Defining The Tabernacle of David – Word Study

  
Born and bred in an urban city, tent is not a common sight for me. Since the topic is about the Tabernacle of David, I feel the need to understand tabernacle better. I am no Hebrew and Greek scholar but the lexicon is usually a good starting point.

I will start from the New Testament since there is only one verse with the mention of Tabernacle of David. The Greek word for Tabernacle in Acts 15:16 is Skene (σκηνη, Strong’s Number: 4633). Skene is defined as a “tent, tabernacle (made of green boughs, or skins or other materials)”, and also “the movable temple of God after the pattern of which the temple at Jerusalem was built”. In Acts 7:43-44, skene was the Tabernacle of Moses. In Rev 13:6; 15:5 and 21:3, skene is used in the context of after the judgments. There is no difference in words used for the Tabernacle of Moses and Tabernacle of David.

The Old Testament Hebrew has more vocabulary for tabernacle than Greek and English.

The word ‘ohel (אהל, Strong’s Number: 0168) is frequently used for the Tabernacle of Moses in Exodus. ‘ohel means a nomad’s tent, a dwelling, home and habitation. Even though it is nomadic and mobile, it functions as a long-term dwelling, a home. The Tabernacle of Moses withstood 40 years of wilderness wandering and entered the Promised Land! It was definitely highly durable and permanent.

A different Hebrew word is used for Tabernacle of David in Amos 9:11, which is the key Old Testament verse. The Hebrew word for tabernacle in Amos 9:11 is Cukkah (יככה Strong’s No: 05521). Cukkah is a booth, “a rude or temporary shelter”. The Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths (Lev 23:33-43) uses the same Hebrew word, Cukkah. The people of Israel are commended to build temporary booths or tabernacles and live under the Cukkah during the seven days of the feast. The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in Zec 14, which wrote about The Day of the Lord, which is commonly interpreted as the final Judgment Day. The passage of Zec 14:16-21 prophesied that the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated after the Day of the Lord. Even though Cukkah is temporary in its physical nature, God has a long-term purpose for Cukkah.

Here lies the paradox. The extremely durable Tabernacle of Moses was not required after Jesus established the New Covenant but the rude temporary Cukkah of David has a purpose beyond its durability. Interestingly, ‘ohel is used in Isa 16:5 for the Tabernacle of David in the context of final judgment by the One, referring to the Messiah.

Physically, the Cukkah being a temporary tent requires restoration over time, especially for the Day of the Lord. Yet, is the restoration just the physical tent? Since it is meant to be temporary, restoration of the physical tent will be challenging and replacing it might be a better solution. If the restoration work is not only referring to the physical tent, what does it then refer to? We can only restore what we know. The definition of the Tabernacle of David that is to be restored is not found in a word study. So a Biblical study is needed to understand this.

 

A side note: The Tabernacle built by Moses was not called the Tabernacle of Moses in the Bible but the Tabernacle of the Lord. I will use the Tabernacle of Moses as most of us understand this phrase but thought I will point out that only the Tabernacle of David was named after the builder in the Bible.

Tabernacle of David – Introduction

Picture from www.forerunnerhop.com
Picture from www.forerunnerhop.com

The phrase “restoring the Tabernacle of David” is a hot topic in some circles of believers. I had a lot of questions even though I have heard it being taught many times by excellent teachers of the Word. Somehow I was not able to get a hold of it. After each time I hear about the teaching on the Tabernacle of David, I cannot help but feel that I am not able to see the picture, not even the silhouette. The emphasis on the Restoration of the Tabernacle of David for the End Times increases my need to see the bigger picture. The importance of the Tabernacle of David cannot be put aside or ignored; yet my understanding seemed illusive.

My first hurdle was the emphasis on this phrase seems too heavy for its twice mention in the Old Testament, and one crossed reference in the New Testament.

“In mercy the throne will be established;
And One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David,
Judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness.” – Isaiah 16:5 (NKJV)

 

““On that day I will raise up
The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages;
I will raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;” – Amos 9:11 (NKJV)

 

“‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;” – Acts 15:16 (NKJV)

 

A list of other questions arose. What did we lose that we must restore? Does restoring the Tabernacle of David mean restoring worship? What direct implications do the restoration of the Tabernacle of David have to do with the coming back of Jesus Christ? There seems to be many dots that are left unconnected, with gaps in between. Many referred to the Tabernacle of David as 24/7 worship and intercession that never stops, modeled by the worship David installed in Zion. I have been involved in the Houses of Prayer movement as a musician and worship leader. The hours and hours of uninterrupted worship in the presence of God are complete pleasure for me. As much as I enjoy ministering to the Lord with music in worship, I am not able to see the relationship in the emphasis on the restoration of the Tabernacle of David and the End Times even though I have heard and pondered the points that many teachers and preachers spoke of. As you can see, I am a kind of slow in catching up in my understanding but I participated regardless because worship is pleasing to God because He deserves it all!

I embarked on this study to find answers in the Bible over the years. It was not intensive full time study, but through readings and meditations of the Word over time that the Holy Spirit began to show me. I used very little references outside of the Bible to understand the Tabernacle of David. If the Tabernacle of David is crucial, especially in the End Times, God will not leave it unexplained in His Word, which is “the lamp to my feet and a light to my path” – Psalm 119:105. With the help of the Holy Spirit as the illuminator of God’s Word, I embarked on this journey to understand the Tabernacle of David.

I first put everything together my scattered study over several years in 2013 when I had to teach the Tabernacle of David in Hunan Bible Institute. It took 9-10 class hours. It was intense Bible study for the Bible school students. A Bible study even though it was a classroom setting because most of them had to re-read Bible passages that they are familiar with and dig into verses that they are not as familiar. Questions were asked as they plough through the Word together and we all learned as God taught us all during the 9-10 class hours. I witnessed a renewal and exponential increase in their passion for the Word, worship and most importantly God. In preparation for the class, my thoughts were in point form and I elaborated verbally. I was receiving fresh revelations while I teach too! I am currently putting this teaching into proper writing, which is very different from verbal teaching. In a classroom context, the students asked questions to clarify and I could read their facial expressions and body language. The interaction also sharpened my clarity in this subject matter. In written form, my choice of words and explanation needs to be more concise so that it will not confuse. As I put various parts of the teachings into writing, I will post them in this blog. I do not know what will be the frequency and regularity of my posting but I will work on it whenever I can. Engage me in discussions about what I have written as I am still learning for I believe what I have is only a piece of the bigger picture.

The study of worship through the Tabernacle of Moses is a lot easier as there is a lot of detailed documentation of it in the Old Testament and heavily supported by archaeological findings. The worship instructed by Moses is very systematic and details are clearly recorded. It is like an instruction manual. Do this and God is pleased, which means all is fine. For David’s form of worship, there is no instruction of step one to ten. There is no stipulated protocol, except the short period of time in its expression in the Temple that Solomon built. In fact, it seems spontaneous and not bound by any law or rule. We learn about the worship in the Tabernacle of David from the Biblical narratives and the Psalms, which are completely different from the instructional law in the Tabernacle of Moses. The art of storytelling and understanding the heart of stories are increasingly less emphasized and practiced now, at least in Singapore where I live. Many of us get very impatient, especially with the older generation, when they reply our requests for help with stories. Often times if we stop to ponder, we will find the answers in the stories. If we look deeper, the stories reveal the root of the problem. The stories do not only give superficial solution but the wisdom to prevent the problem from recurring. The reply is more than the answer that we are looking for, if we are ready to receive it. Jesus spoke in parables, simple stories with moral and spiritual lessons, but not all understand the heart of these narratives. Principles and lessons can be drawn about the Tabernacle of David through the narratives and prayers. Yet, what is in the heart of the Tabernacle of David? It is God who declares, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Sam 16:7 (NASB). The heart of David is an important key, but the crucial key is to understand the heart of God in the Tabernacle of David.