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I am confused as to the meaning of Exodus 23:25. The background is the following:

Exodus 21:1

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. [God speaking]

Then in Exodus 23, God speaks about the famous angel with his name 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. 24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.

Then after this change of topic in verse 24, it seems to possibly go back to speaking about the angel, this is the key moment.

25 And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

Is this a simple change from the third person to the first person, or is there some reference to the angel here? If the former, why would this be spoken in this way? The interlinear is too complex for me to understand, and I am also not sure if the four-lettered name of God can be applied to the angel itself given that the name is in him.

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This is where Christian interpretation differs from Judaic and Rabbinic interpretations: for Christians the Angel in Whom is the Name of God is a worshipable entity along with God. Exactly that’s why Moses is told not to rebel against Him, for “He will not forgive” (Exodus 23:21-22); but to forgive or not is not an angelic, but solely a divine prerogative. The rabbinic interpretation was such: “He will not forgive, because he is just an angel, and angels have no authority of forgiving or not, it is only My authority”. As a great Jewish scholar of Berkeley University, Daniil Boyarin, told during one of his lectures: “Objectively the heretics (he meant Christians) have a grammatical upper-hand in interpreting this passage”, that is to say, in considering the divine dignity of this special Angel. Paul identifies this Angel with pre-incarnate Christ (1 Cor. 10:4), while Psalms identify Him with God (Psalm 68:7).

The same identification of the subject of this special Angel and the subject of the Lord whom Moses worships is in the scene of the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4); the Judaic interpretation was, again, a forced one, for they ironed and leveled as it were the scandal of this grammatically plain identification and asserted that there were two speaking from the 🔥-ing bush: an angel, whom Moses did not worship, and Lord, whom he did worship. In interpreting those passages in Christological terms, Christians are seen as better and more objective grammarians.

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  • +1. Very good answer. There are other numerous references to the "Angel of the LORD" that also refers to the LORD directly such as Gen 16:7-13, 22:11-17, 32:24-30, 48:16, Ex 3:2-6, 32:34, Num 22:22-35, Josh 5:13-15, Judg 2:1-4, 6:11-23, 13:3-23, Isa 63:9.
    – Dottard
    Dec 12, 2022 at 20:14
  • @Dottard thanks dear Dotard for kind words, the upvote and the pertinent references Dec 12, 2022 at 21:52
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This angel (The Angel of the Lord) is a particular angel usually mentioned in the Old Testament that is theophonic. It acts as a direct representative of YHWH (the Lord), and will even speak in first person on behalf of the Lord (see Gen. 16 for example).

Narratively speaking, the angel will be referenced along with the Lord, because the angel's actions and messages are to be understood as if they are directly from YHWH. (Thus, as you've pointed out, there may or may not be a grammatical distinction between the angel and YHWH, depending on the particular passage you are reading).

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