5. The Invisible G-D
And [Micaiah] said: "Therefore, hear the word of the L-rd; I saw the L-rd sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left."
I saw the L-rd standing beside the altar....
The year King Uzziah died, I saw the L-rd sitting upon a throne high and borne aloft, and His train filled the Temple.
G-d is an eternal spiritual Being with absolutely no limitations or physicality. This universe is within Him, as a thought is within one's mind. Therefore, it is impossible to see G-d. When the Hebrew Bible says that G-d was seen, it always means that a vision was granted, as G-d Himself explains:
I [G-d] have also spoken to the prophets, and I have multiplied visions; and by the ministry of the prophets have I used similitude[s].
Likewise, when describing G-d, the Hebrew Bible employs anthropomorphisms (walking, seeing, fingers, etc.). Otherwise it would be impossible to relate to Him at all:
Behold, G-d is great and we know Him not; the number of His years is unsearchable.
To improve our understanding [of G-d], we describe Him in terms of His creationsMechilta, Exodus 19:18.
The Torah speaks in the language of manTalmud Berakoth 31b.
Imposing physicality on G-d would limit Him to a defined space. Thus, the universe would have to be outside of Him. Yet the Hebrew Bible states that G-d fills all of creation, with no place devoid of His presence:
...for the L-rd, your G-d, is G-d in heaven above and on earth below.
I Kings 8:27
For will G-d indeed dwell on earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You; how much less this House that I [Solomon] have built!
"Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?" says the L-rd. "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the L-rd.
And one [angel] called to another, and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the L-rd of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory."
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up. And they saw the G-d of Israel; and under His feet was a kind of pavement of sapphire stone, as clear as the very heaven.
The L-rd spoke with you [the Jews] face to face in the mountain out of the midst of the fire.
In both these descriptions of the Torah being given on Mount Sinai, the Jewish people beheld a vision but G-d was not actually seen:
And the L-rd spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the voice of the words, but you saw no form-only a voice.
Guard your souls greatly, for you saw no manner of form on the day that the L-rd spoke to you at Horeb [Sinai] out of the midst of the fire. Beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female.
And [Hagar] called the Name of the L-rd Who spoke to her, "You are a G-d Who sees me," for she said: "Have I even here seen Him Who sees me?"
It is clear from the narrative that angels had spoken to her, and that it was they-not G-d-who had appeared to her:
The angel of the L-rd found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain on the way to Shur.
The angel of the L-rd said to her: "Return to your mistress and submit to her." And the angel of the L-rd said to her: "I will so greatly multiply your descendants [that] they will be too numerous to count." And the angel of the L-rd said to her: "Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael because the L-rd has heard your affliction."
The Hebrew word "malach" means both "messenger" and "angel" because an angel is a messenger of G-d. Since a messenger is an extension of whoever sends him, an angel is often synonymous with G-d:
Behold, I am sending an angel before you [the Jews], to protect you on the way, and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Obey him and listen to his voice; be not rebellious against him; for he will not pardon your transgression, for My Name is in him.
Because G-d's Name is in the angel, it is tantamount to saying that G-d Himself will not pardon their transgressions. Similarly:
The angels sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah said:
For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the L-rd, and the L-rd has sent us to destroy it.
However, it was G-d Who destroyed these cities:
Then the L-rd rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the L-rd out of heaven. And He overthrew those cities and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and whatever grew on the ground.
And the angel of the L-rd called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said: "By Myself have I sworn, says the L-rd...."
And the angel of the L-rd appeared to [Gideon] and said to him: "The L-rd is with you, you mighty man of valor."
Immediately thereafter, this angel is called "L-rd":
And the L-rd turned toward him and said: "Go in this might of yours, and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; do I not send you?"
And immediately after that, it is called an angel again:
And the angel of the L-rd said to him....
And the angel of the L-rd appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush burned with fire, yet it was not consumed.
We then read:
When the L-rd saw that he turned aside to see, G-d called to him out of the bush: "Moses, Moses," and he said: "Here I am."
The L-rd went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.
Then the angel of G-d, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.
And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
And he said: "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with G-d and with men and have prevailed."
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen G-d face to face, and my life has been saved!"
The prophet Hosea confirms that Jacob was wrestling not with a man but with an angel:
And [Jacob] strove with an angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor....
Frequently, the Hebrew Bible interchanges the terms "angel" and "man" because angels appear in human form. For example:
...while I [Daniel] was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.
Gabriel is a chief angel.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him, his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him: "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" And he said: "No, but as commander of the army of the L-rd I have now come," and Joshua fell on his face toward the ground and bowed down....
This "commander" was an angel.
Samson's conception was heralded by an angel:
And the angel of the L-rd appeared to the woman....
This angel appeared as a man:
Then the woman came and told her husband, saying: "A man of G-d came to me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of G-d, very awesome...."
Thereafter, the angel reappeared in the form of a man:
And the woman ran in haste and told her husband and said to him: "Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me." And Manoah arose and went after his wife, and he came to the man and said to him: "Are you the man who spoke to this woman?" And he said: "I am."
However, when they saw the angel ascend to heaven in a flame of fire, we read:
...then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the L-rd. And Manoah said to his wife: "We shall surely die because we have seen G-d."
To bolster their claim that Jesus was G-d incarnate, missionaries maintain that G-d actually appeared in human form in all these verses under discussion. But even the New Testament discounts this hypothesis:
No one has ever seen G-d; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known.
I Timothy 6:15--16
...this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and L-rd of lords, Who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, Whom no man has ever seen or can see.
Thus, even Christians will have to agree that G-d was never seen by anyone.