Exodus 23:20, Who is the Angel?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Helen, Sep 18, 2002.

  1. Helen

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    Aug 29, 2001
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    A couple of nights ago I set about to do the Bible study on Exodus 23:20 to the end of chapter 24. The first verse in the study: Exodus 23:20 caught my attention first (no big surprise there) and I realized I had a question which had been hanging around the edges of my consciousness for a number of years. Who was this Angel? I knew “angel” was a word for “messenger”. Could it be Moses himself? Was it the presence in the cloud? Was it something else?

    I asked my husband for help. He spent some amount of time, God bless him, with his Bible and came up with the following. This gets interesting!

    Gen 16:7-13 – here Hagar has run away from Sarai and is confronted by an angel in the wilderness

    The angel of the Lord found Hagar hear a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

    “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

    Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

    The angel of the Lord also said to her:
    “You are now with child
    and you will have a son.
    You shall name him Ishmael,
    For the Lord has heard of your misery.
    He will be a wild donkey of a man;
    His hand will be against everyone
    And everyone’s hand against him,
    And he will live in hostility
    Toward all his brothers.”

    She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me.” For she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

    Gen 31:10-13 – Jacob is telling Rachel and Leah of a dream he had:

    ”In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled, or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’”

    Ex. 3:1-6 – Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.”

    When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

    And Moses said, “Here I am.”

    “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

    OK, so far so good. The angel, in a number of cases, is the Lord Himself and He will refer to Himself in either the first or third person ("I" or "He"). Then there was the following comparison in Exodus:

    Ex. 13:21 compared with 14:19

    13:21: By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

    14:19: Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them…

    In Judges 6:11-21, we see the angel of the Lord is also the Lord Himself. This occurs a number of times throughout Scripture. And yet… and yet… There is that word “also” in the Exodus 14:19 passage. Was the angel apart from the cloud? Are two different things being referred to here?

    So I called Barry, since he is in Australia and I am in California at the moment. I have normally used quotes from the NIV for the sake of clarity here, and that is what I quoted above. So Barry checked his interlinear, I checked my interlinear and he also checked the Alexandrian Septuagint. Then we checked a variety of other translations. The word “also” is NOT in any of these and to add it was a giant mistake on the part of the NIV translators ( we also checked a number of other versions and the word ‘also’ is not in any that we found except the NIV). The angel of the Lord, as in the other passages, is the Lord Himself here as well as in a number of other places, only a few of which are referenced above.

    With this in mind, here is a closing quote confirming that this is also the opinion of others:

    “One of the most mysterious beings in all of Holy Writ is that amazing person called the Angel of the Lord throughout the pages of the OT. He is also known by other titles such as “My Angel,” “The Angel who Redeemed me” [Jacob speaking], and “The Messenger of the Covenant” [Malachi]. Yet, wherever this most unusual personage makes His sudden appearance, He inevitably betrays by either word or action His real identity. It has been the consistent view of sound Bible scholars for generations that the Angel of the Lord is a title used to veil thinly a genuine theophany or shining forth of Jehovah Himself.”
    Dr. Duane Edward Spencer, “Word Keys Which Unlock Scripture”, 1974, Word of Grace, San Antonio, Texas, p. 1


    A note regarding the translations: every translator and group of translators does the best he/they can in bringing across the original language – especially when it uses a different grammatical form, as Hebrew does when compared to English – and there are bound to be mistakes in each, or simply words added for clarification which actually end up causing confusion, as the word “also” does above. Does this mean we should not read the Bible, or only read one version? Most emphatically “No!” on both questions. No matter the translation, when it is done prayerfully and as faithfully as possible to the original, the message of salvation is clear. Who God is, who man is, the gulf separating them, what sin is, and what God did about it and how He has worked through both history and creation itself to declare part of Himself to men is very clear in all translations. Serious Bible study, however, does require a check and cross-check of not only various translations, but other studies by other people as well and, ideally, a check back into the original languages wherever possible.
  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Oct 10, 2001
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