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Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. Exodus 23:20-21

Firstly, is the angel spoken of in this verse the one who led the Israelites with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire through the wilderness? I am sure that it is, but, considering that the text does not explicitly say that it is, I should allow the possibility that it isn't.

The Bible says that God was the one who guided Israelites with the pillars of cloud and fire.

Exodus 13:21 KJV — And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:

Exodus 14:24 KJV — And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,

Assuming that Exodus 23:21 is speaking of the angel that was doing these same things, is the angel simply the representative of Yahweh, and so is called Yahweh in the text, or was Yahweh Himself the angel? What does it mean that His name was in him?

Thank you.

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  • Angelic names (MIchael, Gabriel) usually end in -el, which is a divine name. Within context (verse 23), it refers to Joshua, the jeh- or yeh- being also a theonym.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 0:22
  • Good question. +1. See, also, Genesis 24:7. The Lord God of heaven ... shall send his angel before thee. (Regarding the servant who sought a wife for Isaac.) And Exodus 14:19 And the angel of God which went before ... removed and went behind. And I Corinthians 10:4 ... the rock that followed them, was Christ.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 1:36
  • @Lucian What within the text indicates that it refers to Joshua?
    – CMK
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 14:16
  • Verse 23, as I've already said. It was through Joshua (3:10, 12:7-8, 24:11) that God subdued the nations mentioned therein.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 14:39
  • @Lucian But verse 23 only says that the angel would bring the Israelites to the Canaanite groups, and then God says that He will kill them.
    – CMK
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 15:30

8 Answers 8

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There are different speculations on ‘the Angel’ referred here in this passage. According to that argument it could be Yahweh, Jesus, Moses, Joshua or Michael the Archangel. However, in this verse, no matter who the messenger is Lords warns the people of Israel to take heed to the importance of the Message and its authority. It is not the postman but the content of the message he delivered and it’s authority is more important.
God’s name in him (the messenger) is like a signature that attest the authority of a document. A signature is the proof that shows the undersigned himself wrote the check or document. It authorizes the bearer to exercise the full power of the signatory to exercise the document. God wanted conveyed through His representative or messenger. The messengers are spoken His words exactly as if He is personally being heard! The messenger’s Voice carries the name of the Lord. Therefore, "be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.

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  • Thanks. Your answer is what i thought to be true as well. I suppose, though, that what I really wanted to know, though, was whether or not the angel was God Himself or simply a representative of Him, but the title question did not reflect that.
    – CMK
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 15:35
  • 1
    Dear CMK, Christian faith is build upon the revealed truth from God. The Bible did not say that the angel here is God. That means God did not want us to focus on the messenger rather pay attention to the message. All other effort to find out who the angel was will end up in mere speculations. If you speculate it was God himself or it was someone else there is nothing wrong in it and it make no difference. This is only my personal opinion. Take it or trash it.
    – Ben
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 4:34
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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 and not intrinsicallity.

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 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, of course, this is a forced and torturous treatment of the Biblical text.

Moreover, the Exodus text clearly distinguishes that there is, first, God who, so to say, stays in place and, second, His Angel bearing His name, who goes before the nation of Israel in wilderness; and the inspired prophet David interprets this by calling the second, that is to say, this God-Name-Bearing Angel who goes before the Jewish nation in the wilderness, also as "God" θεός in Psalm 68 (67):8-9: "ὁ Θεός, ἐν τῷ ἐκπορεύεσθαί σε ἐνώπιον τοῦ λαοῦ σου, ἐν τῷ διαβαίνειν σε ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. (διάψαλμα). 9 γῆ ἐσείσθη, καὶ γὰρ οἱ οὐρανοὶ ἔσταξαν ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ Σινᾶ, ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ Θεοῦ ᾿Ισραήλ." ("O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou wentest through the wilderness, the earth quaked, yea, the heavens dropped [water] at the presence of the God of Sina, at the presence of the God of Israel."

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.

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  • The answer by Levan really blessed me 😭 The Angel was indeed Christ, I have always felt this and this makes it clearer to me. Commented May 11, 2020 at 0:55
  • 1
    Another great answer!
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 19:34
  • @Dottard Thanks! I had this answer before, but having recently read the mentioned psalm, I understood that it was an inspired theological interpretation of the Exodus text by the psalmist, so I added this also. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 19:41
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The phrase "My name is in him", to me, implies that this was no ordinary angel, but most likely, the pre-existent Christ. This could also tie in with I Cor 10:4, where we're told that the "rock" that followed the Israelites "was Christ". I Cor 10:4 is often cited as "proof" that the God of the Old Testament was the pre-existent Jesus, and not God the Father. But, by logic, it could only have been God the Father who told the Israelites, through Moses, that His angel would follow them and would not forgive their transgressions, if this "angel" was indeed Christ, and was the same "rock" mentioned in I Cor 10:4.

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  • Yes, this angel was Jesus in his prehuman form. He was used to guide the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) God's name is “within him” in that Jesus is the principal one who upholds and sanctifies his Father’s name. +1 Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 19:48
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Will the unpardoning nature, could this not be the Third person of the Trinity - the Holy Spirit of God? Compare with what Jesus also said in Matthew

Mat 12:31-32 KJV 31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever *speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (emphasis added)

With this, we can speculate the Angel to be the Spirit of God

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Both Old and New Testaments reveal the son of Mary as "the Word" aka "the Name" being made flesh.

Rev 19:12, 13

12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called the Word of God.

And in Revelations 16:9, He is also identified as "the Name of God".

The First Six Bowls of Wrath 8 Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was given power to scorch the people with fire. 9 And the people were scorched by intense heat, and they cursed the name of God, (Him) who had authority over these plagues; yet they did not repent and give Him (the name of God) glory. 10 And the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness, and men began to gnaw their tongues in anguish (Rev. 16:8-10 Berean Standard Bible)

And, the Temple was built for the Angel, whom Moses and the prophets called, "the Name of God". Solomon carries out his father's plans and prepares to build the Name's Temple

1 Kings 5:4-6

4 But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or crisis. 5 So behold, I plan to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God, according to what the LORD (The Father) said to my father David: ‘I will put your son on your throne in your place, and he will build the house for My Name.’ 6 Now therefore, order that cedars of Lebanon be cut down for me. My servants will be with your servants, and I will pay your servants whatever wages you set, for you know that there are none among us as skilled in logging as the Sidonians. (Berean Standard Bible) [italics mine]

The Angel's name is Yisra'el. The same angel who wrestled with Isaac's son Jacob. Who by the way was named "Israel (Yisra'el)" by the angel. The Angel honored Jacob by giving Jacob his own name just as The Father had honored His Angel with His Name, Yahweh. "Do not rebel against Him, because I have bestowed My Name upon him."

Yisra'el the commander of God's Armies. God's chariots and horses of fire.

2 Kings 2:11, 12, 15, 16

11Then it happened, as they (Elijah and Elisha) continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind (taken up quickly) into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it (witnessed it), and he cried out, “..., the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him (Elijah) no more. ... 15 Now when the sons of the prophets (on the other side of the river) who were from Jericho saw him (Elisha), ... And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him (He is now their prophet because the spirit of Elijah is upon him). 16 Then they said to him, “Look now, there are fifty strong men with your servants. Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the Lord (the Angel Yisra'el, the Name of God) has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.”

Those are only a few of many verses that indeed identify the pre-existent Messiah, who much later was manifest in human flesh, Yeshua, the Word of God.

The Spirit of God is over the waters! Genesis 1:1-2

1 In the beginning God created... 2... The Spirit (the Voice) of God hovers over the waters.

The Voice of God aka The Spirit of God The Angel Psalms 29:3

The Voice of the Lord is over the waters", (The Father) The God of glory thunders! The Lord is over many waters." (Gen1;2)

Job 33:4

The Spirit (Voice/Word) of God created me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Job 27:11

I will teach you by the Hand of God: that (He) which is with the Almighty (Gen. 1:1-2, John 1:1-3,14; Job 33:4; Psa 29:3) will I not conceal.

Isaiah 30:27

27Behold, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, Burning with His anger, And His burden is heavy; His lips are full of indignation, And His tongue like a devouring fire. 28 His breath is like an overflowing stream, Which reaches up to the neck, To sift the nations with the sieve of futility;

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This is true, John 14:10 reiterates that Jesus and the Father are one and not to be divided. But on the angel question, Jewish extra biblical literature also talks about that particular angel mentioned above as the metatron, greek meaning archangel that is “ in the presence of God”. He also is a kind of scribe according to that same literature ( kabbalah) which jives with John the revealer’s vision of angels in that book Rev10:1. “-and he had a little scroll lying open in his hand”It is also a similar ID given by Gabriel to Zecariah in Luke 1, to rebuke Zechariah for his lack of faith. (“I stand in the presence of God”) I find it fascinating that some angels are so powerful, they light up the whole earth.Rev18:2 .so i have no problem believing that angels can do powerful, authoritative things.

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In Jesus pre-exsistence he appeared to the prophets as the angel of Jehovah, having the authority to forgive sins. Coming to earth he wanted others to know that as the Son of Man (Christ) he would do this and that is why he is Lord of the Sabbath which is also called Christ's Millinieal Regin.

Peshitta Holy Bible Translated

Beware of him and listen to his voice; do not contend against him, lest he will not forgive your sins, because my Name is upon him.

He was such an Angel as could forgive sin, see ( Matthew 9:6 )

Jesus when translated means (Jehovah is Salvation) John 5:43 I have come in the name of my Father, but you do not receive me. If someone else came in his own name, you would receive that one.

Take Care. BroRando

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    – agarza
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 13:12
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[Exo 23:21 NKJV] [21] "Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name [is] in Him.

I see a pair of principles throughout the scriptures:

  • whatever God does thru his proxy is done by God himself. For example:

[Jhn 14:8-12 NKJV] [8] Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." [9] Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? [10] "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own [authority]; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. [11] "Believe Me that I [am] in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. [12] "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater [works] than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

  • However one treats God's proxy, one treats the person they represent:

[Mat 25:37-40 NKJV] [37] "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed [You], or thirsty and give [You] drink? [38] 'When did we see You a stranger and take [You] in, or naked and clothe [You]? [39] 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' [40] "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did [it] to one of the least of these My brethren, you did [it] to Me.'

So anyone that does not immediately obey the LORD's Agent, does not just disrespect the Agent, but also shows contempt for the reputation of the LORD himself.

We see an echo of this here:

[Act 5:3-4 NKJV] [3] But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back [part] of the price of the land for yourself? [4] "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."

It is also notable that in the Torah, taking the LORD's name "in vain" (for a false oath?) is designated as the unforgivable sin:

[Exo 20:7 NKJV] [7] "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold [him] guiltless who takes His name in vain.

[Deu 5:11 NKJV] [11] 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold [him] guiltless who takes His name in vain.

But in the NT, it is the PNEUMA:

[Mat 12:32 NLT] [32] Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.

A story:

A man in the Army of Alexander the Great who was also named Alexander, was accused of cowardly actions. He was brought before Alexander, who asked what his name was.

He replied softly, “Alexander.”

“I can’t hear you,” the ruler stated.

The man again said, a little louder, “Alexander.”

The process was repeated one more time, after which Alexander the Great commented, “Either change your name or change your conduct.”

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  • I have a question? Do you believe that the malak/messenger/angel of the Lord is the preincarnate Jesus Christ? You mentioned the word "proxy" and in the Jewish system this is known as a "shaliach" or "The Law of Agency." This is when a person (known as the agent) is acting by the direction of another (the principal). In this case the angel of the Lord is acting on behalf of the principal who is God. So my question again, do you believe the angel of the Lord is the Son before He incarnated?
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 1:12
  • Thank you @Mr.Bond, for the info about "shaliach." It is nice to have a name to go with the principle. I think the idea that one can read the scriptures front to back and back to front and they tell the same story. I mean, there is one story where Jacob wrestles with God, presumably actually engaged with the angel, sees its face and he lives. But not long later that is declared impossible. So one must consider each text, author, context, etc. independently. What passage are we discussing? Then I can answer.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 11:05

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