INNER SANCTUARY: Debir/Devir, Masculine Noun, (Strong’s 1687).
The Bible is full of areas of sacred space. There’s Eden, sacred mountains, garden spaces, rock altars, and the Tabernacle/Temple… all places where YHWH made His Presence felt.
Within the Tabernacle, at the very core, behind a thick curtain, was the holiest of holy places, the “inner sanctuary”. This centre sanctuary was sometimes called the Holy of holies [l-qodesh ha-qodashim], (or “Most Holy place”), but occasionally it was referred to as the Devir.
The Devir/debir shared the root letters dalet-bet-resh (DBR) with the Hebrew word, dabar/davar (Strong’s 1697), meaning “WORD”. In other words, the Inner Sanctuary could also be described as the Holy Word Space. It was the space where the Word of God lived; it was the space where the Presence of YHWH spoke… a place of oracle.
It’s important to note that the Hebrew people associated their most divine space (the inner sanctuary) with words. At the Creation account YHWH spoke the world into being beginning with the words “Let there be Light” (Genesis 1:3). This was the first of ten sets of “words” where creation came into order under YHWH’s gentle and awe-inspiring commands. The world was born with words… not wars, or cosmic power struggles, but with YHWH breathing out words of life and creation. It’s a beautiful image of the cosmos being born out of perfect peace.
Even what we call, in English, the Ten Commandments were, literally, the Ten Sayings, or, in Hebrew, the Ten Words [a’seret ha-d’varim]. These ten sets of words were given to help create order and good living on a planet inhabited with complicated humans.
When the Tabernacle was erected, the Spirit (breath) of YHWH gathered His Words and inhabited the central space known as the Inner Sanctuary (or Holy Word Space). It was a poetic rendering of heaven on earth… where God-space gently collided with our space.
The Inner Sanctuary of Solomon’s Temple
The Devir (translated as Inner Sanctuary) shows up primarily in the description of the building of Solomon’s Temple:
1 Kings 6:14-16, 19
…So Solomon built the house and finished it. He built the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house to the ceiling he paneled the walls on the inside with wood, and he paneled the floor of the house with boards of juniper. He also 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 [li-d’vir], as the Most Holy Place…
…he prepared an inner sanctuary [u-d’vir] inside the house in order to place there the ark of the covenant of YHWH.
Solomon intended the inner sanctuary to hold the Ark of the Covenant and, while describing the measurements of the space, the author essentially hits you over the head with the amount of gold used in the space:
1 Kings 6:20-22
The inner sanctuary [ha-d’vir] was twenty cubits in length, twenty cubits in width, and twenty cubits in height; and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also paneled the altar with cedar. So Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold. And he extended chains of gold across the front of the inner sanctuary [ha-d’vir], and he overlaid it with gold. He overlaid the entire house with gold, until all the house was finished. Also the entire altar which was by the inner sanctuary [la-d’vir] he overlaid with gold.
Even the decorations used to describe the inner sanctuary were meant to highlight that a bit of heaven was touching earth. Two huge cherubim statues were built to be placed in the inner sanctuary.
1 Kings 6:23-28
And in the inner sanctuary [ba-d’vir] he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits [15 feet] high. The one wing of the first cherub was five cubits [7.5 feet], and the other wing of the first cherub was five cubits [7.5 feet]; from the end of one wing to the end of the other wing were ten cubits [15 feet]. The second cherub was ten cubits; both of the cherubim were of the same measurement and the same form. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was that of the other cherub. He placed the cherubim in the midst of the inner house, and the wings of the cherubim spread out so that the wing of the one was touching the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall. And their wings were touching end to end in the center of the house. He also overlaid the cherubim with gold…
These statues were representative of the cherubim place at the entrance of Eden in order to keep fallen humans out of the pure sacred space (Genesis 3:24).
Even the entrance doors to the inner sanctuary were decorated with heavenly symbols:
1 Kings 6:31-32
…And for the entrance of the inner sanctuary [ha-d’vir] he made doors of olive wood, the lintel, and five-sided doorposts. So he made two doors of olive wood, and he carved on them carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he overlaid the cherubim and the palm trees with gold.
Inside the holy of holies (inner sanctuary) they placed the ark of the covenant under the giant wings of the two cherubim statues:
2 Chronicles 5:7-10 (see also 1 Kings 8:6-8)
Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of YHWH to its place, into the inner sanctuary [el d’vir] of the house, to the Most Holy Place [qodesh ha-q’dashim], under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering over the ark and its poles. The poles were so long that the ends of the poles of the ark could be seen in front of the inner sanctuary [ha-d’vir], but they could not be seen outside; and they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets which Moses put there at Horeb, where YHWH made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.
Inside the ark, in the most inner of inner spaces were the tablets that contained the Ten Commandments. In other words, inside the Sanctified Word Space [d’vir] were the ten sanctified Words [a’seret ha-d’varim].
The most sacred of words were housed in the Sacred Word Space. It’s simple and beautiful and we miss it all together in the English translation.
Davar: The Word of YHWH
Although the word “word” in the Tanakh (Old Testament) most often referred to the written scriptural writings, sometimes the Word was identified as a manifestation of YHWH. In Genesis the Word came to Abra(ha)m and spoke to him:
After these things the Word of YHWH [d’var YHWH] came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”
But Abram said, “Lord YHWH, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram also said, “Since You have given me no son, one who has been born in my house is my heir.”
Then behold, the Word of YHWH [d’var YHWH] came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
Then he believed in YHWH; and He [YHWH] credited it to him [Abraham] as righteousness.
Abra(ha)m wasn’t reading scripture here; the Word of YHWH was a visual manifestation of God. Abram had a fullconversation with the Word of YHWH, and together they went outside and looked at the stars. It was not YHWH, because no one could look upon YHWH and live, and yet it was YHWH. It was the Word of YHWH.
In the first book of Samuel we are also given an indication that the Word of YHWH was a visual manifestation of YHWH:
1 Samuel 3:1
Now the boy Samuel was attending to the service of YHWH before Eli. And the Word of YHWH [u-d’var YHWH] was rare in those days; visions were infrequent.
At one point the Word of YHWH, or the Angel of YHWH, occasionally visited the people. But by the time of Samuel, seeing the Word of God was rare. So it was a surprise to Samuel that the Word of YHWH would come to Him.
Samuel, who was a youth studying in the Temple under the direction of Eli the priest, was called by the Word of YHWH:
1 Samuel 3:3b-10, -21
…Samuel was lying down in the temple of YHWH where the ark of God was, …[and] YHWH called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.”
Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
But he [Eli] said, “I did not call, go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
And YHWH called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
But he said, “I did not call, my son, go back and lie down.”
Now Samuel did not yet know YHWH, nor had the Word of YHWH [d’var YHWH] yet been revealed to him. So YHWH called Samuel again for the third time. And he got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
Then Eli realized that YHWH was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, YHWH, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Then YHWH came and stood, and called as at the other times: “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
After Eli explained to Samuel that the calling came from YHWH, the Word of YHWH “came and stood, and called” a fourth time, and this time Samuel was ready to listen.
Samuel went on to become a nationally accepted prophet for the Hebrew people, and the Word of YHWH frequently appeared to him:
1 Samuel 3:19-21
Now Samuel grew, and YHWH was with him, and he let none of His words [d’varaw] fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of YHWH. And YHWH appeared again at Shiloh, because YHWH revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the Word of YHWH [bi-d’var YHWH].
Centuries later, the Word of YHWH came and spoke to Jeremiah:
[Jeremiah:] Now the Word of YHWH [d’var YHWH] came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Oh, Lord YHWH! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.”
But YHWH said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to save you,” declares YHWH.
The Word of YHWH then touched Jeremiah:
Then YHWH stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and YHWH said to me, “Behold, I have put My Words [d’vrai] in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
And the Word of YHWH [d’var YHWH] came to me, saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Then YHWH said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My Word [d’varee] to perform it.”
And the Word of YHWH [d’var YHWH] came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.”
Then YHWH said to me, “Out of the north the evil will be unleashed on all the inhabitants of the land. For, behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,” declares YHWH; “and they will come and place, each one of them, his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its walls around, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will pronounce My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, since they have abandoned Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.
This was the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry, where the Word of YHWH came to him and gave an outline of His plan… and then the Word of YHWH was put into the mouth of Jeremiah.
It wouldn’t be an easy ministry for Jeremiah. Israel, out of their obstinate hearts and their pagan idol worship, chose to turn away from YHWH. In response YHWH would respect their choice and He let them live without His Presence. It opened the door for Babylon to come in and destroy the Temple, raze Jerusalem to the ground, and take away the Hebrew people as Babylonian slaves. When the Temple fell, the inner sanctuary (d’vir), where heaven and earth beautifully collided, was severed and destroyed by human hands. The Word was silenced.
Silence, however, does not mean extinguished. The Word of YHWH wasn’t gone for good, it just felt unreachable by the people. The Word no longer stood in the Temple, but it stood strong in the Divine Kingdom:
Forever, YHWH, Your Word [d’var’ka] stands in heaven.
Isaiah put it perfectly:
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God [u-d’var Elohenu] stands forever.
Go up on a high mountain, Zion, messenger of good news, raise your voice forcefully, Jerusalem, messenger of good news; raise it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Behold, the Lord YHWH will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His compensation is with Him, and His reward before Him.
Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in the fold of His robe; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Although the people were slaves in Babylon, YHWH did not abandon them to their fate. After 70 years in exile, He would bring them (like a good shepherd) back home.
Yeshua: The Word of YHWH
God brought the exiled people home to Israel, but they were still unable to go back to Eden, to be able to walk freely in the Presence of God. But the redemption plan wasn’t over yet. YHWH promised to send an Anointed One (Meshiach) who would save and redeem the people. He would be the One to lead everyone back to the Presence of God.
Yeshua was the long-awaited Messiah, the Great Redeemer, and according to the Gospel of John, Yeshua (Jesus) was the living Word:
John 1:1-5, 14-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it.
Yeshua (Jesus) was the living Word who dwelt among His people:
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testified concerning Him. He cried out, saying, This is He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’
From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus the Messiah. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
Opening the Inner Sanctuary
Yeshua, the Word, had a mission. He came to defeat death and open the sanctuary doors so that everyone, regardless of sin or shame, could enter the gates and have the full freedom to face their Creator.
Yeshua laid His life down for His friends, and the moment he died the heavy veil within the inner sanctuary split in two:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabaktanei?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” And immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink.
But the rest of them said, “Let us see if Elijah comes to save Him.”
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.
The torn veil was highly symbolic. No longer would a barrier be needed between human and the Divine Presence. The inner sanctuary was open for everyone! With Yeshua’s sacrifice we could face God, one on one, just like Eve and Adam communed with God in the Garden of Eden. Yeshua, the Word, opened up the Sacred Word Space for all!
This is the beautiful hope we have as followers of YHWH, that regardless of our imperfections we can stand in the Presence of our Creator because we are purified by Yeshua’s sacrifice. He was the sacrificial lamb who died to cleanse us so that we could stand, face to face, in the presence of YHWH. Yeshua paid the entrance fee into the inner sanctuary:
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary (that within the veil) behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
The shed blood of Yeshua was like a key which opened the Holy of Holies, making it accessible to everyone. He stood as the High Priest for us and opened the door wide and invited us in. That is where we are to place our hope:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a Great Priest over the house of God, let’s approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
As we wait to enter the Kingdom we ought to live kindly on this planet, encouraging each other in love and good deeds. And we to hold onto the beautiful hope we have… that at the end of our days here on earth we will rise up and walk into YHWH’s inner sanctuary and wander in the Garden with our Lord. Let your heart triumph in that peace:
Psalm 28:1-2, 6-7
[David:] To You, YHWH, I call; my rock, do not be deaf to me, for if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the sound of my pleadings when I cry to You for help, when I raise my hands toward Your holy sanctuary (your holy Word-space) [el d’vir qad’sheka]…
…Blessed be YHWH, because He has heard the sound of my pleading. YHWH is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart triumphs, and with my song I shall thank Him.
NEXT WEEK: Meditate