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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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In the Old Testament the word miqdas [ Exodus 25:8 ), where the Israelites offered their various kinds of offerings and sacrifices to the Lord under the supervision of the priesthood. As in English, however, where the word "sanctuary" can sometimes refer to a "refuge, " there are two instances where the Lord refers to himself metaphorically as the "sanctuary" (i.e., refuge) of faithful Israelites in distress (Isaiah 8:14; Ezekiel 11:16 ). The more abstract term qodes ("holiness, sacredness") also many times refers concretely to a "holy place" (e.g., Exodus 30:13 ).

In the New Testament hagios [ Matthew 24:15; Acts 6:13; 21:28 ). Other Old Testament and New Testament words may sometimes refer to or can even be translated "sanctuary" in some English versions, but none of them actually mean "sanctuary, " strictly speaking.

Although the Hebrew term miqdas [ Numbers 10:21 ), it most often refers to open air or housed sanctuaries as whole units, whether they be foreign "sanctuaries" (Isaiah 16:12; Ezekiel 28:18 ), multiple Israelite sanctuaries (whether illegitimate, Leviticus 26:31; Ezekiel 21:2; Amos 7:9,13 , or legitimate, e.g., Joshua 24:26 ), the tabernacle complex (e.g., Exodus 25:8 ), the Solomonic temple (e.g., 1 Chronicles 22:19; 28:10 ), the second temple (Nehemiah 10:39 ), or the future temple on Mount Zion (e.g., Ezekiel 37:26,28; 44:9-16 ).

When referring to the tabernacle, miqdas [ Exodus 25:8 a) as the special sanctified dwelling place of the Lord among his people, in the midst of which was the building known as the "tabernacle" (25:9) and over which they stretched a "tent" (26:7). It can refer to the multiple holy precincts within the tabernacle or temple complex (note the plural "sanctuaries" in Leviticus 21:23; Psalm 73:17; Jeremiah 51:51 ), the "holy place" where incense was offered (only once, 2 Chronicles 26:18 ), and possibly to "the Most Holy Place" (only once, Leviticus 16:33 a).

Like miqdas [ Exodus 30:13; 36:1; Leviticus 10:4; 2 Chronicles 29:5,7; Psalm 74:3; Ezekiel 44:27 ). However, it is also used alone or in various combinations to distinguish between certain holy precincts within the sanctuary, specifically, the area of the court near the altar sometimes referred to as "the holy place" (Leviticus 10:17-18 ), the outer "Holy Place" in the tabernacle or temple building itself (e.g., Exodus 26:33; 1 Kings 8:10; 2 Chronicles 5:11; Ezekiel 42:14 ), and the inner "holy place" (Leviticus 16:2; 4:6 ]) which is the "Most Holy Place"), where the ark of the covenant was located. When these terms are used together in the same context, miqdas [ מִקְדָּשׁ ] tends to signify the whole complex as a unit within which one would find the tent or house structure known as the qodes [ קֹדֶשׁ ] and all its various furnishings.

The Lord determined that he would dwell in a sanctuary in the midst of his "kingdom of priests, " his "holy nation" (Exodus 19:6; Psalm 68:32-35 ). They were to stand in awe and fear of this (Leviticus 19:30 ) as when they "trembled" at the Lord's appearance on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16 ). This sanctuary was the primary place where the Lord manifested his presence in the midst of Israel (Exodus 40:34-38 ) and, therefore, became the preeminent place of worship (Leviticus 9:6,22-24 ).

The Lord sanctified the sanctuary and with it an officiating "Aaronic priesthood" (Exodus 29:44; Leviticus 8:10; Numbers 7:1 ). To the latter he assigned the responsibility of maintaining the sanctity of the Lord's presence in the sanctuary (Leviticus 10:10-11,17; Numbers 18:1; Deuteronomy 18:5 ) lest the people "die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them" (Leviticus 15:31 ). However, because he was dealing with a sinful and unclean people who would inevitably defile the sanctuary, the Lord provided for its regular cleansing (see, e.g., the regular sin offering in Leviticus 4:1-5:13 ) as well as the annual cleansing and (re)sanctifying of the defiled sanctuary (Leviticus 16:19 ). Nevertheless, he warned that he would completely abandon his sanctuary if his covenant people abandoned him (1 Kings 9:6-7; 2 Chronicles 7:20 ), a threat he eventually acted upon.

Of course, the New Testament writers were, by and large, fully familiar with the Jerusalem sanctuary complex, but it was the writer of Hebrews who developed the theology of the "sanctuary" motif. He began with the "heavenly sanctuary" (8:22) as the model or "pattern" (8:5) of which the "earthly" and "man-made sanctuary" (9:1,24) was only a "copy" (9:23-24). In the Old Testament earthly sanctuary there was a tabernacle (tent) or building in which there was an outer room called "the Holy Place" separated by a veil from an inner room called "the Most Holy Place, " which only the high priest could enter and even he only once a year. Jesus entered the "holy of holies" of the "heavenly" sanctuary for us (9:25; cf. 8:1-5) when he sacrificed his own body as our High Priest once for all (9:24-25). By this means he, in fact, granted us direct access into the heavenly sanctuary and, indeed, the very presence of God (10:19; cf. 4:14-16).

Richard E. Averbeck

See also Altar; Offerings and Sacrifices; Priest, Priesthood; Tabernacle; Temple

Bibliography . G. D. Alles, The Encyclopedia of Religion, 13:59-60; D. N. Freedman, Temples and High Places in Biblical Times, pp. 21-30; M. Haran, Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel, pp. 13-57,149-204; P. P. Jenson, Graded Holiness: A Key to the Priestly Conception of the World; T. E. McComiskey, TWOT, 2:786-89; O. Procksch and K. G. Kuhn, TDNT, 1:88-115; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 2:271-330; D. P. Wright, The Disposal of Impurity .

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Sanctuary'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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