What Became of the Tabernacle?

The Book of Exodus goes into great length on the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle of the congregation. From verse 25 onward, it describes its construction. The Holy of Holies, a inner shrine where Moses could commune directly with God, and the Holy Place, a larger tent that could house the worshipers, and an outer perimeter with a “courtyard” of sorts that contained the sacrificial altar where animals would be burnt.

This tabernacle was constructed so that it could be taken apart, packed up, and moved to another location, as the Israelites wandered the lands and were often in conflict with other peoples. The Levites were left in charge of its maintenance, and of carrying it and all that it contained from place to place when they had to move. Those who went too close to the tabernacle during this process who were not Levites, were to be put to death.

But what happened to the tabernacle and its contents? It does not reside in any modern day museum, and relic hunters throughout the centuries have gone on excavation hunts over rumors of its whereabouts. Is there any indication of where it might have gone?

According to The Book of Joshua 4:19, the Israelites camp at Gilgal, and the tabernacle is most likely erected there. But when the lands are divided and much tribal conflict consumes the region, the tabernacle is moved to Shiloh (currently an Israeli settlement on Palestinian lands). And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.

The Book of Judges 18:31 and The Book of Psalms 78:60 also refers to this last resting place, And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. It remains here for some 350 years, as indicated in 1 Kings 6:1 and Acts 13:20. But in The First Book of Samuel 4:3, it is packed up and moved. Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. By the time the battle is over, 30,000 Israelite men were dead, and according to 4:11 the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. The ark is captured by the Philistines (then returned to Jeruselem much later), while the tabernacle was moved to Nob, and then Gibeon as we see in The First Book of Chronicles 21:29 and The Second Book of Chronicles 1:2.

There is no indication in the scripture what became of the tabernacle itself, although some claim that it was destroyed in Solomon’s Temple, where it had been stored.

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