And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
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The higher blessing is expressed in these remarkable terms: "And be thou a blessing." He is to be not merely a subject of blessing, but a medium of blessing to others. It is more blessed to give than to receive. And the Lord here confers on Abram the delightful prerogative of dispensing good to others. The next verse expands this higher element of the divine promise. "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee." Here the Lord identifies the cause of Abram with his own, and declares him to be essentially connected with the weal or woe of all who come into contact with him. "And blessed in thee shall be all the families of the ground." The ground was cursed for the sake of Adam, who fell by transgression. But now shall the ground again participate in the blessing. "In thee." In Abram is this blessing laid up as a treasure hid in a field to be realized in due time. "All the families" of mankind shall ultimately enter into the enjoyment of this unbounded blessing.
Thus, when the Lord saw fit to select a man to preserve vital piety on the earth and be the head of a race suited to be the depository of a revelation of mercy, he at the same time designed that this step should be the means of effectually recalling the sin-enthralled world to the knowledge and love of himself. The race was twice already since the fall put upon its probation - once under the promise of victory to the seed of the woman, and again under the covenant with Noah. In each of these cases, notwithstanding the growing light of revelation and accumulating evidence of the divine forbearance, the race had apostatised from the God of mercy, with lamentably few known exceptions. Yet, undeterred by the gathering tokens of this second apostasy, and after reiterated practical demonstration to all people of the debasing, demoralizing effect of sin, the Lord, with calm determination of purpose, sets about another step in the great process of removing the curse of sin, dispensing the blessing of pardon, and eventually drawing all the nations to accept of his mercy. The special call of Abram contemplates the calling of the Gentiles as its final issue, and is therefore to be regarded as one link in a series of wonderful events by which the legal obstacles to the divine mercy are to be taken out of the way, and the Spirit of the Lord is to prevail with still more and more of men to return to God.
It is sometimes inadvertently said that the Old Testament is narrow and exclusive, while the New Testament is broad and catholic in its spirit. This is a mistake. The Old and New Testaments are of one mind on this matter. Many are called, and few chosen. This is the common doctrine of the New as well as of the Old. They are both equally catholic in proclaiming the gospel to all. The covenant with Adam and with Noah is still valid and sure to all who return to God; and the call of Abram is expressly said to be a means of extending blessing to all the families of man. The New Testament does not aim at anything more than this; it merely hails the approaching accomplishment of the same gracious end. They both concur also in limiting salvation to the few who repent and believe the gospel. Even when Abram was called there were a few who still trusted in the God of mercy. According to the chronology of the Masoretic text, Heber was still alive, Melkizedec was contemporary with Abram, Job was probably later, and many other now unknown witnesses for God were doubtless to be found, down to the time of the exodus, outside the chosen family. God marks the first symptoms of decaying piety. He does not wait until it has died out before he calls Abram. He proceeds in a leisurely, deliberate manner with his eternal purpose of mercy, and hence, a single heir of promise suffices for three generations, until the set time comes for the chosen family and the chosen nation. Universalism, then, in the sense of the offer of mercy to man, is the rule of the Old and the New Testament. Particularism in the acceptance of it is the accident of the time. The call of Abram is a special expedient for providing a salvation that may be offered to all the families of the earth.
In all God's teachings the near and the sensible come before the far and the conceivable, the present and the earthly before the eternal and the heavenly. Thus, Abram's immediate acts of self-denial are leaving his country, his birthplace, his home. The promise to him is to be made a great nation, be blessed, and have a great name in the new land which the Lord would show him. This is unspeakably enhanced by his being made a blessing to all nations. God pursues this mode of teaching for several important reasons. First, the sensible and the present are intelligible to those who are taught. The Great Teacher begins with the known, and leads the mind forward to the unknown. If he had begun with things too high, too deep, or too far for the range of Abram's mental vision, he would not have come into relation with Abram's mind. It is superfluous to say that he might have enlarged Abram's view in proportion to the grandeur of the conceptions to be revealed.
On the same principle he might have made Abram cognizant of all present and all developed truth. On the same principle he might have developed all things in an instant of time, and so have had done with creation and providence at once. Secondly, the present and the sensible are the types of the future and the conceivable; the land is the type of the better land; the nation of the spiritual nation; the temporal blessing of the eternal blessing; the earthly greatness of the name of the heavenly. And let us not suppose that we are arrived at the end of all knowledge. We pique ourselves on our advance in spiritual knowledge beyond the age of Abram. But even we may be in the very infancy of mental development. There may be a land, a nation, a blessing, a great name, of which our present realizations or conceptions are but the types. Any other supposition would be a large abatement from the sweetness of hope's overflowing cup.
Thirdly, these things which God now promises are the immediate form of his bounty, the very gifts he begins at the moment to bestow. God has his gift to Abram ready in his hand in a tangible form. He points to it and says, This is what thou presently needest; this I give thee, with my blessing and favor. But, fourthly, these are the earnest and the germ of all temporal and eternal blessing. Man is a growing thing, whether as an individual or a race. God graduates his benefits according to the condition and capacity of the recipients. In the first boon of his good-will is the earnest of what he will continue to bestow on those who continue to walk in his ways. And as the present is the womb of the future, so is the external the symbol of the internal, the material the shadow of the spiritual, in the order of the divine blessing. And as events unfold themselves in the history of man and conceptions in his soul within, so are doctrines gradually opened up in the Word of God, and progressively revealed to the soul by the Spirit of God.Galatians 3:7.
And curse him that curseth thee; here is a change of numbers, before the plural, here the singular, denoting, it may be, that many would bless him, and but few curse him, and that every individual person that did curse him should be cursed himself: the Targum of Jonathan wrongly restrains this to Balaam's cursing Abraham's children, and was cursed by God; Maimonides (y) thinks, there is no doubt to be made of it, that the Zabaeans, the idolatrous people Abram was brought up with, when he contradicted them, loaded him with curses and reproaches; and, because he bore them all patiently for the glory of God, as became him, therefore these words are said; but they, without question, respect future as well as present times, and regard all such, in every age and of every nation, that disapproves of, or rejects and reproaches Abram's God, his faith, his religion, and his people.
And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed; that is, in his seed, as in Genesis 22:18 and which is interpreted of Christ, Acts 3:25 meaning not every individual of all the families or nations of the earth; but that as many as believe in Christ, of all nations, are blessed in him; and that whoever of them are blessed, they are blessed and only blessed in him, and that they are blessed for his sake with all spiritual blessings; see Ephesians 1:3 such as redemption, justification, remission of sins, sanctification, adoption, and eternal life.And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Ge 12:1-20. Call to Abram.
1. Now the Lord had said unto Abram—It pleased God, who has often been found of them who sought Him not, to reveal Himself to Abraham perhaps by a miracle; and the conversion of Abraham is one of the most remarkable in Bible history.
Get thee out of thy country—His being brought to the knowledge and worship of the true God had probably been a considerable time before. This call included two promises: the first, showing the land of his future posterity; and the second, that in his posterity all the earth was to be blessed (Ge 12:2). Abraham obeyed, and it is frequently mentioned in the New Testament as a striking instance of his faith (Heb 11:8).Genesis 11:27-32 prepare the way for the history of the patriarchs. The heading, "These are the generations of Terah," belongs not merely to Genesis 11:27-32, but to the whole of the following account of Abram, since it corresponds to "the generations" of Ishmael and of Isaac in Genesis 25:12 and Genesis 25:19. Of the three sons of Terah, who are mentioned again in Genesis 11:27 to complete the plan of the different Toledoth, such genealogical notices are given as are of importance to the history of Abram and his family. According to the regular plan of Genesis, the fact that Haran the youngest son of Terah begat Lot, is mentioned first of all, because the latter went with Abram to Canaan; and then the fact that he died before his father Terah, because the link which would have connected Lot with his native land was broken in consequence. "Before his father," פּני על lit., upon the face of his father, so that he saw and survived his death. Ur of the Chaldees is to be sought either in the "Ur nomine persicum castellum" of Ammian (25, 8), between Hatra and Nisibis, near Arrapachitis, or in Orhoi, Armenian Urrhai, the old name for Edessa, the modern Urfa. - Genesis 11:29. Abram and Nahor took wives from their kindred. Abram married Sarai, his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), of whom it is already related, in anticipation of what follows, that she was barren. Nahor married Milcah, the daughter of his brother Haran, who bore to him Bethuel, the father of Rebekah (Genesis 22:22-23). The reason why Iscah is mentioned is doubtful. For the rabbinical notion, that Iscah is another name for Sarai, is irreconcilable with Genesis 20:12, where Abram calls Sarai his sister, daughter of his father, though not of his mother; on the other hand, the circumstance that Sarai is introduced in Genesis 11:31 merely as the daughter-in-law of Terah, may be explained on the ground that she left Ur, not as his daughter, but as the wife of his son Abram. A better hypothesis is that of Ewald, that Iscah is mentioned because she was the wife of Lot; but this is pure conjecture. According to Genesis 11:31, Terah already prepared to leave Ur of the Chaldees with Abram and Lot, and to remove to Canaan. In the phrase "they went forth with them," the subject cannot be the unmentioned members of the family, such as Nahor and his children; though Nahor must also have gone to Haran, since it is called in Genesis 24:10 the city of Nahor. For if he accompanied them at this time, there is no perceptible reason why he should not have been mentioned along with the rest. The nominative to the verb must be Lot and Sarai, who went with Terah and Abram; so that although Terah is placed at the head, Abram must have taken an active part in the removal, or the resolution to remove. This does not, however, necessitate the conclusion, that he had already been called by God in Ur. Nor does Genesis 15:7 require any such assumption. For it is not stated there that God called Abram in Ur, but only that He brought him out. But the simple fact of removing from Ur might also be called a leading out, as a work of divine superintendence and guidance, without a special call from God. It was in Haran that Abram first received the divine call to go to Canaan (Genesis 12:1-4), when he left not only his country and kindred, but also his father's house. Terah did not carry out his intention to proceed to Canaan, but remained in Haran, in his native country Mesopotamia, probably because he found there what he was going to look for in the land of Canaan. Haran, more properly Charan, חרן, is a place in north-western Mesopotamia, the ruins of which may still be seen, a full day's journey to the south of Edessa (Gr. Κάῤῥαι, Lat. Carrae), where Crassus fell when defeated by the Parthians. It was a leading settlement of the Ssabians, who had a temple there dedicated to the moon, which they traced back to Abraham. There Terah died at the age of 205, or sixty years after the departure of Abram for Canaan; for, according to Genesis 11:26, Terah was seventy years old when Abram was born, and Abram was seventy-five years old when he arrived in Canaan. When Stephen, therefore, placed the removal of Abram from Haran to Canaan after the death of his father, he merely inferred this from the fact, that the call of Abram (Genesis 12) was not mentioned till after the death of Terah had been noticed, taking the order of the narrative as the order of events; whereas, according to the plan of Genesis, the death of Terah is introduced here, because Abram never met with his father again after leaving Haran, and there was consequently nothing more to be related concerning him.
Character of the Patriarchal History
The dispersion of the descendants of the sons of Noah, who had now grown into numerous families, was necessarily followed on the one hand by the rise of a variety of nations, differing in language, manners, and customs, and more and more estranged from one another; and on the other by the expansion of the germs of idolatry, contained in the different attitudes of these nations towards God, into the polytheistic religions of heathenism, in which the glory of the immortal God was changed into an image made like to mortal man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things (Romans 1:23 cf. Wis. 13-15). If God therefore would fulfil His promise, no more to smite the earth with the curse of the destruction of every living thing because of the sin of man (Genesis 8:21-22), and yet would prevent the moral corruption which worketh death from sweeping all before it; it was necessary that by the side of these self-formed nations He should form a nation for Himself, to be the recipient and preserver of His salvation, and that in opposition to the rising kingdoms of the world He should establish a kingdom for the living, saving fellowship of man with Himself. The foundation for this was laid by God in the call and separation of Abram from his people and his country, to make him, by special guidance, the father of a nation from which the salvation of the world should come. With the choice of Abram and revelation of God to man assumed a select character, inasmuch as God manifested Himself henceforth to Abram and his posterity alone as the author of salvation and the guide to true life; whilst other nations were left to follow their own course according to the powers conferred upon them, in order that they might learn that in their way, and without fellowship with the living God, it was impossible to find peace to the soul, and the true blessedness of life (cf. Acts 17:27). But this exclusiveness contained from the very first the germ of universalism. Abram was called, that through him all the families of the earth might be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). Hence the new form which the divine guidance of the human race assumed in the call of Abram was connected with the general development of the world, - in the one hand, by the fact that Abram belonged to the family of Shem, which Jehovah had blessed, and on the other, by his not being called alone, but as a married man with his wife. But whilst, regarded in this light, the continuity of the divine revelation was guaranteed, as well as the plan of human development established in the creation itself, the call of Abram introduced so far the commencement of a new period, that to carry out the designs of God their very foundations required to be renewed. Although, for example, the knowledge and worship of the true God had been preserved in the families of Shem in a purer form than among the remaining descendants of Noah, even in the house of Terah and worship of God was corrupted by idolatry (Joshua 24:2-3); and although Abram was to become the father of the nation which God was about to form, yet his wife was barren, and therefore, in the way of nature, a new family could not be expected to spring from him.
As a perfectly new beginning, therefore, the patriarchal history assumed the form of a family history, in which the grace of God prepared the ground for the coming Israel. For the nation was to grow out of the family, and in the lives of the patriarchs its character was to be determined and its development foreshadowed. The early history consists of three stages, which are indicated by the three patriarchs, peculiarly so called, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and in the sons of Jacob the unity of the chosen family was expanded into the twelve immediate fathers of the nation. In the triple number of the patriarchs, the divine election of the nation on the one hand, and the entire formation of the character and guidance of the life of Israel on the other, were to attain to their fullest typical manifestation. These two were the pivots, upon which all the divine revelations made to the patriarchs, and all the guidance they received, were made to turn. The revelations consisted almost exclusively of promises; and so far as these promises were fulfilled in the lives of the patriarchs, the fulfilments themselves were predictions and pledges of the ultimate and complete fulfilment, reserved for a distant, or for the most remote futurity. And the guidance vouchsafed had for its object the calling forth of faith in response to the promise, which should maintain itself amidst all the changes of this earthly life. "A faith, which laid hold of the word of promise, and on the strength of that word gave up the visible and present for the invisible and future, was the fundamental characteristic of the patriarchs" (Delitzsch). This faith Abram manifested and sustained by great sacrifices, by enduring patience, and by self-denying by great sacrifices, by enduring patience, and by self-denying obedience of such a kind, that he thereby became the father of believers (πατὴρ πάντων τῶν πιστευόντων, Romans 4:11). Isaac also was strong in patience and hope; and Jacob wrestled in faith amidst painful circumstances of various kinds, until he had secured the blessing of the promise. "Abraham was a man of faith that works; Isaac, of faith that endures; Jacob, of faith that wrestles" (Baumgarten). - Thus, walking in faith, the patriarchs were types of faith for all the families that should spring from them, and be blessed through them, and ancestors of a nation which God had resolved to form according to the election of His grace. For the election of God was not restricted to the separation of Abram from the family of Shem, to be the father of the nation which was destined to be the vehicle of salvation; it was also manifest in the exclusion of Ishmael, whom Abram had begotten by the will of man, through Hagar the handmaid of his wife, for the purpose of securing the promised seed, and in the new life imparted to the womb of the barren Sarai, and her consequent conception and birth of Isaac, the son of promise. And lastly, it appeared still more manifestly in the twin sons born by Rebekah to Isaac, of whom the first-born, Esau, was rejected, and the younger, Jacob, chosen to be the heir of the promise; and this choice, which was announced before their birth, was maintained in spite of Isaac's plans, or that Jacob, and not Esau, received the blessing of the promise. - All this occurred as a type for the future, that Israel might know and lay to heart the fact, that bodily descent from Abraham did not make a man a child of God, but that they alone were children of God who laid hold of the divine promise in faith, and walked in the steps of their forefather's faith (cf. Romans 9:6-13).
If we fix our eyes upon the method of the divine revelation, we find a new beginning in this respect, that as soon as Abram is called, we read of the appearing of God. It is true that from the very beginning God had manifested Himself visibly to men; but in the olden time we read nothing of appearances, because before the flood God had not withdrawn His presence from the earth. Even to Noah He revealed Himself before the flood as one who was present on the earth. But when He had established a covenant with him after the flood, and thereby had assured the continuance of the earth and of the human race, the direct manifestations ceased, for God withdrew His visible presence from the world; so that it was from heaven that the judgment fell upon the tower of Babel, and even the call to Abram in his home in Haran was issued through His word, that is to say, no doubt, through an inward monition. But as soon as Abram had gone to Canaan, in obedience to the call of God, Jehovah appeared to him there (Genesis 12:7). These appearances, which were constantly repeated from that time forward, must have taken place from heaven; for we read that Jehovah, after speaking with Abram and the other patriarchs, "went away" (Genesis 18:33), or "went up" (Genesis 17:22; Genesis 35:13); and the patriarchs saw them, sometimes while in a waking condition, in a form discernible to the bodily senses, sometimes in visions, in a state of mental ecstasy, and at other times in the form of a dream (Genesis 28:12.). On the form in which God appeared, in most instances, nothing is related. But in Genesis 18:1. it is stated that three men came to Abram, one of whom is introduced as Jehovah, whilst the other two are called angels (Genesis 19:1). Beside this, we frequently read of appearances of the "angel of Jehovah" (Genesis 16:7; Genesis 22:11, etc.), or of "Elohim," and the "angel of Elohim" (Genesis 21:17; Genesis 31:11, etc.), which were repeated throughout the whole of the Old Testament, and even occurred, though only in vision, in the case of the prophet Zechariah. The appearances of the angel of Jehovah (or Elohim) cannot have been essentially different from those of Jehovah (or Elohim) Himself; for Jacob describes the appearances of Jehovah at Bethel (Genesis 28:13.) as an appearance of "the angel of Elohim," and of "the God of Bethel" (Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:13); and in his blessing on the sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:15-16), "The God (Elohim) before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God (Elohim) which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads," he places the angel of God on a perfect equality with God, not only regarding Him as the Being to whom he has been indebted for protection all his life long, but entreating from Him a blessing upon his descendants.
The question arises, therefore, whether the angel of Jehovah, or of God, was God Himself in one particular phase of His self-manifestation, or a created angel of whom God made use as the organ of His self-revelation.
(Note: In the old Jewish synagogue the Angel of Jehovah was regarded as the Shechinah, the indwelling of God in the world, i.e., the only Mediator between God and the world, who bears in the Jewish theology the name Metatron. The early Church regarded Him as the Logos, the second person of the Deity; and only a few of the fathers, such as Augustine and Jerome, thought of a created angel (vid., Hengstenberg, Christol. vol. 3, app.). This view was adopted by many Romish theologians, by the Socinians, Arminians, and others, and has been defended recently by Hoffmann, whom Delitzsch, Kurtz, and others follow. But the opinion of the early Church has been vindicated most thoroughly by Hengstenberg in his Christology.)
The former appears to us to be the only scriptural view. For the essential unity of the Angel of Jehovah with Jehovah Himself follows indisputably from the following facts. In the first place, the Angel of God identifies Himself with Jehovah and Elohim, by attributing to Himself divine attributes and performing divine works: e.g., Genesis 22:12, "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me" (i.e., hast been willing to offer him up as a burnt sacrifice to God); again (to Hagar) Genesis 16:10, "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude;" Genesis 21, "I will make him a great nation,"-the very words used by Elohim in Genesis 17:20 with reference to Ishmael, and by Jehovah in Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:4-5, with regard to Isaac; also Exodus 3:6., "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry, and I am come down to deliver them" (cf. Judges 2:1). In addition to this, He performs miracles, consuming with fire the offering placed before Him by Gideon, and the sacrifice prepared by Manoah, and ascending to haven in the flame of the burnt-offering (Judges 6:21; Judges 13:19-20).
Secondly, the Angel of God was recognised as God by those to whom He appeared, on the one hand by their addressing Him as Adonai (i.e., the Lord God; Judges 6:15), declaring that they had seen God, and fearing that they should die (Genesis 16:13; Exodus 3:6; Judges 6:22-23; Judges 13:22), and on the other hand by their paying Him divine honour, offering sacrifices which He accepted, and worshipping Him (Judges 6:20; Judges 13:19-20, cf. Genesis 2:5). The force of these facts has been met by the assertion, that the ambassador perfectly represents the person of the sender; and evidence of this is adduced not only from Grecian literature, but from the Old Testament also, where the addresses of the prophets often glide imperceptibly into the words of Jehovah, whose instrument they are. But even if the address in Genesis 22:16, where the oath of the Angel of Jehovah is accompanied by the words, "saith the Lord," and the words and deeds of the Angel of God in certain other cases, might be explained in this way, a created angel sent by God could never say, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," or by the acceptance of sacrifices and adoration, encourage the presentation of divine honours to himself. How utterly irreconcilable this fact is with the opinion that the Angel of Jehovah was a created angel, is conclusively proved by Revelation 22:9, which is generally regarded as perfectly corresponding to the account of the "Angel of Jehovah" of the Old Testament. The angel of God, who shows the sacred seer the heavenly Jerusalem, and who is supposed to say, "Behold, I come quickly" (Revelation 22:7), and "I am Alpha and Omega" (Revelation 22:13), refuses in the most decided way the worship which John is about to present, and exclaims, "See I am thy fellow-servant: worship God."
Thirdly, the Angel of Jehovah is also identified with Jehovah by the sacred writers themselves, who call the Angel Jehovah without the least reserve (cf. Exodus 3:2 and Exodus 3:4, Judges 6:12 and Judges 6:14-16, but especially Exodus 14:19, where the Angel of Jehovah goes before the host of the Israelites, just as Jehovah is said to do in Exodus 13:21). - On the other hand, the objection is raised, that ἄγγελος κυρίου in the New Testament, which is confessedly the Greek rendering of יהוה מלאך, is always a created angel, and for that reason cannot be the uncreated Logos or Son of God, since the latter could not possibly have announced His own birth to the shepherds at Bethlehem. But this important difference has been overlooked, that according to Greek usage, ἄγγελος κυρίου denotes an (any) angel of the Lord, whereas according to the rules of the Hebrew language יהוה מלאך means the angel of the Lord; that in the New Testament the angel who appears is always described as ἄγγελος κυρίου without the article, and the definite article is only introduced in the further course of the narrative to denote the angel whose appearance has been already mentioned, whereas in the Old Testament it is always "the Angel of Jehovah" who appears, and whenever the appearance of a created angel is referred to, he is introduced first of all as "an angel" (vid., 1 Kings 19:5 and 1 Kings 19:7).
(Note: The force of this difference cannot be set aside by the objection that the New Testament writers follow the usage of the Septuagint, where יהוה מלאך is rendered ἄγγελος κυρίου. For neither in the New Testament nor in the Alex. version of the Old is ἄγγελος κυρίου used as a proper name; it is a simple appellative, as is apparent from the fact that in every instance, in which further reference is made to an angel who has appeared, he is called ὀ ἄγγελος, with or without κυρίου. All that the Septuagint rendering proves, is that the translators supposed "the angel of the Lord" to be a created angel; but it by no means follows that their supposition is correct.)
At the same time, it does not follow from this use of the expression Maleach Jehovah, that the (particular) angel of Jehovah was essentially one with God, or that Maleach Jehovah always has the same signification; for in Malachi 2:7 the priest is called Maleach Jehovah, i.e., the messenger of the Lord. Who the messenger or angel of Jehovah was, must be determined in each particular instance from the connection of the passage; and where the context furnishes no criterion, it must remain undecided. Consequently such passages as Psalm 34:7; Psalm 35:5-6, etc., where the angel of Jehovah is not more particularly described, or Numbers 20:16, where the general term angel is intentionally employed, or Acts 7:30; Galatians 3:19, and Hebrews 2:2, where the words are general and indefinite, furnish no evidence that the Angel of Jehovah, who proclaimed Himself in His appearances as one with God, was not in reality equal with God, unless we are to adopt as the rule for interpreting Scripture the inverted principle, that clear and definite statements are to be explained by those that are indefinite and obscure.
In attempting now to determine the connection between the appearance of the Angel of Jehovah (or Elohim) and the appearance of Jehovah or Elohim Himself, and to fix the precise meaning of the expression Maleach Jehovah, we cannot make use, as recent opponents of the old Church view have done, of the manifestation of God in Genesis 18 and 19, and the allusion to the great prince Michael in Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; just because neither the appearance of Jehovah in the former instance, nor that of the archangel Michael in the latter, is represented as an appearance of the Angel of Jehovah. We must confine ourselves to the passages in which "the Angel of Jehovah" is actually referred to. We will examine these, first of all, for the purpose of obtaining a clear conception of the form in which the Angel of Jehovah appeared. Genesis 16, where He is mentioned for the first time, contains no distinct statement as to His shape, but produces on the whole the impression that He appeared to Hagar in a human form, or one resembling that of man; since it was not till after His departure that she drew the inference from His words, that Jehovah had spoken with her. He came in the same form to Gideon, and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah with a staff in His hand (Judges 6:11 and Judges 6:21); also to Manoah's wife, for she took Him to be a man of God, i.e., a prophet, whose appearance was like that of the Angel of Jehovah (Judges 13:6); and lastly, to Manoah himself, who did not recognise Him at first, but discovered afterwards, from the miracle which He wrought before his eyes, and from His miraculous ascent in the flame of the altar, that He was the Angel of Jehovah (Judges 13:9-20). In other cases He revealed Himself merely by calling and speaking from heaven, without those who heard His voice perceiving any form at all; e.g., to Hagar, in Genesis 21:17., and to Abraham, Genesis 22:11. On the other hand, He appeared to Moses (Exodus 3:2) in a flame of fire, speaking to him from the burning bush, and to the people of Israel in a pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 14:19, cf. Exodus 13:21.), without any angelic form being visible in either case. Balaam He met in a human or angelic form, with a drawn sword in His hand (Numbers 22:22-23). David saw Him by the threshing-floor of Araunah, standing between heaven and earth, with the sword drawn in His hand and stretched out over Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21:16); and He appeared to Zechariah in a vision as a rider upon a red horse (Zechariah 1:9.). - From these varying forms of appearance it is evident that the opinion that the Angel of the Lord was a real angel, a divine manifestation, "not in the disguise of angel, but through the actual appearance of an angel," is not in harmony with all the statements of the Bible. The form of the Angel of Jehovah, which was discernible by the senses, varied according to the purpose of the appearance; and, apart from Genesis 21:17 and Genesis 22:11, we have a sufficient proof that it was not a real angelic appearance, or the appearance of a created angel, in the fact that in two instances it was not really an angel at all, but a flame of fire and a shining cloud which formed the earthly substratum of the revelation of God in the Angel of Jehovah (Exodus 3:2; Exodus 14:19), unless indeed we are to regard natural phenomena as angels, without any scriptural warrant for doing so.
(Note: The only passage that could be adduced in support of this, viz., Psalm 104:4, does not prove that God makes natural objects, winds and flaming fire, into forms in which heavenly spirits appear, or that He creates spirits out of them. Even if we render this passage, with Delitzsch, "making His messengers of winds, His servants of flaming fire," the allusion, as Delitzsch himself observes, is not to the creation of angels; nor can the meaning be, that God gives wind and fire to His angels as the material of their appearance, and as it were of their self-incorporation. For עה, constructed with two accusatives, the second of which expresses the materia ex qua, is never met with in this sense, not even in 2 Chronicles 4:18-22. For the greater part of the temple furniture summed up in this passage, of which it is stated that Solomon made them of gold, was composed of pure gold; and if some of the things were merely covered with gold, the writer might easily apply the same expression to this, because he had already given a more minute account of their construction (e.g., Genesis 3:7). But we neither regard this rendering of the psalm as in harmony with the context, nor assent to the assertion that עשׂה with a double accusative, in the sense of making into anything, is ungrammatical.)<
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