Friday, June 10, 2011

Exodus 26:36-37 - Detailed Outer Curtain (Masach) description

Now that I've got terminology out of the way in my previous post, I would like to concentrate more on the Outer Curtain of the Tent of the Mishkan and describe its layout and size.

But first and foremost, I would like to point out that the Outer Curtain of the Tent was identical in layout to the Gate Hangings of the Court. Here are couple of images that should give you an even better idea:

Here it is lined up:

And this is another angle:

I hope that now you can see the amazing similarities between Outer Curtain of the Tent and Gate Hangings of the Court. And also, I hope that you can now also see that the Outer Curtain of the Tent was NOT actually a Curtain (singular) but the CURTAINS (plural).

Here is why:

In the description of Exodus 26:36-37 the expression מסך (masach) is used. This expression refers ONLY in general sense to the actual fabric curtain(s), perhaps analogous to the way expression "mishkan" refers to the First Covering of the Tent, even though the First Covering itself was composed of 10 separated sheets of fabric called "yeriot". 

The actual definition, or rather the description of the layout of the "masach" can be found only in four verses: Exodus 35:12, Exodus 39:34, Exodus 40:21 and Numbers 4:5. These verses contain THE most crucial piece of description, namely the word פרכת ("parochet"). THIS IS A PLURAL FORM ! This is a PLURAL form of the word פרך ("paroch"), which literally means - grounded, fractured, divided - partitioned.

To further backup this claim, you can also refer to the description of the Outer Curtain's Pillars, of which it said that they had "hooks" (vavim) [i.e Exod. 26:37 or Exod. 36:38]. At first, I myself misidentified the correct purpose of these "hooks", but now it is clear to me that they were similar in layout to the "hooks" of the Court Pillars (i.e Exod. 27:17), so that they may be used to secure the fabric between them; while at the same time provide convenient way to operate the sections of the fabric individually (i.e move one of the sections along the connecting rods, so that the priests may enter). Like so:

As to the dimensions of each fabric section of the "masach": they were 1.5 cubits long, 10 cubits tall, not sure about the thickness (probably also the same as the boards, although its debatable). There would be 4 such sections that hung between 5 Outer Pillars of the Tent. The distance between the centers of the Pillars was 2.5 cubits. The combined area of these sections of the Outer Curtain were 1.5 * 4 *10 = 6 * 10 = 60 cubits^2; very interesting numbers indeed.

I hope that now it is clear that the Outer Curtain ("masach") of the Tent of the Tabernacle was NOT one single piece of fabric, but rather 4 sections of fabric that hung between equidistantly spaced 5 Outer Pillars, and were secured to these Pillars by the means of the Gold Plated Connecting Rods ("chashukim") and Golden Hooks ("vavim").

Thus, the (Outer) Covering ("masach") was composed of Pillars and Fabric Partitions ("parochet" - plural of form of the expression "perek")

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