(Related podcast: Basic Human Condition: “Angels of God Ascending and Descending” (Gen. 28:12; Podcast-audio) .)
The Bible starts with a succinct description of all that there is:
“In the beginning God created The Heaven (“Ha-Shamayim“) and The Earth (“Ha-Aretz“)” (Gen 1:1).
This seven-word verse (in the original Hebrew) delivers four messages:
- There is God; * There is creation; * God and His Creation are separate (pantheism is false); * There is a point in creation when time started (“In the beginning”);
However, there is an additional most important fifth message:
* There are two worlds apart: The Earth and The Heaven.
In the rest of Genesis creation narrative (Chapters 1 and 2), “The Heaven” is not addressed ever again. Genesis describes only that which is visible, or potentially visible, to humankind — “The Earth” (more specifically, the universe). As part of the description of the six days of creation of The Earth, the narrator relates to two separate parts of the universe (“The Earth”):
- That part that God calls heaven (“The” omitted) — “and God called the sky (Rakia) heaven (Shamayim)…”, Gen. 1:8;
- That part that God calls Earth (“The” omitted) — “and God called the dry land (Yabashah) Earth (Eretz)…”, Gen 1:10. However, The Heaven (Ha-Shamayim) is not repeated again, neither described nor implied. When alluding to Shamayim, Genesis 1 refers only to Rakia-Ha-Shamayim, as if to emphasize that this is not Ha-Shmayim of the first verse of Genesis.
These two worlds, The Heaven and The Earth, are they communicating with one another?
The Bible is mostly mute about it. Existence of free-will for the human species cannot co-exist with the explicit and undeniable knowledge that The Heaven does exist, that it influences our experiences in life and that… it responds to our decisions.
This should be contrasted with our explicit knowledge of The Earth (the scientifically observable universe), governed by law-of-nature. The latter allows us knowing, or potentially knowing, how “it influences our experiences in life and respond to our decisions“. For example, we know well in advance how nature would respond if we have decided, out of free will, to jump from the rooftop of a highrise.
So, is the Bible indeed utterly mute about communication between The Heaven and The Earth? Is there such communication at all?
There are stories of communication between the Divine and human beings, either one-way communication, like the Ten-Commandments, or two-way communication, like biblical stories of dialogues between the Divine and human beings (“…perhaps ten shall be found there? And He said: I will not destroy for the sake of the ten”, Gen 18:32). Yet, these stories relate to direct communication between man and God, not between “The Earth” and “The Heaven”, both created (according to the first verse of Genesis). Also, they are not as compelling as Law-of-Nature — You believe these stories or you do not. Same cannot be extended to Law-of-Nature:
Free-will is preserved, maintained and protected with regard to possible “dialogues” between human beings and The Heaven — these are completely invisible to us; Free-will is not so with regard to “dialogues” between human beings and Law-of-Nature (The Earth) — these are visible to us in their entirety.
Areas in our lives that are not subject to Law-of-Nature are areas where free-will is exercised. These are the areas where The Earth and The Heaven communicate. However, to preserve free will, Scripture is mostly mute about this communication‼
There is one exception — a single verse in the Bible that describes, in a very vivid way, the basic condition of humankind, namely, the untold and intuitively unrecognizable continuous dialogue, maintained by us all, between The Heaven and The Earth:
“And he dreamed and, behold, a ladder set up to The Earth and its top reaches to The Heaven; and behold angels (Malachim) of Elohim ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12).
To fully understand this verse, and the function of ladder in Jacob’s dream, let us be reminded what “Angel” (Malach) is in biblical Hebrew — a messenger (human or non-human), dispatched for an explicit purpose, to deliver a certain message or to perform a certain task. Examples:
- “The Lord God of The Heaven, who took me from my father’s house… He shall send his angel (Malacho) before thee…” (Genesis 24:7);
- “And Jacob sent messengers (Malachim) ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom” (Genesis 32:3);
- “The angel (Ha-Malach), who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads…” (Genesis 48:16);
- “And there came a messenger (Malach) and said…” (Job, 1:14).
We realize that same word, Malach, serves in Scripture to describe delivery of two sorts of “messages” — one via words, another via actions; Also, same word, Malach, is used for both human and non-human messengers.
In view of the new insight about the meaning of Malach, what does it mean that messengers are ascending and descending on a ladder that connects “The Earth” and “The Heaven”?
There can be a single interpretation:
“Messages” are being exchanged between the two worlds, explicitly declared to exist in the first verse of the Bible — “The Heaven” and “The Earth”‼
These messages are being exchanged, unknowingly to us, continuously; And they are delivered by us by thought, by word and by action. Wishes that we express, prayers that we pray, acts of grace and righteousness, or, conversely, acts of evil, these are all “messages” sent by us, via “ascending messengers”, to “The Heaven”; Experiences we go through, which look to us random and not the outcome of interference of Law-of-Nature, these are “messages” sent back to us, by “descending messengers”, from “The Heaven”.
And these experiences, from the realm of “randomness”, where free will reigns supreme, unconstrained by Law-of-Nature, these are doomed to remain unexplainable so long as free-will is preserved and the Divine is hidden, hiding also His hiddenness (“aster astir panai“, Deuteronomy 31:18).
There are three well-known symbols signifying that same idea, an ongoing dialogue between The Heaven and The Earth.
- God relates to the rainbow, a bow aimed to Heaven from Earth, as a reminder, a message, sent to Him from humankind and all living beings on earth: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign for the covenant between me and the Earth; Whenever I bring clouds upon the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and all living creatures of every kind, so that never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:13-17);
- In the most well-known symbol of the Jewish faith, the Magen David, there are two triangles: One aimed from Earth to Heaven, another directed from Heaven to Earth;
- The pyramids of Egypt are similarly built as a triangle directed from earth to heaven.
The most basic condition of humankind is existence of a dialogue between “The Earth” and “The Heaven”, the two parts of creation alluded to in the first verse of the Bible (and only there). This dialogue is maintained via two channels:
- A visible dialogue between all living creatures and Law-of-Nature; The latter, unexplainable but well described (by science), is all observable; In this “Dialogue”, Law-of-Nature is forced on us for full compliance — no compromise, no freedom of choice;
- A hidden dialogue, partially visible to us in the sense that only “messages” from The Earth may be recognizable; By contrast, to preserve free will, messages from The Heaven are invisible, incomprehensible to us; Yet, not always and not completely:
- At times, they may be deduced, providing explanation to our experiences as Heavenly response (descending angels) to our own “messages” (ascending angels);
- At other times, they may not even be deduced, doomed to remain hidden and utterly unexplainable (“..and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy”, Exodus 33:19; “Why bad things happen to good people”).
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