The glory cloud in Hebrews

We recently covered the Levitical sacrifices in our small group. To close our discussion, I had us read through Hebrews 9 & 10. Shortly after, it struck me that elements of the imagery carry forward into Hebrews 11 & 12. Here’s the gist of my thoughts:

  • God’s glory cloud hovered over the tabernacle (Exodus 40:36 among others).
  • Leviticus 1 details the whole burnt offering, which states that the animal burned on the alter is a pleasing aroma to God. As Leithart has argued in A House For My Name, the emphasis is not on the destructive fire, but rather the process of turning to smoke.
  • Thus, you can picture the animal substitute being, in a sense, glorified and rising as smoke to join the glory cloud.
  • Hebrews 9 & 10 extensively discuss the sacrifices and their import.
  • Hebrews 11 then describes the faith of saints who have gone on to glory.
  • Hebrews 12 opens with a reference to this “great cloud of witnesses.” In the context, it now seems to me that this is a reference to the imagery engaged in chapters 9 & 10 and serves to join chapters 9 through 11 into a whole. These saints have passed through death and abide with God in the cloud. The use of the word ‘cloud’ of all possible words to allude to a multitude seems too closely aligned to the preceding passages to be a mere accident of word usage.
  • Later in Hebrews 12 we are told that we have come to “Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem” and not simply a “mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm.”
  • Here, too, we find a reference to the glory cloud, as Hebrews 12 is referring back to Exodus 19, which states that “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.”

I find it interesting that the thematic use of the cloud comes toward the end of Hebrews. Anyone out there know if the book as a whole is structured to follow the sacrificial rite (laying of hands, slaughter, presentation of blood, turn to smoke, fellowship meal)?

3 Comments

  1. Joshua
    Jun 4, 2002

    Very interesting point… Very cool blog!

  2. geri Mehta
    Mar 19, 2004

    It is interesting that you posted this article on the internet and I have not found others that referred to the biblical glory cloud, but to morning glories and blues bands.
    Hungry for the glory? The glory cloud as in 1 and 2 Chronicles has manifested in 2 churches that I know of and we have a video tape of one. I wasn’t in either service, but am definitely aware of the change in the people who were – there is so much more that is happening – if interested and unaware, one website is “moreglory.com”. The glory cloud, because it is so holy, is not talked about openly yet, but those who are hungry can have hope. Worship is the key.
    PTL – bless you

    Geri

  3. Anonymous
    Mar 19, 2004

    It is interesting that you posted this article on the internet and I have not found others that referred to the biblical glory cloud, but to morning glories and blues bands.
    Hungry for the glory? The glory cloud as in 1 and 2 Chronicles has manifested in 2 churches that I know of and we have a video tape of one. I wasn’t in either service, but am definitely aware of the change in the people who were – there is so much more that is happening – if interested and unaware, one website is “moreglory.com”. The glory cloud, because it is so holy, is not talked about openly yet, but those who are hungry can have hope. Worship is the key.
    PTL – bless you

    Geri