Questions From Readers
In ancient Israel, what was signified by the miraculous light sometimes called Shechinah that appeared in the Most Holy of the tabernacle and the temple?
Jehovah, the loving Father and Protector of his people, made his presence distinctly felt in Israel. One way he accomplished that was through a resplendent cloud that was intimately related to his place of worship.
That striking light represented Jehovah’s invisible presence. It appeared in the Most Holy both of the tabernacle and of the temple that Solomon built. That miraculous light did not signify that Jehovah was physically present there. God cannot be confined in any building made by humans. (2 Chronicles 6:18; Acts 17:24) This supernatural effulgence in God’s sanctuary could give confidence to the high priest and through him to all the Israelites that Jehovah’s protective presence attended to them and their needs.
In postbiblical Aramaic, this light was called Shechinah (shekhi·nahʹ), a word meaning “that which dwells” or “the dwelling.” This term does not occur in the Bible but is found in Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, also known as the Targums.
When giving instructions for constructing the tabernacle, Jehovah said to Moses: “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.” (Exodus 25:21, 22) The Ark mentioned was a gold-covered chest in the Most Holy. There were two golden cherubs on the lid of the Ark.
From where would Jehovah speak? He provided the answer when he said to Moses: “In a cloud I shall appear over the cover.” (Leviticus 16:2) This cloud hovered over the sacred Ark between the two golden cherubs. The Bible does not reveal how high that cloud was or how far above the cherubs it extended.
This luminous cloud lit up the Most Holy. In fact, it was the only source of illumination in that compartment. The high priest would benefit from such lighting when he entered that innermost chamber on Atonement Day. He was standing in the presence of Jehovah.
Does this miraculous light have any significance for Christians? The apostle John saw in vision a city in which “night will not exist.” The city is New Jerusalem, made up of anointed Christians resurrected to rule with Jesus. The light of this symbolic city is not from the sun or the moon. Jehovah God’s glory directly lights up this organization, just as the Shechinah cloud illuminated the Most Holy. Also, the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is the city’s “lamp.” In turn, this “city” sheds its spiritual light and favor down upon redeemed people out of all the nations for their guidance.—Revelation 21:22-25.
Because they receive such abundant blessings from above, Jehovah’s worshippers can be certain that Jehovah is their protective Shepherd and affectionate Father.