VESTIBULE (עוּלָם, אֻלָּם, אֵילָם, H395, 1 Kings 7:6, otherwise porch, q.v.), a partially enclosed area used as an entry to a larger room. The most widespread form of porch was the bit hilani of Syria of the 11th cent. b.c. which served as the grand entry of the palace. It was partially open on the front side and enclosed on the other three sides, the rear opening into the main hall or others beyond; see Architecture; Porch. The façade usually had decorative columns which were also structural to support the roof above.
In the OT the words always (except in 1 Kings 7:6) refer to Solomon’s Temple (see Jerusalem Temple), connoting the rooms at the inner ends of separate gates and at the front of the House of Yahweh, twenty cubits wide left to right, and ten cubits deep without a door. Obviously there was some sort of roof over it and some sort of beam spanned the opening. The columns of Jāchîn and Bōaz stood in front of the porch as free-standing memorials to God’s character as Sustainer and Defender of His Word and people.
The presumed height of the porch to the ceiling is thirty cubits, the same as in the holy place, but 2 Chronicles 3:4 states it to be 120 cubits, the height to which Jotham conceivably built its walls (see Jerusalem Temple).
The porches of the gates in the Temple in Ezekiel had cedar pillars sixty cubits high and two cubits square, again a memorial to the God of Israel. These porches were twenty-five by eight cubits and had partial walls at the outer side; traffic passed through them to the threefold guard gates, forming a suitable stopping place for religious functions before proceeding further. The porch at the N gate to the House had four tables for preparing sacrifices. Of special interest is the stipulation that the prince was to enter by the E gate to make his offering (Ezek 44:3).
A. Badawy, Architecture in Ancient Egypt and the Near East (1966).