What the Bible Means When It Speaks of Worshipping God

April 9 2021

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.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Religious Studies

More about: Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Prayer, Religion

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank