7

1 Chronicles 17

5 for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel, unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.
6 In all places wherein I have walked among all Israel, spoke I a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed My people, saying: Why have ye not built Me a house of cedar? JPS Tanakh 1917

Moses instructs Israelites in the day of that unique tent not to make sacrifices anywhere, but only in the place where God would choose to 'place His name', namely Shiloh, formerly, and then at Jerusalem after His 'house' had been built.

Deuteronomy 12:5

But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.

What did God mean by 'from Tent to Tent and from tabernacle...'?

6

There is little help for discerning the Chronicler's understanding of the phrase highlighted by OP. But, there are some observations to draw on:

The Text

The key verse cited has a parallel in Samuel: 1 Chr 17:5 ≈ 2 Sam 7:6. The main differences come at the end of the verse -

1 Chr 17:5b
וָֽאֶהְיֶ֛ה מֵאֹ֥הֶל אֶל־אֹ֖הֶל וּמִמִּשְׁכָּֽן׃
= wāʾehyeh ʾōhel ʾel-ʾōhel ûmimmiškān
And I was from tent to tent and from dwelling(place).

2 Sam 7:6b
וָאֶֽהְיֶה֙ מִתְהַלֵּ֔ךְ בְּאֹ֖הֶל וּבְמִשְׁכָּֽן׃
= wāʾehyeh mithallēk ʾōhel ûmiškān
And I was going about in a tent and in a dwelling(place).

It is widely accepted that the Chronicler is adapting, revising, recasting the work of the historian of 2 Samuel. It is difficult to know what prompted the differences (noted above in bold): the change of preposition from "in" (be-) to "from" (mi-) could be mechanical: see other examples in Friedrich Delitzsch, Die Lese- und Schreibfehler im Alten Testament, nebst den dem Schrifttexte einverleibten Randnoten klassifiziert (Walter de Gruyter, 1920), p. 113. That is, this could simply be occasioned by a scribal slip between Samuel and Chronicles.

The two texts are also different in length: while the Samuel text makes it explicit that the divine presence moved about (mithallēk), the Chronicles version omits that word, but adds "(tent) to tent", likewise (but differently) implying divine movement.

Observing this textual situation suggests that the two versions are articulating roughly the same idea: that God is moving about in a portable shrine at the time spoken of.

The Commentators

Which probably explains why the (slightly odd form of the) Chronicles text attracts very little attention from the commentators. The sense of the Chronicles text was caught quite early by Rashi (12th C.), who wrote:

but I have [gone] from tent to tent and from tabernacle: i.e., and I have walked from tent to tent and from tabernacle to tabernacle: from Gilgal to Shiloh, and from Shiloh to Nob, and from Nob to Gibeon, and although I was wandering from tent to tent and from tabernacle to tabernacle…

The point, then, is not that there were several "tents" or "tabernacles" that God swapped between, but rather the "tent to tent" phrase refers rather to the staging points of the portable shrine: it is made and re-made with every geographical move.

This sort of understanding is also reflected in a brief comment by one of the major Chronicles scholars of recent years, Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), p. 330:

II Sam. 7.5 emphasizes that God's dwelling is a tent, not a house, while the emphasis in Chronicles is on the mobile manner of God's abiding with his people; since the people have not yet settled down permanently, God accompanies them in their wanderings.

Summary

In spite of superficial appearances, then, the Chronicles formulation is not about a multiplicity of tents or tabernacles, but of changing places where the one "tent" was to be found.

  • If you hadn't given me 2 Sam 7:5 it would still be unsolved. Thanks. – Ted O Feb 25 '17 at 20:38
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Acts 7:49-50 this scripture in acts reflects on the possibility of building a house for GOD and shows that it is somewhat impossible, because His size is not measurable. I therefor comprehend and display that in 1 Chro. 17:5 where the question is derived, GOD wasn't referring to lack of a comfort zone but was expressing it to His Servant David that it was not a need for GOD to get a house build for Him...

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