Christ in the Old Testament (Part XI)

Christ in the Old Testament, Theology, Worship

Christ in the OT 11 Christ the Glory of God

Christ: The Glory of God

Most people probably think of the glory (Heb. kabod; Gk. doxa) of God in a very abstract sense, like God’s reputation or his honor. “Glory” literally means “to be weighty, full of good things.” Certainly “praise” is not far removed from glory either. Each of these are good and right to ascribe to the glory of God. But this is a series on Christ in the OT, and we are going to take a look at how the glory of God is especially related to him.

A good place to start is with Moses. At one point he asks, “Please show me your glory” (Ex 33:18). The glory of the LORD appears in only a couple of places prior to this. In Exodus 16:10, “The glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.” The glory is not the cloud, but is in the cloud. It is difficult to see how or why this would be talking about God’s honor or praise due him. We see the same thing eight chapters later when, “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud” (24:16). “He?” We believe the “he” here refers to the Glory, for again, the glory and cloud are separate, and he is calling from inside the cloud.

Before discovering what Moses is actually asking for (and what God gives him in response), consider a couple more things from earlier in Exodus. First, as we saw with the Angel of the LORD, Moses has been talking to the Angel. This angel has been shrouded in flame (Ex 3:2) and in a cloud. “The angel of God … moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them” (Ex 14:19). Just before this, it says that “the LORD” went before them “in a pillar of cloud … and by night in a pillar of fire” (13:21). Just like the glory, the LORD is in the cloud. On Mount Sinai, “The LORD” promised, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud” (Ex 19:9). As we have seen, “The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it…” (24:16).

The word “dwelt” here is important. It is the verb shakan. It is from this that the famous “Shekinah” derives. Shekinah is not a biblical word, but it is found throughout the Targums as another buffer word (like Memra/word).[1] Thus, “Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen 28:16) becomes, “The Glory of the Lord’s Shekinah dwells in this place, and I knew it not. (Gen 28:16 PJE). “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3:6) becomes, “He was afraid to look upon the height of the glory of the Shekinah of the Lord” (Ex 3:6 JPE). This last one is interesting for us, because we have seen that it is the Angel of the LORD Moses is afraid to look at.

Now, earlier in Exodus 33, it tells us that Moses entered into the tent and the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance, and the LORD would speak to Moses (33:9). “The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD” (34:5). (Recall our discussion of The Name). Two things here. First, Numbers 12:8 tells us, “With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form [Heb: temunah] of the LORD.” The form of the LORD? The Greek translates “form” here as doxa or “glory.”

tabernacle-in-wildernessSecond, there would later be a place where the LORD will choose “to make his name dwell there” (Deut 16:2). And yet, the Psalm says, “O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” (Ps 26:8). We see this emerge clearly in the dedication of the temple by Solomon. First, they bring the ark (God’s throne-seat) to the Most Holy Place inside the newly built temple (1 Kgs 8:6). Then, the “cloud” fills the house of the LORD (10). The LORD now lives here in a special sense, even though the highest heavens cannot contain him. Then, the cloud and glory are linked as God’s presence (11). Solomon recognizes that God will dwell in his temple, though the universe cannot contain him (27). Finally, the LORD appears to Solomon (9:1) telling him that now his “name is there” (3). We are supposed to understand from this that the name is the glory veiled by the cloud.[2]

One more OT prophet is important to look at here. Ezekiel see the “likeness as the appearance of a man” (Ezek 1:26). He looked like gleaming metal and his lower body was like fire. He concludes, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the Glory of the LORD” (28). Later in the book, the Glory is the LORD (Ezek 9:3-4).

The NT says some pretty amazing things about all this. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John equates the logos, the glory, and the Son. They are all the same thing. It is into this Glory as a Person idea that John later writes, “Isaiah saw his Glory” (Isa 12:41).[3] Read epexegetically, Acts 7:55 may very well say, “He [Stephen] … saw the glory of God, that is Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

And then there is Philippians 2:6-11. Christ exists “in the form of God” and the “likeness of men” (6-7). Recall that Moses beheld the “form [Heb: temunah; GK: doxa] of the LORD.” The Hebrew word was translated as “glory” by the LXX, but that same Hebrew word is translated as “likeness” (homoioma) in the Second Commandment (Ex 20:4). This happens to be the word used for “likeness” in Php 2:7. The old hymn here is not saying that Christ only appeared to be one of us, but really wasn’t. Rather, it is saying that he is the Glory of God. Thus DDD notes, “‘taking the form of a slave’, ‘becoming in the likeness of men’; and ‘being found in the fashion as a man’ (vv 7-8) … Phil 2:6 would seem to say that Christ is the divine Glory. The same idea is expressed by the title, ‘image of the invisible God”; in the beginning of the hymn of Christ in Col 1:15-20).[4]

In light of all this, it seems to me that Moses was not asking to see the Father (whom Jesus says no man has seen, or can see). He was asking to see the face of the preincarnate Second Person, in whom he was trusting (Heb 11:26); unshrouded from the cloud and fire (and the angel?). God granted that he might see his unshrouded backside, but not his face. Think about this. Moses asks to see God’s glory, and he shows him his “backside.” Not an abstract idea, but a person. The glory and the person are mysteriously united together.

But in the incarnation, God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isa 60:1). “Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph 5:14).


[1] One Bible dictionary says, “In the later rabbinic sources does the Shekinah become a separate entity created by God as an intermediary between God and man.” The same dictionary says, “In the Targums ‘shekinah,’ ‘glory of God,’ and ‘word of God’ are used synonymously. “Glory,” in Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1943.

[2] Meredith Kline believes that the Shekinah-glory is the Holy Spirit (“Kingdom Prologue, Lecture 14, 2012, p. 2; last accessed 8-16-2014. He is close. It is better to see the cloud and fire as images of the Spirit who then enshrouds the Word-Angel-Glory-Name person inside. This is the way the Revelator saw it, “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud”  (Rev 10:1).

[3] Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the Lord (Adonai)” becomes “I saw the glory of the LORD” (6:1 Isaiah Targum), which becomes, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Shekinah of the King of the worlds, the Lord of hosts” (Isa 6:5 IST).

[4] J. E. Fossum, “Glory,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 351 [348-52]. This entire entry is extremely helpful in grounding our discussion.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

2 thoughts on “Christ in the Old Testament (Part XI)

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