Ladder to Heaven

2 Chronicles 3-4, the Chronicler’s account of the temple, uses the phrase “left and right” several times. Jachin and Boaz, the two pillars, are “left and right” at the porch (3:17). Ten basins are set up in two groups of five on the left and right of the court (4:6). Inside the holy place, ten lampstands and ten tables are similarly divided “left and right” (4:7-8). In the inner sanctuary are two cherubim who stand behind the ark to the left and right (the phrase is not used, but the placement is obvious, 3:10-13).

If you were to walk from the court to the most holy place, you would pass between these left-and-right furnishings, in this order: Between the water basins in the court, between the bronze pillars at the threshold, between the lamps and the tables, through the veil to appear before the throne that is shadowed by the wings of cherubim.

The symbolism is thick. This is the progression of the priest on the day of atonement. The high priest was the only one who actually climbed this ladder to heaven. But the arrangement depicts the movement of sacrifice, the progression of every worshiper who draws near to God: First he is cleansed as he passes through the water, then anointed to become a lamp, until he comes to the bread of Yahweh’s presence in Yahweh’s house.

It is a marital liturgy. When Ruth prepared to meet Boaz on the threshing floor (cf. 2 Chronicles 3:1!!), she washed, anointed herself, put on festive clothes, and went to the feast. The temple furnishings form a processional pathway for Bride Israel to draw near to Yahweh (in the person of the Aaronic priest).

More abstractly, the gauntlet of water, pillars, lamps, tables is similar to the covenant-cutting of Genesis 15, when Yahweh walked between the divided carcasses of a heifer, goat, ram, and birds to seal His promise to Abraham. A movement through the gauntlet of basins, pillars, lamps, tables is a movement of covenant renewal.

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