Jill Middlemas, «The Prophets, the Priesthood, and the Image of God (Gen 1,26-27)», Vol. 97 (2016) 321-341
This analysis considers aniconic rhetoric in Hosea, Second Isaiah, and Ezekiel, in order to assess commonality and difference with respect to prophetic and priestly perspectives of the divine image because interpreters draw on the prophetic literature in discussions of the thought of Gen 1,26-27. There is greater similarity in thought between Second Isaiah and Gen 1,26-27 as well as greater tension between Ezekiel and the first imago Dei passage than accounted for previously, and almost no commonality with Hosea. Furthermore, the prophets diversify the number and type of divine images as a means to resist idolatry.
THE PROPHETS, THE PRIESTHOOD, AND THE IMAGE Of GOD 337
tion of the use of the metaphor “rock” with the deity in the Psalms 62.
In addition to implying strength and durability, the stone metaphors
also reveal that God is unlike human beings and is something other to
which we cannot entirely relate. Abstract thinking about God rein-
forces the sanctity or holiness of the divine. In addition, shifting im-
agery for the divine, what I think of as multiple imaging, dissuades the
creation of, indeed the reduction of, the divine image in a human or in
any other particular form. By so doing, the use of multiple images en-
sures the sanctity of the deity and lays the foundation for resisting
idolatry, which is essentially the stabilization of the divine image in
In Second Isaiah, when the deity was positively compared, the
similarities all came from examples of human beings, but in both gen-
ders, and so there was no fixation on one gender exclusively. A human
comparative is found in Ezekiel, which is destabilized within its liter-
ary context in at least two ways: (1) through the use of the extended
comparative that distances the deity from a particular shape and in the
choice of the more general term “human” (~da) rather than “man”
(vya) as well as in the description of the figure which has a lower half
of fire; and (2) through the use of other divine comparatives of form-
less shapes like fire and the rainbow in the collection. In the Book of
Hosea, the divine comparisons stem exclusively from outside the hu-
man realm, from flora and fauna, from the animal kingdom, and from
more vague ideas like dew, illness, and decay. These non-human im-
ages stress the otherness of the deity, who remains unfathomable.
All of the divine modelling similes in the prophetic literature
are located in, or related to, concerns about idolatry 63. They represent
incomparable divine comparability because they generate multiple
divine images. No single image is found when God is described with
the comparative k. Moreover, likening the divine image to something
else generates new thoughts about the deity and even the divine form.
The contexts in which the comparisons are made strongly suggest that
they are used along with other rhetorical strategies (such as incompa-
rability, the debasement of idols, etc.) to counteract the stabilization
of the divine image. They function aniconistically and fulfil what
Mark Brettler has suggested of the divine metaphors in Second Isaiah:
K. NIELSEN, “The Variety of Metaphors about God in the Psalter: Deconstruc-
tion and Reconstruction?”, SJOT 16 (2002) 151-159.
See, also, MIDDLEMAS, “Divine Presence in Absence”, 184-195, where I
connect the use of images in worship to the loss of yHWH’s abiding presence.