Congregation — (Heb. kahal, the Hebrew people collectively as a holy community (Num. 15:15). Every circumcised Hebrew from twenty years old and upward was a member of the congregation. Strangers resident in the land, if circumcised, were, with certain exceptions (Ex. 12:19; Num. 9:14; Deut. 23:1–3), admitted to the privileges of citizenship, and spoken of as members of the congregation (Ex. 12:19; Num. 9:14; 15:15). The congregation were summonded together by the sound of two silver trumpets, and they met at the door of the tabernacle (Num. 10:3). These assemblies were convened for the purpose of engaging in solemn religious services (Ex. 12:27; Num. 25:6; Joel 2:15), or of receiving new commandments (Ex. 19:7, 8). The elders, who were summonded by the sound of one trumpet (Num. 10:4), represented on various occasions the whole congregation (Ex. 3:16; 12:21; 17:5; 24:1).
After the conquest of Canaan, the people were assembled only on occasions of the highest national importance (Judg. 20; 2 Chr. 30:5; 34:29; 1 Sam. 10:17; 2 Sam. 5:1–5; 1 Kings 12:20; 2 Kings 11:19; 21:24; 23:30). In subsequent times the congregation was represented by the Sanhedrim; and the name synagogue, applied in the Septuagint version exclusively to the congregation, came to be used to denote the places of worship established by the Jews. (See CHURCH.)