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We know G-d has no gender yet our Scriptures use masculine pronouns when referring to Him and also when He refers to Himself in the third person. Obviously there are only three options: male, female or just neutral but referring to G-d as "It" would seem very disrespectful. Why does the Torah refer to G-d paternally?

Note: I realize the Shechinah is considered feminine but I cannot recall one instance in the Torah where it's addressed as "she" or "her."

  • Can you explain the third option "just neutral"? How would one say that (in biblical Hebrew of course)? – Double AA Feb 12 at 23:56
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    @DoubleAA: Not sure. Referring to G-d as "it." Whatever that would be in biblical Hebrew. If there is no such thing then that would help explain why gender is used. But why male as opposed to female? – Ephraim77 Feb 13 at 0:48
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Hebrew has no gender neutral nouns whatsoever. As an example, Chinese has a special gender neutral reference, while the reference he includes as part of it the symbol for human. Thus referring to Hashem as He would involve blasphemy. While English does have the word it, that word refers to something that is inanimate and sexless like a table or chair. As a result, it would not be proper to refer to Hashem as It. It in English does not refer to a being whose gender is indeterminate or a mixed group. In Hebrew a mixed group or indeterminate being uses the masculine construct.

Thus the references are based on the language construct rather than any particular attribution of a sexual identity to the mal'achim (usually translated as angels) or to terms that refer to Hashem.

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    There is a third option: to sometimes use male pronouns and sometimes female, like derech and a few other words. – Heshy Feb 13 at 2:46
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    @Heshy That is not the normal construct of the language. If someone wants to change the standard useage, they can try to do so. However the question was about the usage in the Torah, not about modern political correctness. – sabbahillel Feb 13 at 3:00
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    There are words in the Torah that fit that pattern. The beginning of kiddushin lists a few. For that matter, Elokim sometimes has singular verbs and sometimes plural, which is a similar grammatical construct. Hashem chose to write the Torah in a particular way for a reason and oversimplifying is not going to help you find that reason. – Heshy Feb 13 at 3:24

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