December 7, 2013
I decided to re-post something that I’d previously posted on Rabbi Blumenthal’s blog. It concerns questions about the Angel of the LORD and issues with Judges 13. I’ve left out the questioners names.
I’ve tried to also address some points that others have brought up without explicitly stating what was written by them. It saves a lot of time.
To answer one of your first questions, I don’t take issue that in the case of Malachi 2 the text can be read as the messenger of YHWH being that of the priest. There’s no proving that it can’t be because it can. What I’d like to point out is that we can’t just do away with the instances and verses where grammar indicates that the two are to be taken as one word to identify a specific person because of a couple where they aren’t. In that verse the object and person spoken of is the priest. The priest isn’t doing any speaking for himself and especially not speaking as the LORD.
The focus of 1-7 is that of the original covenant. It went from God to Moses to the elders and to the priests. I’m not standing with lead feet on that one verse in Malachi. In fact there are two other instances where the conjunction is not to be confused with “the” Angel of YHWH. On the one hand it can be read simply as the priests being the messengers of the original covenant without looking any further into the implications of it. The verses that better demonstrates a broader understanding is found in the next chapter in Malachi 3:
Mal 3:1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.
Question: — “Here is the point. PROVE to me that judges 13 CANNOT be understood as it’s words simply connote – an interaction with an emissary distinct from and subservient to God, albeit angelic.”
We could go back and forth on this one but I’m sincerely interested in looking at it “as it’s words simply connote.” No slight of hand or cards up the sleeve.
Concerning Judges 13, I’ll lay it out as efficiently as I can. There was obviously already a well known tradition of a particular Angel being peculiarly different from all others and that he was not an ordinary messenger. Previously, in Judges 2, we have this same Angel speaking in the first person to the people of Israel. The text reads:
Jdg 2:1 Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3 So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 4 As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.
I don’t think Joshua was surprised by meeting this particular Angel again as he’d encountered him before and was in his presence in the wilderness. Although the second encounter with this Angel was when he was introduced to him as the captain of the LORD’s army before the battle of Jericho. He was told the same as Moses; “Take your shoes off for you’re standing on holy ground.” The Angel wields the sword of YHWH. Many texts tell us that the Father says, “I did this” and “I did that..” when we know it’s the Angel who did it. They are at times so thoroughly interchangeable that unless they “are” both YHWH then what’s written can’t possibly be true. On occasion this Angel is separate from God and in other instances he’s indistinguishable from God. Sometimes he’s recognized as God and others not. I believe the Bible was written by inspiration from God.
Before I get to Judges 13 I want to look at what happens prior to that. In Jud. 6 we have a similar exchange and the Angel is speaking as the LORD. There’s no introduction such as, “Thus says the LORD, or, “This is what the LORD says.” Nothing like that. The Angel just launches into first person language as he did in Jdg. 2 (and many other places in the Torah); he speaks as God. This would have been the perfect opportunity among many for him to say he was there representing God but he doesn’t. He could have said any number of things to alert his audience as to who he “wasn’t.” Judges 6 is one of those hard to initially grasp chapters in that we go from interchangeable back to separate from. The Angel is talking as the LORD, then he’s seemingly separate from and then once more identified as YHWH. If this isn’t deliberate language used then the author really missed the mark. What I understand is that it’s meant to bring to mind the age old tradition beginning with the Patriarch’s that Israel’s God is sometimes seen interacting with mankind on earth. He’s not just a messenger with God’s name he actually is known to be the LORD that is seen of men when he chooses to be. It’s in line with previous encounters and verses that relate the same idea of God. The Angel of the LORD doesn’t just come in the Name of the LORD he embodies the Name of the LORD. His essence is the same as that of the LORD. He is the manifest presence of God and Scripture tells us the same. Where did Gideon get the idea that he would die because he’d seen an angel? No where. It’s seeing God’s face that strikes that fear in people yet there he is shaking in his boots. I don’t mean that there weren’t others who thought the same just that it’s nowhere stated that you will die upon seeing an angel.
Jdg 6:12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
Jdg 6:13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
Jdg 6:14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”
We have a transition in the space of 2 verses with the Angel speaking first and then it turns into the LORD who (turning to Gideon) is now speaking. Which is it? The author doesn’t seem to be phased by the wording. The tradition was well established by now that the Angel of the LORD was also known to be the visible manifestation of YHWH and that’s why people thought they would die. There’s no other angel that allows people to believe he is YHWH Himself. This Angel is sometimes exchanged for YHWH while in other instances he’s distinquished from YHWH. Can we have it both ways? Apparently the authors of Scripture believed we can and should. Although this doesn’t lead us to a trinity it does rather show the dual aspect of God as seen and not seen as is clearly established beginning with Genesis. The LORD again speaks to Gideon and in the next verse he asks for a sign that he’s not just an ordinary messenger:
16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
17 And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me.
18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”
The LORD is speaking and He promised to stay put until Gideon prepared his offering. Gideon returns with his sacrifice. 19 “So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them.”
Now the Angel is in place of YHWH again. 20 “And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so.”
21 “Then the angel of the LORD reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.”
The offering is accepted by the Angel and then he vanishes. Gideon now comes undone at the realization that it was Mal’ak YHWH that he had just put to the test! 22 “Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.'” Why would anyone be afraid of seeing an angel “face to face?”
The author then tells us that it is the LORD speaking with him and yet his life is spared. 23 “But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.'” 24 “Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace.”
Back to Judges 13. I’m going to break it down in order to keep it short. In verse 1-2 we have the introduction to Manoah and his wife. Verse 3, the Angel of the LORD appears with a statement to Monoah’s wife that she’s barren but will conceive a son. Verse 4-5, are instructions concerning the vow of the Nazarite and the promise of redemption from the Philistines. Verse 6: “Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, and verse 7 is a repeat of what was told her earlier. Verse 8-14, Monoah prays that the man would return and he does by showing up in the field where Manoah’s wife is. She runs to her husband and they both come to enquire as to whether or not he was the one who appeared to her. He says he is and goes over the instructions with them again. Verses 15, 16 and 17 are interesting. They offer to prepare a sacrifice to honor the man who came to them. They, as yet, had no idea that he was “the” Angel of the LORD is what it says. Verse 16 “And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.)” I’m left thinking that the Angel knew what was in Manoah’s heart and that Manoah thought he was an ordinary messenger in which case Manoah was mistaken in offering sacrifice to one he thought was an ordinary man. He tells him he won’t eat his food which leads me to believe he wasn’t being impolite or rude he was merely steering him in the right direction. “Offer your sacrifice to the LORD”. 17 “And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?'” 18 “And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is secret?” (or too wonderful to comprehend)
Why is it that this one Angel has a name that some believe we don’t know from the book of Genesis all the way through to the time of the Judges? Does that strike anyone else as really odd? What’s the big secret? I submit it’s because this Angel’s Name is also YHWH and that’s not something to be glossed over and taken lightly. This Angel possesses God’s Sacred Name! I’ve more to say on that when I pick up on my own blog. Sometime or other…
Judges 13:19. “So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching 18 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground. 20 The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD.”
They now know he was Mal’ak YHWH. Whenever I hear of fire associated with God I can’t help but think back to the other instances of the occurance, which I believe we’re supposed to do. The text doesn’t say anything like, “The LORD has accepted your offering” instead the Angel steps into the fire from the altar and disappears. Fire goes with Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:24 and the burning bush of Exd chapter 3-4:17. Pretty lengthy conversation with someone standing in a burning bush unless I’m mistaken about the length of the conversation. There’s also Sinai, Judges 6 and now Judges 13. I probably missed a couple. The Angel, YHWH, both God in the burning bush and now the Angel within fire again.
22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”
Very clear language.
23 But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”
As in many other instances of the people involved in these types of exchanges we never hear of anyone being rebuked as though they were mistaken in their identification of who they had just entertained. The precedent of YHWH interacting with the people of Israel began with Abraham to whom He appeared back in Genesis. That’s beyond the scope of our conversation right now but needs to be further explored perhaps another time.
Isaiah 48:12 says, “Harken unto Me O Jacob and Israel, my called, I am He. I am the first. I also am the last.” “My hand has also laid the foundation of the earth.” This is clearly the creator speaking. We can’t say it was the prophet or Cyrus that is spoken of here. The one being sent is the creator and has the attributes of God, he is the first and the last, his hand laid the foundation of the earth. The one being sent by the Lord GOD is the creator. We have the Lord GOD “and” His Spirit sending someone who is also divine and who is also God:
“Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together. All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous. Come near to me, and hear this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, has sent me.” (Isaiah 48:13-16)
I have a question myself, “How do the Orthodox understand the Holy Spirit?” I am not as clear on that aspect of God. The Scriptures say God is Spirit yet at times He sends the Spirit. How do you understand that?
There are, of course, more examples of Mal’ak YHWH first person narratives but, again, they’re beyond what I can squeeze into one post.
May 23, 2013
Abraham is said to be a friend to God. I always thought that was a really great thing to be said of anyone and so I definitely wanted to get to know Abraham better. Abraham has an interesting relationship with Almighty God that is in some ways more casual and personal than anyone other than Moses. Moses is also said to be someone very special to the Lord, though in a much different way than Abraham and it’s no wonder with all the years they spent together in the wilderness. Forty years is plenty of time to get to know someone very well and we see plenty of signs of the close relationship between Angel-YHWH (the LORD) and Moses. That will have to wait for another time though.
Concerning Abraham, we can piece together the special relationship he shared with the Lord, God, and then follow it through with what is not written but surely took place as we do have some hints of it here and there in Scripture. Nowadays most people are so far removed from the nomadic lifestyle of the Patriarchs that we probably don’t give much, if any, thought to the everyday happenings within a large troupe of migrant shepherds. The dynamics of the interaction between Abraham’s family and his servants was no doubt so much closer than any of us share even with our extended families today. They were probably together pretty much 24-7, 365 days a year! Plenty of time to sit around the camp fire and exchange stories. Lots and lots of stories were told and re-told throughout the generations of all their families. That’s how information was stored. People remembered the telling of events and they kept the stories alive from one generation to the next. It would’ve been like having a walking, talking data bank of information concerning each other that was passed on to the next generation and added to and some maybe left off with time. I wouldn’t think any stories as awesome as Abraham’s were would be left out for ages to come. I’m thinking maybe after about 400 yrs. the interest and memories would wane and begin to fade somewhat with maybe only a handful of people left who told the old stories still. Probably only the elderly passed them around and kept them alive for posterity. That’s why they’re respected, after all, because they store all the information, wisdom and memories needed for the next generation to succeed. They retained their identity as Israelites through the efforts of the elders.
The Patriarchs of Israel, I believe, were some of the most important elders in the world–on second thought, they were “the” most important. They have their own revelation of God to tell of, 400 years before Mt. Sinai.
May 23, 2013
I’ve decided to come at this blogging thing from a completely different perspective. I’m going to write for myself and forget about impressing anyone. I mean, if I happen to, that’s good, but if it takes me a while to find my grove that’s OK too.
So, my plan is to just post what I have written up at the time rather than try to accumulate masses of perfected grammar, spelling and sentence structure, having rewritten everything twice and still not posting any of it! I know–it’s my mother’s fault… Not really. Anyway, that’s my impromptu plan and I’m sticking to it! See, somehow, sticking to an impromptu plan makes sense to me!