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1 Kings 8:27 (ESV):

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

It seems like the text is saying that God cannot dwell on earth (or even in heaven) but that doesn't sound right. What is really going on here?

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There are several other references that clarify this question, and several different words underlying the word KJV English term "dwell" in each passage. Let's start with the well-known reference in Acts 7:

God "dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 7:48)

The Greek word here (G2730) means "to house permanently, reside". The above passage literally says that God does not reside permanently in any house made by His mortal children.

Revelation 7:15 says that in the last days, the saints

"serve God day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them".

Here the word also rendered in the KJV as "dwell" more accurately means "to tent or encamp" (Greek 4637). So we have already two different words, with distinct meanings.

Now let's take the reference in question:

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

This verse was originally written in Hebrew with another distinct word for "dwell", (H3427), and its meaning is given as follows:

a primitive root; properly, to sit down (specifically as judge. in ambush, in quiet); by implication, to dwell, to remain; causatively, to settle, to marry:--(make to) abide(-ing), continue, (cause to, make to) dwell(-ing), ease self, endure, establish, X fail, habitation, haunt, (make to) inhabit(-ant), make to keep (house), lurking, X marry(-ing), (bring again to) place, remain, return, seat, set(- tle), (down-)sit(-down, still, -ting down, -ting (place) -uate), take, tarry.

It isn't fully clear to me from this word the duration implied (or if none is implied) by this word also rendered in KJV English as "dwell", but putting the references together we can learn:

Is the Lord's permanent residence on this Earth?

It is not.

Does He or will He encamp with His people in a physical tabernacle or temple just as He did anciently among His people Israel in the wilderness and at the temple He gave instructions to build in Jerusalem?

Yes!

For the precedent, we have numerous records of His personal visitations to the Camp of Israel:

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)

Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34)

Numerous other references such as Numbers 12 also confirm that the Lord personally visited the Earth.

Therefore the tabernacle or temple on Earth is not the Lord's permanent residence, and even all creation is not sufficient to contain Him (since He is not content with what is already, but continues to create), but He does encamp with and visit His people on the Earth at these sacred sites, including the tabernacle or house He has commanded to be built.

God's throne is in the heavens, and this Earth is His footstool (Isaiah 66:1), and we already know that "dwell" in English can refer either to tarrying a short while (camping), or abiding permanently/long-term, or sitting down in judgment (as prophesied in Isaiah 2:4), depending on the word and the context in which it is used. By itself and without further examination of the original words, it would appear ambiguous or even self-contradictory, when in reality the Scriptures are simply saying that God does not make His permanent residence on the Earth, but will camp and tarry with His people, and will sit down to judge the nations of the Earth in the last days.

and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple (Malachi 3:1)

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