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GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-17--- ECCLESIASTES --- ISAIAH 1-5 --- 6-12 --- 13-23 --- 24-27 --- 28-35 --- 36-39 --- 40-48 --- 49-55--- 56-66--- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 ---




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The Central Sanctuary

- Dr Peter Pett BA BD(Hons) London DD

The Central Sanctuary.

We will first look at the central Sanctuary as represented in Deuteronomy 12 and follow this with a detailed history of the Central Sanctuary from its first setting up at Sinai.

The Central Sanctuary (Deuteronomy 12).

Central to the idea of the covenant and the possession of the land in righteousness was to be the Central Sanctuary. The Sanctuary contained the covenant, and above it was 'the propitiatory' (the mercy seat) where covenant breaches could be dealt with and removed. The idea of this is firmly conveyed in chapter 12, where the stress is on the fact that it is to be in a 'place' where He chooses, and see 14.23-25; 15.20; 16.2, 6-7, 11, 15-16; 17.8, 10; 18.6; 26.2; 31.11 which demonstrates that it was assumed that the choosing would not be too far in the future. The gist of it is that rather than looking to the gods and altars of the nations which they must destroy (verses 2-4), His people must continue to look to the one sanctuary, constantly set in whatever 'place' that God chose to be His earthly dwellingplace, to which alone they could bring their offerings and sacrifices, for there alone could mercy be found. And there they could rejoice together (verses 5-7), and bring to it their gifts and tithes (verses 17-18). It was to be 'the place' where all sacrifices and offerings were to be made, (verses 13-14) and where He would cause His name to dwell (verse 11).

The idea of 'the place' (maqom) was sanctified by history. It was to 'the place at Shechem' that Abraham first came on entering the land (Genesis 12.6). He then went on to 'the place' (the place of the altar) at Bethel (Genesis 13.3-4). Later he would go to 'the place' at which he was to offer his son, Isaac (Genesis 22.3, 9, 14), the place which Yahweh had chosen. Jacob would meet God at the place in which God was (Genesis 28.16) which he would name Bethel ('house of God' - Genesis 28.19; compare 35.7, 14-15), saying 'how dreadful is this place' (Genesis 28.17)

This fact that Yahweh is present where He chooses is important to their understanding of Him. They cannot make Him appear anywhere that they want by erecting images and making altars. They can only meet Him where He chooses. He had chosen to do it at Sinai. Now He does it in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp. In the future it will be in a suitable place chosen by Him as He wills. But there must only be one sanctuary because He is one (6.5).

That such an idea could be established while travelling together in the wilderness, with the focal point of all the tribes being on the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh and the sacred tent containing it in their midst, makes good sense. There would be less of an incentive once they were spread over a wide area facing problems in their own localities, but the fact that they did maintain their Central Sanctuary at all emphasises the fact that the idea had been so firmly implanted within them well before they actually reached the land and spread over it, that it never died out.

This is in fact another of the major issues which arises as we study the book. While not central to the message of the book (although still very important) it has become a debating point in studies about Deuteronomy because some see it as only signifying Jerusalem. They thus consider that they have to date the book after the establishment of Jerusalem. But what Deuteronomy 12 speaks of is not Jerusalem but an important religious concept on which the future of Israel would depend, the concept of the Central Sanctuary, the focal point of covenant response, and the concept that He can only be met where He chooses. It is the dwellingplace where He will be among them as their Overlord.

Deuteronomy says that it should be set up 'in the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there' (Deuteronomy 12.5), and interpretations of this are numerous. But see 23.16 where 'in the place which he shall choose' can be anywhere that someone chooses. There was certainly no thought there that the person should be restricted to that place permanently. It is true that this settling was only to be when God had given them rest from all their enemies, and they dwelt in safety (12.10), but such periods of rest are constantly mentioned. See Joshua 11.23; 23.1 and Judges 3.11, 30; 5.31; 8.28. So in fact on reading on we would naturally see this as Shiloh (Joshua 23.1-2 with 18.1, 8-10; 19.51;21.2; 22.9), where the tabernacle of the congregation was apparently permanently set up, and where it was when they found rest from all their enemies (Joshua 23.1 with 22.9), and where it still remained in the time of Eli (1 Samuel 1.3). We can compare here Psalm 78.60 which clearly saw Shiloh as having been a chosen place of Yahweh, for the Psalmist speaks of 'the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which He placed among men'. It was the tabernacle of Shiloh which was the tent that He placed, and that He had chosen for His abode. Jeremiah 7.12 also speaks of, 'Shiloh, where I set my name at the first'. Shiloh was therefore where Yahweh set His name. So Scripture clearly identifies Shiloh as the place where Yahweh chose to place the tabernacle, chose to dwell and chose to set His name.

On the other hand there are also grounds for referring it to Shechem. For according to Deuteronomy itself Mount Ebal in Shechem was specifically the appointed place where the people were to gather once they were in the land, where they were to establish the covenant blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 11.29) and where they were to offer offerings and sacrifices before Yahweh (Deuteronomy 27), as Abraham had done before them (Genesis 12.6). Furthermore it was where they did gather after obtaining a foothold in the land (Joshua 8.30-35), certainly taking the Ark with them (verse 33), and where they also gathered for Joshua's final farewell covenant ceremony (Joshua 24.1), after they had obtained rest from all their enemies (Joshua 23.1). So this was certainly also one place that Yahweh their God chose, and named. And when we are told that there was at such times a 'Sanctuary' (a holy place - Joshua 24.6) there, we may well gather that the tabernacle was at that time established there. So 'the place where He chose to put His name' could well be seen as being at Shechem, which would tie in with Deuteronomy itself (Deuteronomy 11.29; 27.4-8), for Mount Ebal was at Shechem.

Indeed we should note in this regard that 'the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there' (Deuteronomy 12.5) does not necessarily indicate that only one place would ever be chosen, but that only one place would be chosen at a time. The point is rather that they should not set up just any altar at any place as the idolatrous did, but should rather seek God only at the place where He chose to put His name, wherever it might be, at the one altar and sanctuary in contrast with the many, as He had once at Sinai. The point was that whenever the tabernacle was set up with any permanence it should be set up where God chose to dwell among His people, and not at a place to be decided on by men, and that that was the only place to which men should look.

With this in mind there can really be no doubt that according to Deuteronomy 27 Mount Ebal near Shechem was one of those places, a place mentioned specifically there as specified by, and therefore chosen by, Yahweh. Indeed an altar was to be set up there, and whole burnt offerings offered and peace offerings were to be sacrificed (Deuteronomy 27.6-7 compare 12.6). This would seem to indicate that either the 'dwellingplace' (tabernacle) was to be there (the place where He 'caused His name to dwell' - 12.11) or at the very least the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh ('to put His name there' - 12.5; compare 2 Samuel 6.2), or more probably both. This would seem to be unquestionably the intention of whoever wrote chapter 27 and put it in place in Deuteronomy.

Besides it is hardly conceivable that, having a portable shrine, which they were used to moving about, they should consider participating in such important ceremonies as those at Shechem without either the tabernacle or the Ark present. (In fact if they did we must argue that it could only be on the basis of a previously recorded tradition, that God had demanded it as in Deuteronomy 27). So the very fact that Shiloh and not Shechem later became the place where Yahweh primarily put His name suggests that Deuteronomy 27 was written before the settlement in Shiloh, and that Shiloh came into prominence probably because it was seen as more neutral, more independent and more suitable as a permanent site for a Central Sanctuary than Shechem, and aftere consulting Urim and Thummim, but always recognising that Shechem was originally such a place and hallowed by the fact.

For as we have seen it would be difficult indeed to deny that Shiloh was seen as the place which God chose, in view of the continual connection of the tabernacle with it, and the testimony of both the Psalmist and Jeremiah to the fact that He had caused His name to dwell there (Psalm 78.60; Jeremiah 7.12).

We may then see this as later followed by Jerusalem, because that was how it came to be seen in the prophets and in the Psalms. Once Jerusalem was established as the Central Sanctuary, something which in fact took a considerable time, well into the reign of Solomon, that too was seen as the place where Yahweh had caused His name to dwell. David set His name there when he took into it 'the Ark of God whose name is called by the name of Yahweh of Hosts who dwells between the cherubim' (2 Samuel 6.2) and set it up in a special tent (2 Samuel 6.17; 2 Chronicles 1.4), and to which Solomon later brought the tabernacle (1 Kings 8.4; 1 Chronicles 5.5) which had been at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 1.13).

Thus Shechem, Shiloh and Jerusalem all have valid claims to be the place to which God chose to put His name, and indeed all were so in their time in their own way (as had been Sinai).

(We should perhaps also take into account here that the definite article in Hebrew does not always have the force that it has in English, it can mean simply 'the one I am talking about', and that if it is seen as having force here, its force is in contrast to the altars to which they should not seek, not as indicating only one place throughout the whole of time. If we emphasise the article, 'the place' contrasts with many places in use at the same time).

It may be wise at this point to consider in more detail the question of the Central Sanctuary and its history according to the records we have, in order to consolidate this point, for there is much misunderstanding about it.

The Concept of the Central Sanctuary and The One Place of Sacrifice.

Important for the future of Israel at the time of Moses, and of great importance in interpreting the book of Deuteronomy, was the concept of the Central Sanctuary. This concept was at the heart of their tribal system, as it was of others in what came to be called amphictyonies, and it was intended to be a means of keeping their religion pure, and of maintaining the unity of the tribes.

To this Sanctuary as the earthly 'dwellingplace' (mishkan, from shakan 'to dwell' - translated in EVV also as 'tabernacle') of Yahweh, and as the depositary of the covenant (Exodus 25.21 - thus the Ark is called 'the Ark of the Testimony') and final arbiter of the tribes, all looked, and three times a year they were to gather at the Central Sanctuary at their regular religious feasts, agricultural feasts which had mainly been observed for centuries, in order to worship Yahweh, to renew the Sinai covenant, to hear it read and expounded, to feast together and to decide on major matters concerning tribal relationships (Exodus 23.14; Deuteronomy 16.16). Whenever matters of major import arose which affected all the tribes it was through the Central Sanctuary with its High Priest that consultation and action could take place.

While they were still moving on together in the wilderness this posed no problems. The tabernacle was there among them, central to the camp, protected by the priests and Levites, remote yet approachable, a focal point for all. To it they brought their sacrifices, and round it they gathered for worship, to consult Yahweh and to settle issues between them. But then, although very valuable, it was not quite so necessary for unity, for they were encamped together. However, once they had dispersed within the land it would be even more necessary, both in order to maintain their oneness under Yahweh and to maintain the purity of their worship, and in order to ensure the maintenance of the covenant.

This is not to say that the requirements concerning it were always rigidly observed. In times of apostasy only the faithful would gather there, and many events, as well as apathy, could tend to make attendance impossible. Such a rise and fall in interest in the covenant and thus in the Central Sanctuary is reflected in Judges. But that it did continue in even the worst times, and even served as a binding force, is evidenced by the fact that Israel maintained its semblance of unity, and, to some extent at least, did continually respond to the call to arms, and by the other fact that it regularly emerges as being there. And the emphasis on it as the one place of sacrifice should have prevented the possibility of turning after other gods.

It is further significant that until the time of David no offerings or sacrifices are ever said to be legitimately made in any other place unless there was a clear and specific indication of Yahweh's presence there, either 1). Through the presence of the tabernacle, His dwellingplace; 2). Through the presence of His Ark, His chariot throne; or 3). Through a specific theophany when He was clearly present in person. The only exception to this was the unique situation when the tabernacle was destroyed, the Ark was out of action, and the faith of Israel rested on a 'holy child' of the tabernacle who established a 'temporary' Central Sanctuary to which all could come.

Some such centralising activity must already have taken place in Egypt, at least to a certain extent, although we know little of their worship there. While Jacob was alive he would be the focal point of unity. But on his death, unless they continued to worship at the one altar which he had set up as father of the clans, it would probably more be external pressure that bound them together, seemingly with a deliberate gathering together of the 'elders', the leadership of the tribes. For the children of Israel were already seen as one people there, partly, if loosely, united under 'the elders' whom Moses and Aaron could call together (Exodus 3.16), and the ease with which the elders worked together in comparative unison suggests previous cooperation in the past. Something held them together, which probably included a common faith in the God of their fathers and a sense of brotherhood arising from their having been one family (with their households) in Canaan, and they are portrayed there as acting together in comparative unison, while Pharaoh recognised whom Moses had in mind when he spoke of 'Israel' and could himself speak of them as 'Israel' (Exodus 5.1-2). Furthermore they were bound together by the emergency.

But if they were ever to become a permanent nation some means of permanently cementing and maintaining their unity would have to be found, especially in view of the mixed multitude who joined with them and the way in which they would be spread out through the land. And this was found in the Central Sanctuary.

In Israel this Central Sanctuary was the Tent of Meeting, where God could be met with, the 'tabernacle of the gathering together of the congregation'. Similar portable pavilions were known in Egypt long before the time of Moses, and portable shrines are also known from elsewhere. A tent shrine has been discovered at Timnah in the Negeb, the region of ancient Edom, and there are even hints of such in Scripture, for Oholibamah means 'tent of the high place' (of a Hivite -Genesis 36.5, 14, 18; of an Edomite - Genesis 36.41). Thus a tent shrine was not unique. What was unique was its significance. The main word for tabernacle means 'dwellingplace', and Israel's tent was seen as the earthly dwellingplace of Yahweh, their Creator and covenant-keeping God, where the covenant was placed and in which He had His Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh. There, present between the cherubim, He could be met with, and there He could be consulted, and there forgiveness for breaches of the covenant could be obtained. The difference in Israel was that they were to look to no other.

Indeed had it not been for the unifying force of 'the Priest' and the Central Sanctuary it is difficult to see how such a conglomerate people would have remained as 'one people' given the circumstances under which they settled in the land, divided up and separated from each other by the terrain and by the peoples that they had failed to drive out. They had no king to unify them. But they did have the High Priest, and they did have the 'dwellingplace' (the tabernacle).

Every nation had its High Priest, and if Israel had not had one they would have been unique. But what was unique in Israel was the nature of the High Priesthood, with its high moral tone because of the commandments, and its status as representative of their invisible God-King. And the one Sanctuary itself arose from the fact that they worshipped only one God. Not for them gods who could be split up into many identities. While He could be prayed to anywhere, there was only one place where He could be met up with and where sacrifices could be offered.

The importance of the Central Sanctuary, and of the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh which was its central focal point, comes out constantly in their future history, and helps to explain the first struggles as to who should control both (Number 16-17). To deny the existence of some kind of tabernacle in the wilderness would be incredible if we accept the existence of the Ark. The Ark would necessarily have its own ornate tent. And it is made clear that all communication with Yahweh took place at 'the door of the tent'. The Ark was too holy to be approached direct except by the most holy, and even by them within strict limits. It was a chest which contained within it the covenant tablets, a symbol of how they were bound to Yahweh, and over which was the 'propitiatory', the place from which God dispensed mercy. And because it was so sacred it was remote. Anyone who touched it died.

Such a central object of worship would have been essential in the case of the people who left Egypt with Moses. The differing peoples making up the group that left Egypt, for it included a mixed multitude (Exodus 12.38), would have had different objects of veneration. It would thus have been necessary for the sake of moulding them into one people that these be replaced by something even more holy, and something distinct from what they venerated. And this was accomplished in the holy Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, mainly hidden but known to all, although brought out at times of crisis, and containing the tablets of the covenant. It represented the presence of Yahweh between the cherubim and His covenant with them, as One Who was invisible except for in cloud and fire, but was nevertheless real. Its isolation in the great tent, the tent itself patterned on well known sanctuaries with its sacred chamber and ante-chamber, would increase its mystery.

Interestingly gold overlain wooden chests are known in the ANE from before the time of Moses, and the similar idea of sacred chests has been known among the Arabs, although in neither case containing within them covenant records, or having on their lids the forms of cherubim.

It was the Ark that led the people across the Jordan under the jurisdiction of the priests who alone could bear it when it was uncovered and moved into action (Joshua 3). The Ark alone is mentioned at this time because that alone reflected the living presence of Yahweh with them while on the march. But it would then be settled in the tabernacle, in His dwellingplace in Gilgal (Joshua 4.19), where also the people were circumcised and the Passover was celebrated (Joshua 5.2-11). It is probable that the trial of Achan was carried out at the door of the tabernacle through the Urim and Thummim (Joshua 7.16-18). That explains the step by step approach of the questioning.

As soon as was possible after entry into the land Joshua celebrated their foothold in the land with a covenant ceremony at Shechem with the Ark as its central focal point (Joshua 8.30-35). This was in fulfilment of Deuteronomy 27 (see Joshua 8.31, 33), following in the path of Abraham (Genesis 12.6). The aim of this ceremony at Shechem in Joshua 8 was probably partly with the purpose of incorporating Shechemite worshippers of Yahweh within the covenant. The Amarna letters reveal that the Shechemites were not 'Canaanites' in the same way as other Canaanites. They indeed probably included among them descendants of some who had been left behind to look after Jacob's property when he moved on after the slaughter of the Shechemites (Genesis 34), who would see themselves as 'brothers' of Israel. It is noteworthy that in a book of continual conflicts no mention is ever made of conflict in the area around Shechem. Thus it is quite feasible that as worshippers of 'the Lord of the Covenant' (baal-berith) they proclaimed themselves worshippers of Yahweh. If so, that this was then later perverted into full blown worship of Baal as Baal-berith comes out in Judges 8.33; 9.4. There was always a danger of mixing Yahweh up with Baal when faith grew weak, for Yahweh could be called Baali, 'my Lord', and for the sinful the practises of Baal were more palatable and less demanding. Baal would be whatever you wanted him to be.

Nothing would have been more impressive in such a circumstance than the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, the erection of the magnificent tabernacle of Yahweh and the building of an altar within the bronze altar framework (we must remember that at this stage the moving of the tabernacle was something that they had constantly engaged in and never mentioned). On the other hand the tabernacle is not mentioned, so that the building of the altar may have been justified simply by the presence of the Ark indicating that Yahweh was there, 'recording His name' (Exodus 20.24-25). But it would still require a protective tent.

An interesting point here is the bold declaration of their 'building an altar' and 'making offerings and sacrifices' without mentioning either Ark or tabernacle (verses 30-31). The presence of the Ark is so assumed that it is only the following ceremony, where it is mentioned (verse 32) as though its presence was assumed from the beginning, that makes us aware that the Ark is there. The writer seemingly assumed that all would know that at least the Ark must be there if offerings and sacrifices were made.

So whether the tabernacle was taken to Shechem for the building of the altar on Mount Ebal we are not told (Joshua 8.30), but the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh was clearly taken there by the 'levitical priests' as the focal point of the covenant (Joshua 8.33), for the Ark was the symbol of the warrior King (Numbers 10.35).

It is interesting that the building of the particular altar here is specifically justified in terms of Exodus 20.24-25 (verse 31). This might be because the bronze altar of whole burnt offering was but an outward shell, which would have been destroyed if a fire had been lit directly in it, (it was made of timber and bronze), and thus had to have stones and earth built up inside it to form an altar on which a large fire could burn safely, (thus the 'building' of the altar); or it might suggest that the tabernacle and the bronze altar were not there, but that they were aware that the building of this altar had therefore to be specifically justified from Yahweh's laws.

So verse 31 may indicate the consciousness of the fact that this altar with its sacrifices was unusual, an example of building an altar where Yahweh recorded His name (Exodus 20.24-25). That it was probably their understanding that where the Ark rested Yahweh recorded His name, and that therefore the presence of the Ark at that place justified a temporary altar, comes out from 2 Samuel 6.2 where the Ark is described as, 'the Ark of God which is called by the Name, even the name of Yahweh of hosts, Who sits on the cherubim'.

The tabernacle may have remained at Gilgal in the early days while they were establishing themselves in the land, but it is probably found at Shechem in chapter 24.26. It may therefore not have remained in one permanent place at this stage because of the unsettled state of things, but have moved over the years between Gilgal, Shechem and Shiloh, until it finally settled at Shiloh.

In Joshua 9 the inhabitants of Gibeon were made hewers of wood and drawers of water, 'for the altar of Yahweh, even to this day, in the place which He should choose' (Joshua 9.27). All this is confirmation, direct and indirect, of the idea of one Central Sanctuary, chosen by Yahweh, and of the one altar, with any others being temporary exceptions. There was one altar of Yahweh, of which other temporary 'authorised' altars were a reflection, only permitted in the presence of the Ark or by a theophany, because such altars temporarily stood in the place of the one altar. The tabernacle was God's dwellingplace, the Ark (or perhaps the top of the Ark) was His chariot throne (2 Samuel 22.11), a theophany was a direct revelation of Himself, thus in each case an altar could be set up for the occasion because Yahweh was personally there, but the only permanent altar was in the precincts of the tabernacle, for that was His earthly home. All this stressed His oneness.

The general reference to 'the place which He should choose' (as in Deuteronomy 12.5, 11, 13) seems to suggest that that place was not necessarily only one place, any more than 'in all places where I record My name' (Exodus 20.24) was one place. It was the place where Yahweh chose to be at any particular time, the 'place that He chose', in contrast with the places that men chose in their idolatrous worship where the gods regularly had no say. The main point is therefore that the choice was not to be man's, but Yahweh's. Worship was to be at that place and no other, and its movement was mainly limited by the movement of the tabernacle, although seemingly it could be temporarily determined by the presence of the Ark.

So in the end it was the tabernacle of Yahweh, together with the altar of Yahweh and the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, that demonstrated that chosen place. It could be established at any place that He chose, and for a good long time its permanent basis was at Shiloh. That was the place that He chose until, 'He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men' (Psalm 78.60). But in no case does it justify plural altars in continual permanent use.

Meanwhile, while in the beginning period of conquest Joshua and his men regularly returned to Gilgal (Joshua 10.6, 15, 43), which was presumably where the Central Sanctuary was originally set up, or to which it continually returned, by Joshua 19.51 it had been removed to Shiloh, and there the inheritances were divided for an inheritance by lot 'before Yahweh at the door of the tent of meeting'. For Shiloh see also Joshua 18.1, 8-10; 19,51; 21.2; 22.9, 12 where it was still the focal point of Israel. That once finally settled in the land Shiloh became its permanent, established resting place is clearly established. What caused the transfer of thought from Shechem to Shiloh we do not know, but it may well have been through the Urim and Thummim (no important decision like that would have been made without either that or a special revelation) and to make it more central.

Furthermore when the Reubenites, Gadites and half tribe of Manasseh built a memorial altar the situation was considered sufficiently serious to call the tribes together at Shiloh in order to prevent it, looking on it as rebellion against Yahweh and a turning away from following Him (Joshua 22.12). And they called on them, if they were dissatisfied with where they were, to come across the Jordan and settle in the land 'wherein the tabernacle of Yahweh dwells' (Joshua 22.19). But under no circumstances were they to build an altar (for sacrifice) 'besides the altar of Yahweh our God' (Joshua 22.19). Clearly loyalty to the Central Sanctuary at Shiloh and its Ark and its one altar was seen as of paramount importance. The reply came that it was a memorial altar, not one for offerings and sacrifices to be burned on (Joshua 22.23, 26, 28, 29). They recognised for that purpose only 'the altar of Yahweh our God which is before His tabernacle' (Joshua 22.29).

In Joshua 24 Joshua calls all the tribes together at Shechem where they 'presented themselves before God' (24.1). There there was a renewal of covenant, and Joshua wrote a record 'in the book of the instruction of God' (24.26), and took a great stone and set it up there under an oak that was 'by the sanctuary of Yahweh' (24.26). To 'present oneself before God' was to do so at the door of the tabernacle (compare Leviticus 16.7). Thus the probability is that the tabernacle and bronze altar were brought there, (both were portable and Shiloh was not far away and there was a direct route), although it may be that only the Ark was taken there. It is true that nothing is specifically said about the tabernacle, or about the Ark, or indeed about an altar and sacrifices. The non-mention of any of these need not, however, mean that they were not there, or were not offered, only that their presence and their happening was assumed. However, unless the tabernacle was there the implication must be that there were no offerings and sacrifices.

The reason for the setting up of the stone was as a permanent reminder which suggests that no permanent altar was erected there to be seen as a permanent feature, which ties in with it having been erected in the outer case of the bronze altar, or with one not being erected at all. There are no particular grounds for suggesting that this 'sanctuary' (holy place) of Yahweh was any other than the tabernacle (even though no altar and no sacrifices are mentioned), although it is true that it might simply have been a place made 'holy' by past associations (Genesis 33.18-20). If that be the case we may see it as a place where no offerings and sacrifices took place. However if it was seen as partly fulfilling Deuteronomy 27 (already fulfilled in Joshua 8.30-35) that could not be so.

Thus all through the book of Joshua loyalty to the Central Sanctuary is paramount, either through its own presence or the presence of the Ark, although it is possible, but by no means certain, that an altar was allowed to be built at Shechem earlier at the first visit (8.30), as long as it was built in the presence of the Ark and in accordance with Exodus 20.24-25, for a particular ceremony which was at Yahweh's behest, and was in conjunction with the presence of the Ark for a specific act of worship.

In Judges 1.1, after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel came to enquire of Yahweh. This suggests that they came to 'the Priest' at the door of the tabernacle, who would use the Urim and Thummim for the purpose. The result in the long run, after much heartache, was victory, but when after a number of years they finally conquered the inhabitants of the land whom they had been unable to defeat at first, they disobeyed Yahweh and did not drive them out.

So in Judges 2 the Angel of Yahweh, Whose words reveal that He is Yahweh, 'came up from Gilgal to Bochim'. He had revealed Himself at Gilgal (Joshua 5.13-15). Now He revealed Himself at Bochim. This (which may have been visually portrayed by the movement of the pillar of cloud and fire) may suggest that the tabernacle was now set up at Bochim. There He castigated them for not having, after their victory, driven out the inhabitants of the land, nor having destroyed their altars (2.2-3).

But 'Bochim' may have been either at Shiloh or at Shechem, for Bochim ('weeping') was not so much a place name, but a name given there and then because of the weeping that took place there because of their repentance. And there they sacrificed to Yahweh, we may presume at the door of the tabernacle. There is never any suggestion that sacrifices were made to Yahweh anywhere else, except possibly before the Ark, and the movement of the Angel of Yahweh suggests the movement of the tabernacle. The criticism levelled against them is that they sacrificed to other gods because they had not thrown down the altars of these other gods. The command had been that they be destroyed.

Mention is made of graven images in 3.19 but there is no indication of what the images represented. They were probably simply ancient landmarks from the past.

It is significant that in the story of Deborah there is no mention of sacrificing. In view of the great victory and the godliness of Deborah we might have expected such a reference if it had been permitted, but she was judge and prophetess, not priest. It would seem that the idea of such offerings and sacrifices never entered her head. We are, however, told of the calling together of the tribes from far and wide (5.14-23), and that call would normally go from the Central Sanctuary. The thanksgiving offerings would be offered when the tribes met up at the Central Sanctuary.

When Gideon made an offering it was at the direct command of Yahweh and Yahweh was Himself there, and it was He Who caused it to be burned with fire (6.19-21). Yahweh acted as His own priest. Gideon built no altar there. However, he did build one later and called it 'Yahweh is peace'. It stood there permanently and there is no reason to doubt that it was a memorial altar, established as a blow in the face to Baalism. He is not said to have offered sacrifices there (Judges 6.24). Even so it was at a place where Yahweh had recorded His name.

The altar that Gideon did build and sacrifice on, using the wood from the Asherah image, was again at the direct command of Yahweh (Judges 6.26), in accordance with Exodus 20.24-25, and was particular for the occasion. It was because Yahweh had revealed Himself as there through a theophany. It was a riposte against the altar of Baal which dominated the neighbourhood. Whether he had a local priest connected with his family to help him we do not know, but the circumstances were exceptional, specifically commanded by God at a theophany, and in accord with His direct instructions. There may have been no loyal priests in the area, and Yahweh had the right to alter His own instructions.

Later he called up the tribes and they gathered to him. This would require some authority to whom the tribes would listen which may suggest he went to the Central Sanctuary for help, which would explain why the tribes responded to him. 'Blowing the ram's horn' (Judges 6.34, compare 3.27) may signify exactly that. But there is no other mention of him sacrificing, and his sin was rather to set up an ephod, probably used to enquire at as a substitute for going to the Central Sanctuary for guidance from Yahweh (Judges 8.27 compare 1 Samuel 23.9; 30.7). In Exodus 28 the ephod was a priestly garment which bore the names of the children of Israel, to which was attached the breastpouch which contained the Urim and Thummim. It regularly indicated high religious status (1 Samuel 14.3).

The 'offering up as a burnt offering' by Jephthah of his daughter (if it was actually carried out in practise and not a symbolic offering made at the tabernacle when she was dedicated to lifelong service at the tabernacle) was clearly not in accord with Yahweh's teaching and cannot thus be used as an example of anything. We would not expect such an offering to be made at the Central Sanctuary if it was a human sacrifice. It would not have been countenanced.

Manoah's offering of a whole burnt offering was again at the direct command of Yahweh in a theophany (Yahweh was there) and it was offered on a rock (13.16, 19). This use of a rock may possibly be seen as demonstrating that there was no local altar to Yahweh. It certainly emphasises the temporary nature of 'the altar'.

One thing that stands out in all this is the lack of mention of spontaneous sacrifices to Yahweh by the people in general. While such sacrificing to other gods is mentioned, apart from the examples given above which were at the specific command of Yahweh, there is silence as to sacrifices to Yahweh. Silence is, of course, a dangerous two-edged weapon, but it at least serves to demonstrate that such sacrifices away from the Ark and the tabernacle are nowhere spoken of as positively sanctioned or allowed, or even stated to be engaged in. The whole of their religious tradition points to sacrifices being made only at the tabernacle, except when the Ark was on the move or when there was a unique theophany. The otherwise total silence cannot be discounted.

We now come to the final incidents in Judges which throw more light on the matter.

In chapter 17 a foolish and unscrupulous young man named Micah made a graven image and a molten image from silver dedicated to Yahweh as a result of his grave misdeeds and subsequent deep penitence. He 'had a house of God', made an ephod and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons as priests. It would seem that he was aping his idea of the tabernacle. The images were not said to be of Yahweh Himself. Possibly, as with Jeroboam later, he made a silver calf which in some way represented Yahweh, possibly being seen as His throne, for gods are known to have used bulls as their thrones. The writer immediately adds the comment, 'in those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did what was right in his own eyes' (17.6). Whether he means by this that Yahweh was no longer seen by them as their King for all practical purposes, or that the lack of a supreme central authority under Yahweh was missing at that time, cannot be said with certainty. But we must remember that the promise of coming kings was a part of the covenant (Genesis 17.6, 16) and that a section of Israel had been ready to make Gideon their 'ruler' over them, and possibly did, even though, as Gideon stressed, it was only under Yahweh's rule (Judges 8.22-23). So the thought of being 'kingless' may simply indicate a lack of general authority. The question is debatable, but it certainly demonstrates that the writer regarded Micah's actions as lawless. This whole process cannot therefore be looked on as legitimate, or even as common in Israel.

In this regard it is interesting and significant that while archaeology has thrown up a multitude of images of Baal throughout Canaan, there are comparatively few, if any, that could be seen as representing Yahweh. In view of man's propensity for religious artefacts this can only be seen as surprising. It demonstrates how strictly the law against such images was observed, even at the most rebellious times.

It should be noted that Micah's actions were so unusual that when revealed they drew the attention of the leaders of the tribe of Dan when they were moving to a new homeland. It is significant in this regard that the tribe themselves clearly did not have such images, nor a priest of their own, even though they knew that they were moving outside the range of the orthodox priesthood. It is clear too that they still did not know how they could obtain paraphernalia for worshipping Yahweh until they came across Micah. It seemed to them a gift from Heaven. To suggest therefore that this was the norm in Israel is to go against the evidence.

When a travelling Levite arrived and sought hospitality Micah seized on the opportunity to appoint him as his priest, declaring 'Now I know that Yahweh will do me good, seeing I have a Levite as my priest'. He was clearly aware that his present arrangement was unsatisfactory. This in itself condemned him. If he knew that he should not have a non-Levite as his priest, why had he appointed his son? In spite of his vague religious ideas he clearly knew that having his son as a priest, which would have been acceptable in patriarchal days, was now not quite sufficient. And this opportunity to have someone who was actually connected with the Central Sanctuary must have seemed like a Godsend. That he should at least have a Levite, who while not necessarily the perfect solution was at least a step up, clearly thrilled him. It confirms at this date the special status of Levites religiously speaking, but it does not indicate that Levites could act as priests. The Levite was simply one step up from the layman. It is stressed in the story that this Levite was unscrupulous. (One point coming out here is that Micah was aware of the lack in his son's priesthood. Up to that point he had simply made do. He was transparently doing his own thing).

One of the responsibilities of Levites was to make clear the law of Yahweh, so we can understand why Micah, in his careless attitude towards religious matters, (he probably only had a very vague idea of what God's law required), considered that this was one step up from his son. Here was an expert, a man set apart by God to serve the sanctuary, and he could have him for his own private sanctuary! But at this time the Levites, in the lack of organisation in those days, were probably not benefiting from a full allocation of tithes due to the lawlessness of the days, and the travelling Levites as opposed to those who remained in the levitical cities were probably in poverty. Thus this Levite, instead of admonishing him, accepted the position. As we discover later he too was unscrupulous. Note that he was consecrated by Micah. 'Became his priest' may well be sardonic.

It is clear to anyone not out to prove a point that this whole story is riddled with unscrupulousness, expediency, and religious error. The command not to make graven and molten images was basic to the covenant, had been specifically condemned in the incident of the golden calf (which no one would have invented, especially as related to Aaron, if it had not happened), and was constantly repeated. The setting up of his own house of God was seen as unusual enough to draw the attention of a large section of a major tribe, who had no images of their own, nor a priest of their own (it is clear that they had no priest among them, indicating that no reputable priest would remove so far from the Central Sanctuary), suggesting that they had had nowhere else that they could look. He is not to be looked on as one among many who did these things.

We may, however, well set his behaviour down to ignorance rather than total and flagrant rebellion, and as arising from the depth of his conviction of sin. He could not live with himself and was going to extremes to pacify his own conscience. It was a time when the law was not being applied strictly and when men to some extent followed their own course in religious matters. Thus many turned to Baal ('Lord'), possibly even loosely identifying him with Yahweh. (That Yahweh was in the early days spoken to as 'Baal' ('Lord' - compare Hosea 2.16), which would have caused confusion, comes out in the early names which include Baal, e.g. Jerubbaal (Judges 7.1; 8.29, 35); Eshbaal, Saul's son (1 Chronicles 9.39), altered to Ishbosheth later (2 Samuel 2.10). And Meribbaal, Saul's grandson (1 Corinthians 8.34; 9.40), whose name was changed later to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9.6). Bosheth means 'shame'. Compare Hosea 2.16). Such names did not appear later. And if he was burdened in his own conscience because of his abominable behaviour towards his own mother we can understand why he went to such extremes. He was trying to make up for it by excessive 'godliness' based on ignorance, by setting up his own holy place That he was an innovator comes out in the sequel.

The tribe of Dan are depicted as not having been able to take over the lot that had been allocated to them in the land (18.1 compare 1.34-35). A large section of them therefore decided to desert their inheritance. (How large in comparison with the whole we do not know, but many Danites remained behind). And while seeking a new place to which to move outside the allocated areas their spies chanced on Micah's house and lodged there. They actually knew the Levite (17.3). 18.30 in fact informs us that he was Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses. He thus had important connections and was seemingly well known. The narrator does not inform us of this at the beginning presumably because he considered that it was a shame on Israel, and on Moses, that this man behaved in this way.

So when this large section of the tribe moved from Danite territory to Laish they passed by Micah's house and appropriated his priest and his images, his ephod and his teraphim, first by stealth, and then by force, delighted to find something that they knew to be missing in their venture. It will be noted how many of the commandments were being broken at this stage. That regarding images, that regarding theft, that regarding threatened murder, that regarding covetousness, and even that regarding honouring father and mother, for it had been stressed that he treated the young Levite as his son (17.11). That is, at least half of the commandments had been broken, a whole tabletful. They had also deserted their allotted inheritance. There is no way in which we can depict this whole account as being other than riddled with gross disobedience to the covenant, even in the light of the times. All the sins are piled up on each other. To suggest that Dan are simply doing innocently what later generations would condemn is to ignore the facts. From the moment of deserting their inheritance they were depicted as in the wrong in all that they did.

Arriving at Laish, and taking it, they set up the image and established the Levite as priest. As a descendant of Moses, and as a Levite connected therefore to the family of Aaron (Moses was Aaron's brother), they no doubt felt he was the next best thing to a Levitical priest of the family of Aaron, and no legitimate priest would have followed them out of the allotted territories away from the Central Sanctuary. They had probably tried to tempt one and had failed (another confirmation that priests did not think that they could set up altars just anywhere). This image was set up 'all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh'. Thus it is deliberately contrasted with the one Central Sanctuary in a way that suggests disapproval. The house of God was at Shiloh, and they had set up his false one which was no house of God (for that was at Shiloh). This emphasises that it was contrary to the conception of the Central Sanctuary. (It also demonstrates that Micah's house of God was equally condemned). The 'time of the captivity of the land' probably refers to the overrunning of it by the Philistines (compare 13.1; 1 Samuel 4.10-11) which was also the time when Shiloh ceased to be the Central Sanctuary (Jeremiah 7.12-14; 26.6, 9). Such as it is, archaeological evidence supports this situation.

The next incident in Judges is in respect of a Levite who was travelling some distance to 'the residence of Yahweh' (19.18). This confirms that in general Israel recognised but one 'house' (bayith - residence) of Yahweh, the Central Sanctuary. As he lodged in Gibeah his concubine was viciously multi-raped with public approbation (Judges 19). So he acted swiftly, cut up her body and sent parts to the twelve tribes together with a message explaining the purpose of his action. It was a call to the tribes to come before Yahweh and pass their judgment and avenge her death. It was a gruesome variation on the way that the tribes were seemingly summoned by an animal cut up so that its body parts might be a reminder of the fact that not to respond to the covenant would be to be deserving of death (see 1 Samuel 11.7).

This spurred the tribes to action and 'all the children of Israel -- the congregation, was gathered as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba with the land of Gilead, to Yahweh at Mizpah' (Judges 20.1). Whether this was at a time of festal gathering we do not know, but it does seem probable that they took such an opportunity, although it is also clear that they had come to hear the Levite's charges against Gibeah of Benjamin which had been brought before them in such a vivid manner. This would explain why Benjamin were not present even though they had been notified (20.3) (they would also have received a body part). They had closed ranks behind Gibeah. Note how every part of the land is specifically included, north (Dan), south (Beersheba) and Transjordan (Gilead), and it is stressed that the chiefs of all the tribes were present together with four hundred military units. Thus it would appear that the Central Sanctuary was at this stage at Mizpah, otherwise why did they not gather at Shiloh? Unless of course this Mizpah ('watchtower') was adjacent to Shiloh, which is quite possible. Mizpah might well have been a gatheringplace near Shiloh. A wide area would be needed. The Levite had come to 'the house of Yahweh' as he had said was his intention, although in very different circumstances from his original intention

This picture of the whole of Israel acting in unison is a confirmation of the strength of the concept of the Central Sanctuary. What else but a sacred gathering point could have brought together such a gathering of disparate tribes? But they came because the covenant had been broken in such a way that it brought a curse on Israel, as witness the pieces of the dead woman. And this sin had been committed against a servant of Yahweh, on his way to serve at the Central Sanctuary. In the end they knew that they were responsible towards Yahweh and His covenant. They had no alternative but to act. Gross and shameful sin had been committed against Yahweh. But Benjamin refused to acknowledge the guilt of Gibeah and the result was seen to be so serious that it resulted in civil war. Benjamin were in breach of the sacred covenant.

In order to aid in the carrying forward of operations the Ark, and possibly the tabernacle, was removed to Bethel, for it was there that they came to consult the Urim and the Thummim, through the High Priest. They 'asked counsel of God' and 'Yahweh' replied. Then after being defeated they returned and 'wept before Yahweh until the evening', and again consulted Him and received His reply, again presumably through the Urim and Thummim. After a second defeat they 'came to Bethel and wept, and sat there before Yahweh -- and they offered whole burnt offerings and peace offerings before Yahweh' (20.26). And they again enquired of Yahweh (20.27a). And it is at this point that it is explained that 'the Ark of the Covenant of God was there in those days' (20.27b). This should not surprise us. The Ark was regularly brought to where there was a holy war.

Furthermore we are told that 'Phinehas, the son of Eliezer, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days' (20.28), in other words he was 'the Priest'. Thus if an altar was built as opposed to the presence of the tabernacle it was sanctioned by the presence of the Ark, but only while the Ark was there and if built in accordance with Exodus 20.24-25.

But while the tabernacle is not mentioned every Israelite would know that where the Ark went the tabernacle would normally surely go, and that 'enquiries of Yahweh', and 'weeping before Yahweh', and the offering of whole burnt offerings and peace offerings, indicated that it was before the door of the tent of meeting, unless, and we do not know whether this was so, in time of holy war the Ark stood in for the tabernacle on the front line. This is finally confirmed by the presence of Phinehas, 'the Priest', and the fact that the enquiries are again here addressed to Yahweh, this time specifically through him. The result was total defeat for Benjamin and a process of elimination (20.48) until only 'six hundred men' were left who had not fled the country.

This then caused the people to return to the Central Sanctuary at Bethel because they suddenly realised that a whole tribe was to be blotted out of Israel (21.2-3). They 'built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings' (21.4). We know that at the very least the Ark was there (20.27b), and we are probably to see the tabernacle as there also, for the 'building of the altar' probably refers to using the brazen altar (which was in itself only a shell) and building up in it the stones and earth required to make it usable as an altar. On the other hand Bethel may alternately have been seen as one place where Yahweh had recorded His name because of the presence of the Ark.

Everything having been settled the Central Sanctuary seemingly returned to Shiloh (21.12). Shiloh was recognised as the place of the Central Sanctuary par excellence (Psalm 78.60; Jeremiah 7.12). Jeremiah even compared the temple and Jerusalem to it (Jeremiah 7.14). It was the place where God caused His name to dwell at the first (Jeremiah 7.12). It was the place that Yahweh their God had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to set His name there (Deuteronomy 12.5).

But the possibility must be accepted in this that the tabernacle in fact remained at Shiloh over this period, with only the Ark as the central point of worship being removed to Mizpah and Bethel. Where the Ark was would be seen as the place where Yahweh had set His name (Exodus 20.23-24). Thus it may be that temporary altars could be set up where the Ark was, given authentication by the presence of the Ark. Then they would have to be built as in Exodus 20.24-25. But it is difficult to think that the Ark was left out in the open so that the dew could fall on it. Its sacredness required that it be sheltered.

It seems that often when there was warfare the Ark was prominent and temporarily left the tabernacle. See Numbers 10.33-36 where it is connected with Yahweh arising and scattering their enemy, and where its return to the tabernacle is spoken of in terms of returning to the whole of Israel. This refers to their first stage on leaving Sinai to give confidence to the people as they moved forward. It probably went ahead whenever danger was sensed. Normally when all was quiet the tabernacle would travel in the middle of the column (Numbers 10.17), covered and borne by the Levites. See also Joshua 3-6 where it was evidence that Yahweh was with them in what lay ahead and where it produced the unique victory at Jericho, in which cause it had to be borne by 'levitical priests'. But Jericho was a firstfruit, a city to be devoted to Yahweh, for Yahweh had taken it. That would not be directly true of every city.

The only time, however when we know of it actually being taken into battle (again by 'levitical priests') was in 1 Samuel 4.3-6, but it clearly had a reputation for the Philistines feared it (verses 7-8). The probability is that when a battle was ahead it was brought into the vicinity rather than actually being taken into battle, as in Judges 20.27. Whether the tabernacle was sometimes brought with it we are not told.

But the Ark would be seen as the focal point of the Central Sanctuary, for it was the durable and central feature, so that where it went there symbolically was, as it were, the Central Sanctuary. And there went Yahweh's Name (2 Samuel 6.2). With its 'propitiatory' (mercy seat) placed between the cherubim it symbolised the throne between the Cherubim on which Yahweh sat and on which He travelled through the heavens (2 Samuel 22.11; Psalm 18.10; Ezekiel 1, 10; see also Psalm 80.1; 99.1; Isaiah 37.16). This would have justified the building of temporary altars while the Ark was there, because there He was seen to have set His Name, and there He was considered to be. But once it had returned to the tabernacle any such altars would cease to be valid. Their validity came from the presence of the Ark.

We may note that while the tabernacle would itself have needed renewing and could be replaced by the temple, the Ark could not be replaced by anything. When it was captured they did not make a new Ark, whereas the tabernacle would have to be renewed constantly. Even the temple could be rebuilt. But the Ark was permanent and so sacred that it could not be replaced. It represented the essence of the Central Sanctuary and was also the Ark of the Testimony, containing within it the covenant. They did not even replace it after the Exile but symbolised its presence with a stone. It was too sacred to replace. There was only one Ark. The tradition thus grew that it had been hidden and would one day return (see 2 Maccabees 2.4-8).

The durability of the Central Sanctuary comes out in that after the long period and turmoil of the judges period it still survived and appears in 1 Samuel 1. There we read of Elkanah who went up from his city 'at regular times (miyamim yamimah) to worship and to sacrifice to Yahweh of hosts in Shiloh' (1 Samuel 1.3). This suggests that he went up for the regular feasts. Thus we have here evidence that the ordinary godly Israelite expected to attend regularly at the Central Sanctuary for worship and the offering of sacrifices. It is also added that those who ministered were Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli, who were priests of Yahweh. Eli was 'the Priest' (verse 9). These were descended from Aaron.

Eli 'sat by a post of the temple (heycal) of Yahweh' (verse 9). The word 'heycal' means a 'magnificent structure'. It is possible that the Israelites used it of the tabernacle which they no doubt saw as their 'magnificent dwellingplace for Yahweh', and that the post was one of the posts of the tabernacle entrance, but it is very possible that in view of the circumstances of the time the tabernacle had been surrounded by a defensive wall with a gate and that store buildings had been erected for containing the paraphernalia of the tabernacle and the fruit of its offerings. Archaeology has revealed such storebuildings at Shiloh (assuming it to be modern Seilun), although whether they were connected with the tabernacle we cannot know.

Elkanah went up to offer to Yahweh the 'regular sacrifice and his vow' (verse 21). All this is consonant with what we know of the Central Sanctuary where offerings were alone made to Yahweh. When his wife bore her 'miracle child' whom she had promised would be given to Yahweh all the days of his life and that no razor would come on his head (verse 11), indicating a 'vowed' man, she took the child up to the Central Sanctuary, to 'the residence (bayith) of Yahweh' (compare Judges 18.31; 19.18), 'that he may appear before Yahweh and there abide for ever' (verse 22) and there offered a bull ox as an offering. A tent could be called 'a residence' but the usage may reflect the more permanent elements that had probably been built there. In 3.3 reference is made to 'the magnificent residence' (heycal) of Yahweh where the Ark (and the lamp of God) was'

Thus Samuel became a child of the Sanctuary and as such was probably seen as adopted by Eli, thus becoming a member of the priestly family, even though Samuel is in fact never called a priest. But his permanent attachment to the tabernacle probably required that he be adopted by those who serviced the temple, and what is more he was probably the 'faithful priest according to my will who will do according to what is in My heart and in My mind' (1 Samuel 2.35). He certainly performed the functions of a priest in the anointing of kings (1 Samuel 10.1; 16.13) and the offering of sacrifices (1 Samuel 7.9, 10), and in blessing the sacrifice (1 Samuel 9.13), and even while a child 'ministered before Yahweh before Eli the Priest' (1 Samuel 2.11, 18), wore a linen ephod (1 Samuel 2.18) and entered the Holy Place (1 Samuel 3.3). The last is suggested by the reference to the lamp of God which had not gone out and would be in the Holy Place. The description 'where the Ark of God was' refers to the Sanctuary as a whole. It does not mean that he was in the Holy of Holies but that he was in a place where Yahweh could speak to him from the Ark behind the veil, that is in the Holy Place. His presence there confirms that he was seen as 'priestly'. We must remember in this regard that Samuel was 'sanctified' to Yahweh from babyhood. He was a uniquely 'holy' child, a Sanctuary child. In 1 Chronicles 6.28 he is named in a genealogy of Levi which supports this, even if it was by adoption.

But he also became much more. He became 'a prophet of Yahweh' in a special sense (1 Samuel 3.20), an intercessor for Israel (1 Samuel 7.5, 8; 12.18) and a 'judge' of Israel (1 Samuel 7.15) and also head over the whole band of prophets (1 Samuel 19.20). He was a mighty figure in religious terms. However, he was not officially 'the Priest' (the High Priest) for that was first Eli, and then Ahiyah, son of Ahitub, son of Phinehas, son of Eli (1 Samuel 14.3). But Eli died when Samuel was young and Ahiyah became High Priest when Samuel was old, so Samuel may well have stood in as High Priest while he was growing up. It is possible that Ahitub, of whom nothing is known, was High Priest, but it seems more likely that he must have died fairly young for he never appears on the scene. (He must not be mixed up with Ahitub the father of Zadok).

So Samuel cannot be judged by normal standards. He was brought into the world to be Yahweh's servant, was supremely Yahweh's man like no one since Moses and Joshua, and accepted by Yahweh as having priestly rights. Furthermore while he was growing up the Central Sanctuary was being watched over by priests not worthy of the name and the Sanctuary was subject to many sinful practises (1 Samuel 2.13-17, 22). It was rapidly becoming discredited. It was thus to Samuel, child and 'holy one' of the Central Sanctuary, prophet of Yahweh, that the pious people looked. There was their hope. Samuel and Shiloh were identified (1 Samuel 3.21). The Central Sanctuary was still central and personified in Samuel.

Note in all this that Eli was said to be 'chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer on My altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before Me' and to receive the offerings made by fire to Yahweh which were for the priest (1 Samuel 2.28). The High Priesthood of Eli is thus confirmed as appointed by Yahweh in line with the Law found in the Pentateuch.

However, catastrophe struck. A defeat by the Philistines resulted in a call by the people that the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh which dwells between the cherubim should be brought from Shiloh, from its place in the Central Sanctuary (1 Samuel 4.3). This being complied with the presence of Eli's sons was required, for only the priests of Yahweh could carry the Ark uncovered (1 Samuel 4.4; compare Joshua 3-4). But the people were defeated, the Ark of God was taken and the two evil priests slain (1 Samuel 4.11). And as a result the aged Eli died, probably because of the shock (1 Samuel 4.14-18). It was possibly around this time that Shiloh was destroyed (Jeremiah 7.12-14; 26.6, 9), although the tabernacle may have been whisked away for we much later find Ahimelech ministering as 'the Priest' and in charge of the shewbread and the ephod (1 Samuel 21). Ahi-melech (my brother is King) may be an alternative name for Ahi-yah (my brother is Yahweh).

So as a result of the defeat at the hands of the Philistines the Ark was in the hands of the Philistines, the structure at Shiloh was destroyed, and the High Priesthood was in disarray. We do not know whether the tabernacle escaped whole or whether another one had to be put together, but a Central Sanctuary was much later to be found at Nob, containing the shewbread which was 'before Yahweh', the ephod and the sword of Goliath, although lacking what was central to it, the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh (1 Samuel 21.1-9). But at the time of Samuel's maturity it was clearly marginalised. Even if it still existed its authority had been diminished, its priesthood discredited and shamed, and now slain or dead, its shrine empty, and it itself having to be ignominiously removed. Yahweh had deserted it (Psalm 78.60). What then preserved the unity of Israel and the idea of the oneness of God? The answer lies in the one whom Yahweh had raised up for the purpose, Samuel, child of the Central Sanctuary. He was the symbol of Yahweh, the symbol of unity, famed throughout Israel (1 Samuel 3.20).

The Ark did not remain long with the Philistines. They found it too hot to handle and it was returned in an unmanned cart to Bethshemesh, a priestly city (Joshua 21.16). The workers in the fields which would include priests were so delighted to see it that they lost their heads, and looked into the Ark (1 Samuel 6.19). Possibly they were checking whether the covenant tablets were still there, but whatever the reason they were smitten as a result, probably with the plague, (as with the Philistines - 5.6, 9, 12) and fifty eleph (leading men?) and seventy men died (verse 19). Although this would only manifest itself after the initial celebrations, it would then come with all the more seriousness. Those who looked into the Ark would probably be the leading men.

The gift of the Philistines of five golden tumours and five golden rodents (6.4) may well indicate a connection of the plague with flea-ridden rats, of which some may have been still in the Ark. If they sought to remove them we can well understand why they were smitten.

Meanwhile they had been sensible enough, once they had passed the first excitement, to ensure that Levites (as it was a priestly city, presumably levitical priests) present lifted the Ark down, and they placed it on a great stone which they then also used as an impromptu altar and sacrificed the oxen as a whole burnt offering to Yahweh, utilising the wood of the cart. They then also offered more whole burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices, the latter suggesting that they then had a feast. The use of an altar was legitimised by the presence of the Ark, and in a priestly city there was no shortage of priests.

The repetition in verses 14-15 is typical of ancient literature which was often very repetitive. It was written in order to be listened to and the repetition helped the hearer to keep up with events. Such repetitions were simply ancient style.

The effect of the plague was to cause them to desire to get rid of the Ark and they sent messengers to Kiriath yearim calling for them to come and collect the Ark. We are not told why they brought Kiriath yearim into it, or why they expected them to accept something so dangerous, but the men of that city responded and fetched the Ark of Yahweh and brought it into the house of Abinadab 'in the hill'.

This gives us a clue to the explanation. The presumption must be that it was precisely because Abinadab was there, and had agreed to take the Ark, that Kiriath yearim was involved. All would have consulted together and would have asked, who can we call on to take responsibility for this dangerous Ark? And their solution had been Abinadab. He was probably the most prominent man in the area and recognised as a godly man who would know what to do, thus probably also a priest. And he had presumably consented. Then they 'sanctified' Eleazar, Abinadab's son to be its custodian, 'to keep the Ark of Yahweh'. This would suggest that all knew that Abinadab was the right man to receive the Ark, and that his son was a suitable person to be its custodian. That is no doubt why Kiriath yearim were prepared to accept the Ark (they were not a levitical city). 'In the hill' probably suggests his status, but it may indicate that the aim was to have the Ark kept in an elevated place. We may consider that had everyone not been confident that Abinadab was the most suitable of men for the task the men of Kiriath yearim would probably have rejected the kind offer of the Ark (which had been shown to be so dangerous) on the grounds that the priestly people of Bethshemesh were the experts.

If we consider that Bethshemesh was a priestly city, and that there was much death as a result of misuse of the Ark, which could hardly have been hushed up, we can surely recognise the great care that would have been taken to ensure that the correct precautions were observed and the correct person to look after the Ark. They had learned the hard way that this was not something to be trifled with, or even dismissed. The writer would not feel it necessary to point out that Abinadab was qualified to receive the Ark. All would know that it was clearly so. It is hugely probable that he was a high status priest or Levite. Certainly he must have been a man of high position and reputation.

The fact that there seems to have been no thought of restoring the Ark to the tabernacle counts heavily in favour of the tabernacle having been destroyed at Shiloh when the Central Sanctuary was destroyed, an occurrence which was deliberately totally ignored until mentioned centuries later by Jeremiah 7.14; 26.6, 9). This would seem to be confirmed by the fact that Samuel who had been dedicated to serve the tabernacle for life now seemingly ceased specifically to be so and was no longer connected with it. The only possible explanation for this is that the tabernacle had ceased to operate, otherwise he was breaking his mother's vow, although we need not doubt that as much as possible would have been saved and stored somewhere. (Samuel himself must have fled from it). The Ark thus had nowhere to go. It may also have been seen as having been defiled, and besides it smote all who touched it, and was such that they did not know what to do with it. The alternative explanation may, however, be that the Philistines forbade its restoration at the time, for the lords of the Philistines were taking a personal interest in the situation (1 Samuel 6.12, compare 7.7). While they could not handle it themselves, they would not want Israel to make use of it as it was before. But that would only apply before their defeat.

The Ark, however, would remain there for twenty years. For some reason not explained it was clearly considered that it could not be brought into use. One good reason for this would be that the Central Sanctuary had been destroyed and was no longer operating. Another that the death of the two sons of the High Priest, followed by the death of Eli itself, had left no adult hereditary High Priest able to fulfil his duty. A third that it was defiled until Yahweh indicated otherwise. Thus might the Central Sanctuary have been put on hold, with the nation uniting around Samuel.

'And all the house of Israel lamented after Yahweh' (1 Samuel 7.2). This may suggest that the ancient Sanctuary at Shiloh was destroyed, and the Ark was in quarantine, so that they had nowhere to look for Yahweh's help. Their very heart had been torn out. Thus all eyes were turned to Samuel who par excellence represented the essence of the destroyed Central Sanctuary.

In this new situation both Samuel and Israel were feeling their way. But Samuel had no doubt as to why all this had happened. He called on the people to return to Yahweh and put away their strange gods and Ashtaroth images and return to the covenant. Then he called on them to gather at Mizpah which was probably a gathering place near Shiloh (compare Judges 20.1). We are not given a time scale, and it is probably significant that no sacrifices were said to be offered there. This was not the triumphant gathering to the Central Sanctuary. It was an act of national repentance. So instead they poured out water before Yahweh and fasted (1 Samuel 7.7). But the approach of the Philistine army, alarmed at this huge gathering, terrified the people. This faced Samuel up with what he must do and he opted on a bold and unorthodox course.

There was no Central Sanctuary there, and probably no adult hereditary High Priest. So in the absence of a Central Sanctuary he had no option but to act as the supreme representative of the Central Sanctuary and approach Yahweh ad hoc. This was no ordinary situation and they wanted Yahweh to manifest His Name.

We must remember that Samuel was, like Moses and Joshua, a unique person in the eyes of Yahweh, His chosen one and His prophet. He was all that was visibly left of what had been truly sanctified in the Central Sanctuary. He was also a 'holy' child of the Sanctuary and probably an adopted priest. And he was known as one who received Yahweh's word directly. So he took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to Yahweh (1 Samuel 7.9). That this was pleasing to Yahweh was evidenced by the fact that He stepped in and disabled the Philistines by a huge storm so that Israel was able to defeat them (verse 10). But it was clearly exceptional and connected with his own unique position and the unique situation (as with Elijah's altar later).

The final result, very much summarised, was that Israel were able to free themselves from the Philistine yoke. Samuel meanwhile recognised that there must be some central place for the people to come to worship and set up an altar to Yahweh in Ramah (1 Samuel 7.17). This was probably intended to act as the Central Sanctuary, until the Central Sanctuary could be restored on the coming of age of the hereditary High Priest. This was to act in its place, and seemingly did so into Samuel's old age (1 Samuel 8.1-4). That Yahweh's chosen 'child of the Sanctuary' was there would identify it to the people as such. Possibly the wait was intended to give time for the Central Sanctuary and the Ark to become 'clean' again after the way in which they had been defiled by the former High Priesthood. Passage of time was always the way by which cleanness was restored, 'and shall be unclean until the evening' is a regular description of becoming ritually clean again (Leviticus 22.6; and twenty seven more times; Number 19.21). For some cleansings a seven day wait was necessary. Such a wait being seen as necessary would explain why he did not immediately establish a new tabernacle, bring back the Ark, and proclaim a new Central Sanctuary that way.

While Samuel judged Israel the people were satisfied but his heirs were not like him (1 Samuel 8.3), so the people then came to Samuel and ask him to give them 'a king to judge us like all the nations'. They had been twenty years without an official Central Sanctuary and were no longer thinking in those terms. They simply wanted settled government.

Their dream, of course, was of a perfect king who would rule righteously, and one who would have his own standing army and do all their fighting for them. But they were in essence rejecting the rule of Yahweh. It was Yahweh Who fought for them. And they were not looking for a king under Yahweh, who would lead them to the victory provided by Yahweh, but a despotic king who would fight their battles for them. Faith was low. So Samuel reminded them of what the reality of a king would be like (1 Samuel 8.10-18). But no, they insisted, they wanted a king like all the nations who would protect the country and fight their battles. They saw the old ways as discredited. Samuel's sons were wayward (1 Samuel 8.3). They could not depend on the rising of another Samuel.

Samuel saw to the heart of the matter immediately. They had lost their trust in the covenant God and the principle of the Central Sanctuary. The truth was that they felt that they could no longer fully rely on Yahweh as their King (1 Samuel 8.7) to fight their battles.

Saul was meanwhile led by Yahweh to Ramah where Samuel lived, at a time when sacrifices were taking place at 'the high place' (1 Samuel 9.12), that is at the site of the central altar in Ramah (7.17) which had been Israel's one altar for the last twenty years, in essence its Central Sanctuary. But from now on things were to change. Samuel recognised that his 'temporary' High Priesthood was coming to an end. He was old and the balance of power was necessarily changing. His thoughts therefore turned to where the Central Sanctuary had been first established when Joshua entered the land, to Gilgal, and he called on Saul to meet him there (1 Samuel 10.8). A new Central Sanctuary must be established. We can compare here how when Elijah instated Elisha as his successor he too repeated the course of the first entry into the land (Bethel, Jericho, parting Jordan, Jericho, Bethel - 2 Kings 2).

And a new Central Sanctuary was suitably established by the building of an altar and the offering of whole burnt offerings and sacrifices 'before Yahweh' (1 Samuel 11.15). We are not given any further details. This was the beginning of Samuel's farewell and withdrawal. It should be carefully noted that at Saul's coronation at Mizpah there had been no mention of offerings and sacrifices (1 Samuel 10.17-27), they could not just be offered anywhere. Although it would seem that Samuel did make use of the Urim and Thummim there (1 Samuel 10.20-21).

Saul now took on himself the rights of the Central Sanctuary by calling together the tribes in a time of emergency (1 Samuel 11.7) and he defeated the Ammonites. Further victories against small Philistine forces (for the Philistines were now once more exercising their power over Israel - 1 Samuel 14.52) resulted in a call for 'all Israel' to gather together which took place at the new Central Sanctuary at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13.7). But Saul knew that even then he must await the presence of the stand-in High Priest Samuel in order for him to offer the offerings and sacrifices. Samuel was, however, delayed, and seeing his army disintegrating Saul panicked and himself began to offer the offerings and sacrifices.

But he had only offered the initial whole burnt offering (this order of offering ties in with the requirements of Leviticus) when Samuel arrived. Samuel was appalled at what was happening. Saul had no right to offer offerings and sacrifices without his authority as acting High Priest. (Note that Saul had 'forced himself'. He knew that what he did was wrong). And he declared to him that such was the seriousness of his crime that he had thereby forfeited the permanent favour of Yahweh. He was taking too much on himself. Yahweh already had a replacement for him in mind (1 Samuel 13.10-14). Nevertheless as a result of Saul's remorse Samuel led Saul and his men to Gibeah ready for incursions against the Philistines.

We should note at this point the nature of Israel's new kingship. It was not to be like that of other nations. It is stressed that the new king was crowned as 'nagid' (prince) rather than as melek (king).

From the earliest days 'nagid' was a regular term applied to rulers of Israel, to Saul, David and Solomon (1 Samuel 9.16; 10.1; 13.14; 25.30; 2 Samuel 5.2; 6.21; 7.8; 1 Kings 1.35) and to early rulers of Israel and Judah after Solomon (1 Kings 14.7; 16.2; 2 Kings 20.5). Saul was anointed 'nagid' (1 Samuel 9.16; 10.1). David was to replace him as 'nagid' (1 Samuel 13.14) as David acknowledged (2 Samuel 6.21). And even though he later saw himself as king, he still recognised that in becoming king Solomon would be appointed as 'nagid' (1 Kings 1.35). They were kings under Yahweh, his representatives.

Furthermore in all the verses above, apart from 2 Kings 20.5, the term nagid is related to the actual appointing or anointing of the person as 'prince'. It is seen as a term especially related to one 'chosen and anointed by God'.

It is also in Scripture used of important men in authority in Israel and Judah (e.g. 'rulers over the house of God', rulers of priestly courses, and grand viziers of Judah and Israel once kingship was fully established, all chosen men), but only twice ever applied outside Israel and Judah, once in 2 Chronicles 32.21 (a late use), where it is used in the plural of the king of Assyria's war leaders and once of the prince of Tyre by Ezekiel 28.1 where its use is probably sarcastic, having his claim to be the anointed of the gods in mind. Psalm 76.12 may be another exception but is ambiguous.

So even in appointing a king it was recognised that he was a king of a special kind. He was the chosen of Yahweh and therefore responsible for maintaining the covenant and the true worship of Yahweh. He was a 'prince' under Yahweh.

This is all confirmed by the fact that shortly after this Samuel handed back the practise of the High Priesthood to the descendants of Eli, for 'Ahiyah, son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli' was now found with Saul, wearing the ephod (1 Samuel 14.3 see 15.35). He had reached an age when the hereditary High Priesthood could be resumed. Saul could not rule without a High Priest. The reference to Ahitub as Ichabod's brother may be seen as confirming that Ahitub was dead and had died when comparatively young. It certainly demonstrates him to have been not well known. Thus the new Central Sanctuary under the hereditary High Priest could now be set up.

In his new independence of Samuel Saul began to act rashly and naively. His first thoughts turned to the Ark which he knew had in the past had been so important to Israel. He naively turned to his new High Priest and said, 'Bring hither the Ark of God' (1 Samuel 14.18), which (as we have been told) was at that time in the hands of Israel. He was clearly unaware of all the problems involved, and probably thought that Ahiyah had it close to hand. Nothing further is heard of it at this point, and, as battle began immediately, he cancelled his request and the matter was dropped. The writer is probably bringing out Saul's naivety, or possibly drawing attention to the fact that Saul, unlike David, was not permitted to restore the Ark.

But why was the Ark not restored to the new tabernacle? Possibly because the Philistines were now again pressing and they did not want to risk losing it again. Possibly because it was looked on as defiled by its time in Philistia, and not yet ready to be restored. Possibly because after what had previously happened no word was seen as having come from Yahweh permitting its restoration, and there was still the memory of what had occurred in the past on its first arrival back. Possibly because it was in territory occupied by the Philistines. Possibly because when consulted about the issue through Urim and Thummim Yahweh said 'no'. Or possibly because they considered that events had proved that it was no longer effective. Any combination of these may indeed be what Saul was told in response to his request.

The way that the Law was being neglected at this time comes out in that when the Philistines were defeated and their cattle captured the people of Israel began to eat them without properly disposing of the blood (1 Samuel 14.32). (Had nothing further been said some might have claimed that here was another evidence that the law was unknown. In fact it merely demonstrates that it was not observed). But Saul knew that this was contrary to the Law and he commanded that the blood be properly dealt with. A great stone was rolled into place and the oxen and sheep were then slain on the great stone in the proper manner (compare Deuteronomy 12.15-16, 20-28). We are not told that these were seen as offerings and sacrifices.

The passage then ends with, 'And Saul built an altar to Yahweh. The same was the first altar that he built to Yahweh.' This was possibly the writer's disapproving view of what Saul had done, even though it is probable that Saul did not look on it as an altar but as a convenient way of killing oxen and sheep while allowing their blood to flow on the ground (Deuteronomy 12.15-16, 20-28). But the statement had another significance within it. Samuel was no longer seen as responsible for building altars. That now rested with Saul and his High Priest.

But it may mean that Saul did genuinely now 'build an altar' which was under his authority rather than Samuel's, that is, that through his new High Priest he now took responsibility for the maintenance of Central Sanctuary worship. For we must recognise that when we speak of a king doing something it regularly means through his ministers. So the idea may be that he was re-establishing his own new Central Sanctuary in the place of Samuel's and that it was the first time that he had on his own initiative arranged for an altar to be built within the bronze framework of the altar of whole burnt offering by his new High Priest. A king stood as representative for the people and when he called on them to do something it was often described as him doing it. Thus when Nebuchadnezzar much later said 'Forty six cities of Judah I besieged and took' we are not intended to see him as doing it by himself. We are intended to see that he was including his generals and his great armies in his action. He may indeed not have been personally present at most of the action.

This may be seen as confirmed by the fact that when Saul then wanted to pursue the Philistines under the guidance of 'the Priest' he sought Yahweh's advice (1 Samuel 14.36), probably through the Urim and Thummim (verse 37), although he received through it 'no reply'. Then he sought through lots, probably again through Urim and Thummim, as to the reason (verses 38-42). He was clearly in constant touch with the High Priest, and thus the Central Sanctuary.

An interesting incident then takes place in the secret anointing of David by Samuel. This begins a chain of events which eventually leads to his kingship. But the point of interest from our point of view is that Samuel's pretext for going to Bethlehem is to be in order to 'sacrifice to Yahweh' (1 Samuel 16.2), although we must note that it is at the direct command of Yahweh. He is then to call Jesse to the sacrifice. This is the one place which reads as though sacrifices in different places were a regular feature.

It may suggest that it had been Samuel's practise to move his temporary Central Sanctuary from place to place in these troubled times, (compare 7.16), but there is no other example of this, unless we read it into 1 Samuel 7.16. But while these were all places which had been visited by the Ark or which had previously been connected with the Central Sanctuary, there is no hint elsewhere that official worship took place at these sites. On the other hand we could argue that had it been his normal practise to offer sacrifices in Bethlehem the elders would not have been afraid at his coming (1 Samuel 16.4). His appearance was clearly not habitual. Had it been normal practise for him to come they would not have been afraid.

They did settle down once he explained his purpose. Perhaps they rather thought that by this unusual act he was seeking to ensure the safety of the town in the face of the Philistine threat, made possible because he was Samuel and God had commanded it.

But whichever way it was this was once more a sacrifice specifically commanded by Yahweh (1 Samuel 16.2-3) to an exceptional chosen instrument, one whose authority was such that none would gainsay him. Samuel had an authority that no other had, and this remarkable act would be remembered when David became king. It would be remembered that Yahweh had recorded His Name at Bethlehem at that time (Exodus 20.24-25). This would be seen as having indicated that this was to be the place from which would arise his chosen king, but the full significance of this awaited the birth of Christ (Micah 5.2). No one would, however, question Samuel's doing of this for he was the recognised prime prophet of Yahweh. His status was immense. Even Saul never dared to turn against Samuel.

The later reference by Jonathan to David's family sacrificing in Bethlehem did not necessarily indicate that that was a regular practise. It was probably simply an excuse which Saul saw through immediately. Had sacrificing in Bethlehem been a regular event he would not have seen through it. It does not therefore prove that this altar was again used or was in constant use. It may well be that David had told Jonathan of Samuel's visit, and that that gave Jonathan, in his own religious naivety, what sounded like a good excuse for a visit by David, which Saul with his better understanding, (no doubt gained through his contact with his new High Priest), knew perfectly well could not be true (1 Samuel 20.29).

The next stage in the story of the Central Sanctuary is found in chapter 21. This clearly reveals that the Central Sanctuary was now set up in Nob. We are not told anything about it (the detail was just assumed). It was certainly not the original tabernacle. That would have decayed and have been replaced, probably piece by piece, a good long time earlier. (We may consider the example of the council road sweeper who said that he had had the same broom for forty years, during which time it had had twenty replacement handles and fifteen replacement heads. Was it the same broom? Idealistically speaking, yes, in practise, no. The same would inevitably be true of the tabernacle). It may or may not have been the physical continuation of the one which had been established at Shiloh, for we are not kept in touch with its history. It may have been, or it may simply have been a replacement after the destruction at Shiloh, possibly including some of its remnants. But unlike the Ark the tabernacle would continually need replacing anyway over time. However, if it was a new one we may reasonably assume it as probable that they had sought to pattern it on the old.

We know that it did not contain the Ark, which, having mentioned once, Saul appears to have forgotten about, (or possibly had accepted that it was not available at this time), but nor do we know whether it contained the original lampstand, or indeed the original anything, although the Philistines, after their experience with the Ark may well have left the sacred things of Yahweh well alone, or the portable effects may have been spirited away (by Samuel, or under his direction?) before the destruction. It did, however, contain a table for the shewbread, and the ephod. It was thus intended to be the continuation of the tabernacle, and we have no reason to doubt that it was in accordance with the requirements of the Law as far as it could be. Later Solomon would take into the new temple, 'the Ark of Yahweh, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent' (1 Kings 8.4). This may have been all that remained of the original.

The approach of David filled the High Priest with fear. He was probably aware of the tensions between Saul and David and could not understand why David had arrived alone. David consoled him by assuring him that he was on a secret mission for the king and had a few men standing by. But they needed food.

The High Priest pointed out that he only had available the shewbread which he had taken from the table, having replaced it with new shewbread. (According to the Law this was for the consumption of the priests alone). If the men were in a 'holy' state he would allow them to have it in this emergency. David effectively replied that as it was no longer before Yahweh it was in a sense 'common', or alternately that as his young men were in a specially sanctified state he could see no reason why they should not have it. He therefore took the bread, and the sword of Goliath which was being kept there.

Remembering that David was a high minister of state, was famed as a man not afraid of spilling blood, and that religious piety at the time was at a low level, this does not demonstrate that the Law was different from what is found in the Pentateuch, only how easily men can argue their way around restrictions, especially when moved by fear or desperation. The High Priest compromised because he was afraid for his life. He felt that he had done his best to ensure the purity of the bread, and that after all David was a favourite of Yahweh. But in the event his failure resulted in his death. This was probably intended to be seen as significant. He was the legal expert and he should have stood firm. But such was the state that the Central Sanctuary had come to. We can see here how the crowning of a king has already diminished the authority and integrity of the Central Sanctuary.

In revenge for helping David Saul slaughtered the whole house of Ahimelech. It is noteworthy that his own guard refused to slay 'the priests of Yahweh', for they were seen by the people as 'holy', so Saul called on Doeg the Edomite who, presumably with the help of foreign mercenaries, 'fell on the priests and killed on that day eighty five persons who wore the linen ephod' (1 Samuel 22.18). He then 'put Nob, the city of the priests, to the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, oxen asses and sheep' (verse 19). It was total destruction. Only Abiathar escaped, and he went to David in his exile, taking the ephod with him (1 Samuel 23.6). This gave David new status. Thus in 1 Samuel 23.2, 4, 9-12; 30.7-8; 2 Samuel 2.2; 5.19, 23 we have David making use of the Urim and Thummim in order to enquire of Yahweh. He was now the only one who could do so.

Nothing is said about what happened to the tabernacle, or whether it survived the total slaughter and destruction at Nob at the hands of the Edomite executioner of the demented king Saul, but it presumably ceased to function, at least temporarily. It would soon become known that in a sense the Central Sanctuary was now with David, and the ephod was probably kept in its own, or Abiathar's, tent. Saul's move was madness and folly for it gave David the legitimacy of having the support of the recognised successor to the High Priesthood, and once Saul had come to his senses he must certainly have recognised the fact.

Saul would know that he could not let the situation continue as it was. Combating both David and the High Priesthood would have been too much, and he needed some way of learning Yahweh's will. He would thus have immediately recognised that he had to reinstate a Central Sanctuary with an acceptable High Priest, both in order to appease the people, in order to prevent them from seeking to Abiathar as High Priest, and in order to have a High Priest on his side to seek guidance for him. Did he then seek to resolve this situation by appointing Zadok, descended from Eleazar, son of Aaron, as High Priest? Ahimelech had been descended from Ithamar, son of Aaron, thus Zadok would not be tainted by association (compare 1 Chronicles 25.3). A High Priest would certainly be required by the people. (It should be noted in this regard that the appointment and deaths of High Priests, the latter in spite of their religious importance (Numbers 35.25, 28; Joshua 20.6), are rarely mentioned in the histories we have). This would then explain why later there are two High Priests, Abiathar and Zadok, and why it is Zadok who is always named first as being officially appointed first, and is later addressed by David as in charge of the Ark because of his seniority (2 Samuel 15.24-29). But this primacy could surely only have arisen because he was appointed High Priest at the recognised tabernacle containing the recognised altar of whole burnt offering. This was still what the people would have recognised, given the option. They would not then know that the ephod had disappeared.

Once David was made king in Hebron, directed there by Yahweh through the Urim and Thummim (2 Samuel 2.1), and dwelt there as king, having with him the hereditary High Priest Abiathar and the ephod, it would be natural for him to establish his own Central Sanctuary there, set up when he was anointed king. This would keep Judah from looking to Saul's house. He could legitimise it by pointing to the High Priest and the ephod. That this was so is confirmed in the incident with Absalom in 2 Samuel 15.7-12, for that appears to place the Central Sanctuary in Hebron at that time. Absalom goes there ostensibly to pay a vow, and there he makes sacrifices. But as Hebron was the centre of the rebellion against David we can understand why it should then be moved to Gibeon as a punishment. Hebron could no longer be trusted. (Though David was man after God's own heart, he was clearly not a traditionalist, as witness his eating of the shewbread and the taking of the Ark to the heathen city of Jerusalem when the tabernacle was elsewhere. He did things his own way).

So after many years David had established his rule over both Israel and Judah and had captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites, being anointed king over all. Then he decided that it was time to restore the Ark to a place of importance. The Ark was brought from the house of Abinadab driven on a new cart by his sons. This confirms the status of Abinadab's family. The 'new' cart was in recognition of the sacredness of the Ark, the sons drove it because they were considered qualified to do so. It was not just something that anyone could do. This would confirm that they were at least Levites, and possibly priests. But when Uzzah touched the Ark he was smitten. No one could touch the Ark for it was sacred. It was borne on poles which could be slotted in without touching it. Thus David was afraid of the Ark and arranged for it to be kept in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. This was an expedient. It was not planned. The house was simply used as a storeplace. However, the fact that he was a Gittite does not necessarily mean that he was not a worshipper of Yahweh. Many Israelites bore similar appellations describing their original national origin while having been circumcised and incorporated within the covenant. It was there for three months during which time clear blessing came to the house. This then encouraged David and he decided to remove the Ark to Jerusalem.

The Ark was brought into Jerusalem with great rejoicing and 'placed in the tent which David had pitched for it' (2 Samuel 6.17). This was seemingly not the tabernacle, but a special tent supplied by David. Saul had slain the priests, but there is total silence about the religious affairs of the people at this time, and we are not told what Saul did with the tabernacle. It may well have been almost destroyed in the mad and systematic slaughter of Nob, but it was no longer for a time the thriving concern that it had been and the recognised High Priest by descent from Ahimelech, Abiathar, together with the ephod, was already with David. On the other hand it was still the Central Sanctuary as far as the people of Israel were concerned, and sacred (remember the attitude of Saul's guard - 1 Samuel 22.17), and it possibly now continued to function with Zadok as High Priest. Once David had overall rule this was probably in conjunction with David's Central Sanctuary at Hebron. That would be the obvious solution.

Thus once David became king of both Judah and Israel the tabernacle would be finally united and set up in Hebron under the joint High Priesthood of Zadok and Abiathar in accordance with what was described above (and later at Gibeon). But even David would not dare to transfer it to Jerusalem. Old religious customs die hard. The people would not object to it being re-established at these old sites with their sacred memories, but they would certainly have objected to it being established at Jerusalem, the pagan city of the Jebusites. And David had had enough trouble uniting the country. He would not want to cause strife by bringing the tabernacle into Jerusalem. That would have aroused the people's anger unnecessarily. Jerusalem had until recently been a centre of idolatry and was not seen by the people as a holy place. Rather it was 'foreign'. Such a move would at this time risk disquieting the people.

But as his own plan was to establish Jerusalem as the religious centre of Israel/Judah, (it was his own city, independent of both), he wanted to do something to prepare the way, so he cleverly selected a viable alternative. The Ark, which had lain forgotten for twenty years and was not at this time a focus of attention for the whole of Israel, was established in Jerusalem with due ceremony, while he still upheld the Central Sanctuary in Hebron, then Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1.3) just as it had always been in the eyes of the people. Thus he pitched a separate tent for the Ark. We need not doubt that it was a tent of some splendour, even though he probably did not intend it to be its permanent home, but as far as we know all it contained was the Ark.

The people would see this as another resting place for the Ark before its restoration, a place of safety in the very stronghold of David. (If it was seen as for protection this would not necessarily cause a stir. It had after all just left the house of a Gittite). And they would await the High Priest's instructions as to what should be done. In the end, however, his aim was that he and his son would bring everything into Jerusalem. His final aim was one united Sanctuary. But as he wanted that to be in Jerusalem and he knew that that would offend the people at this time, he walked with care. He wanted the people to get used to the idea first. Once Jerusalem was sufficiently sanctified by the presence of the Ark, the presence of which enabled sacrifices to be offered, that would be the time to move. The building of a magnificent temple, which he intended to do, but was in the end done by his son, would provide the final reason.

The Chronicler adds to this account that David said that 'none ought to carry the Ark of God but the Levites, for them has God chosen to carry the Ark of God and to minister to him for ever' (1 Chronicles 15.2). This was clearly taken from a different historical record than that used by the author of Samuel (1 Chronicles 29.29). But there is no reason to doubt it. The incident of Uzzah had quite shaken David up and he would certainly want to exercise extreme care. And the importance of the Levites in religious matters is well attested throughout our literature whatever view we hold about them.

This may be seen as confirmed by 2 Samuel 15.24 where 'Abiathar -- and Zadok and all the Levites' bore the Ark of the Covenant of God out of Jerusalem when David was escaping from Absalom's rebellion, even though they were then told to return it there. The writer of Samuel thus also confirms that the Ark must be borne by Levites.

The Chronicler tells us that both tabernacle and bronze altar were later at Gibeon in the time of Solomon (2 Chronicles 3.6 compare 1 Kings 3.4) and that that was then the central place of worship. Knowing David's astuteness we need not doubt it. Like Hebron, Gibeon was a priestly city (Joshua 21.17) and a sacred site, and thus acceptable to all the people as a site for the tabernacle, and once Hebron had proved unfaithful to David, Gibeon was fairly close by and could be established as the new Central Sanctuary. But he now also arranged worship in Jerusalem where he had inherited the priesthood of the Jebusite king, the priesthood which would be called 'after the order of Melchizedek' (Psalm 110.4). The people of Jerusalem would be right behind him, seeing themselves as distinctive from Israel and Judah. He no doubt took part in the ceremonies but would observe the niceties of the Law, not intruding on the rights of the levitical priests, and would use either Abiathar or Zadok as the offering priest. David's heart was right with Yahweh, but he was not above a bit of religious 'reinterpretation' as we saw with his reply over the shewbread. But he was also politically wise.

The presence of the Ark, as indicating a place where Yahweh had recorded His Name (2 Samuel 6.2), as ever justified the erection of an altar in accordance with Exodus 20.24-25, as it always had done (see earlier). That is why David's action is not criticised. And David therefore arranged for the offering of whole burnt offerings and peace offerings before Yahweh. It actually reads 'David offered ----' (2 Samuel 6.17) but it is quite clear that even if he had wanted to he would not have been able to do it all himself, and in fact we are almost certainly to see this as stating that they were offered at his instigation as king. He may have danced before the Ark but he would not see it as his position to actually make the offerings when his priestly servants were there to do it for him with greater expertise. He was a king and used to men doing his bidding, and he would have Abiathar and Zadok with him at his side, especially in so important a religious matter. It did not need to be mentioned that they took charge of the offerings. It could be assumed. (And to see David going through a huge crowd and personally handing out a cake of bread, a piece of flesh and a flagon of wine to each and every one of them beggars the imagination - verse 19).

Note in this regard that the Chronicler says in 1 Chronicles 16.1, 'they (the bearers of the Ark) offered whole burnt offerings and peace offerings before God', and then adds, 'and when David had made an end of offering.' Thus the offerings made by the bearers of the Ark, who would no doubt include levitical priests volunteering for the occasion, could also be described as having been made by David there.

We know that Abiathar, and then his son Ahimelech, were both High Priests at the same time as Zadok his brother (2 Samuel 15.29, 35; 17.15; 19.11; 20.25; 8.17). What more likely than that at this stage they operated at two sanctuaries, one official, the Central Sanctuary recognised by the people in Hebron/Gibeon, and one unofficial which was justified because it contained the Ark, and which was in Jerusalem, mainly for political reasons and with the purpose in mind of Jerusalem eventually becoming the Central Sanctuary, and catering to the needs of the people of Jereusalem. Once the temple was built the two could be made one, and Zadok became sole High Priest (although Abiathar was named as High Priest along with him in the official list even after he was deposed (1 Kings 4.4). Once a High Priest, always a High Priest).

In 2 Samuel 8.18 we are told that David's sons were 'priests'. This probably refers to their status in Jerusalem in the old Jebusite priesthood of Melchizedek, which David as conqueror would inherit. It was an intercessory and status-giving priesthood rather than a sacrificing priesthood, and would give them important status in Jerusalem. Others have suggested that the word also meant 'high officials'.

An exception to the usual rule of offering sacrifices at the Central Sanctuary is found in 2 Samuel 24.25 where David built an altar to Yahweh and offered whole burnt offerings and peace offerings. But that was where the Angel of Yahweh had restrained his hand and was thus the site of a theophany, the only exception allowed apart from when the Ark was present.

We may sum up the whole history of the Central Sanctuary to this time with the words God spoke to David when he spoke of building a temple. "Will you build me a house for me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day 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. In all the places in which I have walked with all the children of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the tribes of Israel whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, 'Why have you not built me a house of cedar?' ". The forbidding of David to build a temple was not a tradition likely to be invented, thus we have here confirmation that the idea that the Central Sanctuary was always based around a central tent was firm and strong (compare Psalm 78.60).

So from the time of Moses to the time of David there is not one approved example in Scripture of the offering of offerings and sacrifices apart either from (1) at the Central Sanctuary, (2) in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, (3) at a direct and unique theophany and command of Yahweh, or (4) by a unique and 'holy' prophet directly connected from birth with the Central Sanctuary at a time when the Central Sanctuary did not exist, and under God's strict direction. General offerings and sacrifices were unknown apart from when made to idols and false gods.

However, the confusion with regard to the Central Sanctuary that arose in the struggle between Saul and David, when there were possibly two tabernacles, and then continued under David with the two tents, one in Hebron/Gibeon and one in Jerusalem, inevitably had its effect. The grip of the Central Sanctuary was being weakened and the insinuation being given that worship need not be limited to one sanctuary. It was probably as a result of this that Solomon and the confused people began to worship in a number of holy places (1 Kings 3.2-3), the former because he thought he was following David his father and it seemed a good idea, the latter because they were now convinced that worship was not limited to one sanctuary and were anyway not sure which was the Central Sanctuary (although seemingly not in the days of David). It had switched about with bewildering rapidity. Thus as far as they were concerned 'there was no house built to the name of Yahweh' (1 Kings 3.2). The danger then was that their belief in the uniqueness of Yahweh, the one God, would be affected. This could lead to plural worship. (We may have no difficulty in recognising that one God may be publicly worshipped anywhere in the world in many allotted places, but it was different then).

This situation continues in the reign of Solomon. The continued importance of the High Priest was revealed in that at the time of the death of David (1 Kings 1) both aspirants to the throne ensured that they had a High Priest on their side, but Abiathar chose the wrong person to support, Adonijah. The result was that while remaining High Priest (1 Kings 4.4), for no High Priest could cease to be High Priest, it was High Priest in retirement. Zadok became the High Priest with the power.

Adonijah began his bid for power at en-Rogel just outside Jerusalem. He was supported by Abiathar and Joab, David's general of the people's army. But Solomon was supported by Zadok, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, captain of David's 'men', his small but powerful standing army. At en-Rogel Adonijah 'slew sheep and oxen and fatlings' (i.e. arranged for the slaying of) but in all three mentions of this fact (1 Kings 1.9, 19, 25) there is never any suggestion that they were offerings and sacrifices. They were slain by the stone of Zoheleth so that the blood could flow out as was required where such beasts were not offered as sacrifices (compare 1 Samuel 14.33-34 and see Deuteronomy 12.20-25). However in view of the statement in 1 Kings 3.2 it may be that en-Rogel was a sacred site and that this slaughter was intended as an offering to Yahweh and was carried out by priests, the writer not wanting to see it as such. Things had grown lax.

Adonijah's cause collapsed when Solomon was crowned king at David's command at Gihon and the people supported him. We read that Zadok 'took the horn of oil out of the tent and anointed Solomon' (1 Kings 1.39). This may have been out of the tent which David set up, but more likely it was in the tabernacle at Gibeon and had to be fetched from there. As a result of hearing this Adonijah fled to the horns of the altar for sanctuary (1 Kings 1.51). This would almost certainly signify the altar in the tabernacle in Gibeon, a place made holy by generations of sacred history. This was an act of desperation, as it was later with Joab who 'fled to the tabernacle of Yahweh and caught hold of the horns on the altar' (2.28). Benaiah who was sent to slay him hesitated to slay him while he was in the tabernacle courtyard clinging to the horns of the altar, but Solomon pointed out that he was a double murderer and therefore guilty under the covenant which decreed sentence of death for his crimes. Thus he was slain at the altar. The ancient right of sanctuary had not worked. (Both knew that it would be futile to flee to a City of Refuge. They would simply be handed over by the authorities there).

The advent of kingship had inevitably weakened the idea of the Central Sanctuary, and from the moment of Saul's destruction of the priesthood at Nob the people must have been in some considerable confusion about it. We have seen that Saul probably set a tabernacle up under Zadok, a legitimate descendant of Aaron, continued by Ishbosheth, and that David probably set one up under Abiathar, the rightful High Priest by descent as a result of the death of Ahimelech. To support either one or the other would have courted danger if the wrong person won the power struggle, and posed religious questions which the people were not in a position to answer. And as this was then followed by the two separate tents at which sacrifices were officially offered under David, one in Hebron/Gibeon and one in Jerusalem, all this had its inevitable effect. People had lost confidence in the idea of the Central Sanctuary and were not sure which to look to, and so began to 'sacrifice in high places because there was no residence built to the name of Yahweh'. They no longer knew which was the Central Sanctuary until finally the temple was built (1 Kings 3.2).

In other words because there was no one fixed Central Sanctuary that all could recognise, they began to worship in recognised holy places. It seemed the best compromise. This resulted in a wandering from the teaching of the Law, which in view of the situation was difficult to apply, a wandering which would sadly continue and finally result in disaster, for this probably means that they went to well known holy places and sacrificed to Yahweh. But the danger of this was that it could soon become mixed with Baal worship which had also been conducted at those holy places, especially as the idea of the oneness of God was dissipated. Presumably the priests also had been put in some disarray and complied. Worse still Solomon appears to have courted popularity by going along with it, he 'sacrificed and burnt incense in high places' (1 Kings 3.3). For him too the hold of the Central Sanctuary had been relaxed. He had grown up knowing of at least two sanctuaries, and saw no reason for not sacrificing at others. Thus we now hear for the first time about a multiplicity of altars. The firm and inviolable link with the Central Sanctuary was now broken.

But the fact that this is mentioned first of Solomon suggests that the writer recognised that David had never encouraged such practises (whatever the people did). For him the Central Sanctuary had always remained paramount. And he had only sacrificed there, or in the presence of the Ark.

Indeed Solomon is revealed as careless with regard to such things. He did not hesitate about having Joab slain at the altar (1 Kings 2.31), he worshipped in a number of high places (1 Kings 3.3), he would certainly have had to provide a place for his Egyptian daughter of Pharaoh to worship her gods (1 Kings 3.1; 11.1), he went on to worship the gods of his wives (1 Kings 11.4). It was the sad result of the Central Sanctuary having been 'divided up'. All attention was no longer placed on the one Sanctuary and the one God.

However, Solomon in the beginning did offer offerings and sacrifices at the Central Sanctuary in Gibeon, 'the great high place', for 'there was the tent of meeting' (2 Chronicles 1.3) and did it in huge numbers ('a thousand') (1 Kings 3.4; 2 Chronicles 1.6), earning Yahweh's approbation. God clearly recognised the dilemma of the times and that the response was at that stage genuine. On Yahweh making promises to him in response, he then 'came to Jerusalem (presumably from Gibeon), and stood before the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh and offered up whole burnt offerings and offered peace offerings and made a feast to his servants'. He wanted to keep everyone happy, both the people of Israel and Judah, and his servants in Jerusalem, and also Yahweh. The writer of Kings appears to have given all this his modified approval, although he did criticise the general use of high places (1 Kings 3.3). He recognised that in the circumstances of the times they had had no alternative, and that the presence of the Ark justified sacrifices in Jerusalem. Once, however, the one Central Sanctuary was restored it would be very different.

2 Chronicles 1 confirms this picture. It tells us that 'the Ark of God had David brought up from Kiriath yearim to the place which he had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem, moreover the bronze altar, that Bezaleel -- had made, he put before the tabernacle of Yahweh, and Solomon and the congregation sought to it, and Solomon went up there (to Gibeon - 2 Chronicles 1.3-6, 13) to the bronze altar before Yahweh, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand whole burnt offerings on it' (2 Kings 1.4-6).

Thus the tabernacle with the original bronze altar was set up in Gibeon, and the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh was in its sacred tent in Jerusalem. But the final intention in David's mind had undoubtedly been to re-establish the Central Sanctuary by building a temple in Jerusalem. Theoretically this should have brought all back to the original principles established by the Law and firmly laid down by Moses. Inevitably, however, it did not completely fulfil its purpose. Once people under Solomon had obtained the idea that they could legitimately express their worship elsewhere because for years there was no nationwide recognition of a unique Central Sanctuary, restoration of the original ideal would be difficult. They had become attached to the high places. And the lure of then participating in pagan practises increased. It would continue to be like king, like people.

The temple took seven years to build (the period of divine perfection). And all this time there was no one recognised Central Sanctuary. The cutting and shaping of timbers and preparation of the stones was done by large numbers of Israelites, partly with the help of Sidonian experts (1 Kings 5), and the brasswork in the temple was done under the supervision of Hiram from Tyre, an expert who was half Israelite and whose Tyrian father was dead (1 Kings 7.13 onwards). The remainder of the work was presumably done by Israelite craftsmen and presumably an Israelite architect designed the whole, patterned on the tabernacle combined with known examples of such architecture, especially in Phoenicia, and in cooperation with Hiram, whose influence was probably paramount. The Sidonians (5.6) and Hiram (7.14) are mentioned in order to stress the expertise that went into the work. They used the very best! But it is a mistake to think of the temple as just built by foreigners. They simply sought their expertise.

And once it was built it incorporated 'the Ark', 'the tabernacle' and the tabernacle sacred 'vessels', brought up by the priests and Levites with due ceremony, although all that the Ark now contained (thanks no doubt to the Philistines) were the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb (1 Kings 8.4, 9). It was important that the people now recognise that this was the Central Sanctuary containing within it what remained of the old. But the table, the lampstand, and the altar of incense were all replaced and reproduced on a grander scale, with a multitude of further vessels, and extra cherubim, and those then in the latest tabernacle may not anyway have been original ones. But these alterations would not be seen by the people, for they were in the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. 2 Chronicles 4.1 tells us that he also made a new bronze altar, much larger than the original.

There is no mention of the ancient bronze altar being brought to the temple, but it probably was, along with 'the vessels'. But so numerous were the offerings made that the altar was too small and the whole of the middle of the court was sanctified for the purpose of offering sacrifices (1 Kings 8.64). This may have resulted in the making of the new altar. Or the replacement might already have been made.

It is noteworthy that Solomon did not dare to meddle with the Ark. That would have been seen as sacrilege. But he did provide extra cherubim around it. All attention, however, was now finally focused on 'the Ark in which is the covenant of Yahweh' (1 Kings 8.21), whose staves were so long that they could be seen from the Holy Place before the oracle (1 Kings 8.8). And it is stressed that now Israel had rest from their enemies (compare Deuteronomy 12.10). There is even the nice touch that Israel returned to their 'tents' (verse 66), a reminder of wilderness days. Yahweh then declares, 'I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put my name there for ever (into the distant future), and my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually' (1 Kings 9.3). The new Central Sanctuary was established.

But from now on in Judah even the good kings such as Asa and Jehoshaphat would not seek to prevent the worship of Yahweh in recognised 'high places', holy sites around Judah. These would include Hebron and Gibeon as well as Jerusalem, and when Bethel came under Judah, Bethel. And this dividing of worship would unfortunately encourage the tendency towards polytheism, and the worship of the Baalim and the Ashteroth, the gods and goddesses of Canaan who were also worshipped at those places. It is not until we come first to Hezekiah, and then to Josiah, that we have kings who were determined to bring Israel back to the ancient ideas, and to unite the people around the one Central Sanctuary, and thus about the one God in indivisible unity, but in both cases the emphasis is on the restoration to what was, in accordance with commandments of Yahweh.

The emphasis in the story of Hezekiah is on his faith in Yahweh (2 Kings 18.5). And he is cited as having done 'right in the eyes of Yahweh, in accordance with all that David his father had done', which included the removing of the high places (2 Kings 18.4), and of the images of Baal and Asherah. He even broke in pieces the bronze serpent Nechushtan which Moses had made. This last emphasises that we are not just to see in these descriptions simply a formal reference to reformation. All that could rival Yahweh was genuinely removed. The Central Sanctuary was central once more, and the covenant was restored to its rightful place, and all that was taking men away from Yahweh was got rid of. The idea of the one unique Sanctuary was clearly firm in the traditions of Judah even though it had not been fully observed.

It is also emphasised that he 'clave to Yahweh, and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments, which Yahweh commanded Moses' (1 Kings 18.6). This is emphasised throughout. Note how in the account there is a significant emphasis on the root dbq ("to cling"). It occurs nine times in chapter 18. His reforms were clearly from the heart. He was firm in his response to the covenant and to His God, and he clung to Him.

It was thus that the purity of the Law would be maintained, and the emphasis on the uniqueness of Yahweh established. But the hearts of the people were not wooed away from the high places, and on his death they returned to them again. Manasseh rebuilt the high places which his father had destroyed (2 Kings 21.3), and as ever this led on to the worship of the Baalim and the Ashtaroth.

Josiah began his reign at eight years old and the impression is given that he did 'right in the eyes of Yahweh' from the beginning. There is no hint of his having followed his father's ways. And behind this was the groundswell of 'the people of the land'. For it was they who revenged the death of king Amon and quelled the coup that had resulted in it, putting Josiah the true heir on the throne (2 Kings 22.1-2).

Yet it was not until the eighteenth year of Josiah (of his reign - 2 Chronicles 34.8) that he began the repairing of the temple which had fallen into a state of disrepair. But at that stage the reforms had clearly been in process a long time already. This delay was presumably because in the poor state of the kingdom when he took over there were insufficient funds in the treasury for the major repairs required, for the point is made that 'the keepers of the door' had had to gather silver from the peoples (1 Kings 22.4). It was not until sufficient funds had been accumulated that the in depth work could begin.

So the assumption must be that the actual reforms commenced much earlier, and in fact the very desire to repair the temple indicates such reform. It is a mistake to assume that the reforms followed the discovery of 'the book of the Law' in the temple. The reason that the temple was being repaired was because of the reforms that had taken place and because the temple was being restored as the Central Sanctuary. The discovery simply gave them new impetus, and produced repentance in king and people and a desire to truly fulfil the covenant. The result of finding the lawbook was not stated to be centralisation but a determination to 'walk after Yahweh, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and with all their soul, to perform the words of the covenant which were written in this book' (2 Kings 23.3). This resulted in a keeping of the Passover which surpassed all others (2 Kings 23.21-23) so mightily were the people moved. Centralisation having already taken place this led on to a deeper application of the Law in their daily lives. Indeed there is good reason for considering that the whole description of the discovery of the Law book (22.3-23.3, 21-23), 'the book of the covenant' (22.2), comes from a totally different source than the descriptions of reform (23.4-20).

This is confirmed in 2 Chronicles 34. 'In the eighth year of his (Josiah's) reign, while he was yet young (when he was sixteen), he began to seek after the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year be began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and from the Asherim, and the graven images and the molten images' (2 Chronicles 34.3). This would take some considerable time. Already then he was again establishing Jerusalem as the Central Sanctuary. It was only when this was done that he turned his attention to major repairs to the temple as a result of gifts received from the peoples of both Israel and Judah. And it was only when these gifts which had been stored up were being accessed that 'the book of the Law of Yahweh given by Moses' was discovered (34.14). Thus Chronicles makes quite clear what Kings presupposes, that the reformation and centralisation took place before the discovery of the book of the Law.

This being so there is no good reason for simply seeing 'the book of the Law' as Deuteronomy, although it no doubt at least included most of Deuteronomy (it is called the book of the covenant). Deuteronomy in fact says little about the Passover, certainly not enough to explain how it was to be observed (2 Kings 23.21). Nor does the fact that the book was read to the king necessarily indicate that the whole book that had been discovered was read to the king. Shaphan no doubt selected out the portions, as he himself was reading it, that he felt that the king should hear, which may well have included Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27. We are not told how long it took Shaphan to read it, nor whether he went to the king on the same day. He clearly wanted to read it through before he took it to the king. He would then read out the parts that had affected him the most.

The gathering together of the people to hear the reading of the Law (2 Kings 23.2) was probably in fulfilment of the requirement of Deuteronomy 31.10-13 even though it was not at the feast of tabernacles. This was no doubt done in view of the fact that such reading of the full Law had not previously been carried out within recent times. The purpose had been that the whole of the Law in full would be read out. As this had not happened within recent memory it was done at that time.

That Deuteronomy was powerfully influential is not to be doubted. Its racy style would enhance its popularity. Hosea in 8th century BC is permeated with its style all through, demonstrating that its teaching was firmly founded in Israel in his day, but its basic tenets, the promises to the patriarchs, the covenant, the kingship of Yahweh, holy war and the possession of the land were not new and could all be traced as early as the Song of the Sea in Exodus 15 in the time of the Exodus. It was thus not teaching new ideas. Furthermore its archaic Hebrew (masculine and feminine is not clearly differentiated) and its prose form, more in line with Samuel and Elijah than the later prophets, who tended to a poetic presentation, confirm its early date. As does its covenant format which is most like the formats for tables of laws and suzerainty treaties of 2nd Millennium BC. But in Deuteronomy the Central Sanctuary was not limited to one unique particular site (Jerusalem) but to 'the place which God should choose'. And Deuteronomy itself sees that as including Shechem (chapter 27).

After the death of Josiah the reforms collapsed with the result finally of the Exile, when the Central Sanctuary was again destroyed. But this time the people were also, in one way or another, removed from the land, and the land was left to 'enjoy its sabbaths'. Even here, however, they looked back to the Central Sanctuary (Psalm 137; Daniel 6.10).

Meanwhile in the Northern kingdom of Israel events had taken a different turn. The rejection of Rehoboam and crowning of Jeroboam presented a dilemma to Jeroboam. The pious among the people would still look to the Central Sanctuary, the High Priest and the levitical priesthood. Thus, in spite of the fact that he had had Yahweh's approval (1 Kings 11.37-38) he deliberately set about establishing rival sanctuaries. (Had worship at these high places been legitimately well established he would not have had the same difficulty). It may well be that the sanctuary at Dan, which had been established in the days of the Judges (Judges 18.30), had become active again, at least spasmodically on and off, as a high place. Certainly it would seem that its memory still enjoyed a reputation and a host of willing adherents. And there was the sacred site of Bethel, possibly on the site of Abraham's altar there. Solomon's policy, and the Priest's, of allowing worship at the high places and of being careless in religious matters was reaping its reward. Jeroboam built/rebuilt 'houses' at both sanctuaries and established permanent altars there (1 Kings 12.31).

Jeroboam now also set up two golden calves, one at Bethel and the other at Dan, but the fact that he had to set up a new priesthood from among the people (1 Kings 12.31) demonstrates that the levitical priesthood remained faithful to the Central Sanctuary. Thus up to this point either worship in the high places had been restricted to visits by the priesthood, or the priesthood now deserted the high places, revealing that the principle of the Central Sanctuary still held firm with them, and that as a whole they remained faithful to the High Priesthood.

The two golden calves must have been intended in some way to represent Yahweh, for Jeroboam would know that he could not so easily and so quickly ignore or alter the faith of the people, and he acknowledged Yahweh's part in his appointment (1 Kings 14.2). It is possible that the invisible Yahweh was intended to be seen as riding/standing on their backs as Hadad bestrode the back of a bull (thus suggesting that the calves did not officially represent a graven image but could be compared to the cherubim), or it may be that they were intended to represent Yahweh's power and fruitfulness in symbolic form, in which case they specifically broke the covenant. But either way they represented a divided Yahweh, and acted as a spur to polytheism, both by the nature of having two Central Sanctuaries in the northern kingdom with the equivalent of an Ark in each, and because the calves were a reminder of Baal who was also represented by a bull. The dangers are easily apparent. The incident of the molten calf in the wilderness demonstrates how easily and quickly they could turn to such a representation which they somehow clearly connected with Yahwism (the original image at Dan may have been similar).

However, it should be noted that the original protest of the man of God sent by Yahweh was against the altar and the sanctuary and the new priesthood at Bethel, and not against the image, although Yahweh's aversion to them is made clear later (see 1 Kings 14.9; 2 Kings 10.29). The principle of the one Central Sanctuary of Yahweh had thereby been destroyed. 1 Kings 13.32 may then refer to even more sanctuaries set up, or may simply be a reference to Bethel and Dan. Either way Jeroboam's actions had resulted in his rejection by Yahweh (1 Kings 13.33; 14.15-16). He had destroyed the idea of the oneness and uniqueness of Yahweh in a way that the high places by themselves had not.

The division of the kingdom being permanent it was politically inevitable that these sanctuaries would continue, although Amos poured out his scorn on the sanctuary at Bethel (Amos 4.4; 5.5-6 compare 7.10, 13; Jeremiah 48.13). This sanctuary was never accepted by the prophets, and in the end Josiah destroyed it and defiled it (2Kings 23.15). This sin of Jeroboam became a byword. Although it had probably not been his intention he was seen as the main cause of the defection of Israel from Yahweh (2 Kings 17.21; see also 1 Kings 13.34; 16.3, 26,31; 21.22; 22.52; 2 Kings 3.3; 9.9; and often).

His actions put the pious in Israel into a dilemma. They could not always seek to Jerusalem because at times, when relations were strained, that would be seen as treason. They could thus only worship privately or make use of what was available. Thus with one exception the only references to sacrifice are indirect and made in such a way as to express disapproval. It is described as following the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. The failure to sacrifice at the one Central Sanctuary, now in Jerusalem, was certainly frowned on by the writer.

The one exception is Elijah's offering on Mount Carmel in his challenge to the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The 'altar of Yahweh that was broken down' repaired by Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18.30) may well have been an altar in a recognised sacred high place set up for the worship of Yahweh, either officially or unofficially, whose disuse demonstrated just how far from Yahweh the northern kingdom had gone, but it is clear that God was willing to receive sacrifices there when offered at His own command.

This does not tell us anything about the doctrine of the Central Sanctuary, only that circumstances were such that for Israel there was now often no access to it. It would suggest that in the northern kingdom there were now a number of such altars, but it does not necessarily indicate God's approval of them, except when specifically authorised by Him. And in this particular case, while Elijah arranged the wood and the offering himself, the actual consumption of it was the action of Yahweh. The sacrifice was undoubtedly carried through at Yahweh's express command. The very mention of it, and of what followed, demonstrates approval of it.

Apart from this we do not read of acceptable priestly activity in the northern kingdom, although we know that such activity continued unacceptably (2 Kings 10.29), and was disapproved of. This is stressed in that every king is said to have continued in the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. But we do hear of the activities of bands of true prophets (1 Kings 18.4; 20.13, 35; 22.8; 2 Kings 2.3; 6.1; 9.1), although we do not know whether they were connected with a sanctuary.

However, until the time of Jehu it was Baalism that flourished in the northern kingdom, certainly in the court and in official circles. But Jehu's activity demonstrates an underlying support of Yahwism among the people, although he had to destroy the cream of the aristocracy. He purged the house of Ahab and all Baal worship, restoring the centrality of the worship of Yahweh, although still at the sanctuaries of Bethel and Dan with their golden calves (2 Kings 10.29), a worship which continued right through to their exile.

Thus it is clear from a survey of all material connected with it that from the beginning of the covenant, once the Central Sanctuary was set up, that one Central Sanctuary and no other was seen as the direct intention of Yahweh, and that any wandering from that principal except at His own direct command, was seen as unacceptable, until the time of Solomon. And further that no sacrifices and offerings were to be made except at that one Central Sanctuary, except temporarily in the presence of the Ark, which stood in for the Central Sanctuary, or when there was a theophany or prophetic revelation. This was necessary in order to stress that there was only one God, Yahweh, indivisible and unique. Thus the fulfilment of Deuteronomy 12 began as soon as rest was obtained in the land.

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GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-17--- ECCLESIASTES --- ISAIAH 1-5 --- 6-12 --- 13-23 --- 24-27 --- 28-35 --- 36-39 --- 40-48 --- 49-55--- 56-66--- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 ---



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