by Tony Badillo            

At Mount Sinai the Lord marries national Israel through a covenant famously known as the Ten Commandments, and this marriage (
Jeremiah.3:8,14, Ezekiel.16:32 ), in turn, is portrayed through the Tabernacle, and still later the Temple. To better understand this view, though, we cannot not begin with the biblical history of the Jews themselves but, rather, the biblical history of mankind in general. Why? Because marriage begins with the Creator and his creation, as found in the first chapters of Genesis, a time when there were no people on earth called Israelites or Jews.

In the beginning ...

After having created nearly everything, the Lord’s masterpiece idea is introduced in Genesis 1:26 with these words, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness”. And mankind is created in male and female form, but in God’s “likeness and image,” v. 27; and their purpose is to rule over the whole earth and every creature, v. 26, and also to “till the ground and keep it,” 2:6, 15. But there is another goal that the man and woman must fulfill but can do so only through sexual union: to “multiply and fill the earth,” 1:28. In fact, even ruling over the world’s creatures would not be possible for one man unless he multiplied himself, somehow. The answer was Eve, because through marriage and sexual union they could produce a family.

After Adam was created he was given the task of naming all the animals, especially those closest to him, 2:19. This does not mean he gave them personal names but, rather, classified them. Before this task, though, the Lord says, “it is not good for man to live alone,” 2:18. Yet he does not  immediately create Eve. Instead, after Adam names all the creatures it is said, “But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him,” v. 20. Adam’s solitude was clearly not relieved by any of the lower creatures and soon after he finishes his task he is cast into a “deep sleep,” v. 21. But then upon waking he sees her for the first time and realizes she was made, in part, from him. Therefore, he names her Woman, for from man she was taken,“ 2:23, and this introduces us to the first marriage, v. 24.

But notice that God’s solitude is reflected in Adam’s lone existence: It is not good for man to live alone ... nor was there  found a helper comparable to him, 2:18, 20. Similarly, no creature made was comparable to God, even angels, until he himself says, “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness,” 1:26, 27. And this is how all the people of the earth became God’s “Eve;”  implying that from the beginning God set out to create a wife-companion similar to himself  and, therefore, she/we – individually and collectively – must reflect his image, just as Eve was made “comparable” to Adam’s. See also God and Sex: God and Sex.

The phrase image and likeness may possibly include outward appearance (cp. 5:3), and most certainly inward attributes, such as holiness. Hence, in Leviticus 11:45, he says to Israel, “be holy, for I am holy,” which brings us  to the Tabernacle with its two compartments, the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place. Adam and Eve were “joined together and became one flesh,” Genesis 2:24; but in this case, the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place are joined together and become one house by a marriage covenant, the Ten Commandments kept inside the Ark of the Covenant. Then the Ark with its contents was posted inside the Holy of Holies, the head/mind/face of Temple Man.


The Human Form

The marriage of God to Israel is reflected in the human form, as shown at left. At first, it is merely a head (Holy of Holies) and a torso (Holy Place). This is the most basic symbol of the marriage inaugurated at Mount Sinai at the giving of the Law, and also the place where the Tabernacle and Ark were built for the first time. But the human form was not complete until Solomon built the Temple whose floor plan was based on the Tabernacle’s. Further,  the revelation of the human form also depended on the furniture and its arrangement inside and outside the Temple. It should be noticed that in Figure A the head and torso have no neck joining both; it appears only in the Temple’s floor plan (Figure B) as a short stairway between the Holy of Holies (head/mind/face) and the Holy Place (body/heart), and this uniter or stairway depicts a messianic office or task. Also note that Figures B and C  show a third room, the Porch or Portico, corresponding to the reproductive organs and signifying human procreation. Recall that Adam and Eve were told, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and the same was expected of Israel. Solomon also added other architectural features representing the arms, legs and feet (see the other articles). In any case, the Holy of Holies (the head) and Holy Place (the torso) together were meant to symbolize one holy body through a marriage initiated at Mount Sinai, suggesting also, perhaps, a type of Divine incarnation, a concept generally associated with the other religion.

The Altar of Incense, Showbread
Table and Lamp Stand

The Golden Altar of Incense inside the Holy Place has been discussed elsewhere as the heart of Israel – how its aromatic incense smoke symbolized the spiritual life of the nation, and how its smoke was “smelled” by the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, thus providing a portrait of Divine judgment. For a fuller explanation with graphics see:  Secrets of the Holy Ark.

Since the Golden Altar is Israel’s heart, judgment is made by comparing her life against the Ten Commandments that were inside the Ark, because the Ten were the covenant she had agreed to keep while at Mount Sinai with God and Moses, Exodus 19:8, 24:7 (EV v.24:3): “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do,” Israel said. And in so doing, she agreed to be judged by the Divine law thundered from the Mount. Now consider: A “Breastplate of Judgment” was worn over the High Priest’s heart when making judgments of or for Israel, Exodus 28:29, 30, and its position correlates exactly with the position of the Golden Altar of Incense, Israel’s heart, as shown above. And because the Temple was in the hidden form of the High Priest, his head and face correspond to the Holy of Holies, and his nose and nostrils to the Ark with its extended poles.  And this signifies that the Ark’s key purpose within the Temple was to judge national Israel’s altar-heart. Quite remarkable!

No animal sacrifices were allowed on this small altar, only the burning of sweet incense, symbolizing the ideal spiritual life that Israel was expected to live, but did not, except for those who entered Canaan under Joshua and a remnant of others over the centuries. But strangely, in Ezekiel 41:22 the otherwise Golden Altar is but a bare wood block, remarks one Jewish source* (see footnote). What does this signify? – that Israel’s heart had turned away from the Lord, as did Solomon’s in 1 Kings 11:1-10. The Temple’s gold, silver and jewels, symbolize Divine virtues upon Israel while she trusted and obeyed him (the bronze or copper is her humanity), but when she turned away she became as any other nation, bare wood. The radiant jewels, gold, and silver vanished, leaving only memories and self-justifying excuses for loss of the most meaningful and splendid Jewish holy house ever built.

If the aromatic smoke of the Altar of Incense depicts Israel’s spiritual life and the Gold Altar her heart, what is the meaning of the Showbread Table and lamp stand? The first is described in Exodus 25:23-30; 37:10-16 and the second in 37:17-24. The Tabernacle had only one Showbread Table and one lamp stand, but Solomon’s Temple had ten of each, 2 Chronicles 4:7, 8, 19, five on the left and five on the right side of the Holy Place, one lamp stand for each Showbread Table.

The reader will please notice that in the graphic at right, the Showbread Table has a shelf underneath and on it are two pitchers and two drinking cups. These are for wine. Upon checking some websites, I noticed that they did not include any drinking vessels at all, only the Showbread on top of the table. However three verses specifically say that the Showbread Table had vessels for a drink offering, Exodus 25:29, 37:16, and Numbers 4:7. Different translations, however, use different terminology for these vessels, such as jugs, jars, pitchers, cups, bowls, etc.  Also, no translation mentions wine specifically, but all indicate vessels for  drinking, pouring or for libations. Moreover, Jewish and non-Jewish sources seem agreed that the drink offering was wine, not water. And since the small table top probably did not have enough space for drinking vessels, it implies there was a shelf underneath, as illustrated. However, the most important reason for mentioning the wine here has to do with the meaning of the holy bread itself, as we will see shortly. It must be understood, however, that this was not ordinary bread but unleavened bread (matzah). And again, as with the wine, the biblical text does not specifically say it was unleavened, it is implied.

What, then, do  these twelve unleavened loaves, arranged in two  rows of six each (Leviticus 24:6), as shown, represent? Almost certainly, the twelve tribes of Israel and, therefore, national Israel herself. And the arrangement relates to the two onyx stones on the High Priest’s vestment, one stone on each shoulder, Exodus 28:10-12, corresponding to the two rows of bread, while the six loaves on each row relate to the six tribal names engraved on each of the two stones, twelve names total. What could be plainer? And this is especially so since the Temple was created in the hidden form of a tripartite man who is Jacob, King Messiah, and the Levite High Priest. But it was only the High Priest who had these stone epaulets on his attire, as if  bearing all Israel on his shoulders when entering the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur, the great Day of Atonement.

It may be asked, How do we know this was unleavened bread? Does the Torah text say so? The answer is Yes and No, depending on how one reads it. Judaism concluded early, it seems, that for purposes of religious symbolism, leavening (hametz) portrayed moral corruption, and even non-Jewish sources agree. As to the loaves being unleavened, this is one explanation: At the first Passover in Egypt, Israel was commanded to eat the roasted lamb with unleavened bread, Exodus 12:8. And when the people left Egypt they took “unleavened dough with them ... with their kneading bowls bound up... on their shoulders,” 12:34. Is it not logical that this unleavened dough corresponds to the unleavened bread on the Showbread Table? In other words, the people left Egypt carrying unleavened dough because they themselves symbolized unleavened bread at that time. Once the Tabernacle was set up at the base of Mount Sinai (only a short time later), the twelve tribes were also symbolized inside, only this time as twelves unleavened bread loaves or cakes. Being unleavened symbolized that they had left the leavening of sin (Egypt) behind, whether they understood this or not. 

“Showbread” is a translation of lechem ha-panim, the bread of the face(s). It signifies Israel standing before God, who is symbolized by the Holy of Holies. For this reason the Showbread is also called the Bread of the Presence, or the Continual Bread, meaning Israel was to continually stand before the Lord, be ever-present before him. But if she turned away from him, as did Solomon later, sin was at the door ready to master her.

The relation of wine to the holy bread is this: The bread depicts human flesh, and the wine blood. Flesh and blood is a reference to humans in their mortality, Ezekiel 39:17, 18. Also see the non-canonical, apocryphal Jewish book of  Sirach 14:18, 17:31. This should be no surprise since Temple Man represents primarily three humans: Jacob dreaming at Bethel, the Levite High Priest and King Messiah. Angels or other supernatural beings were not the builders or caretakers of the Tabernacle or Temple, both were built and maintained by flesh and blood humans. And  finally,  concerning wine, in Numbers 15:5, 7; 10 “drink offerings” presented at the Bronze Altar outside must be in three measures: one-fourth, one-third, or one-half  “hin of wine;” firmly implying that the drink offerings inside the Holy Place were also of wine. The Tanach teaches by explicit or implicit words, statements, concepts or examples.

In the Tabernacle there was only one Showbread Table and one lamp stand. In Solomon’s Temple there were ten of each, one lamp stand for each table. Since each lamp stand had 7 branches and there were 10 lamp stands, the total is 70 lights, which almost certainly is a symbol of national Israel as a light to the world, Isaiah 42:6, 49:6; 60:1. The figure 70 is most likely derived from Exodus 1:5 where we are told that the total number of people belonging to Jacob (Israel) was 70 when he arrived in Egypt. And since Jewish tradition says that the whole world is comprised of  70 nations we have 70 lights (Jews) for 70 nations, the world . This is numerical symbolism, of course. 

A Wooden Heart and the Hidden Form of the Temple

We have already noted that in Ezekiel 41:22 the Golden Altar of Incense symbolizing Israel’s heart appears as a bare wooden block stripped of  all its gold plating, depicting Israel’s loss of Divine virtues after having turned away from the Lord. That this gold and other precious metals and jewels portray Divine virtues is quite plain from Malachi 3:3 where the Lord promises to purify the disobedient sons of Levi and make them as “gold and silver,”  and also v.v. 17, 19 where the righteous are called “precious treasure,” while the disobedient are straw for burning. Also see Zechariah 13:9 where God puts Jews through a fiery trial, testing them as a metallugist who purifies silver and gold.

Therefore, Ezekiel 41:22* interprets v.v. 43:10, 11. In these two short verses Ezekiel is told to show Israel the design and form of the Temple – which would include the wooden altar – that they,  may be “ashamed of their iniquities,” with the words design and form appearing in very obvious redundancy. For example, the Stone Edition of the Tanach by Artscroll Mesorah Publications has this frequency: design-form-design-forms-designs-forms.

It needs to be asked: Were not the ancient Israelites familiar with the design and form of the Temple that had stood before them for at least 350 years? Of course they were! Then what is it that they are expected to learn from Ezekiel’s visionary Temple? Its concealed human form. For without knowing this, Israel cannot identify her own wooden heart. True, Judaism developed a much later explanations of a man in the Mosaic tabernacle, but these are not convincing, greatly lack detail and sharply contradict each other, as anyone who has studied them knows. Because it is only in Solomon’s stone temple – not the Mishkan – that the unified and complete human form is convincingly seen. The bare wooden altar (41:22*) is Israel without the gold covering over her heart. But 43:10, 11 tells us how she may regain it by being “ashamed of her iniquities”.  In other words, through repentance, which begins by pondering the form and design of the Temple. To “be ashamed” is a call to repentance, all seem agreed. For Israel was told by the Lord at the very beginning of the Sinai Covenant, “if you will obey my voice you shall be my treasured possession” or my own treasure, Exodus 19:5. And gold is certainly “treasure,” all will agree. However, notice that this designation is given in a conditional sense: She is his “treasure” only while in obedience, otherwise she is not. Without obedience her heart – and therefore she herself – becomes as a bare wood block. And under this condition she cannot properly reflect the light of his attributes – for it is the gold that shines – especially his holiness, which is the key means for being recognized as “the light of the world” (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6; 60:1-3) and a “holy nation,” Exodus 19:6.

*Yechezkel / Ezekiel Commentary, Mesorah Publications, pp. 650, 651. This Jewish source rightly explains why v. 41:22 refers to the Altar of Incense, not the Showbread Table. However, its explanation of why the Altar is of plain wood is mere guesswork.