Congregation (usually דָה, edah', or perhaps more technically קָהָל, kahal', both often rendered "assembly;" Gr. ἐκκλησία or συναγώγη), a term that describes the Hebrew people in its collective capacity under its peculiar, aspect as a holy community, held together by religious rather than political bonds. Sometimes it is used in a broad sense as inclusive of foreign settlers (Ex 12:19), but more properly as exclusively appropriate to the Hebrew element of the population (Nu 15:15); in each case it expresses the idea of the Roman civitas or the Greek πολιτεία SEE ALIEN. Every circumcised Hebrew (אֶורָח; αὐτόχθων; indigena; A. V. "home-born," "born in the land," the term specially descriptive of the Israelite in opposition to the non-Israelite, Ex 12:19; Le 16:29; Nu 9:14) was a member of the congregation, and took part in its proceedings probably from the time that he bore arms. It is important, however, to observe that he acquired no political rights in his individual capacity, but only as a member of a house; for the basis of the Hebrew polity was the house, whence was formed in an ascending scale the family or collection of houses, the tribe or collection of families, and the congregation or collection of tribes. SEE GOVERNMENT. Strangers (גֵּרִים) settled in the land, if circumcised, were, with certain exceptions (De 23:1 sq.), admitted to the privilege of citizenship, and are spoken of as members of the congregation in its more extended application (Ex 12:19; Nu 9:14; Nu 15:15); it appears doubtful, however, whether they were represented in the congregation in its corporate capacity as a deliberative body, as they were not, strictly speaking, members of any house; their position probably resembled that of the πρόξενοι at Athens. The congregation occupied an important position under the Theocracy, as the comitia or national Convention, invested with legislative and judicial powers. In this capacity it acted through a system of patriarchal representation, each house, family, and tribe being represented by its head or father. These delegates were named זִקנֵי הָעֵדָה (Sept. πρεσβύτεροί; Vulg. seniores; A. V. "elders"), נשִׁיאִים (ἄρχοντες; principes; "princes"), and sometimes קרִיאִים(ἐπίκλητοι; qui vocabantur, Nu 16:2; A. V. "renowned," "famous"). SEE ELDER. The number of these representatives being inconveniently large for ordinary business, a farther selection was made by Moses of 70, who formed a species of standing committee (Nu 11:16). Occasionally, indeed, the whole body of the people was assembled, the mode of summoning being by the sound of the two silver trumpets, and the place of meeting the door of the tabernacle, hence usually called the tabernacle of the congregation (מוֹעֵד, lit. place of meeting) (Nu 10:3); the occasions of such general assemblies were solemn religious services (Ex 12:47; Nu 25:6; Joe 2:15), or to receive new commandments (Ex 19:7-8 [comp. Ac 7:38]; Le 8:4). The elders were summoned by the call of one trumpet (Nu 10:4), at the command of the supreme governor or the high-priest; they represented the whole congregation on various occasions of public interest (Ex 3:16; Ex 12:21; Ex 17:5; Ex 24:1); they acted as a court of judicature in capital offenses (Nu 15:32; Nu 35:12), and were charged with the execution of the sentence (Le 24:14; Nu 15:35); they joined in certain of the sacrifices (Le 4:14-15); and they exercised the usual rights of sovereignty, such as declaring war, making peace, and concluding treaties (Jos 9:15). The people were strictly bound by the acts of their representatives, even in cases where they disapproved of them (Jos 9:18). After the occupation of the land of Canaan, the congregation was assembled only on matters of the highest importance. The delegates were summoned by messengers (2Ch 30:6) to such places as might be appointed, most frequently to Mizpeh (Jg 10:17; Jg 11:11; Jg 20:1; 1Sa 7:5; 1Sa 10:17; 1Sa 1 Maccabees 3:46); they came attended each with his band of retainers, so that the number assembled was very considerable (Jg 20:2 sq.). On one occasion we hear of the congregation being assembled for judicial purposes (Judges 20); on other occasions for religious festivals (2Ch 30:5; 2Ch 34:29), SEE CONVOCATION; on others for the election of kings, as Saul (1Sa 10:17), David (2Sa 5:1), Jeroboam (1Ki 12:20), Joash (2Ki 11:19), Josiah (2Ki 21:24), Jehoahaz (2Ki 23:30), and Uzziah (2Ch 26:1). In the later periods of Jewish history the congregation was represented by the Sanhedrim; and the term synagogue (συναγώγη), which in the Sept. is applied exclusively to the congregation itself (for the place of meeting אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד is invariably rendered ἡ σκηνή τοῦ μαρτυρίου, tabernaculum testimonii, the word מוֹעֵד being considered = עֵדוּת), was transferred to the places of worship established by the Jews, wherever a certain number of families were collected. SEE ASSEMBLY.

MOUNT OF THE CONGREGATION (הִר מוֹעֵד, mountain of the assembly, Isa 14:13 [14]; Sept. ὄρος ὑψηλόν, Vulg. mons testamenti), usually supposed to refer to Mount Moriah as the site of the Temple (comp. Isa 33:20). The tenableness of this interpretation was disputed by Michaeiis (Biblioth. Orient. v. 191), who contends that the name designates some place of religious ceremony among the Babylonians, and has hence been compared with the sacred hill of the gods (q. d. mount of their meeting), such as the Alborj named in the Zend-Avesta as situated in the north of the earth (comp. Rhode, Heil. Sage, p. 230 sq.). We may also compare with this the Mount Olympus of the Greek mythology, and the Meru of the Indian. Indeed all pagan systems seem to point to the north of the respective regions as the locality of the highest mountains, naturally assumed as the abode of the gods; possibly having a vague reference to the great Caucasian range (see Gesenius, Jesa. 2:316 sq.; Rosenmüller, Alterth. I, 1:154 sq.; Henderson, Comment. in loc.). SEE MOUNT.

Bible concordance for CONGREGATION.

Definition of congregation

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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