Inquiring Minds - Shekhinah

Michaelangelo's Sculpture of MosesQ. What is “shekhinah?” I remember that it has something to do with the light on the face of Moses when he brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai.

A. Shekhinah (which is also sometimes spelled “shekinah”) is a Hebrew word that is used to refer to the indwelling presence of God. The root of the word is the Hebrew verb for “dwell.” According to the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, the word “shekhinah” itself doesn’t appear in Scripture, but “it is rooted” in the Biblical concepts of God’s presence on Earth and the belief that “God came to dwell in the flesh of Jesus Christ.”

There is also an interesting sidelight to this. The word you might be looking for is “keren” (sometimes spelled “qaran”) which refers to the “shining” of Moses’ face in the Book of Exodus. Most modern scholars now accept this translation of “keren,” but Early Church Fathers translated the word as “horn.” For centuries, art representations of Moses took that translation literally. Which is why, among other things, the famous Michelangelo sculpture of the seated Moses shows the Lawgiver with two small but definite horns projecting out of his forehead.

(image from

Librarian Judy Woodward compiles the most interesting reference questions and sends them to the Roseville Review. Got a fascinating question for us? Ask A Librarian!


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.