A place of shade, whether provided by a crag (Isa. 32:2), cloud (Isa. 25:5), booth (Isa. 4:6), a tree (Song of Sol. 2:3; Ezek. 17:23; Hos. 4:13) or another kind of plant (Jonah 4:5, 6), affords welcome protection from the hot sun. Therefore, one is figuratively said to come under the “shadow” of that which serves as or is looked to for protection, covering, security or refuge. Thus, with reference to the strangers he had taken into his home, Lot said to the men of Sodom: “Only to these men do not do a thing, because that is why they have come under the shadow of my roof.” (Gen. 19:8) And Jehovah, by means of his prophet Isaiah, pronounced woe upon those taking refuge in the “shadow of Egypt,” that is, looking to Egypt for protection. (Isa. 30:1-3; see also Lamentations 4:20; Ezekiel 31:6, 12, 17.) Especially is Jehovah described as providing protective shade or shadow to his people (Ps. 91:1; 121:5; Isa. 25:4) or giving them shadowlike protection under his “hand” or “wings.” (Ps. 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7; Isa. 49:2; 51:16) On the other hand, “deep shadow” is associated with gloom, danger or the grave, “the land of darkness.”—Job 10:21, 22; 24:17; 38:17; Ps. 23:4.
The way in which a shadow changes in size and finally is no more as a result of the sun’s progress is used as a simile of man’s being short-lived or transient. (1 Chron. 29:15; Job 8:9; 14:1, 2; Ps. 102:11; 144:4; Eccl. 6:12; 8:13) For an individual’s days to be “like a shadow that has declined” signifies that his death is near. (Ps. 102:11; 109:23) Whereas shadows cast by the sun are always changing in size and direction as the earth rotates, Jehovah is unchangeable. As the disciple James wrote: “With him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.”—Jas. 1:17.
The shadow or dark image that an object casts on a surface is not substantial, not the real thing. Yet it can give an idea of the general shape or design of the reality that casts it. In this connection Paul explained that the Law, including its festivals, tabernacle and sacrifices, had a shadow that represented greater things to come. He wrote: “The reality belongs to the Christ.”—Col. 2:16, 17; Heb. 8:5; 9:23-28; 10:1.