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Shade, Shadow

SHADE, SHADOW (צֵל, H7498, defense, shadow, is the normal OT word; there is also צַלְמָ֫וֶת, H7516, grave, calamity, and tr. shadow of death by KJV and RSV. Greek has σκία, shade or adumbration). Most Biblical references are fig.: only twice does an actual shadow play a significant part in the narrative—when Hezekiah asked that the shadow on the sundial might reverse its normal direction of movement, as a sign from God (2 Kings 20:10), and when the sick were brought into the streets so that the shadow of Peter might fall on them as he passed (Acts 5:15).

The innumerable fig. references make use of an image which, like so much of the Bible’s imagery, is drawn straight from the Middle Eastern environment. In a land of heat and violent storms the need for shelter would be readily apparent and, since much of the land was treeless, it was, more often than not, in the shade of a rock or crag that the shelter was to be found.

The most significant reference in this category is to the Tabernacle and its contents in the wilderness (Heb 8:5; 10:1). The writer to the Hebrews explains that the real structure in the desert, in which the Levitical offerings took place, was only an illustration in visible form of spiritual reality, or spiritual truth. There exist in heaven, he suggests, spiritual facts of such character that, when they are tr. onto the material plane, they take this particular form. The relationship of man to God can be concretized in this particular way. But, he adds, these material forms were never more than a foreshadowing of a new and more dramatic material expression of the spiritual reality—the coming and the sacrifice of Christ. Thus he challenges the normal human pattern of thought, in which material objects throw insubstantial shadows: in this case, it is the spiritual, insubstantial but entirely real, which casts its shadow in a material form, in advance of its own final establishment.

See also Tabernacle.