The Shekinah Glory

The Shekinah Glory who indwelt the Tabernacle in the Wilderness (Exodus 40) and Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8) is recognized as feminine. This same Shekinah Glory is intimately linked to the Holy Spirit through the corresponding indwelling of Christians who are described in 1 Corinthians 3 and Ephesians 2 as living temples of God.

That the Old Testament Shekinah is the New Testament’s Holy Spirit is manifestly evident in the precursor role to the indwelling Holy Spirit of the Shekinah Glory who indwelt both the Tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s Temple at their dedications. Since it has been claimed that the word Shekinah does not exist in the Hebrew Scriptures in its noun form (the situation there being similar to the absence in the Bible of a noun form of the word baptize), the following commentary will be made regarding its origin before proceeding with examples of the Shekinah presence.

In the Hebrew Targum, the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the word Shekinah is used as a noun. It means “intimate dwelling” or “the presence of the Glory of the Lord”. Justification for the use of this word is the use in the Hebrew Scriptures of its root word “shachan”, referring particularly to the pillars of cloud and fire that accompanied the Israelites in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land through the wilderness. The prophet Isaiah referred to it quite graphically in Isaiah 4:5 and 6, linking this pillar of cloud and fire to a covering presence. It is generally understood that this same pillar is referenced in Isaiah 51:9 and 10, where the prophet goes out of his way to describe by feminine pronouns the same pillar of cloud and fire that accompanied the Israelites on their journey from Egypt. The Targum interpretation leaves no doubt that the Shekinah Glory is a feminine presence, and represents an equivalence with a feminine Holy Spirit. Isaiah 4:5 and 6, and 51:9 and 10 read as follows:

“And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion , and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defense. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.”

“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not she who hast cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not she who has dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; who hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”

Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8 provide prominent examples of the Shekinah as a precursor to the indwelling Holy Spirit of the New Testament. Exodus 40:33-38 describes the indwelling of the Tabernacle in the wilderness:

“And [Moses] reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”

The description “cloud of the Lord” , “fire by night” and “taken up” leaves no doubt that this “cloud” is equivalent to the Shekinah of the Red Sea adventure and of Isaiah 4:5. The corresponding incident with respect to Solomon’s Temple, taken from 1 Kings 8:6-13, is given below:

And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their two wings of the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its staves above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the inner sanctuary, but they were not seen outside; and there they are unto this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. Then spoke Solomon, The Lord said he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.”

In this passage the meaning of “cloud” is closely linked with “dwelling place” and “glory of the Lord”, which again point to the phrase Shekinah Glory.

The connection between these precursor events and the Holy Spirit who indwells Christian believers is given in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, wherein Paul asserts that the Church herself, through her constituents, is a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The facts embedded in these passages are no surprise to Christians, who generally accept without question that believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and comprise, as the Church, a holy temple. What some of us may not be aware of is that this temple and its indwelling by the Holy Spirit was represented numerous times as the Glory of God in the Old Testament. Turning to the Internet, the Wikipedia entry for “Shekinah” begins as follows:

“Hebrew [Shekinah] is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew ancient blessing. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God, especially in the temple in Jerusalem.” An accompanying figure shows the Shekinah, or the Glory of God, indwelling the temple as described in 1 Kings 8.”

Noting the female gender of this indwelling Shekinah, we find here by comparing the indwelling presence of the Glory in Solomon’s temple with the description in Ephesians 2 of the Holy Spirit indwelling the human temple that Scripture itself, by furnishing this direct comparison, supports an interpretation of the Holy Spirit as a female Entity in the face of conventional Christian thought, as driven by the use in Scripture of the male pronoun in reference to the Holy Spirit.

This feminine gender attribute in Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8 may have been simply lost in the translation from Hebrew (Aramaic) to English, which could have been a result of the lack of gender precision in the English language. (Actually, the first transference from feminine to masculine occurred in the Latin, for which the Holy Spirit was definitely presented as male.) But there is an associated gender misrepresentation in Isaiah 51:9, 10 that appears to be more deliberate. What the translators did in that passage was to substitute the grammatically incorrect ‘it’ for the gender-correct ‘she’ in reference to Shekinah. In their desire to maintain a fully masculine Godhead, they neutered the female.

Reconciliation of Monotheism with the Holy Trinity

The only logical way that the Judeo-Christian monotheism may be reconciled to the general Judeo-Christian understanding of the Godhead as being a Trinity is to perceive the Godhead as representing a tightly-knit Family. The issue arises through the identification of the Trinitarian Godhead as one in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

It is quite difficult, if not impossible, given the prevailing understanding of the Godhead, to reconcile a Trinitarian Godhead with the oneness of God as given in Deuteronomy 6. The prevailing view of a genderless fellowship simply doesn’t evoke the notion of unity demanded in the above passage, or of Jesus’ description of it as the greatest commandment of God toward mankind.

How could three be considered as one? Even Islam struggles with that, to the extent that this religion is so strictly monotheistic as to deny the Christian Trinity as being fully God. Within Christianity, the ‘Jesus Only’ Church does the same, as did some early heresies within the Christian Church, including Arianism.

Actually the only way that the Trinity can be reconciled intuitively with monotheism is in the context of a Divine Family. I noted in my book Family of God the dramatic change in comprehension of the Godhead that resulted from this insight:

“Surely by raising this issue [of monotheism in a Trinitarian setting] we have placed ourselves in the midst of a basic conflict, one that was not resolved when Jesus came to the earth in the flesh, nor has it been settled in the two millennia since that event. Perhaps, given the assault on family values experienced by our generation, the timing is appropriate for God to favor this same generation with an understanding, rich in information as to His own nature, which will lead to a resolution of this conflict. It is with this hope that we continue our review, searching Scripture for something we may have missed before.”

“As would be expected, God furnished man with His own straightforward answer to the paradox of His triune nature. It is profound in its simplicity and astonishingly beautiful in form. In the second chapter of Genesis, Adam speaks thus:

“’And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.’

“The essence of this passage was repeated by Jesus and later by Paul. In the contexts in which it was presented, it is obviously of importance to God. Could there be a significant relation between the unity of flesh in marriage and the unity of spirit, as was often claimed by Jesus, between the Father and Him, and in fact, among the three Members of the Holy Trinity?”

[to be continued]


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