The tabernacle was the meeting place of God. This is clearly identified in the four names that are given to it. The most common name was mishkan (dwelling place). It was also called an ohel (tent). God’s mishkan would necessarily be an ohel. Both of these names are significant. It must be a mishkan because God will dwell with His people. But it must also be an ohel because God’s people dwell in ohels. God identifies with the lot of His people and dwells with them there. Furthermore, God’s desire to dwell with His people is reciprocated; the tent is constructed by the freewill offerings of the people (Exodus 25:1–7) which indicated their desire for Him.

Two other names that were used to identify this dwelling place of God were “tent of meeting” and “tent of testimony.” The “tent of testimony” implies that any meeting with God will be according to God’s law and would therefore be a witness to who God is and what He is (Psalm 78:1–7).

When the scholars were working on the Revised Version in the 1800s, this phrase “the tent of meeting” generated important discussion because there is no English word that can express the meaning adequately. The Scottish revisers were keen to use the word “tryst” which means an “appointed meeting” or an “engagement” but this was not accepted by the majority because it was not a widely used word. The Authorized Version translated it “tabernacle of the congregation” but this does not give the sense of the Hebrew word. The tabernacle, the place of Old Testament worship, was “a pre-arranged meeting,” a “meeting by appointment,” and implies that the people comply with the arrangements for meeting laid down by the Lord (Exodus 29:42–43).