Saturday, March 8, 2008


“Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the LORD filled the Tabernacle.” Moses does go into the Tent of Meeting in Numbers 7:89. This is easily explained away by saying that the cloud would lift when God summoned Moses so that he could enter the Tent of Meeting, then it would return when Moses left. Rashi translates “because” as “when,” and other commentators follow his lead, making the second clause a modifier for what would seem like a disagreement with different verses of Torah, which of course cannot happen, ever.

I am still left with a question, though, about God’s presence in the tent. That God can be held to one location is a dubious assertion at best in my opinion. God is everywhere and fills everything. There is godliness within us and saturated into the fiber of our universe. So to declare that God’s presence fills the Tent of Meeting is redundant, because God’s presence fills everywhere. Therefore, there would be no lack of space for Moses in the Tent of Meeting because we already occupy the space of God’s presence just by being in the world.

It seems to me that the cloud serves as a symbol of God’s presence at rest. If the community was up and moving when the cloud was up and moving and at rest when the cloud was at rest, it would stand to reason that when the cloud was at rest God was not ready for business, so to speak. Or even better, God wanted Moses to take leadership in his own hands and not consult God for every aspect of Israelite life. Keep in mind this comes just after Moses’ face-to-face encounter with God. God gives Moses a once in a lifetime glimpse into the very real presence of God, and he is not to rely on it regularly. When the cloud is there, Moses remembers that he can do this on his own. He can lead the people into the Promised Land and complete their journey from Egyptian degradation into liberation in Israel.

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