In our time, a tent functions as a temporary structure for formal and non-formal gatherings and it could hold up a large number of persons. Most organizers choose marquees and tent for sale services than renting an entire auditorium if the event lasts only for a couple of days. It could be set up anywhere at any time. The challenge lies on how making it sturdier in all kinds of terrain and could withstand intermittent weather conditions.
Tents are versatile more than we can imagine it to be as its existence stretches back from the Biblical times. The word “tent” appeared in the Bible more than 60 times in different verses. Iconic characters in the Holy Writ used it namely Noah, Jacob, Abraham, Paul, and Isaac for various purposes. This proves that before Christ was born, tents have been a big part of the life of the Arabs.
In ancient Israel, the people are mostly tent-dwellers and keepers of cattle. They were nomadic races traveling in clans or tribes. This type of housing originated from Jabal, “he was the father of those who dwell in tents” (Genesis 4:20 RSV). It is not just a mere temporary shelter; they treated tents as their home. It is their refuge against the harsh environment of that time.
Tents were made from black goats’ hair, woven to make a curtain, and patched together as a whole. Underneath this cover, nine poles or tent-columns served as its framework. Hardwood pegs or pins secured the tent-ropes driven into the ground by a big wooden mallet. When they transfer into another location, they took it down, rolled it up, and a camel carried the heavy portable housing structure with them. The women of the tribe handle all these duties.
Today, we are using tents for special events, but back then, it was a different story. Arab tents or “house of hair” were not only used for habitation (Jeremiah 4:20 NIV) but also serves as a grave (Isaiah 14:18 ASV), temple (Ezekiel 41:1 ISV) and a tabernacle (Exodus 25:9 NIV). A tabernacle is a place of worship (Exodus 25:8-9 NIV) and the Lord appointed Moses to pitched “the tent” (Exodus 33:7 KJV).
In The Bible, Moses’ primary role as instructed by the Lord was to move out His people, the Israelites, in Egypt after witnessing the merciless acts executed by Egyptians against them (Exodus 3:7-10 NIV). This started the exodus of Moses and the Israelites to Canaan – the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey – and from then on, they became tent-dwellers moving to different locations with the Lord guiding them.
In our era, we can say the situation of the Israelites are similar as the “tent city” we often hear in the news. Now, it functions as a “temporary” shelter for those who have been devastated by typhoons or natural disasters. The Egyptians that time is equivalent of the natural disasters such as super typhoons that strikes us today. The storm may have passed but the destruction and trauma it caused still lingers among the victims. Again, and as always, the Lord is guiding them on their exodus to the path of recovery and rebuilding their lives.