I asked a similar question and received a decent answer but it did not pursue the logic of the assertion and its apparent lack of consistency with other statements so I don't consider this to be a duplicate.

YHVH warns the Jews being led by the angel/messenger/deputy of YHVH (whom Paul calls Christ/Messiah/Anointed One) through the wilderness/desert that they musn't rebel against against him because he will not pardon them because his "name is in him":

[Exo 23:21 ESV] (21) Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.

[1Co 10:9 ESV] (9) We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,

Yet isn't YHVH a covenant name ensuring forgiveness?:

[Gen 19:16 ASV] (16) But he lingered; and the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters, Jehovah being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.

[Exo 34:6 ASV] (6) And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth,

[Deu 4:31 ASV] (31) for Jehovah thy God is a merciful God; he will not fail thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

[2Ch 30:9 ASV] (9) For if ye turn again unto Jehovah, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that led them captive, and shall come again into this land: for Jehovah your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.

[Psa 103:8 ASV] (8) Jehovah is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness.

[Psa 111:4 ASV] (4) He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: Jehovah is gracious and merciful.

[Psa 116:5 ASV] (5) Gracious is Jehovah, and righteous; Yea, our God is merciful.

[Psa 130:7-8 ASV] (7) O Israel, hope in Jehovah; For with Jehovah there is lovingkindness, And with him is plenteous redemption. (8) And he will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.

[Psa 145:8 ASV] (8) Jehovah is gracious, and merciful; Slow to anger, and of great lovingkindness.

[Jer 3:12 ASV] (12) Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith Jehovah; I will not look in anger upon you; for I am merciful, saith Jehovah, I will not keep anger for ever.

[Joe 2:13 ASV] (13) and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto Jehovah your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

[Jon 4:2 ASV] (2) And he prayed unto Jehovah, and said, I pray thee, O Jehovah, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I hasted to flee unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

So given YHVH's claim that he is merciful, what is the logic of the assertion that:

  • the angel will not forgive their sins
  • this is because YHVH's name is "in him"
  • I think you ought to check that the angel being spoken of is the same angel in which the Name of the Lord was in and that in fact it wasn’t another Angel. Because ask far as I can tell the Lord who spoke is the Angel of the Lord in whom the Name of the Lord is placed. So that explains why a regular angel could not forgive like God in the Angel of the Lord could. Consider it was the Angel of the Lord at the burning bush, it was He on Mt Sinai that spoke to the people and the people entered into covenant with the Angel of the Lord. And so on. May 10, 2019 at 15:46
  • Maybe you would like to break that down for us in an answer. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    May 10, 2019 at 16:03
  • Also, would that really affect the logic of the assertions involved?
    – Ruminator
    May 10, 2019 at 16:13
  • Yes it will affect the logic entirely because God is the Angel of the Lord (I understand you don’t agree) in the form of an angel but lacking (some of) His glory John 17:5. An angel is not God. And Moses doesn’t so much mind an angel doing the work but he does mind if God doesn’t go with Him. Exodus 33:15. Moses asks specifically for God’s פניך to be present. That’s not the same as having the Name (authority of God) in an angel. Moses was asking God to be present. Most interactions in the Bible on earth are with Jesus, in the Divine Council it’s with the Father. I wish I could afford the time. May 10, 2019 at 18:17
  • 1
    As far as I personally understand it, the text seems to imply that the offense in question is not something to be taken lightly or be easily discarded, since an offense against the emissary is ultimately directed at the One Who sent him; in this case, God Himself. (Whether they might later forgive those who have transgressed after showing appropriate sorrow and repentance for their misdeed is left at their discretion; and indeed, they are merciful; but it's not meant to be something self-understood or expected).
    – Lucian
    May 11, 2019 at 11:45

4 Answers 4


Great question!

Indeed the Chizkuni (Jewish Medieval commentator and exegete) is bothered by the inverted logic of this verse and offers an alternative reading. According to him the verse should be interpreted thus:

do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, although my name is in him.

He compares this to Psalms 25:11,

For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

The Hebrew term כִּי is a flexible word and has quite a few meanings which depend a lot on the context they're found in. The same term is used in both of these verses, yet in Psalms the accepted translation is though (he gives more examples like Gen. 48:14; Psalms 74:20) while in Exodus it is translated to because. Chizkuni challenges this convention and insists it should be though in Exodus as well; i.e., though God's name is in him, the people of Israel shouldn't expect the same level of mercy to be shown by the angel, since he is only representing God's glory, however he does not have the same power of mercy God himself possesses. I think the reading is quite logical and effectively resolves your problem.

It should be noted that other commentators take a similar approach but without altering the meaning of the verse. They plainly state that the angel has been given Yahweh's power to punish but not his power to forgive; i.e., because God's name is in him the angel can unleash his wrath upon the people, but it doesn't necessarily follow that he is exactly like God with all his characteristics, while some powers are given, others and withheld. While this may not resolve your difficulty it demonstrates that the logic is not totally inverted as it may seem at first glance, and that the conventional translation can be justified. But in any case, I believe the best way to resolve this problem is to accept the Chizkuni's novel interpretation.

Hope this helps!

  • That certainly does help, Bach, thanks and +1.
    – Ruminator
    Jun 5, 2020 at 10:56

I have answered once this question, let me repeat it here, for it is pertinent for this question:

"The Angel is sent by God, and "in him is His name"; this was so scandalous for Septuagint translators (in the sense that the nameless Angel who bears in him God's name can be regarded as equal to God, for "in" implies something intrinsic, not adventitious) that they mitigated this implication by translating "in him" not with the equivalent Greek ἒν αὐτῷ, but with ἐπ᾽ αὐτὸν - "upon him", that more coveys notion of adventitiousness of divinity on someone who is not by himself divine, whereas ἒν αὐτῷ has a notion of intrinsicallity and proper divinity.

Moreover, the passage also says "be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression", but to forgive or not to forgive is a prerogative of only God, but if someone in whom is God's name can Himself authoritatively forgive or not, then this cannot be just an angel, for no angel or archangel has this authority, but only Someone with the equal authority with God.

This was so scandalous for Rabbinic interpreters that they hazarded such an interpretation: "He will not forgive" means that "he will not forgive for the reason of not having authority of doing so, for this authority belongs to God only"; but, one does not need to be a Biblical scholar to see that this is a forced and torturous treatment of the Biblical text.

Christians, who interpreted this Angel with the authority of forgiving or not with the co-eternal Logos of God who has the same authority as God have a clear philological upper hand over Rabbis in interpreting this passage without the mentioned violence on the text, providing exegesis and not eisegesis."

As to why merciful God sometimes does not forgive, it is not that He changes His moods (for He always wants to forgive and always loves), but if people are too stiff-necked and incorrigible, then, again out of love, He applies a bitter medication for their own benefit, which medication in human language is called "punishment" and "unforgiving". When Jesus bestowed His divine authority of "loosing" and "tying" the sins to the Apostles, He also told theme that "upon whom you hold sins (i.e. whom you not forgive") on him the sin will remain" (Matthew 18:18). Thus, the apostles are urged to dispense this divine authority with a sagacity: not to untie those, who are not yet worthy of it, for their own benefit, that their repentance comes to perfection.

And, finally, this I have responded to Mr. Bach's criticism as to my missing the very target and the gist of the question, and here I bring this also:

Thus, the assertion's logic is that the Angel has the authority of forgiving or not intrinsically and properly, implied by the expression "in Him is My name", just like we know from the New Testament that the name "God" or "Lord" applies both to the Father and the Son. Thus, the Father says to Jews that there is nothing that can protect them from the wrath of the Son, for He has the entirety of the supreme and absolute authority just like the Father, for They share the same name of divinity. As if a Cloud says to fire: "Do not expose yourself to Rain, for He (Rain) will not spare but extinguish you, for entirety of my Wetness is in Him, no less than in Myself."

  • Levan you elaborate on the Septuagint and the historical interpretation of this verse (and even offer your own criticism of the Rabbinic interpretation), yet you fail to answer the OP's question! You say things like "better medication" "out of love", but you seem to have missed the problem here; namely, "what is the logic of the assertion that the angel will not forgive their sins because YHVH's name is in him?" The crux of the problem is why does "unforgiving" logically follow from the fact that YHVH's name is in him. The question was not why God is so cruel and how can he not forgive, etc.
    – Bach
    Jun 5, 2020 at 15:52
  • @Bach The assertion's logic is that the Angel has the authority of forgiving or not intrinsically and properly, implied by the expression "in Him is My name", for name "God" or "Lord" applies both to the Father and the Son. Thus, the Father says to Jews that there is nothing that can protect them from the wrath of the Son, for He has the entirety of the supreme and absolute authority just like the Father, for They share the same name of divinity. As if a Cloud says to fire: "Do not expose yourself to Rain, you will be extinguished, for entirety of my Wetness is in Him, no less than in Myself". Jun 7, 2020 at 2:48

After reading what you said it appears to me your "conflating" two separate issues as if they are combined as one. You have the angel of the Lord who is the physical manifestation of God the Father and is God leading the nation of Israel to the promised land.

You then made this statement, "YET isn't YHVH a covenant name ensuring forgiveness?" To me it's like someone saying, "I thought your God was a God of love and He forgives our sins and the wrongs that we do?"

Well, yea He is all of that "BUT" there are still consequences when you sin and it can have an affect on others. I like what Keil and Delhzsch have to say. https://bibleapps.com/kad/exodus/23.htm


For he will not pardon your transgressions: or suffer them to pass unchastised and uncorrected, but will, as he did, take vengeance on their inventions, and on them because of them, though he forgave their iniquities; for that he was such an Angel as could forgive sin, which none but God can do, is evident; because it would be absurd to say he will not pardon, if he could not pardon their transgressions, see Matthew 9:6. Understand, if you continue obstinate in your sins.

My name is in him, Heb. is in his inward parts, i.e. is intimately united to him, according to John 14:11,

I am in the Father, and the Father in me. It not only signifies that he acts in his name, and by his power and authority, which even the apostles did, and other ministers of the gospel do, and therefore it is unreasonable to think no more is ascribed to this Angel; but that his Divine nature or essence is in him, whence he is called the Lord our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6; and God, who will not give his glory to another, Isaiah 42:8, hath given it to Christ, that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father, John 5:23, which never was nor can be said of any angel without blasphemy. Add to this, that the word name is oft put for the thing or being, whether it be human or Divine, as is manifest from Deu 28:58 Psalm 20:1 115:1 Isaiah 30:27 Acts 1:15 Revelation 3:4 11:13. And so it must be here, because this name is not said to be given to him, as it would be, if it were properly taken; but to be in him; or in his inwards, which agrees well to the Divine nature or essence, but not to the mere name.

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