Temple - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: H1964
Original Word: hêkal

Usage Notes: "palace; temple." This word is indirectly derived from the Sumerian egal, "large house, palace," and more directly from the Akkadian ekallu, "large house." The influence of the Akkadian ekallu spread to the Northwest Semitic languages. In post-biblical Hebrew the meaning became limited to "temple." The Hekhal Shlomo ("Temple of Solomon") in modern Jerusalem signifies the building of Israel's chief rabbinate, in absence of the temple. The word occurs 78 times from First Samuel to Malachi, most frequently in Ezekiel. The first usage pertains to the tabernacle at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1:9).

The word "palace" in English versions may have one of three Hebrew words behind it: hêkal, bayit, or ’armôn. The Sumero-Akkadian meaning "palace" for hêkal is still to be found in biblical Hebrew. The hêkal with its 15 usages as "palace" refers to the palaces of Ahab (1 Kings 21:1), of the king of Babylon (2 Kings 20:18), and of Nineveh (Nah. 2:6). The "palace" was luxuriously decorated and the residents enjoyed the fulfillment of their pleasures; cf.: "And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged" (Isa. 13:22). The psalmist compared beautiful girls to fine pillars in an ornate "palace": "…That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace" (Psa. 144:12). Amos prophesied that the "songs of the palace" (kjv, "temple") were to turn to wailing at the destruction of the northern kingdom (Amos 8:3, nasb).

Hêkal with the meaning "temple" is generally clarified in the context by two markers that follow. The first marker is the addition "of the Lord": "And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel" (Ezra 3:10). The second marker is a form of the word qodesh, "holy": "O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps" (Psa. 79:1). Sometimes the definite article suffices to identify the "temple in Jerusalem": "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple" (Isa. 6:1), especially in a section dealing with the "temple" (Ezek. 41).

The Old Testament also speaks about the heavenly hêkal, the hêkal of God. It is difficult to decide on a translation, whether "palace" or "temple." Most versions opt in favor of the "temple" idea: "Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord God be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple" (Mic. 1:2; cf. Psa. 5:7; Psa. 11:4; Hab. 2:20). "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears" (2 Sam. 22:7). However, since Scripture portrays the presence of the royal judgment throne in heaven, it is not altogether impossible that the original authors had a royal "palace" in mind. The imagery of the throne, the "palace," and judgment seems to lie behind Psa. 11:4-5. "The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth."

The Septuagint has the words naos ("temple") and oikos ("house; palace; dwelling; household").

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words