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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

House

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Bayith (בַּיִת, Strong's #1004), “house or building; home; household; land.” The noun has cognates in most other Semitic languages including biblical Aramaic. Bayith appears about 2,048 times in biblical Hebrew (44 times in Aramaic) and in all periods.

First, this noun denotes a fixed, established structure made from some kind of material. As a “permanent dwelling place” it is usually distinguished from a tent (2 Sam. 16:21, cf. v. 22). This word can even be applied to a one-room dwelling: “And he [Lot] said [to the two angels], Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house …” (Gen. 19:2). Bayith is also distinguished from temporary booths or huts: “And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him a house, and made booths for his cattle …” (Gen. 33:17). In Ps. 132:3 the word means “dwelling-living-place” and is used in direct conjunction with “tent” (literally, “tent of my house”): “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed.” A similar usage appears in 1 Chron. 9:23 (literally, “the tent house”): “So they and their children had the oversight of the gates of the house of the Lord, namely, the house of the tabernacle, by wards.”

Second, in many passages (especially when the word is joined to the word God) bayith represents a place of worship or “sanctuary”: “The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God” (Exod. 23:19). Elsewhere this noun signifies God’s temple in Jerusalem: “And against the wall of the house he built chambers round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle …” (1 Kings 6:5). Sometimes the word has this meaning although it is not further defined (cf. Ezek. 41:7).

Third, bayith can signify rooms and/or wings of a house: “And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the [harem] (literally, to the house of the women; Esth. 2:3).…” In this connection bayith can also represent the inside of a building or some other structure as opposed to the outside: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Gen. 6:14—the first biblical occurrence).

Fourth, bayith sometimes refers to the place where something or someone dwells or rests. So the underworld (Sheol) is termed a “home”: “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness” (Job 17:13). An “eternal home” is one’s grave: “… Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets” (Eccl. 12:5). “House” can also mean “place” when used with “grave,” as in Neh. 2:3: “Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers.…” Bayith means a receptacle (NASB, “box”) in Isa. 3:20. In 1 Kings 18:32 the “house of two seeds” is a container for seed: “And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain [literally, “a house of”] two measures of seed.” Houses for bars are supports: “And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places [literally, “houses”] for the bars” (Exod. 26:29). Similarly, see “the places [house] of the two paths,” a crossing of two paths, in Prov. 8:2. The steppe is termed the “house of beasts”: “… whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings [house of beasts]” (Job 39:6).

Fifth, bayith is often used of those who live in a house, i.e., a “household”: “Come thou and all thy house into the ark …” (Gen. 7:1). In passages such as Josh. 7:14 this word means “family”: “… And it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the Lord shall take shall come by households [literally, by house or by those who live in a single dwelling].…” In a similar nuance this noun means “descendants”: “And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi” (Exod. 2:1). This word can be used of one’s extended family and even of everyone who lives in a given area: “And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah” (2 Sam. 2:4). Gen. 50:4, however, uses bayith in the sense of “a royal court” or all the people in a king’s court: “And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh.…” The ideas “royal court” and “descendant” are joined in 1 Sam. 20:16: “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David.…”

In a few passages bayith means “territory” or “country”: “Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord …” (Hos. 8:1; 9:15; Jer. 12:7; Zech. 9:8).

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'House'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/h/house.html. 1940.

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