What is Shekinah Glory?

by Scott Thompson

The phrase "Shekinah glory" refers to a passage in the Bible. When King Solomon offers a sacrifice to God at the temple in 2 Chronicles 7, a fire descends from heaven and burns up the sacrifice, preventing the priests and the people of Israel from coming near. The fire is referred to in the Bible as the "Glory of the Lord," but was later known as the Shekinah.

Solomon and the Shekinah

The Bible doesn't actually use the word "Shekinah" to refer to the fire that comes down from heaven to burn up Solomon's sacrifice. The incident is referred to as the "Shekinah glory" because of the centuries of Jewish and Christian theological speculation about the meaning of this passage in the Bible. In the Jewish religion, the word "Shekinah" traditionally referred to the active presence of God. In the passage about Solomon's sacrifice in 2 Chronicles 7, God's power comes down from heaven to earth to accept the sacrifice, an example of God's Shekinah or presence. The Bible refers to this fire as "the glory of the Lord." According to "The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible" by Merril C. Tenney, later Christian theologians used the same phrase to describe God's incarnation as Jesus.

The Immanence of God

According to "The Engendering God" by Carl A. Raschke and Susan Doughty Raschke, the word "Shekinah" comes from a word meaning "to live with." In Jewish belief, the Shekinah is God's immanence or intimate presence with the people of Israel. When the Bible describes God as being pleased with the people of Israel, the Shekinah is present and comes down into the temple as the fire of God's glory. When God becomes displeased and withdraws the Shekinah, the temple of Solomon is destroyed. Christian theologians saw the birth of Christ as a sign that God's glory or Shekinah was once again present in the world.

The Shekinah in Jewish Mysticism

The concept of the Shekinah continued to evolve. In the Jewish system of mysticism known as the Kabbalah, God has 10 aspects or "shefiroth," of which the Shekinah is one. Because the word "Shekinah" is a feminine noun in the Hebrew language, the Shekinah was interpreted by Kabbalists as God's feminine aspect. Practitioners of Kabbalah interpreted the story of Adam and Eve as a story about the exile of the Shekinah from God. One of the goals of Kabbalah mysticism was to reunite God with the Shekinah.

The Divine Feminine

The Jewish Platonist philosopher Philo linked the Shekinah with the references to "Hokhma" or God's wisdom in the Bible. The Greek word for wisdom is "sophia," so Gnostic and Christian mystics developed a theology of the Shekinah as a feminine personification of God's wisdom named Sophia, sometimes identified with the Holy Spirit. Modern feminist theologians such as Elizabeth A. Johnson have promoted the concept of Sophia as a way to balance out the traditional conception of God as a masculine figure.

About the Author

Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.

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