How does the LORD “dwell in the thick darkness?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

We read this expression twice in a King James Bible. “Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness (1 Kings 8:12). “Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness(2 Chronicles 6:1). In what sense does God “dwell in the thick darkness?”

Back when God appeared to the nation Israel at Mount Sinai, Scripture states the following: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD” (Exodus 19:9). Also, Exodus 20:21: “And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” This was repeated 40 years later, in Deuteronomy. “And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness(Deuteronomy 4:11). “These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me” (Deuteronomy 5:22). Finally, Leviticus 16:2: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.”

When God manifested His presence to ancient Israel, it was in the form of a shadowy cloud. It may help us to think of it as resembling a fog, mist, or haze. This is the “Shekinah glory” (“dwelling glory”) as found above the Mercy Seat, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, that sat in the innermost room of the Tabernacle. Go to Exodus chapter 40: “[34] Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [35] And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. [36] And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: [37] But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. [38] For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” (See also Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:14-15; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:18; Hebrews 9:5.)

Returning to King Solomon’s words as found at the beginning of our study, we understand they are made in relation to his Temple in Jerusalem. You can read 1 Kings chapters 5–7 and 2 Chronicles chapters 2–4 for all the details. After its completion, Solomon dedicated the edifice with a speech to the people and a prayer to the LORD. Whereas the LORD had been abiding with Israel in the Tabernacle, now Solomon besought Him to move into a new house. “Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever” (1 Kings 8:12-13). “Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever” (2 Chronicles 6:1-2).

The LORD most certainly approved of Solomon’s Temple, as recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 5: “[13] It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; [14] So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.”

Also see:
» Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?
» How could Jonah flee from God’s presence?
» Can you explain Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me a sinner?”