Sunday, May 2, 2010

Exodus 27:13-15 - The dimensions and layout of the East Side of the Courtyard of The Mishkan - Part 1

Now the description moves on to the East Side of the Courtyard of the Tabernacle. Let's take a look:

Exodus 27:13
13 And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits.


‎13 ‏וְרֹ֣חַב הֶֽחָצֵ֗ר לִפְאַ֛ת קֵ֥דְמָה מִזְרָ֖חָה חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים אַמָּֽה׃
This verse(along with the Exodus 27:18) is by far is the most important one of the description of the East Side of the Court, as it seems that it is causing the most confusion for the commentators.

As you can see, it appears that this verse, unlike all the previous verses of the description of the Courtyard, seem to actually provide the overall dimensions of the width(breadth) of the Court. It seems like that this verse implies, that not only the length of the Hangings along the width of the Courtyard was a hundred(100) cubits, but also that the total width of the Courtyard was a hundred(100) cubits as well. THIS IS ULTIMATELY INCORRECT !!! 

To show why, I will put all previous verses side by side for comparison:

Exodus 27:(9)(11)(12)(13):

9 ... for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long...

11 ... for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long

12 ...And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits

13 And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits.

As you can see in the last verse(Ex.27:13), the word "hangings" is missing, effectively making the meaning of the verse to appear to point to the actual total width of the Courtyard.

However, if we were to assume this to be true, this would immediately put Ex.27:13 in contradiction with the previous verse(Ex.27:12), because it is also deals with the width of the Courtyard(but on the West Side). And, as we have already established, the total width of the Court on the West Side was sixty(60) cubits, and not fifty(50)! Therefore we are forced to read the Exodus 27:13 as the verse, THAT ALSO deals with the total width of the Hangings, and NOT the total width of the Courtyard. Such assumption is not only correct, but it is also justified by the contextual meaning of the following verses(Ex:27:14 & 15).

Exodus 27:14
14 The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three.
‎14 ‏וַחֲמֵ֨שׁ עֶשְׂרֵ֥ה אַמָּ֛ה קְלָעִ֖ים לַכָּתֵ֑ף עַמֻּדֵיהֶ֣ם שְׁלֹשָׁ֔ה וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֖ם שְׁלֹשָֽׁה׃

If you recall, after examining the North, South and West side of the Courtyard, we have ended up with this structure:

By adding the details from the description in Ex. 27:14(I will begin with the South East Flank of the Court), we would end up with this:

As you can see, the South East Flank consisted of three(3) Pillars and fifteen(15) cubits of Hangings(each piece of Hanging being 5 cubits long - 5*3=15). And since there was no Pillar yet in the South East Corner, the utmost South Pillar of the South East Flank of the Court would also serve a role of the South East Corner Pillar of the Courtyard.
In fact, Rashi in his commentary on Ex.27:14 points out, that the Corner Pillars of the East Side of the Courtyard were either counted towards the Pillars of the Flanks, or were supporting the Edge of one of the Hangings of the Flank. This is what he writes: 
They shall have three pillars. 
5 amohs from one pillar to the next. Between the southernmost pillar, which stood at the southeastern corner, to the pillar, which was one of the three on the eastern side, there were five amohs, and from that one to the next one, five amohs, and from the second to the third, five amohs. And the same was true for the other side. An additional four pillars for the screen, give you a total of ten pillars on the eastern side, corresponding to the ten on the western side.
And even though he seems to have failed to provide the complete explanation to the proper layout of the Pillars of the Courtyard, he was absolutely correct in assessing the role of the Corner Pillars of the East Side of the Court. As well as he had correctly identified the proper length of the Hangings of the Courtyard (5 cubits - as I will show in my next posts) . Here is the rendering of the South East Flank of the Courtyard:


 The Exodus 27:15 describes the other Flank of the Courtyard, the North East Flank:

As you can see, the North East Flank also had three(3) Pillars and fifteen(15) cubits worth of Hangings in three pieces five(5) cubit each(3*5=15). The only difference from the South East Flank was in the location of the first Pillars of the Flank: it was not in the corner, but belonged to the actual East Side of the Court, since there was already a Corner Pillar in the North East Corner(which belonged and counted toward the North Side)

And this is how both Flanks of the Courtyard looked like:

And here is an updated diagram of the layout of the Pillars, so that you can understand the concept:

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