The Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle

Where God Dwelt

Holy of Holies in the tabernacle
Illustration of the Holy of Holies from the 1890 Holman Bible.

 Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Holy of Holies was the innermost chamber in the wilderness tabernacle, a room so sacred only one person could enter it, and then only one day out of the entire year.

This room was a perfect cube, 15 feet in each direction. Only one object was housed there: the ark of the covenant. There was no light inside the chamber other than the glow from God's glory.

A thick, embroidered veil separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies inside the tent of meeting. Regular priests were allowed in the outer holy place, but the Holy of Holies could be entered only by the high priest on the annual Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.

On that day, the high priest would bathe, then put on the clean linen garments of the priest. His robe had solid gold bells hanging from the hem. The noise of the bells told the people he was making atonement for their sins. He entered the inner sanctuary with a censer of burning incense, which would produce thick smoke, hiding the mercy seat on the ark where God was. Anyone who saw God would die instantly.

The high priest would then sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed bull and a sacrificed goat on the atonement cover of the ark, to make amends for his and the people's sins.

New Covenant, New Freedom

The old covenant God made through Moses with the Israelites required regular animal sacrifices. God lived among his people in the Holy of Holies, first in the desert tabernacle, then in the stone temples in Jerusalem.

Everything changed with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. When Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, signifying that the barrier between God and his people was taken away.

On Jesus' death, the first Holy of Holies, or God's throne in heaven, became accessible to every believer. Christians may approach God confidently, not on their own merit, but through the righteousness credited to them by the shed blood of Christ.

Jesus atoned, once and for all, for humanity's sins, and at the same time became our high priest, acting on our behalf before his Father:

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. (Hebrews 3:1, NIV)

No longer does God confine himself to the Holy of Holies, separated from his people. When Christ ascended into heaven, every Christian became a temple of the Holy Spirit, a living dwelling place of God. Jesus said:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ( John 14:16-18, NIV) 

Bible References to the Holy of Holies

Exodus 26:33,34; Leviticus 16:2, 16, 17, 20, 23, 27, 33; I Kings 6:16, 7:50, 8:6; I Chronicles 6:49; 2 Chronicles 3:8, 10, 4:22, 5:7; Psalm 28:2; Ezekial 41:21, 45:3; Hebrews 9:1, 8, 12, 25, 10:19, 13:11.

Also Known As

Most Holy Place, sanctuary, holy sanctuary, holy place, holiest of all


The Holy of Holies brought man and God together.


  • "The Holy of Holies."
  • “What Was the Holy of Holies?”, 16 Apr. 2018.
  • “The Holy of Holies and the Veil.” The Tabernacle Place.
  • Torrey, Rev. R.A. The New Topical Textbook.
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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "The Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle." Learn Religions, Dec. 6, 2021, Zavada, Jack. (2021, December 6). The Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "The Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle." Learn Religions. (accessed March 20, 2023).