Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Psalm 110:1 – Another Clear Testimony to Christ’s Deity Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our response to Zaatari’s arguments.


The Messenger of Yahweh as Adoni

Not only is Adoni applied of Yahweh it is also used of the Captain of the Lord’s host or heavenly armies:

“Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ He said, ‘No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord (sar saba YHWH).’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord (Adoni) to say to his servant?’ The captain of the Lord’s host (sar saba YHWH) said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. The Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.’” Joshua 5:13-15, 6:1-2

Suffice it to say, this is no ordinary Captain since the context suggests that he is the LORD or Yahweh who goes on to speak to Joshua in the very next chapter.

There are other indications that this specific figure is truly divine, including the fact that the phrase “Captain of the LORD’s host” is used elsewhere to describe the God of gods in the book of Daniel:

“It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host (sar hassaba); and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down… And through his shrewdness He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; And he will magnify himself in his heart, And he will destroy many while they are at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, But he will be broken without human agency.” Daniel 8:10-11, 25

Here, the little horn who opposes the Captain or Commander of the host (sar hassaba) and the Prince of princes (sar sarim) is the same wicked ruler who contends against the God of gods:

“Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all.” Daniel 11:36-37

In light of this, it seems rather obvious that the God of gods is also the Captain of the host and the Prince of princes, which therefore proves that the Man who appeared to Joshua was none other than the God of gods himself since he is the Captain of the LORD’s host! As such, this shows that the Hebrew Bible does use Adoni for Yahweh God since this is who the Man that appeared to Joshua happened to be.

There is additional evidence showing that this same Captain is also the Angel of God/LORD. For instance, both the Captain and the Angel appear with drawn swords in their hands and receive worship from their subjects:

“But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way… Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. The angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.’ Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.’ But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you.’ So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.” Numbers 22:22-23, 31-35

Moreover, both of them command individuals to remove their sandals in their presence, and both are identified as Yahweh God:

“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.’ Exodus 3:1-6

It, therefore, seems reasonably certain that the Captain and the Angel are one and the same entity, which is quite significant since this particular Angel is not only addressed as Adoni he is also called Adonai!

Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.’ Then Gideon said to him, ‘O my lord (Adoni), if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’ The Lord looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?’ He said to Him, ‘O Lord (Adonai), how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.’ So Gideon said to Him, ‘If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me. Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.’ And He said, ‘I will remain until you return.’ Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord, he said, ‘Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” Judges 6:11-24

The context makes it clear that the LORD who was speaking to Gideon is the same as the Angel of God that had appeared to him. This means that this specific Angel is called Adoni, Adonai and Yahweh, all in the same chapter!

This isn’t the only time that this particular Messenger is referred to as Adoni:

“On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, as follows: I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him. Then I said, ‘My lord (adoni), what are these?’ And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, ‘I will show you what these are.’ And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’  So they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.’” Zechariah 1:7-11

There are additional reasons for viewing this Messenger as God, such as the fact that the Angel creates, saves, forgives sins, brings judgment upon God’s enemies, is worshiped as God, calls himself God, and bears the very name and essence of God (cf. Genesis 16:7-14; 31:10-13; 48:15-16; Exodus 3:1-6; 23:20-21; Judges 2:1-5; 13:3-24; 2 Samuel 14:17, 20; 2 Kings 19:32-37; Psalm 34:6-7; Isaiah 63:9; Zechariah 3:1-4).

As Professor Elliot R. Wolfson explains in respect to this Angel bearing God's name within himself and the impact that this has on Jewish theology and exegesis:

“The textual proofs for the incarnation of the divine in the angelic figure are found in passages where there is a deliberate confusion between the angel of God and divinity itself (Gen. 16:9-13, 18:2, 21:7, 22:11, 31:11, 33:11-13; Ex. 3:2ff., 14:19, 23:21, 32:34; Jos. 5:13-15; Jud. 2:1, 4, 5:23, 6:11ff., 13:3ff.; Is. 63:9; Ps. 34:8). In such instances, the shift in the narrative from God to the angel points to the fact THAT GOD APPEARS IN THE GUISE OF AN ANGEL. One scriptural verse that is extremely significant for understanding this ancient Israelite conception is God's statement that the Israelites should give heed to the angel whom he has sent before them and not rebel against him, for his name is in him (Ex. 23:21). The line separating the angel and God IS SUBSTANTIALLY BLURRED, for by bearing the name, WHICH SIGNIFIES THE POWER OF THE DIVINE NATURE, the angel IS THE EMBODIMENT OF GOD’S PERSONALITY. To possess the name is not merely to be invested with divine authority; it means that ONTOLOGICALLY the angel is the incarnational presence of the divine manifest in the providential care of Israel ... This notion, attested in older Jewish mystical texts as well, is consistent with what one finds in the biblical texts themselves; that is, the ancient Israelite belief was THAT GOD COULD APPEAR AS AN ANGELIC PRESENCE TO HUMAN BEINGS, and the shape this presence took WAS THAT OF AN ANTHROPOS. The angelic form, therefore, is the garment (as later kabbalists expressed the matter) in which the divine is clad when it is manifest in the world in the shape of an anthropos. Clearly, this phenomenon, which is notably similar to the Christological identification of Jesus as THE GLORIOUS ANGEL, should be classified as an example of incarnation as distinct from anthropomorphization.

“… I would argue that the possibility of God assuming the form of an angel is one of the ground myths that informs the liturgical imagination in rabbinic praxis. The implication of the biblical conception is made explicit in several midrashic sources. Thus, in one context, the matter is related exegetically to the expression ‘captain of the Lord's host’ (Jos. 5:14): ‘I am the captain from above, and in every place that I am seen the Holy One, blessed be he, is seen.’ The particular angelic being who serves as the chief of the celestial host is not identified in this text, but the implication of the passage is clear: from a theophanic perspective, the highest angel and God ARE PHENOMENALLY INTERCHANGEABLE, for in every place that the former appears THE LATTER APPEARS. It is not only that the two belong together, BUT THAT THEY RESEMBLE ONE ANOTHER TO THE POINT THAT THE ONTOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO IS OBSCURED…” (Christianity in Jewish Terms, ed. Tikva Frymer-Kensky, David Novak, Peter Ochs, David Fox Sandmel, Michael A. Signer [Westview Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2000], pp. 244-245; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Professor Wolfson is not alone in this regard since this is what a liberal professor states concerning the Angel/Messenger of the Lord and the blessed Apostle Paul’s belief in the Deity of Christ:

“As we saw in the previous chapter, Paul says that it was Christ, and not the human Jesus, who existed from the beginning of creation in the ‘form of God’ but then subsequently emptied himself, being born in the likeness of a mortal human being (Philippians 2:6-7). Paul makes the rather startling assertion that this cosmic Christ, ages before he was born as a human being, HAD MANIFESTED HIMSELF AS YAHWEH, THE GOD OF ISRAEL. He refers particularly to the time of Moses, when the Israelites ‘saw’ Yahweh as a mysterious cloud-fire: ‘And Yahweh went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, that they might go by day and by night’ (Exodus 13:21).

Paul says that the God who led the Israelites through the Red Sea and in their desert wanderings for forty years, the one they called the Rock, WAS CHRIST (1 Corinthians 10:4; Deuteronomy 32:4, 18). He does not explain the particulars of his view, but the idea that there was AN ‘UPPER’ YAHWEH, who remains unseen, sometimes called ‘God called Most High,’ as well as A ‘LOWER’ MANIFESTATION OF THAT SAME GOD, CALLED THE ‘MESSENGER YAHWEH,’ who appears from time to time in human history in a visible manner on earth, WAS COMMON IN VARIOUS FORMS OF JUDAISM OF PAUL’S TIME. This lower Yahweh is not flesh and blood, even though in some of the stories he seems to ‘materialize,’ but when he appears he is then ‘taken up’ or in one case disappears in a flame of fire.

“This is very much akin to the Greek notion of the ineffable God manifest in the lower world as the ‘Word’ or Logos, which was an integral part of Platonic and Stoic cosmology. The Logos idea was appropriated by the Jewish philosopher Philo, a contemporary of Paul, to deal with passages in the Hebrew Bible THAT SEEM TO REFER TO TWO YAHWEHS, AN UPPER AND A LOWER. In the New Testament the Gospel of John adopts the Logos idea wholesale, but makes the shocking assertion that ‘the Logos became flesh,’ referring to the birth of Jesus (John 1:1, 14). This is akin to Paul’s view of the preexistent Christ. In the form of God, who emptied himself and was born of a woman.

“Paul says little more about the preexistent Christ as a manifestation of Yahweh other than that he was present in the days of Moses. Paul is focused entirely on the other end of history, the termination of what he calls ‘this present evil age’ (Galatians 1:14 [sic]). What Jesus represents to Paul is one thing and one thing only–the cosmic, preexistent Christ, being ‘born of a woman,’ as a flesh-and-blood mortal human being now transformed to a life-giving Spirit. This is what drove Paul and excited him most. For him it explained the Genesis creation itself and accounted for all the subsequent ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ of the human story. Humans were created to become Gods! ‘This slight, momentary affliction’ was preparing them for an ‘eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison’ (2 Corinthians 4:17).

“In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh, the One God of Israel, had declared: ‘Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other … To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear’ (Isaiah 45:22-23). Paul quotes this precise phrase from Isaiah but now significantly adds: ‘At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:10-11). Christ as the newly exalted Lord of the cosmos IS THE FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENT OF YAHWEH.” (James D. Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity [Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2012], Six. A Mystical Union, pp. 133-135; bold and capital emphasis ours)


7. The literal term in Hebrew, “messenger Yahweh,” is usually translated as “the angel of Yahweh” but this is not the best choice for English since “angel” in English has its own set of connotations quite different from Hebrew. In Hebrew the phrase used, malak Yahweh, MEANS A MANIFESTATION OF YAHWEH and this figure speaks and acts as Yahweh in the first person, appearing and departing, sometimes in a flame of fire (see Genesis 16:10; 18:33; 22:11; Exodus 3:2; Judges 13:20). There are a few passages where these “two Yahwehs” are mentioned in a single verse: “Then Yahweh (below) rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Yahweh (above) from heaven” (Genesis 19:24). (Ibid, p. 257; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Hence, not only does Tabor readily acknowledge that Paul believed that Christ is Yahweh God who appeared during the OT period to his saints such as Moses, he even admits that certain strands of Judaism could see that the Hebrew Bible posits two distinct entities as Yahweh God, one visible and the other invisible!

Another liberal NT scholar James D. G. Dunn goes as far as to say that the Angel is not a distinct Divine Messenger sent by Yahweh, but is the same Person as Yahweh!

“More important is ‘the angel of Yahweh’, especially in view of [2nd century Christian apologist] Justin’s identification of the angel of Yahweh with the pre-existent Christ (above p. 132). Yet to understand the angel of Yahweh as a being somehow independent of Yahweh is basically to misunderstand what the ancient writers intended. For it is clear enough even from a cursory study of the passages in question that ‘the angel of Yahweh’ is simply a way of speaking about Yahweh himself. Thus, after the angel of the Lord has appeared and spoken to Hagar the narrative continues: ‘So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?”’ (Gen. 16.13). Similarly in the other version of the same tale the angel of God speaks in the first person as God (21.17f.). In Jacob’s dream the angel of God says, ‘I am the God of Bethel’ (31.11-13). In the theophany in the burning bush he who appears to Moses is described both as ‘the angel of the Lord’ and ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ (Ex. 3.2-6). Finally we might note Judg. 2.1, where ‘the angel of the Lord’ says ‘I brought you up from the land of Egypt… I will never break my covenant with you…’. Clearly in all of these cases it is impossible to distinguish between the angel of Yahweh and Yahweh himself; they are obviously one and the same person. And the same is most probable true of the other passages where it is a ‘man’ who appears to Abraham (Gen. 18 – ‘the Lord’), to Jacob (Gen. 32.24-30 – ‘I have seen God face to face’) and to Joshua (Josh. 5.13-15). Somewhat more ambiguous is the status of the angel who led Israel through the exodus and wilderness wanderings (Ex. 14.19; 23.20, 23; 32.34; 33.2f.; Num. 20.16), but in fact the same equation seems to hold, since the divine presence in the pillar of fire and of cloud is thought of both as ‘the angel of God’ and as ‘the Lord’ in Ex. 14:19f., 24. In other words, in these instances too the ‘angel’ is a way of describing the presence and saving power of Yahweh.

“In short, this angel talk seems to have been an early, still unsophisticated attempt to speak of God’s immanent activity among people and within events on earth without either resorting to straightforward anthropomorphism or abandoning belief in his holy otherness…” (James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making – A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI; Second edition 1989], V. Spirit or Angel?, 20. The angel of the Lord, p. 150; bold emphasis and comments within brackets ours)

Although we reject the notion that the Angel isn’t a distinct Person from Yahweh – since it is clear from the OT that he is – we do agree with Dunn, however, that this particular Messenger is identified as Yahweh himself.

What this means is that we have clear evidence that the Hebrew Bible doesn’t teach unitarianism. The OT data concerning the Angel of Yahweh proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the inspired OT writers knew that God’s eternal Being was so infinitely complex so as to be shared by more than one Divine Person.

And since this Messenger of God is called Adoni then this provides further evidence that the word Adoni is used for God, since this Angel is not a creature but God Almighty himself appearing as an emissary of God.

This brings us to the conclusion of this part of our rebuttal. Please proceed to part 3.