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In Exodus 33, Moses could enter the tent of meeting, and subsequently see God's glory.

Exodus 33:7-11

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it at a distance outside the camp. He called it the Tent of Meeting, and anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp. 8 Then, whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand at the entrances to their own tents and watch Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up and worship, each one at the entrance to his own tent.

11 Thus the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young assistant Joshua son of Nun would not leave the tent.

In Exodus 40, Moses could not enter the Tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34, 35

34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was unable to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Why was there this difference? What changed?

Leviticus 9 suggests Moses (& the priest) were unable to enter until they completed the sacrifices detailed in Leviticus. To clarify, part of my question is also why was Moses able to be so close to God's glory and presence in Exodus 33 without those sacrifices/rituals, and then suddenly unable in Exodus 40?

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There are several differences between the two situations including

  • the tent in Ex 33 was the temporary tent of meeting established while the main tabernacle was being built. It was immediately abandoned when the tabernacle was complete
  • In Ex 33 the temporary tent of meeting was pitched outside the camp. In Ex 40 the tabernacle was placed in the center of the camp.
  • in Ex 33 the temporary tent of meeting (outside the camp) had no tabernacle furniture such as the sacred menorah, the sacred table for shew-bread, the sacred altar of incense and the sacred ark of the covenant. The final tabernacle had all these things
  • lastly, the tabernacle, when finally complete was given a divine "tick" of approval by God by a slanderous show of divine glory that prevent Moses from entering at its commencement. This does not suggest that subsequently, Moses was unable to enter, else the priests would be unable to minister at all.
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  • Thanks Dottard. Leviticus 9 suggests Moses (& the priest) were unable to enter until they completed the sacrifices detailed in Leviticus. To clarify, part of my question is also why was Moses able to be so close to God's glory and presence in Exodus 33 without those sacrifices/ rituals, and then suddenly unable in Exodus 40?
    – whiskey92
    Commented Jan 28 at 9:40
  • + 1 The KJV is particularly confusing because it calls both tents the "tent of the congregation." The small tent was actually for a meeting between Moses and God alone. The tabernacle-tent was for the congregation of Israel. Commented Jan 28 at 18:22
  • @DanFefferman - Ex 33:7 says, "anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp' Thus, many people visited the tent.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 28 at 20:34

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