Angel of the LORD: Part Six

Genesis 19:24 and Double Use of Yahweh: 
Genesis 19:23-26: The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. ESV
In his book Trinity: Evidence and Issues, under section title "Two Yahwehs" Dr. Robert Morey suggests that the "only" natural interpretation "possible" of Genesis 19:24 is that Yahweh in human form rained down fire from the Yahweh in heaven. Morey suggests, "No other interpretation fits the context and grammar of the Hebrew text."(1) Trinitarian apologist Dr. James White has also appealed to this very passage suggesting it too reveals Yahweh as consisting of multiple persons.(2)  Such Trinitarians have in mind here as well that each Yahweh is a separate divine person with their own mind and center of consciousness. Therefore, the divine person on earth is raining down fire from the other divine person in heaven.

One is forced to ask why one divine person would even need to rain down fire from heaven from another divine person? Is this what Moses was intending to impress upon us as the author of Genesis? Sadly, this may just be another case of Trinitarians trying to find the Trinity under every verse. Many Trinitarian commentaries are silent on this verse concerning the Trinity. However, if the "only" interpretation is the one of Morey or White then we should see some recognition of this from Abraham or Lot in the Genesis narrative. A conception of Yahweh being more than one person though is nowhere found in the Scriptures and especially in the Old Testament. 

In Genesis 18 Abraham visited with Yahweh and possibly two angels. He later intercedes with God on the behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18:22 suggests that the angels leave God and Abraham and continue "toward Sodom" (ESV) Now God's judgement upon human wickedness had come. The two angels convince Lot and his family to move from the path of God's judgment. Before we look closer at verse 24 let's look at some verses prior.
12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.”...17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. ESV
The word "men" is referencing angels (vs.12). They also tell Lot that "we are about to destroy this place"(vs. 13). Why? Because the the outcry had become great before Yahweh and it is Yahweh Himself who sends the angels (vs. 13). Lot immediately tells his family that Yahweh is about to destroy the city (vs. 14). He recognizes that God is involved in what these angels had to say. Then while recognizing something special about them Lot calls the angels "my lords" (ESV, NRSV, NASB, NKJV); "my lord" (NAB, KJV, Tanakh); "No, please, Lord" (NET). The Hebrew word for "Lord" here is adonai and has several uses. The word form in this verse is an emphatic plural. This plural can also be taken to be singular or plural but should more likely be translated in the singular in this case. Lot actually continues in verse 19 with "your servant has found favor in your sight," where both pronouns ("your") are in the singular form. Nothing about this is an indicator for the Trinity. The angel grants Lot's request and he is allowed to escape to Bela a city thereafter called Zoar. 

Once Lot and his family are removed we read verse 24. The narrative is reaching a climax wherein the impending judgement the angels had warned Lot and his family about is now overhead. Yahweh rains down "sulfur and fire" (ESV) is the conclusion. Here we possibly have two words that form a hendiadys(3) which is used to increase the effect of what is said. By doing it this way two words are used to refer to one thing for added emphasis. The meaning could be something like "burning sulfur".(4) Either way it has no bearing upon the nature of God here. Now let's compare 19:24 in several major translations to see how they treat the double use of Yahweh in this verse. Notice the differences carefully.

NAB | at the same time the LORD rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah (from the LORD out of heaven). 
‎‎NRSV | Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 
‎‎ESV | ‎Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. 
‎‎NASB95 | ‎Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, 
‎‎NKJV | ‎Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 
‎‎NET | ‎Then the LORD rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. It was sent down from the sky by the LORD. 
NIV11| Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens.

Did God allow Moses to record this verse in such a way to represent two separate or different divine persons? They must be different because if they are the "same" then one person is identical to the other person. As noted above some interpret Genesis 19:24 to refer to two divine persons each called LORD. If this is true then this also means one LORD (first divine person) on earth orchestrated with, in some way, the other LORD (second divine person) in heaven to rain down fire. 

All translations involve interpretation but the point seems clear to this reader. The NAB places the second occurrence of Yahweh in a parenthesis to suggest its use for further emphasis. The NRSV, ESV, NASB are nearly identical. The NKJV places a comma after the word "Gommorah" and the NET makes another sentence while supplying the words “It was sent down” for stylistic reasons. They also suggest that "The text explicitly states that the sulfur and fire that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah was sent down from the sky by the LORD. What exactly this was, and how it happened, can only be left to intelligent speculation..."(5) The NIV is also careful to distinguish the second use with "—from the LORD out of the heavens." By way of the second use of Yahweh it appears the Hebrew writer has given us an example of a restatement. The Reformation scholar John Calvin also suggested this view.(6) Everett Fox's translation here seems to capture this as well. Notice, "But YHWH rained down brimstone and fire upon Sedom and Amora, coming from YHWH, from the heavens,"(7)

Whether this burning sulfur was a natural phenomena is not important when one considers the source. This was the divine judgement of Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth. This is the very thing the angels had warned Lot about. The source of the destruction being emphasized is from the LORD/Yahweh above. The Hebrew writer may have restated and used Yahweh twice to emphasize this very thing. Jeremiah 23:24 suggests that no man can hide himself from Yahweh and that He fills heaven and earth. Even if Yahweh had appeared here in a human or theophanic form this would not limit Yahweh, the Almighty, from being able to rain down fire from the heavens. His ability to do so does not require Him to also consist of multiple persons. 

If this interpretation is valid it cannot be said that Moses had such a one in mind. Such conclusions are likely to come only when an individual is familiar with or using Trinitarian philosophy. The philosophical terminology needed for the Trinity would not be provided for several hundred years after the death of the Bible writers (e.g. John - A.D. 100). In verse 24 both LORD/Yahweh statements describe the LORD as one being, in one place and doing one thing, i.e. in heaven, raining down fire. Keil and Delitzsch suggest there is no distinction implied here:
In the words “Jehovah caused it to rain from Jehovah” there is no distinction implied between the hidden and the manifested God, between the Jehovah present upon earth in His angels who called down the judgment, and the Jehovah enthroned in heaven who sent it down;(8)
Some have gone so far with Old Testament plurals to suggest the Hebrews were polytheists that had evolved into monotheism. The typical Trinitarian will reign in just short of this view suggesting there is a distinction between persons not gods. I do applaud my Trinitarian friends for stopping short here but in reality they can only offer a soft defense of monotheism. Such an inference is not necessary or conclusive. We should always press further to adhere to the very monotheistic creed Jesus Himself affirmed to the Jewish ruler (Mark 12:29-30). 

We should never overemphasize any conceived plurality at the expense of His singularity. Suggesting that there are two divine persons who are "LORD" and also separate from each other with their own mind or consciousness falls short of true monotheism. This view is militated against by the Scriptures themselves. There is only one LORD (Deuteronomy 6:4; Eph. 4:3-6). Our interpretation of Scripture should never deviate from what it has already fundamentally revealed. We do not understand everything about God but the fact of His Oneness is not hidden from even those who but casually read His Word.


1) Morey, R. A. (1996). The Trinity : Evidence and Issues (116). Iowa Falls, IA.: World Pub. "The only natural interpretation possible is that יְהוָה in human form standing on the earth rained fire from the יְהוָה who was in heaven. No other interpretation fits the context and grammar of the Hebrew text."

3) See NIV or NAB. The NET editors suggest “burning sulfur” in the footnotes. See Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press. 

3) Hendiadys: using two or three terms to express the same idea.

4) Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

5) Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

6) "To this point belongs what Moses says, that the Lord rained fire from the Lord. The repetition is emphatical, because the Lord did not then cause it to rain, in the ordinary course of nature; but, as if with a stretched out hand, he openly fulminated in a manner to which he was not accustomed, for the purpose of making it sufficiently plain, that this rain of fire and brimstone was produced by no natural causes." (Calvin, John. Commentary on Genesis (Vol. I) - See also "From the Lord out of heaven: this emphasizes that the source of the destruction is from the Lord above. NEB, REB say “from the skies.” Reyburn, W. D., Fry, E. M. (1997). A handbook on Genesis. UBS handbook series (432). New York: United Bible Societies.

7) 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 19:24). New York: Schocken Books.

8) Keil, C. F., Delitzsch, F. (2002). Commentary on the Old Testament. (Ge 19:23–28). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

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