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Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. [1904], at


THE word ram (high) is a homonym, denoting elevation in space, and elevation in dignity, i.e., greatness, honour, and power. It has the first meaning in "And the ark was lifted up (va-tarom) above the earth" (Gen. vii. 17); and the latter meaning in "I have exalted (harimoti) one chosen out of the people" (Ps. lxxxix. 20); "Forasmuch as I have exalted (harimoti) thee from amongst the dust" (1 Kings xvi. 2); "Forasmuch as I exalted (harimoti) thee from among the people" (1 Kings xiv. 7).

Whenever this term is employed in reference to God, it must be taken in the second sense: "Be thou exalted (rumah), O God, above the heavens" (Ps. lvii. 12). In the same manner does the root nasa (to lift up) denote both elevation in space and elevation in rank and dignity. In the former sense it occurs in "And they lifted up (va-yisseü) their corn upon their asses" (Gen. xlii. 26) and there are many instances like this in which this verb has the meaning "to carry," "to move" from place to place: for this implies elevation in space. In the second sense we have "And his kingdom shall be exalted" (ve-tinnase) (Num. xxiv. 7); "And he bare them, and carried them" (va-yenasseëm) (Isa. lxiii. 9); "Wherefore do ye exalt yourselves" (titnasseü) (Num. xvi. 3).

Every form of this verb when applied to God has this latter sense--e.g., "Lift up thyself (hinnase), thou judge of the earth" (Ps. xciv. 2); "Thus saith the High (ram) and Exalted (nissa) One" (Isa. lvii. 15)--denoting elevation in rank, quality, and power, and not elevation in space.

You may be surprised that I employ the expression, "elevation in rank, quality, and power," and you may say, "How can you assert that several distinct expressions denote the same thing?" It will be explained later on (chap. 1. seqq.) that those who possess a true knowledge of God do not consider that He possesses many attributes, but believe that these various attributes which describe His Might, Greatness, Power, Perfection, Goodness, etc., are identical, denoting His Essence, and not anything extraneous to His Essence. I shall devote special chapters to the Names and Attributes of

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[paragraph continues] God; our intention here is solely to show that "high and exalted" in the passage quoted denote elevation in rank, not in space.

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