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Holy of Holies

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The Holy of Holies; illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible

The Holy of Holies (Hebrew: קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים, Qṓḏeš HaqQŏḏāšîm) refers to the most sacred area of the Tabernacle and later also of the Temple in Jerusalem.[1] This sanctuary was called the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place. It was the inner part of the Tabernacle.[2] There, during the First Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was kept. In this place, only the High Priest could enter and only on the day of Yom Kippur, to offer incense in the ritual of atonement (כפּרה, kaparah).[1] There was a partition of cedar wood between the Holy Place and the most Holy Place.[3]

Biblical description

Initially, the Holy of Holies was the most inner and sacred part of the tabernacle. As it can be read in Exodus:

"And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place." - Exodus 26:31-34

In the book of 2 Chronicles it is possible to watch the dimensions of the Holy of Holies in the first Temple, the Temple of Solomon:

"He built the Most Holy Place, its length corresponding to the width of the temple—twenty cubits long and twenty cubits wide. He overlaid the inside with six hundred talents of fine gold. The gold nails weighed fifty shekels. He also overlaid the upper parts with gold. For the Most Holy Place he made a pair of sculptured cherubim and overlaid them with gold. The total wingspan of the cherubim was twenty cubits. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long and touched the temple wall, while its other wing, also five cubits long, touched the wing of the other cherub. Similarly one wing of the second cherub was five cubits long and touched the other temple wall, and its other wing, also five cubits long, touched the wing of the first cherub. The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits. They stood on their feet, facing the main hall. He made the curtain of blue, purple and crimson yarn and fine linen, with cherubim worked into it." - 2Chronicles 3:8-14

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Unterman, Alan (1997). Dictionary of Jewish Lore & Legend. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0500279847. 
  2. Douglas, J.D.; Tenney, Merril C, ed. (1987). The New International Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. p. 980. ISBN 0-310-33190-0. 
  3. Unger, Merrill F (1988). Harrison, R. K.. ed. The New Unger´s Bible Dictionary. Chicago: Moody Press. pp. 1259. ISBN 0-8024-9037-9.