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Royal Priests of Eden

Did you know that Israel's tabernacle was designed as a symbolic garden of Eden? And did you know that Adam and Eve were proto-priests who lived and worked in the sacred space? Explore God's plan for humanity to serve as royal priests over all creation.

Themes Apr 13, 2021


  1. Describe or doodle a simple layout of the tabernacle. Now do the same for the basic design of Eden. What design features do these sacred spaces have in common?
  2. Discuss what humans are invited to do in the garden of Eden and the tabernacle (e.g. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:15; Numbers 4:16; Ezekiel 40:45-46; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 23:4-6). What do these tasks have in common?
  3. Why do humans rebel against God’s wisdom, and what are the consequences of this decision (e.g. Genesis 3, Proverbs 1:20-33, Jeremiah 2:7-9)?
  4. What does God promise to do so that humans can regain access to the sacred space and fulfill their roles as royal priests (e.g. Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 53:4-6, Ezekiel 36:33-35)?
  5. Take time to discuss other themes, questions, or key takeaways from what you learned together.

Scripture References

Numbers 6:22-27 Exodus 20:4 Genesis 1:26-27 Genesis 2:8 Genesis 2:8-9 Ezekiel 40:2 Genesis 2:15 Numbers 3:5-9 Genesis 1:28-31 Genesis 3:15 Genesis 4:1-4 Genesis 4:4-24


Introduction [00:00-00:41]

Tim: So if you lived in ancient Israel, one of the most important places was the tabernacle.

Jon: The tabernacle was a sacred tent that the Israelites carried as they journeyed to the promised land.

Tim: And it was sacred because it’s where the heavenly presence of Israel’s god lived on Earth. And the tabernacle had an important design to show just how special it was. There’s the outer courtyard, then an entry room into the tent, and it leads into the center of the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, God’s personal throne room. And it is guarded by these heavenly hybrid creatures called cherubim.1 Notice, the closer that you get to the center, the more sacred the space becomes.

Priests in the Tabernacle [00:42-01:11]

Jon: The people who work in the tabernacle are called priests. And they care for the sacred space, offer sacrifices on behalf of Israel, and announce God’s blessing over the people.2

Tim: Yeah. These priests represent God to the people, and they represent the people to God. So think of both the tabernacle and the priests who work in it like gateways that link together Heaven and Earth. And this is why the tabernacle was eventually brought up to settle on a mountain because mountains are where Earth meets Heaven.

Adam and Eve as Idol Statues in Eden [01:12-02:23]

Tim: Now, one thing that’s missing in this tabernacle that you would find in every other ancient holy space are idol images that physically represent the god.

Jon: Oh right. Israel’s God explicitly commanded them to not make any idol images.3

Tim: And that’s because, in the Bible, all humanity is God’s image! This is what we learn in the first pages of the Bible, where Adam and Eve—in Hebrew their names mean “human” and “life”—they’re called God’s image, which means they represent God in his holy space.4

Jon: And that holy space is a garden in a land called Eden.5

Tim: Yes, and the story’s designed to show that Eden is the reality that the later tabernacle symbolized and pointed back to. For example, look close at the descriptions of Eden. There’s the larger region on the land that’s called Eden, but then within Eden God plants a garden. And then in the center of that garden God plants the tree of life.6

Jon: The design of Eden matches the tabernacle design.

Tim: Yes, and there are details in the Eden story that are developed much later in the Bible, showing how Eden is on a high mountain.

Jon: Because they’re in a place where Earth meets Heaven.

Tim: Exactly.

Adam and Eve as Priests in the Garden [02:24-03:43]

Tim: And God tells these humans to work and to keep the garden. These are the same words that are used later in the Bible to describe what priests do in the tabernacle.7

Jon: So Adam and Eve are God’s image and are like priests, working and worshiping in a type of Heaven-on-Earth temple.

Tim: Yes. They represent creation before God. And as God’s image, they represent God to all of creation. And they do all of this in this sacred space that’s saturated with the life and presence of God. And so God tells them to rule creation on his behalf. They’re like priests who embody God’s heavenly wisdom and rule here on Earth.

Jon: You could call them royal priests.

Tim: Exactly. Now this whole set up—the royal priests in God’s presence where there’s abundance and life—in the book of Genesis, this is called God’s blessing.8

Jon: But it doesn’t last very long.

Tim: No. Humanity is deceived by this rebellious creature. They’re unsatisfied with being images of God, and so they make a grab at being God, ruling creation on their own terms.9

Jon: And so God exiles them from the garden.

Tim: And God places cherubim at the door of Eden to guard the way back in.

Jon: This is tragic. Humanity has given up the role God made them for.

The Promise of a Coming Royal Priest [03:34-05:34]

Tim: But it’s not the end. The rest of the biblical story is about God’s mission to undo this tragedy, so that humans can regain access to the Heaven-on-Earth place, where they can finally become God’s royal priests. It all begins with a promise that God makes to Adam and Eve, that he will raise up one of their descendants to rule over and defeat that deceiver. God says that this coming descendant will strike the head of that deceiver but also be struck by it.10

Jon: So this priestly figure will restore God’s blessing by offering up his own life, like a sacrifice. But this is still just a promise.

Tim: Yes. And so in the next story, we find the next generation outside of Eden. Two brothers at the door of the garden are offering sacrifices to God, kind of like priests.11

Jon: Maybe God will accept these offerings and they can get back into Eden.

Tim: But sadly, one brother, Cain, gets angry because God favors his brother Abel’s sacrifice. And so Cain murders his own brother. Then Cain is exiled even further from Eden and from God’s blessing. And over time, Cain’s anger plunges humanity into widespread violence.12

Jon: Humans really need that coming royal priest to rescue them.

Tim: Yes, and that’s the hope that this whole story is designed to generate. And so in the next few videos, we’re going to explore the theme of this coming royal priest throughout the story of the Bible. We’re going to see how the stories of Abraham and Moses and David all point forward to Jesus, who is the ultimate royal priest.

Jon: Jesus, the one who will restore the blessings of Eden.

Tim: So that all humanity can become the royal priests that we’re made to be, ruling the world together on God’s behalf.

1. Exodus 25-27
2. Exodus 28-9, Numbers 6:22-27
3. Exodus 20:4
4. Genesis 1:26-27
5. Genesis 2:8
6. Genesis 2:8-9
7. Genesis 2:15, Numbers 3:5-9
8. Genesis 1:28-31
9. Genesis 3
10. Genesis 3:15
11. Genesis 4:1-4
12. Genesis 4:4-24
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