The Wonderful Christophany in Judges 13

Angel of the LORD Judges 13The Angel of the LORD is no ordinary angel.  The Hebrew Mal’ak indicates anything from a generic messenger to a theophany.  In particular, the Angel of the LORD is a Christophany (a non-incarnate appearing of Jesus Christ).  Like the Son, the Angel of the LORD functions as the person of God that interacts with man on his level.  Also, the Angel of the LORD never appears again after the Son takes on flesh (John 1:1-14).  Indeed, the Word or logos of John 1 (and in Revelation 19:13) is identified as the Angel of the LORD by many in the early Church including the second century Church father Justin Martyr.[1]  Proof of the Angel of the LORD’s divinity and connection with Christ can be gathered by unpacking the various places He appears in Scripture.  Here, the example found in Judges 13 is considered.

The Angel of the LORD visits the wife of Manoah to inform her that even though she is barren, she will yet have a son (the judge Samson) (v. 3).  Manoah’s wife is not to have any strong drink or cut the hair of her son for he is to be a Nazirite to God from the womb until the day of his death (vv. 4-7).  Manoah’s wife tells her husband that the Angel had an appearance that was very awesome (v. 6).  Manoah prayed to the LORD and asked Him to send the messenger once again (v. 8).

I AM

And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her.  So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” And Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” Judges 13:9-11 (ESV)

In answering Manoah’s question the Angel responds with what is almost certain to be a double entendre.  Jesus often responded to others with the same double entendre of I am.  The Gospel of John is famous for housing several of Jesus’ I am statements. For example, John 8:58:

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The Greek for I am is quite different than for I was.  The above is not a case of bad grammar but actually speaks to a profound truth.  The Greek behind I am is ego eimi which is used to identify with YHWH or I am who I am (Ex. 3:14).  In fact, this revelation of God’s name came out of a similar circumstance when Moses asked the Angel of the LORD for His name (Ex. 3:2, 13-14).  Jesus often used I am to identify Himself as YHWH.  His audience clearly understood this as their response in this case was to find stones to throw at Him (John 8:59).  In using I am the Angel of the LORD claimed to be YHWH in the same way that Christ often did.

AN OFFERING TO THE LORD

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.”And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.)  Judges 13:15-16

After the Angel instructs Manoah to offer a burnt offering to the LORD, we are told that the reason for this is that Manoah did not know he was speaking to the Angel of the LORD.  If the Angel of the LORD is not God then why would the Text even make this type of comment?  The Angel of the LORD is one of the divine persons of the LORD.  As God, the Angel could have directed the sacrifice to Himself.  The Angel did not do this but instead spoke in third person because Manoah did not know He was the LORD.

THE WONDERFUL NAME

And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?”  And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”  So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching.  Judges 13:17-19

Manoah asks for the Angel of the LORD’s name but the Angel responds with another question.  However, even in the Angel’s question there may be a veiled answer for Manoah.  The Hebrew translated as wonderful is Pil’iy.  The word not only means wonderful but also implies something that is extraordinary and incomprehensible.  The only other time this word is used in the Old Testament is in Psalm 139:6 where the knowledge of the LORD is described by David as being far beyond his ability to attain.  The Angel of the LORD’s name is not only a wonderful but is beyond the ability for man to fully grasp.

Manoah does not press the Angel for any further clarification but moves to make the offering to the LORD.  The Text then tells us that it is the LORD who works wonders.  There is an equation being made with the LORD working wonders and the Angel’s name being wonderful.  The reason for this is because the Angel Himself is divine.  Perhaps the indication is that the Angel of the LORD’s name is also YHWH or I am who I am.  Or it could just be that the name the Angel was keeping hidden was Immanuel or even Yeshua (Jesus).  But that kind of information would not have been appropriate to be revealed at that time and had to be kept a wonderful secret.

WE HAVE SEEN GOD

The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD.  And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”  Judges 13:21-23

The Angel ascended toward heaven in the flames of the offering (v. 20).  After the Angel ceased to appear, Manoah finally realized that He was the Angel of the LORD.  It is at this point that Manoah understood that he had seen God.  Once again there is an implicit equation of the Angel of the LORD with God.

Manoah was rightly concerned that he would die after seeing God for no man shall see God and live (Ex. 33:20).  However, there are many times in Scripture when man does see God without dying (e.g. Gen. 32:30).  The most notable examples are those of men and women seeing Jesus during His earthly ministry.  This is because Jesus exegetes the Father (John 1:18) without the full glory being revealed and thus destroying the onlooker.  Therefore, the Angel of the LORD here and everywhere else is reasonably concluded to be non-other than the second person of the Godhead, the Son, Jesus Christ.


[1] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 61

Comments

  1. Stefan Molnar (stv.molnar @gmail.com) says:

    THX and P.T.L. ! for this in-depth study,may I add to this that :our Lord”s name “WONDERFULL” apperars as well in Isaiah 9:6

    “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

    King James Version (KJV)
    🙂 Stefan Molnar

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      A beautiful passage to be sure. And while I believe they are absolutely related, “Pil’iy” in Judges 13:18 carries a somewhat different connotation than “Pele'” in Isaiah 9:6.

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