shields the Deity by concealing the ultimate mysteries of the Godhead now accessiblesolely to the prince(s) of the divine Presence whose duty is to serve the Deitybehind
Several passages found in the Hekhalot literature depictMetatron and other princes of the Face as attendants who serve the divine Presence inthe closest proximity to the Throne, and have the right to enter the immediatepresence of the Lord.The passage found in
says that “when the youth enters below thethrone of glory, God embraces him with a shining face….”
This description conveysthe fact that the deadly effect of the vision of the luminous Face, which terrifies theangelic hosts, cannot harm the Youth who executes here the office of the
This tradition stresses the difference between the princes of the divinePresence and the rest of the angels, who must shield their own faces because theycannot endure the direct sight of the Deity.
Another significant feature of thepassage from
is that the Youth’s entrance into God’s presence isunderstood here liturgically, i.e., as the entrance into the heavenly tabernacle which,according to other traditions, is located beneath the Throne of Glory.Another text preserved in the Cairo Genizah also depicts the Youth as emergingfrom his sacerdotal place in the immediate Presence of the Deity:
Now, see the youth, who is going forth to meet you from behind the throne of glory. Do notbow down to him, because his crown is lik ethe crown of his King .… And the robe (
) onhim is like the robe (
) of his king….
It is intriguing that these two texts which describe the office of the
link the servant(s) of the Face with the title “Youth”
), which some scholarssuggest can be rendered in some contexts as a “servant.”
Besides apparent liturgical affiliations, the intimate proximity to the King andaccess to his Presence behind the closed Curtain presuppose the duty of the keeper of secrets, since the servant would necessarily have direct access to the ultimatemysteries of the Deity. In this light, scholars point to proficiency in the divine secretsas one of the important features of the
office. Odeberg observes that“the framework of the book (
) thus represents Metatron as the angel who has
The reference to the veil indicates that the function of the Prince of the Presence has acomposite nature and sometimes is linked with the function of the priest who must enter the divinePresence behind the curtain.
Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 296, note a.
On this motif of dangerous encounters with the Divine in Hekhalot literature, see Davila,
Descenders to the Chariot
, 136–139; Andrea B. Lieber, “Where is Sacrifice in the Heavenly Temple?Reflections on the Role of Violence in Hekhalot Traditions,”
37 (1998) 432–446.
, §§101, 159, 183, 184, 189.
Geniza-Fragmente zur Hekhalot-Literatur
Several other Metatron passages attest to the same tradition. See, for example, MS. LeningradAntonin 186 (=G19) which combines the title “Youth” with Metatron’s office of the Prince of thePresence: “I adjure you Metatron, Prince of the Presence, I pronounce upon you Metatron, Prince of the Presence, I claim upon you Metatron, Angel of the Presence, and I seal upon you Metatron, Princeof the Presence... and the Youth, he calls him [ ] the strong, magnificent and awesome, [names]....”Schwartz,
, 119–120; Schäfer,
Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 259, note t.