“Whole Worlds Are Full of His Glory”: Thoughts on a Passage from the Words of Gad the Seer

Worlds galoreIn a post on “The Words of Gad the Seer” and in a related book review for Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, I’ve shared the dramatic story of the discovery and eventual translation of a Hebrew text found in India purporting to be “The Words of Gad the Seer,” one of the lost books mentioned in the Bible. In the recently translated text published by Jewish scholar Meir Bar-Ilan in the book, Words of Gad the Seer, a favorite passage of mine is a sermon said to be given by King David near the end of his life. This contains an apparent reference to multiple worlds all full of the glory of God:

178 And the Lord appeared unto David in the time of his old age and said to him: ‘Behold, I am with thee, and I am your God, and behold, My covenant is with you; fear not, neither be dismayed, for your God is your helper’. 179 And David bowed down to the Lord and rejoiced in his heart. 180 And the Lord said: ‘These are the words you will speak to the ears of the people in My name so they will obey [the words] and they will live, for there will be no more anger on them’. 181 And the Lord put His words in his mouth. 182 Then David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem, and he made to himself a pulpit of wood and he stood upon it before all the people. And he opened his mouth and said: 183 ‘Hear, O Israel, your God and my God is one, the only One and unique, there is no one like His individuality, hidden from all, He was and is and will be, He fills His place but His place doesn’t fill Him, He sees but is not seen, He tells and knows futures, for He is God without end and there is no end to His end, Omnipotence, God of truth, whole worlds are full of His glory. 184 And He gave each one free choice: if one wants to do good – he will be helped, and if one wants to do evil – a path will be opened for him. 185 For that we will worship our God our king our Lord our saviour with love and awe, for your wisdom is the fear of the Lord and your cleverness is to depart from evil.

Verse 183 has “whole worlds are full of His glory,” a passage that I have reflected upon many times recently as I contemplate the wonders of the cosmos and vast scope not only of God’s Creation, but of His work and glory in bringing to pass eternal life for His children who are willing to choose Him. It’s not just us on this little sphere, but there are many worlds where His glorious work is underway. Verse 183 is similar to Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah speaks of just the earth itself, not many worlds.

I wondered if the Hebrew behind the English “worlds” actually might refer to celestial bodies or something else. To check, I reached out to Dr. Meir Bar-Ilan, the highly respected professor who has sought to bring the attention of the world to this overlooked ancient Hebrew text that was found among a Jewish colony in Cochin, India, and asked about the Hebrew in this passage. He was very generous n responding and share some text from the extensive Hebrew edition with much more commentary. Here is his reply of June 21, 2023, shared with his generous permission:

Verse 183, end, reads:
מלא כל העולמות כבודו [מלא = מלוא]
In Hebrew: Melo kol haOlamot Kevodo
It was translated [p. IX] ‘whole worlds are full of His glory’.
The word Kol = all [= a lot of /many]; the word Melo = whole.
The crucial word is Olamot (plural) = Olam (sing.)
The word olam has two meanings:
A. In temporal dimension: eternity [comp. vv. 29, 365]. 
The suffix -ot [fem. pl] equals suffix -im [mas. pl] as in v. 240 [Ps. 145].
[I do not know how your Hebrew is. Compare: Halonim (Bib. He.) = Halonot (Modern He.) = windows].
B. In spatial dimension: Olam = world, hence His glory is in all the worlds that exist [while acknowledging there are / were more worlds.
What exactly are these worlds? I assume, like you, other celestial bodies [stars or planets], implying they are not gods but were created by the Creator:
In my commentary I added:
מן ההקשר, ומן הצורה ‘עולמות’ (לעומת ‘עולמים’: להלן רמ), נראה שכאן הכוונה לעולמות במימד המקום, היינו שכבודו של ה’ מצוי בכל העולמות שברא (בו-זמנית). רעיון ריבוי העולמות יוחס על ידי תיאופרסטוס (371 – 287 לפנה”ס) לאנאכסימנדר (לערך 611 – 547 לפנה”ס),[1] וייתכן שהוא היה מוכר לתנאים ולאמוראים.[2] הפסוק הידוע (ישעיה ו,ג): ‘קדוש קדוש קדוש ה’ צבאות מלא כל הארץ כבודו’, תורגם: ‘…קדיש לעלם ולעלמי עלמיא’,[3] ביטוי בערך ההפלגה הדומה לכתוב כאן. ראה עוד להלן שסט: ‘מלא כל שמים וארץ כבודו’, ולהלן שעד: ‘עד נצח עולמות’.

[1] קירק וראבן, עמ’ 123-121.  G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.

[2] מנחות כט ע”ב; עוקצין ג,יב; ועוד; מרחביה, התלמוד, עמ’ 78; ליברמן, תוספתא כפשוטה, א, עמ’ 123.

[3] תרגום המיוחס ליונתן על ישעיה ו,ג; תפילת ‘ובא לציון’: בער, סדר, עמ’ 127.

ChatGPT-4 offers this translation for the portion that is in Hebrew:

From the context, and from the form ‘worlds’ (as opposed to ‘worlds’: see below), it seems that here the reference is to worlds in the spatial dimension, that is, the glory of the Lord is found in all the worlds he created (simultaneously). The idea of multiple worlds is attributed by Theophrastus (371 – 287 BCE) to Anaximander (approximately 611 – 547 BCE),[1] and it is possible that it was known to the Tannaim and Amoraim.[2] The well-known verse (Isaiah 6:3): ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’, was translated: ‘…holy forever and for the worlds of worlds’,[3] an expression roughly equivalent to the division written here. See also below: ‘The heavens and the earth are full of His glory’, and below: ‘Forever worlds’.

[1] Kirk and Raven, pp. 123-121. [G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.]

[2] Menachot 29b; Uktzin 3:12; and more; Merchavia, The Talmud, p. 78; Lieberman, Tosefta Kifshuta, I, p. 123.

[3] The translation attributed to Jonathan on Isaiah 6:3; The prayer ‘And he came to Zion’: Bear, Order, p. 127.

So it looks like physical worlds were probably intended. As Dr. Bar-Ilan noted, the possibility of many worlds has long been contemplated by some voices within philosophy and Judaism. However, I am especially touched by the cosmic scope of God’s work with His children as revealed in the Book of Moses, chapter 1:

25 And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.

26 And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen.

27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God.

28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.

29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.

30 And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?

31 And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.

32 And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.

33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

36 And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.

37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

This majestic revelation describes God’s endless process of creating inhabited worlds like ours as a vital part of His work and His glory, bringing to pass eternal life for mankind. This is all about the glory of God. The revelation that many earths exist and have existed is evidence of His glory. How apt is the text of “The Words of Gad the Seer”: “Whole worlds are full of His glory”! The cosmic scope of God’s work involves far more than making lots of stuff. He’s bringing eternal life to billions upon billions of souls in an endlessly growing wave of glory and salvation. The details remain a mystery, but what glory we have to look forward to as we accept the mercy and grace that comes through Jesus Christ and learn more about His cosmic work and glory.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

1 thought on ““Whole Worlds Are Full of His Glory”: Thoughts on a Passage from the Words of Gad the Seer

  1. Hebrews 11
    1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
    2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

    Certainly the book, “Words of Gad this Seer,“ parallel and are consistent with the above quoted verse from the New Testament. Many say that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, so as to clue us in to the fact that what Isaiah wrote is consistent.
    Certainly, as Latter-Day Saints, we turn to the Prophet Joseph Smith for these clues given to us. Everything is meant to be a test of our faith. In the end, when the curtains of eternity are opened to their full extent, these truths about worlds without number will be given as a crown of knowledge to those who followed the prophet during their mortality.

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