Exclusivity and God’s 13 Attributes

I was reading for another class I am taking at MJTI (mjti.org). The book is a reader in Jewish texts called Judaism and Spiritual Ethics, edited by Niles Goldstein and Steven Mason.

At one point, while discussing g’milut hasidim, acts of lovingkindness, the authors discuss the thirteen attributes of God. These are derived from Exodus 34:6-7. They are part of the story of Moses asking to see God’s glory. God permits Moses only to see a little and in passing by God makes a statement about himself, which can be seen as thirteen attributes of his essence:

1. HaShem – traditionally God’s name is related to his mercy.
2. HaShem – God repeats this, indicating it is central to his being.
3. El – a word for deity, indicates his kingship over all things.
4. Rachum – compassionate, he sympathizes with the oppressed.
5. Khanun – gracious, God is lovingly concerned with us.
6. Erekh afayim – slow to anger, he gives people time to repent.
7. Rav khesed – abundant in kindness, God gives more than we deserve.
8. Emet – truth, God is the source of truth.
9. Notzer khesed la’alafim – extending kindness to the thousandth generation, God is truly longsuffering.
10., 11., and 12. Nosei avon vafesha vekhata’ah – forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, God forgives all kinds of wrongdoing.
13. Venakeh lo yenakeh – yet God does not remit all punishment, which reminds us God’s mercy has a limit.

It is attribute number thirteen that I wish to focus on for a moment. Another translation words it, “who will by no means clear the guilty.” It is from the Torah, in Exodus 34:7.

There is a dialogue going on within Messianic Judaism. It concerns how wide the boundaries are for the Age to Come. Is conscious faith in Yeshua prior to death really necessary? What sort of exceptions does God make?

I had started a series and never finished in which I address a few aspects of this question. I started by noting that God does hear the prayers of the unredeemed (see Exclusivity and God 1). I also noted that Israel’s place as the people through whom God is focusing his work in the world is not dependent on Israel to have faith in Yeshua. I then discussed the Torah principle of karet, being cut off, as an example of God’s exclusivism in the Torah. I had planned to go on to discuss the idea of a remnant of Israel in Isaiah and Jeremiah. I never finished (and no one complained, so I’m guessing people were not too interested).

Now I would like to make one simple point. Many who believe that the traditional boundary of faith in Yeshua should not be considered absolute suggest it is against God’s character to be so narrow. And it is true that God is longsuffering, showing kindness to the thousandth generation, full of compassion, grace, and love. Yet the thirteenth attribute of God is his tendency to say, “Enough!”

God does have a line. He cut people off in the Torah for various violations and blasphemies. If in the New Testament we read that God’s boundary for the Age to Come is faith in Yeshua, then who are we to criticize. The New Testament is not making God out to be any more narrow than the Torah does.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Exclusivity, Gospel, Messianic Jewish, Niles Goldstein, Yeshua. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Exclusivity and God’s 13 Attributes

  1. Susan says:

    Point well taken.

  2. Susan says:

    I see your point as I have already stated but I couldn’t help but start imagining how it would of been to be a Jew in one of Hilters camps and living a literal ” hell on earth”. Then to top it all off the so called believers in Christ were killing the Jews and other horrible things in “the name of Jesus”. This kind of cruelty was going on before Hitler as well as after. I think we should leave it to God to make the final Judgement on any Jews eternal fate.

  3. Susan says:

    One more thing and then I’ll shut up….In the 13 Attributes of God I noticed numbers 1 & 2 on the list where Hashem is stating that He is the God of mercy and I’m sure He thought it important enough to mention it twice. One- being that Mercy is HIS NAME and two- that mercy is central to His being. The last one, number 13 is saying to me, ” Yes I am Mercy but when you sin there will be negative effects.” And that’s exactly what happens when a person sins, the person is punished somehow someway and depending on the sin it can be light or heavy…like if you steal from your neighbor, well if you repent and ask for forgiveness and return the stolen item, the neighbor will not trust you for a long time. That is a light punishment( negative effect). If you commit adultry all sorts of negative effects can happen: aids, peoples feelings hurt, divorce, distrust, losing everything. To me that is a heavy punishment(negative effect). I don’t know,, maybe Hashem was refering to the fact that oneday Israel will cheat on Him ( worship pagan Gods) again. And once again they will not go unpunished. Just a thought. After all His name also means Jealous. And if God and Jesus are one in the same then what’s the problem?

  4. Chayamindle says:

    As a counterpoint & balance to your position vis a vis who is eternally included or excluded, your readers should be referred to Stuart Dauermann’s excellent article “Is the Gospel Good News for the Jews—(Not Since the Second Century)”


    Perhaps you might interact & comment specifically on the points the points elaborated on this article as well.

    Thank you.

    Shabbat Shalom!

  5. Chaya:

    Rabbi Dauermann and I are friends and we will be interacting on this subject in an upcoming issue of Kesher, the theological journal of the UMJC (umjc.net). Perhaps he should also address the points I will be making :-)

    So far, on my blog, I have simply mused around with a few ideas. I have not delved into the New Testament on this subject as yet. The case I have made so far is not nearly as strong as it will be when the New Testament is brought to bear on the subject.

    It is naive to believe something because you want to believe it, contrary to the evidence. I’m not accusing anyone (yet) of doing this, but I do want to look at the evidence. Arguments from “this is what I think” are nice, but they don’t explain reality.


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