The notion of a pillar is of a shaft or isolated pile either supporting or not supporting a roof. But perhaps the earliest application of the pillar was the votive or monumental, This in early times consisted of nothing but a single stone or pile of stones. (Genesis 28:18; 31:40) etc. The stone Ezel, (1 Samuel 20:19) was probably a terminal stone or a way-mark. The "place" set up by Saul (1 Samuel 15:12) is explained by St, Jerome to be a trophy, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. So also Jacob set up a pillar over Rachel's grave. (Genesis 36:20) The monolithic tombs and obelisks of Petra are instances of similar usage. Lastly, the figurative use of the term "pillar," in reference to the cloud and fire accompanying the Israelites on their march or as in (Song of Solomon 3:6) and Reve 10:1 Is plainly derived from the notion of an isolated column not supporting a roof.
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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