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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Shekinah

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SHEKINAH (from Heb. shâkan ‘to dwell,’ meaning ‘dwelling’ [abstract], or ‘that which dwells’). The word is not found in OT, but occurs often in other Jewish literature, always of God. The OT, particularly in certain of its writings, uses ‘anthropomorphisms’ freely, e.g. it speaks of God dwelling in a place or being seen. Later thought objected to this, as materializing the Divine nature; hence in the Targums (Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] paraphrases of the OT used, though not in their present form, by the 1st cent. a.d.) various devices were adopted to prevent popular misunderstandings. Periphrases were used for the Divine name, ‘the Word’ ( Memra ), ‘Spirit,’ or’ ‘Wisdom’ being substituted. One of the most important of these was the ‘Shekinah.’ ‘God dwells’ usually became ‘the Shekinah rests’; ‘the temple of God’ became ‘the house of the S.’ (note the Tabernacle was the mishkân , from the same root). Genesis 28:18 becomes ‘the glory of the S. of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] is in this place’; Isaiah 6:5 ‘my eyes have seen the glory of the S. of the King of the world.’ God’s hiding His face is the removal of the S. Now the presence of God (especially in P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] and related writings) was often manifested by a fiery appearance, or a light in a cloud. It was so in nature ( Psalms 18:10 ), on Sinai ( Exodus 24:16 ), in the wilderness and in the Tabernacle ( Exodus 16:7; Exodus 29:43; Exodus 40:34 , Numbers 14:10 ), in the Temple ( 1 Kings 8:11 ); cf. Ezekiel 1:28 etc. This glory was not God, but an effluence from Him, or from His Shekinah. For the S. was not ‘the glory,’ as is usually imagined, but the source and centre of it. It is a stage nearer to God Himself, and, though often used in connexion with the physical manifestation, represents an invisible and universal presence. E.g. it is the source of inspiration. Eli failed to recognize Hannah’s condition, because it had left him. It was present where three were gathered to administer justice. According to some. it was inseparable from Israel, still hovering over the west wall of the Temple. But it was commonly taught that it had always been absent from the second Temple, as had been ‘the glory’ (cf. Ezekiel 11:23; Ezekiel 43:2 ); or again, that on the successive sins of Adam and his descendants it had been withdrawn from earth to the first heaven, and finally to the seventh. The conception, in fact, varied. It was disputed whether it was an entity distinct from God, or only the essence of God as manifested. Though at first regarded as impersonal and passive, as distinct from the Memra, the agent of creation, in the Talmud it becomes active and takes the place of the latter. The tendency to personification is significant. Insisting one-sidedly on the transcendence or aloofness of God, the Jew had to bring Him to earth again by such mediatorial agencies, which were semi-personal and Divine, but not God, and by the development of an elaborate angelology. In the NT the word ‘ glory ’ seems often to refer to the Shekinah (cf. Eth. Enoch ‘Lord of glory,’ and ‘the Great Glory,’ as titles of God). Romans 9:4 speaks of ‘the glory’ as a Jewish privilege; Hebrews 9:5 of ‘the cherubim of glory.’ It was believed that the Shekinah would return with the Messiah; ‘the glory of the Lord shall he seen and the cloud’ ( 2M Malachi 2:8 ). ( a ) It is connected with Christ ( Luke 2:9 , Matthew 17:5; cf. 2 Peter 1:17 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] , where the Shekinah is personified). In 1 Peter 4:14 ‘the spirit of glory’ rests upon Christ, as upon the Tabernacle; in He is He is ‘the effulgence of the glory’; in James 1:3 He is apparently called ‘the Shekinah.’ Of special significance is John 1:14 , which combines the expressions ‘glory’ and ‘tabernacle’ (Gr. skçnoun , probably intentionally chosen to represent ‘Shekinah,’ as in Revelation 21:3 ). It connects the personal presence of God in Christ with the earlier presence in the Tabernacle; what was formerly symbol is now manifest ‘in flesh.’ The vagueness of the Jewish conception gives place to the definite presence of the personal Christ. Cf. with Matthew 18:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:11 , sayings such as ‘when two sit together and are occupied with the words of the Law, the Shekinah is with them,’ or ‘the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man, nor both of them without the Shekinah.’ ( b ) It is connected with the Christian. The first of the six things lost by Adam was ‘the glory,’ i.e. the reflexion upon him of the Divine glory, or perfection. Of this we fall short ( Romans 3:23 ), but it is in process of being recovered by the Christian ( Romans 5:2; Romans 8:18; Romans 8:30 , 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6; cf. 2 Corinthians 2 Es 7:97, 98).

C. W. Emmet.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Shekinah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/s/shekinah.html. 1909.

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