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God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19

The Lord is a man of war; The Lord is His name.” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭15:3

‬ I understand the incarnation of Jesus (who is God) is one separate doctrine. But assuming these verses are speaking of God’s unchanging nature, how do we reconcile scripture saying on one hand that God is a man, then telling us God is not a man?

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    Good question. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jan 20, 2022 at 11:09
  • 1
    If the word "man" is considered as part of the expression "man of war", meaning "warrior", it loses its sense of being restricted to humans. Jan 21, 2022 at 4:56

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Ex 15:3 - The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

this can be regarded as either a metaphor or an anthropomorphism of which there are many in Scripture. God is portrayed as getting sad, glad, mad, and even bad ("I create good and bad"), with hands and face (Eze 1) and much else. God even has regrets!!

All this illustrates the limitations of human language and the unavoidable need to express things in a human language that is poorly equipped to express truly divine thoughts ("my thoughts are higher than your thoughts").

Thus, I do not believe that the anthropomorphism here should be taken literally.

Ellicott observes:

(3) The Lord is a man of war.—The directness and boldness of the anthropomorphism is markedly archaic, and is wisely retained by our translators. How turgid and yet weak are the Samaritan, “mighty in battle,” and the LXX., “crusher of wars,” in comparison!

Num 23:19 - God is not a man that He should lie ...

The Hebrew is simply saying that God does not have the human limitations that precipitate lying as humans do. God is not capricious, etc.

Both are simply saying that God is God, and, man is man. They are seperate and act differently. God is reliable and man is not.

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In the JPS Commentary Sarna takes Exodus 15:3 as a metaphor. This seems obvious and is the best way to reconcile these two passages. When Jesus said he is the door of the sheep, he didn't mean a literal door. That's another example of a metaphor.

  1. the Warrior This divine epithet responds to 14:14, “The Lord will battle for you” and to verse 25, “the Egyptians said … the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” Because the Egyptians came against Israel as an armed force, the Lord—to whom alone victory is attributed—is metaphorically described as a warrior. In the biblical view, the enemies of Israel are the enemies of God, so that Israel’s wars for survival are portrayed as “the battles of the LORD.” Indeed, the Bible at times refers to a “Book of the Wars of the LORD,” which is no longer extant. A corollary of this concept is the humbling recognition that the decisive factor in war is ultimately not human prowess or the force of arms, but the free exercise of God’s will. As David retorted to Goliath: “This whole assembly shall know that the LORD can give victory without sword or spear, for the battle is the LORD’s.…” The prophet Zechariah expresses the same idea this way: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, said the LORD of Hosts.” The poetic biblical notion of God as a warrior has nothing in common with the idea of “holy war” as it found expression in the crusades of medieval Christendom and in the Christian “wars of religion,” or in the Islamic jihad, which regards the propagation of Islam by waging war against unbelievers as a religious duty. -- Sarna, N. M. (1991). Exodus (pp. 77–78). Jewish Publication Society.

John Calvin's commentary seems to imply a metaphor.

What follows in the next verse—“The Lord is a man of war,” is to the same purpose, for although at first sight the phrase may seem a harsh one, still it is not without beauty: that God is armed in military attire, to contend with all the forces of His foes. Therefore, says Moses, the name of the Lord belongs to Him alone, because His hand awaits to destroy whatever lifts itself up against Him. -- Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 1, pp. 256–257). Logos Bible Software.

The Hebrew language is anthropomorphic. In the face of means In the presents; also phrases the hand of, the finger of. These phrases should not be taken literally, and in a sense are metaphoric.

https://www.christianity.com/wiki/god/what-is-the-significance-of-gods-hands-in-the-bible.html

What is the best interpretation of the “finger of God” in the Old Testament?

https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/hand/

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As Author of both [Exodus 15.3] & [Numbers 23.19], the Israelite prophet Moshe affirms the non-Israeli prophet Balaam's descriptions of YHVH God's essence in [Bamidbar בַּמִּדְבָּר | Number 23.19] : "God [is] not a [Man]" ( לֹא אִישׁ אֵל ) ... "nor a [Son of Adam]" ( וּבֶן־אָדָם ). -- Why? -- Thankfully unlike Ish & Ben-Adam, our God is not able לְכַזֵּב Lekazev "to deceive". Because any man can choose to lie deceptively, God cannot be a man. [Although God cannot lie Himself, He does allow lies to be spoken by men, 1 Kings 22:22].

In [Shemot שְׁמוֹת | Exodus 15.3] - Which [Ish] of War does Moshe attribute to God? ... Man, Husband, or [Master]. | "Master of Milchamah", the aspiration of the dying King David for his son in 1 Kings 2:2 - to evoke Maturity (knowing right from wrong) not like a child. As שֹׁפְטֵנוּ our Judge [Isaiah 33:22], YHVH מַלְכֵּנוּ our King always knows good from bad decisions in times of trouble.

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Is there a contradiction?

God is not a man, does not change, cannot be tempted, does not sin, is not weak, needs no one, does not lie, does not change his mind, is not born and cannot die.

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and will he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and will he not make it good?

1 Samuel 15:29 "And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he IS not a man, that he should have regret."

Hosea 11:9 "I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath."

Psalm 102:26 They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them.

Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

James 1:13-15 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Job 25:4-6 - 4 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? 5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. 6 How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?

Malachi 3:6 - "For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."

Conclusion: Either in Exodus ‘Lord’ is not referring to God or it’s a contradiction, probably manipulated for a particular opinion.

For more see Hebrew 13:8 is Jesus God - https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/77131/33268

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  • I am not sure about your intentions here, but if you have any knowledge on the incarnation of Jesus, then it will make sense of how Jesus is the "I AM" of both Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58. The incarnation doesn't mean that God changed, it means that the unchanging God(the Son) took on a human nature, thus His eternal Being and attributes didn't suffer change/mutation, but His role changed, putting on a body for redemption (Hebrews 10:5). Why link my question? I already read your answer on that former question, and I don't think it makes exegetical & biblical sense.
    – Cork88
    Aug 9, 2022 at 17:20
  • @Cork88.The incarnation is not in the bible. How is Jesus God if he is limited (hunger, thirst, grew fed, cared and raised a a baby)?. If you say that Jesus/God did not change. How do you explain that God is a spirit that does not have flesh and bones? Aug 10, 2022 at 4:30
  • @Cork88 - obviously we have differences of opinions - IMO the 'evidence' available 'Lord' is used as a lose term as many are called 'Lord' or it conflicts with Exodus. Happy for you to provide evidence/passages which shows otherwise, always looking to improve my knowledge. I linked your Q as it has more info to help other readers. You would have also seen my link to the 'I AM' hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/60969/33268 Aug 10, 2022 at 9:57
  • @AlexBalilo “Incarnation” literally means embodied in flesh. It is taught in scripture, the word doesn’t need to be directly used; for it is a descriptive word: “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God,” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:2‬ - People have given you multiple explanations already Alex, so I’m confused. Jesus in His divine nature didn’t change, He put on a body (Phillipians 2:5-11). How many times in a circle do you want to argue what is plain and easy to understand. Jesus was God in a human body, with human nature.
    – Cork88
    Aug 11, 2022 at 15:08
  • @anothertheory Exodus 3:14 translating from the Hebrew is “Ani Hu” which if translated into Greek is “Ego Emei” the same Greek words used by Jesus to describe Himself in John 8:58, so in OT terminology Jesus said “I am God”, again; it was in OT terminology that Jesus claimed to be God, that’s why in John 8:59 the Jews picked up stones to throw at Him. They knew what He meant by that, I.e. Exodus 3:14.
    – Cork88
    Aug 11, 2022 at 15:11
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This is the nature of metaphors: almost without exception negations (x is not y) are never metaphors, but literal — whereas metaphors (x is y) are also by nature not literal.

So when Numbers records that "God is not a man that He should [do things caused by the fraility and sinfulness of the human creature]," it intends to convey that God does not suffer from the same shortcomings as man, simply because He is not a human creature. He can be relied on as savior, unlike men.

Psalm 146:4 Trust not in the mighty, nor in any man, in whom there is no salvation. When his spirit leaves him he will return to the dust, and his plans will perish with him.

But in Exodus, when He is called a "man of war," this is metaphorical, in that a man of war is mighty, fierce, reliable, strong, confident, dependable. Not that God takes on physical form to use physical weapons against actual warriors.

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