"It is written, and Alhim said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creation that is with you for perpetual generations, I do set (nathati) my bow in the cloud! (Gen. IX. 12. 13). The word 'nathati' here refers to the past, as the bow from the days of Adam had always been witnessed in the clouds. In his further comments on these words Rabbi Simeon said: 'In the vision of Ezechiel we read, "And above the firmament that was over their heads, was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone" (Ez. I. 21)Ez. 1:26. Preceding these words, scripture states, 'I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of Shaddai (Almighty), the voice of speech as the noise of a host, when they stood they let down their wings.' We have here given a description of the four celestial cherubic beings by whom the firmament is supported. They were all joined together by their wings which covered their forms. When they extended their wings, they uttered in far resounding tones hymns of praise to the glory of God, that reverberated throughout the universe incessantly. The burthen of their song was, 'The Lord hath made known his salvation, his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen' (Ps. XCVIII. 2). It is also stated that when they moved, there was heard a sound as of a great hostEz. 1:24 on the march, like that of
the celestial angelic host when their legions with united voice, utter their hymns of praise to the Holy One, saying, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, all the earth is full of his glory' (Is. VI. 3). As the four cherubic angels of the heavenly chariot turn to the four quarters of the world, their cry is still the same, 'Holy! holy! holy!' Above them is the glittering firmament, whose cardinal quarters reflect the image of each of their forms when turned towards them, as also the colors peculiar to each of them. They are the forms of a lion, an ox, an eagle and a man. In three of these, the human countenance is so prominent, that the lion resembles a lion man and so with the two others, that are termed the eagle man, the ox man, and thus as scripture71b states, 'They four had the face of a man.'Ez. 1:10 As the firmament was above them it not only reflected their forms but also the colors peculiar to each of them and that correspond to the four letters of the sacred name I. H. V. H. and visible to man, as green, red, white and blue, and which when refracted form twelve different shades and hues, and therefore it is stated, 'as the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud, in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord' (Ez. I. 28). This then is the mystical meaning of the words, 'I do set my bow in the cloud.' The term 'my bow' has the same signification as that which was said of Joseph. 'This bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel' (Gen. XLIX. 24). As Joseph was a just man, it is said of him, 'He placed his bow in God', that is the covenant, symbolizing equally the bow and the Only Just One, these two signifying both one and the same thing. Noah being also a just man, the covenant made with him was symbolized by the bow and the arms of his hands were made strong (vayapozow). This word refers to the light proceeding from the bow of the covenant which is the source of joy and happiness to all the world and of which it is written, 'More to be desired is it than gold, yet than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honey comb' (Ps. XIX. 10). This light was the cause of Joseph's mental and spiritual illumination, and therefore is he known as and termed, 'Joseph the upright!' It is termed the bow of the covenant, as the ray in the how though refracted in three others is one way, so is the celestial light reflected downward by the firmament supported by the four cherubic forms of the heavenly or divine chariot. Therefore
is it forbidden to gaze at the rainbow that appears in the heaven because thereby the Schekina of which it is an image is profaned. As the great archangels standing in presence of the Holy One71b-72a bow their heads, not daring to regard the divine majesty, so on the appearance of the bow in the heavens ought we to bend ourselves with feelings of reverence and worship of the Divine Being. When it appears, the earth feels assured that the lost harmony between the celestial and terrestrial worlds has been restored. We have already observed that it consists of a ray of light composed of three other rays blended and conjoined as one, forming a mystery only dimly perceptible to initiates of the hidden wisdom. It is further added, 'and above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne as of the appearance of a sapphire stone' (Ez. I. 26). This stone is the central point (shethiya) of the whole world and is the basis of the Holy of Holies in the sanctuary at Jerusalem. This foundation stone is the sacred celestial throne placed above the four cherubic beings whose forms are engraved on the four sides of the heavenly or divine chariot and symbolized the traditional law. 'And upon the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man upon it,' symbolizes of the written law. Hence we conclude it is to be observed and regarded as higher and superior to the traditional. This throne being the foundation stone, Jacob who is the image of the man beheld in vision by the prophetic seer Ezechiel, placed his head upon it ere he went to sleep in Bethel.