Angel of the LORD: Part Seven

Genesis 22:8-18: The Sacrifice of Isaac
ESV | ‎Genesis 22:8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.  ‎9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  ‎10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.  ‎11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.”  ‎12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  ‎13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  ‎14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”  ‎15 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven  ‎16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,  ‎17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,  ‎18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” 
In his Commentary on Genesis Martin Luther noted, "The angels likewise, appear in human form, though it is certain that they are only spirits; spirits we cannot recognize when they present themselves as such, but likenesses we do recognize...This is the simplest way of treating such passages, for the nature of God we cannot define; what he is not we can well define—he is not a voice, a dove, water, bread, wine. And yet in these visible forms he presents himself to us and deals with us."(1) In many of the passages which include the angel of the LORD it is conspicuous that God Himself is acting and working in our world. To suggest that God is more than one person as a result is to make judgments about the nature of God that are not warranted by Scripture.

In the passages we have considered so far it was obvious in most cases that Yahweh and Yahweh's Messenger are one and the same divine person. In Genesis 16:11 the angel of the LORD begins speaking to Hagar after leaving the tent of Abraham. In verse 13 she calls this angel LORD or Yahweh. Commenting on the appearance of the angel of the LORD to Hagar in Genesis 16:13 Reyburn and Fry note that the LORD and the angel of the LORD are the same. They suggest that "the Lord replaces the expression the angel of the Lord, giving the understanding that the two expressions mean the same in this passage, that is, an appearance or manifestation of God to a person. As von Rad says, “The one who speaks, now Yahweh, now the messenger …, is obviously one and the same person. The angel of the Lord is therefore a form in which Yahweh appears. He is God himself in human form.”(2) 

In Genesis 22:8 the ESV, NKJV, NASB and NET have"God will provide for himself...". The NAB, NRSV have "God himself will provide..." and the AV "God will provide himself...".  The emphasis here is that the same personal God of Abraham will, alone, provide the lamb. Without help God will supply the sacrifice. Everett Fox translates "...God will see-for-himself..."(3) God needs no consort or additional persons in order to save. He is the source of provision and only God can save. In Romans 8:31-32 Paul uses irony to explain that if God is for us who can be against us? In verse 32 God, who did not spare his own Son, gave him up for us all. We may can find some similarities here with the offering of Isaac. Yet we know that the Son is God Himself uniquely present (Hebrews 1:1-3). Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22) but if the Son is only body and flesh then there could be no atonement for our sins. 

Matthew records that Jesus is "Emmanuel...God with us." (Matthew 1:23) but before God came in flesh (John 1:14) it was foretold that Yahweh would be our redeemer and savior (Ps. 130:7-8; Deut. 32:43). Exodus 15:2 records, "The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him." (ESV) Here the LORD or Yahweh is our salvation or yeshua and is David's God and Lord (See also Ps. 42:6, 12; 43:5; 62:2; 68:20; 89:27 where the title "savior" is given to Yahweh). 

In verse 11 Abraham is poised with knife in hand when the angel of the LORD calls out to him. Starting in verse 16 the angel of the LORD actually speaks and declares the words of Yahweh in first person (22:16-18). As noted just prior the angel of the LORD is actually the LORD or Yahweh Himself. Use of "angel of the LORD" is not to distinguish one divine person from another but a reverential way of referring to the same divine person--Yahweh. 

In Isaiah 44:6 we have another interesting interplay of words. We read, "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god." (ESV) Notice the slight difference of rendering here by the NET: "This is what the LORD, Israel’s king, says, their protector, the LORD who commands armies: “I am the first and I am the last, there is no God but me." Trinitarians often suggest that the phrase "the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts" makes a distinction between two divine persons of the Trinity. In reality, God is presented with a double title and not double persons. Such a view allows the Scriptures to be interpreted by themselves without having to insert later philosophical or theological ideas about God who is actually a council of divine persons. J.D.W. Watts seems to support such an idea also. He noted, "The Herald presents God by a double title. He is King of Israel....He is revealed in this act as Israel’s redeemer, Yahweh of Hosts."(4) Verse seven through eight makes things even more clear concerning how many persons are being spoken of in this verse. Yahweh says:
"Who is like me? Let him make his claim! Let him announce it and explain it to me – since I established an ancient people – let them announce future events! ‎8 Don’t panic! Don’t be afraid! Did I not tell you beforehand and decree it? You are my witnesses! Is there any God but me? There is no other sheltering rock; I know of none." (44:7-8 ESV) 
If more than one divine person is being referenced then the memo must have gotten lost. Instead Yahweh speaks with singular personal pronouns, "Who is like me?....Is there any God but me?" Here Yahweh says that his hearers are "my witnesses" meaning He has testified to them concerning His Oneness. He also says "I know of none". The verb "know" here is in the perfect tense (See also Ps. 140:13, Job 42:2). It means that God does not possess information(5) about anyone else nor can He find out about anyone else. Yahweh is our rock and our salvation and there is no one beside Him. Yahweh is without distinction in His eternal nature and does not recognize or perceive any other God beside Him. Any future NT revelations are not intended to contradict this either. The singularity referenced here is "first and last" meaning it applies to all times. Therefore, no other divine person who is called God could exist. NT revelation will further show that Jesus is God and that He is the True God manifest in flesh  (e.g. John 1:1, Titus 2:13, Romans 9:5, 1 Peter 1:1, 1 John 5:20, 1 Tim. 3:16). Jesus is the express image of Yahweh's being (Heb. 1:3) and we shall behold His face on that Day.


1) Luther, Martin. Commentary on Genesis. Translated by John Nicholas Lenker, D.D. Vol. II The Luther Press: Minneapolis, Minn. USA: 1910

2) Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. (1997). A handbook on Genesis. UBS handbook series (355). New York: United Bible Societies.

3) Fox, E. (1995). Vol. 1: The five books of Moses : Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy ; a new translation with introductions, commentary, and notes. The Schocken Bible (Ge 22:8). New York: Schocken Books.

4) Watts, J. D. W. (2002). Vol. 25: Word Biblical Commentary : Isaiah 34-66. Word Biblical Commentary (145). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

5) See Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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Adversus Trinitas

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