Hekal: The Living TEMPLE

TEMPLE: hekal. Masculine noun. (Strong’s 1964).

Root: הֵיכָל

Sounds like: hey-kawl.

On April 15th a large part of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris, was burned in a fire. As a medievalist I felt a sense of great historic and artistic loss, but where I felt it most was in my deep love for the Victor Hugo novel, Notre Dame of Paris. It has been my favourite novel since I was a teen and in my last year of High School I did my English thesis on aspects of love within the novel. Hugo made the hunchback, Quasimodo, a “Christ-like” figure… and the symbolism was stunning. The novel gave great lessons in humility and sacrifice, truth and beauty.

I once sat in the Cathedral with my raggedy, much-loved, copy of the epic novel looking for faint whispers of the humble hunchback in the rafters. I actually teared up when I heard the bell towers were saved from the fire because that was sacred space to Quasimodo, who considered the bells (which had made him deaf) his dearest friends. It was the one place where he wasn’t judged by humanity. Temple space is where heaven collides gently with earth… and for Quasimodo, that was Notre Dame Cathedral.

NDame_Rudy&PeterSkitterians_pixabay
Notre Dame Cathedral photo by Rudy & Peter Skitterians (pixabay.com)

This idea of Temple space being a place where heaven and earth overlapped, was paramount for the early Hebrew people. It was where God was made manifest on the planet. It was the one place on earth where humans felt they could connect physically with YHWH.

The Tabernacle: a moving Temple

But before there was ever a Temple for the Hebrew people, there was the Tabernacle (mishkan, in Hebrew). It was the space, as they wandered in the dessert, where YHWH was at hand on this planet, where heaven embraced the earth.

King David hoped for more than just a temporary tent for YHWH; he wanted to build a Palace for God:

1 Chronicles 17:1-14

And it came about, when David dwelt in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I am dwelling in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of YHWH is under curtains.” Then Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”

It came about the same night that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell David My servant, ‘Thus says YHWH, “You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in; for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from one dwelling place to another. In all places where I have walked with all Israel, have I spoken a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people, saying, ‘Why have you not built for Me a house of cedar?’ Now, therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader over My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a name like the name of the great ones who are in the earth. I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and not be moved again; and the wicked will not waste them anymore as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I tell you that YHWH will build a house for you. When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his Father and he shall be My Son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”

Notice the word temple (hekal) is never mentioned in this passage. It is always referred to as a “house” for YHWH. David never gets to build this house for YHWH, rather it is his son, Solomon, who builds God a palace.

The Temple of YHWH

A description of the building of the YHWH’s house can be found in 1 Kings 6. In the chapter the word hekal is used to identify the area just outside the inner sanctuary of the House of YHWH.

1 Kings 6:11-22

Now the word of YHWH came to Solomon saying, “Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, then I will carry out My word with you which I spoke to David your father. I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”

So Solomon built the house and finished it. Then he built the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house to the ceiling he overlaid the walls on the inside with wood, and he overlaid the floor of the house with boards of cypress. He built twenty cubits on the rear part of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the ceiling; he built them for it on the inside as an inner sanctuary, even as the most holy place. The house, that is, the nave [ha-hekal] in front of the inner sanctuary, was forty cubits long. There was cedar on the house within, carved in the shape of gourds and open flowers; all was cedar, there was no stone seen. Then he prepared an inner sanctuary within the house in order to place there the ark of the covenant of YHWH. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits in length, twenty cubits in width, and twenty cubits in height, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar. So Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold. And he drew chains of gold across the front of the inner sanctuary, and he overlaid it with gold. He overlaid the whole house with gold, until all the house was finished. Also the whole altar which was by the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.

The word, hekal, is not solely translated as “temple”. Often hekal is translated as nave or palace. And the word is not exclusively used to describe a house for God. Even enemies of God’s people had hekals.

Ahab, king of Samaria, and his wife Jezebel had a hekal (1 Kings 21:1). There was a hekal in Ninevah, the most populated city of the Assyrians (Nahum 2:6-8) and even the King of Babylon had a hekal :

2 Kings 20:16-18

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of YHWH, ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says YHWH. ‘Some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away; and they will become officials in the palace [b’hekal] of the king of Babylon.’”

Royalty of all nationalities had hekals. The hekal was not a Temple, like a church, rather it was a fancy home. Solomon built a Palace on earth for YHWH to residence in. Today people go to a Church or Synagogue to worship and learn about their Creator. Then, people went to the Temple in Jerusalem (the House of YHWH) to offer atonement, through an interceding priest. The priest would face God in the inner sanctuary, also known as the Holy of holies. The presence of God YHWH does not physically reside in every Church (although His Spirit might), but for the early Jewish people the Temple was the one place God could, and would, dwell on earth.

2 Chronicles 6:1-2, 18-21

Then Solomon said, “YHWH has said that He would dwell in the thick cloud. I have built You a lofty house, and a place for Your dwelling forever

But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built. Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O YHWH my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You; that Your eye may be open toward this house day and night, toward the place of which You have said that You would put Your name there, to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. Listen to the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place; hear from Your dwelling place, from heaven; hear and forgive.

God accepted this earthly dwelling place and He did hear the cries of His people.

2 Samuel 22:4-7 (See also Psalm 18:1-6)

David: “I call upon YHWH, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. For the waves of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me; the cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon YHWH, yes, I cried to my God. And from His Temple [me-hekalow] He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears.

Jonah, in his hour of great need, also looked and prayed towards the Temple in hopes that YHWH would hear him:

Jonah 2:4-7

“So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy Temple [hekal].’ Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O YHWH my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered YHWH, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy Temple [hekal].

The Jewish people put great emphasis on the Temple. It was a physical space they could look to, a place where they could direct their prayers and their hopes.

The Temple is not the Prize

But YHWH warned the people that the Temple was not the prize. This was to be a living faith. We were not meant to worship a building, we were meant to worship the Creator. What YHWH created was more important to Him than this palace/temple built by humans.

Jeremiah 7:1-11

The word that came to Jeremiah from YHWH, saying, “Stand in the gate of the YHWH’s house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of YHWH, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship YHWH!’” Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH, the temple of YHWH. [Hekal YHWH, hekal YHWH, hekal YHWH hemah]’ For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbour, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—that you may do all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares YHWH.

God saw right through the hypocritical lies and deceptions. The Temple became the quick fix to the destructive lives lived by His people. Worshiping false gods was at the top of their downfall:

Habakkuk 2:18-20

“What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols.

Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all inside it.

But YHWH is in His holy temple [kadesh’ow be-hekal].  Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

YHWH, the living, breathing, God of all creation, also recognized that His people had become persecutors of the orphaned, the widowed and the refugees. And to mask their guilt they used the Temple to cover the multitude of their sins, without a grain of regret. It was for these reasons that God allowed the Temple to be taken away, not once, but twice. Babylon was the first to strip the Temple, destroy it, and remove the people from it’s presence:

2 Kings 24:10, 13-14

At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon went up to Jerusalem, and the city came under siege…He carried out from there all the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the Temple of YHWH [b’hekal YHWH], just as YHWH had said. Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valour, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land.

But YHWH promised His people that He would allow them to return:

Isaiah 44:28

YHWH: “It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple [w’hekal], ‘Your foundation will be laid.’”

And by the grace of God, about seventy years later, Cyrus, King of Persia and the Medes, did allow the Hebrew people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple:

Jeremiah 51:10-11

YHWH has brought about our vindication; Come and let us recount in Zion the work of YHWH our God! Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers!

YHWH has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it; for it is the vengeance of YHWH, vengeance for His Temple [hekalow].

The Babylonians had tried to destroy YHWH’s house on earth, and his presence on this planet, but YHWH did not allow that slight to pass. The Jewish people were given a chance to rebuild the Temple, as YHWH’s palace on earth, but His plans all along were to eventually let ALL people dwell in God’s Palace.

Temple and the Covenant Promise

Do you recall what Jeremiah reported earlier?… Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.” (Jeremiah 7:3). YHWH intended us to dwell in the Temple, but how would this happen? At the time only the High Priest could go behind the curtain in the Temple and face the manifest presence of God. How could all the people dwell in this place and become so intimate with their Creator?

Zechariah 6:11-15

“Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the Temple [hekal] of YHWH. Yes, it is He who will build [from beginning to end] the Temple [hekal] of YHWH, and He who will bear the honour and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.’ Now the crown will become a reminder in the Temple [b’hekal] of YHWH to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen the son of Zephaniah. Those who are far off will come and build the temple of YHWH. Then you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey YHWH your God.”

The man whose name is Branch, that YHWH spoke of, would build the temple and sit and rule on His throne as YHWH’s Anointed One, the Messiah from the line of David. Malachi spoke of him as the messenger of the covenant, in whom God delights:

Malachi 3:1

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple [hekalow]; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says YHWH of hosts.

Ezekiel also spoke of the covenant of peace through the Servant from David’s line (as King David had long since passed away) who would become the forever prince of the people of God:

Ezekiel 37:24-27

“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place [My tabernacle: mishkani] also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.”

Ezekiel aptly used the word tabernacle (mishkan) rather than temple. For if God’s sanctuary was to be in the midst of His people forever it had to be a moveable tabernacle, not a grounded-in-one-spot temple. But how do you make the House of God live within each person?

Jeremiah 31:33-34

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares YHWH, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbour and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares YHWH, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

This covenant would bring an Anointed one from the line of David, the word of God would be written on the hearts of the people, and the people’s sins would be wiped out. What an incredible, multi-layered, gift from God! Jesus [Yeshua] would fulfill this mission, and in the process spoke often about the Temple. In particular he made a grand announcement about the fate of the Temple in Jerusalem:

Mark 13:1-2

As He was going out of the Temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

Forty years after Yeshua’s crucifixion the Jewish people fought against their Roman oppressors. In retaliation Rome desecrated the Temple and the entire city of Jerusalem. It was completely annihilated; not one stone was left standing.

Although this devastated the Hebrew nation, God had already put into plan a New Temple. But this new temple was nothing like it had ever been before… and it was in a very surprising place.

The Body as the Temple

God held His Temple, built by humans, in special esteem, but He cared so much more for the things He created. When the Temple was destroyed for the second time (which, to this day, has yet to be rebuilt) a New Temple took its place. The Temple was no longer to be a building, created out of wood or stone… the new Temple where God would reside, would be in the body of those who loved Him, starting with His own Son, the Messiah:

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.”  

The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Yeshua’s body would become the Temple… the place where God resided on earth. YHWH walked and lived through him, the true Son of God, the Sacrificial Lamb, and Prince of Peace.

When John envisioned the New Jerusalem he wrote this:

Revelation 21:22-26

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

To all who loved Him, Yeshua passed on the ability to be a living House of God by means of the Spirit. Only because Yeshua returned to YHWH, could we now receive the Spirit… and that a Helper-Spirit would guide us through life, in truth:

John 16:5-8, 12-13a

Yeshua (Jesus): “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…      

…I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…”

With the Spirit of truth our bodies become the New Temple where God dwells. Think of how amazing that is! You are YHWH’s Palace! How well do you maintain that estate? How kind and forgiving are you to YHWH’s house, your body?

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

You are YHWH’s Holy Temple!

2 Corinthians 6:16-18

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. [Ezekiel 37:27] Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate”, says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Yeshua was the Son of God the Father, and the first body to be raised up as a living temple. We can also be sons and daughters of YHWH, becoming living, moving, temples… dwelling places of God scattered across the earth! It is now our responsibility to live our lives out-loud for our Creator, from wherever we are on the planet.

Psalm 90:1-2

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God!

Be bold and strong in the name of YHWH, for you are His dwelling place on earth, just as He has been our dwelling place from the beginning of time! Do not underestimate your importance. The Spirit of YHWH lives within you!

Next week: Birth

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