used to support a building ( Judges 16:26 Judges 16:29 ); as a trophy or memorial ( Genesis 28:18 ; 35:20 ; Exodus 24:4 ; 1 Samuel 15:12 , A.V., "place," more correctly "monument," or "trophy of victory," as in 2 Samuel 18:18 ); of fire, by which the Divine Presence was manifested ( Exodus 13:2 ). The "plain of the pillar" in Judges 9:6 ought to be, as in the Revised Version, the "oak of the pillar", i.e., of the monument or stone set up by ( Joshua 24:26 ).
The notion of a pillar is of a shaft or isolated pile either supporting or not supporting a roof. But perhaps the earliest application of the pillar was the votive or monumental, This in early times consisted of nothing but a single stone or pile of stones. ( Genesis 28:18 ; 31:40 ) etc. The stone Ezel, ( 1 Samuel 20:19 ) was probably a terminal stone or a way-mark. The "place" set up by Saul ( 1 Samuel 15:12 ) is explained by St, Jerome to be a trophy. So also Jacob set up a pillar over Rachels grave. ( Genesis 36:20 ) The monolithic tombs and obelisks of Petra are instances of similar usage. Lastly, the figurative use of the term "pillar," in reference to the cloud and fire accompanying the Israelites on their march or as in ( Solomon 3:6 ) and Reve 10:1 is plainly derived from the notion of an isolated column not supporting a roof.
pil'-ar (matstsebhah, `ammudh; stulos):
In a good many cases the Revised Version (British and American) substitutes "pillars" for the King James Version "images" (matstsebhoth, Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; 1 Kings 14:23, etc.). In Genesis 19:26, where "pillar of salt" is given, the word is netsibh; in 1 Samuel 2:8 it is matsuq; while in most other single uses the Revised Version margin gives variant renderings, as in Judges 9:6 (mutstsabh), the Revised Version margin "garrison"; in 1 Kings 10:12 (mic`adh), the Revised Version margin "`a railing,' Hebrew `a prop'"; in 2 Kings 18:16 ('omenoth), the Revised Version margin "doorposts." The matstsebhoth were (1) memorial pillars, as in the "pillars" of Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 28:18,22; compare Genesis 31:13; 35:14), in covenant with Laban (Genesis 31:45), at Rachel's grave (Genesis 35:20); Absalom's pillar (2 Samuel 18:18). Such pillars were legitimate (theory of a fetishistic character is not grounded); it is predicted in Isaiah 19:19 that such a pillar would be set up to Yahweh at the border of Egypt. (2) Idolatrous pillars, in Canaanitish and other heathen worships. These were to be ruthlessly broken down (the King James Version "images," see above; Exodus 23:24; 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5, etc.; compare Leviticus 26:1). See IMAGES. The other word, `ammudh, is used of the pillar of cloud and fire (see below); of the pillars of the tabernacle and temple (see under the word); of the two pillars JACHIN AND BOAZ (which see); poetically of the "pillars" of heaven, of earth (Job 9:6; 26:11; Psalms 75:3; 99:7), etc. In the few instances of the word in the New Testament, the use is figurative. James, Cephas and John were reputed to be pillars" of the church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9); the church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15); he that overcomes is made "a pillar" in the temple of God (Revelation 3:12); a strong angel had feet "as pillars of fire" (Revelation 10:1).
Pillar of Cloud and Fire:
The visible manifestation of the divine presence in the journeyings of Israel at the time of the Exodus. Yahweh, it is narrated, went before the people "by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light ..... The pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, departed not from before the people" (Exodus 13:21,22; compare Exodus 14:19,24; Numbers 14:14). When the congregation was at rest, the cloud abode over the tabernacle (Exodus 40:36; Numbers 9:17; 14:14). When Yahweh wished to communicate His will to Moses, the pillar descended to the door of the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:9-11; Numbers 12:5; Deuteronomy 31:15). These descriptions are not to be rationalistically explained; what is depicted is a true theophany. Criticism has sought to establish discrepancies between the allusions to the cloud in the JE and the P parts of the narrative, but these are not made out without straining; e.g. it is not the case that JE alone represents Yahweh as speaking with Moses in the cloud at the door of the tabernacle. The same representation is found in Exodus 29:42,43, ascribed to Pillar. An acute discussion of the alleged discrepancies may be seen in H.M. Wiener, Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism, 82.
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