Friday, February 01, 2008

A note on Exodus 24:10

One of the stranger verses in the Torah:
ויראו את אלהי ישראל ותחת רגליו כמעשה לבנת הספיר וכעצם השמים לטהר׃
And they saw the God of Isael and beneath his feet was a sapphire* brick which was like the heavens in [the] purity [of its color]

This is a shocking and frank anthropomorphism, one not at all in keeping with previous and subsequent expressions about man being unable to see God and live. Typically, Onkilos dodges the difficulty with a translation that reads "and they saw their sacrifices had been accepted favorably" Rashi ignores the anthropomorphism, but addresses the second problem by saying that they, in fact, were doomed to die, but not wanting to spoil the party, God differed* the punishment to a later date.

* Pace almost every single English translation of the bible in the world, sapphires were unknown in ancient Israel. The Hebrew word here likely refers to a different sort of blue stone, the lapis lazuli.

*I know. Spelled wrong.

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