Since ancient Israel was a patriarchal society, does that mean that the intermediary humans that wrote the Tanach were inclined to apply masculine aspects to God because men were dominant in those times?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Why do you think that this was a decision by Moshe and the prophets, and not something God told them to do? – Scimonster Jan 31 '15 at 20:57
  • Well, because the customs of the land suited better for men to be in a superior position. Especially since every known prophet is a male aswell. I find it odd that God is called "He" or "Him". Additionally if God is an immaterial spirit being, how could "He" possibly speak a human language through mere humans? These are the primary issues surrounding my question. – Boya Lukia Jan 31 '15 at 21:01
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    Actually, there were at least 7 prophetesses. – Scimonster Jan 31 '15 at 21:08
  • Even if there were female prophets there are 48 prophets who are male which demonstrates the men were held in a superior fashion to women. Weren't women viewed as property back then? Does this not explain why God is masculine and called a "He"? – Boya Lukia Jan 31 '15 at 21:14
  • @BoyaLukia No the 48 male and 7 female prophets were only a subset of the prophets because they were the ones whose prophesy was for future generations. Women were not "property" as shown (for example) by Devorah who was a judge and Miriam the sister of Moshe. It is an artifact of language just as in English. – sabbahillel Feb 1 '15 at 0:27

No. It is an artifact of language rather than a matter of "patriarchal dominance". Many languages have no "gender neutral" pronoun that can be applied to a human being or an animal with a sexual identity. That is, "it" refers to something inanimate and cannot be used for a being. Thus it does not have a term that can refer to Hashem. English does not have a gender neutral pronoun like "heesh".

Spanish and Hebrew (for example) must refer all object with a masculine or feminine pronoun (as for example at Gender, an Inherent Characteristic of Spanish Nouns) even for objects. Indeterminate or mixed nouns also use the masculine form.

In any case, the listed prophets (male and female) are only those whose prophesies were meant for future generations. We see from the incident of Chizkiyahu consulting Chuldah that a prophet could be male or female and the fact was not considered unusual. the only question that arose was why he did not consult Yirmiyahu who was the leading prophet of that generation. We also see from the fact that Devorah was the Judge of the nation and from Miriam sister of Moshe that a female prophet was accepted as normal.

  • "was accepted as normal" "was not considered unusual" I don't see how that follows at all. – Double AA Feb 1 '15 at 1:13

According to Jewish tradition, there was not a "group of intermediary humans who wrote the Tanach."

The Rambam in his 13 fundamentals of Jewish faith, in the introduction to the 10th chapter of Sanhedrin, in the 8th principle, writes the following:

כלומר שהגיע אליו כולה מאת ה' הגעה שקורין אותה על דרך השאלה דבור

Which means to say that the entire Torah reached Moshe from G-d on a level which we call "speech"

The entire Torah was dictated, at the pinnacle of clarity, by G-d to Moshe. The Jewish explanation of why G-d is referred to in masculine terms, then, will not have anything to do with a male-dominated society.

  • tora dibra kilshon adam. the Torah spoke in human language. There's little option in Hebrew to using so-called "masculine" grammatical forms, even when God metaphorically gives birth (Deut 32:18). The quotation from Rambam suggests that the revelation to Moshe was not in actual words but on a level which is only called "speech" by allegory, implying that it is perfectly ok to ask why Moshe interpreted the revelation with the words he did. Finally, note that none of this applies to Tanakh as a whole, and there is no dogmatic need to claim that God dictated the writings or the prophets. – Hayyim Obadyah Mar 12 '15 at 19:59
  • @HayyimObadyah I highly suggest you look up the Rambam in context before putting forth theories. "והוא במעלת לבלר שקורין לפניו והוא כותב" - next line in the Rambam - "He was like a scribe who you tell him what to write and he writes it." And in any event that would preclude "intermediary humans." As for your point about the rest of Tanakh, that's completely irrelevant - once the Chumash, which was at this level, describes Hashem in masculine terms, there is no reason to ask why the rest of Tanakh does - it follows after Chumash, which was written at the level of dictation. – Y     e     z Mar 12 '15 at 21:29

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