Jubal was "the father of such as dwell in tents" ( Genesis 4:20 ). The patriarchs were "dwellers in tents" ( Genesis 9:21 Genesis 9:27 ; 12:8 ; 13:12 ; 26:17 ); and during their wilderness wanderings all Israel dwelt in tents ( Exodus 16:16 ; Deuteronomy 33:18 ; Joshua 7:24 ). Tents have always occupied a prominent place in Eastern life ( 1 Samuel 17:54 ; 2 Kings 7:7 ; Psalms 120:5 ; Cant 1:5 ). Paul the apostle's occupation was that of a tent-maker ( Acts 18:3 ); i.e., perhaps a maker of tent cloth.
Among the leading characteristics of the nomad races, those two have always been numbered whose origin has been ascribed to Jabal the son of Lameth, ( Genesis 4:20 ) viz., to be tent-dwellers and keepers of cattle. The same may be said of the forefathers of the Hebrew race; nor was it until the return into Canaan from Egypt that the Hebrews became inhabitants of cities. An Arab tent is called beit , "house;" its covering consists of stuff, about three quarters of a yard broad, made of black goats-hair, ( Solomon 1:5 ) laid parallel with the tents length. This is sufficient to resist the heaviest rain. The tent-poles or columns are usually nine in number, placed in three groups; but many tents have only one pole, others two or three. The ropes which hold the tent in its place are fastened, not to the tent-cover itself, but to loops consisting of a leathern thong tied to the ends of a stick, round which is twisted a piece of old cloth, which is itself sewed to the tent-cover. The ends of the tent-ropes are fastened to short sticks or pins, which are driven into the ground with a mallet. ( Judges 4:21 ) Round the back and sides of the tent runs a piece of stuff removable at pleasure to admit air. The tent is divided into two apartments, separated by a carpet partition drawn across the middle of the tent and fastened to the three middle posts. When the pasture near an encampment is exhausted, the tents are taken down, packed on camels and removed. ( Genesis 26:17 Genesis 26:22 Genesis 26:25 ; Isaiah 38:12 ) In choosing places for encampment, Arabs prefer the neighborhood of trees, for the sake of the shade and coolness which they afford. ( Genesis 18:4 Genesis 18:8 )
tent ('ohel; skene; 'ohel is a derivative of 'ahal, "to be clear," "to shine"; hence, 'ohel, "to be conspicuous from a distance"):
In the great stretches of uncultivated lands in the interior of Syria or Arabia, which probably have much the same aspect today as in Abraham's time, it is an easy matter to espy an encampment of roving Bedouin, "a nation .... that dwelleth without care .... that have neither gates nor bars" (Jeremiah 49:31). The peaks of their black (compare Song of Solomon 1:5) goats' hair tents stand out in contrast against the lighter colors of the soil.
There seems to be little doubt about the antiquity of the Arab tent, and one can rightly believe that-the dwelling-places of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and their descendants were made on the same pattern and of the same materials (Genesis 4:20; 9:27; 12:8; 13:3; 18:6; 31:25,30; Psalms 78:55; Hebrews 11:9, etc.). Long after the children of Israel had given up their tents for houses they continued to worship in tents (2 Samuel 7:1-6; 2 Chronicles 1:3,4) (for the use of tents in connection with religious observances see TABERNACLE).
The Arab tents (called bait sha`r, "house of hair") are made of strips of black goats' hair cloth, sewed together into one large piece (see GOATS' HAIR; WEAVING). Poles are placed under this covering at intervals to hold it from the ground, and it is stretched over these poles by ropes of goats hair or hemp (compare Job 4:21; Isaiah 54:2; Jeremiah 10:20) "fastened to hard-wood pins driven into the ground (Isaiah 54:2; Judges 4:21; 5:26). A large wooden mallet for driving the pegs is part of the regular camp equipment (Judges 4:21; 5:26). The sides (curtains) of the tent (Isaiah 54:2) are made of strips of goats hair cloth or from mats woven from split cane or rushes (see Illustration, p. 2948). Where more than one family occupies the same tent or the animals are provided with shelter under the same roof (compare 2 Chronicles 14:15), curtains of the same materials mentioned above form the dividing walls. A corner of the matting where two ends meet is turned back to form the door of the tent (Genesis 18:1). In the summer time the walls are mostly removed. New tents are not water-proof, and the condition of the interior after a heavy rain is not far from squalid. The tent material becomes matted by use, especially if wool has been woven into the fabric, and is then a better protection against the rain. It is the women's duty to pitch the tents.
The poorer Arabs have no mats to cover the ground under their tents. Straw mats, goats' hair or woolen rugs (compare Judges 4:18), more or less elaborate as the taste and means of the family allow, are the usual coverings for the tent floor. The food supplies are usually kept in goats' hair bags, the liquids, as oil or milk products, in skins. One or two tinned copper cooking-vessels, a shallow tray of the same material, a coffee set consisting of roasting pan, mortar and pestle, boiling-pot and cups, make up the usual camp furniture. The more thrifty include bedding in their equipment, but this increases the difficulties of moving, since it might require more than the one animal, sometimes only a donkey, which carries all the earthly belongings of the family. A sheikh or chief has several tents, one for himself and guests, separate ones for his wives and female servants, and still others for his animals (compare Genesis 31:33).
Other Hebrew words translated "tent" are forms of chanah (Numbers 13:19; 1 Samuel 17:53; 2 Kings 7:16; 2 Chronicles 31:2; Zechariah 14:15); cukkah (2 Samuel 11:11; 22:12); mishkenoth (Song of Solomon 1:8).
"Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there" typified utter desolation (Isaiah 13:20). "Enlarge the place of thy tent .... stretch forth the curtains .... lengthen thy cords .... strengthen thy stakes" prophesied an increase in numbers and prosperity of God's people (Isaiah 54:2; compare 33:20; Luke 16:9; 2 Corinthians 5:4). Tent cords plucked up denoted death. (Job 4:21). Jeremiah 10:20 is a picture of a destroyed household as applied to Judah. Hezekiah in his sickness bewails that his dwelling (life) had been carried away as easily as a shepherd's tent is plucked up (Isaiah 38:12). Isaiah compared the heavens to a tent spread out (Isaiah 40:22). "They shall pitch their tents against her" i.e. they shall make war (Jeremiah 6:3).
James A. Patch
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