When we read that “God is Spirit” (Jn 4:24), we might assume that God is nebulous or disembodied—something akin to the wind or a cloud. This strictly spiritual understanding seems to align with the Israelites’ experience of God at Sinai when, although God had descended upon the mountain, they “saw no form” (Deut 4:12, 15). Yet, just because the Israelites didn’t see a form, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have one. To the contrary, the Bible is clear that God has an embodied, visible form in which the Divine interacts with humanity.
The Hebrew word for “form” is תְּמוּנָה (temunah). While it is true that the Israelites saw no “form” (תְּמוּנָה) at Sinai, God appears to others as a visible and embodied entity whose description mirrors the human form. For example, the psalmist declares of God, “I shall behold your face (פָּנִים; panim) in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your form (תְּמוּנָה; temunah)” (Ps 17:15). Notice how “face” parallels “form” in this verse; the psalmist equates God’s “form” with God’s “face,” so we know that this is a physical form.
God says of Moses, “With him I speak mouth to mouth (פֶּה אֶל־פֶּה; peh el-peh), clearly and not in riddles, and he beholds the form (תְּמוּנָה; temunah) of the Lord” (Num 12:8). While the Israelites standing at the foot of Sinai may not have been able to see God’s form, Moses certainly does! The reason that the Israelites couldn’t see the form of the Lord is not because God doesn’t have one, but because the divine form was obscured by a “cloud” and “thick darkness” (Deut 5:22). While it’s true that “God is Spirit,” it’s equally true that God has a bodily form.
The Bible can provide us with truth, but it can also be difficult to decipher! Whether you're looking for some biblical direction, stumped on scriptural questions, or just want to confirm that you're already on the right track, join the growing community of faculty and students at Israel Bible Center! (Click here to begin your journey of discovery).