The Holy Place of the Tabernacle

Ritual Worship Was Conducted in the Holy Place

The Holy Place
Inside the Holy Place. Public Domain

The Holy Place was part of the tabernacle tent, a room where priests conducted rituals to honor God.

When God gave Moses instructions on how to build the desert tabernacle, he ordered that the tent be divided into two parts: a larger, outer chamber called the Holy Place, and an inner room called the Holy of Holies.

The Holy Place measured 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet high.  On the front of the tabernacle tent was a beautiful veil made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, hung from five golden pillars.

Common worshipers did not enter the tabernacle tent, only priests. Once inside the Holy Place, the priests would see the table of showbread to their right, a golden lampstand to their left, and an altar of incense ahead, just in front of the veil separating the two chambers.

Outside, in the tabernacle courtyard where the Jewish people were allowed, all of the elements were made of bronze. Inside the tabernacle tent, close to God, all the furnishings were made of precious gold.

Within the Holy Place, priests acted as representatives of the people of Israel before God. They placed 12 loaves of unleavened bread, representing the 12 tribes, on the table. The bread was removed every sabbath, eaten by the priests inside the Holy Place, and replaced with new loaves.

Priests also tended the golden lampstand, or menorah, inside the Holy Place. Since there were no windows or openings and the front veil was kept closed, this would have been the only source of light.

On the third element, the altar of incense, the priests burned sweet-smelling incense every morning and evening. The smoke from the incense rose to the ceiling, went through the opening above the veil, and filled the Holy of Holies during the high priest's annual rite.

The layout of the tabernacle was later copied in Jerusalem when Solomon built the first temple.

It too had a courtyard or porches, then a Holy Place, and a Holy of Holies where only the high priest could enter, once a year on the Day of Atonement.

Early Christian churches followed the same general pattern, with an outer court or inside lobby, a sanctuary, and an inner tabernacle where the communion elements were kept.  Roman Catholic,  Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches and cathedrals retain those features today.

Significance of the Holy Place

As a repentant sinner entered the tabernacle courtyard and walked forward, he drew closer and closer to the physical presence of God, who manifested himself inside the Holy of Holies in a pillar of cloud and fire.

But in the Old Testament, a believer could only draw so close to God, then he or she had to be represented by a priest or the high priest the rest of the way. God knew that his chosen people were superstitious, barbaric, and easily influenced by their idol worshiping neighbors, so he gave them the Law, judges, prophets, and kings to prepare them for a Savior.

At the perfect moment in time, Jesus Christ, that Savior, entered the world. When he died for humanity's sins, the veil of the Jerusalem temple was split from top to bottom, showing the end of the separation between God and his people.

Our bodies change from holy places to the holy of holies when the Holy Spirit comes to live within each Christian at baptism.

We are made worthy for God to dwell within us not by our own sacrifices or good works, like the people who worshiped in the tabernacle, but by the saving death of Jesus. God credits Jesus' righteousness to us through his gift of grace, entitling us to eternal life with him in heaven.

Bible References:

Exodus 28-31; Leviticus 6, 7, 10, 14, 16, 24:9; Hebrews 9:2.

Also Know As

Sanctuary.

Example

Aaron's sons ministered in the Holy Place of the tabernacle.