The Holy of Holies: 
On the Constituents of Emptiness 

I Kings describes King Solomon's construction of the first temple, with its Holy of Holies, and it calls this most sacred space "the House of the Lord." Solomon, having finished the job, then declares to his God, in verse:

I have now built for You
A stately House,
A place where You
May dwell forever.

However, a few lines later Yahweh has departed, and this sanctuary has been given a new inhabitant. It is now not "the House of the Lord" but "the House for the name of the Lord." For Solomon has come to doubt the original Holy-of-Holies project as outlined in Exodus: "But will God really dwell on earth?" he asks. "Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built."

If Solomon himself has now concluded that there is no space anywhere that can house such an elusive God, how could Pompey expect to have found Him in that little room? How could even a high priest expect to meet Him there? The Holy of Holies must, in this view, be empty of God. And - based on what Solomon, "the wisest of all men," has suggested here - even the heaven's may be empty of such an uncontainable God.

That which, according to Solomon's reformulation, will occupy the sanctuary he has build is, to be sure, a distinguished resident in its own right: Yahweh's name is treated with great delicacy and respect by the Hebrews; it is to be pronounced, according to some versions of the tradition, only on that one day of the year in the Holy of Holies. Still, the name of the Lord is a very different tenant from the Lord Himself.

According to this new version of the lease, Solomon's Holy of Holies would contain no cloud or fire, just a word. This was more than a millennium before the arrival of silent reading, so Yahweh's name may have been among the first pieces of writing in human history that were not to be read out loud. The Holy of Holies - by this reckoning and on the assumption that the silent is less tangible than the enunciated - was the House of the world's most abstract word.