Andrews University Seminary Studies, Autumn 1991, Vol 29, No.3, 213-223

                                  Copyright ©1991 by Andrews University Press. Cited with permission.







                                                       RALPH E. HENDRIX

                                                         Andrews University



     Miskan and 'ohel mo'ed are names for the cultic dwelling place

of YHWH described in Exod 25-40.  This, the first of three studies on

miskan and o'hel mo'ed, will consider the etymologies of the terms,

their lexical definitions, and parallel terms found in non-Semitic

languages.  Particular attention will be given to their usage in

Ugaritic and their translation or interpretation in the LXX.  The

intention of this paper is to form some notion of the basic meaning

of these terms/phrases as a foundation for a second study which

focuses on their usages as witnessed within the text of Exod 25-40.

A third study will present the literary structure of Exod 25-40, which

these terms help to form.


1.  The Etymology and Lexical Definition of Miskan.

     Miskan is a nominal form of skn, a verb which has the meaning

of "self-submission" (once), "settle," "rest," "stop," "1ive in,"

"inhabit," "sojourn," "dwell" (in its qal form); "let/make to

live/dwell" (in the piel); "settle, "let/make to live/dwell" (in the

hiphil).2  Its Assyrian cognate is sakanu ("set," "lay," "deposit") which

yields the nominal form maskanu ("place," "dwelling place").3


     1The author wishes to express appreciation to J. Bjomar Storfjell, Richard M.

Davidson, David Merling, and Randall W. Younker, members of the faculty of the

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, for their patience

in overseeing the preparation of this and related studies.

     2W. L. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old

Testament (Grand Rapids, 1971), 369-370; F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs,

eds., The New Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old

Testament (BDB) (Grand Rapids, 1981), 1014-1016; L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner,

eds., Lexicon in Veteris Testimenti Libros (KB) (Leiden, 1958), 2:575; J. O. Lewis, "The

Ark and the Tent," RevExp 74 (1977): 545; E. Klien, A Comprehensive Etymological

Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English (New York, 1987), 391.

      3BDB, 1014.  See also A. L. Oppenheim and E. Reiner, eds., The Assyrian


214    RALPH E. HENDRIX:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


     The Hebrew noun miskan is generally understood to mean

dwelling place," the identity of which is determined by the context

in which the term is found.4  In addition, Holladay indicates its use

for "home," "tomb," and "(central) sanctuary."5  J. O. Lewis suggests

that skn is "rooted in the nomadic past of Israel and literally means

'to pitch a tent.'"6  He distinguishes skn from ysb, noting that the

latter is the normal term used for "dwelling in houses," from a basic

meaning "to sit down."7  That is, skn refers to a nonsedentary

dwelling place (Lewis suggests a tent) while ysb refers to a sedentary

dwelling place (e.g., a house).  Thus, one may arrive at the

preliminary conclusion that the verb skn refers generally to some

form of nonsedentary dwelling, perhaps "camping" in modern

parlance, and that the noun miskan therefore refers to the place of

that activity:  a nonsedentary "dwelling-place," a "camp," or perhaps

a "camp site."  The emphasis of miskan is therefore on the nature of

the camp--its nonsedentary nature.


Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, volume 10, part I

(Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 1977), 369-373, where the following basic definitions

for maskanu are given: "1. threshing floor, empty lot, 2. small agricultural settlement,

3. emplacement, (normal) location, site (of a building), base (of a statue), stand (for a

pot), residence, position, 4. tent, canopy; 5. fetter (for a slave), 6. pledge given as

security, and 7. sanctuary (?)."  Definition #4 indicates a broader meaning than simply

"tent" or "canopy" (372).  An appropriate interpretation may be "camp," as suggested

by at least two of the seven examples given.

     4BDB, 1015; J. J. Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus, 2d ed.

(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), 254.

     5Holladay lists these primary texts:  Num 16:24; Isa 22:16; Lev 15:31; and notes

the meaning as "(central) sanctuary (74 of 130 times), tabernacle Exod 25:9" (219).

     6Lewis, 545.

     7Ibid. Cf. Holladay, 146. F. M. Cross points out that the usual "priestly" word

for people "dwelling" was ysb, and was never used of YHWH except when referring

to His "throne" or "to enthrone" (F. M. Cross, Jr., "The Tabernacle," BA 110 [1947]:

67).  M. Haran ("The Divine Presence in the Israelite Cult and the Cultic Institutions,"

Bib 50 [1969]: 259) concurs with a differentiated use of skn and ysb in the

deuteronomic writings where skn speaks of "God's presence in a chosen place," but

ysb refers to "his staying in heaven."  For various uses of these two roots, see M. H.

Woudstra, The Ark of the Covenant from Conquest to Kingship (Philadelphia:

Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1965), 69-70.

MISKAN AND 'OHEL MO'ED                             215


     Especially important is the fact that no particular object is

inherently associated (etymologically) with the term, which may

apply either to a living being or an inanimate object. The breadth of

the meaning of miskan must be taken into account in determining its

use in context. To understand the meaning of miskan, one must ask:

"Dwelling place of what or of whom?"  The answer must be found in

the context.  In practice, the answer is subject to interpretation

flavored by theological and hermeneutical presuppositions.

      As a case in point, considerable discussion has been generated

concerning how miskan relates to the dwelling place of YHWH as

described in the biblical text. R. Friedman defines miskan as the

"inner fabric" over which is the "outer fabric" (‘ohel), both

comprising a "single structure."8  F. M. Cross defines skn "to

encamp" or "to tent"; therefore, he suggests that miskan originally

meant "tent" and later came to mean "the" tent par excellence.9  On

the basis of Ras Shamra evidence, G. E. Wright defines miskan as

"tent-dwelling."10  G. H. Davies takes a broader view, defining

miskan as "tabernacle, dwelling, dwelling-place, habitation, abode,

encampment"; however, he allows that the term may refer to the

"shrine as a whole" (Exod 25:9) or "virtually the holy of holies"

(Exod 26:1).11  Here then is provided the prevalent scope of

definition:  as specific as the "inner fabric" within the tent, yet as

broad as "abode" or "encampment."

     To add confusion, miskan is often translated "tabernacle," which

in turn, is derived from the Latin Vulgate's tabernaculum, meaning


     8R. E. Friedman argues that the Mosaic construction was just the right size to

fit into the Most Holy Place of the Solomonic Temple ("The Tabernacle in the

Temple," BA 43 [1980]: 243, 245).  Friedman's "outer tent" (miskan)/"inner tent" ('ohel

mo'ed) idea is clearly at odds with their relationship described in Exod 26:7 (see

below, in the main text).

     9Cross, 65-66.

     10G. E. Wright, "The Significance of the Temple in the Ancient Near East, Part

III:  The Temple in Palestine-Syria," BA 17 (1944): 72.

     11G. H. Davies, "Tabernacle," in IDB, 1962 ed., 4:498.  The breadth of this

definition is not justified in Exod 25-40.  Certainly Exod 26:1 is not only the "holy of

holies," as Davies suggests.  The larger context of which Exod 26:1 is a part (Exod

26:1-37; especially v. 33) includes both haqqodes ("the holy") and qodes haqodasim ("the

holy of holies").  In Exod 26:1, miskan refers to the two-compartment unit

216    RALPH E. HENDRIX:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


"tent."12  Since there is a completely different Hebrew word for

"tent" ('ohel), this use of tabernaculum is problematic.  Inappropriate

translation conveys a notion of synonymity, not evident in the

Hebrew, but adopted in modern theology. If the two terms are

identical, the meaning of phrases like Exod 26:7, "tent over the

tabernacle" (NIV), might remain obscure.  However, as the Hebrew

for that verse is le 'ohel 'al hammiskan, "to/for [the] tent on/over the

dwelling place," the distinction is apparent.  While it is certainly true

that the furniture within the miskan suggests a habitation or a

dwelling, the term itself is not synonymous with "tent."13

The trend of scholarly definition of miskan is correct; however,

as a broad term, it has often recieved too narrow a definition.  Miskan

almost always is automatically taken to mean "The dwelling of God"

or even redefined as "sanctuary," "tabernacle," or "temple," without

regard for the actual terminology.  It would be safer to state that

miskan connotes a special type of habitation; the term indicates the

presence of the dweller while emphasizing the temporary nature of

the dwelling place. In anthropological terms, this is a matter of

sedentary or nonsedentary habitation.

     If the dwelling place itself is nonsedentary, the dweller may be

seen as nonsedentary as well.14  This choice of nonsedentary

terminology may reflect the inculturalization of YHWH's commands

in Exod 25-40, since the people to whom YHWH uttered the

command to build the miskan were, as the biblical record shows,

nonsedentary.  A command to build a permanent, sedentary dwelling

(such as the later Solomonic hekal, "temple" or "palace") might well


     12See modern English translations: JB, KJV, NEB, NIV; see also Davies 4:498-506.

     13For a description of the furniture in terms of a habitation, see F. B. Holbrook,

"The Israelite Sanctuary," in The Sanctuary and the Atonement, eds. A. V. Wallenkampf

and W. R. Lesher (Washington DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1981),

23; Cf. V. Hurowitz, "The Priestly Account of Building the Tabernacle," JAOS 105

(1985): 28; cf. also Haran, 255.

     14Holbrook, 23.  That the earthly dwelling is "movable" does not mean the

spiritual counterpart is also movable, much less does it describe the heavenly Dweller.

To draw extended theological conclusions from the choice of terminology about the

nature of the spiritual analogue may unfairly overlook the inculturalization of

YHWH's commands in Exod 25-40.  This choice of terminology may indicate less

about YHWH's heavenly mobility than about His mode of communication with finite


MISKAN AND 'OHEL MO'ED                              217


have been incomprehensible or even reprehensible, given the

circumstances of the earlier period.  The writer called the dwelling

place by a term which was immediately understandable within his

cultural framework.  Miskan, it seems, calls to mind a nonsedentary

type of dwelling place: the "camp," not particularly a structure itself,

but a place where an object or a being abides.


          2.  The Etymology and Lexical Definition of 'Ohel Mo'ed

     The genitival construct 'ohel mo'ed is often translated "tent of

meeting" in modern versions.15  The Hebrew word 'ohel means

"tent."16  Variations of the word are found in Aramaic ('ahala'),

Phoenician ('h1), Ugaritic ('hl), and Egyptian ['(a)har(u)].17  The

Assyrian cognate is alu.18  The Vulgate translates both 'ohel and

miskan as tabernaculum (occasionally, tentorium), obscuring the

discrete meaning of the Hebrew terms.19  The term mo'ed is a

nominal form of the verb y'd: "designate," "appear," "come,"

"gather," "summon," "reveal oneself."  Its basic meaning is

"appointed time/place/ sign," "meeting place," "place of assembly,"

or "to meet by appointment."20  The word occurs in Ugaritic

(mo'idu) and Egyptian (mw'd).21


     15NIV, RSV, KJV = "tent of the congregation".

     l6Holladay, 5-6.  Cf. KB, 17; Klien,9; BDB, 13-14; J. P. Lewis, "'Ohel," Theological

 Wordbook of the Old Testament, 1980 ed., 1:15; Davis, 254.

     17Klien disallows a connection between the Hebrew 'hl and the Arabic 'hl (p. 9).

See Cross, 59-60; K. Koch, "'hl," TDOT, 1:123; Davies, 4:499.

     18BDB, 13. Oppenheim and Reiner indicate that alu had four basic meanings:

"1. city; 2. city as a social organization; 3. village, manor, estate; 4. fort, military strong

point" (Assyrian Dictionary, volume 1, part I, 379).  In each case, alu refers in some

respect to either a sedentary dwelling or sedentary dweller (ibid., 379-390).  This may

indicate a sedentarized origin for the nonsedentary Hebrew 'ohel.

     19Davies, 4:498.

     20Ibid; Holladay, 137-138, 186; Klien, 327; E. T. Mullen, Jr., The Divine Council

in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature, Harvard Semitic Monographs, no. 24

(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), 174-175; BDB, 417; and Lewis, 1:15.

     21MuIlen, 117, 129; J. A. Wilson, "The Assembly of a Phoenician City," JNES 4

(1945): 245.

218    RALPH E. HENDRIX:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


     Combining the two words, the phrase 'ohel mo'ed carries the

notion "tent of the place of meeting/assembly/appointment," or

perhaps more interpretively: "tent where YHWH reveals Himself."

Brichto calls this the "Tent of Encounter" or "rendezvous."22  This

tent was the place of appointed gathering, known more by the event

associated with it (meeting, gathering, or assembly) than by its

physical character (hides over a wooden frame).  In the YHWHistic

cult, it was perceived to be the location of the ultimate cult event.

With 'ohel ma'ed, the focus is on the event: "meeting/assembly/

appointment/revelation."  This is quite distinct from miskan, which

focuses on the place rather than the event.


3.  Parallel Terms in Ugaritic Sources

    The Ugaritic language provides a lexical cross-reference for

Semitic-language documents written in the Middle Bronze in

(IIC) /Late Bronze I time frame.23  Useful for this study are cognates

for miskan and 'ohel mo'ed which appear in the Ugaritic corpus,

especially instances in which the terms are found in close literary



     22H. C. Brichto, "The Worship of the Golden Calf: A literary Analysis of a Fable

on Idolatry," HUCA 54 (1983): 23.

     23For a brief account of the discovery of the Ugaritic materials, see P. C. Craigie,

Ugarit and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983),

7-25; and A. Curtis, Cities of the Biblical World: Ugarit Ras Shamra (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 18-33.  See H. O. Thompson, Biblical Archaeology

(New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1987), xxv. Stratum 1.3 at Ras Shamra (ca.

1365-1185 B.C.E.) is the latest occupation of Ugaritic civilization on a site

continually occupied since Neolithic Stratum V.C, ca. 6500 B. C. E. (Curtis, 41).  The

'Aqhat and Keret epics, in which our words are found, are dated "between the seventeenth

and fifteenth centuries B.C" (Mullen, 2). See also J. Gray, The KRT Text in the Literature

of Ras Shamra: A Social Myth of Ancient Canaan (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1955): 2.

     The Egyptian equivalent for 'ohel mo'ed (mw'd) is also found in the Tale of

Wen-Amon (ca. 1100 B.CB.), referring to a city "assembly," and in a document from

Byblos (7th cent. B.C.E.); see Mullen, 129, n. 31; and Wilson, 245. For more on these

two documents, see Cross, 65; R. J. Clifford, "The Tent of El and The Israelite Tent of

Meeting," CBQ 33 (1971): 225; and H. Goedicke, The Report of Wenamun (Baltimore:

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), 123.

MISKAN AND 'OHEL MO'ED                             219


    The verb form skn occurs sixteen times in Ugaritic literature;

its noun form (msknt) appears twice.24  The paucity of occurrences

of msknt makes definition problematic.  Both occurrences of the noun

are plural and both seem to refer to the multitudinous gods' private

"dwelling places," not a meeting chamber or council place.25  The

Ugaritic equivalent of mo'ed is limited to a single occurrence of the

phrase puhru mo'idu meaning "the gathered assembly."26  An

equivalent to the Hebrew phrase 'ohel mo'ed does not appear in

Ugaritic texts.

     The equivalent term for 'ohel (Ugaritic, 'hl) does occur and is

especially important for this study in that the term occurs in

association with msknt in each of its two occurrences.27  Two lines

of the Keret epic read:

ti'tayu 'iluma la-'ahalihum,

daru 'ili la-miskanatihum.28

      Mullen provides the following translation, noting the

association of la-'ahalihum and la-miskanatihum:

The gods proceed to their tents

The assembly of 'El to their dwellings.29


     24Por a list of occurrences of skn, see R. E. Whitaker, A Concordance of the Ugaritic

Literature (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), 594.  For the occurrences of

msknt see p. 436.

     25This study follows the numbering system of A. Herdner, Corpus des Tablettes

en Cuneiformes Alphabitiques Descouvertes a Ras Shamra-Ugarit de 1929 a 1939 (CTA),

Mission de Ras Shamra, 10, 2 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1963), quoted

in Curtis, 80, 82.  The specific references are to CTA 17.V.33 and CTA 15.111.19; cf.

Whitaker, 436.  See also S. Segert, A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language: With

Selected Texts and Glossary (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984), 193; also

C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Manual (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1955), 327.

     26Mullen, 117, 129 (CTA 2.1.14,15,16-17.20,31).  Also Clifford, 224-225.  See I.

AI-Yasin, The Lexical Relation Between Ugarit and Arabic, Shelton Semitic Series, no. 1

(New York: Shelton College, 1952), 75.  For a note on 'hl, see ibid., 37.

     27Whitaker, 436, reads:  tity. ilm.l ah1 hm. / dr il.l msknt hm ...  The word 'hl [cf.

ahl] occurs in CTA 17.V.32; CTA 15.111.18; CTA 19.1V.214; CTA 19.1V.222; CTA

19.IV.212; ibid., 9.  Msknt occurs in CTA 17.V.32 and CTA 15.10.19; ibid., 436.

     28CT A 15.111.18-19.

     29Ibid. Mullen states that there is "here the parallelism of 'ahalihum and

miskanatum, thus equating the tent with the tabernacle structure (note 42).  The same

220    RALPH E. HENDRIX:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


     Here 'ahalihum ("their tents") is poetically associated with

miskanatihum (“their dwelling places").  However, there is no

equivalent Ugaritic phrase for 'ohel mo'ed.  The lack of an exact

parallel demands an interpretive step by the reader.  The terms are

associated in the Ugaritic, but perhaps not in the same way as they

are in the Hebrew.  One would expect identical phrases if the

Ugaritic and the Hebrew were synonymous or identical.  In fact, the

narrative speaks of a plural number of gods going to their plural

tents.  This is quite unlike the context of Exod 25-40 (and of the

whole MT which allows no plurality of true gods). In line 19, the

"assembly" is going to a plural number of "dwellings." The tents are

not "tents of assembly," or of "meeting," or of "appointment," or of

"revelation."  They are simply personal tents, private tents, not a

community tent.

     The word msknt also appears in the Ugaritic Aqhat epic:

h.tb'.ktr. l ahl,

h.hyn.tb'.l msknt30

H. Ginsberg provides the following translation:

Kothar departs for/from his tent,

Hayyin departs for / from his tabernacle.31

     Although "tabernacle" is a poor translation for msknt (better

would be "dwelling" or "dwelling place"), the terms 'hl and msknt

clearly associate linguistically, in poetic parallelism.  This parallelism,

however, does not necessarily imply synonymity.  The absence of the

equivalent for the Hebrew 'ohel mo'ed limits this passage's possibility

of clarifying the Hebrew text.  Thus, an in-depth analysis of this

Ugaritic text is unnecessary for the current study.


parallelism is common in Hebrew literature (cf. Num 24:5; Isa 54:2; Jer 30:18; etc,

where 'ohel and miskan are in parallel)."  Mullen accepts that the miskan "may be

equated with" the 'ohel, a conclusion accepted without critical evaluation (pp. 168-175,

passim) and therefore misunderstands the term as used in the Hebrew text.  Poetic

parallelism should not be confused with synonymity, either in the Hebrew text or in

the Ugaritic material, especially since there is a difference in actual terminology ('ohel

mo'ed compared with the Ugaritic 'hl) and a perceived contextual connotative nuance.

      30CTA 17.V.31-33; Whitaker, 436.

      31H. L. Ginsberg, "Ugaritic Myths, Epics, and Legends," in ANET, 151.  See his

n. 19 for the "for/from" alternative reading.

MISKAN AND 'OHEL MO'ED                             221


     Summarizing:  the Ugaritic literature witnesses two instances of

msknt, both times in close connection with 'hl.  While clearly in

poetic association, the words need not be synonymous. So, little

additional definition from Ugaritic sources is added to the definition

of miskan and 'ohel mo'ed already obtained from Hebrew (by way of

lexica and word studies).  No occurrence of "tent of assembly" ('hl

m'd) is witnessed in Ugaritic materials currently available.  In short,

the Ugaritic evidence shows a similarity in basic meaning between

the two terms (that is, both are places to inhabit), but does not offer

additional insight in regard to the nuance of their definitions.

The Ugaritic language makes no clear distinction in meaning

between the words msknt and 'hl, whereas the Hebrew clearly does.

The reason for this may be related to cultural factors.  The texts

quoted above are normally dated in the Middle Bronze III (IIC)/Late

Bronze I, between the 17th and 15th centuries B.C., when Ugarit was

already an urban center.  The chapters in Exodus, according to

traditional views on the authorship of the book and the internal

chronology of the book, deal with the late 15th century.  Israel was

at the time a pastoral and nonsedentary people who became

sedentarized much later.  Given these divergent cultural conditions,

it is possible that msknt and 'hl did not convey the

nonsedentary / sedentary differentiation simply because of cultural

constraints.32  Furthermore, it is possible that the miskan and 'ohel

mo'ed phraseology typical of contemporary Late Bronze Semitic

cultures may have been redefined when adopted into the terminolo-

gy of the YHWHistic religion.  Terms commonly used by

surrounding peoples, who had a pantheon of gods, were

inadequate-without redefinition-to convey the appropriate theo-

logical meaning within the YHWH cult.


4.  Parallel Terms in the Septuagint

     This work is concerned primarily with the contextual use of

miskan and 'ohel mo'ed in Exod 25-40 of the Hebrew.  The way these


     32"The reality of a period of Israelite nonsedentary pastoralism is currently the

subject of discussion within the archaeological community.  The issues are multiple

and complex, but some scholars contend for some sort of nonsedentary pastoralism

(see I. Finkelstein, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Jerusalem: Israel

Exploration Society, 1988).

222    RALPH E. HENDRIX:  Andrews University Seminary Studies


words are translated in the LXX is surveyed in a search for further

information.  Miskan is translated exclusively by skene, while the

common translation for 'ohel mo'ed is skene tou martyriou.33  Hence,

both miskan and 'ohel (in the phrase 'ohel mo'ed) are translated by the

same word skene.  W. Bauer defines skene as "tent" or "booth."34  J.

Thayer agrees with this definition--"tent" or "tabernacle"--and adds

that skn is used "chiefly for 'ohel [in the LXX and] often also for

miskan."35  Bauer notes the use of skene for both miskan and 'ohel in

his definition of he skene tou martyriou, "the tabernacle or Tent of


     Like the English and Latin translations, the LXX shows little

differentiation in its choice of terms for miskan and 'ohel mo'ed.37  As

a significant or textual tradition, the LXX witnesses to an

understanding of the Pentateuch which postdates its writings by

many centuries.  That both miskan and 'ohel mo'ed are translated most

often by skene may be attributed to several causes, one of which is

a diluted perception of their connotational nuance.  That is, by the

time of the LXX, the two terms had come to mean virtually the same

things; Israel had by then long been sedentarized.


5.  Summary and Conclusions

      The noun miskan (derived from the verb skn) means "dwelling,

place."  It concerns a "place" or "site" (similar to the modem word

"camp"), and carries connotations of transience.  It should not be


     33A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1949).

     34W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early

Christian Literature, trans. W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, 2d ed. rev. and aug. by F. W.

Gingrich and F. W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 754.

    35J. H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: American

Book Company, 1886), 577.

    36Bauer, 754.

    37The argument could be made that miskan and 'ohel mo'ed are synonymous, and

therefore the single Greek term is adequate for both.  The analysis of the use of these

terms in Exod 25-40 clearly shows the terms to be similar but not synonymous (see

note 2, above).  For a more comprehensive view of the occurrences of skene in Exod

25-40, see G. Morrish, ed., A Concordance of the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Zondervan

Publishing House, 1976), 222-223.

MISKAN AND 'OHEL MO'ED                             223


limited to a specific form of "dwelling" (particularly not the English

"tent" or Latin tabernaculum), as this leads to confusion with 'ohel.

The phrase 'ohel mo'ed is a genitival construct meaning "tent of

assembly" or "encounter."  It was the name of the structure in which

the Divine and human met, emphasizing the event rather than the


     Parallel terms found in the Ugaritic literature provide no

additional information beyond that already known from the Hebrew.

In fact, the Ugaritic literature offers only limited insight because the

word 'hl does not appear in genitival construction with mo'ed or its

equivalent.  Furthermore, the differentiation between the

nonsedentary and sedentary meanings of the words in Hebrew

appears to have been lost.38  As was noted, the reason for this could

well have been that Ugarit, unlike Israel, was sedentary and urban.

The LXX, by translating both miskan and 'ohel by skene, obscures

the meaning of the Hebrew terms.  It would seem that by the time

the LXX was translated, the words were understood as synonyms.

Again, the cultural setting of a sedentary and urban people would

have assisted in eroding the differences.  The Vulgate, likewise, fails

to distinguish between the two.

     Two future articles on miskan and 'ohel mo'ed will complete the

study of the meaning of the words.  The first will deal with the usage

of the terms in Exod 25-40.  The second will present an overview of

the literary structure of those chapters.  This introductory study has

shown scholarly insensitivity to the connotational nuance of the

words.  The next two studies will reveal the pitfalls resulting from

this insensitivity.


    38This suggestion, made to the author by David Merling, finds support in

Mullen (170), who recognizes "that the deities were pictured as tent dwellers, even

by the highly urbanized culture of Ugarit."  Mullen wonders at this anachronism, yet

misses the significance of this for interpreting the Hebrew text (see Whitaker, 436).

The vital point is that a nonsedentary (tent-dwelling) culture is being described by a

sedentary (urbanized) writer, thus potentially giving rise to the blurred terminological

nuance posited above.   


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Andrews University Seminary Studies

SDA Theological Seminary
Berrien Springs
, MI 49104-1500

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: