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Bible Dictionaries
Camp, Encampment

Holman Bible Dictionary

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A temporary settlement for nomadic and military people. In the Old Testament English translators usually use “camp” or “encampment” to translate Hebrew machaneh . A machaneh is a temporary settlement of travelers or warriors. Before the settlement in the Promised Land, Israel was a group of tribes on the move. Hence the frequent reference to “the camp” or “the camp of Israel” ( Exodus 14:19; Exodus 16:13 ). Leviticus and Deuteronomy contain laws regulating life “in the camp.”

Each tribe also had its own camp: Numbers 2:3 speaks of “the camp of Judah”; Numbers 2:25 of “the camp of Dan.” After each tribe had secured a permanent place of residence in the Promised Land, the term “camp” designated a military settlement, whether of Israel ( 1 Samuel 4:3; 1 Samuel 14:21 ) or of an enemy (2 Kings 7:10 ). The Hebrew word machaneh is often rendered “company” ( Genesis 32:8 ,Genesis 32:8,32:21 ), “host” (Exodus 14:24 ), and “army” (1 Samuel 17:1 ). The context in these instances calls for a word which designates the people of the camp rather than the settlement as such.

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament machaneh is rendered parembole , literally “a putting alongside.” This word appears in Hebrews 13:11 ,Hebrews 13:11,13:13 and in Revelation 20:9 . In the last passage it is used figuratively of the church, “the camp of the saints,” under attack by the forces of Satan. Its use in the two Hebrews citations is also figurative, drawing upon the time when the people Israel lived as camp and using that experience as a metaphor for the people of God at the time the author was writing. During Israel's years in the wilderness, sin offerings were burned outside the camp. When Jesus was put to death for the sins of mankind, He was led outside the Holy City and at a distance from the Temple. The writer of Hebrews thus encouraged his fellow Christians to follow their Lord “outside the camp” of Israel's sacrificial system and of their Jewish religious heritage, even though that could mean bearing abuse.

Thomas A. Jackson

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Camp, Encampment'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​c/camp-encampment.html. 1991.
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