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Particulars of Christianity:
302 The Trinity


The Trinity: The Angel of YHWH as YHWH God

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


As noted earlier, on its own category A does not raise any issue of multiple consciousnesses within the Godhead. Category A simply describes instances where YHWH is communicating with the angel of YHWH. Only the co-existence of passages of category B along with passages of category A raises the issue of more than one conscious identity in the Godhead communicating back and forth with each other.

For this reason, since it is the more critical and the more controversial, we will actually begin with category B, in order to establish from the explicit statements in the Old Testament that the angel of YHWH was not merely regarded as speaking for YHWH but was himself regarded as YHWH both by the individuals in the stories and by the authors of the accounts. As indicated above, there are 9 such passages, 4 of which also contain additional statements that fall into category A. We will begin our examination of these passages starting with the earliest.

The first passage in which we find the phrase “the angel of YHWH” is Genesis 16. The context for Genesis 16 is that Abraham’s wife Sarai has already suggested that Abraham try to conceive a child with her handmaid Hagar. Hagar has indeed become pregnant by Abraham and antagonism has arisen between Sarai and Hagar over the matter. As a result, Hagar flees to the wilderness, where she is visited by the angel of YHWH.

Genesis 16:5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee. 6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. 7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. 12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. 13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

This passage is important because it contains key components which, as we will see, are the precedent for similar encounters later on. Specifically, as can be seen explicitly in verses 7, 9, 10, and 11, the text plainly identifies that it is “the angel of YHWH” that comes to visit Hagar here in the wilderness and to speak with her. However, what is most significant is Hagar’s own perception of what has happened as reflected by her words in verse 13. The key term is the Hebrew word for “after” in the phrase “Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” The Hebrew word for “after” is “achar” (Strong’s No. 0310), which can refer to “after” in the sense of either location or time. In other words, Hagar could be expressing how she has seen God from behind or seen his “hinder parts” (possibly similar to Exodus 33:17-23, 34:5-7, which we will discuss later on). Or, Hagar could be expressing how she herself continues to be alive to see the world after this point in time when God has seen her. Either way, this statement indicates that Hagar has actually seen someone that she regards as God. There are three reasons for this.

First, if the second rendering is correct, then Hagar is amazed that she is still alive after an encounter with God. However, the expectation of death after an encounter with God is always associated with actually seeing him, not with merely hearing his voice from heaven. In other words, she seems to have some awareness that she should not have gone on seeing after this encounter. And this awareness in and of itself indicates her perception that she has seen YHWH God. (This fact will continue to be important as we move forward to cover other similar encounters, particularly Exodus 33-34.) But the point here is simple. Hagar’s amazement surrounds the fact that she is still alive to see the world after having seen God. Second, in Hebrew, Hagar’s statement that she has “looked” is rendered in the Perfect Mood, which indicates a completed action. Thus, it is most likely that Hagar is reflecting on the fact that she had just seen God, the God who Sees. Third, Hagar’s words reflect a pun, or play on words, specifically the irony that she has herself seen the God who sees her. For all of these reasons, it is clear that Hagar considers herself to have seen YHWH God and is amazed that she is alive after having seen him.

However, since verses 7, 9, 10, and 11 are repeatedly clear that it is the angel of YHWH whom Hagar is encountering, it becomes obvious that Hagar regards encountering the angel of YHWH as encountering YHWH God, the Living One. And not only Hagar but the author of the passage also holds this regard. After all, it is the author, not Hagar, who uses the title “the angel of YHWH” throughout the passage in regard to the visitor that he knows Hagar regards as YHWH God, the Living One. And the author offers no correction of Hagar’s perception that the angel of YHWH is indeed YHWH God, the Living One. Consequently, the relevant point here is that this passage clearly identifies the angel of YHWH as YHWH God.

The second passage in which we find the phrase “the angel of YHWH” is Genesis 21. However, Genesis 21 falls into category A and we are currently covering passages in category B. And so, we will move on to the next use of the phrase “angel of YHWH,” which occurs in Genesis 22:1-12, which does in fact fall into category B. The context for Genesis 22 is that Abraham has already conceived a son through his wife Sarai just as God had promised. Sarai has already given birth. And now the boy Isaac is old enough to accompany his father on a journey from the land of Gerar where Abimelech was king of the Philistines (Genesis 21:32-34) to the land of Moriah (one of the hills of Jerusalem) where in chapter 22:1, God commands Abraham to take Isaac as a sacrifice.

Genesis 21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days. 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

This particular passage is quite interesting because, as mentioned earlier, it actually falls into category A and category B. In other words, it not only refers to the angel of YHWH as YHWH God with the angel of YHWH receiving worship as God, but it also distinguishes between the figure known as the angel of YHWH and another person also identified as YHWH. Consequently, its contents are expressly Trinitarian in nature.

As we examine this account, chapter 22:1-2 plainly identify that “God” is the one who is going to test Abraham, to reveal something about Abraham’s character, by commanding Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham’s comments in verse 8 that God will provide himself a lamb make it clear that the sacrifice is an offering to God. But verses 10-12 are the most critical verses on this point. As Abraham is about to kill Isaac as a sacrifice in verse 10, the text of verses 11 identifies that “the angel of YHWH” calls to Abraham out of heaven. The words of the angel of YHWH in verse 12 are enormously significant.

In a single sentence the angel of YHWH distinguishes between himself and another party that he refers to as “God” while at the same time identifying himself as God. The angel refers to himself as “I” in the phrase “now I know” and as “me” in the phrase “not withheld thine only son from me.” Yet in between the reference to “I” and “me” comes the reference to “God,” distinctly creating the impression that the “I” and “me” who is doing the speaking regards someone else distinct from himself as God, so much so that he cannot refer to God simple as “I” or “me.” If the angel of YHWH were merely relaying God’s own statement word for word, we would expect the sentence to read, “Now I know that thou fear me, seeing that thou has not withheld thy only son from me.” But the third-party reference to “God” in the midst of the statement identifies God as a party distinct from the speaker (rather than God as the same speaker throughout whose words are merely being relayed).

However, we must also remember that verse 1-2 already identified “God” as the party who was performing the test that he might “know” something about Abraham. And verse 8 already identified that it was to “God” that the sacrifice was going to be offered. So conversely, if the angel of YHWH understood that he himself was not also God, then he would not identify himself as the one who was testing Abraham, as the one who “now” as a result of the test “knew” Abraham’s character, and as the one to whom the sacrifice of Isaac was about to be offered. In other words, if the angel of YHWH understood that he himself was not also God, then we would expect his statement to read, “God now knows that thou fear him, seeing that thou has not withheld your son from him.” But instead, he says “now I know” and “you have not withheld your son from me,” identifying himself as the tester and the recipient of the worshipful sacrifice, two roles that the author of the passage already identified as God.

Consequently, both the author of the passage and the words of the angel of YHWH simultaneously identify the angel of YHWH as the God of Abraham being worshipped with a sacrifice and another party who is also identified as God by the angel of YHWH (when the angel of YHWH speaks of God as a third party while referring to himself as “I” and “me”). The passage clearly demonstrates that the author and the angel of YHWH understood that there were at least two distinct figures identifiable as YHWH, the God of Abraham. Furthermore, we cannot overlook the earliness of this passage. It comes only 22 chapters into the Bible and it is one of the most prominent events of the Old Testament involving the patriarch Abraham, the founder of the Jewish faith. As such, the imagery and facts of this account are going to be highly influential in the development of Jewish understanding of the Godhead and of later Jewish interpretations of similar encounters with God and the figure known as the angel of YHWH.

The next occurrence of the phrase “the angel of YHWH” can be found in Exodus 3, which also falls into category B. The context of Exodus 3 is that Moses has fled Egypt and is now living in the land of Median, having married the daughter of the Medianite Jethro. He is tending sheep in the desert and comes to the mountain of God where he sees the burning bush. Like Genesis 16 and 22, this is a very early passage and the events it describes are some of the most prominent and influential events in the history of the Jewish understanding of God. Like Genesis 22, we can certainly conclude that the facts of this account would have influenced all Jewish concepts of God that came after it.

Exodus 3:1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God…13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. 16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt.

This passage is absolutely remarkable in terms of its Trinitarian implications. First, verse 2 is quite clear that it is the angel of YHWH that is appearing to Moses in the burning bush. Second, we have to consider verse 4. Verse 4 states that “when YHWH saw” Moses turn in the direction of the burning bush to investigate that “God” then called to Moses. Here we have two terms “YHWH” and “God” and clearly verse 4 means to uses “YHWH” interchangeably with “God” so that YHWH God sees Moses coming to investigate and upon seeing Moses coming, YHWH God then calls to Moses. However, the text of verse 4 clearly states that when YHWH God sees Moses coming and calls to Moses, YHWH God does so from “out of the midst of” the burning bush. Yet verse 2 has already identified that it was the angel of YHWH who was appearing to Moses in the burning bush. Consequently, verse 2 and 4 unequivocally identify the angel of YHWH as YHWH God. Moreover, in verse 6, the angel of YHWH identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And we can also notice from verse 6 that upon hearing the speaker declare himself to be God, Moses hides his face because he is afraid to look upon God. Why? Apparently, like Hagar in Genesis 16 and like Jacob in Genesis 32 (which we will examine later on), Moses has the perception that a man cannot see the face of God and live. In fact, there should be little doubt that Moses has this understanding because he is familiar with the earlier accounts of Hagar and Jacob, possibly handed down to him by oral tradition or kept in the records of Egypt after Joseph became second to Pharaoh and brought the people of Israel there to live.

In verse 13, Moses asks God what his name is. This action is also readily identifiable with the actions of Jacob in Genesis 32. And once again, there should be little doubt that Moses is familiar with the account of Jacob. And his familiarity is influencing his own actions, including his fear that seeing God will lead to death and his desire to learn the name of God. Both of these items are hallmarks of Jacob’s encounter as well. And we will see these same two elements repeated in later passages as well (particularly Exodus 33-34, Judges 6 and Judges 13).

Continuing forward, we see that in verse 14 God does indeed answer Moses’ request to know his name and God pronounces his name to Moses in the expression “I AM THAT I AM.” And of course, this name is not arbitrary or irrelevant. It is not only a name but a name that identifies God in terms of his own nature. The phrase “I AM THAT I AM” is comprised of the Hebrew word “hayah” (Strong’s No. 01961) repeated twice. “Hayah” means “to be” or “to exist.” In other words, God’s name is itself a reference to the fact that he is the Existing One, the Living One, the “I am that I am.” In fact, “YHWH” (Strong’s No. 03068), which is the normal rendering of the name of God, is derived directly from “hayah” and the definition of YHWH is “the Existing One.” It would seem that Hagar understood her visitor to be the Existing One as well, since she named the well where the angel of YHWH came to her “Beerlahairoi” (Strong’s No. 0883), which means “well of the Living One seeing me.” The most relevant fact concerning this name is its implications for the eternal, uncreated existence of its bearer. The name conveys that its bearer has in himself the power of being, his existence is not dependent upon anyone else, he is uncreated, he is the “I am,” he always “is.” No individual identified by this name could be thought of as a created being. And here that name is being claimed by and applied to the figure known as the angel of YHWH who is appearing and speaking to Moses from the burning bush. We will cover more on this important point later.

Finally, in case there remains any doubt that the angle of YHWH is indeed YHWH God himself, we can compare verse 2 directly to verse 16. Verse 2 declares that it is the angel of YHWH who is appearing to Moses in the burning bush. Verse 16 declares that it is YHWH God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is appearing to Moses in the bush.

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Exodus 3:16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt.

There can be little doubt that the angel of YHWH continues to be regarded as actual YHWH God by the patriarchs and in these very prominent events that shaped the theology of the Jewish people from the earliest times.

But before we move on to the next occurrence of the phrase “the angel of YHWH,” we should stop and say a few words about Exodus 6. This encounter comes just 3 chapters after Moses’ first encounter with God in chapter 3. Consequently, its contents must be understood and interpreted in light of chapter 3. And as we saw, in chapter 3 it was the angel of YHWH appearing and speaking to Moses in the burning bush. In chapter 3 the angel of YHWH was clearly and in multiple ways identified as being YHWH God. Therefore, we should not be surprised or confused when chapter 6 begins by describing how “YHWH” once again speaks to Moses. Nor should we interpret chapter 6 in a vacuum as if the events of chapter 3 do not inform our understanding of chapter 6. Instead, we should assume that it is again the angel of YHWH, the same figure who first appeared and spoke with Moses in the burning bush in chapter 3 and who throughout chapter 3 is also known simply as YHWH, just as he seems to be here in chapter 6:1.

Exodus 6:1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. 2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: 3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

What is so interesting about chapter 6 is this. If indeed it is the angel of YHWH who is speaking to Moses here just as in chapter 3, then the angel of YHWH is identifying himself as the one who “appeared” to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In particular, this means that Jacob’s encounter in which he wrestles with a man whom he refers to as “God” was also an encounter with the figure who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and is identified both as “the angel of YHWH” and simply as “YHWH.” And Exodus 6 corroborates this interpretation because in verse 3 YHWH God declares that his name YHWH was not known by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is a reference to Genesis 32, in which Jacob was asking for the man’s name but it was not told to him. Clearly, both we as readers and Moses himself were intended to understand Moses’ encounters with YHWH God in terms of the previous precedent of the encounters of the earlier patriarchs. And, as we have shown in limited detail already, major events in the lives of those patriarchs provide unequivocal identification that the angel of YHWH is himself YHWH God and yet there is another party beyond the angel of YHWH that is also known as YHWH God.

The next passage in which the phrase “the angel of YHWH” occurs is Exodus 14, which also falls into category B. The context for Exodus 14 is as follows. First, in Exodus 14:19 it is clearly the angel of YHWH who is with the pillar of cloud and fire that goes before the camp of the Israelites.

Exodus 14:19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them.

However, just 1 chapter earlier, Exodus 13:9 has already identified that it is YHWH God who is going before the Israelites with the pillar of cloud and fire.

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Here in a very simple way we can see that the title “the angel of YHWH” was understood to be interchangeable with YHWH. In this straightforward way, these two consecutive chapters demonstrate that the angel of YHWH is YHWH God.

Second, we recall from Exodus 3 that it is the angel of YHWH who appears to Moses from within the midst of the flaming fire engulfing the bush. And we also recall that the text of Genesis 3 refers to the angel of YHWH as himself being YHWH God. Specifically, in chapter 3, verse 2 stated that it was the angel of YHWH who was appearing in the flame of fire and yet verse 4 states that is was YHWH God who looked at Moses from within the fire.

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

In Exodus 14, the Israelites have already left Egypt under the leadership of Moses and as they make their way out into the wilderness they are led in the day by a pillar of cloud and in the night by a pillar of fire. Very similar to Exodus 3, verse 19 of Exodus 14 refers to the angel of YHWH being in the midst of the fire, so that when the angel of God moves to the rear of the camp so does the pillar of fire. However, verse 24 of Exodus 14 as well as Exodus 13:21and Numbers 14:11 explicitly state that it is YHWH who looks out from the midst of the pillar of fire.

Exodus 14:19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them…24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians.

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Numbers 14:13 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.

As we can see, the descriptions in Exodus 13 and 14 as well as Numbers 14 are almost identical to Exodus 3. The angel of YHWH is specifically stated to be within the fire and yet, when he looks out from within the fire, he is identified simply as YHWH God. This is almost identical to chapter 3. Again, consistency with precedent proves to be the defining norm in these accounts.

Consequently, verse 19 and verse 24 of Exodus 14 provide another instance when the angel of YHWH is shown to be an interchangeable title for YHWH. And beyond the interchangeability of the titles in Exodus 14:19 and 24, Exodus 14 contains another remarkable consistency indicating that the figure known as the angel of YHWH is indeed YHWH God. This stems from a fact that is explicitly stated numerous times in Deuteronomy. According to Deuteronomy 4:12, when God descended upon Mount Sinai (Horeb) the Israelites saw no actual form but only the fire and a voice speaking from the fire.

Deuteronomy 4:10 Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. 11 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. 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.

In Deuteronomy 4:23, this fact that the Israelites saw no form is connected to God’s intention that they not create any likeness or form to worship as an idol. However, verse 24 goes on to state that YHWH God was the fire, stating, “the LORD (YHWH) thy God is a consuming 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.

And Deuteronomy 9 reiterates YHWH God’s ability to take on a fiery form when it described YHWH God going “as a consuming fire” before the Israelites to destroy their enemies. In saying this, of course, Moses is harkening back to the pillar of fire which destroyed the Egyptians in Exodus 14:24.

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.

Consequently, the books of Moses describe YHWH God as taking the form of a consuming fire first in the bush, then in the pillar of fire, which led them out of Egypt, and also in the fire when YHWH God descended on Mount Sinai. It is worth restating these points. In the case of the pillar of fire and the fire on Mount Sinai, the language and imagery are identical to Moses experience at the burning bush. God is said to look from within the fire and to speak from within the fire. The only difference is that in Exodus 3:2 the fiery figure in the bush is identified by the title “the angel of YHWH” whereas in Exodus 13, Exodus 14, Numbers 14, Deuteronomy 4 and 9, the fiery figure is identified as YHWH God himself. It would seem that the initial reference to this fiery figure in Exodus 3:2 identifies him with the title “the angel of YHWH” but subsequent references to this fiery figure interacting with Moses and the Israelites, including in verses 3-4 and 16 of Exodus 3 (the very same chapter) regard this fiery figure as YHWH God himself. So, once again, the consistent details indicate that the angel of YHWH was YHWH God.

Numbers 22 is the next passage where the phase “the angel of YHWH” occurs and it actually fits into both category A and category B. We’ll cover instances of category A later on, so for now we’ll address the significance of Numbers 22 in terms of its placement in category B (passages where “the angel of YHWH” is identified as YHWH God). The context for Numbers 22 is that the people of Israel have left Egypt and are traveling through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. Having defeated the armies of the Amorite Kings Og and Sihon, the Israelites have come to the region of Moab, which is on the east side of the Jordan across the Dead Sea from Jericho, Jerusalem, and Hebron. The Moabites are afraid of the Israelites and so Balak, the Moabite king, sends messengers to summon Balaam. Balaam was a Gentile (non-Israelite) wise man and prophet living among the Hittites in the city of Pethor (near the modern border of Syria and Turkey). To some degree Balaam seemed to serve or at least have knowledge of the true God, the God of Israel, who spoke to him from time to time. Numbers 22 records one instance of Balaam’s interaction with YHWH God.

Numbers 22:4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. 5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: 6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that  I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. 7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. 8 And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. 9 And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? 10 And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, 11 Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. 12 And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. 13 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you. 14 And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us.

In particular, notice that verse 8 records Balaam’s statement that “YHWH” would speak to him. According to the author, Balaam even seems to have used God’s proper name, YHWH. Either Balaam knew the divine being (whom he’d spoken to before) by this name or, if Balaam himself does not know the name, it is the author himself who is identifying YHWH as the God who spoke at times to Balaam. Then notice that verse 9 states that God came to Balaam and spoke to him. Verse 8 and 9 together clearly identify YHWH God himself as coming to Balaam. Verses 9-10 then record the conversation back and forth that takes place between YHWH God and Balaam. Verse 12 records God saying to Balaam that he is not allowed to return to Moab with the messengers. And finally, after this conversation is over, Balaam reports to the messengers that God would not let him go with them, again identifying the God who came to him and spoke with him by the name of YHWH God. Consequently, at the very least, it is clear that the author of Numbers 22, who recorded these things for us, understood Balaam to be having a visitation from YHWH God himself.

Having failed the first time, Balak sends messengers to summon Balaam a second time, which is recorded in verses 15-21.

Numbers 22:15 And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. 16 And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: 17 For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. 18 And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. 20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. 21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

Notice once again that in both verses 18 and 19, Balaam identifies YHWH God himself as the one he speaks with. In fact, it is clear from Balaam’s phrasing, “YHWH my God” that when the rest of the text records God coming to Balaam, it is indeed referring to YHWH God and no other. Verse 20 then does state that “God,” (doubtlessly YHWH God), comes to Balaam again and speaks to him. This time, YHWH God grants Balaam permission to go with the messengers if Balaam desires although YHWH God disapproves of such action. This is made plain in verse 22 below, which specifically states that God is angry with Balaam for actually going. And it is in the excerpt below, spanning from verses 22-31, where the references to “the angel of YHWH” are found.

Numbers 22:22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. 24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. 25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. 26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down (07257) under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. 28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? 29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. 30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. 31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head (06915), and fell flat (07812) on his face.

In this passage we notice the significant interplay between the terms “God,” “YHWH,” and “the angel of YHWH.” First, verse 22 identifies “God” as being angry with Balaam for going. This doubtlessly refers to YHWH God who has already been identified as the one coming and speaking to Balaam by the terms “God,” “YHWH,” and “YHWH my God” clearly, numerously, and without interruption up to this point in the chapter. However, the latter half of verse 22 includes the title “the angel of YHWH,” using this title to refer to the one who comes to Balaam and stands in his way. Is the term “the angel of YHWH” just another title for “YHWH God” who has already been identified as the one coming and speaking to Balaam in verses 1-21? Or is this someone else, some new figure, distinct from the figure already identified throughout the chapter as YHWH God?

It is also worth noting for future reference that verses 23 and 31 specifically describe the angel of YHWH as holding a sword. Furthermore, verses 23-27 describe how three times, the donkey upon which Balaam is riding sees the angel of YHWH while Balaam himself does not. Verse 28 uses the title “YHWH,” not the title “the angel of YHWH” when describing how God opened the mouth of the donkey to rebuke Balaam for striking it as it tried to avoid the angel of YHWH. And finally, verse 31 uses the title “YHWH,” not the title “the angel of YHWH,” when stating that “YHWH” opened the eyes of Balaam so that Balaam saw “the angel of YHWH.” Is the term YHWH being used interchangeably for YHWH God throughout this passage or are there two separate beings, YHWH God and a messenger of YHWH, that are interacting with Balaam and his donkey?

Verse 31 provides an answer. When YHWH opens the eyes of Balaam so that Balaam can see the angel of YHWH standing in Balaam’s way, the text states that Balaam “bows his head” and “falls flat on his face,” clearly indicating that Balaam is taking this posture before the figure identified as the angel of YHWH who is standing right in front of him. The Hebrew word for “bow down” is “qadad” (Strong’s No. 06915) which simply means “to bow down.” However, the Hebrew word for “fall flat” is even more indicative. First, it is important to take note that the Hebrew text uses a different word here than it does in verse 27, which describes the donkey seeing the angel of YHWH and “falling down” under Balaam. Concerning the donkey, the Hebrew word is “rabats” (Strong’s No. 07257), which means “to lie down.” But here in verse 31 concerning Balaam, the Hebrew word is “shachah” (Strong’s No. 07812), which like “qadad” also is most broadly defined as “to bow down.” But, since “qadad” already conveys the simple action of “bowing down,” it is clear that “shachah” is intended to add description beyond “qadad.” Consequently, this seeming redundancy between the two similar words demonstrates that the finer nuances of “shachah” are intended, such as “shachah” in the sense of “bowing down before God in worship” (see definition below). In fact, 99 of the 172 times that “shachah” appears (over half the occurrences), it is translated as worship, far dwarfing the next most frequent translation of “bow” or “bow down,” which is only used a total of 49 times. Clearly the text is intending to indicate that Balaam was falling down in worship before the figure known as the angel of YHWH.

07257 rabats
a primitive root; TWOT-2109; v
AV-lay down 15, lay 9, couch beneath 1, couched 1, misc 4; 30
1) to stretch oneself out, lie down, lie stretched out
1a) (Qal) to lie down, lie
1b) (Hiphil) to cause to lie down
1b1) laying (stones)

06915 qadad
a primitive root; TWOT-1985; v
AV-bow...head 11, stoop 2, bow 2; 15
1) (Qal) to bow down

07812 shachah
a primitive root; TWOT-2360; v
AV-worship 99, bow 31, bow down 18, obeisance 9, reverence 5, fall down 3, themselves 2, stoop 1, crouch 1, misc 3; 172

1) to bow down
1a) (Qal) to bow down
1b) (Hiphil) to depress (fig)
1c) (Hithpael)
1c1) to bow down, prostrate oneself
1c1a) before superior in homage
1c1b) before God in worship
1c1c) before false gods
1c1d) before angel

Could this be a mere godly angel, a mere created being that is being worshipped by Balaam? Perhaps. But we must keep in mind that this is the same word used 11 times in the 5 books of Moses when condemning any worship (literally “shachah”) before anything other than YHWH God (including two potentially specific references to the angelic hosts of heaven) because YHWH God is fiercely jealous.

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down (07812) thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

Exodus 23:24 Thou shalt not bow down (07812) to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.

Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship (07812) no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Leviticus 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down (07812) unto it: for I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 4:19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship (07812)  them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

Deuteronomy 5:9 Thou shalt not bow down (07812) thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

Deuteronomy 8:19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship (07812) them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.

Deuteronomy 11:16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship (07812) them;

Deuteronomy 17:3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped (07812) them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded.

Deuteronomy 29:26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped (07812)  them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:

Deuteronomy 30:17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship (07812) other gods, and serve them.

It seems very unlikely that YHWH God, who is angry with Balaam and ready to kill him, is going to be pacified by Balaam worshipfully bowing down before a mere angel especially when you keep in mind that Balaam has received nothing at this point to identify this angel as a righteous servant of YHWH God. For all Balaam knows, this angel could be one of the false gods of the heathen. The only way that Balaam can know that worshipfully bowing down before this figure would appease YHWH God rather than getting Balaam into more trouble is if Balaam perceives this figure before him to be the very same one who has come to him to speak with him before as recorded twice already in this same chapter and as identified by Balaam and the author of the passage as YHWH God. If that is the case, then Balaam certainly already knows full well who this figure before him is and that bowing in worship would appease rather than anger YHWH God. Bowing down before this figure would be an act of appeasement toward YHWH God if Balaam knew this figure was himself YHWH God.

And if doubts still remain as to whether or not these verbs are meant to indicate that Balaam is actually worshipping the angel of YHWH, this fact is proven unequivocally by the fact that the exact same two Hebrew verbs are used when describing how Moses bowed down in worship when God passed before him in all his glory and pronounced his holy name in Moses’ presence. The account of this event can be found in Exodus 34:6-8. For comparison, here are the two verses side by side.

Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head (06915) toward the earth, and worshipped (07812).

Numbers 22:31Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: he bowed down (06915) his head, and fell flat (07812).

Later we will discuss Exodus 33-34, which provides the entire account of Moses seeing God in all his glory. But for now, this comparison proves that Balaam is indeed bowing down in worship before the figure known as the angel of YHWH in a fashion and in language identical to when Moses bowed in worship before God on this magnificent and extraordinary occasion. The angel of YHWH is clearly being worshipped as YHWH God here. And furthermore, the account of Moses is recorded in Exodus 34, which is much earlier than Numbers 22. Therefore, Numbers 22 is deliberately borrowing the identical language of the Exodus 34 account so that the two events will be properly related. Once again, precedent is revealed to be the intended guiding factor for understanding subsequent events.

Verse 32-38 of Numbers 22 are also indicative that Balaam perceives the angel of YHWH to be the same visitor that has come to him before and whom he (or at least the author) identifies as YHWH God.

Numbers 22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head (06915), and fell flat (07812) on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: 33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. 34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. 35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. 36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast. 37 And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour? 38 And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.

The questions that we need to ask are these. Why would YHWH God himself come to Balaam and speak with him the first two times but on the third time sends an angel rather that coming himself? The most natural and logical conclusion is that, rather than two different visitors, God and an angel, it is the same visitor coming to Balaam on all three occasions and the chapter is merely identifying that same visitor with different, interchangeable titles (YHWH, God, and the angel of YHWH), even as we saw Exodus 3:2-4 identify Moses’ visitor with the exact same three titles interchangeably. This fact is supported unequivocally with Balaam’s own words and actions throughout the account. Why would Balaam refer to the one that comes to him the first two times as YHWH his God, then without hesitation bow down in worship before the angel of YHWH who comes to him and speaks with him, and finally in verse 38 refer back to the angel of YHWH’s words but identifying him as “God”?  The most natural and, in fact, the only logical explanation for this is that Balaam perceived that the same figure – a figure he perceived and identified as YHWH God – visited him on all three occurrences and, therefore, Balaam naturally fell down to worship him when he saw him with a drawn sword on the third instance.

Balaam’s identification of the speaker as “God” when the text identifies the speaker as the angel of YHWH is also quite plain. Verses 32-35 clearly describe “the angel of YHWH” and Balaam as the speakers in a conversation. Verse 35 identifies the angel of YHWH as the speaker who tells Balaam to say only the words that he gives to Balaam. And when Balaam himself recounts this command to Balak in verse 38, Balaam states that he is only to say the words that “God” gives to him. In the context of the previous interactions between Balaam and God in this chapter in which Balaam identifies the one who comes and speaks to him as “God” and “YHWH my God,” the interpretation must be that Balaam once again believes that it is God himself who has visited and spoken to him. Since it is the angel of YHWH who is visiting and speaking with Balaam in verses 32-35, it must be understood that Balaam regards the angel of YHWH as YHWH God coming to him and speaking with him. In short, since this time (in verses 32-35) the text identifies the visitor by the title “the angel of YHWH,” it is clear that both Balaam and the author of this chapter identify the angel of YHWH as YHWH God. The most natural reading of the passage is that the term “the angel of YHWH” is being used just as interchangeably for Balaam’s visitor as the terms “YHWH” and “God” are. And this is why there is no hesitation from Balaam or the author when Balaam worshipfully bows before the angel of YHWH. Consequently, this passage is another instance of the angel of YHWH being identified and indeed worshipped as YHWH God, placing it firmly in category B.

Both of the next 3 occurrences of the phrase “the angel of YHWH” occur in the book of Judges. The first occurrence is in Judges 5, which falls into category A. The second occurrence is in Judges 6, and it falls into category B. The third occurrence, which is in Judges 13, contains elements that fit into category A as well as category B. Later on we will examine the elements that fall into category A, but for now we will focus on those elements in category B. Consequently, we’ll set aside Judges 5 for a little while we turn our attention to Judges 6 and Judges 13. The context for Judges 6 is a time just after the Israelites have taken over the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. After Joshua’s death, the Israelites have fallen into a period of idolatry during which they serve other gods and, as a consequence, God allows them to be defeated by the enemy nations that surround them (Judges 2:7-15). However, from time to time, God also raised up judges to deliver Israel from their enemies. Starting in chapter 2:16 through the end of chapter 5, Judges recounts back to back instances of this cycle between turning to false gods and then serving YHWH in peace under a deliverer. Chapter 6 begins with yet another tale of a deliverer in this repeating cycle. This story begins with a deliverer named Gideon who is visited by the angel of YHWH.

Judges 6:11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. 13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord (0113), if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? 15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord (0136), wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. 16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. 17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. 18 Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. 19 And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it. 20 And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. 22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord (0136) GOD (03069)! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. 23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

As we can see from the text, the angel of YHWH is sitting under a tree on Gideon’s father’s land and in verse 12, the angel of YHWH appears to Gideon and begins to speak with Gideon. Gideon at first does not recognize that this is the angel of YHWH. In verse 13, Gideon refers to the angel of YHWH as “Lord” (adown, Strong’s No. 0113). Then verse 14 states that “YHWH” (rather than the title “the angel of YHWH”) replies to Gideon’s statement. Then in verse 15, Gideon responds to YHWH, addressing the other speaker as “Lord” (Adonay, Strong’s No. 0136). In verse 16, the text specifies again that it is God who replies to Gideon and the text identifies God by the title “YHWH,” rather than angel of YHWH. And in verse 17, Gideon responds to YHWH. However, the content of verses 12-17 indicate that Gideon is speaking back and forth with the angel of YHWH. Consequently, in verses 14 and 16, it is still the same speaker, the angel of YHWH, who replies to Gideon, but this time the text simply refers to the angel of YHWH simply as YHWH. This is the same interchangeable nature of these titles that we saw all the way back in Exodus 3.

And not only does this conversation indicate that Gideon’s visitor is YHWH God himself, but in verse 18, as Gideon responds to the other speaker, Gideon asks him not to depart. This clearly indicates that the speaker, whom the text has identified twice as YHWH God in verses 14 and 16, is actually present with Gideon. This would not be possible if the speaker were God in heaven. Rather, it is clear that when verse 16 states that “YHWH” spoke to Gideon and Gideon asked him not to depart, that YHWH is the title for the visitor who is present, not a figure speaking from heaven. In short, Gideon is asking YHWH God not to depart. Yet the only figure before Gideon is the angel of YHWH. Consequently, the angel of YHWH who is present with Gideon and speaking to Gideon is clearly being identified simply by the titles “YHWH” in verses 14 and 16 and is being asked not to depart.

But verses 18-19 get even more explicit that the figure identified as the angel of YHWH is indeed YHWH God. In verses 18-19, not only does Gideon ask the other speaker – a speaker identified as “YHWH” – not to depart, but Gideon also tells the speaker that the reason he wants him to stay is so that he can bring forward his “present.” The Hebrew word for “present” is “minchah” (Strong’s No. 04503), which can mean “gift” or “tribute” but can also mean “offering, oblation, sacrifice, or meat offering.” In fact, 164 times out of its occurrence, this word is translated as “offering,” including a multitude of uses during the instructions for sacrifices in Leviticus and Numbers.

04503 minchah
from an unused root meaning to apportion, i.e. bestow; TWOT-1214a; n f
AV-offering 164, present 28, gift 7, oblation 6, sacrifice 5, meat 1; 211
1) gift, tribute, offering, present, oblation, sacrifice, meat offering
1a) gift, present
1b) tribute
1c) offering (to God)
1d) grain offering

Moreover, the contents of Gideon’s offering are very similar to the items prescribed in Leviticus 2 for voluntary offerings (except perhaps for the frankincense) as well as the Nazarite offering described in Numbers 6:13-17, which includes the basket. Our point here is not to claim that Gideon’s offering was necessarily a freewill offering, and certainly not a Nazarite offering. Rather, our point is simply that the description here is indicative of an offering in general. It is very clear that Gideon is preparing a sacrificial offering. And in verses 20-21, the angel of YHWH burns up the items brought by Gideon, demonstrating that the angel of YHWH understood this to be a sacrifice as well.

At the end of verse 21, after the sacrifice has been made, the angel of YHWH departs and in verse 22, Gideon finally realizes that this figure was an angel of YHWH. As a result of this realization, Gideon exclaims “Alas, O Lord GOD! For because I have seen an angel of YHWH face to face.” And finally, verse 23 describes YHWH responding to this statement by reassuring Gideon that he will not die. There are several important items about this statement from Gideon.

First, as we will see in other passages, there is a certain deliberate coyness on the part of the angel of YHWH during his statements to Gideon. These statements seem designed to hint to Gideon at his ultimate identity and to inspire Gideon to consider his identity. The same will be true for Jacob in Genesis 32 and Samson’s father Manoah in Judges 13.

(Incidentally, this is not unlike God’s testing of Abraham in Genesis 22, in which according to Hebrews 11:19 God desires to prompt Abraham to reckon to the conclusion of resurrection. It is also similar to God’s testing of Moses over the course of the Exodus account, ultimately Exodus 33-34, in which God prompts Moses to discover why men are seeing God face to face and living rather than dying. It would seem that God desires to prompt men to consider things like his coming to earth in the guise of a man, his coming in less than glorious form, the resurrection from the dead, and the ultimate revelation of his fully glorious form even from these earliest times in Jewish history and theology.)

Specifically concerning this coyness and prompting in Judges 6, the angel of YHWH begins in verse 13 by stating to Gideon that YHWH is with Gideon. Normally for grammatical reasons, this third person reference to YHWH (without the use of personal pronouns like “I” or “me”), would indicate that the angel of YHWH is referring to a figure of YHWH that is distinct from himself. However, because of a peculiar statement found in verse 16, it is clear that this initial third-party reference to “YHWH” is part of the angel of YHWH’s coyness and attempt to prompt Gideon to contemplate and understand his true identity. In short, by first telling Gideon that “YHWH is with you” (verse 13) and then later emphatically telling Gideon, “Surely I will be with you” (verse 16) the implication is clear that the visitor speaking with Gideon, the figure identified as the angel of YHWH, is YHWH. And Gideon clearly puts these hints together himself as indicated by the fact that immediately after the angel of YHWH’s statement in verse 16, in verses 17-19 Gideon asks to make an offering to the individual talking to him. This situation here in Judges 6 very similar to Genesis 32:23-24, 28, when Jacob prevails over the visitor he is wrestling with and the visitor then tells Jacob that he has prevailed with God. Additionally, these statements in Judges 6 are also similar to an upcoming passage in Judges 13:16, which likewise contains a third-party reference to YHWH for the sake of coyness and prompting. Again, there seems to be precedent visible in these accounts.

Second, Gideon expresses another familiar theme. He is surprised that he has seen a particular individual face to face and lived. However, the angel of YHWH is already gone as verse 21 plainly states so it is not that Gideon is afraid this figure would put him to death. So, what is the basis of Gideon’s fear if not that the visitor would kill him? Gideon’s fear is based upon the perception that anyone who saw God face to face would necessarily die. We have seen this expectation expressed by Hagar in Genesis 16 and by Moses in Exodus 3 who hides his face when the voice from the burning bush identifies himself as “God.” Deuteronomy 5:4-31 records that this expectation is also expressed by the Israelites as a people who state they had seen God’s glory and greatness. And later on we will discuss this expectation by Jacob in Genesis 32, who identifies the one he has seen as “God.” And, most prominently, we will also see the expectation of death expressed by God himself in Exodus 33-34, when he allows Moses to see only his back but not his face, lest Moses die. All of these instances, including Exodus 33-34 form the precedents by which Gideon himself and by which any reader of this account should interpret Judges 5. And momentarily, we will examine Judges 13 in which Samson’s father also expresses this expectation that those who see God will die. Consequently, Gideon’s expectation that he should die for seeing “the angel of YHWH face to face,” further demonstrates that Gideon and the author recounting this event identified the angel of YHWH as YHWH God, whose face no man could see and live, just as God himself told Moses earlier in Exodus 33. If neither Gideon nor the author had understood that the angel of YHWH was YHWH himself, there would have been no basis for fearing death as a result of seeing the face of this visitor.

Third, the opening of Gideon’s fearful statement is quite relevant. He begins by saying, “Alas, O Lord GOD.” The capitalized word “GOD” here is the English translation of “Yehovih” (Strong’s No. 03069), the proper name of God (or YHWH if we use the abbreviated form of the name.) The word for “Lord,” which is lowercase in the English in this instance, is the Hebrew word “Adonay” (Strong’s No. 0136). What is quite significant here is that, not only has the text twice identified the speaker visiting Gideon as “YHWH” in verses 14 and 16, but during his response to that speaker in verse 14, Gideon addresses the speaker with this same title “Adonay.” Consequently, the fact that Gideon begins his statement with “Adonay YHWH” demonstrates Gideon connecting YHWH God with the “Adonay” that he has been interacting with and already addressed as “Adonay.”

In other words, Gideon has addressed his visitor as “Adonay” and now Gideon identifies the “Adonay” who visited him as “Adonay YHWH,” giving a proper name to the individual he already called “Adonay” (along with the fearful expectation of death for seeing God face to face.) Therefore, it is quite clear that Gideon and the author of the passage understood the angel of YHWH as YHWH God himself. Moreover, this is yet another instance where the angel of YHWH is worshipped as YHWH God, this time with a sacrificial offering. This is further substantiated in verses 23-24 in which YHWH, the identity assigned to Gideon’s visitor throughout the passage, speaks to Gideon once more and Gideon builds an altar to YHWH to commemorate this very spot as a holy location due to the fact that God himself visited there and hallowed it, accepting an offering from Gideon. This is reminiscent of Genesis 22, in which the same figure (angel of YHWH) uses the personal pronoun “to me” when referring to the fact that he about to receive a sacrifice from Abraham’s hand. The scripture is very consistent in depicting the angel of YHWH as YHWH God worthy of worship, including sacrifices.

As mentioned previously, the next occurrence of the phrase “the angel of YHWH” occurs in chapter 13 of Judges and it also contains elements that fall into category category B. The context for Judges 13 is the same as Judges 6, only a short while later on in history. After Joshua’s death, the Israelites have fallen into a period of idolatry during which they serve other gods and, as a consequence, God allows them to be defeated by the enemy nations that surround them (Judges 2:7-15). However, from time to time, God also raised up judges to deliver Israel from their enemies. And Judges 13 begins the tale of the deliverer named Samson, starting with the angel of YHWH predicting his conception and birth to his parents. In the passage, Manoah is Samson’s father.

Judges 13:1 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. 2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. 3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. 4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: 5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name: 7 But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death. 8 Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. 9 And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day. 11 And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am. 12 And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him? 13 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. 14 She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe. 15 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. 16 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD. 17 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? 18 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? 19 So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. 20 For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. 21 But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD. 22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. 23 But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.

The first thing to note about this account is its similarity in content to Genesis 18-19, which specifically identifies “YHWH” as appearing to Abraham, visiting Abraham along with two others (later identified in chapter 19 as angels), and as speaking with Abraham. In that passage, YHWH informs Abraham that his barren wife Sarah will also have a son, just as is occurring here concerning Manoah’s wife in Judges 13. Once again, we see from these similarities that precedent plays a very important role. Events that come later follow a pattern from those that came earlier and should be interpreted in light of those earlier precedents. Furthermore, this similarity between the two passages is relevant because in the case of Genesis 18-19, the angel of YHWH is nowhere mentioned. So, we once again have to determine the following. Is YHWH God is distinct from the angel of YHWH and it is YHWH God himself who visits Abraham in Genesis 18-19? Or, is it the angel of YHWH who visits Abraham but the author of the text is entirely comfortable identifying the angel of YHWH simply as YHWH God, (without any stipulation or indication that it is a mere angel)? Although we have not covered it in depth to this point, Genesis 18-19 is a passage that is also very relevant to this study and so we’ll return to it later after we complete our survey of passages where the angel of YHWH is mentioned.

Moving on, we see in verse 6 that Manoah’s wife tells him that “a man of God” came to her and that his face was like an angel of God, very terrible, and that she dared not ask him what his name was. This is very similar to Jacob in Genesis 32 when Jacob tries to learn the name of the man he wrestles with but likewise is not told his name. Here again, the importance of precedent is demonstrated.

As we continue forward, the angel of YHWH appears to Manoah’s wife again in verse 9 and this time she gets Manoah who then converses with the angel of YHWH. What must be kept in mind is the fact that, as specifically indicated in verse 1 of this chapter, during this time the Israelites had a tendency to worship false gods. While Manoah’s prayer to God that this man might return in verse 8 indicates his hope that this visitor is from God, verse 16 is very clear that Manoah did not know he was the angel of YHWH. And so, as elements of the text themselves reveal, in some sense this is the angel of YHWH testing Manoah to see if he is faithful amidst times of idolatry. And the angel of YHWH”s interplay with Manoah must be understood against the backdrop of such a testing, as the following paragraphs explain.

What appears to be taking place is an interplay between Manoah and the angel of YHWH in which Manoah is hoping that this is a visit from YHWH God similar to the experiences of Abraham (to whom God came and ate and announced the birth of a son by his barren wife – Genesis 18:1-10), the experience of Gideon not many years earlier, and even the experiences of Moses and Jacob who are also recorded as seeing God. Manoah is not certain this is YHWH but based upon his wife’s description in verses 6-7, he seems to suspect that it might be. And in order to determine this, he enters into a subtle exchange with the visitor, first asking the visitor to stay so that he might prepare a young goat but without specifying whether his intention is to share a meal (such as Abraham in Genesis 18) or make an offering to the visitor (such as Gideon in Judges 6). Manoah seems to want to please YHWH by offering a sacrifice but is being cautious about his intention in case this is not YHWH after all, lest he be found suggesting a sacrifice to someone other than YHWH. And perhaps Manoah hoped that at this gesture the visitor would give some favorable approval of the sacrifice, revealing himself to be YHWH.

However, the visitor is not enticed into revealing himself and the visitor’s desire to withhold his identify is demonstrated in verse 18 when he specifically refuses to give his name to Manoah. But let’s not move through this interplay to quickly. In response to Manoah’s early, subtle efforts to attain his identity with certainty, the visitor plays back at Manoah to see how strong Manoah’s conviction is that he is YHWH. He seems to test Manoah, as if to say, “All offerings must be made to YHWH. Are you suggesting I’m YHWH?” This is very much like Jacob in Genesis 32 in the sense that there seems to be an interplay here in which YHWH God comes humbly and desires to be discovered by a man wise enough to recognize him while the man is cautious in fear of God, not wanting to be hasty, overstate the matter, or make a false profession. Manoah clearly perceives the visitor’s response as coy, which is what prompts Manoah to be more direct in verse 17 by specifically asking the visitor his name, thinking the visitor will surely be compelled to reveal his identity by this direct question. But again, as verse 18 reveals, the visitor remains coy about his identity and refuses to give his name just as in the case with Jacob in Genesis 32. And, in refusing to give his name, it would seem that the visitor is further testing Manoah, pushing him to consider, and perhaps wanting to see if Manoah would be hasty to make an offering indiscriminately. Again, the story is permeated by precedent.

Verse 17 also makes it quite clear that Manoah’s intent is to offer the goat “to honor” the visitor. This will become significant momentarily. Having failed to illicit from the visitor whether or not he is YHWH, Manoah offers a sacrifice dedicating it in YHWH’s name, no doubt hoping in this last effort to see the visitor’s response and determine if this was indeed YHWH God, as Abraham and Jacob concluded after similar visitations. And finally, Manoah meets with success. After observing the visitor’s marvelous response to the sacrifice, verse 21 declares that Manoah finally determined that this was the angel of YHWH. And just to make sure his meaning is clear, verses 22 records Manoah’s statement that he and his wife had seen “God.” He even anticipates that they would die for seeing him, just as was the case with Hagar, Jacob, and Moses. And Manoah’s wife further corroborates their understanding that this was YHWH God himself when she comforts Manoah, saying that if “YHWH” had intended to kill them, he would not have spoken to them about the birth of their son nor received an offering “at their hands.” Clearly, Manoah’s wife also perceived that the visitor who had himself received the sacrifice in such close proximity as if from their very hands, who they’d been seeing and conversing with about their son, and who her husband had described as “seeing God,” was indeed YHWH God.

Furthermore, the author’s comment at the end of verse 16 also necessitates the interpretation that the author of this passage himself understood the angel of YHWH to be YHWH God and that his audience would understand this as well. This conclusion flows from the following fact. There is clearly a relationship between the angel of YHWH’s statement to Manoah in the first half of verse 16 and the author’s explanatory note at the end of the verse. What is in the first half of the verse that needs to be explained? It is the angel of YHWH’s statement that all sacrifices must be made to YHWH. What is in the second half of the verse, which the author views as a necessary explanation of the angel of YHWH’s statement? It is the author’s clarification that Manoah did not yet know this was the angel of YHWH. So the question is, why is Monoah’s failure to determine for sure that this was the angel of YHWH an important clarification to the angel of YHWH’s statement that all sacrifices must be made to YHWH? Why did the author think those facts were related and how did he think they related? Why did the author think the angel of YHWH’s comment necessitated his own clarification for the reader?

In short, it seems as though the author is afraid that without clarification, his audience will misinterpret the angel of YHWH’s words. And the author thought that Manoah’s failure to determine for sure that this was the angel of YHWH, would explain and avoid any possible misunderstanding of the angel of YHWH’s words. But what about Manoah’s inability to ascertain the identity of the visitor would affect the visitor’s reference to “sacrifices to YHWH”? After all, it would be perfectly normal and without any need for explanation for a mere angel to refer to worshipping YHWH, particularly worshipping YHWH rather than the angel himself (which Manoah clearly intended to do). In other words, if the angel of YHWH were a mere angel – and the author understood that – then the angel of YHWH’s statement to worship only God would be acceptable regardless of Manaoh’a failure to identify him as an angel. Consequently, Manoah’s failure to identify him as an angel would not be necessary as a clarification explaining the angel of YHWH’s statement to him. Only if the angel of YHWH was YHWH and the author knew this (and understood his audience would know this as well) does it become necessary for the author to explain to his audience why the angel of YHWH would tell Manoah to worship only YHWH.

Simply put, the author is explaining that the angel of YHWH had to refer to YHWH in the third person (rather than saying “I” or “me”) because Manoah did not yet know this was the angel of YHWH, Manoah did not yet know this was YHWH God in a humbler, visiting form. Thus, the audience would understand the visitor’s third party reference to YHWH alone receiving sacrifices in terms of Manoah’s ignorance that this was YHWH, rather than misunderstand this party reference as an indication that the angel of YHWH wasn’t YHWH.  

This makes sense. Although the author, his audience, and Manoah would identify the angel of YHWH as YHWH God, the angel of YHWH had to refer to YHWH God as a third party without referring to himself because at this point, Manoah did not know that the visitor was the angel of YHWH, YHWH God in a humbler visiting form. Thus, the author’s need to explain the angel of YHWH’s words in terms of Manoah’s failure to identify him is itself explained. And moreover, this fact of the author’s explanatory note itself demonstrates and necessitates that the author himself understood, that the author perceived his audience would understand, and that we as interpreters should also understand that the angel of YHWH is YHWH God. This alone makes sense of the author’s need to include this note explaining why the angel of YHWH used the third person to refer to YHWH alone receiving sacrifices. And consequently, the author’s clarifying comment about Manoah’s ignorance in verse 16 is yet another proof that the Old Testament authors and their original audiences understood the angel of YHWH to be a title for YHWH God, not a mere angel.

And in addition, what are we to make of the comparison between this visitation in Judges 13 and Gideon’s visitation just 7 chapters earlier in Judges 6? Both Gideon and Samson’s parents express the fearful expectation of death for seeing their visitor face to face. Yet Samson’s parents identify this visitor using the terms “YHWH” and “God,” believing they would die for seeing YHWH God, while Gideon identifies his visitor as “the angel of YHWH” and believes he would die for seeing the figure with that title. Is Gideon seeing and conversing with someone else, someone different than Manoah and his wife? Is Gideon seeing a mere angel and expressing the fear of death for seeing an angel while Manoah and his wife were seeing YHWH God and expressing the fear of death for seeing God? The most plausible explanation, given the close proximity between these two events in both scripture and history, is that Gideon and Samson’s parents were seeing the same figure and that both parties understood the angel of YHWH to be YHWH God himself, whose face no man was supposed to see and live, just as expressed in Genesis 16 with Hagar, Genesis 32 with Jacob, and Exodus 3 and 33-34 with Moses, not to mention Deuteronomy 5, where the whole nation of Israel expresses this same expectation of death upon seeing God himself. Clearly, as a matter of overwhelming precedent the idea of dying as a result of seeing God face to face was cemented into Jewish theology long before Judges 6 and 13. And the author who recorded Judges 6 and 13 also seems not only to understand this himself but he seems to expect and to intend that his audience already has this perception as well. Clearly there is a consistent theme here demonstrating the very early and patriarchal understanding that the figure “the angel of YHWH” was indeed YHWH God come to visit and speak with men on earth.

The next references to the angel of YHWH can be found in 2 Samuel 24 (with parallels in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Kings 19), 2 Chronicles 32 (with a parallel in Isaiah 37), and Zechariah 1. However, all of these passages contain only elements in category A. The next passage where the phrase “the angel of YHWH” occurs, which contains elements in category B, is Zechariah 3. And that is where we turn our attention next. The context for the book of Zechariah is about sixteen years after the return of the first company of Jewish exiles to Jerusalem after their exile to the land of Babylon. During Zechariah’s day, the Jews were rebuilding the Temple under the leadership of Governor Zerubabel (an heir of King David) and the High Priest Joshua. Specifically, chapter 3 of Zechariah is a vision depicting the crowning of Joshua the High Priest. We will discuss Zechariah 3 again later on as we examine the elements within it that fall into category A, but for now, here are the relevant verses that pertain to category B.

Zechariah 2:1 I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2 Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. 3 And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, 4 And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein…3:1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

As we can see starting in chapter 2:1, Zechariah sees and speaks to an angel. Zechariah asks this angel “where goest thou?” and the angel responds that he is going to measure Jerusalem. Then, the angel, whom Zechariah asked this question, goes forth to go to Jerusalem but just as he is about to depart, he is told by another angel to return to Zechariah and describe to Zechariah some things about Jerusalem, particularly how the city and its population will thrive. Chapter 3 begins with this angel (who was going to measure Jerusalem) showing Zechariah a vision of Joshua the High Priest standing before the angel of YHWH and an adversarial angel (Satan) standing at Joshua’s right hand, resisting Joshua.

What is interesting is the regard that Zechariah has for the figure he identifies by the title “the angel of YHWH.” Specifically, we note that Zechariah sees two angels in chapter 2:3, one of whom comes to Zechariah and to speak with him. So, here is Zechariah in the presence of angels but referring to one particular figure as “the angel of YHWH.” In short, this figure is regarded as distinct and unique from the other angels. Even in the company of other angels, he, and not they, is known as “the angel of YHWH.” Furthermore, the fact that this figure is known as “the angel of YHWH” even when in the presence of other angels and in contrast to other angels, demonstrates that this is not simply a common title for angels in general.

However, what is most significant is the simple fact that there are only 3 people in this vision shown to Zechariah by the angel in chapter 3. There is Joshua the High Priest, the angel of YHWH, and an adversarial angel. There is no mention of YHWH being seen or being present in the midst of the others. And yet, verse 2 begins with the phrase “And YHWH said unto Satan.”

It is very clear that the function of verse 1 is to set the stage, to identify each party before they begin their part in the proceedings. The angel of YHWH is not just standing there and his presence is not identified by the author only to have him stand by while YHWH God, who is not mentioned as being present in the vision, does all the speaking and interacting. Rather, it is clear from the continuity between the description of the involved parties in verse 1 and the beginning of the dialog in verse 2, that the angel of YHWH is the one speaking in verse 2. This is, of course, also demonstrated by all of the previous passages that we’ve seen in which the titles “the angel of YHWH” and “YHWH” are used interchangeably for the same speaker. The angel of YHWH is identified in verse 1 because of his role as the speaker opposing Satan in the exchange. And consequently, it is clear that the figure identified as “the angel of YHWH” in verse 1 is identified simply as “YHWH” in verse 2 when he begins to speak and oppose Satan with regard to Joshua.

Furthermore, the fact that the speaker identified as YHWH in verse 2 is the figure identified in verse 1 as the angel of YHWH is also demonstrated by the words spoken by YHWH in verse 2. This particular fact will become important again when we cover the elements of this passage that fall into category A. However, here these portions of the passages are relevant because they back up the need to conclude that the speaker identified as “YHWH” in verse 2 is the angel of YHWH. Specifically, verse 2 states, “And YHWH said unto Satan, ‘YHWH rebuke thee, O Satan; even YHWH that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee.” Here an obvious question arises. Why is YHWH appealing to YHWH to rebuke Satan? As YHWH, why doesn’t the speaker simply rebuke Satan? Why not simply say, “I rebuke you”? He does not even say, “You are rebuked,” but leaves the rebuking unaccomplished, thereby anticipating its accomplishment is yet to come and not from himself. Moreover, why does the speaker, himself identified as YHWH, go on in the rest of the verse to further specify “which” YHWH he is talking about when he says, “YHWH rebuke you…even YHWH that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you.”

The entire context of verse 2 reads as though one figure identified as YHWH himself refrains from rebuking Satan while simultaneously that same figure appeals to or refers to another YHWH rebuking Satan. In distinction from himself who does not perform the rebuke, the YHWH speaking even specifies the YHWH who would perform the rebuke as the YHWH who has chosen Jerusalem. If there was only one figure that is YHWH, then why would YHWH need to specify which YHWH would perform the rebuke and which YHWH would not perform the rebuke? The fact that the speaking YHWH leaves it to another YHWH to rebuke Satan further demonstrates that the “speaking-YHWH” is the angel of YHWH identified in verse 1 and while there remains as “rebuking-YHWH” who is not present or interacting in the scene of the vision. So, once again, this passage indicates that the figure known as the angel of YHWH was understood to be YHWH God, at times in the visage of a man and at other times in the visage of a fiery angel.

The next and last occurrence of the term “angel of YHWH” comes in Zechariah 12, a very brief statement that falls into category B.

Zechariah 12:5 And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God. 6 In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. 7 The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. 8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.

The first thing to notice about the statement in this verse is that it is about the strength of the inhabitants of Jerusalem on the day of the Lord. Verse 5 specifically states, “The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength.” Verse 8 goes on to state that even the “feeble” or weak among the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be strong. In fact, the mention of God and the angel of YHWH in this passage are integrally part of the comparison of strength. First the feeble are compared to David, who of course became famous for slaying a lion, a bear, and the giant Goliath as a youth (1 Samuel 17:4, 34-37, 48-51) and for slaying thousands (1 Samuel 18:7-8, 21:11, 29:2-5). Such will be the weakest that any inhabitant of Jerusalem will be in that day. But, beyond the strength of the average citizen, the strength of the house of David itself is compared to “God” and to “the angel of YHWH.” For comparison, in 2 Kings 19:35 (2 Chronicles 32:21, Isaiah 37:36), the angel of YHWH kills over five thousand Assyrians in one night and in 2 Samuel 24:13-15 (1 Chronicles 21) the angel of YHWH kills over 70,000 people in less than 3 days. Consequently, it must not be overlooked that this is a comparison about might and power.

In addition, notice the comparison made in verse 6 concerning the might of the people. In verse 6, they are compared to “a hearth of fire” and are said to be “like a torch of fire” even a “devouring” fire that consumes the people surrounding them. This sounds very much like a description of YHWH God on Mount Sinai, who was said to be “a consuming fire.” This appears to be no less than a statement about the inhabitants of Jerusalem becoming like angels, even angels in their fiery form.

And on this note, we focus again on the comparison to “God” and “the angel of YHWH” in verse 8. The passage reads, “as God, as the angel of YHWH.” Here some curious questions emerge. If the angel of YHWH was not understood to be equitable with God then why are the two terms used equally as comparisons for the strength of the people? If there is a great gulf between the angel of YHWH and YHWH, if one is a mere creation and the other infinite God, then why are both terms included? Why not just say that the inhabitants will be “as God”? Why not just say that the inhabitants would be “as the angel of YHWH”? Why demean the strength of God and the strength of the comparison by then demoting their strength afterward to that of a mere angel? Why exaggerate the strength of an angel, and by extension the strength of the people, by equating their strength with that of God himself, unless there is indeed some equity between the strength of God, the angel of YHWH, and the people on that day.

There is an answer that satisfies all these questions posed by the content of the verse. This strange phrasing seems to use the phrase “the angel of YHWH” as a clarification on the designation “God,” as if to make sure that the audience knows that the comparison to God is a comparison to the angel of YHWH, which of course makes sense since it was the angel of YHWH who appeared to Moses as a fire in the bush, defeated the Egyptians as a pillar of fire, and descended on the mount as a consuming fire. But here again, in this simple phrasing, we find a clear understanding on the part of the prophet that the angel of YHWH was “God,” not a mere angel. The comparison assumes that “God” and “the angel of YHWH” are comparable and interchangeable terms and that this was understood. Furthermore, the inclusion of the phrase “as the angel of YHWH” answers the question concerning to what extent the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be like “God.” They will be like “God” in the sense of being like God when he appeared as the angel of YHWH. As such, the equation of the people’s strength to God’s strength makes sense and the equation of the strength of YHWH and the strength of the angel of YHWH also makes sense. And ultimately, these considerations also demonstrate that this passage clearly identifies the angel of YHWH as God, not a mere creation and not a mere angel.

(Incidentally, this comparison is something that the New Testament carries over from this passage in Zechariah. Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 John 3:1-3 teach explicitly that when the godly are resurrected, their bodies will be transformed after the pattern of the resurrected body of Jesus Christ, whom the New Testament identifies as the incarnation of the angel of YHWH, the Word of YHWH. Moreover, in Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, and Luke 20:36 teaches that in the resurrection, men will be equal to the immortal angels. In short, the figure known as the angel of YHWH is YHWH God visiting in the guise of a man or angel. At the incarnation he actually takes on a human nature, no longer just the temporary guise of one. And at his resurrection, he becomes glorified, acquiring a real angelic nature, not just merely the guise of one. And when he returns to establish his kingdom, he will make his followers like him, so that they too will be as mighty as he was when he appeared in the Old Testament as the figure known as the angel of YHWH. Thus, Zechariah 12 will be fulfilled. On that day, the strength of God’s people will indeed become like the angel of YHWH. Consequently, even in peculiar statements, such as what we find here in Zechariah 12, the New Testament is simply carrying over the revelations of the Old Testament.)

As we conclude our examination of passages in category B, we arrive at the following conclusion. From Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18-19 (which we will cover in more detail later on), to Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, to Jacob in Genesis 32 and beyond, YHWH God desires to come down to earth in the guise of a man and at later times in the guise of a fiery angel so that he may interact with men, speak with them, test them, and see what they will do, whether or not they will be faithful or rebellious. And the Old Testament saints and authors had a term for the “visiting” YHWH God when he would come in this manner and that term was “the angel of YHWH.” This fact alone would leave open the question of Modalism, the idea that there is only one consciousness within the Godhead, who at times operates in different forms or capacities, such as this visiting form (of a man or fiery angel) known as the angel of YHWH. However, the instances in category A seize the fact that the angel of YHWH is YHWH in a visiting guise away from Modalism by presenting the angel of YHWH, who himself is YHWH, interacting with and speaking of yet another identity that he refers to as YHWH. Thus, the Old Testament presents two separate consciousnesses that are referred to and refer to each other as YHWH distinctly from themselves. With this in mind, we will now move on to examine the passages in category A.