Should a man try to stalk this creature, it would dart off with utmost rapidity. Restlessly wild asses migrate in search of greenery, even exploring mountain areas for pasturage. They feed on every sort of green plant, gnawing even down into the roots. Salt also constitutes a part of their diet. (Job 39:5-8) The preference of the wild ass for free and unrestricted life far from human habitation adds significance to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar’s dwelling was with these creatures during his seven years of insanity.—Dan. 5:21; see ZEBRA.
As the Universal Sovereign, Jehovah God has the right to decree that his servants should assemble and to specify the time and place of assembly. In these ways he acts for their benefit. Assemblies of God’s people of ancient times varied as to purpose. Yet they surely contributed to unity, for all in attendance had the opportunity to hear the same things at the same time. Such gatherings resulted in many spiritual benefits and were often occasions of great joy.
HEBREW AND GREEK TERMS
Several Hebrew and Greek words are employed in the Bible to denote a gathering. One that is common in the Hebrew text is ʽe· dhahʹ. It is from a root meaning “to appoint,” thus designating a group assembled by appointment. ʽE·dhahʹ is often applied to the community of Israel and is used in the expressions “the assembly” (Lev. 8:4, 5; Judg. 21:10), “all the assembly” (Lev. 8:3; Judg. 21:13), “assembly of Israel” (Ex. 12:3; Num. 32:4; 1 Ki. 8:5), “assembly of the sons of Israel” (Ex. 16:9, 10), “assembly of Jehovah” (Num. 31:16) and “Jehovah’s assembly.”—Num. 27:17.
The Hebrew word moh·ʽedhʹ is from the same root as ʽe·dhahʹ and means “appointed time” or “appointed place.” It is used 223 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, as in the expression “the tent of meeting.” (Ex. 27:21) Moh·ʽedhʹ is employed in connection with festivals. (Lev. 23:2, 4, 37, 44) It appears at Isaiah 33:20, where Zion is called “the town of our festal occasions.”
A different Hebrew term (miq·raʼʹ) occurs at Isaiah 4:5, which mentions Mount Zion’s “convention place.” Frequent is the use of this word in the expression “holy convention” (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:2, 3); during such a “holy convention” no work of a secular sort was to be done.
Another Hebrew word used to designate gatherings is qa·halʹ, from a root meaning “assemble together.” It is often used to represent a congregation as an organized body. Sometimes qa·halʹ (congregation) seems to be used interchangeably with ʽe·dhahʹ (assembly). (Num. 20:8, 10) Forms of both words appear in the expression “congregation [qehalʹ] of the assembly [ʽadhathʹ].” (Ex. 12:6) At Leviticus 4:13 a distinction between ʽe·dhahʹ, as the entire community, and qa·halʹ, as a select judicial body of older men, may be intended, but this is uncertain.
Intimate gatherings of various kinds are designated by the Hebrew word sohdh, meaning “intimate, friendly conversation.” It is rendered “intimate group” at Psalm 89:7, which states: “God is to be held in awe among the intimate group of holy ones; he is grand and fear-inspiring over all who are round about him.”
The Greek word ek·kle·siʹa (from ek, “out of,” and kleʹsis, “a calling”) is usually used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word qa·halʹ (congregation) and is sometimes employed for ʽe·dhahʹ (assembly), though for the latter the Greek word sy·na·go·geʹ (meaning “a bringing together,” from syn, “together,” and aʹgo, “to bring”) is also used. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, ek·kle·siʹa is generally rendered “congregation.” At Acts 7:38 it is used with reference to the congregation of Israel. The Greek word sy·na·go·geʹ appears at Acts 13:43 (“synagogue assembly”) and at James 2:2 (“public assembly”). Another Greek word, pa·neʹgy·ris (from pan, “all,” and a·go·raʹ, designating any kind of assembly) is rendered “general assembly” at Hebrews 12:23.—NW, AV, AS.
The Scriptures have much to say about spiritually upbuilding assemblies, though they also mention assemblies of wicked or unrighteous character. Partisans of rebellious Korah are called “his entire assembly.” (Num. 16:5) In prayer to Jehovah, David said “the very assembly of tyrannical ones have looked for my soul.” (Ps. 86:14) Also, when the silversmith Demetrius fomented opposition to Paul in Ephesus and a crowd gathered, “some were crying out one thing and others another; for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority of them did not know the reason why they had come together.”—Acts 19:24-29, 32.
Having considered Scriptural terms relating to gatherings, we can beneficially give closer examination to Biblically reported assemblies. It will be noted that order prevailed during gatherings of Jehovah’s people, such assemblies were well supported, they were occasions of spiritual benefit and were often times of great rejoicing.
In accord with the divine will, Moses and Aaron assembled all the older men of Israel in Egypt. The words of Jehovah were related, signs were performed and the people believed. (Ex. 4:27-31) Thereafter, as God ordered, the Israelites assembled at the base of Mount Sinai (Horeb), experienced a thrilling spectacle and witnessed the giving of the Law.—Ex. 19:10-19; Deut. 4:9, 10.
While the Israelites were in the wilderness, Jehovah instructed Moses to make two silver trumpets, to be blown for convening the assembly and to break up the camp. If both were sounded, the whole assembly would keep their appointment with Moses; if only one was blown, the chieftains alone would thus be summoned. In the wilderness, the specified place of assembly was “the entrance of the tent of meeting.” (Num. 10:1-4; Ex. 29:42) Later, it was Jehovah’s will that the Israelites assemble regularly at the temple in Jerusalem, gathering there for the three major annual festivals.—Ex. 34:23, 24; 2 Chron. 6:4-6.
At times, the people of Israel were represented in gatherings by “chieftains of the assembly” (Ex. 16:22; Num. 4:34; 31:13; 32:2; Josh. 9:15, 18; 22:30), or “older men.” (Ex. 12:21; 17:5; 24:1) When judicial matters required attention, a number of persons might assemble at the city gate. However, whether gathered there or elsewhere, they would not all vote on the case under consideration in a democratic fashion. Instead, theocratically, respected older men would weigh matters in the light of God’s law and then announce their decision. (Deut. 16:18; 17:8-13) Similarly, the early Christian congregation was represented in such matters by those placed in positions of responsibility by the holy spirit. (Acts 20:28) In Israel, if the wrongdoing required the death sentence, the whole assembly might execute it.—Lev. 24:14; Num. 15:32-36; Deut. 21:18-21.
Occasions of general assembly in Israel included religious festivals and solemn assemblies (2 Chron. 34:29, 30; Joel 2:15), or events of great national significance, runners sometimes summoning the populace. (1 Sam. 10:17-19; 2 Chron. 30:6, 13) The weekly sabbath, a day of “complete rest, a holy convention” (Lev. 23:3), was a time to consider God’s Word, as in the later synagogues where ‘Moses was read aloud on every sabbath.’ (Acts 15:21) There was also the new moon observance (Num. 28:11-15; Ezek. 46:1), the festival of trumpets (Num. 29:1-6), the annual atonement day (Lev. chap. 16), the passover (commemorating Israel’s deliverance from Egypt; Ex 12:14), and, later, the festival of Purim (commemorating the Jews’ deliverance from threatened annihilation in the Persian Empire; Esther 9:20-24) and the festival of Dedication (in remembrance of the