Question:

I have a question regarding the Tabernacle and the first Temple in the Old Testament: Was the Tabernacle the dwelling place of God and was the Temple the place of worship for the people? If so, when the first Temple was destroyed and tabernacle removed, how did the people worship God if there was no Temple and Tabernacle? They couldn't sacrifice in the Holy of Holies anymore, but how else did they worship?


Answer:

The tabernacle was the center of Israelite worship after the nation left Egypt and for the early part of its history. God told Moses, "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). It isn't that God literally lived in the tabernacle, after all, "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17:24-25). Rather, God gave the Israelites a place where His presence could be noted. "Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34).

Sacrifices were not done in the tabernacle proper, but in the courtyard outside the tabernacle (Exodus 40:33).

It was David's dream to replace the tabernacle with a permanent structure. "Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains"" (II Samuel 7:1-2). God declined the offer, but stated that David's son would be allowed to build a temple for God (II Samuel 7:5-13).

The Temple, then, served the same purpose as the tabernacle. The difference was that the temple was permanent instead of a tent structure. There were actually three temples. Solomon's was destroyed by the Babylonians. On the return from captivity, Zerubabbel built a replacement. Herod the Great then replaced that temple with a grander one.

While the Tabernacle and later the Temple was the focal point of Israelite worship, all worship did not take place there. For example, the priests would travel and offer sacrifices at various places (e.g. I Samuel 16:1-2). All worship wasn't sacrifices either, people continued to pray to God wherever they were located (e.g. Daniel 6:10).

During the time when the Temple was destroyed, the major feasts, such as Passover, were not celebrated. Yet, even while the Temple stood, there were several periods in Israelite history when the people forgot God and their worship and replace it with idolatry. Key points in Israel's history was when the sacrifices and feasts were resumed, showing Israel's return to God.

It is believed that during the Babylonian captivity is when the synagogues developed to give the people a place to gather, learn, and pray while they were in exile.