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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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— Biblical Data:

The Hebrew equivalents for "cloud" are: (1) "' Anan," (Genesis 9:13,14 Exodus 13 , passim ), which occurs once in the feminine form "' ananah" (Job 3:5 ), and once in the Aramaic form (Daniel 7:13 ). (2) "' Ab" is generally used in the poetic books instead of the more prosaic "' anan" (Job 36:29 37:11,16 1 Kings 18:44 Isaiah 5:6 , etc.). (3) "Shaḥ aḳ ," a purely poetic form, occurring frequently in the plural, but only twice in the singular (Psalm 89:7,38 ), is used for "heavens" (Job 37:15 Psalm 89:7,38 ). In Deuteronomy 33:26 Isaiah 45:8 Jeremiah 51:9 Job 35:5 , 38:37 Psalm 36:5 , 57:11 , 108:5 , it is used as a parallel for "heaven." (4) "' Arafel," a thick, heavy, dark cloud (Deuteronomy 4:11 , 5:22 2Chronicles 6:1 Job 22:13 , 38:9 Isaiah 60:2 ). (5) "Nesi' im," rendered "vapors" in Jeremiah 10:13 , 51:16 . Psalm 135:7 seems to echo Jeremiah 10:13 and 51:16 , having a very similar phraseology. "Nesi' im" occurs also in Proverbs 25:14 , "clouds and wind and no rain."

In the peculiar climatic conditions of Palestine clouds were an important feature. The year was divided into a rainy season, from October to May, and a dry season, from May to October. During the rainless season not only was there no rain, but not even a cloud appeared in the heavens (1Samuel 12:17,18 ), and when the rain-cloud did appear it arose gradually from the west— that is, from the sea— and then the heavens were darkened and a tremendous downpour followed (IKings 18:45). Many figurative expressions are derived from the qualities of the clouds. They are driven across the sky very quickly hence it is said that the enemy "shall come up as the clouds" (Isaiah 19:1 , 9:8 Jeremiah 4:13 ). Job complains of his welfare passing away as the cloud (Job 30:15 ). Here, too, is the thought that the cloud leaves no trace behind it. Originating from this thought is the phrase in Isaiah 44:22 , "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions." The clouds of the rainy season foreshadow the rain, hence symbolize a favor bestowed (Proverbs 16:15 ). In the dry season the dew-cloud revives the dried vegetation God's favor is therefore pictured as the dew (Hosea 14:5 ). The blackness of the clouds betokens misfortune (Ezekiel 30:18 Lamentations 2:1 ), and even a curse, as in Job 3:5 .

Clouds are frequently pictured as hiding God from man and as intercepting man's petitions (Lamentations 3:44 Job 22:13,14 ). In Job 26:8 there is the strong figure of the cloud used to bind up and contain the waters. As direct manifestations of God, the clouds are His chariots ( Psalm 104:3 Isaiah 19:1 ). When God appeared over Mount Sinai it was in clouds and thunder and lightning. A cloud covered the mercy-seat (Leviticus 16:2 ) in the Tabernacle, and later on it rested over the Temple (IKings 8:10,11 2Chronicles 5:13,14 ). A pillar of cloud accompanied the Ark, showing the way by day through the wilderness (Exodus 13 , passim ). See Rainbow .

J. G. B. L.

— In Rabbinical Literature:
The observation of clouds for the purpose of divination () was one of the forbidden methods of forecasting the future (Leviticus 19:26 ). Notwithstanding this, the pillar of cloud of the altar was observed for that purpose in the Temple on New-Year's or Atonement Day (compare Yoma 21b. B.B. 147a), the direction which the pillar of cloud took being thought to indicate what part of the land would be blessed with plenty during the year (Lev. R. xx. compare Abraham's forecasting of the year while observing the stars on New-Year's eve [Book of Jubilees, 12:16]). A cloud stationary over the top of Mount Moriah, betraying the presence of the Shekinah, was the means by which Abraham recognized "the place afar off" (Genesis 22:4 Gen. R. lvi. Tan., Wayera, 46 Pirḳ e R. El. xxxi. Targ. Yer. to the passage). A cloud over the entrance to the tent of Sarah also indicated the presence of the Shekinah (Gen. R. lx.).

Of Moses it is narrated that when he was about to ascend to heaven, a cloud came to meet him, and, forming about him, carried him up (Pesiḳ . R. 20 ed. Friedmann, p. 96). God wrapped Moses in a cloud to protect him when the angels of heaven, who were jealous of him, wanted to cast him down (Ex. R. xli., xlii.). The cloud of the divine glory also appeared at Aaron's death on Mount Hor, and gradually covered him until he disappeared from before Moses (Yalḳ uṭ , Mas' e, § 787). Moses was sanctified by the cloud so that he could receive the Law from God on Sinai (Ab. R. N. i.). When Moses' life was drawing to an end, the cloud of glory surrounded his successor, Joshua, at the gate of the tent, and Moses, standing outside, felt that his leadership was transferred to Joshua (Jellinek, "B. H." 1:116). Josephus ("Ant." 4:8, § 48) relates of Moses' end that after he had dismissed the elders and was still discoursing with Eleazar, the high priest, and Joshua, a cloud suddenly stood over him and he disappeared (compare Samaritan Book of Joshua, vi.).

The clouds carried along from the River Pishon in paradise the precious stones for the ephod and the high priest's breastplate, as well as the sweet odors, the sacred oil, the balsam for the candlestick, and the ointment and incense for the Tabernacle (Targ. Yer. to Exodus 35:27,28 , the word , used in the passage, denoting both "princes" and "clouds"). The clouds spoken of in Isaiah 60:8 ("Who are these that fly as a cloud?") are miraculous clouds, carrying the righteous every morning and evening from all parts of the world to the Temple at Jerusalem, so that they may participate in the divine service (Pesiḳ . R. 1. compare I Thess. 4:17: "We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the angels] in the cloud to meet the Lord in the air").

The cloud of divine glory which carries the Son of man in the Messianic vision (Daniel 7:13 ) has given rise to the identification of Anani, the descendant of David (1Chronicles 3:24 ), with the Messiah as "the one who will come down from the clouds" (see Targ. and Sanh. 92b: [ν ε φ ή λ η ], "the son of the cloud" hence Matthew 24:30 , passim ).

Clouds of a miraculous character appeared to R. Ḥ iyya ben Luliani in the time of a drought, saying to one another: "Come, let us bring rain to Ammon and Moab" (Ta' an. 25a). For the cloud-vision in the Baruch Apocalypse (liii. et seq. ), see Baruch, Apocalypse of .

Regarding the origin and nature of the clouds, R. Eliezer holds, pointing to Genesis 2:6 and Job 36:28 , that the clouds above sweeten the water rising from the ocean as mist, while R. Joshua, referring to Deuteronomy 11:11 and Job 36:37 , says that the clouds form a receptacle through which the water coming from above pours down as through a sieve whence the name "sheḥ aḳ im" (grinders), as they "grind" the water into single rain-drops (Gen. R. xiii. compare Bacher, "Die Agada der Tannaiten," 1:136). These views seem to have given rise to another controversy between R. Johanan and R. Simon b. Laḳ ish, the former referring to Daniel 7:13 , the latter to Psalm 135:7 (Gen. R. l.c. ). The five Biblical names for "cloud" are explained: "' ab" = the cloud thickening the upper atmosphere "ed" = the cloud bringing, in the form of rain, "calamity" upon corn-speculators "' anan" = the cloud rendering people "pleasant toward one another through prosperity "nesi' im" = the cloud rendering people "princes," either by benefiting all or by favoring some "ḥ aziz" = the "shining" cloud causing men to have "visions" (Gen. R. l.c. , and Yer. Ta' an. 3:66c ).S. S. K.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Cloud'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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