The Outer Court

also see:
The Encampment of the Children of Israel

The Children of Israel on the March


The Tabernacle was a portable tent with a wooden framework to give it stability. The entire sanctuary consisted of three parts:

(1) An outer court enclosed by curtains supported on pillars. It was oblong in shape and the entrance was on the east side.

(2) The altar of sacrifice (bronze altar) was within the court, facing the entrance.

(3) The Tabernacle itself was located at the western part of the court. The Tabernacle was divided by a veil or hanging curtain into two chambers.

The first chamber was called the Holy Place, it contained the Table, Lampstand, and Altar of Incense. Only priests were allowed into this section.

The second chamber was called the Holy of Holies, it contained the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest the Holy of Holies only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The objects closest to the Holy of Holies were constructed of precious metals and cloths. Those farther off were of bronze and ordinary woven materials. The Tabernacle was covered by a tent and cloth covers.

'The Outer Courtyard'

he tabernacle sanctuary stood in the western half of a rectangular courtyard whose dimensions were 100 x 50 cubits (150 feet x 75 feet). The tabernacle was situated from East to West with the entrance facing East. The visible cloud of God descended down upon the tabernacle:

Exod 40:38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Any common Israelite could enter the courts but only the priestly tribe could go beyond and into the Tabernacle and only the high priest could go beyond still into the holy of holies once per year on Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement.

The Approach to God

The words of God to Moses were very specific about how they were to approach God. They had never approached God while they were slaves in Egypt but sat at a table with Him at the Passover deliverance in their homes eating in haste as they were exiting the land of bondage and preparing for the journey to the land of promise. But in the meantime God had revealed Himself in His holiness at Mount Sinai and in their stark horror they were brought to an awareness that No Man could approach God except Moses who was their leader. But God wanted them all to be a kingdom of priests and approach Him so that there could be an ongoing relationship as with a husband and a wife.

Therefore God revealed to them a pattern of worship that was consistent with His holiness, and also make it possible for sinful man to enter His presence. It was in the entire pattern of tabernacle worship that God began to reveal all that was involved in the blood of a sacrifice and atonement which they had been familiar with but not entirely.

It started with the awareness of sin in the individual person's life. So when an Israelite recognized that he had sinned and that this separated him from his God, if he wanted to be forgiven he made his way to the God appointed place, the tabernacle.

When he approached it he found that a wall of white linen formed a barrier against him. all the way around for 300 cubits (450 feet) except one stretch of 20 cubits (30 feet) that was different. It was known as The Entrance Gate. It was not formed of white linen but was multi-colored in woven white, blue, purple and red. It was distinctive, and marked out the one way by which a sinner could gain access to the court of God's house. (See The Entrance Gate).

Ps 84:2 My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Ps 84:10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.