In His Own Image and Likeness: Humanity, Divinity, and Monotheism

By W. Randall Garr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
THE PLURAL PRONOUNS

With few exceptions, the Israelite deity is a grammatically singular entity. In J, for example, singular pronouns—whether independent or affixed—regularly substitute for nominal designations of God. J's God, then, is almost invariably represented by first (e.g., Gen 18: 17, 2:I8), second (e.g., 16: 13, 4: 14), and third person singular pronouns (e.g., 24: 7, 3: 14–17). But this grammatical feature is not limited to J. Many passages indicate that each pentateuchal tradition does the same: e.g., 20: 6 (E), Ex 6: 2–3 (P), Dt 5: 28 (D), or Ex 20: 2 = Dt 5: 6–7. Regardless of documentary source or grammatical person, God is a singular pronominal entity in Biblical Hebrew.

In four passages, though, God apparently identifies himself as ‘we’. One text falls outside of the Pentateuch and is embedded in Isaiah's prophetic commission.

Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying, “Whom

shall I send?
Who will go for us?” And I said, “Me. Send me.” (Is 6: 8)

The other three are clustered in the primaeval history, Gen 1–11.

Then God said,

“Let us make humankind in
our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over
the fish of the sea, and over the birds of heaven, and over the beasts,
and over the whole earth, and over everything that moves on the earth.”
(Gen 1: 26 [P])

then the Lord God said, “Since the man has become like one

of
us, knowing good and evil, no way then should he stretch out his hand,
take from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever!” (Gen 3: 22
[J])

The Lord came down to see the city and tower that the human beings
had built. The Lord said, “Since they are one people, and they all have
one language, and this is only the beginning, nothing then that they
consider doing will be out of their reach. Let's

let us go down
and confound their language there, so that they shall not understand one
another's speech.” (Gen 11: 5–7 [J])

The divine ‘we’ is attested in three different biblical traditions.

-17-

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