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Particulars of Christianity:
302 The Trinity


The Trinity: The Angel of YHWH as
Distinct from 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


We now turn our attention to passages in which “the angel of YHWH” is explicitly depicted as distinct from YHWH God. These elements we have categorized as category A. Having established in our examination of category B that the angel of YHWH was understood in the Old Testament both by the authors of the scriptures and by the persons within the stories to be YHWH God, these passages in category A demonstrate that there are at least 2 figures existing simultaneously that are identified as YHWH God. As mentioned early on, it is the simultaneous, side-by-side, existence of multiple figures of YHWH who express a conscious distinction from one another through intercommunication that disproves the doctrine of Modalism. Modalism’s assertion that YHWH God is comprised of only a single “Person” or consciousness who simply takes different forms is incompatible with the idea of YHWH existing as two consciously distinct figures at once. In addition, once we have completed an analysis of the passage in this category, we will have examined all of the accounts involving the angel of YHWH in the Old Testament and so our understanding of the Old Testament concerning the persons of God will be thoroughly established. 

The first passage in which we find the phrase “the angel of YHWH” and which falls into category A is Genesis 22. This passage records the story of Abraham when he is tested by God to sacrifice his promised son Isaac. We have already seen this passage before under our examination of category B, so a brief review of our previous findings will suffice.

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.

Earlier we identified how in verse 12, the angel of YHWH refers to “God” while at the same time referring to himself with the pronouns “I” and “me.” This demonstrates that the angel of YHWH recognizes someone other than himself as God. However, as we also pointed out, the pronouns “I” and “me” in verse 12 are used by the angel of YHWH to identify himself as the one performing actions specifically assigned to God in the passage, including the testing of Abraham (verse 1) and the one to whom the sacrifice was offered (verse 8). Thus, the angel of YHWH identifies himself as the God while at the same time recognizing another figure beside himself as God.

The assertion that the angel of YHWH is distinct from another figure known as YHWH is not, on its own, controversial. However, having established from Old Testament passages that the angel of YHWH is YHWH God, this distinction between the angel of YHWH and another figure also known as YHWH demonstrates the simultaneous existence of two distinct figures identified as YHWH. And, of course, this distinction comes by means of a statement from one of the figures identified as YHWH, specifically the angel of YHWH. Therefore, one figure identified as YHWH God expresses awareness of his own distinction from the other figure known as YHWH.

This self-aware distinctiveness is problematic for Modalism. In the fact that YHWH himself expresses an awareness of distinction, the figures of YHWH cannot be viewed as distinct merely on the level of limited and temporal human perception. To put it another way, it might be simpler to conceive of God as having only one consciousness that by means of his transcendence is able to operate as different figures at one time, which in turn creates, an illusion of distinction to humans experiencing multiple expressions of God at one time. However, the fact that God himself expresses his own perception of self-distinction between the figures of YHWH demonstrates that this distinction is not merely a function of humanity’s limited perception but a reality that is perceived by God himself.

The next occurrence of the phrase “the angel of YHWH” that contains items in category A is Numbers 22, which we have also already examined as part of our survey of category B. Having already discussed the components of this passage, which establish that the angel of YHWH is himself YHWH God, we turn our attention specifically to verse 31, which contains the distinction between YHWH as the angel of YHWH and another figure known as YHWH.

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, and fell flat on his face.

As can be seen from the text, the verse clearly speaks of YHWH opening the eyes of Balaam so that Balaam can see the angel of YHWH. For contrast, it does not say that the angel of YHWH opened Balaam’s eyes so that Balaam could see him. In earlier passages, we saw how the simple designation “YHWH” is used interchangeably with the designation “angel of YHWH” in different statements within the same passage. In Judges 6:11-21, for example, the text alternates between both titles when referring to the individual with whom Gideon is speaking. However, since the alternate titles are used here within the same statement, it would seem that in this instance, the use of these alternate titles is intended to convey distinction between to agents, one who opens Balaam’s eyes and the other who is seen by Balaam, each referred to by a different designation.

And once again, the mere suggestion that this verse conveys a distinction between a figure known as YHWH and a figure known as the angel of YHWH is not controversial. But since the angel of YHWH is identified as YHWH God by other passages as well as by other elements within this same passage, the distinction in this particular verse in turn affirms that the Old Testament authors understood there were at least two separate figures of YHWH. In this particular verse, one identity of YHWH opens Balaam’s eyes allowing Balaam to see another identity of YHWH known by the designation “the angel of YHWH.”

Judges 5 contains the next occurrence of the phrase “the angel of YHWH” with elements that fall into category A. We have not examined Judges 5 before but its contents are quite straightforward.

Judges 5:23 Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.

Here we have the angel of YHWH speaking and he is pronouncing a curse upon those who did not come to help in the cause of YHWH. He does not say, “they came not to my help.” Nor does he say, “they came not to the help of the angel of YHWH.” Instead, the angel of YHWH speaks of YHWH God without identifying himself as God through the use of pronouns like “I” or “me.” As such, he seems to relate to YHWH God as distinct from himself. Again, the idea that this verse supports a distinction between the angel of YHWH and another figure known as YHWH is not controversial. It only becomes controversial in light of the fact that the angel of YHWH is also himself YHWH God, in which case we have one identity of YHWH God expressing the awareness of a distinction between himself and another figure that is also YHWH God. And furthermore, the fact that this distinction is expressed by YHWH God himself demonstrates that this distinction is part of God’s own understanding of himself, not merely an illusion of distinction resulting from limited human perception.

The next event mentioning the angel of YHWH is recorded in parallel accounts found in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24. A comparison of the two accounts is also informative concerning the events they collectively describe, particularly the interaction between the angel of YHWH and another figure identified as YHWH God.

1 Chronicles 21:9 And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. 11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me. 13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. 15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. 18 Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. 20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground. 22 Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. 23 And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. 24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. 25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 26 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. 27 And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. 28 At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.

Specifically, in verses 9-12, the text speaks of “YHWH God” telling David that “the angel of YHWH” will be sent to kill the Israelites for 3 days because of David’s sin in numbering the people. Consequently, it would appear that a figure identified as “YHWH God” is distinguishing between himself (the sender) and the angel of YHWH who would be sent. Verse 15 confirms this by stating that “and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.” Here we have YHWH God watching the angel of YHWH and speaking a command to the angel of YHWH. Since the angel of YHWH is identified himself as YHWH God in other passages, this constitutes a clear case in which there are two figures of YHWH God communicating back and forth to one another and distinguishing between themselves. And we see this in verse 27 also, where one identified as YHWH God again commands the figure known as the angel of YHWH to put away his sword.

And not only does the speaker identified as “YHWH God” differentiate between himself and the figure identified as “the angel of YHWH,” but the angel of YHWH himself speaks in verse 18, commanding David to build an altar to “YHWH.” Since there is another speaker in this passage identified already with the simple title of “YHWH” and since the angel of YHWH does not say, “build an altar to me,” we should conclude that here the angel of YHWH is referring not to himself but to the other YHWH of the passage. Consequently, in this passage, both of the figures of YHWH express their own awareness of distinction from one another. Since they themselves are aware of their distinction from one another, such distinction cannot be a mere misunderstanding of limited human perception. Most importantly, in this passage YHWH’s own words negate Modalism because it demonstrates that such a distinction is real to God himself, not merely an experiential illusion of finite men. 

2 Chronicles 32 contains the next occurrence of the phrase “the angel of YHWH” with elements in category A. Parallel passages for 2 Chronicles 32 can be found in 2 Kings 19:32-37 and Isaiah 37:33-38. All three passages have been included below because only when viewed side by side does it become apparent that this incident involves elements of category A. For instance, 2 Kings 19:35 and Isaiah 37:36 identify for us that it is the angel of YHWH who kills the Assyrians.

2 Kings 19:32 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. 34 For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. 35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 37 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.

Isaiah 37:33 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. 35 For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. 36 Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 38 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.

Once we know that the angel who kills the Assyrians is the angel of YHWH, we can see that 2 Chronicles 32:21 provides another clear example of a passage distinguishing between the angel of YHWH and another figure titled “YHWH.” Verse 21 describes how “YHWH sent an angel” and in saying this it is clear that the text is distinguishing between the “sender” and the angel who is sent. More specifically, the text is distinguishing between YHWH the sender and YHWH in the guise of an angel (the angel of YHWH) who is being sent. Thus, the text again presents two distinct figures of YHWH existing simultaneously and interacting with one another.

2 Chronicles 32:20 And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven. 21 And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword. 22 Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side.

Zechariah 1:7-17 provides our second to last passage involving elements that fall into category A. This chapter of Zechariah records an encounter that the prophet has with the angel of YHWH. Verse 7 states that “the Word of YHWH came unto Zechariah…saying.” The phrasing appears to convey that the phrase “the Word of YHWH” refers to a figure, an individual or person, who performs the actions of coming and speaking to Zechariah. Then in verse 8, Zechariah describes what he himself saw when this individual came to him to speak. Verse 8 records Zechariah seeing “a man upon a red horse” who is “standing among the myrtle trees” and behind that man Zechariah sees other horses that are red, speckled, and white.

Zechariah 1:7 Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, 8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white. 9 Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. 10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. 11 And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest. 12 Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? 13 And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words. 14 So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. 16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. 17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.

In verse 9, Zechariah begins to speak to this first rider, the man on the red horse among the trees. It is significant that verses 9, 10, 13, and 14 all refer to this first man on the red horse among the trees as “the angel who came to commune and speak to Zechariah.” Given its repetition, its function as an identifier, and its proximity to verse 7, this description must be understood as a parallel to verse 7’s statement that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah speaking. One verse states that the Word of YHWH came to Zechariah speaking and then 4 subsequent verses echo and clarify the meaning of this initial statement to be that an angel known as the Word of YHWH came to Zechariah to speak. Thus, the phrase “the Word of YHWH” must be understood as a title for that angel who comes to commune and speak with the prophet here.

Furthermore, as we follow the course of the narrative, we can see that this angel who came to commune and speak with Zechariah is also identified as “the angel of YHWH.” In verse 9, Zechariah asks this angel (the man on the horse among the myrtle trees) a question and the angel states that he will answer Zechariah’s question. Verse 10 goes on to describe how the angel does indeed answer Zechariah’s question, informing Zechariah that the other horsemen with him are those whom “YHWH has sent to walk to and fro though the earth.” Verse 11 is critical because verse 11 then describes how the other horsemen reply back to the angel that is speaking with Zechariah who is the first rider on the red horse among the trees. Specifically, when describing their response to him, the text identifies him as “the angel of YHWH that stood among the myrtle trees.” Then, after their reply, verse 12 describes the angel of YHWH’s response to their reply. It describes how he asks a question to YHWH and it once again identifies him specifically with the title “the angel of YHWH.” And finally, after the angel of YHWH asks his question, verse 13 records how “YHWH answered the angel that talked with” Zechariah, once again identifying that the rider on the red horse among the trees who came to commune and speak to Zechariah is indeed the angel of YHWH (whose question YHWH was answering). The text does not record YHWH’s words to the figure identified as the angel of YHWH but verse 14 does proceed to describe how the angel of YHWH, who is the one sent to commune and speak to Zechariah, conveys a message from YHWH, beginning with the phrase “Thus saith YHWH.”

The encounter can be summarized as follows. Zechariah has seen the angel of YHWH on horseback among the myrtle trees about to receive a report from angels performing a scouting of the nations. The angel of YHWH identifies those scouts to Zechariah and then they deliver their report to the angel of YHWH. After receiving their report, the text describes how angel of YHWH then speaks to YHWH, YHWH answers him, and then the angel of YHWH passes on YHWH’s words to Zechariah. Consequently, not only is the angel who comes to and speaks with Zechariah described as having the guise of a “man,” but he is identified as the angel of YHWH. Moreover, the title “the Word of YHWH” is applied to him in verse 7. Consequently, the titles “the angel of YHWH” and “the Word of YHWH” are seen to apply to the same figure in the Old Testament. (The interchangeably usage of these two particular titles is not surprising at all since the Hebrew term for “angel” is “mal’ak” (Strong’s No. 04397, which means “messenger, representative”) and the title “the Word of YHWH” both directly express YHWH in an interactive, communicating form with men.)

And most importantly to our study, in verse 12, in verse 12 the figure identified as the angel of YHWH addresses another figure identified as YHWH. And in verse 13 YHWH is specifically described as answering the angel of YHWH. Thus, this passage records a very clear case of two separate identities of YHWH existing simultaneously, communicating with each other, and expressing their own perception of self-distinction from one another. This self-awareness of distinction is also presented in verse 10, when the angel of YHWH describes the other riders as “These are they whom the LORD has sent” rather than saying “whom I have sent,” and thus distinguishing between himself and the sender, whom he identifies as YHWH. (This is strikingly similar to what we have already seen in Zechariah 3, where the angel of YHWH is interchangeably called “YHWH” and distinguishes between himself and another YHWH who will rebuke Satan.) So, since the angel of YHWH is already repeatedly and explicitly identified as YHWH himself in other passage, it is once again clear that there are at least two figures identified as YHWH who exist simultaneously and who perceive and express their own awareness of distinction from one another. Consequently, it cannot simply be the case that distinct consciousnesses among the Godhead are a mere illusion of finite human experience since such distinctions are expressed by YHWH as part of his own self-perception.

As hinted at in the paragraph above, Zechariah 3 is the last passage in which we find the phrase “the angel of YHWH” containing elements in category A. We have covered this passage in detail already as we examined category B, so we will not need to spend much time on it here.

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 established earlier, the speaker in verse 2 is the angel of YHWH, who is identified as one of the participants in the vision in verse 1, while no other figure identified as “YHWH” is described in verse 1 as present in the vision. The vision simply presents 3 persons, the human High Priest Joshua who came with the exiles from Babylon back to Jerusalem, Satan who resists Joshua, and the angel of YHWH who resists Satan and is an advocate for Joshua. Consequently, when verse 2 describes “YHWH said unto Satan, YHWH rebuke thee, O Satan; even YHWH that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee,” there is clearly a distinction between YHWH who is doing the speaking who was not himself going to rebuke Satan, and YHWH who was going to do the rebuking. The speaking YHWH does not say, “I rebuke you” or even “you are rebuked.” Instead, the angel of YHWH is the YHWH who is speaking but not rebuking. And not only does the text of verse 2 indicate that the angel of YHWH is YHWH, but in his words the angel of YHWH expresses his self-awareness of a distinction between himself and the “other” YHWH that would be doing the rebuking. Therefore, we once again have another passage demonstrating the Old Testament understanding that there were at least 2 identities of YHWH, that these 2 identities of YHWH existed simultaneously rather than being alternating forms at different times, that these identities of YHWH made statements revealing their own self-awareness of distinction from one another, and that one of these identities was referred to by the title “the angel of YHWH.”

And lastly, the similarities between Zechariah 1 and Zechariah 3 once again demonstrate the foundational role of precedent in understanding the contents of these accounts. Zechariah 1 contains clear statements in which YHWH is speaking and yet refers to another figure of YHWH in the third person, assigning certain actions to that other figure of YHWH and not to himself. In chapter 3, that action is the sending of the scouting angels. In chapter 3, the same pattern occurs again, but this time with regard to the action of rebuking Satan. Thematic precedent clearly runs throughout the passages concerning the angel of YHWH.


Category A and B Conclusions

As we conclude our examinations of category A and category B our findings can be summarized as follows.

There are clear passages in the Old Testament which identify that the figure known as the angel of YHWH is, in fact, YHWH God himself visiting man in a more interactive, humbler guise (either of a man or of a fiery angel). Many of these passages are both prominent and early in scripture, including Genesis 16, Genesis 22, Exodus 3, Exodus 14, and Numbers 22, all of which are in the 5 books of Moses, the first 5 books of the Jewish scripture. In addition, these passages are not only early but they involve major patriarchal figures such as Abraham and Moses who are the most important figures in the formation of Jewish theology and in the Jewish understanding of God. As such, these passages and their implications on the Godhead would have played a central role in how Old Testament Israelites, including the leading figures and patriarchs, understood the nature and Being of YHWH.

Likewise, there are clear passages in the Old Testament in which YHWH and the figure known as the angel of YHWH exist side by side and/or communicate in words that express awareness of their distinction from one another. Many of these passages are also early and prominent, appear in the first 5 books of Jewish scripture including Genesis 21, Genesis 22, and Numbers 22, and involve the men who were foundational in the formation of Jewish theology. Consequently, not only would they have played a central role in shaping the Jewish perception of the Godhead, but these passages also would have ruled out Modalism as a possibility for two reasons. First, the simultaneous existence of two figures of YHWH largely contradicts the Modalist concept that simply God operates in different roles or forms at different times instead of having multiple persons or distinct consciousnesses. Second, the fact that the distinct figures of YHWH are communicating to each other or are otherwise expressing awareness of their distinction from one another negates the Modalist suggestion that such distinctions are illusions unique to the finite nature of human experience. Based upon these types of statements from YHWH himself, we must conclude that these distinctions between multiple, conscious figures of YHWH are true in God’s own self-perception.

But before we move entirely past our examination of categories A and B, there is one more passage that is relevant to this portion of our study. Since the Old Testament both clearly and repeatedly describes the angel of YHWH and at least one other figure simultaneously existing as YHWH God, Genesis 19:24 cannot be considered a fluke or oddity of scripture.

Genesis 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. 16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?...26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes…30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. 33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place. 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom.

Starting in chapter 18:1, the book of Genesis records an account in which Abraham is visited by three men, whom the text identifies clearly as YHWH and two angels. We notice specifically that even the two angels are not appearing in a more glorious fiery form, but taking on a humbler visiting guise, they appear as mere men. It is equally important to note that YHWH is identified repeatedly in verses 13-14, 17, 20, and 22 as the visitor who speaks to Abraham. In addition, verse 22 indicates that the other two visitors departed and “and went toward Sodom.” Verse 33 is the last verse of chapter 18 and it is followed immediately with chapter 19:1, which identifies the other two visitors who went toward Sodom as angels. However, in direct contrast to their identification as angels in verses 22 and 33, the text specifies that the visitor whom Abraham is standing near (and who later departs) is YHWH. So, while the text clarifies that two of Abraham’s visitors are really angels and not men, the third visitor is not clarified as an angel but as YHWH God, a fact that is also indicated by his identification as YHWH God throughout chapter 18 every time that he speaks. As a result, it is unavoidably clear that YHWH God is on the earth, he visited Abraham’s dwelling, he conversed there with Abraham, he remained near to Abraham while the two other visitors departed for Sodom, and when he finished speaking to Abraham he also finally departed from that place as well, apparently also heading toward Sodom (as potentially indicated by verse 20-21).

Before we address our main point, we should mention as a side note that this encounter between Abraham and YHWH, in which Abraham prepares a meal to honor YHWH, was apparently what both the angel of YHWH and Manoah (Samson’s father) had in mind in Judges 13. This can be seen clearly when the two passages are viewed side by side.

Judges 13:15 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.

Genesis 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

Evidently, Manoah was hoping this visitor was YHWH just as Abraham had been visited by YHWH in Genesis 18-19. And like Abraham’s encounter in Genesis 18-19, YHWH is visiting to announce the future birth of a son. Not only is precedent plainly seen to be at work in Judges 13, but Manoah himself is clearly acting based upon a familiarity with precedent. With the precedent of Genesis 18-19 clearly in mind, Manoah was trying to ascertain whether or not his visitor was indeed YHWH God as Abraham’s visitor had been. But as we discussed earlier, Manoah was unable to acquire this information with certainty until after his sacrifice was made. Nevertheless, these facts again demonstrate the vital importance of precedent in the development of the Old Testament Jewish understanding of the nature of the Godhead.

Now we turn to the focal issue in this passage. Genesis 19:1-23 records how the two visitors identified as angels brought Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family out of the city of Sodom before it was destroyed. And once Lot is safe, verse 24 gives a very plain statement showing the very early understanding in Jewish theology, not only that there were at least 2 figures of YHWH that existed simultaneously, but also that the angel of YHWH was understood to be YHWH God, even by Abraham and the author of this account in Genesis 18-19. Specifically, as can be seen below, verse 24 states that “Then YHWH rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from YHWH out of heaven.”

Genesis 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom…15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. 16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city…23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. 24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

It is very clear that this presents one figure of YHWH God on earth, somewhere in the region surrounding Sodom raining down or calling down fire from another figure of YHWH who actually sends down the fire from out of heaven. This is perhaps very similar to Zechariah 3:1-2, which first identifies the angel of YHWH, then refers to YHWH God speaking to Satan, and then describes YHWH God speaking of another YHWH God who will rebuke Satan. And it is also similar to Zechariah 1, in which the angel of YHWH refers to another figure of YHWH who has sent angels to scout the nations, just as the two angels here scout out Sodom. Given the undeniable extent to which later faithful Jewish men, such as the prophets, both themselves understood and expected their audience to understand later events in terms of previous precedent, it is clear that Zechariah is writing about a similar interaction between one figure of YHWH and another. One figure of YHWH is calling for the rebuke and the other is distinguished as the one who carries out such rebukes. One figure of YHWH interacts with the scouting angels and another figure of YHWH who sent those scouting angels out in the first place. Once again, the undercurrent of precedent is demonstrated.

In addition, we should also note that the rendering of Genesis 19:24 above, in which there are two figures of YHWH, is not unique to only Christian translations of the Old Testament. Below is the rendering of Genesis 19:24 from the modern, non-Christian, Jewish translation of the Old Testament. As can be plainly seen, the wording is identical, particularly the descriptions of YHWH.

Genesis 19:23 As the sun rose upon the earth and Lot entered Zoar, 24 the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from the LORD out of heaven.” – Hebrew-English Tanakh, JPS (Jewish Publication Society)

Moreover, since Genesis 19 is so early in Jewish scripture and is such a prominent episode in the life of Abraham, its role in informing Jewish concepts of the Godhead is paramount even from the very earliest times. Given its early position, the prominence of Abraham, and its clarity that there are at least two figures of YHWH God, one on earth and one in heaven pouring down fire, it should be understood that the men, who authored the passages we examined in categories A and B, grasped this meaning from Genesis 18-19 and accepted it on face value. And so, without pause or hesitation, later passages, figures, and authors understood and referred to the angel of YHWH as YHWH God in visiting form on earth and as distinct from another figure who was also YHWH God.

Although there are other passages to examine, the model of YHWH that emerges as a result of these passages alone is one in which the Old Testament authors and audiences of the time understood that YHWH God was comprised of at least 2 distinct figures or consciousnesses, who existed simultaneously, and recognized each other as distinct in their communications. We will address questions about the extent to which the Old Testament defines or distinguishes the Person of the Holy Spirit later. But even at this point, we can see the possibilities of avoiding Trinitarian monotheism in the Old Testament already disappearing.

This concludes our examination of the Trinitarian issue in light of statements in categories A and B. However, there are other factors surrounding the angel of YHWH in the Old Testament, which are relevant to this topic. We now turn our attention to those additional evidences.