Yahweh the Angel

by peacefulpete 6 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    A small thread that may be of interest to some. In short, there are 3 occasions in the OT where Yahweh is identified with the epithet "Angel". (mal ak)

    Genesis 48:15 And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the Yahweh who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil.......
    Malachi 3:1Behold, I send Malachi, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the Angel of the covenant, whom ye desire, behold, He cometh, saith Yahweh of armies.
    Ecclesiastes 5:2 Do not be quick to speak, and do not be hasty in your heart to utter a word before God. After all, God is in heaven and you are on earth. So let your words be few.

    (and the parallel in vs.6)

    Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the Angel that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?

    All of these texts have inspired many textual variations and countless interpretations that obscure this use of the epithet Angel (messenger) with Yahweh, however the best explanation is that in the mind of these writers, the word was not offensive or dishonoring. Might this reflect a theology prior to the full adoption of the Greek daemon concept, (lesser deities called angels)? Or maybe its use was not relegated to that limited use yet.

    Malachi is of course the same word (messenger/angel) The author of the book by that title is anonymous.

  • Phizzy

    My 2 Cents, it is thought that Angels, Demons and the satan etc only entered Israelite/Jewish religious thought during the Babylonian Exile, so the references would have been written after 539 BCE, and edited in to any texts used that were earlier.

    So, as the new ideas were that, very new, it is perhaps no surprise that "Angel" is used that way of Yahweh , as he was a god alongside other gods for so many Centuries before the Exile, even if at the time assimilating into himself those other gods. But the returnees were only working toward monotheism, and were still monolatrous, so here in these examples you give we see examples of the slow changes in thought taking place.

    I guess even in Christianity Angels are really seen as nothing so very different from that early concept, as they are seen as demi-gods, not just messengers, but powerful beings fighting battles alongside Christ.

  • peacefulpete

    Phizzy, Yep. That's what I suspect as well. While all three texts are in the Persian era, they may have been written early enough for the word to not have fully taken on a limited application that would have invoked concerns of blaspheme. It is very interesting to analyze the later attempts to revise the passage in Eccl (LXX 'Elohim' e.g.) out of this very concern. The NIV and others interpret that word as referring to a priest or temple 'messenger' and add the word 'temple'.

  • naturenihilist

    I tend to find this well summarized by Daniel McClellan as he does in his blog here, and he's talked about it numerous times in many interviews as well. Definitely agree with the above that it's a later - even if only a few centuries at most - interpolation. I think calling Yahweh an angel in certain passages also helped move along the increasing distance and grandness of the deity that was still evolving at that time - no longer a personal god that walked the earth, as in Genesis, but growing ever more unseeable, unreachable, unknowable, such that it was favorable for the "angel of the Lord" to be portrayed doing certain things instead of Yahweh himself, yet, it still seems to be the case in a careful reading that the angel actually was Yahweh (as in Genesis 32 and later referred to in Hosea 12). https://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/the-angel-of-yahweh-in-early-hebrew-bible-narrative/

  • peacefulpete

    That is a related issue to be sure. As Yahweh became perceived as omnipotent and omniscient, the roles he was allowed to play changed. Like you said, it was unfitting to describe him as literally coming down and eating dinner, now a subsidiary deity had to fill that role. Angels, as we are familiar with the term became the 'messengers' and agents that actually interacted with people. In some contexts the "sons of El" came to be interpreted as angels of Yahweh. In other narratives the introduction of an angel has confused Jewish readers themselves as to who the speaker is. (https://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/5144884424474624/two-powers-heaven) The development of the "satan' resister figure began similarly.

    Before this development it wasn't offensive to describe Yahweh as the Malak of redemption or of a covenant.

  • raymond frantz
    raymond frantz

    The.angel of the Lord, OT Jesus Christ, its a well known subject

  • peacefulpete

    ray,,,,I'm of the opinion that you are correct in that the introduction of an angel into some of the OT theophanic narratives did in an indirect way open some Jews to the idea of a second divine figure. As was said before, the idea of a 'second power' in heaven was percolating among Hellenized Judaism in late second Temple times.

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