A covering above of badgers’ skins, Exodus 26:14.
This was the outer covering of the structure, and no measurement is given. It is usually thought of as drab and weather-beaten, and the words of Isaiah 53:2 are applied to it, “when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him”. Sadly, when the Lord Jesus came into the midst of Israel, they did not think Him to be the true Messiah. They had pre-conceived notions about the one they were expecting, and those notions were not informed by the Scriptures, but by their own opinions. We are reminded again that only the believer can appreciate the moral beauties of Christ’s character.
However, the other reference to badgers’ skins is in Ezekiel 16:10, where God is describing how He beautified the nation of Israel, so that “thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty, for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord”. There is something of Divine comeliness and beauty, therefore, about what is translated badgers’ skins. But this is not what badgers’ skins brings to our minds. Coupled with this is the fact that the badger, as we know it, is an unclean animal of the pig family.
The word “badger” means literally “a reddish object”. We know certain facts about this “reddish object”. First, since it has a skin, we know it is an animal. Second, it gives comeliness to what it is put upon, which means it is attractive. Third, that it has protective qualities, and therefore is hardwearing. Fourth, that since it is used in a prominent way in the tabernacle it is most likely from a clean animal. Fifth, it is most likely to be from an animal that can be used in some way as a symbol of Christ.
The animal that meets these criteria is the Red Deer. It is reddish, without being bright red. It is a clean animal that the Israelites were allowed to eat, Deuteronomy 14:4. As such, it is not an animal that carries diseases, like the pig, which was banned. It yields leather, known as buckskin, which is both hard-wearing and attractive, like suede leather.
Most importantly, it is used as a figure of Christ, for in the Song of Solomon 2:9 the beloved, (a figure of God’s Beloved Son who has captured the hearts of His people), is likened to a roe or a young hart, which are male deer. The idea is of one who is gentle, yet energetic and graceful in movement.
Furthermore, Psalm 42:1,2 reads, “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the Living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” It illustrates for the psalmist his great desire to be before God. The thirsty deer longs to drink of the water-brook, so does the psalmist long to have his heart satisfied with the things of God. It is said that the Arabs, as they made their way across the thirsty desert, would tie a deer to their leading camel, because it was able to smell water from a great distance, and lead them to it. To be in the desert without water is a disaster. For the believer, to be deprived of the refreshment the presence of God brings is a disaster too.
We could see in this the great desire of Christ to be in the temple, His Father’s House. He spoke of “living water” there, John 7:38. He is found there more in John’s gospel than the other three. John chapters 2,3,5,7-10 all describe Him as being in the temple.
So the “badgers'” skins tell of the devotion of Christ for the House of God, His longing to satisfy His soul with Divine things. His first recorded words are “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business”, words spoken in the temple as he sat with the teachers, Luke 2:46-49. When we next read of Him in the temple, as He purged it of those who had profaned it, it is said of Him,“the zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up”, John 2:17.
So as the Israelites looked towards the tabernacle building, they saw it draped with an attractive covering, and were invited near to appear before God as the psalmist did. We might well ask whether we long to “appear before God”? Is the panting of the deer after the water matched by our longing to have dealings with God?