THE JEHOVAH-ANGEL by Paton James Gloag 1879
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In our lecture we observed that 'we must take into consideration the probability, founded on the position which the Messiah occupies in the Old Testament dispensation, and on the teaching of the New Testament, that the Messiah is the Jehovah-Angel who so frequently appeared to the patriarchs, guided the Israelites in the wilderness, and announced Himself to Moses in the bush as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the great I Am That I Am.' This is a statement which requires additional remarks in the way of proof or illustration, and is a subject of considerable interest and difficulty.
In the early historical books of the Old Testament, there is frequent mention of this Jehovah-Angel appearing to the patriarchs, receiving from them divine homage, and using the name and titles of God. These appearances are numerous. We can only make a selection, referring our readers to Hengstenberg's Christology, and Dr. Pye Smith's Scriptural Testimony to the Messiah, where the subject is discussed at considerable length.
The Angel of Jehovah, we are informed, appeared to Hagar: 'and she called the name of Jehovah that spake unto her, Thou God seest me' (Gen. xvi. 13). On several occasions this appearance was vouchsafed to Abraham. When he interceded for Sodom, there appears to have been a visible manifestation of Jehovah. Three angels in human form appeared to him: two went toward Sodom, the third remained and revealed Himself to Abraham as Jehovah: 'Abraham,' we read, 'stood yet before Jehovah' (Gen. xviii. 22). And when the same patriarch was about to offer up his son, the Angel of Jehovah interfered in these words: 'Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, for because thou hast done this thing . . . in blessing I will bless thee' (Gen. xxii. 12, 16,17). The same mysterious Being appeared to Jacob when he was alarmed at the approach of Esau: 'And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved' (Gen. xxxii. 30). And in blessing Joseph and his sons, he refers to the special providence of the Jehovah-Angel: 'He blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which delivered me from all evil, bless the lads' (Gen. xlviii. 15, 16). The Jehovah-Angel appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, out of the midst of the bush, and announced Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. iii. 6). He it was who guided the Israelites in the wilderness: '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, provoke Him not; for He will not pardon your trangressions: for my name is in Him. . . . Mine Angel shall go before thee' (Ex. xxiii. 20-23). To Joshua He appeared as the Captain of the Lord's host, and demanded the same reverence from him as He did from Moses at the burning bush: 'Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy' (Josh. v. 15). The Angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah and his wife, revealing Himself to them by the name of Wonderful, and ascending into heaven in the flame of fire, which arose from the burnt-offering: 'And Manoah said unto his wife We shall surely die, because we have seen God' (Judg. xiii. 22). So also in the prophecies of Zechariah there is frequent mention of the Jehovah-Angel. He is represented as the Messenger of God, as assisting Joshua the high priest in his work of rebuilding the temple, and contending with Satan, the great enemy of God and man. And in that very remarkable Messianic prophecy in Malachi, the Messiah is announced as the Angel of the covenant: 'Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger (or Angel) of the covenant, whom ye delight in' (Mal. iii. 1).
Thus, then, it is undeniable that there is a mysterious personage, mentioned in the Old Testament as the Jehovah-Angel. He is invested with the attributes of Jehovah; He performs the works of God, forgives sins, and exercises a special providence; He is worshipped by those to whom He appears; He is the Leader of the Israelites in the wilderness, and appropriates to Himself the incommunicable name, 'I AM THAT I AM.' Now the question is, Who is this person? Three answers have been given to this inquiry.
The first answer is, that the Jehovah-Angel is a created angel, the messenger of Jehovah. He uses the name of God, and speaks with His authority, because he is His messenger, just as an ambassador represents his sovereign. This opinion is adopted by Origen, Augustine, and Jerome, among the Fathers; and by Dr. Samuel Clarke, Episcopius, Grotius, Le Clerc, Meyer, Delitzsch, Hofmann, and Pusey. 'The angel of Jehovah,' observes Delitzsch, 'is an angel whom God employs as the organ of His own self-attestation.' Hofmann supposes that it is a particular angel, that it is 'always one and the same spirit who speaks and acts in the name of God.' There are, however, several considerations which militate against this opinion. It is not countenanced in the Scriptures. There is no intimation in any of the above passages that this Being is acting for and personating another, that He is not speaking in His own name and authority; unless, indeed, the title Angel or Messenger be regarded as such an intimation. Nor was it the custom among the ancients for messengers to use the names and titles of their employers; as, for example, ambassadors calling themselves by the names of their kings. Besides, the words and actions of the Jehovah-Angel, were He only a created angel, would inevitably mislead those to whom He was sent. He assumes, without any qualification, the titles of God; He demands and accepts religious homage; He announces Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those to whom He appeared could not help believing that He was a divine Being, and confessing that they had seen God. His acceptance of worship is contrasted with the conduct of the angel in the Apocalypse. When John fell down to worship him, the angel prevented him, saying, 'See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God' (Rev. xxii. 9).
The second answer is somewhat more plausible. According to this view, the Jehovah-Angel is not a person, but, like the Shekinah, the visible symbol of the presence of God. There is here a theophany: God here graciously reveals Himself to His worshippers; He gives them a sensible token of His presence, as, for example, the burning bush, the pillar of cloud, or the human form. This view appears to have been the opinion of Philo; and it is also adopted by Rosenmuller, Gesenius, De Wette, and Belsham. 'The Angel of God,' observes Gesenius, 'is nothing else than that secret and invisible Deity which now became manifest to the eyes of mortals.' 'The angels,' observes De Wette, 'are personifications of natural forces, or of the extraordinary works and ordinances of God; hence "the Angel of Jehovah," as having nothing personal in Himself, is interchanged with Jehovah or God.' Those, indeed, who believe that God manifests Himself by and through His Son, that Christ is the visible image of the invisible God, the true Shekinah, admit in that sense the truth of the explanation, that we have in the Jehovah-Angel a visible manifestation of the Godhead. But this is not the sense intended by those who advance this explanation. The hypothesis entirely denies the personality of the Jehovah-Angel: He is regarded as a mere token or sign of the divine presence. In the instances adduced, however, the Jehovah-Angel is represented as a person. He speaks, reasons, moves, walks, commands, and acts. And, besides, in many of these passages He is expressly distinguished from God, even as the person sent is distinguished from Him who sent him. For example, He was the Angel whom God appointed in His stead to be the Leader of the Israelites: 'Behold, mine Angel shall go before thee' (Ex. xxxii. 34).
The third answer is that the Jehovah-Angel is the Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead, the Messiah of the Jews, who afterwards appeared in this world as the Lord Jesus Christ. This opinion is the doctrine generally received by the Christian Church. It is adopted by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Eusebius, Chrysostom, and almost all the Fathers. Justin Martyr especially insists upon it in his controversy with Trypho the Jew. Thus he asserts that the Angel who appeared to Abraham under the oak of Mamre was God, and that He was distinguished from God the Father. This view has also been adopted in recent times by Bengel, Nitzsch, Lange, Stier, Hengstenberg, Pye Smith, Wordsworth, Alford, and numerous other eminent critics. The Jehovah-Angel is called God, speaks with the authority of God, demands and receives the worship of God; and yet He is distinguished from God as His Messenger or Angel. Now the Christian doctrine of the distinction of persons in the unity of the Godhead is the explanation of this. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Messenger of God, the Angel of the covenant, the manifestation of the divine perfections, 'the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His Person.' He is the Ruler of the Church both under the Old and under the New Testament dispensation: the Head of the Jewish as well as of the Christian Church.
When we direct our attention to the New Testament, we find this view of the subject, namely, that the Jehovah-Angel is the Lord Jesus Christ, supported, though at the same time we admit that it is not very prominently advanced. Christ is represented as the 'Sent of God,' as the Apostle or Messenger as well as the High Priest of our profession (Heb. iii. 1). The most explicit statement bearing on this subject is that made by St. Paul in 1 Cor. x. He there not merely asserts that Christ was the spiritual Rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness, but that He was the Jehovah whom they tempted or provoked: 'Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents' (1 Cor. x. 9). The most obvious meaning of this declaration is that Christ was the Leader of the Israelites in the wilderness, and consequently the Jehovah-Angel. The only passage in the New Testament which seems to favour the opposite opinion, is that contained in the speech of St. Stephen. In alluding to the appearance of the Jehovah-Angel to Moses, he speaks of Him simply as an angel: 'There appeared unto him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an angel in a flame of fire in a bush' (Acts vii. 30); for it is now generally admitted that the word KURIOU in the textus receptus is not in the original. But this does not necessarily militate against the above view of the nature of the Jehovah-Angel. St. Stephen goes on to say that 'the voice of the Lord came unto Moses, saying, I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and that the Lord said to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet'—words which at least admit of the interpretation that the Angel was identical with the- Lord who spoke. And, besides, the Mosaic narrative is distinctly in favour of the view that it is the Jehovah-Angel who is here intended.
When we turn our attention to the views of Jewish writers on this subject, we meet with much discrepancy and many discordant opinions, so that it is difficult to find out whether they regarded the Jehovah-Angel as a person, or merely as the symbol of the Divinity. One very prevalent opinion was, that He was the same with the Shekinah. 'The Angel of Jehovah,' says the book Zohar, 'who appeared to Moses is the Shekinah.' In the Middle Ages the rabbinical writers gave to the Jehovah-Angel the title of Metatron, and seem to have regarded Him as the Mediator between God and man. They distinguished between a superior and inferior Metatron. The inferior Metatron is by some supposed to be Enoch, and to him this appellation was given in the Targum of the pseudo-Jonathan. 'And Enoch served in the truth before the Lord, and, behold, he was not with the sojourners of the earth: for he was withdrawn and ascended to the firmament by the Word before the Lord, and his name was called Metatron.' The superior Metatron is identified with the Jehovah-Angel and the Shekinah. Thus in the book Zohar we read: 'The Angel of the Lord which is the Shekinah;' 'It is He who liveth for ever and ever, who is arrayed with the name Metatron.' The most exalted titles are conferred upon Him; so much so, that there would seem to be an approximation here to the Christian doctrine of the Son of God. Thus Rabbi Solomon, commenting on the words, 'My name is in Him,' says: 'Our Rabbis say, This is the Metatron, whose name is as the name of His Teacher, namely, the all-sufficient God.' 'He is named the Metatron,' says Rabbi Bechai, 'because in this name are comprised the two significations of Lord and Messenger; and because He keeps the world, He is called the Keeper of Israel. It hence appears that He is the Lord of all beneath Him, and that the whole host of things above and things below are in His power and under His hand. He is also the Messenger of all both above Him and below Him; because God has made Him to have dominion over all, and has set Him Lord of His house and all His possessions.' And in the book Zohar identified with the Messiah.
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