pil'-ar (matstsebhah, `ammudh; stulos): In a good many cases the Revised Version (British and American) substitutes "pillars" for the King James Version "images" (matstsebhoth, Ex 34:13; De 7:5; 1Ki 14:23, etc.). In Ge 19:26, where "pillar of salt" is given, the word is netsibh; in 1Sa 2:8 it is matsuq; while in most other single uses the Revised Version margin gives variant renderings, as in Jg 9:6 (mutstsabh), the Revised Version margin "garrison"; in 1Ki 10:12 (mic`adh), the Revised Version margin "`a railing,' Hebrew `a prop'"; in 2Ki 18:16 ('omenoth), the Revised Version margin "doorposts." The matstsebhoth were (1) memorial pillars, as in the "pillars" of Jacob at Bethel (Ge 28:18,22; compare Ge 31:13; 35:14), in covenant with Laban (Ge 31:45 ff), at Rachel's grave (Ge 35:20); Absalom's pillar (2Sa 18:18). Such pillars were legitimate (theory of a fetishistic character is not grounded); it is predicted in Isa 19:19 that such a pillar would be set up to Yahweh at the border of Egypt. (2) Idolatrous pillars, in Canaanitish and other heathen worships. These were to be ruthlessly broken down (the King James Version "images," see above; Ex 23:24; 34:13; De 7:5, etc.; compare Le 26:1). See IMAGES. The other word, `ammudh, is used of the pillar of cloud and fire (see below); of the pillars of the tabernacle and temple (see under the word); of the two pillarsJACHIN AND BOAZ (which see); poetically of the "pillars" of heaven, of earth (Job 9:6; 26:11; Ps 75:3; 99:7), etc. In the few instances of the word in the New Testament, the use is figurative. James, Cephas and John were reputed to be pillars" of the church at Jerusalem (Ga 2:9); the church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1Ti 3:15); he that overcomes is made "a pillar" in the temple of God (Re 3:12); a strong angel had feet "as pillars of fire" (Re 10:1).
Pillar of Cloud and Fire:
The visible manifestation of the divine presence in the journeyings of Israel at the time of the Exodus. Yahweh, it is narrated, went before the people "by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light ..... The pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, departed not from before the people" (Ex 13:21-22; compare Ex 14:19,24; Nu 14:14). When the congregation was at rest, the cloud abode over the tabernacle (Ex 40:36; Nu 9:17; 14:14). When Yahweh wished to communicate His will to Moses, the pillar descended to the door of the Tent of Meeting (Ex 33:9-11; Nu 12:5; De 31:15). These descriptions are not to be rationalistically explained; what is depicted is a true theophany. Criticism has sought to establish discrepancies between the allusions to the cloud in the JE and the P parts of the narrative, but these are not made out without straining; e.g. it is not the case that JE alone represents Yahweh as speaking with Moses in the cloud at the door of the tabernacle. The same representation is found in Ex 29:42-43, ascribed to Pillar. An acute discussion of the alleged discrepancies may be seen in H.M. Wiener, Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism, 82 ff.