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Congregation

CONGREGATION

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:

Moses provided for the summoning of the congregation by trumpets (Numbers 10:2-8). For the sin offering to be brought if the whole congregation erred, see Leviticus 4:13-21.

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."

For atsereth, rendered by the Revised Version (British and American) "solemn assembly", see FEASTS. On miqra', see CONVOCATION.

Harold M. Wiener


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'CONGREGATION'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.