Category Archives: The Goats’ Hair Curtain

The covering for the tabernacle curtain.

TABERNACLE STUDIES: The Goats’ Hair Curtains

The instructions for the covering that was put over the tabernacle are as follows: Exodus 26:7-13 “And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make. The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure. And thou shalt couple five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves, and shalt double the sixth curtain in the forefront of the tabernacle. And thou shalt make fifty loops on the edge of the one curtain that is outmost in the coupling, and fifty loops in the edge of the curtain which coupleth the second. And thou shalt make fifty taches of brass, and put the taches into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one. And the remnant that remaineth of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the tabernacle. And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent, it shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it”.

The word for goat used here usually means a she-goat, but when it is in the plural, then it means goats’ hair. This is why “hair” is in italics, for the idea of the hair comes from the fact that the word goat is in the plural. Notice the position of the apostrophe. Since it is after the “s” it means the hair of more than one goat. Now it is possible to obtain goat’s hair either from a living goat, (Angora, for example), or from a dead goat. This is suggestive, for there was a special occasion in Israel’s calendar when two goats featured, and one goat died, the other goat lived. That occasion was the Day of Atonement. One of the reasons for the Day of Atonement ceremonies was the need to defend God from the charge of being indifferent to evil. The heathen might charge Him with tolerating sin by dwelling amongst the sinning people of Israel. To avoid this charge, the tabernacle was reconciled by the blood of atonement, for it dwelt among the camp of Israel, and they were unclean. The literal expression, as we already noticed, was “the tabernacle dwelleth among them in the midst of their uncleanness”, Leviticus 16:16, where the word dwelleth is the same as tabernacle, giving the idea of the tabernacle tabernacling. We have already linked this to John 1:14, with the Word tabernacling among men. If the physical tabernacle had to be preserved in the wilderness, and the name of God vindicated, is it not also the case that the honour of Christ and His Father need to be safeguarded when he was here amongst men? Indeed it is, so at the precise moment of the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, the word rings out from John the Baptist, son of a priest, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29. A lamb can refer to both a sheep or a goat, as we see from Exodus 12:5, and so we may understand that John is announcing Christ as the One who will fulfil the Day of Atonement. As “the Lamb of God”, He is like the goat upon whom the Lord’s lot fell, in Leviticus 16:9. As the one who “beareth away the sin of the world”, He is like the living goat that became the scapegoat, bearing the load of sin into the place from which it would never return, verse 10. And by announcing Him like this, John is vindicating Christ from any charge of associating with sin by tabernacling amongst men. So it is that the goats’ hair curtain is a tent or covering for the tabernacle curtain, just as the impending work of atonement vindicates Christ for dwelling amongst the uncleanness of the world of men. And this covering is complete, for the goats’ hair curtains were two cubits longer that the tabernacle curtain, and so were able to reach right to the desert floor even on the north and south sides. The character of Christ is completely protected by God from the wrong thoughts men might have about it. Because the eleven curtains were “all of one measure”, we know they were all four cubits broad. And because the inner curtains were likewise all four cubits broad, and also because the taches were above the veil, we can see that each tabernacle curtain was aligned perfectly to each goats’ hair curtain. Now we have suggested that each of the tabernacle curtains represented, not only that Christ kept and explained the law, but that He gave the ultimate exposition of the character of God, as He lived here. Now we are learning that there is a complete correspondence between what happened at Calvary, and what He, as the Word, expressed in His life. Every infringement of Divine law was “covered” by Christ’s propitiatory work at Calvary. He gave to God the complete answer to every demand of God’s law, and also to every infringement of that law by men. He also safeguarded by His teaching the demands of God’s law. But He did more than keep the law, pleasing as that was to God. Just as the goats’ hair curtains went beyond the inner curtain, so Christ, in grace went beyond the demands of mere law. God’s warning to Israel was that they would be under a curse if they did not keep the law. But this keeping of the law was not simply to be in the letter, but also in the spirit- they must really want to keep it. This is what is meant when God said, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the law to do them”, Galatians 3:10. The last three words made the greatest demand, for they signified wholehearted obedience to God, and not simply outward observance. The very same construction is found in Psalm 40:8, words quoted about the Lord Jesus in Hebrews 10:7, “Lo, I come to do thy will O God”. Thus the wholehearted determination of Christ to do the will of His Father is indicated to us. Significantly, the words “Yea, Thy law is within My heart” are omitted in Hebrews 10, for the Lord was moved by grace in His heart. It was by the grace of God that He “tasted death for every man”, Hebrew 2:9.

The eleventh curtain A distinctive feature of the goats’ hair curtain was that it had an extra section, and this was hung over the front of the tabernacle, and was folded, so as to make a double thickness. This suggests several things. First, that not even the front edge of the inner curtain was visible. Only the priests could see it from within the sanctuary. We are reminded that it is only those who are born of God, John 1:12,13, who can see His glory, verse 14. We have to be on the inside, so to speak. “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”, 1 Corinthians 2:14. The apostle Peter makes it clear that Christian priesthood is based on being born of God. See the references to being born, or being children, in 1 Peter 1:3,14,17,23; 2:2,5. Just as Aaron’s sons were priests in virtue of being begotten of him, so Christians are priests in virtue of being born of God. As such, they have the immense privilege of drawing near to God. The psalmist said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple”, Psalm 27:4. We would do well to have the same all-consuming desire.

Second, there was a constant reminder to all Israel of the Day of Atonement. Every time they looked toward the tabernacle they could not avoid seeing the goats’ hair. This cautioned them against sinning, for they were reminded that a goat must die and another goat must bear sins if they did transgress. But the curtain also encouraged them that God was able to deal with their sin. There was provision for them, so that they could be preserved as a nation. This also reminded them that they were individually responsible also, so that when they sinned they should bring their own offering for that sin. Christ in His life was like the eleventh curtain, a rebuke to sin, for He represented Divine holiness and righteousness, and as such condemned the sin of men. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”, John 3:19. But it was also true that He had come to deal with sin at Calvary; even when He was born He was given a name which implied that He would save His people from their sins. So even the mention of His name was an indication of Calvary.

Third, the priests passed into the tabernacle under it, reminding them that the Day of Atonement ceremony was necessary because of the failure of Nadab and Abihu, Leviticus 16:1. As they walked beneath the archway of the eleventh curtain, they would need to ask themselves what was in their hands. For their brothers had ventured beneath that curtain with strange fire and strange incense. As a consequence, fire came out from the Lord and devoured them, Leviticus 10:2. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire”, Hebrews 12:28,29. Just because He is the God of grace does not mean that He may be trifled with. Nadab and Abihu came with the boldness of arrogance and rebellion, whereas the Christian priests have boldness to enter into God’s presence because of Christ’s sin-offering work, Hebrews 10:11-19. Theirs is the boldness of confidence in the work of Christ. They are safeguarded by what He did for them, and thus they “draw near with full assurance of faith”, Hebrews 10:22.

Fourth, John the Baptist, the son of a priest, announced the coming of Christ to His public ministry with the words, “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29. The apostle Paul referred to this in his address in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. “Of this man’s seed hath God according to His promise raised unto israel a Saviour, Jesus: when John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel”, Acts 13:23,24. The word for “coming” in Acts 13:24 is literally “entrance”. This clearly does not refer to the entrance of the Lord Jesus into the world by His birth, but rather His entrance upon His public ministry at His baptism. So John was privileged to connect together the coming into public view of the Lord Jesus, and the way in which He would disappear from public view at Calvary. So the folded goats’ hair curtain that hung over the entrance to the tabernacle, reminds us of the character of the entrance of the Lord Jesus into public ministry.

TABERNACLE STUDIES: The Rams’ Skins Covering

The coverings of rams’ skins dyed red

Exodus 26:14 And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red,

This is a covering for the tent. So the goats’ hair curtain was a covering or tent for the tabernacle, meaning the inner curtain, and now the rams’ skins covering is to protect the tent of goats’ hair. If the inner curtain tells of Christ’s exposition of God, and the goats’ hair His propitiation of sins and His substitution for sinners, we might well ask the question, is He willing to undertake the tasks indicated by the curtains. Does He have the resolve to carry the work to completion? The answer is found in the rams’ skins which tell of His consecration. This is the first of two coverings that are made of skins. In practical terms, the rams’ skins would protect the tabernacle and its tent from the rain. The linen curtains and the goats’ hair curtains would not be able to do this, but skins would. Just as the ram was preserved from the rain in its life, it now gives its skin to preserve the curtains. The fact that they are skins tells us only of death. With the goats’ hair there was the thought of the living and the dead, the scapegoat and the slain goat. Here only death is in view. And, given the size of this covering, (for it must have been no less than 1200 square cubits so as to cover the goats’ hair curtains), many animals must have been slain to provide it. A myriad deaths are needed to give a sense of the greatness of the consecration of Christ even unto death. Couple this with the fact that no measurement is given to us of the rams’ skin covering, and we are given the distinct impression of that which is measureless and vast. Such is the magnitude of what Christ wrought by His death, that only the Father can fully evaluate it and appreciate it fully.

We could look at this covering in relation to the meaning of three words. First the word “ram”, then the word “consecration”, then the word “red”. In the beginning, God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would call each one. (This was not only to establish Adam’s dominion over creation, but also to impress upon Adam that there was no animal that could be his helper in the highest sense of being his wife. Many animals have helped man down through the centuries, but none are like the woman). “And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle…” Genesis 2:19,20. So we know that Adam gave the name “ayil” to the ram. The word means “to be first, chief, and strong. These are the characteristics Adam discerned in the ram. It is interesting to notice that John’s gospel gives to us, in the first chapter, a statement by John the Baptist about the Lord Jesus, and it is given three times. John the apostle never calls his namesake John the Baptist. To the apostle, John is a witness; his work of baptizing, although important, is secondary to his work of testifying. And his testimony was this. “There standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose”, John 1:26,27. This is his testimony to those who came from the Pharisees to question him. We could see in this the “chief” aspect of the person of Christ as prefigured by the ram of consecration. Remember that the Lord Jesus said of John the Baptist, “Among them that are born among women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist”, Matthew 11:11, but here this great one is deferring to a far greater one. He is not worthy to even undo His shoe. This is not all he said in this connection, however, for John repeats his testimony after announcing the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me”, verse 30. The son of a priest is telling us about the sacrifice. We could see in this as testimony to the “strong” side of Christ’s character, for He alone can take the heavy burden of sin upon His shoulders and bear it away to God’s satisfaction. Then again the apostle John, writing years afterwards, recalls what John had said in John 1:15. The apostle gives the testimony of John the Baptist as the last of the prophets of the law-age, and he bears witness that the glory of Christ is a full glory, whereas the glory of the law was of a lesser sort, as the apostle Paul will explain in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. And it is as the Word made flesh that He makes known the glory, the Word that was “in the beginning”. He is necessarily before John, and therefore has precedence over him, This gives to us the “first” aspect of the ram.

The ram is especially connected with the idea of consecration, as we see from the words of Exodus 29:19-25: “And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him. Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder; for it is a ram of consecration: And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the Lord: And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons; and shalt wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour before the Lord: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord”. The word consecration literally means “fillings”, and refers to the filling of the hands of Aaron with the parts of the peace offering and meal offering. He was to be fully occupied with Divine things. Nadab and Abihu rebelled against this by taking strange fire and incense into their hands. They had another agenda. With Christ it was not so, for He was fully committed to the work that Divine counsels had marked out for Him. But we should not miss the fact that this was true of his sons as well. So we might well ask ourselves whether we are committed fully to Divine things, or do we hold back from full devotion? Do we mean it when we sing “Take my life, and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee”? The hymn-writer said of Christ, “The vow was on Thee, Thou didst come to yield Thyself to death, and consecration marked Thy path and spoke in every breath”. We would do well to display the same sort of commitment.

The third word to consider is “red”. This is the colour of blood. The animal dies, and then the red dye is a constant reminder of the fact. It is a strange thing, but a true one, that even though death is totally excluded from heaven, nonetheless death will be the constant theme of the saints. For, like those on the mount of transfiguration, they shall constantly speak of “His decease”, the way in which the Lord Jesus, as the true Passover Lamb, made His exodus out of this world. As the apostle John tells us, (for he was given a preview of future events), “And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne…stood a lamb as it had been slain”, Revelation 5:6. The skins tell of death, but the dye is a constant reminder of the fact. The blood will not be shed again, but it will be remembered for all eternity. Notice that the skins are not stained with actual blood, for that tells of judgement, Isaiah 63:1-6. They are dyed with that which tells of the work of Christ in grace at Calvary.

The Hebrew word for red is “adam”, reminding us He was devoted as a real man, for Luke is careful to tell us of the fact that He was born of Mary, and her genealogy is traced by Luke right back to Adam, Luke 3:38. It is not Adam the sinner, however that Luke refers to, but Adam the son of God, the product of God’s creatorial work. Thus Luke is reminding us that it is possible to be a sinless man, for such was Adam, fresh from the hand of God. But because he fell, there needs to be a Last Adam, and He is Son of God in a far higher sense, for He is not son by creation, but Son by nature. Luke tells us that the word of the angel to Mary was, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”, Luke 1:35. The angel is assuring Mary that the child she will cradle in her arms will have lost nothing by His birth. He is still the Son of God, as ever, and it will be appropriate for Him to be known as such. Luke reserves the genealogy of Christ until the point where He is about to go into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. It is as if Luke is ranging over the previous four thousand years of human history, and in effect admitting that the Devil has been triumphing all down through the centuries. But then he tells of one who met the foe, and defeated him. Having been tested in every way, he will gloriously triumph, whereas Adam disastrously fell. So it is that we are assured by the rams’ skins that the one who is appointed to deal with the question of sins, is consecrated and committed enough to carry the work through to its glorious completion.