Shechinah is derived from the Hebrew verb 'sakan' or 'shachan'. In Biblical Hebrew the word means literally to settle, inhabit, or dwell, and is used frequently in the Hebrew Bible. (See e.g. Genesis 9:27, 14:13, Psalms 37:3, Jeremiah 33:16). In Mishnaic Hebrew the word is often used to refer to bird's nesting and nests. ("Every bird nests [shechinot] with its kind, and man with its like, Talmud Baba Kammah 92b.) and can also mean "neighbor" ("If a neighbor and a scholar, the scholar is preferred" Talmud Ketubot 85b). The word "Shechinah" also means "royalty" or "royal residence" ( The Greek word 'skene' - dwelling - is thought to be derived from 'shekinah' and 'sakan'. The word for Tabernacle, mishcan, is a derivative of the same root and is also used in the sense of dwelling-place in the Bible, e.g. Psalm 132:5 ("Before I find a place for God, mishcanot (dwelling-places) for the Strong One of Israel.") Accordingly, in classic Jewish thought, the Shekhina refers to extraordinary manifestation of divine spirituality, to the effect that, while Man is in proximity to the Shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable by Man.
The Shekinah is held by many to represent the feminine attributes of the presence of God (shekhinah being a feminine word in Hebrew), based especially on readings of the Talmud. The word 'Matronit' is also employed to represent this usage.
The public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, published in 1897, says:
Shechinah – a Chaldee word meaning resting-place, not found in Scripture, but used by the later Jews to designate the visible symbol of God's presence in the tabernacle, and afterwards in Solomon's Temple. When the Lord led out of Egypt, he went before them "in a pillar of a cloud." This was the symbol of his presence with his people. God also spoke to Moses through the 'shekhinah' out of a burning bush. For references made to it during the wilderness wanderings, see Exodus 14:20; 40:34-38; Leviticus 9:23, 24; Numbers 14:10; 16:19, 42.
It is probable that after the entrance into Canaan this glory-cloud settled in the tabernacle upon the ark of the covenant in the most holy place. We have, however, no special reference to it till the consecration of the temple by Solomon, when it filled the whole house with its glory, so that the priests could not stand to minister (1 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Chr. 5:13, 14; 7:1-3). Probably it remained in the first temple in the holy of holies as the symbol of Jehovah's presence so long as that temple stood. It afterwards disappeared.
The Shekhinah is referred to as manifest in the Tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem throughout Rabbinic literature. It is also reported as being present in the acts of public prayer, ("Whenever ten are gathered for prayer, there the Shechinah rests" Talmud Sanhedrin 39a); righteous judgment ("when three sit as judges, the Shechinah is with them." Talmud Berachot 6a), and personal need ("The Shechinah dwells over the headside of the sick man's bed" Talmud Shabbat 12b; "Wheresoever they were exiled, the Shechinah went with them." Megillah 29a).
Forms of manifestation:
The Talmud reports that the Shekhinah is what caused prophets to prophecy and King David to compose his Psalms Pesachim 117a). The Shechinah manifests itself as a form of joy, connected with prophecy and creativity: Talmud Pesachim 117a) The Talmud also reports that "The Shechinah does not rest amidst laziness, nor amidst laughter, nor amidst lightheadedness, nor amidst idle conversation. Rather, it is amidst the joy associated with a mitzvah that the Shechinah comes to rest upon people, as it is said: 'And now, bring me for a musician, and it happened that when the music played, God's hand rested upon him' [Elisha] [2 Kings 3:15]" (Pesachim 117a). Thus the Shekhinah is associated with the transformational "Spirit of God" regarded as the source of prophecy:
After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:
And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. (1 Samuel10:5-6 KJV).
The prophets make numerous references to metaphorical visions of the presence of God, particularly in the context of the Tabernacle or Temple, particularly visions of thrones or robes that fill the Sanctuary, that are traditionally associated with and described as visions of the Shekhinah. Isaiah wrote "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the Temple." (Isaiah 6:1). Jeremiah implored "Do not dishonor the throne of your glory" (Jeremiah 14:21) and referred to "Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thou place of our sanctuary" (Jeremiah 17:12). Ezekiel spoke of "the glory of the God of Israel was there [in the Sanctuary], according to the vision that I saw in the plain."