Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online
Bible History Online

Sub Categories

Back to Categories

November 29    Scripture

More Bible History
Manners & Customs : Tents

Inside a Tent INSIDE ARRANGEMENT OF TENT The Oriental tent is usually oblong in shape, and is divided into two, and sometimes three apartments by goat's hair curtains. The entrance leads into the apartment for the men, which also serves as the reception apartment. Beyond this is the apartment for the women and children. And sometimes there is a third apartment for servants or for cattle.8 The women in the inner apartment are screened from the view of those in the reception room, but they can hear what goes on in that room.9 Thus Sarah in her apartment overheard what the angel guest said in the reception apartment of Abraham's tent (Genesis 18:10-15). In some cases there is a separate tent for the women. It took several tents to care for the large family of Jacob. Reference is made to Jacob's tent, to Leah's tent, to Rachel's tent, and to the tent of the two maidservants (Genesis 31:33). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Living in Tents Tent Dwellings IN THE BIBLE, living in tents is of ancient origin. It goes back before the days of Abraham. The first reference in the Scriptures to tent life is concerning the man Jabal, of whom it is said, "he was the father of such as dwell in tents" (Genesis 4:20). Following the Flood the Sacred Record says, "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Genesis 9:27). The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived most of their lives in tents, in and around the land of Canaan. It was said of Abraham that he "pitched his tent" in the vicinity of Bethel (Genesis 12:8), that Isaac "pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar" (Genesis 26:17), and Jacob "pitched his tent before the city (of Shechem)" (Genesis 33:18). The Children of Israel lived in tents during their forty years in the wilderness. Moses said of them, "The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp" (Numbers 1:52). And Balaam "lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes" (Numbers 24:2). For many years after the entering of the Promised Land, Israel still lived in tents. In the days of David it was said to the king, "The ark and Israel and Judah, abide in tents" (II Samuel 11:11), indicating that many of the people at that time were tent-dwellers. Even at the time of the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam and their separation from Judah, the cry went forth, "To your tents, O Israel" (I Kings 12:16). When the tribes gathered together at such small places as Gilgal, and Shiloh, they undoubtedly brought their tents with them. And after the temple was built at Jerusalem the people would make their pilgrimages there to celebrate the feasts of the LORD, and many thousands of them would sleep in tents on the mountains surrounding the city. Like the Jews of old, the Nomad or Bedouin Arabs of Israel, and especially those of Trans-Jordan, have been living in tents for centuries, and their manner of life is strikingly like unto that of the early Bible characters. A study, therefore, of these tent structures of Bible lands of today will throw much light on how the men of early Bible times actually lived. By such a study one can build the proper background for understanding the life and contributions of these men of the long ago. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Patching and Enlarging PATCHING A TENT AND ENLARGING THE QUARTERS New tents are very seldom made among the Bedouins. About the only time this happens is when a young groom and bride set up housekeeping for themselves in a different location from that of the groom's parents, and this rarely happens. The usual procedure is to accumulate the goat clippings of a year or so, and with these make a new strip with which to repair the old tent. The women do this work. The section of the tent roof that is most worn is ripped out, and a new piece of the cloth replaces it. The old piece is then used for a side curtain. Each year new strips of cloth replace old ones and the "house of hair" is handed down from father to son without its being completely new or completely old at any one time. As the tent-dweller's family grows larger, or as he becomes richer and wishes to enlarge his tent, he does so by simply adding another section to his old tent, very much like the Occidental would build another room on to his house; but there is this difference: instead of building a new tent they just continue patching. Isaiah had this process in mind when he compared the prophetic prosperity of Israel to a Bedouin tent. "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes." Isaiah 54:2 [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Tent Dwellers THE CHARACTER OF TENT-LIFE The Westerner does not begin to appreciate the pilgrim character of the Oriental tent-dweller. One traveler among these nomads had this to say about them: The Arab's tent is his home: yet the word "home" does not mean to him what it means to us. Of our idea of home he has no conception . . . His home is the little spot where his tent is pitched and his flocks are gathered at night. His country - his fatherland - is the limited district over which he roams in summer.14 We must always remember that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were pilgrims in the Land of Promise. "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Hebrews 11:9). And the writer to the Hebrews goes on to say of these patriarchs, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13). Tent-life with its simplicity, and so much of the time spent out-of-doors, has a real charm for those who are used to it. Most of them would not live otherwise if they had the choice to do so. And because the Jewish ancestors were tent-dwellers, their descendants considered such a life in the spirit of true dignity.15 This explains the numerous references to tent-life in sacred poetry and prophecy (cf. Psalm 84:110; Song of Solomon 1:5; Jeremiah 4:20, etc.). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Tent Dwelling Robbers The tent-dwelling robbers were known in the days of Job, for he says of them: "The tabernacle of robbers prosper" (Job 12:6). The prophet Obadiah tells of robbers stealing by night. "If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night. . . would they not have stolen till they had enough?" (Obadiah 5). These robbers of ancient times are in many ways similar to the Arab raiders of modern times. The latter illustrate for us methods used by the former. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Tent Encampments TENT ENCAMPMENTS AND MANNER OF SETTING UP OF TENTS If the Bedouin Arabs live together as a tribe or a clan, as they often do, or if more than one family dwell with each other, then their tents are not pitched in a promiscuous cluster, but more likely in a large circle to make it possible for at least some of their flocks to be protected inside the circle. By the side of the sheik's tent stands a long spear as an emblem of his authority (cf. practice of King Saul in I Samuel 26:7). His tent is generally larger than the others.6 The Bible says that some of the sons of Ishmael lived in tent villages or encampments (Genesis 25:16). The number of tents that made up the encampment of Abraham must have been large, for in his warfare against the confederacy of kings that took Lot captive, it is stated that he used a band of three hundred eighteen trained soldiers born in his household (Genesis 14:14). The arrangement of his tents was doubtless much like that of the wealthier Bedouin Arabs of today. The main overhead portion of the Bedouin's tent is composed of one large awning which is held up by poles, and the ends of the tent cloth are drawn out by cords which are tied to pegs and driven into the ground.7 It was one of these tent pins that Jael used in killing Sisera (Judges 4:21). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Tent Furniture INSIDE FURNISHINGS OF TENTS The shepherd's tent is always subject to perpetual removals, as Hezekiah indicated in his song of thanksgiving, after his recovery from sickness (Isaiah 38:12). Therefore, the furnishings of that tent must include only the necessities. Rugs cover the ground, but at night the bedding is brought out, which is composed of mats, or carpets on which to sleep; and their outer garments worn by day become their coverings by night. Sacks of grain are apt to be piled around the middle tent posts. Sure to be about the tent some place are the handmill, and the mortar, in which the grain is pounded. And hanging from the poles will be the skin bags or bottles, for water and other liquids. Also there will be a leathern bucket with which to draw water from any well that may be available, and an earthen pitcher, used by the women to carry the water. Cooking utensils will not be many, but will include pots, kettles, and pans. Serving dishes will include mats, platters, or larger dishes, and there will be cups for drinking. A primitive lamp burning olive oil will illuminate the tent by night (see "lamp," in chapters 2 and 6). If the family is fortunate enough to have a camel, then the camel furniture will be used for sitting upon inside the tent, as Rachel was doing when her father searched the tents for the lost teraphim (Genesis 31:34 cf. Chapter 13). Little else than these furnishings would be needed for the simple life of the tent-dwellers.10 The hearth is of course upon the ground. A hole is dug in the earth where there is a fire kindled, and several stones are put around it, and the cooking utensils are placed on these an over the fire. One of these hearths is inside the tent, and another one is outdoors, quite likely near to the women's quarters. In the hot weather the cooking is done outside rather than inside the tent.11 [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Tent in Easton's Bible Dictionary (1.) Heb. 'ohel (Gen. 9:21, 27). This word is used also of a dwelling or habitation (1 Kings 8:66; Isa. 16:5; Jer. 4:20), and of the temple (Ezek. 41:1). When used of the tabernacle, as in 1 Kings 1:39, it denotes the covering of goat's hair which was placed over the mishcan. (2.) Heb. mishcan (Cant. 1:8), used also of a dwelling (Job 18:21; Ps. 87:2), the grave (Isa. 22:16; comp. 14:18), the temple (Ps. 46:4; 84:2; 132:5), and of the tabernacle (Ex. 25:9; 26:1; 40:9; Num. 1:50, 53; 10:11). When distinguished from 'ohel, it denotes the twelve interior curtains which lay upon the framework of the tabernacle (q.v.). (3.) Heb. kubbah (Num. 25:8), a dome-like tent devoted to the impure worship of Baal-peor. (4.) Heb. succah (2 Sam. 11:11), a tent or booth made of green boughs or branches (see Gen. 33:17; Lev. 23:34, 42; Ps. 18:11; Jonah 4:5; Isa. 4:6; Neh. 8:15-17, where the word is variously rendered). Jubal was "the father of such as dwell in tents" (Gen. 4:20). The patriarchs were "dwellers in tents" (Gen. 9:21, 27; 12:8; 13:12; 26:17); and during their wilderness wanderings all Israel dwelt in tents (Ex. 16:16; Deut. 33:18; Josh. 7:24). Tents have always occupied a prominent place in Eastern life (1 Sam. 17:54; 2 Kings 7:7; Ps. 120:5; Cant. 1:5). Paul the apostle's occupation was that of a tent-maker (Acts 18:3); i.e., perhaps a maker of tent cloth.

Tent in Fausset's Bible Dictionary 'ohel, "tabernacle "; mishkan, "dwelling"; sukkak, "booth"; qubbah, "recess" (Numbers 25:8). The characteristic dwelling of the keepers of cattle, the nomadic races, of whom Jabal was the father (Genesis 4:20). The stay of Israel in Egypt weaned them from tent life and trained them for their fixed home in Canaan. The pastoral tribes Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh, still in part retained the tent life E. of Jordan (Joshua 22:8). The phrase "to your tents, O Israel," remained as a trace of the former nomadic state, when the nation was no longer so (1 Kings 12:16). Agriculture was sometimes associated with tent life, as in Isaac's case (Genesis 26:12), and probably in Heber's case (Judges 4:11- 22). Hazerim (Deuteronomy 2:23) is not a proper name, but means nomadic "villages" or "enclosures," a piece of ground surrounded with a rude fence, in which tents were pitched and cattle tethered at night for safety from marauders; or as the Yezidee tent in Syria, a stone wall five feet high, roofed with goats' hair cloth raised on long poles. So Hazar-adder in the S. and Hazar-erran in the N. (Numbers 34:4; Numbers 34:9.) Some tents are circular, resting on one central pole; others square on several poles. The better kind are oblong, and divided by a curtain into an outer apartment for the males and an inner one for the females. Hooks are fixed in the poles to hang articles on (Isaiah 22:23-24). To the rain-proof goats' hair covering a cloth is sewn or twisted round a stick, to the ends of which are tied leather loops. To these loops one end of the tent ropes is fastened, the other being tied to a hooked sharp pin of wood which they drive into the ground with a mallet; such a nail and mallet Jael used (Judges 4:21). The patriarchs' wives had separate tents (Genesis 24:67; Genesis 31:33). The beauty of Israel's orderly and wide encampment by the four parallel brooks running westward into Jordan is compared to trees in rows in beautiful gardens, such as Balaam had seen along his own river Euphrates (Numbers 24:5-6). The quickness and ease with which tents can be struck, leaving their tenants without covering in the lonely desert, is Paul's image for the speedy dissolution of our mortal body, preparatory to our abiding resurrection home (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Tent in Naves Topical Bible Used for a dwelling Ge 4:20 -By Noah Ge 9:21 -By Abraham Ge 12:8; 13:18; 18:1 -By Lot Ge 13:5 -By Moses Ex 18:7 -By the people of Israel Nu 24:5,6; 2Sa 20:1; 1Ki 12:16 -By the Midianites Jud 6:5 -By Cushites Hab 3:7 -By Arabians Isa 13:20 -By shepherds Isa 38:12; Jer 6:3 -Women had separate tents from men Ge 24:67; 31:33 -Used for cattle 2Ch 14:15 -The manufacture of Ac 18:3

Tent in Smiths Bible Dictionary Among the leading characteristics of the nomad races, those two have always been numbered whose origin has been ascribed to Jabal the son of Lameth, Ge 4:20 viz., to be tent- dwellers and keepers of cattle. The same may be said of the forefathers of the Hebrew race; nor was it until the return into Canaan from Egypt that the Hebrews became inhabitants of cities. An Arab tent is called beit, "house;" its covering consists of stuff, about three quarters of a yard broad, made of black goat's-hair, So 1:5 laid parallel with the tent's length. This is sufficient to resist the heaviest rain. The tent-poles or columns are usually nine in number, placed in three groups; but many tents have only one pole, others two or three. The ropes which hold the tent in its place are fastened, not to the tent-cover itself, but to loops consisting of a leathern thong tied to the ends of a stick, round which is twisted a piece of old cloth, which is itself sewed to the tent-cover. The ends of the tent-ropes are fastened to short sticks or pins, which are driven into the ground with a mallet. Jud 4:21 Round the back and sides of the tent runs a piece of stuff removable at pleasure to admit air. The tent is divided into two apartments, separated by a carpet partition drawn across the middle of the tent and fastened to the three middle posts. When the pasture near an encampment is exhausted, the tents are taken down, packed on camels and removed. Ge 26:17,22,25; Isa 38:12 In choosing places for encampment, Arabs prefer the neighborhood of trees, for the sake of the shade and coolness which they afford. Ge 18:4,8

Tent in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE tent ('ohel; skene; 'ohel is a derivative of 'ahal, "to be clear," "to shine"; hence, 'ohel, "to be conspicuous from a distance"): In the great stretches of uncultivated lands in the interior of Syria or Arabia, which probably have much the same aspect today as in Abraham's time, it is an easy matter to espy an encampment of roving Bedouin, "a nation .... that dwelleth without care .... that have neither gates nor bars" (Jer 49:31). The peaks of their black (compare Song 1:5) goats' hair tents stand out in contrast against the lighter colors of the soil. There seems to be little doubt about the antiquity of the Arab tent, and one can rightly believe that-the dwelling- places of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and their descendants were made on the same pattern and of the same materials (Gen 4:20; 9:27; 12:8; 13:3; 18:6; 31:25,30; Ps 78:55; Heb 11:9, etc.). Long after the children of Israel had given up their tents for houses they continued to worship in tents (2 Sam 7:1-6; 2 Ch 1:3,4) (for the use of tents in connection with religious observances see TABERNACLE). The Arab tents (called bait sha`r, "house of hair") are made of strips of black goats' hair cloth, sewed together into one large piece (see GOATS' HAIR; WEAVING). Poles are placed under this covering at intervals to hold it from the ground, and it is stretched over these poles by ropes of goats hair or hemp (compare Job 4:21; Isa 54:2; Jer 10:20) "fastened to hard-wood pins driven into the ground (Isa 54:2; Jdg 4:21; 5:26). A large wooden mallet for driving the pegs is part of the regular camp equipment (Jdg 4:21; 5:26). The sides (curtains) of the tent (Isa 54:2) are made of strips of goats hair cloth or from mats woven from split cane or rushes (see Illustration, p. 2948). Where more than one family occupies the same tent or the animals are provided with shelter under the same roof (compare 2 Ch 14:15), curtains of the same materials mentioned above form the dividing walls. A corner of the matting where two ends meet is turned back to form the door of the tent (Gen 18:1). In the summer time the walls are mostly removed. New tents are not water-proof, and the condition of the interior after a heavy rain is not far from squalid. The tent material becomes matted by use, especially if wool has been woven into the fabric, and is then a better protection against the rain. It is the women's duty to pitch the tents. The poorer Arabs have no mats to cover the ground under their tents. Straw mats, goats' hair or woolen rugs (compare Jdg 4:18), more or less elaborate as the taste and means of the family allow, are the usual coverings for the tent floor. The food supplies are usually kept in goats' hair bags, the liquids, as oil or milk products, in skins. One or two tinned copper cooking-vessels, a shallow tray of the same material, a coffee set consisting of roasting pan, mortar and pestle, boiling-pot and cups, make up the usual camp furniture. The more thrifty include bedding in their equipment, but this increases the difficulties of moving, since it might require more than the one animal, sometimes only a donkey, which carries all the earthly belongings of the family. A sheikh or chief has several tents, one for himself and guests, separate ones for his wives and female servants, and still others for his animals (compare Gen 31:33). Other Hebrew words translated "tent" are forms of chanah (Nu 13:19; 1 Sam 17:53; 2 Ki 7:16; 2 Ch 31:2; Zec 14:15); cukkah (2 Sam 11:11; 22:12); mishkenoth (Song 1:8). Figurative: "Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there" typified utter desolation (Isa 13:20). "Enlarge the place of thy tent .... stretch forth the curtains .... lengthen thy cords .... strengthen thy stakes" prophesied an increase in numbers and prosperity of God's people (Isa 54:2; compare 33:20; Lk 16:9; 2 Cor 5:4). Tent cords plucked up denoted death. (Job 4:21). Jer 10:20 is a picture of a destroyed household as applied to Judah. Hezekiah in his sickness bewails that his dwelling (life) had been carried away as easily as a shepherd's tent is plucked up (Isa 38:12). Isaiah compared the heavens to a tent spread out (Isa 40:22). "They shall pitch their tents against her" i.e. they shall make war (Jer 6:3).

Tent Material TENT MATERIAL The Bedouin's home is his tent, which is made of black goat's hair. He calls it beit sha'ar, i.e., "house of hair." It is made of coarse, heavy fabric, and serves to protect the family in winter from the cold winds; in the summer the sides are usually lifted, and the tent serves as a sunshade.3 This goat's hair cloth that is used in making these tents is porous when it is dry, but becomes waterproof after the first rains have shrunk it together.4 The Song of Solomon refers to these black goat's hair tents thus: "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar" (Song of Solomon 1:5). The material that makes up the Bedouin tent is the same as the sackcloth of Bible days. It must be remembered that this Oriental sackcloth is not at all like the Occidental burlap, but is rather a material made of prickly, coarse goat's hair.5 The Apostle John compares darkness to this sackcloth: "The sun became black like sackcloth of hair" (Revelation 6:12). In Bible times sackcloth was worn as a sign of sorrow (Genesis 37:34; II Samuel 3:31), as a sign of humility (I Kings 21:27; II Kings 19:1), or as a sign of repentance (Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:5). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Tent Scripture - 1 Samuel 13:2 Saul chose him three thousand [men] of Israel; [whereof] two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.

Tent Scripture - 2 Samuel 19:8 Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate. And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent.

Tent Scripture - Exodus 26:13 And a cubit on the one side, and a cubit on the other side of that which remaineth in the length of the curtains of the tent, it shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it.

Tent Scripture - Exodus 36:14 And he made curtains [of] goats' [hair] for the tent over the tabernacle: eleven curtains he made them.

Tent Scripture - Exodus 36:19 And he made a covering for the tent [of] rams' skins dyed red, and a covering [of] badgers' skins above [that].

Tent Scripture - Exodus 40:29 And he put the altar of burnt offering [by] the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the meat offering; as the LORD commanded Moses.

Tent Scripture - Genesis 12:8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

Tent Scripture - Genesis 31:25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.

Tent Scripture - Numbers 3:25 And the charge of the sons of Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation [shall be] the tabernacle, and the tent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation,