Ephraim Urbach on Jewish notions of Omniscience

However, several of the earliest commentators of the Mishna already did not understand the phrase ha-kol safûy in the sense of ‘Everything is revealed and known from the outset’, but in the connotation ‘All that a man does in the innermost chambers, the Holy One, blessed be He, watches and observes’,11 and as Rabbi said, ‘Know what is above you—a seeing eye’ (M. ’Avot ii, 1); this explanation accords with the use of the stem safa in the idiom of the Tannaim. This verb does not signify knowledge of the future, but seeing that which exists and is present, like the Biblical usage ‘The eyes of the Lord keep watch [ sofôt] upon the evil and the good’ (Proverbs xv 3). R. Akiba himself said: ‘I was watching [ sôfe] Rabban Gamaliel and R. Joshua, (and I saw) that whereas all the people were waving their palm-branches, they waved them only at “We beseech Thee, O Lord”’ (M. Sukka iii, 9); Rabban Gamaliel also used the verb in a similar sense: ‘I was watching [sôfe], and (I observed that) we were within the (Sabbath) limits before nightfall.’12 The use of safa in the signification of ‘to know beforehand’, ‘to see beforehand’, as, for instance, ‘He foresaw by the holy spirit [i. e. prophetic spirit] that they would. . .’, The ‘Holy One, blessed be He, foresaw that they would. . .’ I found only in Amoraic sayings.

Urbach, Ephraim E.. The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (Kindle Locations 5776-5789). . Kindle Edition.

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