Questions From Readers
● It is said that in Israel’s tabernacle and later in the temple Solomon built there was the Shekinah. What was it?—A. G., U.S.A.
The Hebrew word Shekinah means “that which dwells” or “the dwelling.” Though this term is not employed in the Bible, it is found in the Targumim, or Targums, the Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures. Shekinah is used in the Targums in such Biblical passages as those related to God’s dwelling or tabernacling or residing among his chosen people. (E.g., Ex. 25:8; 29:45, 46; Num. 5:3; 35:34) In the Targums the Hebrew word “dwell” or “tabernacle” is rendered “let the Shekinah rest.”—See Targum of Isaiah 48:11; 63:17; 64:3, 6.
The Shekinah was in evidence in the Most Holy of both the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple. Within this innermost compartment rested the sacred ark of the covenant, or testimony, with two golden cherubs fashioned for its lid or cover. Making reference to this Ark, God told Moses: “And you must place the cover above upon the Ark, and in the Ark you will place the testimony that I shall give you. And I will present myself to you there and speak with you from above the cover, from between the two cherubs that are upon the ark of the testimony, even all that I shall command you for the sons of Israel.” (Ex. 25:21, 22) But how might Jehovah present himself there to Moses? A fitting manner would be by means of a miraculous light. Also, the high priest would need light when he was in the Most Holy on the atonement day.—Lev. 16:11-16.
The Shekinah in the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple was such a light or supernatural glow. It shone between the two golden cherubs on the cover of the Ark. Just how high above the cherubs it extended or had its source cannot be determined. However, the Shekinah light was the only source of illumination in the Most Holy.
What, then, was the significance of the Shekinah light? This effulgence in the Most Holy signified or represented God’s presence. Of course, Jehovah himself could not be confined to any literal tabernacle or temple. (2 Chron. 6:18; Acts 17:24) But this marvelous light was an indication to the Israelites that Jehovah’s favor attended them.
According to the Jewish Mishnah, the Shekinah light in the Most Holy was one of the things lacking in the temple built under Governor Zerubbabel’s supervision.—Yoma, 21,2.
● Would it be proper to use the expressions “other sheep” (John 10:16) and “great crowd” (Rev. 7:9) interchangeably at all times?—G.S.
No, this would not be Scripturally fitting. All those making up the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9 are “other sheep,” but not all of the “other sheep” of John 10:16 constitute a part of the “great crowd.” These terms are not wholly synonymous.
All persons having God’s approval may Scripturally be viewed as sheep. And Jesus Christ said: “I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep.” (John 10:15) Whereas there is a “little flock” of 144,000 “sheep” with the prospect of resurrection to heavenly life, many other sheeplike ones have the prospect of life on earth in God’s promised new order. (Luke 12:32; Rev. 14:1-4; Ps. 37:11, 29) All persons with earthly hopes and possibilities are referred to as the “other sheep,” at John 10:16, to distinguish them from those “sheep” who are granted heavenly life. The earthly “other sheep” will include faithful men of old times, like Abraham, David and Daniel. (Heb. 11:8-19, 32-35; Dan. 12:13) Many others resurrected during Christ’s thousand-year reign will prove obedient to God and will thus show that they too are “other sheep” of the Fine Shepherd. This term also applies to the “great crowd” of righteously disposed persons who will live right through the destructive end of this system of things, and to any of their righteous offspring during Christ’s millennial reign.
So, “other sheep” is a broad term. However, the “great crowd” constitute but a part of the “other sheep” class. Revelation 7:9, 14 tells us: “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. . . . ‘These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” To be noted is the fact that the “great crowd,” who are distinguished from the 144,000 of spiritual Israel, “come out of the great tribulation” marking the “last days.” (Matt. 24:20, 21) The “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9 have not come out prior to ‘the time of the end.’
Hence, the term “other sheep” takes in all righteously disposed persons with earthly prospects and it includes the “great crowd.” The “great crowd,” however, are only those sheeplike ones with earthly hopes who have associated with Jehovah God’s earthly organization during the time marked by the “great tribulation” attending these last days.