Hello I'm a Christian that joined the board to learn more about the background of the Bible. A decade ago, I bought a Jewish Study Bible and was intrigued by some of the ideas in the footnotes, and Introduction section. One idea that intrigued me was the notion of "God as Cohen", in speaking of the Genesis creation. (The article speaks in terms of microcosm and compares the Genesis account to other far "Near Eastern Creation stories".) The article mentions God being like a priest because He a) gives blessings, b)consecrates the Sabbath, and c) parallels are seen between constructing the Earth and the construction of the Tabernacle. Anyway I was wondering if anyone had more to add to this topic? I find it intriguing but difficult because many times when I think of the roles God plays, other roles like King, Father etc. seem equally or even more true than God acting as a Cohen / Old Testament priest.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing your question here. If you can remember anything more about where you read this, editing that in could help people provide answers. Thanks! Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 20:25
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    (c) is definitely developed in many places, but not in relation to the Kohanim. The problem is the Kohanim didn't construct the Tabernacle (everyone who wanted to participate did, led by Betzalel and Aholiav, with the final assembly done by Moses). Similarly (b) "consecrates the Sabbath", the Kohanim are not much more involved there than anyone else. They brought special sacrifices on the Sabbath (in addition to the ones brought every day), but the primary sanctification is done by everyone in their own homes. (a) kind of works, but standing on its own it's a little weak.
    – Heshy
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 20:26
  • Hi there, I found a link that shows the exact copy of the book I'm referring too. abebooks.com/Jewish-Study-Bible-Featuring-Publication-Society/…-used--PLA--v01&cm_mmc=msn--Bing+US+Shopping--Ad+group+%231--{product_groups} Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 1:06
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/91559/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 22:18

2 Answers 2


The Talmud (Sanhedrin 39a) describes a conversation between a Min (heretic) and R. Abbahu:

A certain Min said to R`Abbahu: Your God is a priest [Kohen], since it is written, That they take for me Terumah [wave offering--this is the same word used for one of the priestly offerings].

Now, when He had buried Moses, wherein did He bathe [after contact with the corpse]?

Should you reply, In water: is it not written, Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand? [R' Abbahu answered,] 'He bathed in fire, for it is written, Behold the Lord will come in fire.' [Asked the min,] 'Is then purification by fire effective? ' 'On the contrary,' he replied, 'bathing [for purposes of purification] should essentially be in fire, for it is written, And all that abideth not the fire ye shall make to go through the water.'


Given that the role of Cohen is defined by God in the Torah, it seems unlikely that that role would exert an influence on His behavior, rather than the other way around.

Along the lines you suggest, but in the opposite direction, many traditional commentaries describe many or even all of the Commandments as containing the intention of imitatio Dei. One commentator whose interpretations of intent and symbolism of the Commandments I particularly appreciate, R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, mentions this theme many times in his commentary on the Torah.

In particular (off the top of my head for now):

  • In the vicinity of Exodus 28 (if I recall correctly), he interprets the special roles of the Cohen and the Cohen Gadol (High Priest). I don't remember whether he talks about imitatio Dei particularly there, but he does explain the Cohen as embodying an ideal of the types of dedication and behavior Jews are meant to exhibit.

  • I'm pretty sure that he incorporates imitatio Dei in his explanation of the Cohen's role in "placing God's name upon the people" in the "Preistly Blessing" described in Numbers 6:22-27.

(I'll look these up later and provide more precise references and quotations.)

  • we know the concept as והלכת בדרכי
    – Hershy S.
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 21:12
  • Thanks Isaac for the feedback regarding imitatio Dei. It's very helpful. Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 23:21

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