While שְׁכִינָה doesn't occur in the תנ״ך, the verb of its root שָׁכַן does, as well as שֵׁ֫כֶן … n.m. dwelling [physical structure]; שָׁכֵן … adj. inhabitant, neighbor; מִשְׁכָּן … dwelling-place, ‘tabernacle’. שְׁכִינָה is ususally associated with כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙. The one instance in the תנ״ך that כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙ is the subject of a verb form of שָׁכַן is Exodus 24:16 (וַיִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙) in the context of Moses receiving the Law at Sinai. שָׁכַן is indirectly associated with כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙ in Exodus 40:35 (שָׁכַ֥ן עָלָ֖יו הֶעָנָ֑ן וּכְב֣וֹד יְהוָ֔ה מָלֵ֖א אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּֽן) context of the Tabernacle, with parallel clauses. In 1 Kings 8:11–12 כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙ and שָׁכֵן are in adjacent verses, but apparently have no close association (context of the Temple in Jerusalem).

Thus, the original meaning of שְׁכִינָה appears to relate to Moses and the Law. While שְׁכִינָה has been interpreted as associated with כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙ elsewhere in the תנ״ך, the Glory of the LORD כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙ is usually with verbs meaning filled or appeared.

Given the context, שְׁכִינָה appears to be feminine because it is an abstract noun meaning dwelling. In other words the meaning is not a concrete object such as a dwelling place or person dwelling. It is characteristic of an action of the כְּבוֹד־יְהוָה֙.

Abstract nouns [non-concrete things] are [often] morphologically feminine. Van der Merwe, C., Naudé, J., Kroeze, J., Van der Merwe, C., Naudé, J., & Kroeze, J. (1999). A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (electronic ed., p. 179). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

I would like to get responses from those better at Hebrew, especially the Hebrew use of this word.

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    דברים יב ה כִּ֠י אִֽם־אֶל־הַמָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֨ר יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ מִכׇּל־שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֔ם לָשׂ֥וּם אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שָׁ֑ם לְשִׁכְנ֥וֹ תִדְרְשׁ֖וּ וּבָ֥אתָ שָּֽׁמָּה
    – kouty
    Oct 4, 2020 at 3:39
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    the name is there, that is that there is a possibility to note, to discover, to find the being of hashem
    – kouty
    Oct 4, 2020 at 3:41
  • but look only to the site that the LORD your God will choose amidst all your tribes as His habitation, to establish His name there. Jewish Publication Society. (1985). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (Deut 12:5). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 4, 2020 at 12:06
  • I didn't understand why שכינה cannot mean a dwelling place or person dwelling. Usages of the root שכן for others besides God: Adam, Gen. 3:24; Japheth, Gen. 9:27; Abraham, Gen. 14:13; Ishmael, Gen. 16:12; The descendants of Ishmael, Gen. 25:18; Isaac, Gen. 26:2; Jacob, Gen. 35:22; Zebulun, Gen. 49: 13; Israelites, Num. 14:30, 23:9, 24:2, Deut. 33:28; Gad, Deut. 33:20; etc, etc (continues through the Tanach, too). Point is, while שכינה in reference to God is the most famous of the usages, it's not the only one. It's used to describe the dwelling of a multitude of other Biblical figures.
    – Harel13
    Oct 4, 2020 at 19:29
  • @Harel13 The only reason is that words based on that root already existed with those meanings. The problem is we don't have literature as old as the Tanakh that used this word; only in the Midrash, with a specific religious meaning. We don't know if the word existed before the Midrash.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 5, 2020 at 9:06

1 Answer 1


Apparently שְׁכִינָה is feminine because it is an abstract noun meaning dwelling.

Well, not all abstract nouns are feminine; that's a tendency, not a rule. One counterexample that comes to mind is רָצוֹן, meaning "desire". And in Hebrew, as in English, it's very common for the same noun to have both abstract and concrete senses. For example, בִּנְיָן, like English building, can mean either "the act of building" or "a building". (Admittedly, only the latter sense is found in the Bible; but the former sense is found in the Mishna — like שְׁכִינָה — so it's still quite ancient.)

You're right that שְׁכִינָה is formed as the action noun (≈gerund) of the verb שָׁכַן (meaning "to dwell"), so if you're going strictly by its construction, its meaning would be "the act of dwelling".

But I'm not sure it makes sense to try to derive the meaning strictly from its construction; I'm not aware of שְׁכִינָה ever actually being used in reference to anyone's act of dwelling besides G-d's. The 1984 edition of the Even-Shoshan Dictionary lists only the one sense, explaining that it derives from the use of Exodus 25:8 (וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם, "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them").

  • Thanks for the link; what I need for classical Hebrew outside of the MT. I agree about the feminine. For example: אֲנִ֣י יְהוָ֔ה עֹ֥שֶׂה חֶ֛סֶד מִשְׁפָּ֥ט וּצְדָקָ֖ה בָּאָ֑רֶץ כִּֽי־בְאֵ֥לֶּה (Jer. 9:23, MT).
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 2, 2020 at 9:09
  • Hmm, shisha means to smoke waterpipe, which has become such a huge trend in Europe in recent years thanks to arab imigrants, and bauen "to build, set up" may be short for preparing a pipe. Either way I could see how G-Dy was going to get blunted in the bomb shelter. You know what I mean, a hookah. Seriously, the word shisha is apparently from Persian, from a sense bottle, glass (cp. e.g. pipe), but no further etymology is offered. For analogy, consider build, "dwelling", "more at bottle."
    – vectory
    Oct 4, 2020 at 15:54
  • I mean, to create, make, do is the most primitive sense to expect underlying any verb. Whether it had anything to do with recreation might be an entirely different matter though, lol, I'm so sorry,
    – vectory
    Oct 4, 2020 at 15:58
  • And now for something completely different, consider coquina, "kitchen". It is usually derived via coquus from PIE *pekw-, but if long o in cook remains unexplained, this view has to be rejected. Intermediate, cooky serves for analogy: "kitchen" can be explained as oven(room), hearth, e.g. in German, as short for Küchen-Ofen "kitchen oven", after reanalysis of a hypothetically original **Kuchen-Ofen "cooky oven" so to speak. This doesn't mean *pekw- had to be rejected, but the reflex PSlav *poti "sweat" e.g. should be reconsidered along with *peh3- "fat".
    – vectory
    Oct 4, 2020 at 16:39
  • It's really not attractive to compare shchina and coquina directly without any understanding of Vulgar Latin's C (cp. Caesar "big cheese, šah", Ita. /ˈtʃeːzare/, Port. /ˈsɛ.zɐɾ/, etc.). The cultural parallels from individual loans, say hemp, to scripture and religion do not need repeating, yet, the development of metal work in Indo-Europeans remains obscure; certainly tangential to ovens. Refer perhaps to the frog plague creeping up into Egypt's "ovens"--Oh no, not the ovens, of all places! On the other hand, compare for semantics En. stove, Ger. Stube (living room, kitchen).
    – vectory
    Oct 4, 2020 at 17:05

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