Thursday, October 28, 2021

Even more on the number 8

I just found a detail that should have been part of this post, but I didn't know at the time so I will make a short, separate post as add-on to it. To recap briefly, in Hebrew, the number eight represents new beginnings and is derived from the word "to grow fat" and therefore also linked to abundance. More details are found in the linked post, where I gave two examples. Lehi and his family sojourned eight years in the wilderness before they came to the promised land. Jared, his brother and their families journeyed to the promised land in eight vessels. It makes sense that the number eight is brought up in conjunction with new beginnings in a promised land with an abundance of resources.

Here is the third example that I should have included in the linked post: Alma was one of the priests of King Noah. He believed Abinadi's message, taught his word in secret among the people and gathered a group of believers. The king sent his army to kill them but they were warned and fled.
And they fled eight days’ journey into the wilderness.

And they came to a land, yea, even a very beautiful and pleasant land, a land of pure water.

And they pitched their tents, and began to till the ground, and began to build buildings; yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly. (Alma 23)

There it is again. New beginnings for a group of recent converts in a "very beautiful and pleasant land". Alma's conversion and the church he established is considered of major significance by Book of Mormon authors. In fact, there is no talk about a church among the Nephites before Alma establishes it. King Benjamin's people take upon them the name of Christ and enter into a covenant but they are not described as a church. Likewise, Nephi, Jacob and Enos preach to their people but they are not described as a church. Alma's organisation of a church is therefore a unique event in the Book of Mormon.

In addition, Alma became the first chief judge and his posterity became the record keepers and authors of the large plates of Nephi. Alma and his people's escape and establishment of a church is therefore a pivotal moment in Book of Mormon history. There are frequent reminders of this scattering in the remainder of the Book of Mormon. Here are some examples:

and thus ended the days of Alma, who was the founder of their church. (Mosiah 29:47)
I, Alma, having been consecrated by my father, Alma, to be a high priest over the church of God, he having power and authority from God to do these things, behold, I say unto you that he began to establish a church in the land which was in the borders of Nephi; yea, the land which was called the land of Mormon; yea, and he did baptize his brethren in the waters of Mormon.
And behold, I say unto you, they were delivered out of the hands of the people of king Noah, by the mercy and power of God. (Alma 5)
Yea, and I also remember the captivity of my fathers; for I surely do know that the Lord did deliver them out of bondage, and by this did establish his church; yea, the Lord God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, did deliver them out of bondage. (Alma 29:11)
And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the church among the people, yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression. (3 Nephi 5:12)

Mormon was even named after the waters where Alma and his group first gathered and were baptized. Seeing the number eight showing up at this significant event that perfectly fits the description of a new beginning in addition to the two voyages to the promised land cannot just be dismissed as coincidence. It also shows that Hebrew traditions were kept among the Nephites, at least the scribes who were "taught in all the language of [their] fathers" (Mosiah 1:2).


"Sprinkle many nations" and "fulfilling the covenant"

In my last post, I closed with the suggestion that there is a type in story of the Israelites conquering the promised land by overpowering many nations. I suggested that in the latter days, a similar event would take place, only this time the army would be proclaiming the fulness of the Gospel.

This is a major theme in the words of Christ to the Nephites during His visit. Having connected the word "fulness" with the charge given to Adam and Eve to "replenish the earth" and the temple symbolism of the "grand feast" (see here), I noticed the frequent mention of phrases with similar meanings in the prophecies of the latter days from the Book of Mormon: many nations, all the earth, the fulness of the Gentiles, etc.

In a future post, I'll discuss these prophecies in more details, but I want to focus on one particular verse from Isaiah that is quoted by Christ during His visit to the Nephites:

45 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. (3 Nephi 20)

Let's begin by taking a closer look at the Hebrew word for "sprinkle":

"Sprinkle" -- nazah: נָזָה "spurt, spatter"

This word shows up 24 times in the Old Testament, according to Biblehub. Let's take a closer look at how it is used and then try to make a determination as to what it means to "sprinkle many nations."

By far the most common use of the Hebrew word 'nazah' occurs in reference to the altar of sacrifice and veil of the temple and the blood of the sacrificial lamb (see Leviticus 8:11, 4:17, for example). Sacrificial blood and oil were sprinkled on the sacred vestments of Aaron and his sons to consecrate them (see Exodus 29:21). Water was sprinkled onto a person who had touched a dead body in a purification ritual (see Numbers 19:18).

In other words, this words shows up almost exclusively in connection with sacred rituals. That is very interesting.

"Sprinkle many nations" and the two ways

Like many covenant terms, I believe this curious phrase has two meanings. On the one hand, it is easy to interpret the meaning of "sprinkle" many nations as a threat of destruction for covenant rebellion, along the lines of "he will spatter many nations."

On the other hand, if we look back at how this word is used in the Old Testament, we can find a merciful promise in this phrase. What if to "sprinkle many nations" means to offer atonement for all the nations of the earth? What if part of the latter-day gathering involves offering the everlasting covenant to the entire human family in the form of temple ordinances?

Ezekiel 36

With that in mind, let's close this post with a beautiful example of how the word 'nazah' is used in a passage loaded with temple imagery to describe a future day when all who will hearken can be gathered as a covenant people and made clean. Consider the connections to Genesis 1:28 as you read:

23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.

24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.

25 ¶ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

26 new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.

30 And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.


35 And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fencedand are inhabited. (Ezekiel 36)

Verses 30 and 35 make the connection to Genesis 1:28 very obvious. I find it especially interesting the the meaning of the name Ephraim (the tribe through which the latter-day gathering is to begin) means "fruitful." We'll discuss this in more depth in upcoming posts.

This imagery is found in many places in scripture and is expounded in bold detail in the Book of Mormon. It is exciting to think that we live in the time when this promise is being fulfilled.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Lehi, Nephi and the shekinah -- Part 3 (From tabernacle to temple)

Here are links to part 1 and part 2 of this series, where I have introduced the Hebrew concept of Shekinah, the presence/"dwelling place" of God's glory, that is typically found in the tabernacle and temple of Israel of old. I have also linked Lehi's tent to the tabernacle of Israel in the wilderness.

In this post, I will discuss a pattern that I admittedly do not fully understand. Whereas Lehi gets his revelations and enjoys the Shekinah in his tent, Nephi goes to the mountain. Let's first examine Lehi. This blog post states

The tabernacle in the wilderness serves as an allegory that Nephi draws upon. With this ancient connection established between Lehi and Moses, the verse, “And my Father dwelt in a Tent” takes on greater significance. In the world of Israel, this verse communicates that Lehi was a Tsadik (a holy or righteous one) who walked in the same pathway of the Holy Order, such as Moses, Abraham, Noah, Enoch, and Adam.  As he dwelt in a tent in the wilderness, he communed with God.  He received revelations, commandments, and decrees for his people...

Like ancient Israel camping in tents in the wilderness, a tsaddik or holy man would often be found living outside the bounds of the cities in the caves and tents of the wilderness.  In doing so, these men lead a consecrated or set apart existence similar to Moses dwelling in the Tabernacle enwrapped in the Glory of the Lord (Shekinah).

It is easy to see how the Book of Mormon portrays Lehi as a Tsadik who separated from the wickedness in Jerusalem dwelling in a tent. Once he left, he never set his foot in the city again but sent his sons to obtain the plates and persuade Ishmael and his family to come along. It is also clear that he "communed with God" in the tent. We saw in the previous post (part 2) that it was a place of sacrifice and offerings. Almost every time the tent is mentioned, the Shekinah is also manifest.

14 And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him. And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them.

15 And my father dwelt in a tent. (1 Nephi 2)

Perhaps the most well-known example of Lehi's communion with God is Lehi's dream. This verse immediately follows his dream in 1 Nephi 8.

And all these things did my father see, and hear, and speak, as he dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel, and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates. (1 Nephi 9:1)

Interestingly, Nephi says that Lehi said many more things that could not be written. But then he changes his mind

And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry; wherefore, to proceed with mine account, I must speak somewhat of the things of my father, and also of my brethren. (1 Nephi 10:1)

Nephi goes on to recount some more of what his father said. I think this is done to give more context to his account of his own vision that includes both elements from his father's dream but also his teachings in chapter 10 about the Jews, Gentiles and the Savior's mission. After Nephi has ended this brief recount of his father's prophecies, he repeats yet again

And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel. (1 Nephi 10:16)

After his father had spoken about these things, Nephi wants to see what his father has seen. Nephi sees a grand vision as recorded in 1 Nephi 11-14. But it does not happen in a tent. Nephi is carried away in the spirit up on a high mountain. 

And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the Spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father. (1 Nephi 15:1)

This description is similar to the one in 1 Nephi 3:1 described in my previous post, where Nephi had spoken with the Lord and then returned to his father's tent. We see a steady focus on Lehi's tent whenever divine manifestations have occured. Divine manifestations happen to Lehi in the tent, whereas for Nephi it happens outside the tent, followed by a return to his father's tent. This is an interesting pattern that I don't know if I quite understand. Contrast that with the description in 1 Nephi 16

31 And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families.

32 And it came to pass that I did return to our tents, bearing the beasts which I had slain; and now when they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy!

When he had been hunting (rather than communing with God), Nephi returned to "our tents", not his father's tent.

It should be abundantly clear by now that Lehi's tent can be linked to the tabernacle and was thought to have a special function as dwelling place not only for Lehi but for God. But even though we know Nephi to be a prophet and great spiritual leader, it also seems clear that Lehi was the high priest of the tabernacle, while Nephi undoubtedly later became the king and high priest of the temple. After his father died, Nephi built a temple, as we can read in 2 Nephi 5. This was the permanent dwelling place for God in the promised land and replaced the tabernacle. Just as Lehi's tent/tabernacle mimics the tabernacle of Israel in the wilderness, Nephi's temple mimics the temple of Solomon in the promised land.

And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine. (2 Nephi 5:16)

"Deliver" and "hand"

In light of my previous post connecting consecration and the phrase "delivered into [their] hands," I decided to revisit scriptures which use this phrase.

As is often the case, we see positive and negative examples. 

Negative Context

In some cases, God allows the righteous to be delivered into the hands of the wicked, for example:

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. (Judges 6)

We also find this phrase many times in the New Testament, almost always in reference to Christ being delivered into the hands of the wicked to be slain.

Here is one such example:

31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. (Mark 9)

See also Luke 9:44, Luke 24:7, and Acts 2:23.

Interestingly, this concept is a part of the first secret combination, formed between Satan and Cain:

29 And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands(Moses 5)

On the positive side, we see many examples of the righteous being delivered out of the hands of their enemies, for example:

Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children;

Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.

11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood... (Psalm 144)

Here is another example from the Book of Mormon:

And behold, I say unto you, they were delivered out of the hands of the people of king Noah, by the mercy and power of God.

And behold, after that, they were brought into bondage by the hands of the Lamanites in the wilderness; yea, I say unto you, they were in captivity, and again the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his word; and we were brought into this land, and here we began to establish the church of God throughout this land also. (Alma 5)

See also Alma 57:35.

In another positive context, we see examples of the wicked being delivered into the hands of the righteous:

But now, ye behold that the Lord is with us; and ye behold that he has delivered you into our hands. And now I would that ye should understand that this is done unto us because of our religion and our faith in Christ. And now ye see that ye cannot destroy this our faith. (Alma 44)

See also 1 Samuel 23:4.

Is there not a type in this thing?

And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (Exodus 3)

It is very interesting to me that in order to occupy the promised land God gave them, the children of Israel had to conquer so many other peoples.  For me, this resembles the latter day gathering. In the last dispensation, that same Jehovah "[came] down to deliver [us] out of the hand" of worldly powers who seek our destruction. He does this by keeping His promise to restore the everlasting covenant and send it forth by the mouth of angels to all the nations of the earth.

In my next post, we'll take a closer look at an unusual phrase in the Old Testament which is quoted by the Savior in the Book of Mormon: "sprinkle many nations."

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Lehi, Nephi and the shekinah -- Part 2 (Lehi's tent as tabernacle)

I introduced the concept of "shekinah" in my previous post with a promise to connect Lehi's tent and the tabernacle of Israel. In 1 Nephi, Nephi repeatedly stresses the fact that his father lived in a tent. For example:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father. (1 Nephi 3:1)

Jewish rabbi comments on this verse:

Nephi had been speaking with the Lord. There's nothing in the narrative that indicates that Nephi had a vision so this conversation must have happened with a direct manifestation of G-d to Nephi. So Nephi was in G-d's presence - ie. the Shechinah (שכינה). One of the words used for tent in Hebrew is the word mishkan (משכן) which comes from the very same root. This word-play cannot be coincidental.

Nephi is not only informing us what kind of accomodation they had in the wilderness. In that case, informing us once would do and even that would be unneccesary really. It is not like any reader would wonder what hotels they were staying at along the way. But Nephi is stressing the fact that this journey was undertaken because of God's commandments and He was with them, leading them to a promised land like Israel of old.

Another textual clue in the Book of Mormon linking Lehi's tent to the tabernacle of Israel are the accounts of sacrifices.

And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.

And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.

And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel. (1 Nephi 5)

And it came to pass that we did come down unto the tent of our father. And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God; and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him. (1 Nephi 7:22)

Both accounts of offering sacrifice and burnt offerings in the wilderness occur when it is explicitly mentioned that they get to Lehi's tent. It is interesting to note Nephi's emphasis on his father's tent when the group obviously had many tents. For instance, in 1 Nephi 17:6, they pitched their tents (plural) by the seashore. Still, on special occasions like the ones quoted above, Nephi goes to his father's tent. Does this mean that Lehi's tent actually functioned as a tabernacle and that the offerings happened inside it? We don't know, but there is an unexpected source confirming what is only hinted at in the Book of Mormon text itself. 

A Palmyra resident named Fayette Lapham interviewed Joseph Smith Sr. after the translation of the lost pages. His account is unique since Joseph Smith Sr. who had read the manuscript before it was lost told Lapham about some of the contents. When Lapham later recounts it, he may not remember everything perfectly, but there are still some interesting elements in his account. In his book, "The lost 116 pages", Don Bradley includes and discusses this account. According to Lapham, after Nephi obtained Laban's record and returned to his father,

The family then moved on, for several days, when they were directed to stop and get materials to make brass plates upon which to keep a record of their journey; also to erect a tabernacle, wherein they could go and inquire whenever they became bewildered or at a loss what to do. After all things were ready, they started on their journey, in earnest; a gold ball went before them, having to pointers, one pointing steadily the way they should go, the other the way to where they could get provision and other necessaries.

On this account, Don Bradley comments

Comparing this with Nephi's small plates account, it becomes clear that Lapham garbled some of what he heard. Yet even where Lapham has misinterpreted, the details he gives are, with one exception, known elements of the Lehi narrative. Elements or retrieving the brass plates, acquiring gold for Nephi's own record, and discovering the Liahona are swapped around, but the construction of "a tabernacle, wherein they could go and inquire" is a unique detail and not merely a combination or facile misreading of elements of that narrative.

I agree with Bradley's comments here. This account from Fayette Lapham further strengthens the connection between Lehi's tent and Israel's tabernacle in the desert. This explains the heavy focus on Lehi's tent in 1 Nephi. It was a sanctuary, a place for the shekinah glory. Lehi dwelt [shakan] in a tent [mishkan] and God dwelt with them and guided them along. The journey to the promised land was commanded by God and he was with them every step being a light to them in the wilderness and preparing the way (see 1 Nephi 17:13).

In the next post, I will go deeper into the roles of Lehi and Nephi regarding the tent/tabernacle and temple, respectively.

Receiver and giver becoming one

In April 2016 General Conference, Elder Renlund spoke of the importance of proximity between giver and receiver. He talked about some practical applications to church welfare, but then he said this:

The concept—“the greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement”—also has profound spiritual applications. Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate Givers. The more we distance ourselves from Them, the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive. While the unfairness can range from trivial to gut-wrenching, when we are distant from God, even small inequities loom large. We feel that God has an obligation to fix things—and fix them right now! ...

The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more we appreciate His innocent suffering, the more grateful we are for grace and forgiveness, and the more we want to repent and become like Him. Our absolute distance from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is important, but the direction we are heading is even more crucial. God is more pleased with repentant sinners who are trying to draw closer to Him than with self-righteous, faultfinding individuals who, like the Pharisees and scribes of old, do not realize how badly they need to repent.

I've been thinking about the concept of giver and receiver becoming one in a new light for the past few days. It occurs to me that when the receiver and the giver are very close, the act of giving becomes very meaningful and effective. Christ's gift to us, for example, is made extremely powerful when we (the receivers) choose to draw close to Him. In fact, He desires there to be no distance at all. There is perhaps no better way to symbolically indicate this than to have the receiver become the giver.

In a covenant context, the act of receiving is ideally followed by a desire to become a giver. This seems to be one of the unspoken patterns in scripture. (See here, for example, where Alma-2 subtly indicates to his son Helaman that through conversion, his words have become the word of God.)

I've been thinking about this same concept in relation to hand-filling in the story of Noah (explained in detail in this post) -- the covenant into which Noah entered not only offered him protection from the flood, into resulted in "all things" being delivered into his hands. (See Genesis 9:3.) 

Here is another example of receiver becoming giver:

12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13)

The small meal ---> grand feast symbolism fits into this pattern.  A willingness to receive a small part can lead us to developing the desire to consecrate all and this desire culminates in our ability to feast and then speak the word of God (2 Nephi 32:2-3).

This is one of the deeper meanings of Christ's invitation: "come, follow me" -- not only are we to do as He did while in mortality, we are intended to receive all that He received and "sit down on the right hand of the Father" and receive "eternal life" (see Doctrine & Covenants 20:24-26).

Monday, October 18, 2021

Lehi, Nephi and the shekinah -- Part 1 (The divine presence)

Shekinah is an interesting Hebrew word that is difficult to translate directly into English. It denotes the divine presence of God. It is derived from the Hebrew root, shakan/shaken, meaning "to settle down, abide, dwell". According to Encyclopaedia Judaica

In classic Jewish thought, the shekhinah refers to a dwelling or settling in a special sense, a dwelling or settling of divine presence, to the effect that, while in proximity to the shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable.

Perhaps surprisingly, the word is not found at all in the Bible. It is from later rabbinic literature and is very common there. That does not mean that the rabbis invented a concept that was foreign to Old Testament writers. The idea of God's presence and a dwelling place for him is very common. As mentioned, Shekinah is dervied from the verb, "to dwell". Another word derived from that root is the noun, mishkan. This means dwelling place or tent and can refer to both a secular dwelling (tent) or a holy dwelling place like the tabernacle.

In Jewish thought the shekinah glory or divine presence is often coupled with a physical manifestation. The cloud by day and pillar of fire by night in the wilderness, as well as the smoke and thunder on mount Sinai, denotes the shekinah glory, the divine presence. When Moses was instructed to make a tabernacle in the wilderness, God would have a dwelling place among his people. He would "shakan" in the "mishkan" as we can read in Exodus.

And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. (Exodus 33:9)

And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode (shakan) thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (mishkan). (Exodus 40:35)

This is a bit of a side note, but it makes me think of John 1:14 where "the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us” and Mosiah 3:5 where "the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay". (I highlighted the part that makes it easy to recognize King Benjamin's Hebrew wordplay). The God of Israel (Jesus Christ) was among his people again but this time they did not recognize him.

The dedication of the temple of Solomon is almost an echo of the tabernacle in Exodus.

10 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord,

11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.

12 Then spake Solomon, The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.

13 I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever. (1 Kings 8)

Even though the noun, shekinah, is not found in the Old Testament, it is easy to see how it was derived by the rabbis.

There is another interesting aspect of the shekinah of the rabbis. Even though there is strong evidence that Israelites of old were polytheists and worshiped a divine feminine, the later Deuteronomist and rabbinical views is that God is one in a very literal sense. However, shekinah is a feminine noun and thought to represent feminine aspects of the divine. 

Yet, is not God omnipresent, how can he dwell in one location. This is where we miss it.  The rabbinic teaching is that the omnipresence of God is Heavenly, it is his masculine nature, the part that protects, provides, watches over.  However, the Shekhiniah is the earthly, the feminine nature where He nurtures, comforts, shares intimately with you. (Source)

I am not sure if or how we could relate that to LDS teachings of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother but I find it beautiful. It certainly does make me think of the heaven and earth relation that I have written about before as well as this post where the male and female counterparts are the culmination of the creation of heaven and earth. While here on earth, we have access to the "earthly" shekinah that will help us to ultimately reunite with the heavenly. As Latter-Day Saints, we would perhaps normally associate the divine presence that we have access to here on earth with the Holy Ghost, but the concept of shekinah is in fact associated with the concept of the Holy Spirit (ruach ha-kodesh) in Judaism.

As you probably already guessed from the heading of this post, this Hebrew thought of God's presence and relations to a tent/tabernacle, would be part of Lehi and Nephi's worldview and provides a better understanding of why there is so much focus on Lehi's tent in the wilderness. 

In my next post I will discuss further evidence of connections between Lehi's tent and Israel's tabernacle.


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