"over that a covering of dolphin skins" (26:14)
Throughout the years, this part of materials commanded has always caught my eye.
Dolphin skins - in the desert?
Here is what I have discovered:
The Israelites had just come out of slavery - not a position that attained much wealth - certainly not the amount God called for to build the Tabernacle. Here is just a few - Gold - 2800 lbs (not ounces, but pounds) - “Use a seventy-five-pound brick of pure gold to make the Lamp stand and its accessories." Silver - 9600 lbs, Bronze - 6700 lbs.
The Israelites would have carried a lot of the materials for the Tabernacle out with them from Egypt. Not an easy task I would think. We know that Moses commanded the people of Israel to ask the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelery and for clothing. These were given to the Israelites in large enough quantities for the Exodus record to state that they plundered the Egyptians.
"The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians." (Ex 12:35-36)
The covering was made from either badger or seal/dolphin skin (there is some uncertainty as to the correct translation from Hebrew). But there is no uncertainty as to its function: this covering formed a thick, protective, weatherproof layer over the Tabernacle. No amount of baking heat from the sun or wind-driven sand-storms or rain could disturb the treasure contained within the Tabernacle, thanks to this covering.
So whether all these goods were brought from Egypt or whether some things were gathered along the way, we cannot really tell. If the covering was porpoises, I found that they were very common at that time in the Mediterranean sea and actually swam up the Nile river quite a ways. They were harvested by the Egyptians and their skins used quite extensively for shoes and other leather garments. They say that it is a very soft supple skin similar to eel skin. From what I read about it they were considered a rather luxurious item, but were still fairly common in Egypt.
Also, even though the people of Israel were in the wilderness, if you check a map of possible routes, they were often not far away from the Red Sea, especially if Mt Sinai/Horeb was east of the gulf of Aquaba. Here is an interesting comment from Easton's Bible Dictionary:
"The dugong, very plentiful in the shallow waters on the shores of the Red Sea, is a marine animal from 12 to 30 feet long, something between a whale and a seal, never leaving the water, but very easily caught."
The Israelites could conceivably have sent hunting parties out to get the porpoise/dugong/sea cow skins, although nothing is mentioned about it, these items for the Tabernacle were donated by those with a willing heart.
"And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord's contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats' hair or tanned ram's skins or goatskins brought them" (Ex 35:21-23)
How awesome is this. He provided them with all these riches and those with willing hearts, brought it back to Him. To use for His glory. The way it's supposed to be - even today.
He supplied what was needed for the Tabernacle in the middle of the desert.
I keep going back to the dolphin skins. I think about their purpose - "to protect treasure contained within the Tabernacle from the elements". If it were to rain, the water would run right off. During sand storms, it didn't get torn apart, it was a solid shield. The heat would have been reflected off. The skins would have saved what it covered.
Dolphin skins - Protecting treasure contained within the Tabernacle.
Dolphin skins = Our Shield of Protection. The Holy Spirit. Christ Blood. His Word. Our ABBA. Protecting treasure = His treasure which is us.
Even the study of dolphin skins is a reflection of Him.