Courtyard Fence of the Tabernacle

Learn the Significance of the Outer Court Fence

Tabernacle Courtyard Fence
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

The courtyard fence was a protective border for the tabernacle, or tent of meeting, which God told Moses to build after the Hebrew people escaped from Egypt.

Jehovah gave specific instructions on how this courtyard fence was to be built:

"Make a courtyard for the tabernacle. The south side shall be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains of finely twisted linen, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts. The north side shall also be a hundred cubits long and is to have curtains, with twenty posts and twenty bronze bases and with silver hooks and bands on the posts.

"The west end of the courtyard shall be fifty cubits wide and have curtains, with ten posts and ten bases. On the east end, toward the sunrise, the courtyard shall also be fifty cubits wide. Curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on one side of the entrance, with three posts and three bases, and curtains fifteen cubits long are to be on the other side, with three posts and three bases." (Exodus 27:9-15, NIV)

This translates to an area 75 feet wide by 150 feet long. The tabernacle, including the courtyard fence and all the other elements, could be packed and moved when the Jews traveled from place to place.

The fence served a number of purposes. First, it set the holy ground of the tabernacle apart from the rest of the camp. No one could casually approach the holy place or wander into the courtyard. Second, it screened the activity inside, so a crowd would not gather to watch. Third, because the gate was guarded, the fence restricted the area to only males offering animal sacrifices.

Many Bible scholars believe the Hebrews received the linen fabric used in the curtains from the Egyptians, as a sort of pay-off to leave that country, following the ten plagues.

Linen was a valuable cloth made from the flax plant, widely cultivated in Egypt. Workers stripped long, thin fibers from inside the stems of the plant, spun them into thread, then wove the thread into fabric on looms.

Because of the intense labor involved, linen was mostly worn by rich people. This fabric was so delicate it could be pulled through a man's signet ring. Egyptians bleached linen or dyed it bright colors. Linen was also used in narrow strips to wrap mummies.

Significance of the Courtyard Fence

An important point of this tabernacle is that God showed his people he was not a regional god, like the idols worshiped by the Egyptians or the false gods of the other tribes in Canaan.

Jehovah dwells with his people and his power extends everywhere because he is the only True God.

The design of the tabernacle with its three parts: outer court, holy place, and inner holy of holies, evolved into the first temple in Jerusalem, built by King Solomon. It was copied in Jewish synagogues and later in Roman Catholic cathedrals and churches, where the tabernacle contains communion hosts.

Following the Protestant Reformation, the tabernacle was eliminated in Protestant churches, meaning that God can be accessed by anyone in the "priesthood of believers." (1 Peter 2:5)

The linen of the courtyard fence was white. Various commentaries note the contrast between the dust of the wilderness and the striking white linen wall wrapping the grounds of the tabernacle, the meeting place with God. This fence foreshadowed a much later event in Israel when a linen shroud was wrapped around the crucified corpse of Jesus Christ, who is sometimes called the "perfect tabernacle."

So, the fine white linen of the courtyard fence represents the righteousness that encircles God. The fence separated those outside the court from the holy presence of God, just as sin separates us from God if we have not been cleansed by the righteous sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Savior.

Bible References

Exodus 27:9-15, 35:17-18, 38:9-20.

Example:

The courtyard fence of the tabernacle bordered a place of worship.

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Zavada, Jack. "Courtyard Fence of the Tabernacle." ThoughtCo, Feb. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/courtyard-fence-of-the-tabernacle-700102. Zavada, Jack. (2017, February 12). Courtyard Fence of the Tabernacle. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/courtyard-fence-of-the-tabernacle-700102 Zavada, Jack. "Courtyard Fence of the Tabernacle." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/courtyard-fence-of-the-tabernacle-700102 (accessed January 21, 2018).