(Heb. kahal), the Hebrew people collectively as a holy community ( Numbers 15:15 ). Every circumcised Hebrew from twenty years old and upward was a member of the congregation. Strangers resident in the land, if circumcised, were, with certain exceptions ( Exodus 12:19 ; Numbers 9:14 ; Deuteronomy 23:1-3 ), admitted to the privileges of citizenship, and spoken of as members of the congregation ( Exodus 12:19 ; Numbers 9:14 ; 15:15 ). The congregation were summonded together by the sound of two silver trumpets, and they met at the door of the tabernacle ( Numbers 10:3 ). These assemblies were convened for the purpose of engaging in solemn religious services ( Exodus 12:27 ; Numbers 25:6 ; Joel 2:15 ), or of receiving new commandments ( Exodus 19:7 Exodus 19:8 ). The elders, who were summonded by the sound of one trumpet ( Numbers 10:4 ), represented on various occasions the whole congregation ( Exodus 3:16 ; 12:21 ; 17:5 ; 24:1 ).
After the conquest of Canaan, the people were assembled only on occasions of the highest national importance (Judg. 20; 2 Chronicles 30:5 ; 34:29 ; 1 Samuel 10:17 ; 2 Sam 5:1-5 ; 1 Kings 12:20 ; 2 Kings 11:19 ; 21:24 ; 23:30 ). In subsequent times the congregation was represented by the Sanhedrim; and the name synagogue, applied in the Septuagint version exclusively to the congregation, came to be used to denote the places of worship established by the Jews. (See CHURCH .)
In Acts 13:43 , where alone it occurs in the New Testament, it is the same word as that rendered "synagogue" (q.v.) in ver. 42, and is so rendered in ver. 43 in RSV
This describes the Hebrew people in its collective capacity under its peculiar aspect as a holy community, held together by religious rather than political bonds. Sometimes it is used in a broad sense as inclusive of foreign settlers, ( Exodus 12:19 ) but more properly as exclusively appropriate to the Hebrew element of the population. ( Numbers 15:15 ) The congregation was governed by the father or head of each family and tribe. The number of these representatives being inconveniently large for ordinary business, a further selection was made by Moses of 70, who formed a species of standing committee. ( Numbers 11:16 ) Occasionally indeed the whole body of people was assembled at the door of the tabernacle, hence usually called the tabernacle of the congregation. ( Numbers 10:3 ) The people were strictly bound by the acts of their representatives, even in cases where they disapproved of them. ( Joshua 9:18 )
kon-gre-ga'-shun (qahal, `edhah).
1. Terms Employed:
These two words rendered by "congregation" or "assembly" are used apparently without any difference of sense. They appear to include an assembly of the whole people or any section that might be present on a given occasion. Indeed, sometimes the idea appears to correspond closely to that conveyed by "horde," or even by "crowd." `Edhah is once used of bees (Judges 14:8). It has been sought to distinguish the two words by means of Leviticus 4:13, "if the whole `edhah of Israel err, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the qahal." The qahal would then be the smaller body representing the whole `edhah, but the general usage is not favorable to this view (compare e.g. Exodus 12:19, "cutting off from the `edhah of Israel," with Numbers 19:20, "cutting off from the qahal"). The idea denoted by these words is said by Wellhausen to be "foreign to Hebrew antiquity," though it "runs through the Priestly Code from beginning to end" (Prolegomena 78). Yet it is Deuteronomy that presents us with laws excluding certain classes from the qahal, and the word is also found in Genesis 49:6; Numbers 22:4 (the Revised Version (British and American) "multitude"); Deuteronomy 5:22; 9:10; 31:30; Joshua 8:35; 1 Samuel 17:47; 1 Kings 8:14; Micah 2:5, and other early passages, while `edhah occurs in 1 Kings 12:20 (see further, Eerdmans, Das Buch Exodus, 80 f). On the other hand taste and euphony appear to be responsible for the choice of one or other of the words in many cases. Thus the Chronicler uses qahal frequently, but `edhah only once (2 Chronicles 5:6 = 1 Kings 8:5).
2. Legal Provisions:
Deuteronomy 23:1-8 (in Hebrews 2-9) excludes bastards, Ammonites and Moabites from the assembly, even to the tenth generation, while Edomites and Egyptians were admitted in the third. Those who suffer from certain physical defects are also excluded.
3. Other Terms:
One other word must be noted, mo`edh. It occurs often in the phrase 'ohel mo`edh ("tent of meeting"; see TABERNACLE). But in Numbers 16:2 we find it used of certain princes who were "men of renown called to the assembly."
Harold M. Wiener
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