Book Review: J. Daniel Hays, The Temple and the Tabernacle

Hays, J. Daniel. The Temple and the Tabernacle. A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2016. 208 pp. Pb; $19.99. Link to Baker.

In this richly illustrated book Daniel Hays presents a biblical theology of the Temple. The book is written at the popular level and will serve as an excellent introduction for the layman or pastor seeking a deeper understanding of how the Temple functions throughout the Bible. More importantly, Hays avoids allegorical excesses which tend to find too much in the symbolism of the Tabernacle and the Temple.

hays-templeThe first chapter sets the agenda for the book by introducing the reader to the vocabulary used for temples in the ancient world. Although many of these terms refer to specific buildings, Hays points out this vocabulary often refers to a heavenly tabernacle or temple. In Hebrews 8-9, for example, there is a heavenly sanctuary in which Jesus completes the final sacrifice. From this it is clear Hays is interested in the theological importance of temple.

Hays argues Genesis presents Eden as “God’s Garden Temple.” This brief chapter is similar to “garden as temple” studies such as John Walton, Lost World of Genesis (IVP 2015) or Greg Beale, Temple and the Church’s Mission IVP, 2004). Hays lists nine features of the garden which indicate “Eden was indeed very much like a temple of God” (9). To be evicted from the garden was to be sent out of the presence of God. In the later Old Testament, the Tabernacle and Temple represent God’s physical presence as he dwells among his people.

Three chapters are dedicated to the Tabernacle and Temple in the Old Testament. Hays begins with a survey of the construction of the Tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant. This discussion deals with the long section in Exodus describing the command to construct the Tabernacle and the construction of the shrine. He includes sections on the various furniture in the tabernacle including the Table of the Bread of the Presence, the Golden Lampstand, the incense holders, and other architectural features. With respect to the history of the Tabernacle, Hays could have included the movement of the shrine in the early part of Samuel and the so-called Ark Narrative (1 Sam 4-6) and the shrine at Nob (1 Sam 21). In addition, David’s restoration of the Ark of the Covenant to a shrine in Jerusalem (2 Sam 6) merits more attention since in anticipates later the building of the Temple. Given the parameters of the book, the omissions are understandable. Not every text can be covered in equal detail in a popular level book.

Hays concludes the chapter with a comment on the appropriate use of typology in the study of the Tabernacle. Popular preachers and teachers have often gone crazy in their interpretations of the curtains and the colors in the Tabernacle in order to tease out some characteristic of Jesus Christ or the Gospel. Although the worship conducting in the Tabernacle anticipated the sacrifice of Christ, the Tabernacle itself should not be allegorized.

Hays offers a detailed contrast between the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. Here he lays out a great deal of Scripture to show that Solomon’s temple was the product of human design in contrast to the Tabernacle, which was designed by God. He argues it is “clear and undeniable that the Solomon story in first Kings 1-11 is intertextuality connected to the story of the Exodus” (85). Hays provides a detailed description of the various items of furniture and architectural features of the Temple. There are several accompanying charts and graphs to illustrate this section.

Just as the key theological point of the Tabernacle was the presence of God, the departure of the presence of God from the Temple is the key theological point of Ezekiel 8-11. Ezekiel has a vision of God’s presence leaving the Temple, allowing Babylon to destroy it. But Ezekiel’s prophecy concludes with a future restoration of the Temple. Hays deals with the differences between Solomon’s Temple in this future temple. Certainly Ezekiel is a key prophet with respect to the theology of the Temple, Hays could have improved his discussion of the Temple by including Isaiah’s call (which Hays does mention briefly but does not deal with the details of the vision or discuss whether Isaiah sees a heavenly Temple). In addition, Jeremiah’s condemnation of Jerusalem’s confidence in the Temple (esp. Jer 7) is critically important for understanding the disaster of the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.

The Old Testament material concludes with a discussion of the Cherubim. He compares these angelic beings to other ancient near Eastern creature appearing in various temples in the Ancient Near East. He also briefly wonders what happened to the Ark of the Covenant and deals with several of the legends it developed as a result of the disappearance of the Ark.

Hays describes the rebuilding of the Temple in the intertestamental period (chapter 6). He begins with the return from exile in the struggle of as Ezra and Haggai to rebuild the temple. (This is the order given in the heading on page 127, despite the fact Haggai was active when the temple was first rebuilt, before 515 B.C. Ezra does not arrive in Jerusalem until 458 B.C.) The bulk of this chapter describes the splendor of Herod’s temple. This section is richly illustrated with photographs from Jerusalem as well as the model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum. Since he is interested in the theology of the Temple, Hays is quick to point out there is “no evidence the presence of God ever resided in the most Holy Place in Herod’s Temple” (165).

In the New Testament, the Temple (chapter 7) Hays begins by surveying the references to the Temple in the Gospels and Acts. As he puts it, “the presence of God did not return to the temple until Jesus Christ walked through its gates” (167). During his final week teaching in the Temple, Jesus functioned like an Old Testament prophet, condemning the worship there as hypocritical.

With respect to how New Testament authors understood the Temple in the present age, with Paul’s description of the church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3, Eph 2:21-22). Although he has used Hebrews 8-9 the book of Hebrews which uses tabernacle and temple imagery to describe Jesus his work in providing atonement. It is at this point in the book he discusses Ezekiel’s temple vision and deals with the very difficult problem of the fulfillment of the prophecy. As he says, “scholars are widely widely divided over the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision” and the details “are problematic if interpreted literally” (181). For example, Hays understands Jesus’ “living water” (John 7:38) as an allusion to the river flowing out of the mountain in Ezekiel.

It is disappointing that there is only two pages devoted to the temple in the book of Revelation, and then focusing only on the final two chapters of the book. There is more Temple imagery in Revelation than just those two chapters. For example, the Ark of the Covenant appears in Rev 11:19 and there are several references to the altar of God (14:18). Some of the imagery of worship seems to evoke the Old Testament temple. Since the subtitle of this book includes “Genesis to Revelation” one would expect more attention to the final book of the New Testament and temple imagery.

Finally, Hays offers a short meditation on the meaning of the Temple for modern Christians. This chapter has a pastoral emphasis, focusing on the church as the presence of God. If the church is in fact the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” then there are implications for our worship.

Conclusion. The book includes photographs, illustrations and other charts which will assist the reader in visualizing the Tabernacle and Temple. The book is printed on heavy, glossy paper so the full-color illustrations clear. Hays includes a great deal of Scripture in each chapter. This is significant since his goal is a biblical theology of Temple.  Because this is a popular level biblical theology, there are some frustrating omissions, but these ultimately do not distract from the overall value of this book. Hays has contributed a useful introduction to the history and theology of the Temple which will provide important background for students of both the Old and New Testament.

 

NB: Thanks to Baker for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

John 1:14-18 – The Glory of God

In John 1:14-18 the John uses a metaphor to describe how the Word, as the Creator God and true light, could be the human Jesus. The Word “became flesh and tabernacled among us.” This is an allusion to the Wilderness period when God lived amidst his people at the Tabernacle (Numbers 35:34, also in the Temple, 1 Kings 6:13). Most important, the Tent of Meeting is called the Test of Testimony (σκηνὴ μαρτυρίου) in LXX Exodus 33:7. This combines two key themes in John 1, the Word dwelt with men, and the Word is a witness to God. The Tent of Meeting is the place where God revealed himself in the wilderness and revealed himself to Moses.

The TabernacleThe “glory of God” may also allude to the Wilderness period (Numbers 16:19, Psalm 102:16, referring to the first Temple and Ezekiel10:4, the glory of God departing from the Temple). In the Gospel of John, Jesus reveals God’s glory in several ways. The seven signs in John reveal Jesus as God’s glory (2:11, 11:4, framing the seven signs.) Jesus says he has his own glory (17:5, 24). Jesus is glorified during his public ministry, but ultimately in the crucifixion (11:4, 12:28, 13:31-32).

John also alludes to Moses and the Law in verse 17. When the Law was given the people saw the glory of God on the mountain and were terrified, they could not stand to see the power and the glory of God. Even the phrase “no one has ever seen God” is an allusion to Moses at Sinai. Moses saw only the effects of the glory of God, not God himself (Exodus 33:20).

Perhaps the most surprising allusion to the wilderness period here is the statement that The word was “full of grace and truth.” Commentaries usually get bogged down on “fullness” as a potential allusion to Gnosticism. But I think the phrase “grace and truth” is more important since this is a way in which God described himself to Moses in Exodus. In Exodus 34 God reveals his glory to Moses. When he does, the Lord himself proclaims that he is the LORD, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, using two words in Hebrew, hesed and ‘emet. These are well-known from the theology of the Hebrew Bible and are roughly equivalent to grace and truth in John 1:14.

John is therefore claiming that the Word is the true Light of God and that he is a complete revelation of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, using the same words that God himself used in his self-revelation in Exodus 34:6.

Why the Wilderness? First, it was in the wilderness that Israel first became the “people of God.” He had rescued them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness to initiate their relationship through a covenant at Sinai. Isaiah 40-55 describes the end of the exile as a return to the wilderness. When God rescues his people from exile, they will once again travel the wilderness back to the land of the Promise. Third, as N. T. Wright often says, Second Temple Period Judaism thought of themselves as still in the exile. The Word, therefore, is inaugurating a new wilderness period. He is God dwelling among his people in a tent (of flesh this time), leading them into the wilderness where he will care for them (John 6).

In the Gospel of John, Israel will encounter the glory of God through Jesus, but they will once again rebel and reject him, preferring to remain in the darkness.