Private Collection/Bridgeman Library

The tabernacle and court in the wilderness, the portable tent built on God’s command and described in such detail in Exodus 25–27, has inspired numerous reconstructions, drawings and models. This 19th-century lithograph shows the Tabernacle in use, with smoke rising from the holy of holies at the rear of the tent. Directly in front of the tent stands a large bronze basin for priestly ablutions and a four-horned altar for burnt offerings. At lower right, people lead sacrificial animals to their fate at the altar. Although the inside of the Tabernacle is not visible in this print, a peek beneath the tent coverings would reveal the two-room structure detailed in the text (and drawn in the plan at lower left): “Make a curtain of blue, purple and crimson yarns…The curtain shall separate for you the holy place [qodesh] from the most holy [qodesh qodeshim]” (Exodus 26:31, 33).

Skeptics have claimed that the Tabernacle description was conceived by priests after the Babylonian Exile (586–539 B.C.). But parallels between the Tabernacle and early Egyptian structures show that the description is rooted in the Egypto-Semitic world of the second millennium B.C., the time of the Exodus.