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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 think it should also be ask if God is an angel. Sep 13, 2021 at 21:16

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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.

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  • I have trouble with understanding מלאך י׳ as "one of His angels”. Both terms must be definite.
    – Susan
    Dec 9, 2015 at 5:13
  • @Susan Please give me an exact verse and chapter to cut out the guess work, thanks. Dec 9, 2015 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, 2015 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? Dec 9, 2015 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, 2015 at 5:52
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There are a few times in the Old Testament where the Angel of The Lord seems to be alternating with God speaking, and/or with the Angel saying and promising things we would only expect the Lord to say or promise (of course in Old Testament “Lord” just refers to God), yet after answering as “I” in a Godlike manner, this Angel turns right around and says “The Lord” this and “The Lord” that.

There may be a correlation between when it goes like this and capitalization “Angel of The Lord”, but I’m not certain.

One is Gen 16:7 for ten verses or so. For example: “I” will multiply you. But it was the angel. And calls Him God of seeing. Later she says outright that she spoke to Yahweh. The text always refers to the speaker as the Angel.

Now another example, a big one. The situation at the Burning Bush was such that you literally just asked if God is “standing next to” an angel during the interaction with Moses.

But note: There are other examples. I don’t normally ever post a video link here, but this exact topic was recently covered by Rev Winger.

Since God is one, there is a way in which the whole triune Godhead was speaking.

Winger ultimately is asking:

Did the second person of the Trinity run around calling himself The Angel of the Lord prior to our Savior arriving in the flesh?

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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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    I'm a little confused about Verse 6. That verse says "Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God." Can you explain how that fits with this answer? Feb 16, 2020 at 4:04
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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 (Judges 13:18 ESV). The Angel of the Lord creates and seals covenants (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).

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  • 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? Feb 10, 2015 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...." Feb 11, 2015 at 2:49
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Good question! Let's delve into it.

Firstly, upon careful examination, the passage does not imply that God physically emerged from the bush, despite the phrase "out of the midst of the bush." Rather, God revealed Himself through the bush. Even when it mentions "out of the midst of the bush," it is understood in the following line that the Angel of the Lord manifests as a flame. This is reinforced when Moses looks towards the flame and finds it within the bush, not anywhere else. So, The Angel of the Lord reveals Himself as a flame, Moses looks at the bush towards that flame.

Secondly, Stephen's account of Moses and the burning bush also underscores Moses encountering God alone, without any other beings mentioned in the passage.

Thirdly, the original hebrew text says "from within the bush" :)

Now, let's address the identity of the Angel of the Lord! Many interpret the Angel of the Lord, as depicted in various Old Testament narratives, as God Himself, pre-incarnate as Jesus Christ. This interpretation aligns with instances like Abraham's encounter with three angels, where one is understood to be God!

Furthermore, the flexibility of scripture, such as referring to Israel interchangeably as Jacob, illustrates its capacity for "multi-identity" in one passage!

If we consider the Angel of the Lord as God Himself, manifested differently (as the Son), then we can perceive a Trinitarian understanding—three persons in one God moment. Thus, it's plausible to assert that both the Angel of God, the Father, and the Spirit were present simultaneously, revealing the multi-faceted nature of God. The Pentateuch's author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, masterfully utilizes various titles for YHWH to convey this.

One could argue that Father God called to Moses in that voice and not in the Son's voice because that is recognizable to him as part of this intricate revelation of God's multi-personhood.

Moreover, the flame itself symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is often represented as a flame, yet unlike earthly flames, it requires no fuel. This signifies that God the Spirit is self-sustaining and reliant on nothing, which is why the bush didn't get burnt!

In essence, the passage does not advocate for multiple people in the passage but aims to unveil the intricate nature of God's existence—a unity of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as hinted through various titles like the Angel of the Lord, God, and LORD, meticulously woven throughout scripture by the Holy Spirit.

Final remark:
I am Israeli, raised in Jerusalem. My country Israel is at war right now and my believing community would love your support in prayer. consider reaching out! Blessings!

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Jesús appeared many times in the Old Testament as The Ángel of the Lord. The entire Godhead is present and all three speak to Moses as Elohim or “God.” Read all the names carefully to understand and appreciate the glory of God revealed to Moses.

God = Elohim Father = Jehovah Jesus = Angel of the Lotd Holy Sprit = Burning bush

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Frequently, an "Angel of the LORD" will appear in passages throughout the Bible to bring a message to an individual. In these instances, the speech used is always that of God himself. Tradition held that messages came with the full authority, weight, and force of the person who sent it. This messenger was an extension of the originator of the messenger himself, which is why (as Shakespeare said) you "don't shoot the messenger". In fact, the word "Angel" can be and often is translated as "messenger".

The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament defines the Hebrew word מַלְאָךְ as messenger:

מַלְאָךְ: cs. מַלְאַךְ, sf. מַלְאָכוֹ, מַלְאָכִי; pl. מַלְאָכִים, cs. מַלְאֲכֵי, sf. מַלְאָכָיו: — 1. (of men) messenger: of Jacob Gn 32:4, 7 & oft.; ? business agent Is 23:2; — 2. God’s messenger(s), viz. a) prophet(s) Is 44:26, b) priest(s) Ma 2:7 (so hammal˒āk Ec 5:5); c) cosmic: the wind(s) Ps 104:4; — 3. heavenly messenger(s), angel(s): a) sg. Gn 48:16, mal˒ākô Gn 24:7; b) pl. Gn 19:1; c) spec. uses: mal˒ak habberît Ma 3:1 ϝ berît III 10; hammal˒āk hammašḥît bā˓ām 2S 24:16 & sim. expr., mal˒akê māwet Pr 16:14; d) oft. mal˒ak ˒elōhîm Gn 21:17, mal˒ak yhwh Gn 16:7.

Interestingly, our word for missions "Evangelism" derives from the Latin Evangelium - itself a derivation of the greek word for messenger/angel.

Messengers had a well-established tradition around them and in England for example, killing a town crier who was delivering a decree from a King (for example) could result in charges of treason since he came in the King's authority and was acting under official duty. As such, harming the crier (messenger) was an affront to the King himself which was treason. The BBC states,

Historically, town criers were the original newsmen, bringing the news to the people and acting as spokesmen for the King. Town criers were protected by law and "don't shoot the messenger" was a very real command. Anything that was done to a town crier was deemed to be done to the King and was seen as treason.

This tradition extended back much further and applied even to the divine realm. According to Canaan and Israel in Antiquity by Dr. Kurt L. Noll,

The divine realm, or pantheon, presupposed by ancient Near Eastern kings mirrored the hierarchy of the human social and political world. ... Many gods were messengers. The role of divine messenger was essential because ancient patron gods did not have cell phones or email. In the greek language, a messenger is called an angelos, which is translated into English as an 'angel'. Although later Christian doctrine tried to demote angels from the status of gods by claiming that angels had been created by the Christian god in reality an angel or divine messenger was a common minor god in every ancient Near Eastern religion, including Judaism and earliest Christianity. Some early Christians even identified Jesus as an angel of their god.

In the Iliad and Oddesy, quite a bit of messaging occurs. In Between Orality and Luteracy: Communication and Adaptation in Antiquity Dr. Jonathan L. Ready discusses this classic work stating,

...Homer's gods and mortals both transmit messages via messengers...Although Zeus's worry about a false messenger reveals some anxiety about these agents, Homeric characters generally trust messengers to pass on messages faithfully. This confidence reflects the characters' view that with power comes the ability to control another's action and speech.

In John Durham's commentary on Exodus, he notes

he messenger of Yahweh, מַלְאַךְ יהוה, is not an “angel” in the sense in which “angel” is now generally understood. As often in the OT (Gen 18, Judg 6), there is in this passage a fluid interchange between symbol, representative, and God himself.

A similar scene to that of Exodus 3:2 occurs in Revelation 22:8-16. In verse 8-9 it states that John

threw [himself] down to worship at the feet of the angel who was showing them to me. But he said to [John], “Do not do this! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets, and with those who obey the words of this book. Worship God!”

Yet only a few verses later in 12 and 13, the Angel says

(Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!)

So an Angel of the LORD appearing and speaking as God is not an altogether uncommon occurrence. There are numerous other examples, but in short, It is God speaking, but through his vessel, his messenger, the Angel of the LORD who is delivering the message to Moses.

Thus, when the messenger states that he is the LORD and that he is God, the messenger is not making a claim, he is simply reciting and delivering the message. This makes sense in terms of messaging in antiquity in which the messenger would read a letter or recite a memorized speech which would often be from the first person perspective of the messages' author. We are not to understand that the angel/messenger himself is God, but that the one who spoke the message is God. This is why the angel/messenger refuses worship in the passage in Revelation - it is inappropriate to worship him because he is not God, merely his messenger.

The same would be true of an earthly messenger - the audience members would understand that the messenger was not the king himself - though he might state that he is while discharging his duties (reading the message) - but merely that he comes with the authority of and under the direction of the king.

In the same way, the angel in Exodus 3 is acting on behalf of their King. So to answer the question

is the angel God?

The answer is yes... sorta. The angel is God in the sense that he has the full authority of God, and for the purposes of this scene no distinction needs to be made between "God" and the "Angel of the Lord". At that moment they are one in the same though they are not the same literal entity. That distinction is meaningless in that moment. The angel is God's emissary and should be treated with the same due respect of the King that they represent in that moment.

(Mostly cross-posted from "Why does Exodus 3 refer to 'the angel of the LORD'?")

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This is the same and only Person/Hypostasis inside the burning bush, unless one wants follow lead of anti-philological, eisegetic biases and hazard a forced, a twisted and a crooked interpretation of this plain text!

This Angel is God, and since He is Angel/Messenger, it also means that He is sent by God. God sent by God is Logos sent by the Father, both sharing the same Godhead.

This nameless Angel with "the name of God in Him" (Exodus 23:20) - which means that His name is also God, and thus He is God - has the sovereign authority of forgiving or not forgiving sins (Ibid. 23:21), which a created angel simply cannot have, for this is prerogative only of somebody of the same dignity and authority as God's.

This Angel is understood also by the Psalmist David (Psalm 68:7) as God, and by Paul as pre-existent Christ before His incarnation (1 Cor. 10:3-4), and Paul also identifies Christ, this Person, i.e. this Angel against whom Jews rebelled notwithstanding God's forewarning, with God (Hebrews 3:14-16).

Thus this unique Angel is God and it is He who speaks from the burning bush.

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