Old Testament Description
In the Old Testament the Israelites were given plans regarding the building of the Temple, however they were travelling in the wilderness at this time and so were never permanently staying in one place. This meant that they needed a portable version of the Temple: a sacred place where the priests could offer sacrifices and serve God but that could also be transported with them when they travelled. This portable version of the Temple was called the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle, just like in the Temple in Jerusalem, had a curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, the section of the Tabernacle where God’s presence was thought to reside. In Exodus 26 it says that the curtain was made of fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet threads and had cherubim embroidered on it. It was hung from four pillars of acacia wood which were overlaid with gold and rested on bases of silver, and from hooks of gold. All these elaborate decorations were to emphasise just how special this sacred place that the curtain veiled was.
In Exodus 40:3 it says that the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Most Holy Place, behind the curtain, which was to veil it. The curtain was to keep this section of the Tabernacle divided from the other parts, to keep it holy. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and he could only do so once a year. In Leviticus 16, strict instructions are given as to the rituals he had to perform before he could pass the curtain, and what he must do once there.