"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Essay #8:


IN SHORT… It is the hallmark of idolatrous faiths to confuse Gd with human beings: either that Gd becomes human, or that humans become Gd. In biblical history, one sees this confusion with Pharaoh, and with Haman (boo, hiss!), as well as with Antiochus, the Assyrian King against whom the Maccabees rebelled. Contrary to pagan thought, throughout the Bible we are taught not to confuse Gd and Man. For example, in Hosea 11:9, Gd explicitly tells us, ‘…for I am Gd and not a man.’ All of the great Jewish figures of the Hebrew Bible — the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Moses, King David and others — are shown as fully human, not divine.

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, there is a sharp contrast made between Gd on one hand, and human beings on the other. First of all, there is always a reprimand against any human being who claims to be Gd, or Divine, as we read in Ezekiel 28:2:

Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Etrnl Gd; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am Gd, I sit in the seat of Gd, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not Gd, though thou set thine heart as the heart of Gd.[Ezekiel 28:2]

Then there is the verse from Hosea in which Gd specifically tells us that Gd is not a human being:

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am Gd and not a man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. [Hosea 11:9]

In Numbers 23:19, Gd specifically tells us that if Gd were a human being, then He would be a liar, as all human beings do lie on occasion. Furthermore, this verse tells us that if Gd were a human being, He would be in need of repentance because all human beings sin at some point in their lives. Finally, this verse also tells us that if Gd were a human being, then He would make promises, but not keep them:

Gd is not a man that he should lie; neither the Son of Man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? [Numbers 23:19]

Gd is the same, Gd does not lie, and Gd is Gd and Human Beings are Human Beings, and Gd does not become a Human Being, and Human Beings do not become Gd.

There are three Jewish Holy Days that express this idea, most dramatically in the well-known Jewish holiday of Passover. Let’s examine it first.

Passover is the celebration of the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Gd brought the Jews out of slavery by performing miracles, which were in the form of plagues. These plagues were not against the Egyptians, as most people think. They were actually against the gods of the Egyptians, as we are explicitly told in Exodus:

For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Etrnl. [Exodus 12:12]

The Egyptians worshipped the Nile — but Moses, on behalf of Gd, struck the Nile and it bled. The Egyptians worshipped the sun-god, Ra — but one of the plagues of Gd was darkness for three days. The plagues of the locusts and the hail which destroyed the crops were against the Egyptian gods of the harvest. The tenth and final plague was against the first-born sons, who had or would become the priests of these Egyptian gods. Remember that Pharaoh was held to be a god by the Egyptians. That is why the text in Exodus 11:5 tells us that the plague of the death of the firstborn went all the way to the throne of Pharaoh.

And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. [Exodus 11:5]

The holiday of Passover has a way of saying, ‘Sorry, Pharaoh, you are not Gd!’

The next holiday we will look at is Chanukah. Antiochus of Syria wanted to unify his empire by making all of the inhabitants of his empire into Hellenists, followers of Zeus. But the Jews refused to assimilate, of course, because they believed in only One Gd. Antiochus saw this as insurrection, and began persecuting the Jews. He called himself Antiochus Epiphanes, which means, ‘Antiochus who is Gd manifested.’ Through commemorating the Maccabee rebellion, the holiday of Chanukah is a way of saying, ‘Sorry, Antiochus, you are not Gd!’

Finally, let us look at Purim, the holiday that celebrates the events of the Book of Esther. In this story, there is a character named Haman (boo! hiss!). He hated the Jews because the Jewish hero, Mordechai, would not bow down to him. The holiday of Purim has a way of saying, ‘Sorry, Haman (boo! hiss!), you are not Gd!’

Each of these three holidays has, as part of its theme, the idea that Gd is Gd, humans are humans, and Gd does not become a human, and humans do not become Gd.

Perhaps this idea of confusing Gd and man also explains Christian belief in the Virgin Birth — the joining of Gd and the human woman Mary, who supposedly became pregnant without the sex act in some mysterious way not related to reality as we know it. Numerous gods and heroes in the ancient world were the product of a human mother and a god for a father. As we have notedelsewhere in this website, Heracles’ mother was the human woman Alcmene and his father was Zeus. Dionysus’ human mother was Semele and his father was Zeus. Perseus’ human mother was Danae and his father was Zeus. As a matter of fact, Zeus made Danae pregnant without the sex act, and therefore her pregnancy was a form of immaculate conception.

This confusion, the mixing of man with gods, was common in the ancient pagan world.

But in the Hebrew Bible, all of the Jewish greats — the three Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah; Joseph, Moses, King David, etc. — are never portrayed as being divine or free of sin; they are shown as fully human, with all the passions and flaws of human beings. They are all born in the natural, non-miracle way, and all die, returning to the dust, just as all humans do.

Basic to the faith of the Bible and of the Jewish People is the distinction between Gd and man, a distinction which is contradicted in mainstream Christianity by the belief that Jesus was the literal son of Gd, or even Gd Himself.

Questions? Email Rabbi Stuart Federow

Copyright held by Rabbi Stuart Federow 2012.
All rights reserved

Want to share or print this? Choose how below:
  • Print
  • email
  • Add to favorites
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: