Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Angel of the LORD by E.W. Hengstenberg

The following is an excerpt from E.W. Hengstenberg's Christology of the Old Testament. The text below is copy and pasted from the version HERE. All four volumes available HERE.

I've highlighted some passages that I felt should be emphasized using two colors. Yellow for passages that would be more consistent with Trinitarianism. Light Purple for passages that would be more consistent with Unitarianism.


The New Testament distinguishes between the hidden God and the revealed God—the Son or Logos—who is connected with the former by oneness of nature, and who from everlasting, and even at the creation itself, filled up the immeasurable distance between the Creator and the creation;—who has been the Mediator in all God's relations to the world;—who at all times, and even before He became man in Christ, has been the light of [Pg 116] the world,—and to whom, specially, was committed the direction of the economy of the Old Covenant.

It is evident that this doctrine stands in the closest connection with the Christology,—that it forms, indeed, its theological foundation and ground-work. Until the Christology has attained to a knowledge of the true divinity of the Saviour, its results cannot be otherwise than very meagre and unsatisfactory. Wheresoever the true state of human nature is seen in the light of Holy Scripture, no high expectations can be entertained from a merely human Saviour, although he were endowed even with as full a measure of the gifts of the Spirit of God as human nature, in its finite and sinful condition, is able to bear. But unless there exist in the one divine Being itself, such a distinction of persons, the divinity of the Saviour cannot be acknowledged, without endangering the unity of God which the Scriptures so emphatically teach. If, however, there be such a distinction,—if the Word be indeed with God, we cannot avoid ascribing to God the desire of revealing Himself; nor, in such a case, can we conceive that He should content Himself with inferior forms of revelation, with merely transitory manifestations. We can recognise in these only preparations, and preludes of the highest and truest revelation.

The question then is, whether any insight into this doctrine is to be found as early as in the Books of the Old Testament. Sound Christian Theology has discovered the outlines of such a distinction betwixt the hidden and the revealed God, in many passages of the Old Testament, in which mention is made of the Angel or Messenger of God. The general tenor of these passages will be best exemplified by the first among them,—the narrative of Hagar in Gen. xvi. In ver. 7, we are told that the Angel of Jehovah found Hagar. In ver. 10, this Angel ascribes to Himself a divine work, viz., the innumerable increase of Hagar's posterity. In ver. 11, He says that Jehovah had heard her distress. He thus asserts of Jehovah what, shortly before. He had said of Himself. Moreover, in ver. 13, Hagar expresses her astonishment that she had seen God, and yet had remained alive.—The opinion that these passages form the Old Testament foundation for the Proemium of St John's Gospel, has not remained uncontroverted. From the very times of the Church-fathers it has been asserted by many, that where the [Pg 117] Angel of the Lord is spoken of, we must not think of a person connected with God by unity of nature, but of a lower angel, by whom God executes His commands, and through whom He acts and speaks. The latest defenders of the view are Hofmann in "Weissagung und Erfüllung" and in the "Schriftbeweis" and Delitzsch in his commentary on Genesis.—Others are of opinion, that the Angel of Jehovah is identical with Jehovah Himself,—not denoting a person distinct from Him, but only the form in which He manifests Himself. We shall not here discuss the question in its whole extent; we shall, in the meantime, consider only what the principal passages of the Pentateuch and of the adjacent Book of Joshua teach upon this point, and how far their teaching coincides with, or is in opposition to, these various views. For it is only to this extent that the inquiry belongs to our present object.

In Gen. xvi. 13, these words are of special importance: "And she called the name of the Lord who spoke unto her, Thou art a God of sight: for she said, Do I now (properly here, in the place where such a sight was vouchsafed to me) still see after my seeing?" "Do I see" is equivalent to, "Do I live," because death threatened, as it were, to enter through the eyes. (Compare the expression, "Mine eyes have seen," in Is. vi.) רֹאִי is the pausal form for רֳאִי; see Job xxxiii. 21, where, however, the accent is on the penultimate. Then follows ver. 14: They called the well, "Well of the living sight;" i.e., where a person had a sight of God, and remained alive.

Hagar must have been convinced that she had seen God without the mediation of a created angel; for, otherwise, she could not have wondered that her life was preserved. Man, entangled by the visible world, is terrified when he comes in contact with the invisible world, even with angels. (Compare Dan. viii. 17, 18; Luke ii. 9.) But this terror rises to fear of death only when man comes into contact with the Lord Himself. (Compare the remarks on Rev. i. 17.) In Gen. xxxii. 31—a passage which bears the closest resemblance to the one now under review, and from which it receives its explanation—it is said: "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, for I have seen God face to face, and my life has been preserved." In Exod. xx. 19, the children of Israel said to Moses, "Speak thou with us, and we will hear; and let not God speak with us, [Pg 118] lest we die;" compared with Deut. v. 21: "Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die." (Compare also Deut. xviii. 16.) And it is Jehovah who, in Exod. xxxiii. 20, says, "There shall no man see Me and live." Israel's Lord and God is, in the absolute energy of His nature, a "consuming fire," Deut. iv. 24. (Compare Deut. ix. 3; Is. xxxiii. 14: "Who among us would dwell with the devouring fire? who among us would dwell with everlasting burning?" Heb. xii. 29.) It is not the reflected light, even in the most exalted creatures, nor the sight of the saints of whom it is said, "Behold, He puts no trust in His servants, and His angels He chargeth with folly,"—but the sight of the thrice Holy One, which makes Isaiah exclaim, "Woe is me, for I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips."

So much then is clear,—that the opinion which considers the Angel of the Lord to be a created angel is overthrown by the first passage where that angel is mentioned, if the exposition which we have given of vers. 13, 14—an exposition which is now generally received, and which was last advanced by Knobel—be correct. But Delitzsch gives another exposition: "Thou art a God of sight," i.e., one whose all-seeing eye does not overlook the helpless and destitute, even in the remotest corner of the wilderness." Against this we remark, that ראי never denotes the act of seeing, but the sight itself. "Have I not even here (even in the desert land of destitution) looked after Him who saw me?" "Well of the living one who seeth me," i.e., of the omnipresent divine providence. In opposition to this exposition, however, we must remark, that God is nowhere else in Genesis called the Living One. But our chief objection is, that these expositions destroy the connection which so evidently exists between our passage and those already quoted,—especially Gen. xxxii. 31; Exod. xxxiii. 20. (Compare, moreover, Jud. xiii. 22: "And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.")

It has been asked. Why should the Logos have appeared first to the Egyptian maid? But the low condition of Hagar cannot here come into consideration; for the appearance is in reality intended, not for her, but for Abraham. Immediately [Pg 119] before, in chap. xii. 7, it is said, "And the Lord appeared unto Abraham;" and immediately after, in chap. xvii. 1, "And when Abraham was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to him;" the appearance of the Lord Himself is mentioned in order that every thought of a lower angel may be warded off. The passage under consideration, then, contains the indication, that such appearances must only be conceived of as manifestations of the Deity Himself to the world. Just as our passage is preserved from erroneous interpretations by such passages as Gen. xii. 7, xvii. 1, so these receive from ours, in return, their most distinct definition. We learn from this, that wherever appearances of Jehovah are mentioned, we must conceive of them as effected by the mediation of His Angel. There is no substantial difference betwixt the passages in which Jehovah Himself is mentioned, and those in which the Angel of Jehovah is spoken of. They serve to supplement and to explain one another. The words, "In His Angel," in chap. xvi. 7, furnish us with the supplement to the succeeding statement, "And Jehovah appeared to him" (so, e.g., also in chap. xviii. 1), just as the writer in Gen. chap. ii. iii. makes use of the name Jehovah-Elohim, in order that henceforth every one may understand that where only Jehovah is spoken of. He is yet personally identical with Elohim.

Let us now turn to Gen. xviii. xix. According to Delitzsch. all the three men who appeared to Abraham were "finite spirits made visible." Hofmann (Schriftb. S. 87) says: "Jehovah is present on earth in His angels, in the two with Lot, as in the three with Abraham." We, however, hold fast by the view of the ancient Church, that in chap. xviii. the Logos appeared accompanied by two inferior angels.

Abraham's regards are, from the very first, involuntarily directed to one from among the three, and whom he addresses by אֲדוֹנָי, O Lord (xviii. 3); the two others are considered by him as companions only. But Lot has to do with both equally, and addresses them first by אֲדוֹנַי, my Lords.—In chap. xviii., it is always one only of the three who speaks; the two others are mute;[1] while in chap. xix. everything comes from the two [Pg 120] equally. He with whom Abraham has to do, always, and without exception, speaks as God Himself; while the two with whom Lot has to do speak at first, as λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα, distinguishing themselves from the Lord who sent them (compare ver. 13); and it is only after they have thus drawn the line of separation between themselves and Jehovah, that they appear, in vers. 21, 22, as speaking in His name. They do so, moreover, only after Lot, in the anxiety of his heart and in his excitement, had previously addressed, in them, Him who sent them, and with whom he desired to have to do as immediately as possible. The scene bears, throughout, a character of excitement, and is not fitted to afford data for general conclusions. We cannot infer from it that it was, in general, customary to address, in the angels, the Lord who sent them, or that the angels acted in the name of the Lord. In chap. xviii., from ver. 1, where the narrative begins with the words, "And Jehovah appeared unto him," Moses always speaks of him with whom Abraham had to do as Jehovah only, excepting where he introduces the three men. (He with whom Abraham has to do is called, not fewer than eight times, Jehovah, and six times אֲדוֹנָי.) But in chap. xix., Jehovah, who is concealed behind the two angels, appears only twice in the expression, "And He said," in vers. 17, 21, for which ver. 13 suggests the supplement: "through His two angels."—Even in ver. 16, the narrative distinguishes Jehovah from the two men,—and all this in an exciting scene which must have influenced even the narrator. If he who spoke to Abraham was an angel like the other two, we could scarcely perceive any reason why he should not have taken part in the mission to Sodom; but if he was the Angel of the Lord κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν, the reason is quite obvious; it would have been inconsistent with divine propriety.—In chap. xviii. Moses speaks of three men; it is evidently on [Pg 121] purpose that he avoids speaking of three angels. In chap. xix. 1, on the contrary, we are at once told: "And there came the two angels." (Compare ver. 15.) The reason why in chap. xviii. the use of the name angels is avoided can only be, because it might easily have led to a misunderstanding, if the Angel of the Lord had been comprehended in that one designation along with the two inferior angels, although it would not, in itself, have been inadmissible.—If we suppose that he, with whom Abraham had to do, was some created angel, we cannot well understand how, in chap. xviii. 17 seq., the judgment over Sodom could, throughout, be ascribed to him. He could not, in the name of the Lord, speak of that judgment, as not he, but the two other angels who went to Sodom, were the instruments of its execution. Hence it only remains to ascribe the judgment to him as the causa principalis.—If the three angels were equals, it would be impossible to explain the adversative clause in chap. xviii. 22: "And the men turned from thence and went to Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the Lord." Jehovah and the two angels are here contrasted. It is true that, in the two angels also, it is Jehovah who acts. This is evident from xviii. 21: "I will go down and see"—where the going down does not refer to descending to the valley of Jordan, the position of which was lower (thus Delitzsch); but, according to xi. 7, it refers to a descent from heaven to earth. That Jehovah, though on earth, should declare His resolution to go down, as in xi. 7, may be explained from the ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ in John iii. 13. God, even when He is on earth, remains in heaven, and it is thence that He manifests Himself. Moreover, the words immediately following show in what sense this going down is to be understood,—that it is not in His own person, but through the medium of His messengers. The resolution, "I will go down," is carried into effect by the going down of the angels to Sodom.

By the Jehovah who, from Jehovah out of heaven, caused brimstone and fire to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah (xix. 24), we are not at liberty to understand the two angels only,[2] but, [Pg 122] agreeably to the views of sound Christian expositors generally, Christ,—with this modification, however, that the two angels are to be considered as His servants, and that what they do is His work also. It is true that the angels say, in xix. 13, "We will destroy," etc.; but much more emphatically and frequently does he with whom Abraham has to do, ascribe the work of destruction to himself. (Compare xviii. 17, where Jehovah says, "How can I hide from Abraham that thing which I am doing?" vers. 24-28, etc.) If in xix. 24 there be involved the contrast between, so to speak, the heavenly and earthly Jehovah,—between the hidden God and Him who manifests Himself on earth,—then so much the more must we seek the latter in chap. xviii., as in ver. 22, compared with ver. 21, the angels are distinctly pointed out as His Messengers.

Delitzsch asserts that in Heb. xiii. 2, the words, ἔλαθόν τινες ξενίσαντες ἀγγέλους, clearly indicate that "all three were finite spirits made visible." This assertion, however, which was long before made by the Socinian Crellius, has been sufficiently refuted by Ode de Angelis, p. 1001. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews intends to connect the events which happened to Abraham and Lot equally—τίνες; and for this reason he did not go beyond what was common to them both. Moreover, the Angel of the Lord is likewise comprehended in the appellation "angels," for the name has no reference to the nature, but to the mission.

 [1] The words in ver. 9, "And they said to him," are to be understood only thus:—that one spoke at the same time in the name of the others; in the question thus put, it is, in the first instance, only the general relation of the guests to the hostess that comes into consideration. That such is the case, appears from ver. 10, where the use of the plural could not be continued, because a work was on hand which was peculiar to the one among them, and in which the others were not equally concerned. If the words in ver. 9 were spoken by all the three, then the one in ver. 10 ought to have been singled out thus: "And one from among them thus spoke." On account of the suffix in אחריו, "And the door was behind him," the ויאמר in ver. 10 can be referred only to the one, and not to the Jehovah concealed behind all the three. This shows how the preceding, "And they said," is to be understood.

[2] Delitzsch says: "As the two are really sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, it is evident that Jehovah, in ver. 24, who causes brimstone and fire to rain from Jehovah out of heaven, is viewed as being present in the two on earth, but in such a manner that, nevertheless, His real judicial throne is in heaven."

Of no less importance and significance is the passage Gen. xxxi. 11 seq. According to ver. 11, the Angel of God, מלאך האלהים, appears to Jacob in a dream. In ver. 13, the same person calls himself the God of Bethel, with reference to the event recorded in chap. xxviii. 11-22. It cannot be supposed that in chap xxviii. the mediation of a common angel took place, who, however, had not been expressly mentioned; for Jehovah is there contrasted with the angels. In ver. 12, we read: "And behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it." In ver. 13, there is another sight: "And behold Jehovah stood by him and said, I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed."
[Pg 123]

This passage is also in so far of importance, because, agreeably to what has been remarked in p. 119, it follows from it that even there, where Jehovah simply is mentioned, the mediation through His Angel is to be assumed.

He with whom Jacob wrestles, in Gen. xxxii. 24, makes himself known as God, partly by giving him the name Israel, i.e., one who wrestles with God, and partly by bestowing a blessing upon him. Jacob calls the place Peniel, i.e., face of God, because he had seen God face to face, and wonders that his life was preserved. The answer which Elohim gives here to Jacob's question regarding His name, remarkably coincides with that which in Judges xiii. 17, 18, is given by the Angel of the Lord to a similar question. In Hosea xii. 4 (comp. the remarks on this passage in the Author's "Genuineness of the Pentateuch," vol. i. p. 128 ff.), he who wrestled with Jacob is called Elohim, as in Genesis; but in ver. 5, he is called מלאך, a word which is more distinctly defined by the preceding Elohim; so that we can, accordingly, think only of the Angel of God. As it was certainly not the intention of the prophet to state a new historical circumstance, the mention of the Angel must be founded upon the supposition, that all revelations of God are made by the mediation of His Angel,—a supposition which we have already proved to have its foundation in the book of Genesis itself.

Delitzsch says, S. 256, "Jehovah reveals Himself in the מלאך, but just by means of a finite spirit becoming visible, and therefore in a manner more tolerable to him who occupies a lower place of communion with God." And similarly, Hofmann expresses himself, S. 335: "It is quite the same thing whether it be said, he saw God, or an angel, as is testified by Hosea also; and nowhere have we less right to explain it as if it were an appearance of God the Son, in contrast with the appearance of an angel."

But since it is an essentially different matter, whether Jacob wrestled with God Himself, or, in the first instance, with an ordinary angel merely, we have, as regards this opinion, only the choice between accusing the prophet Hosea, who brought in the angel, of an Euhemerismus, or of raising against sacred history the charge that it cannot be relied on, because it omitted so important [Pg 124] a circumstance. The name Israel, by which, "at the same time, the innermost nature of the covenant-people was fixed, and the divine law of their history was established" (Delitzsch), is, in that case, a falsehood. Jacob has overcome omnipotence, and, in this one adversary, all others who might oppose him,—as he is expressly assured in ver. 29: "Thou hast wrestled with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Can God invest a creature with omnipotence? Jacob would certainly not have gone so cheerfully to meet Esau, if in Him over whom he prevailed with weeping and supplication, he himself had recognised only an angel, and not Jehovah the God of hosts, as Hosea, in ver. 6, calls the very same, of whom in ver. 5 he had spoken as the angel. The consolatory import of the event for the Church of all times is destroyed, if Jacob had to do with a created angel only. With such an one, Jacob had not to reckon on account of his sinfulness, and it is just the humiliating consciousness of this his sinfulness which forms the point at issue in his wrestling. Moreover, with such a view, the New Testament Antitype would be altogether lost. Jesus, the true Israel, does not wrestle with an angel,—such an one only appears to strengthen Him in His struggle, Luke xxii. 43—but with God, Heb. v. 7.—The occurrence would, according to this opinion, furnish a strong argument for the worship of angels: "He wept and made supplication unto him," Hos. xii. 5 (compare Deut. iii. 23). The ἀγωνίζεσθαι ἐν ταῖς προσευχαῖς, mentioned in Col. iv. 12, in allusion to our passage, would, in that case, besides God, have the angels for its object.

If an ordinary angel were here to be understood, we must likewise believe that an angel is spoken of in Gen. xxxv. 9 seq. For, of the same angel with whom Jacob wrestled, Hosea says that Jacob found him in Bethel: "And he wrestled with the Angel and prevailed, he wept and made supplication unto him; he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us." (Tarnov: "Nobiscum qui in lumbis Jacobi hærebamus.") Then, it must have been a common angel, too, who appeared to Jacob in Gen. xxviii. 10 ff.; for chap. xxxv. 9, compared with ver. 7, does not allow us to doubt of the identity of him who appeared on these two occasions. But such an idea cannot be entertained for a moment; for in chap. xxviii. 13, Jehovah is contrasted with the angels ascending and descending on the ladder.
[Pg 125]

In Gen. xlviii. 15, 16, we read of Jacob: "And he blessed Joseph, and said, The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, and the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads."

In this passage, God first appears, twice in the indefiniteness of His nature, and then, specially, as the Angel concerned for Jacob and his posterity.

By the Angel, we cannot here understand a divine emanation and messenger, because no permanent character belongs to such; while here the whole sum of the preservations of Jacob, and of the blessings upon Ephraim and Manasseh, is derived from the Angel. And just as little can we thereby understand a created angel, according to the view of Hofmann, who, in S. 87, says: "Jacob here makes mention of God, not thrice, but twice only; first as the God of his fathers, and then as the God of his own experience, but in such a way that in ver. 16 he names, instead of God, the Angel who watched over him; and he does so for the purpose of denoting the special providence of which he had been the object."

The analogy of the threefold blessing of Aaron in Num. vi. 24-26 would lead us to expect that the name of God should be three times mentioned. No created angel could in this manner be placed by the side of God, or be introduced as being independent of, and co-ordinate with, Him. Such an angel can only be meant as is connected with God by oneness of nature, and whose activity is implied in that of God. The singular יברך is here of very special significance. It indicates that the Angel is joined to God by an inseparable oneness, and that his territory is just as wide as that of Elohim.[1] If by the angel we understand some created one, we cannot then avoid the startling inference, that God is, in all His manifestations, bound [Pg 126] absolutely to the mediation of the lower angels. In the history upon which Jacob looks back, the inferior angels do not appear at all as taking any part in all the preservations of Jacob. Twice only are they mentioned in his whole history,—in chap. xxviii. 12, and xxxii. 2. Lastly,—The angel cannot well be a collective noun; for we nowhere meet with the ideal person of the angel, as comprehending within himself a real plurality. (Compare remarks on Ps. xxxiv. 8.) We should therefore be compelled to think of Jacob's protecting angel. But this, again, would be in opposition to the fact, that Scripture nowhere says anything of the guardian angels of any individual. Moreover, it is a plurality of angels that in xxviii. 12, xxxii. 2, serves for the protection of Jacob, and we nowhere find the slightest trace of one inferior angel being attached to Jacob for his protection.

[1] This significance of the singular was pointed out as early as in the third century by Novatianus, who, de Trinitate c. xv. (p. 1016 in Ode), says: "So constant is he in mentioning that Angel whom he had called God, that even at the close of his speech he again refers, in an emphatic manner, to the same person, by saying, 'God bless these lads.' For had he intended that some other angel should be understood, he would have used the plural number in order to comprehend the two persons. But since, in his blessing, he made use of the singular, he would have us to understand that God and the Angel are quite identical."

In Exod. xxiii. 20, 21, Jehovah says to the children of Israel: "Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions: for My name is in him."

As the people are here told to beware of the Angel, because he will not pardon their transgressions, so Joshua xxiv. 19 warns them as regards the most high God: "Ye will not be able to serve Jehovah: for He is a holy (i.e., a glorious, exalted) God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." The energetic character of the reaction proceeding from the angel against all violations of His honour, is founded upon the words, "For My name is in him." By the "name of God" all His deeds are understood and comprehended, His glory testified by history, the display and testimony of His nature which history gives. (Compare the remarks in my commentary on Ps. xxiii. 2, xlviii. 11, lxxxiii. 17-19, lxxxvi. 11.) "My name is him;" i.e., according to Calvin, "My glory and majesty dwell in him." Compare here what in the New Testament is said of Christ: ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ ταῦτα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς ὁμοίως ποιεῖ, John v. 19; ἵνα πάντες τιμῶσι τὸν υἱὸν καθὼς τιμῶσι τὸν πατέρα, John v. 23; ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν, John x. 30; ἵνα γνῶτε καὶ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐν ἐμοὶ ὁ πατὴρ κᾀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ, [Pg 127] John x. 38; οὐ πιστεύεις ὅτι ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί ἐστι, John xiv. 10; καθὼς σὺ πάτερ ἐν ἐμοὶ κᾀγὼ ἐν σοί, John xvii. 21; ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς, Col. ii. 9.—It is impossible that the name of God could be communicated to any other, Is. xlii. 8. The name of God can dwell in Him only, who is originally of the same nature with God.

After Israel had contracted guilt by the worship of the golden calf. He who had hitherto led them—Jehovah = the Angel of Jehovah—says, in Exod. xxxii. 34, that He would no more lead them Himself, but send before them His Angel, מלאכי: "For I (myself) will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiff-necked people, lest I consume thee in the way;" xxxiii. 3, compared with xxiii. 21. The people are quite inconsolable on account of this sad intelligence, ver. 4.

The threatening of the Lord becomes unintelligible, and the grief of the people incomprehensible, if by the Angel in chap. xxiii. an ordinary angel be understood. But everything becomes clear and intelligible, if we admit that in chap. xxiii. there is an allusion to the Angel of the Lord κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν, who is connected with Him by oneness of nature, and who, because the name of God is in Him, is as zealous as Himself in inflicting punishment as well as in bestowing salvation; whilst in chap. xxxii. 34, the allusion is to an inferior angel, who is added to the highest revealer of God as His companion and messenger, and who appears in the Book of Daniel under the name of Gabriel, while the Angel of the Lord appears under the name of Michael.

On account of the sincere repentance of the people, and the intercession of Moses, the Lord revokes the threatening, and says in xxxiii. 14, "My face shall go." But Moses said unto Him, "If Thy face go not, carry us not up hence."

That פנים, face, signifies here the person, is granted by Gesenius: "The face of some one means often his personal presence,—himself in his own person." A similar use of the word occurs in 2 Sam. xvii. 11: "Thy face go to battle" (Michaelis: "Thou thyself be present, not some commander only"); and in Deut. iv. 37, where בפניו means in, or with, his personal presence: "He [Pg 128] brought them out with His face, with His mighty power out of Egypt."

The state of things has in xxxiii. 14, 15, evidently become again what it was in xxiii. 20, 21. The face of the Lord in the former passage, is the Angel of the Lord in the latter. Hence, we cannot here admit the idea of some inferior angel; we can think only of that Angel who is connected with the Lord by oneness of nature.

The connection between the face of the Lord in xxxiii. 14, 15, and the Angel in whom is the name of the Lord, in xxiii., becomes still more evident by Is. lxiii. 8, 9: "And He (Jehovah) became their Saviour. In all their affliction (they were) not afflicted, and the Angel of His face saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and He bore and carried them all the days of old." The Angel of the face, in this text, is an expression which, by its very darkness, points back to some fundamental passage—a passage, too, in the Pentateuch—as facts are alluded to, of which the authentic report is given in that book. The expression, "Angel of the face," arose from a combination of Exod. xxiii. 20—from which the "Angel" is taken—and Exod. xxxiii. 14, whence he took the "face." To explain "Angel of the face" by "the angel who sees His face," as several have done, would give an inadequate meaning; for by the whole context, an expression is demanded which would elevate the angel to the height of God. Now, as in Exod. xxxiii. 14, "the face of Jehovah" is tantamount to "Jehovah in His own person," the Angel of the face can be none other than He in whom Jehovah appeal's [typo correction: should read "appears"] personally, in contrast with inferior created angels. The Angel of the face is the Angel in whom is the name of the Lord.

When Joshua was standing with the army before Jericho, in a state of despondency at the sight of the strongly fortified city, a man appeared to him, with his sword drawn; and when he was asked by Joshua, "Art thou for us or for our adversaries?" he answers, in chap. v. 14, "Nay, for I am the Captain of the host of Jehovah, שר צבא יהוה, now I have come." This Captain claims for himself divine honour, in ver. 15, precisely in the same manner as the Angel of Jehovah in Exod. iii., by commanding [Pg 129] Joshua to put off his shoes, because the place on which he stood was holy. In chap. vi. 2 he is called Jehovah. For it is evident that we are not to think of another divine revelation there given to Joshua in any other way—as some interpreters suppose; because, in that case, the appearance of the Captain, who only now gives command to Joshua, would have been without an object. In chap. v. the directions would be wanting; in chap. vi. we should have no report of the appearance.

There can be no doubt that, by the host of the Lord, the heavenly host is to be understood; and Hofmann (S. 291) has not done well in reviving the opinion of some older expositors (Calvin, Masius) which has been long ago refuted, viz., that the host of the Lord is "Israel standing at the beginning of his warfare," and in asserting that the prince of this host is some inferior angel. The Israelites cannot be the host of the Lord, that explanation is excluded by the comparison with the host of the Lord mentioned at the very threshold of revelation, in Gen. ii. 1; that which is commonly (Gen. xxxii. 2; 1 Kings xxii. 19; Neh. ix. 6; Ps. ciii. 21, cxlviii. 2, compared with 2 Kings vi. 27) so called, infinitely surpasses the earthly one in glory, and of it the Lord has the name Jehovah Zebaoth. It is only in two isolated passages of the Pentateuch that the appellation which properly belongs to the heavenly hosts of God is transferred to the earthly ones; and that is done in order to point out their correspondence, and thereby to elevate the mind. In the first of these passages, Exod. vii. 4, the "host of the Lord" is not spoken of absolutely, but it is expressly said what host is intended: "And I bring forth My host. My people, the children of Israel." The second passage, in Exod. xii. 41, is similarly qualified, and refers to the first. According to this view of Hofmann, the words, "now I have come," are quite inexplicable.[1] The Captain of the host of the Lord expresses Himself in such a manner as if, by His coming, everything were accomplished. But if he was only the commander of Israel—an inferior [Pg 130] angel—his coming was no guarantee for success, for his limited power might be checked by a higher one. But if the Captain of the host of Jehovah be the Prince of angels, we cannot by any means refer the divine honour which He demands and receives, to Him who sent Him, in contrast with Him who is sent; the higher the dignity, the more necessary is the limitation. If the honour be ascribed to Him, He must be a partaker of a divine nature.

Jesus not at all indistinctly designates Himself as the Captain of the Lord's host spoken of in our passage, in Matt. xxvi. 53: Ἢ δοκεῖς ὅτι οὐ δύναμαι ἄρτι παρακαλέσαι τὸν πατέρα μου, καὶ παραστήσει μοι πλείους ἢ δώδεκα λεγεῶνας ἀγγέλων; This passage alone would be sufficient to refute the view which conceives of the Angel of the Lord as a mere emanation and messenger. It also overthrows the opinion that he is an inferior angel, inasmuch as the Angel of the Lord here appears as raised above all inferior angels.

Thus there existed, even in the time of Moses, the most important foundation for the doctrine concerning Christ. He who knows the general relation which the Pentateuch bears to the later development of doctrine, will, a priori, think it impossible that it should have been otherwise; and, instead of neglecting these small beginnings, appearing, as it were, in the shape of germs, he will cultivate them with love and care.

It is only at a late period, in Malachi iii. 1, that the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord is expressly brought into connection with that of Christ. But a knowledge of the divine nature of the Messiah is found at a much earlier period; and we can certainly not suppose that the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, and that of a truly divine Saviour, should have existed by the side of each other, and yet that manifold forebodings regarding their close obvious connection should not have been awakened in the mind.

[1] Seb. Schmid says: "I have now come with my heavenly host to attack the Canaanites, and to help thee and thy people. Be thou of good cheer; prepare thyself for war along with me, and I will now explain to thee in what manner thou must carry it on;" vi. 2 ff.

See also the following blogposts:

The Jewish Trinity: How the Old Testament Reveals the Christian Godhead by Dr. Michael Heiser

Old Testament Passages Implying Plurality in God

Proving That There Is A Plurality In The Godhead

Quotes from "Of A Plurality In The Godhead" by John Gill

Concerning the Magnificent and August Names and Titles of the Messiah in the Old Testament by John Gill

Pre-Existence of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels

The Trinity and the Deity of the Messiah From a Messianic Perspective

Regarding Jewish Professor Dr. Sommer's Comments About the Trinity

The Great Mystery; or, How Can Three Be One? [The Trinity in Early Judaism]

Quotations from the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern

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