Numbers / Bemidbar 8:1 - 12:16
For the week of June 13, 1998
19 Sivan 5758

God’s Form

He [Moses] sees the form of the LORD
(Numbers / Bemidbar 12:8).

One of the most respected commandments in the Torah is the prohibition against making idols:

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…(Exodus / Shemot 20:4).

Idolatry was prevalent in the cultures of the day. It was common for a nation to have physical representations of the gods. Israel was unique in that their religion had no such representations.

Idolatry includes two fundamental errors. First, attributing deity to objects and creatures that are not God. For there is only one God in all the universe. Second idolatry is the attempt to represent the living God through something made with human hands. No one has the imagination or the ability to make a visual and tangible image that can truly expresses who God really is.

Though God had marvelously revealed himself to the people of Israel, they continually turned to idols anyway. From the incident of the Golden Calf at Mt. Sinai (See Exodus / Shemot 32), the people and their leaders worshipped idols.

It wasn’t until after the return from the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century before the Messiah that idolatry was wiped out from Israeli culture. They eventually developed an intense negative stand against this sin.

In this strong stand against idolatry there emerged the concept that not only should God not be misrepresented, but that he himself had no form at all. But this week’s portion claims that Moses saw the form of God. While we do not know exactly what he saw, he saw God’s form.

God has a form. Over and over again in the Scriptures, God came to people who thought they were interacting with a tangible person (God visited Abraham along with two angels; Jacob wrestled with a man who turned out to be in fact God; God appeared in human form to Samson’s parents.). This is not to say that God in his fullness is a physical finite being. He is spirit, yet he does possess form in some way.

In reality Judaism’s understanding of the idolatry prohibition in itself is a form of idolatry in that it insists that God cannot really reveal himself to us the ways he wishes. If God desires to take on human form, that’s his business.

We read of Yeshua: "The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being" (Hebrews 1:3). God has taken on form so that we can know him. What Moses and many others saw was just a foretaste of what was to come.

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