Last Updated :
March 16, 2011
It may surprise some people to know that the actual phrase "Holy of Holies" is not found anywhere in the Bible. This is a term which was apparently later adopted in history. In the Scriptures, the actual phrases used were: "the most holy place", "the holy place within the vail", "the oracle", "the inner house", "the most holy house" and "the holy place".
The Hebrew word most often used for "holy place" and its various derivatives, was "qodesh". The Greek "hagion" was used in the New Testament. The Hebrew word for "oracle" was "dabar", or "d@biyr", also transliterated as "d@bir".
The creation of the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant, the priestly garments, the Altar, etc., is described for us in the Book of Exodus. In Exodus chapter twenty-six, we find the following regarding the creation of the Holy of Holies. You will notice that it is called "the holy place and the most holy" and "the most holy place":
"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, KJV
In Leviticus chapter sixteen, it is referred to as "the holy place within the vail":
"And the LORD spake unto Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD, and died; And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering."
Leviticus 16:1-3, KJV
In Numbers chapter eighteen, it is also referred to as "the most holy place":
"And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever. This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons. In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee."
Numbers 18:8-10, KJV
In 2 Samuel chapter sixteen, it is called "the oracle":
"And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom."
2 Samuel 16:23, KJV
In 1 Kings chapters six through eight, it is called "the most holy place", "the oracle", (being as that is where the Lord would commune with Moses, and later with the High Priest), "the inner house" and "the holy place":
"And against the wall of the house he built chambers round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle: and he made chambers round about . . . And he built twenty cubits on the sides of the house, both the floor and the walls with boards of cedar: he even built them for it within, even for the oracle, even for the most holy place . . . And the oracle he prepared in the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD. And the oracle in the forepart was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof: and he overlaid it with pure gold; and so covered the altar which was of cedar. So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold: and he made a partition by the chains of gold before the oracle; and he overlaid it with gold. And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house: also the whole altar that was by the oracle he overlaid with gold. And within the oracle he made two cherubims of olive tree, each ten cubits high. And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub: from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits. And the other cherub was ten cubits: both the cherubims were of one measure and one size. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub. And he set the cherubims within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubims, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house. And he overlaid the cherubims with gold . . . And for the entering of the oracle he made doors of olive tree: the lintel and side posts were a fifth part of the wall."
1 Kings 6:5, 16, 19-28, 31, KJV
"And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was, And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold, And the bowls, and the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers of pure gold; and the hinges of gold, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, to wit, of the temple."
1 Kings 7:48-50, KJV
"And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day . . . And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD."
1 Kings 8:6-8, 10-11 KJV
In 2 Chronicles chapters three through five, the Holy of Holies is referred to as "the most holy house", "the most holy place", and "the oracle":
"And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image work, and overlaid them with gold. And the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub. And one wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub. The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward . . . And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of the pillars; and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains"
2 Chronicles 3:10-13, 16, KJV
"And Solomon made all the vessels that were for the house of God, the golden altar also, and the tables whereon the shewbread was set; Moreover the candlesticks with their lamps, that they should burn after the manner before the oracle, of pure gold; And the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs, made he of gold, and that perfect gold; And the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers, of pure gold: and the entry of the house, the inner doors thereof for the most holy place, and the doors of the house of the temple, were of gold."
2 Chronicles 4:19-22, KJV
"And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims: For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day."
2 Chronicles 5:7-9, KJV
In Ezekiel chapters forty-one through forty-five, it is called "the most holy place":
"Then went he inward, and measured the post of the door, two cubits; and the door, six cubits; and the breadth of the door, seven cubits. So he measured the length thereof, twenty cubits; and the breadth, twenty cubits, before the temple: and he said unto me, This is the most holy place."
Ezekiel 41:3-4, KJV
"And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity. Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them. Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their iniquity. And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed."
Ezekiel 44:10-13, KJV
"Moreover, when ye shall divide by lot the land for inheritance, ye shall offer an oblation unto the LORD, an holy portion of the land: the length shall be the length of five and twenty thousand reeds, and the breadth shall be ten thousand. This shall be holy in all the borders thereof round about. Of this there shall be for the sanctuary five hundred in length, with five hundred in breadth, square round about; and fifty cubits round about for the suburbs thereof. And of this measure shalt thou measure the length of five and twenty thousand, and the breadth of ten thousand: and in it shall be the sanctuary and the most holy place."
Ezekiel 45:1-3, KJV
King David also makes mention of the Holy of Holies in one of his prayers, found in Psalm 28:
"[A Psalm of David.] Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle."
Psalms 28:1-2, KJV
There are many other verses in the Old Testament where the term "the holy place" is used, but they are too many to list here. In the New Testament, Jesus referred to "the holy place" when He gave His Endtime sermon in Matthew chapter twenty-four. Whether He meant the general temple area, or the actual Holy of Holies itself, is a matter of speculation :
"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, whoso readeth, let him understand:)"
Matthew 24:15, KJV
In the his Epistle to the Hebrews, where Paul explains that Jesus has become the Final Sacrifice for sin, and our Eternal High Priest and Intercessor before the Throne of His Father, he also refers back to Old Testament temple worship, and the Holy of Holies, when he states:
"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us . . . Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;"
Hebrews 9:12, 25, KJV