Hebrew Worldview The entire Hebrew worldview is centered on their faith in God, who is the author of creation and the source of all that is good and righteous. In fact, it would be truly impossible to analyze any aspect of Hebrew culture without first considering their beliefs on God. They gained their purpose, morality, indeed, their sense of identity, from their Creator and Sustainer, a fact that make them unique from other historical cultures. Their views on God also affected how they viewed both the past and future, which they were equally proud of.
The faith and worldviews of the Hebrew people were so deeply intertwined that it would be no exaggeration to say that they were one and the same. The Hebrew people gain their worldview on the earth’s origins from the book of Genesis, which is a critical foundation to the Hebrew belief structure. This book’s major focus is on the relationship between God and man, a relationship that the Hebrews viewed much differently than the Mesopotamians. Indeed, this difference in worldviews on the relationship between God and man significantly influences the overall difference in worldview.
The Hebrews clearly viewed God as the supreme creator and ruler of the universe, from the outermost reaches of the heavens to the depths of the sea. This is evident from the beginning of Genesis, which opens with God creating light and the sky, separating land and water, placing the stars in the sky, populating the sky and the seas with birds and fish, filling the earth with animals, and finally creating man. As the supreme creator, God has complete power over the universe, in the eyes of the Hebrews.
While God does possess ultimate power over his creation, it is important to note that he does not abuse this power, but gives man a certain degree of free will. Although God maintains his sovereignty, there is a type of balance that is achieved which keeps him from becoming a dictator. However, the book of Job reveals a misconception that many Hebrews had about the nature of God’s actions. While each speaker in Job offers at least one particularly astute observation, they all fail to provide a comprehensive and authoritative opinion.
One common belief shared by each speaker is that Job is being punished for his own sins. Bildad’s advice to Job is to be a “blameless person,” and he instructs, “If you are pure and upright, surely then God will rouse himself for you. ” The reader knows that God does in fact view Job as “blameless and upright,” but Bildad and the other speakers have no such knowledge. The interaction between Job and his so-called friends indicates the folly in attempting to understand the ways of God.
Interestingly, Zophar seems to understand this mystery, as he asks, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? ” However, he proceeds to attempt to do that which he says is impossible in his further instructions to Job. If this is any indication on the worldview of the rest of the Hebrews, it indicates their knowledge that God’s mysteries cannot be revealed and simultaneous attempts to reveal them.
In their efforts to answer the age-old question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people, they succumb to a common misconception. They believe that it is the result of the sin of a man, rather than the sinfulness of man. Evil exists in the world because of original sin, and this affects all of mankind. Although Job lived a life that was as close to perfect as possible, he was still stricken with the consequences of sin. This was something that was not understood by Job or his friends.
The Hebrews had an accurate view of their relationship with God, and realized that mankind was distinct from the rest of God’s creation. There is a special connection between God and man, one that is not seen in other cultures, such as Mesopotamian. This connection is particularly evident in the covenants God makes with his people, such as with Noah and Abraham. In fact, the language in these covenants is similar to the language used in Hebrew marriages, which indicates that the Hebrews desired an intimate relationship with God.
The Hebrew worldview on God is also evident in the flood story of Genesis, in which God is both just and merciful. His justice is seen in the fact that he punished mankind for their sinful and violent nature, but his mercy is seen in the fact that he saved Noah and his family, and promised never to destroy the earth in such a way again. The Hebrews gained not only their existence, but also their reference of morality from God. He stood for all that was good, and the Hebrews constantly strove to live in a way that would be pleasing to him.
The Hebrews held both the past and the future in high regard, as is evidenced by their frequent lineages of the patriarchs of Israel. The Jewish people viewed the future as equally important, as seen in God’s covenant with Abraham. Though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are fully aware that they will never live to see this covenant completely fulfilled, they are nevertheless tremendously proud of it. They saw themselves as fathers of a future great nation, as well as the descendants of great men, and both were extremely important to them.
The Hebrew people were a monotheistic culture and, as shown in the various previous examples, their God heavily influenced their worldview. Through Him, they developed their view of nature, morality, purpose, and identity as human beings. It would be utterly futile to attempt to understand their culture without first understanding their view of God. Their God was unlike any of the gods of the ancient cultures; He was perfect, caring, and He gave hope for a brighter future with his covenants. This not only makes their God unique amongst the ancient cultures, but their worldview in general as well.