Because tents could be easily put up and taken down, they were the normal dwelling places of ancient peoples who moved around from place to place with their flocks and herds. They were among the earliest kinds of human dwelling places (Gen 4:20; 9:21; 12:8; 18:1; 26:25; Song of Songs 1:8; Isa 38:12; Jer 49:28-29). Tents were made of the skins of animals, the woven hair of animals, or heavy cloth. The material was stretched over poles and tied with cords to pegs in the ground. Tents were dark and drab externally, but internally they were usually colourful, because of the curtain hangings that divided them into rooms (Song of Songs 1:5; Isa 54:2). Sometimes there were separate tents for men and women (Gen 18:6,9; 31:33).

Armies camped in tents (2 Kings 7:7-8), and the Israelites camped in tents on their journey from Egypt to Canaan (Exod 16:16; 33:8; Num 16:26; 24:5; Deut 1:27). Israel’s place of worship, which they took with them on the journey, was in the form of a tent (Exod 26:14,36; see TABERNACLE). When David conquered Jerusalem he put the ark of the covenant in a tent he had erected for it in the city, in anticipation of the permanent temple he had planned for Jerusalem. This would replace the tabernacle-tent, which at that time was at Gibeon (1 Chron 16:1,39). Bible writers use the tent as a picture of the brief life that men and women have upon the earth. It comes to an inglorious end like a tent that collapses when its cords are cut (Job 4:21). But whereas the physical body is, like a tent, temporary, what God has prepared for believers in the age to come is a permanent home (2 Cor 5:1).

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