1 Kings 8:12 New International Version

Then Solomon said, "The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud;

dark cloud
בָּעֲרָפֶֽל׃ (bā·‘ă·rā·p̄el)
Preposition-b, Article | Noun - masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 6205: Cloud, heavy cloud

In https://biblehub.com/matthew/20-16.htm, 21 versions use the word "dark" to translate this verse. 4 versions use "thick" and did not use the word "dark". Some use both.

New American Standard Bible

Then Solomon said, "The LORD has said that He would dwell in the thick cloud.

New Living Translation

Then Solomon prayed, “O LORD, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness.

Which is the most appropriate?

  • 1
    Does the density of the cloud obscure light ? Or is the 'cloud' a 'darkness' in and of itself ? +1 – Nigel J Sep 5 '20 at 15:18
  • 1
    Precisely, I couldn't have said it better myself. – Tony Chan Sep 5 '20 at 15:19

The Hebrew does not have a separate word (thick or dark) acting as an adjective modifying "cloud". Instead there is a single word, עֲרָפֶל (araphel) which occurs just 15 times in the OT: Ex 20:21, 4;11, 5:22, 2 Sam 22;10, 1 Kings 8:12, 2 Chron 6:1, Job 22:13, 38:9, Ps 18:9, 97:2, Isa 60:2, Jer 13:16, Eze 34:12, Joel 2:2, Zeph 1:15.

The BDB listed meaning is:

עֲרָפֶל noun masculine cloud, heavy cloud (perhaps from above √ + ל afformative; Late Hebrew = Biblical Hebrew; Syriac ; ᵑ7 עֲרָפֵילָא; Mandean ארפילא NöM 126, 128; on vocaliz. see BaNB 160 and against him SchwZAW x (1890), 178 who proposes עַרְמֶּל); — ׳ע in which God dwells Exodus 20:18 (Gi; van d. H. Exodus 20:21), 1 Kings 8:12 2 Chronicles 6:1; + עָנָן Deuteronomy 4:11 (also חשֶׁח), Deuteronomy 5:19; Psalm 97:2; Job 22:13 see בַּעַד; תַּחַת רַגְלָיו ׳ע 2 Samuel 22:10 = Psalm 18:10; as swaddling-bands of sea Job 38:9; figurative of misery Isaiah 60:2 ("" חשֶׁח); of ׳יs judgment Jeremiah 13:16 ("" צַלְמָוֶת), as a past day ׳יוֺם עָנָן וַע Ezekiel 34:12 = (of future day of ׳י) Zephaniah 1:15 ("" יוֺם חשֶׁח וַאֲפֵלָה) = Joel 2:2 ("" id.).

Thus, the meaning is clear - it is a thick, heavy cloud that either obscures light, or, creates gloom, eg, Deut 4:11, 5:22, etc, depending on the context.

In 1 Kings 8:12, this makes the meaning easy to determine. The thick heavy cloud obscures the visage of the the LORD but does not necessarily imply darkness. On the contrary, we find in 1 John 1:5 -

And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

Thus, I understand the thick cloud ensures that God remains unseen (John 1:18), but not in darkness.

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