Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Michael Coogan's View of Yahweh's (Jehovah's) Tent

Coogan (134) believes ancient Israelites thought that YHWH lived in a tent (tabernacle or sanctuary) even in heaven--this idea supposedly is presumed in the Tanakh:

"That Yahweh's heavenly home was a tent is therefore presumed and is consistent with the relationship of Yahweh to the Canaanite high god El (see pages 88-90), who lived in a tent; the same word for 'dwelling' is used for the heavenly homes of the gods in Ugaritic, which are also called tents. At the same time, P appropriately incorporates a tent-shrine into its description of the fully developed worship of Yahweh that began at Sinai, during the journey from Egypt to Canaan: a movable shrine for a people on the move."

See Exodus 29:42-43; Numbers 7:89.

Granted, Ps. 15:1 rhetorically queries, "Jehovah, who doth sojourn in Thy tent? Who doth dwell in Thy holy hill?" (YLT)

But should this language be taken literally or pressed too far such that God is portrayed as matter-of-factly dwelling in a heavenly shrine with finite boundaries? Or does Coogan mean that we should imagine a heavenly dwelling that does not have earthly limitations?

In either case, I believe what we have in the dwelling texts is metaphorical speech, for the most part. There was a sense in which YHWH dwelled in the tabernacle and later, the temple. But I don't think one can infer that Jehovah lives in a heavenly sanctuary (literally) based on the biblical data. TDNT, volume VII argues that most (if not all) references about God's heavenly dwelling/skhnh are figurative or poetic.

Source: Coogan, Michael David. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2011.


Philip Fletcher said...

Let's not forget King Nebuchadnezzar's royal tent mentioned at Jeremiah 43:10. Boy it extended quite a distance. Interestingly the King James use the expression pavilion.

Duncan said...

Interesting to compare the NET rendering against the majority.

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for the scriptural reference, Philip. That would be an expansive tent/canopy or pavilion.

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for the links, Duncan. I also read NET's handling of 1 Chron. 17:5 and consulted the footnotes there. Interesting reading.