Height as a symbol for the spiritual is found very frequently in Judaism as it is in all cultures. It seems that early on in the history of the human race, the sublime was thought of as spiritually rather than spatially transcendent. In the Bible, God is often said to reside in heaven, the firmament above the earth (Genesis 1: 8), but it is hard to believe that this was taken literally even though the older spatial connotation is reserved in the language used (see COSMOLOGIES), as when, for instance, the prophet Isaiah says that he saw the Lord ‘sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple’ (Isaiah 6: 1). Similarly, when Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 66: 1) declares: ‘Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool’, the ‘throne’ on high is as little to be taken literally as the ‘footstool’ on earth. Particularly significant in this connection is the Psalmist's declaration (Psalms 113: 4–6): ‘The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens. Who is like unto the Lord our God, that dwelleth on high; that looketh down so low upon the heavens and the earth?’ As Edwyn Bevan has noted, the first chapter of Genesis demolishes in a single phrase in the first verse, any idea of God as coinciding with the sky: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens’. If God created the heavens, He must have existed in almighty power before there was any heaven there at all. No doubt many Jews did, and still do, like many non-Jewish believers, think of God as somehow located ‘up there’, but ordinary folk as well as the thinkers generally qualify this by, consciously or unconsciously, treating height in this connection as a metaphor.
Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.