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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

DEN (  Matthew 21:13 =  Mark 11:17 =  Luke 19:46 σπήλαιον [λῃστῶν]; elsewhere in the Gospels only  John 11:38 to describe the tomb of Lazarus, ἧν δὲ σπήλαιον).—In estimating the meaning of our Lord’s declaration that the Temple had been made a den or cave of robbers, the immediate occasion of the words must be kept in view. It was the feast of the Passover, and the Temple courts were crowded by those who sold sheep, oxen, and pigeons, while the moneychangers also carried on their trade. As no trace is found in the OT of such a market existing, it may be supposed it sprang up some time after the Captivity. It would plead for justification the needs of the new condition of the nation. Foreign Jews would thus be able to obtain on the spot both the Temple half-shekel required by the Law ( Exodus 30:13), and also animals necessary for sacrifice, probably with the additional advantage that the latter would have an official guarantee of Levitical fitness for sacrifice, which must be obtained for any animal purchased elsewhere.

The profits from these sources were enormous. It has been calculated that the annual income derived from money-changing can hardly have been less than £8000–£9000, while the sale of pigeons is specially referred to as furnishing alone a large annual income. These profits appear to have been largely, if not entirely, appropriated by the priests. Certain booths are frequently mentioned as belonging to the ‘sons of Hanan’ (Annas), and appear to have existed until about three years before the destruction of Jerusalem, when they were destroyed. Besides the mere fact that the Temple was made a house of merchandise ( John 2:16), many passages in the Rabbinical writings appear to indicate that the Temple market was notorious for dishonest dealings, upon which passages it has been remarked ( Speaker’s Com. in loc .) that the spaces in the court were probably let out to traffickers at an exorbitant rate. The remembrance of this state of things gives new force to the quotation from  Jeremiah 7:11 here used by our Lord.

Josephus ( circa (about) Apion . ii. 24) writes: ‘The Temple ought to be common to all men, because He is the common God of all’; but, far from its being thus, it had become the possession of a few. ‘Ye gather together here money and animals, as robbers collect their booty in their den’ (Fritzsche, quoted by Lange).

Those who ought to have been the first to teach others the sacredness of the place had seized upon it, as robbers would seize some den or cave in the mountains, in which they might maintain their unity for the purpose of spoil. See, further, art. Temple in vol. ii.

Literature.—Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah , also The Temple , etc.; Farrar, Life of Christ  ; Derenbourg, Hist. de Pal . [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] ; and the Comm. ad loc .

J. B. Bristow.

Webster's Dictionary [2]

(1): ( n.) A squalid place of resort; a wretched dwelling place; a haunt; as, a den of vice.

(2): ( n.) A small cavern or hollow place in the side of a hill, or among rocks; esp., a cave used by a wild beast for shelter or concealment; as, a lion's den; a den of robbers.

(3): ( n.) Any snug or close retreat where one goes to be alone.

(4): ( n.) A narrow glen; a ravine; a dell.

(5): ( v. i.) To live in, or as in, a den.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

1: Σπήλαιον (Strong'S #4693 — Noun Neuter — spelaion — spay'-lah-yon )

see Cave.

King James Dictionary [4]

DEN, n.

1. A cave or hollow place in the earth usually applied to a cave, pit, or subterraneous recess, used for concealment, shelter, protection or security as a lions den a den of robbers or thieves.

The beasts go into dens. The children of Israel made themselves dens.  Job 37 .  Judges 6 .

2. As a termination, in names of places, it denotes the place to be in a valley or near a wood.

DEN, To dwell as in a den.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

DEN . The five Heb. words represented by ‘den’ signify respectively ‘hollow place’ (  Isaiah 32:14 ), ‘thicket’ (  Psalms 10:9 ), ‘place of ambush’ (  Job 37:8 ), ‘dwelling’ (  Job 38:40 ), ‘light hole’ or ‘eyeball’ (  Isaiah 11:8 ); but the last passage, may be corrupt.

J. Taylor.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 Psalm 10:9 104:22 Job 37:8 Isaiah 11:8 Hebrews 11:38 Matthew 21:13 Mark 11:17 Daniel 6:16,17

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [7]

 Matthew 21:13 (a) Here is a type of the desperate condition of the temple, filled with cheating, lying, deceitful merchants bartering their wares.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

the rendering in the Auth. Vers. of the followving Heb. and Greek words: מְעָרָה , mearah' (Isaoah 32:14;  Jeremiah 7:11), a cave (as elsewhere rendered); מְאוּרָה , Meirah' , a hole (as of a venomous reptile,  Isaiah 11:8); סֹךְ , Sok , a booth or thicket ("pavilion,"  Psalms 27:5; "tabernacle,"  Psalms 76:2), hence a "covert" ( Jeremiah 25:38) or lair of a wild animal ( Psalms 10:9); so מָעוֹן , Maon ( Jeremiah 9:11;  Jeremiah 10:22), or מְעוֹנָה , Meoinah ( Job 38:40;  Psalms 104:22;  Song of Solomon 4:8;  Amos 3:4;  Nahum 2:12), properly a dwelling-place or habitation (as elsewhere rendered); מַנְהָרָה , a fissure in the rocks, used for hiding ( Judges 6:2); אֶרֶב , E'Reb , an ambush ("lie in wait,"  Job 38:40), hence lair of a beast of prey ( Job 37:8); Σπήλαιον , a cave (as rendered  John 11:38), hence a recess for secrecy ( Hebrews 11:38;  Revelation 6:15), or a resort of thieves ( Matthew 21:13;  Mark 11:17;  Luke 11:38). (See Cave).

In Daniel 6, the "Den (Chald. גֹּב , Gob , a pit; Sept. Λάκκος ; Vulg. Lacus ) of lions" is repeatedly named as a peculiar means of punishment for state offenders at Babylon. This usage, although not mentioned by any other ancient authority, has received remarkable confirmation (see " Truths Of Revelation Demonstrated By An Appeal To Monuments ," etc., "by a Fellow of seven learned Societies," Lond. 1831) from certain remains discovered in that region by modern travelers (Kitto, Pict. Bible, note on  Daniel 6:16), especially one on a block of white marble found near the tomb of Daniel at Susa, and thus described by Sir R. K. Porter in his Travels in Persia (ii. 416): "It does not exceed ten inches in width and depth, measures twenty in length, and is hollow within, as if to receive some deposit. Three of its sides are cut in bas-relief, two of them with similar representations of a man apparently naked, except a sash round his waist and a sort of cap on his head. His hands are bound behind him. The corner of the stone forms the neck of the figure, so that its head forms one of its ends. Two lions in sitting posture appear on either side at the top, each having a paw on the head of the man." (See Lion).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

(מעון , mā‛ōn , מעונה , me‛ōnāh , "habitation"; מערה , me‛ārāh , and σπήλαιον , spḗlaion , "cave"; מאוּרה , me'ūrāh ( Isaiah 11:8 ), "a light-hole," from אור , 'ōr , "light," perhaps for me‛ārāh  ; סך , ṣōkh ( Psalm 10:9 the King James Version), and סכּה , ṣukkāh ( Job 38:40 ), "a covert," elsewhere "booth"; ארב , 'erebh ( Job 37:8 ), "covert," as in the Revised Version (British and American); גּב , gōbh  ; compare Arabic jubb , "pit" ( Daniel 6:7 ); מנהרות , minhārōth , "fissure" or "cleft" ( Judges 6:2 )): In the limestone mountains of Palestine caves, large and small, are abundant, the calcium carbonate, of which the rock is mainly composed, being dissolved by the water as it trickles over them or through their crevices. Even on the plains, by a similar process, pits or "lime sinks" are formed, which are sometimes used by the Arabs for storing straw or grain. Of this sort may have been the pit, bōr , into which Joseph was cast by his brethren ( Genesis 37:20 ). Caves and crevices and sometimes spaces among piled-up boulders at the foot of a cliff or in a stream bed are used as dens by jackals, wolves and other wild animals. Even the people, for longer or shorter periods, have lived as troglodytes. Compare  Judges 6:2 : "Because of Midian the children of Israel made them the dens ( minhārōth ) which are in the mountains, and the caves ( me‛ārāh ), and the strongholds ( mecādh )." The precipitous sides of the valleys contain many caves converted by a little labor into human habitations. Notable instances are the valley of the Kidron near Mār - Sāba , and Wādi - ul - Ḥamām near the Sea of Tiberias. See Cave .