A captivating photograph of an open Bible resting on a wooden table, with rays of sunlight streaming through a nearby window, illustrating the concept of "dwell" in the Bible.

What Does ‘Dwell’ Mean In The Bible? A Comprehensive Guide

The word ‘dwell’ appears frequently throughout the Bible, especially in passages that describe God’s presence among His people. But what exactly does it mean to ‘dwell’? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the meaning and significance of ‘dwell’ in Scripture.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In the Bible, ‘dwell’ means to live or reside in a place. But it often carries connotations of permanence, intimacy, and influence.

The Original Hebrew and Greek Words Behind ‘Dwell’

Yashab (Hebrew)

The Hebrew verb yashab is most commonly translated as “dwell” in English Bible versions. It occurs over 1,100 times in the Old Testament. Yashab conveys the idea of sitting down or settling in a particular place.

Some key meanings of yashab in Scripture include:

  • To remain or stay in a place for an extended time
  • To inhabit a land or region
  • To be established or fixed in a location
  • .

Yashab is often used regarding God’s presence dwelling among His people or in the tabernacle/temple (e.g. Exodus 25:8; Psalm 9:11). It can also refer to humans dwelling in houses or lands (e.g. Genesis 19:30; Ruth 1:1).

Skenoo (Greek)

In the Greek New Testament, the word skenoo carries the same basic meaning of residing or dwelling in a place.

Key usages of skenoo include:

  • God’s glory dwelling in the temple (Matthew 23:21)
  • The Spirit dwelling in believers (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • Figurative uses relating to sin, darkness, etc. dwelling in people (Romans 7:17-18)

The related noun skene (where we get the English “tabernacle”) refers to a tent or temporary shelter. Thus, skenoo evokes the image of not just occupying a space but residing there intimately.

Key Stories About God’s Presence Dwelling Among His People

God’s Presence in the Tabernacle

After the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, God instructed them to build a portable temple called the Tabernacle where His presence would dwell among them (Exodus 25:8). This was a major development showing God’s desire to be intimately present with His people.

The Tabernacle’s design symbolized God’s holiness and set apart His dwelling from the impurities of the world. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place where God’s presence resided. This demonstrated the need for mediation between a holy God and sinful people.

God’s presence was evident in visible signs like the pillar of cloud and fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness (Exodus 40:34-38).

God’s Presence in Solomon’s Temple

After the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, Solomon built a magnificent stationary Temple in Jerusalem to replace the portable Tabernacle (1 Kings 6). This Temple became the central place of worship where God’s presence dwelt.

At its dedication, God’s glory filled the Temple showing His approval and presence (1 Kings 8:10-11). For centuries, this Temple was the locus of Israel’s covenant relationship with God. Though Israel strayed into idolatry at times, God preserved a remnant who honored His presence in the Temple through faithful worship and sacrifice.

This was a foretaste of the intimacy God desired with His people.

Jesus as God’s Dwelling Among Us

The Tabernacle and Temple symbolized God’s dwelling with Israel under the old covenant. Jesus brought a greater revelation of God’s presence under the new covenant. John 1:14 declares “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

The Greek word for “dwelling” means to pitch a tent or tabernacle. Through His incarnation, Jesus tabernacled among humanity, revealing God’s glory in a greater way (John 1:14, 2:19-21). Jesus is the embodiment of God’s presence.

By taking on human flesh, Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, Christ restores direct access to the presence of God. Believers in Jesus become the dwelling place of God by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Significant ‘Dwell’ Passages and Their Meanings

Psalm 91:1

Psalm 91:1 states “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” This passage speaks of the security, protection and peace that come from dwelling in God’s presence.

When we abide in close relationship with God, trusting in Him, we can find refuge from life’s storms and dangers. God promises to guard those who take shelter in Him just as a mother bird protects her young under her wings.

What an amazing promise of comfort, care and provision when we choose to dwell with the Lord.

John 6:56

In John 6:56, Jesus declares “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” Here Jesus uses graphic imagery to convey the intimate communion we can have with Him. Just as eating and drinking are essential for physical life, connecting deeply with Jesus by partaking of Him spiritually sustains us and allows Him to live through us.

When we dwell in Christ, abiding in His teachings and example, He also takes up residence within us through the Holy Spirit. This mutual indwelling empowers us to follow Jesus faithfully and bear fruit for God’s kingdom.

Colossians 3:16

Colossians 3:16 instructs believers to “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Here, God’s word is to dwell abundantly within the church community. As we internalize Scripture, discussing and applying it wisely, we allow God’s truth to permeate our fellowship. And as we worship together, we make room for His presence to reside powerfully among us.

A church where the word of Christ dwells richly overflows with faith, unity, thankfulness and joy.

Theological Significance of Divine Dwelling

Intimacy with God

The concept of God’s dwelling has profound theological significance related to intimacy with God. In the Bible, God’s presence dwelling among His people reflects His desire for an intimate relationship and fellowship with humanity (Exodus 25:8).

As theologian G.K. Beale states, “God’s temple is a symbol and guarantee of his presence, which is the foundation of all intimacy between him and his people.”

God dwelling among His people allows deep communion, communication, and connection to take place. The tabernacle and temples in the Old Testament provided a meeting place where the people could draw near to God’s presence and receive atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16:16-17).

Jesus Christ is the ultimate manifestation of God’s dwelling, as Christ’s incarnation initiated unparalleled intimacy between God and humanity (John 1:14). Through Christ, believers have permanent access into the very presence of God (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Accessibility of God

Closely related to intimacy, God dwelling among His people also highlights the accessibility of God. In the Old Testament, God’s presence descending on the tabernacle and temple displayed His desire to make Himself known and available to His people (1 Kings 8:27).

Now, believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit living within them permanently, allowing direct access to God at all times (1 Corinthians 6:19). Believers do not have to go on a pilgrimage to gain access to God’s presence, for God Himself dwells inside every Christian through the Spirit.

This truth was revolutionary, as previous dwelling places of God like the Garden of Eden and the tabernacle were restricted and temporary. Theologian Gerald McDermott explains that “in the dwelling of God, the distances between God and humans are overcome. He is not far from any of us.”

God dwelling among His people allows Him to be intimately known and readily available.

Centrality of God’s Presence

The theme of divine dwelling establishes the centrality of God’s presence among His people across Scripture. Eden was the initial place of God’s dwelling, depicted as the source of blessing and harmony (Genesis 2-3). After the fall, Israel’s place of meeting with God was central to covenant life.

Stephen Wellum states that “at the heart of God’s covenant relationship with Israel is his presence with them.” For Christians today, intimate fellowship with Christ should be central in both individual and corporate spiritual life.

God’s desire to dwell among His people climaxes with the New Heavens and New Earth, where God’s presence will saturate all of creation in perfect union and harmony (Revelation 21:3). As Alexander Stewart describes it, God’s dwelling “instills a Gospel optimism grounded in the certainty of God’s renewed presence.”

The theological emphasis on divine dwelling places God right in the center of human life and history.

Practical Applications for Believers Today

Cultivating Awareness of God’s Nearness

As God’s dwelling place, believers can cultivate a deeper awareness of His loving presence each day (Psalm 91:1). Setting aside quiet time to meditate on scriptures about God’s nearness enables sensing Him more tangibly.

For example, contemplating verses like “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves” (Zephaniah 3:17) stirs faith in His power and protection. Giving thanks and praise also helps focus one’s spiritual senses on the reality of Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Making Room for God’s Presence

Since Christians’ bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), they can deliberately make room for God’s presence through spiritual disciplines like solitude, prayer, worship, and study of the Word. Clearing away life’s clutter and distractions opens space to encounter the Lord.

Personal retreats also help believers leave behind busyness to abide in the comforting quietness of God’s company.

Additionally, regularly inventorying one’s life and surrendering anything offensive to a holy God keeps His dwelling clean and welcoming (2 Corinthians 7:1). Maintaining purity cultivates sensitivity to the Spirit’s gentle promptings and makes Christians more usable vessels through which God can pour out His love on others (2 Timothy 2:21).

Walking in Holiness as God’s Dwelling Place

Since believers are now God’s sacred home, they are called to live holy lives that align with His pure nature (1 Peter 1:13-16). This means resurrection power is available to put off unrighteousness and walk uprightly according to Kingdom principles (Colossians 3:5, Philippians 4:8).

The same grace that saved believers also empowers saying “no” to fleshly desires so that the fullness of Jesus can shine through their speech and conduct (Titus 2:11-12).

As Christians grow in pursuing righteousness, increasing measures of God’s presence and glory fill their mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 6:19). Reveling in the joy of holy intimacy with God and experiencing more of heaven’s dynamic life on earth expand spiritual capacity to contain greater depths of Jesus’ loving nature and power (Ephesians 3:14-21).


Throughout Scripture, God desires to dwell among His people, making His presence known in intimate and transformational ways. As we’ve seen, ‘dwell’ in the Bible points to God’s nearness, influence, and permanence.

For believers today, recognizing that God longs to dwell with us should inspire awe, gratitude, and a longing to make room for Him in all areas of life. By clinging to Christ, obeying God’s Word, and walking in holiness, we experience the blessing of divine dwelling.

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