Sunday, June 13, 2010

Numbers 7:1-9 - Transportation of The Parts of the Mishkan - Part 2: The Burden of the Sons of Gershon

As Numbers 7:1-3 tells us, the total of six(6) Covered Wagons and twelve(12) Bulls were donated by the Chiefs of all Tribes of Israelites for the transport of the Mishkan Parts. Let's take a look at the detailed distribution and utilization of these Wagons:

Numbers 7:4-7 
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 this image, this is what the Mishkan looked like right before it was to be disassembled and transported:

Before the disassembling of the Mishkan could begin, all of its Artefacts would be covered and prepared for transportation as it is outlined in Numbers 4:1-20. The resulting Mishkan would look like this:

Now, the disassembly of the Mishkan could begin. For this task, first, two(2) Covered Wagons drawn by four(4) Bulls would be driven inside the Mishkan Courtyard area, like so:

These two(2) Covered Wagons were probably parked side by side and in close proximity to the Tent of the Mishkan. As well as an arbitrary large "table" was installed between the Tent of the Mishkan and the Altar of Burnt Offering to create a comfortable and dirt-free area for preparation of its parts for transport.
The Parked Wagons and the "table" probably looked like this:

The Covers of the Wagons would be opened, so that the prepared parts could be put inside. The opened Wagons would look like so:

Now, the family of Gershonites could begin the disassembly and preparation of the parts of the Mishkan for Transport. The burden of Gershonites is explicitly outlined in the Book of Numbers 4:21-28 and Numbers 4:38-41:

Numbers 4:21-28
21 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

22 Take also the sum of the sons of Gershon, throughout the houses of their fathers, by their families; 
23 From thirty years old and upward until fifty years old shalt thou number them; all that enter in to perform the service, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.

24 This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, to serve, and for burdens:

25 And they shall bear the curtains of the tabernacle, and the tabernacle of the congregation, his covering, and the covering of the badgers' skins that is above upon it, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation,

26 And the hangings of the court, and the hanging for the door of the gate of the court, which is by the tabernacle and by the altar round about, and their cords, and all the instruments of their service, and all that is made for them: so shall they serve.

27 At the appointment of Aaron and his sons shall be all the service of the sons of the Gershonites, in all their burdens, and in all their service: and ye shall appoint unto them in charge all their burdens.

28 This is the service of the families of the sons of Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation: and their charge shall be under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.
‎21 ‏וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר׃

‎22 ‏נָשֹׂ֗א אֶת־רֹ֛אשׁ בְּנֵ֥י גֵרְשׁ֖וֹן גַּם־הֵ֑ם לְבֵ֥ית אֲבֹתָ֖ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָֽם׃

‎23 ‏מִבֶּן֩ שְׁלֹשִׁ֨ים שָׁנָ֜ה וָמַ֗עְלָה עַ֛ד בֶּן־חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה תִּפְקֹ֣ד אוֹתָ֑ם כָּל־הַבָּא֙ לִצְבֹ֣א צָבָ֔א לַעֲבֹ֥ד עֲבֹדָ֖ה בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃

‎24 ‏זֹ֣את עֲבֹדַ֔ת מִשְׁפְּחֹ֖ת הַגֵּרְשֻׁנִּ֑י לַעֲבֹ֖ד וּלְמַשָּֽׂא׃

‎25 ‏וְנָ֨שְׂא֜וּ אֶת־יְרִיעֹ֤ת הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ וְאֶת־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד מִכְסֵ֕הוּ וּמִכְסֵ֛ה הַתַּ֥חַשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָלָ֖יו מִלְמָ֑עְלָה וְאֶ֨ת־מָסַ֔ךְ פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃

‎26 ‏וְאֵת֩ קַלְעֵ֨י הֶֽחָצֵ֜ר וְאֶת־מָסַ֣ךְ׀ פֶּ֣תַח׀ שַׁ֣עַר הֶחָצֵ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֤ן וְעַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ סָבִ֔יב וְאֵת֙ מֵֽיתְרֵיהֶ֔ם וְאֶֽת־כָּל־כְּלֵ֖י עֲבֹדָתָ֑ם וְאֵ֨ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֧ר יֵעָשֶׂ֛ה לָהֶ֖ם וְעָבָֽדוּ׃

‎27 ‏עַל־פִּי֩ אַהֲרֹ֨ן וּבָנָ֜יו תִּהְיֶ֗ה כָּל־עֲבֹדַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י הַגֵּרְשֻׁנִּ֔י לְכָל־מַשָּׂאָ֔ם וּלְכֹ֖ל עֲבֹדָתָ֑ם וּפְקַדְתֶּ֤ם עֲלֵהֶם֙ בְּמִשְׁמֶ֔רֶת אֵ֖ת כָּל־מַשָּׂאָֽם׃

‎28 ‏זֹ֣את עֲבֹדַ֗ת מִשְׁפְּחֹ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י הַגֵּרְשֻׁנִּ֖י בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וּמִ֨שְׁמַרְתָּ֔ם בְּיַד֙ אִֽיתָמָ֔ר בֶּֽן־אַהֲרֹ֖ן הַכֹּהֵֽן׃ פ

Numbers 4:38-41
38 And those that were numbered of the sons of Gershon, throughout their families, and by the house of their fathers,

39 From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation,

40 Even those that were numbered of them, throughout their families, by the house of their fathers, were two thousand and six hundred and thirty.

41 These are they that were numbered of the families of the sons of Gershon, of all that might do service in the tabernacle of the congregation, whom Moses and Aaron did number according to the commandment of the LORD.

‎38 ‏וּפְקוּדֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י גֵרְשׁ֑וֹן לְמִשְׁפְּחוֹתָ֖ם וּלְבֵ֥ית אֲבֹתָֽם׃

‎39 ‏מִבֶּ֨ן שְׁלֹשִׁ֤ים שָׁנָה֙ וָמַ֔עְלָה וְעַ֖ד בֶּן־חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֑ה כָּל־הַבָּא֙ לַצָּבָ֔א לַעֲבֹדָ֖ה בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃

‎40 ‏וַיִּֽהְיוּ֙ פְּקֻ֣דֵיהֶ֔ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֖ם לְבֵ֣ית אֲבֹתָ֑ם אַלְפַּ֕יִם וְשֵׁ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת וּשְׁלֹשִֽׁים׃

‎41 ‏אֵ֣לֶּה פְקוּדֵ֗י מִשְׁפְּחֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י גֵרְשׁ֔וֹן כָּל־הָעֹבֵ֖ד בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד אֲשֶׁ֨ר פָּקַ֥ד מֹשֶׁ֛ה וְאַהֲרֹ֖ן עַל־פִּ֥י יְהוָֽה׃
As you can see from these two descriptions, there were total of two thousand and six hundred and thirty (2630) Gershinites, who were between 30 and 50 years of age and who were allowed to participate in the transportation of the parts of the Mishkan.

Under their charge were the following parts of the Mishkan:

  1. First Covering(with cherubs) of the Tent of the Mishkan and its fifty(50) Golden Clasps
  2. Second Covering(Goats' Hair covering) of the Tent of the Mishkan and its fifty(50) Copper Clasps.
  3. Third Covering(the reddened skins of Rams) of the Tent of the Mishkan
  4. Fourth Covering(the Tachash Skins covering) of the Tent of the Mishkan.
  5. The Entrance Curtain(the embroidered Outer Curtain that hanged on Five Outer Pillars) of the Tent of the Mishkan.
  6. Several sets of Ropes, that were used to secure the Covering of the Tent of the Mishkan.
  7. Copper Stakes of the Tent of the Mishkan, where the Ropes of the Coverings of the Tent were fastened to.
  8. Fifty Six(56) pieces of Hangings of Linen of the Courtyard of the Mishkan
  9. Four(4) pieces of specially embroidered Hangings of the Gate of the Courtyard of the Mishkan.
And so, once everything was ready, the disassembly and preparation of the Mishkan for transport could begin. Since the disassembly of the Mishkan would begin with the Top Covering (The Fourth Covering of Tachash Skins) of the Tent, the Gershonites would have to install some arbitrary ladders around the perimeter of the Tent, so that they can remove it. Like so:

This Fourth Covering of the Tent(the Tachash Covering) would be taken down, along with the long set of Ropes that helped to secure it to the Copper Stakes.
Even though the description does not discuss it, it would be only natural to assume that this Tachash Covering consisted of two equal pieces(just like the First Covering of the Tent) of say 16x12 cubits each. But if it was indeed so, these two pieces would have been connected to each other in a much simpler fashion, rather than by an intricate system of loops and clasps. 
Regardless, such separation of this Tachash covering was necessary to simplify its handling. This split Tachash covering and its set of Ropes would look like so:

Each of the halves of the Tachash Covering would have been then rolled into rolls; its Ropes would have been also heaped up and bundled together to conserve space. Like so:

Once that was done, these parts would have been placed inside the Wagons. The parts would have been split evenly between the Wagons, so as to distribute the weight in the most efficient manner(as close to 50/50 distribution as possible). Like so:

The next part of the Mishkan that the Gershonites would pack, would be the Third Covering of the Tent of the Mishkan - the Red Rams' Skins Covering. As well as the short set of Ropes, that was used to secure both Third and Second Covering to the Copper Stakes of the Tent.
The Third Covering would also be taken down in halves and handled in halves, like so:

Each halve of this Third Covering would be 21x30 cubits, and each such pieces would be rolled into a roll.

The resulting two rolled pieces of this Third Covering, as well as the bundled short set of Ropes would look like this:

The Rolled pieces of the Third Covering along with its set of Ropes would also be distributed evenly between two Wagons, like so:

Next, the Gershonites would take down the Second Covering of the Tent of the Mishkan - The Goats' Hair Covering. It would also be taken down in pieces, just like the previous two Coverings. But since the dimensions of the pieces explicitly stated in the description, the first piece that was taken down would have been 24x30 cubits piece(the folded piece; note the highlighted folded part), as well as the fifty(50) Copper Clasps.

The second piece of the Second Covering of the Tent that would have been taken down, was the smaller piece(20x30 cubits piece).

Both of these pieces of the Second Covering were also rolled into rolls. The fifty(50) Copper Clasps, on the other hand, were most likely placed inside the box. Please also note the difference in the size of the rolled coverings due to the difference in their length, as it can be seen on the image bellow:

These prepared parts would be then also split evenly between the two Wagons, like so:

The next part of the Mishkan that was taken down was the First Covering of the Tent of the Mishkan. It was also taken down in pieces, explicitly outlined in the description(20x28 cubits). The front pieces would be taken down first, along with the set of fifty(50) Golden Clasps that were connecting the pieces together. The Ropes of the First Covering, that were used to connect it to the Copper Stakes of the Tent, as well as the Copper Stakes, were removed as well. Like so:

Both pieces of the First Covering were also rolled into rolls...

The resulting rolled pieces of the First Covering, its fifty(50) Golden Clasps in a box, Tent's Copper Stakes(also in the box) and the set of Ropes would look like this:

These parts were then also split evenly between the two available Wagons, like so:

The next part of the Mishkan that were to be taken down was the Entrance Curtain of the Tent of the Mishkan. Please note(and this is important) that the Inner Curtain was already prepared for transportation, as it was used as the First Covering of the Ark of The Covenant, under the charge of Kohathites. Therefore, only the Outer Curtain of the Tent was under the charge of Gershonites.

Just like the Coverings, the Entrance Curtain would have been rolled into a roll...

And then placed upon one of the Wagons that had less weight, like so:

Yet the next parts of the Mishkan that had been taken down by Gershonites were the Hangings of the Courtyard.

They would remove all of them, so that they can also be rolled into rolls...

Which would eventually result in this: 56 rolls of the Hangings of Linen and 4 rolls of the specially embroidered Hangings of the Gate of the Courtyard. Total of 60 rolled pieces 5x5 cubits each.

These rolled Hangings of the Courtyard were also split between the Wagons to balance the weight of the load, like so:

Please note that the image above shows all of the parts of the Mishkan that were transported by Gershonites. Everything else, including related parts of the Mishkan (such as the Outer Curtain Connecting Rods e.t.c) were transported by the family of Merari.

Also, according to my rough preliminary calculations, each load of each of the two Wagons that you can see on the image above, would weigh approximately between 1-1.5 metric tons(2-3 tons total for two Wagons), which puts it well within the capabilities of the given numbers of draft animals.

And last but not least, please note how all of the parts could easily fit inside the given Wagons. The rendering above is up to scale, so it should give you an idea of the feasibility of such transporting arrangement. 

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