The Fillets of the Tabernacle
And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.—Exodus 25:10, 11
Fillets of silver? What is a fillet? If you are like me, you may have imagined it as sort of an ornamental door know attached to the top of each post to give the court a nice finished look. In The American Heritage Dictionary, we have two definitions for fillet when used in an architectural sense.
First: “A thin flat molding used as a separation between, or ornamentation for, larger moldings.” Second: “A ridge between the indentations of a fluted column.” That would suggest, either a strip of silver at or near the top of each pillar or, alternatively, vertical strips of silver separating flutes on the columns.”
So, which is it? A decorative knob topping each column? A strip of silver banding at or near the top of each column? Or do we have fluted columns with vertical strips of silver? The correct answer—as in so many of our school tests of earlier times—is . . . none of the above.
Fillet is a poor translation for the Hebrew chashuq. Lets note Strong’s definition: “Strong’s # 2838 chashuq; or chashuwq; past participle of 2836; attached, i.e. a fence-rail or rod connecting the posts or pillars:—fillet.”
Carrying this one step further, lets look at the root word, Strong’s # 2836, “chashaq (khaw-shak’); a primitive root; to cling, i.e. join, (figuratively) to love, delight in; elliptically (or by interchangeable for 2820) to deliver: KJV— have a delight, (have a desire, fillet, long, set (in) love.”
The German Bible translates it well with the word “bindestaebe—from binder. “to bind,” andstaebe, “a rod.” In other words, a binding rod to connect two posts together
So now that we have learned what the “fillets” or “bindestaebe” were, who cares? Of what practical value is this information? We will approach this question from two standpoints: the practical purpose in the type; and the lesson for us in the antitype.
The court of the tabernacle was surrounded by a series of posts or pillars from which were suspended a large white curtain some seven and half feet high and just under four hundred feet in length. This linen curtain would have to be of thick linen to withstand the climate and winds of the desert and therefore would be quite heavy—perhaps as much as a thousand pounds.
Now if you were to just put the posts upright by themselves there would be little stability. Therefore there were heavy copper sockets for the posts to fit into. Undoubtedly these sockets would be sunk into the desert sand for even greater steadiness. This gave them vertical strength, but they would be subject to some heavy desert winds at times.
Therefore a system of guy wires were used to strengthen the wall. A copper pin was placed outside in the desert, and another one inside the court. These were joined by a cord which was connected to the post. Now there was great strength against winds either pushing the wall in or out. These provisions are described in Exodus 27:19.
If we hang our curtain from two of these posts, two things hapopen: first, the curtain tends to droop in the center (and remember, these posts were seven and a half feet apart); and, second, there is a tendency for the weight of the curtain to pull the posts together. Multiply that tendency times the number of posts involved and you can readily see the problem.
Here is where our bindestaebe, or connecting rods, come in. If we join these two posts with a rod and attach the hooks to the rod we have—Voila!—a curtain rod. Now the curtain can hang straight across. And now, notice the increased stability.
These, then, are the two practical reasons for these connecting rods, mistranslated fillets.
To look at the lesson in the antitype, we want to begin by quoting three paragraphs fromTabernacle Shadows, pages 113 and 114:
“The posts which stood in the “Court,” and upheld the white curtains, represented justified believers—the “Court,” as we have already seen, represented the justified condition. The posts were of wood, a corruptible material, thus implying that the class typified are not actually perfect as human beings; for since human perfection was typically represented by copper, those posts should either have been made of copper, or covered with copper, to represent actually perfect human beings. But although made of wood they were set in sockets of copper, which teaches us that though actually imperfect their standing is that of perfect human beings. It would be impossible to more clearly represent justification by faith.
“The white curtain, which, sustained by those posts, formed the “Court,” well illustrated the same justification or purity. Thus, justified ones should continually hold up to the view of the world (the “Camp”) the pure linen, representing Christ’s righteousness as their covering.
“The silver hooks, by which the posts held up the curtain, were symbolic of truth. Silver is a general symbol of truth. The justified believers, represented by the posts in the “Court,” can thus really and truthfully claim that Christ’s righteousness covers all their imperfections. (Exod. 27:11-17) Again, it is only by the aid of the truth that they are able to hold on to their justification.”
The justification spoken of here is what we frequently term “tentative justification,” because he is speaking of the Christian in the “court” condition, before they reach the point of consecration at the “door” of the Tabernacle.
This is the justification spoken of in Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
Notice how the next verse distinguishes this condition from “the grace wherein we stand”—the grace of spirit begettal in the consecrated condition, pictured by the holy of the Tabernacle, with the use of the little four letter word also. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
The function of the posts, picturing the justified believers, is to hold up to public view their faith in Christ, represented by the linen curtain. This, brethren, is our purpose for being. This is why we are here. To show forth the mercy and goodness of Christ’s redemptive work, as Paul says, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”
Stability in our Belief
But, standing in our own ability, we often find that our faith is weak and we fail in this God-given task of showing forth our belief in Christ’s justifying work. The four things which gave the court posts their stability are lessons to us in those helps we have to maintain our own steadfastness in faith.
First, the sockets, being made of brass, show our standing in justification—being reckoned as perfect human beings (brass, or copper) despite the actual fact of our personal imperfections. It is for this reason that we are judged as to faithfulness on our intentions rather than on our actions.
“For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”—2 Corinthians 8:12
Now, with rejoicing we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13).
Sockets in the Sand
To give greater rigidity to the posts, these sockets were sunken in the sand. A quick side trip to the Great Pyramid may help us appreciate this lesson.
What would you say was the most important room in that imposing structure? We probably would all answer, “The King’s Chamber,” but that really is not true. There is another room around which the entire pyramid was constructed. This room was immovable because it already existed before the pyramid was built. Therefore the architect—the divine architect—had to plan around this natural phenomenon.
I am speaking of the “Grotto,” that small uncarved chamber that sits right at ground level and is intersected by the well shaft. This “grotto” is shown on the Chart of the Ages by figure “f,” where we see a second cross in a shaded area. That shows the death of Jesus as an Israelite, having earned the reward of keeping the law—everlasting life—surrendering that perfect life as a ransom for all, and providing a release for the Jew from “the curse of the cross.”
It is in the recognition of the total humanity in Christ that we see the full measure of equality for father Adam. It is thus that our faith becomes “rooted,” and the philosophy of the ransom begins to appear. It is of this which Paul speaks in Colossians 2:7—Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Our Guy Lines
But there is more to the philosophy of the ransom that prevents our faith from becoming weak and unstable. This is shown in the system of guy lines which uphold the wall of the court.
These were suspended from copper pegs—tent pegs. One of these was installed inside the court and the other on the outside. Being copper, as opposed to wood covered with copper, they showed actual human perfection.
As we scan the pages of history we see just two—and no more—perfect men: Adam and Jesus. We see the one who lost his standing in the court, Adam, as the peg driven outside the fence. The other, grounded firmly in the court, pictures Jesus. These two have one connection—the ransom—pictured by this cord even as it was by Rahab’s scarlet thread. It is this simple philosophy of the ransom—a perfect human life for a perfect human life—that gives stability to our faith. How beautiful! How simple! Substitutionary atonement is the central doctrine of the Bible.
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”—1 Corinthians 15:21, 22
“For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”—Romans 5:15
It is the very simplicity of the concept that speaks to its authenticity. Too good to be true? Too good not to be true! And yet our faith is sometimes weak. We need further support.
This is where the bindestaebe come in. These connecting curtain rods join post to post making the wall extremely rigid and solid.
Dear brethren, each of you is a post in the court. I am a post in the court. United we have a job to do—to show Christ to the world. Are you at times weak in your faith? Lean on me! When I am weak I will lean on you! We are not independent Christians, but dependant, even as one part of the human body is on every other part.
Using that illustration, the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:16—From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Now note that these binding rods are made of silver, as distinct from the copper posts and their sockets. Silver, in the tabernacle, is a picture of truth. It is truth that binds us one to another. It is truth that brings us together to study the Lord’s word. It is truth that was the magnet which drew us to this convention. And it is truth which must join us one to the other in this joyful task of holding up the image of Christ—his grace and his mercy—to those around us.
As Israel of old was assembled trice annually for their sacred feasts, so let us use every occasion to likewise gather together to feast over the precious truths the Lord is now serving his household.
“Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”—Hebrews 10:24, 25
“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.”—Malachi 3:16
“The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.”—Ecclesiastes 12:10
“My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.”—Job 33:3
The Great Commission
The Lord made very clear what he desires for us to do. It is rightly known as “The Great Commission” and is found in Matthew 28:19, 20 —”Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
So as we go forth from this gathering to fulfill this great commission, may it be with renewed vigor to stand upright in the grace of justification, with faith well rooted in the philosophy of the ransom, and joined to on another in the bonds of truth, speaking oft to one another on these spiritual matters.
And, as the Greek root word from which the word fillets or bindestaebe is translated has the further meaning of being set in love, so may the ties of Christian love bind us closer and closer in this most holy faith.
If we are faithful as posts in the courts of the Lord, some day the promise shall be ours of Revelation 3:12—”Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
It is then that we will be blest; yea, blest indeed for:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.