The Origin of Masonry 2

Part II. The House Erected to God

E. Cromwell Mensch

The House, which it was decreed in the wisdom and counsels of Deity aforetime should be built, was the Tabernacle of Moses, and not the Temple of Solomon. The Tabernacle was the vehicle used by Moses to bring the word of God to the people he had led out of Egypt. It was the shrine around which these Israelites gathered after they had migrated into Palestine. It served that purpose for something like 200 years, but had fallen into disuse by the time David came into power. Realizing the importance of the Tabernacle, David planned to replace it with the structure now known to history as Solomon's Temple. In this replacement an attempt was made to copy the Tabernacle's design, the secrets of which had been lost ever since the death of Moses. The secrets of this design were concealed by Moses in the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible. Therein lies the key to Masonry, for the Temple was merely an imperfect copy of the Tabernacle.

There are two sets of specifications covering the building of the Tabernacle in the Book of Exodus. Those in Chapter 26 represent the command of God that the House should be built. Those set forth in Chapter 36 are the specifications for the actual building of the House. Exodus 36:8 is the starting point, and states that every wise hearted man that wrought the work of the Tabernacle made ten curtains of Fine Twined Linen. These curtains were 4 cubits wide and 28 cubits long. Five of them were coupled together, and the other 5 were coupled together. The result was a pair of curtains, each half of which contained 5 strips. The total width of each set of 5 strips was 20 cubits, for the individual strips were 4 cubits wide. This 20 cubits coincided with the width of the House. When assembled, they were raised over the House to form a gable roof. As there were 10 strips in all, they represented the digits of a pair of hands raised in supplication.

From this symbolic meaning it will be seen why Moses placed these curtains as the first item in his list of specifications. It was his admonition to us that no man should ever enter upon any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of God. There were several thousand people engaged in the building of the House, and, obviously, only a small percentage were actually engaged in the fabrication of these curtains. And yet the language is clear, for it says "every wise hearted man that wrought the work of the tabernacle made ten curtains." Those who chose to engage in the work were first prepared in their hearts, or became "wise hearted." They all "made" ten curtains, for this was the sign of a pair of hands raised in supplication.

The second item in the specifications was the curtains of Goats' Hair. They were superimposed above those of Fine Twined Linen, and were 4 cubits wide by 30 cubits long. There were 11 of these curtains, and this fact has stumped the experts for centuries. Ten of them may be arranged to match the 10 curtains of Fine Twined Linen. Being above the first set of curtains, those of Goats' Hair represented a pair of hands stretched forth in benediction. That this is so is gleaned from the fact that this is the only specification in Chapter 36 that needs to be filled in from the supplemental information contained in Chapter 26 of Exodus. This Chapter 26 contains the command of God, and this second pair of curtains symbolized His hands stretched forth in benediction.

Exodus 26:9 and 26:12 dispose of the 11th curtain of Goats' Hair by stating that it shall be doubled over in the forefront of the Tabernacle, and the remnant that remaineth, the half curtain that remaineth, shall hang over the backside of the Tabernacle. In other words, the 11th curtain of Goats' Hair was cut into 4 strips, each 1 cubit wide, to form the drip for the gable part of the roof. Exodus 26:13 explains how the eaves were formed on the ends, for it states that the length of these curtains shall hang over a cubit on the one side and a cubit on the other side.

The length of these Goats' Hair curtains was 30 cubits, which was symbolic of the 30 days of the solar month. The length of the curtains of Fine Twined Linen, which were protected from the sun by the upper curtains, was 28 cubits. They were symbolic of the 28 days of the lunar month.

The gable roof arrangement of the curtains of Goats' Hair formed an isosceles triangle, each leg of which was 30 cubits long. The length of its base is obtained from Exodus 26:13, which states that the curtains shall hang over a cubit on the one side and a cubit on the other side. This called for a base of 52 cubits, for the Court which encompassed the Tabernacle was exactly 50 cubits wide. The actual length of the Tabernacle was 48 cubits, which left a space of 1 cubit between each of its ends and the adjacent wall of the court. This space was approximately 24 inches wide and, no doubt, sheltered the original eavesdroppers. No such arrangement was possible in the Temple, for it was encompassed by 3 banks of chambers, which were set into the walls of the main structure.

These triangular spaces formed in the east and west walls of the Tabernacle were called pediments. They were covered with the Rams' Skins dyed red specified in Exodus 36:19. Like the roof curtains, they also were 4 cubits in width, and 12 of them exactly fitted into the 48 cubits width of the base of the pediments. There were 12 of these curtains in the east pediment, and 12 in the west pediment — together they symbolized the 24 hours of the day.

This Rams' Skins dyed red was a translucent material, and as the sun rose in the east the interior was filled with a soft, red glow. The sun at meridian height came down through an aperture in the roof, but only on occasion. As the sun was in the west at the close of the day, the soft tones which filtered through the Rams' Skins dyed red again permeated the interior. Above them were placed the Badgers' Skins, which were opaque, and were manipulated like window shades to control the lighting effects. There was no such arrangement in the Temple, for neither roof curtains nor rams' skins were employed in its construction.

The lower part of the Tabernacle was sheathed with boards, 20 of them being specified for the south wall, and a like number for the north wall. According to Exodus 36:21, these particular boards were each 10 cubits long and 1½ cubits wide. Two of them, placed end to end, matched the 20 cubits width of the House, which makes it obvious that the 20 boards in both north and south walls were arranged in two stacks of 10 boards each. This height of 10 boards in each panel was symbolic of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 36:27 specifies 6 boards for the west wall of the Tabernacle. These 6 boards were laid out end to end, and formed the bottom course for the 6 panels into which the west wall was divided. Each board was 8 cubits long, and the total length of the wall was 48 cubits. Each panel was 10 boards high, or 15 cubits, for each board was 1½ cubits wide. Actually, the 6 panels of the west wall were laid out by means of a mathematical formula, which Moses designated as Jacob's ladder. This fact was unknown to the builders of the Temple, for they made the west wall of their structure 60 cubits long. The interior of the Temple was sheathed with boards, and obviously the 6 boards they used were each 10 cubits long.

The height of the Tabernacle at the apex of its roof was 30 cubits; its depth, or width, was 20 cubits; and its length, which was across the breadth of the Court, was 48 cubits. The first two dimensions were faithfully copied into the design of the Temple, for it was 30 cubits high by 20 cubits deep. But the length of the Temple, as given in I Kings 6:2, was 60 cubits. This discrepancy over the 48 cubits length of the Tabernacle is prima facie evidence that the builders of the Temple did not possess the secrets of the design of the original House. In other words "that which was lost" was the secret design of the Tabernacle, which had not been discovered at the time Solomon built his Temple.