Anthropomorphism in the Bible: Definition and Examples

ReformedWiki Post

Anthropomorphism refers to instances where the Bible uses human physical appearance to describe God. A similar concept, anthropopathism, refers to instances where the Bible uses human emotions to describe God.

John 4:24 says this:

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4:24

That “God is spirit” means that God does not have a physical body. However there are many passages in the Bible that describe God as if he had physical, human body parts, which seems contradictory to John 4:24.

However, the solution to these apparent contradictions is that passages that describe God using physical, human attributes are utilizing the literary technique of anthropomorphism. The purpose of anthropomorphism is to describe God using language that is more relatable to readers, using physical attributes that the readers themselves possess and understand.

Examples of Anthropomorphism in the Bible

In these examples, God is described as having “arms,” “hands,” a “face,” “eyes,” or “feet.” This language is meant to help the reader understand what God is like by using language that the reader can better understand.

Arm

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.

Exodus 6:6

You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.

Psalm 89:10

Hand

The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.

Exodus 7:5

He has stretched out his hand over the sea; he has shaken the kingdoms; the Lord has given command concerning Canaan to destroy its strongholds.

Isaiah 23:11

Hand and Arm (Anthropomorphism in the Bible)

Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

Deuteronomy 4:34

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Deuteronomy 5:15

Face

If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

Leviticus 20:6

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

Numbers i6:25

Eyes

a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

Deuteronomy 11:12

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.

Psalm 34:15

Ear and Eyes

Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.

2 Kings 19:16

let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.

Nehemiah 1:6

Feet (Anthropomorphism in the Bible)

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?

Isaiah 66:1

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