IN THE BIBLE
The Bible is not a single book, but a collection of volumes composed by different authors living in various countries over a period of more than a millennium. In these circumstances, divergencies of emphasis (cf. Kings with Chronicles), outlook (cf. Jonah with Nahum), and even of fact (cf. Gen. 26:34 with 36:2–3) are to be expected. These factors have also affected the biblical presentation of the concept of God. There are passages in which Israel's monotheism is portrayed in unalloyed purity and incomparable beauty (I Kings 19:12; Isa. 40:18), and there are other verses in which folkloristic echoes and mythological reflexes, though transmuted and refined, appear to obscure the true character of the Hebrew concept of the divine (Gen. 2 and 3). Notwithstanding these discrepancies the Bible is essentially a unity; its theology is sui generis and must be studied as a whole to be seen in true perspective. This total view of biblical doctrine does not seek to blur differences and to harmonize the disparate; rather it resolves the heterogeneous elements into a unitary canonical ideology – the doctrine of the final editors of the Bible. It blends the thoughts, beliefs, and intuitions of many generations into a single spiritual structure – the faith of Israel – at the heart of which lies the biblical idea of God. It is this complete and ultimate scriptural conception of the Deity that will be described and analyzed in this section.
The One, Incomparable God
God is the hero of the Bible. Everything that is narrated, enjoined, or foretold in biblical literature is related to Him. Yet nowhere does the Bible offer any proof of the Deity's existence, or command belief in Him. The reason may be twofold: Hebrew thought is intuitive rather than speculative and systematic, and, furthermore, there were no atheists in antiquity. When the psalmist observed: "The fool hath said in his heart 'There is no God'" (Ps. 14:1), he was referring not to disbelief in God's existence, but to the denial of His moral governance. That a divine being or beings existed was universally accepted. There were those, it is true, who did not know YHWH (Ex. 5:2), but all acknowledged the reality of the Godhead. Completely new, however, was Israel's idea of God. Hence this idea is expounded in numerous, though not necessarily related, biblical passages, and, facet by facet, a cosmic, awe-inspiring spiritual portrait of infinite magnitude is built up. Paganism is challenged in all its aspects. God is One; there is no other (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:21; 46:9). Polytheism is rejected unequivocally and absolutely (Ex. 20:3–5). There is no pantheon; even the *dualism of Ormuzd and Ahriman (of the Zoroastrian religion) is excluded (Isa. 45:21); apotheosis is condemned (Ezek. 28:2ff.). Syncretism, as distinct from identification (Gen. 14:18–22), which plays a historical as well as a theological role in paganism, is necessarily ruled out (Num. 25:2–3; Judg. 18). Verses like Exodus 15:11 – "Who is like Thee, O Lord, among the gods?" – do not lend support to polytheism, but expose the unreality and futility of the pagan deities. The thought is: Beside the true God, how can these idol-imposters claim divinity? The term "sons of gods" in Psalms 29:1 and 89:7 refers to angels, the servants, and worshipers of the Lord; there is no thought of polytheism (see E.G. Briggs, The Book of Psalms (ICC), 1 (1906), 252ff.; 2 (1907), 253ff.). The one God is also unique in all His attributes. The prophet asks: "To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?" (Isa. 40:18). Though the question is rhetorical, the Bible in a given sense provides a series of answers, scattered over the entire range of its teaching, which elaborate in depth the incomparability of God. He has no likeness; no image can be made of Him (Ex. 20:4; Deut. 4:35). He is not even to be conceived as spirit; the spirit of God referred to in the Bible alludes to His energy (Isa. 40:13; Zech. 4:6). In Isaiah 31:3, "spirits" parallels "a god" (?el, a created force), not the God, who is called in the verse YHWH. Idolatry, though it lingered on for centuries, was doomed to extinction by this new conception of the Godhead. It is true that the Torah itself ordained that images like the cherubim should be set up in the Holy of Holies. They did not, however, represent the Deity but His throne (cf. Ps. 68:5); its occupant no human eye could see. Yet the invisible God is not a philosophical abstraction; He manifests His presence. His theophanies are accompanied by thunder, earthquake, and lightning (Ex. 19:18; 20:15; Hab. 3:4ff.). These fearful natural phenomena tell of His strength; He is the omnipotent God (Job 42:2). None can resist Him (41:2); hence He is the supreme warrior (Ps. 24:8). God's greatness, however, lies not primarily in His power. He is omniscient; wisdom is His alone (Job 28:23ff.). He knows no darkness; light ever dwells with Him (Dan. 2:22); and it is He, and He only, who envisions and reveals the future (Isa. 43:9). He is the source of human understanding (Ps. 36:10), and it is He who endows man with his skills (Ex. 28:3; I Kings 3:12). The classical Prometheus and the Canaanite Kôtharand-?asis are but figments of man's imagination. The pagan pride of wisdom is sternly rebuked; it is deceptive (Ezek. 28:3ff.); but God's wisdom is infinite and unsearchable (Isa. 40:28). He is also the omnipresent God (Ps. 139:7–12), but not as numen, mana, or orenda. Pantheism is likewise negated. He transcends the world of nature, for it is He who brought the world into being, established its laws, and gave it its order (Jer. 33:25). He is outside of time as well as space; He is eternal. Everything must perish; He alone preceded the universe and will outlive it (Isa. 40:6–8; 44:6; Ps. 90:2). The ever-present God is also immutable; in a world of flux He alone does not change (Isa. 41:4; Mal. 3:6). He is the rock of all existence (II Sam. 22:32).
The Divine Creator
God's power and wisdom find their ultimate expression in the work of creation. The miracles serve to highlight the divine omnipotence; but the supreme miracle is the universe itself (Ps. 8:2, 4 [1, 3]). There is no theogony, but there is a cosmogony, designed and executed by the divine fiat (Gen. 1). The opening verses of the Bible do not conclusively point to creatio ex nihilo. The primordial condition of chaos (tohu and bohu) mentioned in Genesis 1:2 could conceivably represent the materia prima out of which the world was fashioned; but Job 26:7 appears to express poetically the belief in a world created out of the void (see Y. Kaufmann, Religion, 68), and both prophets and psalmists seem to substantiate this doctrine (Isa. 42:5; 45:7–9; Jer. 10:12; Ps. 33:6–9; 102:26; 212:2). *Maimonides, it is true, did not consider that the Bible provided incontrovertible proof of creatio ex nihilo (Guide, 2:25). The real criterion, however, is the overall climate of biblical thought, which would regard the existence of uncreated matter as a grave diminution of the divinity of the Godhead. God is the sole creator (Isa. 44:24). The celestial beings ("sons of God") referred to in Job 38:7, and the angels who, according to rabbinic aggadah and some modern exegetes, are addressed in Genesis 1:26 (cf. 3:22) were themselves created forms and not co-architects or co-builders of the cosmos. Angels are portrayed in the Bible as constituting the heavenly court, and as taking part in celestial consultations (I Kings 22:19ff.; Job 1:6ff.; 2:1ff.). These heavenly creatures act as God's messengers (the Hebrew mal?akh and the Greek ?γγελος, from which the word "angel" is derived, both mean "messengers") or agents. They perform various tasks (cf. Satan, "the Accuser"), but except in the later books of the Bible they are not individualized and bear no names (see *Angels and Angelology). Nor are they God's only messengers; natural phenomena, like the wind (Ps. 104:4), or man himself, may act in that capacity (Num. 20:16). Some scholars think that since the Bible concentrated all divine powers in the one God, the old pagan deities, which represented various forces of nature, were demoted in Israel's religion to the position of angels. The term shedim (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37), on the other hand, applied to the gods of the nations, does not, according to Y. Kaufmann, denote demons, but rather "no-gods," devoid of both divine and demonic powers. The fantastic proliferation of the angel population found in pseudepigraphical literature is still unknown in the Bible. It is fundamental, however, to biblical as well as post-biblical Jewish angelology that these celestial beings are God's creatures and servants. They fulfill the divine will and do not oppose it. The pagan notion of demonic forces that wage war against the deities is wholly alien and repugnant to biblical theology. Even Satan is no more than the heavenly prosecutor, serving the divine purpose. The cosmos is thus the work of God above, and all nature declares His glory (Ps. 19:2, 13ff.). All things belong to Him and He is the Lord of all (I Chron. 29:11–12). This creation theorem has a corollary of vast scientific and social significance: the universe, in all its measureless diversity, remains a homogeneous whole. Nature's processes are the same throughout the world, and underlying them is "One Power, which is of no beginning and no end; which has existed before all things were formed, and will remain in its integrity when all is gone – the Source and Origin of all, in Itself beyond any conception or image that man can form and set up before his eye or mind" (Haffkine). There is no cosmic strife between antagonistic forces, between darkness and light, between good and evil; and, by the same token, mankind constitutes a single brotherhood. The ideal is not that of the ant heap. Differentiation is an essential element of the Creator's design; hence the Tower of Babel is necessarily doomed to destruction. Although uniformity is rejected, the family unity of mankind, despite racial, cultural, and pigmentary differences, is clearly stressed in its origin (Adam is the human father of all men) and in its ultimate destiny at the end of days (Isa. 2:2–4). The course of creation is depicted in the opening chapter of the Bible as a graduated unfolding of the universe, and more particularly of the earth, from the lowest levels of life to man, the peak of the creative process. God, according to this account, completed the work in six days (that "days" here means an undefined period may be inferred from Gen. 1:14, where time divisions are mentioned for the first time; cf. also N.H. Tur-Sinai, in EM, 3 (1958), 593). The biblical accounting of the days, however, is not intended to provide the reader with a science or history textbook but to describe the ways of God. Running like a golden thread through all the variegated contents of the Bible is the one unchanging theme – God and His moral law. Of far greater significance than the duration of creation is the fact that it was crowned by the Sabbath (Gen. 2:1–3), bringing rest and refreshment to the toiling world. The concept of the creative pause, sanctified by the divine example, is one of the greatest spiritual and social contributions to civilization made by the religion of Israel. The attempts to represent the Assyro-Babylonian šabattu or šapattu as the forerunner of the Hebrew Sabbath are without foundation. The former was a designation for the ill-omened 15th day of the month, and the notions associated with it are as polarically different from those of the Sabbath, with its elevating thoughts of holiness and physical and spiritual renewal, as a day of mourning is from a joyous festival.
God in History
The Sabbath did not mark the retirement of the Deity from the world that He had called into being. God continued to care for His creatures (Ps. 104), and man – all men – remained the focal point of His loving interest (Ps. 8:5ff.). The divine providence encompasses both nations (Deut. 32:8) and individuals (e.g., the Patriarchs). Cosmogony is followed by history, and God becomes the great architect of the world of events, even as He was of the physical universe. He directs the historical movements (ibid.), and the peoples are in His hands as clay in the hands of the potter (Jer. 18:6). He is the King of the nations (Jer. 10:7; Ps. 22:29). There is a vital difference, however, between the two spheres of divine activity. Creation encountered no antagonism. The very monsters that in pagan mythology were the mortal enemies of the gods became in the Bible creatures formed in accordance with the divine will (Gen. 1:21). Nevertheless, the stuff of history is woven of endless strands of rebellion against the Creator. Man is not an automaton; he is endowed with free will. The first human beings already disobeyed their maker; they acquired knowledge at the price of sin, which reflects the discord between the will of God and the action of man. The perfect harmony between the Creator and His human creation that finds expression in the idyll of the Garden of Eden was disrupted, and never restored. The revolt continued with Cain, the generation of the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. There is a rhythm of rebellion and retribution, of oppression and redemption, of repentance and grace, and of merit and reward (Jer. 18:7–10). Israel was the first people to write history as teleology and discovered that it had a moral base. The Bible declares that God judges the world in righteousness (Ps. 96:13); that military power does not presuppose victory (Ps. 33:16); that the Lord saves the humble (Ps. 76:10) and dwells with them (Isa. 57:15). The moral factor determines the time as well as the course of events. The Israelites will return to Canaan only when the iniquity of the Amorite is complete (Gen. 15:16); for 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for accepting the defeatist report of the ten spies (Num. 14:34); Jehu is rewarded with a dynasty of five generations for his punitive action against the house of Ahab; and to Daniel is revealed the timetable of redemption and restoration (Dan. 9:24). It is this moral element in the direction of history that makes God both Judge and Savior. God's punishment of the wicked and salvation of the righteous are laws of the divine governance of the world, comparable to the laws of nature: "As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before fire, let the wicked perish before God…" (Ps. 68:2–3; cf. M.D. Cassuto, in Tarbiz, 12 (1941), 1–27). Nature and history are related (Jer. 33:20–21, 25–26); the one God rules them both. The ultimate divine design of history, marked by universal peace, human brotherhood, and knowledge of God, will be accomplished in "the end of days" (Isa. 2:2–4; 11:6ff.), even as the cosmos was completed in conformity with the divine plan. Man's rebellions complicate the course of history, but cannot change the design. God's purpose shall be accomplished; there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Isa. 66:22), for ultimately man will have a new heart (Ezek. 36:26–27).
God and Israel
Within the macrocosm of world history there is the microcosm of Israel's history. It is natural that in the context of national literature the people of Israel should receive special and elaborate attention, although the gentile world, particularly in prophetic teaching, is never lost sight of. The Bible designates Israel ?am segullah, "a treasured people," which stands in a particular relationship to the one God. He recognized Israel as His own people and they acknowledge Him as their only God (Deut. 26:17–18). He redeems His people from Egyptian bondage, brings them to the promised land, and comes to their aid in periods of crisis. Israel's election is not, however, to be interpreted as a form of favoritism. For one thing, the Exodus from Egypt is paralleled by similar events in the histories of other peoples, including Israel's enemies (Amos 9:7). In truth, Israel's election implies greater responsibility, with corresponding penalties as well as rewards: "You only have I singled out of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2; see *Chosen People). The choice of the children of Israel as God's people was not due to their power or merit; it was rather a divine act of love, the fulfillment of a promise given to the Patriarchs (Deut. 7:7–8; 9:4–7). The Lord did, however, foresee that the spiritual and moral way of life pioneered by Abraham would be transmitted to his descendants as a heritage. Subsequently this concept found material expression in the covenant solemnly established between God and His people at Sinai (Ex. 24:7ff.). This covenant demanded wholehearted and constant devotion to the will of God (Deut. 18:13); it was an everlasting bond (Deut. 4:9). Thus to be a chosen people it was incumbent upon Israel to become a choosing people (as Zangwill phrased it). The rhythm of rebellion and repentance, retribution and redemption, is particularly evident in the story of Israel. Yet the fulfillment of the divine purpose is not in doubt. God's chosen people will not perish (Jer. 31:26–27). It will be restored to faithfulness, and in its redemption will bring salvation to the whole earth by leading all men to God (Jer. 3:17–18). Until that far-off day, however, Israel will remain God's witness (Isa. 44:8).
The Divine Lawgiver
The covenant that binds the children of Israel to their God is, in the ultimate analysis, the Torah in all its amplitude. God, not Moses, is the lawgiver; "Behold, I Moses say unto you" (cf. Gal. 5:2) is an inconceivable statement. It would not only be inconsistent with Moses' humility (Num. 12:3), but would completely contradict the God-given character of the Torah. However, notwithstanding its divine origin, the law is obligatory on Israel only. Even idolatry, the constant butt of prophetic irony, is not regarded as a gentile sin (Deut. 4:19). Yet the Bible assumes the existence of a universal moral code that all peoples must observe. The talmudic sages, with their genius for legal detail and codification, speak of the seven Noachian laws (Sanh. 56a). Although the Bible does not specify the ethical principles incumbent upon all mankind, it is clear from various passages that murder, robbery, cruelty, and adultery are major crimes recognized as such by all human beings (Gen. 6:12, 13; 9:5; 20:3; 39:9; Amos 1:3ff.). It would thus appear that the Bible postulates an autonomous, basic human sense of wrongdoing, unless it is supposed that a divine revelation of law was vouchsafed to the early saints, such as assumed by the apocryphal and rabbinic literatures (and perhaps by Isa. 24:5). The Torah – which properly means "instruction," not "law" – does not, in the strict sense of the term, contain a properly formulated code; nevertheless, detailed regulations appertaining to religious ritual, as well as to civil and criminal jurisprudence, form an essential part of pentateuchal teaching. The halakhic approach is reinforced by a number of the prophets. For instance, Isaiah (58:13), Jeremiah (34:8ff.), Ezekiel (40ff.), and Malachi (1:8; 2:10) lent their authority to the maintenance of various religious observances. Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the restored Jewish community on Torah foundations. Yet paradoxically the Bible also evinces a decidedly "anti-halakhic" trend. In Isaiah the Lord cries: "What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices… I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts… who requires of you this trampling of My courts?… Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates… When you spread forth your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen" (1:11–15). Jeremiah not only belittles the value of the sacrifices (7:22); he derides the people's faith in the Temple itself: "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these" (7:4). Even the Book of Psalms, though essentially devotional in character, makes an anti-ritual protest: "I do not reprove you for your sacrifices… I will accept no bull from your house… For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills… If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is Mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" (50:8–13). These and similar passages represent a negative attitude towards established cultic practices. No less inconsonant with Torah law seems the positive prophetic summary of human duty formulated by Micah (6:8): "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love lovingkindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" A similar note is sounded by Hosea (2:21–22 [19–20]): "I will espouse you with righteousness and with justice, with steadfast love, and with mercy. I will espouse you with faithfulness; and you shall be mindful of the Lord"; by Amos (5:14): "Seek good, and not evil, that you may live"; and by Isaiah (1:17): "Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." The emphasis here is on moral and spiritual conduct; the ceremonial and ritualistic aspects of religion are conspicuously left unmentioned. The paradox, however, is only one of appearance and phrasing. Inherently there is no contradiction. The ostensibly antinomian statements do not oppose the offering of sacrifices, prayer, or the observance of the Sabbath and festivals. It is not ritual but hypocrisy that they condemn. Isaiah (1:13) expresses the thought in a single phrase: "I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly." Organized religion must necessarily have cultic forms; but without inwardness and unqualified sincerity they are an affront to the Deity and fail of their purpose. The underlying motive of the precepts is to purify and elevate man (Ps. 119:29, 40, 68). The Torah (Wisdom) is a tree of life and its ways are ways of peace (Prov. 3:17, 18). Sin does not injure God (Job 7:20), but is a disaster to man (Deut. 28:15ff.). It is heartfelt devotion that saves the mitzvah from becoming a meaningless convention and an act of hypocrisy (Isa. 29:13). The specific commandments are in a sense pointers and aids to that larger identification with God's will that is conterminous with life as a whole: "In all your ways acknowledge Him" (Prov. 3:6). Just as the divine wonders and portents lead to a deeper understanding of the daily miracles of providence, so the precepts are guides to the whole duty of man. Biblical religion is thus seen to be an indivisible synthesis of moral and spiritual principles, on the one hand, and practical observances on the other.
The Biblical Theodicy
The moral basis of providence, reinforced by the ethic of the Torah, also raises another kind of problem. Can the biblical theodicy always be justified? The issue is raised already in the Bible itself. Abraham challenges the divine justice: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). Moses echoes the cry in another context: "O Lord, why hast Thou done evil to this people?" (Ex. 5:22). The prophets are no less perplexed: "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?" (Jer. 12:1). The psalmist speaks for the individual and the nation in many generations, when he cries: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (22:2), and the Book of Job is, in its magnificent entirety, one great heroic struggle to solve the problem of unwarranted human suffering. The biblical answer appears to point to the limitations of man's experience and understanding. History is long, but individual life is short. Hence the human view is fragmentary; events justify themselves in the end, but the person concerned does not always live to see the denouement. In the words of the psalmist: "Though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever" (92:8–10; cf. 37:35–39). The brevity of man's years is further complicated by his lack of insight. God's purpose is beyond his comprehension: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:9). In the final analysis, biblical theodicy calls for faith: "But the righteous shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4); "they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31). It is not an irrational faith: – Certum est quia impossibile est (Tertullian, De Carne Christi, 5), but is necessitated by innate human intellectual limitations. In another direction the problem is even more formidable. God, the Bible states categorically, hardened Pharaoh's heart; nevertheless the Egyptian ruler was punished for this. Indeed his obduracy was induced in order to provide the occasion for his punishment (Ex. 7:3). Here the fundamental norms of justice by any standards are flagrantly violated. The explanation in this sphere of biblical theodicy is not theological but semantic. Scripture ascribes to God phenomena and events with which He is only indirectly concerned. However, since God is the author of all natural law and the designer of history, everything that occurs is, in a deep sense, His doing. Even in human affairs the king or the government is said to "do" everything that is performed under its aegis. Thus God declares in Amos 4:7: "And I caused it to rain upon one city, and I caused it not to rain upon another city," although the next clause uses passive and impersonal verbal forms to describe the same occurrences. The processes of nature need not be mentioned, since the laws of the universe are dictates of God. Similarly Exodus states indiscriminately that "Pharaoh hardened his heart" (8:28), that "the heart of Pharaoh was hardened" (9:7), and that "the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh" (9:12). In the end it is all one; what God permits He does. This interpretation does not, however, fit another area of divine conduct. Uzzah, the Bible states, was struck dead for an innocent act that was motivated by concern for the safety of "the ark of God" (II Sam. 6:6–7). Wherein lay the iniquity? Here the reason appears to be of a different character. Even innocent actions may in certain circumstances be disastrous. Uzzah's attempt to save the ark from falling was well meant, but it was conducive to irreverence. Man needs God's help; God does not require the help of man (Sot. 35a; for a similar thought cf. Ps. 50:12; another explanation is given by Kimhi, II Sam. 6:6). In one thoughtless moment Uzzah could have reduced the sacred ark in the eyes of the people to the impotent level of the idols, which the prophets depicted with such scathing mockery. The same principle operated in the tragedy of Nadab and Abihu, and Moses explained the underlying principle in the words: "I will show Myself holy among those who are near Me" (Lev. 10: 1–3).
The Limitation of the Infinite God
Is the Godhead subject to restriction? The irresistible conclusion to be drawn from biblical teaching is that such a limitation exists. Man's freedom to resist or obey the will of God is a restriction of the Deity's power that is totally unknown in the physical universe. It must be added, however, that this restriction is an act of divine self-limitation. In His love for man God has, so to speak, set aside an area of freedom in which man can elect to do right or wrong (Deut. 5:26; 30:17). In rabbinic language: "Everything is in the power of Heaven except the reverence of Heaven" (Ber. 33b). Man is thereby saved from being an automaton. It adds a new dimension to the relationship between God and man. Man may defect, but when, on the other hand, he chooses the path of loyalty, he does so from choice, from true love. Needless to say, without such freedom there could be neither sin nor punishment, neither merit nor reward. The divine humility, which permits human dissent, is also the grace to which the dissenter succumbs in the end. Man is a faithful rebel, who is reconciled with his Maker in the crowning period of history. God's self-limitation is thus seen as an extension of His creative power. Other biblical concepts that might be construed as restrictions of God's infinitude are, on closer scrutiny, seen not to be real limitations. The association of the Lord with holy places like the Tent of Meeting, the Temple, Zion, or Sinai does not imply that He is not omnipresent. In prophetic vision Isaiah saw the divine train fill the Temple, and at the same time he heard the seraphim declare: "the whole earth is full of His glory" (6: 1–3). God's geographical association, or His theophany at a given place, signifies consecration of the site, which thus becomes a source of inspiration to man; but no part of the universe exists at any time outside God's presence. Sometimes God is depicted as asking man for information (Gen. 3:9; 4:9). On other occasions He is stated to repent His actions and to be grieved (Gen. 6:6). These are mere anthropomorphisms. The Lord knows all (Jer. 11:20; 16:17; Ps. 7:10), and unlike human beings He does not repent (Num. 23:19). Genesis 6:6 is not a contradiction of this thesis; its "human" terminology does not imply a diminution of God's omniscience, but emphasizes the moral freedom granted to man. In addition to spiritual option, the Creator, as has been stated, gave man knowledge. This finds expression, inter alia, in magical powers, which, in as much as they are "supernatural," constitute a challenge to God's will. In Moses' protracted struggle with Pharaoh, the Egyptians actually pit their magical powers against the Almighty's miracles. In the end they acknowledge their relative weakness and admit that they cannot rival "the finger of God" (Ex. 8:15). This is to be expected, for the divine wisdom is unbounded (Job 11:7), whereas human understanding is finite. Nevertheless the use of all forms of sorcery, even by non-Israelites, is strongly denounced (Isa. 44:25); to the Israelite, witchcraft is totally forbidden (Deut. 18:10–11). The differentiation between magic and miracles had deep roots in Hebrew monotheism. To the pagan mind magical powers were independent forces to which even the gods had to have recourse. The miracle, on the other hand, is regarded in the Bible as a manifestation of God's power and purpose. It is an attestation of the prophet's mission (Isa. 7:11); whereas divination and sorcery are either forms of deception (Isa. 44:25) or, where magic is effective, as in the episode of the witch of Endor (I Sam. 28:7ff.), it represents an abuse of man's God-given knowledge. There is no independent realm of witchcraft, however; all power, natural and supernatural, emanates from the one God. To the Israelite all that happens is wrought by God.
The Divine Personality
Though inconceivable, God is portrayed throughout the Bible as a person. In contradistinction to the idols, who are dead, He is called the living God (II Kings 19:4, 16). He is neither inanimate nor a philosophical abstraction; He is the living source of all life. Anthropomorphisms abound in the Bible, but it is not by these that the divine personality, so to speak, is depicted. Anthropomorphic figures were intended to help early man to grasp ideas that in philosophical terms transcended the human intellect. God's essential personality is primarily reflected in His attributes, which motivate His acts. He is King, Judge, Father, Shepherd, Mentor, Healer, and Redeemer – to mention only a few of His aspects in His relationship to man. Different biblical teachers conceived God's character from different historical angles. Amos was conscious of God's justice. Hosea underscored the Lord's love, and made forgiveness and compassion the coefficient, as it were, of divinity: "I will not execute My fierce anger… for I am God and not man" (11:9). Ezekiel stresses that God does not desire the destruction of the wicked but that through repentance they may live (18:23). The heart of the matter is clearly stated in the Torah: "The Lord passed before him (Moses), and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…" (Ex. 34:6–7). Maimonides was philosophically justified in insisting that God has no attributes and that the epithets applied to Him in the Bible really represent human emotions evoked by His actions (Guide, 2:54). The Bible, however, which is little interested in the speculative approach to the Deity, but teaches practical wisdom and religion as life, without the help of catechism or formulated dogmas, prefers to endow God with personality to which it gives the warmth and beauty of positive characterization. In sum, the divine nature is composed of both justice and love. The Bible recognizes that without justice love itself becomes a form of injustice; but in itself justice is not enough. It can only serve as a foundation; the superstructure – the bridge between God and man – is grace.
Between Man and God
Grace is the divine end of the bridge; the human side is existential devotion. Otherwise, what M. Buber felicitously called the "I-Thou" relationship cannot come into being. Hence, underlying all the commandments is the supreme precept: "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5). This love is unqualified: "You shall be whole-hearted with the Lord your God" (Deut. 18:13). It calls for complete surrender; but this is not conceived as a narrow, if intense, religious attitude. It is broad-based enough to allow for deep-rooted spiritual communion. Man pours out his heart in prayer to God; it is to Him that he uplifts his soul in thanksgiving and praise; and it is also to Him that he addresses his most searching questions and most incisive criticism of life and providence. Sincere criticism of God is never rebuked. God reproaches Job's friends, who were on His side; but Job is rewarded despite his searing indictment of God's actions. The God-man relationship flowers in an evolutionary process of education: Man is gradually weaned from his own inhumanity, from atrocities, like human sacrifice (Gen. 22:2–14), from bestial conduct, and from wronging his fellowman. The goal again is love: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18). It is a corollary of the love of God: "I am the Lord." Reward and retribution play a role in the divine educational procedures; but their functions are limited – they are not ultimates. The eternal fires of hell are never used as a deterrent, though punishment of the wicked after death is obscurely mentioned (Isa. 66:24; Dan. 12:2), nor is paradise used as an inducement. The Torah-covenant is an unquenchable spiritual light (Prov. 6:23); but the "I-Thou" relationship does not end with the written word. God communes with man directly. The prophet hears the heavenly voice and echoes it; the psalmist knows, with unfaltering conviction, that his prayer has been answered and that salvation has been wrought before he actually experiences it. At one with God, man finds ultimate happiness: "In Thy presence is fullness of joy, in Thy right hand bliss for evermore" (Ps. 16:11).
The Hebrew term for the love that binds man to God (as well as to his fellowman) is ?ahavah; but sometimes the Bible uses another word, yir?ah (literally: "fear"), which seems to turn the "I-Thou" nexus into an "It" relationship. The psalmist declares: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (111:10), and Ecclesiastes comes to the conclusion: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (12:13). The picture is thus completely changed. The heavenly Father suddenly becomes a divine tyrant, before whom man cowers in terror, as does the unenlightened pagan before the demonic force that he seeks to appease. This might be consonant with the notion of "the jealous God" (Ex. 34:14), but it would appear to be irreconcilable with the concept of the God of ?esed ("lovingkindness," "grace"). Here, too, this is not a theological but a semantic problem. Yir?ah does not signify "fear"; it is best rendered by "reverence." "Love" and "reverence" are not antithetic but complementary terms. They are two aspects of a single idea. ?Ahavah expresses God's nearness; yir?ah the measureless distance between the Deity and man (see *Love, Love and Fear of God). God spoke to Moses "mouth to mouth" (Num. 12:8), yet in his human frailty the Hebrew leader could not "see" his divine interlocutor (Ex. 33:20). The inner identity of "love" and "reverence" is reflected in the Torah's religious summary: "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you but to revere the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 10:12). Talmudic Judaism (Shab. 120a) drew a distinction between ?asidut (steadfast love of God) and yir?at shamayim ("reverence of Heaven"), but this represents a later development. In the Bible this bifurcation does not exist; "reverence of God" is by and large the biblical equivalent of "religion."
Likewise there is no spiritual contradiction between the "gracious" and the "jealous" God. "Jealousy" is an anthropomorphic term used to define God's absolute character, which excludes all other concepts of the Godhead. It does not detract from the divine love and compassion; it serves only to protect them. The sum of all the divine attributes finds expression in the epithet "holy." It is the highest praise that prophet and psalmist can give to the Lord (Isa. 6:3; Ps. 22:4), and since man is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), the attribute of holiness becomes the basis of the concept of "the imitation of God": "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev. 19:2). The Bible makes it clear, however, that, in seeking to model himself on the divine example, it is primarily God's moral attributes that man must copy. Even as God befriends the sojourner and acts as the father of the fatherless and as the judge of the widow, so must man, on his human scale, endeavor to do (Deut. 10:18–19; cf. Sot. 14a). Indeed all that uplifts man, including the Sabbath and abstention from impurity, is comprised in the concept of the imitation of God. At the highest level Israel's ethic and theology are indissolubly linked.
To sum up: The biblical conception of God was revolutionary both in its theological and its moral implications. The pagan world may occasionally have glimpsed, in primitive form, some of the higher truths inherent in Israel's ethical monotheism. Egypt for a brief span attained to monolatry (Akhenaton's heresy); Babylon had a glimmering of a unified cosmic process; Marduk, Shamash, and Aton punished evildoers; and some Greek philosophers commended the imitation of the godhead. Yet no cult in antiquity even remotely approached the elevated conceptions associated with the one God of the Bible. This spiritual revolution not only eventually brought paganism to an end, but its inner dynamic gave birth, in time, to two daughter religions, Christianity and Islam, which, despite their essential differences from Judaism, are deeply rooted in biblical thought.
IN THE BIBLE: Kaufmann Y., Toledot (incl. bibl.); Kaufmann Y., Religion; M. Buber, I and Thou (1937); EM, 1 (1950), 297–321; U. Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis (1961); A.J. Heschel, The Prophets (1962); R. Gordis, The Book of God and Man (1965). IN HELLENISTIC LITERATURE: J. Klausner, Filosofim ve-Hogei De'ot, 1 (1934); H.A. Wolfson, Philo, 2 vols. (1947). IN TALMUDIC LITERATURE: Ginzberg, Legends, index; M. Lazarus, Ethics of Judaism, 2 vols. (1900–01); G.F. Moore, Judaism, 2 vols. (1927), index; C.G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology (1938), index; A. Marmorstein, The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God (1927, repr. 1968); A. Cohen, Everyman's Talmud (1932), 1–71 and index; M. Guttmann, Das Judentum und seine Umwelt (1927); H. Cohen, Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums (19292); P. Kuhn, Gottes Selbsterniedrigung in der Theologie der Rabbinen (1968). IN MEDIEVAL JEWISH PHILOSOPHY: Guttmann, Philosophies, index; Husik, Philosophy, index; D. Kaufmann, Attributenlehre (1875). IN THE KABBALAH: Scholem, Mysticism, index; idem, Reshit ha-Kabbalah (1948); I. Tishby, Mishnat ha-Zohar, 1 (1949), 95–282; M. Ibn Gabai, Derekh Emunah (1890, repr. 1967); M. Cordovero, Elimah Rabbati (1881, repr. 1961), Ma'ayan 1. IN MODERN JEWISH PHILOSOPHY: J.B. Agus, Modern Philosophies of Judaism (1941); Guttmann, Philosophies, index; S.H. Bergman, Faith and Reason: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought (1961). ATTRIBUTES OF GOD: D. Kaufmann, Attributenlehre (1875); idem, Gesammelte Schriften, 2 (1910), 1–98; H.A. Wolfson, in: Essays and Studies in Memory of Linda R. Miller (1938), 201–34; idem, in: Louis Ginzberg Jubilee Volume (1945), 411–46; idem, in: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 56–67 (1947), 233–49; idem, in: HTR, 45 (1952), 115–30; 49 (1956), 1–18; idem, in: Mordecai M. Kaplan Jubilee Volume (1953), 515–30; idem, in: JAOS, 79 (1959), 73–80; idem, in: Studies and Essays in Honor of Abraham A. Neuman (1962), 547–68; A. Altmann, in: BJRL, 35 (1953), 294–315; idem, in: Tarbiz, 27 (1958), 301–9; Guttmann, Philosophies, passim; S. Rawidowicz, in: Saadya Studies (1943), 139–65; A. Schmiedl, Studien ueber juedische, insondere juedische-arabische Religionsphilosophie (1869), 1–66; G. Vajda, Isaac Albalag, Averroiste Juif, Traducteur et Annotateur d'Al-Ghazali (1960), 34–129, and passim; idem, in: Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies (1966), 49–74. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Scholem, Origins of Kabbalah; M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives, 112–55; S.O. Heller-Willensky and M. Idel (eds.), Studies in Jewish Thought (Heb.; 1989), 7–230.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.