top of page

THE KABOD YHWH

         Since kabod is not a commonly-known Hebrew word, let us begin with the standard lexicon. Its entry lists four meanings for כָבוֹד (kâ'bôd) in its general sense:

1. heaviness, burden
2. riches, reputation, importance
3. glory, splendor
4. distinction, honor

In the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh, the Old Testament—it is always translated by the word δόξα. Under the sub-entry for כְבוֹד יהוה (kə'bôd YHWH) {1},  we read that it is broadly connected with phenomena of light in secular and religious sources. In the Tanakh, the kabod is a "manifestation" of YHWH Himself {2}. This paper will investigate the full context for this extraordinary claim.

         The כבוד יהוה is cited 63 times in the Tanakh, by my count. The full phrase appears 35 times [Exod 16:7; 16:10; 24:16; 24:17; 40:34; 40:35; Lev 9:6; 9:23; Num 14:10; 14:21; 16:19; 17:7 (Eng. 16:42); 20:6; Isa 35:2; 40:5; 58:8; 60:1; Ezek 1:28; 3:12; 3:23; 10:4(x2); 10:18; 11:23; 43:4; 43:5; 44:4; Hab 2:14; Ps 104:31; 138:5; 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chr 5:14; 7:1; 7:2; 7:3], with a referential word or phrase cited 28 more times [Exod 29:43; 33:18; 33:22; Lev 10:2; Num 11:1; 14:22; 16:35; Deut 5:24; Isa 3:8; 6:3; 10:16; 59:19; 60:2; 66:18; 66:19(x2); Jer 2:11; Ezek 8:4; 9:3; 10:19; 11:22; 43:2; Ps 26:8; 63:3; 72:19(x2); 102:17; 113:4]. The analysis of these citations will proceed chronologically and cover the most salient references, excluding the remainder for considerations of space.

The Kabod YHWH in the Exodus

         Forty-five days after the Hebrews left Egypt, they came to the Wilderness of Sin. The first reference to The Kabod YHWH occurs here. The people had complained about hunger, so Moses and Aaron were speaking the words of YHWH to them. Their address began this way:

Exodus 16:6b–7b

עֶ֫רֶב וִידַעְתֶם כִי יהוה הוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶ֫רֶץ מִצְרָיִם

וּבֹ֫קֶר וּרְאִיתֶם אֶת־כְבוֹד יהוה בְשָׁמְעֹו אֶת־תְלֻנֹּתֵיכֶם עַל־יהוה

Ἑσπέρας γνώσεσθε ὅτι κύριος ἐξήγαγεν ὑμᾶς ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου, 

καὶ πρωὶ ὄψεσθε τὴν δόξαν κυρίου ἐν τῷ εἰσακοῦσαι τὸν γογγυσμὸν ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ

In the evening you will know that YHWH has brought you out of Egypt,

and in the morning you will see The Kabod YHWH, because he has heard your murmurings against YHWH {3}.

Already, something curious is going on: The Kabod YHWH can discern and process human speech. Is The Kabod some kind of angel? A spirit? A few verses later, we receive more clues:

Exodus 16:10–12

וַיְהִי כְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֶל־כָל־עֲדַת בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּפְנוּ אֶל־הַמִּדְבָר וְהִנֵּה כְבוֹד יהוה נִרְאָה בֶעָנָן׃
וַיְדַבֵּר יהוה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃
שָׁמַ֫עְתִי אֶת־תְלוּנֹּת בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל דַבֵּר אֲלֵהֶם לֵאמֹר בֵין הָֽעַרְבַיִם תֹאכְלוּ בָשָׂר וּבַבֹ֫קֶר תִשְׂבְעוּ־לָ֫חֶם וִידַעְתֶם כִי אֲנִי יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם׃

ἡνίκα δὲ ἐλάλει Ααρων πάσῃ συναγωγῇ υἱῶν Ισραηλ, καὶ ἐπεστράφησαν εἰς τὴν ἔρημον, καὶ ἡ δόξα κυρίου ὤφθη ἐν νεφέλῃ. καὶ ἐλάλησεν κύριος πρὸς Μωυσῆν λέγων Εἰσακήκοα τὸν γογγυσμὸν τῶν υἱῶν Ισραηλ, λάλησον πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων Τὸ πρὸς ἑσπέραν ἔδεσθε κρέα καὶ τὸ πρωὶ πλησθήσεσθε ἄρτων, καὶ γνώσεσθε ὅτι ἐγὼ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν.

As Aaron addressed the whole community of the sons of Israel and they looked toward the desert, behold, The Kabod YHWH appeared in a cloud—and YHWH spoke to Moses: "I have heard the murmurings of the sons of Israel. Tell them, 'During the evening you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be satisfied with bread, and you will know that I am YHWH your God.'"

The N-stem of ראה means "appeared," "was seen," or "became visible." The Septuagint (LXX) matches this with ἡ δόξα κυρίου ὤφθη ἐν νεφέλῃ, using the aorist passive indicative of ὁράω. This was a visible appearance, not a metaphorical one.

         Not only do we have separate ascriptions for two manifestations—a visible one within the cloud and an audible one from within the cloud—but the narrative conflates their actions as well: The Kabod YHWH had heard the murmurings, but now it was YHWH who had heard the murmurings. Such a conflation between a visible manifestation and a disembodied voice would have been quite familiar to a later hearer or reader of the Exodus account. The parallel to The Burning Bush in Exodus 3 would be hard to miss. There, The Mal'ak YHWH appeared to Moses as a "flaming fire" within a bush (וַיֵּרָא מַלְאַך יהוה אֵלָיו בְלַבַּת־אֵשׁ מִתוֹך הַסְּנֶה), and then the voice of God spoke from within the bush (וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו אֱלֹהִים מִתוֹך הַסְּנֶה). Previous research on theophany in Genesis and Exodus demonstrated that The Mal'ak YHWH is not an angel, but a manifestation of YHWH—at least 7 data clusters attested to this, which included multiple instances of calling Him "YHWH." Exodus 3 is thereby analogous to Exodus 16, and Exodus 3 supplies biblical precedent for this manifestation.

         So, already the record is bearing out HALOT's definition of The Kabod as a manifestation of YHWH. This proposition is problematic, since the Bible says that in one sense no one has seen God. The next time The Kabod YHWH appears makes the situation even more problematic—Mount Sinai:

Exodus 24:9-12a, 16-17

וַיַּ֫עַל מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא וְשִׁבְעִים מִזִּקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
וַיִּרְאוּ אֵת אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְתַ֫חַת רַגְלָיו כְמַעֲשֵׂה לִבְנַת הַסַּפִּיר וּכְעֶ֫צֶם הַשָּׁמַיִם לָטֹ֫הַר
וְאֶל־אֲצִילֵי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא שָׁלַח יָדֹו וַיֶּחֱזוּ אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים ויֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתוּ

וַיֹּ֫אמֶר יהוה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה עֲלֵה אֵלַי הָהָ֫רָה 

וַיִּשְׁכֹן כְבוֹד־יהוה עַל־הַר סִינַי וַיְכַסֵּ֫הוּ הֶעָנָן שֵׁ֫שֶׁת יָמִים וַיִּקְרָא אֶל־מֹשֶׁה בַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִתּוֹך הֶעָנָן
וּמַרְאֵה כְבוֹד יהוה כְאֵשׁ אֹכֶ֫לֶת בְרֹאשׁ הָהָר לְעֵינֵי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

Καὶ ἀνέβη Μωυσῆς καὶ Ααρων καὶ Ναδαβ καὶ Αβιουδ καὶ ἑβδομήκοντα τῆς γερουσίας Ισραηλ καὶ εἶδον τὸν τόπον, οὗ εἱστήκει ἐκεῖ ὁ θεὸς τοῦ Ισραηλ, καὶ τὰ ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ ἔργον πλίνθου σαπφείρου καὶ ὥσπερ εἶδος στερεώματος τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῇ καθαριότητι. καὶ τῶν ἐπιλέκτων τοῦ Ισραηλ οὐ διεφώνησεν οὐδὲ εἷς, καὶ ὤφθησαν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἔπιον. καὶ εἶπεν κύριος πρὸς Μωυσῆν Ἀνάβηθι πρός με εἰς τὸ ὄρος [...]. καὶ κατέβη ἡ δόξα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος τὸ Σινα, καὶ ἐκάλυψεν αὐτὸ ἡ νεφέλη ἓξ ἡμέρας, καὶ ἐκάλεσεν κύριος τὸν Μωυσῆν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ἑβδόμῃ ἐκ μέσου τῆς νεφέλης. τὸ δὲ εἶδος τῆς δόξης κυρίου ὡσεὶ πῦρ φλέγον ἐπὶ τῆς κορυφῆς τοῦ ὄρους ἐναντίον τῶν υἱῶν Ισραηλ.

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel went up—and they saw the God of Israel. Under His feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself. But He did not lay a hand on the leaders of the sons of Israel. So they saw God, and they ate and they drank. YHWH said to Moses, “Come up to me in the mountain [...]. The Kabod YHWH resided on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it [the mountain] for six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses from within the cloud. Now the appearance of The Kabod YHWH was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain to the eyes of the people.

The LXX translators changed the Hebrew for "they saw the God of Israel" to the Greek "they saw the place," apparently in order to avoid contradiction with the famous dictum, "No one can see God and live," quoted in Exodus just a few chapters later. But the Hebrew says the elders of Israel saw The God of Israel. The prophet Ezekiel will corroborate and add to this evidence, giving a plausible idea of what this manifestation looked like to the seventy elders, but for now let us continue with the episode at Sinai.

         After YHWH commanded Moses to come further up the mountain and The Kabod was reintroduced, v.16 says, "He called out to Moses from within the cloud." The closest referent to וַיִּקְרָא is The Kabod YHWH. If this were the first reference to The Kabod, it would be easy to overlook this potentiality; but previously, The Kabod was able to listen to human speech. It is possible The Kabod is speaking here. On the other hand, The Voice is virtually always associated with the ascription "YHWH." Since the two have been so closely conflated, the narrative may be treating the two as effectively one, and the voice is from "YHWH" despite the syntactic separation.

         While Moses was on the mountain, the people of Israel fashioned a golden calf and worshiped it. YHWH was very angry, and asserted He would no longer travel in their midst on the way to the Promised Land [Exod 33:3]; instead,  YHWH said an angel would go with them [Exod 32:34], but otherwise Moses would lead them alone [Exod 33:1]. Moses pleaded with YHWH, after which YHWH conceded: His presence would go with them (פָנַי יֵלֵכוּ). During that conversation, The Kabod appears for the fourth time. We can see why the LXX translators were hesitant about faithfully translating the original text concerning God's visible manifestation on Sinai:

Exodus 33:18–23

וַיֹּאמַר הַרְאֵ֫נִי נָא אֶת־כְבֹדֶ֫ךָ
וַיֹּ֫אמֶר אֲנִי אַעֲבִיר כָל־טוּבִי עַל־פָנֶ֫יךָ וְקָרָאתִי בְשֵׁם יהוה לְפָנֶ֫יךָ וְחַנֹּתִי אֶת־אֲשֶׁר אָחֹן וְרִחַמְתִי אֶת־אֲשֶׁר אֲרַחֵם
וַיֹּ֫אמֶר לֹא תוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת־פָנָי כִי לֹא־יִרְאַ֫נִי הָאָדָם וָחָי
וַיֹּ֫אמֶר יהוה הִנֵּה מָקוֹם אִתִּי וְנִצַּבְתָ עַל־הַצּוּר
וְהָיָה בַעֲבֹר כְבֹדִי וְשַׂמְתִ֫יךָ בְנִקְרַת הַצּוּר וְשַׂכֹּתִי כַפִי עָלֶ֫יךָ עַד־עָבְרִי
וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת־כַפִי וְרָאִ֫יתָ אֶת־אֲחֹרָי וּפָנַי לֹא יֵרָאוּ

And Moses said, "Show me your Kabod." And [YHWH] said, "I will pass all my goodness before you, and I will proclaim The Name of YHWH before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy." But He said, "You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live." YHWH said, "Here is a place by me; you will station yourself by a rock. When my Kabod passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with the hollow of my hand while I pass by. And I will remove the hollow of my hand, and you will see the back of me, but my face is not to be seen."

Note the nouns, pronouns, and odd third-person referencing in the dialog above. First, YHWH seems to be speaking and says what? "I will proclaim My Name"? No. He says, "I will proclaim The Name of YHWH." The LXX even adds a μου to the Scripture in v.18 (καὶ καλέσω ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου Κύριος ἐναντίον σου), probably to avoid the polytheistic implications of this whole dialog. The two manifestations of YHWH are immediately conflated a second time when "YHWH" says, "Here is a place by me.... When my Kabod passes by, I will cover you...while I pass by."   

         Also notable is that YHWH said no one can see His face and live. Jacob had the same sentiment in mind when he encountered The Mal'ak YHWH in Genesis 30 and said, "I saw God face to face but survived" (רָאִ֫יתִי אֱלֹהִים פָנִים אֶל־פָנִים וַתִּנָּצֵל נַפְשִׁי). In that case, as in this one, there was a visible and tangible manifestation of YHWH who was simultaneously distinguished from, yet conflated with, YHWH. Instead of referring to His Kabod in the third person, YHWH refers to The Kabod in the first person in verses 22 and 23. So, a careful look in its context at even this exemplar of a prohibitive statement shows that in one sense YHWH cannot be seen, but in another sense He can be seen.

         The situation under discussion, involving Moses and the two-who-are-YHWH, actually takes place in Exodus 34. The switching of divine speaker seems schizophrenic there, as well:

Exodus 34:5–6, 89

וַיֵּ֫רֶד יהוה בֶעָנָן וַיִּתְיַצֵּב עִמּוֹ שָׁם וַיִּקְרָא בְשֵׁם יהוה׃
וַיַּעֲבֹר יהוה׀ עַל־פָנָיו וַיִּקְרָא יהוה׀ יהוה אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן אֶ֫רֶך אַפַּיִם וְרַב־חֶ֫סֶד וֶאֱמֶת׃

וַיְמַהֵר מֹשֶׁה וַיִּקֹּד אַ֫רְצָה וַיִּשְׁתָ֫חוּ׃
וַיֹּאמֶר אִם־נָא מָצָ֫אתִי חֵן בְעֵינֶיךָ אֲדֹנָי יֵ֫לֶך־נָא אֲדֹנָי בְקִרְבֵ֫נוּ כִי עַם־קְשֵׁה־עֹרֶף הוּא וְסָלַחְתָ לַעֲוֹנֵ֫נוּ וּלְחַטָּאתֵ֫נוּ וּנְחַלְתָ֫נוּ׃

So YHWH descended in the cloud, and stood with [Moses] there. And [YHWH] proclaimed The Name of YHWH.

Then YHWH [The Kabod] passed by before [Moses's] face, and YHWH [the one beside Moses] proclaimed: "YHWH, merciful and gracious God, longsuffering, great in covenant loyalty and truth [...]." With haste, Moses bowed his head to the earth and worshiped. Then [Moses] said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, Adonai, allow Adonai to go into our midst. For [ours] is a stiff-necked people. Forgive us our sins and iniquities, and take us as a special possession." 

Moses was not the one proclaiming The Name of YHWH in 34:6. In 33:19, YHWH was the one who said, "I will proclaim The Name of YHWH before you" (וְקָרָאתִי בְשֵׁם יהוה לְפָנֶ֫יךָ). YHWH is the one speaking in 34:6. The Kabod YHWH was the one to pass before Moses from 33:22. YHWH thus addresses The Kabod YHWH as "YHWH." In the last passage we saw two-who-are-the-one-YHWH; now we have two-who-are-the-one-Adonai (a special name for God, literally "my Lord"). As we have seen, when YHWH is present in the Exodus, He is present in the cloud as both a voice and The Kabod; at times we even read of "feet" [Exod 24:10] or "standing" [Exod 17:6; 34:5]. 

         This was not perceived as schizophrenia. The modern reader may not be intimately familiar with the theophanies of God, but Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the assembly at Sinai, and readers of the Tanakh in later centuries were all well-acquainted with the multiple aspects or manifestations of YHWH. YHWH is one, but He revealed Himself in various manifestations. God's complex unity was not denied until more than a millennium later. Ever since the Genesis account began, He had been described as both YHWH and The Ruah YHWH (the latter a thoroughly redundant term if He were unitary, since The Father is already spirit in His essence), The Mal'ak YHWH [Gen 16:7–14; Exod 3:1 – 4:19], "a man" [Gen 18:2; 35:25–32], and The Kabod YHWH. YHWH was thus able to declare The Name of YHWH by praising The Kabod YHWH in Exodus 34:5–9.

         The episode at Sinai was recounted a second time in Deuteronomy. Here is the relevant excerpt. Moses is speaking:

Deuteronomy 5:22a, 23-26

אֶת־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵ֫לֶּה דִבֶּר יהוה אֶל־כָל־קְהַלְכֶם בָהָר מִתּוֹך הָאֵשׁ הֶעָנָן וְהָעֲרָפֶל קוֹל גָדוֹל וְלֹא יָסָף

וַיְהִי כְשָׁמְעֲכֶם אֶת־הַקּוֹל מִתּוֹך הַחֹ֫שֶׁך וְהָהָר בֹעֵר בָאֵשׁ וַתִקְרְבוּן אֵלַי כָל־רָאשֵׁי שִׁבְטֵיכֶם וְזִקְנֵיכֶם׃
וַתֹאמְרוּ הֵן הֶרְאָ֫נוּ יהוה אֱלֹהֵ֫ינוּ אֶת־כְבֹדֹו וְאֶת־גָדְלֹו וְאֶת־קֹלֹו שָׁמַ֫עְנוּ מִתּוֹך הָאֵשׁ הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה רָאִ֫ינוּ כִי־יְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם וָחָי׃
וְעַתָּה לָ֫מָּה נָמוּת כִי תֹאכְלֵ֫נוּ הָאֵשׁ הַגְּדֹלָה הַזֹּאת אִם־יֹסְפִים׀ אֲנַ֫חְנוּ לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶת־קוֹל יהוה אֱלֹהֵ֫ינוּ עוֹד וָמָֽתְנוּ׃
כִי מִי כָל־בָשָׂר אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַע קוֹל אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים מְדַבֵּר מִתּוֹך־הָאֵשׁ כָמֹ֫נוּ וַיֶּ֫חִי׃

YHWH said these words to your entire assembly at the mountain from amidst the fire, the cloud, and the darkness with a loud voice, and that was all he said [...]. Then, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness while the mountain was burning, all your tribal heads and elders came forth to me. You said, “YHWH our God has shown us His Kabod and greatness, and we have heard Him speak from amidst the fire. This day we see that God can speak to human beings and they can yet live! But now, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us! If we hear the voice of YHWH our God any more, we will die! Who is there from all flesh who has heard the voice of The Living God speaking from amidst the fire as we have, and yet lived?

We see that when the leaders of the sons of Israel said, "YHWH has shown us His Kabod," they were not talking about some nebulous concept, or a mere phenomenon of fire. They were afraid to die due to both the voice and the fire. In Exodus 24:17 the visible, raging fire on Sinai was explicitly called The Kabod YHWH.

The Kabod YHWH and The Tabernacle

         The Tabernacle which God prescribed is set up on the first day of the second year:

Exodus 40:34

וַיְכַס הֶעָנָן אֶת־אֹ֫הֶל מוֹעֵד וּכְבוֹד יהוה מָלֵא אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָן׃

Καὶ ἐκάλυψεν ἡ νεφέλη τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ μαρτυρίου, καὶ δόξης κυρίου ἐπλήσθη ἡ σκηνή
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and The Kabod YHWH filled the tabernacle.

Later in v.38 this cloud is called The Cloud of YHWH (עֲנַן יהוה). There, as here, the LXX suffers an omission, rendering  νεφέλη rather than ἡ νεφέλη Κυρίου. It leaves out the circumlocution for the very name of YHWH. The Kabod YHWH fills the Tabernacle, and the cloud in which The Kabod dwells arises from the Tabernacle whenever the Israelites move from place to place. The cloud appears as a cloud during the day, but is filled with fire at night.

         The Hebrew word above for The Tabernacle is mishkân, meaning "the place of dwelling." Due to the semi-permanent manifestation of The Kabod in the mishkân from this point forward, later theology would call The Kabod YHWH "The Shekinah Glory" (this term does not appear in the Bible), meaning the Glory which dwelled in The Tabernacle, and later The Temple of Solomon. The attentive reader may infer at this point in the research why this term is not quite sufficient: The Kabod YHWH manifested prior to The Tabernacle. The Kabod would also manifest long after Solomon's Temple lay in rubble.  

         When the priesthood is initiated in Leviticus 9, The Kabod YHWH makes another special appearance:

 

Leviticus 9:23-24

וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן אֶל־אֹ֫הֶל מוֹעֵד וַיֵּצְאוּ וַיְבָרֲכוּ אֶת־הָעָם וַיֵּרָא כְבוֹד־יהוה אֶל־כָל־הָעָם
וַתֵ֫צֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי יהוה וַתֹאכַל עַל־הַמִּזְבֵחַ אֶת־הָעֹלָה וְאֶת־הַחֲלָבִים וַיַּ֫רְא כָל־הָעָם וַיָּרֹ֫נּוּ וַיִּפְלוּ עַל־פְנֵיהֶם

καὶ εἰσῆλθεν Μωυσῆς καὶ Ααρων εἰς τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ ἐξελθόντες εὐλόγησαν πάντα τὸν λαόν, καὶ ὤφθη ἡ δόξα κυρίου παντὶ τῷ λαῷ.
καὶ ἐξῆλθεν πῦρ παρὰ κυρίου καὶ κατέφαγεν τὰ ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, τά τε ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ τὰ στέατα, καὶ εἶδεν πᾶς ὁ λαὸς καὶ ἐξέστη καὶ ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον.

Moses and Aaron entered the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people, and The Kabod YHWH appeared to all the people.
Then fire went out from the presence of YHWH and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar, and all the people saw it, so they shouted loudly and fell down with their faces to the ground.

The fire, which is The Kabod YHWH, moves from one place to another here, consuming the offering. The Kabod comes from, literally, "the faces of YHWH" (מִלִּפְנֵי יהוה), which often denotes the presence of YHWH. It is unclear whether v.24 is a restatement of v.23, where The Kabod is explicitly called YHWH, or whether the Two Powers are here described as separately present.

         After the establishment of conscription for the priesthood and a marching sequence for the camp, the people complained about their new life in the hearing (lit.: "ears") of YHWH. YHWH's anger was kindled, and then "The Fire of YHWH" burned the camp outskirts. Moses had to pray to God to relent. Soon afterward, the spies were dispatched into The Promised Land. They brought back their report. Most listened to the bad report, and some people began a rebellion. The rebels were about to stone Moses and Aaron, but then:

Numbers 14:10b-11, 14c-d

וּכְבוֹד יהוה נִרְאָה בְאֹ֫הֶל מוֹעֵד אֶל־כָל־בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
וַיֹּ֫אמֶר יהוה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה עַד־אָ֫נָה יְנַאֲצֻ֫נִי הָעָם הַזֶּה וְעַד־אָנָה לֹא־יַאֲמִ֫ינוּ בִי בְכֹל הָאֹת֫וֹת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂ֫יתִי בְקִרְבֹו

כִי־אַתָּה יהוה בְקֶ֫רֶב הָעָם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר־עַיִן בְעַיִן נִרְאָה׀ אַתָּה יהוה וַעֲנָֽנְךָ עֹמֵד עֲלֵהֶם וּבְעַמֻּד עָנָן אַתָּה הֹלֵך לִפְנֵיהֶם יוֹמָם וּבְעַמּוּד אֵשׁ לָֽיְלָה

καὶ ἡ δόξα κυρίου ὤφθη ἐν νεφέλῃ ἐπὶ τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ. καὶ εἶπεν κύριος πρὸς Μωυσῆν Ἕως τίνος παροξύνει με ὁ λαὸς οὗτος καὶ ἕως τίνος οὐ πιστεύουσίν μοι ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς σημείοις, οἷς ἐποίησα ἐν αὐτοῖς;
σὺ εἶ κύριος ἐν τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ, ὅστις ὀφθαλμοῖς κατʼ ὀφθαλμοὺς ὀπτάζῃ, κύριε, καὶ ἡ νεφέλη σου ἐφέστηκεν ἐπʼ αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐν στύλῳ νεφέλης σὺ πορεύῃ πρότερος αὐτῶν τὴν ἡμέραν καὶ ἐν στύλῳ πυρὸς τὴν νύκτα

 

But The Kabod YHWH appeared to all the sons of Israel at the Tent of Meeting. YHWH said to Moses, "How long will this people despise me, and how long will they not believe in me, in spite of the signs that I have done among them?"
[…Moses replied "that] you, YHWH, are amidst this people. That you, YHWH, are seen eye[s] to eye. That your cloud stands over them, and that you go before them as a pillar of cloud by day, and as a pillar of fire by night.

Here The Kabod is conflated with YHWH in the usual manner. The Kabod YHWH visibly appears, but then YHWH is the one who speaks. Even though The Kabod manifests in fire, the "pillar of cloud/pillar of fire" is ascribed exclusively to "YHWH," not "The Kabod YHWH" [Exod 13:21; 14:24; 33:9–11; Num 12:5; 14:14; Deut 31:15; Neh 9:7–12; Ps 99:7].

         The expression "eye to eye" is vivid rhetoric concerning the relationship of God to Israel. His manifest signs are presented as part of YHWH's complaint against the people in 14:11. Moses responds by describing the pre-eminent sign: the visible, physical presence of YHWH, traveling amidst His people. Seeing "eye to eye" is a salient element in Isaiah 52:610. The last data in Numbers:

Numbers 14:22


כָל־הָאֲנָשִׁים הָרֹאִים אֶת־כְבֹדִי וְאֶת־אֹתֹתַי אֲשֶׁר־עָשִׂ֫יתִי בְמִצְרַיִם וּבַמִּדְבָר וַיְנַסּוּ אֹתִי זֶה עֶ֫שֶׂר פְּעָמִים וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ בְקוֹלִי
 

all the people have seen my Kabod and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tested me now these ten times, and have not obeyed my voice

They tested YHWH 10 times in the desert (cf. 1 Cor 10:9). Here we have a supplementary data point where The Kabod and The Voice are conflated again. 

         

The Kabod YHWH and The Temple

         When Solomon dedicated The Temple, there was no guarantee the presence of God would indwell it as He had The Tabernacle. The account of the planning and building which Solomon undertook extends from 1 Kings 5:3 and 2 Chronicles 2:1 through until 1 Kings 7:51 and 2 Chronicles 5:1. Every man in Israel assembled for the final dedication. Solomon prepared 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep for sacrifice. Every single Levite musician was playing a cymbal, harp, or lyre; 120 Levites blew trumpets; and a choir joined them [2 Chr 5:12-13]. Solomon asked in his Prayer of Dedication, "Will Elohim truly dwell with Man?" God answered affirmatively by sending fire from Heaven to consume the burnt offerings, and filling The Temple with The Kabod YHWH [2 Chr 7:1-3].

The Kabod YHWH in Isaiah

         Isaiah revealed even more about The Kabod YHWH. Isaiah had a vision of the Lord's throne, recounted in 6:1-5. In the vision, Isaiah saw "Adonai" sitting on a high throne, with seraphim proclaiming, "Holy, holy, holy is YHWH Commander of Hosts (יהוה צְבָאוֹת)," and "מְלֹא כָל־הָאָ֫רֶץ כְבוֹדֹו." That last phrase could be translated as is traditional: "the whole earth is filled with His glory." It could also be translated "the fullness of the earth is His glory." Even though מְלֹא is a noun, the similarity of all other declarations in the Tanakh to the first option makes that one more likely. Since The Kabod has usually been represented as a localized manifestation of YHWH, one might ask how He could fill the whole earth. But there is biblical precedent: in Numbers 14:21, YHWH said, "As surely as I live and The Kabod Yahweh fills the earth…." So, in some sense The Kabod indeed fills the Earth now. It is unclear whether this is a conflation with The Ruah YHWH, or simply a general usage of כָבוֹד, referring possibly to His reputation, His benevolence, or even Creation.

         The Temple is filled with smoke, and Isaiah laments that he is ruined and unclean in the presence of the King who his eyes have seen, YHWH Commander of Hosts (cf. John 12:41). The sort of manifestation always seen in the Torah exhibits only two parallels here: the smoke is similar to the cloud, and the vision's setting is in the Temple, the dwelling place of The Kabod YHWH.   

          The remaining witness of Isaiah is too extensive to recount here. I will reproduce key texts of Isaiah 40 – 60, which lead up to a key declaration in Isaiah 60:1–2. Isaiah 40:3 reads, "A voice is calling in the wilderness, 'Clear the way for the Lord (ἡ ὁδός κυρίου / יהוה), make smooth in the desert a highway for our God (ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν / אלֹהֵינוּ)." Then comes this statement:

 

Isaiah 40:5

וְנִגְלָה כְבוֹד יהוה וְרָאוּ כָל־בָשָׂר יַחְדָו

καὶ ὀφθήσεται ἡ δόξα κυρίου καὶ ὄψεται πᾶσα σὰρξ τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ

And they will see The Kabod YHWH, and all flesh will see at one time (The Salvation of God)

They will see for themselves The Kabod YHWH, "at one time." (The LXX adds "The Salvation of God," which in Hebrew would be yeshuat YHWH, to the same referent; see Luke 3:4–6). The Kabod YHWH had been seen before, but largely as a special sign on Sinai and during the Exodus wandering. At one point in the future, a more particularized manifestation is prophesied to occur. Just a few verses later, Isaiah says, "But The Word of our God stands forever. Get yourself up on a mountain, O Zion, bearer of Good News...say to the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God' (הִנֵה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם)." There is room for metaphor here, but I think in light of the context of visible manifestation, there is also room for literalness. Then, The Spirit is included:

 

Isaiah 40:11-13

כְרֹעֶה עֶדְרֹו יִרְעֶה בִזְרֹעוֹ יְקַבֵּץ טְלָאִים וּבְחֵיקֹו יִשָּׂא עָלוֹת יְנַהֵל
מִי־מָדַד בְשָׁעֳלֹו מַיִם וְשָׁמַיִם בַזֶּ֫רֶת תִכֵּן וְכָל בַשָּׁלִשׁ עֲפַר הָאָ֫רֶץ וְשָׁקַל בַפֶּלֶס הָרִים וּגְבָעוֹת בְמֹאזְנָיִם
מִי־תִכֵּן אֶת־רוּחַ יהוה וְאִישׁ עֲצָתוֹ יוֹדִיעֶ֫נּוּ

Like a shepherd he shepherds his flock; he gathers up the lambs with his arm; he carries them close to his heart; he leads the ewes along. Who has measured out the waters in the hollow of his hand, or carefully measured the sky, or carefully weighed the soil of the earth, or weighed the mountains in a balance, or the hills on scales? Who comprehends The Spirit of YHWH, or gives him instruction as his counselor?

Psalm 23 says YHWH is "my Shepherd" (רֹעִי). Here YHWH measured out the dimensions of Creation. And without segue or division the passage presents The Spirit of YHWH as beyond the ways of humans; who are we to instruct Him? (See 1 Cor 2:9-16.)   

         Isaiah continues to talk about the special and chosen servant of YHWH, and Isaiah 58 exposits the theme of light. Verse 8 has the "light" of God's people "breaking out like the dawn" (cf. Matt 5:16) and The Kabod YHWH being one's rearguard. Chapters 59 and 60 continue to deal with the theme of light. The pièce de résistance will come in Isaiah 60:1-2, but first look at the verse which introduced "light":

 

Isaiah 59:9

ὑπομεινάντων αὐτῶν φῶς ἐγένετο αὐτοῖς σκότος, μείναντες αὐγὴν ἐν ἀωρίᾳ περιεπάτησαν.
We wait for light, but see only darkness; we wait for a bright light, but live in deep darkness.

The reader of Isaiah will recognize the parallel to Isaiah 9:1 (see also Matt 4:16). This light is symbolic of "justice" and "righteousness," which is expounded throughout Isaiah 59. Also notable:

 

Isaiah 59:15c-16

וַיַּ֫רְא יהוה וַיֵּ֫רַע בְעֵינָיו כִי־אֵין מִשְׁפָט
וַיַּ֫רְא כִי־אֵין אִישׁ וַיִּשְׁתוֹמֵם כִי אֵין מַפְגִיעַ וַתוֹשַׁע לוֹ זְרֹעֹו וְצִדְקָתוֹ הִיא סְמָכָֽתְהוּ

εἶδεν κύριος, καὶ οὐκ ἤρεσεν αὐτῷ, ὅτι οὐκ ἦν κρίσις.καὶ εἶδεν καὶ οὐκ ἦν ἀνήρ, καὶ κατενόησεν καὶ οὐκ ἦν ὁ ἀντιλημψόμενος, καὶ ἠμύνατο αὐτοὺς τῷ βραχίονι αὐτοῦ καὶ τῇ ἐλεημοσύνῃ ἐστηρίσατο.

Now YHWH saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.
And He saw that there was no man, was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His Own Arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him.

Now on the one hand, "hand" and "arm" are Semitisms for "power, capability," and the like. On the other hand, any Israelite standing as a mundane judge could have been called a representative of YHWH's hand/power. One reason to translate "his own arm" here is due to other Tanakh parallels of YHWH speaking as if acting Himself, saliently in Isaiah 62:11 – 63:6, where YHWH uses phrases like "all by myself" and the highly parallel, "I looked but there was no one to help" (וְאַבִיט וְאֵין עֹזֵר וְאֶשְׁתוֹמֵם וְאֵין סוֹמֵך וַת֫וֹשַׁע לִי זְרֹעִי וַחֲמָתִי הִיא סְמָכָֽתְנִי). 

         Very soon after this verse talking about YHWH not seeing an advocate and bringing about salvation by Himself, Isaiah 60 leads into the shining of YHWH Himself onto Jerusalem. Because the Hebrew text and Septuagint translation are rather disparate here, separate English translations are provided for each:

 

Isaiah 60:1-2

Φωτίζου φωτίζου, Ιερουσαλημ, ἥκει γάρ σου τὸ φῶς, καὶ ἡ δόξα κυρίου ἐπὶ σὲ ἀνατέταλκεν.
ἰδοὺ σκότος καὶ γνόφος καλύψει γῆν ἐπʼ ἔθνη, ἐπὶ δὲ σὲ φανήσεται κύριος, καὶ ἡ δόξα αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ σὲ ὀφθήσεται.

Be enlightened, be enlightened Jerusalem: for the light is come upon you! Yea, The Glory of The Lord has risen up upon you. Behold: obfuscation and darkness cover the Gentile world, but unto you The Lord is revealed, and His Glory is seen by you.

The original Hebrew:

ק֫וּמִי א֫וֹרִי כִי בָא אוֹרֵ֫ך וּכְבוֹד יהוה עָלַ֫יִך זָרָח
כִי־הִנֵּה הַחֹשֶׁך יְכַסֶּה־אֶ֫רֶץ וַעֲרָפֶל לְאֻמִּים וְעָלַיִך יִזְרַח יהוה וּכְבוֹדֹו עָלַיִך יֵרָאֶה

Arise, shine; for your light has come, | And The Kabod YHWH has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth | And deep darkness the peoples; |

But YHWH will rise upon you | And His Kabod will appear unto you.

Yet again we have the explicit statement that The Kabod YHWH will "appear" to men. The immediate context contrasts darkness and light. The Kabod YHWH manifested in fire and light as a special sign to the sons of Israel. But something new will happen in the future. The visions of the prophet Ezekiel continue to supplement these claims. 

The Kabod YHWH in the Exile

         The Prophet Ezekiel saw a vision while he was in Babylon, by the Kebar River. He saw The Kabod YHWH, and his description makes Exodus 24 much clearer:

 

Ezekiel 1:22, 1:25  2:1

וּדְמוּת עַל־רָאשֵׁי הַחַיָּה רָקִיעַ כְעֵין הַקֶּ֫רַח הַנּוֹרָא נָט֫וּי עַל־רָאשֵׁיהֶם מִלְמָ֫עְלָה׃

וַיְהִי־קוֹל מֵעַל לָרָקִיעַ אֲשֶׁר עַל־רֹאשָׁם בְעָמְדָם תְרַפֶ֫ינָה כַנְפֵיהֶן׃
וּמִמַּ֫עַל לָרָקִיעַ אֲשֶׁר עַל־רֹאשָׁם כְמַרְאֵה אֶֽבֶן־סַפִּיר דְמוּת כִסֵּא וְעַל דְמוּת הַכִּסֵּא דְמוּת כְמַרְאֵה אָדָם עָלָיו מִלְמָ֫עְלָה׃
וָאֵרֶא׀ כְעֵין חַשְׁמַל כְמַרְאֵה־אֵשׁ בֵית־לָהּ סָבִיב מִמַּרְאֵה מָתְנָיו וּלְמָ֫עְלָה וּמִמַּרְאֵה מָתְנָיו וּלְמַ֫טָּה רָאִיתִי כְמַרְאֵה־אֵשׁ וְנֹגַהּ לוֹ סָבִיב׃
כְמַרְאֵה הַקֶּ֫שֶׁת אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בֶעָנָן בְיוֹם הַגֶּ֫שֶׁם כֵן מַרְאֵה הַנֹּגַהּ סָבִיב הוּא מַרְאֵה דְמוּת כְבוֹד־יהוה וָאֶרְאֶה וָאֶפֹּל עַל־פָנַי וָאֶשְׁמַע ק֥וֹל מְדַבֵּר׃
וַיֹּ֫אמֶר אֵלָי בֶן־אָדָם עֲמֹד עַל־רַגְלֶיךָ וַאֲדַבֵּר אֹתָֽך׃

Above the living creatures was an awesome expanse of what looked like ice, stretched out over their heads. Then, as they stood with lowered wings, a voice came from above the expanse over their heads. And above the expanse was something like a sapphire throne. And above the sapphire throne was something like the appearance of a man upon it. I saw the appearance of His upper body was like amber, and there was a fiery aura around it. I saw the appearance of His lower body was like fire, and there was a bright aura around it. And the lower aura had the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the form of The Kabod YHWH. And when I saw Him, I fell upon my face. I heard the voice speaking, and He said to me, "Son of man, stand upon your feet and I will speak with you." 

Just as in Exodus 24, we have a blue expanse and God in the appearance of man (Exodus 24 said that under the feet of The God of Israel was something like a sapphire pavement). The two, salient elements of The Kabod YHWH, fire and brightness, are combined in their closest conjunction yet.

         In the next verse, The Spirit lifts Ezekiel to his feet after the voice's suggestion. It is unclear whether the voice is coming from The Kabod YHWH, The Ruah YHWH, or is disembodied as in all previous theophanies. After The Spirit lifts Ezekiel up out of the vision, he proclaims, "Bless The Kabod YHWH in His place!"

         Much of Ezekiel is filled with visions in which YHWH, The Kabod YHWH, and The Ruah YHWH are present and active simultaneously. One snippet I include here because of its similarity to Hebrews 1:3. The Kabod is described as נֹ֫גַהּ כְבוֹד יהוה, the radiance of The Kabod YHWH. The LXX translates with τό φέγγος τῆς δόξης κυρίου. Hebrews 1:3 renders it ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης. Apparently, φέγγος and ἀπαύγασμα have practically identical meaning, but the latter was in currency in the first century. Philo used it of The Logos's relation to The Father. Later, Hesychius used it pertaining to the radiance of the Sun (BDAG, ἀπαύγασμα). The phrase in Hebrews 1:3 is thus practically the same phrase as in Ezekiel 10:4.

         A final allusion of note is in Ezekiel 39:27-29. After YHWH has brought them back from the Exile in Babylon, YHWH says He will show Himself as holy (וְנִקְדַ֫שְׁתִי) through them, and that He will no longer hide His face/presence from them (פָנַי מֵהֶם), and that He will pour out His Spirit on them. This culminates in the vision in Ezekiel 43, wherein The Kabod YHWH returns to The Temple by the East Gate.

Conclusion

         The Kabod YHWH is marginally distinguished from YHWH, yet constantly conflated. The Kabod YHWH heard and responded to human speech [Exod 16:7], visibly appeared in the Wilderness of Sin [Exod 16:10], was called "The God of Israel" [Exod 24:10], descended upon Mount Sinai as a "consuming fire" [Exod 24:16–17], consecrated offerings [Exod 29:43], passed by Moses in lieu of The Father's "face" which cannot be seen [Exod 34:6], permanently dwelled within the Tabernacle once it was erected, itself within "The Cloud of YHWH" [Exod 40:34–35], physically consumed a burnt offering as a tendril of fire [Lev 9:24], killed Nadab and Abihu [Lev 10:2], consumed outskirts of the camp after the assembly of Israel complained against YHWH [Num 11:1], was associated with humans seeing YHWH "eye to eye" [Num 14:14], killed 250 of the Korahite rebels [Num 16:35; Jude 1:5], and spoke to Ezekiel in a vision [Ezek 8:5]. The Kabod YHWH is a visible, tangible, and interpersonal manifestation of YHWH. The Kabod YHWH is YHWH.

           {1} The spirantization of the Hebrew non-emphatic stops did not occur until around 50-1 B.C., according to P. Kyle McCarter Jr., "Hebrew," The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard (Cambridge: Cambridge, 2004), 330. The dagesh lene, a diacritic from a later era, is thus entirely superfluous to Hebrew pronunciation before that date.

           {2} HALOT, כָבוֹד.

           {3} All LXX citations are from Rahlfs, 1935. The English is my own translation.         

Written by Jack Kien, December 2017. Last revised March 2020.
 

bottom of page