Exodus 24: (KJV)

1 And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. 2 And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.

It is not clear who is addressing Moses in the above text,is it an angel or the Lord himself?

  • 3
    Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the Angel of YHVH figure is seemingly deliberately conflated and confused with YHVH consistently. He speaks in the first person as YHVH. Whether this is an extremely intimate means of conveying His message through a special angel, or is the Second Person of the Trinity is up to the reader, I suppose. Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 10:21

2 Answers 2


There are three possible reasons to think it is God who is speaking to Moses, in Exodus 24:1:

1. In the context of Exodus, there is that great "sermon" beginning in Exodus 20:22. That is going on and on and there is no another "And the LORD said to Moses ..." or anything similar until Exodus 24:1.

This makes me think that the fact that it is God who is speaking is like self understood. So the fact that it is God who is speaking is kind of assumed, as there is nothing really to make the reader think that there is a different person who is speaking.

2. In Exodus 24:1 the text inverts the usual syntactical order:

... וְאֶל־מֹשֶׁ֨ה אָמַ֜ר (BHS)

Compare for instance with:

Exodus 20:22

... וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה (BHS)

And the LORD said unto Moses ... (JPST)

Returning to Exodus 24:1:


... וְאֶל־מֹשֶׁ֨ה אָמַ֜ר (BHS)

would be: "And to Moses He said..."

See the JPST version:

And unto Moses He said ... (JPST)

The Greek version (LXX) is doing more or less the same, by putting Μωϋσῆς in dative and the verb εἶπον in aorist, active, indicative, third person, singular:

Καὶ Μωυσῇ εἶπεν ... (LXX)

Indeed, it is possible that this inversion means that the word spoken is addressed to Moses&co only, and not to the whole of the Israelites. This is why I've put this as a number 2 hypothesis.

3. Ellipsis. We can look at Exodus 24:1 in connection with Genesis 32:22-33 (the Jacob wrestling with the angel narrative). In Genesis 32:24 we find a text talking about Jacob fighting with a "man" (אִיש), then this person is referred to just like in Exodus 24:1 (in the English text, all of the -he- pronouns are related to "the man" from 32:24), and in the end the name of Jacob is changed into Israel, according to the explanation from:

Genesis 32:28:

Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (ESV)

28:29 כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים וְעִם־אֲנָשִׁ֖ים וַתּוּכָֽל׃ ... (BHS)

We know that Jacob fought with an angel from:

Hosea 12:4

He strove with the angel and prevailed ... (ESV)

But this is another story.

I think your question can be answered if we parallel Exodus 24:1 and Genesis 32:22-33. The two are similar in this respect of the way in which the Hebrew Bible is speaking about God without nominating directly, yet revealing through actions (see above Sola Gratia's helpful comment +1). However, ellipsis is quite common in the Hebrew, and it is not always related to God or implying a reference to God. This is why I have put this as a number 3 hypothesis.

  • 1. I don't see why this needs to be related to Gen 32. Ellipsis of the subject is common in many languages and in Hebrew it is not exclusive to YHWH. 2. The emphasis of the word order is not reflected in "unto", which is just older English, but in the word order of the JPST. The ASV does not reflect it. What does need to be explained is why Moses should be fronted, and why the verb is qatal rather than wayyiqtol.
    – user2672
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 6:58
  • 1
    @Keelan Yes, I do agree, ellipsis of the subject is quite common in the Hebrew Bible. I went to Gen32 as an example of this. A very relevant one, as from here we can follow the path from “a man” > ellipsis (in Heb)/pronouns (in translations) > angel/God later on. I haven’t said we need to relate to Gen32 (please double check), I only suggest it can be helpful. I am aware there are many other similar texts, this came first into my mind. Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 9:03
  • @Keelan As about 2: thank you for your observation, I have altered my answer accordingly. Indeed, adding the ASV version is confusing. Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 9:06
  • @Keelan As about the ending of your comment, the question was about who is addressing Moses. If this can be answered by explaining why the verb is qatal rataher than wayyiqtol, I am afrraid my knowledge of Hebrew is not fit enough for this. Please help. Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 9:15
  • I edited my answer, hope it is more systematic now. Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 15:42

In Ex 33:18-23, someone identified as God told Moses he could not see His face, and live. Presumably and logically, this was God the Father speaking, because nowhere in the Bible does it specifically say that no one has ever seen the face of Jesus, or the face of an angel. Only, specifically God the Father's face, we are told, has never been seen or can be seen. In Ex 24, God told Moses to come up alone, but then Aaron and the others came up also, presumably an act of disobedience on their part. However, we're then told that they all "saw the God of Israel", and upon the sons of Israel God did not raise His hand . Ex 24:10 mentions the "feet" of God, perhaps His toes, as being at least part of what they all saw. It's not mentioned that they saw God's face, but from Exodus 33 it's evident that they did not. From this, I'd venture that Moses saw the "feet" of God (the Father) in Ex 24 and later, in Ex 33, God showed Moses more of Himself, this time His back.

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