Shekinah

angel, pillar, cloud, lord, glory, fire, visible, god, term and name

Page: 1 2 3

It seems beyond question that the divine appear ance vouchsafed in the earlier ages of the world to the patriarchs and prophets, was under the aspect, or with the accompaniment of light or fire, or that which conveys to the mind the idea of Glory.' Thus, in Stephen's account of the call of Abraham (Acts vii. 2) And Ile said, Men, brethren, and fathers, the God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia,' etc. This is a phrase very unwonted in plain narrative prose, and doubtless carries with it an allusion to the fact of God's appearing in a glorious manner, with a bright and overpowering effulgence, or, in other words, by the symbol of the shekinah. So, too, when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush, it was doubtless by the usual symbol ; and this supernatural light or fire, glowing with a lambent and vivid, but innocuous flame, was no other than the splendour of the shekinah. To this august phenomenon the apostle plainly alludes when speaking of the distinguished prerogatives of the covenanted race (Rom. bc. 4), to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law,' etc.

But of all these ancient recorded theophanies, the most signal and illustrious was undoubtedly that which was vouchsafed in the pillar of cloud that guided the march of the children of Israel through the wilderness on their way to Canaan. A correct view of this subject clothes it at once with a sanctity and grandeur which seldom appear from the naked letter of the narmtive. There can be little doubt that the columnar cloud was the seat of the shekbuth. We have already seen that thp verb pif, is applied to the abiding of the cloud on the summit of the mountain (Exod. xxiv. 16). Within the towering a6-ial mass, we suppose, was enfolded the inner effulgent brightness, to which the appellation Glory of the Lord' more properly belonged, and which was only occasionally dis closed. In several instances in which God would indicate his anger to his people, it is said that they looked to the cloud and beheld the Glory of the Lord' (Num. xiv. ; xvi. 19, 42). So when he would inspire a trembling awe of his majesty at the giving of the Law, it is said, the Glory of the Lord appeared as a devouring fire' on the summit of the Mount. Nor must the fact be forgotten in this connection, that when Nadab and Abihu, the two sons of Aaron, offended by strange fire in their offerings, a fatal flash from the cloudy pillar instan taneously extinguished their lives. The evidence would seem then to be conclusive, that this won drous pillar-cloud was the seat or throne of the shekinah, the visible representative of Jehovah dwelling in the midst of his people.

But it will be proper, in a matter of so much importance, to enter somewhat more fully into the genius of that mode of diction which obtains in re gard to the shekinah ; particularly the usage by which the term 'Angel' is applied to this visible phenomenon deserves our investigation. This term occurs frequently in the Arabic version of those passages which speak of the divine manifes tations, especially as made in connection with the cloudy pillar. Thus, xvhen we read (Exod. xiii. 21), That the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and by night in a pillar of fire ;' the Arabic translation has it, The angel of Me Lord went before them.' This is countenanced by the express language of Exod. xiv. 19, And the ang-el of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them ; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them.' Here it is obvious that the same object is set before us under two different forms of expression ; the Pillar of Cloud' in the last clause being evidently the same as Angel of God' in the first. In seeking the true solution of this phrase ology, it is necessary to bear in mind that Angel,' in the Scripture idiom, is a term of office, and not of nature [ANGELs]. it is by no means confined to any order of rational, intelligent, or personal beings, whether celestial or terrestrial. Though

primarily employed to denote messengers, yet nothing is clearer than that it is used in speaking of impersonal agents, such as winds, fires, pesti lences, reinarkable dispensations—anything in fact which might serve as a nzedium to make known the divine will, or to illustmte the divine working : He malieth the winds his angels, and the flaming fires his ministers.' From the wide and extensive use of the term angel in the language of Holy Writ, we are pre.

pared to recognise at once the propriety of its ap plication to the theophanies, or special manifesta tions of the Deity, of which so much is said in the O. T. We perceive that we are furnished from this source with a key to all those passages in which mention is made of the appearance of the angel of the Lord, whether to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Hagar, to Moses, or any of the ancient worthies. So far as the letter is concerned, the intimation would seem, in many cases, to be, that a created and delegated angel was sent upon various mes sages to the patriarchs, and became visible to their eyes and audible to their ears. These celestial messengers have been supposed occasionally to speak in the name, and even in the person, of him whose mandates they communicated. Thus, when Abraham was about to offer up Isaac we are told that the angel of the Lora' called to him out of heaven, and said (Gen. xxii. 15-18), By myself I have sworn, that in blessing I will bless thee, and that in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven,' etc. This might seem at first view to be the voice of an angel messenger speak ing in the name, and by the authority, of him who sent him. But from the usage now developed, we understand that it was the visible object that ap peared, which is called the angel. So when it is said that the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush,' we see it was the burning bush itself that was called the angel, because it was the mea'ium of manifestation to Jehovah in making this communication to his servant. The language which he utters on that occasion is evidently not competent to any created being, and must be con sidered as proceeding from the shekinah, to which no other than the infinite Spirit was present. The appropriation, therefore, of this lang-uage to the majestic pillar of cloud viewed as the shekinah of Jehovah, receives a countenance which cannot be questioned. We see no room to hesitate in be lieving, that when it is said the angd of God went before them,' the meaning is, that the pillar of cloud went before them ; or, in other words, that the pillar is called the angel.' In pursuance then of this train of investigation, we advance to another phasis of the mystic column that marshalled the way of the sojourning hosts in their march to Canaan. In Exod. xxiii. 2 1 t is said, Behold I send an angel before thee to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Beware of hint, and obey his voice, provoke him not ; for he will not pardon your transgressions : for my name is in him.' The first impression, upon the perusal of this, would perhaps be, that a created and tutelary angel was intended, one whom, whether visible or invisible, they used to treat with the greatest reverence as a kind of personal representative of Jehovah himself. This representative and commissioned character would be apt to be recognised in the phrase, 'my name is in him,' equivalent, as would be supposed, to the declaration, my authority is in him.' But then, on the other hand, we have shown that the term angel ' is applied to the cloudy pillar, and as we have no intimation of any other angel being visibly present with the travelling tribes, the infer ence is certainly a fair one, that the angel here men tioned is but the designation of that glorious object which stood forth to the eye of the congregation as having the shekinah essentially connected with it.

Page: 1 2 3