Gen. xxxi. 11
Of no less importance and significance is the passage Gen. xxxi.11 seq. According to ver.11, the Angel of God, [Hebrew: mlaK halhiM] appears toJacob in a dream. In ver.13, the same person calls himself the God of Bethel, with reference to the event recorded in chap. xxviii.11-22. It cannot be supposed that in chap xxviii. the mediation of a common angel took place, who, however, had not been expressly mentioned; for Jehovah is there contrasted with the angels. In ver.12, we read: "And behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it." In ver.13, there is another sight: "And behold Jehovah stood by him and said, I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed."

[Pg 123]

This passage is also in so far of importance, because, agreeably to what has been remarked in p.119, it follows from it that even there, where Jehovah simply is mentioned, the mediation through His Angel is to be assumed.

* * * * *

He with whom Jacob wrestles, in Gen. xxxii.24, makes himself known as God, partly by giving him the name Israel, i.e., one who wrestles with God, and partly by bestowing a blessing upon him. Jacob calls the place Peniel, i.e., face of God, because he had seen God face to face, and wonders that his life was preserved. The answer which Elohim gives here to Jacob's question regarding His name, remarkably coincides with that which in Judges xiii.17, 18, is given by the Angel of the Lord to a similar question. In Hosea xii.4 (comp. the remarks on this passage in the Author's "Genuineness of the Pentateuch," vol. i. p.128 ff.), he who wrestled with Jacob is called Elohim, as in Genesis; but in ver.5, he is called [Hebrew: mlaK], a word which is more distinctly defined by the preceding Elohim; so that we can, accordingly, think only of the Angel of God. As it was certainly not the intention of the prophet to state a new historical circumstance, the mention of the Angel must be founded upon the supposition, that all revelations of God are made by the mediation of His Angel, -- a supposition which we have already proved to have its foundation in the book of Genesis itself.

Delitzsch says, S.256, "Jehovah reveals Himself in the [Hebrew: mlaK], but just by means of a finite spirit becoming visible, and therefore in a manner more tolerable to him who occupies a lower place of communion with God." And similarly, Hofmann expresses himself, S.335: "It is quite the same thing whether it be said, he saw God, or an angel, as is testified by Hosea also; and nowhere have we less right to explain it as if it were an appearance of God the Son, in contrast with the appearance of an angel."

But since it is an essentially different matter, whether Jacob wrestled with God Himself, or, in the first instance, with an ordinary angel merely, we have, as regards this opinion, only the choice between accusing the prophet Hosea, who brought in the angel, of an Euhemerismus, or of raising against sacred history the charge that it cannot be relied on, because it omitted so important [Pg 124] a circumstance. The name Israel, by which, "at the same time, the innermost nature of the covenant-people was fixed, and the divine law of their history was established" (Delitzsch), is, in that case, a falsehood. Jacob has overcome omnipotence, and, in this one adversary, all others who might oppose him, -- as he is expressly assured in ver.29: "Thou hast wrestled with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Can God invest a creature with omnipotence? Jacob would certainly not have gone so cheerfully to meet Esau, if in Him over whom he prevailed with weeping and supplication, he himself had recognised only an angel, and not Jehovah the God of hosts, as Hosea, in ver.6, calls the very same, of whom in ver.5 he had spoken as the angel. The consolatory import of the event for the Church of all times is destroyed, if Jacob had to do with a created angel only. With such an one, Jacob had not to reckon on account of his sinfulness, and it is just the humiliating consciousness of this his sinfulness which forms the point at issue in his wrestling. Moreover, with such a view, the New Testament Antitype would be altogether lost. Jesus, the true Israel, does not wrestle with an angel, -- such an one only appears to strengthen Him in His struggle, Luke xxii.43 -- but with God, Heb. v.7. -- The occurrence would, according to this opinion, furnish a strong argument for the worship of angels: "He wept and made supplication unto him," Hos. xii.5 (compare Deut. iii.23). The [Greek: agonizesthai en tais proseuchais], mentioned in Col. iv.12, in allusion to our passage, would, in that case, besides God, have the angels for its object.

If an ordinary angel were here to be understood, we must likewise believe that an angel is spoken of in Gen. xxxv.9 seq. For, of the same angel with whom Jacob wrestled, Hosea says that Jacob found him in Bethel: "And he wrestled with the Angel and prevailed, he wept and made supplication unto him; he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us." (Tarnov: "Nobiscum qui in lumbis Jacobi haerebamus.") Then, it must have been a common angel, too, who appeared to Jacob in Gen. xxviii.10 ff.; for chap. xxxv.9, compared with ver.7, does not allow us to doubt of the identity of him who appeared on these two occasions. But such an idea cannot be entertained for a moment; for in chap. xxviii.13, Jehovah is contrasted with the angels ascending and descending on the ladder.

[Pg 125]

In Gen. xlviii.15, 16, we read of Jacob: "And he blessed Joseph, and said, The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, and the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads."

In this passage, God first appears, twice in the indefiniteness of His nature, and then, specially, as the Angel concerned for Jacob and his posterity.

By the Angel, we cannot here understand a divine emanation and messenger, because no permanent character belongs to such; while here the whole sum of the preservations of Jacob, and of the blessings upon Ephraim and Manasseh, is derived from the Angel. And just as little can we thereby understand a created angel, according to the view of Hofmann, who, in S.87, says: "Jacob here makes mention of God, not thrice, but twice only; first as the God of his fathers, and then as the God of his own experience, but in such a way that in ver.16 he names, instead of God, the Angel who watched over him; and he does so for the purpose of denoting the special providence of which he had been the object."

The analogy of the threefold blessing of Aaron in Num. vi.24-26 would lead us to expect that the name of God should be three times mentioned. No created angel could in this manner be placed by the side of God, or be introduced as being independent of, and co-ordinate with, Him. Such an angel can only be meant as is connected with God by oneness of nature, and whose activity is implied in that of God. The singular [Hebrew: ibrK] is here of very special significance. It indicates that the Angel is joined to God by an inseparable oneness, and that his territory is just as wide as that of Elohim.[1] If by the angel we understand some created one, we cannot then avoid the startling inference, that God is, in all His manifestations, bound [Pg 126] absolutely to the mediation of the lower angels. In the history upon which Jacob looks back, the inferior angels do not appear at all as taking any part in all the preservations of Jacob. Twice only are they mentioned in his whole history, -- in chap. xxviii.12, and xxxii.2. Lastly, -- The angel cannot well be a collective noun; for we nowhere meet with the ideal person of the angel, as comprehending within himself a real plurality. (Compare remarks on Ps. xxxiv.8.) We should therefore be compelled to think of Jacob's protecting angel. But this, again, would be in opposition to the fact, that Scripture nowhere says anything of the guardian angels of any individual. Moreover, it is a plurality of angels that in xxviii.12, xxxii.2, serves for the protection of Jacob, and we nowhere find the slightest trace of one inferior angel being attached to Jacob for his protection.

Footnote 1: This significance of the singular was pointed out as early as in the third century by Novatianus, who, de Trinitate c. xv. (p.1016 in Ode), says: "So constant is he in mentioning that Angel whom he had called God, that even at the close of his speech he again refers, in an emphatic manner, to the same person, by saying, 'God bless these lads.' For had he intended that some other angel should be understood, he would have used the plural number in order to comprehend the two persons. But since, in his blessing, he made use of the singular, he would have us to understand that God and the Angel are quite identical."

In Exod. xxiii.20, 21, Jehovah says to the children of Israel: "Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions: for My name is in him."

As the people are here told to beware of the Angel, because he will not pardon their transgressions, so Joshua xxiv.19 warns them as regards the most high God: "Ye will not be able to serve Jehovah: for He is a holy (i.e., a glorious, exalted) God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." The energetic character of the reaction proceeding from the angel against all violations of His honour, is founded upon the words, "For My name is in him." By the "name of God" all His deeds are understood and comprehended, His glory testified by history, the display and testimony of His nature which history gives. (Compare the remarks in my commentary on Ps. xxiii.2, xlviii.11, lxxxiii.17-19, lxxxvi.11.) "My name is him;" i.e., according to Calvin, "My glory and majesty dwell in him." Compare here what in the New Testament is said of Christ: [Greek: ha gar an ekeinos poie, tauta kai ho huios homoios poiei], John v.19; [Greek: hina pantes timosi ton huion kathos timosi ton patera], John v.23; [Greek: ego kai ho pater hen esmen], John x.30; [Greek: hina gnote kai pisteusete hoti en emoi ho pater kago en auto], [Pg 127] John x.38; [Greek: hou pisteueis hoti ego en to patri kai ho pater en emoi esti], John xiv.10; [Greek: kathos su pater en emoi kago en soi], John xvii.21; [Greek: en auto katoikei pan to pleroma tes theotetos somatikos], Col. ii.9. -- It is impossible that the name of God could be communicated to any other, Is. xlii.8. The name of God can dwell in Him only, who is originally of the same nature with God.

* * * * *

After Israel had contracted guilt by the worship of the golden calf. He who had hitherto led them -- Jehovah = the Angel of Jehovah -- says, in Exod. xxxii.34, that He would no more lead them Himself, but send before them His Angel, [Hebrew: mlaki]: "For I (myself) will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiff-necked people, lest I consume thee in the way;" xxxiii.3, compared with xxiii.21. The people are quite inconsolable on account of this sad intelligence, ver.4.

The threatening of the Lord becomes unintelligible, and the grief of the people incomprehensible, if by the Angel in chap. xxiii. an ordinary angel be understood. But everything becomes clear and intelligible, if we admit that in chap. xxiii. there is an allusion to the Angel of the Lord [Greek: kat' exochen], who is connected with Him by oneness of nature, and who, because the name of God is in Him, is as zealous as Himself in inflicting punishment as well as in bestowing salvation; whilst in chap. xxxii.34, the allusion is to an inferior angel, who is added to the highest revealer of God as His companion and messenger, and who appears in the Book of Daniel under the name of Gabriel, while the Angel of the Lord appears under the name of Michael.

On account of the sincere repentance of the people, and the intercession of Moses, the Lord revokes the threatening, and says in xxxiii.14, "My face shall go." But Moses said unto Him, "If Thy face go not, carry us not up hence."

That [Hebrew: pniM], face, signifies here the person, is granted by Gesenius: "The face of some one means often his personal presence, -- himself in his own person." A similar use of the word occurs in 2 Sam. xvii.11: "Thy face go to battle" (Michaelis: "Thou thyself be present, not some commander only"); and in Deut. iv.37, where [Hebrew: bpniv] means in, or with, his personal presence: "He [Pg 128] brought them out with His face, with His mighty power out of Egypt."

The state of things has in xxxiii.14, 15, evidently become again what it was in xxiii.20, 21. The face of the Lord in the former passage, is the Angel of the Lord in the latter. Hence, we cannot here admit the idea of some inferior angel; we can think only of that Angel who is connected with the Lord by oneness of nature.

The connection between the face of the Lord in xxxiii.14, 15, and the Angel in whom is the name of the Lord, in xxiii., becomes still more evident by Is. lxiii.8, 9: "And He (Jehovah) became their Saviour. In all their affliction (they were) not afflicted, and the Angel of His face saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and He bore and carried them all the days of old." The Angel of the face, in this text, is an expression which, by its very darkness, points back to some fundamental passage -- a passage, too, in the Pentateuch -- as facts are alluded to, of which the authentic report is given in that book. The expression, "Angel of the face," arose from a combination of Exod. xxiii.20 -- from which the "Angel" is taken -- and Exod. xxxiii.14, whence he took the "face." To explain "Angel of the face" by "the angel who sees His face," as several have done, would give an inadequate meaning; for by the whole context, an expression is demanded which would elevate the angel to the height of God. Now, as in Exod. xxxiii.14, "the face of Jehovah" is tantamount to "Jehovah in His own person," the Angel of the face can be none other than He in whom Jehovah appeal's personally, in contrast with inferior created angels. The Angel of the face is the Angel in whom is the name of the Lord.

* * * * *

When Joshua was standing with the army before Jericho, in a state of despondency at the sight of the strongly fortified city, a man appeared to him, with his sword drawn; and when he was asked by Joshua, "Art thou for us or for our adversaries?" he answers, in chap. v.14, "Nay, for I am the Captain of the host of Jehovah, [Hebrew: wr cba ihvh], now I have come." This Captain claims for himself divine honour, in ver.15, precisely in the same manner as the Angel of Jehovah in Exod. iii., by commanding [Pg 129] Joshua to put off his shoes, because the place on which he stood was holy. In chap. vi.2 he is called Jehovah. For it is evident that we are not to think of another divine revelation there given to Joshua in any other way -- as some interpreters suppose; because, in that case, the appearance of the Captain, who only now gives command to Joshua, would have been without an object. In chap. v. the directions would be wanting; in chap. vi. we should have no report of the appearance.

There can be no doubt that, by the host of the Lord, the heavenly host is to be understood; and Hofmann (S.291) has not done well in reviving the opinion of some older expositors (Calvin, Masius) which has been long ago refuted, viz., that the host of the Lord is "Israel standing at the beginning of his warfare," and in asserting that the prince of this host is some inferior angel. The Israelites cannot be the host of the Lord, that explanation is excluded by the comparison with the host of the Lord mentioned at the very threshold of revelation, in Gen. ii.1; that which is commonly (Gen. xxxii.2; 1 Kings xxii.19; Neh. ix.6; Ps. ciii.21, cxlviii.2, compared with 2 Kings vi.27) so called, infinitely surpasses the earthly one in glory, and of it the Lord has the name JEHOVAH ZEBAOTH. It is only in two isolated passages of the Pentateuch that the appellation which properly belongs to the heavenly hosts of God is transferred to the earthly ones; and that is done in order to point out their correspondence, and thereby to elevate the mind. In the first of these passages, Exod. vii.4, the "host of the Lord" is not spoken of absolutely, but it is expressly said what host is intended: "And I bring forth My host. My people, the children of Israel." The second passage, in Exod. xii.41, is similarly qualified, and refers to the first. According to this view of Hofmann, the words, "now I have come," are quite inexplicable.[1] The Captain of the host of the Lord expresses Himself in such a manner as if, by His coming, everything were accomplished. But if he was only the commander of Israel -- an inferior [Pg 130] angel -- his coming was no guarantee for success, for his limited power might be checked by a higher one. But if the Captain of the host of Jehovah be the Prince of angels, we cannot by any means refer the divine honour which He demands and receives, to Him who sent Him, in contrast with Him who is sent; the higher the dignity, the more necessary is the limitation. If the honour be ascribed to Him, He must be a partaker of a divine nature.

Jesus not at all indistinctly designates Himself as the Captain of the Lord's host spoken of in our passage, in Matt. xxvi.53: [Greek: E dokeis hoti ou dunamai arti parakalesai ton patera mou, kai parastesei moi pleious e dodeka legeonas angelon]; This passage alone would be sufficient to refute the view which conceives of the Angel of the Lord as a mere emanation and messenger. It also overthrows the opinion that he is an inferior angel, inasmuch as the Angel of the Lord here appears as raised above all inferior angels.

Thus there existed, even in the time of Moses, the most important foundation for the doctrine concerning Christ. He who knows the general relation which the Pentateuch bears to the later development of doctrine, will, a priori, think it impossible that it should have been otherwise; and, instead of neglecting these small beginnings, appearing, as it were, in the shape of germs, he will cultivate them with love and care.

It is only at a late period, in Malachi iii.1, that the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord is expressly brought into connection with that of Christ. But a knowledge of the divine nature of the Messiah is found at a much earlier period; and we can certainly not suppose that the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, and that of a truly divine Saviour, should have existed by the side of each other, and yet that manifold forebodings regarding their close obvious connection should not have been awakened in the mind.

Footnote 1: Seb. Schmid says: "I have now come with my heavenly host to attack the Canaanites, and to help thee and thy people. Be thou of good cheer; prepare thyself for war along with me, and I will now explain to thee in what manner thou must carry it on;" vi.2 ff.

the angel of the lord
Top of Page
Top of Page