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Particulars of Christianity:
302 The Trinity


The Trinity: Addendum 1 & 2

Introductions
The Angel of YHWH as YHWH God
The Angel of YHWH as Distinct from YHWH God
Immediate Interactive Dialogue
A Consistent Expectation about Seeing God's Face
Survey Examining Eternal Past Existence
Establishing Eternal Past Existence
Distinction of the Spirit of YHWH
Ancient Jewish Recognition of Trinitarian Facts
The Trinity in the New Testament
Addendum 1 & 2
Addendum 3


Gabriel and Michael

It is not possible to even suggest that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit given Luke 1:11-15 and 1:26-35, which recount Gabriel speaking to John the Baptist’s father Zacharias and to Jesus’ mother Mary respectively. During both speeches Gabriel informs Zacharias that John will be filled with “the Holy Ghost” and informs Mary that “the Holy Ghost” will come upon her, clearly speaking of the Holy Spirit as a separate person from himself and thereby clearly ruling out that he himself is the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, in Gabriel’s speech to Mary, Gabriel refers to Mary’s son whose name will be Jesus who will be called the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Ghost, speaking of Jesus as separate from himself and never once in any way equating himself with Jesus. So, Gabriel cannot be the incarnate Word either. Similarly, both the book of Jude (Jude 1:1, 4, 9, 17, 21) and the Book of Revelation, particularly chapter 12:7 and 17 (Revelation 1:1-2, 5, 9, 12:7, 17, 14:12, 17:6, 19:10, 20:4, 22:16, 22:20-21) name Jesus Christ and the angel Michael separately rather than in any way equating the two. Thus, Michael and Jesus Christ are spoken of in the New Testament as 2 separate persons. Similarly Jude 1:19-20 explicitly refer to the Holy Spirit separately from Michael also, so that Michael cannot be the Holy Spirit. Similarly, Revelation 1:10, 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22, 11:11, 14:13, and 22:17 all explicitly refer to the Spirit separately from Michael and without ever equating him with Michael as well. Consequently, New Testament Trinitarianism directly prohibits equating or identifying either Michael or Gabriel with any Person of the Godhead.


Angels Involvement in the Law of Moses
Introduction

There are 3 chapters in the New Testament, and particularly 3 verses, which assert the involvement of angels in the ordination of the Law of Moses. Those verses are Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19, and Hebrews 2:2.


1) Acts 7:53

Acts 7:2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran…30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold (2657) it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, 32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold (2657)…35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush…37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. 38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us… 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by (1519) the disposition (1296) of angels (32), and have not kept it.

Although Stephen does not directly state that the angel who appeared to Moses in the bush was YHWH God, his words clearly imply it. In verse 30, Stephen asserts that it is an angel of YHWH that appeared to Moses in the bush. In verse 31, Stephen asserts that Moses went to the bush to “behold” this. And then in verse 32, Stephen asserts that after hearing the voice of YHWH from the bush, Moses “durst not behold.” What is Stephen saying? He is saying that Moses dared not to look at the bush once he realized that the one he was “beholding” was YHWH God. Since, Stephen already knows and has stated that it was the angel of YHWH who appeared to Moses and whom Moses “beheld,” this directly implies that both Stephen and Moses perceived that the angel of YHWH was YHWH God, whose face could not be seen lest a man die.

Moreover, in verse 38 Stephen plainly states that the angel of YHWH who appeared to Moses in the bush was also the figure who was with Moses on Mount Sinai. Thus, Stephen identifies God on mount Sinai as the same figure, the angel of YHWH, who announced himself as “YHWH God” to Moses in the burning bush. And in addition, in verse 31, Stephen also references the early title of “the Voice of YHWH” for this same figure when he states that “The Voice of YHWH” came unto Moses. This is similar to Genesis 3:8, which refers to “the Voice of YHWH” walking in the garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

And, in our main study, we established that the Jewish translations of the Old Testament known as the Targums already interpreted this phrasing in Genesis 3:8 to refer to the figure known as the Word of YHWH.

To use Genesis 3:8 as an example, most of the people who were listening to the public reading of the Scriptures would not have understood the Hebrew, which said, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden.” Rather, they would have understood the Targum, which said, “And they heard the sound of the Word of the LORD God walking in the midst of the garden.” What a difference and extra “word” makes! To speak of the Lord walking in the garden seemed too familiar, too down to earth. So the Targum made an adjustment: It was not the Lord who was walking in the garden, it was the Memra’ (the Word) of the Lord! This Word was not just an “it”; this Word was a him. 30” – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 19

Consequently, Stephen’s words here reflect his familiarity with such Targums.

Similarly, it is also very clear from Stephen’s words in verse 2 that Stephen identified the figure who appeared to Abraham as “the God of glory.” This title “the glory of God” also corroborates Stephen’s familiarity with the Jewish Targums (translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic). After all, as we have already seen, the Targum Onkelos similarly interpreted that the figure interacting with Moses in Exodus 3 was “the glory of the Lord.” 

“‘Well,’ you might say, ‘what about Exodus 3. Doesn’t that chapter equate seeing the angel of the Lord with seeing God?’ You’re getting very close!…How does the Targum Onkelos translated the end of verse 6? Moses ‘was afraid to look beside the glory of the LORD.’” – Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Volume 2, Theological Objections, p. 30

Who was the figure identified by the Targums and by Stephen by the title “the glory of God”? Genesis 19 and particularly Genesis 22 indicate that it was the angel of YHWH who interacted with Abraham. And as we have seen in our main study, the words of the angel of YHWH from the burning bush in Exodus and later in Exodus 6 all indicate that it was the same figure, the angel of YHWH, who interacted with Abraham and Moses alike.

In summary, Stephen’s words reflect how both he and those famous patriarchs regarded the angel of YHWH as YHWH God himself. And his understanding reflects the facts we’ve outlined in our main study concerning the angel of YHWH in the Old Testament, including more detailed examinations of the angel of YHWH in Genesis 22, Exodus 3, and Exodus 6. But more to the point, in verse 53 Stephen refers to the receiving of the Law through the disposition of angels. We will continue to examine what this phrase means as we move forward.


2) Galatians 3:19

Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained (1299) by (1223) angels (32) in the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

It should be stated that Moses is clearly the “mediator” here in Galatians 3:19, who went up to the fiery mountain for the people since they were afraid. Verse 20 indicates that mediators are not mediators for one side only but must represent both sides and that God was one of the sides represented by Moses in the Sinai Covenant (the Law of Moses). Consequently, Paul’s implication is that since God was one of the parties in order to represent both parties, YHWH had to also become a man as well. Later, in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Paul speaks of Jesus Christ as the mediator of the current covenant, who being both divine and human represents both sides in his mediation.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Likewise in Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, and 12:24, Jesus is identified as the mediator of the New Covenant, which surpasses and removes the previous covenant at Sinai (in which Moses was the mediator).

Hebrews 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were  under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

In conclusion, it is clear that although Paul mentions the Law being “ordained through angels,” the mediator is a single individual listed in addition to the angels. Again, given the content of the Old Testament texts that Paul is referring to (such as Deuteronomy 5:4-5, 23-27, 31), there can be no doubt that Moses is the mediator for the Law. (We cover these texts in detail during our main study.) Concerning the meaning of Paul’s phrase “ordained through angels,” we will continue to examine that as we move forward.


3) Hebrews 2:2

Below we have included the surrounding context of chapter 1 and chapter 2 of Hebrews, which inform Paul’s meaning in chapter 2:2. We should also note for later reference that as Paul builds toward his statement about the involvement of angels on Mount Sinai, in chapter 1:7 he cites Psalms 104:4 concerning angels taking on a fiery form at God’s command.

Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken (2980) by angels (32) was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken (2980) by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Hebrews 2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? 7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. 14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Paul’s constant contrast between “angels” in general and the Lord Jesus Christ throughout Hebrews 1-2 make it clear that when he states “angels” spoke the Law of Moses in chapter 2:2, he means that angels in general participated in the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. But the question remains as to exactly how the angels participated in giving the Law to Moses.


The New Testament Affirms God, not Angels, as the Author of the Law of Moses

Despite the 3 verses cited above, which all describe the angels participating in some fashion in the giving of the Law, the New Testament is clear from the earliest parts of the Gospels that the Law of Moses is the Law of YHWH God, not just merely of angels. We see this in Luke 2, which refers to the Law as “the Law of Moses.”

Luke 2:23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24  And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons…39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

In calling the Law of Moses, the “law of the Lord,” the New Testament is asserting that the Law of Moses is the Law of YHWH. This is demonstrated in Point No. 3 in the quote below from Easton’s Revised Bible Dictionary concerning the title “Lord.”

Easton’s Revised Bible Dictionary:
Lord
There are various Hebrew and Greek words so rendered.
1. Heb. Jehovah, has been rendered in the English Bible LORD, printed in small capitals. This is the proper name of the God of the Hebrews. The form "Jehovah" is retained only in #Ex 6:3 #Ps 83:18 Isa 12:2 26:4 both in the Authorized and the Revised Version.
2. Heb. ‘adon, means one possessed of absolute control. It denotes a master, as of slaves #Ge 24:14,27 or a ruler of his subjects #Ge 45:8 or a husband, as lord of his wife #Ge 18:12 The old plural form of this Hebrew word is _’adonai_. From a superstitious reverence for the name "Jehovah, " the Jews, in reading their Scriptures, whenever that name occurred, always pronounced it _’Adonai_.
3. Greek kurios, a supreme master, etc. In the LXX. this is invariably used for "Jehovah" and "‘Adonai."
4. Heb. ba’al, a master, as having domination. This word is applied to human relations, as that of husband, to persons skilled in some art or profession, and to heathen deities. "The men of Shechem, " literally "the baals of Shechem" #Jud 9:2,3 These were the Israelite inhabitants who had reduced the Canaanites to a condition of vassalage #Jos 16:10 17:13
5. Heb. seren, applied exclusively to the "lords of the Philistines" #Jud 3:3 The LXX. render it by satrapies. At this period the Philistines were not, as at a later period #1Sa 21:10 under a kingly government. (See) #Jos 13:3 1Sa 6:18 There were five such lordships, viz., Gath, Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron.

In addition, since the Old Testament confirms that God who appeared to and made a covenant with Abraham is the same God who gave the Law of Moses, when the New Testament affirms that God is the one who made a covenant with Abraham, it indirectly affirms God as the originator of the Law of Moses as well.

Luke 1:68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,…72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham.

Acts 3:25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

The New Testament also affirms God, not angels, as the one who interacted with Moses, exactly as the Exodus account records.

Acts 7:7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs…25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not…30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, 32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.

And, as mentioned above, even in the passages where angels are said to be involved in the Law of Moses, God is affirmed as one of the parties in that Covenant, one of the parties that Moses (the mediator), mediated between (the other party being the people of Israel). In our main study we examine Deuteronomy 5:4-5, 23-27, 31, which explicitly identifies Moses as the mediator between one party, God, and the other party, the people of Israel. Galatians is in perfect agreement with Deuteronomy’s account of God’s direct involvement in the Law of Moses.

Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

The New Testament also indirectly affirms the divine origin of the Law of Moses in the following passages where the Law is affirmed as synonymous with the worship and service to God in the Old Testament and as holy, just, and good.

Acts 24:14  But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good…14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

1 Timothy 1:8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;

Furthermore, when describing a list of items that were conferred upon Israel by God, such as adoption, glory, covenants, and promises, the New Testament lists “the Law of Moses” as one of the items that God conferred upon Israel, which again plainly indicates the divine origin of the Law of Moses.

Romans 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.

And, James also affirms that there is only one lawgiver, God. Therefore, this clearly necessitates that the Law of Moses came from God alone and could not have come from any other party.

And, even when speaking of the Old and New Covenant side by side, Hebrews affirms that God made both covenants, the Old and the New, indicating clearly that God was the originator of the Law of Moses. There is no place for the Law of Moses to be a covenant between angels and Israel. God is both the maker and the remover of the Covenant/Law of Moses (and he removes it because the people so repeatedly and completely broke it, as Hebrews also indicates).

Hebrews 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people…13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

Since the New Testament affirms both that God himself made the covenant with Israel and that angels were involved, we need to examine the Old Testament account on these points.


The Old Testament is Explicit that God Descended
and Communed at Sinai

Exodus 16:7, 10, Exodus 24:16, Numbers 14:14, Deuteronomy 5:4, 24-27, 31, and Deuteronomy 9:10 are all explicit that YHWH God was seen face to face by Moses and the Israelites, particularly on Mount Sinai, and it was his voice that was heard by Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai as well.

Exodus 16:7 And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?...10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Exodus 24:16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

Numbers 14:10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. 11 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. 13 And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;) 14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night…20 And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word: 21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. 22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; 23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: 24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

Deuteronomy 5:4 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, 5 (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, 6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage… 23 And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders; 24 And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. 25 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. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27 Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it…Go say to them, Get you into your tents again. 31 But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.

Furthermore, Exodus 31:18, Deuteronomy 5:22, and Deuteronomy 9:10 are explicit that the words on the two stone tablets were written by the finger of God, were delivered to Moses by God, and were the same words spoken by God to Moses out of the fire on Mount Sinai.

Exodus 31:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,…18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger (0676) of God.

Deuteronomy 5:22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.

Deuteronomy 9:10 And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger (0676) of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.

However, Deuteronomy 4:12 is explicit that the Israelites did not see the form of God through the fire or cloud, which is why they did not die from it. (Presumably this would apply to Moses as well since there is no indication that Moses passed through the fire or cloud to see God’s glory, a fact which is corroborated by the events of Exodus 33-34, which is the first and only occasion in which Moses saw God’s glorious form.) The presence of this fire will become quite important to understanding the role of angels in the giving of the Law to Moses and the Israelites.

Deuteronomy 4:12 And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.

The fact that the Israelites only saw the barrier of fire on Mount Sinai is further reflected in Deuteronomy 4:23-24, where the text admonishes the people not to fashion any idols after any created things, for God is “a consuming fire,” which likewise reflects that they were allowed to see no form, only the fire.

Deuteronomy 4:23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. 24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

A similar statement about God being a consuming fire is made in Deuteronomy 9, which is worth including because of its relevance to Psalms 104, a passage we will cover later.

Deuteronomy 9:3 Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee…10 And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly…15  So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.

Exodus 19:21 also confirms that the people did not see the form of God but only the barrier of fire when it states that the people were not allowed to come onto the mountain in order to gaze at the sight of God, at which point upon seeing him in his glory, they would die.

Exodus 19:16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were (06963) thunders and lightnings (01300), and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice (06963) of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly…21 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.

According to Exodus 19:16-18, the cloud apparently preceded God’s descent himself upon the mount. Moreover, Exodus 24:17 indicates that the only aspect of the glory of God that the people saw was the fire. The cloud and fire were acting as a buffer between the glorious form of YHWH God and Moses and the rest of the people. And although Deuteronomy 4:36 states that God made the people to hear his voice “out of heaven,” verse 12 of the same chapter indicates that God spoke to the Israelites out of the midst of the fire, which the verse indicates seemingly concealed his form from them although he spoke from within it.

Deuteronomy 4:36 Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.

Moreover, other passages such as Exodus 19:11, 17-18, 20 specify that God did not just speak from a heavenly above beyond the sky and stars but that he did in fact descend upon the mountain in the fire (and cloud). Consequently, the reference to “out of heaven” is most likely either a reference to God’s descent “from heaven” or a reference to the sky, where the cloud hovered just above the mountain.

Exodus 19:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD. 10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. 12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: 13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount. 14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. 16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were (06963) thunders and lightnings (01300), and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice (06963) of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. 19 And when the voice (06963) of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. 20 And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. 22 And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them. 23 And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. 24 And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them. 25 So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them. 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me…18 And all the people saw the thunderings (06963), and the lightnings (03940), and the noise (06963) of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

So, there was YHWH God himself, face to face with his people, with only the line of fire and cloud between them as they heard his voice, who wrote the first tablets with his own hand, and gave them to Moses on the mount. The Old Testament is explicit and leaves no room for doubt that YHWH God was on the mount giving the Law to Moses.


Pulling it All Together

Although the presence of YHWH God on the mount and his role in giving Moses and Israel the Law is explicit and overwhelmingly attested to, the role of angels is yet to be identified. There is one hint from the time of Moses concerning this. Deuteronomy 33:1-4 speaks of God coming to Mount Sinai and it indicates that “he came with” thousands of holy ones, which is most likely referential to angels.

Deuteronomy 33:1 And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. 2 And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery (0799) (0784) law (01881) for them. 3 Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words. 4 Moses commanded us a law (08451), even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.

In addition, the fact that the people of Israel are not considered holy enough to go up and even touch the mountain (Exodus 19:22-23) makes it unlikely that the word for “holy ones” who come to Sinai with God in Deuteronomy 33:2 is a reference to the people of Israel. Rather, the people are kept at the “foot” of the mountain while the angels, the holy ones, come to the mountain with God and engulf it in fire. We will see more evidence for this as we move forward.

Furthermore, Deuteronomy 33:2 states that from God’s right hand went forth “a fiery law for them.” The Hebrew text contains one of two possible Hebrew renderings for “fiery law,” either the single compound word “eshdath” (Strong’s No. 0799), which means “fiery law” or “fire as a law” or the two words from which “eshdath” is formed. “Esh” (Strong’s No. 0784) means “fire” and “dath” (Strong’s No. 01881) means “decree, law, or edict.” No matter which word for “law” or “decree” is used here, it is entirely different from verse 4 of the same chapter which refers to the “Law” given by Moses, using the Hebrew word “torah” (Strong’s No. 08451) rather than “eshdath” or “dath.”

0799 ‘eshdath
from 0784 and 01881; TWOT-174b?; n f
AV-fiery 1; 1
1) fiery law, fire of a law, fire was a law (meaning uncertain)

0784 ‘esh
a primitive word; TWOT-172; n f
AV-fire 373, burning 1, fiery 1, untranslated variant 1, fire + 0800 1, flaming 1, hot 1; 379
1) fire
1a) fire, flames
1b) supernatural fire (accompanying theophany)
1c) fire (for cooking, roasting, parching)
1d) altar-fire
1e) God’s anger (fig.)

01881 dath
of uncertain (perhaps foreign) derivation; TWOT-458; n f
AV-law 9, decree 9, commandment 2, manner 1, commission 1; 22
1) decree, law, edict, regulation, usage
1a) decree, edict, commission
1b) law, rule

08451 towrah or torah
from 03384; TWOT-910d; n f
AV-law 219; 219
1) law, direction, instruction
1a) instruction, direction (human or divine)
1a1) body of prophetic teaching
1a2) instruction in Messianic age
1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction
1a4) body of legal directives
1b) law
1b1) law of the burnt offering
1b2) of special law, codes of law
1c) custom, manner
1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law

As a result of these factors, we must ask the following question. Could the fiery law in verse 3 perhaps be a reference not to the Law of Moses but to a decree God issued to the angels accompanying him that caused them to be as fire? After all, God himself took the form of a fiery angel in Exodus 3-4. And could it be that this is what Psalms 104:1, 4 is reflecting when it states, “O LORD…thou art clothed with honour and majesty…Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire.”

Psalms 104:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty…4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:

Could Psalm 104:1-4 be the Psalmist reflecting on God’s fiery appearance on Mount Sinai, so that the Psalmist is expressing that in Deuteronomy 33:1-3, God issued a decree to his holy ones for them to become fire and wind to form the fire and cloud that “clothed” him, hiding his glorious form from the sight of the people so they would not die by seeing his face in all its glory?

All of these considerations would explain the involvement of angels on Mount Sinai. And when we further consider the vocabulary in Acts 7 and Galatians, where the involvement of angels is presented, we may find a further reflection of these concepts. Both Acts 7 and Galatians 3 use related Greek words when they speak of the Law being “ordained” through angels. The Greek word for “disposition” in Acts 7:53 is the word “diatage” (Strong’s No. 1296.)

Acts 7:2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran…30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold (2657) it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, 32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold (2657)…35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush…37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. 38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us… 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by (1519) the disposition (1296) of angels (32), and have not kept it.

1296 diatage
from 1299; TDNT-8:36,1156; n f
AV-disposition 1, ordinance 1; 2
1) a disposition, arrangement, ordinance

“Diatage” is derived from “diatasso,” (Strong’s No. 1299), which is the word used in Galatians 3 where it is translated as “ordained.”

Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained (1299) by (1223) angels (32) in the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

1299 diatasso
from 1223 and 5021; TDNT-8:34,1156; v
AV-command 7, appoint 4, ordain 3, set in order 1, give order 1; 16
1) to arrange, appoint, ordain, prescribe, give order

Both “diatage” and “diatasso” are compound words created from two other Greek words, “dia” (Strong’s No. 1223), meaning, “through” and “tasso” (Strong’s No. 5021), meaning, “to put in order, to station.”

1223 dia
a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; TDNT-2:65,149; prep
AV-by 241, through 88, with 16, for 58, for ... sake 47, therefore + 5124 44, for this cause + 5124 14, because 52, misc 86; 646
1) through
1a) of place
1a1) with
1a2) in
1b) of time
1b1) throughout
1b2) during
1c) of means
1c1) by
1c2) by the means of
2) through
2a) the ground or reason by which something is or is not done
2a1) by reason of
2a2) on account of
2a3) because of for this reason
2a4) therefore
2a5) on this account

5021 tasso
a prolonged form of a primary verb (which latter appears only in certain tenses); TDNT-8:27,1156; v
AV-appoint 3, ordain 2, set 1, determine 1, addict 1; 8
1) to put in order, to station
1a) to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint
1a1) to assign (appoint) a thing to one
1b) to appoint, ordain, order
1b1) to appoint on one’s own responsibility or authority
1b2) to appoint mutually, i.e. agree upon
For Synonyms see entry 5844

As mentioned earlier, it must be noted that in Galatians 3:19-20 it is clearly Moses, not the angels, whose hand mediates between God and the people. Consequently, we must consider whether or not these Greek words are simply intending to convey that during the encounter on Mount Sinai, God and Moses were separated by an ordered station of angels in the form of fire, and that all communication between God and Moses took place “through” that ordered station of angels, through that wall of fire. Potentially further supporting this notion is the fact that Acts 7:53 uses the Greek word “eis” along with “diatage.” “Ies” (Strong’s No. 1519) is the Greek word meaning “into, unto, towards, or among.”

1519 eis
a primary preposition; TDNT-2:420,211; prep
AV-into 573, to 281, unto 207, for 140, in 138, on 58, toward 29, against 26, misc 322; 1774
1) into, unto, to, towards, for, among

Is it possible that Acts 7 is referring to the Law of Moses being received physically “though” or “among” an ordered arrangement of angels?

And when we examine Galatians 3:19, we find that Paul likewise uses the Greek word for “through” (“dia,” Strong’s No. 1223) right alongside “diatasso.” Could so Paul be saying that the Law was ordained or given physically through a barrier of angels, with Moses acting as the Mediator between God (the Lawgiver) and the people of Israel (the receivers of the Law) and the angels acting as a shield so that the people would not see God?

These interpretations are quite compatible with the Old Testament accounts. The New Testament simply includes additional detail, the role of the angels, a factor which the Old Testament does not explicitly comment on. But the other details are the same in both Old and New Testament accounts. In this sense, the New Testament reflects the first century Jewish interpretation of certain details in the accounts found in Exodus and Deuteronomy. When reflecting on certain details, such as the obscuring wall of fire, the command of fire, the holy ones that came with God by the thousands to the mount, and the references to thunder and lightning (which we will cover below), it would seem that by the first century, the Jews had concluded the angels were present and involved when God descended and gave the Law to Israel through Moses.

If we do accept these interpretations of Acts 7 and Galatians 3 (that the Law was given physically through or among a barrier of angels), what about Hebrews 2:2, which describes the angels as speaking the Law of Moses when it was given?

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken (2980) by angels (32) was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken (2980) by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

The Greek word for “spoken” in verse 2 appears below.

2980 laleo
a prolonged form of an otherwise obsolete verb; TDNT-4:69,505; v
AV-speak 244, say 15, tell 12, talk 11, preach 6, utter 4, misc 3, vr speak 1; 296
1) to utter a voice or emit a sound
2) to speak
2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech
2b) to utter articulate sounds
3) to talk
4) to utter, tell
5) to use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts
5a) to speak

Is there some detail in the Old Testament accounts to which this statement might correspond? Exodus 19:16 and 20:18 describe that on the day when God descends from heaven to the mount, there are “thunderings” and “lightnings,” which the people see and hear and are afraid.

Exodus 19:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD. 10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. 12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: 13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount. 14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. 16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were (06963) thunders and lightnings (01300), and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice (06963) of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled…20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings (06963), and the lightnings (03940), and the noise (06963) of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

In Exodus 20:18 as the Hebrew word for “lightning” is “lappiyd” (Strong’s No. 03940), which means “torch.” However, this is the only time in its 14 occurrences that “lappiyd” is translated as “lightning.” Seven times “lappiyd” is translated as “lamp,” twice as “firebrand,” once as “brand,” and once as “burning.” It would appear from its usage that the normal meaning of “lappiyd” is more like the flickering fire of a lamp.

03940 lappiyd or lappid
from an unused root probably meaning to shine; TWOT-1122a; n m
AV-lamp 7, firebrand 2, torch 2, brand 1, lightning 1, burning 1; 14
1) torch

In contrast to “lappiyd,” the normal Hebrew word for “lightning” used throughout the Old Testament is “baraq” (Strong’s No. 01300), which is translated as “lightning” 14 out of the 21 times that “baraq” occurs in the Old Testament.

01300 baraq
from 01299; TWOT-287a; n m
AV-lightning 14, glittering 4, bright 1, glitter 1, glittering sword 1; 21
1) lightning
1a) lightnings, lightning flashes
1b) of flashing arrow-head (fig.)

Out of the 10 times that the plural English word “lightnings” occurs in the Old Testament, 9 times it is “baraq.” The remaining occurrence is here in Exodus 20:18, where it is “lappiyd.” And out of the 9 times that the singular English word “lightning” appears in the Old Testament, 5 times it is “baraq,” 2 times it is “chaziyz” (Strong’s No. 02385), which means “thunderbolt, lightning flash,” 1 time it is “bazaq” (Strong’s No. 0965), which means “lightning, lightning flash,” and 1 time it is “owr” (Strong’s No. 0216), which means simply, “light.”

02385 chaziyz
from an unused root meaning to glare; TWOT-635a; n m
AV-lightning 2, bright clouds 1; 3
1) thunderbolt, lightning flash, lightning, storm, cloud

0965 bazaq
from an unused root meaning to lighten; TWOT-226a; n m
AV-lightning 1; 1
1) lightning, lightning flash

0216 ‘owr
from 0215; TWOT-52a; n f
AV-light(s) 114, day 2, bright 1, clear 1, flood 1, herbs 1, lightning 1, morning 1, sun 1; 123
1) light
1a) light of day
1b) light of heavenly luminaries (moon, sun, stars)
1c) day-break, dawn, morning light
1d) daylight
1e) lightning
1f) light of lamp
1g) light of life
1h) light of prosperity
1i) light of instruction
1j) light of face (fig.)
1k) Jehovah as Israel’s light

In Exodus 19:16, it is “baraq” that is used to describe lightning on the mountain, not “lappiyd,” and consequently, the two verses seem parallel. Consequently, the use of “baraq” alongside “thunderings” in chapter 19:16 informs us that the use of “lappiyd” alongside “thunderings” again in chapter 20:18 should likewise be understood as “lightnings.” These descriptions would be understood to refer to the normal, natural phenomenon of lightning and thunder. However, the only other time that “baraq” is used in the five books of Moses is in Deuteronomy 32:41, where it clearly refers to the glittering, gleaming, or shining of a sharpened sword. This will become important momentarily.

In addition, in both Exodus 19:16 and 20:18, the word translated into the English “thunder” is “qowl” or “qol” (Strong’s No. 06963), which simply means “voice, sound, noise.” While “qowl” is used to refer to “thunder” 10 times in the Old Testament and to “thunderings” 2 times, it is most often translated as “voice,” 383 times out of its 506 occurrences.

06963 qowl or qol
from an unused root meaning to call aloud; TWOT-1998a, 2028b; n m
AV-voice 383, noise 49, sound 39, thunder 10, proclamation + 05674 4, send out + 05414 2, thunderings 2, fame 1, misc 16; 506
1) voice, sound, noise
1a) voice
1b) sound (of instrument)
2) lightness, frivolity

In light of these usages of “lappiyd” and “qowl,” could it be that Exodus 19 and 20 are referring to actual voices, maybe even the voices of the angels? Is it possible that rather than thunder and lightning, the description here is of voices and flickerings like that of lamps (lappiyd) flashing within the burning fire that is covering the mountain? And if so, could this be the basis for Paul’s statement in Hebrews 2:2 that the Law of Moses was uttered by angels, the voices of the fiery forms of the angels on the Mount but ultimately spoken to Moses by God himself. Perhaps Paul’s parallel in Hebrews 2 is the words of the Word of God repeated by the angels and the words of the incarnate Word repeated by his apostles, which God bore witness to with miracles (Hebrews 2:3-4).

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken (2980) by angels (32) was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken (2980) by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Furthermore, Paul’s own comments later in Hebrews confirm his understanding that the “thunderings” referred to in Exodus 19 and 20 were actually the voices of angels.

Hebrews 12:18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company (3461) of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

In the quote above from Hebrews 12, Paul specifically describes Mount Sinai, including the fire, the cloud, the darkness, and the trumpet, but he does not mention the thunderings or lightnings. It is also worth noting that the rest of Hebrews 12 goes on to describe further items related to Exodus 19 and 20, including that God did indeed descend to the earth to speak to the Israelites on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18), the earth quaking (Exodus 19:18) and the reference to God as a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:23-24, 9:3, 10, 15).

Hebrews 12:25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Four points must not be overlooked from Hebrews 12. First, Hebrews 12:25 is clearly meant as a restatement or parallel of Hebrews 2:3 with both passages using the phrase “how shall we escape.”

Hebrews 2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

Consequently, the subject matter is the same in Hebrews 12 as it is in Hebrews 2. As such, Paul’s understanding of the subject matter will also be the same in both passages.

Second, Paul is clear that God spoke on earth during giving of the Law. This is seen in Hebrews 12:25. Consequently, since chapter 12 is plain that Paul understood God himself spoke on earth at Mount Sinai, chapter 2 could not negate that God was present on Mount Sinai as though God were using angels as proxies in his place.

Three, Paul seems to mention everything about Sinai except the thunderings and lightnings. Perhaps Paul understood those to be references to the voices of the fiery angels flickering in the larger fire that engulfed the mountain.

And four, in chapter 22:12, Paul is clear that he understood angels were present on Mount Sinai when the Law was given. According to Paul, when a person becomes a Christian, they metaphorically “come to” the heavenly mount Sion similar to the Israelite entering the covenant of Moses by coming to Mount Sinai. And continuing his contrast, Paul states that there is “an innumerable company of angels” on the heavenly Mount Sion. This implies that Paul understood that there was also a company of angels on Mount Sinai. In fact, the Greek word for “innumerable company” is “murias” (Strong’s No. 3461), which principally means, “ten thousand.”

3461 murias
from 3463; ; n f
AV-ten thousand times ten thousand 2, two hundred thousand thousand + 1417 2, innumerable multitude 1, ten thousand 1, innumerable company 1, fifty thousand + 3902 1, thousands 1; 9
1) ten thousand
2) an innumerable multitude, an unlimited number
3) innumerable hosts

In saying this, Paul directly parallels Deuteronomy 33:2, which describes God coming to Mount Sinai with “ten thousand” of his holy ones, which we have already interpreted as a reference to angels. The Hebrew word for “ten thousand” is “rebabah” (Strong’s No. 07233), which is also defined below.

Deuteronomy 33:1 And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. 2 And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands (07233) of saints: from his right hand went a fiery (0799) (0784) law (01881) for them. 3 Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words. 4 Moses commanded us a law (08451), even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.

07233 rebabah
from 07231; TWOT-2099d; n f
AV-ten thousand 13, million 1, many 1, multiply; 16
1) multitude, myriad, ten thousand

It is very clear that Paul interpreted Deuteronomy 33:2 as a reference to God being accompanied by ten thousand (or tens and tens of thousands, etc.) angels on Mount Sinai. And it seems also likely that Paul understood the flashes within the fire and the voices recorded in Exodus 19 and 20 to be the speaking of angels, flickering like lamps, rather than natural thunder and lightning. Furthermore, in light of these facts, it also seems most likely that Paul understood these fiery angels to be repeating the words of God just as we ought not to resist Jesus’ words, which have heard repeated by his apostles.

And on this note, it is also evident that in general the New Testament understood angelic speaking to be associated with the sound of “thunder.” We find this to be particularly true of John, who authored John’s Gospel and the book of Revelation.

John 12:28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. 29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

Revelation 4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

Revelation 6:1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

Revelation 8:5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

Revelation 10:3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. 4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

Revelation 11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and  thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

Revelation 14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:

Revelation 16:18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

Revelation 19:6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

Moreover, as we can see from the quotes above, the book of Revelation speaks of angels in terms of “lamps of fire” just as “lappiyd,” (Strong’s No. 03940) from Exodus 20:18 means, “torch” and is translated as “lamp” half of the 14 times that it occurs in the Old Testament. And the book of Revelation also many times associates angelic voices, lightnings, and thunders as well as the imagery of fiery lamps. Thus, the New Testament clearly understood the thunder and lightning in Exodus 19 and 20 to be associated with the appearance and speech of angels. So, it should be no surprise to find Paul writing in Hebrews of angels speaking, or perhaps repeating, the words of God as God dictated the Law to Moses.

In conclusion, we return to Hebrews 2.

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken (2980) by angels (32) was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken (2980) by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

In light of the scriptural facts that we have outlined above, it is clear that here in Hebrews 2 the author’s comparison is not necessarily intended to demonstrate superiority, as though there would be some worse fate for disobeying the New Covenant than for disobeying the Old Covenant. Instead, the author’s comparison is intended merely to assure that disobeying the New Covenant would result in being cut off. His proof for this is that the punishment for disobeying the Old Covenant was being cut off from the land of the living as well. Thus, in the author’s argument, since both Covenants were spoken by God on earth and confirmed by others (angels and men) the consequence for disobedience is also assuredly the same for both. Consequently, there is nothing in Hebrews 2 that replaces God with angels as the one who spoke the Law to Moses on Sinai. Rather, both Covenants were originated and first spoken by God on earth but then repeated by witnesses, angels in the case of the Old Covenant and the apostles in the case of the New Covenant.


Common Elements in Additional Passages

In addition, we should also note a few other passages from both the Old and New Testament confirming this familiar scene in which angels, themselves engulfed in flame, attend to YHWH God as he appears in glory.

Elements of Joel 2 parallel YHWH’s descent upon Mount Sinai including the sounding of the trumpet, the darkness and cloud, the earthquake, and the fire, as well as the fact that the Lord is accompanied by an army, who appear to be carrying out his command or decree as they attack within the midst of a consuming fire.

Joel 2:1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; 2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. 3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. 4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. 5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. 6 Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. 7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: 8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. 9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: 11 And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?

In the New Testament, Peter comments on this coming of the Lord and likewise describes that it will be accompanied by fire, no doubt the fire described in Joel 2.

2 Peter 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Joel 2 and 2 Peter 3 both talk about the destruction of the land by the fire of God’s well-ordered army, leaving behind a new earth. This might be thought of as similar to burning a field in order to restore its fertility so that a new and rejuvenated earth might emerge just like after the destruction of the Flood. And the fact that Joel 2 comments on the “well-ordered” ranks of the army could very well parallel Acts 7, where Stephen potentially comments on the Law of Moses being given through a the well-ordered arrangement or station of angels.

And, in perfect harmony with Joel’s description of the army of God accompanying God and engulfed on all sides by fire, the New Testament also describes the coming of Jesus Christ occurring amid the accompaniment of angels, the arrangement or order of fire recorded in Deuteronomy 33:1-4.

Likewise, just as Joel describes the coming of God accompanied by fire and angels and just as 2 Peter describes the return of Christ accompanied by fire, Jesus himself describes his return accompanied by the angel including the angels in their glory.

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Luke 9:26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.

Jesus’ descriptions in the passages above provide a corroborating comparison concerning the events on Mount Sinai when the Law of Moses was given, particularly that angels were present in a fiery form. Perhaps the glory of angels is their fiery form, which men can see and not die, while the glorious appearance of God cannot be seen face to face by mortal men without them dying. Angels can also appear simply as men, such as in Genesis 18-19 and Daniel 8:15-17, Daniel 9:21, Daniel 10:5, 18, and 12:6-7. So, it would appear that the angel of YHWH also came earliest simply in the appearance of a man and then in the burning bush, he came in the fiery form that angels also have, and yet only later in Exodus 33-34 did he reveal to Moses his glorious form, which Moses could not see face to face and live. On Mount Sinai, he apparently also came in that glorious form but it was concealed by the fire of the army of angels.

Ultimately, a consistent picture emerges from both the Old and the New Testaments. It was God himself who came to earth and gave the Law of Moses. Angels were involved, most likely forming an ordered barrier of fire so that the people could not see God’s glory. The Law then passed from God through the barrier of angels to Moses who only later saw the glory of God in Exodus 33-34. And as the Law was given, the angels flickered amidst the fire and repeating the words that they heard from the pre-incarnate Word, thus bearing witness to it just as the apostles heard the words of the incarnate Word and bore witness to them. Since both Covenants were spoken by God on earth and born witness to by others (angels and men), we will surely die for rejecting the New Covenant just as anyone died for rejecting the Covenant of Sinai.