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The Cloud and the Glory

34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; 37but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. 38For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.

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34. Then a cloud covered the tent The holiness of the tabernacle was proved by this signal or pledge, for the people assuredly knew that it had not been set up in vain, but that the promise given before was actually fulfilled, and that it was chosen to be the dwelling-place of God, who would be the Leader and Keeper of His people. For it was not a natural thing that the cloud should settle over the sanctuary in which the Ark of the Covenant was deposited; and much less so that by day a cloud should be seen and a fire by night, especially when this did not occur once only, but when they succeeded each other in perpetual alternation. It is fitly said, that when the tabernacle was covered by the cloud, it was at, the same time filled with the glory of God; for this was a magnificent distinction, that an earthly edifice should be rendered illustrious by a more than heavenly ornament, as if God’s majesty were visibly presented to them.

Whereas before Moses had been concealed and separated from the people by the cloud, its density is now said to have prevented even him from entering; thus, then, ought their reverence and admiration of the place to have been increased, when the greatness of its glory was a hinderance to their holy Prophet. It is probable that by his example not only the rest of the multitude, but all the Levites also, were admonished that they should not endeavor to penetrate further than they were allowed. For, after the possession of the priesthood was transmitted to his brother, he, as well as his descendants, was excluded from that sacred dignity.

38. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle. Moses more distinctly explains what he had said generally respecting the cloud, viz., that by night a fiery column appeared, because the cloud would not have been visible amidst the darkness. A second explanation is also added, that this did not happen once or twice only, but “in all their journeys;” so that they were never without a sight of the cloud, which might be a witness of God’s presence, whether, being settled on the tabernacle, it commanded them to rest, or, by its ascension, gave them the sign for removing the camp. Now, the equability of this proceeding, in all the variety of times and marches, did not a little conduce to certainty; for, if the cloud had daily accomplished the same course, this very regularity would have obscured the power’ of God; but when for a whole year it did not move, and then frequently proceeded to a new place, and now by its. guidance pointed out a longer journey, now a shorter one, by this very diversity the paternal care of God, who was never unmindful of His people, more conspicuously manifested itself.