Lesson 52: Exodus 25–27; 30

“Lesson 52: Exodus 25–27; 30,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 52,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 52

Exodus 25–27; 30


Through the prophet Moses, the Lord commanded the children of Israel to build a tabernacle that would be a sanctuary where the Lord could dwell among His people. He gave detailed instructions for the building of each item that would furnish the tabernacle (see Bible Dictionary, “Tabernacle”).

Suggestions for Teaching

Exodus 25:1–9

The Lord instructs the children of Israel to build a sanctuary

Before class, find the statistical report given during the Saturday afternoon session of the most recent April general conference. You can find this in the most recent May issue of the Ensign or Liahona.

Display pictures of temples in the front of the class, and ask students some questions about temples, based on the statistical report. For example, you could ask how many temples were in operation at the end of the previous year, if any temples were recently announced, which temples are under construction, and so forth.

Write the following question on the board:

How are we blessed by building temples?

Invite students to watch for answers to this question as they study Exodus 25–27; 30. You may want to refer to the handout “Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai” (see lesson 48) and explain to students that after Moses and 73 others ascended the mountain, Moses asked them to remain while he ascended farther up the mountain to speak with the Lord.

Invite a student to read Exodus 25:1–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded the children of Israel to do. Invite students to report what they find.

Explain that a sanctuary is a holy place or a place of safety. The Lord wanted the children of Israel to build a tabernacle (or sanctuary). In our day, a temple is considered a sanctuary.

  • According to verse 8, why did the Lord command the Israelites to build a tabernacle? What can we learn about modern temples from this verse? (Students should identify the following truth: The Lord commands us to build temples so He can dwell among us.)

Explain that although the tabernacle Moses was commanded to build shared similarities with modern temples (such as priesthood ordinances being performed in both), the tabernacle functioned under the law of Moses and thus differed substantially from modern temples. However, both the ancient tabernacle and modern temples are the house of the Lord, where the Lord’s people can feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

To help students understand the preceding principle about temples, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy. Ask the class to listen for what it means for the Lord to dwell among us because we build temples.

Elder David E. Sorensen

“Temples have always symbolized being in the presence of the Lord. … There is a closeness to God that comes through consistent worship in the house of the Lord. We can come to know Him and feel welcome, ‘at home,’ in His house.

“… The simple presence of a temple should serve as a reminder of covenants we have made, the need for integrity, and the fact that God is never far away” (“Small Temples—Large Blessings,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 65).

  • When have you felt close to God because of the temple? How have you or someone you know been blessed by attending the temple and participating in sacred ordinances?

Ask a student to read Exodus 25:9 aloud. Explain that the tabernacle Moses was instructed to build was a portable temple. Read aloud the following statement by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder L. Tom Perry

“In order that they would have a centerpiece for their worship and activity, the Lord instructed Moses to build a tabernacle. The tabernacle was a forerunner of the temple, made portable so they could easily carry it with them” (“We Believe All That God Has Revealed,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 87).

Exodus 25:10–22

The Lord reveals details for building the ark of the covenant

Explain that the first tabernacle furnishing that Moses was instructed to build was called an ark. Point out the word ark in Exodus 25:10.

Ask students to look at Exodus 25:17, footnote a, to learn the meaning of the Hebrew word that was translated as “mercy seat” (“atonement-cover”).

Invite students to read Exodus 25:10–21 silently and draw on a piece of paper what they think the ark may have looked like. You might invite them to work in pairs, with one student reading aloud while the other draws. Before they read, explain that the word testimony in this case refers to the covenant and law that Moses would receive from the Lord; the term mercy seat refers to the lid of the ark; and the words cherubim and cherub refer to figures that represent heavenly creatures or beings, in this case with wings. (The word cherubim is the plural form meaning more than one heavenly creature. See Bible Dictionary, “Cherubim.”)

After sufficient time, invite students to display their drawings. Then invite a student to read Exodus 25:22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why the ark would be important to Israel.

  • Why would the ark be important to Moses and the children of Israel?

  • Based on what we learn from verse 22, how will the Lord bless us when we worship in the temple? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: When we worship in the temple, the Lord blesses us by communicating His covenants and commandments to us there.)

Explain that only in temples can we receive some of the ordinances required for our exaltation and learn certain sacred truths about the plan of salvation.

Exodus 25:23–27:21; 30

The Lord reveals the pattern for building and furnishing the tabernacle

Show the picture Temple Baptismal Font (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 121; see also

  • What do you think the 12 oxen around the baptismal font represent? What do you think is the purpose of the symbols used in the temple?

Invite students to ponder the possible meaning of the symbolism of the tabernacle as they continue to study Exodus 25–27; 30. On the board, draw only the outline of the tabernacle (in blue) as shown in the accompanying diagram.

tabernacle diagram

Explain that in Exodus 26 we read that the Lord commanded Israel to build the tent of the tabernacle with boards and curtains. He also commanded them to make a curtain called a veil to divide the tabernacle into two rooms. On the board, draw and label the Veil to create two rooms as shown in the diagram. Then invite a student to read Exodus 26:33–34 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the two rooms were called.

  • What were the two rooms called? (Label The Holy Place and The Most Holy Place as shown in the diagram. Explain that the Most Holy Place is often called the Holy of Holies.)

  • Which room was to house the ark? (The most holy place. Choose one of the student pictures of the ark and place it in the area of the board labeled The Most Holy Place.)

Explain that the ark (sometimes called the ark of the covenant or ark of the testimony) was the central feature of the tabernacle. It was placed in the Holy of Holies, which represented the presence of the Lord.

Explain that Exodus 27:9–18 contains the Lord’s instructions that linen curtains be placed between pillars to create a courtyard with a gate around the tabernacle. Draw the boundary of the outer courtyard on the board.

Assign students to read about and draw one of the following items found in the tabernacle. (You may want to write this list on the board.) Ask them to notice where each item was to be located. They could work in pairs or small groups.

After sufficient time, invite each student or group to report on the item they studied by showing their drawings and explaining anything they found about the item’s purpose and location in the tabernacle. Place one student picture of each item on the diagram on the board in the correct location. You may also want to label each item.

Point out that the sacred items of the tabernacle lead from the gate to the most holy place, where the ark is. Explain that these items and the ordinances performed with them were symbolic and were meant to teach Israel how to journey through life back to God. Invite students to suggest aspects of our journey back to God that each item in the tabernacle might represent. Students might suggest the following possible symbolic meanings. (If students have difficulty thinking of meanings, consider listing some of the following items on the board and letting students suggest matches between the meanings and the items in the tabernacle.)

  • Candlestick (with seven lamps): The Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost

  • Table of shewbread: The Savior’s body (similar to the symbolic meaning of the sacrament)

  • Altar of sacrifice: Giving ourselves completely to God, giving up sin, and relying on the great and last sacrifice of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

  • Altar of incense: Prayer (we can approach God through prayer)

  • Laver (basin of water): Cleansing, such as through repentance and baptism

Explain that although temples today look different and operate differently than the tabernacle, they still contain ordinances and symbols that help us prepare to walk back into the presence of God.

  • How would you summarize what the ordinances and symbols of the temple teach us? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: The ordinances and symbols of the temple teach us how to proceed faithfully through this life and eventually enter God’s presence.)

To help students understand some of the symbolism of the tabernacle, you may want to show the video “The Tabernacle” (7:18), in which a narrator walks viewers through a representation of how the tabernacle may have appeared. You may want to use this video as a review or in place of students discussing the symbolism of the tabernacle. This video can be found on Old Testament Visual Resource DVDs or on

Ask students to share how the temple has helped them draw closer to their Father in Heaven and the Savior.

Conclude by encouraging students to think about the symbolism of the ancient tabernacle the next time they attend the temple. You may want to share your testimony of temple worship.

Commentary and Background Information

Exodus 25–27; 40:34. Temples and the Tabernacle

From the beginning, the Lord has commanded His people to build temples—sacred structures where He can teach, guide, and bless them (see Bible Dictionary, “Temple”). The Lord told the Israelites to build a portable tabernacle that would be their temple while they traveled in the wilderness (see Exodus 25–27; 40:34; Bible Dictionary, “Tabernacle”). For additional information on modern temples, visit the Temples section of

Exodus 25:10–22; 37:1–9. The ark of the covenant

“The ark of the covenant was a chest, or box, of shittim wood overlaid with gold. It was approximately three feet nine inches long, two feet three inches wide, and two feet three inches high. Staves, or poles, on both sides allowed the priests to carry it without actually touching the ark itself. Inside, the tablets of the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai were placed (see v. 16). Hence, it was called the ark of the testimony or ark of the covenant. Later, a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod, which miraculously bloomed, were also placed inside the ark (see Hebrews 9:4). The ark was placed inside the inner room of the tabernacle known as the most holy place, or Holy of Holies. The ark was viewed with the greatest reverence by the Israelites, and prayers were recited before it was moved or placed in position (see Numbers 10:35–36).

“The lid, or covering, for the ark is described in Exodus 25:17–22. The King James Version translates the Hebrew word kapporeth (which means ‘seat of atonement’) as ‘mercy seat.’ The covering was made of solid gold and on it were formed two cherubim with wings which came up and overshadowed the lid or mercy seat.

“The word cherubim usually refers to guardians of sacred things. While the exact meaning of the word is not known, most scholars agree that these cherubim represented ‘redeemed and glorified manhood’ or ‘glorified saints and angels’ (Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. ‘cherubim,’ p. 75). Since Latter-day Saints do not believe that angels have wings, as they are often shown in religious art, the commandment to form wings on the cherubim may raise some questions. Another revelation indicates, however, that wings symbolically represent the power to move and to act (see D&C 77:4). Between these cherubim on the mercy seat, God told Moses, He would meet with him and commune with him. Latter-day revelations state that angels stand as sentinels guarding the presence of God (see D&C 132:19).

“The blood of the lamb of Jehovah was sprinkled upon the mercy seat during the sacred day of Atonement. … Paul and John both spoke of Jesus as being ‘the propitiation’ for our sins (see 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Romans 3:25). …

“Clearly, then, the ark of the covenant was one of the most significant features of the tabernacle, both in its importance to ancient Israel and also in its symbolic significance” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 148).

Exodus 25–27, 30. The symbols of the temple teach us truth

Sister Silvia H. Allred of the Relief Society general presidency testified that we learn in the temple through symbols and the power of the Spirit:

“The temple is a house of learning. Much of the instruction imparted in the temple is symbolic and learned by the Spirit. This means we are taught from on high. Temple covenants and ordinances are a powerful symbol of Christ and His Atonement. We all receive the same instruction, but our understanding of the meaning of the ordinances and covenants will increase as we return to the temple often with the attitude of learning and contemplating the eternal truths taught” (“Holy Temples, Sacred Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 113).