Nevertheless it was during their wanderings in the wilderness that a great tent or pavilion was fashioned to be the Tabernacle of the Lord and an enduring memorial to Israel wherein they might make atonement for their souls. And all the people brought precious vessels and offerings for its service, the chiefs of the tribes their gems, their gold and silver and brass, and all who had much, according to their means. Fine linen, dyed blue and purple and scarlet, silk, fleeces of rams and skins, oil for the lights and spices for sweet incense. All these were brought to Moses for the sacred adornment of the tabernacle; and even the poorest among them gave not less than half a silver shekel.

Within the tabernacle stood the altar of sacrifice; and in an inner chamber, veiled with embroidered curtains and named the Holy of Holies, was laid up the Ark of the Covenant between the Lord and his people Israel. This was a chest or coffer of acacia wood overlaid with gold, and within it were the tablets of stone and other precious objects. It was the most sacred symbol in Israel.

The whole tribe of Levi was devoted to the service of the Lord; and Aaron, who was himself a Levite, was at this time High Priest, and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, were priests who ministered under him. They had made solemn vows, and had been anointed and consecrated, and in their charge was the tabernacle and all that was within it. There they burned incense before the altar, and watched over the Ark of the Covenant, and fed with oil the seven-lamped golden candle-stick that burned in the holy place. And there they made sacrifice.

When in its simple beauty and splendour the tabernacle was completed, the elders of Israel met together in solemn assembly. And the glory of the Lord descended upon it, filling it as with a cloud with his radiance. It was an assurance to Israel of his presence there. When the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle, they continued their march; but when the cloud rested upon it they camped in the place where at that time they chanced to be, and remained encamped until the cloud was lifted. For this great pavilion with its embroidered veils and curtains was so constructed that these and its poles, its altar and the Ark of the Covenant, could be removed and borne on with them on their pilgrimage.

On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year after their escape from Egypt, the people of Israel left Horeb behind them and journeyed on through the mountainous gorges of the great and terrible wilderness of Paran until they entered the lowlands of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.

They were now nearing the southern borders of Canaan. Like a vision of paradise, hope and longing for it had been continually in their minds, the blessed goal of their long travail and afflictions. It was a country that no man among them had ever seen with his own eyes, and it was as yet strange to them and undiscovered. Twelve men were therefore chosen, one from each of the tribes, for a perilous venture. They were given orders to make their way across its frontier by stealth, and to spy out the land, whether it were good or bad, wooded or barren; what manner of people dwelt in it, their kings and chieftains, their cities and strongholds, the numbers of their armed men, their might and wealth.

After forty days’ absence the spies returned into the camp at Kadesh, burdened with fresh figs and pomegranates which they had plucked from the trees, and a vine branch with a cluster of grapes upon it so weighty and bountiful that it had to be carried between two of them, slung upon a staff.

They appeared before an assembly of the chief men of Israel and made their report. They told how wondrous rich in corn and pasture was the land they had seen, its groves of olives, its vineyards and fig trees and its abundance of milk and honey, for they had ventured on into the vale where Jacob had dwelt awhile when Joseph was a boy. But they reported also of the walled cities they had watched or entered, and the strong natural defences of the land, the power of its kings and the people over which they ruled and their men of war. And last, they told of the Anakim, a race of giants, men of prodigious strength and stature, that dwelt in the region of Hebron.

Of the twelve spies only two, Caleb and Joshua, the son of Nun, incited the assembly to march forward at once to invade the land, trusting in God to give them the victory. The other ten, daunted and discouraged by what they had seen, enlarged only on the mortal perils of such an enterprise, and filled the assembly

  By PanEris using Melati.

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