HEBREW WORD STUDY
HEBREW WORD STUDY
We’re excited to introduce another “deeper” resource to our Fusion Tribe: the Hebrew Word Study. We’ve featured a “Hebrew Word of the Week” graphic in our Table of Contents each week, but these articles offer a deeper dive into their meaning as well as their biblical and cultural contexts. Our prayer is that these articles will intensify your hunger for God’s Word.
If you’ve followed Rabbi Jason for any amount of time, you probably know that he loves to teach on the significance of Hebrew letters and numbers. For some time now, our weekly Torah Portion Guide (TPG) has featured a teaching article called, By the Numbers. This weekly feature has led us on a deeper journey into the connections between words and concepts in scripture based on their (shared, typically) numerical values.
These studies have not only expanded our theological knowledge but have deepened our sense of awe and wonder at God’s spectacular attention to detail!
In our inaugural article Hebrew Word Study, let’s take a closer look at the center of Jewish life and worship that we’ve been reading about in recent portions: the Tabernacle.
While the Hebrew word for “tabernacle” is mishkan, we find a different word in God’s initial interaction with Moses, “Have them make a Sanctuary [mikdash] for Me, so that I may dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:8
In the following verse, the Lord continues: “You are to make it all precisely according to everything that I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle [Mishkan] and the pattern of all the furnishings within—just so you must make it.” So what is the difference between mikdash and mishkan, the “Sanctuary” and the “Tabernacle”? The simple explanation is that while the word mishkan is specifically related to the Tabernacle that Moses and the Israelites erected in the Wilderness, mikdash is a broader concept, including the Tabernacle and the Temple (and their furnishings!).
The noun mishkan is a derivative of the verb shakan, which we find in v. 8 describing the purpose for the mikdash (“Sanctuary”): “…so that I may dwell [shakan] among them.” We see this word used apart from the Tabernacle in the story of Noah’s sons: “may [Japheth] dwell [shakan] in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:27). However, God’s dwelling (mishkan) would be unlike any other dwelling. It was to be a mikdash, a “Sanctuary.”
Hebrew is a Semitic language, and “most Semitic vocabulary is based on a lexical system in which each root word consists of a series of three consonants.” As we study Hebrew, we will examine this detail frequently—often referred to as a triliteral or triconsonantal root. In the case of miqdash, the following three Hebrew consonants make up its root:
The most common version and transliteration of this root is kodesh. If one removes the vowels from that transliteration, the root consonants (kuf-dalet-shin) are apparent. We can also see how mikdash is an expansion of this root. The word kodesh rarely appears in secular usage but is overwhelmingly employed in religious contexts. Consider its use in a broader cultural and historical setting:
The word occurs in several dialects of Akkadian with the basic meaning “to be clean, pure, consecrated.” In the Canaanite texts from Ugarit, the basic meaning of the word group is “holy,” and it is always used in a cultic sense.
Its formal definition is: apartness, holiness, sacredness. Now we see that the Tabernacle (mishkan) Israel assembled in the Wilderness was not to be a mere tent—it was separate, apart from anything the world had known. Remember: Adonai said He would “dwell” (shakan) in this edifice. He is the One of whom the seraphim cried, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3) or, for our purposes, “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.” The Prophet Isaiah was undone in the face of such purity and “otherness.” The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was also the Mikdash (Sanctuary) because the “Holy One [kadosh] of Israel” (Psalm 71:22) dwelled in it. His Presence is transformational!
Now consider the Apostle Paul’s words,
You have been built on the foundation made up of the emissaries and prophets, with Messiah Yeshua Himself being the cornerstone. In Him the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple for the Lord. In Him, you also are being built together into God’s dwelling place in the Ruach. (Ephesians 2:20-22 emphasis added)
Even more specifically, Yeshua’s final prayer included this request: “Make them holy in the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17.17). How would God make Yeshua’s followers “holy” (kadosh)? Much like the Tabernacle in Exodus, God would indwell them with His very Presence. As the Lord declared just before praying those words, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper so He may be with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him. You know Him, because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 emphasis added).
His indwelling Presence transforms us. As He fills us with Himself, we are qadosh, the holy dwelling place of God.
Nicholas R. Werse, “Semitic Languages,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016)..
Thomas E. Mccomiskey, “1990 קָדַשׁ,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 787.
Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the Tree of Life Version.
Continue to journey deeper with us and sign up for the weekly Torah Portion Guide. It is released with a new Hebrew Word Study every Thursday night. I know you will be blessed with these studies and so much more that is included.