God, 2

Continued from GOD, 1.

Topical Bible outline for "God."

II. The Idea of God in the Old Testament.

1. Course of Its Development:

See a list of verses on GOD in the Bible.

Any attempt to write the whole history of the idea of God in the Old Testament would require a preliminary study of the literary and historical character of the documents, which lies beyond the scope of this article and the province of the writer. Yet the Old Testament contains no systematic statement of the doctrine of God, or even a series of statements that need only to be collected into a consistent conception. The Old Testament is the record of a rich and varied life, extending over more than a thousand years, and the ideas that ruled and inspired that life must be largely inferred from the deeds and institutions in which it was realized; nor was it stationary or all at one level. Nothing is more obvious than that revelation in the Old Testament has been progressive, and that the idea of God it conveys has undergone a development. Certain well-marked stages of the development can be easily recognized, without entering upon any detailed criticism. There can be no serious question that the age of the Exodus, as centering around the personality of Moses, witnessed an important new departure in Hebrew religion. The most ancient traditions declare (perhaps not unanimously) that God was then first known to Israel under the personal name Yahweh (Yahweh (YHWH) is the correct form of the word, Yahweh being a composite of the consonants of Yahweh and the vowels of 'adhonay, or lord. Yahweh is retained here as the more familiar form). The Hebrew people came to regard Him as their Deliverer from Egypt, as their war god who assured them the conquest of Canaan, and He, therefore, became their king, who ruled over their destinies in their new heritage. But the settlement of Yahweh in Canaan, like that of His people, was challenged by the native gods and their peoples. In the 9th century we see the war against Yahweh carried into His own camp, and Baal-worship attempting to set itself up within Israel. His prophets therefore assert the sole right of Yahweh to the worship of His people, and the great prophets of the 8th century base that right upon His moral transcendence. Thus they at once reveal new depths of His moral nature, and set His uniqueness and supremacy on higher grounds. During the exile and afterward, Israel's outlook broadens by contact with the greater world, and it draws out the logical implications of ethical monotheism into a theology at once more universalistic and abstract. Three fairly well-defined periods thus emerge, corresponding to three stages in the development of the Old Testament idea of God: the pre-prophetic period governed by the Mosaic conception, the prophetic period during which ethical monotheism is firmly established, and the post-exilic period with the rise of abstract monotheism. But even in taking these large and obvious divisions, it is necessary to bear in mind the philosopher's maxim, that "things are not cut off with a hatchet." The most characteristic ideas of each period may be described within their period; but it should not be assumed that they are altogether absent from other periods; and, in particular, it should not be supposed that ideas, and the life they represent, did not exist before they emerged in the clear witness of history. Mosaism had undoubtedly its antecedents in the life of Israel; but any attempt to define them leads straight into a very morass of conjectures and hypotheses, archaeological, critical and philosophical; and any results that are thus obtained are contributions to comparative religion rather than to theology.

2. Forms of the Manifestation of God:

See the definition of god in the KJV Dictionary

Religious experience must always have had an inward and subjective aspect, but it is a long and difficult process to translate the objective language of ordinary life for the uses of subjective experience. "Men look outward before they look inward." Hence, we find that men express their consciousness of God in the earliest periods in language borrowed from the visible and objective world. It does not follow that they thought of God in a sensuous way, because they speak of Him in the language of the senses, which alone was available for them. On the other hand, thought is never entirely independent of language, and the degree in which men using sensuous language may think of spiritual facts varies with different persons.

(1) The Face or Countenance of God:

See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.

The face or countenance (panim) of God is a natural expression for His presence. The place where God is seen is called Peniel, the face of God (Ge 32:30). The face of Yahweh is His people's blessing (Nu 6:25). With His face (the Revised Version (British and American) "presence") He brought Israel out of Egypt, and His face (the Revised Version (British and American) "presence") goes with them to Canaan (Ex 33:14). To be alienated from God is to be hid from His face (Ge 4:14), or God hides His face (De 31:17-18; 32:20). In contrast with this idea it is said elsewhere that man cannot see the face of God and live (Ex 33:20; compare De 5:24; Jg 6:22; 13:22). In these later passages, "face" stands for the entire being of God, as distinguished from what man may know of Him. This phrase and its cognates enshrine also that fear of God, which shrinks from His majesty even while approaching Him, which enters into all worship.

(2) The Voice and Word of God:

The voice (qol) and word (dabhar) of God are forms under which His communion with man is conceived from the earliest days to the latest. The idea ranges from that of inarticulate utterance (1Ki 19:12) to the declaration of the entire law of conduct (De 5:22-24), to the message of the prophet (Isa 2:1; Jer 1:1-2), and the personification of the whole counsel and action of God (Ps 105:19; 147:18-19; Ho 6:5; Isa 40:8).

(3) The Glory of God:

The glory (kabhodh) of God is both a peculiar physical phenomenon and the manifestation of God in His works and providence. In certain passages in Exodus, ascribed to the Priestly Code, the glory is a bright light, "like devouring fire" (24:17); it fills and consecrates the tabernacle (29:43; 40:34,35); and it is reflected as beams of light in the face of Moses (34:29). In Ezekiel, it is a frequent term for the prophet's vision, a brightness like the appearance of a rainbow (1:28; 10:4; 43:2). In another place, it is identified with all the manifested goodness of God and is accompanied with the proclamation of His name (Ex 33:17-23). Two passages in Isa seem to combine under this term the idea of a physical manifestation with that of God's effectual presence in the world (Ex 3:8; 6:3). God's presence in creation and history is often expressed in the Psalms as His glory (Ps 19:1; 57:5,11; 63:2; 97:6). Many scholars hold that the idea is found in Isa in its earliest form, and that the physical meaning is quite late. It would, however, be contrary to all analogy, if such phenomena as rainbow and lightning had not first impressed-the primitive mind as manifestations of God.


(4) The Angel of God:

The angel (mal'akh) of God or of Yahweh is a frequent mode of God's manifestation of Himself in human form, and for occasional purposes. It is a primitive conception, and its exact relation to God, or its likeness to man, is nowhere fixed. In many passages, it is assumed that God and His angel are the same being, and the names are used synonymously (as in Ge 16:7 ff; Ge 22:15-16; Ex 3:2,4; Jg 2:4-5); in other passages the idea blurs into varying degrees of differentiation (Ge 18:1-33; 24:40; Ex 23:21; 33:2-3; Jg 13:8-9). But everywhere, it fully represents God as speaking or acting for the time being; and it is to be distinguished from the subordinate and intermediate beings of later angelology. Its identification with the Messiah and the Logos is only true in the sense that these later terms are more definite expressions of the idea of revelation, which the angel represented for primitive thought.

(5) The Spirit of God:

The spirit (ruach) of God in the earlier period is a form of His activity, as it moves warrior and prophet to act and to speak (Jg 6:34; 13:25; 1Sa 10:10), and it is in the prophetic period that it becomes the organ of the communication of God's thoughts to men.


(6) The Name of God:

The name (shem) of God is the most comprehensive and frequent expression in the Old Testament for His self-manifestation, for His person as it may be known to men. The name is something visible or audible which represents God to men, and which, therefore, may be said to do His deeds, and to stand in His place, in relation to men. God reveals Himself by making known or proclaiming His name (Ex 6:3; 33:19; 34:5-6). His servants derive their authority from His name (Ex 3:13,15; 1Sa 17:45). To worship God is to call upon His name (Ge 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25; 1Ki 18:24-26), to fear it (De 28:58), to praise it (2Sa 22:50; Ps 7:17; 54:6), to glorify it (Ps 86:9). It is wickedness to take God's name in vain (Ex 20:7), or to profane and blaspheme it (Le 8:21; 24:16). God's dwelling-place is the place where He chooses "to cause his name to dwell" (2Sa 7:13; 1Ki 3:2; 5:3,1; 8:16-19; 18:32; De 12:11,21). God's name defends His people (Ps 20:1; Isa 30:27). For His name's sake He will not forsake them (1Sa 12:22), and if they perish, His name cannot remain (Jos 7:9). God is known by different names, as expressing various forms of His self-manifestation (Ge 16:13; 17:1; Ex 3:6; 34:6). The name even confers its revelation-value upon the angel (Ex 23:20-23). All God's names are, therefore, significant for the revelation of His being.

(7) Occasional Forms:

In addition to these more or less fixed forms, God also appears in a variety of exceptional or occasional forms. In Nu 12:6-8, it is said that Moses, unlike others, used to see the form (temunah) of Yahweh. Fire smoke and cloud are frequent forms or symbols of God's presence (e.g. Ge 15:17; Ex 3:2-4; 19:18; 24:17),and notably "the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night" (Ex 13:21 f). According to later ideas, the cloud rested upon the tabernacle (Ex 40:34), and in it God appeared upon the ark (Le 16:2). Extraordinary occurrences or miracles are, in the early period, frequent signs of the power of God (Ex 7:1-25 ff; 1Ki 17:1-24 ff).

The questions of the objectivity of any or all of these forms, and of their relation to the whole Divine essence raise large problems. Old Testament thought had advanced beyond the naive identification of God with natural phenomena, but we should not read into its figurative language the metaphysical distinctions of a Greek-Christian theology.

3. The Names of God:

All the names of God were originally significant of His character, but the derivations, and therefore the original meanings, of several have been lost, and new meanings have been sought for them.

(1) Generic:

One of the oldest and most widely distributed terms for Deity known to the human race is 'El, with its derivations 'Elim, 'Elohim, and 'Eloah. Like theos, Dens and God, it is a generic term, including every member of the class deity. It may even denote a position of honor and authority among men. Moses was 'Elohim to Pharaoh (Ex 7:1) and to Aaron (Ex 4:16; compare Jg 5:8; 1Sa 2:25; Ex 21:5-6; 22:7 ff; Ps 58:11; 82:1). It is, therefore, a general term expressing majesty and authority, and it only came to be used as a proper name for Israel's God in the later period of abstract monotheism when the old proper name Yahweh was held to be too sacred to be uttered. The meaning of the root 'El, and the exact relation to it, and to one another, of 'Elohim and 'Eloah, lie in complete obscurity. By far the most frequent form used by Old Testament writers is the plural 'Elohiym, but they use it regularly with singular verbs and adjectives to denote a singular idea. Several explanations have been offered of this usage of a plural term to denote a singular idea--that it expresses the fullness and manifoldness of the Divine nature, or that it is a plural of majesty used in the manner of royal persons, or even that it is an early intimation of the Trinity; other cognate expressions are found in Ge 1:26; 3:22; 1Ki 22:19 f; Isa 6:8. These theories are, perhaps, too ingenious to have occurred to the early Hebrew mind, and a more likely explanation is, that they are survivals in language of a polytheistic stage of thought. In the Old Testament they signify only the general notion of Deity.

(2) Attributive:

To distinguish the God of Israel as supreme from others of the class 'Elohim, certain qualifying appellations are often added. 'El `Elyon designates the God of Israel as the highest, the most high, among the 'Elohim (Ge 14:18-20); so do Yahweh `Elyon (Ps 7:17) and `Elyon alone, often in Psalms and in Isa 14:14.

'El Shadday, or Shadday alone, is a similar term which on the strength of some tradition is translated "God Almighty"; but its derivation and meaning are quite unknown. According to Ex 6:3 it was the usual name for God in patriarchal times, but other traditions in the Pentateuch seem to have no knowledge of this.

Another way of designating God was by His relation to His worshippers, as God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ge 24:12; Ex 3:6), of Shem (Ge 9:26), of the Hebrews (Ex 3:18), and of Israel (Ge 33:20).

Other names used to express the power and majesty of God are tsur, "Rock" (De 32:18; Isa 30:29), '¦bhir (construct from 'abhir), "the Strong One" (Ge 49:24; Isa 1:24; Ps 132:2); melekh, "King"; 'adhon, "lord," and 'adhonay, "my lord" (Ex 23:17; Isa 10:16,33; Ge 18:27; Isa 6:1). Also ba`al, "proprietor" or "master," may be inferred as a designation once in use, from its appearance in such Hebrew proper names as Jerubbaal and Ishbaal. The last three names describe God as a Master to whom man stands in the relation of a servant, and they tended to fall into disuse as the necessity arose to differentiate the worship of Yahweh from that of the gods of surrounding nations.

A term of uncertain meaning is Yahweh or 'Elohim tsebha'oth, "Yahweh" or "God of hosts." In Hebrew usage "host" might mean an army of men, or the stars and the angels--which, apart or in conjunction, made up the host of heaven. God of Hosts in early times meant the war god who led the armies of Israel (1Sa 4:4; 2Sa 7:8). In 1 Sam 17:45 this title stands in parallelism with "the God of the armies of Israel." So all Israel is called the host of Yahweh (Ex 12:41). In the Prophets, where the term has become a regular appellation, it stands in relation to every form of the power and majesty, physical and moral, of God (e.g. Isa 2:12; 6:3,1; 10:23,13). It stands in parallelism with Isaiah's peculiar title, the Holy One of Israel (Isa 5:16,24). It has, therefore, been thought that it refers to the host of heaven. In the Prophets it is practically a proper name. Its original meaning may well have been forgotten or dropped, but it does not follow that a new special significance was attached to the word "hosts." The general meaning of the whole term is well expressed by the Septuagint translation, kurios pantokrator, "Lord Omnipotent."

(3) Yahweh (Yahweh).

This is the personal proper name paragraph excellence of Israel's God, even as Chemosh was that of the god of Moab, and Dagon that of the god of the Philistines. The original meaning and derivation of the word are unknown. The variety of modern theories shows that, etymologically, several derivations are possible, but that the meanings attached to any one of them have to be imported and imposed upon the word. They add nothing to our knowledge. The Hebrews themselves connected the word with hayah, "to be." In Ex 3:14 Yahweh is explained as equivalent to 'ehyeh, which is a short form of 'ehyeh 'asher 'ehyeh, translated in the Revised Version (British and American) "I am that I am." This has been supposed to mean "self-existence," and to represent God as the Absolute. Such an idea, however, would be a metaphysical abstraction, not only impossible to the time at which the name originated, but alien to the Hebrew mind at any time. And the imperfect 'ehyeh is more accurately translated "I will be what I will be," a Semitic idiom meaning, "I will be all that is necessary as the occasion will arise," a familiar Old Testament idea (compare Isa 7:4,9; Ps 23:1-6).

This name was in use from the earliest historical times till after the exile. It is found in the most ancient literature. According to Ex 3:13 f, and especially Ex 6:2-3, it was first introduced by Moses, and was the medium of a new revelation of the God of their fathers to the children of Israel. But in parts of Genesis it is represented as being in use from the earliest times. Theories that derive it from Egypt or Assyria, or that would connect it etymologically with Jove or Zeus, are supported by no evidence. We have to be content either to say that Yahweh was the tribal God of Israel from time immemorial, or to accept a theory that is practically identical with that of Exodus--that it was adopted through Moses from the Midianite tribe into which he married. The Kenites, the tribe of Midianites related to Moses, dwelt in the neighborhood of Sinai, and attached themselves to Israel (Jg 1:16; 4:11). A few passages suggest that Sinai was the original home of Yahweh (Jg 5:4-5; De 33:2). But there is no direct evidence bearing upon the origin of the worship of Yahweh: to us He is known only as the God of Israel.

4. Pre-prophetic Conceptions of Yahweh:

(1) Yahweh alone the God of Israel.

Hebrew theology consists essentially of the doctrine of Yahweh and its implications. The teachers and leaders of the people at all times worship and enjoin the worship of Yahweh alone. "It stands out as a prominent and incontrovertible fact, that down to the reign of Ahab .... no prominent man in Israel, with the doubtful exception of Solomon, known by name and held up for condemnation, worshipped any other god but Yahweh. In every national and tribal crisis, in all times of danger and of war, it is Yahweh and Yahweh alone who is invoked to give victory and deliverance" (Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures (3), 21). This is more evident in what is, without doubt, very early literature, even than in later writings (e.g. Jg 5:1-31; De 33:1-29; 1Sa 4:1-22 through 1Sa 6:1-21). The isolation of the desert was more favorable to the integrity of Yahweh's sole worship than the neighborhood of powerful peoples who worshipped many other gods. Yet that early religion of Yahweh can be called monotheistic only in the light of the end it realized, for in the course of its development it had to overcome many limitations.

(a) His Early Worship:

The early worship of Yahweh did not exclude belief in the existence of other gods. As other nations believed in the existence of Yahweh (1Sa 4:8; 2Ki 17:27), so Israel did not doubt the reality of other gods (Jg 11:24; Nu 21:29; Mic 4:5). This limitation involved two others: Yahweh is the God of Israel only; with them alone He makes a COVENANT (which see) (Ge 15:18; Ex 6:4-5; 2Ki 17:34:2Ki 25:30), and their worship only He seeks (De 4:32-37; 32:9; Am 3:2). Therefore, He works, and can be worshipped only within a certain geographical area. He may have been associated with His original home in Sinai long after the settlement in Canaan (Jg 5:4; De 33:2; 1Ki 19:8-9), but gradually His home and that of His people became identical (1Sa 26:19; Ho 9:3; Isa 14:2,25). Even after the deportation of the ten tribes, Canaan remains Yahweh's land (2Ki 17:24-28). Early Israelites are, therefore, more properly described as Monolatrists or Henotheists than as Monotheists. It is characteristic of the religion of Israel (in contrast with, e.g. Greek thought) that it arrived at absolute Monotheism along the line of moral and religious experience, rather than that of rational inference. Even while they shared the common Semitic belief in the reality of other gods, Yahweh alone had for them "the value of God."

(b) Popular Religion:

It is necessary to distinguish between the teaching of the religious leaders and the belief and practice of the people generally. The presence of a higher religion never wholly excludes superstitious practices. The use of Teraphim (Ge 31:30; 1Sa 19:13,16; Ho 3:4), Ephod (Jg 18:17-20; 1Sa 23:6,9; 30:7), Urim and Thummim (1Sa 28:6; 14:40, Septuagint), for the purposes of magic and divination, to obtain oracles from Yahweh, was quite common in Israel. Necromancy was practiced early and late (1Sa 28:7 ff; Isa 8:19; De 18:10. 11 ). Sorcery and witchcraft were not unknown, but were condemned by the religious leaders (1Sa 28:3). The burial places of ancestors were held in great veneration (Ge 35:20; 50:13; Jos 24:30). But these facts do not prove that Hebrew religion was animistic and polytheistic, any more than similar phenomena in Christian lands would justify such an inference about Christianity.

(c) Polytheistic Tendencies:

Yet the worship of Yahweh maintained and developed its monotheistic principle only by overcoming several hostile tendencies. The Baal-worship of the Canaanites and the cults of other neighboring tribes proved a strong attraction to the mass of Israelites (Jg 2:13; 3:7; 8:33; 10:10; 1Sa 8:8; 12:10; 1Ki 11:5,33; Ho 2:5,17; Eze 20:1-49; Ex 20:5; 22:20; 34:16-17). Under the conditions of life in Canaan, the sole worship of Yahweh was in danger of modification by three tendencies, coordination, assimilation, and disintegration.

(i) Coordination:

When the people had settled down in peaceful relations with their neighbors, and began to have commercial and diplomatic transactions with them, it was inevitable that they should render their neighbor's gods some degree of reverence and worship. Courtesy and friendship demanded as much (compare 2Ki 5:18). When Solomon had contracted many foreign alliances by marriage, he was also bound to admit foreign worship into Jerusalem (1Ki 11:5). But Ahab was the first king who tried to set up the worship of Baal, side by side with that of Yahweh, as the national religion (1Ki 18:19). Elijah's stand and Jehu's revolution gave its death blow to Baal-worship and vindicated the sole right of Yahweh to Israel's allegiance. The prophet was defending the old religion and Ahab was the innovator; but the conflict and its issue brought the monotheistic principle to a new and higher level. The supreme temptation and the choice transformed what had been a natural monolatry into a conscious and moral adherence to Yahweh alone (1Ki 18:21,39).

(ii) Assimilation:

But to repudiate the name of Baal was not necessarily to be rid of the influence of Baal-worship. The ideas of the heathen religions survived in a more subtle way in the worship of Yahweh Himself. The change from the nomad life of the desert to the agricultural conditions of Canaan involved some change in religion. Yahweh, the God of flocks and wars, had to be recognized as the God of the vintage and the harvest. That this development occurred is manifest in the character of the great religious festivals. "Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep .... and the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of thy labors, which thou sowest in the field: and the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year, when thou gatherest in thy labors out of the field" (Ex 23:14-16). The second and the third obviously, and the first probably, were agricultural feasts, which could have no meaning in the desert. Israel and Yahweh together took possession of Canaan. To doubt that would be to admit the claims of the Baal-worship; but to assert it also involved some danger, because it was to assert certain similarities between Yahweh and the Baalim. When those similarities were embodied in the national festivals, they loomed very large in the eyes and minds of the mass of the people (W.R. Smith, Prophets of Israel, 49-57). The danger was that Israel should regard Yahweh, like the Baals of the country, as a Nature-god, and, by local necessity, a national god, who gave His people the produce of the land and, protected them from their enemies, and in return received frown them such gifts and sacrifices as corresponded to His nature. From the appearance in Israel, and among Yahweh worshippers, of such names as Jerub-baal, Esh-baal (son of Saul) and Beeliada (son of David, 1Ch 14:7), it has been inferred that Yahweh was called Baal, and there is ample evidence that His worship was assimilated to that of the Canaanite Baalim. The bulls raised by Jeroboam (1Ki 12:26 ff) were symbols of Yahweh, and in Judah the Canaanite worship was imitated down to the time of Asa (1Ki 14:22-24; 15:12-13). Against this tendency above all, the great prophets of the 8th century contended. Israel worshipped Yahweh as if He were one of the Baalim, and Hosea calls it Baal-worship (Ho 2:8,12-13; compare Am 2:8; Isa 1:10-15).

(iii) Disintegration:

And where Yahweh was conceived as one of the Baalim or Masters of the land, He became, like them, subject to disintegration into a number of local deities. This was probably the gravamen of Jeroboam's sin in the eyes of the "Deuteronomic" historian. In setting up separate sanctuaries, he divided the worship, and, in effect, the godhead of Yahweh. The localization and naturalization of Yahweh, as well as His assimilation to the Baals, all went together, so that we read that even in Judah the number of gods was according to its cities (Jer 2:28; 11:13). The vindication of Yahweh's moral supremacy and spiritual unity demanded, among other things, the unification of His worship in Jerusalem (2Ki 23:1-37).

(d) No Hebrew Goddesses:

In one respect the religion of Yahweh successfully resisted the influence of the heathen cults. At no time was Yahweh associated with a goddess. Although the corrupt sensual practices that formed a large part of heathen worship also entered into Israel's worship (see ASHERAH), it never penetrated so far as to modify in this respect the idea of Yahweh.

(e) Human Sacrifices:

It is a difficult question how far human sacrifices at any time found place in the worship of Yahweh. The outstanding instance is that of Jephthah's daughter, which, though not condemned, is certainly regarded as exceptional (Jg 11:30-40). Perhaps it is rightly regarded as a unique survival. Then the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, while reminiscent of an older practice, represents a more advanced view. Human sacrifice though not demanded, is not abhorrent to Yahweh (Ge 22:1-24). A further stage is represented where Ahaz' sacrifice of his son is condemned as an "abomination of the nations" (2Ki 16:3). The sacrifice of children is emphatically condemned by the prophets as a late and foreign innovation which Yahweh had not commanded (Jer 7:31; Eze 16:20). Other cases, such as the execution of the chiefs of Shittim (Nu 25:4), and of Saul's sons "before Yahweh" (2Sa 21:9), and the cherem or ban, by which whole communities were devoted to destruction (Jg 21:10; 1Sa 15:1-35), while they show a very inadequate idea of the sacredness of human life, are not sacrifices, nor were they demanded by Yahweh's worship. They were survivals of savage customs connected with tribal unity, which the higher morality of Yahweh's religion had not yet abolished.

(2) The Nature and Character of Yahweh:

The nature and character of Yahweh are manifested in His activities. The Old Testament makes no statements about the essence of God; we are left to infer it from His action in Nature and history and from His dealing with man.

(a) A God of War:

In this period, His activity is predominantly martial. As Israel's Deliverer from Egypt, "Yahweh is a man of war" (Ex 15:3). An ancient account of Israel's journey to Canaan is called "the book of the Wars of Yahweh" (Nu 21:14). By conquest in war He gave His people their land (Jg 5:1-31; 2Sa 5:24; De 33:27). He is, therefore, more concerned with men and nations, with the moral, than with the physical world.

(b) His Relation to Nature:

Even His activity in Nature is first connected with His martial character. Earth, stars and rivers come to His battle (Jg 5:4,20-21). The forces of Nature do the bidding of Israel's Deliverer from Egypt (Ex 8:1-32-Ex 10:1-29; 14:21). He causes sun and moon to stand while He delivers up the Amorites (Jos 10:12). Later, He employs the forces of Nature to chastise His people for infidelity and sin (2Sa 24:15; 1Ki 17:1). Amos declares that His moral rule extends to other nations and that it determines their destinies. In harmony with this idea, great catastrophes like the Deluge (Ge 7:1-24) and the overthrow of the Cities of the Plain (Ge 19:1-38) are ascribed to His moral will. In the same pragmatic manner the oldest creation narrative describes Him creating man, and as much of the world as He needed (Ge 2:1-25), but as yet the idea of a universal cause had not emerged, because the idea of a universe had not been formed. He acts as one of great, but limited, power and knowledge (Ge 11:5-8; 18:20). The more universal conception of Ge 1:1-31 belongs to the same stratum of thought as Second Isa. At every stage of the Old Testament the metaphysical perfections of Yahweh follow as an inference from His ethical preeminence.

(3) The Most Distinctive Characteristic of Yahweh:

The most distinctive characteristic of Yahweh, which finally rendered Him and His religion absolutely unique, was the moral factor. In saying that Yahweh was a moral God, it is meant that He acted by free choice, in conformity with ends which He set to Himself, and which He also imposed upon His worshippers as their law of conduct.

(a) Personality:

The most essential condition of a moral nature is found in His vivid personality, which at every stage of His self-revelation shines forth with an intensity that might be called aggressive. Divine personality and spirituality are never expressly asserted or defined in the Old Testament; but nowhere in the history of religion are they more clearly asserted. The modes of their expression are, however, qualified by anthropomorphisms, by limitations, moral and physical. Yahweh's jealousy (Ex 20:5; De 5:9; 6:15), His wrath and anger (Ex 32:10-12; De 7:4) and His inviolable holiness (Ex 19:21-22; 1Sa 6:19; 2Sa 6:7) appear sometimes to be irrational and immoral; but they are the assertion of His individual nature, of His self-consciousness as He distinguishes Himself from all else, in the moral language of the time, and are the conditions of His having any moral nature whatsoever. Likewise, He dwells in a place and moves from it (Jg 5:5); men may see Him in visible form (Ex 24:10; Nu 12:8); He is always represented as having organs like those of the human body, arms, hands, feet, mouth, eyes and ears. By such sensuous and figurative language alone was it possible for a personal God to make Himself known to men.

(b) Law and Judgment:

The content of Yahweh's moral nature as revealed in the Old Testament developed with the growth of moral ideas. Though His activity is most prominently martial, it is most permanently judicial, and is exercised through judges, priests and prophets. Torah and mishpaT, "law" and "judgment," from the time of Moses onward, stand, the one for a body of customs that should determine men's relations to one another, and the other for the decision of individual cases in accordance with those customs, and both were regarded as issuing from Yahweh. The people came to Moses "to inquire of God" when they had a matter in dispute, and he "judged between a man and his neighbor, and made them know the statutes of God, and his laws" (Ex 18:15-16). The judges appear mostly as leaders in war; but it is clear, as their name indicates, that they also gave judgments as between the people (Jg 3:10; 4:4; 10:2-3; 1Sa 7:16). The earliest literary prophets assume the existence of a law which priest and prophet had neglected to administer rightly (Ho 4:6; 8:1,12; Am 2:4). This implied that Yahweh was thought of as actuated and acting by a consistent moral principle, which He also imposed on His people. Their morality may have varied much at different periods, but there is no reason to doubt that the Decalogue, and the moral teaching it involved, emanated substantially from Moses. "He taught them that Yahveh, if a stern, and often wrathful, Deity, was also a God of justice and purity. Linking the moral life to the religious idea, he may have taught them too that murder and theft, adultery and false witness, were abhorred and forbidden by their God" (Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures3, 49). The moral teaching of the Old Testament effected the transition from the national and collective to the individual and personal relation with Yahweh. The most fundamental defect of Hebrew morality was that its application was confined within Israel itself and did little to determine the relation of the Israelites to people of other nations; and this limitation was bound up with Henotheism, the idea that Yahweh was God of Israel alone. "The consequence of this national conception of Yahweh was that there was no religious and moral bond regulating the conduct of the Hebrews with men of other nations. Conduct which between fellow-Hebrews was offensive in Yahweh's eyes was inoffensive when practiced by a Hebrew toward one who was not a Hebrew (De 23:19 f) ..... In the latter case they were governed purely by considerations of expediency. This ethical limitation is the real explanation of the `spoiling of the Egyptians' " (Ex 11:2-3) (G. Buchanan Gray, The Divine Discipline of Israel, 46, 48).

The first line of advance in the teaching of the prophets was to expand and deepen the moral demands of Yahweh. So they removed at once the ethical and theological limitations of the earlier view. But they were conscious that they were only developing elements already latent in the character and law of Yahweh.

5. The Idea of God in the Prophetic Period:

Two conditions called forth and determined the message of the 8th-century prophets--the degradation of morality and religion at home and the growing danger to Israel and Judah from the all-victorious Assyrian. With one voice the prophets declare and condemn the moral and social iniquity of Israel and Judah (Ho 4:1; Am 4:1; Isa 1:21-23). The worship of Yahweh had been assimilated to the heathen religions around (Am 2:8; Ho 3:1; Isa 30:22). A time of prosperity had produced luxury, license and an easy security, depending upon the external bonds and ceremonies of religion. In the threatening attitude of Assyria, the prophets see the complement of Israel's unfaithfulness and sin, this the cause and that the instruments of Yahweh's anger (Isa 10:5-6).

(1) Righteousness:

These circumstances forced into first prominence the righteousness of Yahweh. It was an original attribute that had appeared even in His most martial acts (Jg 5:4; 1Sa 12:7). But the prophet's interpretation of Israel's history revealed its content on a larger scale. Yahweh was not like the gods of the heathen, bound to the purposes and fortunes of His people. Their relation was not a natural bond, but a covenant of grace which He freely bestowed upon them, and He demanded as its condition, loyalty to Himself and obedience to His law. Impending calamities were not, as the naturalistic conception implied, due to the impotence of Yahweh against the Assyrian gods (Isa 31:1), but the judgment of God, whereby He applied impartially to the conduct of His people a standard of righteousness, which He both had in Himself and declared in judgment upon them. The prophets did not at first so much transform the idea of righteousness, as assert its application as between the people and Yahweh. But in doing that they also rejected the external views of its realization. It consists not in unlimited gifts or in the costliest oblations. "What doth Yahweh require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Mic 6:8). And it tends to become of universal application. Yahweh will deal as a righteous judge with all nations, including Israel, and Israel as the covenant people bears the greater responsibility (Am 1:1-15 through Am 3:1-15). And a righteous judge that metes out even justice to all nations will deal similarly with individuals. The ministry of the prophets produced a vivid consciousness of the personal and individual relation of men to God. The prophets themselves were not members of a class, no order or school or profession, but men impelled by an inner and individual call of God, often against their inclination, to proclaim an unpopular message (Am 7:14-15; Isa 6:1-13; Jer 1:6-9; Eze 3:14). Jeremiah and Ezekiel in terms denounced the old idea of collective responsibility (Jer 31:29 ff; Eze 18:1-32). Thus in the prophets' application of the idea of righteousness to their time, two of the limitations adhering to the idea of God, at least in popular religion hitherto, were transcended. Yahweh's rule is no longer limited to Israel, nor concerned only with the nation as a collective whole, but He deals impartially with every individual and nation alike. Other limitations also disappear. His anger and wrath, that once appeared irrational and unjust, now become the intensity of His righteousness. Nor is it merely forensic and retributive righteousness. It is rather a moral end, a chief good, which He may realize by loving-kindness and mercy and forgiveness as much as by punishment. Hebrew thought knows no opposition between God's righteousness and His goodness, between justice and mercy. The covenant of righteousness is like the relation of husband to wife, of father to child, one of loving-kindness and everlasting love (Ho 3:1; 11:4; Isa 1:18; 30:18; Mic 7:18; Isa 43:4; 54:8; Jer 31:3 ff,Jer 34:1-22; 9:24). The stirring events which showed Yahweh's independence of Israel revealed the fullness of grace that was always latent in His relation to His people (Ge 33:11; 2Sa 24:14). It was enshrined in the Decalogue (Ex 20:6), and proclaimed with incomparable grandeur in what may be the most ancient Mosaic tradition: "Yah, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth; keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Ex 34:6-7).

(2) Holiness:

The holiness of Yahweh in the Prophets came to have a meaning closely akin to His righteousness. As an idea more distinctly religious and more exclusively applied to God, it was subject to greater changes of meaning with the development or degradation of religion. It was applied to anything withdrawn from common use to the service of religion--utensils, places, seasons, animals and men. Originally it was so far from the moral meaning it now has that it was used of the "sacred" prostitutes who ministered to the licentiousness of Canaanitish worship (De 23:18). Whether or not the root-idea of the word was "separateness," there is no doubt that it is applied to Yahweh in the Old Testament to express his separateness from men and his sublimity above them. It was not always a moral quality in Yahweh; for He might be unapproachable because of His mere power and terror (1Sa 6:20; Isa 8:13). But in the Prophets, and especially in Isa, it acquires a distinctly moral meaning. In his vision Isaiah hears Yahweh proclaimed as "holy, holy, holy," and he is filled with the sense of his own sin and of that of Israel (Isa 6:1-13; compare Isa 1:4; Am 2:7). But even here the term conveys more than moral perfection. Yahweh is already "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy" (Isa 57:15). It expresses the full Divinity of Yahweh in His uniqueness and self-existence (1Sa 2:2; Am 4:2; Ho 11:9). It would therefore seem to stand in antithesis to righteousness, as expressing those qualities of God, metaphysical and moral, by which He is distinguished and separated from men, while righteousness involves those moral activities and relations which man may share with God. But in the Prophets, God's entire being is moral and His whole activity is righteous. The meanings of the terms, though not identical, coincide; God's holiness is realized in righteousness. "God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness" (Isa 5:16). So Isaiah's peculiar phrase, "the Holy One of Israel," brings God in His most exalted being into a relation of knowledge and moral reciprocity with Israel.

(3) Universality:

The moralizing of righteousness and holiness universalized Deity.--From Amos downward Yahweh's moral rule, and therefore His absolute power, were recognized as extending over all the nations surrounding Israel, and the great world-power of Assyria is but the rod of His anger and the instrument of His righteousness (Am 1:1-15 through Am 2:1-16; Isa 10:5; 13:5 ff; Isa 19:1 ff). Idolatrous and polytheistic worship of all kinds are condemned. The full inference of Monotheism was only a gradual process, even with the prophets. It is not clear that the 8th-century prophets all denied the existence of other gods, though Isaiah's term for them, 'elilim ("things of nought," "no-gods"), points in that direction. At least the monotheistic process had set in. And Yahweh's control over other nations was not exercised merely from Israel's point of view. The issue of the judgment upon the two great powers of Egypt and Assyria was to be their conversion to the religion of Yahweh (Isa 19:24-25; compare Isa 2:2-4 = Mic 4:1-3). Yet Hebrew universalism never went beyond the idea that all nations should find their share in Yahweh through Israel (Zec 8:23). The nations from the ends of the earth shall come to Yahweh and declare that their fathers' gods were "lies, even vanity and things wherein there is no profit" (Jer 16:19). It is stated categorically that "Yahweh he is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else" (De 4:39).

(4) Unity:

The unity of God was the leading idea of Josiah's reformation. Jerusalem was cleansed of every accretion of Baal-worship and of other heathen religions that had established themselves by the side of the worship of Yahweh (2Ki 23:4-8,10-14). The semi-heathen worship of Yahweh in many local shrines, which tended to disintegrate His unity, was swept away (2Ki 23:8-9). The reform was extended to the Northern Kingdom (2Ki 23:15-20), so that Jerusalem should be the sole habitation of Yahweh on earth, and His worship there alone should be the symbol of unity to the whole Hebrew race.

But the monotheistic doctrine is first fully and consciously stated in Second Isa. There is no God but Yahweh: other gods are merely graven images, and their worshippers commit the absurdity of worshipping the work of their own hands (Isa 42:8; 44:8-20). Yahweh manifests His deity in His absolute sovereignty of the world, both of Nature and history. The prophet had seen the rise and fall of Assyria, the coming of Cyrus, the deportation and return of Judah's exiles, as incidents in the training of Israel for her world-mission to be "a light of the Gentiles" and Yahweh's "salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isa 42:1-7; 49:1-6). Israel's world-mission, and the ordering of historical movements to the grand final purpose of universal salvation (Isa 45:23), is the philosophy of history complementary to the doctrine of God's unity and universal sovereignty.

(5) Creator and Lord:

A further inference is that He is Creator and Lord of the physical universe. Israel's call and mission is from Yahweh who "created the heavens, and stretched them forth; he that spread abroad the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein" (Isa 42:5; compare Isa 40:12,26; 44:24; 45:18; Ge 1:1-31). All the essential factors of Monotheism are here at last exhibited, not in abstract metaphysical terms, but as practical motives of religious life. His counsel and action are His own (Isa 40:13) Nothing is hid from Him; and the future like the past is known to Him (Isa 40:27; 42:9; 44:8; 48:6). Notwithstanding His special association with the temple in Jerusalem, He is "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity"; the heaven is His throne, and no house or place can contain Him (Isa 57:15; 66:1). No force of history or Nature can withstand His purpose (Isa 41:17-20; 42:13; 43:13). He is "the First and the Last," an "Everlasting God" (Isa 40:28; 41:4; 48:12). Nothing can be likened to Him or compared with Him (Isa 46:5). As the heavens are higher than the earth, so His thoughts and ways transcend those of men (Isa 55:8-9). But anthropomorphic and anthropopathic expressions still abound. Eyes, mouth, ears, nostrils, hands, arms and face are His; He is a man of war (Isa 42:13; 63:1 ff); He cries like a travailing woman (Isa 42:14), and feeds His flock like a shepherd (Isa 40:11). Thus, alone could the prophet express His full concrete Divinity.

(6) His compassion and love are expressed in a variety of ways that lead up directly to the New Testament doctrine of Divine Fatherhood. He folds Israel in His arms as a shepherd his lambs (Isa 40:11). Her scattered children are His sons and daughters whom He redeems and restores (Isa 43:5-7). In wrath for a moment He hides His face, but His mercy and kindness are everlasting (Isa 54:8). Greater than a mother's tenderness is Yahweh's love for Israel (Isa 49:15; 66:13). "It would be easy to find in the prophet proof-texts for everything which theology asserts regarding God, with the exception perhaps that He is a spirit, by which is meant that He is a particular kind of substance" (A.B. Davidson in Skinner, Isa, II, xxix). But in truth the spirituality and personality of God are more adequately expressed in the living human language of the prophet than in the dead abstractions of metaphysics.

6. Idea of God in Post-exilic Judaism:

Monotheism appears in this period as established beyond question, and in the double sense that Yahweh the God of Israel is one Being, and that beside Him there is no other God. He alone is God of all the earth, and all other beings stand at an infinite distance from Him (Ps 18:31; 24:1 ff; Ps 115:3 ff). The generic name God is frequently applied to Him, and the tendency appears to avoid the particular and proper name Yahweh (see especially Ps 73:1-28 through Ps 89:1-52; Job; Ecclesiastes).

(1) New Conditions.

Nothing essentially new appears, but the teaching of the prophets is developed under new influences. And what then was enforced by the few has now become the creed of the many. The teaching of the prophets had been enforced by the experiences of the exile. Israel had been punished for her sins of idolatry, and the faithful among the exiles had learned that Yahweh's rule extended over many lands and nations. The foreign influences had been more favorable to Monotheism. The gods of Canaan and even of Assyria and Babylonia had been overthrown, and their peoples had given place to the Persians, who, in the religion of Zarathushtra, had advanced nearer to a pure Monotheism than any Gentilerace had done; for although they posited two principles of being, the Good and the Evil, they worshipped only Ahura-Mazda, the Good. When Persia gave way to Greece, the more cultured Greek, the Greek who had ideas to disseminate, and who established schools at Antioch or Alexandria, was a pure Monotheist.

(2) Divine Attributes.

Although we do not yet find anything like a dogmatic account of God's attributes, the larger outlook upon the universe and the deeper reflection upon man's individual experience have produced more comprehensive and far-reaching ideas of God's being and activity. (a) Faith rests upon His eternity and unchangeablehess (Ps 90:1-2; 102:27). His omniscience and omnipresence are expressed with every possible fullness (Ps 139:1-24; Job 26:6). His almighty power is at once the confidence of piety, and the rebuke of blasphemy or frowardness (Ps 74:12-17; 104:1-35 et passim; Job 36:1-33; 37:1-24 et passim; Ecclesiasticus 16:17 ff). (b) His most exalted and comprehensive attribute is His holiness; by it He swears as by Himself (Ps 89:35); it expresses His majesty (Ps 99:3,1.9) and His supreme power (Ps 60:6 ff). (c) His righteousness marks all His acts in relation to Israel and the nations around her (Ps 119:137-144; 129:4). (d) That both holiness and righteousness were conceived as moral qualities is reflected in the profound sense of sin which the pious knew (Ps 51:1-19) and revealed in the moral demands associated with them; truth, honesty and fidelity are the qualities of those who shall dwell in God's holy hill (Ps 15:1-5); purity, diligence, kindliness, honesty, humility and wisdom are the marks of the righteous man (Pr 10:1-32 through Pr 11:1-31). (e) In Job and Proverbs wisdom stands forth as the preeminent quality of the ideal man, combining in itself all moral and intellectual excellences, and wisdom comes from God (Pr 2:6); it is a quality of His nature (Pr 8:22) and a mode of His activity (Pr 3:19; Ps 104:24). In the Hellenistic circles of Alexandria, wisdom was transformed into a philosophical conception, which is at once the principle of God's sell-revelation and of His creative activity. Philo identifies it with His master-conception, the Logos. "Both Logos and Wisdom mean for Him the reason and mind of God, His image impressed upon the universe, His agent of creation and providence, the mediator through which He communicates Himself to man and the world, and His law imposed upon both the moral and physical universe" (Mansfield Essays, 296). In the Book of Wisdom it is represented as proceeding from God, "a breath of the power of God, and a clear effulgence of the glory of the Almighty .... an unspotted mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness" (7:25,26). In man, it is the author of knowledge, virtue and piety, and in the world it has been the guide and arbiter of its destiny from the beginning (chapters 10 through 12). (f) But in the more purely Hebrew literature of this period, the moral attribute of God that comes into greatest prominence is His beneficence. Goodness and mercy, faithfulness and loving-kindness, forgiveness and redemption are His willing gifts to Israel. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so Yahweh pitieth them that fear him" (Ps 103:13; 145:8; 103:8; Ec 2:11 ). To say that God is loving and like a father goes far on the way to the doctrine that He is Love and Father, but not the whole way; for as yet His mercy and grace are manifested only in individual acts, and they are not the natural and necessary outflow of His nature. All these ideas of God meant less for the Jewish than for the Christian mind, because they were yet held subject to several limitations.

(3) Surviving Limitations.

(a) Disappearing Anthropomorphism:

We have evidence of a changed attitude toward anthropomorphisms. God no longer walks on earth, or works under human limitation. Where His eyes or ears or face or hands are spoken of, they are clearly figurative expressions. His activities are universal and invisible, and He dwells on high forevermore. Yet anthropomorphic limitations are not wholly overcome. The idea that He sleeps, though not to be taken literally, implies a defect of His power (Ps 44:23).

(b) Localization:

In the metaphysical attributes, the chief limitation was the idea that God's dwelling-place on earth was on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. He was no longer confined within Palestine; His throne is in heaven (Ps 11:4; 103:19), and His glory above the heavens (Ps 113:4); but

"In Judah is God known:

His name is great in Israel.

In Salem also is his tabernacle,

And his dwelling-place in Zion"

(Ps 76:1-2; 110:2; compare Ecclesiasticus 24:8 ff).

That these are no figures of speech is manifested in the yearning of the pious for the temple, and their despair in separation from it (Ps 42:1-11; 43:1-5; compare Ps 122:1-9).

(c) Favoritism:

This involved a moral limitation, the sense of God's favoritism toward Israel, which sometimes developed into an easy self-righteousness that had no moral basis. God's action in the world was determined by His favor toward Israel, and His loving acts were confined within the bounds of a narrow nationalism. Other nations are wicked and sinners, adversaries and oppressors, upon whom God is called to execute savage vengeance (Ps 109:1-31; 137:7-9). Yet Israel did not wholly forget that it was the servant of Yahweh to proclaim His name among the nations (Ps 96:2-3; 117:1-2). Yahweh is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works (Ps 145:9; Ecclesiasticus 18:13; compare Ps 104:14; Zec 14:16, and the Book of Jonah, which is a rebuke to Jewish particularism).

(d) Ceremonial Legalism:

God's holiness in the hands of the priests tended to become a material and formal quality, which fulfilled itself in established ceremonial, and His righteousness in the hands of the scribes tended to become an external law whose demands were satisfied by a mechanical obedience of works. This external conception of righteousness reacted upon the conception of God's government of the world. From the earliest times the Hebrew mind had associated suffering with the punishment of sin, and blessedness with the reward of virtue. In the post-exilic age the relation came to be thought of as one of strict correspondence between righteousness and reward and between sin and punishment. Righteousness, both in man and God, was not so much a moral state as a measurable sum of acts, in the one case, of obedience, and in the other, of reward or retribution. Conversely, every calamity and evil that befell men came to be regarded as the direct and equivalent penalty of a sin they had committed. The Book of Job is a somewhat inconclusive protest against this prevalent view.

These were the tendencies that ultimately matured into the narrow externalism of the scribes and Pharisees of our Lord's time, which had substituted for the personal knowledge and service of God a system of mechanical acts of worship and conduct.

(4) Tendencies to Abstractness:

Behind these defective ideas of God's attributes stood a more radical defect of the whole religious conception. The purification of the religion of Israel from Polytheism and idolatry, the affirmation of the unity of God and of His spirituality, required His complete separation from the manifoldness of visible existence. It was the only way, until the more adequate idea of a personal or spiritual unity, that embraced the manifold in itself, was developed. But it was an unstable conception, which tended on the one hand to empty the unity of all reality, and on the other to replace it by a new multiplicity which was not a unity. Both tendencies appear in post-exilic Judaism.

(a) Transcendence:

The first effect of distinguishing too sharply between God and all created being was to set Him above and apart from all the world. This tendency had already appeared in Ezekiel, whose visions were rather symbols of God's presence than actual experiences of God. In Daniel even the visions appear only in dreams. The growth of the Canon of sacred literature as the final record of the law of God, and the rise of the scribes as its professional interpreters, signified that God need not, and would not, speak face to face with man again; and the stricter organization of the priesthood and its sacrificial acts in Jerusalem tended to shut men generally out from access to God, and to reduce worship into a mechanical performance. A symptom of this fact was the disuse of the personal name Yahweh and the substitution for it of more general and abstract terms like God and Lord.

(b) Skepticism:

Not only an exaggerated awe, but also an element of skepticism, entered into the disuse of the proper name, a sense of the inadequacy of any name. In the Wisdom literature, God's incomprehensibility and remoteness appear for the first time as a conscious search after Him and a difficulty to find Him (Job 16:18-21; 23:3,8-9; Pr 30:2-4). Even the doctrine of immortality developed with the sense of God's present remoteness and the hope of His future nearness (Ps 17:15; Job 19:25). But Jewish theology was no cold Epicureanism or rationalistic Deism. Men's religious experiences apprehended God more intimately than their theology professed.

(c) Immanence:

By a "happy inconsistency" (Montefiore) they affirmed His immanence both in Nature (Ps 104:1-35; The Wisdom of Solomon 8:1; 12:1,2) and in man's inner experience (Pr 15:3,11; 1Ch 28:9; 29:17-18). Yet that transcendence was the dominating thought is manifest, most of all, in the formulation of a number of mediating conceptions, which, while they connected God and the world, also revealed the gulf that separated them.

(5) Logos, Memra' and Angels:

This process of abstraction had gone farthest in Alexandria, where Jewish thought had so far assimilated Platonic philosophy, that Philo and Wisdom conceive God as pure being who could not Himself come into any contact with the material and created world. His action and revelation are therefore mediated by His Powers, His Logos and His Wisdom, which, as personified or hypostatized attributes, become His vicegerents on earth. But in Palestine, too many mediating agencies grew up between God and man. The memra', or word of God, was not unlike Philo's Logos. The deified law partly corresponded to Alexandrian Wisdom. The Messiah had already appeared in the Prophets, and now in some circles He was expected as the mediator of God's special favor to Israel. The most important and significant innovation in this connection was the doctrine of angels. It was not entirely new, and Babylonian and Persian influences may have contributed to its development; but its chief cause lay in the general scheme of thought. Angels became intermediaries of revelation (Zec 1:9,12,19; 3:1 ff), the instruments of God's help (Da 3:28; 2 Macc 11:6), and of His punishment (Apoc Baruch 21:23). The ancient gods of the nations became their patron angels (Da 10:13-20); but Israel's hatred of their Gentileenemies often led to their transforming the latter's deities into demons. Incidentally a temporary solution of the problem of evil was thus found, by shifting all responsibility for evil from Yahweh to the demons. The unity and supremacy of God were maintained by the doubtful method of delegating His manifold, and especially His contradictory, activities to subordinate and partially to hostile spirits, which involved a new Polytheism. The problem of the One and the Many in ultimate reality cannot be solved by merely separating them. Hebrew Monotheism was unstable; it maintained its own truth even partially by affirming contradictories, and it contained in itself the demand for a further development. The few pluralistic phrases in the Old Testament (as Ge 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa 6:8, and 'Elohim) are not adumbrations of the Trinity, but only philological survivals. But the Messianic hope was an open confession of the incompleteness of the Old Testament revelation of God.

Continued in GOD, 3.

Bible Verses by Topic Nave's Bible Concordance McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia Online Bible KJV Dictionary

Scripture reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.