In an attempt to defend the Islamic practice of bowing towards the direction of the Kabah, a pagan shrine, in the five daily prayers performed by Muslims some Islamic apologists appeal to the Holy Bible to show that even the Israelites had a prayer direction, namely Jerusalem. These dawagandists will often quote examples where Yahweh’s prophets like Daniel would face the direction of Jerusalem when they prayed:
“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem; and he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel 6:10
They also appeal to texts where Jesus’ Apostles would go to the Temple to pray:
“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.” Acts 3:1
However, is this a valid comparison? Does this justify what Muslims are doing in their daily acts of worship? Or is this nothing more than a false analogy aimed at diverting attention away from the crucial problems with the Islamic practice of worshiping towards a shrine?
In this article we are about to find out. [See also Part 1.]
The Tabernacle/Temple as God’s Dwelling Place
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem were places where Yahweh chose to dwell among his people in a special and unique way. Yahweh further told the people that he would choose a specific location to place his Name there, that being Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem:
“These are the statutes and ordinances which you shall be careful to do in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live upon the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains and upon the hills and under every green tree; you shall tear down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and burn their Ashe’rim with fire; you shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not do so to the LORD your God. But you shall seek the place which the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his Name and make his habitation there; thither you shall go, and thither you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the offering that you present, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock; and there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. You shall not do according to all that we are doing here this day, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the LORD your God gives you. But when you go over the Jordan, and live in the land which the LORD your God gives you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you live in safety, then to the place which the LORD your God will choose, to make his Name dwell there, thither you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the offering that you present, and all your votive offerings which you vow to the LORD.” Deuteronomy 12:1-11
Yahweh even descended upon these places in a cloud, thereby filling the Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle and the Temple with his glory, as a sign that these were objects signifying Yahweh’s house where he dwelt among his people:
“Then the LORD said to Moses: ‘Set up the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the first month. Place the ark of the Testimony in it and shield the ark with the curtain. Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. Place the gold altar of incense in front of the ark of the Testimony and put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. Place the altar of burnt offering in front of the entrance to the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting; place the basin between the Tent of Meeting and the altar and put water in it. Set up the courtyard around it and put the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. Take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and everything in it; consecrate it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy. Then anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils; consecrate the altar, and it will be most holy. Anoint the basin and its stand and consecrate them.’ … Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.” Exodus 40:1-11, 34-38
“Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Zion, the City of David. All the men of Israel came together to King Solomon at the time of the festival in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of the LORD and the Tent of Meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted. The priests then brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple. Then Solomon said, ‘The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever… My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, “Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, who is your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.” The LORD has kept the promise he made: I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the LORD promised, and I have built the temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt.’” 1 Kings 8:1-13, 17-21
“Then Solomon said, ‘The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.’” 2 Chronicles 6:1-2
The Temple in Jerusalem would also be a sign to the Gentiles that this is the place on earth where the God of Israel lives, and if they wanted to worship him they would have to travel there or turn in its direction:
“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your Name—for men will hear of your great Name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your Name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.” 1 Kings 8:41-43
Interestingly, after Solomon finished consecrating the Temple Yahweh spoke to him in a dream informing him that he had accepted this place as his house:
“When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. The LORD said to him: ‘I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.’” 1 Kings 9:1-3
“When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, the LORD appeared to him at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.’” 2 Chronicles 7:11-15
The Lord Jesus himself confirmed that the Temple is God’s dwelling place:
“And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the One who dwells in it.” Matthew 23:21
In light of this we can see why Jerusalem is said to be the place where Yahweh lives on earth, since that is where his Temple or house was located:
“O LORD, remember David and all the hardships he endured. He swore an oath to the LORD and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: ‘I will not enter my house or go to my bed- I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.’ We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: ‘Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool- arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.’ For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one. The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: ‘One of your own descendants I will place on your throne- if your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.’ For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: ‘This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it-’” Psalm 132:1-14
“Praise the LORD. Praise the name of the LORD; praise him, you servants of the LORD, you who minister in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God… Praise be to the LORD from Zion, to him who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.” Psalm 135:1-2, 21
This also helps us to understand why the prophets and the Israelites would bow down or pray facing the Tent of Meeting or the Temple in Jerusalem. They were not bowing to these objects but to the God whom they knew lived there in a special and unique way:
“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting.’ Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” Exodus 33:7-11
“Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting; and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came forth from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat upon the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” Leviticus 9:22-24
“Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.’ And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.” Numbers 20:6-9
“When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD,because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.’ Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the LORD. King Solomon offered as a sacrifice twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD which King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD — for his steadfast love endures for ever — whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets; and all Israel stood.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-6
“But I through the abundance of thy steadfast love will enter thy house, I will worship toward thy holy temple in the fear of thee.” Psalm 5:7
“Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and thou didst hear my voice. For thou didst cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood was round about me; all thy waves and thy billows passed over me. Then I said, `I am cast out fromthy Presence; how shall I again look upon thy holy temple [i.e. the place where Yahweh’s Presence dwelt in a unique way]?‘ The waters closed in over me, the deep was round about me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet thou didst bring up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came to thee, into thy holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to thee; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the LORD!’ And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” Jonah 2:1-10
This leads us to our next section.
Jesus’ Physical Body – The Human Tabernacle of God
According to the New Testament, the eternal Word of God became flesh in order to make that his Tabernacle/Temple:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him… And the Word became flesh and tabernacled/pitched his tent (eskenosen) among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-3, 10, 14
The Evangelist connects Jesus’ flesh or physical body with the OT Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle and Temple which, as we saw earlier, is the place where Yahweh’s presence and glory dwelt. This can be seen by the verb that John uses in verse 14, namelyeskenosen from skenoo, which literally means to set up or pitch a tent. In fact, the noun form of skenoo, i.e. skenos/skene, is used in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible in reference to the Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle.
Jesus himself spoke of his body as being the Temple of God:
“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” John 2:19-22
Thus, Jesus’ physical body is the living and abiding Temple of God according to the NT, the One in whom all the fulness of the Divine glory and essence dwells:
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” Colossians 1:19
“For in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” Colossians 2:9
This means that Jesus is the eternal God who became flesh for the purpose of making his physical body his Tabernacle!
This helps explain why throughout the NT Jesus is worshiped even as a man since the believers were not worshiping his flesh or human nature, but rather they were worshiping the eternal Divine Person who had made flesh his Tabernacle:
“And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart, I am (ego eimi); have no fear.’ And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘O man of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Matthew 14:25-33
“And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Hail!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him… Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.'” Matthew 28:9, 16-20
“And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” Mark 3:11
“They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’” Mark 5:1-7
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe’; and he worshipped him.” John 9:35-38
In a similar manner, the prophets and the Israelites were not worshiping the Tabernacle or the Temple in Jerusalem. Rather, they were worshiping Yahweh God who had taken up residence there in a special way.
In light of this we need to once again ask the Muslims why do they bow to the Kabah in their daily worship? Do they believe that, like Yahweh in the Temple or Jesus who became flesh in order to make his physical body God’s Tabernacle, Allah dwells in the Kabah in a special and unique way? More importantly, did Allah bring fire down from heaven or descend in a cloud on the Kabah, like Yahweh did, in front of multiple witnesses to prove that the Kabah is truly his house and not some pagan shrine that the idolators of Mecca erected for the worship of their false gods and goddesses? However, if Muslims deny that Allah lives in the Kabah in some unique fashion then why are they prostrating to this pagan shrine?