The Feast Of Cover-Over -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:4 (Dec 1994)
Article: The Feast Of Cover-Over
Author: Meredith G. Kline


The Feast Of Cover-Over

Meredith G. Kline*

I. Avian Imagery And Deity

The first metaphor we meet with in the Bible likens the Creator-Spirit to a bird hovering over the deep-and-darkness (Gen 1:2). This same avian image is also a key feature in the Exodus 12 account of the paschal event, but it has remained hidden behind the mistranslation of the crucial verb pāsaḥ. Not “pass over” but “hover over” is the meaning of this word, as the present essay hopes to demonstrate.

But before investigating pāsaḥ, as well as the noun pesaḥ, a bit more background on the use of avian imagery for deity. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself “ (Exod 19:4). So the Lord described his guidance of Israel by the Glory-cloud at the exodus. Moses used this figure of the eagle and its young when reviewing these same historical realities in Deut 32:10–11. Significantly, in this Song of Moses God’s shepherding of Israel through the wilderness by the theophanic cloud is depicted in the distinctive language of Gen 1:2: as a birdlike hovering (rāḥap) over the unstructured world (tōhû).1

Bird imagery suggested itself naturally for this Glory theophany. First, it was a cloud formation, and clouds and birds belong to the same sphere of the sky, across which they fly. Isaiah parallels the two: “Who are these that fly as a cloud and as doves to their windows?” (Isa 60:8). Also, protective overshadowing is provided alike by the outspread wings of birds (cf. Deut 32:11; Pss 17:8; 91:4) and by clouds (cf. Ps 105:39; Exod 40:35 [LXX]).

Second, an angelic retinue is integral to the Glory-cloud theophany, and angels also share in the celestial realm of clouds and birds, through which they too are said to fly (Isa 6:6; Dan 9:21; Rev 14:6). Hence in symbolic representation angelic beings are winged. Most relevant here are the figures o...

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