Symbolism Behind the Golden Lampstand of the Wilderness Tabernacle

Golden Lampstand
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The golden lampstand in the wilderness tabernacle provided light for the holy place, but it was also steeped in religious symbolism.

While all the elements inside the tabernacle's tent of meeting were overlaid with gold, the lampstand alone—also known as the menorah, golden candlestick, and candelabrum—was constructed of solid gold. The gold for this sacred furniture was given to the Israelites by the Egyptians when the Jews fled Egypt (Exodus 12:35).

Golden Lampstand

  • The golden lampstand was a solid gold, cylindrical in form, seven-branched, oil-burning lamp, used in the wilderness tabernacle.
  • The lampstand is described in great detail in Exodus 25:31–39 and 37:17–24.
  • The practical function of the golden lampstand was to shed light in the holy place, but also represented the life and light God gives to his people.

Characteristics of the Golden Lampstand

God told Moses to make the lampstand from one piece, hammering in its details. No dimensions are given for this object, but its total weight was one talent, or about 75 pounds of solid gold. The lampstand had a center column with six branches extending from it on each side. These arms resembled the branches on an almond tree, with ornamental knobs, ending in a stylized flower at the top.

Although this object is sometimes referred to as a candlestick, it was actually an oil lamp and did not use candles. Each of the flower-shaped cups held a measure of olive oil and a cloth wick. Like ancient pottery oil lamps, its wick became saturated with oil, was lit, and gave off a small flame. Aaron and his sons, who were designated priests, were to keep the lamps burning continually.

The golden lampstand was placed on the south side in the holy place, opposite the table of showbread. Because this chamber had no windows, the lampstand was the only source of light.

Later, this type of lampstand was used in the temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues. Also called by the Hebrew term menorah, these lampstands are still used today in Jewish homes for religious ceremonies.

Symbolism of the Golden Lampstand

In the courtyard outside the tabernacle tent, all items were made of common bronze, but inside the tent, close to God, they were precious gold, symbolizing deity and holiness.

God chose the resemblance of the lampstand to almond branches for a reason. The almond tree blooms very early in the Middle East, in late January or February. Its Hebrew root word, shaked, means "to hasten," telling the Israelites that God is quick to fulfill his promises.

Aaron's staff, which was a piece of almond wood, miraculously budded, bloomed, and produced almonds, indicating that God chose him as high priest. (Numbers 17:8) That rod was later put inside the ark of the covenant, which was kept in the tabernacle holy of holies, as a reminder of God's faithfulness to his people.

The golden lampstand, made in the shape of a tree, stood for God's life-giving power. It echoed the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). God gave Adam and Eve the tree of life to show that he was their source of life. But when they sinned through disobedience, they were cut off from the tree of life. Even still, God had a plan to reconcile his people and give them new life in his Son, Jesus Christ. That new life is like the almond buds blossoming in springtime.

The golden lampstand stood as a permanent reminder that God is the giver of all life. Like all the other tabernacle furniture, the golden lampstand was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the future Messiah. It gave forth light. Jesus told the people:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)

Jesus compared his followers to light as well:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)

Bible References to the Golden Lampstand

Resources and Further Reading

  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, General Editor
  • The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, Editor
  • Smith's Bible Dictionary, William Smith
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Zavada, Jack. "Symbolism Behind the Golden Lampstand of the Wilderness Tabernacle." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2021, learnreligions.com/golden-lampstand-of-the-tabernacle-700108. Zavada, Jack. (2021, April 5). Symbolism Behind the Golden Lampstand of the Wilderness Tabernacle. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/golden-lampstand-of-the-tabernacle-700108 Zavada, Jack. "Symbolism Behind the Golden Lampstand of the Wilderness Tabernacle." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/golden-lampstand-of-the-tabernacle-700108 (accessed August 4, 2021).