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Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. [1904], at


THE Hebrew shakan, as is well known, signifies "to dwell," as, "And he was dwelling (shoken) in the plains of Mamre" (Gen. xiv. 13); "And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt (bishekon)" (Gen. xxxv. 22). This is the most common meaning of the word. But "dwelling in a place" consists in the continued stay in a place, general or special; when a living being dwells long in a place, we say that it stays in that place, although it unquestionably moves about in it, comp. "And he was staying in the plains of Mamre" (Gen. xiv. 13), and, "And it came to pass, when Israel stayed" (Gen. xxxv 22).

The term was next applied metaphorically to inanimate objects, i.e., to everything which has settled and remains fixed on one object, although the object on which the thing remains is not a place, and the thing itself is not a living being; for instance, "Let a cloud dwell upon it [the day]" (Job iii. 5); there is no doubt that the cloud is not a living being, and that the day is not a corporeal thing, but a division of time.

In this sense the term is employed in reference to God, that is to Say, to denote the continuance of His Divine Presence (Shechinah) or of His Providence in some place where the Divine Presence manifested itself constantly, or in some object which was constantly protected by Providence. Comp. "And the glory of the Lord abode" (Exod. xxiv. 16); "And I will dwell among the children of Israel" (Exod. xxix. 45); "And for the goodwill of him that dwelt in the bush" (Deut. xxxiii. 16). Whenever the term is applied to the Almighty, it must be taken consistently with the context in the sense either as referring to the Presence of His Shechinah (i.e., of His light that was created for the purpose) in a certain place, or of the continuance of His Providence protecting a certain object.

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