Pillar of Cloud

Pillar Of Cloud (עמּוּד הֶעָנָן, column of the cloud, Ex 33:9-10), otherwise called Pillar of Fire (עמּוּד הָאֵשׁ, Ex 13:22), was the active form of the symbolical glory-cloud, betokening God's presence to lead his chosen host, or to inquire and visit offenses, as the luminous cloud of the sanctuary exhibited the same under an aspect of repose. The cloud, which became a pillar when the host moved, seems to have rested at other times on the tabernacle, whence God is said to have "come down in the pillar" (Nu 12:5; so Ex 33:9-10). SEE PILLAR. It preceded the host, apparently resting on the ark, which led the way (Ex 13:21; Ex 40:36, etc.; Nu 9:15-23; Nu 10:34). So by night the cloud on the tabernacle became fire, and the guiding pillar a pillar of fire. SEE BEACON. Modern Germans explain it of a natural appearance, or of the holy fire carried before the host from off the altar; but it is clearly spoken of as miraculous, and gratefully remembered in after ages by pious Israelites (Ps 105:39; Ps 78:14; Wisdom of Solomon 10:17) as a token of God's special care of their fathers. Isaiah has a remarkable allusion to it (Isa 4:5), as also Paul (1Co 10:4,2; see Pfau, De nube Israelitas baptizante, Viteb. s. a.). A remarkable passage in Curtius (5:2, § 7), descriptive of Alexander's army on the march, mentions a beacon hoisted on a pole from head-quarters as the signal for marching ("a fire was observed by night, a smoke in the day-time"). This was probably an adoption of an Eastern custom. See also an account of an appearance of fire by night in the expedition of Timoleon to Italy (Diod. Sic. 16:66). Similarly the Persians used, as a conspicuous signal, an image of the sun enclosed in crystal (Curtius, 3. 3, § 9). —Caravans are still known to use such beacons of fire and smoke, the cloudlessness and often stillness of the sky giving the smoke great density of volume and boldness of outline. SEE EXODE.

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