Living in Tents
IN THE BIBLE, living in tents is of ancient origin. It goes back before the days of Abraham. The first reference in the Scriptures to tent life is concerning the man Jabal, of whom it is said, "he was the father of such as dwell in tents" (Genesis 4:20). Following the Flood the Sacred Record says, "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Genesis 9:27).
The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived most of their lives in tents, in and around the land of Canaan. It was said of Abraham that he "pitched his tent" in the vicinity of Bethel (Genesis 12:8), that Isaac "pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar" (Genesis 26:17), and Jacob "pitched his tent before the city (of Shechem)" (Genesis 33:18).
The Children of Israel lived in tents during their forty years in the wilderness. Moses said of them, "The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp" (Numbers 1:52). And Balaam "lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes" (Numbers 24:2).
For many years after the entering of the Promised Land, Israel still lived in tents. In the days of David it was said to the king, "The ark and Israel and Judah, abide in tents" (II Samuel 11:11), indicating that many of the people at that time were tent-dwellers. Even at the time of the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam and their separation from Judah, the cry went forth, "To your tents, O Israel" (I Kings 12:16).
When the tribes gathered together at such small places as Gilgal, and Shiloh, they undoubtedly brought their tents with them. And after the temple was built at Jerusalem the people would make their pilgrimages there to celebrate the feasts of the LORD, and many thousands of them would sleep in tents on the mountains surrounding the city.
Like the Jews of old, the Nomad or Bedouin Arabs of Israel, and especially those of Trans-Jordan, have been living in tents for centuries, and their manner of life is strikingly like unto that of the early Bible characters. A study, therefore, of these tent structures of Bible lands of today will throw much light on how the men of early Bible times actually lived. By such a study one can build the proper background for understanding the life and contributions of these men of the long ago.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]