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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Pillar of Cloud And Fire

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According to Exodus 13:21 sq. (Exodus 14:24; Numbers 14:14; Nehemiah 9:12; Nehemiah 9:19), the Israelites during their journey from Egypt through the desert were accompanied in the day by a pillar of cloud, and at night by a pillar of fire (Heb. עִמּוּד עָנָן, עִמּוּד אֵשׁ , Sept. στύλος νεφέλης, πυρός ), as a guide (comp. esp. Exodus 40:36 sq.) and protection (comp. Psalm 105:89; Wisdom of Solomon 10:17), and this waited over the tabernacle while the people rested (Exodus 40:34 sq.; Numbers 9:15 sq.). The narrative represents Jehovah himself as in this cloud (comp. also Numbers 14:14), and as speaking from it to Moses (Exodus 33:9 sq.; Numbers 12:5; Deuteronomy 31:15). Later writers explain this of the "wisdom" of God (σοφία, Wisdom of Solomon 10:17), or the divine Logos (q.v.; comp. Philo, Opera, 1, 501). Toland, again, and after him many others, explained this appearance naturally, and referred it to the fire carried in a vessel before the host, which in the day served as a guide and signal by its smoke, and at night by its brightness. Von der Hart carried this opinion so far as to hold that this fire carried before the Israelites was the sacred fire preserved upon the altar from the time of Abraham (Ephemnerid. Philol. Discurs. 6, 109 sq.; and Philol. Vindic. Helmst. 1696. For the controversy on this view, see Rosenmuller on Exodus 13:21; comp. Forster, in Eichhorn's Repert. 10, 132 sq.). This custom is actually observed by caravans in the East at the present day (Harmer, Observ. 1, 438 sq.; Descript. de l'Egypte, 8, 128), and it became at an early day customary with armies hi the East, especially in traversing an unknown region (Curt. 3, 3, 9; v, 2, 7; but the passages sometimes quoted, Veget. Mil. 3, 5; Frontin. Strateg. 2, 25, do not refer to this. Comp. esp. on the custom, Faber, Archaö l. p. 244 sq.; Wolfenb. Fragm. p. 103 sq.; Bauer, Hebr. Mythol. 1, 281 sq.). Meanwhile we must not forget that it is the evident intention of the historian to narrate a miracle (comp. also Psalms 78, 14; Psalms 105, 39; comp. Diod. Sic. 16, 66; Clem. Alex. Strom. 1, 150). The following monographs on this subject are unimportant: Krause, De columna ignis ac nubis (Viteb. 1707); Friderici, De col. ign. et nub. (Leips. 1689); Sahm, De column. ignz. ac nub. (Gedan. 1702); Mü nden, De column. nub. et igne (Goslar, 1712), and many others. Following this national recollection, Isaiah (4, 5) has employed the figure of a cloud of smoke and fire hovering over Zion and the Temple as a symbol of the presence of Jehovah, in his picture of the blessedness of the theocracy (comp. Ewald, Isr. Gesch, 2, 167 sq.). (See SHEKINAH).

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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pillar of Cloud And Fire'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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