The Priestly Tabernacle in the Light of Recent Research

By Frank Moore Cross

Frank Moore Cross Jr., “The Priestly Tabernacle in the Light of Recent Research,” in The Temple in Antiquity: Ancient Records and Modern Perspectives, eds. Truman G. Madsen (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 91–105.

The Pri​estly Tabernacle in the Light of Recent Research

Frank Moore Cross Jr.

 

Modern scholars who have imposed a multiple-strand analysis on the book of Exodus have often held that the tabernacle idea was “read back” by pious and priestly editors generations later. Here, Frank Cross presents evidence to the contrary, demonstrating that Moses built and used the tabernacle in the wilderness as a “place of meeting,” as an abode of Jehovah, as a place of washing and anointing, as a holy oracle so sacred that the unholy were forbidden to approach it or touch its furnishings. He also presents the evidence of other discoveries, archaeological and textual, which point to ancient sources for the temple and tabernacle complex of ideas.

T. G. M.

 

In 1947 I undertook to revise the standard view of the Priestly Tabernacle (described in Exodus 25–31, 35–40) as it had developed in nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholarship. [1] This view, which still represents the consensus of European scholars, holds that the Priestly account of the Tabernacle was the creation of a Priestly school which flourished after the fall of the First Temple, a fanciful vision designed for the future, projected back on Mosaic times-a “pious fraud.” In 1947 there seemed to be new ground upon which to reconsider the historicity of the Tabernacle traditions. Advances in tradition-critical analysis, and in the history of West-Semitic religion, have provided data which have shown repeatedly that the Priestly tradent (carrier of tradition) drew on older documents in his edition of the Tetrateuch. [2] Such documents are of various date, and, from the point of view of recent scholarship, were often used improperly to recreate Patriarchal or Mosaic times. Their misuse, however, was naive or unknowing, not the product of intentional fraud, pious or impious. Indeed, in my view, the description of the Tabernacle is derived from an older document belonging to the Temple archives, utilized by P (= the Priestly tradent) and turned to narrative use, first to reconstruct the commands of the deity as to the nature of the sanctuary to be built, and then to recount, in monotonous repetition (characteristic of P), the carrying out of these directives in the construction and establishment of the Israelite cultus. [3] While the Tabernacle as described in the document incorporated in the Priestly strata is perhaps too complex and richly ornamented to reflect a tent shrine of the Mosaic age, the description does appear to reflect an actual tent-shrine at some stage in the evolution of the tent sanctuaries used in early Israel. I have argued that the most likely candidate was the Tent of Yahweh erected by David in conscious imitation of Israel’s earlier shrines of the Ark and its cherubim throne. Further, it seemed clear as long as thirty years ago that the Tabernacle as described in P features many Canaanite or old West-Semitic elements not found in the Temple of Solomon, elements most unlikely to be introduced in a fantasy of late, orthodox priests.

In the last years new data have accumulated which, in my view, tend to confirm the essential historicity of the Priestly Tabernacle, at least as a shrine which existed at some stage in Israel’s early cultus, and which, perhaps more importantly, give insight into its origin and the meaning of its symbols and design.

1. The Tabernacle described in Exodus is richer and more elaborate than a simple nomad’s tent or a booth housing a portable palladium of battle. Here the scholars of a past generation were correct even if the conclusions they drew were wrong. Four sets of curtains were spread over a wooden skeleton of qerashim, latticework frames, [4] constituting a rectangular enclosure of two rooms. The structure has the proportions of three cubes, a double cube for the holy place and a single, perfect cube for the most holy place, ten cubits to each dimension. [5] The floor plan (but not other dimensions) has the same proportions as the Temple of Solomon if we ignore the Temple’s porch, ‘ulam. The floor plan of the Temple’s holy place and its most holy place consisted of three squares, twenty cubits to a side, two squares constituting the holy place, one square the holy of holies.

The parallel proportions of the inner rooms of the Temple and Tabernacle cannot be explained as chance. Evidently one has influenced the other or both derive from an older model. In the understanding of the Priestly tradent the proportions are derived from a tabnit, a model of the cosmic Tabernacle of Yahweh. This dualism of earthly/cosmic is characteristically Canaanite. The Canaanite temple was founded on New Year’s Day, identified with the foundation of the cosmic temple at creation, confirming the victory of the Divine Warrior over his enemies, who represent chaos and death. Reflecting the same dualism, each mountain on which a sanctuary was built was identified with the cosmic “mount of possession,” hr/gr nhlt, upon which the deity established his royal shrine or cosmic government. [6] For example, Zion is once given the epithet yarkete sapon, literally “Far North,” comparable to the Sidonian sacred precinct called shamem romim, “High Heaven.” [7] The epithet has generally been taken as an identification of Zion with Mount Sapon, the cosmic/earthly mountain of Ba’l-Haddu. However, it can apply equally to Mount Amanus, truly the “Far North,” the traditional mountain of ‘El, also referred to straightforwardly in Isaiah 14:13: “I shall be enthroned in the mount of the council (of ‘El) in the distant north (yarkete sapon).” [8]

We are inclined, therefore, to understand the proportions of both the Tent and the Temple as derived from an older mythic convention, the earthly shrine as a microcosm of the cosmic shrine. This need not mean that the precise measurements of the Tabernacle and Temple stem from a common source. The Priestly tradent may have calculated, so to speak, the measurements of the Tabernacle by reducing the measurements of the Temple, reckoning on the assumption—or knowledge—that both followed traditional proportions. Equally plausibly we could argue that the Temple in its basic floor plan preserved the proportions of the Davidic sanctuary, the first shrine of the empire, as it preserved much of the iconography of the older shrine. In any case the earthly shrine was conceived as preserving the proportions of the cosmic abode of deity in reduced measure.

2. In pursuing the question of Canaanite elements in the Priestly Tabernacle I wish to examine the term qéresh used of the rigid structure of the tent. Some have seized on this feature to insist that the Tabernacle is a “portable temple,” an anachronistic conception which could have come into existence only after the building of the Temple of Solomon. The term qéresh/qarsh is used of a divine abode only in one other context: it is used, probably in the plural, in the description of the tent of ‘El, the father and judge of the Canaanite pantheon. Here there can be no doubt. The term qéresh in particular points to the authenticity of the Priestly Tabernacle as an old tent shrine, not a temple in sheep’s clothing. Frequently, the tent of ‘El appears in stereotyped language in scenes of the meeting of the council of the gods. Here we find the formulaic pair: d/td and qrsh. The former term clearly means tent, as shown by my former student and present colleague Richard Clifford, referring in particular to its use in the ‘Aqhat Epic in parallel to ‘ahalīma[9]

The abode of the god ‘El warrants further description. ‘El’s tent is pitched in the far north, in Mount Hamon, whence ‘El’s epithet Ba’l Hamon. At the same time he dwells “in the midst of the sea,” that is, on the mount out of which spring the sources of the cosmic rivers (mabbike naharemi), in the midst of the fountains of the double-deep (‘apīqe tihamatemi). Several mythological themes come together here. The mount is the mountain of the assembly of ‘El, biblical har mo’Ed. Here also is the garden of God where grew the cedars of ‘El, biblical ‘arze ‘El.` [10] The cosmic river springing up from the underworld is also “Judge River,” tapit nahar, as in Mesopotamia the place of the river ordeal, the place of questioning or judgment, as one enters the underworld, whence the term she’ol. [11]

The curtains of the Tabernacle were fourfold. The innermost curtain of linen decorated with cherubim, traditional guardians of ‘El’s throne, is called the mishkan, “tabernacle” par excellence, as opposed to the outer three, properly the tent. This usage may be compared with the Aramaic term mshkn’ used in an inscription from Hatra applied to the forbidden, innermost part of a sanctuary (as shown by Delbert Hillers). [12] Above a set of curtains of goats’ hair, the usual stuff of tents, there is a set of curtains of sheepskin dyed red, a motif which survives in Arab portable shrines of red leather. [13] The outermost curtain is made of tahash skins. The term tahash has been a source of great puzzlement. It has a perfectly simple etymology, being cognate with Arabic tuhas, a word applied to small cetaceans, notably the dolphin. [14] An enormous amount of effort and ingenuity has been expended by Semitists in searching for an alternate etymology. In 1947 I favored an Egyptian derivation-a pis aller[15] For a time there was an Akkadian etymology-until Assyriologists discovered the putative etymon did not exist, its origin stemming from the misreading of a syllabic value. We are left with dolphin skins. One may easily see why dolphins’ hide appeared undesirable or unavailable for the manufacture of a desert tent. So far as I am aware, the first English version to give up the struggle and translate “dolphin” was the New Jewish Publication Society Translation. I must say that I find it hard to believe that priests bent on producing a fraudulent description of Moses’ Tabernacle would have chosen dolphin skin for outer curtains. However, once the connection between the Tent of ‘El and Israel’s tent-shrine is recognized, the difficulties dissolve. ‘El ‘s abode “in the midst of the sea” at the “fountain of the double-deep” provides the proper setting for a tent of dolphin skins. The dolphin is, of course, a favorite motif in Phoenician art, both on the mainland and in the Punic colonies where it is associated with ‘El and Tannit.

The ties between the iconography of Canaanite ‘El and the iconography of the Tabernacle are striking. Representatives of the god ‘El both at Ugarit and in the Punic West portray him as an old man with a long beard, wearing a high conical hat, ordinarily horned. While ancient and benign in physiognomy, he also appears powerful and vigorous. Characteristically this bearded god sits on a cherubim throne, his right hand lifted in blessing. [16] I believe that the cherubim throne, which if Eissfeldt is right has its origin in the Shiloh cultus, is ultimately derived from the typical iconography of ‘El. [17] This is wholly fitting if I am correct in identifying most if not all of the Patriarchal epithets of God as epithets of ‘El: (‘El)’ol am, “the ancient god,” is an epithet used in Canaanite, Phoenician, and in the Punic West, as well as in Genesis; biblical mélek ‘ol am “ancient king,” now appears in a recently published Ugaritic text applied to ‘El. A similar liturgical name of ‘El is malk ‘abu shanīma, “king, father of years.” This in turn is reminiscent of biblical ‘El gibbor ‘ăbi ‘ad, “El the warrior, eternal father,” [18] and of the white-haired “Ancient of Days” of Daniel 7. A number of other titles can be listed: (‘El) shadday, “the one of the mountain;” ‘El qEne ‘ars, “El creator of earth”; [19] and ‘El’elohe yisra’El, “‘El god of (the patriarch) Israel.” Indeed, the epithet of the cult of the Ark, yahweh seba’ot, may originate in an ‘El epithet, (‘El zu) yahweh seba’ot, “(‘El who) creates the (heavenly) armies.” [20] Continuities between the abode of ‘El and the tent shrine of Yahweh therefore occasion no surprise.

I am disposed to argue, in short, that the tabnit or model of the Tabernacle is derived ultimately from mythological conceptions of the Tent of ‘El. Further, the designation ‘ohel mo’Ed, the Priestly tradent’s favorite name of the Tabernacle, is to be translated “tent of assembly.” In Phoenicia in the early time mo’Ed is used of a political assembly; [21] at Ugarit mo’ed is also used of the council or assembly of the gods in the mountain of ‘El. ‘Ohel mo’Ed, “tent of assembly,” is thus the appropriate designation of ‘El ‘s tent, and at the same time of its earthly counterpart, the shrine of the Israelite federation where the league council met “before Yahweh.” [22]

3. A few words must be said about the history of Israel’s tent traditions. A most extraordinary statement is found embedded in Nathan’s oracle in 2 Samuel 7. Yahweh speaks in slightly prosaized poetry: “Indeed I have never dwelt in a temple (bet) . . . but I have moved about in a tent or in a tabernacle.” The assertion is that Yahweh’s shrine has always been a tent, and hence the king is not to build a temple. [23] The statement raises two questions. First of all, is it true that Yahweh’s legitimate shrine [24] was always a tent? One prose source in the Deuteronomistic history in fact refers to a hekal, “temple,” or bet Yahweh at Shiloh, the shrine of Eli and Samuel, and no doubt a major pilgrimage sanctuary of old Israel. Other sources, prosaic and poetic, refer to the shrine at Shiloh as a tent or tabernacle. In such cases credence should be given to the poetic sources, especially if they are old. Psalm 78:60 speaks of the sanctuary of Shiloh as a “tent” and “tabernacle,” and, in view of its early date, confirms the assertion of Nathan’s oracle. One may compare the early hymn of the Davidic cult which refers to the shrine of the Ark at Kiryat-Ye’arim as Yahweh’s mishkenot, “encampment.” [25] The second question is more important: what is the basis of the opposition by the prophet, and presumably other traditionalists in Israel, to the building of a temple or bet Yahweh to replace the old tent shrine? Clear expression of this opposition is lost in the overwriting of later generations after Solomon’s temple came into being and the traditionalists’ cause became moot. The opposition was strong enough in any event for David to give up his early intention and to construct a tent-shrine as the successor to Shiloh’s sanctuary.

An explanation of the conflict can be found in part in the mythic background of the two types of shrines. Ba’l founded his temple on Mount Sapon in order to make manifest his establishment of order, especially kingship among the gods. The earthly temple of Ba’l manifested not only Ba’l’s creation of order, but at the same time established the rule of the earthly king. There is thus a tie between the temple as the abode of the king of the gods and the temple as a dynastic shrine of the earthly king, the adopted son of the god. The temple and kingship are thus part of the “orders of creation,” properly the eternal kingship of the god of order, the eternal dynasty of his earthly counterpart. The tent of ‘El reflects a different political ideology. ‘El was the divine patriarch, god of the father, of the league, of covenant. ‘El sits as judge in the assembly of the gods. In Israel the political counterpart was the tent of assembly, the shrine of the federated tribes bound together in a conditional covenant.

The “temple of Ba’l” and the “tent of ‘El” thus symbolize alternate political ideologies. In the rise of kingship in Israel there were those who wished Israel’s old constitution to limit kingship and its cultic trappings, but others were ready to embrace Canaanite ideology of the divine king and his dynastic shrine. It is not by chance that the old royal hymn, Psalm 132, speaks of David’s shrine as the mishkenot, “tabernacle” (or tent-complex) of Yahweh, and stresses the conditional nature of Yahweh’s covenant with the Davidic dynasty. On the contrary, the ideology of the later Davidic dynasty speaks of the eternal choice of Zion and David’s seed, and the adoption of the king as son. In Psalm 89 (from an early Temple liturgy) this absolutist ideology reaches its highest pitch. After a description of the Divine Warrior slaying the dragon and establishing the created order, we read of Yahweh’s eternal choice of David (i.e., David’s dynasty), which is unconditional and most striking: “I (the deity is speaking) will establish his hand over Sea, his right hand over Rivers; he will proclaim, ‘my father art thou, my God and the Rock of my salvation’; Yea, I will make him my first born, the most high of the kings of earth.”

In fact, Israel’s temple incorporated compromises between the older traditions of the league tent-shrine and the dynastic temple of Canaanite kingship. The portable Ark with its cherubim became the “center piece,” usurping the place of the divine image of Canaanite temples. According to one tradition, the Tent of Meeting was taken up and placed in the Temple. [26] The language of tent and temple continues to be mixed in psalms of the First Temple. The conditionality of temple and dynasty—bet Yahweh and bet David—persisted, albeit intermittently, until the end, thanks to the prophetic and traditional insistence that kingship was forfeit when the ancient covenant was violated, and that the temple in which Israel trusted could be destroyed like Shiloh.

4. The highest development of Israel’s tradition of tent-shrines of Yahweh was reached no doubt in the Davidic tent. The Tent of David was the center of an imperial cultus. It was designed as the successor of the Tabernacle of the Ark at Shiloh, the sanctuary of old Israel’s most prestigious priestly dynasty. [27] It was built at the height of David’s power and glory, when his empire was fully established. Unhappily, we have no elaborate description of this Tent in the Deuteronomistic sources; however, all we can learn from brief references conforms to the Priestly descriptions of the Tabernacle. It was of sufficient size to house the Ark of the Covenant and an altar, presumably in separate rooms. [28] In the Tent also was kept the sacred oil used for Solomon’s anointing. Two high priests, Zadok, scion of the family of Aaron and the Hebronite priesthood, and Abiathar, descendant of Moses and the priests of Shiloh, headed its cultic personnel, a grandiose scheme of David to legitimize and magnify the importance of the national shrine.

I have long favored the identification of the descriptions of the Tabernacle in Priestly sources with the Tent designed and established by David, believing it most likely that the old document utilized by P pictured the Israelite tent-shrine in its ultimate development. The richness and sophistication of the Priestly Tabernacle, which make it conform poorly with our notions of a desert tent-shrine, fit ideally into the context of Davidic Jerusalem. While it is not impossible that such a grand shrine stood at Shiloh, Jerusalem is the better candidate. A long gap in time, and probably in records, separates the shrines of Shiloh and Jerusalem, and the source of the Priestly document-if it is authentic-is surely the Temple of Jerusalem. To be sure, the tent-shrine of David is called the ‘ohel Yahweh in Deuteronomistic sources, rather than ‘ohel mo’Ed, the term used chiefly by the Priestly tradent of the Mosaic shrine. In this case the Priestly language is (as often) archaizing, I believe, drawn from the politico-religious terminology of the tribal federation and its “tent of assembly.” ‘Ohel Yahweh stands, so to speak, between ‘ohel mo’Ed, “the tent of the council,” and bet Yahweh, the “house of Yahweh,” even as the Davidic tent was transitional between the tribal shrine of Shiloh and the dynastic chapel of Solomon. [29]

In some circles the Tent of David has been regarded as insignificant-a provisional housing for the Ark until the planned, permanent temple could be built. Late tradition attributes the plan and designs to build the Temple to David, the founder of the Jerusalem cultus. These traditions need critical investigation. In the early sources, David’s obedience to Nathan’s proscription appears unqualified. Further, there are grounds to believe that he made no move to build a temple, not as a penance for bloodshed, but because he respected the old traditions enunciated by Nathan and chose to keep them for both pious and political reasons.

Early in Solomon’s reign, indeed already in his consolidation of his realm by murder and mayhem, we note an emerging new policy and a characteristic political technique in establishing innovation. Solomon proposed to break free of all vestiges of older political forms and to establish an absolute kingship and a cultus more in keeping with his imperial and cosmopolitan tastes. Solomon early arranged the death of Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei, the latter two on David’s deathbed instructions. Deathbed words whispered in secret, or last instructions, have many times over in history been fabricated or “doctored” to legitimate successors and their policies, especially policies at odds with those of their predecessors. Most recently we have witnessed Mao’s last messages used to legitimate Hua and to extirpate the Chinese radicals, including Mao’s widow! Inasmuch as David until his death spared Joab and Shimei, and both were threats to Solomon, Solomon’s attribution of such instructions to David arouses suspicion. Certainly the official propaganda reported in Kings concerning the occasion for Adonijah’s execution rings false. Abiathar was deposed, and with his fall we suspect a chief advocate for older Shilonite traditions was removed, as well as a supporter of Adonijah. Nathan the prophet disappears after the anointing of Solomon, and, hardly by chance, no effective prophetic voice was heard again in Judah during the empire. Moves were made by Solomon to centralize authority and minimize the independence and power of lingering tribal institutions.

The building of the Temple by Solomon must be viewed against this background. The replacement of David’s Tent of Yahweh with Solomon’s Temple is best viewed, I believe, as an innovation conceived by Solomon alongside his other reversals of Davidic policy and practice. Evidently he attributed the design of the new departure to David in order to disarm or mute opposition, as was his frequent tactic in other political moves. Actually the account in Kings makes no mention of David’s instructing Solomon to build a temple, nor is there an account of his supplying blueprints and materials; it is the Chronicler who enlarges David’s role in preparing for the building of the Temple. The Deuteronomist reports the prophecy that Solomon will build Yahweh’s house as Yahweh will build David’s house, but his presumption is that Solomon is carrying out the desires of David’s heart, and he puts those words in Solomon’s mouth. [30] If our reconstruction is correct, Solomon’s propaganda was marvelously successful, and the historical opposition between Tent and Temple was largely dissolved in Judaean tradition with the passage of time. [31]

5. Evidence for the vitality of the Tabernacle traditions in ancient Israel may come in the future from unexpected places. One example may be given: the Samaritan shrine on Mount Gerizim.

The site of the Samaritan sanctuary has been uncovered by the archaeological mission to Shechem headed by the late G. Ernest Wright. Robert Bull directed the excavations in the field on Tell er-Ras, which have revealed an enormous platform of unhewn stones. [32] The platform may be described as a half cube, 40 cubits to a side, 20 cubits high. The platform reveals no traces of a superstructure which, despite the disturbance produced by the Hadrianic temple later built on the platform, should appear if indeed a substantial temple had been erected by the Samaritans. The platform is surrounded by a temenos wall. Its dimensions are not wholly clear yet, but the north and south sides measure just over 44 meters-clearly 100 cubits according to the ordinary cubit. One notes that this one dimension coincides with that of the Tabernacle court. However, the east and west sides of the court appear to be between 140 and 150 cubits over against the 50 cubits of these sides of the court of the Tabernacle.

Bull has described the platform as an altar; it must be said, however, that an altar of forty cubits square is impossibly large, and leaves no room for the temple of the Samaritans which, according to Josephus, was erected by the Samaritans in the late fourth century and destroyed by John Hyrcanus in 127 B.C.E. Edward F. Campbell and I have independently reached the same conclusion: the platform once held a tabernacle, or similar impermanent structure, which would have left no trace after destruction. The dimensions of the Priestly Tabernacle, 30 by 10 by 10 cubits (that is, three cubes, ten cubits to a dimension), can be fitted perfectly into the great 40-cubit-square platform, leaving a space of 10 cubits in front of the Tabernacle. Moreover, Josephus in his Antiquities [33] reports a quarrel between Jews and Samaritans in which the Samaritans claimed that their sanctuary rather than the temple of Jerusalem properly conformed to Mosaic Law. The prescriptions of the Priestly Tabernacle must be meant. The Samaritans, of course, restricted their canon to the Pentateuch, so there can be little doubt if Josephus’s report is accurate.

One other set of measurements suggests the symmetry afforded if the Samaritan sanctuary followed the proportions of the Tabernacle complex. The courtyard wall rises 10 cubits above the floor of the court; the platform rises 10 cubits above the top of the courtyard wall; if one adds the height of the Tabernacle, it would rise 10 cubits above the platform. In short, multiples of 10 cubits abound.

I must add a caveat. The exposure of the Samaritan structures is very limited, and the measurements are consequently very rough. More excavations are necessary before my proposal, much less my calculations, can be considered more than suggestions for further study. We should be alerted, however, to the possibility that in the north, after the division of the kingdom of Israel, the traditions of the Tabernacle survived in more than memory. [34]

Notes​

[1] F. M. Cross, “The Tabernacle: A Study from an Archaeological and Historical Approach,” Biblical Archaeologist 10 (1947): 45–68; reprinted in a slightly revised form as “The Priestly Tabernacle,” in The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, ed. G. Ernest Wright and D. N. Freedman (New York: Anchor Books, 1961), pp. 201–28. A recent discussion and literature may be found in M. Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (Oxford at The Clarendon Press, 1978), esp. pp. 189–204.

[2] For a more general discussion of the composition of the Priestly work, see F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), pp. 293–325; and R. Friedman, The Exile and Biblical Narrative, Harvard Semitic Monographs, vol. 22 (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1981), pp. 44–147 and bibliography.

[3] Among the signs that P has incorporated an older document is the contrasting usage of the terms mishkan and ‘ohel mo’ed in chapters 26 and 36 of Exodus (where mishkan is used to the exclusion of ‘ohel mo’ed) and elsewhere (where ‘ohel mo’ed is the dominant term used). These data conform with other evidence to suggest that the old document used mishkan as its primary name for the Tabernacle (as well as the inner shrine-see Ex. 26:7; 36:14), while P used both designations, but ‘ohel mo’ed much more frequently.

[4] A. R. S. Kennedy’s reconstruction has been reinforced by the use of qrsh of ‘El’s tent.

[5] A rather different reconstruction of the proportions of the Tabernacle is suggested in a forthcoming study by Richard Friedman.

[6] See at length in the monograph of Richard Clifford, The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and in the Old Testament, Harvard Semitic Monographs, vol. 4 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972).

[7] See most recently Clifford, The Cosmic Mountain, p. 133, n. 40. The biblical reference is Psalm 48:3.

[8] See Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, pp. 26–28, and esp. 37ff. It hardly needs to be said that sapon in Hebrew comes to mean simply “north,” and that the idiom means “the distant north.” It is by no means an equivalent of Ugaritic mrym spn, the formulaic expression for the “pinnacles of the Casius,” Ba’l’s abode. In the Ugaritic texts, at least, the mount of assembly is never placed on Mt. Sapon; it convenes in the mount of ‘El. In view of the conflation of elements of Ba’l and ‘El myths in early Israelite religion, one might argue for the confusion of Sapon and the mount of ‘El in later transformations of Canaanite elements in Israel’s cultic ideology when the Temple replaced the Tabernacle. I am disposed to doubt such a conflation in this instance. Jerusalem in Israelite tradition is associated with “El, creator of earth,” a tradition remembered still in pure form about 700 B.C.E. on a Hebrew ostracon from Jerusalem (N. Avigad, Israel Exploration Journal 22 (1972): 95; plate 42B: [‘l]qn’rs), as well as in expanded form in Genesis 14:19. Further, the tent tradition associated with ‘El remained a powerful one among the priests and singers of the Jerusalem Temple.

[9] Andree Herdner, Corpus Tablettes en Cuneiformes Alphabetiques (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1963), 19.211–14. See Richard J. Clifford, “The Tent of El and the Israelite Tent of Meeting,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 33 (1971): 221–27. In the Hittite version of an ‘El myth (Ilkunirsa) the translation of his abode’s designation is GISH. ZA. LAM. GAR = Akk. kushtaru, “tent”; cf. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, p. 72, n. 112.

[10] Ezekiel 31:8ff.; cf. Psalm 80:11. See F. M. Cross, “‘el,” Theologisches Worterbuch zum alten Testament, vol. 1, col. 272.

[11] I have long held to this etymology in view of Akkadian use of the same root, shalu, of judicial inquiry, haling to judgment, and most significantly, precisely in connection with the river ordeal.

[12]Mshkn’ ‘temple’ in inscriptions from Hatra,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 207 (1972): 54–56.

[13] See Cross, “The Priestly Tabernacle,” pp. 218ff. Of particular interest is the portrayal of a tent-shrine in bas relief from Palmyra (third to first centuries B.C.E.) with traces of red paint still adhering to it.

[14] tuhas is, of course, the precise etymological reflex of Hebrew táhash in its consonantal structure. In Arabic a byform duhas is also found, presumably created by attraction to the root dhs, “fat,” “fleshy,” “having much vigor.”

[15] “The Priestly Tabernacle,” p. 220, n. 21.

[16] For references, see Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, pp. 35ff.

[17] O. Eissfeldt, “Jahwe Zebaoth,” Kleine Schriften III (Tübingen: Mohr, 1966), pp. 103–23. I should add that the typical iconography of Ba’l-Haddu portrays the divine figure standing in battle dress, thunderbolt held in his hand poised to be hurled.

[18] Isaiah 9:5.

[19] See note 8 above for references, including reference to the new Jerusalem ostracon.

[20] See Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, pp. 60–71.

[21] The term mo’ed appears as a loanword in the Tale of Wenamun, as first observed by John Wilson.

[22] See in detail Clifford, “The Tent of El and the Israelite Tent of Meeting.”

[23] A full analysis of the oracle is found in Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, pp. 241–57. See now also A. Malamat, “A Mari Prophecy and Nathan’s Dynastic Oracle,” in Prophecy [Fohrer Volume], ed. J. A. Emerton (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980), pp. 68–82.

[24] That is, a shrine of the Ark.

[25] Psalm 132:7.

[26] 1 Kings 8:4 2 Chronicles 5:5. Verse 4b is suspect-with its specifically Priestly distinction between the priests and Levites in a Deuteronomistic work-and is established as an explicating gloss by its failure in GBL. There is no reason, however, to delete the entire verse as spurious. In his study mentioned above, Richard Friedman attempts to deal with the conflicting traditions concerning the Tent of Meeting in materials of Kings and Chronicles, and he argues that the notice in 1 Kings 8:4 is historical.

[27] On the early priestly houses of Israel, see Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, pp. 195–215.

[28] The language in 1 Kings 2:30 (wyb’ bnyhw ‘l ‘hl yhwh . . . kh ‘mr hmlk s’) is most naturally taken to mean that the altar was in the sanctuary, and that Benaiah killed Joab therein (cf. 2 Kgs. 11:13–16). In this case it is the golden altar on which Adonijah and Benaiah lay hold; the horns of the altar of burnt offering, it may be judged, would be too hot to handle much of the time.

[29] The Chronicler’s notion that the Tent of Meeting was at the great high place at Gibeon (1 Chr. 16:39; 2 Chr. 1:3, 6, 13) is, of course, confused and without counterpart in Kings. It may stem from his interpretation of 2 Samuel 21:9, and the assumption that Solomon would sacrifice only at a legitimate sanctuary in the period before the construction of the Temple.

[30] There is a curious conflict between the Deuteronomistic account of Solomon’s speech to Hiram, explaining that David was too busy with wars to build the temple (1 Kgs. 5:17), and the Deuteronomistic source in 2 Samuel 7:1ff., where David, having been given rest from his enemies, proposed to build a house for Yahweh. This is not to mention the tension between the two sections of Nathan’s oracle. The Chronicler, of course, harmonizes the passages by asserting that David cannot build the house because he has “shed much blood upon the earth in [Yahweh’s] sight” (1 Chr. 22:8).

[31] In the discussion following a presentation of this paper, Moshe Weinfeld suggested that Amos 9:11 and Isaiah 16:5 preserve memories of the Davidic Tent of Yahweh. The expression sukkat David in Amos 9:11 refers on the surface, of course, to the Davidic dynasty to be restored. This “rebuilding” may refer either to rule again over the north (and the old empire), if the oracle is early, or, if the oracle is late, to restoration after the Exile. The choice of the term sukkah, “tabernacle,” also recalls-drawing on the typology between dynasty and dynastic shrine-the Tent of Yahweh. Isaiah 16:5, with its reference to the ‘ohel David, is most obscure in its context of an oracle concerning Moab, but may preserve a like reminiscence. Ezekiel’s name of Jerusalem under the figure of a woman, “Oholibah,” may belong to the same constellation of motifs.

[32] See provisionally Robert J. Bull and Edward F. Campbell, “The Sixth Campaign at Balâtah (Shechem),” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 190 (1968): 2–41; Bull, “The Excavation of Tell er-Ras on Mt. Gerizim,” Biblical Archaeologist 31 (1968): 58–72; E. F. Campbell, “Jewish Shrines of the Hellenistic and Persian Periods,” in Symposia Celebrating the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the American Schools of Oriental Research, ed. F. M. Cross (Cambridge: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1979), pp. 159–67.

[33] 13:73ff.; cf. 13:256.

[34] Let me add a final precarious postscript. The platform at Dan uncovered by Avraham Biran apparently is roughly the same size as the Samaritan. One wonders if the platform did not once hold a structure of the dimensions of the Tabernacle, of wood or of curtains, thus leaving no trace (as at Gerizim) after its destruction. However this may be, I am strongly inclined to believe that both Bethel and Dan had roofed shrines housing their bull thrones, and that we should remember the polemical character of the Deuteronomist’s depiction of them and their priesthoods.