The Pillar of Fire—Who, What and Why?


Numbers 9:22–23, Abode … rested … journeyed. How do these concepts relate to our spiritual walk? How do we know when to rest or abide, and when to journey? How does YHVH show us his will for our lives? Matthew Henry in his commentary on this passage says, “Thus we are taught to see [Elohim] always near us, both night and day. As long as the cloud rested on the tabernacle, so long as they continued in the same place. There is no time lost, while we are waiting for [Elohim’s] time. When the cloud was taken up, they removed, however comfortably they were encamped. We are kept at uncertainty concerning the time of our putting off the earthly house of this tabernacle, that we may be always ready to remove at the command of [YHVH]. It is very safe and pleasant going when we see [Elohim] before us, and resting where he appoints us to rest. The leading of this cloud is spoken of as signifying the guidance of the blessed Spirit.” (Read Pss 37: 3–7, 23–24; 73:24; Prov 3:6; Rom 8:14.) Are we ready to lay our lives down, die to self, and to follow YHVH’s perfect will for our lives no matter how much it may stretch our faith?

Some Additional Insights on the Pillar of Fire That Guided the Israelites

In Exodus 13:21 we read,

And YHVH went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.

Then in Exodus 14:19 it is written,

And the Angel of Elohim, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them.

Who is this “Angel” of Elohim (in other places he is called “the Angel of YHVH”)? Angel is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew word for angel is palak and simply means “a heavenly or a human messenger.” Prophetically this word can refer to human messengers such as the one coming in the spirit of Elijah prior to Messiah’s coming, as well as to the Messiah himself (“Messenger/Malak of the covenant” in Mal 3:1). In Genesis 32:22–30, Jacob wrestles with a man the Scriptures identifies as the Malak of YHVH (Hos 12:3–5) and whom Jacob called Elohim (Exod 32:30). This same Individual redeemed Jacob (Gen 48:16) and is identified with the Malak of Elohim … the Elohim of Bethel (31:11 and 13) and appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Exod 3:2). Now we find this same figure leading Israel in the wilderness. Again who is he? Stephen in Acts 7:37–39 identifies the Messiah (i.e. “that Prophet” Moses mentioned in Deut 18:15) with the “Angel” or Heavenly Messenger which spoke to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai and who gave them the “living oracles,” who the Israelites later rejected for pagan gods. Paul elsewhere said of that same Personage that the Israelites did “all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Messiah” (1 Cor 10:4).

Of that pillar of fire that led them we see that it gave them light. Light, in the Scriptures, is synonymous with Torah (see YHVH’s Instructions in Righteousness, A Messianic Believer’s Introduction to the Torah at ). We have seen that Yeshua the Messiah is the Light of the World—the Word of Elohim in living form (personified).

In Nehemiah 9:12 and 19 we read:

Moreover you led them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.… Yet you in your manifold mercies forsook them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go. (emphasis added)

Light in the Scriptures is a metaphor for the Torah while the term the way (Hebrew, derek) means “the way of Torah righteousness.” The Scriptures uses the term way(s)/derek as a reference to the Torah in the following passages (and many more, as well):

Therefore you shall keep the commandments of YHVH your Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. (Deut 8:6)

And now, Israel, what does YHVH thy Elohim require of you, but to fear YHVH your Elohim, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve YHVH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut 10:12)

For if you shall diligently keep all these [Torah] commandments which I command you, to do them, to love YHVH your Elohim, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him. (Deut 11:22)

And a curse, if you will not obey the [Torah] commandments of YHVH your Elohim, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which you have not known. (Deut 11:28)

I have chosen the way of [Torah] truth; your judgments have I laid before me. (Ps 119:30)

I will run the way of your [Torah] commandments, when you shall enlarge my heart. (Ps 119:32)

Teach me, YHVH, the way of your statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. (Ps 119:33)

The Messenger of Elohim from within the pillar of fire not only directed the Israelites in the way (Exod 13:21; Deut 1:33); they should go, but the Messenger spoke to Moses from within the pillar as well:

And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the Tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the Tabernacle, and YHVH talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the Tabernacle door, and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And YHVH spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp, but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the Tabernacle. (Exod 33:9–11)

And YHVH descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of YHVH. (Exod 34:5)

And YHVH came down in a cloud, and spoke unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders, and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. (Num 11:25)


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