1.2.2 The "Angel" of Yahweh (Theophanies):
God as Messenger
Volume 1: Foundations—Chapter 2.2
The “Angel” of Yahweh (Theophanies):
God as Messenger
There were times between the creation of Adam and the birth of Yahshua of Nazareth when Yahweh wished to walk the earth in the form of a man in order to directly commune with the object of His love—us. Theologians call these appearances “theophanies,” a term that in the broadest sense might include phenomena like the Burning Bush of Exodus 3, although I will be restricting the technical meaning of the word to describe only anthropomorphic, or “human-like,” manifestations. (I’ll categorize the non-anthropomorphic but physically tangible appearances of God as “Shekinah” manifestations—something we’ll explore shortly.) The usual reason Yahweh used these theophanies seems to be that He wished to communicate with people without frightening them. The “awe factor” in these cases was purposely played down, I believe, because the recipient of the Godly visitation was already aware of Yahweh, even if he wasn’t particularly receptive to His will. The more examples we examine—and there are many—the more complete will be our understanding of this type of Logos manifestation of Yahweh.
We encounter our first theophany in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Chavvah (Eve) sinned, “They heard the sound of Yahweh, God, walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh, God, among the trees of the garden. But Yahweh, God, called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’” (Genesis 3:8-10) A spirit, by definition, doesn’t have this kind of physical presence, described as walking, talking audibly, and enjoying the same cool breezes in the garden that Adam and his wife did. It’s interesting that the word “cool” here is actually the same word usually translated “spirit,” that is, ruach. It’s not much of a stretch to read into this that the theophany (a diminished, personified manifestation of Yahweh) shared the same communion with Yahweh’s Spirit as Yahshua later would—whether “walking in the garden in the ruach of the day” or being driven by the Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tested. (The language also allows the idea that God manifested himself as a literal wind or breeze blowing through Adam’s environment. But it’s hard to hold a conversation with a gust of wind, nor would it make sense for Adam to try to hide his nakedness from the breeze.)
God’s frequent manifestations as theophanies made perfect sense in the days before the human race had scriptures for guidance—or better yet, had the historical fact of Yahshua’s life and work to bring them into focus. We should therefore not be surprised to encounter most of these appearances early in the course of man’s tenure upon the earth. So we see Yahweh personally (that is, in the form of a theophany) chatting with Cain (Genesis 4:6-15), after which Cain unilaterally severed this uncomfortable personal contact: “Then Cain went away from the presence of Yahweh and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:16) It’s significant that “Nod” means “wandering” or “exile.” It’s from a Hebrew verb (nuwd) meaning to shake, waver, wander, take flight, or lament. This is still our fate if we choose to separate ourselves from God’s presence.
Next we see that Enoch (father of Methuselah and great grandfather of Noah) “walked with God,” after which God apparently “raptured” him—“He was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24) It would later be noted that “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:5-6) Though the record is sketchy, it seems logical that when it is said that Enoch “walked with God,” this means that he had a face to face relationship with Yahweh’s theophany. It’s hard to be dogmatic, however, for we are not given the record of any conversations that took place between them as they “walked” together through life.
We are more fortunate in this regard in the story of Noah, of whom it was also said that he “walked with God.” In Genesis 6 and 7, Yahweh is recorded as audibly talking to Noah, giving him directions on how to build the ark, and telling him why he was going to need it. Although God presumably took human form in order to communicate with Noah and his family, it is clear that this theophany was not actually a man, for we are told in Genesis 7:16 that God sealed the door of the ark from the outside: “And Yahweh shut him in.” Noah’s conversations and communion with Yahweh’s theophany continued for the rest of his life—another 350 years, during which His promises and covenant established (or at least predicted) the course of humanity from that point forward.
Fast forward to Abraham. It is at this point that Yahweh begins giving us a bit more detail concerning the nature of His manifestations. Beginning in Genesis 12, we see Yahweh interacting with Abraham in pretty much the same way as he had with Enoch and Noah, as far as we can tell. But then we read of an encounter with someone named Melchizedek. After rescuing his nephew Lot from the warlords who had kidnapped him, and Abram was on his way home, “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:18-20) We’d be tempted to write off this enigmatic character as just one of many men Abram encountered in his travels, but for the subsequent scriptures that elucidate his identity. Speaking of the Messiah, the Psalmist writes, “Yahweh has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” (Psalm 110:4)
The writer of the book of Hebrews explains: “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness [or “my king is righteousness”], and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.” Melek is the Hebrew word for “king,” and tsedek means “righteousness,” “justice,” or “vindication.” Salem, of course, is related to shalom—peace. The place name apparently refers to Jerusalem—long before it was Jerusalem. “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever….” This all compels me to think of Melchizedek as a theophany, not an ordinary man whose brief contact with Abram made him a handy illustration tool for writers of scripture.
“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?” Remember, the Messiah had been prophesied to be a “priest of the Order of Melchizedek.” “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:1-3, 11-16) Yahshua the Messiah could not have been an Aaronic priest, for He was born (in human terms) into the wrong family for that—the royal line of the tribe of Judah. But because the Messiah—the Anointed King—was also (according to Psalm 110) a “priest forever of the Order of Melchizedek,” then Melchizedek’s status as a theophany devolves upon Yahshua as well, confirming His divinity.
It always humbles me to observe that Yahweh uses our failures, not our successes, to teach us. Abram had originally been told to “leave your country and your kindred,” but instead, he’d dragged his nephew Lot to Canaan along with him. And as we’ve just seen, if Lot hadn’t needed rescuing, Abram might never have met Melchizedek—at least not under those circumstances. This wasn’t the last time Abe’s nephew would need to be rescued, nor was it the last time Lot’s deliverance would put Abraham in the presence of one of Yahweh’s theophanies.
But the next theophany to appear in scripture wasn’t to Abram—it was to his wife’s handmaid, Hagar. (Abe had indeed met with Yahweh again before this, but He had assumed a different form, one we’ll be discussing shortly.) The Hagar passage (Genesis 16) is the first time in scripture that the word malak—simply meaning messenger or representative, but usually translated “angel,”—is used. The phrase “the Angel of Yahweh” makes it sound to our ears like God sent one of His many created spirit envoys to Hagar to deliver a message. But a close examination of the text reveals that this “messenger” is actually Yahweh Himself—a theophany. “The angel of Yahweh said to her, ‘Return to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel of Yahweh also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Genesis 16:9-10) Although ordinary angels can convey instruction from God, they cannot “multiply offspring.” Only Yahweh can do that.
Hagar apparently understood this, for “She called the name of Yahweh who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.’” (Genesis 16:13) She didn’t know God as “Yahweh,” a name later revealed to Moses (the historian recording this). But she did know that the “angel” talking with her was deity, not merely a spirit messenger, so she portrayed Him as “a God of seeing.” That’s the Hebrew El roi…ra’ah. El (God) is described using a rather common Hebrew linguistic device of using a noun in conjunction with a related verb for emphasis. Roi is an appearance, sight, or spectacle; and ra’ah means “to see, look at, perceive, inspect, or consider.” In our parlance, Hagar was saying that the Messenger (of) God was “a sight to see,” or perhaps, “a spectacle worthy of consideration.” That’s not a bad description of theophanies in general. Whether figuratively or literally, Yahweh always wants us to “see” Him—and the sight is always an eye-opener.
The next time we see a theophany in Abram’s life is in Genesis 17, where God changed his name to Abraham and instituted the rite of circumcision as a sign of the covenant that existed between them. We aren’t given much information about the theophany, only that He “appeared to Abram” (vs. 1) and left just as abruptly: “When He had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.” (Genesis 17:22)
We’re given more specifics concerning their next meeting: “And Yahweh appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men [Hebrew: iysh—males] were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord [Hebrew: ’adown—master, ruler], if I have found favor in Your sight, do not pass by your servant.” (Genesis 18:1-3) One of these three “men” was Yahweh’s theophany, and the other two were angels who would go on to extricate Lot’s sorry carcass from Sodom, leaving the theophany behind (vs. 22, where He is identified as Yahweh) to explain to Abe (and to us) that He would never destroy the righteous along with the wicked. (This, by the way, is compelling evidence for a pre-Tribulation rapture.) The theophany is again identified as Yahweh in the record of their parting: “And Yahweh went His way, when He had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.” (Genesis 18:33) It is clear, then, that God has on occasion taken on the form of a man, and has given angelic beings the ability to do so as well. Abraham seems to have known intuitively, however, that these three who visited him were no ordinary men. We are not told how he knew. The question we need to ask ourselves is, would we recognize God if we met Him on the street? I think we would—if He could recognize us as His children.
Quite often in scripture, a theophany is “only” a voice from heaven. That is, God is heard speaking audibly, using human language, but He’s not employing the whole anthropomorphic “package” to achieve this. This type of theophany was in evidence at the baptism of Yahshua, as we saw above (Matthew 3:17), where Yahweh’s theophany referred to Yahshua as “My Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Twice in the story of Isaac’s almost-sacrifice in Genesis 22, God (identified here as “the Angel—or Messenger—of Yahweh”) is described as “calling to Abraham from heaven.” And we hear the theophany reassuring Hagar: “And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.’” (Genesis 21:17) We may find it confusing to hear Yahweh speaking of Himself in the third person, but He does it all the time. It can also be disconcerting when God refers to Himself as an “angel” (a malak, a messenger—the term “angel” carries too much errant baggage with it these days to be of much practical use). But when He’s delivering a message as a theophany, it’s perfectly appropriate: the diminished Logos manifestation is seen (or heard) bearing messages from Yahweh, whose undimmed glory is incomprehensible (not to mention lethal) to us mortals. Thank God He goes to all the trouble.
The Tanach is peppered with instances where Yahweh “appears” or “speaks” or “calls” to one person or another. These theophanies vary in circumstance and detail, but they all portray Yahweh’s willingness—even eagerness—to reach out to us and tell us what we need to know. Most of them follow the patterns we’ve already explored, but there are two cases we should examine more closely: Jacob’s wrestling match, and Moses’ remarkable interaction with God.
Jacob had heard of Yahweh and the covenant He’d made with both his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham, and had received personal confirmation of that covenant in a dream (received at Bethel, recorded in Genesis 28). But years later, after Jacob had accumulated two wives, two concubines, eleven children, and more wealth than you could shake a stick at, he had a strange encounter with a theophany: “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that He did not prevail against Jacob, He touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him. Then He said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let You go unless you bless me.’” Jacob would get more than he bargained for: “And He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God [Elohiym] and with men, and have prevailed.’” (Genesis 32:24-28) The “striven” and “prevailed” observations are a reflection of one of the two words comprising Jacob’s new name, “Israel” (Yisra’el): sarah is a Hebrew verb meaning to contend with, to persist, to exert oneself, or to persevere. But sarah is derived from a verb that more directly reveals the nature of the covenant Yahweh wished to confirm with him: yasar means to be upright, just, lawful, level or straight. So the blessing bestowed by the divine Wrestler upon Jacob was that he would no longer be known as “the supplanter—the cheater,” but would now be known as Yisra’el: the one who is “upright with God.” Why? Because he’d insisted, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” When’s the last time we refused to “let go” of God—for any reason?
No divine expression other than a theophany—a pre-Messianic anthropomorphic manifestation—would have been appropriate here. We need to come to grips with a very counterintuitive truth: God allows us—even encourages us—to “wrestle” with Him. We’re so used to hearing Yahweh referred to as “Lord”—something He went far out of His way to avoid (even though He is the source of all authority)—we often get the erroneous notion that He’s cold, distant, and autocratic—willing, even eager, to squash us like bugs if we have the temerity to “speak freely,” tell Him what’s on our minds, wrestle with Him. But that’s precisely what He does want. It’s called prayer. It’s to be done with reverence and respect, of course, but God wants us to “level” with him (just as the name Yisra’el implies)—be straight with Him. He wants us to refuse to let go of Him. The last thing He wants to see from us is cringing trepidation or obsequious obeisance: we’re His children, after all.
A later prophet points out that the God who had visited Jacob in his dream at Bethel, confirming the covenant (Genesis 28), was the same God who wrestled all night with him at Peniel. That God’s name is Yahweh. “He [Jacob] took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel [malak—messenger: in this case, theophany] and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—that is, Yahweh, God of hosts. Yahweh is His memorial name.” (Hosea 12:3-5)
One more telling detail about Jacob’s little adventure should be explored. “Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me Your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask My name?’ And there He blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [“Facing God”], saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” (Genesis 32:29-30) The same question was asked of another theophany, the “Angel of Yahweh,” (described in Judges 13 as “a Man of God” who had a “countenance like the countenance of the Angel of Yahweh, very awesome”) who delivered the prophecy of Samson’s miraculous birth to his parents. The same evasive answer was given each time: “Why do you ask?” In the time honored tradition of wrestling with Yahweh until He blesses us, let us ask the question, “Why do You ask, ‘Why do you ask’?” That is to say, why was the theophany reluctant to tell Jacob, and later Manoah, what His name was? I believe it was because God didn’t want to create the wrong impression. If He said His name was “Yahweh,” (which it was, in a way) then Jacob or Manoah might have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that God was restricted or confined to the form of a man. But God would later manifest Himself as a human being, so why didn’t He introduce Himself as Yahshua? Because the Messiah’s name foretells His mission: Yahweh is Salvation. The “Man” who wrestled with Jacob and delivered good news to Manoah and his wife wasn’t there in the role of Savior. That would come later. So Yahweh declined to confuse us by telling us something that wasn’t immediately relevant. All they really needed to know was that they had “seen God face to face” and had lived to tell the tale.
When it comes to face-to-face contact with Yahweh’s manifestations, Moses is in a class by himself. His introduction to the God of his fathers was something that hasn’t been seen by anybody else, before or since. “And the angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’ When Yahweh saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And He said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:2-6) What Moses saw was a non-human manifestation of God—something we’ll be calling the “Shekinah” in our continuing exploration of the Logos expressions of Yahweh in our world. But what he heard was a theophany—that is, the audible voice of God speaking in a human language, and indeed, holding a lengthy and somewhat confrontational conversation with this man He was trying to recruit. It’s kind of an eye-opener to read the transcript of this chat: even after Moses is convinced that this is Almighty God talking with him, he continues dodging, making excuses, and begging God to choose somebody else for the job He has in mind. There isn’t even a hint of the obsequious boot licking so endemic in our “prayer” today. And I get the feeling that Yahweh, for all His frustration, actually enjoyed this conversation with Moses more than He does with the self-centered and one-sided lectures to heaven that religious people call prayer. At least Moses was being honest with Him! Jacob had wrestled with God; Moses sparred with Him.
This theophanic “voice of Yahweh” would be Moses’ constant companion for the next forty years. Hundreds of times in the Torah we read, “And Yahweh said to Moses…” or “Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying….” He also communicated with Aaron and others the same way. Moses didn’t just listen, either: he also spoke to God, carried on a conversation with Him, enquired, complained, pleaded, interceded, and vented his frustrations. The vast majority of exchanges between God and Moses were of this type. But the exceptions—the other theophanies in Moses’ experience—tell us even more about how Yahweh is willing to reveal Himself to us when the circumstances call for it.
The first one I’d like to look at is the theophany that slew the firstborn Egyptians while passing over the Israelites. I’ve always been confused about this: did God Himself do the “deed,” or did an angel get assigned the task? After all, we read something like this in our typical English translations, “For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.” (Exodus 12:23) First (of course) they mistranslate God’s name: the text reads “Yahweh,” not “the LORD.” And then, who is “the destroyer?” Actually, this too is a mistranslation. What’s literally being said here is “Yahweh will pass over the door and will not put [or give] destruction to come into your houses.” It’s a little awkward in English, but the point is clear that Yahweh Himself would be the One doing both the “destroying” and the “passing over.” Actually, that fact is stated quite bluntly no fewer than eight times in Exodus 12.
In this case, of course, the usual anthropomorphic form of Yahweh’s theophanies seems to be an inadequate description: no “man,” no matter how strong or swift, could visit selective death upon the households of an entire nation in one night (any more that Santa Claus can deliver toys to all the good little boys and girls on Christmas eve). Nor did Yahweh say He would assume human form in order to achieve this. He only said He would do it. We’re left to ponder how. There are, however, several “human” functions that Yahweh (whether as a theophany or the Shekinah) would perform: He would survey and observe which houses in Egypt had the required lamb’s blood on the doorposts, and He would visit with death only those that did not. Then, He would slay only the firstborn of each household, leaving the others physically untouched. And finally, He would slay the firstborn farm animals belonging to the unmarked households. This wasn’t generalized mayhem: it was a focused, directed demonstration of Yahweh’s plan of redemption—including a picture of what would happen if the world ignored it. The point is stated in verse 12: “On all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am Yahweh.”
It was only after the exodus that Yahweh became Moses’ constant companion. The whole Sinai experience—Moses’ one-on-One interaction with God as He delivered the Instructions—would best be covered in our next section: the Shekinah manifestations of Yahweh. But there is one telling incident within this story that will help us to understand theophanies a bit better. “Moses said to Yahweh, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people,” but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.” Now therefore, if I have found favor in Your sight, please show me now Your ways, that I may know You in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people….’” Moses began by noting that Yahweh didn’t tell him everything up front, so he was going to have to rely on his relationship with Yahweh day by day as new challenges presented themselves. There’s a lesson for us in there somewhere, I think. Moses then stated what should be obvious to us, but apparently isn’t: if we’re going to “find favor in God’s sight,” we’re going to have to “know His ways.” And the only way that’s going to happen is for Him to “show us.” As I pointed out before, the purpose of every religion on the planet is to enable man to reach out to God. But that’s backward: the relationship God seeks to share with us results from His reaching out—from Him “showing us His ways.” The Bible is the record of Yahweh having done that very thing. It’s not His fault if we don’t pay attention to what He said and did. Remember the “burning bush?” Yahweh placed the evidence of His presence in plain sight, but it was not until Moses turned aside to investigate that God called him.
So Yahweh offered Moses and the nation of Israel some badly needed reassurance. “And He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Moses’ reply reminds me of Jacob’s wrestling match with the theophany—refusing to let go of God. "And he said to Him, ‘If Your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not in Your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and Your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?’ And Yahweh said to Moses, ‘This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name….’” One of the most common mistakes believers make, at least in my experience, is to run out ahead of God’s will, and then beg for His blessing on whatever we’ve already decided to do—a process only slightly less harmful than sowing our wild oats and then praying for a crop failure. What we should be doing is what Moses did here: waiting for Yahweh to move, so we can move in concert with Him.
So having established a bond with His God, Moses desired to “take the relationship to the next level,” so to speak. “Moses said, ‘Please show me Your glory.’” Yahweh didn’t want to say no, but He didn’t want to turn His faithful witness into a crispy critter, either. So He did what He could to accommodate His servant: “And He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name 'Yahweh.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy….’” Yahweh was obviously pleased that Moses craved a closer relationship with Him—contact more intimate than anything he had yet experienced. And it was perfectly natural for Him to promise to show grace and mercy to those who sought those blessings through just such a relationship. But what does it mean to “make all My goodness pass before you?” The word translated “goodness” is the Hebrew tuwb: good things, fairness, beauty, joy, prosperity—goodness. It’s derived from the verb towb, meaning to be good, pleasing, joyful, beneficial, pleasant, favorable, happy, or right. So, if I may read between the lines, Yahweh is telling Moses, “I can’t show you My full glory without harming you, but I’ll show you what you so earnestly desire to see: the Goodness that comprises My nature.
He went on to explain (because, let’s face it, that statement still left a bit to be desired in the clarity department): “‘But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.’ And Yahweh said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand on the rock, and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.’” (Exodus 33:12-22) I have no doubt that this describes what literally happened: Moses was allowed to see a fleeting glimpse of Yahweh’s glorious presence (call it a mega-theophany, perhaps: something less diminished in glory than usual)—but not face to face, for Moses was still mortal, and could not have survived the encounter. But I believe we’re being taught a more significant lesson here. Yahweh was telling us that the “goodness” and glory we would see of Him could only be perceived from the “Rock,” upon which we must stand and within which we must find shelter. I don’t have to draw you a picture, do I? That “Rock” is Yahshua the Messiah. If you don’t believe me, consult Matthew 7:24-27, I Corinthians 10:4, and I Peter 2:4-8.
My other observation is a bit less solid, but hear me out. Yahweh tells Moses, “You shall see My back.” That’s a perfectly good literal translation, but there may be more to it. The word translated “back” (hindquarter, rear, behind) is ’achowr. When rendered le-’achowr, it means future, that is, an indefinite duration of time in the forward direction. I’m reminded of a passage (Psalm 102) that speaks of the physical restoration of Israel as a national entity being a sign for something usually mistranslated “a generation yet to come.” In Hebrew, however, the real meaning is crystal clear: the sign is for “the last generation.” The word used for “last” is ’acharown—an adjective related to our noun ’achowr. (The -own or -on suffix is used in Hebrew to highlight the conceptual nature of a word as opposed to its literal surface meaning.) My point is simply this: Yahweh—maybe—is hinting to us through Moses that we will finally “see” Him (from our vantage point, sheltered in the cleft of the Rock, the life of Christ) during the “last” days. I don’t know about you, but the very idea makes my heart race.
(First published 2013)