Dr. Dan Hayden •
HE TABERNACLED AMONG US ·
And the Word became flesh, and DWELT among us…” John 1:14
Have you ever gone camping? You know — taken a tent and sleeping bags to a state park or to a clearing in the woods, or perhaps the shore of a beautiful lake? Well, that’s what God did when he came to earth. In a spiritual sense, he went camping.
The Greek word skenoo used in John 1:14 literally means “to pitch a tent.” In Greek, the word for tent is skene — which is the word from which we get our English word, scene. Early Greek actors used tents as changing booths for their performances; and eventually, when scenic backdrops were used for their plays, the same word was applied to the staging props. Over time the word skene began to be applied to any scenic background, and hence the word scene has come down to us with that meaning.
This word skene (tent) is the very word used in the New Testament to refer to the tabernacle of God used by Israel in their early worship of God. If you remember, the tabernacle was a wooden structure with a tent pitched over the top. In the Greek New Testament therefore, the word translated “tabernacle” is skene — “the tent” (Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:2, 5, and chapter 9). Hence, when the glory of God descended to the earth to take up residence in the midst of Israel as described in Exodus 40:34-38, it could be said that God “pitched His tent” among men. The writer of the book of Hebrews calls it “the true tent [skene] that the Lord set up” (Hebrews 8:2). The glory of God went camping with Israel as Israel wandered in the wilderness.
Years later when the temple of God was about to be destroyed by the Babylonians, Ezekiel described how the glory of God left the earth and went back to heaven (Ezek. 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-25). Six hundred years later, the apostle John wrote that the glory of God had come back—this time in a new tent — in the body of Jesus Christ. “…and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” (John 1:14).
Throughout the Gospel of John we find a tabernacle motif. Therefore, it is no accident that John introduces Christ with the word skenoo. John is saying, “He’s back! God is pitching His tent among us once again. Jesus Christ, who is the Word, DWELT [skenoo] among us.”
When I was a teen, a friend and I traveled through the state of New York on bicycles. We carried a small pup tent along the way. One evening we arrived late at a place called Camp of the Woods in Speculator, New York. In the dark we tried to find a suitable place for our tent, finally pitching it in a clearing on the backside of the camp. That night it rained . . . hard! Suddenly our tent began to move, slowly at first, then violently as we were carried off in a swelling torrent of water. Unknowingly, we had pitched out tent in a drainage ditch.
Well, John begins his gospel by telling us that God in Christ pitched his tent among us. The Gospel ends, however, with a swelling torrent of hostility carrying our Lord off to the cross. There was no surprise in this for him, however. When he pitched his tent among us, he knew exactly where it would lead him. He pitched it purposefully in the very place that would lead to his sacrificial death for our sins.
So that’s the meaning of the word behind the word. “He dwelt among us” is skenoo — “He pitched his tent.” John describes the birth of Jesus Christ as the pitching of the tent. Then, as the tabernacle of old, John takes us to the brazen altar to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). What a story! What a Savior! ■
For further study, see: He Tabernacled Among Us