Exodus 33:7

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the "tent of meeting." Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.

Exodus 40:24

He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle

What is the difference between tent of meeting and tabernacle?

  • 1
    The same expression, "tent of the meeting", is also visible in Exodus 38:30. Feb 1, 2021 at 19:07

3 Answers 3


Let me put this in some context about how the book of Exodus is structured.

  • Ex 1-18 describes a series of events leading up the Israelite arrival at Mt Sinai
  • Ex 19-24:11 describes the giving of the Israelite Covenant.
  • Ex 24:12 - 31:18 describes the detailed instructions Moses received directly from God to create the desert Tabernacle. This lasted 40 days (Ex 24:18) atop Mt Sinai. These instructions included the design and construction for a "tent of meeting", Ex 27:21, 29:4, 28:43, 29:10, 11, 30, etc.
  • Ex 32 describes the rebellion that occurred while Moses was still atop Mt Sinai, just before he descended to see the perversion associated with the Golden Calf.
  • Ex 33 describes the (temporary) tent of meeting pitched outside the camp (v7) used for this purpose while the greater, more permanent Tabernacle was being made by all the artisans, a process that took more than a year.
  • Ex 34 describes the new stone tables to replace the ones Moses smashed when he saw the golden calf worship
  • Ex 35-39 describes the construction of the the tabernacle equipment, including the final "tent of meeting". It was during this time that Moses' temporary "tent of meeting" was used outside the camp until the Tabernacle was complete. These construction activities included the final "tent of meeting", Ex 35:21, 38:8, 21, 30, 39:32, 40, etc.
  • Ex 40 - describes how the new Tabernacle was set up and inaugurated to become the "tent of meeting" at the center of Israel's encampment and economy. Ex 40:2, 6, 7, 12, 22, 24, 29, etc.

Once the Tabernacle with its "Tent of Meeting" was set up, the temporary one pitched by Moses outside the camp was never used again and is never mentioned.

I notice that Ellicott, Benson, Matthew Henry, Barnes, Matthew Poole, Gill, Cambridge Commentary, Pulpit, all reach the same conclusion that the tent of meeting in Ex 33 was a temporary arrangement until the greater more permanent Tabernacle with it courtyard, etc, was completed.

  • My understanding is that Moses removed the tabernacle from its place within the outer court and placed the tabernacle outside the camp because Jehovah wished to distance himself from the recent idolatry and desired to have done with the Hebrews and to make a new nation of Moses' seed. There, Jehovah appeared to Moses in a 'similitude' and spoke 'face to face' in likeness. Later, once issues were (more or less) resolved, the tabernacle was re-positioned as before, but without comment. I don't see any wording which precludes this view.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 14, 2020 at 10:27
  • @NigelJ - the subtlety of the Hebrew there is that use of the article which acts as a possessive pronoun thus effectively making it "my tent". In any case, when Moses pitched tent of meeting, the tabernacle did not even exist - that came later to become the permanent tent of meeting. Hence the above sequence of events.
    – Dottard
    Sep 14, 2020 at 11:04
  • But did not Moses continue to dwell in the tent (and Joshua with him) that was outside the camp's perimeter ? Pardon another question, I am not being argumentative. I am simply trying to have the correct concepts organised in my mind. (and +1, by the way).
    – Nigel J
    Sep 14, 2020 at 11:16
  • 1
    @NigelJ - No apologies necessary. We are not told. However, there are strong hints. Note Ex 33:8-11 & 34:33-35. Moses came out regularly (Joshua did not) and when Moses entered the tent, the people stood up. This suggests that perhaps he had another tent to live in at the time otherwise the people would stand almost permanently.
    – Dottard
    Sep 14, 2020 at 21:26
  • Thank you @Dottard Appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 14, 2020 at 23:37

Some say the tent of meeting (priestly) and the Tabernacle are used interchangeably. However, Exodus 40:30 makes it clear there is a difference. Exodus 40:30 (ESV): He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing

The altar was inside the Tabernacle, right near the entrance (verse 29). So setting the basin between the altar and the tent of meeting has to mean that the tent of meeting was the structure containing the holy place and the holy of holies.

  • Hi Ron, welcome to the site. Please be sure to take the site tour, and thanks for contributing! Apr 29, 2022 at 0:19

The confusion comes because there are two distinct ideas of Tent of Meeting.

Exodus 33:7 Young's Literal Translation

And Moses taketh the tent, and hath stretched it out at the outside of the camp, afar off from the camp, and hath called it, 'Tent of Meeting;' [Ohel Moed] and it hath come to pass, every one seeking Jehovah goeth out unto the tent of meeting, which is at the outside of the camp.

Call this one "Moses Tent of Meeting".

Exodus 40:24 Young's Literal Translation

And he putteth the candlestick in the tent of meeting [Ohel Moed], over-against the table, on the side of the tabernacle [Mishkan] southward,

Call this one "Priestly Tent of Meeting".

In Hebrew, both appears as אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד (Ohel Moed) but they are quite different.

Moses Tent of Meeting is placed outside of the camp while the Priestly Tent of Meeting is surrounded by the 12 tribes.

Numbers 2:2
'>Each by his standard, with ensigns of the house of their fathers, do the sons of Israel encamp; over-against round about the tent of meeting they encamp.'

Exodus 33:9

And it hath come to pass, at the going in of Moses to the tent, the pillar of the cloud cometh down, and hath stood at the opening of the tent, and He hath spoken with Moses;

The pillar of the cloud comes and goes at Moses Tent of Meeting but it stays at the Priestly Tent of Meeting.

Exodus 40:34 And the cloud covereth the tent of meeting, and the honour of Jehovah hath filled the tabernacle; 35and Moses hath not been able to go in unto the tent of meeting, for the cloud hath tabernacled on it, and the honour of Jehovah hath filled the tabernacle. 36And in the going up of the cloud from off the tabernacle the sons of Israel journey in all their journeys; 37and if the cloud go not up then they journey not, until the day of its going up: 38for the cloud of Jehovah [is] on the tabernacle by day, and fire is in it by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel in all their journeys.

Moses Tent of Meeting was a temporary shelter until the Priestly Tent of Meeting had been constructed.

Strictly speaking, the Tabernacle includes the Priestly Tent of Meeting and the court space containing the bronze altar. Further confusion comes when Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting are used interchangeably on occasions.

Numbers 3:25

And the charge of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting [is] the tabernacle, and the tent, its covering, and the vail at the opening of the tent of meeting, 26and the hangings of the court, and the vail at the opening of the court, which [is] by the tabernacle and by the altar round about, and its cords, to all its service.

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