April 28, 2022

Finding Christ in the Golden Menorah


The menorah is one of the most recognized objects of the Jewish faith. It is a sacred lampstand used for worship and remembrance. Within the Tabernacle of Moses the only source of light was the oil-lit menorah. The symbolism of the menorah can teach us about our true source of light, even Jesus Christ, who lights our path as we make our journey back to the presence of God.

As the priest entered the Tabernacle, the first thing that would likely draw their eye was the beautiful golden menorah. The menorah was to be made of a talent of pure gold, or about 75 pounds or 34 kilos. This means we know the weight of the menorah, but we don’t know its dimensions. Unlike the recognizable Hanukkah menorah with 9 branches, the Tabernacle menorah had 7 branches. The number seven often represents perfection or completion. When one considers the story of the creation, for example, it was not perfect or complete until the Sabbath day when God rested having finished His work. Likewise, our week is not complete without the Sabbath day.

The menorah arms were decorated with almond buds, blossoms, and flowers reminiscent of an almond tree, the first tree in Israel to blossom in springtime. This could be symbolic of Christ, who was the first fruits of the resurrection. The rod of Aaron within the ark of the covenant was also flowered with almond blossoms. According to Jewish tradition, the decorated menorah also represented the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Thus, as the priest entered the holy place, he would find several symbols of Eden, the menorah, representing the tree of life and the cherubim on the veil, which guarded the way back to the presence of God. In Solomon’s temple, the room also had beautiful flowers and palm trees engraved on the walls, again connecting this sacred space with the symbolic journey back into the garden where God dwells.

The Bible teaches us that these beautiful tree-like details of the menorah were to be hammered into shape. This likely happened first by pouring the molten gold into a mold to get the general form, and then hammering the gold into shape. Through the hammering and beating of the gold, the beauty of the menorah came forth. Likewise, it is by the beating from the whip and the incredible suffering, bruising, and anguish of the Savior, which brought forth the resultant beauty of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

At the top of each of the seven branches was an oil lamp, which provided the only source of light for the Tabernacle. Only the purest of olive oil was used as fuel for the lamps to light the Holy Place. Olive oil was made by harvesting olives from an olive tree and then crushing the olives with a huge rolling stone. The mash of the olives were then placed into flat sacks and stacked beneath the olive press. A large beam with weights was cinched down, applying an incredible amount of pressure, causing the oil to run. The first oil to emerge was colored a dark red, almost the color of blood. The oil was then allowed to sit, the clean and clear oil rising to the top. Only the first pressing, which was the highest of quality, was used for lighting the temple menorah and anointing the priests. This pure oil would burn clean and clear because it had very few contaminants that would cause smoke. The next pressed oil, which was accomplished by adding more weight to the press, was used for cooking and for healing purposes. The last pressed oil was used for lighting the everyday Israelite home. This means that only the purest of the pressed oil was used to light the house of the Lord.

Beautiful symbolism that points to the Savior, can be found in the use of olive oil within the Tabernacle. Just before his crucifixion, the Savior prayed in what we often call the Garden of Gethsemane. The word gethsemane in Hebrew actually means an olive press, meaning that Jesus prayed in a garden that had an olive press. When describing this prayer, Luke wrote of the Savior, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Similar to the pressed down crushed olives, the Savior was pressed down by the sins of the world, the weight causing him to bleed from every pore. Just as the incredible pressure of the olive press is used to bring forth light, healing and anointing power, so too the suffering of the Savior brought forth the power of the atonement that gives light to those in darkness, healing balm from the sins and sorrows of the world, and anointing power to sustain us on our journey back to God.

Every morning and evening, these oil lamps were to be cared for to ensure that they were always burning. Aaron, the first high priest, was the first to have this responsibility. Aaron would trim away the blackened, burned portions of the wick and replace the spent oil. This twice daily service to trim, fill, and tend to the menorah coincided with the morning and evening prayers and sacrifices. Later, other priests were assigned to help with this duty. Just as the high priest Aaron tended daily to the oil lamps to keep them lit, we too must allow Christ, the Great High Priest, to tend to us each morning and evening so that we may  have His light. 

Just as the menorah was the only source of light for the entire Tabernacle, Jesus Christ teaches us that He is the one true source of our light. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Each of us has the daily opportunity to not walk in darkness by drawing near unto God in prayer every morning and evening and always. This simple yet powerful act can allow the Savior to trim the black-sooted parts of our lives as we experience sin, grief, and pain. He can refill our lamps with the essential oil needed in every aspect of our life. Our path back to God is lit by the Light of Christ, only made possible because of the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Savior. 

Script written by Heather Ruth Pack and Daniel Smith

Special thanks to Elder Alex Ducos, Ethan Fullmer, Elder Ryan Sampson, and Brian Olson for their help with creating the 3D model of the Tabernacle.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.