Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cloud and Fire

In Exodus, after the people of Israel had left Egypt, the Lord led them around in a pillar of cloud and fire. These were not two pillars, but one, which took the form of a cloud by day and of fire by night. Perhaps it gradually morphed from one form to the other as the sun set and rose. When the Egyptians were bearing down upon the Israelites, the pillar moved from in front of the Israelites to behind them, protecting them from the Egyptians, which would seem to indicate that the pillar was considerably sizeable.

The text suggests that this pillar was directly the work of an angel: “Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them” (Ex. 14:19). This angel could be the preincarnate Christ, considering what Jude says (at least in some manuscripts): “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt” (Jude 5). In Scripture, “the angel of God” or “the angel of the Lord” often appears to be uniquely significant, and set apart from other angelic beings.

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