Problematic instances of anthropomorphisms

Ibn Pakudah then cites a number of instances of anthropomorphism in the Torah that seem to throw a wrench into our understanding of God as un-earthly, uncommon, and non-human. As he says in chapter 1:10 there.

It is known that the Torah, the Books of the Prophets, and the lyric–works of the pious very often use such terms for the Creator in two ways: either by suggesting a physical shape or form for Him (as, for example, “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created Him” [Genesis 1:27], “Because He made man in the image of God…” [Ibid. 9:6], “…through the mouth of God…” [Numbers 9:18], “I, My hands, have stretched out the heavens” [Isaiah 45:12], “…to God’s ears” [Numbers 11:1], “… under His feet” [Exodus 24:10], “God’s arm…” [Isaiah 52:9], “…who has not taken My Spirit in vain” [Pslams 24:4], “…in God’s eyes” [Genesis 6:8], “God said to His heart…” [Ibid. 8:21] and the like, referring to body parts).

Or by ascribing movement and physical action to Him (as, for example, “And God smelled the sweet smell…” [Genesis 8:21], “God saw… He regretted… it grieved Him in His heart” [Ibid. 6:5-6], “God descended” [Ibid. 11:5], “God remembered” [Ibid. 8:1], “God heard” [Numbers 11:1], “God awoke, like a sleeper” [Psalms 78:65] and the like, referring to human actions.)

Is there any wonder, then, why we misunderstand God?

(c) 2015 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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