As the giver of necessary rain, clouds were regarded with awe in ancient Israel, and God is celebrated as dwelling in them (Ps. 68: 4). In the J tradition the people are said to be led by Yahweh in the form of a pillar of cloud (Exod. 13: 21) which at night became luminous. In an angry address to Aaron and Miriam he spoke out of the cloud (Num. 12: 5), and in the Temple at Jerusalem his presence (Hebrew, shekinah) is signified by a cloud (1 Kgs. 8: 10–11).

A cloud therefore is established by NT times as a recognizable symbol for transcendence; at the Transfiguration Jesus and the disciples are overshadowed by a cloud (Mark 9: 7) and at the Ascension a cloud is described to signify Jesus' exaltation into heaven (Acts 1: 9).