Shekinah Glory

The “glory” of the Old Testament carries with it the idea of “weightiness,” which is almost literally seen during the dedication of Solomon’s temple when “the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chron 5:13-14).

The thing about this weighty glory is that there are moments where the glory seems indistinguishable from God Himself. For example, while translators struggle to know how to best translate 1 Peter 4:14, it links the glory, the Holy Spirit and God altogether, saying, “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Or as one commentator restates more intently, what rests upon us is “the spirit of glory, and therefore the spirit of God: who is none other than the spirit of God himself.”

An ancient concept that seems to show links between the glory of God and the Holy Spirit is the shekinah. This Hebrew word is not actually found anywhere in our Bibles, as it was,

A post-Biblical term to express the relation of Yahweh to the world, and especially to Israel. The concept, based on the Old Testament, arose among the Palestinian and Babylonian Jews, who stressed the immanent activity of God…. In the Targums the expressions “shekinah of Yahweh,” “glory of Yahweh,” and “word of Yahweh” are synonymous, and “shekinah,” “glory,” and “word” come to be designations of Yahweh himself. The shekinah itself is generally regarded as “resting” or “dwelling.” (Jackson, Samuel Macauley. “Shekinah.” The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Vol. I-XII. New York/London, Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1908, p. 389.)

As one minister said, the shekinah is the “nearest Jewish equivalent to the Holy Spirit” (Stewart, R. A. “Shekinah.” New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Edited by D. R. W. Wood et al. 1996, p. 1091). And while J.E. Fossum may not agree with the idea that the glory is the Holy Spirit, he still presents the reasons one might argue for the concept:

There is some evidence from later times that also the Spirit of God could be seen as the Glory…. In Ezek 8:3, the glory, whose body is described in the preceding verse, is referred to as the “Spirit”. A Jewish amulet, which appears to allude to Ezekiel’s description of the retreat and return of the Glory, calls the Glory…. the “Spirit of Holiness”…. [The Testament of] Levi 18:6 says: “And the Glory of the Most High shall burst forth upon him, and the Spirit of Understanding and Sanctification shall rest upon him”. This refers to the possession of the Spirit by the Messiah in Isa 11:2. The Glory might here be equated with the Spirit. In Rom 1:4, it is said that Jesus was designated as the Son of God “kata [according to] the Spirit of Holiness by resurrection from the dead”. The resurrection of Jesus may here be understood as being effected by the Spirit. In Rom 6:[4], it is stated plainly that Jesus was resurrected by the Glory of God. (Fossum, J. E. “Glory.” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. p. 352.)

In looking at these passages, it seems again that there’s some interchangeability between glory and the Holy Spirit, just as there was with the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament and God. N.T. Wright’s research has shown him that,

Various writers [in second-Temple Judaism] spoke of God’s word, God’s wisdom, God’s law, God’s tabernacling presence (shekinah), and God’s Spirit, as though these were at one and the same time independent beings and yet were ways in which the one true God could be with his people, with the world, healing, guiding, judging and saving. (Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003, p. 577. Christian Origins and the Question of God.)

This all goes to show that God wants to interact with us; and again, as we see in the New Testament, His Holy Spirit is going to be the main way in which He does so. The shekinah is now in us.

All of this being said, do note that I don’t mean to say that every time we see the word “glory” in our Bibles we are therefore talking about the Holy Spirit or God’s presence. As scholars have noted, God’s glory 

is one of the hardest Christian terms to define…. the “glory of God” is sometimes used in the Bible as an adjective, sometimes a noun, and sometimes a verb: God is glorious (adjective), reveals his glory (noun), and is to be glorified (verb). (Morgan, Christopher W. “Toward a Theology of the Glory of God.” The Glory of God. Edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Wheaton, Crossway, 2010, p. 156. Theology in Community.)

Likewise, the word glory gets used in many other ways, further complicating the conversation. My goal here, however, is to try to help us see the connections that do arise between glory and the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps it’s easiest to understand the Holy Spirit’s presence in the simple view a professor once related to me: “When God interacts with us on the earth, we are encountering His Holy Spirit.” He is “the medium through whom God’s presence becomes real among his people,” (Elwell, Walter A. “The Presence of God.” Tyndale Bible Dictionary. p. 1072) and when we think of Him, “we should think first and foremost of the divine presence on earth.” (Block, Daniel I. “The View from the Top: The Holy Spirit in the Prophets. Presence, Power and Promise. Kindle Location 2008.)

And so, with this interchangeability in mind, when we engage the Shekinah of God or the glory of God or the weightiness of God or the presence of God, we find ourselves engaging the Holy Spirit.

Want to continue the conversation? Take the long journey with my book/audiobook, The Rush and the Restor take a shorter path with my condensed version, Fantasy IRL.

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