنا لانارة معرفة مجد الله في وجه يسوع المسيح ٢ كورنثوس ٤‏:٦

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11 (NIV)

واذ وجد في الهيئة كانسان وضع نفسه واطاع حتى الموت موت الصليب. لذلك رفعه الله ايضا واعطاه اسما فوق كل اسم لكي تجثو باسم يسوع كل ركبة ممن في السماء ومن على الارض ومن تحت الارض ويعترف كل لسان ان يسوع المسيح هو رب لمجد الله الآب فيلبي ٢‏:٨-١١

But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:2-3 (NIV)

كلمنا في هذه الايام الاخيرة في ابنه الذي جعله وارثا لكل شيء الذي به ايضا عمل العالمين الذي وهو بهاء مجده ورسم جوهره وحامل كل الاشياء بكلمة قدرته بعدما صنع بنفسه تطهيرا لخطايانا جلس في يمين العظمة في الاعالي. العبرانيين ١‏:٢-٣

Heavenly City & God’s Glory

In the future heavenly city, the glory of God flows from the Lamb of God, and it illuminates the nations of the world.

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. Revelation 21:10-11, 22-24 (NIV)

وذهب بي بالروح الى جبل عظيم عال وأراني المدينة العظيمة اورشليم المقدسة نازلة من السماء من عند الله
لها مجد الله ولمعانها شبه اكرم حجر كحجر يشب بلوري.
ولم أر فيها هيكلا لان الرب الله القادر على كل شيء هو والخروف هيكلها.
والمدينة لا تحتاج الى الشمس ولا الى القمر ليضيئا فيها لان مجد الله قد انارها والخروف سراجها.
وتمشي شعوب المخلّصين بنورها وملوك الارض يجيئون بمجدهم وكرامتهم اليها. رؤيا يوحنا ٢١‏:١٠-١١ ، ٢٢-٢٤

So throughout the New Testament, we read that the glory of God is intimately associated with the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. The One who suffered, bled, and died upon the Cross will be the One who is yet to be glorified before the world.

Symbolism of Tabernacle

Now, God did not fill the Old Testament with minute details of the Tabernacle that lack spiritual teaching for us. And, since the Tabernacle was honored with the visible display of the Glory of the Eternal God, we ought to inquire as to its spiritual meaning, because it gives us instructive symbolism of heavenly realities.

They serve at a sanctuary (i.e. the Tabernacle) that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:5 (NIV)

الذين يخدمون شبه السماويات وظلها كما اوحي الى موسى وهو مزمع ان يصنع المسكن.لانه قال انظر ان تصنع كل شيء حسب المثال الذي اظهر لك في الجبل. العبرانيين ٨‏:٥

Lord Jesus Christ is the Key

What is the key needed to open the spiritual teaching that God has for us in the details of the construction of the Tabernacle? As we shall see, the Lord Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks the door to its understanding.

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12 (NIV)

واما المسيح وهو قد جاء رئيس كهنة للخيرات العتيدة فبالمسكن الاعظم والاكمل غير المصنوع بيد اي الذي ليس من هذه الخليقة وليس بدم تيوس وعجول بل بدم نفسه دخل مرة واحدة الى الاقداس فوجد فداء ابديا. العبرانيين ٩‏:١١-١٢

The Lord Jesus Christ used the Old Testament scriptures to show His blest mission of sacrificial suffering.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27 (NIV)

فقال لهما ايها الغبيان والبطيئا القلوب في الايمان بجميع ما تكلم به الانبياء .
أما كان ينبغي ان المسيح يتألم بهذا ويدخل الى مجده .
ثم ابتدأ من موسى ومن جميع الانبياء يفسر لهما الأمور المختصة به في جميع الكتب.  لوقا ٢٤‏:٢٥-٢٧

1 Muslims may object to this statement. However, it is supported by the fact that Saudi Arabia makes it illegal to bring the authentic writings of the prophets into its kingdom. By contrast, Christians honor and esteem the Jewish prophetic writings. In fact, Christians so highly esteem the writings of the Jewish prophets that they print their Christian scriptures, the New Testament, with the Jewish Old Testament scriptures at the beginning of their Bibles. They don’t consider their Bibles fully complete unless the Jewish Old Testament is printed with the Christian New Testament.
Because Muslims reject the authentic prophetic writings, you will not find a Qur’an printed with these prior scriptures. This is because the Qur’an contradicts and corrupts the message of the prior divine prophets, and the Qur’an contains many additional apocryphal religious fables too. So, it is no wonder that Muslims will have nothing to do with the true scriptures of the prophets.
2 The word, Shekinah, is derived from the Hebrew word, shakan (abode, שָׁכַן), that is found in Exodus 24:16 and 40:35. Shakan means “to dwell, to remain, to continue where one is; to rest after motion; to rest or remain in a state of inactivity; applied to the presence of God among his people, and hence, Shechinah.” From William Wilson, New Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1987 edition, p. 2.

Additional Internet Resources

Links to Tabernacle Resources