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I am reading in the book of Exodus chapter 3 (KJV) about the angel of the Lord appearing to Moses in the burning bush.It is written,

Exodus 3:2

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Exodus 3:3-4

3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” 4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

The angel and God are both in the midst of the bush.The angel arrived before God.

Does God stand beside the angel in the burning bush.? Or is the angel God.? How does the reader understand these scriptures,when considering Moses looked at the burning bush when the angel first appeared in it, and also considering what is written in the book of Exodus chapter 33:19-20 with reference to the "face of God."

See this Question with reference to Exodus 3.

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I agree with the earlier response that G-d was not standing with the angel in the burning bush. A common way by which G-d communicates with the Patriarchs in Genesis and Exodus is through an angel. As the Hebrew word מַלְאָךְ can mean either "angel" or "messenger," it is clear even in antiquity that G-d communicated through angels. A few examples will illustrate this concept. In Numbers 22, G-d speaks through the she-donkey to Balaam but we later see that an angel was present in the road. It is not clear that the angel played in role in controlling the she-donkey, although the presence of the angel would leave that open as a possibility. In Genesis 19, Lot encounter two messengers (שְׁנֵי מְלְאָכִים) who warn him of the impending doom of the city. Lot apparently could tell they were angels sent by G-d, since he prostrated himself. In this case, the angels do quite a bit of action, such as removing Lot and his family from the city.

In the case of Exodus 3:2-4, G-d was present only insofar that one of His angels was there in the bush. As the example with Balaam shows, G-d can create speech without being physically present there, so long as an angel is present. That an angel, but not G-d Himself, was present in the bush ties into Exodus 33:19-20. In Exodus 33:19-20, G-d says that no man can see His face directly and live. Hence the reason for using angels to communicate with the Patriarchs is clear.

  • I have trouble with understanding מלאך י׳ as "one of His angels”. Both terms must be definite. – Susan Dec 9 '15 at 5:13
  • @Susan Please give me an exact verse and chapter to cut out the guess work, thanks. – Tim Biegeleisen Dec 9 '15 at 5:44
  • Oh, sorry that wasn’t clear. I was referring to the first sentence of your second paragraph, Ex 3:2. – Susan Dec 9 '15 at 5:46
  • מַלְאַךְ appears to be in construct with the tetragrammaton, and the latter does not take a definite article, as far as I know. I don't see anything unusual here, am I missing something? – Tim Biegeleisen Dec 9 '15 at 5:49
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    It (the tetragram) is a proper noun (can not take the article or a pronoun suffix, can not be in construct, etc.), and proper nouns are inherently definite. – Susan Dec 9 '15 at 5:52
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The angel appears in the bush alone, we are told nothing of God being there. Angels appear to many in scripture without the presence of fire, so it seems unnecessary to think the bush is burning because if the angel, but rather it is an additional sign to Moses that it burned without being consumed.

Moses turning his face from the angel is not unusual either. In many other cases, such as Joshua, Isaiah and even Joseph in the New Testament, they bow, hide their face or are scared. As celestial beings it seems they can have a powerful effect unless they are purposely hiding their identity. I'm leaving out the idea of a Theophany for the moment, which this case and others such as the appearance to Joshua before Jericho may have been.

God himself did not have to be present, not in a visible manifestation, to see Moses' response and to then speak to him either directly or through the angel. Trying to figure out God's physical position here is unnecessary, he is everywhere and all-knowing.

As for the face of God, if he is not manifest and is simply speaking to him directly or through the angel, then there is no issue.

If this IS a Theophany, then things change only a little. We know where He is, in the bush, and we know Moses looked on Him. However, we have many possible Theophanies where He is most likely looked at and there isn't an issue in those cases either. This may be part of a larger discussion, but it seems the appearance of God and Him revealing his Face or His Glory are not the same. He is able to hide or repress that glory in order to appear to men. Christians would hold Christ as the ultimate proof of that as he let go of it to become incarnate.

Edit: I will have to edit this tonight for scripture sources, but most everything here is derived from consistency with other passages, outside of Theophany information.

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When one has the understanding of a theophany/christophany , then the explanation of who was in the burning bush would be more easily understood, especially in the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. As in Daniel 3:24 it reads: "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

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The Angel of the Lord(AOTL) or the Angel of God, is distinct from other angels in the bible and should not be confused with an a ordinary angel". In the Old testament the AOTL has the divine authority to forgive "transgressions",(Exodus 23:21); receive worship (Joshua 5:14)(Gen 18:2; Num 22:31) bless generations (Gen 22:18);create life (Genesis 16:10-13);consume sacrifice left at the altar(Judges 6:21)and to ascend in the very flame of that sacrifice(Judges 13:19)., It was this very Angel who commended Abraham on behalf of not witholding "thine only son from me"(Gen 22:12).

Furthermore, one will find that the Lord's name is in this Angel of the Lord (Exodus 23:21). In the OT, His name is also secret(Judges 13:18), and yet Wonderful (Judes 13:18 ESV). The Angel of the Lord creates and seals covenantsr(Judges 2:1-5), and because there is no one greater than himself to swear by, therefore; he swears by "Himself"! (Heb 6:13)(Gen 22:16)

A theophany is witnessed of the Angel of the Lord when he tells Jacob, " I am the God of Bethel(Gen 31:11-13). He is the same Angel who introduced "himself" to Moses as the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob and who also appeared to Moses in the burning bush(Exodus 3:2). He led the Israelites out of Egypt by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night(Exodus 4:19)(Judges 2:1-5). Encounters with the Angel of the Lord has moved witnesses to fear that they have come "face-to-face-with God."(Gen 32:29, Judges 6:22)

In the book of Isaiah, we see the christophany of the Angel of the Lord as Isaiah acknowledges the presence of the Angel of the Lord as none other than our Savior Jesus "For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presene saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them and carried them all the days of old."(Isaiah 63:8-9)

We can understand Jesus having always been present when we read how he announced, "before Abraham was I am."(John 8:58) Certain listeners knew exactly what Jesus implied and were therefore offended just as some are offended even to this day. The Angel of the Lord is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world(Rev 13:8) and was always present and operated from eternity before unveiling His person in the flesh(John 1:1)(John 1:14).

  • The question is not about the identity of the angel, but whether Exodus 3:2-4 specifically tells us that God and the angel were both together in the burning bush. Do you feel you have covered this adequately? – Dick Harfield Feb 10 '15 at 22:06
  • In Genesis31:11-13, The Angel clearly identifies himself as God, therefore: the Angel and God are one in the same. God has an Angel of his presence. This presence is none other than Christ pre-incarnate:"And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob...... I am the God of Bethel...." – Bernadine Coggins Feb 11 '15 at 2:49
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agreed Ruminator - there is No Christophany - The Lord became flesh once in time and now remains so in eternity through His resurrection from the dead.

  • Hello Chris, welcome to BHSE, so glad to have you with us! If you haven't already, make sure to take our tour to get yourself familiar with this site, you'll discover that we are a little different than other sites you know. (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour) Thanks! – sara Sep 15 at 6:10
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God is not in the picture at all. This is an angel talking to Moses. Angels can speak for God in the first or third person. And this is not "the second person of the Trinity"; it is an angel.

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