Cloud

Cloud (properly עָנָן, anan , as covering the sky, νεφέλη). The allusions to clouds in Scripture, as well as their use in symbolical language, must be understood with reference to the nature of the climate, where the sky scarcely exhibits the trace of a cloud from the beginning of May to the end of September, during which period clouds so rarely appear, and rains so seldom fall, as to be considered phenomena-as was the case with the harvest-rain which Samuel invoked (1Sa 12:17-18), and with the little cloud, not larger than a man's hand, the appearance of which in the west was immediately noticed as something remarkable not only in itself, but as a sure harbinger of rain (1Ki 18:44). As in such climates clouds refreshingly veil the oppressive glories of the sun, clouds often symbolize the Divine presence, as indicating the splendor, insupportable to man, of that glory which they wholly or partially conceal (Ex 16:10; Ex 33:9; Nu 11:25; Nu 21:5; Job 22:14; Ps 18:11-12; Isa 19:1). The shelter given, and refreshment of rain promised by clouds, give them their peculiar prominence in Oriental imagery, and the individual cloud in that ordinarily cloudless region becomes well defined, and is dwelt upon like the individual tree in the bare landscape (Stanley, Syria and Palestine, p. 140). Similarly, when a cloud appears, rain is ordinarily apprehended, and thus the "cloud without rain" becomes a proverb for the man of promise without performance (Pr 16:15; Isa 18:4; Isa 25:5; Jude 1:12; comp. Pr 25:14). The cloud is, of course, a figure of transitoriness (Job 30:15; Ho 6:4), and of whatever intercepts divine favor or human supplication (La 2:1; La 3:44). Being the least substantial of visible forms, undefined in shape, and unrestrained in position, it is the one among material things which most easily suggests spiritual being. Hence it is, so to speak, the recognized machinery by which supernatural appearances are introduced (Isa 19:1; Eze 1:4; Re 1:7, et passim), or the veil between things visible and invisible; but, more especially, a mysterious or supernatural cloud is the symbolical seat of the Divine presence itself-the phenomenon of deity vouchsafed by Jehovah to the prophet, the priest, the king, or the people (Ps 68:34; Ps 89:6; Ps 104:3; Na 1:3). Sometimes thick darkness, sometimes intense luminousness, often, apparently, and especially by night, an actual fire is attributed to this glory-cloud (De 4:11; Ex 40:35; Ex 33:22-23; 2Sa 22:12-13). Such a bright cloud, at any rate at times, visited and rested on the Mercy-seat (Ex 29:42-43; 1Ki 8:14; 2Ch 5:14; Eze 43:4), and was named Shekinah (q.v.) by late writers (see Tholemann, De nube supra area, Lips. 1771-1752; Stiebritz, De area federis, Hal. 1753). Thus Jehovah appeared at Sinai in the midst of a cloud (Ex 19:9; Ex 34:5); and when Moses had built and consecrated the tabernacle, the cloud filled the court around it, so that Moses could not enter (Ex 40:34-35). The same happened at the dedication of the Temple by Solomon (2Ch 5:13; 1Ki 8:10). So Christ, at his second advent, is described as descending upon clouds (Mt 17:5; Mt 24:30, etc.; Ac 1:9; Re 1:7; Re 14:14,16). To come in the clouds, or with the clouds of heaven, was among the Jews a known symbol of Divine power and majesty; and Grotius observes that a similar notion obtained among the heathen, who represented their deities covered with a cloud. (See the treatises on the symbolical nimbus or halo by Nicolaio [Jen. 1699], Reiske [Dissert. 2, No. 4].) Hence "clouds and darkness" appear to be put as representing the mysterious nature of the Divine operations in the government of the world (Ps 97:2). Clouds are also the symbol of armies and multitudes of people (Jer 4:13; Isa 60:8; Heb 12:1); a figure referring to the effects of a large and compact body of men, moving upon the surface of an extensive plain, like a cloud in the clear sky. A day of clouds is taken for a season of calamity (Eze 30:3; Eze 34:12). Peter compares false teachers to clouds carried about with a tempest (2Pe 2:17). Solomon compares the infirmities of old age, which arise successively one after another, to "clouds returning after rain" (Ec 12:2). The favor of a king is compared to "a cloud of the latter rain," refreshing and fertilizing the earth (Pr 16:15). The sudden disappearance of threatening clouds from the sky is employed by Isaiah as a figure for the blotting out of transgressions (44:22).

"Clouds." topical outline.

Bible concordance for CLOUD.

Definition of cloud

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

 
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