Monday, June 7, 2010

Numbers 7:1-9 - Transportation of The Parts of the Mishkan: An Overview - Part 1

Unlike the Artefacts of the Mishkan, the Mishkan itself was transported in a disassembled state, upon a special Bull-drawn Wagons. Let's take a look:

Numbers 7:1-9
1 And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them;

‎1 ‏וַיְהִ֡י בְּיוֹם֩ כַּלּ֨וֹת מֹשֶׁ֜ה לְהָקִ֣ים אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֗ן וַיִּמְשַׁ֨ח אֹת֜וֹ וַיְקַדֵּ֤שׁ אֹתוֹ֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־כֵּלָ֔יו וְאֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ וְאֶת־כָּל־כֵּלָ֑יו וַיִּמְשָׁחֵ֖ם וַיְקַדֵּ֥שׁ אֹתָֽם׃


2 That the princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of the tribes, and were over them that were numbered, offered:

3 And they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for two of the princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle.

‎2 ‏וַיַּקְרִ֙יבוּ֙ נְשִׂיאֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רָאשֵׁ֖י בֵּ֣ית אֲבֹתָ֑ם הֵ֚ם נְשִׂיאֵ֣י הַמַּטֹּ֔ת הֵ֥ם הָעֹמְדִ֖ים עַל־הַפְּקֻדִֽים׃

‎3 ‏וַיָּבִ֨יאוּ אֶת־קָרְבָּנָ֜ם לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֗ה שֵׁשׁ־עֶגְלֹ֥ת צָב֙ וּשְׁנֵ֣י עָשָׂ֣ר בָּקָ֔ר עֲגָלָ֛ה עַל־שְׁנֵ֥י הַנְּשִׂאִ֖ים וְשׁ֣וֹר לְאֶחָ֑ד וַיַּקְרִ֥יבוּ אוֹתָ֖ם לִפְנֵ֥י הַמִּשְׁכָּֽן׃ 

Each such Bull-drawn Wagon had to be at least thirty(30) cubits in length(~45ft or ~15m.) and most likely at least five(5) cubits wide and five(5) cubits tall. Such unusual dimensions were dictated by some of the parts of the Mishkan(long Staves of the Tent of the Mishkan, length of the Coverings of the Tent of the Mishkan, e.t.c).

From the engineering point of view, such dimensions of the Wagons are quite possible. In fact, loggers(even today) utilize draft animals to help to transport very long and very heavy timber logs. Another application of such long Wagons (even though not Bull driven) - the modern stretch limousines. Here is an image of a Hummer H2 Limousine (by wikipedia user Piotrus, taken in Pittsburgh.). It is 40 feet long, which is approximately 26.6 cubits).

Nevertheless, these Wagons were obviously driven by a clean(kosher) and "unblemished" (not castrated and untainted) animals. Therefore, the Wagons were pulled by a yoke of Bulls, or similar bovines. The wheels of the Wagons were probably metal plated, as this is the most preferable type that is well suited for the rough terrain and heavy loads.

Just to give you an idea of the load carrying capabilities of a yoke of draft Bulls, here are some images and a video:

This image is by wikipedia user Flominator of the two oxen and one horse pulling a wagon (around 1924).

And this image is by Dr. C.H. (Christoffel Hendrik) Japing (courtesy of Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam) of an ox wagons filled with logs. (between 1915-1938)


And this image is by an unknown photographer (courtesy of Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam) of a laden ox wagon in Surabaya, Indonesia.(between 1900-1940)

And this image is by wikipedia user by take4_67 of an ox-drawn cart on Taketomi (small tropical island, located in southern west Japan.) (2006)

And here is an YouTube video of an Ox Pull competition in Bondville Fair Vermont, USA. (This is the unlimited weight class of the Bondville Fair Ox pull. 6600 lbs on the skid ).


The top and the back of the Wagons could have been opened, to allow convenient loading and unloading of the parts of the Mishkan. Like so:

And as the description states, there was total of six(6) covered Wagons and twelve(12) Bulls to pull them. As you can see, when the top and back of the Wagon was closed, it would provide its load with an excellent protection  from weather and scorching sunlight of the desert.

The round-top Covered Wagons had been in use since ancient times. Here are some of the images of an actual(but shorter) Wagons for comparison:

This image is by wikipedia user Emesbe, of a Bull drawn Wagons...

And here is an image from a private collection of Wolfgang Sauber, showing Postcard, undated ( ca.1916 )with a caravan of ox carts.

4 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

5 Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service.

6 And Moses took the wagons and the oxen, and gave them unto the Levites.

7 Two wagons and four oxen he gave unto the sons of Gershon, according to their service:

‎4 ‏וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃

‎5 ‏קַ֚ח מֵֽאִתָּ֔ם וְהָי֕וּ לַעֲבֹ֕ד אֶת־עֲבֹדַ֖ת אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וְנָתַתָּ֤ה אוֹתָם֙ אֶל־הַלְוִיִּ֔ם אִ֖ישׁ כְּפִ֥י עֲבֹדָתֽוֹ׃

‎6 ‏וַיִּקַּ֣ח מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶת־הָעֲגָלֹ֖ת וְאֶת־הַבָּקָ֑ר וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אוֹתָ֖ם אֶל־הַלְוִיִּֽם׃

‎7 ‏אֵ֣ת׀ שְׁתֵּ֣י הָעֲגָלֹ֗ת וְאֵת֙ אַרְבַּ֣עַת הַבָּקָ֔ר נָתַ֖ן לִבְנֵ֣י גֵרְשׁ֑וֹן כְּפִ֖י עֲבֹדָתָֽם׃

As you can see from the last verses of the description of the Wagons, the family of Gershon would receive two(2) Wagons and four(4) of the Bulls, to transport (as the Nubers 3:25-26 states) "...the tabernacle, and the tent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the hangings of the court, and the curtain for the door of the court, which is by the tabernacle, and by the altar round about, and the cords of it for all the service thereof."

All of these part of the Mishkan would have to fit in this:

8 And four wagons and eight oxen he gave unto the sons of Merari, according unto their service, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

‎8 ‏וְאֵ֣ת׀ אַרְבַּ֣ע הָעֲגָלֹ֗ת וְאֵת֙ שְׁמֹנַ֣ת הַבָּקָ֔ר נָתַ֖ן לִבְנֵ֣י מְרָרִ֑י כְּפִי֙ עֲבֹ֣דָתָ֔ם בְּיַד֙ אִֽיתָמָ֔ר בֶּֽן־אַהֲרֹ֖ן הַכֹּהֵֽן

As the description states, the family of Merari would receive four(4) Covered Wagons and eight(8) of the Bulls, to transport (as Numbers 3:36-37 states) "...the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and the sockets thereof, and all the vessels thereof, and all that serveth thereto, and the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords."

All the above listed parts of the Mishkan would have to fit in this:

As you can see, the parts of the Mishkan assigned to the family of Merari were twice as heavy as the parts of the Mishkan assigned to the family of Gershon.

The Numbers 7:9 makes a note that:
9 But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders.


‎9 ‏וְלִבְנֵ֥י קְהָ֖ת לֹ֣א נָתָ֑ן כִּֽי־עֲבֹדַ֤ת הַקֹּ֙דֶשׁ֙ עֲלֵהֶ֔ם בַּכָּתֵ֖ף יִשָּֽׂאוּ׃
As you can see from this verse, the family of Kohathites would not get any wagons, because they were responsible for the most sacred, holy and valuable parts of the Mishkan - its Artefacts. Therefore, they would have to bear them themselves, upon their shoulders, like so:

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