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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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A. Noun.

Mishkân (מִשְׁכָּן, Strong's #4908), “dwelling place; tabernacle; shrine.” This word appears 139 times and refers in its first occurrence to the “tabernacle”: “According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it” (Exod. 25:9). Mishkân is found primarily in Exodus and Numbers, and it always designates the sanctuary. With this meaning it is a synonym for the phrase “tent of meeting.” In total, 100 out of the 139 uses of mishkân throughout the Old Testament signify the tabernacle as “dwelling place.” God dwelt amidst His people in the wilderness, and His presence was symbolically manifest in the tent of meeting. The word mishkân places the emphasis on the representative presence of God: “And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright” (Lev. 26:11-13). Hence, sin among the Israelites defiled God’s “dwelling-place” (Lev. 15:31; cf. Num. 19:13).

Whereas the “tabernacle” was mobile, the temple was built for the particular purpose of religious worship: “… I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle” (2 Sam. 7:6). Solomon built it and the finished structure was known as “the house,” the temple instead of the dwelling place (mishkân) In later literature mishkân is a poetic synonym for “temple”: “I will not give sleep … until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob” (Ps. 132:4-5). The meaning of mishkân was also extended to include the whole area surrounding the temple, as much as the city Jerusalem: “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High” (Ps. 46:4), “the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (Ps. 87:2).

The defilement of the city and the temple area was sufficient reason for God to leave the temple (Ezek. 10) and to permit the destruction of His “dwelling place” by the brutish Babylonians: “They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground” (Ps. 74:7). In the Lord’s providence He had planned to restore His people and the temple so as to assure them of His continued presence: “My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek. 37:27-28). John comments that Jesus Christ was God’s “tabernacle”: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), and Jesus later referred to Himself as the temple: “But He spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:21).

In non-religious use mishkân is “the dwelling place” of an individual (Num. 16:24), of Israel (Num. 24:5), and of strangers (Hab. 1:6).

The usual translation of mishkân in the Septuagint is skene (“dwelling; booth”), which is also the translation for ‘ohel, “tent.” It has been suggested that the similarity in sound of the Hebrew shakan and the Greek skene influenced the translation. Another translation is skenoma (“tent; dwelling; lodging”). The translations in the KJV are: “tabernacle; dwelling place; dwelling; habitation.”

B. Verb.

Shâkên (שָׁכֵן, Strong's #7934), “to dwell, inhabit.” This verb, which occurs about 129 times in biblical Hebrew, is found also in other Semitic languages. In Akkadian sakanu, “to lay, to set up, to be situated,” has many forms, such as the noun mackana, “dwelling place.” One occurrence of the verb is in Ps. 37:27: “Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.”

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Tabernacle'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​t/tabernacle.html. 1940.
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