Dwelling in tents was very general in ancient times among Eastern nations, Genesis 4:20; their way of life being pastoral, locomotion became necessary for pasturage, and dwellings adapted for such a life became indispensable, Isaiah 38:12. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt in tents, Genesis 18:1 Hebrews 11:9; and on the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, throughout their peregrinations until they obtained the promised land, and to some extent afterwards, they adopted the same kind of habitation. See BOOTHS. Hence the expression. "Every man to his tents, O Israel," etc.,
Judges 7:8 2 Samuel 20:1 2 Kings 8:21. Indeed, the people of the East, men, women, and children, lived very much in the open air, as is obvious from the New Testament narratives. And the same is true of them at the present day. The Midianites, the Philistines, the Syrains, the descendants of Ham, the Hagarites, and the Cushanites are mentioned in Scripture as living in tents. But the people most remarkable for this unsettled and wandering mode of life are the Arabs, who from the time of Ishmael to the present have continued the custom of dwelling in tents. Amid the revolutions which have transferred kingdoms from one possessor to another, these wandering tribes still dwell in tents, unsubdued and wild as was their progenitor. This kind of dwelling is not, however, confined to the Arabs, but is used throughout the continent of Asia. The word tent is formed from the Latin, "to stretch;" tents being usually made of canvas stretched out, and sustained by poles with cords secured to pegs driven into the ground. The "nail of the tent" with which Jael pierced the head of Sisera was such a tent-pin, Judges 4:21. See also Isaiah 33:20 40:22 54:2. The house of God, and heaven, are spoken of in Scripture as the tent or tabernacle of Jehovah, Psalms 15:1 61:4 84:1 Hebrews 8:2 9:11; and the body as the tabernacle of the soul, taken down by death, 2 Corinthians 5:1 2 Peter 1:13. Says Lord Lindsay, "There is something very melancholy in our morning flitting. The tentpins are plucked up, and in a few minutes a dozen holes, a heap or two of ashes, and the marks of the camels’ knees in the sand, soon to be obliterated, are the only traces left of what has been for a while our home." "Often," says M’Cheyne, "we found ourselves shelterless before being fully dressed. What a type of the tent of our body! Ah, how often is it taken down before the soul is made meet for the inheritance of he saints in light." A tent is also put for its inmates, Habakkuk 3:7 Zechariah 12:7.
Tents are of various colors; black, as tents of Kedar, Psalms 120:5 Song of Solomon 1:5; red, as of scarlet cloth; yellow, as of gold shining brilliantly; white, as of canvas. They are also of various shapes; some circular, others of an oblong figure, not unlike the bottom of a ship turned upside down. In Syria, the tents are generally made of cloth of goats’ hair, woven by women, Exodus 35:26. Those of the Arabs are of black goats’ hair. Some other nations adopt the same kind, but it is not common. The Egyptian and Moorish inhabitants of Askalon are said to use white tents; and D’Arvieux mentions that the tent of an Arab emir he visited was distinguished from the rest by its being of white cloth. An Arab sheikh will have a number of tents, of himself, his family, servants, and visitors; as in patriarchal times Jacob had separate tents for himself, for Leah, Rachel, and their maids, Genesis 31:33 Judges 4:17. Usually, however, one tent suffices for a family; being divided, if large, into several apartments by curtains.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'TENT'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".