Veil of the Tabernacle

Shekinah Glory Enters the Tabernacle
Public Domain

The veil, of all the elements in the wilderness tabernacle, was the clearest message of God's love for the human race, but it would be more than 1,000 years before that message would be delivered.

Also Known As: Curtain, a curtain of the testimony

Also called the "curtain" in several Bible translations, the veil separated the holy place from the inner holy of holies inside the tent of meeting. It hid a holy God, who dwelt above the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, from sinful people on the outside.

The veil was one of the most ornate objects in the tabernacle, woven from fine linen and blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. Skilled craftsmen embroidered figures on it of cherubim, angelic beings who protect the throne of God. Golden statues of two winged cherubim also knelt on the cover of the ark. Throughout the Bible, cherubim were the only living beings God allowed the Israelites to make images of.

Four pillars of acacia wood, overlaid with gold and with silver bases, supported the veil. It hung by gold hooks and clasps.

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest parted this veil and entered the holy of holies in the presence of God. Sin is such a serious matter that if all preparations were not carried out to the letter, the high priest would die.

When this portable tabernacle was to be moved, Aaron and his sons were to go in and cover the ark with this shielding curtain. The ark was never exposed when it was carried on poles by the Levites.

Meaning of the Veil

God is holy. His followers are sinful. That was the reality in the Old Testament. A holy God could not look upon evil nor could sinful people gaze upon God's holiness and live. To mediate between him and his people, God appointed a high priest. Aaron was the first in that line, the only person authorized to go through the barrier between God and man.

But God's love did not start with Moses in the desert or even with Abraham, father of the Jewish people. From the moment Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, God promised to restore the human race to a right relationship with him. The Bible is the unfolding story of God's plan of salvation, and that Savior is Jesus Christ.

Christ was the completion of the sacrificial system established by God the Father. Only shed blood could atone for sins, and only the sinless Son of God could serve as the final and satisfying sacrifice.

When Jesus died on the cross, God tore the veil in the Jerusalem temple from top to bottom. No one but God could have done such a thing because that veil was 60 feet tall and four inches thick. The direction of the tear meant God destroyed the barrier between himself and humanity, an act only God had the authority to do.

The tearing of the temple veil meant God restored the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9). Every follower of Christ can now approach God directly, without the intervention of earthly priests. Christ, the great High Priest, intercedes for us before God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, all barriers have been destroyed. Through the Holy Spirit, God dwells once more with and in his people. 

Bible References

Exodus 26, 27:21, 30:6, 35:12, 36:35, 39:34, 40:3, 21-26; Leviticus 4:6, 17, 16:2, 12-15, 24:3; Numbers 4:5, 18:7; 2 Chronicles 3:14; Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Hebrews 6:19, 9:3, 10:20.


Smith's Bible Dictionary, William Smith

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, General Editor.)

“Tabernacle.” The Tabernacle Place.

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Zavada, Jack. "Veil of the Tabernacle." Learn Religions, Dec. 6, 2021, Zavada, Jack. (2021, December 6). Veil of the Tabernacle. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "Veil of the Tabernacle." Learn Religions. (accessed June 5, 2023).