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The tabernacle is ready and God’s glory moves in: Exodus 39–40, Numbers 9

Exactly a year after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were ready to assemble their newly built Tent of Meeting (also called a tabernacle or sanctuary):

  • the first day of the first year was when the first Passover was announced
  • the first day of the second year was when the Tent of Meeting was assembled.

In that year, the people had lived through the tenth plague in Egypt, plundered Egypt and left, escaped Pharaoh, walked through a sea, lived on water, quail and manna, and then survived the golden calf incident. That was about the first three or four months. They spent the rest of that year getting used to desert life and making everything they would need for this Tent of Meeting.

This new Tent became the official place for the priests to represent the people to God. And God moved in:

Numbers 9:15-16 On the day the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. But from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle looked like a pillar of fire.This was the regular pattern—at night the cloud that covered the Tabernacle had the appearance of fire.

Initially, Moses could not enter the place because of God’s glory:

Exodus40: 35 Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.

But this couldn’t have lasted for too long because God still spoke to Israel through Moses, and God spoke to Moses while they were in the Tabernacle/Tent.

In keeping with Moses’ plea for God to let His people live in His presence:

Numbers 9:17 Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp. … 22 Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on.