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The Hebrew so rendered means “a covering,” because clouds cover the sky. The word is used as a symbol of the Divine presence, as indicating the splendour of that glory which it conceals (Ex. 16:10; 33:9; Num. 11:25; 12:5; Job 22:14; Ps. 18:11).
A bright cloud is the symbolical seat of the Divine presence (Exodus 29:42-43; 1 Kings 8:10; 2 Chr. 5:14; Ezek. 43:4), and was called the Shechinah (q.v.). Jehovah came down upon Sinai in a cloud (Ex. 19:9); and the cloud filled the court around the tabernacle in the wilderness so that Moses could not enter it (Exodus 40:34-35).
At the dedication of the temple also the cloud “filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10). Thus, in like manner when Christ comes the second time, he is described as coming “in the clouds” (Matt. 17:5; 24:30; Acts 1:9, 11).
False teachers are likened unto clouds carried about with a tempest (2 Pet. 2:17).
The pillar of cloud was the glory-cloud which indicated God's presence leading the ransomed people through the wilderness (Ex. 13:22; 33:9-10). This pillar preceded the people as they marched, resting on the ark (Ex. 13:21; 40:36). By night it became a pillar of fire (Num. 9:17-23).