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Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [1]

‛Êdâh ( עֵדָה , Strong'S #5712), “congregation.” This word may have etymologically signified a “company assembled together” for a certain purpose, similar to the Greek words sunagoge —and ekklesia , —from which our words “synagogue” and “church” are derived. In ordinary usage, ‛êdâh refers to a “group of people.” It occurs 149 times in the Old Testament, most frequently in the Book of Numbers. The first occurrence is in Exod. 12:3, where the word is a synonym for qahal “assembly.”The most general meaning of ‛êdâh is “group,” whether of animals—such as a swarm of bees (Judg. 14:8), a herd of bulls (Ps. 68:30), and the flocking together of birds (Hos. 7:12)— or of people, such as the righteous (Ps. 1:5), the evildoers (Ps. 22:16), and the nations (Ps. 7:7).

The most frequent reference is to the “congregation of Israel” (9 times), “the congregation of the sons of Israel” (26 times), “the congregation” (24 times), or “all of the congregation” (30 times). Elders (Lev. 4:15), family heads (Num. 31:26), and princes (Num. 16:2; 31:13; 32:2) were placed in charge of the “congregation” in order to assist Moses in a just rule.

The Septuagint translation is sunagoge (“place of assembly”). The KJV has these translations: “congregation; company; assembly.”

Mô‛êd ( מוֹעָדָה , 4150), “appointed place of meeting; meeting.” The noun mô‛êd appears in the Old Testament 223 times, of which 160 times are in the Pentateuch. The historical books are next in the frequency of usage (27 times).

The word mô‛êd keeps its basic meaning of “appointed,” but varies as to what is agreed upon or appointed according to the context: the time, the place, or the meeting itself. The usage of the verb in Amos 3:3 is illuminating: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Whether they have agreed on a time or a place of meeting, or on the meeting itself, is ambiguous.

The meaning of mô‛êd is fixed within the context of Israel’s religion. First, the festivals came to be known as the “appointed times” or the set feasts. These festivals were clearly prescribed in the Pentateuch. The word refers to any “festival” or “pilgrimage festival,” such as Passover (Lev. 23:15ff.), the feast of first fruits (Lev. 23:15ff.), the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:33ff.), or the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27). God condemned the people for observing the mô‛êd ritualistically: “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth …” (Isa. 1:14).

The word mô‛êd also signifies a “fixed place.” This usage is not frequent: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation [ mô‛êd ], in the sides of the north …” (Isa. 14:13). “For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed —for all living” (Job 30:23).

In both meanings of mô‛êd —“fixed time” and “fixed place”—a common denominator is the “meeting” of two or more parties at a certain place and time—hence the usage of mô‛êd as “meeting.” However, in view of the similarity in meaning between “appointed place” or “appointed time” and “meeting,” translators have a real difficulty in giving a proper translation in each context. For instance, “He hath called an assembly [ mô‛êd ] against me” (Lam. 1:15) could be read: “He has called an appointed time against me” (NASB) or “He summoned an army against me” (NIV).

The phrase, “tabernacle of the congregation,” is a translation of the Hebrew ‘ohel—mô‛êd (“tent of meeting”). —The phrase occurs 139 times— mainly in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, rarely in Deuteronomy. It signifies that the Lord has an “appointed place” by which His presence is represented and through which Israel was assured that their God was with them. The fact that the tent was called the “tent of meeting” signifies that Israel’s God was among His people and that He was to be approached at a certain time and place that were “fixed” ( ya’ad ) in the Pentateuch. In the KJV, this phrase is translated as “tabernacle of the congregation” (Exod. 28:43) because translators realized that the noun mô‛êd (“congregation”) is derived from the same root as mô‛êd. The translators of the Septuagint had a similar difficulty. They noticed the relation of mô‛êd to the root ‘ud (“to testify”) and translated the phrase ’ohel hamo’ed —as “tabernacle of the testimony.” This phrase was picked up by the New Testament: “And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened …” (Rev. 15:5).

Of the three meanings, the appointed “time” is most basic. The phrase “tent of meeting” lays stress on the “place of meeting.” The “meeting” itself is generally associated with “time” or “place.”

The Septuagint has the following translations of mô‛êd: kairos (timew), —eortel (“feast; festival”). The English translators give these senses: “congregation” (Kjv, Rsv, Nasb, Niv); “appointed time” (NASB); “appointed feast” (Rsv, Nasb); “set time” (Rsv, Nasb, Niv )

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

In Tindale’s Version (1534) and in Cranmer’s (1539) ‘congregation’ was used instead of ‘church’ to translate both ἐκκλησία and συναγωγή. But Wyclif had used ‘church,’ and the Geneva Version, followed by Authorized Version, reverted to it. Revised Version, with one exception, has ‘church’ exclusively in the text, though in several places ‘congregation’ appears in the margin. The exception is  Hebrews 2:12, where in the quotation from  Psalms 22:25 ‘congregation’ is in the text and ‘church’ in the margin. F. J. A. Hort ( The Christian Ecclesia , London, 1897) chose ‘Ecclesia’ as a word free from the disturbing associations of ‘church’ and ‘congregation,’ though the latter has not only historical standing (as above) but also the advantage of suggesting some of these elements of meaning which are least forcibly brought out by the word ‘church’ according to our present use (cf. Expository Times viii. [1896-97] 386). So far, however, as there is any substantive difference between the two words as found in the English Bible, the ‘congregation’ of Revised Version margin points to an actual church assembled in one place.

In the NT ἐκκλησία naturally designates the Christian Church. The associations of συναγωγή were against its Christian use, though it is retained in  James 2:2 to describe an assembly of Jewish-Christians; but this is explained by the destination of the letter-‘to the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion.’

In St. Paul’s address to the elders of Miletus ( Acts 20:17) we see the old Jewish συναγωγή in the process of passing into the more distinctively Christian ἑκκλησία. He quotes  Psalms 74:2 ‘Remember thy congregation which thou didst purchase of old’; but for the Septuagintσυναγωγή he puts ἐκκλησία. Thus in the Apostle’s hands this passage becomes ‘one of the channels through which the word “ecclesia” came to denote God’s people of the future’ ( Expository Times viii. 387). Cf. also articleAssembly; and, for the Heb. and Gr. terms in the OT, article‘Congregation’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) .

W. M. Grant.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [3]

 Numbers 15:15 Exodus 12:19 Numbers 9:14 Deuteronomy 23:1-3 Exodus 12:19 Numbers 9:14 15:15 Numbers 10:3 Exodus 12:27 Numbers 25:6 Joel 2:15 Exodus 19:7,8 Numbers 10:4 Exodus 3:16 12:21 17:5 24:1

After the conquest of Canaan, the people were assembled only on occasions of the highest national importance ( Judges 20;  2 Chronicles 30:5;  34:29;  1 Samuel 10:17;  2 Samuel 5:1-5;  1 Kings 12:20;  2 Kings 11:19;  21:24;  23:30 ). In subsequent times the congregation was represented by the Sanhedrim; and the name synagogue, applied in the Septuagint version exclusively to the congregation, came to be used to denote the places of worship established by the Jews. (See Church .)

In   Acts 13:43 , where alone it occurs in the New Testament, it is the same word as that rendered "synagogue" (q.v.) in ver. 42, and is so rendered in ver. 43 in RSV

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

'Eedah . Convocation Qaahaal (restricted to the Pentateuch, except  Isaiah 1:13). The Hebrew, regarded in their collective capacity as a "holy" community, gathered in sacred assembly composed of the homeborn Israelites. Settlers, only if circumcised, were admitted to the privileges ( Exodus 12:19). Each Israelite was member of a house; the family was a collection of houses; the tribe, a collection of families; the congregation, a collection of tribes. The Congregation was a national parliament, with legislative and judicial powers. The CONVOCATION was restricted to religious meetings (Leviticus 23). Each house, family, and tribe had its head; these representative heads were "the elders" or "princes."

Moses selected 70 elders by God's appointment to share the burden of government with him ( Numbers 11:16). The sounding of the two silver trumpets was the signal for the whole body of the people assembling at the door of the tabernacle, which was there called "the tabernacle of the congregation," the Moed , literally, a place of meeting ( Numbers 10:2-4). The princes were convened with only one trumpet. The people were bound to abide by the acts of their representatives ( Joshua 9:18). In later times the Sanhedrin council (corresponding to Moses' seventy elders) represented the congregation. Synagogue, which originally applied to the assembly, came to mean the place of worship.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

1: Ἐκκλησία (Strong'S #1577 — Noun Feminine — ekklesia — ek-klay-see'-ah )

is translated "congregation" in  Hebrews 2:12 , RV, instead of the usual rendering "church." See Assembly.

2: Συναγωγή (Strong'S #4864 — Noun Feminine — sunagoge — soon-ag-o-gay' )

is translated "congregation" in  Acts 13:43 , AV (RV, "synagogue"). See Synagogue.

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

edah qahal edah   Psalm 68:30 Judges 14:8

In the Greek Old Testament edah was usually translated by sunagoge, qahal by ekklesia . In late Judaism sunagoge depicted the actual Israelite people and ekklesia the ideal elect of God called to salvation. Hence ekklesia became the term for the Christian congregation, the church. Sunagoge in the New Testament is almost entirely restricted to the Jewish place of worship. (An exception is   James 2:2 , which may refer to a Christian assembly.) The English word “synagogue” is merely a transliteration of sunagoge . Ekklesia means “called out,” and in classical Greek referred to the body of free citizens called out by a herald. In the New Testament the “called out ones” are the church, the assembly of God's people. There is a direct spiritual continuity between the congregation of the Old Testament and the New Testament church. Significantly the Christian community chose the Old Testament term for the ideal people of God called to salvation ( ekklesia ), rather than the term which described all Israelites collectively ( sunagoge ).

Joe E. Lunceford

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(1): (n.) An assembly of persons; a gathering; esp. an assembly of persons met for the worship of God, and for religious instruction; a body of people who habitually so meet.

(2): (n.) The act of congregating, or bringing together, or of collecting into one aggregate or mass.

(3): (n.) A collection or mass of separate things.

(4): (n.) The whole body of the Jewish people; - called also Congregation of the Lord.

(5): (n.) A body of cardinals or other ecclesiastics to whom as intrusted some department of the church business; as, the Congregation of the Propaganda, which has charge of the missions of the Roman Catholic Church.

(6): (n.) A company of religious persons forming a subdivision of a monastic order.

(7): (n.) The assemblage of Masters and Doctors at Oxford or Cambrige University, mainly for the granting of degrees.

(8): (n.) the name assumed by the Protestant party under John Knox. The leaders called themselves (1557) Lords of the Congregation.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [8]

Congregation. This describes the Hebrew people, in its collective capacity, under its peculiar aspect as a holy community, held together by religious, rather than political bonds. Sometimes, it is used in a broad sense as inclusive of foreign settlers,  Exodus 12:19, but more properly, as exclusively appropriate to the Hebrew element of the population.  Numbers 15:15.

The congregation was governed by the father or head of each family and tribe. The number of these representatives being inconveniently large for ordinary business, a further selection was made by Moses of 70, who formed a species of standing committee.  Numbers 11:16.

Occasionally indeed, the whole body of people was assembled at the door of the Tabernacle, hence, usually called The Tabernacle Of The Congregation.  Numbers 10:3. The people were strictly bound by the acts of their representatives, even in cases where they disapproved of them.  Joshua 9:18.

King James Dictionary [9]


1. The act of bringing together, or assembling. 2. A collection or assemblage of separate things as a congregation of vapors. 3. More generally, an assembly or persons and appropriately, an assembly of persons met for the worship of God, and for religious instruction. 4. An assembly of rulers.  Numbers 35 . 5. An assembly of ecclesiastics or cardinals appointed by the pope as the congregation of the holy office, &c. Also, a company or society of religious cantoned out of an order. 6. An academical assembly for transacting business of the university.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [10]

The term is constantly applied in the O.T. to the community of Israel, and also to the actual assembling together of the people according to the unity of the congregation. Every descendant of the twelve tribes formed a part of that community. Those of other nations were received into the congregation on becoming Proselytes q.v. The Ammonite and the Moabite were forbidden ever to come into the congregation of Jehovah, and there were a few other restrictions.   Deuteronomy 23:1-4 . For various offences an Israelite was cut off from the congregation.  Exodus 12:19;  Numbers 9:13 , etc. See Excommunication

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [11]

An assembly of people met together for religious worship. The term has been also used for assemblies of cardinals appointed by the pope for the discharge of certain functions, after the manner of our offices and courts; such as the congregation of the inquisition, the congregation of rites of alms, &c.&c.

It also signifies a company or society of religious persons cantoned out of this or that order and making an inferior order, &c. Such are the congregations of the Oratory; those of Clupy, &c. among the Benedictines.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

(usually דָה , Edah , or perhaps more technically קָהָל , Kahal , both often rendered "assembly;" Gr. Ἐκκλησία or Συναγώγη ), a term that describes the Hebrew people in its collective capacity under its peculiar, aspect as a holy community, held together by religious rather than political bonds. Sometimes it is used in a broad sense as inclusive of foreign settlers ( Exodus 12:19), but more properly as exclusively appropriate to the Hebrew element of the population ( Numbers 15:15); in each case it expresses the idea of the Roman Civitas or the Greek Πολιτεία (See Alien).

Every circumcised Hebrew ( אֶוְרָח ; Αὐτόχθων ; Indigena ; A. V. "home-born," "born in the land," the term specially descriptive of the Israelite in opposition to the non-Israelite,  Exodus 12:19;  Leviticus 16:29;  Numbers 9:14) was a member of the congregation, and took part in its proceedings probably from the time that he bore arms. It is important, however, to observe that he acquired no political rights in his individual capacity, but only as a member of a house; for the basis of the Hebrew polity was the house, whence was formed in an ascending scale the family or collection of houses, the tribe or collection of families, and the congregation or collection of tribes. (See Government).

Strangers ( גֵּרִים ) settled in the land, if circumcised, were, with certain exceptions ( Deuteronomy 23:1 sq.), admitted to the privilege of citizenship, and are spoken of as members of the congregation in its more extended application ( Exodus 12:19;  Numbers 9:14;  Numbers 15:15); it appears doubtful, however, whether they were represented in the congregation in its corporate capacity as a deliberative body, as they were not, strictly speaking, members of any house; their position probably resembled that of the Πρόξενοι at Athens. The congregation occupied an important position under the Theocracy, as the Comitia or national Convention, invested with legislative and judicial powers. In this capacity it acted through a system of patriarchal representation, each house, family, and tribe being represented by its head or father. These delegates were named זִקְנֵי הָעֵדָה (Sept. Πρεσβύτεροί; Vulg. seniores; A. V. "elders"), נְשִׁיאִים ( Ἄρχοντες; principes; "princes"), and sometimes קְרִיאִים ( Ἐπίκλητοι; qui vocabantur,  Numbers 16:2; A. V. "renowned," "famous"). (See Elder).

The number of these representatives being inconveniently large for ordinary business, a farther selection was made by Moses of 70, who formed a species of standing committee ( Numbers 11:16). Occasionally, indeed, the whole body of the people was assembled, the mode of summoning being by the sound of the two silver trumpets, and the place of meeting the door of the tabernacle, hence usually called the tabernacle of the congregation ( מוֹעֵד , lit. place of meeting) ( Numbers 10:3); the occasions of such general assemblies were solemn religious services ( Exodus 12:47;  Numbers 25:6;  Joel 2:15), or to receive new commandments ( Exodus 19:7-8 [comp.  Acts 7:38];  Leviticus 8:4). The elders were summoned by the call of one trumpet ( Numbers 10:4), at the command of the supreme governor or the high-priest; they represented the whole congregation on various occasions of public interest ( Exodus 3:16;  Exodus 12:21;  Exodus 17:5;  Exodus 24:1); they acted as a court of judicature in capital offenses ( Numbers 15:32;  Numbers 35:12), and were charged with the execution of the sentence ( Leviticus 24:14;  Numbers 15:35); they joined in certain of the sacrifices ( Leviticus 4:14-15); and they exercised the usual rights of sovereignty, such as declaring war, making peace, and concluding treaties ( Joshua 9:15). The people were strictly bound by the acts of their representatives, even in cases where they disapproved of them ( Joshua 9:18). After the occupation of the land of Canaan, the congregation was assembled only on matters of the highest importance. The delegates were summoned by messengers ( 2 Chronicles 30:6) to such places as might be appointed, most frequently to Mizpeh ( Judges 10:17;  Judges 11:11;  Judges 20:1;  1 Samuel 7:5;  1 Samuel 10:17  1 Maccabees 3:46); they came attended each with his band of retainers, so that the number assembled was very considerable ( Judges 20:2 sq.). On one occasion we hear of the congregation being assembled for judicial purposes (Judges 20; on other occasions for religious festivals ( 2 Chronicles 30:5;  2 Chronicles 34:29), (See Convocation); on others for the election of kings, as Saul ( 1 Samuel 10:17), David ( 2 Samuel 5:1), Jeroboam ( 1 Kings 12:20), Joash ( 2 Kings 11:19), Josiah ( 2 Kings 21:24), Jehoahaz ( 2 Kings 23:30), and Uzziah ( 2 Chronicles 26:1). In the later periods of Jewish history the congregation was represented by the Sanhedrim; and the term synagogue ( Συναγώγη ), which in the Sept. is applied exclusively to the congregation itself (for the place of meeting אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד is invariably rendered Σκηνή Τοῦ Μαρτυρίου , Tabernaculum Testimonii , the word מוֹעֵד being considered = עֵדוּת ), was transferred to the places of worship established by the Jews, wherever a certain number of families were collected. (See Assembly).

Mount Of The Congregation ( הִר מוֹעֵד , mountain of the assembly,  Isaiah 14:13 [14]; Sept. Ὄρος Ὑψηλόν , Vulg. Mons Testamenti ), usually supposed to refer to Mount Moriah as the site of the Temple (comp.  Isaiah 33:20). The tenableness of this interpretation was disputed by Michaeiis ( Biblioth . Orient . v. 191), who contends that the name designates some place of religious ceremony among the Babylonians, and has hence been compared with the sacred hill of the gods (q. d. mount of their meeting), such as the Alborj named in the Zend-Avesta as situated in the north of the earth (comp. Rhode, Heil. Sage , p. 230 sq.). We may also compare with this the Mount Olympus of the Greek mythology, and the Meru of the Indian. Indeed all pagan systems seem to point to the north of the respective regions as the locality of the highest mountains, naturally assumed as the abode of the gods; possibly having a vague reference to the great Caucasian range (see Gesenius, Jesa. 2:316 sq.; Rosenm Ü ller, Alterth. I, 1:154 sq.; Henderson, Comment. in loc.). (See Mount).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

koṇ - grē̇ - gā´shun ( קהל , ḳāhāl , עדה , ‛ēdhāh ).

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." ‛Ēdhāh 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 ‛ēdhāh of Israel err, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the ḳāhāl ." The ḳāhāl would then be the smaller body representing the whole ‛ēdhāh , but the general usage is not favorable to this view (compare e.g.  Exodus 12:19 , "cutting off from the ‛ēdhāh of Israel," with  Numbers 19:20 , "cutting off from the ḳāhāl ̌ "). 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 ḳāhāl , and the word is also found in  Genesis 49:6;  Numbers 22:4 (the Revised Version (British and American) "multitude");   Deuteronomy 5:22;  Deuteronomy 9:10;  Deuteronomy 31:30;  Joshua 8:35;  1 Samuel 17:47;  1 Kings 8:14;  Micah 2:5 , and other early passages, while ‛ēdhāh 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 ḳāhāl frequently, but ‛ēdhāh 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 Heb 2 through 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, מועד , mō‛ēdh ̌ . It occurs often in the phrase 'ōhel mō‛ēdh ("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 עצרת , ‛acereth , rendered by the Revised Version (British and American) "solemn assembly", see Feasts . On מקרא , miḳrā' , see Convocation .