Recently I was reading a chapter in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines” which was entitled “Israel: The One Who Sees God –Visualization of God in Biblical, Apocalyptic, and Rabbinic Sources”.  I think the title of the chapter is fascinating by itself–the idea that only Israel can see G-d.  But I wanted to focus on a different aspect of the chapter…

The reality that the Rabbis believed G-d’s form (demut) is anthropic, i.e. that His form resembles that of a man.

First, we should begin with a brief survey of apparently conflicting passages in the Torah, some which seem to suggest that G-d does not have a form and many others which seem to suggest that G-d does indeed have a form.


“To whom, then, can you liken God, what form (demut) compare to Him?” Isaiah 40:18

“You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.  Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice,”  Deuteronomy 4:11-12


“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our form (kidemutenu), so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground,'” Genesis 1:26

“Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a form (demut) like that of a man,” Ezekiel 1:26

NOTE:  The Ezekiel passage in describing HaShem in anthropic terms is also making an implicit reference to Genesis 1:26 as if to say that this is the Being in whose image the Adam was made.

“With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Numbers 12:8

” Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up  and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank,” Exodus 24:9-11

“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”  And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.  When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen,”  Exodus 33:18-23

“Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left,” 1 Kings 22:19

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple,” Isaiah 6:1

“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire,” Daniel 7:9

“And I have spoken unto the prophets, And I have multiplied vision, And by the hand of the prophets I use images,” Hosea 12:10

So then how do the Rabbis deal with these passages?  Do they deny that G-d can appear as anthropos?  Let’s have a look at a few of the passages:

” ‘R. Yudan said:  Great is the power of the prophets who compare the form to its Creator, as it says, ‘I heard a human voice’ (Dan. 8:16), and it is written, ‘Upon this semblance of a throne, there was the semblance of a human form’ (Ezek. 1:26) for [God] appears to them in many images (dimyonot), as it says, ‘and through the prophets I was imaged’ (Hosea 12:11),'” Midrash Zuta on Eccl. 9:1, as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

“Through the prophets I was imagined, that is, I appeared to them in several forms (demuyot),” Rashi, as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

“I appeared to them in several images (demuyot).  At the sea I appeared to them as a warrior doing battle, as it is written, ‘The Lord, the Warrior’ (Exod. 15:3).  And at Sinai I appeared as an elder teaching Torah….At the Tabernacle I appeared to them as a bridgegroom entering his chamber.  This is [the meaining of] ‘what can I liken to You.’  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel:  Did I not appear to the prophets in many images…as it is written, ‘I multiplied great visions and through the prophets I was imaged,’ Pesiqta Rabbati, commenting on Lam. 2:13, as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

” ‘The Holy One, blessed be he, said:  Certainly ‘I spoke to the prophets,’ but ‘I multiplied visions,’ for the prophecy of one was not like that of another.  Amos saw Me standing…Isaiah saw Me sitting…Moses saw Me as a warrior…Daniel saw Me as an elder…Therefore it says, ‘through the prophets I was imaged,'” Aggadat Bereshit, as quoted in  “Through a Speculum That Shines”

” ‘They [the Israelites] said:  Our wish is to see our king; one who hears is not comparable to one who sees.  God said to him [Moses]:  Give them what they have requested, ‘For on the third day the Lord will descend in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai’ (Exod. 19:11),'” Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Bahodesh, as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

” ‘This is what they [the Israelites] demanded.  They said:  Our wish is to see the glory of our king,'” Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah, as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

” ‘ R. Levi said:  Israel asked two things of the Holy One, blessed be He–that they might see His glory (kevodo) and hear His voice.  And they did see His glory and hear His voice, as it is written, ‘The Lord our God has just shown us His majestic Presence, and we have heard His voice out of the fire’ [Deut. 5:22-24],'” Shemot Rabbah 29:3, as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

” ‘R. Pinehas ben Hama said:  Israel asked two things of the Holy One, blessed be He–that they might see His image (demuto) and hear the [ten] commandments from His mouth, as it is written, ‘Let him give me of the kisses of his mouth’ (Cant. 1:2),'” Shemot Rabbah 41:3, as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

” ‘R. Berechiah said:  Observe the greatness of those who went down to the sea.  How much did Moses have to beg and prostrate himself before God before he saw the [divine] image (ha-demut), as it says, ‘Let me behold Your glory’ (Exod. 33:18).  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘You cannot see My face’ (ibid., 20).  In the end God showed him a token of it, as it says, ‘as My glory passes by’ (ibid., 22).  The beasts who carry the throne do not recognize the [divine] image.  When the time comes for them to sing their praises, they say:  Where is He?  We do not know if He is here or somewhere else.  Yet, wherever He may be, ‘blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place’ (Ezek. 3:12).  Each and every one of those who came up from the sea could point with his finger and say:  ‘This is my God, and I will glorify Him’ (Exod. 15:2),'” Shemot Rabbah 23:15,  as quoted in Wolfson’s “Through a Speculum That Shines”

As you can see, the Rabbis don’t shy away from either the fact that G-d has a form (demut) or from the fact that this form appears at various times as anthropos (i.e. the form of a man).
Why is this significant?
Because this is precisely the claim of Messianic Judaism:  that the Messiah (Yeshua) is the very image (demut) of the glory (kavod) of the Hidden G-d!
Shalom and Blessings,

Source: Orthodox Messianic Judaism (