The word “tabernacle” as a noun means a dwelling place, typically a tent, although King David spoke of the tabernacle of his house. (Psalm 132:3) We usually associate “tabernacle” with the Holy Tent carried through the wilderness by the Children of Israel.
In Exodus chapter thirty-three Moses erected a tabernacle outside of the camp of the Israelites, and called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation. (Exodus 33:7) The language is confusing because this is not the Holy Tabernacle in which the presence of the Lord dwelled. The same Hebrew words are used to name both the tabernacle of Moses and the Holy Tabernacle. But the Holy Tabernacle was not prepared until Exodus chapters thirty-six through thirty-nine, and was not erected until chapter forty.
Sometimes the chapters of the Bible are not in chronological order, but even if the Tabernacle was erected before Exodus chapter thirty-three, the tabernacle of Moses was not the holy place designed by the Lord.
Special precautions were taken to assure that a foreigner or a stray animal would not enter the premises of the Tabernacle. The Bible tells us of no such precautions taken by Moses when he erected his tabernacle. The Holy Tabernacle was erected in the center of the Israelite encampment. The tabernacle of Moses was outside of the camp.
Only designated priests could enter the Tabernacle. Four times in the Book of Exodus the Lord gave instructions for the priests to follow so that they would not die. (Exodus 28:35, 43, 30:20-21) The priests were to come into the presence of the Most High God. They had to be properly prepared to do so. We can give Moses a pass, because he was of the Tribe of Levi and he had a very personal, face-to-face relationship with the Lord.
But Joshua could not make such a claim. Scripture tells us that Joshua not only went into the tabernacle of Moses, he never left it! (Exodus 33:11) I suspect that this is hint or foreshadow of the time when the namesake of Joshua, Jeshua/Jesus, sits at the right hand of God in the Heavenly Tabernacle. Jesus will not leave that Tabernacle until He returns as King of kings and Lord of lords.
I feel certain that the Book of Exodus describes two different tabernacles, even though the same words are used to name both of them. This is probably a good example of the necessity of “rightly dividing the word.” (II Timothy 2:15) It also shows the need and benefit of studying the Bible. The Lord wants us to search out the things of the Word of God.
Praise His name for His Holy Word! Always praise the Lord!