Veils vs. Curtains vs. Screens
In English we have somewhat similar words for describing curtain-like objects:
- veil (n.) – something that covers, separates, screens or conceals.
- screen (n.) – a movable device designed to divide, conceal, or protect.
- curtain (n.) – something that functions as or resembles a screen, cover, or barrier
How they are translated by various translations is as
A few things are clearly apparent from this chart:
yeriyah (יריעה) means curtain. NIV simplifies and makes the vocabulary consistent by making all of these words into the word curtain.
Qela (קלע) has two meanings, one as a hanging or curtain, and one relating to slingshots; only the one translated hangings is related to the context in
concern. ASV and ESV appear to do the best job of differentiating the underlying Hebrew word. NKJV and NASB do almost as well, with the single exception of Exodus Chapter 40.
One of these veils is not like the others…
In Chapter 40, in these two translations the word veil appears six times in three contexts:
- Veil Screening the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 40:3,21) poreketh (פּרכת) veil
- Veil for the Doorway to the Tabernacle (Ex 40:5,28) masak
- Veil for the Gateway of the Court (Ex 40:8,33) masak (מסך) screen
It seems as though there is some sort of differentiation between the first veil and the other two veils. The first veil is the one blocking view of the Holy of Holies. The other two block view of the Holy Place and the Courtyard of the Tabernacle respectively. Throughout the text in Exodus, this terminology in Hebrew is consistent. On the surface, yes, all three of these are curtains or veils, however you want to picture it, and the word screen may in fact be confusing based on its common English use as a portable wall rather than curtain, but underlying there is some sort of fundamental difference between the one covering the Holy of Holies.
Other types/uses of veils:
- Cultural – Veils are used to cover
the face of a bride during a wedding ceremony.
- Biblical – Moses put a veil, masveh (מסוה), over his face after it was glowing/shining from Sinai except when he was speaking to the Lord Ex 34:33