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Parasha Terumah (Offering): Building the Sanctuary

TERUMAH (Offering)
Exodus 25:1–27:19; 1 Kings 5:26–6:13; Hebrews 9:1–28

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering [terumah].  From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.’”  (Exodus 25:1–2)

Last week in Parasha Mishpatim, God gave to the Israelites about 53 mitzvot (laws) out of the 613 commandments.  These laws included the treatment of parents, slaves, and foreigners, as well as other people’s property.

The title of this week’s Torah reading, Terumah (תְּרוּמָה), is taken from a Hebrew word meaning offering, gift, or contribution.   In this Parasha, the Lord commands Moses to take up a free will offering from the people of Israel in order to build a sanctuary in the wilderness.

This sanctuary, called the Mishkan, was meant to be a visible reminder for the people of God’s holy Presence that dwelt among them.

The offerings that the people were asked to bring included precious metals and stones, fine linens, animal skins, wood, oil for the lamps, and fragrant spices for the incense.

Mishkan, Shilo Synagogue,Tabernacle, Shiloh

The Mishkan Shilo Synagogue in the community of Shilo is a replica of the Biblical Tabernacle.

The Lord instructed Moses to take an offering only from those who gave “willingly and from their heart.”

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Because of our sinful nature, we tend to be selfish and seek for what we can receive, but the Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  (Acts 20:35)

The truth of the matter is that when we give, especially toward the work of the Lord, we receive back so much more than what we have given.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Luke 6:38)

tithing, coins, Bible

Malachi 3:10 emphasizes the principle that no one can out give the Lord and that He will pour out blessings when you give to Him.

Building the Sanctuary

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.  According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.”  (Exodus 25:8–9)

The Israelites were to make a Sanctuary for God’s Presence, as well as all of its furnishings.  They were not to be made according to any design they imagined, but only according to God’s specific blueprint, which He showed Moses on the mountain.

“And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”  (Exodus 25:40)

This wilderness Sanctuary was a copy of the actual Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony in Heaven.  (Revelation 15:5)

One very special furnishing in the Tabernacle was the Aron HaBrit (אָרוֹן הַבְּרִית or Ark of the Covenant), which was to be made out of acacia wood covered with gold.  In it, the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments were to be laid.

According to the Book of Hebrews in the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant or New Testament), it also contained a golden pot with the manna that came down from heaven as well as Aaron’s rod that budded.  However, it is written in the Book of Kings that at the time of King Solomon, the Ark only contained the two stone Tablets.  (1 Kings 8:9)

The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, by James Tissot

The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, by James Tissot

Adventures of the Ark of the Covenant

The Tanakh (Old Testament) tells of many accounts concerning the Aron HaBrit, which give us part of its history.

Throughout the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites carried the Ark using poles placed through four gold rings.

When they camped, the Ark was placed inside the Tabernacle.

Priests carried the ark into the Jordan River when the Israelites, led by Joshua, crossed over into the Promised Land.

After they crossed over, the Ark was carried around the city of Jericho once a day for seven days.  On the seventh day, seven priests, blowing on seven shofarot (ram’s horns), marched around the city seven times with the Ark.  With a great shout, the walls of Jericho fell down and they took the city (Joshua 6:16–20).

During the time of Eli, the Israelites carried the Ark into battle, hoping that its presence would secure victory against the Philistines.

Instead, it was captured by the Philistines, but misfortune befell them every place that they brought the Ark.  So they eventually sent it back to Israel.

It remained at Kiriath-Jearim for some 20 years until King David brought it back to its rightful place in the Tabernacle in Jerusalem.   (2 Samuel 6:17–20; 1 Chronicles 15:1–3; 2 Chronicles 1:4)


The Transfer of the Ark of the Covenant by the Singing and Dancing David

What Happened to the Ark?

Today, the location of the Ark remains a mystery.

Many theories about what eventually happened to it abound. But it is generally believed that the Babylonians carried away the vessels and the Ark when they destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC (according to the Greek Apocrypha book of 1 Esdras):

“And they took all the holy vessels of the Lord, both great and small, with the vessels of the ark of God, and the king’s treasures, and carried them away into Babylon.”  (1 Esdras 1:54)

The Bible, however, does not tell us that the Babylonians took away the Ark itself, and although there have been many reported findings, its location has never been discovered.

Some believe that it is under the very spot where Yeshua (Jesus) was executed by the Romans, and that His blood was sprinkled upon the mercy seat below the earth during the great earthquake upon his death.

As well, visitors who tour the Western Wall tunnels are shown the spot closest to where others believe the Ark of the Covenant is buried.

Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, by James Tissot

Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, by James Tissot

The Golden Cherubim Over the Mercy Seat

Upon the Ark’s cover and over the mercy seat were placed two golden cherubim. From above the cover and between these two cherubim God spoke with Moses.

Other Scriptures speak of this as God’s throne.  (2 Samuel 6:2; Isaiah 37:16)

When King Hezekiah prayed, he addressed YHVH as the One enthroned above the cherubim (referring to the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant).

“O LORD of hosts [YHVH Tzeva’ot], God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.”  (Isaiah 37:16)

We may notice that the “law” formed the foundation of the Ark, but communication with God came forth from the mercy seat.

Our relationship with God is always filtered through His mercy.

But what exactly is the mercy seat?  In Hebrew it is called the kapporet (כפורת), from the word kapparah, which means atonement.  The root of this term is kaphar, meaning to cover.

The mercy seat was a golden cover to the Ark of the Covenant, but it represented our atonement that God gives us through His mercy.

But what are cherubim (כְּרֻבִ֗ים)?

kippah, tefillin, phylacteries, tallit, prayer shawl, Kotel, siddur

A Jewish man wearing a kippah, tefillin (phylacteries), and a tallit (prayer shawl) prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall using a siddur (prayer book).shawl) prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall using a siddur (prayer book).

Although popular modern folklore represents cherubim as chubby naked babies who have small wings with which to fly, the Bible describes them differently.

They first appear in Genesis as mighty angelic beings with flaming swords.  They guarded the entrance of the Garden of Eden and the way to the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve had been banished.  (Genesis 3:24)

Cherubim are winged angelic beings who attend to God.  The prophet Ezekiel described the images of cherubim that he saw in his visions (Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10) as having four faces, four wings, and the hands of a man.  He described the sound of their wings as being like the sound of the Almighty when He speaks.

Most streams of Judaism (including traditional Rabbinic Judaism) believe in the existence of angels, including cherubim, although beliefs vary widely.

According to the Kaballah, the mystical sect of Judaism, cherubim and other angels have specific names and divine roles to perform in our lives.

Temple Veil 3D mockup

3D model of the veiled entrance to the Holy of Holies in a possible Third Temple. (Temple Institute YouTube capture)

The Holy of Holies

“The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.” (Exodus 26:33)

Images of the cherubim also make an appearance in the Holy of Holies (Kodesh HaKodeshim), which was to be separated from the rest of the Sanctuary by a thick, heavy veil or drape.  The veil was made of fine linen and blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and embroidered with golden cherubim.

The Holy of Holies was the most sacred and innermost portion of the Sanctuary built by Moses, as well as the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Only the Cohen HaGadol (Jewish high priest) could enter into this most Holy place, and even then he could only enter once a year on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

“Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.  But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance.”  (Hebrews 9:6–7) 

Torah tik, Bar Mitzvah

Two 13-year-old Jewish boys share the weight of carrying a Torah scroll encased by a silver Torah tik.

Before entering the Most Holy Place, the Cohen HaGadol would have to wash himself thoroughly and put on special clothing, designated and cleaned for this one event.

Once inside, he would burn incense so that the smoke would cover his eyes and form a barrier to seeing God directly.  Then he would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant to atone for the sins of his people as well as his own personal sins.

Why was there a veil and such elaborate precautions undertaken by the High Priest before entering the Holy of Holies?  It is because God’s eyes are too pure to look upon sin.  (Habakkuk 1:13)

This emphasizes that we cannot take God’s holiness lightly, nor carelessly enter into His Presence.

It is highly significant, therefore, that when Yeshua HaMashiach (the Messiah) died on the Roman execution stake, the veil tore in two.

“When Yeshua had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit.  At that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”  (Matthew 27:50–51)

Geulat Moshe Synagogue, Tel Aviv, Israel, Torah Ark

The Aron Kodesh (Torah Ark), which is today a comparative to the Ark of the Covenant, hangs above the bimah (platform) of the Geulat Moshe Synagogue in Tel Aviv, Israel.the Covenant, hangs above the bimah (platform) of the Geulat Moshe Synagogue in Tel Aviv, Israel.Synagogue in Tel Aviv, Israel.

No man tore this veil in two; it was torn as a result of a supernatural act of God—a reflection of a Jewish mourning custom.  When a person grieves for a loved one who has died, the garment of the mourner would be torn from top to bottom.

It is in this way that our Heavenly Father publicly displayed His deep grief over the death of Yeshua.

This amazing occurrence signified our free access to the very presence of God through Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice.  Because of Yeshua’s death on the execution stake, man no longer must be separated from God but can come boldly to the Throne of Grace at any time to receive God’s help and mercy.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”  (Hebrews 4:16)

Jewish prayer, Wailing Wall

A Jewish man prays Shacharit (morning prayer) at the Western Wall (Kotel or Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem.

Whereas in the days of Moses, a formidable barrier to God was guarded by the cherubim, now we can confidently and freely enter even the Most Holy Place through a new and living way that has been opened for us through the curtain—that is the pierced body and shed blood of Yeshua.  (Hebrews 10:19–20)

Yeshua came as the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) of a greater and more perfect Tabernacle than the one constructed by Moses and the people of Israel; His Temple was not made with human hands as in King Solomon’s day, but was supernaturally created.

“Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.” (Hebrews 9:11)

He did not enter into the Most Holy Place with the blood of bulls or goats or any other sacrificial animal, since their blood could never completely cover sin but would have to be repeated every year over and over again.

Yeshua entered into the Kodesh HaKodeshim with His very own blood—once and for all—to totally remove our sins from us—as far as the east is from the west!  Halleluyah!

“Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”  (Hebrews 9:12)

Let us praise His name forever!  Amen.

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