Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Angel of Jehovah, 1876 article

The Angel of Jehovah, article The Quarterly Review of the Evangelical Lutheran Church 1873

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The title, “Angel of Jehovah” (Malak YHWH) with some others varying in form, but generally understood to have the same reference and application, is of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament Scriptures, and has given rise to no little discussion. Difference of theological views has doubtless had much to do with difference of interpretation, and it may not be possible to divest ourselves entirely of partialities, but we will endeavor to ascertain from the Scriptures themselves the meaning and application of the term.

I. The chief passages in which this and corresponding titles occur will first be presented. Gen. 16:7, “the Angel of Jehovah” appears to Hagar, and gives promise of a numerous posterity, v.10. Hagar calls the name of this Being who spoke with her Jehovah, and El, Lord, and God, v.13. Gen. 18, Jehovah appears to Abraham, v.1, and Abraham sees three men, v.2, two of whom are afterwards called Angels 19:1, (in Heb. “the two Angels,”) whilst one of them is addressed as Lord, (Adonai) v.3, and called Jehovah, vs. 13,14,17. Gen. 21:17, “the Angel of God,” (Malak Elohim) again visits Hagar when in the wilderness, and says concerning her Son Ishmael, “I will make him a great nation,” v.18. Gen. 22:1, God, (Elohim), calls upon Abraham to offer up his son Isaac a burnt offering, but during the transaction, “the Angel of Jehovah” interposes, v. 11, and claims for Himself the homage offered to God, v.12. Gen. 31 : 11, “the Angel of God,” (Malak Elohim) speaks to Jacob, and calls Himself “the God of Bethel,” v.13. Gen. 32:24–32, compared with Hos. 12:4,5, shows that “the Angel” is identified with “Jehovah, God of hosts.” Gen. 48:15,16, Jacob blesses the Sons of Joseph in the name of God, before whom Abraham and Isaac walked, and also in the name of “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil,” making (Hammala Haggoel) the covenant God. Exodus 3:2, “the Angel of Jehovah” appears to Moses in the bush, and afterwards the name is exchanged for that of Jehovah and Elohim v. 4 and following. Exodus 23:20–22, God promises to send before Israel His “Angel,” and charges them not to provoke Him, “for my name is in Him.” Joshua 5:13–15, one appears to Joshua, like a man, called “captain of the host of the Lord,” (Sar Seba YHWH), and who further is spoken of as Jehovah 6: 2. Judges 2:1–4; 6:11–22; 13:3–21, “the Angel of Jehovah” appears, and is recognized as divine. Is. 43:9, mention is made of “the Angel of His presence” who saved and redeemed His people. In Zechariah, “the Angel of Jehovah” appears repeatedly, 1:11, 12; 3:1,2,6; 12:8, and is made one with God. In Malachi He is called “the Angel of the Covenant” and the temple to which He comes, is his own 3: 1.

II. The main question is, to what or whom does this title, running through the Old Testament Scriptures, and although varying in form, yet one in meaning, belong? The different and conflicting views on this point may be presented as four.

1. That which understands by “the Angel of Jehovah” one of those created beings usually denominated Angels, and whom God employs as messengers to do His will. According to this view, we are to understand simply one of the holy Angels, and who because he represents God, speaks and acts as God, and in turn receives the homage due to Him that sent him. This view has been defended by a very few of the early fathers, including Augustine; by eminent Jewish interpreters as Abenezra and others; by Romish and Socinian divines; and by some recent Protestant theologians and critics. It cannot be denied that “the Angel of Jehovah,” may have sometimes this signification, and where nothing more is designed, and this gives some currency to such an interpretation as the general and correct one. But the objections to this view, as the one by which we are to explain the leading and distinctive passages, where the title occurs, are so numerous and weighty, that they have decided against it the great majority of those, who are not led by some doctrinal prejudice to cling to such an interpretation. “The Angel of Jehovah” is, in the mind of the inspired writers, clearly distinguished from all ordinary beings of merely angelic nature, and so completely identified with the Divine nature, that we cannot fail to recognize and admit an exaltation far above that of Angels. This Angel or Messenger, uses for himself the first person singular, and ascribes to himself works most truly divine, Gen. 16:10; 48:15,16. Upon this latter passage Athanasius well observes: “None of created and natural Angels did he join to God their Creater, nor rejecting God that fed him did he from Angel ask the blessing on his grandsons; but in saying, ‘Who delivered me from all evil’ he showed that it was no created Angel, but the Word of God, whom he joined to the Father in his prayer.”

2. That which understands by this term nothing more than some natural agent, something in the world of nature, which Jehovah employed as the symbol of His presence. Whilst it cannot be doubted that natural and providential agents are sometimes designated as Angels, Ps. 104:4; 2 Cor.12;7, yet this can by no means be admitted in the present case. The distinction is very manifest between any outward, visible representation, and the living, personal being, who spake and acted on such occasions. All the attributes of distinct, personality belonged to this “Angel of Jehovah,” and any view in conflict with this, must be at war with all sound principles of interpretation, and utterly irreconcileable with every instance of Isis appearance.

3. Another view understands by this term Jehovah Himself. God without any distinction of persons—the everlasting Father manifesting His presence in visible sign. This is the view exhibted by Gesenius in his Lexigon. “Sometimes the same divine appearance, which at one time is called Malak YHWH, is afterwards called simply YHWH, as Gen. 16:7,13; 22:11, coll. 12; 31:11, coll.16; Ex. 3:2, coll.4; Judg.6:14 coll.22; 13:18 coll.22. This is to be so understood, that the Angel of God is here nothing else than the invisible deity itself, which thus unveils itself to moral eyes.” Gesenius adds by way of confirmation, “Hence oriental translators, as Saadias, Abusaides, and the Chaldeo-Samaritan, wherever Jehovah himself is said to appear on earth, always put for the name of God the angel of God.” But besides the declaration—“no man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” John 1: 18, their is a distinction made, Gen. 48:15; Ex. 23:20, 21; Josh. 5: 14, 15; Is. 43:9; Mal. 3:1, which leads us to look for something different. Whilst therefore we must not fail to recognize the truly Divine in these manifestations, and must not empty them of their meaning, by substituting any mere Angel, or creative agency, we must just as little overlook the important fact that “the Angel of Jehovah” is one sent forth from God, and who although He may be God, cannot be so in any exclusive, or absolute monotheistic sense. There must be the recognition of some kind of personal distinction from the invisible, unrevealed, absolute Jehovah.

4. The remaining view is that which understands by the term, “Angel of Jehovah,” that divine persons, whom the Apostle declares to be “the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person,” Heb. 1: 3, ‘in whose face, PROSWPON, the glory of God shines,’ 2 Cor. 4:6, who was in the beginning with God, John 1:2, and who was manifested as the life of the world, 1 John 1:2. According to this view, “the Angel of Jehovah” is none other than the second person in the Godhead, and who in the fullness of time “was manifest in the flesh,” 1 Tim. 3:16, and is still
the one mediator between God and men, 1 Tim. 2:5.

In support of this last view, among other considerations, may be urged,

1. That it is the only one that will unite and harmonize all the prominent instances in which “the Angel of Jehovah” is brought to our notice in the Old Testament, and give a consistency to the whole volume of revelation.

2. That it perfectly agrees with the express teaching, and whole analogy of faith in the New Testament, 1 Cor. 10:9; 1 Pet. 1:10; Heb. 11:26; John 12:41. Christ's character and office, as the Logos, the Revealer, the Mediator, all point to Him, as that Angel or Messenger of Jehovah, the Angel of His presence, and of the covenant, who under the old dispensation, as under the new, made known the Father. This, and this alone, gives unity to divine revelation, and a consistent development to the whole plan of redemption.

3. That it has received the suffrage of the great majority of the most distinguished names in the church both in ancient and modern times. With a very few exceptions, the early fathers were united in this interpretation, and they have in this been followed by the very general consent of orthodox Protestant critics and theologians. So fully at least is this true that it may regarded as the general faith of the church.

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