Category Archives: Plants in The Tabernacle

Galbanum, an Ingredient in Incense

Ferula galbanifluaThe story of the Tabernacle incense is in Exodus 30:1–10, 34-38; Exodus 37:25-29; and Exodus 40:26-28.

When God listed offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for fragrant incense (Exodus 25:6).  Specifically, a perfumer was to blend the holy incense out of equal proportions of gum resin (stacte), onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense.  The incense was to be salted and pure and sacred (30:35).  Several scholars have commented on what “salted” meant.  One idea was that salt was a preservative in the incense.  A second idea was related to the ancient’s belief that sharing salt between two people was considered to bind them in a covenant.  In the incense, the Israelites offered salt to God, which set Israel’s seal on the covenantal relationship that God offered.  Finally, directing the incense to be salted could have meant it was to be well prepared.The Tabernacle incense was to be “most holy” to the Israelites, and the Israelites were to consider the Tabernacle incense “holy to the Lord” (Exodus 30:36, 37).  Israelites then and in generations to come were to burn incense before the Lord (Exodus 30: 7-9).  The incense on the Altar of Incense was to thanks and praise God for his care and protection to a redeemed people. The Israelites were cautioned to not use the incense formula to make incense for personal use. If they did, they would be cut off from the Israelite people.

The question of the origin of the ingredients for the incense is an important one. The Israelites were in the Sinai Peninsula where these spices did not occur in nature. Most likely, the spices were brought with the Israelites out of Egypt; they were tributes from the Egyptians.  In particular, women would have fragrant, sweet-smelling spices and perfumes. The Bible noted that the Israelites gave an overabundance of materials for the Tabernacle construction.  That overabundance would have included incense spices as well as other construction materials.

Once blended, the incense was ground and used on the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar) and on the Table of the Presence Bread. Both of these structures were located in the Holy of Holies, Tent of Meeting. The Altar of Incense was located immediately in front of the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Most Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:6). The Altar of Incense was so closely connected to the Most Holy Place that the writer of Hebrews mentioned that it was placed behind the veil separating the two rooms (Hebrews 9:4). No other incense was burnt on the Altar of Incense; nor were other types of offerings made on it, e.g., animal, grain, or drink. On the Altar, incense was burnt twice a day: in the evening when the chief priest lit the lamps (on the Lampstand) to burn throughout the night, and in the morning when the lamps were prepared (dressed) for the day.  Incense was also burnt on the Table of the Presence Bread.  On the Table, incense was place along each stack of Bread (Leviticus 24:5–9).  The incense was burnt as a memorial representing the 12 loaves of bread.  It was an offering made to the Lord by fire.

The Galbanum Plant

The plant described with the Tabernacle incense is galbanum which produces a resinous gum, also called galbanum.  The botanical name of galbanum is  also F. gummosa. Galbanum is a member of the same family of plants as carrots and parsley; it is native to central Asia particularly Iran. Galbanum was not known to grow in Israel; and in 2012 Israeli plant data bases do not list it. The Hebrew word for galbanum is chelbᵉnâh. The only place that chelbᵉnâh appears in the Bible is with spices used to make the Tabernacle incense. In England and the United States, the flowers were described as greenish white or yellow;  however, in Central Asia, flowers are a brilliant orange-yellow (Aitchison, 1887).  There are differing opinions about the gum odor and taste from pleasant odor and an acrid taste to strongly balsamic, pungent, and disagreeable or musky.  Whatever the odor of galbanum gum alone, when it was blended with the other three spices, the resulting Tabernacle incense was fragrant.

Symbolism: Fragrance

The symbolism of Tabernacle incense is three-fold.  In the Tabernacle, the incense symbolized a fragrance, or beautiful aroma, lifted to God in thanksgiving.  In the New Testament, the symbolism of fragrance is repeated in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and in the work of the Church.  In contrast to Tabernacle incense that was burnt and rose up to God morning and evening, the sweet fragrance of the Church should rise continually to the Lord.  In his writings to a number of young Church congregations, Paul pointed out how Christ was and we are to be fragrant offerings and aromas to God.  For example, Paul told the Church at Ephesus to be imitators of Christ and to live a life of love in the same way that Christ loved us and gave himself as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

To God, Christians are the aroma of Christ among “those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15)  To the saved, Christians are the fragrance of life.  To those who reject Christ, Christians and the gospel message are the smell of death (2 Corinthians 2:16, note, New International Version Study Bible, 2002).  Christians and the gospel message themselves are not evil-smelling or death dealing; but when nonbelievers reject the life-giving message of Christ, they smell death, not fragrant life.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he acknowledged their gifts saying he was not amply supplied (Philippians 4:14-19).  Probably, the gifts include money as well as material goods such as food and clothing.  Paul identified the gifts were “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).  The gifts from the Philippians to Paul were not in atonement for sin.  Rather, they were gifts of thanksgiving and praise for Paul’s ministry and Christ’s gift of salvation.  The church members at Philippi set an example that church members today can follow in giving to the support of missionaries.

Reflection. When we apply the Bible to our lives, we are like sweet-smelling incense lifted up by a gentle breeze to God. What kind of fragrance are you giving off?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at

Copyright October 5, 2011; carolyn a. roth


Olive Tree in the Tabernacle

Olive TreeThe fruit of the olive tree is identified three places in the Tabernacle which was built while the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai. In all three places, it was olive oil, pressed from olives, which was used.

First, olive oil provided fuel for seven lamps which set on the golden Lampstand in the Tent of Meeting, Holy of Holies (Exodus 40:1 – 5). One lamp set on each of the seven branches of the Lampstand. The Bible does not identify the material used in the construction of the seven lamps. Some authors identified the material as gold – the same substance used in the crafting of the Lampstand. Other authors suggested that the material was a type of clay used in pottery. Small pottery lamps were found at ancient Israeli archeological sites around the time of the Exodus. The lamps were open rimmed in contrast to later New Testament lamps which had a central hole into which olive oil was poured and a short spout which contained the lamp wick. In the open bowl-type lamp, one side was pinched narrow into a spout like protrusion. The wick extended from the spout side of the lamp. God told Moses to have the Israelites bring clear oil of pressed olives for the Lampstand lamps (Exodus 27:20-21). The high priest, Aaron, was to tend the lamps so that they burned continually before the Lord from evening until morning.

The second place that olives were used in the Tabernacle was in the Bread of the Presence. The Presence Bread (Showbread) was a type of grain offering. God described meticulously that all grain offerings (Leviticus 2:1 – 16) should be prepared/offered with olive oil.

The third place that olive oil was used in the Tabernacle was as an ingredient of the anointing oil (Exodus 30: 22-32). God decreed that Moses use anointing oil to anoint and consecrate (to God) every part of the tabernacle, the priests, and the priest’s clothes. The anointing oil, described in detail, consisted of fine spices and a hin (3.7 liters or 1.5 gallons) of olive oil. The anointing oil was to be God’s sacred anointing oil for future generations. If anyone made perfume using the same formula and put it on other than a priest, he/she was to be cut off from the Children of Israel.

Ancient olive treeOlive Trees

The olive tree was mentioned in Genesis and is one of the world’s oldest cultivated trees.  Archeological evidence suggests that the olive tree was first domesticated in the 4th millennium B.C.  The wild Mediterranean olive is the most likely progenitor of today’s cultivated olive, Olea europaea. Some scholars identify the olive as indigenous to present day Israel and Syria; while others claim North Africa or Crete as homes of the first olive trees. In all probability there were wild olive trees growing in the Sinai Peninsula when the Children of Israel traveled there in 1446 – 1406 B.C. Olive trees are long lived, up to 1000 years. They are evergreens that grow to a height of 65 feet with spreading branches that form a dense crown or canopy.  In Old Testament times, youth used long sticks to shake olive tree branches with the result that ripe olives fell to the ground. To obtain small quantities of clear olive oil such as used in anointing oil, olives were gently squeezed — so that no parts were crushed.

Symbolism: Light, Illumination

When we think of the symbolism of the olive tree, we associate the olive branch or leaf as symbols of peace and prosperity. This symbolism comes from the Greeks where the olive tree was the sacred tree of goddess Athena. Athens, the capital of Greece, took its name from the goddess. In the Old Testament olive trees, branches and olives are not associated with peace or prosperity. In Exodus and Leviticus, the Hebrew word for olive tree, olive, and olive oil is zayith; zayith means an olive, as yielding illuminating oil.  Another Old Testament word for olive is sheman, meaning to shine or anoint.

The writers of the Old Testament Psalms repeatedly told the Israelites then and Christian’s today that God is our light (Psalm 27:1,Psalm 89: 15, Psalm 119: 105). In the New Testament, Christ is described or describes himself as the light of the world and of men (John 1: 4, John 8:12, John 12:46). In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to reflect God’s light to the surrounding nations (Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6). Today, Christians are called to take Christ’s light into the world. Christ said “you are the light of the world…. let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14 – 16). St Paul wrote “you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists of all goodness, righteousness and truth)” (Ephesians 5: 8 – 9).

One of the saddest stories in the Bible involves the lamps of the golden Lampstand (I Samuel 3: 1- 4). The Children of Israel are now in the Promised Land and the Ark of the Covenant and the golden Lampstand are at Shiloh. As the chief priest, Eli has the task of preparing and lighting the seven lamps each evening. The story is set early one morning before sunrise. Samuel recorded a small sentence, “The lamp of God had not yet gone out” (I Samuel 3:3). That the lamps burned low or burnt out before morning means that Eli did not prepare the lamps with sufficient olive oil or wick length so that the lamps would burn through the night until morning. The lack of illumination before the Table of the Presence symbolized spiritual dimness in the lives of priests and Israelites. Both were neglecting God; consequently, their lives were not filled with the light of His presence. In this same vignette, Samuel wrote “in those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (I Samuel 3:1). There could be no illumination (words or visions) from God when the priest and people were neglecting or disobeying Him.

As olive oil lamps shined on the Presence Table in the Tent of Meeting, Christians are illuminated by Christ and they reflect Him in a dark world. If our light dims or burns out, how will Christ be seen? Remember that childhood Sunday school song:

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I’m not going to let Satan blow it out. I’m going to let it shine. I’m not going to let Satan blow it out. I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine all over the world.

Reflection. So what about you? Is you light burning for Christ, or has your light grown dim?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at

Copyright February 9, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved




Almond Tree on Tabernacle Lampstand

Amygdalus communis, NKRead about the Lampstand of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25.

The almond tree was central to the Tabernacle and is described in two key situations. First, almond tree buds, blossoms and flowers are the design on the Lampstand (Exodus 25:33-34).The Lampstand and it accessories were made of 75 pounds of gold (MacDonald, 2005). In the Bible, no dimensions (height, width of the top of the Lampstand) were given for the Lampstand; however, its base and arms are described in detail in Exodus 37: 17 – 23). Three branches extend from one side and three branches from the opposite side of the central base. On each of the six branches there were three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. The Lampstand base and central branch had four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One almond bud was under the first pair of branches, a second bud under the second pair of branches, and a third bud under the third pair of branches. The buds and seven branches were all one piece of gold with the base, hammered out of pure gold. At the top of each of the seven branches was set an oil lamp. The Lampstand was the only source of light in the Tabernacle. It was positioned in the Holy of Holies on the south side of the room, opposite the Table of the Presence-Bread. Priests lit the seven oil lamps every evening; the lamps were to burn continually throughout the night until morning. Today, Christians and Jews refer to lamps that are similar as a “menorah.”

The second source of almonds in the Tabernacle is Aaron’s staff which sprouted overnight while in front of the Ark of the Testimony (Covenant) in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 17: 1 – 11). Unlike staffs representing the other 11 tribes of Israel, Aaron’s staff produced buds, blossoms and almonds. Aaron’s staff was not placed in the Tabernacle at its initial construction at Mt. Sinai. After the staff sprouted it was kept in front of the Testimony in the Most Holy of Holies during the wanderings of the Israelites. Paul avers that that Aaron’s staff was placed in the Ark of the Testimony (Hebrews 9:4); however, Aaron’s staff was not in the Ark of the Testimony when Solomon brought the Ark to the first Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 8: 9).

Almond Tree

The almond tree described in Exodus and Numbers is likely the Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis or Amygdalus (almond) communis(common). The almond tree bears sweet almonds which were used for food in the eastern Mediterranean region. Domesticated almonds were identified in the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 B.C.). Usually almond tree grow 12 – 27 feet in height. The flowering almond tree buds in Israel as early as February and is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in nature. The outer covering of the Prunus is a leathery coat called a hull, which contains a hard shell and edible nut. In botanical language the hard shell is called an endocarp, and the nut or fruit is identified as a drupe and has a downy outer reddish coat. In Old Testament times almonds were eaten raw or roasted, pressed for almond oil, and used to flavor porridge, breads and other baked goods. In Egypt, almonds were found in Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt (around 1327 B.C.); these almonds were likely imported from Canaan. When Jacob directed his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain, he told them to take almonds as a gift to the Egyptians because almonds were “some of the best product of the land” (Genesis43:11).

Symbolism: Alert, Watchful

In the Hebrew language, name for almond tree is shâqêd (Strong, 2010). The primary root of shâqêd is shâqad which means to be watchful, alert, on the lookout, and sleepless. Almond buds and blossoms were placed on the Lampstand where the lamps burned during the night to symbolize two things: first, the constant watchfulness of God over His people and second the need for Israel to be alert to the commandments of God.

The association between the almond tree and watchfulness of God over Israel is repeated in Jeremiah 1: 11 – 12. The Lord asked Jeremiah, What do you see? Jeremiah’s response is, “I see the branch of an almond tree.” God returns, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Job (7:20) calls God a “watcher of men.” Placing Aaron’s almond rod in the Most Holy of Holies is a reminder that the priesthood must be watchful against any rebellion or turning of the Children of Israel from God’s laws.

By using the symbolism of the almond tree in the Tabernacle, God provided both reassurance and caution to the Children of Israel. He provides reassurance that He is always watching over them. At the same time God cautions His Children to remain alert to events and situations that can detract them from keeping God as the primary focus of their lives.

At this time I am teaching an on-line course to university students. When courses are offered online, faculty and students rarely meet person-to-person. Students can be in Africa as missionaries, in Guam on a military ship, or anywhere across the globe. Faculty must be watchful that students read and implement the course syllabus, content, and assignments. If a student is off track, the faculty must immediately respond to assist her/him to re-read or re-think their work. Students ask questions of the faculty on line in Discussion Boards or via university email. University policy requires faculty to respond to students within 24 hours. At the same time students have a responsibility to be alert. They need to read posted announcements, grading comments, and answers to questions posed by classmates. If students are not constantly alert to the interactions in the course, they can limit their learning and their earned grades.

Faculty-student interactions in an online course are a reflection of how God works with us. He constantly monitors our behavior and when we get off track, He sends us messages that we need to readjust our thinking and our behavior. Unlike my interaction with students, God does not take up to 24 hours to learn what I am thinking/doing and respond to me. He knows immediately. And, thanks be to God, He does not figuratively pull His hair out at some of the things I do or neglect to do.

God is continually and constantly watchful over me. That does not mean that I can float along in my relationship with God and expect Him to do all of the work. I must stay alert and track with His guidelines for a successful life. In Matthew 26:40 Christ warns Peter, “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Paul instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).

Reflection: Are you being watchful of your life and behavior so you do not drift from closeness with God? Are you watching and praying so you do not fall into temptation?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at hppt://

Copyright February 1, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.


Wheat in the Presence Bread

Wheat GrainsSuggested readings Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 2; Leviticus 24:5 – 9.

Fine wheat flour was used to make the loaves of bread that was placed on the Table of Presence in the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting. In the Bible, the loaves are called the bread of the Presence, the Presence bread, or the Showbread. (Exodus 25:30). There was one loaf for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The loaves represented a perpetual bread offering to God.The Presence-bread was set out in two piles of six loaves (Exodus 24: 5 – 9). Each pile was set on a solid gold plate used exclusively on the Table of the Presence. Every Sabbath a new set of 12 loaves was set out before the Lord as an everlasting covenant. The loaves that were removed from the Table belonged to Aaron and his sons who were directed to eat them in a holy place. Most likely the holy eating place was the courtyard outside the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 6:16). On the Table beside the stacks of Presence-bread, pure incense was set out. The incense was burned to represent the bread, an offering made to the Lord by fire. No part of the Presence-bread itself was ever burned.

In Old Testament times most wheat was milled into flour to make bread. Milling was a mechanical process of separating the wheat endosperm from the bran and germ. Then the wheat endosperm (starch) was ground into flour. The bread of the Presence was made with “fine flour” (Leviticus 24:5; NIV Study Bible note Exodus 2:1) which means no wheat bran or germ remained in the flour and the flour was thoroughly ground.

In most early societies, men planted and harvested wheat while women milled and baked the resulting flour into bread; however, the Kohathites (the second of Levi’ sons) were charged with baking the Presence-bread. When the Bible described the Presence-bread, it was not identified as made without yeast (unleavened). Yet, more than likely it was unleavened because all grain offerings baked in the oven and presented in the Tabernacle were required to be made without yeast (Leviticus 2:4, 11).

There are three possible sources for the wheat used to make the fine flour for the Presence-bread. First, possibly the flour came with the Israelites out of Egypt. Yet if flour was available, why did the Israelites grumble against Moses and Aaron in the Desert of Sin, complaining that they had no food (Exodus 16: 1-16)? It was in the Desert of Sin, about 2 ½ months after the Israelites left Egypt, where God began to feed the Israelites with manna. God provided manna which could be baked into a type of bread the entire 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the Sinai Peninsula.

A second source of the fine wheat flour used to make the Presence-bread could have been wild wheat. When the Tabernacle was built, the Israelites were camped at Mt. Sinai, now known as Mt. Safsafa at Wadi Raha. Mt. Safsafa is part of St. Katherine’s Municipality, South Sinai, Egypt. This area is high altitude desert (5,200 feet) and winter nights can drop to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The St. Katherine’s area is the only place in Egypt where snow falls on a regular basis. The mountain snow melts slowly, releasing water at a steady pace, replenishing underground catchment areas. When rain falls, water flows rapidly down the barren Sinai Mountains and drenches the valleys, gullies, and wadi at the base of the mountains. Residents of St. Katherine’s Municipality reported that in older times there was at least one rainfall every 40 days and valleys were greener than present. Wild wheat and even domesticated wheat could have possibly grown in the area of Mt. Sinai. In the Mid-East wheat is planted in the fall (about November) and harvested the spring (April) . Perhaps the Israelites found wild wheat or planted winter wheat around the base of Mt. Sinai where they camped for 11 months. This wheat would not have been sufficient to feed the approximate two million Israelites, but it may have been ample to make fine flour for the Presence-bread. Further, the Israelites could have found wild wheat in various places during their 40 year journey over the Sinai Peninsula. An argument against finding wild wheat on the Sinai Peninsula is in Numbers 20:5 where the Children of Israel complained to Moses that the Peninsula has “no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates.” By this time the Israelites had wandered around  the Sinai Peninsula almost 40 years and they were very aware of its plant life.

A third possible source of fine wheat flour could have been from traders. As early as the 16th century B.C. the Sinai Peninsula was an important cross-road for traders. In the 16th century B.C., the Pharaohs built the way of Shur across the Sinai to Beersheba and into Jerusalem. Other trade routes crossed near the center of the Sinai, connecting Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. It is possible that fine wheat grain or flour from the Nile Delta was transported along trade routes. Egypt was known to export grain (Genesis 24:3 – 5). Certainly, the Israelites had sufficient gold and silver to purchase raw grain and/or fine flour from traders (Exodus 36: 3-7).

The Wheat Plant

Research shows that cereal gatherings could have occurred as early as 17,000 B.C. in the near east. The earliest wild wheats were einkorn (Triticum boeoticum) and emmer (T. dicoccidoides) which grew in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. Archeology records documented that wheat was domesticated prior to 7000 B.C. and grown for harvest in the Fertile Crescent and in the Nile delta region (northern Egypt). In the Bible wheat is first mentioned as harvested by Jacob in Palestine (Genesis 30: 14). Wheat is an annual crop that grows best in temperate climates. Wheat grows in about 100 days in a frost-free growing season. To obtain a good wheat crop, from 15 – 20 inches of precipitation are necessary. In areas of no more than 10 – 15 inches of precipitation, wheat is often planted every 2 years. The land is kept free of vegetation on the alternate year so moisture can accumulate in the soil. Wheat kernels consist of three parts. The outer covering (about 12%) is called bran. The center (endosperm, 85%) is composed of starch, the portion present in white flour. The inner part of the kernel (2 – 3%), called the germ (embryo) expands, or germinates, into the new wheat plant.

Symbolism: Living, Life

Wheat has been valuable to man from time immemorial and it was valuable to God who commanded that the Israelites make the Presence-bread from it. I am intrigued that God told the Israelites to bake bread weekly out of wheat, a grain that was not in large supply on the dry Sinai Peninsula. Why didn’t God allow them bake manna for the Presence-bread? Manna was plentiful and God provided a steady supply of it. Instead God required the Israelites to make an offering from wheat, a grain they had to seek during their 40 years of travels.

Just like it could have been difficulty for the Israelites to find sufficient wheat to mill fine flour for the Presence-Bread, it is sometimes difficult to walking out a Christian life. As a child in Sunday School I learned that Christ said to come to him; his burdens are easy and yoke light. At times I feel like there is a big wooden oxen yoke on my shoulders that is weighing me down. I feel like I am seeking a way to His presence that I cannot fine. I’ve come to realize that on days that I feel bone weary and weighed down, I need to go back to Matthew 11 and read exactly what Christ was telling the crowd. Matthew 11: 28 – 30 reads “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If I want a light burden today — here in this world — I must come to Christ and learn from His life. When I study the life of Christ, I see a man who seemed to be without ego. Christ didn’t have to have His own way all of the time. He lived in the presence of his Father and did God’s will, even dying because it was God’s will. Christ described himself as gentle and humble. Gentle and humble isn’t an easy way to live. It seems counter-intuitive to many women my age who worked hard to achieve in a world geared to men. But, I’m not willing to say that Christ’s directions on how to live are wrong. And, I am reminded of St. Paul’s words, “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1 – 2).

Reflection. I think I understand it now: To have a light, unburden life, I need to be gentle and meek as Christ was. A life such as this does not conform to the world. It is a living sacrifice – a sweet perfume – offered daily to Christ. In this new paradigm, my life becomes an offering to God much as the fine wheat Presence-bread was an offering and sacrifice to God.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at

Copyright January 25, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.



Overview of the Tabernacle

Historical records suggest that the Israelites fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea into the Sinai Peninsula in 1446 B.C.  (Old Testament Chronology, NIV Study Bible, 2002). After crossing the Red Sea, they traveled down the western side of the Sinai Peninsula arriving at the base of  Mount Sinai  three  3 months after leaving Egypt (Exodus:19:1). Some places in the Bible refer to Mountain Sinai as Mount Horeb translated as “the desolate place.” The south central Sinai Peninsula is an arid mountainous region. Bible scholars cannot specify with 100% accuracy which mountain peak Moses meant when he wrote about Israel’s experiences at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). While camped at Mount Sinai the Israelites constructed the Tabernacle (Exodus 19:29 – 4040:38). God required that the Tabernacle be set up on the first day of the year (Exodus 40:1); approximately 8 – 9 months after the Israelites arrived at Mt. Sinai (MacDonald, 1995). Given these time frames, the Tabernacle would have been constructed in the latter half of 1446 B.C. and consecrated in 1445 B.C.

The word “Tabernacle” has several meanings. First and foremost the Tabernacle was the tent or sanctuary where God dwelt among His people (Exodus 29: 42-46). It was the place where God met and spoke with the Israelites, thus the Tabernacle was frequently identified as the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 29:42; Exodus 40:1, 26, 34). Surrounding the Tent of Meeting was a courtyard which measured 150 feet long by 75 feet wide with 7.5 feet high sides (MacDonald, 1995). Israelites entered the courtyard through a 30 foot wide gate that was always positioned facing east. At times Biblical writers used the word “Tabernacle” to encompass both the Tent of Meeting and courtyard with its structures. Click on the link at the top of the entry to see a diagram of the Tent of Meeting and surrounding courtyard

The Altar of Burnt Offering was the first structure seen when entering the Tabernacle courtyard. The Altar was square, each side measured 7.5 feet and it was 4.5 feet high (MacDonald, 1995); the basic structure was acacia wood boards. The Altar of Burnt Offering was sometimes called the Bronze Altar because the acacia wood boards were covered with bronze (Exodus 38: 7). At each corner post was an upward projection referred to as the “horns” of the altar. The horns were overlaid with bronze. The purpose of the Alter of Burnt Offering was to offer sacrifices to God. Animal sacrifice could be tied to the horns. Some of the animal blood was put on the horns before the remainder was poured into the base of the Altar. The metal bronze speaks of judgment. The horns had symbolic meaning to the Israelites in two ways. First, they symbolized the atoning power of the altar. Second, in the time of Israel’s kings, the horns of the Altar were symbols of refuge (I Kings 1:50; 2: 28).

Moving front to back in the Tabernacle courtyard, the second structure was the Laver ( Basin for Washing) (Exodus 30:17-21). The Laver was located in front of the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The Bible describes the Laver as a basin and stand for washing, but does not give its dimensions (size or form). The Laver was made from bronze mirrors contributed by Israelite women (Exodus 38:8). When the Laver was constructed, mirrored glass was not available. Highly polished brass was used to see reflections. The bronze basin was filled with water. The priests (Aaron and his sons) were required to wash their hands and feet before entering the Tent of Meeting and presenting offerings to God (Exodus 30:17 – 21). The penalty for not washing before entering the Tent of Meeting was death. In the entire Tabernacle complex, the Laver is the only structure not associated with plants.

The Tent of Meeting was located behind the Bronze Laver; the Tent was15 feet wide and 45 feet long (MacDonald, 1995). The Tent of Meeting was divided into two rooms. The first room was called the Holy of Holies. Located behind the first, the second room was designated as the Most Holy of Holies. The two rooms were separated by a curtain. The Holy of Holies contained the Alter of Incense, the Table of the Presence (Table of Showbread), and the gold Lampstand. The Most Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant (Ark of Testimony). When the Tabernacle was consecrated, the Ark contained the two stone tablets (Tablets of Testimony) on which were written the 10 Commandments given by God to Moses. Later, an urn containing manna and Aaron’s staff were added.

Although God gave Moses the direction for building the Tabernacle complex, He identified two men to head the work (Exodus 31: 1 – 11; Exodus 35: 30 – 36:1) Bezalel of the tribe of Judah was given the ability, skill and knowledge in all kinds of crafts and to make needed designs. Oholiab of the tribe of Dan was identified to help Bezalel. Both men were given ability to teach the craftsmen and skilled persons who participated in the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishing.

God directed Moses to tell the Israelites to being offerings for the building of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25: 1 – 7). The types of offerings were gold, silver, bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yearn and fine linen; goat hair, ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the priest’s ephod and breast piece. The Israelites response to Moses’ call for offerings to build the Tabernacle was overwhelming. Exodus 31:4 -7 records that all the skilled craftsmen who were doing the work on the sanctuary left their work and said to Moses: “the people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” Moses gave an order that no man or women was to make anything else for the sanctuary. The Israelites were restrained from bringing more offerings because there was already more than enough materials to complete Tabernacle construction.

When it was built, the Tabernacle had both literal and symbolic meanings for the children of Israel. The Tabernacle presaged (foretold and foreshadowed) Christ; many items used in its construction pointed toward Christ. The Israelites carried the Tabernacle and met with God in the Tent of Meeting on their pilgrimage toward the promise land. Christians are also on a pilgrimage; our destination is Heaven. As we travel, we carry Christ within us and have the opportunity to meet with Him in prayer.

Under the heading “Tabernacle” are six different topics describing plants (wood, flax, almonds, wheat, etc.) associated with construction of the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle courtyard and the priest’s clothes. Also included are descriptions of plants used in making  annointing/consecrating oils and incense. The topics covered in http://www.Godasagardener do not attempt to cover all the Tabernacles symbolism; however, symbols associated with plants are discussed in detail. The Believer’s Bible Commentary (1995) (see Bibliography and links) and the NIV Study Bible notes provide additional information on symbolism of the Tabernacle.

I hope you enjoy reading about Plants in the Tabernacle and that you will provide insightful comments to promote dialogue as Tabernacle topics are added to the blog.

Copyright January 1, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.