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Pillar of Cloud
Joshua passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant
, 1800, by Benjamin West
. Exodus 13:21-22 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire
A pillar of cloud (Hebrew ) was one of the manifestations of the presence of the God of Israel in the Torah, the five books of Moses which appear at the beginning of the Bible. According to Exodus, the pillar of cloud guided the Israelites by day during the Exodus from Egypt (circa the 18th Dynasty; see dating of the Exodus). The pillar of cloud is traditionally paired with the manifestation of the divine presence by night as the pillar of fire, which provided light. This was so they "could travel by day or night".
Some scholars (for example Jack Miles in his Pulitzer Prize-winning God: A Biography) suggest that the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire imagery, combined with the focus on the tops of mountains, might mean that the ancient Israelites worshiped a volcano.
- Exodus 13:21-22 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
- Numbers 14:14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
- Deuteronomy 1:33 Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
- Psalms 99:7 In a pillar of cloud He then spoke to them; they kept His testimonies and the statute He gave them.
- Nehemiah 9:12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.
- Nehemiah 9:19 "Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.
Miles, Jack (1995). God: A Biography.