The Outer Court and the Encampment of the Tribes
God gave Moses the instructions for the courtyard of the Tabernacle in Exodus 27:9-19. It was to be made in a rectangle bordered by walls of curtains hanging on posts. These curtains were not colorful like the curtains of the Sanctuary. They were made of white fine twined linen and were 7 ½ feet tall. The curtains blocked the public view into the courtyard. In the Bible, white linen signifies righteousness. “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:8) The courtyard was 150 feet by 75 feet wide and there was only one entrance!
The entrance, (“door”, “gate” or “screen”) to the courtyard was “on the east side towards the rising of the sun” (Numbers 2:3). The Door was made from fine white linen with blue, purple and red colors woven into it, but this curtain did not have cherubim like the curtains in the Sanctuary. “Jesus said, “I am the Door; if any man enters through Me he shall be saved.” (John 10:9) The entrance curtains hung on four strong wooden pillars that were based in bronze sockets, with silver caps, just like the other pillars of the Outer Court. The entrance gate was fastened to the pillars with gold hooks.
When entering the Tabernacle courtyard through the Door to the Outer Court you would be facing West, which is different from other religions that have their people facing the East. There was only one way to the place where God had chosen to dwell and that was through the only entrance to the Outer Court! There is only one way to God today and that is only through Christ Jesus! “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me!” (John 14:9)
The Tabernacle was situated right in the middle of the Israelite encampment. When the Tabernacle was set up, the nation of Israel surrounded it according to the instructions given to Moses by God in Numbers 2. Three tribes set up their tents to the East: the tribe of Judah, which numbered 74,600; the tribe of Issachar which numbered 54,400; and the tribe of Zebulun, which numbered 57,400; totally 186,400. These tribes would be the first to break camp. Three tribes to the South were: the tribe of Reuben numbering 46,500; next to him was the tribe of Simeon which numbered 59,300; and then the tribe of Gad numbering 45,650 with a total of 151,450. They would break up camp second. “And the tabernacle of meeting shall move out with the camp of the Levites in the middle of the camps; as they camp, so they shall move out, everyone in his place, by their standards.” (Numbers 1:17) To the West was the tribe of Ephraim which numbered 40,500; next to him was the tribe of Manasseh numbering 32,200; and tribe of Benjamin which numbered 35,400; and their total was 108,100. And the three tribes on the North were: Dan which numbered 62,700; then the tribe of Asher numbering 41,500; and Naphtali with a tribe of 53,400. Their total was 157,600 and they were the last to break camp. This was the “armies” ( men age of 20 or older that could fight in a war) of the children of Israel that had left Egypt after living there 400 years. These were the tribes of the sons of Jacob and the sons of Joseph.
“Thus the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses; so they camped by their standards and so they broke camp, each one by his family, according to their fathers’ houses.” Numbers 2:34
Even when the people moved from place to place and the tabernacle had to be torn down and moved, EVEN THEN, God’s Tabernacle was the center of His people. If you could have viewed this from above, you would have seen the formation of the “cross” with God’s tabernacle in the middle! He truly is an amazing and awesome God!!!