Tag Archives: Acacia seyal

Thorns in the Tabernacle

Bible References: Exodus chapters 25, 35-38.

Acacia wood was the only wood used to build the Tabernacle.  Gold covered acacia posts and cross bars stabilized the acacia wood panels and held Tent of Meeting curtains in place. In the Tent of Meeting, the Table of the Presence (Showbread), the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar), and the Ark of the Covenant were built from acacia wood then overlaid with gold. Gold covered acacia poles were placed in gold rings on the four corners of each piece of furniture. When Israelites moved camp, poles were used to lift and carry structures and furniture.

In the Tabernacle Courtyard, the Altar of Burnt Offering (Bronze Altar) was built from acacia wood, then overlaid with bronze. Bronze-cast rings were placed half-way up the Bronze Altar at each corner. Bronze-covered acacia wood poles were inserted into the rings to carry the Bronze Altar. The Courtyard was rectangular (approximately 150 by 75 feet). Unlike the Tent of Meeting, no acacia wood panels or boards were used to construct Courtyard sides. Sides were made of linen; however, the linen curtains were attached to acacia wood posts (top and sides) with silver hooks.

When Israelites traveled from one camp to another, the Tent of Meeting and Tabernacle were deconstructed, then moved. God didn’t permit sacred furnishings and the Tent of Meeting to be transported on wagons or carts. He required that they be carried on shoulders of Levites. Acacia wood is beautiful, light, and practical indestructible. It was ideal for the multiple moves that  Israelites made prior to entering Canaan.

The Bible identified the wood used in the Tabernacle as shittah, which translates as acacia. The genus and species of  acacia tree used in the Tabernacle can’t be established with 100% accuracy. Over the years, several acacia trees were suggested as the wood source. In the early twentieth century, scholars suggested acacia wood was from the Mimosa nilatica. Supposedly, Israelites brought this wood out of Egypt.

Another scholar proposed that the Tabernacle acacia wood was from the Acacia tortillis, which grew in the Judean and eastern Negev Deserts. Jewish rabbinic writings asserted that acacia trees were cut by the patriarch Jacob and acacia wood taken into Egypt.8 During their approximately 450-year captivity, Israelites retained the acacia wood and left Egypt with it. Thus, when Moses asked for offerings to build the Tabernacle, Israelites offered their acacia wood.

Although Mimosa nilatica and Acacia tortillis could have been sources of acacia wood used in Tabernacle construction, many scholars favor the Acacia seyal tree. The A. seyal is indigenous to the dry desert-like climate of southern Sinai. It grows in stony soil at the base of hills. The A. seyal can grow at altitudes from 65–7000 feet and with annual precipitations as low as three-and-one-half to nine inches. The A. seyal tree grows up to thirty-feet tall and has a broad somewhat flat canopy.

Despite A. seyal plentiful presence on the Saini Peninsula, the tree had a drawback: The acacia tree has a pair of straight, light gray thorns at the base of each leaf. When Israelites cut down trees and fashioned boards (planks) for the Tent of Meeting and furniture they had to contend with these sharp projections. Further, when poles were created to carry the Tabernacle and courtyard furniture, sharp thorns had to be removed from poles.

The acacia wood used in the Tabernacle symbolizes the humanity of Jesus, while the gold overlay of the boards and poles symbolizes Jesus’s deity. Isaiah described the  Redeemer as a “a root out of dry growth” similar to the acacia tree growing out of arid desert soil (Isaiah 53.2 NIV).

As Christians, we know that Jesus was fully human. It was in his human strength that Jesus endured unbelievable torture and death on the cross.  Acacia wood is virtually indestructible, but, Jesus is fully indestructible.  In his human body, Jesus died once for all people—those present on the earth when he lived and individuals of all future times.  The indestructible Jesus rose after death and now sits at God’s right hand in heaven.  Burnt offerings on bronze-covered acacia wood altars are no longer needed for sins to be forgiven and for man to be reconciled to God.

Jesus’s death and resurrection invites each of us to become a child of God. Christians “are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 1.10 NIV). Part of our work on earth is to be like acacia wood—virtually indestructible—as we walk out God’s plans for our lives.

God could have supplied trees without thorns for the Israelites to make boards for Tabernacle structures. Why did God have Israelites use a tree with thorns? One answer is that thorns on the acacia tree were to assist Israelites to realize that just because they were out of Egypt didn’t mean that all would be smooth in their lives. Their new world plants had thorns and projections that could/would pierce and puncture their skin.

Similar to Israelites on Sinai, Christian believers in the twenty-first century need to work with what is available in their world. In the Sinai, an acacia tree was available. In a world filled with diverse individuals, social media, and twenty-four-hour news television, Christians find thorns. At times thorns are other persons. Some days, I think that there are more thorns than flowers in my environment. Nonetheless God put me in this life to live and interact with what and who is in my environment. All of these interactions are designed to be for his glory.

Reflection: What are some items, events, people in your life that you need to learn to work with rather than avoid? Some people just have so many thorns (and, of course, I don’t)! How does learning to interact with thorny people enhance your spiritual life?

Acacia Wood for God’s Tabernacle

Acacia seyalThe wooden structure of the Tabernacle is described primarily in Exodus chapter 25:1–27:19; Exodus 30:1–6; and chapters 35-38. 

 Acacia wood was the only type of wood used in the construction of the Tent of Meeting, the sides of the courtyard, and the furniture and altars in the Tabernacle. The Tent of Meeting itself was constructed of gold covered acacia wood panels, or boards.  Gold covered acacia wood posts and cross bars stabilized the acacia wood panels and held the Tent of Meeting curtains in place. In the Tent of Meeting, the Table of the Presence (Showbread), the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar), and the Ark of the Covenant were built from acacia wood then overlaid with gold. Gold covered acacia wood poles were placed in gold rings on the four corners of each structure. When the Israelites moved, poles were used to lift and carry each piece of furniture.  

 In the courtyard, the Altar of Burnt Offering (Bronze Altar) was built from acacia wood overlaid with bronze. Bronze-cast rings were placed half way up the Bronze Altar at the four corners. Bronze-covered acacia wood poles were inserted into the rings for carrying the Bronze Altar. The courtyard was rectangular — approximately 150 feet on the north and south sides and 75 feet on the east and west sides. Unlike the Tent of Meeting, no acacia wood panels or boards were used to construct the sides of the courtyard. The sides were made of linen; however, the linen curtains were attached to acacia wood posts (top and sides) with silver hooks.  

 When the Israelites moved from one camp to another, the Tent of Meeting and Tabernacle were deconstructed then moved (Numbers chapter 4). God would not allow the sacred furnishings and the Tent of Meeting to be transported in wagons or carts. He required that they be carried on the shoulders of the Levites. Acacia wood is beautiful, light, and practical indestructible. It was ideal for the multiple moves that the Israelites made in their years of journeying on the Sinai Peninsula and final march into Canaan.

 Shittâh or Acacia wood

Acacia seyal fruit

The Bible identified the wood used in the Tabernacle as shittâh which translates as acacia. The Genus and species of the acacia tree used in the Tabernacle cannot be established with 100% accuracy. Over the years, several trees were suggested as the source of the wood. In the early 20th century, scholars suggested the wood was from the Mimosa nilatica (Spina AEgyptiaca of the Egyptians) primarily because the Israelites could have brought this wood out of Egypt.  Others proposed that the acacia wood of the Tabernacle was from the Acacia tortillis which grew in the Judean Desert and eastern Negev Desert. Jewish rabbinic writings asserted that acacia trees without any knots or fissures were cut by the patriarch Jacob at Migdal Ẓebo’aya, Canaan and taken into Egypt. During their captivity, the Israelites retained the acacia wood and left Egypt with the wood. Thus, when Moses asked for offerings to build the Tabernacle, everyone who had acacia wood offered it.

Although Mimosa nilatica and Acacia tortollis could have been the wood used in Tabernacle construction, many scholars favor the Acacia seyal tree. The A. seyal is indigenous to the dry desert-like climate of southern Sinai. It grows in stony alluvial soil at the base of hills. The A. seyal can grow at altitudes from 65 – 7000 feet and with annual precipitations as low as 3.5 – 9 inches. The Acacia seyal tree is a semi-evergreen tree that grows from 20 – 30 feet tall and has a broad somewhat flat canopy.

 Symbolism: Indestructible

Acacia trees and acacia wood has taken on meaning beyond a common wood used in construction.  The acacia wood used as the foundation of the Tabernacle symbolizes the humanity of Christ while the gold overlay of the boards and poles symbolizes Christ’s deity. Isaiah described Christ as “a root out of dry growth” similar to the acacia tree growing out of arid desert soil (Isaiah 53:2).

As Christians, it is important to remember that Christ was fully human and it was in His human strength that He endured unbelievable torture and finally death on the cross (John 18 and 19).  Acacia wood is virtually indestructible, but Christ is fully indestructible.  In His human body, Christ died once for all people — those present on the earth when he lived and for individuals of all future times (Hebrews 9:12-14).  The indestructible Christ rose after death and now sits at the right hand of God in heaven (Hebrew 10:12).  Burnt offerings on bronze-covered acacia wood altars are no longer needed for sins to be forgiven and for man to be reconciled to God (Hebrew 10:11-18).  Christ’s death and resurrection invites each of us to become a child of God.

The builders and craftsmen of the Tabernacle worked with care and diligence to build the Tabernacle as God directed. As Christians “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 1:10). We are called by God and ordained for His work here on earth. Sometimes it isn’t easy to know the specific work God wants us to do.  In the past I have been way off track with God’s plans for me.  Alternatively, at other times I have been on track, walking as God ordained.  Part of our work here on earth is to be like acacia wood – virtually indestructible –as we walk out God’s plans for our lives.  How indestructible we are depends on how much effort we make to stay close to Christ.  The best ways to stay close to Christ are by regular — preferably daily – Bible reading, prayer, and meditation on the Holy Scriptures.

 Reflection.  Wouldn’t you like your epitaph to read:____________(your name) was indestructible in his/her walk with Christ. How can you make this happen?

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 http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright May 8, 2016, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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