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Devarim 4:15 states:

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves—for ye saw no manner of form on the day that the LORD spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire—

And also in Shemos 19:11:

and be ready against the third day; for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.

Does this necessarily mean that the Israelites perception of G-d was one that was formless, or could it just mean that it was obscured/they weren't privy to it, and thus cannot make any sort of image/idol since they have no idea how he looked.

It also says in the Midrash/Talmud somewhere that G-d appeared as an elder at sinai, is that somehow contradictory to this pasuk or is it within the confines of it's interpretation?

Note the Rambam and other midrashic works I've seen use this as proof that G-d is incorporeal.

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Does this necessarily mean that the Israelites perception of G-d was one that was formless, or could it just mean that it was obscured/they weren't privy to it

Do not see form. or do not can see form. or concept of form is linked to conceptuability/perceptibility? I think that the first is the minimal and the first step and the pshat.

The word Temuna, is extracted from Mana counting, finitude

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    I enjoyed the linguistic note. – Micha Berger May 5 '16 at 17:31
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Actually the words are "כִּ֣י לֹ֤א רְאִיתֶם֙ כָּל־תְּמוּנָ֔ה -- for you did not see any form". Nothing about seeing something formless. What the Jews did see (Exodus 20:14):

וְכׇל־הָעָם֩ רֹאִ֨ים אֶת־הַקּוֹלֹ֜ת וְאֶת־הַלַּפִּידִ֗ם וְאֵת֙ ק֣וֹל הַשֹּׁפָ֔ר וְאֶת־הָהָ֖ר עָשֵׁ֑ן וַיַּ֤רְא הָעָם֙ וַיָּנֻ֔עוּ וַיַּֽעַמְד֖וּ מֵֽרָחֹֽק׃

And the whole nation saw the sounds and the flames, the sound of the shofar and the mountain in smoke; the nation was in awe/fear, and they trembled and stood from afar.

The sages discuss how they could see sounds. Today one might say it was auditory to visual synesthesia caused by sensory overload. The question would be why G-d would find this effect desirable.

But in any case, no one sees visions of G-d during the 10 commandments. Now, explaining the Throne Vision the elders had just after. (Exodus 33:18) The man in the throne cannot be G-d both because of the verse you quote and because of fundamental theological concerns. The medieval commentators dispute what is actually was, discussed here. Either a vision of something real that is other than G-d, or the vision is a symbolic message and the man is a symbol representing G-d.

  • "But in any case, no one sees visions of G-d during the 10 commandments" Do you mean no one saw? – mevaqesh May 5 '16 at 18:24
  • @MichaBerger i updated the post. The key thing I'm going for is that the Rambam uses this as proof that G-d doesn't have a body, so according to him they saw something that proved that to them. – Fei23 May 5 '16 at 18:31
  • @Fei23: Or, their failure to see anything proved the point. After all, the Rambam doesn't believe people literally see even angels, moving every story involving people interacting with angels into the realm of prophecy. IOW, the Rambam says that people only prophetically "see" or "hear" angels, since one can only literally see or hear physically things. All the moreso G-d. Besides, a blob or a cloud also has finite extension and parts; something visible but formless would also fail the Rambam's logic about G-d. – Micha Berger May 9 '16 at 16:52

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