I am curious to know if/how God is crisply defined in the Torah: What is God and what is God not?

For example, here is what can be considered a crisp definition of God in the Quran (necessary conditions and hence main definition) in the sense that if anyone satisfies these four points then he is God. And ofcourse such a definition should come from God himself

Chapter Ikhlas or Sūrat al-Tawḥīd (Arabic: سورة التوحيد‎) (Monotheism) in the Quran crisply defines what is God and what it is not and can be viewed as the touchstone of theology:

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّ‌حْمَـٰنِ الرَّ‌حِيمِ

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّـهُ أَحَدٌ ﴿١ اللَّـهُ الصَّمَدُ ﴿٢ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ ﴿٣ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ ﴿٤

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;

Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;

He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;

And there is none comparable unto Him.

I have included the above not for comparative religion, because that's not the point of my question, but as an example of what I'm trying to find in the Torah. Does the Torah itself contain explicit definition of God as mentioned above? I am specifically interested in only revealed texts (this can include any or all of the Tanakh, but preferably the Five Books of Moses).

Descriptive Definition (Attributive)

Similarly, the following single Quranic verse Ayatul Kursi defines the descriptive Characteristics of God:

God: There is no god but He, the living, eternal, self-subsisting, ever sustaining. Neither does somnolence affect Him nor sleep. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth: and who can intercede with Him except by His leave? Known to Him is all that is present before men and what is hidden (in time past and time future), and not even a little of His knowledge can they grasp except what He will. His seat extends over heavens and the earth, and He tires not protecting them: He alone is all high and supreme.


I am still searching for the presence of following points in torah:

Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;

He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;

  • 2
    @Ali, I think, quite frankly, it makes the question rather confusing.
    – Seth J
    Feb 11, 2013 at 20:00
  • 4
    I don't see what is added from the Koran quotes. I move for them to be removed, and replaced with a clear description of what the OP is looking for using words not analogies.
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2013 at 4:36
  • 2
    @Ali The first quran quote is irrelevant because you are asking for Jewish definitions as presented in Tanakh. This question has nothing to do with Islam.
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2013 at 4:45
  • 4
    I have voted to close as off-topic. Despite its protestation that it's not about comparative religion, it's clear from the way quotations are used in the question that they're not just parallel "examples" but the specific definition of what the author is looking for. The question here really is specifically about comparing the doctrines of Judaism and Islam and is therefore comparative religion and off-topic.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 12, 2013 at 21:39
  • 4
    I tend to agree. Your most recent edit emphasizes that you aren't looking for other definitions in the Torah which are clear and precise. You are looking to see if a certain quality of Islam's God is also a quality of Judaism's God.
    – Double AA
    Feb 13, 2013 at 6:31

4 Answers 4


It's difficult to understand what you mean by "clear definition", as the Quranic verses you provide give descriptions of what God is or is not, but not really a definition of God as a whole being necessarily.

The revealed texts (Torah and the later Scriptures) do not deal too much with theology in general - certainly not in any systematic manner. Jewish theological treatises were written mostly in the Middle Ages by the great Jewish philosophers of the time. Since then, Judaism traditionally seems to accept the concept that God is ineffable.

However, there are many verses throughout the Tanach that are comparable to those which you quote from the Islamic sources. I will note merely a few of them. (Translations from Mechon-Mamre.)

  • "Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD, He is God; there is none else beside Him." (Deuteronomy 4:35)
  • "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4)
  • "I am the LORD, that maketh all things; that stretched forth the heavens alone; that spread abroad the earth by Myself;" (Isaiah 44:24)
  • "Thus saith the LORD: The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool; where is the house that ye may build unto Me? And where is the place that may be My resting-place?" (Isaiah 66:1)
  • "That they may know that it is Thou alone whose name is the LORD, the Most High over all the earth." (Psalms 83:19)
  • "Behold, He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalms 121:4)
  • I was surprised to see the last point , but what about begetting ...? The first quoted chapter Surah tauhid is the touchstone of theology , hence its called definition , if this definition\touchstone gets satisfied then that on whom its satisfied is God! So its a definition of God
    – knowit
    Feb 12, 2013 at 4:30

Hard to do better than Maimonides (Y'sode Hatorah 1):

The basis of all bases and pillar of knowledges is to know there's a first existing being. He brought into existence all that exists, and all things that exist… only exist from the truth of his existence. If he were to not exist, if you could ponder such a thing, nothing else would exist. But if nothing else would exist, if you could ponder that, then he would exist anyway, not be nonexistent due to their nonexistence. For all existing things require him, but he, blessed is he, doesn't require them or any one of them.

Thus, his truth is not like the truth of any one of them. Thus, the prophet said [Jer. 10] "God, god, is truth": he alone is truth, nothing else has truth like his truth. That's what the Torah says [Deut. 4], "there is nothing else but him", meaning there's no true existing thing except for him like him.

  • I am specifically interested in only revealed texts. Coz only God can define himself
    – knowit
    Feb 11, 2013 at 16:48
  • I don't know what "revealed texts" means.
    – msh210
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:35
  • words of god and not men
    – knowit
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:36
  • @Ali, note the quotations in Maimonides from Tanach, including one from the Torah (Pentateuch).
    – msh210
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:39

To add to Jake's list of examples, here are some more from the Chumash:

And God said unto Moses: 'I AM THAT I AM'; and He said: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: I AM hath sent me unto you.' And God said moreover unto Moses: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations. (Sh'mos 3:14-15)

And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed: 'The LORD, the LORD, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and unto the fourth generation.' (Sh'mos 34:6-7)

God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: when He hath said, will He not do it? or when He hath spoken, will He not make it good? (B'midbar 23:19)

Know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else. (D'varim 4:39)

See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me; I kill, and I make alive; I have wounded, and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand. (D'varim 32:39)

Aside from these examples, it is worth noting the frequency with which HaShem identifies himself as the one who took the Jews out of Egypt (e.g. Sh'mos 20:2; ibid. 29:46; Vayikra 11:45; ibid. 19:36; ibid. 22:33; ibid. 25:38; ibid. 26:13; B'midbar 15:41; D'varim 5:6; ibid. 6:12; ibid. 8:14; ibid. 13:6,11; ibid. 20:1). That is a critical aspect of how we are to relate to Him.


we cannot define God in any way.

All atributes ascribed to Him are just to negate the opposite. For example when we say that He is one, wise, strong, or truth.

It is only to negate the opposite. But of what he truly is - we have no grasp whatsoever

From end of Shaar Yichud Chapter 8 http://dafyomireview.com/article.php?docid=398#ch8

nevertheless the closest thing to a definition to God is to say that He is one as below from the shema. "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."

(ibid chapter 1 - Marpe Lenefesh commentary:) the meaning of the word "definition" is: "a correct and complete teaching on the thing that one wishes to explain what it is. Therefore one must call it with a name which is specific to it, so that the reader does not err that one's intent was for something else...for example, if we define a human being saying that he is a "speaking being" - this is an all-encompassing teaching without breaches, but if you define him saying that he is an "alive being" - this is not a complete definition, and there is a breach in your words since animals are also called "alive". So too all things like this, understand this. Now, likewise for the matter of the unity of the Creator, when the tongue and the heart are equal, and a person understands the ways of logical proofs, that which a person says of the Creator that He is "One", how He is one, then the person's unifying (G-d) in his heart is a complete teaching on G-d, but if the person cannot bring logical proofs, and he says on G-d that He is "one", this is not a complete teaching on G-d, and there is a breach in his words, because there are many things in the world which are also called "one", even though they are not truly one, since they are more than one, as will be explained, and with this introduction you will understand this chapter and the next)

(that only G-d is truly one, but nothing else is truly one under any circumstances, and even if we say on something that it is "one", it is not really one, except in passing, rather it is more than one as will be explained - Marpe Lenefesh commentary).

  • 1
    "It is only to negate the opposite." I think this would qualify as a definition. It defines what G-d is not, thereby giving us an understanding of G-d. In any event, this doesn't answer the question, since the OP is seeking sources from TaNa"Ch.
    – Seth J
    Feb 11, 2013 at 21:20
  • negation does not always fully describe something. sometimes it is enough to define something. in this case it is not. also, there's a source from tanach. namely, the shema
    – ray
    Feb 11, 2013 at 21:50
  • Right, but you haven't cited the Shema' in your extracted answer. You have merely mentioned G-d's "one"-ness.
    – Seth J
    Feb 11, 2013 at 21:55
  • @SethJ Depends how strongly you hold of the law of the excluded middle in these matters.
    – Double AA
    Feb 11, 2013 at 23:11
  • The first chapter Surah tauhid is the touchstone of theology , hence its called definition , if this definition\touchstone gets satisfied then that on whom its satisfied is God! So its a definition of God
    – knowit
    Feb 12, 2013 at 4:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .