The Meanings of qds in the Sinai Legislation. In the Sinai material ( Exod 19:1-nu ; 10:10 ) qds [v;d'q], which is translated "consecrate/sanctify/make holy, " means separation with relationship to God. Of 263 occurrences the context implies separation in 260 instances and relationship to God in 252. Another meaning is perfection or excellence (70 times), whether ethical/behavioral (37), material (32), or both (1). Less frequent occurrences imply a mysterious/dangerous power (20 instances) or glory (5 instances).
Separation is particularly clear in the bounds set around Mount Sinai ( Exod 19:23 ; see also the wall around Ezekiel's temple, Ezek 42:20 ) and in the veil setting off the Holy of Holies ( Exod 26:33 ). The function of the priests is to distinguish between the holy and the common ( Lev 10:10 ).
Both separation and relationship to God are explicit in the qds [v;d'q] cluster in Leviticus 20:23-26. God says, "You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own." Relationship to God is very clear also in the introductory command before the tabernacle instructions: "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them" ( Exod 25:8 ; 29:43-46 ).
The clearest reference to ethical perfection in qds [v;d'q] is Exodus 19:5-6, where holiness is defined in terms of obedience to God's statutes: "If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (cf. Lev 20:7-8 ; 22:31-32 ).
Material perfection or excellence is most frequently involved in the use of qds [v;d'q] for the tabernacle materials. The requirements for perfect sacrifices and the exclusion of physically defective priests from service also include the idea of perfection in qds [v;d'q].
Holy Persons, Objects, and Times in the Sinai Material. Persons, objects, and times are holy because they are set apart for God. Of persons, the priests most frequently receive the designation "holy." The firstborn are holy ( Num 3:13 ), as are the Levites who replace them ( Num 3:12-13 ), the Nazarites ( Num 6:8 ; cf. also those dedicated to Yahweh, Lev 27:1-8 ), and all Israel ( Exodus 19:6 Exodus 19:10 Exodus 19:14 ). The latter are sometimes described as sanctified by God ( Lev 20:8 ) and sometimes told to sanctify themselves ( 20:7 ). God sanctifies them by separating them from the nations and giving them his statutes; they sanctify themselves by obeying these laws ( Exod 19:5-6 ; Lev 20:7-8 ; 22:31-32 ).
Of objects, the tabernacle and its appurtenances are commonly called holy. Whenever the text speaks of contagious holiness, the subject is the "most holy" things (qodes qadasim Exod 29:37 ; 30:29 ; Lev 6:10 ; ,18 ,22  ). Common things can be raised to the status of holy if the owner chooses to dedicate them to Yahweh (Lev. 27). This seems to have included even unclean animals (27:11, cf. vv. 26-27).
Of times, the Sabbath ( Exod 20:8 ; etc. ), the feasts ( Le 23:37 ), and the year of jubilee ( Leviticus 25:10 Leviticus 25:12 ) are set apart as holy. The Sabbath is also a sign of holiness ( Exod 31:13 that Israel will realize it is Yahweh who is making them different for himself ).
Israel's Cultic Structure Was a Paradigm of qds. The structure of Israel's cult pictures the predominant meanings of holiness: separation to God and perfection. This is to be seen in the organization of persons into priesthood and laity, in the layout of the sanctuary and the camp around it, and in the regulations for access of persons to holy territory. The nearer the relationship to Yahweh who is holy, the greater the separation from imperfection. For example, the Holy of Holies is the most separate spot and evidences the highest quality of materials and craftsmanship. The high priest only enters on one day of the year, and with no one else in the next room who might see in ( Lev 16:17 ). Spanning out from the sanctuary are concentric circles of decreasing holiness the Levites, the twelve tribes, the unclean and the heathen (Gentiles). The more serious the uncleanness, the greater the exclusion of that unclean person and the more elaborate the ritual required for him to regain access to the presence of the holy. Even the sacrifices and washings within the ritual themselves mirror the concept of holiness. That the offerer's sacrifice is killed serves as a metaphor for the separation of a holy God from imperfection. The washings, while serving generally as a hygienic measure to check or prevent disease, also have metaphoric value. The high priest bathes before entering and again upon exiting from the holiest place; contact with the most holy things is contact with contagious holiness, and contagion needs to be washed away to keep the most holy things set apart ( Lev 16:24 ; 6:27 ). The sprinkling of the Levites at their induction is also a metaphoric cleansing (cf. also after leprosy the shaving of eyebrows, but not all body hair). As washing gets rid of dirt, so it seems on occasion to get rid of status with respect to purity of the cult. One step removed is to make washing a metaphor for riddance of sin a step approached most nearly in the Sinai material in the ordeal for a wife suspected of adultery ( Numbers 5:17 Numbers 5:27-28 ).
The Development of qds in Later Biblical Writers.Later writers in the Old Testament and also the New often emphasize holiness as an ethical and spiritual thing. The prophets during the time when there was no temple (586-516 b.c.) use the temple ritual as a metaphor for holiness ( Lamentations 1:8-9 Lamentations 1:17 ; 4:13-15 ; Ezekiel 36:17 Ezekiel 36:25 ; Hag 2:10-19 ; Zech 3 ). Ezekiel (chaps. 40-48) outlines the whole future temple and its ritual as a pattern of holiness (i.e., separation to God from uncleanness) so that Israel will become ashamed of her iniquities (43:10-12). Peter uses language from Exodus 19 to speak of the church as a holy priesthood/nation that offers up spiritual sacrifices ( 1 Peter 2:4 ).
As in the priestly legislation so in the New Testament God's people are sometimes described as sanctified by God ( 1 Thess 5:23 ; cf. Eph 1:4 ) and sometimes told to sanctify themselves ( 2 Cor 7:1 ; 1 Thess 3:13 ) so as to be blameless. The means whereby God sanctified his church was Jesus' sacrificial death ( Col 1:22 ). In response, believers are told to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God ( Rom 12:1 ). Also they are disciplined by God in order to share his holiness ( Heb 12:10 ).
Paul calls believers the holy temple of God ( 1 Cor 3:17 ). The direction is for all of one's life to be set apart to and blameless/perfect before God. Zechariah anticipated a day when the commonplace things of life would be raised to the status of holy ( 14:20-21 ). Isaiah looked forward to a "highway of holiness" upon which the unclean would not travel ( Isa 35:8 ). Whereas in the Sinai legislation uncleanness is more contagious than holiness, this appears to be reversed in 1 Corinthians 7:14the unbelieving husband being sanctified by his wife. The encompassing goal in both Testaments is for God's people to be holy in all their behavior like the Holy One who called them ( Lev 11:45 ; 19:2 ; 20:26 ; 1 Peter 1:14-16 ).
Bibliography. M. Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel; J. Milgrom, Cult and Conscience; idem, Suppl. IDB, 782-84; O. Proksch, TDNT, 1:88-115.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Consecrate'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".