Places of Worship in the Old Testament

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on April 4, 2010


Both the temple erected by Solomon and the Mosaic sanctuary, which preceded it, could be designated as the house of Yahweh. The Mosaic sanctuary was called the tabernacle or dwelling (mishkan, Exodus 26:1; 36:8; 40:34–35; Numbers 9:15), or sometimes “dwelling of the testimony” (mishkan ha‘edut, Exodus 38:21; Numbers 1:50), because it contained the ark. The mishkan was covered by the tent (’ohel, Exodus 35:11), sometimes called the tent of meeting or “tent of appointment” (’ohel mo‘ed, Exodus 40:34–35; Leviticus 1:1; Numbers 4:30), also “tent of the testimony” (’ohel ha‘edut, Numbers 9:15; 18:2), so that both terms can refer to the movable sanctuary. The altar was in the court, or outer enclosure, of the dwelling (ḥatzer hammishkan, Exodus 27:9).

The sanctuary might also be referred to simply as the Lord’s tent (’ohel, Psalms 15:1; 27:5–6), his dwelling (ma‘on, Psalm 76:2), his “secret place” (seter, Psalms 27:5; 91:1), or his shelter (sukkah, Psalms 27:5; 76:2). After the building of Solomon’s temple, the sanctuary building proper was called the temple or palace (heikhal, Psalm 27:4; Isa. 6:1). However, the older terms continued in use. Zion, the site of the sanctuary from the time of David, was called the hill of the Lord (har Yahveh, Ps. 24:3) or his holy hill (har qodesh, Ps. 99:9). The psalmists speak poetically of the entire sacred precincts as the courts (ḥatzerot, Psalms 84:2, 10; 100:4) or gates (sha‘arim, Psalms 87:2; 100:4) of the Lord.


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