I read the other day that “Pillar of Defense” was a Biblical name, but I couldn’t find that exact phrase in scripture. So I did a little digging and found that it’s actually an allusion to something in Hebrew that is scriptural. Here’s the explanation from Tablet Magazine:
Where does the name come from? In Hebrew, the campaign has been dubbed עמוד ענן (“Amud Anan,” or “Pillar of Cloud”). The phrase is a direct biblical allusion to the divine cloud which guided the Israelites through the desert and shielded them from those who might do them harm. As a couple representative verses from Exodus 14:19-20 state:
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.
They [the Egyptians] shot arrows and catapult stones at them, but the angel and cloud caught them.
For a campaign intended to halt the barrage of rockets currently raining down on southern Israel, “Pillar of Cloud” is thus a particularly apt title. Just as the cloud protected the Israelites from Egyptian projectiles, so to does the IDF hope to protect Israel’s citizens. However, a literal translation of עמוד ענן—i.e. “Pillar of Cloud”—fails to convey the meaning of the biblical allusion to a lay audience. As such, the IDF chose “Pillar of Defense” as the campaign’s English designation, a conceptual translation which makes clear the intended meaning of the Hebrew.