Sh’kkinah is from Hebrew and shechinah, shekinah in English. None of those words appear in purely English translations of the Bible. David H. Stern, the translator of the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) defines Sh’kkinah as: divine presence, the manifest glory of God present with men and uses the word many times.
A good example of Sh’kkinah in the New Testament is where the glory of God was shown around the shepherds.
In the countryside near near by were some Shepherds spending the night in the fields guarding their flocks, when angel of ADONAI appeared to them and the Sh’kkinah of ADONAI shone around them. They were terrified; but the angel said to them, Don’t be afraid, because I am here announcing to you good news that will bring great joy to all people. This very day in the town of David, there was born for you a deliverer who is the Messiah the Lord. Lk 2:8-11 CJB
In the next article, we will explore Shechinah/Sh’kkinah/Shekinah in the New Testament.
Sh’kkinah caught the attention of Moses at the burning bush that didn’t burn up.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. Ex 3:2-6 KJV
Sh’kkinah led the Isralites
Sh’kkinah was first manifested to the Israelites when God was delivering them from Egyptian bondage. He led them with a cloud by day and a flame by night for the next 40 years.
They traveled from Sukkat and set up camp at Etam, at the edge of the desert. ADONAI went ahead of them in a column of cloud during the daytime to lead them on their way, and at night in a column of fire to give them light: thus they could travel both day and night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of cloud by night went away from in the front of the people Exodus 13:20-22 CJB
Sh’kkinah on Mount Sinai
When God called Moses to mount Sinai to give him the 10 commandments of His covenant and tell Moses how to have the people follow them, God’s presence terrified the people. The penalty for the people touching the mount was death (Ex 19:10-15). “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (Ex 19:18).
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them. And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them. So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them. Ex 19:16-20 Cf: Hebrews 12:18-21
Moses goes up mount Sinai
And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them. And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights. Ex 24:12-18
At the end of 40 days, the LORD told Moses the people were worshiping a golden calf. (Ex 32:7-9). The LORD said to Moses,”Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. (Ex 32:10 KJV). Moses interceded for the people and the LORD spared them. When Moses came down from the mount he saw the people worshiping the idol. In anger, he broke the tablets of 10 commandments and burned the calf (Ex32:11-29). Then, Moses interceded more with the LORD and the LORD told him what He would do (Ex 32:30-35). God replaced the tablets of the 10 commandments (Exodus 34).
Shechinah in the desert tabernacle
Exodus 40:33-34. So Moses finished the work — As when God had finished this earth, which he designed for man’s habitation, he made man, and put him in possession of it; so when Moses had finished the tabernacle, which was designed for God’s dwelling-place among men, God came and took possession of it. By these visible tokens of his coming among them, he testified both the return of his favour, which they had forfeited by the golden calf, and his gracious acceptance of their care and pains about the tabernacle. Thus God showed himself well pleased with what they had done, and abundantly rewarded them. A cloud covered the tent — The same cloud which, as the chariot or pavilion of the Shechinah, had come up before them out of Egypt, now settled upon the tabernacle, and hovered over it, even in the hottest and clearest day; for it was none of those clouds which the sun scatters. This cloud was intended to be a token of God’s presence, constantly visible day and night to all Israel. It was also a protection of the tabernacle: they had sheltered it with one covering upon another, but, after all, the cloud that covered it was its best guard; and a guide to the camp of Israel in their march through the wilderness. While the cloud continued on the tabernacle, they rested; when it removed, they removed and followed it, as being purely under a divine conduct. And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle — The Shechinah now made an awful entry into the tabernacle, passing through the outer part of it into the most holy place, and there seating itself between the cherubim. It was in light and fire, and, for aught we know, no otherwise, that the Shechinah made itself visible. With these the tabernacle was now filled; yet, as before, the bush, so now the curtains were not consumed; for to those that have received the anointing, the majesty of God is not destroying. Yet now so dazzling was the light, and so dreadful was the fire, that Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, at the door of which he attended till the splendour was a little abated, and the glory of the Lord retired within the veil. But what Moses could not do, our Lord Jesus has done, whom God caused to draw near and approach, and, as the forerunner, He is for us entered, and has invited us to come boldly even to the mercy-seat. Barnes
Shechinah in Solomon’s Temple
Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the LORD, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up. And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, 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. 1 Kings 8:1-10
The cloud—the visible symbol of the divine presence—the Shechinah of the Targums—which had been promised before the ark was begun Exodus 29:43, and had filled the tabernacle as soon as it was completed Exodus 40:34, and which had probably been seen from time to time during the long interval when we have no express mention of it, now once more appeared in full magnificence, and took, as it were, possession of the building which Solomon was dedicating. The presence of God in the temple henceforth was thus assured to the Jews, and His approval of all that Solomon had done was signified. Barnes
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quoted is from the KJV