What the Bible Means When It Speaks of Worshipping God

Both philosophers of religion and laypeople tend to assume that prayer is a uniform activity across faiths, cultures, and denominations—even if the content, addressee, and external forms vary. But Avital Hazony Levi, by rejecting this assumption, comes to a novel approach to understanding Jewish worship and the specific activity of bowing or prostration before God:

Religions vary greatly in their conceptions of God, of man, and of the relationship between the two. By trying to define a universal archetype of worship, philosophers unwittingly overlook notions of worship that are different from their own. [Moreover], the philosophical discussion of worship has mostly focused on an individual’s attitude or emotion, thereby portraying worship as part of a one-on-one relationship between man and God that transcends a person’s other human relationships. In contrast, the Hebrew Bible’s notion of worship as bowing down, kneeling, or prostrating oneself in service of God shapes a person to carry out God’s will of bringing justice and charity to human relations.

Just as we cannot know God without referencing human experience, we also cannot learn how to relate to God without reference to human relationships. This explains why in the Hebrew Bible all verbs that direct us in our relationship with God are taken from the realm of human experience and especially from human relationships. . . . The King James Bible uses “worship” to translate the ritualized action of bowing down (hishtaḥavah) [only] when the text is referring to bowing before God, and uses “bow” to translate the very same Hebrew term when referring to bowing before a human being.

Thus worship in the biblical view is not a unique phenomenon that occurs [solely] between humans and God. . . . [It] is a term taken from the political realm of masters and servants because, like human kings, God needs servants who will accept His rule and utilize their knowledge, power, and initiative in achieving His goals.

Read more at Religious Studies

More about: Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Prayer, Religion


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy