Judges 2:1-5 – The Angel of the Lord Speaks to Israel


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POSTED 03 NOVEMBER, 2017

“Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, ‘I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, “I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.” But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done? Therefore I also said, “I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”’ When the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. So they named that place Bochim; and there they sacrificed to the LORD.”

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I

The Book of Judges largely records some of the challenges faced by the Israelites during the period of the Conquest, and the consolidation of the community being settled in the Promised Land. Prior to the death of Joshua (Judges 2:6-10), and with it some of the initial Israelite rejection of the Lord for the Baals (Judges 2:11-23), readers encounter the elusive figure of the malakh-YHWH, the “messenger of YHWH” (Judges 2:1, Fox) or “messenger of the LORD” (Alter), an entity which comes to not only speak to the people about past salvation-historical activity for Israel, but also the future surety of problems because not all of the Canaanite pagans had been ejected from the Promised Land (Judges 2:1-3). Significant questions about this entity are necessarily raised, not only as is witnessed how the malakh-YHWH speaks in the first person “I” as the LORD or YHWH, but even more so how specific covenantal promises are invoked, where the malakh-YHWH was specifically noted to be present in previous Tanach narratives:

“An angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and I took you into the land which I had promised on oath to your fathers. And I said, “I will never break My covenant with you. And you, for your part, must make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you must tear down their altars.” But you have not obeyed Me – look what you have done! Therefore, I have resolved not to drive them out before you; they shall become your oppressors, and their gods shall be a snare to you’” (Judges 2:1-3, NJPS).

While it is customary in much Jewish examination to view the figure of the malakh-YHWH as just a supernatural agent sent from God proper, when it is noted what this being is claiming responsibility for, Bible readers should legitimately wonder:

  • the malakh-YHWH claims to have brought the Israelites out of Egypt (Judges 2:1b), which Exodus 20:2[1] says the LORD or YHWH proper did.
  • the malakh-YHWH claims to have sworn the Promised Land of Canaan to Israel’s ancestors (Judges 2:1c), which Genesis 17:7-8[2] says God proper did.
  • the malakh-YHWH claims to have told the Israelites not to make a covenant or agreement with the Canaanites (Judges 2:2b), but the Torah narrative records that these directives were issued by the Lord or God proper (Exodus 23:32[3]; Deuteronomy 7:2-5[4]; Exodus 34:12-13[5]).
  • the malakh-YHWH claims that it will withhold driving out the Canaanites from before Israel (Judges 2:3), invoking the word of Numbers 22:55[6] which was directed by the LORD or YHWH proper.

The statement of Judges 2:4a is that “the messenger of YHWH had spoken these words to all the Children of Israel” (Fox). It is hardly a surprise to any reader of Scripture, that when some transition or shift is taking place in the experience of Ancient Israel, that some supernatural encounter will occur, with key messages conveyed. In Judges 2:1-3, the figure of the malakh-YHWH or “messenger/angel of the LORD,” is seen making claims where the Torah record has the LORD or YHWH proper actually having spoken. It does too little to simply identify this entity as “an emissary of the LORD” (Judges 2:1, Keter Crown Bible); the third person “He” is notably not employed in Judges 2:2b-4:a as it could have been, unambiguously making this figure entirely a created intermediary:

He brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which He had sworn to your fathers; and He said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Him; what is this you have done? Therefore He also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you’” (NASU modified).

Contrary to the modified quotation referenced above, the figure of the malakh-YHWH claims personal responsibility for leading Israel out of Egypt, bringing them into the Promised Land sworn to their ancestors, and issuing directions as what to do with the Canaanites. A Bible reader who concludes that the malakh-YHWH or “messenger/angel of the Lord” is a distinct manifestation of God Himself, and is no mere supernatural agent—being a part of the Divine Identity—has a legitimate basis for such a view. The activities of a figure like the malakh-YHWH, provide significant material for later evaluating the activities of Yeshua the Messiah in the Apostolic Writings, as the Son is integrated into the Divine Identity right alongside of the Father.


NOTES

[1] “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

[2] “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8).

[3] “You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods” (Exodus 23:32).

[4] “and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire” (Deuteronomy 7:2-5).

[5] “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim” (Exodus 34:12-13).

[6] “Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying…‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live’” (Numbers 33:50, 55).