The English word sanctuary, which is derived from the Latin word sanctuarium, meaning a sacred place (the words sanctity, sanction and saint are all derived from the same root) is secularly defined as a place that is set apart as a refuge from danger or hardship. In The Bible, the two Hebrew words of the Old Testament that have been translated as Sanctuary are (pronounced) mik-dawsh, meaning a consecrated place or thing, and koh-desh, meaning pure or sacred. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as Sanctuary is (pronounced) hag-ee-on, meaning sacred, or holy.
Although the term sanctuary in the Bible is used most often in reference to the Tabernacle or the Temple, it also was applied to the Promised Land itself, as well as God's Sanctuary in heaven, of which the Tabernacle and Temple were in reality only "a copy and shadow of the heavenly Sanctuary."
The Promised Land
The Promised Land itself was a type of Sanctuary:
"Thou wilt bring them in, and plant them on Thy own mountain, the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thy abode, the sanctuary, Lord, which Thy hands have established." (Exodus 15:17 RSV)
"When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary, Israel His dominion." (Psalm 114:1-2 RSV)
The Tabernacle In The Wilderness
The Tabernacle In The Wilderness was referred to as the Sanctuary:
"And let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. According to all that I show you concerning the pattern of the Tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it." (Exodus 25:8-9 RSV)
"The priest who is chief among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil is poured, and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose, nor rend his clothes; he shall not go in to any dead body, nor defile himself, even for his father or for his mother; neither shall he go out of the Sanctuary, nor profane the Sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him." (Leviticus 21:10-12 RSV)
"You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My Sanctuary: I am The Lord." (Leviticus 19:30 RSV)
The Temple in Jerusalem (see Temples) was referred to as the Sanctuary:
"Now set your mind and heart to seek The Lord your God. Arise and build the Sanctuary of The Lord God, so that The Ark Of The Covenant of The Lord and the holy vessels of God may be brought into a House built for The Name of The Lord." (1 Chronicles 22:19 RSV)
"And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven he-goats for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the Sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of The Lord." (2 Chronicles 29:21 RSV)
The Holy Place and The Most Holy Place
The Holy Place and The Most Holy Place inside the Tabernacle and the Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, were referred to as the Sanctuary:
"And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting; and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before The Lord in front of the veil of the Sanctuary." (Leviticus 4:5-6 RSV)
"So Solomon built the house, and finished it. He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house to the rafters of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood; and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress. He built twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the rafters, and he built this within as an inner Sanctuary, as the Most Holy Place." (1 Kings 6:14-16 RSV)
"In the inner Sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other." (1 Kings 6:23-24 RSV)
God's Sanctuary In Heaven
In the New Testament, the meaning and purpose of the earthly Sanctuary is made clear:
"Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a High Priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the Throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the Sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by The Lord." (Hebrews 8:1-2 RSV)
"They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly Sanctuary; for when Moses was about to erect the Tent, he was instructed by God, saying, "See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain." (Hebrews 8:5 RSV)
"By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the Sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent is still standing, which is symbolic for the present age. According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect Tent, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:8-12 RSV)
Fact Finder: Will another earthly Sanctuary, or Holy Place, be defiled just prior to The Return Of Jesus Christ?
See also The Abomination of Desolation
Bible Places Index | Daily Bible Study Home Page
This Week's Bible Quiz
1. Bethlehem, the town where Jesus Christ was born, is in:
(a) Galilee (b) Judea (c) Samaria (d) Sinai
2. Nazareth, the town where Jesus Christ lived most of His life, is in:
(a) Galilee (b) Judea (c) Samaria (d) Sinai
3. From where did Jesus Christ ascend into heaven after His resurrection?
(a) Mount Sinai (b) Mount Hermon (c) Mount of Olives (d) Mount Carmel
4. Where was Saul headed when he was struck down on the road and converted into the apostle Paul?
(a) Jerusalem (b) Egypt (c) Damascus (d) Rome
5. In what town where the disciples of Jesus Christ first called "Christians"?
(a) Antioch (b) Nazareth (c) Jerusalem (d) Rome
6. In what city did Paul speak on the Areopagus, or "Mars Hill"?
(a) Rome (b) Athens (c) Alexandria (d) Tyre
7. In what city was there a riot when Paul began telling the people that their idols of Artemis were worthless?
(a) Ephesus (b) Rome (c) Corinth (d) Iconium
8. On what island was Paul shipwrecked on his voyage to Rome?
(a) Malta (b) Cyprus (c) Sicily (d) Patmos
9. In what city did Peter raise Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead?
(a) Joppa (b) Caesarea (c) Bethany (d) Jerusalem
10. Where was Barnabas from?
(a) Egypt (b) Lebanon (c) Cyprus (d) Syria
For the answers to this July 3 2001 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page
Daily Bible Study
Contact the Author or Web Site Administrator