Exodus 23:20-21(KJV) 20 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.

21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.

22 But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.

23 For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.

The word angel comes from the Hebrew word malak which means "messenger". It can be used for celestial beings or for man. When connecting these verses with other scripture it becomes clear to me that there is a divine Messenger throughout the scripture starting in genesis.

I made bold certain parts in the exodus text so you can see the connections in the following texts. First I'll begin with the saying " he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him". This messenger is given divine authority that only the Most High has, as we can see in the following verse from Joshua 24:19:

Joshua 24:19 King James Version (KJV)

19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins

Then finally we see the fulfilment of the exodus text in judges 2:1-3:

Judges 2 King James Version (KJV)

And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?

3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.

4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.

So we see the connections in that YHWH comanded Israel to obey this messenger's voice, saying " obey his voice" , that he would drive out the enemies from the land of canaan. While in Judges this same messenger says " you have not obey my voice" and "I will not drive out " the enemies. Along with other words spoken by the messenger that apply to the God of Israel like " I swear unto your fathers, and I said, I will never break my covenant with you ".

So my question is can this be used as proof that the Angel from Exodus 23:20 is in fact a divine Messenger?

This is not the only times this Messenger is mentioned, this Messenger is literally found all throughout the Old Testament. I can bring more verses if needed

  • Whether or not the messenger is divine seems to be more of a theological question and not a hermeneutic one, maybe try theology or Christianity stack exchange? Apr 17, 2021 at 14:20

4 Answers 4


The forgiveness is not a prerogative of any created angel, even of a highest of them, for forgiveness is prerogative of only God. When God says that His Angel in whom is His name should be obeyed for "He will not forgive", it means that this Angel in whom is the name of God is of the equal dignity and standing with God, and if so, then also co-eternal to Him, for co-eternity is the necessary condition for the equal dignity.

Rabbis interpreted the "for He will not forgive" as "since he is just angel and has no authority to forgive, so he will not forgive" - but this is a merciless distortion and twisting of the clear Biblical text! (even a great Hebrew scholar of modernity Daniel Boyarin said that philologically speaking this Rabbinic interpretation is limping and Christians have a philological upper hand in interoperation of this passage). Now, the Christian theologians rightly interpreted this Angel to be God's Logos, who is God Himself.

Therefore, it is not a strange thing at all that in Bible the same divine Subject or rather Person, can be interchangeably called in the same passage as both "Angel of Lord" and "Lord" and "God", as in Exodus 3:2-4. Nobody can worship an angel, even highest of them, without violating the First Commandment of the Decalogue, however this Angel of Lord, who is also Lord and God, can be and must be worshipped as equal to and co-eternal of God the Father.

Had this Angel been any less in dignity than the Father, worshipping Him would have necessarily been a grave sin of putting a creature on the level of the Creator, thus you cannot worship even highest angels, like Michael or Raphael, without being an idolater. But Joshua worships this same unique Angel bearing God's name in Him without any violation of the First Commandment (Joshua 5:14), rather in fulfillment of this Commandment, for nobody can worship Father unless also co-worshipping His co-eternal Son and Logos (1 John 2:23); and Paul also worships the same Logos (Acts 9:1-5), now revealed to humanity as Jesus Christ, the Logos Incarnate, without any violation of the First Commandment.

  • Yes I agree with your answer. My question was can the 3 passages I provided in my answer be used to prove without a doubt this was a divine Messenger. I see you provided one rebuttal used by a rabbi, and I agree it was a weak rebuttal by him. Thanks for answer
    – diego b
    Mar 23, 2018 at 22:56
  • You are repeating the errors of the OP (which is an argument thinly disguised as a question). Please see my comment on his post which also refutes your non sequitur.
    – Ruminator
    Mar 24, 2018 at 3:54
  • @Ruminator I answered your so called "refutation"
    – diego b
    Mar 24, 2018 at 4:02
  • I also seen you dv his answer just because you don't like it. Which is the problem with many on this site
    – diego b
    Mar 24, 2018 at 4:05

This messenger is given divine authority that only the Most High has.

I assume you had something like Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:5-12, or Luke 5:20-26 and 7:47-50 in the back of your mind when writing this. However, such connections seem out of place here, since the quoted passage appears to speak about the trivial type of forgiveness of sins, namely, that directed towards one's own offenders (Matthew 6:12, 18:21-35, Luke 11:4, 15:18-24).

Exodus 23:21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions [ i.e., your disobedience against him ] for my name is in him.

The word angel comes from the Hebrew word malak, which means “messenger”. It can be used for celestial beings or for man.

Yes. In this particular case, it seems to refer to a human being, namely Joshua, the son of Nun, since it was under his leadership that the people of Israel entered into the Promised Land (Exodus 23:20), and he also bears God's name in his own [ Yehoshua ] (Exodus 23:21, cp. Numbers 13:16). Compare also Exodus 23:23 with both Deuteronomy 31:3 and Joshua 3:9-10.

This is not the only times this Messenger is mentioned; this Messenger is literally found all throughout the Old Testament. I can bring more verses if needed.

I assume you are referring here to the famous Angel of the Lord.

Historically, Christians did indeed view Joshua as an allegory for Jesus (both names are spelled the same in the Koine Greek of the Septuagint and New Testament), whom they also identified, as the preincarnate Logos, with the aforementioned Angel, but this is somewhat more indirect than what you were probably hoping for.


There is nothing in Exodus 23:20-21 that implies the messagnger is “divine”. This is based on the assumption that only God can forgive sins, but there are no passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that say this. Also, in Matthew 9:2-8 we are told:

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?

For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?

But that ye may know that the son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

And he arose, and departed to his house.

But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

Yeshua demonstrates that men (plural) do indeed have the power to forgive sins.

For more information about who the messenger of the covenant is, please see my answer to According to Unitarians, to whom does the word הָאָדוֹן refer in Mal. 3:1?


If the angel were God and you looked at him you would die so no, not God. One of the implicit advantages of using a go-between is that if you happen to be someone that people can't look at without dying then this saves lives.

  • Then why do so many claim to have seen God such as: Isa 64:4, Job 42:5, Gen 18:1, 10, 32:30, Ex 3:5, 6, Josh 5:13-6:2, Judges 6:14, etc?
    – Dottard
    Aug 10, 2022 at 21:54
  • Because he is the Image of God and his Reflection. He does not share God's substance, but is its impression: New Revised Standard Version He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Note: "exact" is special pleading. Please see biblestudytools.com/rsva/wisdom/7-26.html
    – Ruminator
    Aug 10, 2022 at 22:14

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