ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Religion and Philosophy»
  • Christianity, the Bible & Jesus

If God Is Not A Man, Can He Become a Man?

Updated on June 4, 2018
marcelocarcach profile image

Marcelo holds a B.A. in Bible, a B.S. in Education, and an M.S. in Education; has served as youth pastor; works as a group home supervisor.

Gang nach Emmaus (On the Road to Emmaus)

Source

"God 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, KJV)

Introduction

I have watched several videos in which Rabbi Tovia Singer uses Numbers 23:19 to teach that the incarnation is impossible (the incarnation is the Christian doctrine that the God of the Tanach became a human being known as Jesus of Nazareth).

In this article, I will demonstrate that Numbers 23:19 does not teach the incarnation is impossible, and that there are good reasons to consider the God of the Tanach would become human.

Interpreting Numbers 23:19

Numbers 23:19 states that “God is not a man.” What does this statement mean? Does it mean (as Rabbi Tovia Singer teaches) that God can never adopt a human form? Let us look at its context.

Balak wanted Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam could not curse Israel because God Himself would not curse Israel (Numbers 23:5-10). Balak asked Balaam to pray from a different location to see if God would change His mind and curse Israel (Numbers 23:11-15), but God replied that He would not change His mind and curse Israel (Numbers 23:16-23).

The relationship between the clause “God is not a man” and its context is clear. God was telling Balak that since God is not human He is not subject to human behavior: He cannot be manipulated, He does not lie, He cannot be persuaded to turn back on His promises.

In fact, the clause “God is not a man” is part of a complex sentence whose independent clause makes the same point. The entire complex sentence is “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19, KJV).

Within its context, the purpose of the clause “God is not a man” is evident. Its purpose is not to teach that God can never adopt a human form, but to teach that God is intrinsically not a human, and therefore He is not subject to human character flaws. To say that “God is not a man” means God can never adopt a human form, is to disregard the clear meaning that “God is not a man” derives from its context.

Is It Bad to Be Human?

Rabbi Tovia Singer also argues that God cannot become a man because to become a man is to become something that is "not good" (you can watch Rabbi Singer's video at the end of this article). This argument, however, is not a biblical argument.

When God created the first man and the first woman, He said that everything He had created was "very good" (Genesis 1:31), and this included Adam and Eve themselves. In fact, the book of Psalms teaches that God has crowned human beings with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5). That doesn't sound too bad, does it?

Of course, Adam and Eve eventually failed God, and all human beings became sinners (Psalm 51:5). Nevertheless, to be a human is not inherently bad, but "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Could not the all-powerful God become a "very good" human being instead of sinful one? Of course He could! After all, He originally created the human race "very good."

God Reveals Himself As A Man in Genesis 18

In reality, as we read through the Tanach, we learn that there are several instances when God reveals Himself in the human form of a man. These are not mere anthropomorphisms, but actual manifestations of God in a human body.

Genesis 18:1 tells us that Hashem (God) appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. Genesis 18:2 to 18:33 narrates the event for us. Abraham saw three men walking toward him, and he addresses one of them as "my lord" (Genesis 18:3).

Abraham offers his guests water to wash their feet, food to eat, and shade under a tree so they can rest. These actions (washing feet, eating, and resting) prove that this manifestation is not just a mere anthropomorphisms, but an actual manifestation in human bodies.

As we read through the passage, Abraham speaks to the three men (Genesis 18:4), and the three men speak to Abraham (Genesis 18:5 and 9). Nevertheless, Hashem often takes the lead in the conversation (Genesis 18:10, 13-15).

The men then get up (Genesis 18:6) and leave toward Sodom (Genesis 18:22), but it seems God stays behind since Abraham stays talking to Him (Genesis 18:22).

God finally ends his conversation with Abraham and leaves (Genesis 18:33), and in Genesis 19:1 we are told that two angels arrived to Sodom at even.

Thus, we conclude that of the three men that ate with Abraham, two men were angels in human form, but one was Hashem in human form.

God Reveals Himself As A Man in Genesis 32

In Genesis 32, God revealed Himself to Jacob as a man. After many years, Jacob was finally heading home, but he was still afraid of his brother Esau; so Jacob prayed to God for deliverance from Esau (Genesis 32:9-12).

That night, when Jacob found himself alone, we are told that a man wrestled with him until dawn (Genesis 32:24). The man wanted to leave, but Jacob would not let him leave because he wanted the man to bless him (Genesis 32:25, 26). Why would Jacob want a mere man to bless him?

The man realized that he could not prevail against Jacob, so he wounded Jacob on his thigh (Genesis 32:25) and afterwards blessed him (Genesis 32:29).

What the man said to Jacob was significant. The man gave Jacob a new name: Israel. He gave him this name because Jacob had prevailed while wrestling with God and men (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob then came to this conclusion: he said that there he had seen God face to face (Genesis 32:30). Moreover, the prophet Hosea came to the same conclusion: he said that Jacob had overcome God with strength (Hosea 12:3).

The man with whom Jacob had been wrestling all night was Hashem (God) in human form.

How Human Were These Manifestations of God?

When Hashem appeared to Abraham and to Jacob in human form, Hashem had really become human.

Hashem washed his feet with water that Abraham brought to him; obviously, his feet had become dirty while walking on the earth. Hashem also ate the food that was given to him by Abraham; obviously, Hashem experienced hunger while He had a human form. Finally, Hashem rested under the shade of a tree, which indicates that he was tired from his journey.

Hashem also became tired while wrestling with Jacob, and He was overcome by Jacob. In his human form, Hashem was still God, nevertheless He was a human who could get tired and be overcome.

God Also Appears As a Glorious Man

In the first chapter of his book of prophesy, Ezekiel describes "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD" (Ezekiel 1:28). Ezekiel describes a majestic and fearsome throne on wheels, guarded by four winged creatures.

What does Ezekiel see on the throne of Hashem? Let us read what Ezekiel says.

"And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it" (Ezekiel 1:26, KJV).

On the throne of God, over the glory of Hashem, sits a glorious man whose appearance is bright like fire.

Ezekiel is not the only one who saw God as a man. The prophet Daniel describes God as a glorious, elderly man. Daniel calls Hashem The Ancient of Days, and he describes Him as wearing white clothes and having hair like pure wool (Daniel 7:9). Clearly, Daniel is describing a human!

Moses himself, and the elders of Israel, saw the God of Israel in the likeness of a man. He had feet, He sat on a throne, and it appears He even ate with them (Exodus 24:10-11).

Conclusion

I have watched several videos in which Rabbi Tovia Singer uses Numbers 23:19 to teach that the incarnation is impossible.

In this brief article, I have explained that Numbers 23:19, given its context and wording, only means that God is not intrinsically human, and thus this verse cannot be used to argue that the Christian doctrine of the incarnation is wrong and that God would never reveal Himself in human form.

In fact, the Tanach mentions several instances in which Hashem (God) was pleased to reveal Himself in human form. He appeared unto the Patriarchs as a human being who experienced hunger and tiredness, and who could be overcome by other human beings; and He revealed Himself to Moses and other prophets as a radiant and glorious human being.

As we read the New Testament, we find that Jesus of Nazareth is depicted in this same pattern. Jesus suffered tiredness, He slept, He experienced hunger and thirst, He was beaten, He was crucified, and He was even killed by Roman soldiers. Nevertheless, after He resurrected, He could appear and disappear in an instance, and He could walk through walls. Finally, when He appeared to the Apostle John, His appearance was like the one described by Ezekiel.

Could it be that Jesus is the God of the Tanach revealing Himself as a human being? I believe so.

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."

— (1 Timothy 3:16, KJV)

Rabbi Tovia Singer on Numbers 23:19

© 2018 Marcelo Carcach

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)