The Courtyard and its Altar

Moses is next instructed in building the Altar which is to sit in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. The Altar is to be a hollow box built of wood and covered in copper. Its utensils, too, should be copper. It is to have four raised corners, or horns, a base and a meshwork trim around its middle. Like the Table and Ark, it is to have wooden poles for carrying the Altar, this time covered in copper.


The courtyard itself is to be demarcated by an open-air enclosure made from linen curtains suspended between pillars. The pillars are to have copper sockets, and hooks and bands of silver. At the entrance to the courtyard, an ornate screen of the same woven fabric described in the Tabernacle covers will sit, allowing visitors to enter from either side.


The Israel Bible points out that the hollow Altar, which is to be filled with earth at every stop, symbolizes the temporary nature of the Israelites’ life in the desert. When they arrive in Israel, they are to build an Altar of stone, which represents their permanent home in the Promised Land.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

What do you think is the significance of plating the Altar in copper, when the other vessels in our portion are plated in gold?

Comments ( 11 )

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  • A. Copper is more fireproof than gold.
    B. The outside of copper is like gold: the same shine. So whatever shine came from the gold (the heavenly things), also has to come from the copper (the earthly things).

  • Thank you all for your arguments, I agree with them, but just to add, that altar was plated with bronze which is a mixture of copper and tin.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    The courtyard was an active work place for the under priests. Nearly all of the sacrificial work was done either at the entrance to the tent or on or near the altar. This sacrificial work pictures the removal of sin and redemption. There is a laver for washing (cleansing). The court pictures redemption from sin and corruption. T
    The Israelites were directed to bring various types of offerings to the priests on their behalf (meal offerings, peace offerings, burnt offerings, sin offerings…).
    The Holy and Most Holy are most often not pictures of sin but represent purity and non corruption. The exception is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
    The nearer one is to God, the higher quality of association.
    Levites served in the court, the priests served in both court and holy, the High Priest served in all three (court, Holy, Most Holy).
    The Tabernacle and Temples represent the Lord’s salvation to Israel through Levitical mediation. The long awaited day is when the Great Atonement has been applied.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    In Israel there are at least two full size replicas of the Tabernacle of the Wilderness. One is in the far south at Timnah Park and the other in the Jewish community of Ariel (in Samaria).
    1) in Timnah

    2) I could not find any updated links to the one in Ariel. Old links only show a work in progress, but the tabernacle model has been completed a few years ago.

    • Thanks for sharing! When I first moved to Israel, I was living in the town of Shilo. Before the building of the Temple, Shilo was where the Tabernacle stood once the Children of Israel settled the land of Israel. The main synagogue in Shilo is built to look like the Tabernacle. Though not an exact replica, it’s dimensions and objects within have a very special feel to them.

  • Diana Brown

    The blood will not discolor copper as it does silver and gold. It is a durable metal? Holding up to the fire within it.

    • It’s so interesting to see the practical side of God’s commands as well.

  • Magda

    I think for practical reasons – a hardier metal than gold and thus more suitable here. I read a chabad article referring to the 3 types of metal used in the tabernacle, gold, copper and silver, as representing 3 types of Jews/ people. Would like to know your ideas on this.

  • Sharon

    I have heard copper has properties that kill germs. I watch a lot of day type of shows and many people cover their food prep areas in copper. I thought it is so amazing how people suddenly discover something, call it new and from the very beginning it was always there.

    • So interesting-and thanks for the tip! There are many laws that have multiple reasons for them, but we have seen their health benefits as well. Circumcision, the laws of family purity, and kosher laws to name a few. It would make sense to use a material that kills germs where blood and meat are being put.

  • Donna

    Melting point? Also, the altar is in the courtyard and not in the actual Tabernacle, so further removed from the Holy of Holies, so less precious metal used as to reflect that position?

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