Friday, April 30, 2010

Exodus 27:12 - The dimensions and layout of the West Side of the Courtyard of The Mishkan

Now we move on to the West Side of the Courtyard of the Mishkan. Lets' take a look:

Exodus 27:12
12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.


12 ‏וְרֹ֤חַב הֶֽחָצֵר֙ לִפְאַת־יָ֔ם קְלָעִ֖ים חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים אַמָּ֑ה עַמֻּדֵיהֶ֣ם עֲשָׂרָ֔ה וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֖ם עֲשָׂרָֽה׃

As you can see, the West Side of the Courtyard was half the length of the North and South Side of the Court. There were only fifty(50) cubits of Hangings and only ten(10) Pillars: basically half the amount of parts that were required for the North and South Sides.

If you will look carefully on the image below, you may notice that there appears to be a total of eleven(11) Pillars on the West Side of the Court. Fortunately, this should not be a concern here and here is why:

The construction of the West Side of the Courtyard would also have to begin with the Corner Pillar(the North West Pillar, in this case). But because there was already a Pillar in the South West corner that belonged to the South Side of the Court, the total number of Pillars that actually(physically) constituted the West Side of the Court was equal to ten(10), and not (11).

As the description also states, the West Side of the Courtyard had ten(10) Pillars(counting from the North West Corner Pillar) and fifty(50) cubits of fabric for its Hangings. Therefore, the total length of the West Side of the Court was the sum of length of the ten(10) Pillars of 1 cubit in diameter(or width) and ten(10) sheets of fabric 5x5 cubits each, totaling 10*5=50 cubits in length.
By completing the calculations, we would get: (10sheets of linen*5cubits long)+10pillars*1 cubit long=50+10=60 cubits long. (NOT 50 cubits!!!)


In order to better illustrate the layout of the Pillars of the Courtyard of the Tabernacle, I have created this diagram which, I hope, will help you to understand the concept.

As you can see, all sides of the Courtyard were arranged in the "looping" or "snake" pattern, where each Corner Pillar of each of the Sides of the Court also served as the last mounting point for the Hangings of the adjacent side.

In fact, most misconceptions about the layout of the Pillars of the Courtyard of the Mishkan come from an extremely well known problem, colloquially known as the "Fence Post Error". There is a very nice article by Robert K. Moniot, that you might want to check out.

In his article, Mr. Moniot references an explanation of the concept of this problem, that comes from the works of the well known Roman  architect(or rather, an engineer) - Marcus Vitruvius Pollio and his very famous work "De architectura" (aka The Ten Books on Architecture):
In the aræostylos(*type of the temple*) it is only necessary to preserve, in a peripteral building, twice the number of intercolumniations on the flanks that there are in front, so that the length may be twice the breadth. Those who use twice the number of columns for the length, appear to err, because they thus make one intercolumniation more than should be used.
(You can find a complete English translation of the Book from Latin on this website, that was most graciously made available by William P. Thayer.)
Mr. Moniot further writes, that:
In this section of the book Vitruvius is describing the best way to space the columns around a temple. The passage quoted here is addressing how to construct a temple whose length is twice its breadth. If the columns are equally spaced, the solution is to subtract one from the number of columns along the breadth (giving the number of intercolumniations), double that, and add one to yield the number of columns along the length.
If we were to apply this solution to the Courtyard of the Mishkan, it would be correct. In other words, since we have total of 11 Pillars on the West Side of the Court(or along the width), by subtracting 1 from 11, we would get 10 spaces(or intercolumniations) between the Pillars. By multiplying number of spaces between the Pillars by 2 and adding 1, we would get 10*2=20+1=21 Pillars total along the length! Exactly what you can see on my images above.

I will make a more detailed post that deals with this problem later on, as there is a bit more to it than just the layout of the Pillars.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Exodus 27:11 - The dimensions and layout of the North Side of the Courtyard of The Mishkan

The description now talks about the North Side of the Court of the Tabernacle. Let's take a look:

Exodus 27:11
11 And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.

11 ‏וְכֵ֨ן לִפְאַ֤ת צָפוֹן֙ בָּאֹ֔רֶךְ קְלָעִ֖ים מֵ֣אָה אֹ֑רֶךְ ועמדו וְעַמּוּדָ֣יו עֶשְׂרִ֗ים וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֤ם עֶשְׂרִים֙ נְחֹ֔שֶׁת וָוֵ֧י הָֽעַמֻּדִ֛ים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶ֖ם כָּֽסֶף׃
The North Side of the Courtyard was pretty much identical to the South Side in terms of location and numbers of Pillars, as well as the length of fabric used. Just like with the South Side of the Court, the construction of the North Side would begin from its Corner Pillar. In this case, it was a North East Corner Pillar.

As the description states, the North Side of the Courtyard also had twenty(20) Pillars and one hundred(100) cubits of fabric in its Hangings. Therefore, there were also twenty(20) Pillars of 1 cubit in diameter(or width), twenty(20) sheets of fabric 5x5 cubits each, totaling 20*5=100 cubits in length. By adding these dimensions together, we would get: (20sheets of linen*5cubits long)+20pillars*1cubit long=100+20=120 cubits long.

As you can see, the North Side of the Courtyard was of the same length(120 cubits) and height(5 cubits) as the South Side. The North Side also had 20 Pillars of 1 cubit in diameter, and 100 cubits of fabric in 20 pieces of 5x5 cubits each.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exodus 27:9-10 - The layout of the South Side of the Courtyard of The Mishkan

Now that I have covered all the parts of the Courtyard, let's re-read the Exodus 27:9-10 so that we can move forward:

Exodus 27:9-10
9 And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:

10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.

‎9 ‏וְעָשִׂ֕יתָ אֵ֖ת חֲצַ֣ר הַמִּשְׁכָּ֑ן לִפְאַ֣ת נֶֽגֶב־תֵּ֠ימָנָה קְלָעִ֨ים לֶחָצֵ֜ר שֵׁ֣שׁ מָשְׁזָ֗ר מֵאָ֤ה בָֽאַמָּה֙ אֹ֔רֶךְ לַפֵּאָ֖ה הָאֶחָֽת׃

‎10 ‏וְעַמֻּדָ֣יו עֶשְׂרִ֔ים וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֥ם עֶשְׂרִ֖ים נְחֹ֑שֶׁת וָוֵ֧י הָעַמֻּדִ֛ים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶ֖ם כָּֽסֶף׃

The description (and the construction) of the Courtyard of the Tabernacle begins with the South Side, with the South West Corner Pillar. Please note, that each side of the Courtyard included only one(1) corner Pillar - this is a very important detail.

As the description states, on the South Side of the Courtyard there were one hundred(100) cubits of fabric(linen) and twenty(20) Pillars. To be more specific, on the South Side of the Courtyard there were 20 sheets of linen, each being five(5) by five (5) cubits each, totaling 100 cubits. And 20 Pillars, each being 5 cubits tall and 1 cubits in diameter(or width).
Thus, the total length of the South Side of the Courtyard was (20sheets of linen*5cubits long)+20pillars*1cubit long=100+20=120 cubits long. (NOT 100 cubits long!!!) 

As I have mentioned above, the most critical detail about the description of the Courtyard is the proper counting of the Pillars. Even some of the well known traditional commentators  have addressed this problem(see Rashi and Mizrachi).
In order to make all details of the description fit, the counting and the construction of the Courtyard MUST begin at one of the corner Pillars. Otherwise you can easily get confused and make a mistake.
And even though it does not really matter at which corner you start counting, due to the references in traditional commentaries and due to some of my own thoughts, the best place to start would be the South West Corner of the Courtyard, at the South West Corner Pillar.

If you'd like, you can peak ahead a little bit, and check out the article that describes the difficulties with the traditional understanding of the dimensions and the layout of the Courtyard of The Mishkan. You can also check out my link bar, as there are some other articles on the subject as well.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Exodus 27:10 - The Pillars of the Courtyard of The Mishkan - Part 4

Now let's see how all of the parts of the Pillars were setup to form sections of the Courtyard of the Mishkan. In order for me to cover all nuances at once, I will show the setup of the South-West corner of the Courtyard:

First, the Copper Sockets were put in their places and the parts of the Pillars were inserted into the Sockets.

Then, the Pillars Caps(or Chapiters) were put on Pillars' tops to secure parts of the Pillars and to create connection points for the Connecting Rods.

Then, the Silver-plated Connecting Rods were installed between each pair of the Pillars. Each Connecting Rod was exactly five(5) cubits long and fingerbreadth thick.

The Hangings of the Courtyard were installed as well. Although it is more likely, that the Connecting Rods were inserted into the Hangings first, and then the resulting pieces were installed between the pairs of the Pillars.

Here is a close-up view upon the corner Pillar, so that you can see all of the details better.

If you remember, the Hangings were attached to the Pillars of the Court by the means of small Silver Hooks that were mounted along each Pillar height. Here is a close-up view on one such Hook.

One highly overlooked detail of the Pillars of the Courtyard of the Tabernacle - their mounting hardware. It consisted of two pieces: the Copper Pins(or rather Copper Stakes; Copper Pegs in some translations) and the Ropes(or Cords in some translations). Description of these parts is found a little bit further in the text, but I wanted to cover it now so let's take a look at the Exodus 38:29-31:
29 And the brass of the offering was seventy talents, and two thousand and four hundred shekels.

30 And therewith he made the sockets to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the brasen altar, and the brasen grate for it, and all the vessels of the altar,

31 And the sockets of the court round about, and the sockets of the court gate, and all the pins of the tabernacle, and all the pins of the court round about.
 
29 ‏וּנְחֹ֥שֶׁת הַתְּנוּפָ֖ה שִׁבְעִ֣ים כִּכָּ֑ר וְאַלְפַּ֥יִם וְאַרְבַּע־מֵא֖וֹת שָֽׁקֶל׃

‎30 ‏וַיַּ֣עַשׂ בָּ֗הּ אֶת־אַדְנֵי֙ פֶּ֚תַח אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד וְאֵת֙ מִזְבַּ֣ח הַנְּחֹ֔שֶׁת וְאֶת־מִכְבַּ֥ר הַנְּחֹ֖שֶׁת אֲשֶׁר־ל֑וֹ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־כְּלֵ֥י הַמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃

‎31 ‏וְאֶת־אַדְנֵ֤י הֶֽחָצֵר֙ סָבִ֔יב וְאֶת־אַדְנֵ֖י שַׁ֣עַר הֶחָצֵ֑ר וְאֵ֨ת כָּל־יִתְדֹ֧ת הַמִּשְׁכָּ֛ן וְאֶת־כָּל־יִתְדֹ֥ת הֶחָצֵ֖ר סָבִֽיב׃
So as you can see from these verses, there were Copper Stakes. These Stakes were relatively small, probably 1\4 cubits tall and 1-3cm in diameter. Also, these stakes most likely had a ring where the Ropes of the Pillars were connected. There were most likely two(2) Stakes per each of the sixty(60) Pillars of the Courtyard, totaling 120 Copper Stakes. At this point, i do not think that there had to be more of them(say, so secure the bottom of the Hanging, for example), because there were not much copper dedicated to make these parts.
And as to the Ropes: these were probably pieces of figerbreadth(~1cm) thick and about 5-6 cubits long. These Ropes were probably white in color, to match the Hangings, and there were probably also 2 pieces of Rope per Pillar. The Rope was most likely securing the Pillar at 60-70 degree angle, which was sufficient enough to secure them well.

As each section of the Courtyard was assembled, the Ropes were attached to the special rings on the Silver Caps of the Pillars(on both sides of the Pillar), like so:

And then, the Ropes would be attached to the Pegs of the Pillar(also on both sides of the Pillar), and the Pegs were inserted into the ground, effectively securing the Pillar in place.

Once all this was done, the resulting section of the Courtyard would look like this:

And you can compare the images above to this diagram, if you want to know exact dimensions for most critical parts of the Courtyard sections.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Exodus 27:10 - The Pillars of the Courtyard of The Mishkan - Part 3

The last, but very important detail of the Pillars of the Courtyard of the Tabernacle was: the design of special Silver Chapiters(Caps) and wooden Silver-plated Connecting Rods. Let's take a look:

Exodus 27:10
10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.


‎10 ‏וְעַמֻּדָ֣יו עֶשְׂרִ֔ים וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֥ם עֶשְׂרִ֖ים נְחֹ֑שֶׁת וָוֵ֧י הָעַמֻּדִ֛ים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶ֖ם כָּֽסֶף׃
As you can see, this verse speaks only about the Silver-plated Connecting Rods(וחשקיהם) that were between the Pillars of the Court. But what about Pillars Chapiters? Well, for that you would have to look at Exodus 38:17:
17 And the sockets for the pillars were of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver; and the overlaying of their chapiters of silver; and all the pillars of the court were filleted with silver.


17 ‏וְהָאֲדָנִ֣ים לָֽעַמֻּדִים֮ נְחֹשֶׁת֒ וָוֵ֨י הָֽעַמּוּדִ֜ים וַחֲשׁוּקֵיהֶם֙ כֶּ֔סֶף וְצִפּ֥וּי רָאשֵׁיהֶ֖ם כָּ֑סֶף וְהֵם֙ מְחֻשָּׁקִ֣ים כֶּ֔סֶף כֹּ֖ל עַמֻּדֵ֥י הֶחָצֵֽר׃
So, as you can see here, the the top of each Pillar had a special Cap made out of Silver(וְצִפּ֥וּי רָאשֵׁיהֶ֖ם כָּ֑סֶף). Also, you would have to look at yet another verse for the details of the Connecting Rods:

Exodus 38:19
19 And their pillars were four, and their sockets of brass four; their hooks of silver, and the overlaying of their chapiters and their fillets of silver.


‎19 ‏וְעַמֻּֽדֵיהֶם֙ אַרְבָּעָ֔ה וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֥ם אַרְבָּעָ֖ה נְחֹ֑שֶׁת וָוֵיהֶ֣ם כֶּ֔סֶף וְצִפּ֧וּי רָאשֵׁיהֶ֛ם וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶ֖ם כָּֽסֶף׃
Even though this verse speaks only of the Pillars of the Gate of the Courtyard, the details that description provides here can also be applied to the rest of the Pillars, since all of the Pillars and their design elements were pretty much identical(save for minor differences in the corner pieces). As you can see, the Connecting Rods and the top of each Pillar were overlayed(or plated) with Silver.

Now, that we know these important details, let's take a look at how the Rods and Caps looked like:

As you can see on this image, there were two types of Silver Caps and one type of Silver plated Connecting Rod. Whereas both types of Silver Caps were made out of Silver only, the Connecting Rods were made out of Shittim Wood, and then overlayed with Silver. Such approach would allow greatly reduce the amount of Silver, necessary for the construction of these parts. Also, please note that the Silver Caps has served an important role of holding two halves of each Courtyard Pillar together(at their top - thus the wording of the description), as well as served as the connecting points for the Connecting Rods, and as a decorative element of these Pillars.

And here you can see finished parts of the Pillars of the Courtyard. The Silver Pillar Cap, that was used for the straight section of the Courtyard is shown on the left here. The Silver Pillar Cap, that was used for the four(4) Corner Pillars of the Courtyard is shown on the right. And the Silver plated Connecting Rod is shown on the lower part of the image.

The design of the Silver Caps of the Courtyard Pillars was similar to those of the Golden Caps of the Tent Pillars. As you can see, two special spherical pins of some sorts were used to accommodate the Connecting Rods. Under these pins, in my opinion, there were also small silver hooks that provided an extra fastening point to the Hanging, and probably also served as the mounting points for the Ropes that helped to hold and secure the Pillars of the Court in the upright position.

As I have pointed out above, the Silver Caps of the Corner Pillars(right) were slightly different in design than the Silver Caps of the Pillars of the straight sections(left) of the Courtyard. Note the special rings on the front(and back also): these rings were used to attach the Ropes that helped to secure the Pillars in place. Click to zoom-in on the image and clearly see the difference.

And here you can compare the Caps and Connecting Rods of the Pillars of the Courtyard to the similar elements of the Five Outer Pillars of the Tent of the Mishkan. As you can see, the Silver Caps and Rods of the Courtyard were approximately twice the size of those of the Tent.
The Silver plated Connecting Rods of the Pillars of the Courtyard were five(5) cubits long each, and most likely about a figerbreadth thick. The Silver Caps of the Pillars of the Courtyard were one(1) cubits in diameter, and most likely about 0.3-0.5 cubits tall.

 And here you can see all of the sixty (60)Silver Caps and sixty(60) Silver plated Connecting Rods of the Pillars of the Courtyard.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exodus 27:10 - The Pillars of the Courtyard of The Mishkan - Part 2

Now, let's take a look at the design details and features of the Pillars of the Courtyard. I will begin with Silver Hooks and Copper (Brass) Sockets of the Pillars:

Exodus 27:10
10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
‎10 ‏וְעַמֻּדָ֣יו עֶשְׂרִ֔ים וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֥ם עֶשְׂרִ֖ים נְחֹ֑שֶׁת וָוֵ֧י הָעַמֻּדִ֛ים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶ֖ם כָּֽסֶף׃
Just like the Pillars of the Tent, each Pillar of the Court of the Mishkan had Silver Hooks(ווי) mounted on it. These Hooks were relatively small in size and were located either on "opposite sides" of the Pillar(along the height of each half) or, in case with four(4) corner Pillars of the Courtyard, these Hooks were located along the height at a 90 degree angle of each other.
I'm still trying to figure out how many Hooks there were on each Pillar, so at this point I'm going to assume that there were eight(8) such Silver Hooks per each Pillar, four (4) on each side. Each set of Hooks on each side of the Pillar was spaced evenly - one Hook every cubit along the height of each half of the Pillar.
As to the functionality of these Hooks: they played a very important role as a fasteners for the Hangings of the Courtyard, as I'm going to show in my next posts.

Due to the great difference in size of the elements of the Pillar, it is very difficult for me to show you these Hooks. However, on the image below you can see some of the Hooks upon the top of the Pillar. Click on the image to zoom-in for better view.

As the Exodus 27:10 states, there were also Copper Sockets that supported the Pillars...

Each Courtyard Pillar Socket was similar in shape, design and weight to those of the Tent (if you remember, the Five Outer Pillars of the Tent had Copper Sockets as well). But since the Courtyard Pillars were twice as wide but half the height of the Tent Pillars, the Courtyard Sockets looked slightly different. On the image below, you can compare the Courtyard Pillar Socket (left) with the Talent of Copper(middle) and with the one of the Socket of one of the Outer Pillar of the Tent(right).
Please note, that the Courtyard Sockets were made out of exactly one(1) Talent of Copper each(just like the Copper Sockets of the Outer Pillars of the Tent.

And just like the Copper Sockets of the Outer Pillars of the Tent, the Courtyard Sockets were also hollow inside as to allow the most efficient use of the precious metal that was used in their construction.

There were total of sixty(60) copper Sockets for the Pillars of the Courtyard of the Mishkan. Each such Copper Socket was made out of one(1) Talent of Copper and thus weighted around ~17kg.

The halves of the Courtyard Pillars were then mounted in the same fashion as the rest of the Pillars of the Mishkan: one part of the Pillars was mounted first...

And then the other halves of the Pillars were mounted onto the Sockets, resulting in the complete Pillars.
Please note, that the Courtyard Pillars were not plated with any metal(unlike the Pillars of the Tent, that were gold-plated). And even though I'm still trying to verify this detail, most traditional sources also agree on this detail.
You can click on the image and zoom-in, so that you can see Hooks of the Pillars as well...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some changes to Blog layout

In order to make this Blog even more convenient and functional, I will be making some changes to the design and layout. Please bear with me as it make take a little bit.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Exodus 27:10 - The Pillars of the Courtyard of The Mishkan - Part 1

The Hangings of the Court of the Tabernacle were mounted between the special Pillars. First, lets' take a look at the design of the Pillars of the Courtyard and their details:

Exodus 27:10
10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
‎10 ‏וְעַמֻּדָ֣יו עֶשְׂרִ֔ים וְאַדְנֵיהֶ֥ם עֶשְׂרִ֖ים נְחֹ֑שֶׁת וָוֵ֧י הָעַמֻּדִ֛ים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶ֖ם כָּֽסֶף׃
Each Courtyard Pillar, just like the Pillars of the Tent, was made out of the piece of Shittim wood. Each such piece of wood that was required to make each Pillar was ten(10) cubits long, one and a half(1.5) cubits wide, and 0.0225 cubits(a fingerbreadth) thick. Here is how it looked like:

This piece of wood was separated into two equal parts, each being 5 cubits long, 1.5 cubits wide and 0.0225 cubits thick - like this:

These two pieces of Shittim wood were bended into semi-tube shapes, producing two parts(or two halves) of the Courtyard Pillar - like so:
 

Here you can see both parts of the Courtyard Pillar side by side. Just like with the Pillars of the Tent, the reason behind making each Pillar out of two parts was the same: to allow easy handling and transportation.

And just like the Pillars and the Boards of the Tent, each half of the Pillar of the Court had some kind of Tenon and Mortise system, so that both pieces of the Pillar could be seamlesly connected one to another.
Here is how it might have looked like:

Finally, when both halves of the Pillar were connected together, they would form a Pillar, five(5) cubits tall, one(1) cubits in outside diameter, 3/pi=0.954 cubits of inside diameter and the thickness of 0.0225 cubits.
To put it in perspective, each courtyard Pillar was one half the height and twice the diameter of a Tent Pillar.
Here is what it looked like:

You can check out this diagram for detailed dimensions layout....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Exodus 27:9 - Tabernacle Courtyard (Chatzer) - The Hangings of the Court

The description now moves on to the Court of the Mishkan and its parts. Let's take a look:

Exodus 27:9
9 And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:

9 ‏וְעָשִׂ֕יתָ אֵ֖ת חֲצַ֣ר הַמִּשְׁכָּ֑ן לִפְאַ֣ת נֶֽגֶב־תֵּ֠ימָנָה קְלָעִ֨ים לֶחָצֵ֜ר שֵׁ֣שׁ מָשְׁזָ֗ר מֵאָ֤ה בָֽאַמָּה֙ אֹ֔רֶךְ לַפֵּאָ֖ה הָאֶחָֽת׃
First and foremost, the perimeter of the Courtyard was made out of many identical pieces of fabric - the Hangings (קְלָעִים). Each such Hanging was five(5) cubits long by five(5) cubits wide, and probably between 5-10mm thick. Most likely white in color and of simple design, the Hangings were not of a very high quality of craftsmaship as the Curtains of the Tent of the Tabernacle.

Here is the rendering of one of such Hanging:

Just like the Curtains of the Tent of the Tabernacle, the Courtyard Hangings featured a special pocket on their top edge, so that they can be mounted upon the Connecting Rods of the Courtyard Pillars as the description is going to show later.

Here is a top view upon the Hanging. As you can see, it was relatively small.

In fact, on this image you can compare a Hanging of the Court to the Entrance Curtain of the Tent. If you remember, the Entrance Curtain was 10 cubits by 10 cubits, thus each of the Hangings of the Court was twice as small(or 5x5 cubits)

As the description states, there were to be hundred(100) cubits of Hangings(fabric) on the South Side of the Courtyard. Thus, there were 100cubits total/5cubits per Hanging = 20 Hangings, 5x5 cubits each.  Here is how it looked like:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Exodus 27:1-8 - The Ramp of the Altar Of Burnt Offering

Exodus 27:1-8 has pretty much covered everything about the Altar. But since the Altar was around five(5) cubits tall, there also had to be a way of somehow accessing the Altar. Thus, a special Ramp was built, to allow convenient access to the Altar, as well as it has provided a place to keep handy most of the utensils.
Unfortunatelly, the original text does not give any explicit details about this Ramp. On the other hand, the text seems to imply that this Ramp was to be of any arbitrary and practical design.
Traditional commetators, like Rashi for example, also make a note that this Ramp to be of a "sloping" design (i.e not to have any "steps" like the staircase does). Here is Rashi's commentary on Exodus 20:23(Exodus 20:26 in some other notations):
Do not go up with steps.

When you will build a ramp for the altar do not make it as a row of steps, [which are called] eschelons in Old French, but rather it should be flat and sloping.

So that your nakedness not be revealed.

Because due to these steps you will have to broaden your strides. And though it would not be an actual uncovering of the nakedness for it is written: "Make for them (the kohanim) linen pants, nevertheless the broadening of the strides comes near [enough] to uncovering one's nakedness whereby you will be acting towards them (the stones) with disrespect. You can derive from these things a fortiori: Just as these stones that have no sense to take offense at their denigration [yet] the Torah stated that, since there is a need for them, do not act disrespectfully towards them, then your fellow-man, who is in the image of your Creator and takes offense at his denigration, how much more so [must you be careful not to show him disrespect].
On the other hand, Ezekiel 43:17, there is indeed the staircase(or rather steps) that lead to the "ledge" of the Altar.

This Ramp(if it has indeed existed) would be managed (along with the Altar) by the Kohathites, as it is written:

Numbers 3:30-31
30 And the chief of the house of the father of the families of the Kohathites shall be Elizaphan the son of Uzziel.

31 And their charge shall be the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging, and all the service thereof. 

For now, I'm going to stick with the traditional explanation, and try to reconstruct this Ramp. Let's take a look:

The Ramp was most likely made out of wood. It could have been any wood that was easily available, as Shittim wood was scarce and valuable. 
Also, since this Ramp had served an auxiliary purpose, it was transported separately and it was not considered a holy object of the Mishkan service.
The Ramp was probably three(3) cubits tall (or maybe shorter), about 20-25 cubits long and probably around five(5) cubits wide.  The Ramp was oriented to the West (the Altar was on the Eastern part of the Ramp).

The front section(the tallest and closest to the Altar, about 5x5 cubtis) most likely had some extra features that served a role of either Untesils holders and/or aided with the service at the Altar.

Here is a close-up view at this fornt section of the Ramp. As you can see, in my design of the Ramp there is a special bar with hooks (on the left) to hold the pans, buckets, towels e.t.c. On the right, I show a special utensil holder to hold the main untensils of the Altar, such as showels, hooks, cleaning brushes e.t.c 

And here you can compare the Ramp to an average human height...

And here you can see the copper utensils of the Altar...

The Altar of Burnt Offering(aka Mitzbeah ha-Olah) was put right next to the Ramp...

The Altar was almost touching the Ramp, like so...

And here you can compare some of the Utensils to the Altar and the Ramp.

And here you can see the lower part of the Altar with his Grate and the Ramp. Please note how the Shovel and the Ash Pans could be inserted inside the Altar, so as to allow the removal of the ashes and waste.
Please also note, that the lower part of the Altar was always free of any material (save the ashes' of course), since it was extremely crucial to the proper airflow and cooling of the Altar.

For more information on possible design and considerations for the ramp(any ramp in fact) , you can check out these two extensive articles:



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