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Throne of God

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The great throne upon which God is seated, seen by the prophet Isaiah: ‘I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne’ (Isaiah 6: 1). In the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, who, unlike Isaiah, lived outside the Holy Land, the throne is carried to him on a chariot (Ezekiel 1). Ezekiel's vision is the subject of contemplation by the mystics described as Riders of the Chariot. The book of Kings (1 Kings 22: 19) tells of the vision of the prophet Micaiah (not to be confused with the prophet Micah) who spoke of God seated upon His throne, with all the host of heaven standing in attendance to the right and left of Him. A particularly anthropomorphic description of the throne is found in the late book of Daniel (Daniel 7: 9): ‘Thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat, His garment was like white snow, and the hair of His head was like clean wool. His throne was tongues of flame; its wheels were blazing fire.’ Against these visions, in which God is located on a special throne, the prophet of exile declares: ‘Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth My footstool’ (Isaiah 66: 1). The Talmudic Rabbis often speak of God leaving His throne of judgement to sit on His throne of mercy, when, for example, the shofar is sounded on Rosh Ha-Shanah.

In all the biblical instances the throne is seen in a vision so that, with the exception of the thirteenth-century German Talmudist, Moses of Tachau, the medieval thinkers interpret the throne as a metaphor. Moses of Tachau really believes that God is seated on a throne on high surrounded by the heavenly hosts, or, rather, that God occasionally assumes this form. Saadiah Gaon (Beliefs and Opinions, ii. 10) holds that the throne was created by God out of fire for the purpose of assuring His prophet that it was He and no other that had revealed His word to him. For Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed, 1. 9) the throne is a metaphor for God's greatness and sublimity.

Subjects: Religion

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