“Moshe would take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far away from the camp. He called it the tent of meeting. Everyone who wanted to consult Adonai would go out to the tent of meeting, outside the camp. Whenever Moshe went out to the tent, all the people would get up and stand, each man at his tent door, and look at Moshe until he had gone into the tent.”-Exodus 33:7-9
One question that confronts us is why after all the elaborate and painstaking instructions provided for the construction of the Tabernacle is the Lord now meeting with Moses in a mere tent?
I mean the whole purpose of the Tabernacle was so God could dwell with man, but now it seems He has done an about face by communing with Moses in front of an ordinary tent.
I think this raises a couple of interesting points.
First of all, the Lord can declare anything He wants to be holy.
There wasn’t anything intrinsically holy about the Wilderness Tabernacle, or any other manmade thing for that matter.
The Lord could at the blink of an eye declare the room you’re sitting in right now as Holy and that would be that.
The Tabernacle was NOT built for the sake of the Lord, He had no necessity for such a dwelling place.
And this same notion will be expressed later when Solomon builds the temple.
“But will God really dwell on earth?
The heavens, even the highest heaven,
cannot contain you.
How much less this temple I have built!”
-1 Kings 8:27
The Tabernacle was for the sake of the people so they would have some form of visible evidence that assured them of God’s presence.
It was also an important teaching tool that reminded the people of God’s Law and His holiness.
Second, the whole present situation had turned into a huge mess because of the Golden Calf fiasco.
Israel’s rebellion had caused their relationship with God to be severed.
As a result, the Lord had removed His presence from Israel.
Notice the phrase “OUTSIDE THE CAMP” to indicate where Moses had erected the tent.
Some Rabbis have reasoned that Moses set up the tent outside the camp because Israel, after the Golden Calf, was deemed unworthy to have God’s meeting place with them inside the camp.
“INSIDE THE CAMP” referred to the ritually clean area of the tabernacle and its immediate surrounding area and “OUTSIDE THE CAMP” referred to the ritually unclean area outside of the designated perimeter of the Tabernacle.
However, the truth be told, at this stage, inside or outside the camp has no meaning because the Wilderness Tabernacle had yet to be constructed.
At the moment, the only clean area is that tiny little plot of land where Moses had erected that temporary tent to meet with God.