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No. 48: The Seven Days of Creation in Exodus 25-30

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 48
April, 1993
Copyright 1993, Biblical Horizons

In his paper, The Tabernacle: A New Creation, James Jordan has argued that the Tabernacle creation instructions in Exodus 25-31 parallel the account of creation found in Genesis. The seven-day creation pattern is suggested both by the structure of the whole section (Ex. 25-31), as well as on a smaller scale in the more specific descriptions of the Tabernacle-dwelling (Ex. 25:1—27:19) and of the Priestly garments (Ex. 28). I would further suggest that we can find a seven-day pattern suggested in the instructions found in Exodus 25-30.

We can begin by trying to think how the original creation week was divided and use that as the outline for examining Exodus 24-30. My basic outline of creation is the following:

Prologue (Gen. 1:1-2)

Days of Forming:

Day 1: Glory-environment; light

Day 2: Expanse of separation

Day 3: Land and sea; plants

Days of Filling:

Day 4: Heavenly lights

Day 5: Swarming fish and birds in sea and sky

Day 6a: Animals

Day 6b: Man

a. Adam created as Edenic priest

b. Filled with Spirit-breath

c. Helper made

Day of Sabbath:

a. Testing

b. Worship

c. Judgment

With this basic pattern in mind we can examine Exodus 25—30:10 for key words and phrases that might serve as division markings. I would suggest the following:

"Pattern" phrases:

25:9 Make the Tabernacle and all its furnishings just like the pattern I will show you.

25:40 See that you make them according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain.

26:30 Set up the Tabernacle according to the plan you were shown on the mountain.

27:8 It [the altar] is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain.

"Ordinance/generations" phrases:

27:21 This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for generations to come.

28:43 This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants.

29:9 The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance. In this way you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.

30:10 This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.

If there is any correspondence between these phrases and the days of the creation week, the "pattern" set must fit with the days of forming, while the "ordinance/generations" set must fit with the days of filling. This may make some sense since things must be formed according to a pattern, while the days of filling are filled with things that ordain days and seasons (sun, moon, stars) or reproduce, creating generations (fish, birds, animals, man). Therefore, let us look at each phrase and the section it marks off.

[Note from JBJ: These phrases don’t either begin or end the sections, for the most part. Rather, the use of the "pattern" phrases indicate we are in the first part of the week, while the repeated use of the "ordain" phrases indicate we are in the second part of the week. The actual division into days has to be done by means of sensitive theological reflection, which Mr. Garver has provided.]

Prologue: Exodus 25:9 (Contribution: Ex. 25:1-9)

In this section marked by the first "pattern" phrase, the instructions concerning the creation of the Tabernacle still only anticipate its creation. It is to be made according to a pattern that will be shown. The elements that will be incorporated into the Tabernacle are to be gathered, but as of yet they are still "formless" and "empty." This parallels Genesis 1:1-2, a prologue to the creation account.

Day 1: Exodus 25:40 (Ark, Table, and Lampstand: Ex. 25:10-40)

The first furnishing is the Ark of the Covenant, which represents God in His heavenly throne-room surrounded by cherubim. It is from there that the Testimony/Law is delivered (the Word) and from which the Spirit proceeds. The Ark had rings and carrying poles and is covered with gold.

The Table is similar in shape to the Ark, though slightly smaller, and like the Ark it has rings and carrying poles. It too is covered with gold. There is bread on the Table called the Bread of the Presence—meaning the Presence of God’s glorious Spirit. It is not food for God, but rather shows that man must be fed by the life-giving Spirit who proceeds from the throne.

The Lamp is a representation of the Spirit, providing light and demonstrating the life of the Spirit by its ever-blossoming almond-bud decoration. It too is gold.

The Ark, Table, and Lamp represent the first day of creation, when the living Glory-Spirit proceeded from the throne-room of God and brought life and light to the formless earth after the pattern of heaven. This all is represented by the bread, and the parallel shapes of the ark and table, the seven lamps, and the abundance of glistening gold. These furnishings create a Glory-environment.

[Note from JBJ: It seems to me that Ark, Table, and Lamp correspond to Word, Sacrament, and Person, the three fundamental dimensions of the Kingdom. Also, I’d eliminate the "prologue" and start Day 1 with 25:1-9. That way, the section would have four subsections: raw materials, heaven (ark), earth (table), and light (lamp), corresponding with Day 1 in Genesis 1.]

Day 2: Exodus 26:30 (Tabernacle: Ex. 26:1-37).

This entire section deals with curtains and the support forms for stretching out these curtains. The curtains serve as separations between sections of the Tabernacle and between the Tabernacle and outside world. Blue, purple, scarlet, goat skin, and dolphin (or sea cow) leather are used. The blue, at least, suggests the sky, and parallels the expanse God stretched out to separate the waters above from those below. The sky is a picture of the separation between God’s heaven and the earth by the sapphire pavement before His throne (pictured by the Ark in the Most Holy Place; cf. Ex. 24:10; Ezk. 1:22; Rev. 4:6). This section, therefore, deals with the second day of creation.

[Note from JBJ: According to the book of Hebrews, the Tabernacle represented heaven, and the two separate tents in the Tabernacle represented the anteroom and throneroom of heaven. The Veil separated the two rooms in heaven, while the blue screen (Ex. 26:36-36) represented the firmament between heaven and earth. The firmament makes heaven visible to man, according to Genesis 1. The Tabernacle made heaven visible and present to Israel. Thus, the Tabernacle is to be associated with the firmament, the mediating boundary between heaven and earth. Garver is right, I believe, to put Ex. 26:1-37 with Day 2.]

to be continued