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Camilla Helena von Hcijne

The ~Icssengcr of the Lord in Early J ewish Intcrpretarions o f Genesis

Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fUr die

alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

Herausgegeben von
John Barton Reinhard G. Kratz
Choon-Leong Seow Markus \Xfitte

Bond 412

De Gruyter

Camilla Helena von Heijne

The Messenger of the Lord

in Early Jewish Interpretations of Genesis

De Gruyter

ISBK 978-3-11-022684-3
c-ISBN 978-3- 11-022685-0
ISS~ 0')34-2~73

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To My Beloved Mother
and in Loving Memory
of My Father

The Patriarch Jacob's shuggle with the angel at the ford o f Jabbok (1855),
portrayed by the French artist Gustave Dore (1832- 1883)

As fa r back as I can rernernber 1 ha ve been fascinated by the in triguing
sto ries o f the Bible. This naturally made me interested in how these
text' have been in te rpreted, u nderstood ,m d applied throughout history. Since the Bible originated on lsraeliteflewish soil, the Jewish relig
ion and culture attracted my atten tion in a spedal way. AH these factors
resulted in my decision to begin LhCQlogical studies at Uppsala Univer
At the end of my u ndergrad uate education l had the p rivilege to
receive a scholarship from the Church of Swed en Mission in order to
study at the Swedish Theologic..1l Institute in jerusalem. I a m very
grateful for this grant and also w ish to express my sincere appreciation
to my teachers a nd co~students w ho made my spring te rm in Jerusalem
an unforgeH.."'ble experien ce. The semester in Je rusalem gave me a
glimpse of the t reasure that lies h idden in Jewish biblica l exegesis. The
study o f Mid rash was like the opening o f a different \VOrld and gave
me many new insights. I discovered that the Scripture has indeed 70
faces, as in the famous Ra bbinic saying.
Thus, my semester at the Swedish T11eological Institute had a decisive impact on my life a nd contributed to my decision to pursue postgraduate studies in Old Testament Exegesis. The first ste p o n this jo u r
ney w as to prod uce a Master thesis in this field a nd r chose to write
about the binding o f Isaac in early Jewish interpretation, the Aqedah
(Gen 22:1 -19). It was later pu blished in a shortened version in
Exegetisk Arsbok, vol. 62. 1997. In this context, I wish to thank Professor
Dr. Stig Norin for accepting me as a doctoral student in O ld Testament
Sin ce my first extended stay in Israel had been such a great experi
ence, I \'lrished to re turn. Grants from T1tartks to Sc(md;uavin, Friends of
lite Hebrew University in Sweden, and Sveu Linder's scllolnrsltip made my
dream come tn1e, and I spent my first academic year as a postgraduate
student at the Hebrew Universily of Je rusalem. D uring my year in Is
rae), I studied ancient a nd modem Hebrew, biblical studies, Midrash,
&<:ond Temple literature, a nd the historical geography of jerusalem. It
w.1s an invaluable period o f my life, and I wL'5h to express my sincere
gratitude to all of my teachers at the Hebrew University.


\'Vhen the tirne came for me to select a topic for my d octoral d isser
tation. I wished to deepen my studies in Je\vish exegesis a nd decided to
w rite about the angel/messenger of the Lord in early Je\''"ish interpreta ..
tions of Genesis. An ad ditional reason for my choice was that the ambiguity Qf these biblical texts in tTigued me, i.e., the ambivalence between
God and His angel/messenger. I have always been in terested in how
the relationship between God/the divine sphere and h umankind is
portrayed a nd perceived in different religions and their sacred scrip-tures.
In my book, I have included the illustration of Jacob's struggle at
the ford o f Jabbok.- porLTaycd by Gustave DorC. Since Ge nesis 32 is one
of the main narrat ives discussed in rny dissertation, I fi nd this illustr-a
tion by Gustave Don~ apt, but this is not the only reason. As the pat ri
arch jacob/Israel represents the jewish people, h is combat with God/U' c
angel at jabbok may be interpreted symbolica lly as depicting the early
jewish sages' grappling with 'the a ngel of the lord-texts'. Additionally,
the process of w riting a nd finally comp leting this d isserta tion has been
a long joum ey and in many \\rays a struggle.
Since no scholarly author is a n isla nd, there are many persons who
have contributed in d ifferent ways to rny project, a nd J wish to thank
a ll o f them.
First a nd foremost, I would like to express my d eep gratitude and
appreciation to rn y supervisor, Associate Professor Dr. Tord Fomberg.
without w hose support and commitmen t this book would never have
been completed. He has he lped me immensely by his reading of and
constructive comments on rny manuscript. His e nthusiasm, enoour~
agement, a nd patience during this long journey have been mo.5t impor
tant, a nd I thank h im from the d epth o f my heart for never having
dou bted my potential and ability to reach my goal and complete the
project I had begun.
When J presented my licentiate thesis at the Higher Serninar of O ld
Testament Exegesis in june 2006, Professor Dr. Staffan Olofsson was the
opponent. I \vish to thank him sincerely for his constructive sugges
tions a nd comments, w hich have been very valuable in completing this
d issertation. Moreover, I wish to thank ._,II the p ..uticipant.c; of the
Higher Semin a r a nd especially P rofessor Dr. Stig Norin. Professor
emeritus Dr. Lars Hartman has been a frequent participant a t my pres
entations in the Higher Seminar, and his constructive comments have
proved very useful. (n thic; context, I a lso wish to than k all the partici
pants o f the joint Uppsala- Abo-Helsingfors Semin ars. TI'e present
study would not have been possible without the people w ho taught me
Heb rew, Ar-amaic and Greek, thus I a m indebted to all my teachers of


these languages. I v,rould also like to thank rny stude nt~ in the course
entitled The Hebrew Bible from a Jewish Perspective - Introduction to Jewish
Exegesis fo r stirn ulating d iscussions.
Associate Professor Dr. LarsOlov Erikss.on was referee at the collo
quium where I presented a p reliminary draft of my d issertation a nd I
wish to expres....c; my gratitude for his helpful remarks. Over the years
there have been many schola rs, both in Sweden an d abroad, w ho have
contributed to my work with this book in various ways, a nd I am grateful to them all. ,\Jnong those, I especially \'ltish to mention Professor Dr.
Rein hard Kratz (University of GOttingen) who recommend ed my
monograph for pub lication in the BZAW series. Thus, the p resent book
is a slig htly revised version Qf my dissertation publicly examined at
Uppsala University the 15" of December 2008 for u,e deg ree of Do<tor
of Theology.
I also wish to express my appreciation to rnany friends o utside the
academic world w ho have been a great help over the years by their
support a nd encouragement as well as to Monique Fedcrsel a nd Gullvi
N ilsson for proofing my manuscript
Natur~11Iy, fi nancial sup port in a d issertation project is o f decisive
importance, a nd in this context I wish to mention the foiiO\'I.'ing founda
tions: Ohms Petri Stifle/sen, Lnrs Hierlns lvfitme, Berti/ oc/1 Kilj Mnlers
Minrte, a nd Fredrikn Bremer FOrbrmdet, as well as a scholarship from the
Church o f Sweden for higher theological stud ies, in ~1ddition to several
scholarships granted by u,c Swedish House of Nobility a nd Uppsala
University during my years of study, fo r example, Bauers, Bielke.s, and

Last. but not least, fro m the d epth of my heart, I w ish to express my
profoundest gratitude and ap preciation to my beloved parents, Ulla
and Richard von Heijne. They have always believed in my potential
and their constant support a nd encouragement have been o f the utmost
importance. For this I remain forever grateful. 1 dedicate this lx.>ok to
my parents with deep love.

Uppsala, March 2010

Camilla vo11 Heijne

Notes on Abbreviations and Pictures, etc.

The abbreviations used are from the list in Anchor Bible Diclionary
(ABD) vol. 1, 1992, with the exception of the abbreviation of Dictionary
of DeWes aud Demons in t!Jt~ Bible (ODD) which is not included in the
above mentioned list.

Unless othenvise stated, whenever a Bible text is quoted in English

translation the Ne\"' Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is used.

In the end of Excursus 2, there are three pictures showing :

Doura Eu ropos synagogue, painting on the upper panel o f To

rah shrine (third century C.E.).

Beth Alpha synagogue, floor mosaic (ca. 525 C.E.).

Scpphorissynagogue, floor mosaic (fifU,/sixth century C. E.).


Preface ...... ................................................................................................... ix

Notes on Abbreviations and Pictures, etc. ........................................... xiii


Defining the Issue ...................................................................... 1

Aim and Scope of lhe Study ................................................................. 1
EarlierResearch - SomeRemarks ...................................................... 3
Material and Approach ......................................................................... 4
BibUcal Texts ............ ............................................................... ........... 4
Post-Biblical Sources ......................................................................... 8
Outline of the Thesis ....................................................................... 10
Angelology - Some ~1troductory Remarks .................................... 11


Early Jewish Exegesis - A Survey .........................................

General Background ............................................................................
TI1e Written and the Oral Torah ...................................................
TI1eOriginandGrowth oftheOraJTorah .................................
TI1e Rabbis and tl1eOral Torah ....................................................
The Evolvement of tl1e S}o1agogue ..............................................
An Introduction to the World of Midrash ......................................
Definitions of Mid rash ...................................................................
Some Examples of Midrashic Influence on Angelology ..........
The Midrashic Sources ...................................................................


The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel .................................. 49

Introduction ........................................................................................... 49
Genesis .................................................................................................... 51
Hagar and the Angel .................................. .................................... 5 1
The Three Heavenly Visitors and the Doom of Sodom and
Gomorrah ..................................................... .................................... 58
TI1e Aqedah a nd the Angel .................................................. ......... 62
TI1e Wooing o f Rebekah - the Angel as a Protector a nd
Guide ................................................................................................. 66
jacob a nd the Angel ........................................................................ 69






4.1 .1
4.1 .2
4.1 .3

4.1 .4


Conl enL<~

Conclusions ...................................................................................... 95
1l1e Rest of d1e Pentateuch and the Books of the Fom1er
Prophets .................................................................................................. %
Exodus .............................................................................................. 96
1l>e Books of Joshua a nd Judges and Od>erTexts .................. 101
ConclusiOJ>S ....................... ............. ................................................ 105
The Book.< of the L1tter Prophets .................................................... 106
Isaiah ............................................................................................... 107
Hosea ............................................................................................... 108
Conclusions .................................................................................... 113
1l>e Writings ........................................................................................ 113
Attempl< at Explan.1tion in Modem Exegesis ............................. 114
Introductory Remarks .................................................................. 114
The Interpolation Theory ............................................................ 115
1l>eories d>at Focus on the Function of d1e Angel .................. 117
1l1eories d1at Focus on the Nature o f the Angel ..................... 119
Conclusions ........................................................................................... 119
1l>e Angel of the Lord - Early Jewish Interpretations of
Genesis .....................................................................................
1l1e Book of Tobit and Wisdom of Solomon and the Gospel
of Luke ...................................................................................................
Introduction ...................................................................................
1l1e Book of Tobit a nd d1e Gospel of Luke - Type-scenes ....
1l>eWisdomofSolomon - AIIusions ........................................


Summary and Condusions ......................................................... 147

The Pseudepigrapha a nd d1e Qumran Documents ................... 150
Introduction ...................................................................................
Hagar a nd the Angel ....................................................................
The Aqedah ....................................................................................
Jacob a nd d1e Angel ...................... ................................................


Summary and Conclusions ......................................................... 190

Philo of Alexandria ............................................................................ 192
Introduction ................................................................................... 192
Hagar and the Angel .................................................................... 206
The Aqedah .................................................................................... 208
1l1e Wooing of Rebekah .............................................................. 210
Jacob a nd d1e Angel ...................................................................... 212


Summary and Conduding Discussion ..................................... 232

1l1e Jurlean Anliquilies by Flavius Josephus ................................... 235


Introduction ................................................................................... 235

Hagar a nd the Angel .................................................................... 244









josephus' Aqedah a nd His Version of Genesis 24 .................. 249

jacob a nd the Angel ...................................................................... 253
Summary and Conclusions ......................................................... 263
TI1e Targums, Rabbinic Mid rash an d Talmud ............................ 265
Introduction ................................................................................... 265
Hagar and the Angel .................................................................... 271
The Aqedah a nd the Angel ......................................................... 292
TI1e Wooing o f Rebekah According to Gem'SiS Rn/Jbnlr ........... 303
jacob a nd the Angel ...................................................................... 306
Summary and Conclusions ......................................................... 340
Excursus 1. TI1e Angel in Early jewish Liturgical Poems ...... 343
Excursus 2. The Aqedah and the Angel in Early Jewish Art 345
Scl1olarly Reflections on john 1:51 .................................................. 349
Introduction ........................ ........................................................... 349
The Gospel o f john and jacob's Divine Encounters ............... 3511
Summary and Conclusions ......................................................... 363
Comp~uative Analysis and Conclusions

............................. 365
Introductory Remarks ....................................................................... 365
C<mduding Discus:;;ion ..................................................................... 369

Bibliography .. .............. ..................................................... ...................... . 379

Primary Sources and Trans lations ........................................................ 379
Secondary Literature ............................................................................... 383
In dex of Modern Authors ...................................................................... 401
Selective Source lndex ............................................................................ 406
Selective Index o f Terms and Names ................................................... 416

1. Defining the Issue

1.1 Aim and Scope of the Study
In the Bible' we encoun te r the e nigmatic figure 'the messenger/angelo(
the Lord/YH WH/God/Eiohim' seveml times. The relationship between
God and this angel is fa r from clea r a nd the id entity o f YHWH a nd His
a ngel is merged in many tex~s, e.g ., Gen 16:7-14; 21 :17-20; 22:1-19; 31:10
13; 48:15- 16; Exod 3:1~; Josh 5:13-15; 6:2, a nd Judges chapters 6 a nd 13.
1n these perico pes, ' U'e a ngel o f YHWH'' seems to be comp letely inter
changeable with YHWH Himself. According to Exod 23:20-21, the an
gel possesses the name of God, it is ... in him', and it appears to be im
plied that this ' divine name angel' has the power to forgive s ins, an
ability tha t elsewhere in the Bib le is reserved fo r God. This angel is
always a nonym ous and speaks with divine authority in the fi rst person
singular as if he is God Himself, thus there is no cle.u d istinction between the sen der a nd the messenger. 3 UnJikc other biblical angels, the
'angel of the Lord ' accepls being worshipped by men and seems to be
acknowledged as divine; e.g ., Gen 16:13; 48:15-16; Josh 5:13-15, and
)u dg 13:17-23.'
The aim of the present study is to explore the ambiguous relation
ship bct'".recn GOli and His angel in early Jewish biblical in te rpretation


In"'>' iln.llysis of the biblical texts, I follow the Jewish division of the Hebrew Bible-:
Torah, (the Pentateuch) Nevi im (the former P'Ophet$! Josh - 2 KingS-. the Iauer
Prophers: Isaiah - Malaki), .and Ke nwim (the Writinss: Ps.1lms- 2 Chr011ide..'l, including Daniel), d.,. Luke 24 ~14 . I U$e the Hebrew Masoretic text (t>.IT) of Biblia Hebaica Stung<~ tens.i a, 1990, and the New Revised St.lndatd Version (NRSV), 1989, if
nl')( othel"\' 'ise ..'lt<Ued. Since the thesis concern.<J je\,.rish re<:eption histoty, the term
'"Bible' generalt) refe1'S to the Jewish Can Ol\. i.e., the Hebrew Bible, if not othe1'Wi..'le
For the !i.ilke of simplk-ity. I w ill generally use the terms 'the .1ngel of the Lord' or
See illso Meie1995a. 87-88.
Even if the figure ' the .1ngel of the Lord' is not mentioned in Josh 5:13-15, it seent.<~
apparent that the "man" who Joshua encounters is a d ivine emisso'll'y of a similar
kind, i.e., an implicit reference to 'the angel of the lord'. See section 1.3.1, and d l apter 3 below. Cf., Rev 22:8-9.

I. Defining the Issue

and theology, focusing on sources from roughly 200 B.C. E. to 650 C. E.

How did the early Jewish interpreters treat this perplexing phenome
non? Wh o is 'the a ngel o f the Lord'? How is he related to God and to
other heavenly emissaries? How is the angel of the Lord depicted in the
various sources? Was the ~1ngel und erstood as a manifesta
lion/revelation of God Hirnself, or as an independ ent a ngelic being,-a
messenger d istinct from God? A third alterna tive between these two
extremes may be that ' the angel of the Lord' was regard ed as a h)'J."'IS
tasis o f God, a personification/an extension of the divine \Viii, possess
ing a certain degree o f independ ent personhood but not completely
separate from COli .
A related question is in w hich ways the view o f God was influ
enccd by the angelologys o f early Judaism a nd/or vice versa as v,re Jl as
how the relationship between man a nd the d ivine realm is constituted.
Th e present thesis is not primarily a study o f the designation 'the angel
of the Lord' per se f, but the heart of the problem is the ambivalence be.
tween God a nd this angel that appears in many biblical text<. How did
the early Jewish interpreters hand le this is::;ue?
In order to d efine the identity of ' the angel of the Lord' in early
Jewish exegesis, we need to examine how he is portrayed in his rela
tionship o n the one hand to God, and on the other to socalled ordinary
angels. The interpretations o f the identity of ' the angel of the Lord'
cannot be studied in isolation but must be seen in a wid e r religious
conte xt as part of the development o f the angelology and the concepts
of God in the various fo rms o f early Jud aism.
At first. my a mbition was to stud y the early jewish interpretations
of this phenomenon in the Bible as a \Vhole. Hov,rever.. because of the
vastness of the a rea, I had to restrict my focus to the relevant texts in
Genesis and how they have been interpreted in early Jewish literature.
11ms, the p urpose is not to explore the perception(s) o f U1e ambiguous
relationsh ip between the 'angel of the lord' a nd God in e~1rly Judaism
in general b ut to investigate the early Jewish treahnent of this issue in a
specific sample o f biblical texts. How is 'the angel o f the Lord' identi
fiet.i by the early Je,vish in terpreters in these texts? Are there a ny main
p~1ttems o f in te rpretation? Is there a u niform a nswer, o r is the appear
ance of 'the angel of the lord' in the various biblical texts perceived

1 use lhe term 'ong~l ology' \\' ilh some r~sen.<alion. !'inc~ v1e carulol lalk abo-ut an}'
unifo1m systematic doctrine 11f ang~ls in th e various foms of e.11'1y Judaism . See.
'~S Ol)'<lll 1993, I. and Hurlado 1998. 2425.
The1>e are alSlO texL" in which he app~a rs lobe distinct /rom Cod, e .g . 2 Sam 24:1516.
and 2 Kgs 1 9>~15.

1.2 Earlie Researdt -Some


differently, and,~ if so, why? Are there a ny discernable differences in the

interpretations that may depend on the character of the divergent bibJi ..
cal textl) as such? Do the discussed Jewish sources differ from each o ther in their treabnent of the issue? ls it possible to discem a ny chrono~
logical development in the interpretations o f the texts d uring the cho sen timesp~1n? However, in addition to the fact that around 800 years
separate the d ating of the earliest and the latest source, i t must also be
take n in to cons:ideration that the material represents different stra nds
of judaism, from pre-Christian Apocalyptic ju daism (e.g., Jubilees, Qu
mran), the writings of Josephus, and the Hellenistic, Alexandrian
branch represented by, for examp le, Philo a nd the Wisdom of Solomon,
to later Ra bb in ic Ju daism~ i.e . the Talmud and the Rabbinic Midrashim.

1.2 EarJjer Research- Some Remarks

The identification o f the angel of the Lord in the Bible has been the
subje.:t of much schola rly discussion. In March 1979, Fritz Guggisberg
presen ted a doctoral dissertation o n the subject, en titled Die Gestalt des
Mnl'ak fa!Jwe im AlleH Testament.' The main focus of my study, however,
is the early history o f Jewish interpretation of ' the angel o f the Lord textc;' in Genesis, as opposed to the b iblical texts themselves. To the best
of my knowledge, such an investigation h.1s not yet been conducted.
The role o f a ngels in general in early Jewish exegesis is discussed by,
for examp le, Saul Olyan in h is monograph A Thousand Thou sands Ser.Jed
Him. Exegesis and tile Naming of At~gels irt Aucieut Judaism (1993}.8
A systematic a nalysis of the concept 'the angel of the lord' in early
Jewish biblical interpretation has yet to be made. Jarl E. Fossum has
carried out a thorough investigation of the Jewish a nd Samaritan con
cepts of in termedia tion and the origin of Gnosticism .!! The monograph
by Alan F. Segal'" deals with the early Rabbinic polemic against w hat
was labeled the heresy of 'two pov,rers in heaven ', i.e., the belief in a n


See a lso ROuger 1978, and Stie 193-t.

CcutOOI'fling angelology in gener.ll, much has of course been wliuen. See e.g., Shinan's a ticle abm1t the angelology of the Palestinial\ T.wgum.<l to the Pentateuch in
Scfarad, 19$3, 18 1- 197. See al<~ll Reitcre et a l. (ed.) 2007. The monos tphs b)' amtmg
l')thers.. Ma-ch 1992, Rote 1979, Sd\iifer 1975, Ro\o,~land, 1982. Sullivan,, 2004, and
Tuschling 2f.XY7 are also worth mentioning.
f(J!;sum 198S. See also Balicer 1992.
Ttru Pm:111:TS ir Heat~n. Ellt1y RnbhiJJk R.!pom ulh)ld Cl1riMhmity ond Gm>Siidsm, 1977.

I. Defining the Issue

intermediary divine agent at God's side,u and the possible roots and
pmp<>nents of the heresy. Segal's study has shown that the cryptic p<>r
trayal of God in some texts in the Bible, including the ambivalence IJe..
tween God and His angel in, for example, Exodus 23... was considered
problematic by the early Rabbis, since these texts were useti by heretics
as support for their standpoint. One Rabbinic res ponse '"'as to list those
passages as dangerous. 12 Thus, the issue discussed by Segal has rnany
aspects in common vllith my own work but we differ in our approach .
Segal's investigation may be described as a thematic study of a p hcno
menon in early Ju daism, v~lhile I analyze the early Jewish interpreta
tions of a specific samp le of b iblical texts.
Charles G ieschen and Larry Hurtado,u among others,s.a have writ
ten about the Je\".rish religious background in relation to the develop
ment o f early Christology, a nd the present author feels i ndebted to
them. However, they are New Testament scholars and thus approad1
the issue fro m .l diffe re nt perspective. My purpose, however, is to make
a systematic analysis of the various early Jewish interpretations of the
Gen esis pcricopes in question.

1.3 Material and Approach

1.3.1 Biblical Texts
l11e study concerns the in te rpretations o f the b iblical texts in the form
in which they existed d u ring the period of Jewish h istory mentioned
above. The pericopcs encountered by the early fc\"rish interpreters were
probably very similar to those found in the Masoretic text (IVIT),'' a lthough important issues o f textual criticism and linguistic problems
will be discussed. Differences be tw een the lvfT and other ancient ver

Thllt is. a belief in hO/O complementary heavenly pohers, God illld His vice--egenl
who had a$sisted Cod in crea ti~tg the wotld. Thu s.. the he-esy dtd not neces.ii!l'ily include dualis m. someth ing which WiiS <tl<ill considered herelical by the Rabbis. See
Segal 1977. 3-73. and 12l 155. ~e ,l lso Fos ..o1un\ 1985, 307-33S.
12 Segel! 1977, 33~, and 121-I.S3. The problema lic pa...<>s.l gts include, e.g., te>:L'i .,
ve.rb..'i .ue used in the plural in referenct'S to lhe Cod of ls:rael. e.g., Gen 1!26-27, and
Gen 35:7 (sic!}. See also b. SaullotriuJSb.
13 See Gieschen J99fl. and Hurf.ldo 1998.
l4 See for example B<Wker 1992. Stu ckenbuck 1995, H.mnah 1999, and Newma n e l al.
(ed.) 1999.
15 To\' 20!13, 243.

sions are crucial but issues of tradition history such as source-criticism
a re beyond the scope of this thesis.
The Jewish interpre te rs d id not regard Genesis as an isol..1ted book
bu t read it in the light of the rest o f the Bible, w hich they u nderstood as
a unity, in which everything belongs together.'" Genesis will therefo re
not be treated in isolation. The Bible itself contains examples o f texts
w hich allude to each o ther: Hos 12:4~ (in NRSV vv. 3-5) refers to Ja
cob's struggle in Genesis 32 and lsa 63:9-10 alludes to Exod 23:20-2;1,.
and JJ:14. The accoun t o f the visit of 'the angel of the Lord' in Judges
13 may be infl uenced by Genesis 18 and 32, and/or vice versa.17 As the
reader of this thesis will discover, ' the a ngel o f the Lordtexts' a re close
ly interrelated in early Jewish interpretation. Therefore, in the analysis
of the in te rpretations of Gen 16:714 the reader will find refe re nces to
other biblical texts, e.g., Genesis 18i judges 13, and so on.
The ' angel of the Lord texts' in Genesis may be divided into h,m
categories. Firstly. those that explicitly mention ' the a ngel o f the Lord '.
These pericopes, with o ne exception, display the above mentioned
merged identity bchveen the angel and God. The texts in question arc:
Gen 16:7-14; 21 :1 7-20; 22:1-19;,. 24:7, 40; 31 :10-13, and 48:15-16. In Genesis, chapter 24 contains the o nly reference to an angel in the sing ula r
w here the d istinction between God a nd His angel seems d ear. The text
is nevertheless includ ed in my study because of il'i exceptional characte r. As it constitutes a n exception to the rule~ the q uestion arises as to
w hether it is treatet.i diffe rently to th e othe r pcricopes by the interpre.
Gen 16:7-14 and 21:17-20 will be studied together, as they are pa rallel texts. Since the angel of God who appears to Jacob in Gen 31 :10-13
iden tifies h imself as the God o f Bethel who spoke to him in Gen 28:10
22, this periCQpe w ill also be take n into consideration. The same applies
to Gen 35:115, a text also connected to Jacob's dream at Bethel in Gene
sis 28. In Gen J5:1, God says to Jacob: "Arise, go u p to Bethel, and settle
there. Make an altar there to tile God ,.,ho ap peared to you, when yo u
fled from your brothe r Esau". God is thus talking about 'the God of


Holtz 1984b. 1129md 1984a, 179 186. Syren 2000. 247218.

Syten 2000, 248259. See also Kugel 1990, I, al\d Olyan 1993. I J. 1920.
In my study, 1 g~nera ll y refer to both the n.ll'1 ative in Gen~sis 22 and its il\te rpret.lrions a.s 'the Aqedah'. i.e . ' the binding: of Isaac', w hk h has become the s bmdard designa tion of the peri.::op~ in Jewis.h tradition..; for thL'I indu..'live us.1ge see, e.g . Kalimi.
2002, I 38. However, I .1m \''ell <lWill'e thllt there are sdlolar.!l who have crilid:-.ed lhL'I
loo$e use of the tenn. e.g . Davies and O l ilton ( 1978. 5 14346). In th~i r opiniol\, the
de!iignation Aqedah' should clnl)' be used to denoc~ the Rabbinic,. pos:t l\1is hnaic expiatory iJllep-etation of the (near) sac1i fke of l!i<l<lC.

I. Defining the Issue

Bethel' in the lhird person. Is this therefore a reference to 'the a ngel of

God'?, compare Genesis 31.
A few texts in Genesis rnention angels in the p lural. These angels,
who seem to be distinct from God, a ppear in the contexts of ' the angel
of the Lordtexts'. Thus, in Gen 28:12, jacob d reams of angels ascend ing
and descending o n a heavenly st:..1irway/ladder a nd sees COli standing
above it, v. 13, " and before Jacob reaches the ford of Jabbok, he meets
angels o f God; Gcn 32:1 2.
Secondly, there are texts w hich I temt implicil references to 'the a n*
gel of the lord '. Despite the fact that the designation 'the angel of the
Lord' is not mentioned, these pericopes d escribe d ivine revelations of a
simila r character a nd exhibit the same ambiguity behveen God and the
d ivine emissary( ics). 11ms, these texts also belong to ' the a ngel o f the
Lord traditions'.:!!

In Genesis there are two such pericopes, Genesis 1$, the account of
the visit o f the three "men" to Abraham and Sara h, and the struggle of
Jacob with an un known ''man'' at the ford of Jabbo k in Genesis 32.
Contextually, Genesis 18 and 19 belong together. Two of Abraham's
guests are depicted in Gen 19:1, l 5 as angels/messengers but the leader
of the company seems somehov~.r to be an appearance o f God in person;
Gen 18:9~ l S. The ''man" who confronl'i Jacob at Jabbok is a nonymous,
simila r to the 'angel o f the Lord' . The " man" refuses to reveal his name,
Gen 32:29}1 cf., Judg 13:17-18, a nd has the pm"rer to b less and rename
Jacob, o ne o f the patriarchs. Moreover.. the meaning of his ne\v name
'Israel' is said to be that Jacob had indeed striven wi th God Himself.:!z
In the S<-'l mc way as Hagar, Jacob appears to iden tify the d ivine c mis
sary as God in person; Gen 32:30:!3, cf., Gen 16:13.:!' The patriarch's e n...
counte r with the " man" is connected to Hos 12:3-5 (MT vv. 46):
I H()~

12:3) In the womb he Uacob) tried to ~uppl ant his b rt)ther? and in his
manhl'>t..xl he struve with Cud. (41 He s tn)ve with the angel and pre vailed,
he wept and sought hi$ fa\or; he met him at Bethel_ and there he spoke
with him {51The LORD th~ God of hosts, the LORD is his name!

Th e prophet Hosea alludes to ~'e tradition of jacob's wrestling bout

and designa tes h is combatant as a 1~'0, an a ngel/mes...c;enger. However,


An a l h~l'flati \'e interpretation of \..en 28:13 is that Cod is said to be stand ing in front
of o beside Jacob.
See also Gieschen 1998,57-69.
Verse30 in lher..rr.
See also KOckerl 2007, 52.. and Eynikel 2007. 113114.
Verse3 Jin the r..rr.
~ealso ju d g 6:22-23, and 13 ~2123.

he does not mention jabbok as the site of the confrontation b ut refers to
Bethel as the location of the divine en counter, the 1X;~{'a nge l' is said to
be the one who spoke to Jacob at BeU1el, i.e., God Himself. Thus, the
"angel" is equated with God, cf., Gen 48:15-16, w here U1e design ations
'God' a nd 'angel' also are used synonymously and in pamllel. Different
strands of the Jacobtradition appear to have been fused in this state
menl. The passage is also related to Gen 28:10.22; 31:10 13, a nd 35:115
by the referen ce to Bethel.
In the presen t thesis I have d1osen to focu s primarily o n the first
category o f texts, i.e., the so-called explicit references to 'the angel of
the Lord ' but Genesis 32 is a n exception to t-his rule. It is included as a
main text in my study for hvo reasons. Firstly, it constitutes an insepar
able part of the Jacobsaga as a \"thole, as all the Jaoob pericopes are
closely interrelated. Secondly, although strictly speaking the designa
t ion 'the angel o f the Lord' does not occu r in Gen esis 32, the prophet
Hosea explicitly identifies Jacob's opponent as an a ngel, \\1ho in tu m
appears to be equated with God:u However, the narrative of the visita..
t ion o f the three "men" in Genesis 18 and its interpretations will not be
focused upon in the study, although references to the perioope a re u navoidable.., sin ce all ' the a ngel o f the Lord texts' in Genesis are intercon
Some persons in Genesis, e.g.... Melchizedek,.:u. Enoch, and Ja
cob{lsrae)2' have bt."en endowed with a kind of angelic character in early
Jewish legends.~ and it could be assumed that, for example, the
Enoch/Metatron tTaditions of early Ju daism would be includ ed in my
study. However, although the disappea rance of Enoch in Gen 5:24 is
indeed mysterious a nd served as the starting poin t for many of the
Enoch/Metatro nspeculations~. there is no ambivalence between God
and Enoch in the biblical text as such, and the same applies to Melchi
zedek. However, because of the connection "vith Genesis 32, the tradi~
t ion of Jacob's a ngelic id enti ty/coun terpart will be take n into considera
t ion.



A" will be s hown below, !here <~re sdlol.lrs who even Cl"'nside the word 116.~ in
Ho.,.ea 12 as a g~a. and in refe1-ence to Ge1\el>is 32, they interprel this JMS!>age in
Hosea to mean tlwat jacob had struggled with God.
In 11 Q~1ech ( IIQ13), Mekhizedek is identified as the leade.r of lhe hea\enly <~rnlies.
See illso 2 Et~(/l'll 69-73, a1ld WaR,.en 2007. 503-505.
See. e.g., the l'raJ~~t of/l)seph. ilnd chapter4.2 below.
See, e.g., 1 nocl1 70-71; 2 Ent,dl 22. lit .1 Emh:ll. th~~se Enoch-specutntions re.lCh their
d imax and Enocll is explicitly identified as the angel Metatron. Sl.>e al"-l"' Seg.ll 1977,
60-73, FllS!ium 1985, 307-314, and Gieschen 1998, 146, 156-158.

I. Defining the Issue

1.3.2 Post-Bib lical Sources

As previously mentioned, r foc us o n jewish sources dating from rough
ly 200 B.C. E. to 650 C.E. Th e reasons for this choice o f time-span are
firstly that we may assume that the books of the present Jewish biblical
canon were in the main complete by the start o f that period. The Penta
teuch was most certainly a lready "canonized ," an d even books sudl as
Chronides, Ezra-Nehemiahl Psalms a nd Daniel were considered by
many as ' Ho ly Scripture'.:lll Secondly. the completion o f the Babylonian
Talmud and the emergence of Islam i1' the 71t1 century C.E. mark the
end of a period in jewish h istory.Jl
Hm.,ever, the dating o f ancient sou rces is a complic..1tet.i matter and
I will also d iscuss a few sources edited after the 7'" century C. E., since
they contain material from earlier times. Thus Targum PseudoJoHathau,
which is d ifficult to d a te, will be included ." Th e date of the origina l
oompo.ition o f the Pseudepigraphical work Tl~e Ladder of Jacob is u nknown . The book r:nay be based on a jewish source dating from around
the first century C .E...u T he l\{idrash Pirqe de Rabb; Eliezer is another ex
ception to my general duonological limitation, since it shares many
traditions with, for example, Genesis Rabbnll, the Pseudepigrapha of the
Old Testament (OT), and Tnrgrmr Pserrdo-Jorralharr.,..
The sources to be stud ied thus include the Targums to Ge nesis...l 5
since they are not merely Aramaic transla tions of the Bible but o ften
conta in a great deal of e laboration o n th e biblical textc.o. The SamarUau
Targum is not strictly Jewish .m d will therefore be omitted. T he sch ism
between Jews and Samaritans is very o ld a nd goes back to a t least Per~



\.VI~ n quoting biblical 1\'!fe renres and other primary sources, I will sometimes place
dlosen \oJords in italic..o;; in order to emphaJ'i.ze them. However, il not othewise
s.t.lted, in quotillions from the T<w gun\.'1 the wotds in italics a1-e not m)' own but the
system used by lhe English ~rnnsla tors. l n lhLo;; manner the largu mic deviations are
hig.hlighced in oo..'Ordance with their policy. s..~~. . for exa mple Till! Aramaic Bible, wl.
6, the Editors' Foreword, 1988, \iii. Regard ing Ge'INSi.o;; R,t11bitll, lhe translatMs ha\e
ch(:.$el\ to rende1 the cdmmented verse in ques.tion in capilal l eller~. while it.:llics are
used for the suppmring biblicall'e fe -ences.
Here I ta ke the ~ame position .1s Kugel {1998. 29-30).
See e.g., lllmaVI-Iarviilincn 1993, 14, 94. and Jaffee 1997, 20. See also chapter 2 below.
It is genemlly aclmowledged rhar this Tarsum COI\tains earl)' 1\Mte.i.ll. Sec clMplers
2.2.3. and 45. 1 bekn..-.
E.g., Lunt introduction in OTP, vol. l. 1985, 40.t and Kugel 1995, 2092 10.
Friedla nder 19 16. introdu~.-'l ion to Pir~ de Rabbi 1i~-ut, )(h:lv. Bowker 1969, 85, Maher
1992. introduction to T.ugum P:>md.,.}mulllum, 5-12. and St:rac};JStemberger 1991, 357.
The Targums in quc.."Stion are Om~t!;)S, Nt'fiJiti 1. PStlldtt}oJia/Jiall, the C.euizah frtJg
mmls, and lhe FragmelllT1trgmm; .

sian times.3f> I

""ill a lso examine the writings of Josephus a nd


Apocryphical books and Pscudepigraphs, such as the book o f Tobit,

Wisd om of Solomon, Jubilees, Prayer of Joseph, Testament of Jacob, and
early Rabbinic Midrashim, e.g... Ge-nesis Rabbalr, will also be considercd.:l7 As for Lhe Q umran literature, although there a re many angels
mentioned in these sources, the materia l contains little o f relevance fo r
our subject. However~ in 4Q225, the so-called 'Pseudo-jubilees', there is a
rendering of the Aqedah of interest for our task, and in 4QJ58 a frag-

mentarily preserved paraphrase on GenesL'i 32. The New Testamen t

(NT) will also be treated against u,e background of early Jewish interp re ta tion of the Hebrcv' Bible..>$
Roughly speaking. I v~.rill use three kinds o f interpretative material in

my stud y. Firstly, there are sources that explicitly " translate'', comment
on, o r rewrite the biblical narratives, e.g., the Targums, the works of
Philo, Gwesis Rabbah, Jubilees, and the Judean Antiquities by Josephus.
Second ly, we have sources that share the same motif(s), theme(s) and/or
literary structure as our texts, connected to the role of ' the angel o f the
Lord'. By the use of a biblical theme or motif familiar to the reader, the




reason for omitting the SamaritaJt Targwu is that the split beh"een J~ws and
S."lmarit<l llS is so ancient. Snm.a1'il:H\ history go~s back to the de.<1truction l)f the l\l)f1h
~m kingdom l)f lo;rael and i L<~ capit.ll Samaria in 721!722 B.C.E. 11le :\S.'I)' I'i<ms then
depmted !tOme of Uu~ population and in thei place brought in alie1\ people. In the
~yes of the people of Judah, tlle inhabitants of lh~ north were becoming )Mgan {cf., 2
Kgs 17:24-41). During the time of Ezra th~ returning Jews thus consider~d the Sama
ritans a mixed pet,ple. The Sanuui t<uts, howe\~r. d a imed h) be the d~ndants of
the north~m Israelill'S. In e<>ntras.t to the Jews, the Sam.:Uit.l ns d<~ imed that the prop
er pl.loe to worship God was Bl Mt C.el'izim a nd no Jerusalem. This conflict even
tually resulted in .a final break between Jews B1\d Samaritan.'! w he n the Hasml':mean
khlg john H)' I'Canus de.o;lroyed the Temple on t\11. Ge1izim in 128 B.C.E. Howeve1,
the "dhorce" between the l\\'O poopfe.o; and their religious tradition$ is in practice
much older, well before the pe1iod oove1-ed in lhis study. The Samadtoms only con
sider the Tl)mh Ol' PenMteuch as Holy Scripture, a fae1 \"hkh indicate.<~ rhat th is p.ut
of the Hebrew IJible was ....canonized"' ar the time of the schis m between jews and
S.1mariblns. Since the pati:ng of Jews a1\d SamariMns goes so far back in ti me, the
Samarilom T1rrgum represents an (Will\, perhBp.<~ lsr.lelite but not Jewish. tl\ldition of interpretation. The conflict between Jews and Samaritan.o; is a llested in the book l)f ben
Sira..:h (50:25). and the NT, e.g.,. Johl\4:~22. See .1lso Jaffee IW?, 135-138. The Sm11ari+
lau Til'811tll is generally discussed separ<llely by schobws.
Psctfdo+PIIilo or Libt'r Auliquiltllllm BiNicm'ltm (L.A. B.) has onl) a short s ummay of
Genesis 12+50 in ch.apte-1 8. where nothing of relevance to the present s tudy is men
~ioned, .although the1>e are some scBuered references to ow texts in other chapters.
Boo,luse tll e forus of th ;s d;s.<ertarion ;, eariy )ew;sh ....:eptH>n h;story. the deHOlh;on
'po$t+bibHc.ll sourct~s' refers to SftU!'I:E'S outsid e the Jewis h Canon.. i.e ., the Hebre\'1
Bible. l n contrast to the SamaritaJt Targum. the NT originated in a Jewish 001\ text,
tong <lfter the split between Jews and Sanuritan.'l, see, e.g .. John .J: 19-22.


I. Defining the Issue

author invi tes the audience to u nderstand his/her story in the light of a n
already well~knm"m biblical text. Robert Alter tem 1s this lite rary method
a use of type-scenes. For example, a common fu nction of 'the angel of
the Lord' is to announce the birth of a child, e.g., Gen 16:7-14, and
judges 13..-w Th is motif ~1nd the literary stmctu rc of these texts recur in
the NT, Luke 1:8-20, 26-38. As will be shown in the following. despite
the fact that the book of Tobit is not a n explicit comrnenta ryon a specific
bib lical text, the p lot seems to have been modeled on Gen esis 24, where
an angel is also said to accompany the traveler, although this a ngel does
not play such a n active part in the narrative as Raphael. whose role in
Tobit is reminiscent o f other b iblic..1l ' angel of the Lord~tcxts'.
A third in terpretative method comprises explicit allusions or refer
enccs to b iblical events? circumstances or persons. \Visdom of Solomon
ch apter 10 and john 1:51 may be seen as expressions of tl1is kind of
biblical interpre ta tio r1. ~ 1
In two excurses, I will also take a look at th e portrayal o f the 'a ngel
of the Lord-motif' in early Jewish liturgical poems a nd art.

1.3.3 Outline of the 11>esis

As mentioned a bove, the inte rp retations of the identity of ' the angel of
the Lord' must be seen in the context o f the d evelopmen t o f the a ngelology and concepts o f God in the various forms of early Judaism. Thus,
as background in fo nnation, I will briefly discu s.s the development o f
angclology in section 1.4, and in ch ap ter 2 I ,,.;n present a survey of
early Jev.rish exegesis. Th e rnain focus of this chapter is the emerging
Rabbin ic Judaism and its literature, i.e., the Talmud, Targu ms, and
Rabbinic ~.fidrashiln. However, I define mid rash as an in terpretative
method in a broader sense, encompassing such nonRabbinical works
as Jubilees a nd o ther Pseudepigrapha. The analysis of Philo's a nd Josep hus' interpretations of the texts in d udes a general in troduction ooncem ing their characteristics as e xegetes.

39 Sec a lso Ge11esis 18. a nd I S.:l muei I.

40 See Alter 1981, 47-62, esp. p. 51. As olher example:; of biblical t>pe-srene.c;, Aller
mentions the eru:oun!e1 with the fu!ure betrothed at a well and the lestanlel\ l ilf the
dying hero (e.g . Genesis 49 a nd Deuteronom)' 32-33}. etc. The belrothal lype-scene
alc;o indudes the tra\'eling of the hero fo a fcU'e ign land, see e .g., Genesis 24: 29:1-20;
Exod 2!15-22, and ll1e book of Tobit. See a lso Teugels 2004,45-57.
41 ~e als.o Dima1\l 1988,383, 391 400, and dlapters 2 and 4. 1 below.

1.4 Angelology- Some lnttoduC'Iory Remarks


Although the subject of my thesis is to examine the early Jev,.rish in

terpretations of the Genesis texts in question, an analysis of the biblical
texts as such is necessary as a basis fo1 the investigation. Therefore,
chapter 3 contains a d etailed examination of the relevant Genesistexts
wi th text-critical analysis . Important differences between the Septua
gint (LXX) and the MT are thus d iscussed in this chapter. For the sake
of clarity, 1 have included a survey o f all the 'angel o f the Lord-texts' in
the Bible but the main focus is on Genesis. As mentioned ..1bove, the
early Jewish interpreters did not treat Genesis as an isolated book and
all 't-he angel of the Lord texts' arc interconnected, thus this chapter is
intended as a general overview. It also serves as an introductory chap..
ter to the problem/ phenomenon of the merget.i identity o f God and His
angel in the Bible it..~lf. At the end o f chapter 3, \Ve look briefly at how
this problem has been dealt with in modem historical-critical exegesis.
The main part of my thesis is chapter 4.- in which I analyze the in
terpretations given in the various Jewish sources of the appearance of
' the angel of the lord' in the chosen Genesis texts. My ambition has
been to investigate t-he material chronologically, thus starting the anal
ysis with the earliest works, the book of Tobit and \Visdorn o f Solomon.
However, other considerations sud1 as genre, the kind of in terpretative
method(s) employed in the sources and the interrelationships between
them have also been decisive in the ordering of the material. For exam
pie... all the Rabbinic material is discussed in chapter 4.5, and the Gospel
of Luke is treated in the same chapter as the book of Tobit (4. 1), despite
the fact that there is a considerable timcspan between them. Moreover,
because many scholars have seen a connection between John 1:51 and
the in terpretatio n o f Genesis 28 in, for example, the Targums and the
Rabbinic Midrashim... the discussion of the Gospel o f John has been
placed after the chapter on these Rabbinic sources. In two excurses, I
will briefly discuss the treatment of ' U1e angel o f the Lord-motif' in
early jewish liturgic.1l poems and art.
After the discussion of the interpretations of the texts in each section, a summary of the results is provided. Finally, in chapter 5 I sum
marize and discuss the conclusions of the investigation.

1.4 Angelology- Some introductory Remarks

\Vhat is an angel? The most common \'lrord for angel in Hebrew is 1~7;,,
w hich originally means mes...:;euger. It is an instrumental noun derived
from the ancient Semitic root 116 found, for example, in Ugaritic, where
it means ' to send with a commission/message. A 1K7::J is thus 'one who


I. Defining th e Issue

is sent' .-'2 The noun is used in the Bible to refer to both human and su
pernatural messengers, and it is sometimes unclear w hich meaning is
in tended.43 The sender can likewise be either hu man or divine. The
same applies to the Greek word ciyyu\o.;, the most common tr-anslation
of 1N;71l in the L>..'X.44 However, while d:yytAo.; in th e LXX can denote
both h uman and heavenly agents, the word 1tQECJt3u.; is often used for
human messengers.45 The te rms ciyyu\o.; and 1~7/:) were not originally
used to denote Cherubs a nd Seraphs, d ue to the fact that they are not
messenger$.~ In contrast to Cherubs and Seraphs, the heavenly LP:n\:7i:>
'angels' are depicted as similar to h u mans in appearance, and w ithout
w ings. Sometirncs they a rc simply called 'men', e.g ., Gen 19:5, 10; Ezek
40:3; Josh 5:13; Zech 1:ll-12, and Dan 10:5, 1518." However, in the later
texts o f the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryp hal books, a nd the NT, 1~'>n and
O.yyeAo:; became gen eric terms fo r a ny of God's supcmatural ser



Meier J995a, 81. Bol mberger 1971,957, a nd \101\ Rad 1964, 7&;7i.
In, e.g . I Sam 19:20, Hag I:13. o~e Wl'U'<I is clea tf)' used for human$, vJhile other texts
are more <~ mbigu ous. e.g.. Judg 2:1: lsa 44:26; l\1al 3:1. n 1e referen<:e is undLc;putedly

to angels in. e.g., Gen 28: 12. The di"ine mes!ienge rs are often termed messen




of Cod {or YHWH), alth11ugh thllt l<~ not always th e case, e.g., Gen 48:16.


11 ~11 2.

Bamberge 1971,957, wm Hente11 1995a. 90. and\'l.'illoughbr l997, 309.

\Vhile 1999, 300. Newsom (1992, 249) S-tates: " Nevetheless. there are indications t lhlt

alread)' in the LXX ltJlgdo:; W ll.'i beginning to t.\ke on the quasi-technical meaning of
heavenly being . . .''
E.g., Cen 3:24; I Sam 4:4; P:<~ 18:11: Isaiah 6, 111\d E.ttkiel 1 omd tO. The Jiving ,~re-a
rures' of Ezekiel I are in 10: 1.), 20-22 identifi ed as CIU!1'Ubs.. See Meier 1995,,, 83-84
and Newsom 1992. 251. There are also othe r designations for ' a ngelic being.<~"' in the
Bible; ' son.c; of God' (Satan is mentioned among them), e.g., job 1:6: 'sons of
gods'fdivine beings' e.g., rs. 29!1: 89:7 {NRSV 89':6): 'gods', e.g., Ps 82:1; ' holy '' nes'.
e.g . Ps 89':6, 8 (NRSV 89:5. 7); 'spiiLo;', e .g... I Kgs 22:21; Ps IObt ' ministe rs' is used
parallel to o~K';.) /mes..<~e nges in Ps 103:20-21. In the LXX. the de..c;ignatiml ' sons of
God' is often transla ted by the term t.\yycAo~ N,~wsom 1992. 218249. See also
J<&kert 2007, 53. BecalLo;e of the "'scru\dal" that angels could be Sp<)ken of in the Bible
as mingling in the flesh \''ith human women, the a ngelic interpretation of the sons
of C'.od' in Gen 6: 1-'1 ha...<1 be>en rejected ln some andent jewish $0Utces. Th.ill ange ls
might be capable of s..~xual rei.:Uion.c; was amside1-ed repulsive (d., Matt 22:30). Fo1
example, in Targum Ot~iJI!Ic~ a nd NtVJjifi 1 to Genesis.. th e 'sons of God' are depicted
as human..; descended from impotcant familie$. This text in Genesi$, hllWever, is the
sowce of th e ll ldest legend conoo1'fling the fa llen angels (1 Enodt 6) and the inh~p-e
talion al<~o has mode1'fl supporte1"S, see e.g . von Rad 1985, 114. It Lc; noteworthy.
hc)wever, that the pericope itself d oes n01 contain an> deill' d enouncement of ' the
son$ o f God' marTying the women. See a lso Ma rmorstein 1971. 966, Hogeterp 2007.
37938 1, a nd Wassen 2007, 500-501.
See <~ lso von Rad 1964, 80, and Kt'Kkert 2007, 51-52. Female '<~ ngelic beings' are m en~
fill ned oni>' '' nee in the Bible.,. in Zech 5!9 11.

1.4 Angelology- Some lnttoduC'Iory Remarks


vanLc;.45 Du ring the Second Ternple era, the supernatural status of the
heavenly servants o f God became more significant, w hile Lheir role as
messengers recet.i ed into the background. The angels are o ften named,
and appear as independent individuals, sometimes even in opposition
to God.
The word 1X?;:J; eventually ceased to be used fo r human messengers
and postbiblical Hebre\\' ernploys other In the Vulgate, the
distinction between h uman and heavenly mes.,<;engers is d ear; tmgelus is
used to designate the supernatural ones, \''"hile JJWtlius refers to hu r:nan
agents.s This differentiation can also be fou nd in Targuttt Joualhan and
the Syriac Pes h i tta .~
Angels appear as theologically important creatures and are 1nen
tioned mo re often in Lhc later religious literature of Israel, from the
third century B.C.E. and onward. Thus it seems that God's transccn
d ence increased in this later stage, and the angels' roles as med iators
were emphasi7..ed; God prefers to send subordinate emissaries to com
municate \Vilh hu mankind.:U This does not necessarily imply that an
gels in earlier times of Jewish history d id not play a part in the popular




rv1eier 1995a, 84, 89. Newsom (1992. 251) writes: "'Liller tradition inte1-p1-eted both
seraphim and d'k!1'Ubim as classe.c; l)f a' sels." According to KOclc~t (2007. 54) the
ideas M a heaven1) council and that of a messenge we~ fused. In the NT the Greelc
word dyyr,\o:: is used only three times hw humal\ messengers sent by other me n;
tulce 7:24: 9-52, and ]as 2:25. John the Baptist is 1-efered to by Je..c;us in Matt 11!10
(Mark 1:2) as "the me.c;senger of the coven.anr" {d., Ma1 3:1). Other\''i.')e tiyyv\o.: is
used exclusively to refer to angels in the supematural sen.c;e of the ward. Humal\
n\essengers in the NT are generally refe>ed to by other \'lords, s uch a!' oi
nq.tQ9fvu.; (Lulce 7!10), etc. See Kittel1964, 83.
Meier 1995a. 89-90, News..Jm 1992.. 25 1233, and E)'ll ikel 2007, 110--116. See also Gut
maM /Edih)rial sttlff 1<171, 961-966.
E.g., rr?v. Ban\berger 1971.957. Divine messengers do not appear in ail se.:lions of
the Hebrew Bible. Fot ex.1mple. the}' are not mentioned in the P .md D sections of
the Penblteuch. at least not in the MT, see a lso Meier 1995<1, $4. However, even if the
word 1X'7ll d oes not appear in the MT of Deutemnomy. Deut 33:2 says !hilt God c-ame
wi th of holy ones (i.e ., angels?} ..... d ., the LXX rendering: of the same verse
and Ps 89:6, 8. Jn addition to the reference in Deut 33:2,. ,mgelc; are mentilW~ed the
LXX version 1\f Deut 32:8. Acoordil\8 to this verse. \...od set the bound..c; of the nation..<!
acclwding to the number <If His ange ls. All nations thus have their own appoillted
guardian angel. In r-.n the bound.<; .ue set according to the nu mbe of the Israelites.
In both the LXX and the 1<.1T it is stated tha t the JX"'ple of l sr~l .we the Lord'!-! own
pl)l'tion: v. 9. See also Hannah, 2007. 422-123.
Me ier 19933, 82.. omd K1':kker1 2007,. 51. See <~ ISO Eynikel2007, 110-112.
~~:1:.11\ is nomally used for human messengers in Tatgum /onallum, while 10161.l desis
nlltes hea venly agents. see a lso Kashe 2007. 555-S56. However, the1-e are a few exception.c; hl this I'Uie, see Smelik 1995, 349.50.
Meier 1993a, 84, v.1n Henten 1995a, 90-94. Gutmann./Edihwi.l l sMff I<Jil, 961-962.


I. Defining the Issue

mythology among the people but it was not until the Hellenistic period
that the conditions for a more d eveloped angelology were present.!'"
During the Second Temple period, the dominant view was that it was
only the great prophets o f long ago who had been given the privilege of
d irect contact with God, w hile in later generations God used angels as
intermedia ries.55 However, the vie\"' tha t the development of the belief

in angels is d ue to n g rowing sense o f d istance between humankind

and a transcendent God has been contested. For example, Olyan argues
that the explanation is mainly to be fou nd in the biblical exegesis of that
Based primarily on Acts 23:8; "The Sadducees say tha t there is no
resurrection, or angeJ, or spirit; but the Pharisees ackn0\"-11edge all
three/' it is commonly assumed that the Sadd ucees denied the very
existence of angels. This may be an exaggeration. based on their rejection of apoc..1lyptic tead1ings. It is tn1e that the Sadducees d id not
acknov~,.Jedge the authority of the oral tr-ad itions of the Pharisees but
angels are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, even in the Torah itc;elf, and
it is unlikely that the Sadducees consistently rationalized the biblical
ap pearances of angels into human messengers, although they certainly
rejected as superstition the exu berant angelology and demonology
which was popular among apocalyptic circles, for example, the Es
senes.~ The d ifference beh veen the Sadducees and Pharisees may be
that they represented d ifferent kinds of angelology; while the latter
regardet.i angels ~1s independent, distinct personalities with \Vilis of
their own, the Sad ducees maintained an o lder vie\"' and perceived
them as mere impersonal extensions of the Dcity.!ls The implied mean
ing of Acts 23:8 may thus be that the Sadd ucees refused to accept the
later angelology embraced by the Pharisees and other jewish groups.!l9


59 n/ Edihltial s taff 197 I, 961.

Gutm<ann/ Editorial s taff 1971, 961.
Olyan 1993, 8-13. For mcU'e information Ol\ O lyan's reasoning, see chapter 2.2.2. See
atsl') Hurtadll 1998, 21-27. and W<as.<~ell 2007, 519-520.
rvloore 1927 Vlll. J. 68, So.;hiffman 1991, 110, and Gut ma n n/Editorial s taff 1971, 962.
See Finlcels leil\ 1929. 235-2-10. According to j. Ros/1 llr-SJ1atta 1.2 , the names o f lhe
ang els were broughl bade: by ls'lcl fmm Babylonia .
Another inte.rpreratio n is advocated by Tu_<;d\ling (2CX,Y.7, 28-33) among olhers... who
susgesL'i lhal the words ' spirit' and '<angel' s.h oul d be und erstood a..; S)'wnymolL'i.
The doe1rine th at is denied is the oonti.nued exis.te nce l') f the d e<en..'led in any hwm;
they will 110t be re..'iurrected nor will they contin ue lhei existerw:e afte r d ea th in lhe
form l){ ange ls/spirits.

2. Early Jewish Exegesis - A Survey

2.1 General Background
2.1.1 The Written and the Oral Torah
Knowledge o f the Hebrew Bible alone is not sufficient fo r a proper
u nderstand ing o f Jud aism. A person gains approximately the same
amount o f knowled ge of judaism as o f Ch ristianity by confining his/her
study to these Ho ly Scriptures.' In addition to the Bible, Judaism has an
ora l trad ition, the oral Torah. In the same way as 0 1ristianity, Judaism
has a d ual Canon. According to tradition, both the written Tor-ah (the
Bible) and the oral Torah were revealed by God at Sinai. l
The Torah is the heart of Rabbinic Judaism 3 and is often compared
to a marriage contract, Israel being the wife of God:' O ne of the few
dogmas of Rabbinic Judaisrn is the divine and Mosaic origin o f the To~
rah.$The tem1 'Torah' is a somewhat complicated concept. The tmnsla
tion ' law' is too narrow, as the term rather implies ' instruction', ' teach..
ing' o r 'guidance in life'. In its most lim ited sense 'the (written) Torah'
indicates the Pentateuch, the most holy part o f the Bible in Judaism. In
relation to the Pentateudl, the rest o f the biblical books are considered
''commentaries" on the Mosaic revelation, although the concept can
also signify the Bible as a whole.



A" Holt;.-. {1984b, 181) st.ues: "Without knowing the rabbis' interpretation of the
Bible, one doe." not understand either Jewis.h or JewL"h pactice." See also
Adania 2002. 20-21.
Trebolle BarTera 1998, 2 I 22. an d Signc 1994, 6667.
The main focu.." i$ on !io."".ICillled 'Rabbinic Judaism', but the term 'midrash' is used in 3
b1'0ad sense, thus encompassing 3 wide spectrum of early Jewish biblical i nh~p-eta
~ion in \'ariQUs sources, e.g.,. ftbil~>tS. and not only as 3 designation of the Rabbinic
Midras him. Philo and ]n.<lephus as inte'PI't'ters of ~he Bible will be discus!ied in their
respt.~ i ve chapters.
Holtz 1984b. 183- 184.
Adania 2004, 14.

According to traditional Orthodox Jud aism, the Bible is eternall)'
relevant and in fallible, ins pired by a perfect a uthor, God himself. ., He
has e ntruste<l his v.mrd to Israel, and all possible Jev,,ish interpretations
are inherent in the bib lical texts. T11e Bible is full o f hidden implica

The Jewish religion is ofte n d escribed as p rimarily orthopraxy, a

way of life.., rather than as orthodoxy .11 The emphasis is not o n theologi
cal doctrines to the same degree as in Ch ristianity. Bu t the eternal in
terpre tabi lity of the Bible can be design ated as a dogma of Rabbinic
Ju daisrn. A famous passage in Mishnah s tates: "Turn it over and over
because everything is in it." 9 Every detail in the Biblical texts is irnpor
tant and they d o not contain any u nnecessary repetitions.
In contrast to the written Torah, the "closed" biblical ca.non, the o ral
Torah constitutes a n open, mlfinished and living process of interpreta
tion. Examples of institutions d eriving from the oral Tora h are the fes
tivals of Purim and Hanu kkah, both estab lished in " post-Mosaic
times.''o According to the Rabbis, in its widest definition the Torah
encompasses the whole Jewish religious traditionu and includes all
possible Jev.rish interpreta tions of the Bib le. Even the Talrnud has never
been completed. ln sum, Torah designates divine revelation.J:
Since lhe Hebrew Bible was transla ted into Greek, the Rabbis d es
ignated lhe oral Torah as the 'secret o f Israel', a s ign of the divine elec-.
tion of the Jewish people.u A passage in Pesikta Rablmti illustrates this:
(Pi~ka 5.1) ... t>.fose$ asked that the Mi$hnah also be in w riHen for-m, Jike
the Torah. But the Holy One, bk~;..o~~ed be l-Ie.. fore:'law that the nat:it)ns
wo uld t ran.o;late the Torah, and reading it, S<l )' in Greek, wo uld declare:
"\>Ve are Is rael; we are the children of the Lord." And Israel wo uld declare : "We are the childnm of the Lord" TI1e scales would appear to be balanced between bMh daims, but then the Holy One, blessed be He,
w<1uld say tu the nat:il)ns: \Vhat are you claiming. that you are my child
ren? I have no way of knowing other than my child who pO.s.<U?SSt~ My

Sinn:! !he m ore libeal foms of Judais m,, lhe ConseMuttive and Refmm m ovements,
are relatively recent phe.lomen,,, the>' wi ll no! b..~ considered in my survey.
Holt1., 12-17, 185.
Jllman/Harviainen 1993, 9293.
The reference is tom. Abot 5.22 (Eng. tr<ms. Neusner 1988, 689). See abo Holtz 1984b.
lO 1\l.~croby 1988, 6..o\s I undets tand Macooby, the pllint is that neither Putim nor
Hanukkah is me ntio ned in the Penta!euch. Purim, hov/e\er, is mentioned in the Hebl~\\' Bible, while Hanukkah is not.
ll }.lffee 1997, 78-80.
12 Steinsahz 1976, 47 and -m -275. Adania 2002. 19, Holtz L9~1 a, 1129, and 18 1-185.
13 Bm'lker 1969, 1213. See also Levine 1988, 143.


2.1 Gen~~ral Background

Secret lo re."" The natio ns will ask: "And what i.s Thy
w i11 reply: " It i~ thl! Mishnah."W

~ecret to n~?"


This teaching \',as partly connected to the popularity of the LXX among
the early Christians.~>The lXX therefore g radually gained a bad reputation in Jud aism, and new Jewish-Greek translations v~.rere made1 such as
the o ne by Aqvila.
A main characl'erl'itic of the oral Torah is that of discussion; there
may be more than o ne interpretation of the same biblical text." In con..
trast to the written Torah (and the n ucleus mentioned below), another
characteristic of the oral Torah is its fallibility. The oral trad itions are
not regarded as inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Bi ..
ble. The oral Torah is consid ered a process, as opposed to a fixed reve
lation.17 God has entrusted His word to Israel. Rabbinic disputes are
solved in a d cmocrat"ic way; the majority is right.
According to the Rabbinic interpretation of Deut 30:12-14, tl1e w ritten Torah is indeed fro m heaven, but its practical application, the o ral
Torah, is earthly and as such subject to h uman irnperfection.' 11 Th us, the
status of the NT in Christianity and the oral Torah in Rabbinic Jud aism
is not comparable. Both constitute in terpretations of the Hebrew Bible
but, according to Christian belief, the NT is part o f the Bible itself, and
most 0 1ristians consider it to be of greater importance than the OT. The
"cano nical" works of the o ral Torah, the Mishnah and the Babylonian
Talmud, are not regarded as d ivinely ins pired in the same way as the
Bible. As a Ch ristian coun terpart, Hyam Maccoby mentions the status
of the works of T11o mas Aq uinas in the Catholic Chu rch.I-t It is clear,
however, that the Mishnah has a high authority o f its 0\~t.'n and its laws
can be taught independently o f the Bible.?A,
In Christianity, Christ is the centre of the d ivine revelation, while in
Judaism the Torah occupies this position. Jews and Christians thus
study the Hebrew Biblc/OT from d ifferent paradigms of in terpretation.
For Jud aism the Torah is the centre, w hile Ouistians tend to read the

14 PI!Sikla Retbbtlli, vol. I (ed. and trans. Braude) 1968,93.

15 Bowker 1969, 49. See also Trebolle Ban era 1998, 1()6.107.
16 M.1cooby 1988. 1-3, and 8.
17 !'vlacooby 1988.2-5.
18 rvtacooby 198.1), 5. Mae<:t'lb)' refers here to rhe famous stmy of the dispute belween
RBbbi joshua al\d Rabbi Eliezer in the Babylonian Talmud (b. B11l111 Afez:it 59b). See .ll~oStei nsa l t1; 1976, 21 7-218.
19 1\lacooby 1988. 6-i. and 25-29.
20 Bowker 1969, 16-47.

Scriptures from a Christological perspeclive.z Jews and Christia ns ha ve
d ifferent "eycglas.<es," u,e o ra l tradition o f the Rabbis a nd the NT respectively . "'

2.1.2 Th e Origin a nd Growth of the Oral Torah

As the main corpus of the oral Torah was transmitted by word of

mou th fo r a long time it is very difficult to date these tmditions. Hmv
ever, it is logical to assurne that some kind of oral applications must
have accompanied the w ritten Torah from the very begin ning.n l11e
oldest parts o f the Hebrew Bible may pred ate 1000 B.C.E., a nd it can be
assumed that the interpretation of the Bible goes back as far as the o ld
est texts within it. Evidence of this process can be foun d \'lrithin the
Bib le iL<elf."
According to Rabbinic tradition, the oral Torah \:as tra nsmitted in
an unbroken d1ain from Moses and his successor joshua via the reli
gious leaders in each generation down to the Pharisees a nd the earliest
Cf... Lu ke 24:44~7. See Blso Tn~bolle Barrera 1998, 20-23. II is import.lnt ro bear in
mind tha t in Galatians Paul is writing ro gentile Chdstians. CL A<:ts 15: 12-29 and
21: 17-26. Rom 10:4 is ll'.:msl<lted in th e NRSV as: "For Chdsl is the 1'11d of the lm'' .. ''
The Greek word 'tEAoc. can, however, also mean g.:-al.
22 Sec alw Fo'llberg 19SH, i3. Note wh.a t jeslLo; says in M.ltt 5!17- 1 8~ "'Dll not th ink that 1
have come hl abolish the I.:W/ or the pmphets; I h.ave come not to abc.llish but to fulfill. For tn ly I tell you, until heaven and ea1'1h; a'o\'3)', not one leiter, not one
stroke of a letter, hill pas.o; fmm the la w until all Lo; <~coompl ished ."
23 Cf., Deut 17:8'1 I. SteinSilll:t. 1976, IQ-17. S..~e , lSI) Ada11ia 2002. 20. Both Stein.<~alt:t. and
Ada1\ia mention the prescription in Deut 24:1 thllt a man w ho wishes to divorce his
wife should write her a 'bill of d ivmce'. T he text does not. however, specify a n}' d eta ils. Anolher example they men tion is the commiuulment in Deut 12:21: "' .. . then
you may sl.:1ughter from your OO<:k w hich the Lord has given you, jll:\1 as I Jun." mm
mm1dtYi yt'u .. ."{My it.llics). The \,.-o rding "'just .as J have .:oo\manded )'Ou.. presupposes a certain procedure alread}' IOlown from an oral ll.adition. Geza Vermes also
mention!> the divorce l.:l\\' in D~ut 24:14 as an ex:.1mple of the eal'ly need hw biblical
exp06ilion. He writes tha t: "Would it be h10 extravagant to sug:sest th;;l l the pennissive interpretation l1f the divorce law 1... 1 may belong to the pre-Ezra period ?" (p.
209) His oonclusiQn is thal this tradition may very well be p1-e-exilic: Vermes 1970,
199 2]1, esp. pp. 205209.
24 Kugel 1998.. 12. See also T-ebolle Barrer., 1998.. 20-22, 47, IM - 107.. and 4..10-435.
VernleR (1970, 209) concludes th.1t: " First. biblical law was part of the real life of lhe
oommunity befm~. as well as <liter, the Exile. As such it W3$ bllUnd to be aC<:llmpa
nied by a leg!ll comment.ay ... This commentary was not affected by llle cancmiza
tion of the Torah, and the earliest ~egetkal tr.ld ilion.~ doubtless derive from a1ul
may sometime.~ even be identic.ll with. the immediate pre-Cilnonical underst.lnding
l)f the Bible."

2.1 Gen~~ral Background


Rabbis. In this chain of transmission' a group called ' the rnen of the
Great As..-c;embly' is mentioned... an institution probably found ed d uring
the Persian period :n
M u~s received the (o ral) To rah at Sinai and handOO it on to Joshua; Joshua
to the elder$, and elders tu the prophels. And prophets handed it on to the
men of the great assembly. They said three things: & prudent in judgement. Raise up many d isdple..:;. M<lke a fence fo r the lwritten) To rah.!ii

This passage from J'vfislmall Abol actualJy mentions /roo kinds of Toralt.
According to the Rabbis, it is the oral Torah, i.e., the orally transmi tted
tradition that constitutes the " fence" around the written Torah, the
Bible. The o ral Torah contains the authen tic in terpretation and applica
tion of the biblical revelation.!i lt is probable that the origin o f the Torah"'()riented branch of Jud aism, which later became known as Rabbinic
Judaism, is to be traced to the Persian peri0l1.211 According to jewish
trad ition, the priest and scribe Ezra, the religious lead er d uring the
retun1 from Babylon, played a prominent role in this development.~
However, it is a misunderstanding to assume that the early Rabbis
really claimed that all of the oral Torah had been given once and for all
on Sinai. The relationship betv,een the w ritten \\'Ord of God and the
oral traditions is complex. The Rabbis thought that the rmcleus of the
Oral Torah was given to Moses by God . These traditions arc called
halakl10t le~!V!oslu~ mi~Sinai (laws o f Moses from Sinai) and are considered
equal in authority to the written Torah. The rest o f the oral traditions
are thus regarded as being of lesser authority, aiU,ough the total development of the o ral Torah throughout the centuries may have been in
the mind of Moses;, poteulia:"ff
After the Babylonian exile, the Jews w ho retumed home found
themselves in a totally ne\v situation. They had to rebuild the Temple,





Gc)!denberg 1984, 130. a!ld Kugel 1986, 6467.

Tit!! Afffllumh. A New T't.:m sl.l tion. m. ANI I. I (ed. and 1-rans. Neusner 1988, 672). To
lhis day, a cha pter of thL<~ l rlldill l e is ~~ad by pious jews e\'Ct)', begin1t ing
w ith the lirsl Shabbat af1er Pa. <1sover. ll is therehll'e included in the Je wis h pr<~yer
Jaffee 1997, 83. This does nol imply tha tthe1-e is only ottc cotrect interpretation of the
biblkal texts. A<~ we will .see., the Rabbis promote multiple interpret.l tions of the Bi
Kugel l9S6, 64~i. According to Holtz (1984a, 12), Lhe Rabbinic d ogma that the oral
Torah was given at Sinai need not be tcl ken literally. The message is tha t aU je w-ish
Bible l'iiUd) L'l T orah <uld has the valid ity of divine revelati on. All jewis h illlei'PI'el.a
rions an~ .11ready "hidden'' in lhe biblical tex~s.
Stei nsal~ 1976. 1017. Rune..;St)n 2003.63414.
~t.~cooby 1988,4-6. ~--e also Kugel 1986, 65-69.

and the world around them had altered con~iderably, both culturall)
and politically. All this gave rise to new biblical applications and inter~
Maccoby compares the destmction of the First Temple and the Ba
bylonian exile with the s ituation after the fall of the Second Temple in
70 C.E. Each of these national disasters led to a oonsotidation of the
Jewish religion~ and if the first resulted in the "cn.nonization" of the
Hebrew Bible, the Rabbinic literature (e.g., the Talmud) was the prod
uct of the second .:u
More<.>ver, at the beginning of our era, the biblical canon was not
yet completely fixed. Many books claiming divine inspiration \"'ere still
being written, for example at Qumran. Thus the initial Rabbinic reluc-tance to write down the o ral tTadition..~ was grounded in an atternpt to
protect the status of the biblical books. \\'hen the biblical canon \Vas
fim1ly established, it easier to allow the publication of other
religious works.33
The origin of the Mishnah is debated among scholars, and some
claim that it is not a commentary on the Bible but an independent col~
lection of rules.J.~ Gary Porton uses this as an argument to prove that
the Pharisaic Judaism of the Second Temple era was not excJusively
centered on the Bible.JS On the o ther hand, it has been poin ted out that
although the Mishnah rarely quotes the Bible, its laws derive from the
written Torah.Jl> Both positions have supporters.l.i' Daniel Patte con
dudes that there are two sources fo r the oral Torah: cultural customs
and traditions and biblical interpretation. Revelation has two loci;. the
Bible and the cultural changes of history."'





Kugel 1998, 21 -l,.mdStein.<~altz 19 76, 1417.

See Nehemiah 8 10, and M.lcroby 198.~, 16-l7. The renewal of the covenant a fter the
return !rom exile is described in Nch 9:3810:39. Of Ci.lUTse M.acroby here refers h) che
Rabbinic literlllure in its wriueo and "cancmized~ foml. The five books of Moses
were J><ob.lbly "'c.aJlonized" during the lime of Ezra and Nehem i.lh. Venne.<~ ( 1970,
199) s tates 11'1<11 the biblic-.11 canon w;~~s e..'>Mbli.!ihed at about lhe ~.nd of lhe third cen
ruty B.C. E. Only th~ book of Daniel later added, see alw Jaffee 1997, 54-73.
M.1croby I988, 6-7.
Plwton 1979, I 13-116.
Plwton 1979, 116.
Bmo,~ker 1969, 4647.

Str.a..:k/Siemberger l99L 142 143.

Pauc 1975, 90 100.

2.1 Gen~~ral Background


2.1.3 The Rabbis and the Oral Torah

The o ral traditions are mentione<l by Josephus.:l!l In the NT they are

termed ' the traditions of the elders' and as.c.;ociated with the scribes and
the Pharisees, see, for example, Matt 15:1 2 and Mark 7:1-4. The oral
Tor-ah \Vas rejected by the Sadd ucees.41' The early Rabbis considered
themselves heirs to the Pharis..1ic movement.~
The o rigin of the Pharisees remains disputed. Did they represent
the mainstream interpretation of Judaism from the begin ning. as the
Rabbis d airn, or were they originally only one group among several?~2
The title ~ Rabbi' makes its appearance in the first centu ry C.E., but the
fu nction o i the Rabbinic sage is certainly much o lder.o
According to john Bowker, it is a mistake to assume that Rabbinic
judaism rapidly excluded all other fo rms after the fall of the Second
Temple; it was a process that took time. The Hellenistic branch of ju
daism was powerful and also influenced the Rabbis..... The belief in the
immortality of the h uman soul is a concept that entered Rabbinic ju
daism through Greek infl uence;t.s Martin jaifcc even claims that the
most profound change in early Judaism did not occur u ntil the middle
of the 7'l11 century C.E.~ after the Islamic conquest. Before the coming of
Islam, judaism was not a unifonn movernen t..u.
The traditional view of Rabbinic Judaism is that the Holy Spirit had
been withdrawn from Israel after the death of the last biblical prophets
and that direct divine inspiration therefore ceased.4' The scribes and the






Alit. 13.297. Josephus wilt be d iscu~Sied in hi~ own right in dl.:l pter4A.

1976, 21. and Bowker 1969, 42.

Bowker 1969, 42, Goldenberg 1984, 130, see also Jaffee 1997, 78-85. ln the light of the
polemic ag_.l ins-t lhe Jewish religi ou~ leaders. e.g., the Pha ri~,~e~. in the NT. jesus'
!)Mtem ent in M.att 23: 1-3 is rem.akable, ~i1ve hL<~ word s may be read as an assent to
their authority and lhe oml Tor.ah; it is not the teadl ing of the scribe~ and the Ph;;ui~ee~ that is wro1\g. the problem is that they do not lhe a~ they te<~ch.
Kugel 1986, 67. See also Maccoby 1988. 11-16.
Kugel 1986, 64.
Bowker 1969, 3638.
Holtz 1984b. 182-183.
Jaffee 1997, 18-20. See alc;o le\ine 19$8, 148.
Bm-Jker 1969, 44. Aca.w ding to Le'ine 1988, 3, the1-e is a sign ificant d ifference in
Rabbil\ ic ltaditi,.,n between ins.pi.ation and,.,nid t)' He ''' rites: '' ... wherea.<~ an in~ pi red book l\'.:ls a \\'Ork deemed to have been composed under divine inspiration, a
cano1\ical book wa~ one con~ldered at.thorilative for d etermining religious practice
and d octrine. TI1e biblical on of lhe R.abbis con~isted o f texL<~ they consid ered b,.,lh
in.<~pired and c-.l nOI\ical."' The book ol bm Sirah is considered in~pired but nl')!

Rabbis gradually took the place o f the prophets as the spiritual leaders
of lsracl.'-11 By study ing the written \ovord of God in the lig ht of con tern~
porary circumstances, they explored the v,riJI of God for His people, i.e.,
the 'oral Torah'. God did not, however, leave Israel, and the Rabbinic
sources often speak o f the bat!J qol/ 'daughter o f His voice' and the She
kinah/ 'the d ivine presence':''<~
According to Bm"'' kerl the tem1 bn/11 qol represents the Rabbinic belief that God remains in communication v~.rith humanity but not in the
same imrnediate sense as prophecy. It sign ifies divin e inspiration and is
in many ways an equivalent to 'the Holy Spirit'. However, the secta
rians' (e.g., early Christian.~ and the Qumran community) use of the
latter concept " ... explains why the Pharisees/Rabbis increasingly re~
stricted the fu nclions of mall ltaQodes!J and '"'h}' they tended to substi
tute o ther terminology."!W

2.1.4 ll>e Evolvement o f the Syn agogue

It has been poin ted out that it is wrong to depict the Torah as the sole

centre o f the je\vish people after the Babylonian exile-. It is t rue that the
Scriptures were important, but as long as the Temple stood the cult and
the priesthood were equally important, perhaps even more so. The
Temple rult and the Tora h constituted two ways to God.~ The High
priest Shimon the Righteous (about 200 B.C.E.) is said to have been o ne
of the last of the members of 'the Great Assembly.' In m. Abot 1.2 we
have a saying attributed to him:
He [Shimon) would say: "On th~ thin&~ does thL> wurld stand:
I. On the Torah,
2. and on the Temple service
3. and <m deed.s of loving kindne.s...:o." :;2



l){ficially canlln ized. Jaffee (1997, SS) wriles lhal ben Sirah has a 'lUI\..'>i-s.:riptural St<l
tus nnd isoflen cited by lhe RabbL'I. See also Kugel 1998, :l233.
Kugel 1998, 9-14, ilnd Paue 1975, 118- 119. As long as the Temple stood, the p riests
retained their po.<~ition as spiritual leade rs alonsside the Rab b-inic sages. Besides their
rultic fUil(Cion., many priests were l i!Ocl tea<:hers of the Bible.
Bcn'lker 1969, 14 .
BO\'Iker 1969, 44-.JS.
Plll'lon 1979, 112114.
Eng. !l'il.ns . NelL<~ner 1988, 673.

2.1 Gen~~ral Background


T here wa s most certainly a diffe rence between Jews living in the Diaspor-a a nd those in the land o f Israel conccming the importance of the
Temp le in Jewish religious life.n
Porton cla ims that it is doubtful that the Tora h \ovas read in the syn
agogues before 70 C. E." Th e origin and fu nction of the first synagogues
are disputed. Most sch olars, however, agree that the read ing o f the
Tora h in the synagogue was a well established custom before the fa ll of
the Second Tern ple.r.G From pas....,ages in the NT/ it is quite clear that the
synagogue institut ion h ad this fu nction d uring that period . Synagogues
a re mentioned many times in the NT, both in the gospels a nd in
At Masad a.., fo r examp le, the remains o f a S}magogue that was in use
before u,e fall of the fortification in 73 C.E. have been fo und."' josephus
and Philo also refer to the existence of synagogues.~ Th e Th eodotus
inscription, dating from before 70 of our era can a lso be mentioned.5"
T he earliest proofs o f syn agogues arc Egyptia n in54.:rip tions and papyri
from the third century B.C. E."'
Until the 1970s, the general view among sch olars was tha t the syn *
agogue institution originated d uring the Babylonian exilc.M Today, the
trend is to date Lhe o rigin o f the in stitution to the Hellenistic e ra, b ut
the traditional view has not been totally abandoned .eu The reason for
modem d oubts abou t Babylonia n o rigin is lack o f evidence.., even if the
theory seems h isto rically plausible.MAnders Runesson dates the begin
nings of the synagogue to the Persian period but admits that a major


In st.lti ng tltat the Bible and the Temple cult were equall> impon.ant.. Porton refers to
the reJig~ms life of '"P.llestinian Jews;; 1979. 114. Since 'Pale$tine' was a n.ame given
to lhe land b)' the Romans in 135 C. E., I will het-e Se.JH!r.lll}' use the jewi.'\h term...<~ for
the region.,. i.e ... 'the land M l:wael or j udea. Sama ti.l, and Galilee'. a .. Matt 2:20. See
also lllman/1-huviainen 1993, 7576.

5<1 1'01'100 1979, 11 >118.

55 See, for example, Pet'I'Ot 1988. 137, and 149, Tov 2003,237-2$5, Ru nes.iOn 2003. 63&4, 2003, 40.J, ilnd Sd1Grer (r~~vi.sed Englis h edition by Vem1es, M ill.u, BI1Kk) 1979,



vol. 2, 424427. The part coru::erning the school and the synagogu e ltas been revised
byCa\'e. Seealw L. l. tevine2003, 121.
E.g., luke4: 16-22; Matt 13:54; Mark J:21; John 6:59: Acts 15:21. .and 18:4.
See <~ lw Tov 2003, 217-255.
Philo. Fl!tCCIIS .J7. a nd On lht' EmlltJS.iY fl) C'..aius 132-135; josephus . Tite Witrs cif JJtc Jews
7.3.3.- L. I. levine 2003. 6, and 18. Philo will be d i.c;cus..c;ed ill his own righl in chap1er
4.3 .
Perrot 1988. 137.
Claussen 20!lJ, 147-148.
Cf.. Moore 1927, vol. 1, 281307. See a lw Rune.'\SOil 2003. 63.
See Rune.'\SOil 2003. 6364.
Runesson 2003, 63. &--e also Claussen 20ro, 147.

development o f the institution probably took p lace during the Hellcn is
tic er._-,.64 The synagogue was still an evolving institution d uring the first
centu ries C.E.65
In addit ion to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, two other bib lical
texts may be mentioned in connection "'!ith the d ebate on the origin of
the synagogue institution. The first is Psalm 74, which probably da tes
from exilic t imes:M
(Ps ?4:7J Tiwy set your sanctuary o n fi re; thl!y deSt:!crated tJw dwe11ing
place of yuur name, bringing it to the ground. fSJThe)' ~a id tu the mselve$,
" \<Ve will utterly subdue them"; they bumed fill fht! mcding pltrt.c'S tif Cod ( ?:~
;.x ,,~.,t>) in the land.

l11e old King ja mes Version tra nslates 7~ ,,111~ ; , as "all the synagogues
of God." This in terpretation is also fou nd in the ancien t Greek Aqu ila
and Symmae:h us transla tions. Th e New International Version is more
imprecise a nd says "every place where God was worshipped." Th e
Swedish translation from 1917 says "alia Guds forsamlingshus" [all
God's houses of assembly], a nd the version from 2000 has "alia gudshus" [all houses of God] (my tra nslations)." It is noteworthy that 'l:>
?x ~ilil:O:: refers to something in the plurnl, \'l!hich cannot be the Temple,
since it is mentioned in v. 7: "you r sanctuary/ the dwelling place of
your name.'' Is this perhaps a n early reference to syn agogues? l n his
d is.c;ertation Runesson refe rs to J. Mo rgenste rn, w ho dates the origin of
the synagogu e institu tion as fa r back as the Josian ic reform and uses Ps
74:8 in support of pre-exilic "syn agogues.""' In the revised English version o f Ernil SchUrer's handbook it L'i stated that ' " ,,.~\1::> refers to syn
agogues.&.J The a rguments fo r a Josianic o rigin are u nconvincing.. a)..
though the Psalm may ind icate the existence of some kind of "syn ago
gues'Tin exilic times.
However, o ne quite \~t.reighty counter argument is tha t the LXX
d oes not understand the expression as 'synagogues' but translates
;~ ~1:1~ in Ps 74:8 as 'til:<; EO(YtCu; KuQiou/"the feasts of the lord." This
rendering of the verse is also fo un d in the Targum to Psalms, Peshitta,


Runes.."iiln 2(X)3, 6.l-&l. See also Runes!>on 2001.

L 1. Levine 2003, 2.
Tate 1990, 246-217.
The Swedish Bible translation f1'0m 2000 has a Mte toPs 74 ~ 8: "'Til\~ meaning of lhe
originill text i$ uncert.1in and .-.lso depends on the age of the Psalm (l oc.1l cull centers
in cmcient ~ime.o;, lhe precursors of ~he synagogues in Later rimes). In general thee>:pre.<~sion signifies a place w here God re\eals himself'' (my translation).
68 Run~ 2001, 105.
69 Sch Urer (1-evi<~ed English edilion by Verme."'. Millar, Black) 1979, vol. 2. 425426. The
parl con...-em ing rhe school and lhe !>ynasogue was re"ised b) Cave.

2.1 Gen~~ral Background


and the Vulgate. The problem \Vith this interpretation, however, is

that the?~ ~li11; in v. 8 are o bjects o f bumiug while the LXX instead
says ... Ka'ta'llaL'<,J(Vpcvt'1et us abolislr ...""" Nfarvin Tate states that
this rendering seems to involve too much change to be li kely, and I
tend to agree with him.71 He \\rites that th e?~ 'T)Ilb in v. 8 probably
refers to the precursors/prototypes of the synagogues.72 The second
text is Eze k 11:16:
Therefore say. ' Thus says the L:m l GOD: "Altho ug h I have cast them far
off amo ng the Gentiles. and altho ug h I have scattered them among the
countries, yet I shall be ftlilllf! Slmctunry (;,11;:. 'V1i'13] ft)r them in the countries
where they have gune."'.l

The LXX translates o~" tropa as ciyiaal-'a lllKQOv. According to both the
Babylonian Talmud and the Targum to this verse, this is an exilic reference to the synagogue institution.'.; This may of course be a later retrojection but the text is used as an argu ment by scholars who support the
exilic origin o f the synagog ue institution."
As mentioned above.. most scholars consider that the reading of the
Tor-ah in the synagogues was a well established custom during the
Second Temple era but their liturgical fu nction d uring that time is a
more controversial matter. According to Bowker, the origin o f the syn~
agogue was closely associated with the reading ~1nd study of the Torah.
As long as the Temple s tood, the synagogue in Judea was not a 'house
of prayer'. II developed this fu nction only a fter the e nding of the Temple cult. In the Diaspora.. 'houses of prayer' may have existed but, according to Bowker.. they were originally distinct from synagog ues. 7t. He
derives the origin of the synagogues i n the land o f Israel to the socalled ma'amaddtll.n Bowker writes:
The mn'amatlolh w~tre division..; of peuple throughout Judea, which were in ~
tended to correspond tu the twenty-four uf the priests in the Temple. In this way a ll the pe<)p)e were involved in the dutie..; and sacrifires of
the Temple, even thuugh they could nut be pr~..>$e:nt in Jerusalem. E~o1ch




Anderson 1972. vol. l. 54 1.

T,lte 1990, 243.
Tate l990, 249250.
Targ1m1 foralhau E2ek 11: 16, and l. MtgillaJ 29a.
E.g.. Run~~ss.on 2001, 112123. See also Zimmel'li l979, vol. I, 261-262. Howe\er, th~
meaning of Lhe He brew word ::!ill is he re amb-iguous, as it may a l<;c> be trans lated
tempor.llly, Le., ' fo r a liUie w hile' . e.g . see NRSV: ... yet l flhe Lordi have been a
s.."'ncluary to them (the !$rae-lites ) for a liule while . .. ''
Bowker 1969, 9-12.
Literali>' ' places of standing.

mn'nmlrtl as:;embled, when its turn came, W read pa.ssages of Scrip ture a>r

res po nding t<> the sacrifi ces taking place in Jerusalem. (t was from these
'a-S$emblies' that 'synagogues' in Palestine seem 10 have d eveloped.ili

Other scho lars hold the opinion that from the beginning prayer was a
central factor in the syn agogues.i't ln ancient sources, the synagogue is
sometimes designated as itQOOt:UXti 'house o f prayer" . i(l Maybe there
was a difference in function between synagogues in the Diaspora and
the land of Israel,. and perhaps also between synagogues in the Galilee
and judea as long as the Temple stood."
To conclude, it must be stated that the importance of the synagogu e
and the Torah after the fall of the Second Temple is undisputed. It was
then that the Pharisaic/Rabbinic branch of jud aism gradually became
normative. It was able to survive s ince it was not dependent on the
Temple cult. The Torah became the 'portable sanctuary' and "homeland" of the Jews.Sl The crises o f 70 and 135 C. E. eventually resulted in
the writing dov~m of the core d ocuments of the oral Torah, Mishnah,
and its commentary Gemara, that is, the Talmud.&

2.2 An Introduction to the World of Mid rash

2.2.1 Definitions of Mid rash
The noun w,,t/'midrash' derives from the root w,,_In biblical Hebrew
ilt,i as a verb means ' to search/seek , ' investigate', ' inquire about',
'examine', 'tum to q ueslion', 'care aboul,' 'study', 'expound', etc."" The
verb is found in, fnr example, Ezra 7:10: "For Ezra had set his heart to
study [;;m'>] U1e law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach the statues
and ordinances in lsraei.''K> Tn late biblical Hebrev~.r the verb had ao-

i8 Bowke r 1969,9.
79 E.g., Pane 1975,3 1-JS.
for example, L. I. Le vine 2003, 1-21. .1nd,..:;en 2003,147...\ san exam ple we
ma)' mention the inscrip tion (rom Sche-dia wuth o f Alexilod i a f1'()m the ti:ml~ of PloW-my Ill (Euergete..'l, reigned 216-221 B.C. E.).
81 See, h w example, L. I. Levine 2003, 1-21, and Falk 2003. 404428.
3 2 Bowker 1969, 42. Ht)ltz 19S4a, 17.
83 The W I'Y meaning: of the word Talmud i..'l sludy, tha t is, s/Jtdy ofJhe T.mlh.
84 In the Bib!~... the most usual o~>tect of ~-.., is Cod, and can in the.c;e cases a1:;o haw the
me.'ul ing 'wor.<~hip', E2.1a 4:2; 6:21.
85 T he NKJV .says here: " Fo1 Ezra IMd p-epatl~d hLc; he.wt /,, seek the Law o f the lORD.
and to do it. and to teach statues aJld ordinances in lsael" See also Ps 119:94, 155,
and l Chr 28~. Cf., Lev 10:16; Oeut 13:15 {\'. 14 ill N RSV). and !.!Ia 5.;:6.


2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


qui red the sen se of' iuquiring itl ~1rder to do'~ and in Rabbinic literature
is mainly as..'iOCiated with b iblical interpretation.~P Th e noun 'midrash'
is fo und only twice in the Bible; 2 Chr 13:22 a nd 24:27. In both cases the
word seems to denote some kind o f book or study, but we canno t be
certain: ~ 'T he rest o f the acts o f Abijah, his behavior a nd his deeds~ are
written in the story [<t-"1'V:lo] o f the prophet lddo" (2 Chr 13:22). In the
LXX the word [3t[3Aiov is used in this con text."'
As previously mentioned/ in Rabbinic literature midr-ash primarily
denotes biblical study and interpretation. The noun is used to signify
both the process whereby the Bible is expounded and t/Je result of that
exegesis.911 There have been several a tte rnpts to define mid rash, but no
general consensus on the matter has been adlieved. Most scholars do,
however, recognize that midrash in its widest sense refers both to an
exegelicalwelltod, the result of iHierpreting (the exegetical exposition of a
certain biblical unit or verse), and the midrasldc compilations~ e.g ., Genes;s
Rabbah. The te rrn can thus in its widest sense be applied to an}' Jewish
biblical interpretation a nd not only the Rabbinic Mid rashim.IJI Aocor
ding ly, even a book like jubilees can be said to be a midrashic work.<n
The midrashic method is considered very a ncient; indeed 1 ~2 Chroni
d es ha ve been designated a kind o f midrash, rnainly of 12 Samuel a nd
the books of Kings.<nSome sd lolars have also daimed that Deuteronomy
and the book of Ezekiel contain midrashic elcments.94 \Ne can also men
tion some of the titles o f the b iblical Psalms; for example~ the introduc--




Pl"ll'ton 1979, IM .
Plwton 1992a, 8 18, and jastrow 1971, 325. jastm\Y" lists lhree C"a tegories of meanings
ll f the \'erb in Rabbillic Hebrew: I} to examine, question 2) to expound. ill terpret 3} to
feach, l~cture/preac.h.
l'm'ltm 1992a, 8 18.
In 2 Chr 24:27 the LXX ha.<1 lhe word yQaq}. See al<~ll Si 5 1!23 vJhere 3 house of
team ing'/ vTo.o n:: is referred to.
Pmton 1992a, 8 18.
The masculine p lural foml 'Midashim' is a rather late crealion and a lludes only to
the midra.<~hiccom pilations. llle pluml used in e.wly Rabbinic litera~ure is lhe femi
nine 'Midrashol'. Trebll lie Barrea, 1998,476-477, and ~taccoby 1988,23.
This is lhe gene al vie"' mnong scholars: e.g ... Pmton 19i9, t OSIO'J, Zeuerholm 2001,
4, Bowker 1969. 46, and Neusner 1987, 712. Macroby, however, prefers hl use mi
dral>h in a more testicled sense and onJy applies illo deno~e Jhe Rabbiuk illh~p-et.a
~ions found in the Midashim. Howe\er, he oon.<>iders the term '{h)asgad.ah' hl have
3 w ider ange and admils that haggadnh may also be found in non-Rabbinic \\'Orks
( 1988, 22 25). See a lso Trebolle Bam~ra t99$, 4,)7, and Herr 1971, 150S-1509.
E.g... Porton 1992..l, 8 19, d ., 2 S.:lmuel7, clnd I O.mnicles 22.
Vernw..c; 1970, 199.


tion to Psalm 5 1:!15 "To the leader. A Psalm of David, wlreu t!Je prophet Nn-

lltan came to him, after he had gone in to BatsheiM."'*' The Gemara is


times said to be a kind of mid rash on the Mishnah, but the prime object
of interpretation is the Biblc:n The word mid rash has thus rome to signi ..
fy ancient Jewish (and to a certain degree ancient Christian) biblical
i nterpretation.>JII Mid rash has been defined as

. .. a type uf literature. o ral ur w ritten.. which stan ds in direct relationship to

a fixed, can(mical text, cons-idered the authoritative and revealed word of
God by the an d his aud itmce, and in which this canonical text is
explicitly cited or dearly aUuded to.'i'J

Th is d efinition has not, however, been generally accepted .lro In ner

biblical exegesis does not quite fi t th is d efinition o f midrash! as the
Bible d oes not comment upon itself in the same \o.:ay as later mid rashic
works.un Rabbinic rn idra..'ih may, however, be seen as a development of
a process of interpretation dating back to biblical times.uu In my view,
Porton's definition is somc\"'hat too narrow if we want to include, for
examp le, the Ta rgums as midrash. Porton nevertheless count~ them as
examp les of mid rashic activity.ulThe Targums are certainly witnesses
of the midrashic mi!I!Jod, wh ich will be discussed in more detail further
on in this cha pter.
Attempts to d escribe midrash as a literary genre have been objected
to as too narrow a classificationj it is rather a certain nUitrtde towards

95 Jaffee l997. 717.1. Eve1\ the contents of some Ps-:1lms ace midrashiC', e.g... Psalm 78.
Cf ... 2 Sam uel 12.
Hohz 19$4b. 178.
~e Kugel 1990, 1-2. and Signer (1994. 6.~) who \Y"I'iles: ..The re are some remnrkable
parallels between the Midra...oohim and patriS-tic licemnu-e. both Greek and Sriac.. in
hemeneutic.1l methods. Origen and Jerome both reve-al an 3\v.ueness of
literature."' The NT is considered by nh1ny s.cholars as a source of early midrashic interpretations. e.g., Neu!)ner 1987. xi. 7-8, nnd 37-40. see belm'l. Cf.,. al.;o Horbury
1988. no-776. As a complement to midra!)h, jewish sages have always U$ed the literal in cervn~c.l! ion of Sc1iptu ~ No mau,~r how myscical and deep the me<~ ning we c;u1
disoo,e in the biblical texts, it cannot annul the obvious, plain :>en.<~e of the pei
ropes. TI1e liter11l appi'Oach (peshat) became increasingly poptlar duing the Middk>
Ag,~s as a re..;ult of l<~lami c influence .1nd as a polemical v.eapon directed against
ChrL<~tian allegcuization of Scriptu-e. Trebolle Bnrret<l 1998, 475-476. le,rine, 1988. 37.
and Greenstein 1984. 213223.
99 PQI'Ion J992b. 62.
100 Zellerholm 2001, 6.
101 Porton himself <~dmiL.; that 1he notil)n of post-biblical midrnsh being different from
biblical mid ash meriL.; invesrig<~ tkm . Porton 1992b, 69.
102 Ze.Ueholm 2001. 8. See also Kugel 1998,29-30.
103 Pot1on J992b. 70.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


Scl'iplure, a way of thinking.l(l.l james Kugel sununarized four basic

assurnptions u nderlying all ancient biblical interpretation: loo
1. The Bible is a ftmdameutally cryptic document. Behind the apparent
meaning of the texts, there are hidden esoteric messages. For exam
pie, when it is said in Exod 15:25 that Moses cast a tree or sllck in the
waters of Marah, the word tree actually means divit1e leac/Jiugs! One
rnay compare with Matt 2:15: " ... and remained there until the
d eath o f Herod. This was 1<1 fulfill what /tad 1111 spoken by lite Lord
tltrougltllte prop/tel, 'Out of EgyptlluroJ<> called my sou."' Here MatU,ew
interprets the prophecy of Hosea as referring to jesus, but the apparent meanit~g in Hos 11:1 is that the p rophet is referring to Israel as the
son of God. This text in Hosea c..1nnot be regarded as a " messianic
prophecy" in "the plain sense", as for example Ts..1.iah d1apters 9 and
11. The prophet Hosea is not talking about the coming o f the Messiah, but making a slatement abo ut Israel's exodus from Egypt.

2. The Bible is a book of iHslructiou lhal is relevatlf for the time of the
in te rpreter a nd his a ud ience. In the Qumran society, for examp le,
many o f the b iblical prophecies were understood as referring to the
political situation of their own d ay. As a nother examp le, Kugel re
fe rs to what Paul says in I Cor 10:11: "These tl'ings happened to
them [the Israelites during their 40 years of wand ering in the
d esert] to serve as a n examp le, a nd they were written to instn1ct us,
on whom the ends of the ages have come." In Rabbinic Judaism,
midrash is used to bridge the gap between the biblical v,rorld and
th e time of th e Rabbis. Midrash is thus a n aclualiznliou of Scripture,
where the biblical message and commandments are adapted to nev,r
circumstances. Midrash is a profoundly religious activity, close to
what we may call homiletics.
3 . The Bible is perfect ntzd perfectly lzamwnious and con tains no mis
takes. Contradictions or in consistencies are viewed as illusions. The
b iblical revelation is seen as a ha rmonious w hole, a nd one biblical
text can thus illu minate another. Scripture is to be interpreted by
Scripture. Every d etail in the Bib le is importantj everything is in
there for a reason JI~to
4. The Bible is divin ely sanctioned o r inspired.

LOI Patte 1975, 117. and Zeuerholm 2001.5-7.

lOS Kugel t 99fl. 14-19.
l06 Cf., above. section 2. 1.1.

As mentioned above, the verb tt.~i means 'to search/seek', ' to inquire',
' investigate', etc. Th e midrashic method o f i nte rpretation is thus ron
cem ed v.r ith pu tting questions to the biblical texts. Theological prob
lems and contradictions have to be explained and gaps in the texts
filled in. For example; w hat ha ppened to Isaac after he v.ras nearly sacri
ficed by his father? Gen 22:19 merely states that Abraham retu rned to
his servants and they went together to Beersheva. But '''here '''as
Isaac? \Vhy d id God co mmand Abraham to sacrifice him in the first
p lace? Who is God talking to in Gen 1:26? Midrash hates a nonymity;
what was the name o f Cain's wife? \'\'h at d id Cain say to Abel in Gen
4:8, and why d id he kill h is brother? Wh a t happened to Enoch after
"God took h im" ? (Gen 5:24).
Midrash answers questions and adds " missing'' details to the
sparse biblical narratives. The id ea is to read "between the Jines" of the
Bib le, an activity sometimes described as 'creative llistoriograplry'.lll7 Ku
gel terms this ~narrative expansion'.l1111 According to the midrashic viewl
the b iblical texts have manifold meanings, and the Rabbis promote
mu ltiple interpretations of Scrip ture. too
Another characteristic o f mid rash is 'creative philolog,l (. Hebrew is
considered the holy language and every detail, indeed every single
letter, is significant.tto For example, the cre..1tion story in Genesis begins
with a:., a closed Jette r, indicating that it is not in te nded for us h umans
to speculate about w hat was before the creation of the world , etc.lll
\'Vordplays are usual in mid rash.m In summary, the Bible is an inex
haustible source of divine teaching and possible meanings '' hidden" in
the texts. Jacob Neusner distinguishes between three kinds of midrash ~
ic methods o f interpretation:
1. Midr,,sh as a parable or allegory, e.g., the b ride in Song of Songs is
understood by Jews as referring to Israel and by Chris tians as refer
ring to the Church. Behind the ' plain mean ing' o f the biblical texts
there lie deeper mea nings. According to Neusner, this is the com
mon approach in the Rabbinic Midrashirn.m

107 Hoh1. 19Mb, 189.

lOS Kugel 1990, 3-1.
109 Porton 1992, 820. The multi ple meanings of lhe Hebrew nords nahmllly play an
im potr.ant role.
l!O Holt1. 1984b. 189.
ll t Plltion 1979. 132. E.g., Gm. Ral1. 1.10. See Midntsll R~tb()Q/J (ed. F n~edntiuVSim on,
t:ran.o;lation Freedman) vol. 1, 1939.9.
112 Holt1. 1984b, 189. al\d Adania 2004. 16.
l13 Neusner 1987.8, 44. See cslso, for ex.lm ple, 1 Cor 10:1- l3.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


2. Midrash ns proplrecy, reading in the Bible the pretiiction of contem

porary events, e.g., the common use o f Scripture a t Qumran (see
above) and t he many staternents in the NT that Jesus fulfilled mes
sian ic prophecies.u
3 . Midrash n.s pnrnpltrase, for example the 'adding o f missing details'
in the Bible as mentioned above, or simply a rewriting of the bibli
cal narrative in one's own words. Neusner p laces the Targums in
this group of midrashic \vorks..s
To the modem mind, the midrashic interpretations may sometimes
appear far fetched and imaginative. For this reason, Albert van der
Heide dairns that mid rash cannot be called exegesis at all. He would
rather desig nate it ' a kind o f theology' .116 Th erc is in deed a great d iffer
ence between midrash a nd w hat we tod ay define as historical--critical
exegesis. Tt is alw true that the ~fidrashim bear witness to Rabbinic
theology. But it is nevertheless appropriate to classify mid rash as a
method o f interpretation, albeit not in the "modem" sen..~e of the word.
Patte makes a d istinction between exegesi.s and hermeneutks a nd \Vrites
that, in early Judaism, the only conscious use of Scriptu re '"'as herme
There is a debate among scholars as to w hether mid rash should be
viewed p rima rily as biblical exegesis or as a vehicle for the expression
of Rabbinic theology, v,rith biblical verse merely serving as a pretext. 118
Karin Zetterholm d iscussed this issue in her d issertation a nd concluded
that mid rash is actually both, 119 a view shared by the present author.
Kugel admits that although many rnidrashic i nterpretations may be
ideologically motivated, they a re nevertheless always nuclwred itz the
biblical texts. Midrash is presented as exegesis. The Rabbis had a ge
n uine desire to explain and u nde rstand the Bible.1w Th eir worldvi ev~.r
naturally affe<:ted their u nderstanding but the texts also had a n in flu
ence on thern. Even so~ca lled scholarly exegesis is not objective; we all
have id eologically colored ''eyeglasses." There is interaction, dialogue,
and mu tual influence be tween the text and its reader. Biblical in te rpretation per se may have a role in the fom1ation of ideologi cal a nd theo-

l l 4 Ncusner 1987. 1~2. E.g., Matt 2: 1 ~. Neusl\e r a(tu.llly talks about "' .. . the 011isrian
ltdliillm of Ihe Gospel of Mallhe w .. ." (my italics).
115 Neu$Tlcr 1987,7.
l16 val\ der Hcide 1999, 7-lfl.
ll7 Patte 1975.2-8.
liS U llerholm 20()'1, 14.
119 Zellerholm 200 t I I -22.
120 Kugel 1998, 20-2l,and 1990,6-7,25 1.

logical positions. m AJexander Samely sta.tes that it is impossible to es
tablish the amount of Rabbinic theology that has an exegetical o rigin.
Biblical in terpretation, hmvevcr, certainly played an important role. m
l11eology and exegesis are in tertwined in the history of the Jewish reli
gion. Kugel concludes that
... it is usually difficult b) decide whether a given interpreter ~et o ut to pa
tro l all of Scripture in :;.earch of a plaoo to "plan t" an exp ressiun uf his own
id~.ll ogy, o r wh ether~ un the contra ry, faced with a particular exegetical
stimulus in the b iblical tt~xt-an u n usual wo rd. an apparen t int.."t)n&"Tuity, or
the likL:...the interpre~r came up with an explanatiun that, in one way o r
another, also reflected his OV\'1"1 id t-'OIOb")' or i:=J.!>ue.o; of his day .m

2.2.2 Some Examples of Midrashic Influence o n Angelology

Saul O lyan emphasizes the increasing irnportance of exegesis in early
Judaism for ~'e development o f angelology and argues that much of the
angelology in the Sc<:ond Temple period and after originated as a result
of it. m He also mentions other influences and admits the likelihood of
an inter-action beh"'een several factors but considers biblic..1l interpreta
tion as the most crucial. 1 ~ fn his own words:
I mgue th at this tend en cy to Jifl in the gaps, to increase knowled ge. to d erive
information from the biblical text, so wen dl:.Scribed by a n umber uf scho
Jar.:; with respoct to midraslt, is precisely what was at ,...-ork fro m the begin
n ing in th e g rad ual articulation uf the angelic hos-t {... ) Th mugh tnnful
study of the text, ancient ;md med ieval exegetes diSWLY:ff'd mw iufvrmlftion
(dJOut angels: their na mes. the de.~ignation of their ordeni, their fum.1ions,
their appearance, e"en their perSonalities-.1M (my i talic.~)

Olyan d emonstrates that Lhe angelic brigades as well as the personal

names of many angels in early Jewish angelo logy are derived
exegetically."' On I)' Michael and Gabriel are explicitly mentioned in the
Hebrew Bible but Jewish sources also refer to other angels? includ ing


Kugel 1998, 202 1, Ooyouin 1990, 12 21. and 57-i9.

Samely l992,8185.
KugeJ 1998, 22.
Olyan 1993,9-13.118.
E.g., the de!>ire to a\'oid aothroptYml'uphic depictions of God. O lyan, hc)wever, rejects
the idea that the angel<~' prima ry function W.lS to blidge the go.p beh"'een an inac
~ssi ble C.od and humanity. O lyo.n 1993,6-9, 118.
126 Oly.l n 1993, 10.
127 Olyan 1993, chapter 2. pp. 3 1 ~9. <~ n d chapters 3-1, pp. 71.).115.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


Mastema, Penuel, Doc.1iel, lahtiel, Mahphekiel, and Haphekiel{Haphkiel. '"

In addition to the Cherubs and Seraphs, in terpreters have also " discov
ered'' the angelic hosts Ha!fYOI!J, Op!Jamtim, Galgallim, Maasim, Hnslruml
lim, and Tars!J;sltim in the theophany d escribed in Ezekiel 1 and 10.1:!!1
The angelic class Shittaim is derived from the obscure text in Ps 68:18 (v.
17 in NRSV):'.JO "\\lith mighty chariotry, twice ten thous..-u1d, thousands
upon tlwusnnds [(?) l~lit'], the lORD came from Sinai into tl1e holy
place." The meaning of the word S!Jinnn, a llapnx lesomeuott, is unclear.
This is a typical example o f a common pattern in 1nidrashic exegeses;
angelic names and brigades often have their origin i11 linguistic problems
'md rare words in the Hebrew texts.Ul The fallen angel Azazel, mentioned in 1 Etwc!J and the Apocalypse of Abraham, is d erived from the
strange word found only in L-ev 16:8, 10 and 26.m
Theological problems often constitute the starting point for many mi
drashic interpretations. \\' hy did God command Abraham to sacrifice
his son? According to Jub. 17.16, it was the demonic angel prince lvfastL...

128 Olyan 1993, 25-27, 66-67, and 105109. Another prominent angel Lc; of course RaphaeL
a m ain characler in lhe book of Tobit. In Jewish tradition, Ra phael is coonfed am<~ng
lhe archangel'l togelhe hrith Gabriel and Mict..1el. Wilh regard to Ra phael. Mastema.
and PenueL see al'lll below. A'cording to Olyan. the angelic name Doqiel i$ derived
from an interpretati on of lsa 40:22. where the noun dXJ appears. II is B llap.1x lt-gm11emm. and the amtext in ls11 40:22 is a lheophan)' O lyan 1993, 7879. The angel Doqicl
is mel\tioned in lhe T. All. 13. 10 (1-ec. A). The angel lahtiel is probably derived fm m
the wod 'lalat' flame, in Qm 3:24. This angel is mentioned in the Hekahltlite.r.nure,
Oty.-u l 1993, 7173. The angels Mahpekicl and Haphekiei/Haphkiel a1-e mentioned in
a Jewish Aramaic inscription o n a Babylo1t ian magk bQwl. HaphekieiJHaphk:iel a!>'"
pears in a magic book from the Cairo Ge1t iz..1h. see Olr<ul !993. 83-84. Their fuooion
is said f(l tum at!Jitlld )1~:; ) lhe heavens and the ea1'1h, the st<lts and constellation..'!. The
lll'igin of lhe ir IWimes is prob.~bly oonnecred with an illtei'Jll'etalion of God's m.~trtftr~rUJ
of Sod1>m and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, whe re two unn.1med angels a 1-e mentioned.
Cf., Gen 19:25: " . .. and he <n.te1111rnt~lt~'tlyyalllll>k (~:;>) tht"l$e d lies .. ."and Cen JIP.29b:
" ... God reme mber! Abraha m. and sent Lot oul from the midst of the mli..,.Jit
rmlf"/ltallaJ1lul.'t ( ;;j-J:;;;J . . . See, for example, I$a 13:19, Oeut 29:22 and O lyan.. 1993, 8385, see a l1i0 Milik's/Biack's e<>m menl'il in 77te Bool:s df E.twdr. Ar.tntaic Fnwmmls from
QwmlTJI Ctrt'l' 4. 1976, 128.
129 Olyan 1993, 3250. The..'le angelic hosts are me1\tioned in the Hekalot literature. s~
also, for exo.mple, Prsikt.? RaliiJ~tJi 20A and 7.2. 1 Eu. 61.10; 71.7, and 3 Eu. 6.2; 7. 1.
Concem ing the Maa5im, d ., Ps 103:22 and lhe Qumran Angelic Liturgy.
130 Olyan 1993. 50. Sl->e a lsoJ 11. 7. 1. Also P!i 68: 12-13 ll.ils ghet rise to angelic interpreMtim,s: who .ue the messengers in v. 12. and who are t11e kings of lhe armie.o; tlw.t
flee in v. 13? Many manuscriprs IMve ~161)/angels/messengets' instead of
~';;w"Jci ngs' in v . 13, see also Olyan 1993, 2 1-22.
131 Olyan 1993, 30,61).69, 87, 11611 7.
132 Oly.l n 1993, 109--11 1. Cf., f En. 8.1; 9.6: 1 0.4~. 8; 13.12. etc. See also A(JIX'. Ah.l3.614;
14.6-J.I, elc.

ma \Vho challenged God and provoked Him to test Abraham by com
manding the latte r to sacrifice Isaac (cf., job 1:6-12)."' According to
Olyan, the name Mastcma is derived fTom the noun :.oottn:> \'lrhich only
occurs in Hos 9:7 and 8.U' To sup port h is view, O lyan points out that
the root of :"'?Jc~ [cow: ' bear a grudge ag ainst', ' harbor animosity tcr
ward' ] is very similar to the root of satan [lotti: 'to accuse', -'act as adver
sary'] both in fo nn a nd meaning.u:>
Another angel mentioned in juiJilet~ is the angel of the Presence,
probably first de rived from lsa 63:9: ''In all their affliction He [God(
was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them .. .''U6Th is angel
is the narrato r in Jubilees, but the book also mentions other angels of the
Presence. ll'lese angels are of a very h igh rank in ancient Jewish litera
ture, often equated with the archangels.m According to Ja n \.Villem van
Hen ten:
... th~ g roup of four a rchang~l$ll8 p robab ly d eveloped from the four living
creatures from Ezek I. They are s tanding (m the fo u r sides ( ) f the d ivine
th rone (d . the 'An gels o f Pr<...,nce,' e.g . lQI-I t\:'12-13; 1Q5b 4:25-26; 4Q400
col. 1 lines 4 and 8) and sa}' praises before the lord o f Glury (7 Enoclt 40),
pray o n behalf l)f the rig-hte<ms t)n earth (1 uodt 40:6; Tob 12:15) and act as
interce..o;.'>OrS fo r the :o<:m1s of the righteous ones who have d i ~d (1 fn{)CIJ9; T.
Allr. 14).u;.

Margaret Barker, hov~.rever, cla ims that the concept of four archangels
may have been derived from the four titles of the Mes...~iah according to
the MT of !sa 9:5:
(lsa 9:6 in NRSVJ For a chHd h as been born fur u s, a ~m given to u s; authorit}' rel-it.; upn n his shoulders; and he is named Wonderfu l Coun$t'IOr,
Mighty Cotl, Ev~r{a!>liug F(llher, Pr-imc of PcliCt!.(m y italic..;).

133 Sec also Ol>an 1993, 25-26.

134 Verbal forms of Lhis root occur in Gen 27:1 1; 4~23: 50: 15, and Job 16:9; 30:2 1.
l3S O lyan 1993, 66-67. Both in late biblical and Rabbinic Heb1't'W, finotl mem and nun are
sometimes L'Onfused. In Lhe Qumran War Sc-oll {e.g., JQM 13.1), Be lial is calf.ed
mal'ak m11Sit'li1. PtiuCI' ,'vla.strma is also mentioned. in la ter Coplic sowce.o;,
:iee MUller 1959, 187, 1 ~1 9.). 196. There is also a plurality of dem onic angels term ed
mllSitmmt in .a Quntrcm sectarian apc1Cetlypse. 4Q390 1.11.
136 N KJV. S..~e Olyan 1993. 108. See also fote>:am ple Jub. 1.27-29.
IJ7 /llbilt't'S and other ancient Jewish sources t~ lso mentm several ' a ngels of the Presence' in the plural. E.g... Jub. 2.2, IS; l$.27; 31. 14; T. /ltd. 25.2 and, T. 3.5. Acrord
ing to 1 E1Wd1, they are the angelo; ~tkhael. Gabriel. Raphael, ilnd Phanuel (l>Omecime..o; Raphael and Gabriel are interchBI\ged). See al"ll Luke I:19. Gutm.mnJEditorial

Stilff 1971. %3.

138 The archangels etre som e1ime:;. said to be sewn ill n u mber. Gutm.ann/ Edilorial Staff
1971, 962.
139 Henten 1995b, IS2.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


In the LXX these four d esignations are cornbined into one, ' The Angel
of Great Counsel.' .m Barker w rites:
The Angel wa:'l fo urfold. It has been suggested that the fo ur title-s uf the
Angel were indhidually r~pre.o;.tnted by the four archangels and these
ev~ntually o bscun.>d the s-ingle identity of the m ig:inal Angel {... ) In Isaiah's
pruphecy Wonderful Coun.<;elJor was Michael_ as can be ~en fro m the
them~s nf job and Second Isaiah that Yahweh's ina)mparability lay in his
wi$d(lm (Job 38-9; lsa. 40, 43). Mighty God was Gabriel, Everlasting Father
was Raphael and Prince of Pl!ace was Phanuel, the Angel ()( the Pre..;enru
and Light of God. The G reat Angel was thus a fig ure of four as pects but
these Wl! H~ known a.<; late as the time of the tran~ l a tion of the LXX to have
been fo ur aspectsof0ne.l-l 1

The angel Penuei/Phanuel mentioned above may have been derived

from Exod 33:14-15 and Deut 4:37, where the divine presence (lit. ' face')
receives special figurative treatment. The name could also have ils o ri
gin in the exegesis of Gen 32:24~33; the \\' l'estling o f Jacob with an un...
known man at Peuiel. Jacob gives the place this narne, because " ... I
have seen Godfi1ce to face [o,l~ ?~ o ~l~) and my life is preserved." 142
The id ea that God should have tried to kill Moses as st.1ted in Exod
4:24~25 seemed very strange to the ancient jewish exegetes, thus in
}ubih>es and the Babylonian Talmud this deed is ascribed to lvfastema
and Satan respectively.'.._ Tn Tnrgum Pseudo~Jount!Jmr, the attacker is first
depicted as 't!Jenngel ofllle Lord', later called '/};e destroyiug attge/'.1
A common targumic feature is to insert angels into biblical sto ries
dealing with the connection between mankind and the divine realm
w here the Bible docs not explicitly refer to angels. This is done fo r two
main reasons;-in order to solve a theological problem or to refrain from
anthropomorphism.'J5 A typical example is the translation o f the

140 See also below, chapter 3.4. J.

141 Balke 1992, 36. Tile angel Phanuel. 'Prt'Seflce of Cod', la ter beoomtS Uiel. ' Lighl of
God'; see Barker 1992, the same page. See also Guiley 2004, 23, 3'10, w here she Wl'iles
thM the archangels Micha-el, Gabiel. Raph..-.el, .md Uriei{Phanuel are aspecls of the
angel of the Lord.
142 Otyan 1993, 105-109.
14.1 Olya.n 1993, 2728. See Jub. 48.2-t and r1. Ne.tnrim3'2a.
l44 Cf.,Exod 1 2!23b; 2 Sam 2~:16.and 1Ciw21: 15.
145 Shinan 1983, 182.- and Maher 1992.- 7. However, in this conte:.:t it must a lso be
pointed out th al RabbiniC' lileature exhib-its an ambivalent view on ange-ls. O n the
l'lllt: lMnd, angels may be introduced in ord e1 hl !WOid anthropomorphic depictions
of God but, Qn the other, the RabbL<~ wiJ'I\00 to play down the angels' rot,~s in order
to protect lhe monolheistic concepl of God. A lOll high angelolllg}' could pose a
threat hl the U l\i quenes..<~ of C"'.od 1md invile here.<~ie.<~, such a s the wo~hi p of angels

Heb rew o":''7K as ' angels',"' e .g., Gen 32:30b w here Jacob exclaims;" ...
For I have seen God face to face ... " is rendered in Targuw Neofiti 1 as "I
have seen rmgels from before lire Lord face to face ... " I47Jn Targum Pseudo~
}mlntluur, w henever God speaks in the plural form, the interpretation is

often that he is addressing the angels, e.g., God's words in Gen 1:26;
" ... Let us make h uma nkind in o ur image, accord ing to our likeness ... ''
a re thus understood as God speaking to angels. WI

Besides the addition o f angels where the biblic~'ll texts " require''
them, Targum Pseudo}otlal!Jau present<> a special case among the Tar
gums by in..c;erting angels fo r no apparent reason. e .g., t-he reference to
Samael, the angel o f death in Gen 3 :6. T his Targum a lso mentions a n ...
gelic narnes that are not known fTom the Bible or the Rabbinic tradition,
e.g., Zagnuge l in Exod 3:2, a nd o fte n ascribes miracu lous inte n ,entions

on behalf of huma11s to angels (e.g., Gen 27:25 and Exod 15:2). AI

though ev il angels a lso occur in the other Targurnsl the dua lis m is more
accentua ted in Targum Pseudo-Jonalhnn. It is generally acknowledged
that stronger fo lkloristic influences c.a n be detected in Tnrgum Psemir>fmzntltmr, but the precise reasons for this d ifference between this a nd the
other Targu rns is still a subject of discu ssion. 1t'9
The above mentioned examples a re bu t a fe'"' of the many difficult
texts w here the ancient jewis h exegetes inserted or "discovered" a n
gels. O lyan CQnclud es that much of the angelology from the Second
Temple period and onwards has its origin in midrashic acti vity.1 "..'

2.2.3 The Midrashic Sources

So far we have mainly discussed midrash as an exegetical method. \Ve

will now tum to the midras hic mate rial.
Examples of m idrashic interpre tations a re fou nd in at least four
kinds o f a ncient Jewish sources (in addition to the Bible itself, both the

Old and the New Testament):

and the belief in IWl) divine pm'ler.::. See a lso chapter t f>. s.w/J~tdrill 38b, and Rebiger
2007.630, MJ.
116 Shinrut 1983, 183, and Kasher 2007, 562563. Othe1 exampk>..ct a1<e lhe largumic renderings o f c-.en 3:5; 3 1:24: and 33:10.
147 Eng. tl'illl$. McNamara 1992. 159.
148 Shi1tan 1983, 184. Other exampf.e.c; are the ~nderings of C'.en 3~22 and 11:7 in Tsrgum
149 Shina n 1983, 184197. and M.ther 1992. 6-8. See also Kasher2007, 583-58-1.
150 Olyan 1993, 11 6-120.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


1. Translations/p.uaphrases of the Bible, e.g., the LXX and the Targums

2. The 'rewritten Bible', e.g., Jubilees
3. The Pesharim of Qumran
4. The Rabbinic Mid rashim
(1) It is a well known fact that all translation involves in terpretation
and thus even the LXX is to some extent a proof of early mid rashic
activily . For example, in the above mentioned pericope, the LXX agrees
with Targum P.seudo-jonaflwn; the attacker in Exod 4:24 is an angel of
the Lord', and not God Himself. Though containing interpretative ele
ments, the LXX is relatively close to the original Hebrev~r text.
The Targums, on the o ther hand, can generally be said to incorpo~
rate larger amounts of midrashic material. However, there are differ
ences beh veen the various Targums concenling this matter, as well as
differences within the Targums themselves. Some pericopes (even
verses) contain more interpretative material than o thers. The t\vo "c..1..
nonized" /official Targums of Rabbinic Judaism, Targ-um Onqelos to the
Pentateudl and Tnrgum jonalllan to the Prophets, are generally consi
dercd quite literal renderings of the Heb rev~.r original.l SI The so-called
Palestinian Targums to the Pentateuch; NL->ojili 1, Tarsum Pseudo~
}onat!Jan, the Getlizal! Fragmeuts, and lhe Fragment Targums arc usually
said to contain more interpretation.m
The Targums consist of a mixture o f word ..forv,,rord translations of
the biblical text<> and explanatory ad dition.c;. They arc full of ' narrative
expansions' inten voven with the translation. Philip .:\lexander has dis~
tinguishe<l bet\\.ccn two different kinds of exegesis in the Targurns:

151 E.g:., Maccob>19$8, 29-30.

152 Due ro consideration.."' of ~pace. this is nol the plare to ente r into the exfensive dis-

CUS!Iion concerning detail$ of the diffe1-ent Ta>gums, lhei place of o rigin, interr~Lation$hips. ~diting,. age, and so on. All Targums are geneally con!lidered to
(mainly) enoompa.!>S mat~rial originating: during the lime-frame of lhis thesis, I'Oughly from the Second Temple e1'<1 until l'lOOn a fl~r the appearnnce of Islam. E!kil l')f the
~xtant Targums may contain material from rliffe t~nl pe1iod!1. Targ1t11t l>stuet~
/OIIo1tfbm, hw e>o:ample. 1-efers bolh hl " Yoha nan the High Pri~t..." Dem 33:11 (John
Hyrc.mus, 134- 104 B.C.E.), and hl a wife and daughter of Moha mmad, Gen 21:21.
M.1ny scholars believe that all of lheTargums originated in Palestine/Israel. e.g.. Porton 1992b, 70. It is usua lly a.<t.<~umed thlll lhe o riginal Hebrew texl behind the Targums was \ery dose (if not identical) hl the pre.<~ent r-.rr. see, e .g . Tov 2003, 237-255.
Th~re is, however, no general consensus concem ing this nMner. P~rhaps in this ca..<~e
there is a difference betv.'C<el\ lhe ,..officia l"' TMgum.<~ and lhe so-t"o''lied p.,le!ltinian
ones. Cf., Pa lle 1975, 52. For more inf()l'ma tion. see for e>o:.unple Bowl:er 1969, 328.
l e vine 198S, AJ,~xander 1992. 3~33C). !'u\d 1988, 217-250. See also chapter4.5 below.

Firstly, additions arc presented in such a way that they can be
bracketed out and the base translation of the original text is easily dis
cem ible. Secondly, the translation and comment are inseparably h1sed
together, a nd the original cannot be distinguished.I5J
Bowker classifies the Targums as a "genre" midw..,y between the
LXX and the \'-rorks belonging to the 'rewritten Bible' type. 1 ~ Samely
does not wish to designate the Tougums as biblical translations at all, in
order not to obscure the fo rmal differences between them and the LXX,
Peshitta, and Vulgate. 1 ~x. Instead, he chooses to define the Targums as;
" ... an Ara maic narrative paraphrase of the biblical text in exegetical de-pende nce o n it~ wording" 1?6 (my italics). Th e p u rpose of the Targums is
to express t!Je meauitzs o f the biblical texts, rather than to serve as literal
transla tions. ~7 We may mention the famous Talmud ic diclum: hJf one
translates a verse liter-~11ly, _l'l e is a liar; if he adds thereto, he is a bias~
p hemer and a libeller."':>~~ Etan Levine provides us wi th an example of
the application o f this " rule:"
Scriptural phrases such as "and they saw the Cod of JsraeJN (Ex 24:10) c;m ~
not be translatl!d literally since God cannl)t be seen by man, yet to in::;ert
the wurd " angel" wo uld be a bJasphemy, since the angel would be subMi

15.1 Alexander 19SS, 228237.

154 Bowker 1969, 89. Neusne r, howe\<er, poii\L"' out that. linguistic.11ly, Aram.1ic is much
closer to Hebr~w tllan Greek. and 1he Targums do not need to aile the original
word sequence. In tlli~ \oJB)', the Tatgums are dllSel' to the original texts than the
tXX. On the othe hand, tlley contain more 'mid rash as p<
u aph.rase', to u..c;e New;ner's ( 1987, 2627) de.c;ignatiol\. Tl'e bolle Barrera ( 1998. 325) "' rile!': Nllle Targummim
fie hallwa>' on the path between a litcrMy \'etsion and the long mid ashic com men ~
tolrie.c; (1/ the Rabbinic period." He al"'o S-tiltes tha t the LXX is one of the literary
~owce."' of Ttrgmn OniJI-11-s .1nd Targ11m fot~allum, 1998,326.
155 Samely 1992.. 159. Samely dOL>:<> nol wish to de."'igno11e lhe Ar-amaic' transla tion of job
found in Qumra!l a..!i a T.ugum in o~e usual sense of the "-'Ord. He P~fers to call it a
translation., be.longing to thl~ same gmup as, for example, the LXX. V'l'e must also l'emember that the Tn.rgums were JL!'l~tr i11tt:11dtd '" r!!plaa the n.~ading l"'fthe Heb1't'W
Bible in the synagogu e service. The Targums were never used as s ubstitutes hw lhe
Bible, but were COt1111Jemcn18ry lranslalt~mskl:J'Iicalivt p.uapftrli'ik":l of llle original texts.
F1aade 1992, 256-259 and 282-286, and Alt'x.11\der 19$8. 238-239. Heb1't'W {though not
in iLc; biblical form) oonlinued h) be a pt>pular spoken limgu.:1ge in the land of Israel.
even after the fall of the Second Temple in 70 C. E. The fin<11 blow to Hebrew WolS
probably lhe crus.hing of the bar Kochba l't'VOit by the Roman~ in 135 C. E., Levine
1988. 8 . Frartde (1992. 274 ) claims tha t Heb1-ew COil til\ ucd to be a populill' spoken
language in the land of Israel even a fler th is c.11astmphe.
l56 Samely 1992, 180.
157 BmoJker 1969,5, a nd levine 1988,9.
158 b. Qiddw>Mtt 49.1. See a lSI> levine 1982. 353.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash

lulinf{ for Gud. Consequ(!ntly, it is said, the correct
saw the glt>ry (yeqara) of the God of (:-;rael. "1st

rend ~ ring

is "And they

It is generally assumed that a common cha racteristic o f the Targums is

the avoida nce o f a nthropomorphisms.611 In this context, scholars o ften

refer to the targu mic use of the concept ~Memraf\+Vord' as a circum
scribing of God. O ther such concepts arc ' Yeqara/Giory' (see above)
and Shekin ta/Presencc. In contrast to the la tte r two, 'Menu a' is only to
be found in the Ta rgurns.l61The e mploy rnent of these concepts has been
the subject of rnany sd'IOia rly discussions, and I will lirn it myself to a
few oom.m entc; upon the subject. Th e targumic avoidance of anthropo~
morphism is likewise a subject o f debate, and some scholars have
poin ted out that the Targums are not consisten t in this regard.~
The most characteristic design a tion fo r God in the Ta rgums is ' the
Menna of the Lord'. The Ara maic word memra is the defin ite foml of
memar, the Aramaic counterpart o f the La te Hebrew ma'amar, from
nmar, ' to say'. Tile word also means ' to issue a comm an d' . l~>.1
Most scholars agree tha t it is a misconception to interpre t ' the
Menna' as a kind of d ivine hyp ostasis. The concept is generally seen as
a bu ffer word used by the Targums to prevent any d irect con tact IJe..
tween God a nd the world of h uma n ki nd. ~ For example, whenever the
Bible states that God t.vill be with w meone, the Ta rgums in general
employ ' the Memra' ,u.s
H owever, the fact tha t ap pa rently a nthropomo rphic statements
ha ve nevertheless so me times been left u nchanged in the Targums h as
led scholars to seek alterna te exp lanations fo r the e mployment o f the
term. It has been proposed that the Menn a also h as a d eep theological
significa nce. 'The Memra' connotes the manifestation of God's c reative
power in the world, but it should not be und e rstood as an in te rmediary
"being'' between mankind and God.M
The relationship between ' the Memra' a nd Philo's ' Logos' has nalu
rally been the subject of many discussions. The general conclusion has
been that the Targumists and Philo, despite U1e superficial te rmino logical

159 l e vine 1988, 59.

160 E.g ... le Deaul 1989, 5$6-587. Pane 1975, 66, and TreOOne Barrera 1998, 325.
161 Abellinn 1912, 150.
162 Alexander 19SH, 226, .1nd Levine 1988, 15-61. Alexander and Levine both daim 1h.a t
m~~ concem in the Ta-gums is ul~rmtt: for God. rall-.e tha1' avoidance of antlwopo-


Moo1-e 1922, 47, and Grossfeld 1988, 25.

See, for examp~ ~'I 001-e, 1922.. 4 1-55, Gro..<>sfeld 1988, 25-27, and McNanMI'<l 1992, 38.
See, for example Hayw.ud 1981, J.IS.
See, for C).ample Abelson 19 12. 150-167, .-.nd H.1yw.ud 1981, 147-J.I9.

similarity, a re basically speaking about two different things. However,
some scholars have argued for a connection between ' the Menua' and
' the Logos' of John's Gospel.'"
Robert Hay-'"'ard sees ' th e Memra' as originally substituting for the
Tetragrammaton. Accordingly, the fact that 'the Menn a' in, for example
Tnrgum Neofiti 1, is o fte n connected to God's mercy has led him to sug
gest that this may expla in the Rabbinic association of the divin e
attribute of Mercy with the divine name Yl-1\NH.Io'tll
The expression yeqarn has the abstract meanings 'honor', 'glort,
'splendor', a nd 'majesty' and is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew
kfrbod. It is e mp loyed in the Targums in order to safeguard the tran ...
scendence of God. In Targum Neofiti 1 it is most commonly uset.i in
combination with the tenn sltekiuln, the Aramaic counterpart of the
Heb rew word shekina!J, denoting the divine presence. The combined
expression ' the Glory of the Shekinah of the lord ' is there very common. The concept 'Shekinah' d erives from the verb slmkeu, 'to dwell,
settle d own, abide' . Although the noun sltekiua/J does not occur in the
Bib le, the verb is often used to denote God's dwelling among His
people {e.g ., Exod 25:8; 29:46, Nu m 5:3, a nd Ezek 43:9).'"'
Most schola rs believe that the Targurns originated as oral Ararnaic
translations and interpretations of the readings of the Scriptures in the
synagogu es.lro According to Jewi'ih tradition, the 'targumic institution'
dates back to the time o f Ezra. m The Ta rgums belong to the oral Torah.
As such, the Targums a re will"'CS..'ieS o f Rabbin ic tradition.'i and theology,
particula rly Targuttt Onqelos and Tnrgum Jonatflnn. T11e meturgt-..
man/ translator was bound by Jewish tradition. m
As stated above, ju daism o f the Second Temple era was not a u niform religion, and several stra nds existed. T11e "victory" of Rabbinic
judaism \.:as a long drawn -out process and some of the material in the
Targums may be from a n earlier period. Levine writes that d uring the
Second Temple era;" ... the basic crite ria for o rt hodoxy were recognition
of the God of Israel, belonging to the people o f Israel, and following ~'c

167 ~e. fo example Abe-lsol\ 1912, 158-167, and Gn.<1sfeld 1988, 2529.
168 Hayward 1981, 147-J.I9.
169 McNamara 1992, 36-37. ~e also Grossfeld 1988, 29-30, al\d Ml)()re 1922., 55-59. In
TttJ811111 0JJqefos, sltl!killlo7 lc; mo1-e often used on its own. For further informa tion, J'lee
Grossleld 1988, 29-30. The e:<pres!lit)n is of ~.--ourse a lso empktyed in Tar~1tm PSL'tedo/OIIo7!lurn.
liO E.g., Le Deaut 1989,563-575, and Alexande 1988, 238239.
171 Cf.. Neh 8:8. The only occurrence of the verb oo;.;', I 'to translate' io the Bible is in
Ezra 4:7. ~e also Alexander 1988, 239-24 1. and Met2ger 1962. 749.
172 Paue 1975,65, and Alexander 1983. 2326. and 1988. 238-239.

2.2 An Jn troduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld o f Mid rash


L1w of Moses." This was a "creed" that all Je\vish groups could accept
even Jewish Christians.m
Many scholars claim that the ' targumic institution' was never total
ly under Rabbinic controiP' To some degree the Targums contain fo l
kloristic traditions.m This is apparent in the so~called Palestinian Tar
gumsY'{, Targum Pseudo-Jonalhatt includes interpretations that \\*ere
censured in Rabbinic literature, sometimes as early as the Mishnah.m
Alexand er Diez Macho claims that Targum J'-J'eofHi 1 contains paraphras
es from pre~Christian Limes, d ue to the fact that they favor Ch ristian
interpretations of Scripture.-s that were Jate r censured by the Rabbis
because of the polemical struggle ben.,cen jud aism and Christianity
regarding.. e.g., the correct'' interpretation of the Hebrevo.' Bible/QT.
The Silz im Leben of the Targums was the synagogue service, pri
vate d evotion, and the (religious) schooJ. N The Targums are designat
ed as a branch of study that falls benveen the Bible and the Mishna.llll1
The liturgical u se of the Targu ms gradua lly ceased with the coming of
Islam and the emergence of Arabic as the vernacular in the Middle
East. 1111 The Yemenite Jewish liturgy is an exception, and Targum Ouqe
los is still used in the synagogue scrvice.111z The Targurns jouatlum and
Ot~qelos are to this day studied in Jewish religious schools and in pri
vate devotion. I ~V The Targums are invaluable sources of knowled ge
about early Jewish interpretation and, as such, belong to the 'world of
mid r-ash'.

liJ l e vine 19$8, VIII.

174 levine 1988, VIII and 154 166. Fksher cla ims lhal the Palestinian Targ.ums and the
l"'l'iginal fonn l"'f Tatgw11 Om]llt?:l Ol'iginllled in pliestly drdes, and that the priesls,
and not the Rabbis, were the main leaders of jewish society e\e n Ions a fter 70 C.E.
Flesher 200.), 467-501. See a lso Cohen 1992. 157-173, L I. levino." 1992, 201222. and
Shinan 1 992.24 1 ~25 1 .
175 Shinan 1992. 24'1-251.
176 E.g., Ale>:ander 1988, 249.
177 Alexnnde l992. 322.
t78 Dlez Macho 1960,225-233.
179 Alexande r 1988, 238-24 1, 247250, and le Oeaut 1989, 564-568.
ISO Grossfeld '1971, 812. and Fraade 1992,263, and levine 1988, 10.
lSI Alexander 1988,250. levine (1982, 365} writes lll.illthe l.muiuus ad qu~m for the " official"' Targums must be the S.1ssanid tegim e in Dab)lon; ... h)t there are no d ear references to the fa ll o f Babylon by the Arabian conque.<~t. nor an> references to the
Arabs ill aiL No.are there"'">' Ar.lbic linguis-tic C'rih~ria which wo o ld s uggest da!ing
the fina l redaction of the targum later thiln 640 C.E."
182 Alexander 198.~. 250, and Cro'5Sfeld lt:fi I, 1W4.
183 Alexande 1988.250, and C rossfeld lt:fil, 1W4-845.

TI1ere are, however, marked diffe rences between the Targums and
other kinds of mid rashic sources. Th e exegetical melltod in the Targurns
is that of midrash, but in litem/ form the Targums are "transJa ..
tions"/paraphrases and not Bible commentaries as the Ra bbinic Midra
shim. The Targums, for example, never refer to Rabbinic authorities by
name, and seldom openly quote the Bible.'llt The Targums also distin
guish thernselves from the works of the 'rewritten Bible', though they
may be closer to them in genre.
(2) Examples of sources belonging to t/Je seco11d category of midrashic sources, the so~ca lJ ed 're,vritten Bib l e'~ are Jubilees, Geuesis Apo..
crypllou.. and Liber Atlliquitalum Biblicarum [LA.B.), sometim es c.=-t lled
PseudoPitilo.'Ms The differences behveen th ese works and the Targums
a re that the la tt e r are bound by the wordiug o f the original Hebrew text
l11e 'rewritte n Bible' sets out to retell th e biblical narrative in Us owu
words, a nd '".rith its own literary d evices. The 'rewritten Bible' could be
said to be interested in story, '"'hile the Targum is interested in the bibli ..
cal text. 1~ Porton does not want to clas..~ify the ftuleau Antiquities by
Josephus or Philo's Life <l/ M<lses as midrashic \ovorks because both of

184 Alexander 19$3, t6-17.

l8S This is not t1~e place to pre.sel\t a delailed d est.-ription l"'f Llte$e \\'Orks. In short }lbifas
is a rewriling of biblical history from CenesL<~ 1- Exodus 14 and claims robe a~ acOOUI\1 ghen by the ange l of the Presence the re\relations given to Mfses
during the flwty day$ that he spent 1"1t'1 Sinai (E:~o:od 24d8). Cf., the tradition that the
To1ah was tran.c;mitted to Mose.!l rhrough the med i.ltion of angels: Deut 33:2-3 in the
LXX, the Vulgate. Pl~shit Lil and the Targurn.."' and AcLc; 7 in the NT. See a lso chapter
4.2., Nickelsburg 1984, 9i-101. Winte rmure. in t'Oductioll in OTP 198S, 35-50, and Jaffee t997, 74-78. The Gl'lle:;is .'-tpc~erwl!ml scroll found in Qu nw<~n Cave I is a compilation of patriarchal no.rralhes. covering the period from Lamech to AbraJMm. The
scroll ends abruptJy in the middle of an expanded version of Gen 15:1-4 (22:27-34).
The NolULhor" might h.a"e lLc;ed }tlbilh'S as one of his sources, but this work i.s an even
freer JMr<~ph r.ase of Genesis. The scroll was oompl)Sed in Aramaic <t i'OUI\d lhe tum of
the e ra. Nickelburg 1984, t04 107. Ub~r A111iqllit1tiWII BiblicafltJII (LA B.) 1"11' I'A:ieudt>Pftilo is .ln aocoun1 of the hic;tory of Israel from Adam to 1he d eath of King s.-.ul. See
alc;o chapler 4.2 .md BovJker 1969. 30-31. Harringtm), introduction in OTP 1985, 297303, and Nicke ls.burg J984, 107-110. Bmh P.:l~"tldo l'llifo and ftbiltl!s belong to the so
;:-.1lled Pseudepigmpha. while Cellt'Sis Apocryf/Jion does not. These work.,<~ oll'e inducted
in neither the LXX nor the Hebrew biblical t"Jnoo and ha ve been suppressed by Rabbinic Judaism. In the Elhiopian Othodox Church.. .as. well as <~mong Ethiopian jews,
/Ul~ilc!'$ is considered a pa1'1 of the Bible.
186 S.-.mely 1992..160-162, and Bowker 1969,&-9.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


them seem to have been \Vritten for non -}e\' 11; They are, however,
similar to the 'rev~.rritten Bible' in literary fo rm. 1 ~
Patte points out that the view on revelation expressed in jubilees is
very different to that of Rabbinic judaisrn. Far from being a source of
'divine revelation', the cultural changes o f history are more o r less:
looked upon as evil. The Pharisees/Rabbis were open to Hellenistic
influence, but in ' Apocaly ptic Jud aism', to w hich }ubilt-es bears witness,
the Hellenistic culture is considered heathen and thus evii.wThe prior
Persian culture may, however, have had an unconscious influence upon
the ApocalyptisLc;; their dualistic world view, angelology, etc.''~~'
According to Rabbinic Judaism, the oral Torah is not a new reveJa ..
tion but an unfolding of the message already given in the written To~
rah. Jubilees, on the other hand, claims to contain additional revelations,
' heavenly secrets' not fou nd in the Bible.l9 1 This is apparently in con
tradiction to the Rabbinic "d octrine" that no part o f the Torah/divine
revelation has been left behind in heaven, sec, e.g., Deut. Rab. 8.6.'\1::
Jubilees thus represents a different form of judaism, and in contrast to,
for example, Targum Ouqelos, it does not belong to the framework o f the
Rabbinic oral Torah. In Jaffee's words: " ... tradition is Torah only if it is
transmitted by a Rabbinic sage."ru.
(3) The third type of midrashic sources are the Pesharirn of Qumran.
These are ~1 kind of 'Bible commentaries'. Like Juln'lees, they are wit
nesses of the' Apocalyptic judaism' that nourished in the land of Israel
d uring the Second Temple era. A chief characteristic o f the Pesharim is
the attempts to demonstrate that biblical prophecies were being fulfilled
in the history and life of the Qumran community. Eschatology is a major
theme. Neusner calls it 'mid rash as prophecy'. In this respect the Pesha
rim d iffer from the Rabbinic Midrashim and there are also significant
stylistic differences betv~.reen them. For example, the Rabbinic l'viidra
shim are collections of interpretations by different Rabbis, \Vhile the
Pesharim are always anonymous and appear to be unitary biblical
commentaries. Moreover/ the Rabbinic Midmshim o ften quote single

187 Pot'hm 1992b, 72.

188 With regard to Philo, some of his '"orks must ~ oons id ered more as proper ' Bible
oomment.wies', for e);ample, his treatise Qun;Jious and AJtswcrs .-m Geutsis.

Patte 1975, 145-157.

Patte 1975, 155.
PaHe 1975.151157. Cf., /llb. 32.2122.
See Mid,.tsll Rabbaft, Dt~uteronomy (ed. Frcedm..u\ and Simo n,, tr.\nslation Rabbino-

w it:z), l939. 153.

193 Jaffee 1997, SND. See ili:.Cl pp. 74-78 ill\d SS.

words and phrases and present mulliple interpretations, whereas the
Pesharim comment on entire pericopes of Scripture. '"'
(4) The Jourlh group o f midrashic sources, the Rabbinic Midrashim,
can also be designated as 'Bible commentaries', though of a differen t
d1aractcr than the Pesharim. There are d ifferent kinds of Rabbinic Mi
drashim. Sdlolars sometimes lalk about !Jalakhic ~fidrashim versus
hnggndic Midrashim.'95
A definition of Rabbinic terminology is here appropriate. Halakah
derives from the root 1':7 'to walk' and signifies legal material. Halakhic
Mid rash thus anstvers the questions 'ltmv?', 'wllen?', and 'wllerer Hala
kah consists of concrete rules about how the biblical commandments
should be put into practice in different situations; how a person can walk
in ' the path of the Torah'.
Haggadah, on the o ther hand, derives from the root i:Ol 'to tell/to ex..
plaitl' and haggadic midrash answers the question 'why?' Haggadah
explains the mea11ittg of the commandmen ts and describes Rabbinic
theology. One important purpose o f haggadah is to inspire the Jev,s to
live according to halakha. Haggadah is a wide ranging term referring
to homilies, legends, parables as v,rell as theological and ethical state-ments. One may compare haggadah with the parables o f Jesus. In
summary, haggadah encompasses all Hon~Jegal Je\".rish interpretations of
Scripture. Halakha has a more binding character than haggadah. '%This
latter term is often called aggarlalrl in order to d istinguish it from the
Passover Haggadah, the earliest known Rabbinic Midrash on Deut
26:5-8. 1"
The Mishnah mainly contains halakha. According to Ncusner, the
Rabbinic Midrashim and the increasing Rabbinic in terest in aggadic
exegesis was partly d ue to the challenge o f Christianity. With the advent of O lristianity, it became more important to discuss theological
is..c;ues.1911 About a quarter of the material in the Babylonian Talmud is

l94 Plwton 1992a,819,and l9i9, 125-128.

l95 Mdd1illa dt Rabbi fslunae/ and Sifm on U.viticu..'l (both editOO during the third century
C. E.) are often classified as ha lakhic i'vlidashim. while fo r example C.c.lll'llis Rai~J1 is
a h.1gsadic Midrash. Stl'.l<:k/Stemberger 1991, 261 308. However, they U$e the.'le designation." w ith some reserwtlion.. because there is nll such thing a.q "'pure" halakhic
or hasgadic Mid rashim.
l96 BllWker 1969, 10-48. Holtz 1984b, 178-179, and Mae<ob}' 1988, 17-22.
l97 Herr 1971, 1509.
198 Neusner 19$7. 14-51. Aocording to Neus ner, it was the e;tabli!'.hment of Chri..'lti.mity
as the s tate ~ligi on in the Roman Empire that m.ade it impllS..'lible for the Rabbis hl
ignore the Chris.tian challenge.

2.2 An Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


aggad ic.'fl The oral Torah thus consists of both aspects of }e\vish inter
prctation. It is therefore very misleading to talk abo ut ' the oral la v~l .:!to
There is very little in je\\1 ish literature that can be described as
"pure" halakha or aggadah.21n For this reason, Porton avoids classifyi ng
the diffe rent Rabbinic Midrashim as halakhic or aggadic. He also points
out that the word ' aggadah' o riginally meant exegt"Sis, and the term
'midrash aggad ah' is thus a tautology. Porton distinguishes between
two kinds of Rabbinic Midrashim, the expositional and the ltomilelical.
The expositional Mid rash is a ru nning commentary o n a biblical text.
Ge1wsis Rnbbah belongs to this group.::oo
Bany Holtz prefers to classify the above mentioned Mid rash as exegelical, since it constitutes a detailed verse by verse commentary on
Genesis. O n the other hand, he designates Pirqi de Rabbi Eliezer as a
narrative Midrash, similar in style to the ' rewritten Bible'.m Pirqe de
Rabbi Eliezer has many sirniJarities with Tnrgum Pseudo~jonatltnn.:s't TIH~
two sd1olars are, however, in agreement concerning the homiletical
~vfidrashim group, whid1 stricti)' speaking does not contain 'Bible
commentaries' but collections of ~ho milies' on the main themes of the
Tor-..lh readings in the synagogue, and often only comments o n a few
verses of a biblical passage. As an example we can mention Pesiqta de
Rab Knhat1a, which seems to be organized around verses read o n special
festivals and holy days.:!t6The early Midrashim all appear to have ori ~
gina ted in the land of Israel.a:.;


Steinsalt7. 1976. 251.

Macooby 198$,20.
Holtz 19$4b, 179.
Plwton I<J92.a, 820, and 1979, 128.
Holl7. 1984b, 187-188. See also Bowker 1969, 69-92. Pinri' dt Ro11111; Eli!!urwas probably
n' rillen in the land of Js.rael during: the eighth or ninth omtury C. E.. StrBCk and Stemberger do nol w.l n! to das..clify it as a Mtd ra!th in the rMI sense but r.lth er as belonging to the 'rewrittel\ Bib-le' c-ategory. II appeMs to be the work of a s ingle author.
Strad:/Sfemberge 1991. 356-357.
201 Bowker 1969, 85.
205 Plll'ton 1992a, 820, .md Hohz 1984b-, 186, see also Bowkt>l' 1969, 72-77.
Stack/Stemberge ( 1991, 321) date P!!SilJfa de! Rill~ K.itlto1m1 h> the fifth centuy CE. It is
dill-puled whether these Midrll.<>him contain semlllt'IS actu ally held in the Synag~
gues,. see StrackJStemberge1991. 261-262.
206 HetT 19'71. 15 10. The earlie..<l! Midra!thim were all edited some time during the time~
f1'.1me of this thesi$. e.g.., G~u~osi..; Rallb1TI1 is u.<>ually said to have been edited dul'ing
the 411o !o 5'" cenluries C.E. Scholars $0m.etimes talk aboul Tanna ilk ond Anwr,litic
Midras him. G1'IIL'Sis Rabbah is often das.<~ified <l$ <l!l Anl4:lmitk Midr.lsh. Porton,, how
ever, be-lieves thal th is d esignation is i.napprapriate, since t hese wurces Me difficu lt
to date .1.nd Tannaitic sages are elisa d led in the s~called ' Amoraitic Midrashint'
( 199'-b, 78 and 1992, 820). The Tam111im (fmm Ar.lmaic 'to repeal/learn'} were

In discussing the d ifferent genres employed in the early jewish in*
terpretation of the Bible, Devorah Dimant concluded that tve can
roughly distingu ish ben.veen two kinds of use of Scripture; the exposi~
tiona) a nd the compositional mode. In the expositiona l function, the
biblical e lement is explicitly presented ~1nd commen ted on as sacred
text. Dimant p laces the Rabbinic Midrashim and the Pesh~1rim of
Qwnran in this group.w
Tile compositional use of Scriptu re, on the other hand, can be found
in, for example, the works belonging to the 'rev,1 ritten Bible' genre. In
these works, the b iblical elements are integrated into the structure and
presented v.r ithout any fo rmal marke r. The compositional use o f Scrip
ture ma y also be expressed by rncre a llusions to the Bible; h ints at
terms or motifs ta ken from biblica l accounts well known to the reader.
As an example, Dimant mentions lhe book of Tobit, where Tobit's cha
racter seems to have been modeled o n Job's personality in the Bible.2u11
Dimant's d escription o f this last mentioned compositional fu nction of
biblical e lements in ea rly Je\'ltish interpretation thus has a d ear similari
ty to what Robert Alter d efines as use of b iblical litera ry themes, or
type-scenes to use his m"n expression.:ll19
There are sd1ola rs who want to limit the term ' rn idmsh' to signify
dnly /lie Rabbiuic Mirlrasllim. Maccoby, fo r example, prefers to use m i
dmsh in this restricted way . However, he endows the term '(h)aggadah'
with a wid er scope a nd admits that it may a lso be found in non
Rabbinic works. He claims that this is the origina l je\vish usage of the
tem1inology and that this d istinction may help us to avoid an overlap
between mid rash and (h)aggadah." ju lio Trebolle Barrera writes:
Pruperly speaking, mid rash aS..<i-um~:; the t!xistence nf a biblical text which is
alruady t~tablished and "canonized". Giv('n the various funn.o; of interpreta
tit)n of biblical texts (midrash, pesher, prophecy applied to the present, rte
w riting of narrativ~ uf bibliCill laws, etc.), it would be better if the term "mi
d rash" were rt!~rved fo r Rabbinic mid rash and did not indude the different
flmn$ of biblical inMrpretation under the name "midra..,h"', which other
w ise bec."omes !()generic and is nn Iunger predSt!. w

the eal'liest gnlup of Rabbinic S<Jge.<t, from the time tlf Je.o;us until the early third cen
tury CE. They \'lt'.l'e follovted by the Am orain\ (amar, to s.1y, /to comment. the com

ment.ltors o( Tann.litic teaching {200500 CE.). Mi.o;hnah is a Tann.litic work, whik>

C".emara is the p1'0duct of the Amoraim. &"t'. Stack/Stemberge 1991, 78, 300-307.
207 Dimant 1991. 7175.
208 1991. 7380.
209 Aile 1981, 4762. See also Teugcls 2004, 5152.
210 M<lcroby 1988, 2225. St.>e al~o Tcugels 2001, 135 169.
211 Trebolle Barrern 1998,437.

2.2 A n Jntroduction to lhe \'\>'ol'ld of Mid rash


Their wish to restrict the range of midrash is v,mrth considering. It is

important to distinguish between mid rash as an exegetical metltod and a
literary genre. \Vith regard to genre, we should perhaps restrict our~
selves to discus.c;ing the Rabbinic Midrashim, whereas v,.re might find
the midrashic exegetical method at work in other je\".'ish sources.

3 . The Ambigu ous Identity of the Angel

3.1 1ntrod uction
As mentioned in previous chapters, the mysterious being called 'the
angel of the Lord' v~.'ho ap pears (or example in Genesis, constitutes a
perplexing phenomenon in the angelology o f the Hebrew Bible. This
angel/messenger d ifferentiates himself fro m other heavenly emissaries
and it is often difficult to d istinguish him fro m God. O ne proposed
explanation of the merged identity of God and this angel is that rnes..
sengers in the ancient Near East did not need to distinguish between
themselves and the o nes w ho sen t them. In my opinion this is not a
valid theory. According to Samuel A. Meier, the puzzling narratives
about ' the angel o f the Lord ' are the ouly texts in biblical and ancient
Near Eastern Jitemtu re where no distinction is made between sender
and messenger. Although the messengers sometimes speak in the first
person as if they were the senders o f the message, they normally report
w ho sent them.2
This 1~7D angel' is th us unique among messengers in the Ancient
Near Eastem literatu re, which raises the question as to whether he is a
messenger at all o r YHWH H imself appearing to people in the form of
an "angel." 3 There are many narratives in the Bible where God com
mu nicates in a direct way with h uman beings.. withou t any reference to
the 1X'> YHWH e.g., C,enesis 12 and 15. There are also texts w here the


See. for example. von Rad 1964, n-80.

Meier 1995a, 87-88. writes on p. SH:
11 must be unde i'$Cl"ll'ed that the ongel of YHWH in tlleSe peplex-ing biblicll lt.ll'ra
rives doe$ Ol)t beha\e like any other messenger known i:n the divine l"lf' human
realm. Although the h~m 'nw..<1senger' is pte.'iel\1., the narrative iL-<:elf omits the indispen.<Oabl\~ features ol messenger acthity and p1-csents instead the activities which one
associale!t w ith Yahweh and other gods or the ancient Nea East.

Meier 1995a, RS. Freedm.l nWilloughby (1997, 321): "From these PlSSages it is evident that the ma/'ak YHWH is d osei)' as.sociated with Yahweh in name, auth(wity.
and mess.1ge, and that he 1-epl'esents Yahweh in the lu.unan realm, whe1~as Yah weh's own immediacy is actualized in 1-calms ourside huma n perceptiml!'


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel


YHWH seems to be distinguished from God, e.g., 2 &.m 24:15-16

and 2 Kgs 19:35 with parallel texts in Chronicles a nd l<aiah.'
As previously mentioned, midrashic exegesis takes its starting
point in theologic..1l a nd linguistic problematic issues in the Bible. T hus,
the pu rpose of this chapter is to illuminate the problem o f the merged
identity of God a nd His angel in the biblical texts as such. Which ques
tions rela ted to the aim o f this study are raised when reading these
texts? Since the early Jewish interprete rs did not regard Genesis as a n
isolated book, I \V iii p resent a survey of all'angel o f the Lord -texts' in
the Bible.s However, it is the early Jewish interpretation o f the Genesis
peri copes that is the subject o f this dissertation. Th us these texts will be
studied in greater detail.
As already stated, I distingu ish between explicit references to the
angel o f the Lord, i.e., texts in w hich Lhe a ngel is mentioned, e.g., Gene
sis 16, a nd texts d escribing divine encounters of a similar kind, e.g .,
Jacob's stmggle with h is mysterious combatant in Ge nesis 32. Another
exarnple is the visitation of the three 1'men" to Abraham and Sarah in
Genesis 18. However, as stated in chapter 1, o nly Genesis 32 will be
analyzed closely, while Genesis 18 (and 19) will be treated in less detail.
Despite my d ecision to focus on explicit references, Genesis 32 is in
eluded as a main text for hvo reasons. Firstly, it forms a n impo rtant
part o f the 'Jacob saga' as a w hole a nd, se<:ondly, the prophet H osea
explicitly identifies( Jacob's contender as a n 'a ngel'116t1 ::Thus th ere are
connections between Hosea 12 a nd Genesis 32 as well as between th e
appearance of the angel in Genesis 31 a nd the theophanies in Genesis
28 and 35. Each main section will be followed by a short su mmary of
the results. However, because of the b revity of section 3.5, the discus
sion of the Writings will fonn an exception to this rule.


The par,,llel texts a re to be found in I Clll' 2 1:1430; 2 a u 32.."2(}.22, and lsa 37:36.

Note tha! it is YHWH who tells O.w id to 1\utnber the lsr.:le lites in 2 Sam 24: I. while
ao:ording to I Chr 21: I it is Sat.m . This incident, refem'!d to il\ 2 5.lmu el 24 and I
Chronicles 21. is the ot~ly biblical case w here il is s tated tha t Lhe ange l 11f the tod
turned. again.c;t ls rae L lll is gives rLc;e to the po.c;sible understanding of ' Lhe destroying
angel' in t Chr 21: 1415 as a demonic figure, in ~pi te of the fa CI that it is s tated
YHWH sent him, d ., I Sam 16:14.
These texts are <~ ISO discussed in Gusgisberg t9i9.
The 11rigin.!'! lity of this idelltiiic.:llion,. howeve1, is intellsely debated among s..:holars,
see below.
Ho."' 12..'11-6 (w. 35 ill N RSV) will also be di$C\.IS.~ in gre.lte d1~tail because of the
perk1lpe's mnectkln to Gen 32:2232.; 28:1022. and 35:1 15.



3.2 Genesis
3.2.1 Hagar and the Angel
Genesis 16
We first encounter the angel of the Lord in Gen 16:7-14.' This pericope
has nmdl in common with Gen 21 :1720., and they are o ften designated
as parallel texts. The two pericopes describe a meeting between Hagar
and the angel/messenger of the Lord/God. In both cases, the angel
comes to the rescue of Hagar and her {in Genesis 16 still unborn) son.
According to both texts, the angel of the lord/God delivers a message of crucial importance and speaks with divine authority. In the two
sto ries, the divine angel/messenger speaks in the first person as if he is
God Himself (Gen 16:1 0 and 21:18, cf., Gen 12:1-3 and 17:3 -8), although
he also refers to God in the third person (Gen 16:11 and 21:17). The
angel never explicitly identifies himself. The are ambiguous. Wlto
is the angel of the Lord/God? His identity is veiled in obscurity.
\+Vhen she has fled from Sarai, Hagar meets the angel in the desert:
(Gen 16:7) The angel of th!! LORD fo und ht!r (Hagar) by <l :;pring of water
in the wilderness, the spring (m the way to Shur. (SJ And he said, "Hagar,
slave-girl of Sarai. where have you come from and when! are you };Uing?"
She said. I am running away from my mistress Sarni 19). The angel of the
LORD said t() ht?r, " Return tu your mL.;tress, and ;o:;u bmit to her." f10) The
Angel of the LORD also said to her, " I w ill f.;<) greatly multiply yo ur
offspring. that they <:anno t be ~ounkd for multitude." [tl J And the ang:el uf
the LORD said to her: "Now, you have conceived, and shaU bear a $<)n; }'<'m
shall call him Ishmael, for the LORD has given heed to your affliction. (12]
lie shall be a wild ass of a man. wlth his hand everyone, and everyone's hand against him; and he ;o:;hall live a t (>dds with al1 his kin." {'1 3] Sl)
she named the LORD who spoke to her, " )"ou 11r.r 1-mi" ( ""1:11:1 ;Tn' ow N., prn
'N., ' N :tnN. ;~;x l for sht! l>aid, "1/(lt't' I rltdly se-en Cod (mtl rcrmrintd alive tifkr
suiug him?" ['~1 ' 'VoN. n' N.1 o?:-~ Q):IJ' (14] Therefore the well W<lS ca1led 8l..oer1ahai-roi; r:s:1n; "'iN.:!) it lies betwetm Kadesh and Bered.

The angel finds the pregnant, runaway Hagar by a spring of water in

the \Vilderness (v. 7) and asks her: " Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, '"'here
have you come from and where are you going?" {v. Sa). Initially, the
meeting between Hagar and the angel seems very ord inary; it is a meet
ing en ro ute and not described as a divine revelation, vision o r epipha..


See a lso Guggisberg. 1979, 32-~1.

In the NKJV Gen 16: 13b reads: . .. " You-Are-tlltCad-W/tc>-Sta'S";
a/:;,>settl Him wlloSt't'S 111e?'"

hlr she said, ''ha\'e I


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

ny. It is a meeting between t\vo persons in the desert.lo The curious

thing is that the angel is obviously familiar with Hagar, since he ad
dresses her by name and refers to her position in Abraham's household.
l11c question in v. 8a is thus most probably rhetorical. as the angel al
ready knows the ans"'"er; it is a kind of greeting. The angel of the Lord
does not in troduce himself to Haga r; in the \'-fOrds o f Claus \'Veste rma nn;
" ... he is unknown, he comes from and retun1s to the u nknm"m." ''
Hagar replies that she has fled fro m her mistres.~, but the angel en
oourages her to return to Sarai and submit herself (vv. 8b9). The angel
of the Lord also promises Hag ar abunda nt offspring (v.l O), tells her to
give her yet u nbom son the name Is hmael f~~~o!V'J; " ... fo r the LORD
has given heed (::ntt~ lit. heard') to your affliction" (v.ll). The in terpretation of the name constitutes a u nique phrase in the Hebrew Bible,
being an amalgarn of two distinct id ioms. Generally,, God sees [iil\1]
a fA iction, e .g ., Gen 29:32; Exod 4:31, and He hears (;;~:>w) the outcry o f the
oppressed, as in Exod 3:7 a nd Deu t 26:7. 12 The a ngel p redicts Ishmael's
life and destiny, v.12.
Tt is probably the conten t of the message that makes Hagar realize
that she has met a divine emissary. 13 She seems to iden tify the an...
gel/messenger of the lord with Cod Himself, since she exdairns (v.
13b): " ... 'You a re El-roi/ You-Are-lhe-GorlWIIO-Sees';" ['K~ ?K ;;nK... )"





In th is s-espect, there i$ an appares\ t difles-ence between Gen 16:7 and Gen 21: 17, see
below. Like M.anoah .md his w ife, Hagar does not at first reali?..e tha t she is meeting
a heavenly emis."W'' sy . In Judg J3:222.thc ongel of the lord appears to the cmsple as a
snan. in "'human fosm.'' Although it is M t explicit!) s tated in the text, it i$ highl)'
probable that the angel of the lord likewi$e .1 ppeas'ed to Hagar in hum<an fornt,. since
she does not at first s-ecogni?.e him as a he-. n:enly messenger. See Jsaac:s 199$, 6, and
We.<Oterman.n 1985. 243. As we have .!>een in chapter I .'I. the heaves1ly me...
oJx;~.. in contrast to 0 1erubs .1nd Seraph.<O, are gene rall)' depicted in the Bible as $1m
ilar to humans in <appearance and are sometin"'-'S simpi)' c..alled 'men .' See, for ex.1 m ~
pie.. Gen 19-.5, to.
\".>'e.'itetmasm 1985, 243. Ae<osd ing. to WesternMsm. the 1N~ YH\'I.'H L.:; a me.<Osengerof
C"'..od: who in human fonn meets a person Qn earth. The initiol g.reeting of fhe 1N'x: L~ a
key to our underst.-.nding of the 'phenomenml.'
See also Sarna 1989. 121.
See also KOckert 2CXY1, 53.
The e pithe t 'K1 7x i.!l l'lpen to multiple interpretations depending on the vocalb:ation
of the second wtwd. Possible tnmsl.lliort..<l are: 'God of seeing', th at i.<~, the all-seeing
God, 'Cod l'li vision', ' God of my seeing'. that is, whom I ha\'e seen,. and cl'ld who
see.<~ me'. According to Sarno ( 1989, 121), il is likely tlt.ll the various me.mings were
intended lo be apprehended simultaneously. In hL~ wos'ds: ..,.When Cod 's..~e.<~' it is, of
oourse,. that He s hows His concern and extends His protection: when Hagar ' sees,'
she experience.., Cl'ld's self ma sl ifestation."



... 'Have I really seen God at1d remained ali've after seeing him"' I 'il'~, c~ 0::.:1
~, 'iiiX]? In v. 14 we read: "Therefore the well was called Beer~lah ai-roi
("K1 n? i X:l]; it lies between Kadesh and Bered."H As in Judg 13:1 923,
for instance, the messenger is not recognized as a d ivine cmis.-sary until
his d eparture.?
The Hebrcv,r text o f v. 13 is obscure and d ifficult to translate.'ll
Many scholars today have adopted John \"lellhausen's emendation,'"
according to \\hich the last part of v. 13 should be renderet.i as follows:
n~\ ~n~ l\, O ';'i'~ Cl.i rne..m ing: "Have I really seen God and remained
alive/and I (still) live! As shov.m in the quotation above, this rendering
is chosen in the NRSV.wThis is in accordance with the name o f the \',ell
in v. 14, w hich could be translated as "the well of the living one who
sees me/the well o f one w ho sees and lives." Hagar is amazed that she
has seen God, and yet survived (cf., Gen 32:30; Exod 33:20; Judg 6:22
24, and 13:22)." According to this rendering, the name o f the well is
thus to be u nderstood in the light of the concept that normally one who
really sees God must d ie. Hagar, however, appears to be an exception
to thot rule.
According to \Vesten nann, Wellhausen's emendation is worth)' of
consideration, because it makes such good sense in the context of the
pericope. However, he also maintains that another "solu tion" to the
problematic verse could merely be the changing of O?:i to O':i;:-t In the
latter case, the verse should be translated: "I have seen God after he
saw me."n 1A'estem1ann interprets vv. 131 4 as Hagar says that God
saw her in her m isery and came to her aid, hence God is her savior, cf.,
Ps 113:6."


~e a ls.o

Westermann 1985, 247.

Cf., We.<~te rmann 1985. 242243.
A quite s.1range but literal transl<llion can be! ....... Have 1 here seen behind (the bad
of/after) Him who see.<~ me" (?) According ro We.<~tem\alll\. v. l3 cl':mld also be tan~
lated as follows: " .. .you are the God of my seeing f ..} God I ha ve seen after he S.lW
me'' . Westermann ( 1987, 126) interprets this \erse to meanlhal Hagar exdaims tha i
she met God after He saw he in her mil'lei'Y God saw Hagar's dis.t1-es.~ in lhis silt M
tio' n~e te>:t does not neces.c;arity imply a \'is.ion. AC<:l"'l'ding to We\ers ( 1993, 226),
the LXX rendering of Ce1\ 2 1:f3b, which he transl ate.<~ as ; ... For e\<en ill pe-rs.on h a\'l~
1 seen the one who appeared to me", may possibly 1-efl ect E>:od 33:23 whe1'\' it is
stilted tlMt !\loses L<~ alll"'Wed to iOee C'.od's bal~k ~e a lso below.
19 E.g... Speiser 1964, I 18-119.
20 The latest Swedish Bible translation., Bibel 2000, also follows Wellhausen's emenda+
21 ~e a lso Cie.c;chen 1998,57-58.
22 We.<~te rmann 1985. 248.
23 We.c;te rmann 1985, 247.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

In the L XX, vv. 1314 arc rendered as follows:

113] K(ti !:tdtAt u t v AyitQ -rb {M)p t.t ,_UQ(Ou TOU Ai.v\olJV'tO~ mi~ ul.rniv, LV
..., ad~ ..., tmbt:)v pt:. UTI d m:v Koi yitQ i:vf.Jmov ibov c'xt>Eh':vtt.t pol/And
Hagar callt!d thl! name uf the lord who s poke to her1 "Yo u are the God
whl) sees me/look::: upon me;,. for she said, ''For I howe openly (or: in per
$un, .see below) seen him that ap~an..od ft) me."' {14) ht..:.a,.-. "tu&t(m
l:Ju.iAC:al:v 'f0 cfxjtLtQ. <~tttQ c>U Lvc:nuov l:ibcw .../ ...The well of him whom
I have o penly Set:n . ..

John W. Wevers points o ut that the LXX obviously interprets the epi
thet ~:\, 7~ in v. 13 as Hagar proclaims the messenger as "the God w ho
looks u pon me", thus reading~, as a participle with a first person pro
nominal suffix; God is the One who pays attention to and provides for
her.Z~ \Vevers further remarks that since the ilyyu\o.; in v. 7 is unarticu
lated, it should be rendered ' a mes.c.;enger'.n However, in v. 13 this mes
senger is apparently identified as the Lord /God Himself, thus the am
biguous relationship between God and His angeVmessenger is pre
served in the LXX.1. . \Nevers takes the v,mrd i vc;.mtOv adverbially to
mean 'in person,. face to face', and he translates v. 13b according ly;" ...
for even in person have I seen the one appearing to me." 27 The Hebrew
name of the well in v. 14 is not translated in the LXX but rendered in
accordance wi th t-he reading in v. 13: " ... (IJQffiQ oU EvC:.:m tov dbov
... /"the well of him I have openly seen/ the well o f the o ne w hom I saw
in persQ n"~ The s.ame Hebrew d esignation of the well recurs in Gen
24:62 and 25:11 b ut U1erc the LXX renders it as TC) <jlQE<>Q -rlj<;
OQ<.lcrc~.~~;!"the well of the vis ion", thus alluding to the appearance of
the " ange l ~~ to Haga r.~
The noun OQaou; occurs in the LXX Pentateud1 eight times, only
two of which describe ordinary human vision; Gen 2:9 and Lev 13:12.
In all o ther cases, like the one in Gen 24:62, the word designates visions
of a supernatural kind.: According to Robert Hay...vard, the choice of
i\Qaat:; in the LXX rendering o f Mizpah, the name o f the place w here



Weven; 1993, 225. See <liso the Vutg.lle C'.en 16: 13.
Wever~ 1993, 222.
Wevers l 993, 222.. 225-226.
Wevers 1993, 225-226.
1"he second alterna tive is Wevers' {1993, 226) lran.<~lation. \\'evcrs {same p<lge) con
dudes IIU~ t: " Pres-umabl)' Hagar has seen the l.Qrd, though only in his form as 0
l.iyycl<~~; l<t.'Qiou, since attlll'ding h) Exod 33:20 no man c-a n !tee my (i.e. Glld's) C
and live:
See also Weve1-s 1993, 373.
See also, e .g., Num 24:4, 16, wher,~ the word de.'lignates an original Hebrev1 mnll 'vi ~
~illn' of God.



jacob and Laban made a covenant (Gen 31:49), may signify that the
translator(s) understood the pact between jacob and Laban as having
included a revelation of GOli .:n
It is possible to understand the text to mean that God spoke to Ha
gar through an angel. In her exclamation, she recognizes God as the
source of the message and her deliverance. God saw Hagar in her dis
tress and sent an angel. This interpretation, hO\vever, is d oubtful be
cause of the text's ambiguity. \.Yhy does the heavenly messenger first
talk to Hagar as God Himself in the first person and then switch to the
third person? (Gen 16:10-11).
The angel speaks and blesses in the first person as if he were God:
" I will so greatly multiply your offspring .. .''" He never says that God
sent him o r that his message comes from God. It is only in v. 11 that the
angel t..1lks about YH\VH as someone distinct from himself. The angel
talks with divine authority. He does not identify himself, but Hagar has
the impression that she has met God.3.1
The angel of ~'e Lord always has a special reason for his appearance. such as the delivery of a cr ucial message, of great importance in
the (salvation) history of Israel. The announcement o f the birth o f a
child or of salvation (cf., jud g 13:25; Gen 18:915; 21:17-20; 22:11-18} is
very common. In this case.. both of these elements are combined.3-l



HaywMd 2005. 46-49.

Cf., how God speaks \\ilh Abram in Ceo 12:13 and 17"'1-S.
Sec also Eynikel 20Cfl, I 13114. Newsom (1992. 2.r;Q) writes: " The apparent ioterd tiUl
geabitity llf the mtl'ak ylncl1 and Yahweh cannot be resolved by assu ming a dumsy
merging of two tl'aditiona l storie.<~. 11le same ambiguity OCC'lu"S in many narrativl"S
(e.g:. Cen 21 :15-21; 22: II 12: 3 I :11-13; Exod :la-6~ Judg 6:1124}"'. ll~t me he re llUOte a
peculiar intepretatioo of \ ..en 16:7 14: 22: I 19. and Judge.c; tJ. FreedmallWilloughb)'
( 1997, 319) wites: .,.H agar's comment that s he has seen an Elohim ll'-it)' indic.lte tha t
she herself is d ea about ha ving s~n 'a divine being' ra ther than God himself {. .. j
Since in Gen 22:1 19 one Cium o t detennine theE smu-ce w ith any rerMinty. Elohim
may very well be a genel'ic h!l'm (()t 'a divint> being.' Be tha t as h may, the autho. did
not distinguish between God w ho tested and the angel \oJho s:poke the com mand."
Likewist>, Freedman-Wilh)ughby claim.<~ that it could be that r-.Janoah .md his wife in
J udges 13 lu d not seen God Himsell, be<ause th ey did no t d ie, but ~on ly'' a divine
being: "'Jgs. 13 shaws with m al'\'elous clarity the overlapping tel'lllinology. nnd fur.
ther exa m pl~~s c.l n be fo und in Gl~rl. 3 2:2232{2131); 2 S. 24:17: Hos. 12:5{4); zero. 1:96:5." This interpretation. however, seem.<~ to be llUite unus ual.
See a lso Westermann 1985, 242.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

Genesis 21

The time has now come for a comparison between Gen 16:7..14 and
21:1720." In the context Qf the latter peric<Jpe, we are t<Jid that Hagar
has been d riven away by Abraham due to Sarah's fea r that Ishmael
might inherit from her husband and d iminish/annul the inheritance of
Isaac. Abraham felt compelled to expel her because of this conflict but
does so very unwillingly and only after God has told him to heed his
wife Sarah:
[2'1 :1 l ] The matter \Va.S: very d i:;tres~ing to Abraham (m account uf his son.
(12) But God said to Abraham, ''Do not be d i$tr(>S.<Cled because o f the boy
and because uf yuur slave wuman; whatever Sarah says t<) y<)u, du as she
teUs yuu, fo r it is th rough Isaac that yuur o ffspring shall be named for yuu.
(13] As for the son of th e s lave woman. I will make a nation o f him al.,o, because he is your off~pring.".l6

In contrast to the narrative in Genesis 16, lshrnael is now hom and Ha

gar has not run away but been cast out o f her master's household. Ha
gar and her son are lost in the wildem ess o f Beersheba:
(21:15] When the watt!r in the skin ,..,.a..o; gcme, ~h e ca~t the child u nder one
o f the buShL~. (16) Then shtt went and ,:;at d t)\'/n .lpposite him a guod way
off r...) for she said, " Do not Jet me look on the d eath of the child." And a~
~he sat o pposite him, she lifted up httr vo ice and wept..l7

In this critical, desperate situation, the angel o f God o nce more appears
as her comforter and rescuer. It is worth noting that it is the rm
gel/messenger who speaks to Hagar but it is God wllo berm.; the boy's cries
and shows her the well~
{21:17] And Gotl [Eiohim) heard the vtlite vf the boy; and the rmgd dfCod
called to Hagar from llct~t'i"u, and said to her, "What ! roubl e~ you, Hagar?
Do not be afraid, fi'r CfJd has heard the ''uice t)f the boy where he is. 1181
Come, lift up the buy and hnld hml fast with your hand, for I will make a
~.....ea t nation of him .... (19] Then Cot/ opened her eye~ and sh e saw a well ()f
water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and g ave the boy a d rink.
(201 Cod was with the boy~ and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and
became an expert with the bow .

In contrast to the narrative in Genesis 16, the angel of God does not
encourage Hagar to return to Abraham and Sarah but prornises that
God \viii take care of her and her son. As in Gen 16:10, the angel says

See also Gusgisbe'S 1979, 1.).47.


Note that God speaks directly to Abraham, no .mgel bo.~ing mentioned.

According lo the LXX Ce1\ 21: 16b, it 'o\'<lS the boy, not Hagar, who wept.
According to Wes1ermann {1985, 339). we cannol ignore lhe differeno..b bet"een
Genesis 16 and 21. Des.pile the similarities, they are IWl) diffe1xont ua.-.tives.



that he will give her abundan t o ffspring. Gen 21 :18. In both pericopes
the angel blesses Hagar with divine authority in first person singular:
... I will so grenlly mulriply your offspring .. . (Gen 16:10), " ... /will mnke
a g reat nation of him ... " (Gen 21:18). This is precisely w hat God H imself tells Abraham in Gen 21:13. But the angel also refers to God in the
third person, Gen 16:11 and 21:17. Both narratives mention a welVa
spring of water, perhaps the s..1me one.
There are many parallels between the two pericopes... e.g., the angel
of the lord/God plays a similar role, that of savior. One major difference in the portrayal of the divine messenger, however, is that the an
gel of God calls to Hagar from l~enven according to Gen 21:17, whereas
in Gen 16:7 the angel meets her 011 enrt!J: "The angel of the Lord found
her by a spring of water in the wilderness ... " Westem1ann \"-'rites
about Gen 21:17: "The messenger of God who is encountered on earth
(cf. Gen 16:7b) has become an 'angel', a heavenly being who call< from
heavcn .''N
Another obvious difference is of cou rse the designation o f the Deity
in the texts, YH\VH versus Elohim. The designation ' the angel of
YHWH/tl1e Lord' is the most common in the Bible (58 times), w hile 'the
angel of Elohim/God' only occurs 11 times.'"
Concluding Remarks
The narratives about Hagar's encounter with the d ivine messenger tell
us something important abo ut God's character. God sees Hagar's dis~
tress and delivers her and her son, even though she is only a bond\,,to~
man; God shows her mercy. God is impartial and He does not abandon
the outcast. God's grace and blessing is not restricted to Isaac's line.J1 It
is note\~t.orthy that Hagar, Ishmael's mother, is the only biblical woman
w ho gives God a "narne," an epithet:"You ~Are ~ th e-God w h oSees .. .''
(Gen 16:13)."
It is possible to understand the texts as if God spoke to Hagar
through an angel, although this interpretation is hardly tenable bec..1use
of the ambiguity of the narratives. As mentioned in chapter 2.2.1, mi
drashic exegesis takes its point of departure in q uestions put to the
biblical texts. One purpose of midr..,sh is to solve theological problems


Wes termann 19fl5, 3-12. See also K&ke rt 2007, 69-70.

We.c;termann J9S5, 242.
~e <~ lso Wes temann 1985, 34~344.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

in the Bible. Our t\ovo present pericopes are no "simple" texts. The am
biguous identity of the angel of the lord/God is o ne of the apparent
exegetical problems in the texl"'>. \Vho is it that speaks to Hagar in these
A connected issue is how we should interpret the obscure verses
Cen 16:13-14. 1s Hagar really proclaiming that she has seen God and
gives Him a name in v. 13? lf she saw God, why did she survive since,
according to Jewish theology, no one can see God and live? Does she
actually identify the angel of the lord as Cod Himself? What is the role
of the angel of the Lord/God in the interpret..1tions of these two texts?
Hm"' is he related to God and to Hagar? Do the interpreters have any
comments as to why the angel of God calls to Hagar from heaven in
Gen 21 :1 7f whereas he seerns to meet her on earth in Gen 16:7? How are
the two texts related to each other?

3.2.2 The Three Heavenly Visitors and the Doom of Sodom and
In Genesis 1819:29 we can discern three main sections, the visitation of
the three "men" to Abraham and S...rah, Gen 18:1-15 (16),<> Abraham's
negotiation with YHWH, Gen 18:17-33, and the doom of Sodom and
Gomorrah, Gen 19:1 29.4-' ln the Bible these sections form a single, in tegrated narrative. However, the o riginal unity o f Gcn 18-19:29 is de.
bated among scholars, b ut that is a subject for another lhesis.0 The fo
cus here is the in terpretation of the texts in their present fo rm. Gen
18:115 read s:
ICen l S:'II The LO RD appeared to Abraham by the oaks uf rvfamre, as he
sat at th~ ~ntram:e of his tent in the heat of the day. [2J He looked up and
Saw th~ men standing near him. Wh en he saw them, he ran from the tent
entrance tu m(>et th~m. and btw.ed duwn to the gruund.<~" (3] H~ said, "My
1ord (1J~], if I find favur with you (1'J'!1J lit. "in your (2nd pers. sing.) eyes"L

Slune !iehotars wish to include v. 16 in this passage. However, the scene itself OOW.I'S
Gen 18: 1-15, w hile v. 16 serves as a bridge to the subsequent sections. see furthe
Hamcwi 2001. 1314, and Westermann 1985. 282.
44 See alc;o Hamori 2004. 13-33. Some scholars h.a ve AAJggested a prc-lsraelitic oigin of
the Genes:Lc; uurative in a mylh of 3 visiMtion of three g:odlt,. see the discus.c;ion in
\'\>'e.c;termaut 1985, 275276. and Hamori 20();1, 48-73.
45 See a iJ'O Ham01i 2001. 13-:33, We.c;terntaut 1985, 274275, and \an Seters 1975. 21 >
46 Abraham's reverent s -eeting indicates tha t he acknowledges his vis ihws B:.!l being of
higher rank than himseU. See also Westermann 1985, 278, and Letellier 1995, 82.




do no t pa~~ by your servant. 141 Let a little water bt! bnm ght, and wash
yo ur fet~ t? and rest yo urs:el\'e.S undt:r the tree. (5) Let me bring a little bread,
that yo u may refresh yoursel ve~ (... )"" So flu_
-y ~aid, "Do as you ha\e said."
(8) .. . and he lr\brahamJ s-tood by them under the tr(>e while they ate. (9J
Tiley sajd to him, " \Vhenc: is- your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the
tcnt" [l OJ Then tm~ said [ "~K'l), " /will surely return tu )'OU in due season,
and ytmr wife Sarah ~hall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent
entrance ~hind him. ( 13) TI1e LORD (:1t.'1') said to Abraham, "Why d id Sa~
rah laug h, and ~ay, " ShaU l indeed lx!ar a child, now that I am old?" Is anything too wonderfu l for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in
d ue sea~m. and Sarah shall ha\'t? a sun. (15) But Sarah denied, saying, I did
not laugh, fo r .s-he was afr<lid. He said, "0 yes, yo u did laugh."

We are to ld by the narrator in v. I that the Lord appeared to Abraham

by the terebinth trees of ~vfamre, and this divine revelation is connected
to the visit of three ' men' [o, ~;xJ to the patriarch. ln the context one of
the men seems to be identified with YHWH (vv. 13-33), though it is
unlikely that Abraham recognizes him at first:*7 This " man" ta.lks \Vith
d ivine authority in the first person singular as if he is God Himself and
pro mises Abraham and Sarah a son (vv. 1()..15). In the s.ame man ner as
the angel of the Lord, he co mes in order to deliver a message o f crucial
impo rtance ...-: The sudden shift from the third person plur-al (vv. 5, 9) to
the first person sing ular in v. 10 is somewhat confusing. Likewise, it is
also peculiar that .:\ braham g reets his three visitors in v. 3 in the singu ..
Jar form, as" ... my lord [lORD/Adonai]" if I find favor with you flit.
" in your eyes/sigh t", Tl'>-:1 (2" pers. sing.))"' d o not pass on by yo u r
sen'ant." In vv. 4-5 on the other hand, he addresses the men in the
plural and invites them to a The greeting, " my lord" ~Ji~(v. 3) is
vocalized by the Masoretes as if signifyi ng YHWH, i.e., ' Ado
nai{LORD?z although that was hardly the narrator's original inten..
tion, but probably an interpretation based on the " heading" in v. 1:
"The LORD appeared to Abrah ~1m ... " a.1 Abraham's greeting in the
singular is presumably to be und erstood as indicating that he 1ecogn.iz-



See also Letellier 1995, ~lin.

~e a lso Westermann 1985, 275, and Barr 1960,33.
''... my lord" is the ll"<l n$1a tionchosen in the N RSV, but ; n;. i~ in the NIT vocalized B:.'i
Ado nai/LO RD.
In Samal'ibHt us the word is inf!e<ted in the plur.ll and thu~ 1-e!ers to all three of the
men.; "yOUI' eyes .. ."'
Ha mo1i (2(X)4, 33-36) argues that the sh ift from singular to plural may be unders-tood
in the light of the .:onvers..11ion 1<erorded in 2 Kg!:> I 8: 1718.
~e a l~o the MT Gen 19:1 7 19, whet\~ the same proble m 1-ecurs. d .. the rendel'ing in
the LXX.
~e, e.g . Wes.cermann 1985, 278, and Letellier 1995,82-83.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

es one o f the men as their leader..!-! It is probably not until v. 10, w he n

the man confirms the divine promise of a son, that he realizes w ho is
speaking to The content of th e rnessagc reveals the "men's" hea ..
venly origin, cf., Genesis 16.56 In the following verses (vv. 13 14), the
leade r is explicitly id entified as YH\VH a nd shows Himself to be om
ln v. 16 we read that the men left Abraham's te n t and he aocompa
nied them on their way. In v. 22 a distinction is again made between
the visitors: "So the men tumed from there, and went toward Sodom,
w hile Abraham remained standing before the Lord."57 By now, we
know fo r certain that Abraham is a.\vare of who he is talking to and he
p leads with God to spare the people o f Sodom (vv. 2333). The hvo
other men are identified in chapter 19 vv. l , 15 as messen
gers/angels/~,.:6.0, bu t in some verses they are still called ' men'; (vv. 5,
8, 10, 12, 16)." In contrast to the lender o f the company in chapter 18,
these two men <1ppear to be "mere" a ngels, sent by God to do his bid
d ing, see Gen 19:13.59 However, in Cen 19:17 and 21 we again find examples of a mysterious shift from the plu ral to the singular fo rm in the
Hebrew text."''
According to Ester Hamori, the narratives in Genesis 18 an d 32 d is
tinguish themselves by being socalled is theophanies' to use her term,
i.e., theophanies in whidl God appears in concrete h u man form. She
states that normally, the distinction ben.veen God a nd man L;; dear in
the Bib le, b ut these two texts are exceptions. In Genesis 18 and 32, God
is not described metaphorically as a man, as is the case in Exod l5:3 and
lsa 42:13. In the theophanies of the Genesis texts, God appears in the

5<1 See also Hamori 2004, 3436, and Letellier 1995, 8283.
55 Hamo.i (2004, 131132) poinls out both \..enesis 18 and 32 d e.1l with the confir
malion of a divine promise to one of Israel's fo refathers . Moreover, in bolh nam1
rives God appears in concrete human hmn, the socalled g theophan>" to use Ha
mori's designation, a fMt that s.h e Mkes as an illu ~tration of the special relationship
between God and the patriarchs. Regarding the ''iltheophany', see furthe below.
See also Letellier 1995, 88-89.
56 See also Hamori 2004, 44-47.
57 According to a text critical note to v. 22. the original wording M the verse was:" and
the Lord rema ined standi11g before Abr-.1ham".
58 Samaritanus Iu s i:':\"~ in C'.en 19: 12.
59 In this ver"Se the two angels refer to Cod in the third person.
60 The seemingly pleona.<~tic repe1i1km of "'from YHWH" i1\ Gen 19:24 ga\'e rise hl the
interp1-eMtic>n that the second refere n~ to YHWH in fact refers to the angel Gabiel.
ThL'I illte.pretatioo could bo.~ Colken as support fo r the ' two-powers-tw.J-esy and Ihe
pas.~1ge was included among the ''dangerous texls"' by the Rabbis, see. e.g.. (>. Sau
ft~iriu38b. Seeals.oSegal 1977, 12 1134.



tangible, physical body of a man. Both pericopes describe a concrete

meeting with God in human fonn, not a vision or dream. f'-1
The term ~the angel of the Lord' is not mentioned in Genesis 18,. al
though th e narrative is in ma ny ways remin iscent of 'the angel of the
Lord-texts', w hich also describe the ap peara nce of a divine messenger
in the fo nn of a man.6l In both Genesis 18 and Ju dges 13, the reason fo r
the heavenly visitations is the an nunciation of the birth of a son to a
ba rren woman.f>J In both cases, the divine emis.,c.;.aries a re invi ted to
share a meal with their hosts."' Hamori admits that the rnan/angc1 of
the Lord in, for example, Judges 13 appears in concrete hu man form,
bu t she remarks t-hat the narrative lacks the realistic anthropomo rphism
w hich characterizes Genesis 18 and 32.ftS. In contrast to the three " me n,"
the div ine messenger in Jud ges 13 refuses to cat the food offered to
h im. She fur ther poin ts o ut that, although the two angels in Genesis 19
a re d early depicted as having a physical hu man fo rm, since the men of
Sodom even \'fish to have sex ,.nth them/H> they behave in an utte rly
superh uman \"-'ay when they blind the inhabitants of that city."'
Robe rt I. Letellier, however, sees no major diffe rence in the d egree
of anthropornorphism ben.veen Genesis 18 a nd the explicit narratives of
the a ppearance of the "'~' i X'>I:> /' the a ngel of the Lord' in the OT. In
both Genesis 18 and the 'angel of the l.ordtexts' the central issue is the
a ppearance o f the Lord in human shape, but this should not be con
fused with mere a nthropomorphism. Although YH\>VH is de picted as
eating in Genesis 18, his extem al ap pearance is not described.~ Letellier
The ~J e ment of ambig uity i~ n ()t that YH\>VH appears to men.. but that he
(in Genesi::o 18) is accom panied by mnl'flkim who later mo ve to Sodom and
co ntinue the dfect u f tht! theophany there? carrying God's presence into the
city and evcmtua11y seeming I() merge into the person o f YHWJ-1 him.'ielf
w hen they speak to Lot in the singular and with th!! voice of omn iputcnce
(19. 21). The voice an d p resence vf th!! mal'tlk varies in a nu mber o f s tories,
seeming to appear and sp eak for YHWH so closely that it is d iffi cult to un


Hamori 2004. 1-$.


~e <~ lso




Gen 19:4-5.
Hamori 2001. 43-44, aod 141 147.
Letellier 1995, 90-9 1.

Barr 1960. 3238, e$p. pp. 33-34, and Gieschel\ 1998, 5169.

l)'pe-scene recurs in the NT, see the an nunciatiot\.<1 to Ze<hariah, the fa ther of
John the Baptist and Mouy. the mother of Jesus in luke's ('.ospel. See itl.'io Bmwn {reprinted ed.) 1999, 155 158, 268-269, .md Letellier 1993, 103-107.
64 Cf.. Heb 13:2.
65 For a discussion lli Genesis 32. see below.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

derStand him merely as a substitute fl)r God. This is p;u ticul;u ly th~ case in
Gen 16,7-14 ( ... J. The nwl'flk passages, fa r frum establishing a remoten~s or
transcendence of YH\>VJt perhaps in an attempt at combating primitive
anthrupomorphis.m.. sustain an ambiguity of identity and increase myste ry.
The nrnf'(lk does not d ilute the theo phany, but must be understood as accompanying the self-revelation of Cod in human form .. .~

Conduding Re rnarks
I agree tvi th Letellier that the main mystery o f the na rra tive in Genesis
18~1 9 lies in the ambiguous relationship between the three divine visitors. The story may be interpreted as an appeara nce o f YH\VH a nd hvo
angels, or that YH\VH '"'' as sorne how present in all three of them, al
though the s tatements in Gen 18:22 a nd 19:1 indicate that God was
accompanied by tvvo angels.)\1 ln this way, Genesis 18-19 present the
same problem as most of the 'angel o f th e Lord-texts' . Hmvever, it is
t-rue that the h uman appearance of Abraham's v isitors is made remark
ably concrete by their eating o f his food, a behavior which has no coun
terpart in any other biblical texl.

3.2.3 The Aqedah a nd the Angel

Cen 22:119 is a very central pericope in ju daism a nd consequent ly the
object of careful a nalysis a nd interp re t.nio n71 Th e angel of the lord
does not p lay such a significant role, the main ch aracters being Abra
ham and Isaac. In jewish tradition, the pericope is called '1/Je Aqedn/J' or
'Aqednt Jsnac', that is, 'the binding of Isaac', a reference to the fact that
he '"'as bound on the altar, bu t not sacrificed. Isaac thus p lays an im



letellier 1995, 9091. See alsop. 92.

See alw KOckert2f.XY7, 63-67, and Eynikel 2007, I 14.
According to jewL"h tr-adition the Aqedah was the tenth and final tria1 of Ab1'<1ham,
d .. Tmg w11 Nrufili 'I Gen 22: 1, Pin~ lie Rabbi Eli~tr 31. ('.r.'t!tsis RablM11 56. 11 . See al!io."')
Neh 9!7-S; Sir 1-1: 19-21. In eatly Jewish 11\tep-el.ation the perin"'pe is COIUlected h"'
two l)f the mMt important jl~Wish holiday$; Pesadl and Rosh IMShana . In modern
jewi:;.h liiUI'g)', this text is re.1d in the S)ru gogue ~rvice on the second day of RO$h
haShan.a. llle blowing of the s hofar ram's horn, d., Lev 23:2325 and Num 29:1) on
Ro:;h ha.Shana is connected co the ram lhal sacrificed in..;tead M Isaac. Cf., Lewis
1971. 1443-1447 Bl\d Jacob:; 1971. 481482.



portant role, even overshadowing Abraham in many early Jewish in

terpret..1tions of the tcxt.n
The p rimary focus of this study, however, is not Isaac but concepts
of God and angelology with specific reference to the angel o f the Lord
in the early Jewish exegesis of the text.
The first and most obvious problem in Gen 22:119 is w/ry a loving
God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. In v. 1 it
is stated that "After these J!Jiugs God tested Abraham ... " The readers
are infonned of something that Abraham d id not knmv \"-'hen he was
commandet.i to sacrifice his son, that the w hole scenario is "onJy" a
t rial. Bu t w hy is it necessary for an all~knowing God to test a rnan? Did
God not know that Abr-aham feared hirn, even \vithout testing him (v.
12)? \A/hat was the pu rpose o f the trial? Moreover, w hat words o r
events {c't:11] are referred to in v. 1?
Another peculiarity in the pericope is the altering o f the divine
"name." It is God/Elollim w ho commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (v.
1) but it is the angel of the Lord/YHWH who intervenes at the last mo
ment and manages to stop Abraham from completing the sacrifice
(vv. 1112). Both designations of God are used five times in the text
Does this have any significance?n
What kind of place is the land of Moriah (v. 2)? The only additional
scriptural reference to Moriah is in 2 Chr 3:1, w here it is said that king
Solomon built the Temple on Mount Moriah in jerusalem (cf., 2 Sam
24:1625 and 1 Chr 21:1528). In the LXX the sacrificial place is called
' the high land, the Vulgate says 'the land of vision', and in Peshitta we
read ' the land of the Amorites' . It is worth noting that the name Moriah
has similarities to the Hebre~o... words for myrrh, fear/reverence and the
hiphil participle of the verb ;;~'"!'see'.
i2 There is an appart>1\l parallel between Cod's initial calling of Abraham in Gen 12: 1
and His command to s&erifice in Ccn 22.-2 by the use of the Hebrew phrase 17 "t7
I "'Co forth .. .!", whk h doe..<~ not 1XCUI' again in the Bible, constitutes a kind of soca ll,~d indus ia e<mnecting Abraham'!! Cillling h) be a servant of God a nd the cond u
sion of his spiritual odyssey. ln Jub. 17.1> 18.19 Abraham i.e; the m.ain charaCiel' (d.,
Heb 11: 17-19: Jas 2:21-24) but a t an early s tage of Jewis h theology t he f.:cus
t:r<msferred to Isaac. who was depicted as a pmtotype of lhe Jewish martyr. e.g., 4
MaL"t.'. 13.1215, 16.202'1 and LA.B. 40. 19. See also Josephus' rewriting of the peri
oope in his/lld~m At~til]Uitit:s. This W!l.<l 1li.!IO the main inte'PI'rt.l tion of the Aqedah
during the cusades in the !\Iiddie Ages. In many Jewish interpret.ltion.<;, IsaaCs w il
lingne.<>s h) sacifire him..<;elf is al<~o viewed as a kind of atonenlel\ t, e.g., LAB. 18.5;
32. 14. See al<>o the interpretation of the Aqedah in, for example,. the Palestinian Targums. Gt'llt'liiS RaW.mlt and Pirlt dt Ral:tiJi EI/,:ur. C f., von Heijne, 1997, 5786, Kugel
1?98, 2%326 and van Bekkum 201)2,. 8695.
73 See als.o K& ke tt 2007, i071.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

TI1ere is an apparent connection between v . 2 and the problematic

v. 14. The latter verse can be t ranslated in severa l ways. The Hebrew
wording is as follows:
:1K,. :'11:1'


om '"\l!i:(' il!f'X :1K1' :-n:r N.l:'l;"' Oli'1l:'l D'-' o:rux K'"\?'1

Th e verse can be translated: "Abra ham called the name o f the p lace the
Lord sees/chooses, as it is said today, on the mountain o f the Lord it is
seen/revealed" (my translation).7' ln the Hebrew text it is u nclea r w ho or
what is seen o n the mountain. \Nho o r \vhat d oes the last pa rt of v. 14
refers to; the ram, God, the a ngel of the lord, or sornethinglsome<.>ne
else? Th e translators of the LXX as well as the Swed ish Bible 2000 interpret the en d of the verse as referring to the Lord, LXX: Ev 1'~ OQn
Kvpto; ,;;q,eiJ /Bib le 2000: " ... pa berget d a r H erren blir sedd" ['' on u,c
mountain w here file Lord is St't'n/' my translation]. Th is u nderstanding
of the verse is of in te rest for our subject, since it is the a ngel of the Lord
who reveals himself and talks to Abraham in vv. 1112 a nd 15-18. Arc
the angel o f the Lord and the Lord Himse lf ide ntical? The NRSV, on the
other hand, tr-anslates the verb :1-l\., as 'provide': "So Abraharn called that
p lace 'The LORD will provide'; as it is said to this d ay, "On the mount of
the LORD it slra/1 be provided."
T he bib lical pericope has six/seven actors: God (Eiohim/YHWH),
Abraham, h is two servants," Isaac, the a ngel of the Lord (YHI'VH), and
the ram. Tl' c focus of u, e study is the m le o f the angel of the Lord in
early Jewish interpretation. The main question is w hether the angel is
actua lly seen as a revelation of God Himself or '' only" as His messen
ger? The biblical text is ambivalent on this point. Are God and the angel
of the Lord iden tic..1l, and does our na rra tive therefore only have six
As mentioned a bove, the text contains both biblical " names" of
God, YHI'VH and Elohim, a nd the angel is called 'the angel of YHWH'.
Tile angel is the deliverer of Isaac and therefore a lso of his descen ...
d ants, the people of Israel. Th e angel appears for the first time in vv. 11 ~
12 and saves Isaac at the last moment from being sacrificed by his fa
ther. T he a ngel of the Lord speaks \vith d iv ine au thority in the first
person sing ula r, as if he is God himself, although he a lso refe rs to God
in the third person:

74 The1-e are !>()me tex1 critical rematks peraaining to thi!l verse in BHS. The issue is llw
s ammatical fl'u'm in which '''e .we to l'e<ld 1he verb;;~, 'h) see' the first and se<:ond
time il appears in the ver:;e. It a ll depends on hov1 we choo.u~ to voC<~ I i ze the worJ.
The MT li1<st uses an active and the n a pass:he form.
75 The two young men, the servallL'I of Abraham, are identified as Ishmael and Elielt>l'
in Pirt de R~rb()i Elitzer 3 I Bnd To1r,'?lllll Pstu.1c>}mmllum Gel\ 22:3.



ICen 22:11 ) But tht! angel of the LO RD cal100 to h im from heaven, and said,
"Abraham$ Abraham!N And he said, ''Here I am.N (12) Ht! said. ' Do not Ia}'
y<)ur han d (>n the b<>y or d o anything to him; for now I know that you fi:ar
Gotf, s ince you have not withh~ld your $<)n, your only son from nu:.N

In v. 15 we read tha t the angel of the Lord calls to Ab ra ham a secotui

lime from heaven. \>Vhy a second time? The angel says to Abraham:
(Cen 22:'16) .. . "By myself 1 how e sworn, says the LORD (:n:r OXl ): Because
you have d o ne this, and have no t withheld your $(m,. your o nly sun,. (17) I
w ill ind eed b less yuu, and I w ill make your o ffspring as n u merous a.'i the
stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the s.eashu re. And yuu r o ffsp ring
sh all posse.~ the gate of their enemiM, (18] an d by your o ffspring shall all
the natio n.~ uf the earth gain blessing for them.'ielves, because you have Ob
eyed my voice.N

ln verse 16 the a ngel uses the so-called ' messenger--fom'lllla'/ ;'1\.i " c~l/
'says U1e Lord' . Most scholars thin k that this does not solve the problem
of the a ngel's identity. The a ngel never indicates tha t God sent him, as
other messengers usually d o. Tt is also note\vorthy that the ph rase c~l
;"ll;'l~ only occurs at th is point in Genesis and th at no other bib lical 1~'1J
uses it. m
The fact that Gad swears by Himself is some thing un ique in the Aqedah a nd is only mentioned again in Exod 32:13, where the text alludes
to this episode.n The a ngel of the Lord confimls a nd expands o n the
divine promises previously g iven to Abraham (Gen 12:1 -3; 15:4-21;
17:1 -8).
In Gen 22:19 read that Abraham returned to his servants and
they went together to Beersheba, but Isaac is not mentioned. Wh ere is
Isaac? He must still be alive, sin ce we read tha t the angel of the Lord
p revented Abraham fr01n completing the sacrifice. As in Genesis 16
and 21, the a ngel intervenes as a s.wior. In the same \vay as he came to
the rescue of Ishmael and his mother in the desert he saves Isaac's life
a t the last moment in Genesis 22.

Conclu ding Remarks

There are some simila rities be tween Gen 16:7-14 (21 :1 7-20) and 22:1-19.
Both Abraham a nd Hagar meet the angel of the Lord who comes to
rescue them a nd lheir sons a nd shows the rn a solution. Hag ar catdles

76 See above and, e.g., Meie r 199Sa, 87-88, 103.

i7 Thi.-. l).lth, however, is mentioned in, for ex.lmple. Gen 26:25; Ps 105:9-11. and Sir
44:20-21. In the NT, the fact tha t \~ swore by Himself is referred to in Heb 6: 1 ~18.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

sig ht of a well of water (Gen 21:19), while Abraham discovers a ram to

sacrifice instead of his son (Gen 22:13}. Hagar calls God ' U'e God who
sees' (Gen 16:13). There is an apparent sirnilarity between the narne of
the well in Gen 16:14: " ... Beer lahairoi h~."'l 'n7 ,'S':J/ the well of the Liv
ing One \vho sees me ..." 76 and the naming of the sacrificial site in Gcn
22:14: "On the mountain of the Lord it is seen/revealed/on the mountain
the lord Lc; seen ."~ Both Hagar and Abraham are promised abundant
offspring by the angel of the Lord, see Gen 16:10 and 22:17 respectively .
In both pericopes, God' s and the angel's ide ntities are fused togeth
er, the angel talks in the first person singular as if he is God Himself,
but at the same time refers to God in the third person. Gen 16:10-11 and
Gen 22:11 . However, the angel in Genesis 22 disting uishes himself by
using the 'messenger formula' in v. 16, which is not used by any other
biblical 1x?o bu t~ as mentioned, most scholars do not consider that the
use of the phrase elirninates the problem o f the angel's merging with
God. Since he does not report '"'ho sent him, the angel docs not behave
like any o ther biblical messenger and thus differs from a prophet
spea king o n God's behalf. \lvllo then, is the angel of the Lord. a nd w hy
does he call to Abraham a secmzd time from heaven? As we will see in
the following, other angels are mentioned in rnany of the interpreta
tions of Genesis 22. How is the angel of the Lord related on the o ne
hand to these a ngels, and on the other to God Himself?

3.2.4 Th e Wooing of Rebekah - the Angel as a Protecto r and G uide

In Gen 24:1-4 we read t-hat Abraham commands his servant to S\o\o'ear

that he will go to his master's o ld homeland in o rder to search for a
suitable wife fo r Isaac, a woman from among Abraham's relatives.
\\' hen the servant says that she might not want to follow him back to
C1.naan (v. 5), Abraham answers him as follows:
ICen 24:61 ... "See to it that you d o nut take my ~on back there [tu M~sopo
tamiaJ. [7] The Lord, the God of hemen,AA who took me from my fa ther's
h(luse and fro m the land o f my birth, and who spoke to tl"le and swore to



~'IY translo.tion. In connection with lhe w ell. it i$ wmth nl)ting lhBl in its rewriling of
Gen 22:1-19, fttf1iii'-1'S refe r'$ to o. well near lhe !iacrifici,ll site. Ab.-.ham bids hisserwuus 10 stay there, white he and Isaac continue on {lttb. 18.4). In lhe LXX IW1' Sheb.l
(\..en 22: 19) is t:Mnslah~d a.!l <!J(U) 'Q ,.oU1'5QKm1/'the well of the I'Mth' . a ., /11('. 18. 1718.
My t.-.ns l.l Hons.. See also \\'estermal\1\ 1985, 217
LXX adds ... .. and lhe Cod of the earth ..... c~,nceming the title of YHWH as coo of
heaven', see al<>o Niehr 1995, 702'705.



me, saying. ' To yo ur offs pring I w ill givl! this )and: lit! will send his n~tge/111
before yew, trnd .110u slwll Mke n wife fc>r m.v son ftimt tll~re. ( 1': ~? l:lK'm rht"' N).1
DWJl '" '"\':ill-~ MPi') (8) Bu t if the woman is not ,.,..illing ft) follow you, then
yo u will be free from this oath uf mine; only you mus t not f<lke my son
back there:"

The commission o( the angel is to accompany Abraharn's servant to

Mesopotamia.81 The angel will protect him d u ring his journey and lead
him to the proper woman. As we know, the jo urney is successful and
the serv,,nt finds Rebekah, U1e grand-daughter of Abraham' s brother.
He meets her at a well o utside the city of Nahor, \\1hen she comes to
draw water. The servant considers their meeting as an answer to his
prayer, i.e., as a divine in tervention (vv. 1227). His personal prayer
plays an imporlant ro le in the narrative;-see vv. 26--27:
(Cen 24:26} The 1nan bowed his head and wo rship pl!d the LORD (27) and
said, " Blessed be the lORD, the Cod of my maStl!r Abraham, who has not
fl)J'Saken H is stead fast Jove and his faithfulne.$.."i Wward my mas ter. As fnr
me, being on the way, the LORD has led me on thl! way to the house uf my
master's kin."

The servant is warmly welcomed by Rebekah's family and tells them

about the reason for his journey, namely to find a wife fo r Isaac, vv. 29
41 . In v. 40, the servant refers to Abraham's words in v. 7 concerning
the angel. As a matter of fact, vv. 3741 repeat vv. 2-9 and vv. 4248
repeat vv. 1127. Rebekah's fa U1er and brother both acknowledge the
hand of God behind the events:
ICen 24:50) Then Laban and Beth ue1 answered, '7he thing comes from the
LORD; we cannot speak to you rth~ scrv<mt o f Abraham! anyth ing bad o r
goud. (5'1) lc)l)k, Rebekah is befo re yt)u, take her ;md gu, and Jet her be the
w ife of your master's son.. as the LORD has spoken." f52) When Abraham's
~ rvanl heard their words, he bowed himself tu the g-rm md bt:!fure the

Rebekah thus follows the servant back to Canaan and marries Isaac:
(24:66) And the servant told Isaac all th~ thing..:; that he had d t)ne. (67) Then
L.:;aac b roug h t her intu his m<)lher Sarah's lent. He tuok Rebekah, and she
became hi::; wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comfortl!d after his m()ther's death.

According to Meier, a common function o f a messenger in the Ancient

Near East \/as to escort persons who were traveling under the protec
tion of the sender. The sarne applies to the biblical messenger o f God,


We..c;rermann (1985, 378) lMs <.hosen the translalioo messenger' in \~ 24:7, w hile in
his se<l)nd oommenta ry on Genesis ( 1987, 167) he uses the transla tion ' a ngel.'
See als.o Gusgisbers 1979,.19-40.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

who is often depicted as a protector o f travelers in order to bring them

safely to their destinations. and help Lhem accomplish their tasks. The
present text is an obvious example, and Meier also refers to many oth
ers; Exod 14:19; 23:2023; 32:34; 33:2; 1 Kgs 19:56, a nd Tob 5:21. Meier

states that" .. . the later angelic protection of God's people in any con
text can be perceived as an extension of this original messenger task
(Dan 3:28; 6:23[22); Bar 6:6 ( Ep jer 6))."oo
In its present form, Genesis 24 is a tale o f divine providence. God

leads the servant to Abraham's relatives and a suitable wife for Isaac.
The protection of the angel g uarantees the success of the commission.'"
According to \Vestennann, the theme of d ivine provid ence in Ge-.
nesis 24 is the result of a reworking of an o riginally "pure" family narr
a live. The words of Abraham in v.7 "he [GodJ will send his a ngel be

fore you ... " are thus a later insertion. As su ppo rt fo r his claim, \'Vestermann writes that Abraham's assurance to his servant here is
. .. a traditional fixed exp re.o;sion fo r Cod's a.SSi$tance and it occurs al:;<,) in
Ps. 91:1 1, which is an assu rance of b!...-ssing to an in d ividual at a relatively
Jatto' period (d. Ps l21); the reworking uf Gen. 24 in to its prt.os~nt form may
be tempo rally dose to it.&S

Concluding Rernarks
As stated above, the only reference to an angel in the singular in Gene.
sis.. w here the d istinction between God and His angel seems clear, is in
Gen 24:7, 40. In the narrative o f the wooing of Rebekah, the angel pla ys

a very anonymous, "back stage" role; he docs not speak (cf., Genesis
22) and is only referred to in the third person.



1\leier 1995a, 85. See also Gutmann /Edilo ri.ll Staff 1971. 964, New~om 1992,. 2.'50, 252.
and Ps 3-1:7 (v. 8 in the {'..JT).
See a iJ'O KOcket 2007, 7172. AI lhe Silme time, Genesis 24 is a fllm ily tale, whose
prim..ary Sl'l.:l l is marri!lge. lo this re.!ipect.. th e perioope has m aJlY si mit.uitie..<l to Gen
29: 114 !lnd Exod 2:151r22. All th ree narratives d e..'>cribe a meeting a1 a well between
a l).tranger f1'0m afar !lnd llxal people, a meeting lhat 1-esu iL<; in m arriage. llle ccun
0\(m lhe me of all Lh1-ee 1\ill'r,l thes. the meeting wi th a fulure .!ipouse at a welt m ay be
defined as a ..'>CK'alled typt..."-scene in the Hebrew Bible, see Aller 1981. <J7~2. Tile element l') f ' divil\e gu id an ce' i_<;, hll\'le\er, absent in the 1wo la$1 men tio-ned perioope.<;.
Neveth ele$.S, the fac1 that God is no l explicitly men tioned in C.eo 29:1- 14 <~ nd Exod
2: 15b-22 does not exclude the implkali-on o f Hi$ action in the narratives, $lee, fm ex
ample. Wesae.mann 1985,383.
We.<;termartn 19.85, 383384. See !llso Ern ikel 2007, 11-1. and K3ckera2007, 72.



\Vesterma nn's theory possibly explains w hy the angel in Genesis 24

seems to be clearly distinguished from God, in contrast to the oth er
pericopes in Genesis v~.'here a divine messen ger is rnen tioned in the
singular form, e.g., Gen 16:7-14. Be that as it may, in its presen t form
the narrative is a typical tale of divine providen ce and a ngelic protec
t ion.

3.2.5 Jacob and the Angel

The explicit 'angel of the Lord -texts' in the Jacob cycle"' are Gen 31:10
13, w here the a ngel o f God appears to Jacob and o rders h im to return to
h is homela nd, as well as jacob's equ ation of God w ith His <1ngel in Gen
48:15 16. Both text< are in turn closely connected to Gen 28:1022 and
35:1 15. All these pericopes have in common that they mention an e n
counter between God a nd Jacob at Bethel (except Gen 48:1516, but Luz,
i.e., Bethe l is mentioned in that context, vv. 3-4).87 Bec..1use of the dose
relationship o f the texts, I have inclu ded them a ll in my analysis, even
though the angel of God (in the singular fonn) is explicitly mentioned
only in Gen 31:1013 and 48:15 16.
The implicit 'angel o f the Lord-text', ~'e s tory of the stngglc between Jacob and the u nnamed man in Gen 32:24-32 (vv. 2533 in the
~11), is in many wa ys reminiscent o f these texl'i, since it also describes
an e ncounter between jacob and the divine world, either God Himself
or a d ivine be ing/an angeL It is apparent that the "man" who wrestles
wi th Jacob is not an o rdinary opponent.
There is also a connection between Gen 32:27-28[2829) and 35:910,
since both pericopes describe the bestowal of the name of israel on
Jacob and are in turn re lated to Hos 12:45 (vv. 5 6 in the MT}. The latter
text will be d iscusseti in section 3.4.


See also Guggisberg 19i9, 50-57.

According to Gen 2&19, il L<1 Ja..:ob who gi ves the cil >' of Lu1. the name of Belhet cf.,



3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

The Revelation at Bethel

Genesis .31
Lel us begin by looking at jacob's account o f his encounter with God's
angel during his service ''lith Laban:
ICen 31:10) " ... During the mating of the Oock I o nce had a d ream in which
I looked up and saw that the male gt)ats that leapt?d upon the Aock were
striped? Sp~!<:kled, and mottled. (11 ) TI1en t!J~ tmsd of God ( o"::~:l 1K'?l:l) said
to~ in the d ream, 'Jacob.' and I said, 'Hent I am!' (12) And he said. ' louk
up and SL>e that all the goat$ that leap o n the Aock are striped~ speckled,
and mottled; fo r 1 have ~n all that Laban is doing to you. (13Jlttm the God
of Bethd, w hert you mwit11t'd a Jlillnr tmd nwde n vow to m~. Now leave this
land at once and return t() th ~ Jand of your birth"'/ nnwll ,11/1\ ;.~ 11:1 '?~1 'JlK)
r vn?lb j"1K i~ ~r.1'1 !IXT:'l f"'''tl~:'llt< K'l 0 \? :1/"1!;' m 0'.1''7 rmJ ,19~ :0~1! 0\!l

Here Jacob addresses his two "vives Rachel and leah and tens them
about a revelation in a dream. In the context o f the pericope we read
that laban and hL'i sons have become jealous o f Jacob because o f his
increasing wealth, vv. 12. God then exhorts Jacob to return to his ho
meland, v. 3.~ He decides to flee and therefore summons his wives to
explain the situation, v. 4. Jacob tells them that Laban has behaved un
justly b ut that God has been with him, vv. 5-9. jacob attributes the in
crease in his livestock to a divine revelation in a dream, vv. 1012.
It is noteworthy that jacob refers to '1/~e angel of God in v. 11. Diana
Lipton points out that although angels appear elsewhere in Genesis,. this
is the only dream w hich is mediated by an angel; speaking in God's
name, and she further rernarks that in the mid dle o f v. 12 the angel's
voice has become indistinguishable from that o f God. Despite this am
biguity, Lipton claims that the angel in Genesis 31 is to be understood as
a d istinct being. sep~uate from God, a conclusion she bases o n the simi
laritics between the fu nction of the angels in Gen 31:10.13 and Zech 5:5
6. like Zechariah's angel, jacob's angel appears as an angelus inte-rpres,
i.e., an interpreter o f d reams and visions. Because Zechariah' s angel is
d early depicted as an independen t being. she claims that the same most
probably applies to the angel who appeared to jacob."' I admit that there



Cl... the "ange l's" instruction in Gen 3 1:13. D. lipton (1999.. 30} remarks that the
dre1llll reported in Gen 3 1:10-13 is the onl> Cene.<~is-d -eam not announced b)' the
narrator, possibl) lx"'cause the dream and God's instruct ion in v. 3 were reg.wded as
anothe r version of one <lJld the same evl~nt.
lipton 1999.. 30.. 115-121. Upton appa.-ently does 1\0t Mke into consider.u ion the
question of rhe "'.tngel's"' own identification 3.!1 'the God of Bethel'. see the d iscu..'l.!lion



is a genu ine affinity in ftmction between the two angels, but this fact
alone does not per se p lace them in the same category.
In Gen 31:13, th e a ngel of God iden tifies himself as 't!Je God of Be
llwl'. The Hebrew wording in th is verse is strange; 7ft\ n~::z 7x:.i ':>l."i. can be
t ranslated as "I am the God Bethel." Jn the words o f Nahum Sarna;
. .. the succeed ing double use of "where," (Heb. $./wm), show:=. that "Bethel ...
here is a plact,e name? not a d ivint! n' The title i.s intended not to limit
the living Cod to a ::Opl!Cific locale but to can to mind the t)riginal theophany
ICen 21k10-22), specifically the prom i:=.t~ of a mstant protectit)n and safe re
turn. ln like manner? the emphasis on the vow is a reminder to the p a
triarch that his self-impc_)..;ed obligation assumed at Bethel h<ll'i yet to be diS
charged . ..9 1

The LXX is clearer than the MT in v. 13, where the an gel of God says to
ICen 31:13] i:y(;, d pl b flti).; b <'x!Jfl ti;; O()\ t:V 't6m~' fl t u U/ 1 <lm the Cod that
ap peared to you in the p lace uf Cod .'

According to Hay"vard , the tr-anslators o f the LXX modeled their account of the angel's appearance to Jacob o n Moses' calling~cxperience
at the burning bush.<n They interpreted Jacob's life as prefiguring the
destiny o f his descenda nts/ the people of Israel. Jacob's servitude in the
house o f Laban foreshadows the slavery o f lsrael in Egypt. God intervenes in both cases; in Gen 31 :12, the a ngel says to jacob" ... for I have
seen all that laban is doing to you/' cornpare with God's words to
Moses in the LXX Exod 3:7 " ... l have observed the misery of my
people who are in Egypt ... " God/the a ngel o f God exhorts Jacob to
" leave this la nd at once"9' ~lnd God tells Moses that He has corne down
in order to "bring ~>em (U'e people of lsmel) u p out o f that land




Bethel was the lt.lme of a p.1gan god once worshipped b) some o! the peoples in the
Ancienl Near E.lst, d .. Jer 48: 13. tikewL<~e, the place known as Bethel was most cei'C<linly already a sacred Canaanite a J!tic site befofe and durin& the p.llri.wchal peril)((.
See Sama 1989, 398-100. For fu rfher d iscussion, see below.
Sama 1989, 21S.
The LXX also uses the definile form when reft'l'ring to the .mgel in'' I 1:0 t.iyy.:Ao;:
toU (~miJ . .., beO'Iuse l11e "angel" has a lread) made himsell known to j!Kob in Genesis 28. This probably expl.lins the de-finite form in verse 13, both in the Greek ~md the
Hebrew texts: .. .. . I am I he God of BetheVtll!! Cod vt ho appeared to rou in the plaro
of Cod . .." God is 1-eminding Jacob of their previous encounter al Bethel. The Swedish Bible translation (Bibel 2(XX)) of Gen 3 1:13a reads: ''Jag :iir den Cud som vL<~adt>
sig fO dig i Bethel ... fJ am the Cod who appear~.->c.i h l you in Bethel .. ."{My tmsla+
tion). According 10 \Nevers (1993, 501-502), it is made totally d e<11' in LXX\'\' . 12-13
that the "ange l" L<~ none other lll.ill\ God Himself.
Hayw<1rd 2005. 11-43.
Gen31: 13b.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

[Egypt)."" l11c addition to the angel's speech in the LXX Gen 31:13; " ...
and 1 \Viii be with you/''X> is regarded by Hayv~.rard as an allusion to
God's promise in Exod 3:12.97
The a ngel of God identifies himself in Gen 31:13 as the God i>
ixj>-9rt'.; om iv 't6ncp 9e.oU/ "who appeared to you in the p lace of God 11, a
cla use that is reminiscent of Exod 3:2 whe re it is sta ted in the LXX:
"Ocjllltl bt atn~' ayy<Ao; KUQfou .. ./. .. "And an angel of the Lord ap

penred to him (lvtoscsJ ..." Jacob is thus cornpared to Moses; both had a
vision of God/His angel. In the two narratives. the iden tities of the a n*
gel and God a re blurred; w hen \Ve continue to read Exodus 3."'11 the
angel of the lord seerns to be none o ther than God Himself.i't HaY'".rard
further points out that the LXX designation of Bethel as 'the p lace o f
God' may be intended to remin d the reader o f the p lace o f God's ap
pearnu.:e to Moses in the burning bush, which is explicitly described as
' holy ground', see Exod 3:5.'"'

Genesis 28
The angel/ messenger of God hence claims to be none other than God
Himself who appeared to jacob in Bethel. Gen 31 :13 thus refers back to
another divine revelation in a dream, d escribed in Gcn 28:10-22:
(10J Jacob l~ft &er-sheba and went toward Haran. (11 J 1-f~ c:ame (:V.~'l)IOI to
a certain

p lac~ lo,p;:.~l

and stayed


for the night, because the sun had

set. Taking one of the s tones ( u~e TIP'l)un (){ the place [D1P1:1.1L he put it under hi$ head and Ia}' down in that place. {12) And ht dretmJcillhat lhae W(/.5"
ladder $~1 up tm tile earth. the top of it rt<tuhing M lrerJve~n; ftmllJte: angels of God
w~re li'$Ceudittg tmtl tlc;tc-ruling ou it. I :r:l'i'YO:t :l ~le ,".:~N11 :rs1N :!~1'3 o ;o :u:n oi?:l'l)





Exod 3:8.
This concluding has no counlerparl in t he MT. How-e ver, it Lc; e mployed ill
God's previous exhOI'IBiio-n to Jacob to retum home. see Gen 3 1:3b.
See Hayward 2005, 38-44.
See, e.g . E>:od 3:4b in the LXX and the MT. See als.o Hayward 2005. 4243.
The similar ambivalence between Cod and His omgel app<uenl in Exodus 3 and Cen
31: 11 -13 is not d isrus....:;ed by HB)'Ward., whose flXUS differs from thal of the prt>Senl
&"e Ha)'VJetrd 2005, 42-4J. Cl., a lsc> Jacob's designation of Bethel aCCllrding hl Cen
28: 1&.17. The Hebrew word ov:: 'place occurs no less than six times in the account
of Jacob's dre.lm a t Bethel and i.e; apparentl)' a key-word in lhe stor)' ll also has lhe
o:>~tnotat i on of 'holy place/site', see below.
literally: "he mt'J a certain plat--e .. ." Acco"<ling hl We$1erm.ann ( 1985. -152), lhe \erb
:-u~ ' meet' con.c;titutes a link to ("_.en 32: 1-2. where the same \'ctb is emplo)ed. St.>e also
Philo's interpretation ol the verb in his analysis of Gene..,is 28 ln 011 Dmu11s 1.71)..71
and Pin~ dt! Rab()i Elitur, see below.
literally; .-. ... Irom the s1o11ts lin plural!I of thilt place .. ." See lhe an.alys-is of lhe
Targums below.



;um IJ3J And flit WRD stood be:."id~ IIim Ho and said
( 11:),~'11''?91-SJ :n.'T' :u:n], " I am the LORD? th~ God of Abraham(... ':'l;N :r'l:'l' 'l:S
D:'l~:t:s) your father and the God u f (s;;-1ac; the land o n whkh )'tlU lie J will
give to you and to you r offspring; (14) and )'(lUr o ffs;pring shall be like the
d ust tlf the earth, and you sh all spread abruad to the west and to the east,
and to the nurth and to the :::outh; and all the famili~s of the earth shall be
blessed in }'OU and in your offs-pring. (15] Know that I am with ytlU (. . . ;u.-n
11:-1: 'J!.~J and will keep yuu wher~ver you go. and will bring y<>u back to
this land; fM I will no t leave you until I have done what 1 have prt)mL.;ed
you.N (16) Then Jacob wuke from his :;loop and :::aid, "Surely the LORD Lo; in
thjs p lace-and I d id not know it!N f17J And h e was afraid1 and said, "How
awe-some is thi::: place! This is none t)ther than the house of Cod, and th is is
the gate of heaven." I x; ')!.'(1 :'ll:l 0 \?l:o::! ;n;, rzr PK 1J:>S"l lN~'J:> ~P9' l'V"1 f16]
(1::1 0'1"'Y'l o;~ tl':l;.~ ':>.~?J:i

.O'J:>'o!l:l 1~'W ;m C':'l;X i'l':! C~ ~ :Tt f~ :'l;:l 01jm:'l ~ :'Ill 1~~"1 X1""'1 I TJ '1'\~"1"

(1 8) St'l Jacob rose early in the muming. and he t()(lk the stone fpN.., ]tl'll
that he had p ut und er his head and set it up fur a p illar (:"l:!~t-) and poured
oil u n th~t top of it. [19] He mll~d flint pfnte Bctllrll n'J l:1:t Dlp~:'l oe:t i'IN X1"''
; x); but the name ()f the city was Luz at the firSt. (20] Then Jacob made a
vow, saying. ''If Gud ( o:r'?~ J ,,.. ill be with me, and wi11 keep me in this way
that I go, and will g ive me b read to eat and clothing tu wear, (21 ) so that I
come again tu my fath~r's hou~ in peac~t, then the LORD ( :11:;"] ;o:;hall be my
Cod (O':i?"S:'? ''1. [22) and this s tune? which J have ~t up fur a pillou , shaH bt!
God's hou~ (o:;;.~ l"'":!J; and of aiJ that yuu give me I will ~"U re1y give une
tenth to yuu." 1/li.

This dream is the initial theophany in the life o f Jacob and constitutes
the first occasion when God appears and spe~1ks to h im. Tn a sense the
vision can be designated as his calling as a senrant o f God. 1co. Jacob is to
be the o ne who will carry on the spiritual heritage of his fathers. The
pericope belongs to the narratives of encounters with God and o f &1
c:red sites inserted in the jacob ..Esau story (see also Cen 32: 1 ~21 22 ..32;
35:1 15). 11"
God introduces Himself as "' ... the LORD, God of Abraham your
fa ther and the God of Isaac ...'' This is dearly an allusion to the cove ..
nant made with Abraham and Isaac. God links Himself to jacob's fa..
thers a nd continues by repeating the promises of land, abundant
offspring, and blessings previously given to the earlier patriard1s (vv.
13-14), see, for example, Gen 12:13; 13:14-1 7; 22:15 18; 17:6-8 (Abra

103 Or: alxwe him/it (the ladder).

lO.f Cf.. Gen 28: I I.
lOS Cf... Gen 3 1:13.

l06 Cf., the c-alling M lhe prophet Isaiah: Isaiah 6. See also Westel' 1985, 454455,
and Kugel 1993, 211.
107 Westermann 1985. 452.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

ham), a nd 26:25, 23-25 (Isaac). O ne pu rpose o f the VlSIOn is th us to

confirm Jacob as the heir to the divine promises and th e third pa tria rch.
In contrast to his predecessors, Jacob rnects God in a d ream. As
mentioned before, early Jewish exegesis takes its point of departure in
p rob lems found in the texts. One intrigu ing q uestion is why God d lose
to ad dress Jacob in a dream.""' Why could He not talk to h im d irectly, as
he did \Vith Abraham a nd lsaac?lll9 A-:. shown above~ ~1 ccording to Gcn
31:1013, the angel o f God also a ppeared to Jacob in a drea m.' "
Another question is the meaning of the v ision of the heaven ly lad
der o r stairway'n with a ngels going u p and d own on it If the pu rpose
of the d ream was merely that God v~.ranted to assure Jacob th at " ... the
l,md on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring'' (\'. 13),

108 Cf ... Num 12:6b-8a:

(Num 12:6bl ... When there are pmphets <~ mong you, I the LORD make myself
known to them in tJisiims: I speak to them in drt~mf'ii. ( 7] Not so with my serwmt ~l os
e.<~: he is entrusted w ith all my house. (81 With him I speak face to face-clearl)' not in
riddles: and he behold$ the form of the LORD . ..
Acrording: to CuHey (2004. 105-109). the e-a rl) jews placed a high \a lue on dreams as
real exper;ence.c; of the direc1 voice of Cod. Divinely inspired dreams a1't' common in
the BiMe. Be.<;ide.<~ Jacob, his so11 Joseph <Uld the prophet D.lniel are well-known bibli
cal d ur.lCters who can be n~nti oned in this context. It L<~ some times difficult to dis
tinguish between dreams and visions in the Bible. Exp1-es.sions such as "'1 continued
lc)(>king, in the vi$ions of my head as 11a}' in bed .. ." (Ocm 4: 13) m<~y refer to dreams.
l09 We may, however, interpret Gen 15: 12-16 as God talking to Abraham in a d ream,
although th is is unusual in the c.lse of Abr.lha m. cf., \..en 12: 1-3: B: 14- t 7 etc.
LIO According to Gen 31:24, God a lso appears to Laban in a dream when he pui'Sues the
fleeing Jacob and wams him~ ''Take heed th at you say not a word to )lcob, eithe
good or bad .... According: to Cen 16:2-<1. Cod appeared hl l<~rael (i.e.,. Jamb) in the vi
sions of the night, p1't'Su nMbly a d re-a m, thu$ jacob/Israel ha d ll total of three d hhw
dream re\eiMion..<l.
lll The Hebre\,_. word o';o is a ltitf.t.'U: legomewm. Its etymology and mealling is uncer1.1in;
it may derhe from the root 77c ' hl heap/pile up'. Accord ing to Koehler!Baumgarlner
(2001. 757758), Sarna 1989, 198, Weste1mann (1985, 454), a nd, for exam ple The Nevi
lnrernatiOJMI Ve rsion,. 's.tail'\'lay' i$ probably the correct tratslation. Jn addition to
the New Revised Standard Versioo cited above, the New King Jame.c; Version atso
uses the translation ' ladder'. According to Sarna (1989, 198}, the in.spiratiQnal stimulus for the image of the ' ladder' is eithe r the l,ldder of ascent to heaven known from
Egyptian a nd Hinite sources or the Babylonian z igglll'.ilt/temple rower. The gods
were ClWISide red hl contact humanity from the top of che zigglll'<ll,. and the temple
pric.>sts \' 'ent up and down in the sevice of the deities. The ongel<~ may thus play a
priest!}' role in jacob's dream. See a lso Alte r 1996, 49. Anothe interpret.l tion is th at
Genesis 28 depict.~ Yahweh as a king and the angels as his emissaries who ll't' sent
ll ut from His throne on varillliS mi<~sions and alterwards l't'-t\ 111\ to report. See tewi'\/Oiiver 1996,229.



there would have been no need for the heavenly ladder/stairway.u;

Among the patriarchs this revelation is unique to Jacob. Neither Abra
ham nor Isaac arc ever to have seen a heavenly ladder in their
dreams. \Vhat \\'as the vision Qf the a ngels climbing up and down o n it
intended to communicate?m Another q uestion is what the ladd er
looked like. Its appearance is not described.
The ascending and descending angels u nderscores the connection
between heaven a nd earth. The stairway is set/:tM.> at the p lace w here
Jacob is sleeping thereby marking the spot as holy.114
'The angels o f God'/D\fl'ix ''~'n in v. 12 are clearly !Jeaveuly beitzgs,
sharply dislinguished from the "'"' 1X?~/'the angel of the lord in the
singular form. The angels of God in Gen 28:12 may be defined as simiJar to the sons o f God mentioned in, for example, job 1:6; 2:1.11 ' lingoistically speaking, it is possib le to interpret the last part of v. 12 as mean
ing that the angels are going up and down ''on" for the of Jacob.
The Hebrew word '0 may refer to either Jacob o r the ladder, but the
most natural is o f course the latte r.11 e.
According to Sama, the a ngels play no role in the dream but their
presence may
... reflect the notion of angelic beings who patrol the earth and repo rt back
to ('.od. It is also possible that the notion of angelic activity may symbolize
Jaa)b's per.::onal ho pes and fears, his prayers fo r protec.'tion, which rise !<)
heaven and recehe a response.117

Jacob's designation of the p lace o f the revelation in v. 17 as the gate of

heaven signifies that it is the p lace w here the a ngels ascend to an d descend from heaven.u11
The expression o~:i'ix ,,161:l occurs only here an d in dH.tpte r 32:1..2 in
Genesis.Jtt Both pericopes are connected to the life o f Jacob. As 1nen

112 For reasons of simplicity, I w ill in generill use lhe word ' l.adder', becalLc;e fhis is the
~rnnslation in Lhe NRSV.
113 S..~ea l$o0 Kugel 1 995, 2 11 .
ll4 See K&ket 2007, 57, and \Vesterm<ann 1985, 454->&55. co \'~falters ( 1992..
602), 1he ladde is " . .. a symbol of the .lccessibilily of God's help a nd P..,sence, a
theme distinctive to the Jaoob s hwies."
115 See a lso Kikken 2007. 5>1,. 57. Westermam 198.1), 4.5<1455. and Murphy 1989,30.
116 See Kugel 1990, 114-120.
l17 Sama 1989, 198. Cf.. for example Zedl 1:711. II is 110tewor1hy that 1he riders fan
gels?! who patrol the e.wth are dearly distinguished from the angel of the Lord, see
V\. lOb II :". .. They are thoeie whom the LORD has .sen1 h) p.t~t i'OI the earlh. Then
they spoke to the .,ngel l'lf 1he LORD who was s tanding among the myrtle 1rees, -we
ha\'e patrolled the earth. a1\d lo, the whole earth remain..<~ at peace.'" a ., Job 1. 2.
118 S.1ma 1989, 199. Aa.'Ording hl Sarna, the idea of sudl places wa.<~ w in the
A1\Cient Middle East. See also Ps 78:23 and Westermann 1985, 457.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

tioned above, these two texl4i and Genesis 19 are the o nly examples of
o~:~x:;:>:{angels in the plura l in Genesis. The a ppearance of the angels is
not described in Genesis 28.
The heavenly ladder and the a ngels certainly h ave a deep symbolic
significance. I question Sarna' s s tate rnent that the a ngels p lay no role in
the dream. If so, why are they in it? Kugel rcmark..5 that it is peculiar
that the angels are said to be going up and dmvtl, in that o rder. In his
own words: u An gels are said to reside in heaven; they should therefore
more properly be said to go dowu aud up."l~' It rernains to be seen
whether the ea rly Jewish interpreters bothered w ith this question.
The meaning of Gen 28:13a is d ebated . Does God stand upon/ above
lhe ladder, or is He depicted as standing beside/ in front of jnmb? l11c
Hebrew wording here is; ''1"'7~ :1:0 :i'lii' :-U.'i'l ... " ~1nd the question is what
or w ho the suffix attached to the preposition ;~ alludes to, the ladder or
Jacob? Since lhe ladder is ment ioned in v. 12, i t seems likely that the
suffix refers to it, and this is a lso the transla tion we find in NKJV; " ...
And behold, the lord stood above it [the ladder] ... " Th is is also the
rendering in the LXX,m the Vulgate a nd Peshit1a.m
\.Yestcrmann however, claims that the reference is to jacob and that
the verse should be translated accordingly; 1'And Yahweh stoOl-i before
him a nd said ... " n He bases his interpretation o n the fact that Jacob is
addres.sed by God in the following, vv. 13b-15."' This appears to be a
weak argument, as God can talk to Jacob even if He is stand ing
above/on the lad der.
From the point of v iew of conte nt, the question o f \\1here God is
stand ing may appear to be of little sign ificance but if God is d epicted as

l 19 The e>:p1-ess ion d oes not occur an}'\'o'here else in the Bible, with the e>:<:eption l')f 2
Chronicles 16, where the meaning is d ifferen t. $ee We.<~termal\l\ 1985. -152.
120 Kugel 1995, 213. Li\guislicallr speaking. the1-e is nothing s trange abou! the orde of
the vebs in Cen 28: 12.. In Hebrew as in Eng lish. things are geneally said to ' gl') up
and down', not 'd own Bnd up'. Set~ also Kugel 1990, I 14.
121 The wcH'ding of Ceo 28: 13 in the LXX is as foiiO\\'S: ... Obt d,oo;: i:neo:rn)QIK'TO 11
mJtl); Xll dl"'cv, Ey(o) Kl.'(HOC. 6 ~h:O.: J\~tip 't0(1 '<1.-:t'TQO.; oou .. I" .. . the lord
stood upon it llhe ladde) and said, 'I am the Lord, 1he God ll f Abc.lham you r father
...... Since the word f~,_w 'ladder' in Greek. t<.\i~lll!. L'l fem i1t ine. the reference c.l n here
only be to the ladder, no t to Jaoob, who is obviously nMs.culine.
122 Sec also S.1ma 1989, 198 and 364. Acrording to him, th is is also the choke of Rash i,
ibn E:r.ra. and Ramb.lm, whe reas S.1.1di.1h refers lhe Jll'eposition to Ja~.ub . See<'ilso the
New lntetnaticmal Version w hich SUtes in v. 13: " The1'e above it (the ladderl s to..ld
the LO RD ... "
123 \Ve_c;term ann 1985, 451 and 45.S, thus .11so the New Re\cised Standard Ve rsion a nd the
lllte.<tt Swedish Bible tran..'llation, Bibel 2000.
124 Weste rntann 1985.455.



standing upon the ladder, it and God become more closely connected
to each other. us Othenv-ise, it is possible to in terpret God's speech to
jacob and the \lision of the ladder as two separate revelation.~. thus in
accordance with Westennann.llf> Sama also translates v. 13a in this way:
"And the LORD was standing beside him (Jacob) and He said ..."'"
Regard less of how we u nderstand \1.13, it is clear that the God who
talks to jacob is distinguished from the angels going up and dmvn on
the ladder. Nevertheless, the angel o f God who appears to Jacob in
Haran refers to himself as ' tire God of Bethel/ Gen 31:13. This is accor
ding l)' no "ordinar)' angel," unlike the angels in Gen 28:1 2.
As we have seen, jacob encou nters God/the angel of God in a
dream vision in both Gcn 28:10-22 and 31:1013. The two pericopes also
have in common that Jacob finds himself in awkward situations. In
Genesis 28, Jacob is on the run tov~.'ards Haran in order to escape the
revenge of his brother Esau. In Genesis 31, he has found hirnself forced
to flee o nce morel this time because of the jealousy of Laban and his
sons. In both situations~ the divine revelation L'i in tended as an encou
ragement. In Gen 28:15, God sa)'S to Jacob:
" ... Kn()lV that I am with )'l)U and will keep yuu wherever }'OU go, an d will
b ring you back to this land; fur I wilt n ot le;-we you until I have d o rw. what 1
have promised you."

In contrast to the previous promLt:,CS in vv. 1314, this one concen1s )a

cob personally in his present predicament.~ God speaks to Jacob dur
ing his flight and promises to protect him and bring him safely back
These two themes, the promise of d ivine protection d u ring a journey12't and the importance of marrying a relative, remind us of Genesis
24, the story of Abraham's servant's matdlmaking trip to Haran. One
difference bet""'een the n.vo narrati ves is that in Genesis 28 it is God

125 H we understand the .. ladder" in Jacob's d ream a.c; modeled on the Baby lonian :r.ig
gur<~ Vh~mpl e towe1, it seem..'i most probable that \~ is depicted ll..<; standing
l"'ll/ilbove the .. ladder.*
126 We..<>termann 1987, 200.
127 Sama 1989, 198. Sai'IM Bl<~o claims that t he lildder d id not function .ts "' channel o f
communication between m an and God, a sta tement tltat he lea\o"e!!; unexplain..~i .
128 A<~ men ti oned ilbove, jacob is O l\ the run. As a reAAJit of the e<mfliC1 with his brother,
jac<lb is told by hi.<1 mother to le.w e the land of his f-a mily and flee to Laban, hi.c; unde
in HarBI\; Cen 27:42 45; 28:12. Isaac exhorts his son to take as \\ife one o f the daugh
ters of laban., ll\al is, a relative.
129 See a lso Westerman n 1985, 455-456, 160.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

HimseJf '"'ho promises to look a fter jacob, \Vhereas Abraham in Genesis

24 refers to God's angel \vho will accompany his servant.f:ll'
The Hebrew word C'i''=' 'place' in Genesis 28 is signific..1nt. because it
has a double connotation; the word can also mean 'a holy site.' Howev
er, when Jacob lodges there for the n ight, he treats the place as p rofane.
For him it is just a suitable spot to sleep.lll
The last verses of o ur pericope, Gen 28:16~20, describe jacob's response to the divine revelation. According to vv. 16~17, when jacob
awakes from his sleep, he excla ims:
(Cen 28:16 J ... "Surely the LORD is in this place-and I did not know it!N
(17] And he was afraid. and said, "J-Iow awl!somt~ is thLo; place! This is none
o ther than the house uf Cud, and this is the gat~ uf h!!aven ... I :-n:r !!" l:lX [16)
'UI'L' ;,n 0\1;..~ n~~ C~ ~ :'11 l'X ;'11;"1 DlP0.1 X1J :Ito '"\~K"l NY'l ( 17] 'l'l!l1' ~? "j~l\ \ ;'Jl:1 DlPll:l
. t"ll1!!:1

Jacob's amazement reveals that he was inilially ignorant of the sacred

ness of the place where he chose to spend the night. The heavenly vi ...
sion was unexpecte<l and the divine encounter surprised him.1~
In addition to his astonishment, Jacob also reacted with awe and
fear: "And he \tas afraid, and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is
none o ther than the house of God .. .'., (v. 17). The Hebrew root X">' occurs twice in this verse. Kugel remarks that the fear of the patriardl
may have puzzled the early Jev,rish interpreters of the text. V/hat could
possibly be so terrifying about a lad der with angels on it? 1J.'l Jacob's fear
d istinguishes him from his predecessors; neither Abraham nor Isaac are
said to have become afraid when God appeared to them. See, for ex
ample, Gen 12:7-9; 13:14-18 (Abraham), and 26:2-6 (Isaac).
However, Jacob's fear when encountering the transcendent and
numinous as described here is a u niversal h uman reaction to the expe

l30 See also KO&ert 2007, 58, who interprets the angels l'Ul the ladder a..<1 symbl.,lizing
}lcob"s d ivine prote\~tion, d., God's promise in Gen 28: 15.
131 Sama, 1989, 197, 199, 400, and Westennann 1985, 454. The Swedi.c;h Bible translation
from 19 17 says in Gen 2S:t I: o.._'fl han kom d:\ till tleu !tt'lig,, plar.stu ../A I\d hence he
C.l m,~ h l lilt fmi!JJ>Inct . .. " (my tran.<llation). In Rabbinic termirw>logy, the \'lOrd Olj:7.'.)
(\l me 10 be employed as a d ivine epithet meaning 'the Omnipresent'. Al'"l.:Ording to
Koehler/Baumgatner (2001. 627). it already h.ld lhLc; meaning in ~'llh 4:14. See also
Marm~Wstein 1927. 9293, and Oeut 12:5; 14:23: 16:2,. 6, where the word is used to des.
ig.nate God's dlosen abode. The ex p~$Si 01l ' house of Cod' is a de.<ig.nation for the
Temple i11 Jerusalem in. e.g., Ps 42:5: 1 an 6:33; 22:2 11.
l32 Jk't'lb's surprise may also be interpreted in the light of his p.lst beha\ior towatd hh;;
b1'0ther. Because of feelings of guilt. he ma)r be surpri<~ed that Cod still is concerned
about him. See Sarna, 1989, 199.
133 Kugel 1995. 211.



rience o f 'the holy'.l:u Because he treated the p lace irreveren tly, the
discovery o f its sanctity frightens jacob, although it shou ld be noted
that the Hebrev~.r word fo r ' holy', ttny, does not occur in the pericope.1-
The foiiO\'Irin g morning Jacob begins to act upon h is vision. He
erects the stone he slept on as a p illar a nd pou rs oil o n it, v. 18. This
action presu pposes the already existing rite of the anoin ting of the ;'l:l'S"b .
The stone marks ou t the p lace o f the revelation a nd fu nctions as a 'wit
ness' to Jacob's subsequent vow to COli in vv. 20~21..'-x. d., Gen 31 :45-54
and Josh 24:27. The ;"i:tJ.f'J is intended as a 'witnes..c.;' to the d ivine presence at the site and is hence called o,:i?l\ n':l /'house o f God', v. 22.m In
verse 19 Jacob calls the p lace Bethel. the name having t-he same rnean
ing. See also Gen 31:13a, where the angel of God refe rs to this even t and
sa ys: "I am the God of Bei!Jel, where you anointed a pU/ar and made a vow to
me."l311 The sto ry h as thus a n etiologic..1l purpose; to derive the initial
holin ess o f the site from Jacob's d reamvision.IJ9
The Septuagint version of Gen esis 28 does not mention the n ame
Bethel at aiL In v. 19 the expression Lc; liter-ally translated in accordance
wi th its Hebrew meaning; ' house o f God'; ... troi. f.KMtatv raKe~ TO
Ovo1-1a ToU T(mou f Kdvou OlKo~ 9t:oU .. ./ " ... And Jacob called the
name o f that p lace thelwuse of God . .."

jacob's Struggle a t the Fo rd of jabbok

Ye t another text, Gen 32:2232. 1" ' tells about God (or a divine being/an
angel?) a ppearing to jacob a nd confron ting him at the fo rd of jabbok.




also, e.g . Judg 13:20-22 cHld Luke 1: 11 t2. Hagar (Cen 16:714; 21: 172(>), hm>Je\
er, is no t ~aid to have s.hown .m y fe.a when s.he encountered the .angel of th e lord.
~e.. for example, Vv'e.<~te rman.n 1985, 1(,(). Aocording to him, God's presence in his tory a!ld the impon.mce of cullic wcH"ship are the two main mes.'lages of the text.
\Ve.o;termann 1985. 457-458, Sama 1989, 199200.
Sama 1989. 201. The ;;:ro~ may <~ lso be u nderstood as a 'wiLO&-"S.'i' to jacob's dream
vision. w, 1965.437. In v. 22 the .sume L'l hence gi"en the same n.ame a.. <1 Lhe
place, cf., vv. 17, 19.
See also HM 12:4b 5 {vv. 5b-6a in the Mn: "'He met him l)acobl at Bdl1t'l, and there
he spoke with him. The LORD the God of hosts, the LORD is his !lame !"'
See Kikker! 2007, 57, Westerma nn 1983, 452 451. and S.H'n.l 1989, 199, and 398-400.
Etiological n.uratives are m.~quen l in Genesis. The ntuning of a pLace is often de!iCribed as a rt-spon...e to a d ivine 1-evelation. See Gen 16: 14; 22:14: 32: 1 2. 30, and 35:7,

l40 The n umbeing of the verses d iffers between the MT and NRSV; Gen 31:53 in the
N RSV co1Tesponds to Gen .n: I in !he MT. II n ot 1''111-.ewL.::e s tated, the following discus.o;ion adheres to the NRSV.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

Before we a nalp.e the n arrative, Jet us begin by taki ng a look at the

context of this incident. In Gen 32:1 ~3 we read that w hen Jacob departs
from Laban, he m eets a ngels of God, C';'i7K ~,:.:7;,. Wh en Jacob sees them
he exclaims " ... This is God's camp!" As a result of this experience,
jacob names the place 'Mahanaim'. Jacob's reaction tells us that the
encounter '"'as not '"rith ordinary h uman messengers but with angels o f
God. As rnentioned above, besides Gen 28:12 this is the only occurrence
of the expression o~;,?~ '':0:7;:a in Genesis a nd it has the m eaning in
both cases; it is d ivin e beings/a ngels whorn Jacob meel4i a nd not the
specific ' angel of the lord 1 w ho is ah,.ays referred to in the singular.
\Vestem1ann in terprets the name Mahanaim as referring to God's pm..
er; jacob is \VQrried because Qf the impending confro ntation with his
brother and is met by God's host/ann y, most probably signifying d ivine protection.w In the same way as the d eparture o f Jacob fTom th e
land of his b irth was marked by the appearance of angels, so too is his
retun1 to his native la n d . ~'Z
\'Vhen Jacob that Esau is coming toward him with 400 men, he
is terrified and prays to God for help, vv. 9-12. His supplication recalls
God's promises of land. prote<:tion, blessing, and prosperity in Gen
28:13-15 as well as God's/thc angel of God's exhortation to retum
home, cf., C,cn 32:9 and 31:3, 13.
There is also an obvious connection between Gen 32:2730 a nd 35:9
15, the second narrative about Jacob becoming Israel. ln spite of the fact
that Hos 12:3-5 (tv!T vv. 4-6) will be treated later on, it must be stated
here that the prophet makes an allusion to the trad ition(s) of jacob's
encounter with God/the angel o f God 14J as relatet.i in both of the above-mentioned pericopes.1.w
Let us now consider jacob's n ightly confrontation w ith the un
kn own man in Gen 32:22-32. A common scholarly view is that the story
has a my thological origin; th e fo lkloristic legend about a river-d emon
trying to prevent a traveler from crossing ilc; domain . The narrative in
Genesis 32 is su pposed to be a reworking of this my th in order to make
it compatible with Israel's monothei.'ilic faith .......
Accord ing to \V estermann, even in its present form the story is to
be u nderstood in this way. In h is interpretation, the man/ttrx w ho wres~

14l \".>'e..,termaiUl 1985. 505. See alw Sam.a 1989. 223.

142 See als.o KOckert 2f.XY7, SS-59, Alter 1996, 177, and Sarna 1989, 223.
14.3 Cf ... Hos l2:4(v.S in theMT).
l44 See also!er 1977,3419-3.150, and Hayn'clrd 2005, 18-24.
145 See Vawter 1977,349, HamcU'i 2004,86-93, Ha>ward 2003,25, We.-.termam 1985, S IS,
and Sama 1989. 403.



ties with Jacob is not God, but 'a divine being', 'a d emon'.w. \\'ester
mann takes the fact that the assailant shuns the daylight as proof of his
demonic identity; God does not fea r the dav.m.rr Moreover, the God
w hom Jacob had invoked in prayer could not possibly be the o ne who
attacked hirn. On the contrary, Jacob's victory over the demon is God's
answer to his prayer for divine intervention.Nil
Another interpretation of the text is to identify Jacob's contender as
an angel of God .l.&9 This view is represented by/ for example, Sam a,
w ho point~ out that, because he blesses Jacob, the antagonist cannot be
a demon, a conclusion I find reasonable.'30 As Hamori remarks, it is
indeed very telling that \..Vestermann finally p uts the word ' blessing'
wi thin quotation marks in his discussion of the narrative, because it
docs not fit in ""'i th his d emon interpretation.'s In support o f his identi
fication o f the contend er, Sama also refers to Hosea 12 and other bibli
cal accoun ts where the designations tt.'"'~ ' man' and/or C':i?~ ' divine
beings' arc used for angels; Genesis 1819; josh 5:13-15, and judges
13.mThe last argument is we..1k, since these biblical references arc high
ly ambiguous, all of them belonging to ' the angel of the lord-texts'.'"
Sarna connects Jacob's wrestling bout with his return to the Prom
ised Land and the subsequent confrontation with Esau, as the river

146 We.<>termann 1985. 515-5 18. We!O-tem1ann and Vawter (19i7, J.19) inrerpret the word
C'"K in Genesis 32 !l..<l meaning 'son~ne. Vawter concludes that in v. 3t it bt.~conws
... quite d ear that a super-human, Cod-like dtarac1e.r is the one with w hom }.1cob
hasconte nded at the )lbbok.''
147 Weste rmann, 1985, 521. West ~rmann (19fl5. 5 1 ~517) also refers to Exod 4:24-26,
w he re it is stated tha t YHWH a ttaC".ked Moses a t night. He claims that the referen ce
to YHW H is seconday and thBI the <~ llaclcer was originally a demon, see .,IS() the
dis.::u..<~sion of th is text in chapter2.
148 We..<>termann 1985, 521.
149 See a lso Hamotl2004, 93.
150 S..'lma 1989, 403. See a lso KOckert {2007, 60-61) who 1-emarks 11Mt demon.c; do not
usually give bl es.<~ings. H o~'1ever, KQcke rt q ueS-tions the identification of Jacob's opponent as an angel since jllcob' s new name !l..<l well as his -eaclion reoorded in v. 30
[311 " . .. For I have seen GoJ f.1ce to f.~a. .. " implies th at he had struggled with none
l')the than C'.od Himself.
15t Hamori 2004, 94. A Ml"ll'e likely varhmt of the 'demon-interpretation' is to 1'eo:l d the
SlOt)' ps)chologically: Jarob w ~slles with his ''inl\e l'~d~mort.c;.. (as well as God) a t
night; i.e., his conscience and fears. w hen faced w ith the impending confront.ltion
w ith Esau. See al<~o Aller 1996, 18 1. Walters ( 1992. 605} inferprets Jacob's \'' re$1ling
bout a t Jabbok as ~presenlii\S his struggle ,.,ilh both men {Esau, laban, Isaac) and
C'.od thmughQut his life. At jllbbok. Jacob forced to face his own dl a l'.~cter, his
rel!llions with other people a.<1 well as '''ith Clxl.
152 S..'lma 1989, 22'7-228. 383-384, 40.1. and 4 14.
153 See also KOcke tt 2007,61-62.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

)abbok constitutes a border of the fu ture land of Israel.'" The angel

who tries to prevent jacob from crossing the river is thus none other
than Esau's celestial patron, cf., Dan 10:13, 20-21 and the LXX Dcut 32:8.
By renaming and blessing jacob, his opponent acknov~.rJedges him as
the rightful heir to the land. Jacob has thus nothing to fear when he
fi nally meets his brother.'~
As mentioned above, together with Genesis 18, Hamori regards the
story o f Jacob's physical combat with the unknmvn man as an
p hany', the appearance of God in the concrete, physical fo rm of a man,
an interpretation that I find likely. The d ivine st.1tus of this man is indi
cated by several details in the text. He has the authority to bless jacob
as well to give h im a new name, lsraeJ:nr.


(Cen 32:20) Then he fthe man) said., "l.e t me gu, for the day is b reaking ."
But Jacob said, " 1 will n ot let yuu go, un le.~.. you b le:=os me." (27') 5<) he said
to him, "\'Vhat is your name?" And he said, " ja<."t)b." (28] Then the man
said, "You s:ha11 n o l()ng:er be c.aHed Jacob. But Israel. fur you have striven
with Q >d and with humans, and have p revailed.N/11ll!l 1\~ "\t!K"' JV!I" x'? "\t!K''I
m,,,i'll orz."~ o.:.., o;m 0!1 n1e' :> ~1?S' OR :>

lt is not o nly the authority to rename Jacob which demonstrates the

divine nature o f the man but also the significance o f the new name
itself. The explanation given in v. 28 indicates that Israel means 'he
strives with God' .1ss Harnori refutes the argument that the \Vord o~ii'K
in this context may signify 'divine beings/ since it is used as an equivalent to 7s, 'God{EI', in v. 28 (v. 29 in the MT). Hov.rever, Jacob's question
in v. 29 may still expres..c.o his d oubts concerning the identity Qf his op
ponent, perhaps he still wonders w hat kind o f o~ii?#divine being he
really is:1""
(Cen 32.:29) Then Jamb a.sked h im, "Please, tell mt! your name." But he
said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" A nd there he b1es..'ied him. (30) Su

154 S..'lma 1989, 103. See also Num 2 1:24: Deut 2:37;3:16; j\lSh 12:2. and Judg 11: 13, 22.
l!).1- Sarna 1989, 4011. Acco.'ding to Sarna {1989, 227). the bestowal ol the name Israel
constitutes th e blessing of Jacob, but there is no general oon..'ICit.~u..c; Cl) nce.m ing this

156 See 11lso Hamori 2004, 8283. Hamori compares this renaming of Jacob with Hos 1:6-2: I {v. 3 in the Mn. As will be shm'ln belm'l, Jarob/brael has been be.<ttowed w ith a
kind of angelic character in some e.:wly Jewi~h sources,. see al!iO Gie~hen 1998.
157 Verse 29 in the tviT.
l58 Howe\er, in names formed by ' verb (in this case :iii:/ ' strhe{struggle/contend')
oombined with the dhine element ""'!god', God is usually th e subject of the acli<tn.
not its indite<:l object. heni.X! 'Clld s trives'. See illso Sarna 1989, 26. Tile meaning of
this name has been much debated, see below.
159 See also Hamori 2004,85-86.


jacob called the p1ac~ Peniel, saying . "For I hm~ ::;een Cod fa c~ to face, and
vet my 1ife is pre.wrved."/ 0')!1 ~ : !' 0':1'?~ 'li'K"'' '' 71\')!1 z:n;m:1 Dl!l ~p XV''

l (JI),'V!Il '?~ml

When Jacob/Israel asks for the man's name, he re<:eives no reply (v. 29).
Bruce Vawter cornpares the man's refusal to tell hie; narne with God's
crypt ic a nswer to Moses in Exod 3:14: "I AM WHO I AM."'" After the
man has left. Jacob/Israel names the place Peniel, 'face of God', since he
is shake n by the experience that he has met God in person and yet sur
v ived. This reminds us of Hagar's reaction a fter seeing the a ngel of the
Lord.. Gen 16:13, as well asQf the name of the well, v. 14.'eu
According to Hamori, the man's coun ter question in Gen 32:29
'1Vhy is it that you ask my name?" and his b lessing o f Jacob fim,lly
cQntiml h is iden tity as God Himse lf. Furthermore, she cla ims that Ja
cob's naming of the place Pe nie/ cannot be separated from his exclama
t ion in v. 30 "For I have seen God [0';"17R] face ld face/' once more o:"'7R is
used as a n equivalent to 7K,/J.Itu
jacob's reaction in v. 30 clearly indicates that the narrative in its
p resent fonn describes a meeting with GOli.'MThe patriarch's wonder
that he is still alive must be seen in the light of the Israelite conviction
that no man can see God's face and live, compare Exod 33:20, where
God says to Moses.. " .. . you cannot see my face a nd live, for no one
shall see me a nd live.''IK> However, the case o f Moses is highly ambiguous, because in Exod 33:11 it is stated that " ... the Lord used to speak
to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a frie nd,'' a nd in Deu t 34:10
Moses is said to have been exceptional in this regard . Hamori daims
that the stories of Jacob a nd Abraham in Genesis 18 and 32 simila rly
describe an intimate relationship with God. She further points o u t that
in both narratives God confim1s His p romises to the patriarchs.'(,(,
Jacob's naming of the place and the wQrd o~l~ -'face' in v. 30 (31) is a
key-word.t67 It denotes perwnal p resence, in this case divine presence.l611 To seek God's face is to seek His presence.'""'




the r...rr.
Vawter 1977. 351.
Cf.. Gideon's exda m~lti on in Judg 6:22.
Hamori 2001, 77, 8386. Cf.. the di$C\J~s.ion <li the ang,~li c name Phanuel. ~ee clMpter 2.
S..~e a ls.o K& ke rt 2007, 61.
See also Murphy 1989, 3il.
Hamori 2004,130132,. 189-190.
See a lso Ham ori 2004,83-86.
Sem.,. 1 99~. 609.
See, e.g . Ps 105:3.
Ver~e 3 1 in


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

TI1e phrases tn!l '~ O'J!:I a nd 11un:~~:t O"l!l 'face to face' are only used in
the Bible to denote humandivine encoun tcrs.m. Th at the expression
signifies the Deity in person is shown in Exod 33:14 16:m
(v. 14) l-Ie (G(>dJ said "My presence [0')!) lit. ' face' ] wi11 go w ith you, and I
will give you res:t:'' (v. 15] And he [ Mo~s] $aid to him, '1 f yo ur pri.'S(!JJCe
(O'J!)] will n ot go, d u not carry us up fmm here.
16) For how shall it be
knuwn that I have found fa\or in your sight, I an d yuur pt!Ople, unless !fJ"
go with us-? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people ... 17.l


In these verses, the presence [D'JO) of God is said to go w ith the people
and God is depicted as personally accompanying them bu t, in Deut
4:37, YHWH is said to have Jed His people ou t o f Egypt with (by means
of) His O,j!l:
And because he luved your ancestors, he ch use their d el;cend anl'> after
them. He b rought yo u ()Ut uf Egypt with his o wn presence [l'l ~:! J, by hi.s
great power ...

According to O loonleQng Seow, in Lhis c~1se the c~H represents the

d iv ine presence a nd not lite rally God in person. He concludes: "Th e
Heb rew Bible uses the term panim to speak of the presence o f God,
sometimes obliq uely: the pani'rn either is, or reprt"SeJJ/s, the appearance
of the d e i ty.'' r~ Thus if Seow is to be believed, the D'J:> ' presence' of God
in Dcut 4:37 p lays a role simila r to ' the angel of the Lord' in many texts,
see, for example, Exod 23:2024. However, in my opinion, the difference
between Exod 33:14-16 a nd Deut 4:37 is very subtle and many schola rs
interpret the la tte r passage as also referring to God in person, as will be
shown in section 3.3.
The meaning o f Jacob's new name 'Israel'/'~,rv has been much dis
cussed in scholarly circles. The expla nation provided in v. 28 (29) indi~
cates that it means ' he strives/contend s \Vith God', although most prolr
ably God is to be u nderstood as the subject of the verb ~'t>
'strive/contend ', hence 'God strives'.Its However, additional e tymol<r
gies o f the name have also been suggested, for examp le a de rivation of

liO Sl~e Deut 3:4.

l7l Scow 1995, 609. Sec also Sarna 1989, 228.
172 See also Seow 1995,611.
l73 cr.,. the LXX rranslalion of !he word i n Exod 33: IS: '-nn-o; aU 'you yourself'.
174 Seow 1993, &:fi613, e.<>p. p. 6 12.. See also the dL<~cus..<>ion of Exodus, Judgt'S, and Isaiah
below (w ith 'eSard to Isaiah 63, see al<~o chapter2).
l75 This verb is mo.<~t unus.ual and o nly found he1-e and in Hos 12..'4. Ito> meaning i$ con
tentious. Some s.:holars suggest that its proper m e.m ing L'l 'ha\e d ominion.. l'l.lle ',
rhus the -!lame as ;-J<i/ ;;;:;,see above and the no te below. Hence Aller (1996, 182) un
der!-lt.mds Lhe 1'-'lm e as meaning ' God will rule' or 'God h'ill prevail.' See al'>l) Sam a
1989, 405.




the verb 1l::i, a byform of

meaning ' rule, direct, act as a prince,
have dominio n', an interpretation based on Hos 12:5, compare Judg
9:22 and Hos 8:4.176 As will be shown belm..., this u nderstanding of the
name Israel seems to be implied in, for example, the LXX and the Tar
gums.m The Hebrew roo t,~, 1 to be upright' has also been discussed by
modem exegetes in this context. The narrative in Genesis 32 is then
u nderstood as a description of the patriarch's trans formation from the
deceitful Jacob into the up right IsraeJ.1711 Philo related the name to 'seemeaning ' to sec' . l$l
ing God', thus connecting it to either 11'):110 or
The LXX rendering o f the event is slightly different to that of the


ICen 32:24(2.5)] And Jacub was ltdt alone; a nd a man wre..a!f'd with h im
(bulAmtv Llvflt,x.m u~ p e t ' mJToUJ ti11 the morning . (28{29)) And ht! said to
him, yu ur name shall n o longf'r be- called Jat()b, but Is-rae) shall be yo ur
name, f<)r y<lu Jwv~ }ncr.vrHtd! been sfrt'mglstrcngfhene~l yourself wiflt Cot/,
[i:vioxt.' tu:t.; p nit o ~:oV) and with m e n (y uu are) migMylpOwi.'rful (Ktti p nit
(ivOt,x.'!muv 6uvan~~1 ~'~1 J. (30(31)1 And Jacob called tOO na m e of that place
the Ja~elviSil!le fomrlshape of Cod (Eibu; 6toUJ; for {he saidj I h a ve seen G()d
fae(? to face (>tw yt\Q E>tbv m]< v 7tQI'~ it(J('xJc.movJ and my life was
pre$erved .

Interesting ly enough, there are some late text witnesses of the LXX
w hich have IAyytAog'angel' ins tead of a v9QW7lo.;fman ' in V . 24 (25).
This reading is probably an interpretation influenced by the reference
to an angel in Hosea 12 but it is not attested in the o ldest and most reliable manuscripto;.ll Hayward, with reference to M. Harl, points out

176 Sever.-.! scholars thus d eive the vebal fo rm ,,_..,. in Hos 12:5 from the root men


I i9


tioned above and pmpo$e thnt the Cl'll'rect translation i.<1 "he had dominion'", <~ I
though it is und ear \Vho had dominion ll Ver w hom, jacob M the <~ngel. See Hamori
2004, 79-80, .1nd Sarna 1989,400.
In the Ta rgum~ jaoob/IMael is enlitled 'a p1ince of God', see belo-w.
See Samtl 1989, 105, who po-ints out lhat lsraeiJ)acob is used S}'I\OI\)'MQusly v1ilh
Jes.hurun in Deut 32:15: 33d5, 26, .1nd l'ia 44:2. Vawh.~ (19i7, 35 1) concludes lhalth~
purpose of the oa''''lti\'e is to demonstr.ue tha t Jaoob w<~s a man 1\0t only nuuked by
Sti'US&Iing with men., i.e . . Laban and E.ooau, but had also contended w ith God and
pte\'<liled, re..<1ulling in a transformaliml of his personality. However, <IS Alter (1996,
182) f>11ints out. it is noteworthy thnl the p.~~ t riMch's new name {lsr<~e l) does not replace the old one (Jacob) completely (<IS is the case with Abram/Abraham) but in
ste.ld berome." a synonym for ir, see, e.g., Gen 49:2.
Thus. 7K:iK'I <i"l\ .. Israel. a man seeing Cod'.
See Sarna 1989, 4Cl'4-405, and Hayward 20()5, 2i28. Sa- a ls.o lhe discussion of Philo's
int~rprelal'ion of the pericope below.
Some MSS add lte 1~ tml 'yoo shall be', see Wevers (ed.) 1974, text critical note to the
LXX Ge.n 32:2fl.
See Wevers 1974,3 14. See also Hayward 2005, 5..~.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

that the most common meanin g of the Greek preposition peT1 is ' in
company with/together with' ra ther than agains t, w hich indicates the
pos..~ibility that the LXX translators wished to imply tha t the man w restled with/alongside Jacob against some u nmentioned foel 1l!J an interpre-tation I find fa rfetch ed.
It is obvious, however, that the meaning of v. 2R (29) is ambigu ous,
in the words o f Hayward, " ... Has Jacob been strong w ith God in the
sense of p revailing over him; or has he s trengthened h imself with the
help o f God, and, as a result, gained power over men?" '""
The verb i:-vt(rxUnv used in this verse also occurs in, fo r cxarnple,
Deu t 32:43, w here we find it in an exhortation to the angels o f God to
"be strong w ith/ in God''. According to Hayward, the use of the same
verb in Gen 32:28 may imply that the name/ title Israel has a kind of
angelic status/dimension . I ~G
The designation of the p lace as ' face/fo rm o f God'/Eibo.; e eou in v.
30 (31) is obviously a literal transla tion o f the Hebrew name Peniel,
compa re with the re nde ring of Bethel as ' house of God', see above. This
translation forges a n etymological link to the following verb elbov 'I
have seen.' 1l!i> The LXX version of our pericope echoes God's words to
Moses in Exod 33:18-20, thus implying that the name Israel has to d o
with the exceptional ability to see God's face.IJS:
The sto ries in Genesis 18 and 32 have simila rities with the account
in jud ges 13, in which an angel is rnentionet.i . As in Genesis 18 a nd 32,
the divine messenger in ju dges 13 appears in hu man fonn. ln Judg
13:17, Manoah asks for th e visitor's name but receives the answer "\Vh y
do you ask my name? It is too \Vonderful", a parallel to th e man1 s response to Jacob's question in Gcn 32:29.111$ Th is par~11lel is even more
evident in a gloss in some LXX versions of the latter verse, where the
man adds "and it (the name] is to be wonde red at", a ren dering \"thich
is most proba bly a n a tte rnpt to ide ntify Jacob's un kn0\'111 contender in
the light of Ju dges 13 .111\1 The word s of Manoah to his wife in v. 22 echo

183 H.:lyward 2005, 59.

184 Hayward 2005, 62. See als..J Hamori 2004, 76-77.
185 S..."t' Ha)ward 2<:a:i, 64-66. HByward (2005, 28) a lso noles that the foml of the new name
i.'l reminisrent of the likewise theophol'ic names of the great angels.; Mid1ael., Gabriel.
Raphael. and Uriel. a l'e!iemblaoce tha i also may ind icate l~raet'sangel ic status.
l86 Hayward 2005, 67.
l87 Hayward 2005. 67-70. He also refets to the LXX rendering of Exod 24: 10, 17 with the
word dOO;, s ignifying lhe vis ion of God's gl01y . See a l$0 Hamori 2004, 1 ~132.
l88 See \ Vestennann 1985,5 18.
t89 See Hayw.a1d 2005, 66-67, a nd We\ers 1993, 544.



the reactions of jacob/Israel and Hagar in Gen 32:30 and 16:13 respect ively: " ... \Ve shall sure ly d ie, for we have seen God [a;,"; I\). " 190
Many schola rs thus that the account in Judges 13 is a key
to understanding the complex texts in Genesis 16i 18 and 32, a nd vice
versa. The connections between the pericopes indicate that the stories
about the mysterious men in Genesis 18 and 32 should be interpreted in
the light of 'the an gel of the Lord traditions'.'"
However, as mentioned previously, the only two narratives in the
Bible that Hamori classifies as so-.called ~' iS theophanies' a rc Abraham's
and Jacob's e ncounters with God in Genesis 18 a nd 32.'"'2 In her view,
these two stories d istinguish themselves from, for example, judges 13,
by ,.,.hat she defines as ~ realistic anthropomorphism'; the man who
confronts jacob at the ford of Jabbok physically wrestles wi th h im. The
myste rious stranger is not supematurally strong a nd it is stated " that
he s...1.w that he could not prevail against Jacob ... '' In the case of Genesis
18, the three men gladly eat the food that Abraham offers them.'"
Although the 'angel of the Lord' in Judges 13 is designated W"K 'a
man',').! described in bo th Judges 6 1"'!1 a nd 13 as havin g a physical h u ~
man form and initially believed to be a fellow h u man by Gid eon as
well as by Manoah and his wife, he does not e ngage in sud l human
behavior as eating or w restling. In contrast to the men in Gen 18:5-8,
the a ngel of the Lord does not eat the food offered by Gid eon and Ma
noah, see judg 6:1921 a nd 13:15-20.'"
Hamori a lso points o ut other differen ces beh...een the pericopes, for
examp le, the use of the tcm1 11\7tt ' angel/ messenger' in Judges 6 and

190 Gen 32:3 1 in the ~IT. See also Judg 6:2223:




(221 Then Cideon perceived that it was the angel of the LORD.' and Ckteon said,
'Help me, Lmd God! For I have seen the angel of the tord face to fare.. )oJ~ 71'> o~ J .
(231 But the LORD Solid to him. "Peace be to you; do not fear, you s hall not die:"
Gies.chen 1998, 57-69. See alsoS)I'i!n 2CXX>, 247-251.
H.1mori 2004,1-8, 133-190.
SeeGen32:2S: IS:S.S,and Hamori 200-i, 18, 14 1-155.
See Judg 13:6,8-11. Note, however, lhat the designation 'mant man of God' in the
story de.wly renects Manoah's and his wife's mis.amception of the ide ntity of the
angel of the Lord. II is not the perspective of the n.UTator, see, e.g., Judg 13:3, 9, 13,
15 16. In the ltal'ra tivc, it is no until vv. 20-22 tha t Manoah and his wife realize his
true identity.
In Judges 6 the ongel l') f the ll"ll'd is never design.ated as ' a man'. H1)wever, in addi
tion hl Gene.o;is 18 and 32, the dhrine emi.o;sa ty \,.oho n~1s Joshua (chapter 5) L<1 also
referred to as 'a man, see beiO\\'.
Hamori 2004. 14 115$. Howeve1, s he admits that the IUII'ratives in Cenesis 19; Judges
13. and Josh S: 13 15 are dosely related to the' ' i?> theophany te)(tS-'.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

13,.,. w hich in her vie\v leaves us in no doubt concerning the "man's"

identity; he is an angel. not God in person. Hamori consequently inter~
prets Manoah's exclamation in v. 22 as a refe re nce to the vision o f a
divine being, since in the previous verse Manoah had just realized that
the heavenly visitor was the a ngel of the Lord.196 Finally, she also re*
marks that, in both Ju dges 6 a nd 13, the angel o f the Lord vanishes
from sight in a highly superhuman manner, see Judg 6:21 a nd 13:20:
"\<\'hen the flame went u p toward heaven frorn the altar, the angel o f
the LORD ascend ed in the fla rne of the altar \\1h ile ~vfanoa h and h is v~.rife
looked on ... 1'1'.1
I only partly agree with Harnori's reasoning. \'Vh ile it is true that
the anthropomorphic character o f the theophanies in Genesis 18 and 32
could be labeled as more ooncrete a nd realistic than the encounters
with the a ngel of the Lord in Judges 6 and 13, w ho neither eats nor
p hysically wrestles with a nyone, there is an obvious a rnbivalence benveen God a nd His angel/messenger in the two latter pericopes. There
a re no dear d istinctions bet\veen the "angel" a nd God.2uu
In my view, her argument in support of the u nderstan d ing of c~:i'X
as . divine being' in Judg 13:22 b ut not in Gcn 32:30 is inadequate. It is
indeed remarkable that both Gid eon and Manoah react in a similar way
to Jacob and are amazed that they are still alive after seeing the a ngel of
the Lord/God. Gideon even uses the same phrase as jaoob, C'J!l ;~ 0'~.. a n
e.xpress:ion that appears to be reserved fo r d ivine--human en counters.2u

Jacob's Rctu m to Bethel ..m d the Blessing of His Grandsons

jacob's pilgrimage to Betl1el

As mentioned above, according to Gen 31:13, the angel o f God orders
jacob to retum to the land o f his birth, which is the contextual back
ground of chap te r 35; Jacob and his fa mily have reached Canaan after a



e.g... Judg 6: 11 -12. 20-2t, and 13:9, 13, 21. h is n.l~ ooh~wothy that in Judges 6,
the angel of the Lord/Cod i!t never de!tignated 'man'/ :.:rx.

198 Haml'll'i 2001, 145-146.

199 The departures of the angel of the Lord in these stories thus diffe from Cod's less
spee1.acutar d ep.atures in Cenel'iiS 32 nnd 18. See Hamori 2004, 143-150.
200 See. e .g., Judg 6:12, 14, 16, 20, and 13:20-23. HamcU'i's rea...c1oning (2004. 153-155) appears s lightly contradictory, as s he seems to .1dm it that the1'e L~ indeed .an ambiguous
rel.:1tiooship between YH\VH and His angel in the BibJe and writes on p. l55: "This
may be a particular manner of -efe-ence to a theophany, or m.ay be the 1-esu ll of the
angelic role in some texts having been blurred with Y.ahweh himself."
201 See above and Seow 1995, 609.



long journey (Gen 33:1 8). By now, jacob has been confronted by the
mysterious " man" w ho wrestJed with him at the ford of Jabbok, Gen
32:22-32. He and his brother Esau have also been reconciled, chapter 33.
Now, when Jacob has come home to his land, God again reminds
him to fulfill the vow that he made in Bethel, see Gen 28:20-22; 31:13.
We read in Gen 35:1-3:
(Cen 35:l J God (O':"'i~) $aid h) jaa:lb, "Ari~e. go up to &llul (~ nJj and
~ttl e there. Afak~ tm t/Uar thtr~ to tile G:11l [i16J.lll! wiltJ llp}l('art~l to ytm wheu
yc)u flcil frtJm yfmr IJrothe:r E.~au ... (2J So jacob said to his household and to all
who were w ith him, "Put away the foreign gods that a re among you, and
purify yourSelves, and change y<>ur clothes; f3) Then come, let us go up ft)
Gdhd, tluff 1 may mak~ m1 lllftrr there to Ill~ G'Hl (iK'?J,lll.l w!Jl,lmSwcrerrl m~ in the
day ofmy tli.stress mullrns b~eu willl me Ulft~ret't"rlluroc ,~tmc."

The words in Gen 35:1b; " .. . the God, who appeared to you when you
fled from your brother Esau," clearly allude to the divine revelation in
Genesis 2S. In this vision, God promised Jacob a safe retum; "KnO\"-'
that I am v~tith you and will keep you '".'herever you go, and will bring
you back to this land ... " (Cen 28:15). God exhorts jacob to make an
altar to God/EI in Bethel, the place of the revelation, a symbo lic act to
prove Jacob's fulfillment of his vow. The wording of this verse is
somewhat puzzling; why does God/Eiohim refer to God/EI in the l11ird
person, as to someone distinct from Himself?
jacob apparently acknowledges that God has kept his promise, v. 3,
and that the time has now come for the fulfillment of his own vow,
namely that YHWH should be his God, cf., Gen 28:20-21. lL seems as if
Jacob consid ers the divine encoun ter in Genesis 28 as an answer to his
prayers. Here, the use of the designation ' EI' for God is not coinciden..
tal, as it is a component of the name Be th el.~,..
Tn order to fulfill his vow, Jacob orders his household to purify
themselves"" and get rid of all their foreign gods as a sign o f loyalty to
YHWH. The journey to Bethel has the character o f a pilgrimage to a
holy site.~16 Jacob goes there to commemorate his first encounter with
In Gen 35:5 we read that God once more protected jacob on his
journey. The protection was greatly needed, because of the conflict with

202 In the r..rr, lhe definite form Lc; u ~: lilerally: "lo Ott G111f w ho appeared h l you in
Bethel .. this Cod was.alceady known lo Jacob, hence the use of the definite arlide.
203 A lso he1't' the Hebrew u$1.'$ the d efi1t ite article.
2().1 Sama 1989, 239.
205 Cf., Exod 1 ~101 I and Josh 3:5. S..~e .llso Snrn.a 1989, 2-10.
206 Westermann 1985, 550, S.wn.a 1989, 2.)9


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

Shechem an d his father on account of Dinah, Jacob's only daughter

(Gen esis 34). jacob and his company eventually arrive i11 Bethel:
(Cen 35:6J Jacob came to Luz (that is? &thel), which is in the land of Canaan. he and all the pe()ple who were with him, [7] and th~re he built analtar an d ca1Jed the plac~ (Dli'1l:'1)1fl7!-1Jdhd. riK 1'0 iKl because it was there
that Cod had revealed himself to him fD':'liN.'l l'iN l;.)l ov "') when he Aed
from his brother.

According to Gen 28:18, jacob erected a :U"J:O but there is no reference to

an "'!tar in the text Now, after he has retumed safely home, Jacob
builds a n altar in thanksgiving and honor of the God who appeared to
him a nd since then has protected him. The altar is built in memory and
celebration of h is first encounter with God.
As shown in the q uotation~ the Hebrew text of v. 7 is rather stn mgc;
w hy is the verb :'i' l ' to appear/ reveal' rendered in the pluml fo rrn?
o'O'?x;;/' lhe God/the gods/d ivine beings'""' is of course grammaticali)'
p lural but in meaning usually singu lar, at least w hen the reference is to
the God of Israel. Accordingly, the verb refe rring to God is usually in
the singular form, with few exceptions, e.g., Gen 20:13. Most probably
the verb in f'.cren 35:7 in the same way as in Gen 20:13, is singu lar in
meaning.:!119 Gen 35:7 was cons idered a dangerous pas.sage by the early
rabbis/ since the grammatical plural of the verb referring to God invited
heresies \"-1hich questioned the u nity of God and introduced the idea
that God was assisted by a "second Deity" when creating the lo:orld .lo
Sa.rna interprets v. 7 as a reference to J!Je angels, w ho, according to
Gen 28:12, \ve nt up a nd down on the lad der. According to Sarna, the
word c~:-n~ thus rneans 'divirze beings' in this context, a n interpretation
that I fi nd doubtful."' &lmaritanus, the LXX, Peshitta, and the Vulg.,te
all render the verb in v. 7 in the singular form. l.n the LXX, Gcn 35:7b is
rendered as follows:
. .. Kal i:,.UtAtutv -.:0 c)vuptt ml1 ; {muu, Bmf>r\A i: ~ti yit(;> i:nt<~<lvq nlm~ b
Cit(~ .. ./ ...

and he [Jacob) called the name of that place Bethel, bl!cauf.;e

there (the) God had appeared tu him .. .:!u

207 Here Ihe Hebrew word




cerlainly also means ' holy site', see above and Sarna

1989. 240.
Again, lhe definite fmm i<~ us...~ lilerally: " . .. be<ause llure /Jit <A.1 appeared to him .. ."
See also We~tetmilnn 1985, 552. Cf., also Cen 1:26.
See II. s.mltl!,triu 38b and Segal 1977, 12 1-134, ..n-73. Olher scl'iplural ve1"SeS u~ed by
the heretics in s uppi)f1 ol lheir lht.>olog)' were e.g., Gen I :12.. 26-27; 11:5-7: 19:24;
Oeull:7: 2 Sam 7:23-24, .rm d Dcm 7!9-14.
S.1ma 1989,24 1.
Note that L'()( here use.<~ the name Bethel. contray to iL.:; rendeing of Genesi~ 28 and 31.




points out that the verb used in this verse, tnu:palvc.,, is very
u nusual in the LXX Pentateuch and is o nly employed in two additional
texts, both o f which d escribe a n epiphany of God. In the first perioope,
N um 6:25, the divine e piphany is connected to the priestly blessing of
Israel and, in the second text. Deut 33:2, God is, according to the LXX,
accomp anied by a ngels/ compare Genesis 28. Hayward thus concludes
that, in the mind of the LXX translators, jaco-b's dream in Bethel was a n
epiphany, and the appearance o f God seems to be conne<:ted to b lessing
(cf., Gen 35:915) and the presence o f angels."'
In Gen 35:9 it is said th.>t God appears once more to jacob and
blesses hirn. In verse 10 God says to jacob:
ICen 35:10) .. . "Yuur n ame is Jacub; no )()nger shall yo u be ca1led jacob, but
Israel shall be yuur name." 5() he was called lsraePU

This is an ech o of Gen 32:28/ as here God oonfi mls jacob's new name
w hen he a rrived in the Promised Lan d .m According to S..1ma, it was
not God in person w ho changed jacob's name the first time (Gen 32:2S)
bu t an angel. The new name therefore neeti s to be confiml ed a nd vali
dated by God Himself."' jacob is Israel, the a ncesto r of the people of
lsrael. Thus, the following verses (vv. 11 12) concem d ivine promises
on a n ation a l levef.:!17

God in trod uces Himself in Gen 35:11 as ,,\/1 '?1</' EI Shad dai' ." ' This
divine e pithet is tra nslated in the NRSV as 'God Almig hty'. Th e origi
nal meaning of the d ivine "narne" may have been 'God of the \\filder~
nes...c;/Moun tain' but its etymology and meaning a re the subject o f de~
bate.2'9 Jt is consistently used in the Bible as a n e pithet fo r YH\+VH, with
the sole exception of job 19:29.-"'1

21.\ Hayw.ud2005. 81-90.

214 The name Israel may me.ln 'he w ho sees God.' Ol' ' he w ho !i-ll'ives w ith God', .,l.
though it is more likely that God is the subjt_<:t of the verb, hence cod strives or
cod I'U ie~. see the discus..<>ion of the name ablwe.
215 jacob's struggle w ith the unki\O\~n man in Cenes:Lc; 32 and his subsequent renaming
t<lke.<~ p lace on the othe side of the jordan. See also S.1ma 1989, 242.
216 Sama 1989, 24 1-242. C f., the inte rpretation of Gen 35d0 in Rabbi11ic midrash, see
chapter 1.5 below.
217 Being the ance.'itor, jacob/Israel is a common Cllllecthe deslgnation for the people.
See, for example. Deut 32:9; jer 10:25; 30:7; Isa 10:'21-23; 29:22-23; 40:27; 4 I :8-14: 43:1
5, 22: .J.I: 15, 21-2.1; 48:12:49:5-6, e t at. See also WaHe1'S 1992. 607-608.
218 Cf., Exod 6:3, where C'.od says to Moses: "'I appea'i!d to Abraham, Isaac, and jacob,
a~ God AlmigMy, [1e '; xl but by my name' the LORD rYH WH)' I d id Ollt make myself
known to them :
219 Knauf 1995. 1416. See a lso Sarna 1989. 384-385. Based on his observation of th~ Ol;.
curence of the divine epithet in the Bible. Sama oondudes that El Shaddai i.s a very
ancient designation of God in th e lsr.lelite retigio1\. lo the LXX, El Shaddai' in Gen


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

TI1e w:;e of this divine epithet in Gen 35:11 connects o ur pericope to

Gen 28:3-4. w here Isaac prayed that "May God Almigllty [EI Shad dai]

bless you Uacob] ..."God now answers Isaac's prayer concerning his
son, Gen 35:11 12. These verses a re reminiscent of God's p romises in
Gen 17:1-8, in which God also designated Himself 'EI Shaddai' and
dlanged Abram's name to Abraham, a pa rallel to the re naming of jacob
to Israel in Gen 35:10."'

Tile bless;ug of Eplmrim aud A1muzsselr

T he context of Gen 48:1516 s hows Jacob o n his dea thbed, h is long-lost
son Joseph visits h im a nd asks Jacob to bless h is two son.~, Ephrairn and

Manasseh. \Nhen Joseph enters, jacob gathers his remaining strength

and says:
(Cen 48:3] ... "God Almighty tr.:~ '~1 appeart!d to me at Luz (that is, Bethell
in the land o f Canaan. and he b lessed me, [4) and said tu ml!, ' I am g oing tu
makl! you fruitful and incntaSl! your n umbers; I will make o f you a cmnpa
n y uf peupk'$. and will g ive this land to your offspring after you for a
pt~rpetual ho ld ing.'

Jacob refers to God as 'EI Shaddai', compare Gen 35:11 . Jacob is d ying
and, w hen looking ba ck at h is life, recalls h is meeting(s) v,!ith God a t
Bethel and refers to the div ine p m rnises given to him as stated in Gen
35:11-12 (see a lso Ge n 28:1314)."' Because Jacob is blessed by God, he
has the abilily to bestow the d iv ine blessing on h is grandsons. \Ve thus
read in Gen 48:15-16 tha t Jacob prays for Ephraim and Manasseh:
(Cen 48:15) ... "Tht CM (o;,;x;,) before w hom my ant(>Stu~ Abraham and
Isaac walked, the Cod who h as been my Shl!pherd all my life to this da)',
1161 tlu~ tmgd (1X)~1 F!l whu has red t~emed me[';'\.'\ ; X);,) frt)m all h arm, b less
the boys ... "'~'

35: II is rendered simpl) as o 9t ih; oovJ"your Cod."' See also the LXX Gen 28:3.
where Isaac refers h) Cod as: '' . .. my Cod ...," .a.nd 48:..1, w here Ja<ob tefets lo Cod as God .....
220 See Knauf 1995, 14 16-1423,esp. p . 1417.
221 Jacob's respon..o;e to lhe revelation is to sel up 3 pillar :ui<l, lmce again at the place
where God spoke h) him. II is unclear whether this is a rededit"ation of rhe ol'iginnl
pillar, or a new one. 1l l i$ time he nol only pours oil on it but also a drink l')ffering.
FilMlly. we have 3 repetition of jacob n.aming the place as Belhel. \'V. l4- 15 .
222 S.:l ma 1989. 325.
223 Cf.,. Gen 3 1:11-13 .
224 The LXX read..c; (\..ell 48:151 .. . 0 Ht 6.;, t:&r)Qi <m)at.w ot nmiQt C ~ou i:wwriov
(.UJmiJ AjXJruip Kai l<1ll.<'u<. 0 9t.O' 0 'tQi:ct>>\' J-lf iK \'tim)'I'Ot; l M: t i}' iu.t tQt.t~
T<U)tll.;, (16] 0 liY)'..\o;, 6 Q00p t:v6.; J-1( o : 1U\\n(oW 'tf;Y\' KCli~V t:MO)'ll(1(.ll 'lt'l
n t ui){(l 'fo-:\lno ...



"The angel" is here equated with God. Moreover, ''the angel" is designated as the one w ho has redeemed ('10..1] Jacob from all evil. The verb
; Nl is often applied to YHWH in the Bible, e.g., Exod 6:6; 15:13; Ps 74:2;
Ps 1()3:1-4; 107:1-3, and lsa 44.:22-24. The substantive 'l.u /'redeemer' is
an epithet metaphorically used fo r YHWH in the Bible. In Deutcrolsaiah it is a common title fo r YH\,VH, used in parallel \Vith such stan
dard epithets as ' the Holy O ne of Israel' and 'YHWH Zebaot'. Sec for
example lsa 41:14; 43:1; 47:4, and 54:5."'
The parallelistic structure of verses 15~16 also s trongly indicates
that ' the angel' is here an epithet for God.zu, "Th e angel" in v. 16 is none
other than God who has kept His promise and blessed and prote.:ted
Jacob all the days of his life, cf., Gcn 28:13-15; 31 :11-13. Accord ing to
Sarna, this is the most probable interpretation, and I tend to agree with
him.w He writes:
... No one in the Bible ever invo kes an angel in prayer, no rm Jacob's several encounterS with angels is there an y mention o f one wht) delivers him
from harm. When the patriarch feels himself to be in mo rtal danger, he
prays d irect!)' tu C od. a:1i in [Gen] 32:10-13 and it i$ He whu again and again
i$ jacob's g uardia n and protecto r (28:15,20; 31:3; 35:3). AdmittOOiy, "AngeJN
as an epithet fo r Cud L~ extraordinary. but s ince angt"ts are o ften s imply extl!n.~iun.~ of the divine persunality, the d istinctit.ln behvt~en Gud and angel
in the biblical texts is frequent!}' blu rred (cf. Gen. 31 :3, 11,13; Ext>d. 3:2,4).
Neverthel~s, this \'elSe may reAect some trad ition assudated with Bethel,
not pre.'*'ned in Genesis, concerning an angelic guardian o f Jaa)b (d.
31:13; 35:3). An echo of this may lx! fou nd in Hosea 12:.5.!$

Sarna thus points out that the epithet ' angel' for God in v. 16 is something extraordinary and Samaritanus has here used the rendering
1'>0:1/' tlte Kit~g'.

~e also Ps 7&35: P1'0V 23: II; Jer .50:31. In Job 19:25 Ote tenn. however, m.1y refe r to
another he-.we\ly fisw-e, a medi ator between Cod <uld }ob. l11is medial or is de-si s
naled by Elih u as a i~"" nger/angel, Job 33:23-24. For m ore ilt fomlMion, see
Mullen 1995, 706708. He \'!rites o n p. 706: NOn an indhidu.ll level, Yahweh ran.<~oml'l
the pious and the need y, most specifically lhe wldm,, and the ocphan (Cl~l\ 48: 16 . ..)."'
226 Cf.. Hosea 12. See also KOckert 2007, 6263.
227 In his n.mslation of C'.en 48: 16 Sarna ( 1989, 328) has wrinen ''che Angei.N hrith a
capital A. He st.lles tha t th is is because he interprets the d esignation as an e pilhN for
God Himself {d., the NKJV Gen 4-8:16).
228 S.."'!ma 1989, .ns.



3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

Concluding Remarks

An important diffe rence between Genesis 28; 31 and 35 is that 'the angel of Cod' (in the singular form) is only mentioned in Genesis 31 . In
Gen 31:11 it is ' the angel of Cod' w ho addresses jacob, w hereas in the
other pericopes it is 'God.' In Gen 31:13 ' the ~1ngel' id entifies hirnself as
God: "I am the God of Bet!Je/, w here you anointed a pillar and made a
vow to me'', and in Gen 35:1b Jacob is cornm~1nded to rctum to Bethel
and there make an altar to '' ... the God, w ho appeared to yo u when
you fled from your brother Esa u ... ", a clear reference to the dream in
Genesis 28. For these reasons, it seems apparent that 't-he a ngel of God'
in Cen 31:11 is iden tical to God Himself. It appears to be the same person who talks to Jacob in a ll three narratives.z.."t
As we have seen, the narratives in Genesis 28 and 31 have in com
mon that God/the angel o f Cod is said to have appeared to jacob in a
dream. The theophany of Genesis 35 thus differs fro m the others in that
God speaks to Jacob when the latter is awake.
In Genesis 35 God's exhortation to Jacob to return to Bethel and fuJ.
fill his vow is in rnany ways a difficult text. It is indeed peculiar that
God/Eiohim refers to God/El in the third person, as to someone disti nct
from Himself. likewise, the use of the plu ral form of lhc verb ;,;,. 'to
appear/reveal' in v. 7 is quite strange. In this way, the narrative of Ja
cob's return to Bethel contains an ambiguity similar to that of the expli
cit ' angel of the Lordtexts'.
Genesis 35 is the final chapter in ' the jacob cycle', and although jacob Jives o n and is mentioned in several later chapters, he is no longer
the main character. Genesis 36 focuses on his brother Esau, v~.'hilc ' the
joseph cycle' begir'-' in chapter 37. We have seen that Cen 35:1 -15 refers
back to jacob's dream in Bethel. Th us, ' the Jacob story' in the Bible bo U'
begins and ends at the same place,. in the LXX designated as ' the

229 Cf., also Ho.c; 12:35 (v\. 4-6 in the Mn:

(3) In t he womb he IJaoobJ tried to !ruppla n! hiSc brolhe t, and in hLc; manhood he
stn.n-e tvi/Jt ('t(lc/. )4) He stn.n:V! wilh lht attgel and prev.liled, he wept and sought his fa
vor: he mel him Bl &thl'l, and th ere He spoke with him. )5) llu LORD lht Cod ofhost,
tile LORD til1is ttallh'!

Because of the parallelistic slru chu~ of lhese ver!les, it seems evidctl l tha! lhe ''angel''
(\...nd, d .. v. 3.) menlioncd by lhe prophet Ho..c;ea who s1rusgk>d with jacob Bl lhe
ford of Jabbok is the same person who jacob is said hl have encountered in Belhel
...enesi ~ 28 <uld 35).



p lace/house of God' . jacob and Bethel a rc very closely connected; his

'calling-experience' there (Gen 28:1 022) marked h im fo r life.
The only o ne of the discussed Jacob narratives in which Bethel is
not mentioned is the patriard"''s nightly struggle with the u nknown
man, although the prophet Hosea appears to have loc..1ted this event in
that place. Possibly U1e prophet fused the different traditions of jacob
being named Israel, one o f th em connected to Bethel (Gen 35:9 10), see
below for further details.
There have been various attempts to iden tify Jacob's opponent; he
is eith er seen as a ~div ine being', i.e., an angel or a d emon, or assumed
to be God in person. Hamori adopts the latter vie\ov a nd argues that the
divine encoun te rs of Genesis 18 and 32 are the only two so-called
theophanies' in the Bible because of their concrete a nthropomorphic
ch aracter. Considering Jacob's reaction w hen he realizes \'l!ho he has
met; "for I have seen God face to face and my life is p reserved" (Gen
32:30, cf., Gen 16:13 a nd judg 6:22; 13:22), a n u nderstanding of the opponent as God Himself seems plausible.
Along with the identity o f Jacob's contender, the meaning of the pa
t riard1's new name has been mud1 d iscussed. Proposed interpretations
are, fo r example, 'God strives', ' he strives with GodF or 'God will
rule/prevail' .
Finally, in Genesis 48 the patriarch looks back o n h is life and tells
joseph about tl1e God w ho appeared to him at Luz (i.e., Bethel). Wh en
he b lesses his grandSQns he equates this God with ~'the a ngel who has
redeemed me fro m all ham1...'FThus, Jacob seems to identify the "an
gel .. as God.


3.2.6 Conclusions

To conclu de, it may be stated th at regarding the explicit referen ces to

the <1ngel of th e Lord in Genesis, we find a merged ide ntity between
God a nd the "angel" in the following texts: Gen 16:714 (the parallel
text to Gen 21:17-20); 22:1 19; 3 1:1013, a nd 48:1516. The only reference
to a n angel in the sin gular in Genesis \ the distinction between
God a nd His a ngel seems dear is to be fou nd in chapter 24, vv. 7 and
40. A few texts in Genesis mention O':>X.,b/angels in the p lurat namely

230 Properly spe.lking. the )o1cob story begin.<~ in Cen 25:19. but since Jacob has his first
enrounter with God in C'.enesis 28, this is the st.wting point of his life as God's ser
vanL This d ivine re\elation has been de!:>igna ted by as the rentral event in
the )arob story, e.g . Westermoum, 1985, 405-409. See also \'\>'allers 1992,. 599-608.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

Gen 19:1, 15; 28:12, and 32:1. These angels seem to be distinguished
from God. It is remarkable that the angel of God{Eiohim who appears
to jacob in Gen 31 :1 013 identifies himself as the God of Bethel who
addressed Jacob in Gen 28:13.
The narratives of Genesis 18-19 and 35 contain arn biguities similar
to the explicit 'angel o f the Lord-texts'. As for Genesis 32, it is clearly
not an "ordinary'', earthly man who struggles with Jacob, but some
kind of supernatural op ponent Like ' the angel of the lord', he acts
with divine aut hority~ blessing the patriarch and giving him a new
name, cf., Gen 16:10-12; 17:5-8, and 35:9 -10. There is an apparent resemblance between Hagar's and Jacob's reactions to the divine e nt:oun ...
ters, see Gen 16:13-14 and 32:29-30.

3.3 The Rest of the Pentateuch and the Books of U1e Former
3.3.1 Exodus

After Genesis, we first encounter the angel of the Lord/YHWH in Exo--

d us 3, appearing to Moses in the burning bush, vv. 11>-6:

[Exod 3:1b) ... he (M(k;e.S) led h is flock beyond the wildcme;;s, and came to
Horeb, the mo untain of Cud. {2) Th<tre tile fmgtl of tl;e: LORD appeared to
him in a flame of fir<t out of a bush; he looked,. and the bush was blazing.
yet it was nut consumed. [3) Tium Moses said," I mus t turn aside and look
at this & sight .. . f4) When tile LORD (YHWH] saw that he had turned
aside tu see, Q'lll (Eiollim) called to him out of the bush. "Moses, "-1oses!"
And he said, "Here I am."' IS) Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the
sandals from your foot, for the place on which )'(lU are s tand ing is holy
gmund ." (6) He said further, " l am the Gud of your fa ther, th<t Cod uf Ab
raham, the God t)f Isaac., and the God of Jacob."' And Muses hid his fa ce, fur
he was afraid to look at Cud .n

The angel is only mentioned in v. 2. From v. 4 onwards it is God Him

self who talks to Moses, reveals His personal divine n~1me, and calls
him to d eliver the people o f Israel from slavery in Egypt. This is the

to in Acts 7:30-35, wh~ re Stephen us~s an indefi

nil e form; "'atllmg~t/appe-ar~d to him in the wil d emes.~ of Mount Si1tlli.. in the fl ame o(
a burning bu!\h ... ~

231 In


NT, th is incident is


3.3 The Re.!lt of the Pent.lteuch and the Bl)()k..'l of lhe Former Prophets


sole w here the angel of the Lord only appears at the very begin*
ning of a narrative.m
The revelation of the divine name connects Lhe above mentioned
narrative to Exod 2.1:20-24:
(20] I am going M send 1m augt'l in fro nt of )'c'm. to guard you on the way and
to bring yuu to the pla ce that I h ew~ prepared. 121 J 81! attentive to him and
Jis tt-n to his voice; do not rebel againj;f him, for h~ will not pardon y<)ur
transgr...~sion; for my tWmt is in liim. [22) But if you listen attentively tu hi$
r."')iCt' and dv all that I $a.'f, then I will b~t an enemy to your enemies and a foe
to your foe..;. [23] \"/hen my rm:~el g<~ in front ()f yuu, and brings you to the
Atnc')rites, the Hittites, the Perizzite::;_, the Canaanites, the Hivities, and the
jebusit...>$. and I blot them out. (24] you shall not bow down to their
gods ...213

ln this text, the angel is apparently d istinct from God and yet not com
pletely separate from Him . By possessing the divine name_, he also
shares the divine power and authority.w Cornpare this to the Deutero
nomistic theology, i n which the concept of ~the name of God' is used to

2:32 The terminolog.kal confusion in lhe pekope has been explained by Freedman
Willoughby (1997. 320} in th ree way.!l: "'{l) Yah weh might h.we nansmitted his mes
l><lge to Moses by his mal'ak, but the author used the tel'lllS Yahweh and Elohin\ s incE'
in hLc; opi1\ ion the me.<~sage c-.1me directly from God. The OCC\Jfl'el'\re of mal'ak at the
beginning of the narralive qualifies the s ubsequent use of YahWl~h and Elohim. (2)
The imporlll ncc of the c.l ll l"'f !<.loses, the initiBtion of God's per501Ml n..amc did not a l
lm'l the narrative to be dl"'minated by Bmal'ak. The significance of the narrative itself
required the diroct intervcmtion of G\xl. (3) Yahwl~h hint.'lelf spoke to Mo.'le.'l, but
since Mo!ies was not allowed tlt see him, the intercession of the molfliA: was neces"' According h) Fabry ( 1997, 320), ExodlL'I 3 is not cons idered a literay unit in
recent academi c-exege.<~is. See nl$0 Guggisbers 1979, 404 1.
233 Cf., alc;l) the Tatsum to) Chr.:miclts. I O l r 17:2 I:
And who is like your people Israel. a people 1miq11e a11d :;ele'.ct in the eath, for whom
1ut angd smt fr(m l'if"re Jhe Urolell'llt'omYI to delher a pl->ople h) be his own,. ro ma ke a
name for Jrim'St'lf 1tno"l ,,, do filr illl'tff s ~at and migiii.V deeds by driving oul fl1t nations
fl\)ll\ befMe the people w hom yl"'U had delhered from Egyp1? I Eng. trans. Mdvor
1991. 107. The words ill italics arc the Targumk derivah"'ns from the MT).
234 See alSI) Ciesd um 1998, 57. In the NT, this parallels the hymn in prni.!le of Jesus in
Phil 2:9-11:
(91 TherefMe Cl"'d also highi)' exalted him ,, nd gave him the name that is above
e\ery name. ( 10) so tlt.ll a t the n.ame of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven, and
on earth and under the e..uth, Il l) and every tongue s hould COI\ fe;s that jesus C l\l'iSI
is lotd, to the glory of ('.od the falher.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

describe the way in \\1h idl YHWH is present in the Temple of Jerusa
\+Vith reference to Hos 12:13,1:w. some scho lars have proposed that
the 1160 in Exodus 23 should be id entified a s a hum,, n guide a nd leader, p resumably Moses o r Joshua. T here are two major objections to this
interpretation: firstly, the 1~'1l is not &'lid to be speaking in God's name
as a prop het, but it is stated in v. 21 that" ... my [i.e., God's] name is in
h im ... '' Second ly, it seems to be implied in the same verse that the 1~7,1:)
has the power to forgive Israel's sins, a capacity that elsewhere in the
Bib le is reserved for God.n;
In Exod 14:19, the a ngel o f God is conne<:ted to the pillar o f cloud
leading and p rotecting the Israelites d uring their exodus frorn Egypt:
IE.xod 14:'1 9) Tile angel of God [E1ohi m ~ who was going bef<ne th~ Is raelite
army moved and went behind tlwm; and Ot~ pil/(lr (~{ dc>ud moved from in
front of them and took i t~ plare behind them.

In Exod 13:21-22 and 14:24, however, it is stated U1at it was God (YHWH)

who manifested Himself in this pillar. In Exodus 33l'lll, the a ngel seems to
be a being distinct from God. The Lord says to in vv. 2-3:
[Exod 33:2) 1 will semi tm tmt.:d before you,!.W and I will drit~ (mt the Canaanite.'>, the A mori te~. the Hittites, the Perizzitt..-s, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. [3) GQ up to a land flowing: with milk and honey; but I will not go up
fmtcmg you, or I u'C'1uld constmt~ you mr th~ u.-ny ...

later on in this c hap te r, it is stated that the Lord/YHWH s poke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (v. 11) and U1at U1e p resence of God wa s manifested in the pillar of cloud :
Exud 33:9) \>Vhen Moses entered the tent, tile pilltJr of cloud would descend
and St<md at the entrance of the tent. and the LORD (YH\VHl would speak
with Moses.

235 Newsom 1992. 250. See alro Hannah 1999, 2 1. Fischer 2007, 81-9l, and. e.g., Owl
12:3, II; 14:23: 1 Ks.~ 8: 16, 29; 9:3, and )e1 7: 12.
236 See also judg 2: 1-5, d iscus.c;ed below.
237 See also Aus looe 2008. 8-10. Accotding hl Seg.11 {19i7, 68-70), this pas.c;age was con
sidered J>I'Oblematic by th e R.-.bbis in their auem pL<~ hl combat the 'two--powersheresy' bec.1use of the ''angel's" remill'kable ability. Cf., the debates in the NT between the Jewis h leadl~rs aJld Jesus. where o ne of the things that seem ed to upset the
Jewish authcH'ities the molt.! was that jesus claimed to ha,,e the power ro forgive sin.<~,
~e., e.g., M.wk 2: 112. See itl.<;o G)eschen 1998, 32-33, 7l 78, and Guggisberg 1979, 60-4

238 See also Cusgisbe'S 1979, 62-6<1.
239 Here the NKJV follows the LXX:" And I w ill send nl)' Angel before you ... " The MT,
however, lacks the fi rst per!iOI\ s ingular suffix au.-.c:hed to the word 1X7~ a.nget' and
refers thus s imply to " .. .an angel ... ". cf., NRSV cited a.bme. In this context the image
lli the l X;IJ seems to be used to denote the itbsence of God. See cslso Exod 32!3'1.

3.3 The Re.!lt of the Pent.lteuch and the Bl)()k..'l of lhe Former Prophets


The conversation takes place after the incident with the golden calf,
chapter 32. Moses p lead s that he and the people may find grace befo re
Cod a nd U1at YHWH 1-Umself will go with them. vv. 12-13. God a nS\\'ers h im and says
IExud 33:14) He ::~a id, "My f1rC'SCIIU rJ!~ J will go w ith you. and I will give
you rest."

At the end of the conversation, w hen Mose.'i asks to see the Glory of
God, he receives the answer:
(Exud 33:19) . .. '1 will make all my goodness pass before you, and w ill
proclaim befo re y<lu the name, ' the LORD'; ...." (20] ''But". M said, "you
can nut soo my fa c~; f<lr no (me shall see m~ and live." [23) then I will take
awa)' my hand, and you shall see my back; but 1ny face shall not be
seen." 2-t~1

This gives the impression that


it is said in vv. 911 that God

talked to Moses ' face to face', it should not be u nderstood literally; God
had somehow "hid de n'' Himself in the pillar o f cloud. This is essential
ly the so-called ' id entity theory', which cla ims U1at the angel of the
Lord and the pillar of cloud, e tc, are revelations o f God in different
disguises in order to spare the life of those v~.'ho see Him (see below).lJl
The astounding theo phany described in Ex<ki 24:9~ 11 is a remark..1
ble exception fTom the above~ mentioned pattern. No media to r is men

tioned there:
IExud 24:9) Then ?vloses an d Aaro n? Nadab, and Abihu, and Se\enty of the
<:'lderS o f ls rad w~nt up, [tO] an d thty Stlw lhe Cri'Jtl of lsrad. Under his foo t
there was something like a pavement uf sapp hire stone, like the v~ry h<:'a

210 According hl Jewish traditHm, the following theophan)' in Exod 34:5-7 is one of the
mo$t cent'l l episodes in the Bible as God reveals His \'et}' character to Moses:

(51 Now lhe LORD (YHWH] ek~.ccllfkd in lite dot1d a~~d s tood with hint lhe1-e, ond
pmdnimed lhe 1t.1me "The tORD" )YHWH j. (61 The lORD IYH WH 1 p.aS<>ed before
him oHld proclaimed. ''The LO RD (YHWHI, the lORD (YHWH] a Cod )Ell, merciful
and gr.:l dous .!!low hl anger. and abmmd ing in ste<~ dfast I()Vl~ and faithfu lnes..;;. (7}
keeping steadfn..."t kwe for the tholL<~andth genea tion. f<>rgiving iniquity and t1. ms.
gression and .!lin, yet by no nw.lns dearing the guilty. but vi.!liling th e initlHity l"lf the
pare1lts upon the children and the children's children to the third tuld the foHrth
God i$ thus depictOO here both as the .se\e re .1nd righteous Judge and the forghing

and mercifu l Father. In Jewis h ll'<ldition. the two m.ain d esignation$ of Cod. Elohim
(EI) nl\d YH\VH are OOIUH!Cied to the two chief aul'ibutes of the God of Js r.-.el.
YHVlH refers to the me.I'C}' of God. while Elohim .st.mds f(lr His justice. See G. Latsw n 1993. 299301. a.nd Spiegel 1993, 121 122.
241 SeeCie.c;chcn 1998,55.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

ve:n fu r <:lea mess. rt l J God did not lay h is hand ()0 the chief men
people of Israel; tdro tllt-')1 lh!llcld CM. mullhcy (l/e (md tlnmk.m



Along wi th SQJnc other scriptural passages, Exod 24:10 was considered

a problematic and hd~mgerous'' passage by the early Rabbis, since it
contradicts the Rabbinic " dogma" that no man can see God and live.
However, if it '"'as an angel that Moses and the eld ers o f Israel saw, it
undermines the unity of God and may invite the heretic in terpretation
of two divine powers in
There exists a \'l.ridespread Je\'l.rish belief that the Torah was given to

Israel through the med iation o f angels. This tradition is also present in
the NT, see Heb 2:2 and Gal 3:19 (angels in the plural). ln Acts 7 Stephen first refers to a specific augel in the singular, d efinite form but later
on he mentions unspecified angels in this context: 2'"
(3SJ"He (Mo~es) is the une who was in the cungn:gatiun in the wildcme~s
with lhe fmgel who spoke to him at Mouul Siulfi, and with o ur ancestors;
and he rl!Ceived 1hing oracles tu give to us ( ... ) (53) You are the o nes that
re<.-eived the lmv (f'S tJrtlnittttfl by angels, and yet you ha\'e no t kept it:''2:~s

In the LXX the o ne who intends to kill Moses over the issue of circumcision in Exod 4:24 is id entified as an angel of the Lord. althoug h in the
MT it L YHWH Himself. The angel may have been substituted for
YH\VH by the LXX translators for theological reasons.2"' However, the
angel o f the Lord is generally described as a benefactor of Israel, who
protects and guid es the people (e.g., Exod 14:19; 23:20). When h umans
are compared with the angel of the Lord, it indicates a great apprecia ..
tion of their personalities: good, d iscerning and \\rise (1 Sam 29:9; 2 Sam
14:17, 20). TI1e angel is /11e Redeemer ['moj, cf., Gen 48:16. TI1e o nly oon

242 Cf... Ezek 1:26-28. However, the sl:alement :a few verse..<1 below, in Exod 24:17: "'Now
the appe:mmce of !he glory ol the Lord WolS like ll devouring fire o n the lop of the
mount.lin in tlH~ s ig_ht of the people of Israel" (d., the buming bush in [):Od 3), can
be taken :as B'-lualifkalioo of the eal'lier a..;:;crtion., i.e., it was "tlnly" !he Glory ot !he
1.Qt'd !lUll the elders of Israel beheld. This is one possible inletpt'i'1oltion, bu! the pas.:;age could just as well be undet'5tood to impl)' a d ifference betweet\ the "c\'>mmon"
people of lsr.1el and the leaders: the elders saw God in pet'Soe>l\. but the people lia\''
HisGior)' See lllso Thc>mpson., 21XY7.. 221222.
24J See also b. Sfmhulriu 3Sb, \oJhere !he ' divine tu me-angel' i11 Exl)() 2]:21 is discussed.
For further elrtboratioo of this is...;ue., see dlilpler2 above :and Segal 1977. 33-73.
244 See also Ps 68: IS (verse 17 in NRSV).
245 This ttadHiml is a lso aue...;ted in !he translation:; of Deut 33:2-3 in the LXX, Vulgate,
l'e..,.hitt:a, :and the Targu ms to the Pent.l leuch. See also the Taf811111 Jo Cltmuic/1$, 1 Chr
29: II, Shinan 193.1, I$3-JS4. and Kinel 1964, 83. However, in the .~coount of the di
vine re\'elat:iml at in Exodus 19, neither !he LXX not MT t-efer to any angels, a l ~
thllugh a dcmd on the m ountain is mentioned.
246 See also clupler 2 01bove.

3.3 The Re.!lt of the Pent.lteu ch and the Bl)()k..'l of lhe Former Prophets


crete occasion w hen the angel is depicted as turning against Israel is in

2Sam 24:1516 (cf.. 1 Ch r21:1 430)."'
3.3.2 The Books of Joshua and judges and Other Texts
There are other texL~ in whidl it is difficult to distinguish between this
angel and God Himself, such as the story of Balaam (Num 22:2235)"'
and several pericopes in the book of Jud ges (2:1-4; 5:23; 6:1124, and 13).
Both in Num 20:1516 and Jud g 2:1-4 we read that it was the nngel who
led Israel out of Egypt, although in Exod 15:1 19 and Deut 4:37 this
deed i.s solely ascribed to YHWH."" In 2 Kings 1 the .m gel o f the lord
appears and gives orders to Elijah (vv. 3, 15) on two occasions.250This is
noteworthy, because o thcn"rise God Himself speaks d ircctJy to this
The Appearance of the Angel in Jud ges 2; 13 and 6
In Judges 2 there is an additional example o f the tradition lin king the
1160 with the deliverance from Egypt previously encountered in Exo~
d us:
Oudg 2:1) Now the angel uf the LORD went up frum Cilg-al to Buchim, and
said: " I brought you up from Egypt. and brought you into the land that I

247 See aiSc) E)'l\ikel 20Cf7, 112-113, von 1964,77, and Freedma n -Willoughby 1997.
248 S."lmarit<mus mention.c; an angelh16:: also in Num 22:20; 2:3:4,5, and \1 16 . Th e MT
has Elc)him in 22:20: 23:4 and YHWH in 23-'.5, 16.
249 However, as sh mvn above, sch olars differ about th e interpretation of Oeut .fd7. C f.,
also lsa 63:9-tO,see below. ln Exod 12 :22-28 it is no t d ear wheth erit was God Him
self \vho killed the fi rstbom sons llf the Egyptians, beC'Iuse in v. 23b it seem.'l as if
C"'...od u.!led tf:~ IA'Siroyt'r to d o this. The .!lanw word ' the Oe$lroyer'/rni i!m:1 is employed
to d enote th e angel of th e lord who executed C'.od's punishnwn t for the s in o f o.wid
in 2 Sam 24: t6 a nd I Chr 2J :I5: ' the d estroyin g an gel:' fnn;:>~;; ~'mJ. However, in 2
Kgs 19:35 and the p.w,l llel texts o f lsa 37:36 and 2 C lw 32!20-22 concerning the k illing
of th e As.syrian.<~ b) the angel of th e L.otd. a word from a differe1\ l root is u..<~ed. See
also whal Paul writes in t Cor IO:lO: " .. . ,, nd do no t complain, as some of them Ithe
lsra.elitesJ d id. and were de.c;troyed by Ill!! dcstroyt>r [b 0..\t:f)()tu"fll']:''
same wod
as in t1le LXX Exod 12:23b is h ere used by Paul. CuiolL'II}' e nough. the Modern Hebl~\'1 tran.<~lation of the 1\'T (th e Bible Society in Israel. 1995) uses the corteept 1N'rt;;
nr.m. in I Cor 10:10.
250 In I Kgs 19:5-8 chere is al'll'l a reference to an angel who.!lpeaks to Elijah.
251 Meier 1993b. 101.



3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

had promised to your anct!:::tor.;. I said, ' I wi11 rn:ver break my owenant
with you. [2) For your part, do no t make a covenant with the inhabitanl'> uf
this land [... )' But you have no t obey...-'<.1 my command [.. .1(3] So now (say,
I will O()f d rive them o ut befo re }'(JU; but they shall beo)me adversaries to
you, and their gudo; shall lx! a snare to you." (4) When the angel uf the
LORD spoke the.o;.e words to all the L.;raelite.s, the JX!Ople lifted up their
voices and wept (5) So they named that place Buchim, and then~ they sacri
ficOO to th~ LORD.

l11is passage is m uch d iscussed in scholarly circles, because the motif of

the"'"' 1~'?" 'the angel o f the Lord' bringing the !sr.1elites out of Egypt

and into the Promised Land contradicts Deuteronomistic theology,

which ascribes this deed to God in person, see Deut 4:37. Although
sd1olars diffe r on the exact meaning o f the reference to God's presence
[O'JO], there is no 1x'?o in this passage. In fact, judg 2:1-5 constitutes a n
exceplion by being the only text in the Deutcronomistic literature
where this motif is prescnt.m
The i""?o in j udges 2 has been identified by som e scholars as a human prophet, speaking on God's behaJf.n."l This interpretation seems to
be imp lied in the LXX version of the p assage, w here the phrase 'so says
the L()rd' is put into the mo uth of the 1K?1l in v. l .:z!l.f, Moreover, the 1K"'
does not simply appear as does, fo r example, Hagar's <1ngel or descend
from heaven bu t instead arrives from Gilgal. However, the connection
of the 1:6n to the Exod us and the people's reaction in renaming the
p lace and sacrificing to the Lord speak in favor of the interpretation of
a div ine m essenger, compare Exod 2.1:20-23; 33:2; Gen 28:19-22; 32:30,
and judg 6:24.>"
In Judges 13, the birth of their son Samson is a nnounced by a divine
emissary to Ma noa.h a nd his wife:
(Judg .13:3) And the angd r~7.eJ of the Uml [YHVIJ-11appeared tv the wuman
and said to her, "Although you are barren, having borne O() children. you
shall cun t-eiv~ and bear a S<)n." [6] Then the woman came and told ht;r
husban d, "A man ['.nt) l)jGod [EI<)himJ came to me, a n d his appearance was
Jikt: that of (m augel t>JGVti (EI<lhim). most awe~ins p i ri ng; I did not ask him
wh~ rt! he came fwm, and he did no t tt~ll me hi::; name... "'

252 According to Judg 6:7-10. il was God himself who delivered the lsr.lelites f 1'0n\
slavery in Egypt and led them inhl the PI'OmLc;ed LaJld. See also Guggi.c;berg. 1979,6465, and Ausloc-..s 2008, 1-12.
253 See abc.we and Newsom 1992. 249. Sullivan 2004, 57, and AusiOO$ 2008. 1-12.
254 In Targt~m ]1'111111/um, lhe ~.;. in Judges 2 is explicitly identified as a prophet, see
Harrington and Sald.wini (Eng. lran.c;.) 1987, 6 1. See also Ka.c;he 2007, 558-559, and
Smelik 1995,349-352.
25..r;. See AuslllOS 2008, 1-12, Fischer 2007,89-91. and Sulliva1\ 2004, 57.

3.3 The Re.!lt of the Pent.lteuch and the Bl)()k..'l of lhe Former Prophets


{8] Then Manoah <?ntreated the l u rd [YHWH). and said, "0, LORD, I
pray, let the man uf God [Eiuh im) whom yuu sent come to us ag ain ..." [9]
Cud [Elnhim) lis tened to Manoah, and the angel uf Cod rElohim) came
again to the woman as she sat in th~ field; but her husband Manuah was
not with her. [tO] So the woman ran q uickly and to ld her hu:;ban d, "The
man wh o came tu me the other day has appeared to m&." (1 t] Manuah gut
up and folluwed his wife, and came t() the man. and said to h inl, "Are }'OU
the man who s po ke t() this woman?" And he said, " I am." [121Then Manuah said, "Now when your words cc.)me true, what is tube the b<,ys rule
of life; what is he to du?"' j13] The angel uf th e LORD [YHWHJ said to Ma
noah. '' the wuman give heed to all that I said to her."
p5] t\f anoah said to the ;mgel o f the LORD [YHWHl "Allow us to d etain you. and p repare a kid for you." (16J The an,~el ()/ the LORD rYHVlH]
said to Mano ah, "If you d etain me. I will rn'>t eat y our food, but if ytm want
tu prepare a b urnt offering, then offer it UJ the !.ORO rYH\>VJ-1)." (f o r Manoah d id not know that he was lh.: flngd of lht LORD) [YHWlt }(17)11um
Manoah said to the nngel of the LORD (YH\VHJ- 'What is your name, so that
we may honor you when your Wi)rds rome true?" [l8J But the fmgel 1Jf the
Ltmf (YJ-1\VH] said tu him, ''\Vhy du yt'>u ask my name? It is tOt'> wonderfu l."
[19) So ?\1anoah took the kid with thL> g rain o fferi ng. and o ffered it on
the rock t<) the LORD, f() him who works wond ers. [And He did a wondro us th ing while Manoah and his wife looked o n .. . NKJV1 (201 When the
fla me went up toward he<n-en from the altar, th~ (IJISCI of the LORD
(YHWH] a~nded in the flame o f the altar while "-f an oah and his wife
1ook00 o n; and they fe ll on their faoo.o; tu the g-round. (21) Tht' (mgel of the
!.ORO (YJ-IWHJ d id no t appe<lr ag ain to Manoah and his wife. Tlam Mantmh realized that it was the angel "f tl1e LORD (YHVlH). [22) An d Manoah
said to his wife. "We shall surely d ie, for we have seen Coil (E.lohimJ."

The s..1me figure is here id entified as tile augel of l11e Lord, God, 1/Je mau,
lite man of God, attd lite augd of GOO. In v. 6the two last men tioned id enli
tics are combined . It seems that d ifferent strands o f the angel o f the
Lord traditions' have been consciously united in this story, compare
Genesis 18 and 32.zso The similarities between Judg 13:19~22 and Judg
6:19, 21 -23 are stTiking :"'
(Judg 6:19) So Gi d~on went into his h ouse and p rep<lrt'!d a kjd, and unlea
vened cakes frum an ~ phah of Aour (... }and bruught th~m to h im (the an
gel o f the LO RD). under the oak and presented them ... 1211 Then the angel
of the LORD reach ed ()Li t the tip of the staff that was ln hjs hand, and
touched the meat and the unlea"ened cakes; and fire s prang up from the

256 Gieschen 1998, 62.

257 See also lhe whole narrative o( Gideon's encounter with the angel of the Lord in
j udg 6: 11 24. A llhough the angel of lhe Lord to Gideon,, il is God w ho
speak..o: hl him, see e.g... Judg 6:14, 16. d ., Exodus 3. For Judges 6 and 13. see also
Gusgi.!lberg 1979, 66-72. and Ma(h 1992, 3945.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

rock and coru>umed the me-at and the unleavened cak~s; and the angel uf
the LORD vanished fron'l his s-ight. {22) 11len Gid eon perceived that it ,
the angel of the LORD; and Gideon said, "Help me, Lord God! Fo r I have
seen tfle angel of th~ Lord fa ce to face." [23) But the LORD said to him,
"Peace be tt) you; do nl)f fea r, yuu :::hall nu t d ie.....

Both Manoah and Gideon prepare a kid for their guests, but these
refuse to eat a nd the food is consumed supematurally by fire, whercu~
pon the heavenly visitors vanish suddenly from sight. This highly superhwna n disappearan ce makes Manoah and Gideon finally realize
that they have met a divine messenger and they consequen tly fear for
their lives.
As mentionet.i previously, the story in Genesis 18 has often been
compared to Judges 13, but a rnajor diffe rence between the two narra ..
tives is that Abraham's guests in fact eat the food o ffe red to them. In
both Judges 6 and 13 the supernatural d1aracter o f the visitors is be*
trayed by their behavior, w hile in Genesis 181 o nly the message itself
ind icates their heavenly Qrigin. Accordingly, o f these accounts only
Genesis 18 is class:ified by Hamori as a n , .iS theophany.' ~"" See above for
further discussion of this issue.

Joshua's En counter with the Commander of the Anny o f the Lord

In josh 5:13 15 there is also a divine messenger, despite the fact that the
term ' the angel of U1e Lord' is not used:
(13J Once when joshua was by Jericho, htt lcx,ked up and saw rl matt (~]
standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went f'<') him
and said to him, "Are you one of us, o r une of our ad versaries?"' (14J He
replied, "Nt,!ilher, but as O)mmander (i!GJ of the army of tht,! LORD I have
now cume." And josh ua fell un his face h) the t,!arth and worshipped, and
he said to him, " What do you command your servant, my lt)rd?" [15) The
Commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, "Remove the sandal$
fnnn your feet, fo r the plaa> where you stan d if.i holy."' And Joshua did so.

Th e mes..c;enger identifies hirnself as "comrnander of the am1y of the

Lord."~w Joshua's reaction tells us that he recogn izes the 'man" as be.
ing of divine origin, e ither a revelation of God Himself or o ne o f his
angels, and the passage may hence be d efined as an implicit 'angel of

258 Haml'ui 2001. 145147.

259 O ne 1lf the rlh,ine titles of God in the Bible L<~ Lhe 'lord of Hosts/YHWH ~aot', e.g ..
Ps A9:9 (\. 8 in NRSV). The al\gel~; ron..'iti!ute the he.-wenly armies {miOi) and coundl
of God. See al<~o, e.g., I Sam 1:3:2 Sam 5: 10; I Kg.<~ 22: 1 9: 2 Kss 6:17: Zech 1: 12-13. and
Ps 48:9 {v. 8 in NRSV).

3.3 The Re.!lt of the Pent.lteuch and the Bl)()k..'l of lhe Former Prophets


the Lordtext'.l611 The " rnan" seerns to distinguish between himself and
the Lord/YH\VH in v. 14. b ut a t the s..'lmc time he accepts Lhe worship
of )oshua.u.
The cxhort,, tion in Josh 5:15 recalls the command o f God (the angel
of the lord?) in the buming bush to Moses in Exod 3:2-6. The appearance o f the .... man" as a warrior holding a sword paralleJs the descrip
t ion o f the angel o f the Lord confronting Salaam in N um 22:23.:ua TIH~
angel \"-'ho leads the Israelites o ut of Egypt and into the Promised Land
can also be mentioned.w \Vorth noting is that in the context of the
above cited verses, it is the Lord Himself who continues to speak to
Joshua in chapter 6:1 -6.
According to Hamori, the e ncounter recorded in Josh 5:1 3-15 constitutes Lhe closest angelic parallel to the ' "Is u,eophany'. As in Gen esis 18
and 32, the divine messenger is called w~ 'a man' and, in contrast to the
divine visitors of Manoah and Gideon, he does not engage in a ny supernatural act. However, Hamori claims that by presenting h imself as
'commander o f the am'y of the lord' and by d eclaring the sanctity of
the p lace of his appearance, " the man" imrnediately identifies himself
as a divine being . Additionally, u nlike the divine agents in Genesis 18
and 32, he d oes not participate in any specific human activity, such as
wrestling o r eating.2M

3.3.3 Condusions
In Ex(,du s, the l K;b and God appear to be in te rchangeable. In Exod
14:19 the 1X'n seerns to be present in the pillar o f cloud, but in other
text~ it is said that it was God w ho manifested Himself in this pillar. By
260 In Targtm Jcmallum, the "man"' is identified as ''BI\ angel f1'<lm bef1lrc the Lord."' :tee
Josh 3:H, Hanington/Silld.wini {Eng. tr.-ms.) 1987. 25.
261 This .. m.a n"' ha<~ been identified a<~ Mkh~l. the gua1'dian angel oflsr.~el by same later
interpreters, cl., Dan 10:21; 12: I. Maybe thL<~ is be<ause the same title, name ly
~~/pri nce/commander, is used to designate both 1\1khnel and the "'m<m"' w ho meet.'l
Jol>hua. ln the LXX this tenn is in these cases translated b)' the word tiyyrJu:-..::. See al
liO /fl:>t-,,
. Jollld Aso1t>lfr 14, where the heavenly man says hl Aseneth: "'1am the chief of
the hou.!le of Lhe Lord and the commander of the w hole host of the Most H igh ... " See
also Si.1llivan 2001, 55-36.
262 This reminds U-" of 'the de.o;troying angel' who a.:co'<ling hl I Chr 2 1:16 was hllld ing
a drawn sword in hLo; hand. See <~ l so 2 Sam 24:15 16; 2 Kgs 19-.3S; Is.\ 37:36. In Josh
23~, 9 10 it is said tha t it was God who fought for ls rllel.
263 Cf., Exod 23~23; 33a 3. and Judg 2: 1 5 (see above).
261 Hamo1i 2004. 147-150. 11 is indeed remarkable LhnLLhe"'man" ao::epL<~ the worship of
Joshua, cf., Re\ t 9:<).10. Sl.><e also CieW\en 1998, 33.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

possessing the d ivine narne and being capable of fo rgiving sins (Exod
23:21), the 116~ is depicted as sharing d ivine au thority. The attempt to
identify the 1~;1) in Exodus as a hUJnan leader, e.g., Moses, thus seems
fa rfetched. Hov~.'ever, unlike ' the angel o f the Lord' in Genesis1 the d i
vine messenger in Exodus is sometimes spoken of by God in the third
person (e.g., Exod 23:20-24; 33:2-3}. Perhaps Exodus bears wih,ess to a
development in temls of the separation o f God and His messenger,
aJUw ugh the process is fa r from complete.';' In Judges 6 and 13, u,e
fusio n of the 1X;b and God is obvious.
On the oth er hand, the iden tification of the 1K7l:J in Judges 2 as a d i
vine mes.,"enger is more dubious. However, considering the people's
reaction in )udg 2:5 I fi nd it likely u,at this is also an example of the
Exod us~traditio n of the angel o f the Lord' bringing the Israelites out of
Egyp t and into u,e Promised land.
In the same way as the narratives in Genesis 18 and 32, the passage
in Josh 5:13-15 may be clas..-c;ified as an implicit reference to ' the angel of
the lord'. As )acob"s contender at )abbok he is called ' a man' but his
title ._m d acceptance of Joshua's worship reveal his divine identity.

3.4 The Books of the Latter Prophets

Apart from Ezekiel and Zechariah, angels are not often mentioned in
the books o f the Latter Prophets and the d istinction between God and
the angel/angels is clearer.:!M Exceptions are Hos 1 2:4~6 (vv. 3.S in
NRSV) where \ve fi nd an allusion to the LTadition of Jacob's struggle
w ith the unknown, mysterious man (cf., Gen 32:24-32), Ma13:1-2 w here
we enco unter the 1:{77J of the covenant, and lsa 63:9 10, which mentions
' the angel of His Presence' ('''" 1''>n]. Let us begin by looking at the
latter peri cope.

265 See al~ Hannah 1999, 2 1. According to E)ltikel (2007, 113 12.1), ' the a ngel of the
lo.'<l-texts' in both Exodus (with the exceplion of Exodus 3) and Judge~> dLc;plB)' an
angelology ch.a l'acteri.<~tic 1"1f the p1-e-exilic period of Israelite histmy, Le., a st.lge between the oldest oorw:eptil.)n of angel<~ as Nmere exten.c;ions of Cod Himself (e.g.,
Genesis 16) .md th e 1.1te1 po$t-exitic view. di.<~pla)ed in, fo r exampf~ the book of
Daniel. I agree thal th e d cSCtiption of the dh<ine name angel' (whom C',od refers hl
i1\ the third person) in, e.g.., Exodus 23, m<~y repre:;ent this 'midway-$tage' in the development of l<~raelite angelology. However, as st.lted abo"e, in my view the fusion
of Cod and the 1~'>~ is obvious in judges 6 a nd 13.
266 Sniclly speaking, the concept 'the a ngel of the Lord does not appear in Ezekiel.
while in Zechariah we find it in 1:11: 3:1 6: 12:8. The angel of the Lord who appeal'S
in lsa 37:36 secm.c; to be distinguished fmm Cod.

3.4 The Books of the Lauer Prophets


3.4.1 Isaiah
[lsa 6.1:9) In all th~i r afnictinn lie was afflicted, And the Angd of His Prts~ttre saved them; In His Jov~ and i n His pity J-le redeemed them; And He
bore them and car-ried thi:!m All the days uf old. (10] But they rebelled and
griev~d 1lis l lol.IJ Spirit; 5<) He turned Him.w H agains t them as an enemy?
And h~ fuug ht against them.JtV

This is probably an example of inner biblical exegesis. Isaiah may be

alluding to 'the d ivine name angel' in Exod 23:20-23 as well as to God's
p romise in Exod 33:14 tha t "My presence' ('l~) will go with you", i.e .,
Is rael. Charles Gieschen writes: " Thus? ls.a 63.9 in terpreted the Divine
Nam e Angel w ho went before Israe l to be God's Presence wUil lsraeJ."u"'
He also notes the words in Exod 23:22 that if Israel listened to this a n
gel, YHWH would be "an e nemy of their enemies." Because of the d isobedience of the people, the o pposite happened, lsa 63:10. In the LXX,
however, lsa 63:9 is rendered: ' 1 not an ambassador, nor a messenger

- b ut [he) himself saved d1em."""

In the prophecy of Isaiah 9 it is the o ther way around. Here the LXX
mentions a messen ger/angel, w hile the MT does not::zj(
(6) Fu r a child is born h> ul'i? and a sun L.; given to us, and hL.; na mi! is c.a1led
the Mt.sJ>enga ofsrcat council [t-.1t>ynA1l.;; f3uuArj~ c:ir(tA<'~] ... 171

267 N KJV. Cl.. Judg 2: 15. See B:l.'io Guggis berg 1979, 87.SS.

26R Gieschen 1998. 117 I 18.

269 The LXX rendel'ing lhu..o; h"l be i1\0uenced by DeutetOI\00\isric theolt"SY
w hich lea ves no place fOI' the 1K7<: bul maintain..<> that it was God in pe1son "-'ho led
the l'iraeliles out ol Egypt and into the Pron\Lc;ed Land, see All.'iloo.'l 2(X)8, 78. ThL'I
interpretB:tion of Isa 63:9a is chosen in the NRSV: " It was no messenger or a ngel_ but
hi.'l presence that them . .. " In later Midrash,. this interp1-etiltion prevailed, St.."e
the P.lii..c:t.wer Haggadah and Goldin l96.1), 4 12124. Hm..-e\'e r. in lhe T!lf8Jttn tc' ls.tiollt
63:8b9 we read:
(Sb) . .. and his Menn a was their s.wit"'IUI'.I9) Whensoe\'er they tansgre.c;sed before

him, so as to bring affliction upon them, he did nm afflict the m, btl a11 o111g!!l smiJrom
f~Jort ltim dtlivert'ti tftem: in hi.c; mercy and in his pity ft"'l' them he re..'icued them. and
bare t hem, and carried the m all the days of old. (Eng.. Ll'.l~ls. Stenning 1949,208, 2 10,
my italicsJ.
270 See a lso Mach 199l79R1.
271 The NRSV fotkwls the MT:

{l'ia 9>.6/V. 5 Mn For a child has been bo1'Jl fo us. a liOil given h"l us: authOiity rests
upon his s houlders: and he is ll.lmed \Vonde rful Coun:;elor, Mighty God, Everlll..'lt
ing F,101er, Prince of Pe~.
See also Cuiley 2004,23, 3 10, who cla ims thnl the four titles of the Mes..'iiah in the MT
may ha"'e been given to the four ar<hangelc; Michael, G.ilbriel_ R.:lphael, and


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

As mentioned above, there is also a d ifference ben.veen the LXX and

MT in Exod 4:24, since it is an angel of the Lord w ho tries to kill Moses
in the LXX, while it is God in the MT."'
3.4.2 Hosea
In his call fo r repentance, the prophet Hosea alludes to Jacob's wrestling bo ut at the ford of Jabbok:
(Hos 12:3/4] ln the womb he [Jacob] tried to s upplant his bn)ther, and in hi$
manhood he :;trm.-e wilfl Gml (o';Tm nN :11it:'J (4/5) He strove(,\!.-.] w ith Ihe rmgel
(1X?to '?"!$] and prevailed, he wept and sought his favur; he met him at lkllu:l,
and there H~ s pu ke with himP'3 [5/6] The LO RD the Cod of host, the LORD
is his name! !<4

At first sight, the mysterious man "'"ho encounters Jacob according to

Gen 32:24-32 seems to be identified by the prophet Hosea as an angel.
Hm,evcr, in vv. 34 [4..5) C'ti?x 'God' and 1~7'-> 'angel'/'messenger m are
used in parallel_. as if the te nns a re synonym ous. compare Gcn 48:15-16
where angel and God are likewise equated \'ltith each o ther.m
Mo!'C<)ver, the 1K'm/'angel' in v. 4 [5) is said to be the one who spoke
with Jacob at Bethel (cf., the theophanies in Genesis 28 and 35), and in
v. 5 [6) he is explicitly identified as "the lORD the God of hosts ...""'

Uriei/Phanuel a.<~ the four aspect:> l')f the a ngel of gr eat coonseVthe angel l')f the Lord.
Sec also Baker. 1992,36 and i0-94. Cf., above, chapter 2.2.2.
272 Tuschling (2007, 83), daims IIMtthe expession ch~n by the transl.l tor implies llla t
the LXX s upports an understanding of ' the angel of the Lord' a.<~ a h)rpost.a..<~Lc; of God,
notal\ "'ordio<uy" angel.
273 MT ha..<1 ' \'lith us' (d. NKJV cited below) but. e.g... the LXX has 'with him'. see the
tex! c-ritical apparatus to the verse.
2i4 The transl.ltion in the Nl<JV is slighlly diffe rent:
(Hos 12:3) He (Jacob) took his bi'Other by the heel in the womb, and in his strength
he s truggled with Cod )4) Ye.c;, he strugsled \'' ilh the Angel a nd prevailed; He wept,
and sought favou r from Him. He found him in Bethel. and th ere he spoke !O us - 1>1
that is the l.ord (YHWH I God of hosts. the l.ord i.e; his n~morabl e name.
Note !he connection to Bethel (d.. Gen 28:12-17: 31: 11-13). The "'man" in Gen 32:2430 might be the "'angel.,. that Jacob/ls.,el refer:~ to in Gen 48:15-16.
275 II the word 1K'?1l i$ (l(iginal, Hl"' I$ the 01\ly pre-exilic prophe1 vJho refers to an
angel. since jacob' s opponent i.e; d eal'!}' not a human messenge See al<\0 Sullivan
2004, 47.
276 Cf ... judges 6 a nd 13 w here the d esignations ' God' a nJ 'angeVmessenger ,.,r the
l.01d!God' are us..~d <lltemately for the divine visitors.. See also Andersen/Freedman
2n Hmo,~ever. v. 6 is con.<~klered by some schola rs to be a glos.'l. see e.g . Whill 19'-J J. 25.

3.4 The Books of the Lauer Prophets


This passage o f Hosea is thus ambiguous; the identities of God a nd His

"angel" are fused together, there is no d ear distinction between them,
and they appear to be one a nd the same person . Accordingly, Dennis).
McCarthyv" u nde rstands the word 'angel/messenger' in this con text as
equivalent to God,l;o., w hile James L. Mays interpre ts Hosea' s words as
referring to traditions conceming Jacob's encounters with God, com
pa re Genesis 32 and 2S.::il0
The peculiar Hebrew wording. 1~7~ ? MT v. 5 has been much
discussed. Most English tran.c;lations have chosen the emend a tion to
read 7~ as nx v~.rith', but there are many scholars w ho opt to retain ?x..
read it as'?~ 'EI/God' a nd delete 1x'?o as a g loss, thus resolving the ambiguity of the text."' Given U1e parallelistic stmcture of vv. 45 (NRSV
vv. 3 4), this solu tion seems possib le.::s:! If the unique phrase 1~'n ' x
(possibly meaning 'the divine messenger') is ind eed o riginal, this is its
only occurrence in th e e ntire Bible.2113
However, d espite the uniquenes.~ of the phrase, Francis I. Andersen
and David Noel Freedman main tain its originality and consider the
equation of 'angel' and 'God ' in Gen 48:16 as a close analogy to Hos
12:5 a nd later make quite a rernarkable statement:
The phra:;e 'illmal'iik, " god, angel;'' is a unity. s plit up over two parallel
lines. The ba~ is " the Angel of God," represen ting the deity him~Jf,
though the p h rase mal'dk 'Cl is u n attested. It is probab le that the mal'dk
yllwh, whu wo uld never have been called that in p atriarchal times. was
mnl'dk 'CI in the pr~li terate trad itit,mS. And Hosea's material co uJd go right
back to such terminology. !s.~

This is a truly interesting theory, but 1 find it quite hypothetical a nd am

not en tirely convin ced by the line of argument. However, while Hos
12:35 [46] clearly alludes lo the tradition of Jacob's wrestling bout,"'

278 Roland E. Murphy has re vLc;ed the JBC artide by Dennis J. McCarthy.

279 M(Carrhy/Murph)l989, 227.

280 !\lays 1969, 162-165. ln this context, Mays (1969. 163) refers to the appearance of Cod
in the fl)l'm of an a ngel to the patriarch." in theE tradition; Gen 21: 17; 31:1 I.
281 See e.g. Wolff 1974.206. 212213, Whitt 1991,31-32. Bc:ath Wolff and Whitt point out
that Hosea doe.c; nor mention angels el!iewhe re and \~tlhitt a iSc.l rematks that Hoe 12:45 is the only case in whk h 1!6.1) ,,nd c:J": ;m'7K are uSJed in parallel in biblical poetry.
See a lso 1-!amol'i 2004, 113-l-14. HlloSea also uses 7K 10 d esignate the d eity in 12: lb and
11:9. Sl->e turther Wolff 1974. 209-210. 212-21.3.
282 El omd E.lohim .we a quite common word pair in the Bibte, see e.g.., l11a 46:9: Ps 7: 12..
and Job 5:8. See also Whiu 1991. 32.
283 See also Hamori 2004, 14J..1H. and Whitt 1991. 32.
284 Andersen/Freedma n 1980,613.
285 In the Bible the verb :ni.:' ' to stri\e/strusgleJoonlend' Lc; Ol\ly found in Hose-.1 12 and
Genesis 32.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

there are some differences between Hosea's version a nd that recorded

in Genesis. There is a discussion among scholars concem ing


version is the oldest o ne. It rnay very ~,ovell be that Hosea 12 p red ates the
narra tive in Genesis 32 in its present fo rm. According to \+Villia m D.
\'Vh itt, both Hosea a nd the author of the Genesis story used a common
source.::.s6 Kevin P. SulJivan concludes that, since jacob's weeping in
supplication has no coun terpart in the Jabbok narrative in Genesis, it
indicates either that Hosea might have known a diffe rent t rad ition or

that the prophet altered the Genesis story .::111 In either case, Sullivan
a rgues that:
... this lend ~ credence to the possibility that the 1~?r. was indeed Miginal
{...]the Genesis pa..:;sage was vague enough to allow room fur interpretati
on and it seen"'S that regardless of when it occurred, the author/reda<.iur of
Hosea '12 alter...d the Genesis tradition of jacob wre..,tling with Cod tu Jaa)b
w re::>tling with an angel.

Be that as it may, sch ola rs generally agree that Hosea refers to ancient
jacob traditions.~ Another sLTiking difference between the narrative
and Hosea's state ment is that the prophet d oes not ment ion the ford of
Jabbok but refers to jacob 's e ncounters w ith God a t Bethel. see Genesis
28 a nd 35. Thus, Hosea appears to have combined various Jacob tradi~
tions.?.W Another d ifference is of course the use of the word 116t1 in designation of Jacob's contender, who is sirnply called 'a man' in Genesis
32 but, as mentioned above, this rendering has been questioned. Possi~
bly, the word was added as a result o f a later interpretation of Jacob's
opponent as a n angel. ~~
In the case of the Genesistext1 it is when the patria rch receives his
new name that the " rnan" ackn owledges that Jacob/Israel has prevailed . Hosea1 o n the o ther hand, does not mention the renaming of
Jacob a nd does not explicitly state who was victo rious in the combat.2'.1 1
As mentioned in the analysis o f Genesis 32 above, many scholars derive
the verb i~'' in Hos 12:5 from the root,.,~ ~ to rule', 'have dominion'
and not from :ii~ ' to strive/struggle' . Th e s ubject of the verb however,

286 \\' hill 1991,41.

287 Sullivan 2004,49.

2S8 See, e.g., !\lays 1969, 162165, Wolff 1974, 211213, McCarthy/f\.iurph~ 1989, 227, al\d
Haml"ll'i 2004,. 7982.
289 See also Wolff 1974. 213. and Haywou-d 20(15, 21 .
290 See also Wolff 1974,212, Hamori 20:)4, 143145. <uld K& kert 2007.62. K&ke1'l {same

page} s uggests that the equation of 'man' ... 'angel' in Hos..':a 12 may be derived fi'Om
Genesis 18 19. Cl.. Sullivan 2001,. 49.
2'91 See also Mays 1969. 163164.


3.4 The Books of the Lauer Prophets

is debated.Z!IZ As shown in the quotation above, Jacob is presented ~1s

victorious in Lhe NRSV, '"'' here the translators have chosen to retain the
word 1l\-;l'l 'angei' .2'M
However/ many scholars argue that it seems to be implied that
God/the " angel" ruled and prevailed over Jacob. If Jacob were the vic
tor, w hy would he wec}Y"' and seck the favor of his combatant?'J!I5 The
interpretation of God as victorious also makes sense in the context; in
his call to the sinful people of Israel to repent, tl1e prophet allud es to
traditions concem ing the patriard1 Jacob's surrender to God. As the
ancesto r of the nation he represents and embodies his descendants.* In
this light, the shift to the Hebrew imperfe<:t tense ""'"' ' he [God) finds
us' and ,:17\ 'he speaks' is also explicable, as is the rendering 'i:.l~:.~ 'with
us' instead of 'with him' at the end of v. 5 in the MT. Jn the words of
the verbs [ .. . J shift from the na r-r<ltive p~rfecto; and cons.ecutivL-'$ (. .. ) tQ im
~ rfect.'> a$ if to b ring the events o f the line neare r to the a u d ience. GQd s till
meets lflem at Bt:the l and s peaks ,,,.jth them there!l'<li

\-Vhitt argues that in this way Hosea bears wih1ess to Lhe original t:radi
tion: Jacob is defeated and begs for mercy, but in Genesis 32 the roles
have been reversed, probably in order to present the patriarch in a bet
ter ligh t.m Additionally, he claims that the author of the Genesis ver
sion has s u bstitu ted~,~ fo r the already exis ting g loss j x;::J.:!
Both Whitt and H. L. Ginsberg interpret Hos 12:51JX~{')' n~:~ in the
light of Gen 31:13 ;~ n'> ;~o ~:1< "I am the god Betl1cl" and identify Ja
cob's opponen t as a god by the name o f 'Beth-.el' ..31.~1 However, a great


292 See a lso Wolfll974, 212213, Sarna 1989. 404405, and Hamori 201).1, 79-82.
293 See also Whitt 1991, 32.. who argue.<; th.:ll lhe w.1y one l'e~lds the subject depend~ on
\'\hether one retains the term -p;.'7!) o dismi~ses it as a gloss.
294 The weeping of jacob is not mentioned in GenesL<; 32, though his reque~t for a bless.
ing in ' ' 26 ma> be intep-eted a~ a p'tayer/supplic.ui on.. he nce ' to seek fa vor.
295 However, .:lS me11tionc._~ abcw e, the Hosea text is unclear regarding who was vktorious in the combat, Jacob or the " angel" a nd, linguistic-.l lly ~peaking. the pericope
can be interpreted to mean that it was the laUe w ho wept and sought fa vor with Ja
cob. Acrording hl K&kt>.l't (2007, 62). this mily be the reason fothe transfmmation of
Jacob's combat "'ith God into a combat with an augd in Hosea 12, becau..<;e s uch a
~ta tement c-an be nl.:lde <lbllUt an al\gcl but certainly not about God.
296 See also Wolff 1974, 2 11-213, Mays 1969, 16J..16<1, M.:Cathy/Murphy 1989, 227, and
Hamori 2004, 80-82.
297 ~l ay~ l969, 164. See also Wolff 1974. 213, and Walters 1992. 607-608.
298 Whitt 1991,33-34.
299 \\<.hin 1991,33.
300 Whiu 1991. 35-43, and Cin.'berg 1961, 339-3'1 7. In additiol\ to Genesis 31, Whitt als..J
refer~ to Gene.<;i~ 28.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

difference bet\'lreen the t\vo sd1olars is that \'VhHt maintains that the
god Beth--el was merged with YH\-\'H in later tradi tion,:~u w hile Gins..
berg interprets Hosea's statement as a condemnation o f the cult o f the
'an gel EJ ..bethel', to usc his designation.l!U The identification of Jacob's
contender as a god named Bethel appears to me as somewhat far
fetched, and I prefer to interpret 'Bethel' in Hos 12:5 as a reference to
the p lace o f the d ivine e ncoun ter.300 ln the LXX, Hos 12:31>-4.)0.1 is ren
dered as follows:
(3b) .. . .-t.d Ev tdmOI<; m)tuli ~\lax11m: nQ<'..; th:bv. {41a.ti i:vfcrxuvt !JE:Ttc.lyyi:Aou h:cti ibvvtloflJfl KA(.tiXRW Kui t'bE:{jflr)uUv !JOU, l:v Tt~ OiKl~> Ov
t i:'t_>t)odv p~:. '"1i t._t:t b\(v\t]OtJ 1t(.>h; HiJTbv/~otiYtu{}'(;,.3Cf./... and in hi:c. labors
(Jacob) had power with Gt)d. And he prevailed/was
strung/strengthened himself with th~ ang~l and was strong. they wept. and
entreakd me, they found me in the house of On/th~ Being/the Existent/the
Eternal, and there was spo ken tv him/them.

As shown in the quotation, the LXX states that Jacob ''prevailed with
the angel," thus nlain taining the ambiv~1lence ben.veen God and the
angel, vv. 34 . According to the LXX version, Jacob is the victor, b ut in
v. 4b the su bject changes to plural_, "they wept and entreated rne ... "
The explanation is certainly that the patriarch Jacob is seen as a representative of the collective, Le., the people of Israel, cf., above.
Sullivan considers the LXX reading . .. xal i vfcrxt..xn: !lt:Til
(iyyi:Aou ... in Hos 12:4 as a support for the originality o f ' the an
gel' /1'/\'7b in this verse and if the word actually is a g loss, it must have
been inserted at a fairly early stage.n
As we have seen in the d iscussion of the Jacob texts in Genesis, the
Hebrew place name Bethel is most commonly translated as
'r6~to.;/o fK<K 9t:ot), 'place/house o f Godl o r transcribed as Btn9r]A. The
rendering in Hos 12:4 is thus a bit peculiar. One possible explanation
could be that the phrase ofKo:; Ov refers to a sanctuary at Bethel,>" the
house of God, i.e., the house of YHWH, whose name signifies ' the Be*
ing!~'e Existent/the Eternal', rendered in Greek as 6 'Ov, compare Exod
Ked dm:v i) Ot.i>; nc..,M'>; Mc.Juqriv 'E yW d pt t') ,;,\,)o;Lli dm:v, Oihc.J..; i:Q ti~
'toi; uioi; lcJfJCU)A D t';Jv t.ln ~cnnAt.::i:\1 pl: nQc'K; V~.ui.; ./ And God spoke to


\\fhill 1991, 35-43.

Ginsberg 1961.339-347.
See also, e.g., Andersen/Freedma l\ 1980. 614.
The num~ ring of the verses differs be'lwee\ the MT and the LXX.
Some m ..~<; have t\ln o L-.:.
Sullivan 20 01. 4-8.
See als.o Aml'IS 7: 13, and Mays 1969, 164.

3.5 The \'\>'riring..<~


I am the & inglthe Existent/the Eternal and he said, thu:; shall you
say to the sons uf Israel, the Being/the Existent /the Eternal has ~nt me to
you ..3AA

3.4.3 Condusions
As shown above, lsa 63:910; 9:6 a nd Hos 12:35 (46] are text critically,
ling uistically and theologically complicated passag<>s. Both the passage
in Hosea 12 a nd that in Isaia h 63 contain some kind of 'inner biblical
The phrase in Hosea 12:5 1K;n ;~ is much discussed because o f its
peculia rity, a nd there are basically two d ifferent "solu tions"; the e rnen ..
dation to read ;~ as nx 'with', or to retain 7x and read it as?~ 'El/God',
w hile d eleting 1~?n as a gloss. In the latter case, the term L'i explained as
an insertion in H osea's text, based on a presu med later interpretation of
jacob's combatan t as an angel, cf., the LXX version. TI1e theory o f An
dersen a nd Freed man a ppears to be an exception to the n ile and, al
though in te resting.. their explanation seems h ighly speculative. Howev
er, even if '"'e keep 1s.?n~ Jacobls contender was most certain ly not seen
as an "ordin ary" angel by Hosea, as he is equated with God, d ., Gen
48:15 ~16. Those scholars w ho re tain 116.b o fte n refer to the presence of
the "angel" in the LXX Hosea 12 and if the ,.;ord is indeed a g loss, it
must have been inserted at an ea rly stage. Moreover, the LXX render~
ing of the Hebrew place name Bethel in Hos 12:4 is q uite remarkable.
Speaking of the LXX, we have seen above that th e versions o f lsa
63:9 and 9:6 diffe r significantly from their counterparts in the MT, and
the main issue in these pericopes is also the presence or absence of an
angel/divine messenger.
The a nalysis makes it evident that all of these texts were perceived
as difficult from early times, a nd the heart of the problem was {and
remains to this d ay) the relationship between God a nd His

3.5 The Writings

In the \Nritings, the book of Daniel often mentions angels and gives
them m'mes: Gabriel a nd Mich ael (e.g., Dan 9:21 and 10:13). Here we

308 Cf., also Rev I :-1, 8.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

also encounter ' the son of God/the angel', Dan 3:25, 28, and 'one like
the son of man'WJ/'onc like a h uma n being', Dan 7:1J.:uo In Psalms, the
angel of the Lord is mentioned in Ps 34:8[7] a nd 35:56, described as a
guardian angel sent by God to p rotect and deliver the pious and to
p ursue their enemies. Tn Chronicles we have the paraiJel textc; to 2 Snm
24:16 a nd lsa 37:36; 2 Kgs 19:35 (1 Ou 21:15 respectively 2 C hr32:21). In
Eccl 5:6(5] we read: "Do not Jet your mouth lead you into sin, and d o
not say before the messenger {i!Otl]m that it was a mistake ..."The
cu rious thing is that the p hrase "before the messenger'' in the LXX is
translated as 7tQO 11QOm~mou roU 9t:oti, " in the presence of God.11 T his
is a unique case. In the book o f Job, Elihu refe rs to the 1!6i:l as a media ..
tor between God and h umankind, job 33:23

3.6 Attempts at Explanation in Modern Exegesis

3.6.1 In trod uctory Remark.

As stated above.. the purpose o f this investigation is to d eal w ith the

relevant texts in the book of Genesis and their in terpretations in early
Je,vis h sou rces. This restriction is due to considerations o f s pace bu t for
the sake of clarity it has also been necessary to survey the other texts
concerning the problematic id entification of the angel of the Lord. It is
now time to take a closer look at the main solutions proposed for re-o
solving this problem.
A feature comrnon to m ost o f the differen t expla nations concerning
the shift between YH\VH and his angel in SQmc texts is that the theo-.
p hany must be mediated in some \\'ay.:m This seems credible, but it'
does not a nswer the question why the angel appears in some but not a ll
of the narratives. Carol A. Newsom writes:

309 N K)V.
310 Daniel 7 was considered a dangerous pass.age by the eMiy Rabbis, as it c1m be inlel'preted as refeing to two divine beings. the Ancient One' and one like the son of
n\31\' , see fu rther Segal 1977. 33-J9. In Dan 4: 1().20 we encounter the term
ir/watd ler:. a design ation for some kind of angelic beings found in pll$1-exilic jewLcth
literature but canonicall> only in the book of Dan iel. Sl~e also Noll 1997,9-12.
311 The NJKV a dds the designation "''/God;" " 'hile like the MT, the NRSV refers h) an
tmspcdfii!d me.o;sengerhx7~. From the c<>ntext of Ecd 5:5 in the ~IT it is undeM
whether a human (a prophet?) or a divine messenger is intended.
312 ~ inte 'Polation theoy can be seen 3:.<1. an exception in this case bec-ause, according
to chis view, it was originally Cod Himself who was the agent in the.cte narratives.

3.6 Attempls al Explanation in Modem Exegesis


But the explanation that Sl!ems most likely is that the interchange between
Yahweh and mal'ak yfuult in various texts is th~t expressio n of a tensiun ur
paradox: Yahweh's authority and pre~nce in these enc<mnters if1 to be af.
firmed, but yet it is not po~sibl e f(lr human beint,>S to ha\e an umn ed iat~d
encounter with God ..m

As I see it, she actually does not solve the problem o f the identity o f the
angel of the Lord but instead states that the very point of these texts is
that " the unresolved ambiguity in the narrative aJimvs the reader to
experience the paradox." She also maintains that it would be mislead
ing to suggest that this perspective was a dogmatic belief in ancient
Israelite religion. As mentioned, there are biblical texts in w hich God
communicates with humans '"'ith no reference to the angel of the Lord
(e.g., Genesis 15), w hile sometimes the distinction between God and the
angel is d ear (e.g., 1 Kgs 19:57)."' There is a general consensus be
hveen scholars that there are different kinds of 'angel of the Lord texts'.
The problematic pericopcs are those \\here we find the above rnen
tioned merging of the identity Qf the angel and God Himself.3u
3.6.2 The Interpolation Theory
One qu ite frequent approad1 to this problem is the in terpolation
theory. According to this viev..., the word 1K;~ \ovas inserted in certain
contexts by the editors. The ambiguity between u,e angel o f the Lord
and God Himself is d ue to the fact that originally it was God alone who
w~1s the agent in these texts.''o Gerhard von Rad supports this theory
and writes:
What distinguis hes these pa'lsag~~ from the Mhers is that it is impossible in
them to di ffer~n ti a t~ between the~ ll r:n:p 1K7n] and Yahweh liimSt!lf. The
One \\tho s peaks or act.<;, i.e., Yah weh or the ~ ;:. is Ob\luusly o ne and the
same person. Yet in the apparently haphazard altematiun between the twt)
there is a certain system. When the reference is to C ud apart fmm man,
Yahweh is used; when C ud enters the appreciation()( man, the' .e is intr<r
du c~d (... ] Originally the stories probably refe rred quite naiv~ l y to purely
St'!n.!;ua1 theophanies.m

313 Newsom 1992,250.

31-1 Newsom 1992. 250. I a m nol convinced that the angel i1\ 1 Kings 19 i~ dislin.::l f1'0m
God. Ho"eve1', there is a dear distil\(tion betweenlhe tvto ill 2 Kg..; 19:35.
315 E.g... von Rad l%'1, 77, .md Meier 1993b. 96-108. For this whole dMpter, see also

Guggisberg 1979, 133-155.

316 cr.. the d iscussion of Lhe originality of the word 1l'>~ in Hl)sea 12 B:i>l.w e.
317 von Rad 1964.77-78.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

The editors are said to have inserted the concept o f 'the angel of the
Lord' fo r diverse theological reasons, for example to softe n the anlhro~
pomorp hic depictions of God in the stories.3111 This is the solu tion pro
posed by Meier. In addition, he cla ims tha t a nother reason for support
ing this theory is that the term 1N'.tl is not found in all text wih1esses.
One example is Exod 4:24, where the MT states that it v,ras God who
sought to kill Moses. As this idea was lheologically difficult, the translators of the LXX inserted a n angeJ.31\I
Meier also argues that the phrase :n:r 1~?t- should be un derstood as
indefinite and thus translated 'an (tmspecijied) angel/messenger of the
Lord' . He argues that since the Hebrew d efin ite article cannot be em ~
p loyed in the construct when the nome-n rectum is a proper n~1me, a
translation in definite fo rm is equally possible and a matter of interpre*
tation.320 As support for a translation in indefinite form, ~vfeier also re
fers to many cases in the LXX w here the angel makes his first appe~u
ance."' Sure en ough, both in Gen 16:7; 21:1 7, and 22:11, the LXX has an
indefinite fom>: iiyy<Ao.; KL'Q1ou/9wu: 'ntl a ngel of the lord/ God'. This
is of inte rest, since the chosen translation of :11;'j' 1~7~ might indicate
how the transla tor viewed this ' being'. That the LXX uses the defin ite
form in, for example, Gc n 16:8-10: 0 ayyt.Ao:; KUQlOU/'1/Je angel of the
Lord', is probably because the angel has already been introduced in
verse 7.Jn In accorda nce with his chosen translation o f the concept,
Meier a lso claims that the phrase 1~'?1:> YHWH is to be u nderstood as a
title desig na ting several of God's supernalura l cnvoys.~J However,
many scholars maintain that a translation in the definite form is proba

318 von Rad 1964, '77-i8. See alo;o Meier 1995b. 106, S.1ma 1989,383, <~.od Gieschen 1998.54.
319 Meier 1995b, 96- 108. Cf.,. <~ ls.o the scholarly discus..:;ion of the~~ i.o Hosea 12 l'efe rred to <~blwe.
320 Meier mention..<~ two diffe1~nt Bible tran.c;lations in ord~r to illustra te this; the jewis h
Publication Society typically tmnsl.lles :;;;1 1IO,'!l <~san ang~l of the lord, hhite the
N,w R1vised Slamlar.1 \1t'rsio11 tran!tla les rhe concept in the definit~ form.
321 Cf,. for example 2 Ou32:1, and 2 Kgs 19:35. Meier 1995b, 98-108.
322 Meier 1995b, 98-108. He \'lrite.c; on pp. 98-99:
Bec-au!>E' Greek. like Englis h, u.c;ually di!ttingu iltlles definite from indefi nite in geniliw
cons tructions (unlike H~bre...., .md L:uin), early evidence from Gre~k is invalu.:1ble in
discerning how the Bible's eMiiest ae<e.<tc;ible intepreters unde1's t01.xl the phrase. Th~
NT knows of no single *The angel of the Lord/('".od"' ...The Septuagint gene<~ll) fl"'l
lows s uit in tr.msJating mal'ak YHWH in the OT, although tht>re a re a fe\'1 exceptional
l'<ll>eS where the d efinite .wt id e appe<~~'S w hen the figure first appeat!i in a ll<ll'tative
(Num 22:23: Jud 5:23 JtXX cod. A ~ 2 Sam 24:16: OOillr<lStthe far more numerou$ ca.c:es
where LXX present:> the figure as i1\definite: C~n 16:7; 22: II, IS; Exod 3:2 . .. )
323 Meier J995b, 107.

3.6 Attempls al Explanation in Modem Exegesis


bly correct and thus consid er it a 'special title', reserved for a particular
divine messenger.m
The in terpolation theory has not been accepted by all scholars.l~ As
we have seen, it cannot explain many o f the texts w here God speaks
directly to humans without the men tion o f this ' meti iating figure', in
eluding such bold anthropomorphic narratives as that of the visit of the
three " men" to Abraham in Genesis 18..~' James Barr opposes the inter
polation tl' eory:
Firstly, the introduction of the 11ml'ftk is too extren"'ely spaSml)d ic, and
!eaves too man y fierce anth ropomorphism..; untouched, fur its pu rpu.~ h )
be under.>tl)Od in this way. The voice and preSence of the mt~l'ak alternates
in a n umber o f s torief.; so much with the voice and appearing l)f Yahweh
that it is hard ly p<>S..::ible to understand his plaoo as a subst:i tu ft~ fo r the Iat
ter. Second ly, fa r from the nwl'llk representing a later and mme .suphisti
cated fea ture, it is foun d deeply embedded in s tories of g reat antiq uity; the
best example is the J sto ry of C'..en xviii, wh-~.~re to be sure the term nmtak
d ot.os no t app~tar until xix 1 ;md there in the plural. b ut where it is ind isput
abJe that we have th L> same general phenomenon as th~ mtJI'llk of o ther stO

\Vestermann w rites that even if the interpolation theory may explain

the role of the angel o f the lord in the later period of Israel's religious
thin king. it cannot explain the fact that in the old narratives YH\'\'H
and his messenger are alternated in one and the same story.J:.!"
3.6.3 Theories that Focus on the Function of the Angel

main g roups can be distinguisheti among the additional theories

that attempt to explain the ambiguity between God and his angel, those
that focus on the Jrmcaou of the angel/messenger in the narratives and
those that concem the essence of this 'bei ng.)_~
The first category includes the messenger and representative theo~
ries. The fomler has been mentioned above and claims that the solution
to the problem c<m be found in the union between the send er and the
messenger. This theory can in turn be d ivid ed into tv,,ro d ifferent 3)>-"


~c Gie..<1chen

1998,56, and Newwm 1992,. 250.

325 Newsom, see abcwe. See also KOckert 20Cf7. 73-75, ,md Faby 19'17, 321-322.
3'26 The Jnhvi!i-ti c ~lCCOUI\1 in c,~nesis 2-3 is also worth menti<ming for iL'I omth ropomcw
phic description of God.
327 Barr 1960,33-34.
3'2f\ We.<~termann 1985. 243. See illso Hamori 201):1. 153-155.
329 fil bty 1997, 322.


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

proaches. The 1161l is either seen as a n extension o f God Himself and

not a being distinct from God l'm or as a supematural being sent by God
as his rncs.o;enger...lll As we have seen, this explanation has been dis~
p uted by, among others, Meier, who cla ims that the mes.,;en.ger and
sende r could not be merged in the Ancient Near East.J.n
According to the closely related representa tion theory, the angel of
the Lord is not id entical with God but is His a rnbassad or, speaking and
acting w ith div ine au thority on His behalf. Gieschen a rgues that even if
this th eory can be u sed to expla in texts \"-'here the angel of the Lord is
depicted as distinct from Cod (e.g., 2 Sam 24:16; 2 Kgs 19:35} it cannot
solve the problem of the merged id entity in other narrati ves.lJJ \r\'es~
termann also focuses on the fu nction of the angel/messenger o f the
... But if une begins fn'>m the texts and the functio n whidl the m ..IJ. (1K1ll
YH\>VH) plays therein, then it is obvious that a dear distinction musf be
made behvL>en (n) heave.n ly beings as, e.g., the seraphs in Is 6, and (b) any
other type ()f thet)phany o r divine manifestation. On~ must n:mli:t that the
designation m.y has undergone pwfound <:hanges fn">m its ~a rt i est occurrence in the patriarchal storiL'S duwn to the pc'~tex ilic ~ ri t)d . It is impurtant
that in the earl)' narrative the"'.'! is the o ne w ho meets. He is there Qnly in
the m~ ting. He is nt)t a figure, no r a representative, nor so me 1nanife.sta
til)n of Cod( ... ) he is only the one w ho meets( ... ) God is prL..,;ent no t in the
messenger, but in the message:l.\.1

330 ThLo:; theory lUis been proposed by van der Woude (1963164, 613). He prefel'li to
rraMiate the concept 1x'i~ YHWH in indefinite form, bec.1use the .mge l is an exte n
sion of Cod Himself. In th is way he agrees w ilh ~1eier. although otherwise they haw
different t1pinions ooru:eming this iss:ue. 5L"e abme. If we .we hl believe Finkel<:tein
( 1929, 235-240), the Sadducees advocated precisel)r this view on angels 3..'1 mere extensions/emanation.'! of the Deity .1nd \'lith n1l ind ependent existence or personal if)'
1ll their 1WII\. As is well known, the Sadducees strongly obje<:ted to the l'haris.l ic
view on an gels<~s individual beings. See a lso chapter 1.4 above.
331 Meier 1995b, lOS. See also jl)hnsson ( 19-12. 54 1), w ho appears to advocate a kind of
oom.binnlion of the messenger and 1-epresentative lheories. In his discu..<;sion of lhe
appearance of angelstmys.teriou...'l nlE'n' in Gene.'lis. KOckert {2007, 5'178, see esp. pp.
53, 6975) al<:o empha.'liZe.'l lhei1 function as d ivine messengers but doe.<: not make
any dear d istinction beh"ee.n the above mentioned messenger theory subg1'0ups...
J.n Meier 1 995.~. 87-88, and 1995b, 10>.
::tn Gieschen 1998, 55.
334 We.<Otern\alm 1985, 24.3-244.

3.7 Conclusion.c;


3.6.4 Theories that Focus on the Nature of the Angel

The second category of explanations focuses on the essence of the na
ture of the "angel" in question. Firstly, there is the identity theory
w here the angel of the Lord is a manifestation o f God Himself. God
reveals Himself in the fonn of an angel, a man, o r a pillar o f cloud, in
order not to d estroy those ,,_,.ho see Him ..u; Second ly, the angel of the
Lord is understood as a hypostasis o f God.l36 Here we have subgroups
of theories; the angel of the Lord is an aspect of God's personality o r
God's means of communication with the world, the soRc..1lled 'Logos~
theory'l31 and, finally, according to some Christian in terpreters; the
angel o f the Lord is the preincarnate Christ.llS

3.7 Conclusions
I have presen ted a survey o f the d ivergent explanations of the merged
identity o f God and His 1'1\71l in some texts. However, there is no uni
form angel of the Lord tradition' in the Bible. Sometimes the angel is
presented as d istinct from God, e.g., in 2 Kgs 19:35, and in Exodus God

3.15 F.abr)' 1997, 322., Gie!K'Jl en 1998, 55, and Hann.h 1999. 20. Aco.w ding to Meier {199Sb.
105), a the01y also t>xists in which " . .. tht> angel of the Lord is a means of .::r)'StaUiz
ing into one figure the man)' revela tory fomls of a n early polytheism:" A rather spe-

cial variant of the 'clwnmunic-.uion theory' is represented by Ackeman ( 1921, 14S.

149), \\'ho equates the expres..'lions 'the word of the Lord' w ith 'the a ngel of the Lord'
and regards them as l~xpressing the same thing, i.e.,. divine rt>velation (d., Gene..<>is 15
and 16). The distinction between the 'wQrd of the Lord/God' and 'the angel of the
l ord}C.od' L'l,. acaU'ding hl Ackerma n, that the phrases signify differe1\l modes ll f re~
velation. O n p. 147 he clilims: ....... the "'word.. of the lord implies an idea whose
source is pec-uliarly subje(live tan imler l'eflecliont. and th e " angel"' of the lord implie'l .a suggestion th at <liTives objectivt>ly fmm w ilhoul and is definitely C()lUlected
w ith a s pecifi c thing"' I i.e., a well 01' a burning: bush!. Thus. AckernMn makes quite a
ph)siotogic.:ll interp-ei.ation of the appearance of the 'angel of the lord' in the B ib~.
336 See a lso Tu schling 2007,93-101 .
337 Fabl) 1997, 322, Ciesche1\ 1998, 55-56.
:338 !\Ieier 1993b. !05. This intep-etation vl!l." common among the Chtu'<h fathel'S,. e.g:.,
Justi n Marl)r, and similar views t-an aiSC> be found .1mong modem exegetes. Wesfermann ( 1987, 127) ma int.ains: "Of all the modes ll f divine revelation in the O ld Tes-Mment, the l't"\'elatill f'l of Cod in a mes.~se oome..c; chloSest hl the New Testament
selfrewlation of Cod in tht> petson of Jesus. The fact th at Jesus. in human form,
bl'ings a me..-.sage from Cod, tha i he s pe-ak.<; the word.'l of C'.od .md performs the ad>~
of God, has an Old Tl~St.\ ment parallel in th~ ' messenger of Yahweh.' The creedal
formula 'll'l.lly God and lnly human <:an be understood a fler thL'I analogy from the
Old T~stam~ n t narrilthes of \..od's messenge r."


3. The Ambiguous Identity of the Angel

sometimes refers to the 1~'?0 in the third person (e.g ., Exod 23:20-24;
33:1 -2). However, by possessing the d ivine n,, me, the 1<'>0 o f Exodus
shares the divine nature and power and cannot be seen as completely
separate from the Deity.J.W In the 'angel o f the Lord narratives' of Gene-sis a nd Ju dges, w ith the possible exceptions of Genesis 24 a nd Judges 2,
the oscillation between God and His 1~;r.o is u ndenia ble. These differ
ences '"''ithin the Bible rnay possibly mirror a h istorical development o f
the 1X;>J~ concep t.
Regarding the fusion of God and the 1~'>1:>, the various suggested
"'solu tions" may be divided into three main categories; the interpola
tion theory, i.e., the idea o f a later insertion o f the 1K'~ into the text. and
theories that focus on the function or nature of the 1X~. Sometirnes it
may be hard to d istinguish bet"'"ecn the various hypotheses. For exam
p ie, the borderline ben.vecn the interpre tations of seeing the 1K;.;:a as a n
extension or a manifestation of YH\VH is quite narrow.

339 The COIUlection between the d ivine 1W1me a nd the a ngel 1"eeaUs th~ !iO-called 'r~vel a
tion hypothesis' proposed by H. Junker (1995, 76-77). H.:: views rh~ angel as the
oomp.ilniol\ and bearer of the glory of YHWH. revealing the l}l't!sei'IC\! of YHWH
when he app~ars, but YHWH Himself remains im+isibte to humans.

4. The Angel of the Lord - Early Jewish

Interpretations of Genesis
This chap ter will discuss the und ersta nding of ' the a ngel of the Lord' in
early Jewish exegesis. Who is this "angel"? Related issues are the d escriptions o f God, as well as the relationship o f the texts to early Jewish
angelology in general. Arc there any other angels mentioned in the
interpretations of the relevant pcricopes? If SQ, hov~.r a re they rela ted to
' the angel of the Lord'? Wh a t is the rela tionship between God and His
"angel"? How is God depicted a nd w hat sign ificance d oes it have for
our subject?

4.1 The Book of Tobit and Wisdom of Solomon and the

Gospel of Luke
4.1.1 Introduction

Type-scenes and Allusions - Some Remark..c;

As mentioned in cha pter 2.2.31 the Bible is used in L1\10 different ways in
early Jewish interpretation, namely the expositional a nd compositional
modes. In the fo rmer, the biblical text(s) is (ore) explicitly presented
and commented on. The Rabbinic Midrashim belongs to this category.r
The cornpositional mode, on the other hand, is cha racte rized by a n
implicit use of the Bible; the biblical ma terial is woven into the structure of the work and presented without a ny fom1al external marker.
The compositional mode can take three different fo rms. In addition to
the b iblical expansion in the so-caUed 'rewritten Bible', it can be rccog..
n ized by the presence o f a llusions to biblical motifs, themes, scenarios,
and/or models. From the read er's perspective, the id entification of such
implicit bib lical allusions requires a certain degree of familiarity with

Se~ a lso

Dimanl 1991, 73-80.

1 22

4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

the Bible.2 Th is interpretative method is very similar to what Robert

Alter d efines as a use of biblical typescenes.l
As will be sho\"'n in the following. although the book of Tobit is not
an explicit commentary on a ny biblical text, it nevertheless contains
allusions to biblical motifs or type-scenes.~ Th e same applies to the a n
nunciation in the Gospel of Luke, w hich ech oes many other angelic
ann unciations in the Bible..s Both books display the same kind of inter
pretative method a nd there a re also certain parallels between the rcsur*
rection narrative in the Gospel of Luke and Raphael's role in the book
of Tobit, thus these books a re treated together in this chapter.
A third expression o f the corn positional mode consists of explicit al
lusions or references to bib lical e vents, circumstances or persons. \+VJ!.;.
dom chap ter 10 may be seen as a n example of this kind of biblical in

The Book o f Tobit

It is d ifficult to date the book of Tobit. The setting of the p lot is the end
of the smcentury B.C.E. It is a story about ~ln Israelite famil y who has
been deported as c:..1ptives o f \\'ar to Assyria. The book, however, is from
a much later period, and its sto ry is generally considered fictional?
Most scholars date the book of Tobit to somewhere between 250
and 175 B.C.E., after the completion of the prophetical writings of ~'c
Bib le bul before the Maccabean period.ll The geogra p hical origin o f the


Dimant1991, 73-M, and t98S, <100.419.

Aller 1981, 4 7~2. See also chapter l.3.2 in this thesis.
Sec Spencer 1999, 157160.
See the a~hl lysis below and Browll 1999, 156158, 268269.
See a lso Dimant 1988. 3f;3, 39 1-400, .,.here on p. 383 !ihe defines fhis as a middle fype
between the a un po.' and exp06ilional n\Qde. The allusion h) Jacob's ladder
(Certesis 28) in john 1:51 also belongs hl lhL<~ c~ttegory of biblical inte rp rehltion, see
al'lo dMpte.r4.6 below.
Moore 1996, 31 1. It is gener.l lly as-sumed tlu t the autho of Tobit used compl)nents
from folktale.<~ w hen writing the book, e.g . 'the nwns.ter in the bridal chamber.' See,
for exam ple, Moore, 1996, llH, and Ot~n 2002, 8-26. 5759. In addition to these
folkb'lles, there a 1-e ma ny edl oe.'l of the Hebrew Bible in Tobit, notably c.e. lesis,. the
book of Job and Deuteronom y. As w ill be shown below, the author was most cer
tainly in...;pired by Cenesi..c~ 24. See also Spencer 1999, 1 56~ 1 62,. FitZffi}'el' 2003, 34-41,
and Moore 1996, 2021.
The prophets are quoted and alluded to ill the book of Tobit, e.g .. Amo.<~ in Tob 2:6. St_<>e
rvloore 1996, 4()-42. a nd Fit?.m yer 20C.B, 5052. S..~e alw Nowell 1996, 56S, and Otzen
2002.56. The 00\)k of Tobit may be based on early o:ral traditions, see Spencer 199, 152.

4.1 Tile Book of Tllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and lhe Gospel of l uke


book is u nkn own. Palestine/the land of Israel, Egypt a nd Mesopotamia

have all been proposed as the place where it was composed.9
The au thor of the book o f Tobit rernains anonymous; all \ove can say
with certainty is that he was a pio us a nd Torah~obscrving Jew.' 0
The book of Tobit \vas probably originally written in Aramaic (or
perhaps Hebrew) but the oldest comp lete recensions available today,
one short (Gf) a nd one long (Gil) version, a re in Greek. The longer \'ersion of Tobit has a dear Semit ic fla vor and the Aramaic/Hebrew frag
ments o f Tobit discovered a t Q umran are in general similar to Gil. 11
There is also a n incomplete Greek recension that preserves only the text
of Tob 6:9-12:22. This version appears to be mainly based on Gil."
The genre of the book may be defined as a short Jewish romance or
legend, with a profoundly religious character. The book is characterized by a deuteronomistic perspective on history. The pu rpo.c;e o f the
author was bo th to edify and ente rtain. The power o f prayer~ belief in
divine justice and provide nce are themes wh ich penetrate the book;
although the just may suffer, God alwa ys remembers His faithful and
u ltimately rewa rds them.u

The Wisd om of Solomon

This book goes by two names; in the Latin tradition (i.e., the Vtdg ..,te) it
is called ' the Book of \-Visdom' but in the LXX it is e ntitled ' the W'isdom
of Solomon'.l.t The latter name was given to the book since its author
p urports to be King Solomon, even thoug h he never explicitly calls h im-

MOl)l'e 1996, 4243. Fitzmyer 2003, 52-54, and Otzen 2002.57-59.
10 The ' Book/ of Mo.'le.c;' is referred to in Tob 6:13 and 7: 13. See t\.h)(ne 1996, 39, and
Otzen 2002.57-59.
ll In pre\'ious years. C l wa.c; generally regarded as the version close.<~t to 1he original
form of Tobil but today Gil has a.o;sumed thai posili on. Acoordinsly, n\OSI Bible
translation$ today ;u-e mainly based on C ll. e.g., 1he N RSV, 1he tr.l nsl<nion used in
this thesis. This 1-ece:ns ion of Tobit ic; rel.ali\'el)' int.l.::t only in lhe Code" SirU'I ilicus..
Regarding delaiis aboul the used in the NRSV for the f:rMsla tion of Tobit, see
the preface '"To the Reader."
12 Sec Moo1-e 1996, ~- Fit2.myer2003. 3-17, Di lelia 2000. 198-199, and Otzen 2002.
60-M. Concerning the status of the book of Tobit and the term.<~ ' Apocypha' and
' deulerocanonical', see !\l ome 1996, xiv, 48-53, ond Fitzmyer 2CXB, 57.
13 Moo1-e 1996, 17-24. Nowell 1996, 568-569. Set! also 0 1zen 2002, 27-56, Fit1.mye:r 2002.
294 1, a nd Spencer 1999, 160.
14 See Murph)' 1996, 83, Wight 1989,510, and C l.uke 1973, I. For reasons of simplific;ation,. 1w ill hencefoth refer to 1he book as ' \Visdom'.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

self by that name.'s An anonymous 'I' addresses us in the book but the
author's implied id en tification wi th the King is clear.'" The cla im of So lomonic authorship is best expla ined as a Uterary d evice to increase th e
book's au thority, King Solomon be ing the archetypal wise leader in Jewish tradition. In this way, the author connected hi..~ work to the tw o most
important ea rlier book<:; of the wisdom tradition, Proverbs and Eccle
siastes, biblical books likewise attributed to the legendary wise king. 17
TI1e tme identity o f th e a u thor is un knmvn bu t he was most proba ..
bly a learned, G ree kspeaking Jev,r Jiving in Alexa ndria, a main centre
of the Jewish Dias pora in his time .Is Some scholars have questioned the
u nity of Wisdorn. but the predominant v iew today is th at the book is
the work of a single a uthor. \.Visdom was most certa inly originally \\'fitten in Greek.l9
The d a te of \Visd om is debated; its composition has been placed
from a pproximate ly 200 B.C.E to 50 C.E. Most schola rs tend to da te
Wisd om to the latte r h alf of the first century B.C. E." Th us it is probab ly
later than Ben Sira h, the o ther a pocryphal/deu terocanonical book be
longing to the wisd om "gen re."
Dav id Winsto n argues fo r its composition to be e arly first century
C. E., more s pecifically d u ring the reign o f Caligula, 37-41 C.E." It is
gene ra lly acknowledged that the author made use o f the LXX, the com
position of which th us constitutes a terminus post quem. The in fl uence of
\Visd om on the NT has o fte n been assumed, a lthough there are no dea r
quotations from \Visdom in the NT.n


Cf., Ecd 1:1.

See e.g., Wisdom 89.
Sec for C):iun ple Wight, 1989, 510, and Murphy. 1996, 83-84.
Mo.'i! schl)lMs as.c;ume Alexandria to be the mnsl likely pi ~Ke l')f the book's romposi
rion, e .g .. Murphy 1996. 83, Wright 1996, 510, Winston 1992.. 123. Grabbe 1997, 90-9 1.
and Clarke t9i.>, 13. The alleg:ed reasons for an Alexandrian context oi the book are
ntaltifold, f(lr example, the focus on Egypt in chapters 11 19 as well as the Jewish
Hellenistic thc.mght milieu refl ected in the text w hich closely re.c;embles other Jew
i'ihAiexandriiiln work.c: from the same period. Hm'le,er. althoush likely, the Alex
andrian origin M the book is by no means certain,. and othe r places of composition
ha\'e also been suggested, e .g .. Jerusalem and Syria, see Gr01bbe 1997. 123.
19 Sec \\linston 1979, 1214, a nd 199'2.. 12 1 12:2,. G1'<1bbe 1997, 2425, and \\'l'ight 1996,
510-5 11. The homllgl"lleity of the la nguage ilnd the structure l'lf the book ill'e two
main issues oih~' pl')inted out as suppot for its u nity.
20 See for example Cl<ll'ke 1973, 1'2.. Murphy 1996. 83, and Wright 1996,510.
21 Winston 19i9, 2025. Cf., Gr.:lbbe {1997. 8790) \\ho tluestions \\'insh1n's da ling a nd
puts the \Y"riting of Wisdom in the era of Augu stus.
22 See, fo example, Murphy 1996, 83, d ., Grabbe 1997, 2829, 88.

4.1 Tile Book ofTllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and lhe Gospel of luke


According to Wis 1:1 and chapters 6-9, the in tended readers o f the
book arc the kings and rulers o f the earth but in viev~.r of the content of
\Visd om, its author certainly had a much wid er audience in mind. The
author's main p urpose was p robably to encourage and strengthen his
fellow Jews and to warn against assimilation.n
There are similarities between Wisdom and Philo's writings, and
Philo has even been suggested as its author. This theory may be hard to
prove but it is obvious that Philo and the author o f \.Visdom worked
and lived in a similar intellectual and religiou$ environment. They v,rere
both most p robably Je\vish residents of Alexandria and may have been
roughly contemporary with each other.:-' \Vinston has proposed that
the author o f Wisdom was influenced by Philo,~" although the common
assumption is that \Visdom p re dates Philo's v~.rorks.~

The Gospel o f Luke

It is firmly based in ancient Christian tradition that Luke, the physician

and companion of the apostle Paul. is the author of the third Gospei.V
This is not the p roper place fo r a discussion of Lu ke's sources but it
is generally assu med that he used Mark's Gospel as weU as the so
called Q-sou rce. \'\'hen it comes to the birthnarratives... he seems to
have had access to o ther traditions as '".rei!. l uke's home-church is often
identified as the congregation o f Antioch and this is possibly also
w here the Gospel was composed .2ll
The Gospel of Luke was p resumably written after the fall of
lem in 70 C.E. It is commonly d ated somewhere between 80-85 C.E.,
thus later than Tobit and \\lisd om.2'1






WinstOI\ 1992, 126, MU!"J>h)' 1996,84, and G1abbe 1997, 9194. Thu.c;, lhe conw n*
riona l \'iew is lha t rhe book was prim al'ily w iuen fl)l' lhe Jews of Alexandria. even
thm1gh an intended gentile readership C&I\Jl Ot be e>:duded.
Wrigh t 1996, 510, Winston 1979, 59-63, D.wi.<~ 1984, 49-6'2. and Murphy 1990, &3.

1979, 5963.

See, e.g., W right 1996, 5'10, and Clarke 1m, 2.

Selt e.g., 1he r...lur-.:l lorian Canon, the attiburion a1 the end of the olde.<~t extal\t oop)'
o f the Gospel ( 175-225 C.E.) and lrenaeus' prologue h) the G~pel. See Karris 1989,
675, alld N(llland 1989, xxxiv:o:>:v.
Marsha ll 1978, 30-35. See also Karris 1989, 6 7s-676.
Mouosh.all 1978, Jil-35, and Karl'is 1989, 675-676. See .11so Nolland 1989, xxxvii-xxxi>:.
The Gospel of luke thus probabl)' pre-dates }06ephus' works. Acclwding lo himself,
luke wrote his Gospel beh)l\~ his oomposilion of Acts, see Acts 1: 1-5.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Luke was probably not of Jewish origin and presumably w ro te his

Gospel primarily for Gentile--Ch ristians. and presumptive Gentile con
verts, maybe the so-called 'God~fearers' \'l!ho already were familiar
with the God of Israel and the jewL h faith." Luke ded icated his Gospel
to a man named Theophilus~ w ho otherwise, unfo rtunately, remains
totally un known.:u

4.1 .2 The Book of Tobit and the Gospel o f Luke - Type-scenes

The Angel of the Lord as Traveling Companion, Protectot and Guide
The book of Tobit contains a tale that has a great deal in corn mon with
Genesis 24. The author was most certainly inspired by that text..n As in
Genesis 24, we have both a family tale about the marriage of two rela
tives and a tale of divine guid ance ..:.~
In both Genesis 24 and the book of Tobit, an angel plays the role of
protector and guide d uring a journey to a distant land, although Ra
phael pl., ys a fa r more active part in the plot of the book o f Tobit com
pared to the anonymous angel mentioned in Gen 24:7, 40. But in bo th
cases, it is the presence and guidance of the angel that ensures the sue
ces.~ of the mission, see the text analysis of Genesis 24 above.:~5 As a
literary character Tobit .,ppears to a high degree to be modeled on the
patriarch Abraham ..;;,
The Israelite family al the centre o f the story is living in exile in As
syria. As fo r Abraham in Genesis 24, it is important fo r Tobit that his
son Tobias should marry a relali ve and not take as wife a \"-'Oman be
longing to the strangers amongst whom they live.:~? 1'11e story has a
happy end, and Tobias marries his relativeSarah.:~S


Nolland 1989, XXXV.

See Nolland 19$9, xx>:ii-xxxiii. and Kanis 1989. 676. Marshall (1978,. 35-36). however,

sugsesL'I tha t Luke "' rote primarily for the "simple folk" <1mong the people of Israel.
See Luke 1: 1-4. The n.ame Theophilus. me".anins ' fl'imd M Cod' m.1y possibly be B
pseudonym for God fcaring reiidei'S in general. See .11so Nolland 1989. xxxiii.
See also Moore 1996. 89, 20, 188-191, 217.
Sel! also WesternMnn 198-5, 392, a nd Spencer 1999, 158-159.
See al;.o Nickelsburg: 1996,341, \' llll den Ey11de 2005,273-280, Ot:zen 2002, 2 1-23, ,)1\d
Mach 1992, 144148.
Sl~e. hw example, Nowe l1201)5, 3 1I.
See Tob 4: 12 13. &>e also Nowe ll2005, 3 11, Nickelsburg: 1996, 3-11, van den Eynde
2005, 273 280, Otzen 2002.. 2 1 23.
See Tobit chapter:; 5 I I.



4.1 Tile Book of Tllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)mon and lhe Gospel of l uke


A main difference betv~.reen the two narratives, however, is that To

bit does not send away his son for the explicit purpose of finding a
bride. As a result of poverty, Tobit sends his son Tobias to Med ia in
order to fctdl some money w hich he has deposited in the hands of a
man called Gabaei.'" As in Genesis 24, an a ngel is sent to accompany
the traveler. Tobias, however, is u naware o f his heavenly protection.
He thinks that h is g uide is an Israelite man~ by the name of A za riah :~u
In reality, his companion is no less than the a ngel Raphae):JI
[Tob 5:4J So Tobias went out t<> i<)Ok ft'lr a man to go with him to Media,
sume<)ne whu was acquainted with the way. He went t)ut and ft)tmd the
angel Raphael standing in fn:mt of him; but he did nt)t perceive that he was
an angel of Cod. [5) Tubia.'> said to him, 'Where do )'(lll come from. young
man? "From yo ur kind red, the [sraelites;" he replied, "and I have <."o me
here to wo rk.NThen Tobias said to him. "Do )'<)U know the way to go to
~1ed iar (6 J " Yes," he replied. "I have been there many times; I am acquainted with it and know aU the r()ads.. ."

As will be shown belmv, ~z in Jewish tradition Raphael is one of ' the

angels of Presence' ....>
As in Genesis 24, p rayer plays a central role in the story:w Th e angel
is sent as an answer to prayer .~5 Although a t this stage of the story both
Tobit_and Tobias are unaware of it, Raphael's commiss:ion is more Lhan
just to act as Tobias' guide; he was sen t by God in o rde r to heal Tobit


Sl--:e a lso O lzen 2002, 2123.

40 See Tob 5: 13. The 1t.1me Azariah 'YHWH has helped', which is exactly lhe
ftJnclion Ihal lhe angel has in t1le st01y. See .11so Fit2m}' er 2003, 184, I 92193.



The name Raphael means cod has he-aled'. yet another hint CM1cerning hi..; Mie in
the naf'l',ltive, see also Fil2myer 2CX)3, 160 16!.
See ch.a pler 4.2.
See also Ego 2007, 244~245. and Barker 2006, 118-128. Although ne\'er denoted a.<~
such in lhe book of Tobit, Raphael L11 later regarded as one of th\~ ardlange-ls. See
!\tach 1995. 1299-1.300. and Newsom 1992, 252. Raphael is frequently mentioned in
the Pseudepigrapha. and ill Qumran sources. e.g. J 11. 20.17, a nd 40. 1-10. See also
Gieschen 1998, r...h)()re l996. 160-161, and 271-272. See a lso Otun 2002.
1549. a nd Skemp 2005, 51-53.
See <~ lso Reiterer 2007, 271-273. and Ego 2f.XY1. 245-2-16. The lille 'God of heaven' l1.'1ed
in prayer by bolh Abraha m (Gen 2-1:3,7) and Raguel. S.uah's father (fob 7:12; 8: 15), i.'l
an .1ddilional com'M!<tion between lhe two lt.wr.l li\'es. See a lso Nowell. 2005. 4~.
When Raphael re\eals his true idenlil}' 10 Tobil and Tobias he says thal il was he
w ho lrnn.<>ntined Sarah's a~~d Tob-it' s pr,,yers lo \.Aid; Tob 12: 12 see below. He i..; a
mediiSim belween God and lnunanity, .m angelic function l)'p ic.l l of Second Temple
apocal)plk wri1i.1\gs, see. for ex.,mple. J Em'f<h 9: -10: 99.3, IOU, and Rev 8:3-4. See
also Niclcels burg. l996, 34-1. Fit;:m>e r 2003. 294-295. Skemp 2005, 53 and BMke 2006,


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

and to arrange the marriage between Tobias and Sarah, thus delivering
her from the demon that afflicts her:'.,
The readers of the book of Tobit know more than the characters in
the narrative. They are infonned fro m the outset that Raphael is an
angel and that a main issue in the plot is the quest for a bride; facts that
recall other stories of journeys in order to acquire a brid e from one's
0\'~tn people, such as Genesis 24 and 28-29. In many ways, Raphael's
fu nction as a match-maker seems to be modeled on the role of Abra ..
ham's servant in Genesis 24...,. However, an obvious difference is of
course that Raphael is an angel, thus reminding the readers of the ser
vant's invisible companion.4s V{hen he sends his son away, Tobit says
to him:
... May Cud in Maven bring you t:;afely there (Media) and return Yl)u 4? in
good Malth t() me; and may his angel. my son. accompany }'Oll both (Tu
bias and Raphae1/A:.c.ariah] for your safe t-y. (Tob 5:17, d., Cen 24:7J<il

\\' hen they leave, Tobias' mother starts to cry, and Tobit comfort<; his
wife and says:
Do nut worry, uur child w ill leave in good health and return tu us in gl'>l.xl
health (...] D o not fear fo r them, my ~iste r. For a good angel51 will accum
pomy him; his journey w ill lx~ S-uCC(>SS:fu ~ omd he will come back in gOl)d
health. (Tob 5:21-22).-"

Considering the fact that the readers are by now infonned that Tobias
is actually traveling together with the angel Raphael, the s tory is here

46 Tob 3:1617. See abo Nowell 2007. 230231. Moore 1996, 2930, .m d \a n den Eynde
2005, 274279. As nlerltioned above. providence is a major theme both in Tobit nnd in
Genesis 24. The mnrl'iage...; of bath Isaac ilnd Tobias are decided and a ft'anged b)'
God, see Gcn 24:50, nnd Tob 7: 11. See a lso Fitzmyer 2003. 2 18.
47 Sec Nickelsburg 1996, 341, and Otzen 2002., 2 1.
48 \Vhen discussing the simil..w ities between the book of Tobit and Cenesis 24, Ot2en
(2002. 21) holds that the weak point in the comp.lrison l')f the two u.r.llives L'i that
the serv.1nt travels Blone, a statement thlll I find highly peculi.ll' in light l')f Abra
ham's words in Gl~n 24:7. Although (he angelic companion rema ins invisible and si
k n t in \.enesis 24. it dl"'CS not imply that he is not pres.?nl.
49 In all the exiBnl \'etsions of Tobit, Ole G1't'ek wo1'<1 for"' is here in the plural
form. Tobit is thus praying for d ivine prote<tion for both hi'i son and his (de fitciCI)
angelic companitm, thus heigh ten ing the irony of Ole tale. See also Fi!?.m)er 2003,
50 S..~e also Tob 5: 1.>-16.
51 It seems <1pp.i11"ent thai the olUthor o f Tobit also believed in "IMd"' a ngels. See also
Moore 1996. 190.
52 In the LXX, the s.ame G 1~k verb t.Uobillo), 'succeed' w hk.h is u~d in Tob 5:17 (.lnd in
10: II. 14) i.<~ al<il') used in Cen 24:40 {and in w. 21, 42, 48. 56). See also Fitzmye1 2003,
199, and Otten 2002. 2 1.

4. 1 Tile Book of Tllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)mon and lhe Gospel of luke


slightly ironic.!;3 According to Carey Moore, Tobit's certainty of ange1ic

... fo r the reader familiar with C~n 24:40, it fo reshado ws how Tobit's Sarah
wiU be d e1 i v~.tred. that is. in Cen 24:40 E1iezer t~ll$ Laban that in hL.; ~a rch
fur a wife for Isaac an invisible angt~1 W{lu ld accompany him.~

T he quest for a bride and angelic company o n a journey a re thus com

mon motifs in Lhe two stories, creating a type-scene. The readers and
author of Tobit were certainly familiar with the na rra tive in Genesis 24,
and the similarities a re rnost certainly not coincidentaL In the '"rords
of Hedvig La rs.wn: "By using this kind of ty pescene a narrator could
a lert his audience that they could expect the narrative to develop in a
certain p attern."5to
There are also parallels between the book o f Tobit and Jacob's jour
ney to Haran and subsequent marriage to his cousins Rachel and Leah
in Genesis 28-29. Both Tobi t and Isaac s uffe r from blindness" and both
fa thers admonish their sons to marry a woman of their ov~m kin and,
like To bit, Isaac sends his son on a jou rney to a dista nt land .511 T he
theme o f divin e/angelic protection of a traveler is a lso present in the
Jacob-narrative, see for ex,1mple, Gcn 28:1 0-15; 31 :3-22.
As will be shown in d 1aptc r 4.2, there is a dea r similarity between
Isaac's words to h is \\rife w hen Jacob leaves home in Jub. 27.1318 and
Tob 5:2122 quoted above. Most probably, the author o f Jubilu s made
use of the book o fTobit."
The angel Raphael hence accompanies Tobias to Media. During the
joumey, Raphael arranges a meeting between Tobias a nd his rela tive
Sarah, who becomes his wife, chapte rs 6~8. Raphael also instructs To
bias how to repel the d emon Asmodem;611 a nd in this way sa.ves Sarah

53 ~c also No\\ell2007, 23'.'l-237. and Fit:-.mye 2003. 184185, 196--199.

5<1 MOl)l'e 1996, 188. See a lso pages 19()..191. Tile protecting role of the angel<t Lc; a popu
la r moilif in pseudepigraphical works of the ~oond Tem ple pe.l'iod. E.g. J EJI. 100.5;
T. jwl. 3. 10.
SS ~e van den Eynde 20(15, 275280 and Fi11.mye r 2003, 16 1. As mentioned in the 1ext
analys is of Gene!;is 24. the motif of nngel<t as prot ~h)t$ is frequenlly found in 1he Bi
ble, e.g., Exod 14:19-20:23:20-23, a nd Ps 9 l: l I. See al~ Ske mp 200S, 52.
56 H. Lars..c;on 2006, 67.
57 Gen 27: J, d ., Tob2:7 10.
58 Gen 28:15. See for exam ple Nowe ll 2005, 5-t 1, and van d en Eynde 200.), 275278.
There are s triking similarities in wording betwee1\ the LXX Gen 29::46 ilnd T ob 7:35.
59 Sl--:e a lso Moore 1996, J93194,012.en2002, 23, end Spencer l 999, l60 161.
60 The d emon As modeu..c; is alc;o mentioned in,. for exam ple, lhe Babylonian Talmud,
l~.g. r>. C it/in 68a~b; IJ. PI'S,tJu'm II Oil. He likewise a ppeilrs in Tt-:;tam~uJ if 1/onwu,
chapter 5, w he re Raphae l is mentioned as 1he <~ ngel who lhwerls hi m. Moore (1996,
147) writl-"S! " .. . schtllar!> .ue still debating whether lhe name is b.lsed upon lhe Heb.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

once and for all frorn the demon w ho had killed all her fom1er hus
ban ds, see chaptcrs3 a nd 8. According to Moore, the book o f Tobit
... represents a major s tep in tht! evolution uf tht! biblical understanding uf
d t!mOnS [... )and, espedaUy. of angels{ ... ). Hen'! are mentioned fo r the fi~t
timt! in Scripturt! two supernatural creature.o; who will figure quite promi
nently in subsequent Jewish an d Christian traditions: thL> archangt!l Ra
phael and the demon Asmodt!uS."'~

Tobias retums safely to his parents with the money and his w ife, dlap--ter 11 . Raphael is also active in curing Lhe blind ness ofTobit, see 6:29;
10:14, and 11:7-8."

The Doxo logy in Tobit 11

According to Charles Gieschen. Tob 11:1 4 15 deserves our special atten

tion because of the veneration of the angels expressed in the d oxo logy.
In his d iscussion of the verses, he refers to Loren Stuckenbruck, who
claims that the recension of the verses in the Codex Sinaiticus is earlier
than the type w hich appears in o ther Greek manuscripts. In this version
the doxology is in the third person and contains two blessings o f an

lmd. ' to dc~woy'. )Cf.,. Exod 12:231or repre.<~ent~ the Pe1s ian ilt'$1mm daeONJ or ttslwtdjv,
' the demon of ange r'. \.,..ho accompanied Ahriman (Augra Afai11y11), the Cod of E\'il:"
See als.o Huuer 1995, 197-200,. and Fitzmycr 2003, 150 151.
61 Sl~e also the P~eudepigraph ical book }fi:C1'1 1tttd A.;em:ll1, w herein .1n angel plays " '
active role in Lhe arrangement of the marriage of the two OMin ch.a acter~. chapte1'S
141 7.
62 Moore 1996, 28. See also Huller 1995, 1<17-200. In J 11. 10.4 Raphael is ordered by
God hl hand le another demon in a similar way: " . .. bind Aza1.el by his hands and
feet .and throw him into the darkn ess: nnd split open the de~ert that L<~ in Oudadel
and lhto\,_. him the1-e.'' l11e belief in d emon..<: and spil'itual W<H'fare that we enCOUI\Ier
in the book of Tobit is reminilieent of the demonology and exox:-ism of the NT. &"e
al<~o Skemp 2005. 58..(,(), Fitzmye 2003, 243. Otzen 2002.47-49, and Nickels burg 1996,
344. llH! pn~dom inant view among ~hola 1s is lhu..o; that the 00\')k of Tobit bears wit
ness to a ather deo.eloped angelology,. see. for example, Fit?.myer 2003, 160. BMker
(2006. 118-128), hllWever, appear~ to be of a d ifferent opinion. For a more detailed
diliCUssion of this i!lsue, see beloh.
63 According to the book of Tobit. R.lpiMcl thus lu d 1h1-ee ta~k!l to .lccomplis.h; the cure
Qi Tobit's blind ness. the o.r.angement of Sarah's and Tllhia..<l' matriage and the expu1
sion of the demon A~modeu..c~. ThL'I cml l'ldicl~ Iacer Rabbinic tradition that fme angel
.._....,.nnot perform more titan one mission. See d taple 4.5 below and Barker 2006, 126.
64 In the tt~xt \ersion gcnc mll> used.. the doxology i~ in the 2<'-l person and contains
l'lOI) one Messing of the .1ngels. See Gieschen 1998, 136. and Stucken.b ruck 1995, 164167.

4. 1 Tile Book of Tllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)mon and lhe Gospel of luke


(Tob l1 :14bJ Bl es~d God and Ble,:;scd his great Name and Blt~sed all his
h oly angelo;; may his g reat Na m~ be upon u s, and bl~d tJlllfu: tm:~cls unto
(l/1 t~g~-s.f15 ) For he has afAicted me. But n()w I see my $<m Ttlbias!li&

According to Gieschen, it is significant that God and the angeJs a re

praised side by side in the d oxology, something U>at Stucke nbruck alo
acknowledges. Ho,vever, Gieschen also points o ut that we here may
have " ... the possible identific~1tion o f the Divine Name An gel who
ma}' be addressed in this p rayer as 1 His Name."' Th is \'~muld mean that
Tobit is not only praising aiJ the angels but possibly one a ngel indiv i
d ually as the hyp osta tized name. Th is d oxology indicates that ind ivid
uals did not o nly worship together w ith a ngels but also venerated them
along \ov'ith God.~
To me.. the assumed connection between the divine-name angel
(Exod 2.3:20-21) and this doxology seems fa r-fetched but the veneration
of the a ngels alongside God L'i nevertheless noteworthy, as it is somew hat u nusual in Jewish sources. However, the blessing of the angels
does not necessarily ind icate tha t they a rc placed on the same level as

Angels in Human Disguise

A major issue in the plot of the story o f Tobit is the fact that Raphael
in itially conceals his angelic identity and presents hirnself as an Israelite
man.67 Like t-he Lhree "men'' in Genesis 1819, Raphael also appears in
h uman disguise. T1lis is a very comrnon phenomenon in biblical ange
lophanies, see also, for example, Hagar's encou nter with the angel of
the lord in Genesis 16r.s a nd the narratives in Genesis 32, Joshua 5. as
well as judges 6 a nd 13. The revelations of the heavenly messengers
often seem to follow a similar pattern: Th ey ap pear in h uman fom1.
deliver a crucial message and are not recognized as d iv ine e mis.<;aries



Eng. tr<ms. Cie!chen 1998. 136 1my il<llicsl. In lhis Cilse, the lran.~l. atOI'S of the NRSV
including AplXf)"Pha ( 1989} do nol foi!Qw the Codex Sinaitkus. and Tob II :14b-15 is
translated ill fhe foUowin s way:
[ 14I"BJe..<t.<led be Gl'KI, and blessed be his great 1u me, and blessed be all his hoi)' aJl ~
ge ls. flo<tay his holy name be blessed thmughoul all the ages. I JSjllloug:h he a fflicted
llle.. he h.a s had m el\:)' upon me. Now I see my son Tobias!..
Gieschen 1998, 136.
See a lso Nowell 2007, 233237.
Allhough it is M l explicitly stated Lha l the ol.ngel of the Lord appeared h) Hagar in
the fonn of a man, il seems to be implied ill fhe slOI')', see dMpler J .


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

u ntil their dep~uture. \'Ve may define this scenario as a typescene

common to many o f these narratives. The divine emissaries are also
very often offered hospitality in the form of food; Genesis 1819; judges
6 and 13. The allusion in Hebr 13:2 bears witness to this tradition:ew " Do
not neglect to shO\v hospitality to strangers, for by d oing that some
have entertained angels without knowing it." In contTast to bo th Ra
p hael and the angel o f the Lord in jud ges 6 and 13, however, Abra
ham's three visito rs are said to have eaten the food o ffered to them.711
\'Vhen Tobias and his fathe r want to reward the man who accom
panicd him o n the jou rney, Rap hael. to their asto nishment. reveals w ho
he is:
(T(lb 12:6] T he n Raph a el ca1led t he two of them ITilbit and T<>bias) p rivately and sa id tu them, " Bie.oos Cud a nd acknow ledge hi m in t he p resence of all
t he living fur t he good th ings he ha:=o done for you . . . {11) "I will now dec
Jare t he wh(lle truth to you and conceal nothing fro m yo u .. . ("12) 5<) now
when you [T()bit] and Sarah pra}'e<l. it W<l$ I w ho b rought a n d re a d t he
record of your prayer beforu the glory (lf t he Lo rd . . . (14J I w as sent to yuu
to h..~t you (TilbitJ. A nd a t the sam e tim e C od sent me to heal you a nd Sarah you r daughte r -in-la w. (1 5)1 am Ra ph ael, (me of the seven a ngels w h o
stand ready and enter befo re the g lory of th e lord."71 fl 6) The two of t he m

See also Sulliv.m 2004, 37-83. 179195, Kolenkow 1976, 153162, and Fi!2.m)'e 2003.
187-188. Moore ( 1996, l&.l-184) writes: "Starting: with Genesis (JS: I-8: 19: 1-3) and
001\linuing through the New Testament (d., Heb 13:2), angel<~ are Vil'tually indistinguishable f1'<lm human beings. In fact. they are often mistaken for mortals. Tile de-piction of a ngels.. complete .,...i!h wings and haloes, so oommon in 0 1ristia n painting..;
and sculpture, represen t.<~ artistic conventions, not biblical d,~scri pt i ons.''
70 During S..~oond Temple tinlt'S., the standnrd jewish interpretcltion of Genesis l ~ l9
was th at the th1-ee men d id not BCiually eat nt Molmre, it was only a vision. C" josephlL'I' inte1'p1-et.llion of Geoe.<~i!i IS in Aul. 1.196-198 and thlll of l'hilo in 011 Abr,;Jam
118 as well as the l'llestinian Targum!i to Cen 18:8. e.g., Tg. Nccj.: "Then he IAbr.l
ham) took curds Bnd milk and the calf whidl he hnd prepared, and placed it before
them fhis three guests]; and he sttl(ld be.<~ide the m under the tree and lll!!!f\.'ft' givi11g
lilt' impll!SSion of t'aliug attd driukiJlg.. (Eng. trans. McNamar.l 1992,. IM). Ill the Talmud
as well as in Cabbalistk lore, Raphael i!i said to be one of the three ,mg:els who visited Abraha m. He is c1-edited with the heating of Abraha m from the pahl from his
circum cl<~i(m. See Scholem 1971, 1549, an d Cuiley 2CXW, 311. See alSlO the treatment of
Gene!ii!i 18 in the TtoslammiiJ_( Abrafmm. Con!iidering t1le question whether or not an gel$ eat. see Goodman L9S6, 160- 175. In Tob 6:6, there is a d ifferen ce between the
version.'! Gil and Gl. In the Iauer, it is explicitl) said that not Tobia!i but lll>lft he
and Raphael ate the fish caught from the river Tigris, a !it.atement that i..c~ Cl"ll'rected by
Tob 12:19: Rapl1.:1el did not really eal, it wa.<~ a vision. See also Ego 2007. 249.
7l Note tJMI Raphael d,~!iign.ues him$elf ali one of the .seven highest angel!i, angell'l
!itcmding before God's throne. The late r tmdition ol !il~Ven archangels L'l thus an ticipated in the book of Tobit. Cf., Luke I :19: ' And the angel (Gabriel) answered him


4.1 Tile Book of Tllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)mon and lhe Gospel of l uke


they feU fac~ down, fo r th~y were afraid. (17] But he IRa
phael] said to them, "Du nut be afraid;n peace be with yuu. Bl~ss Cod fore
v~m1on~. As for me, when I wa.s with y<,u, I was m)t acting o n my own will.
but by the will of Cod. Bl~~s him each and every day ... (19J Althoug h you
'"'ere watching me, I rua.lly d id nut eat o r drink anything~ut what you saw
was a vision. 120) So now get up frum th~ ground, and acknowledge Cod.
See, I am ascending to him who sent me. W ritt~ down all these things that
have happt:med to yuu."'n [21) Then they s tood up, and could see him nu
more. [22}They kept blessing Cod and singing praises, and they acknowl
edged God for th(~e marvelous dt~eds of his, when an angel uf God had
appeared to them.
w~re s hak~n;

Rnpl!ne/ nud the angel<>/ the Lord in Judgi!S 6 nnrll3

The disclosure of the identity of the angel Raphael in Tobit 12 is similar

in many ways to the narrative in Judges 13, another text where an angel
of the Lord plays a central role. There are clear parallels between Tobit
12 and the revelation of the angel o f the Lord to Manoa.h and his wife.
Alexander Di Leila has poin ted out no less than eight intertextual connections between the two stories and he concludes that the author of
Tobit most as.c;uredly modeled his narrative o f Raphael's d isclosure of
his true identity on Judges l 3.u One such connecting link is the f~Kt that
Raphael says that in reality he did not eat or drink anything.. it was a
vision; Tob 12:1 9. The angel of the lord refuses to eat the food that
~vfanoah offers hirn:
Oudg 13:16 ) The angel t)f the LORD said to Manoah. "If yo u detain m~, I
will not eat your food; but if you want to p r~pare a burnt offering. then of.
f~ r it to the LORD."' (F<>r Manoah d id nut know that h~ w as thi! ang~ l ()( the

{L.~hariah}.lnd said h> him,, ' I am Gabiel who lttilnds in th e presence of \,.od . . .'" See
also Re'' 1:4; 3-:1; 4:5; 8:2, and Zedl '-J:!O; T. I.evi3.4-8, and I EH. 71.8-9.
72 A typical angelicexhorlation. see also, for example, Ceo 2 1:17: o ,m 10:12. 19; Luke
1: 13,30; 2:10.
i3 The commission 10 w l'ite down the pas1t'!venls/Vision...:; in a book is qt~i te common in
angel-aphnl\ies. e$pedaUy in apocalyptic writings.. see Daniel 1012. Rev 1'};9: 22:910. and Nickels-burg 1984, 46.
74 Di Lelia 2<XX>. 205. h> Di Lelia, .some ~imi l a l'i t ies ~ween 1he twll ruwra
five.c; are the he.lling of t-.1anooh' s wife from barrenne.c;s w hich cm-espond." to Ra
phael's healing Ill Tobit's bli:ndness {d.. Gab1iei's promi..;e of a son 10 1he elderly and
b.l1'1'en couple Zechariah and Eli2abeth in Luke I and lhe prediction of Isaac's birlh
ro Abraham n1ld Sarah in Genesis 18). the inilial hum a~l d isguise of the ange lic \'isitor, the theme of pta)'er. Ihe offering ,'){ food. and the ascension of the heavenly messenger. For delll ils, $ee Di Lella2fXX>. 199-206.
75 It i..:; aJSl) noteworthy. lhal similar lo Jacob's contender in Gen 32:29. the ansel of the
Lord in Judg 13: 17-18 1<efuses 10 1-eveal hi.'i name 10 Manooh nnd his wife.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Je wish ln te tpretation..c~ of Genesis

Like Tobias a nd h is father, Manoah .md his wife d id not at first realize
that Lhey were vis ited by a d ivine messenger. The wife designates h im
"a ma n of God " or simp ly " the man," judg 13:6, 10. his not u ntil their
departu re that the heavenly visito rs reveal who they really are. l11e
reaction of Tobias and his fa ther to this disclosure is similar to that o f
Manoah a nd h is wife. Compare Tob 12:1621 cited above wi th judg
13:20-21 :
1201 When tht! namt! {of the burnt o ffering) \Vent up toward hemen frum
the alta r, the angeJ o f the LORD ascend ed in the flam e of the altar while
Manuah and his wifu loo ked o n; and they feU on their faces f<} the ground .
(2lJ The angel of tht! LORD d id not a p pear again to Manuah and his wife.
Then M;m()ah realized that it was the angel uf th~ LORD.

Th is scenario closely resembles the accoun t in Ju dg 6:18~20 w here we

read that Gideon prepared a meal for the angel of the Lord bu t the food
was consumed by fire a nd his heavenly v is itor vanished.76 ln the
way as the angel of the Lord. Raphael also d isappears very sudd enly;
"Then they [Tobit and Tobias] stood up, and could sec h im no more"
[Tob 12:21 ].
However, an important diffe rence behveen the book of Tobit and
the narrative in Ju dges 13 is expressed by the words o f Manoah to his
wife in Judg 13:22: "\>Ve s!Jall surely die, for we have sem God!' In contrast
to the a ngel of the Lord in judges 13, Raphael is very ca reful to distin
guish between h imseJf a nd God. He encourages Tobit and Tobias to
p raise and worship God, not himself. Sec, fo r example. Tob 12:18: " ...
As for me, wlreu I was willt you, !was tlol acting on my own will, but by tire
will of God. Bless !tim eaclr aud every day ..."u
The angel of the Lord in judges 13, o n the other hand, seems to ac
cept worship. As in, fo r example, Genesis 16, th e ide ntity of the angel
and God is merged in judges 13, in clear contrast to Tobit 12 . TI1e dif
ference between the two he.-.venly messengers is simila r to the distinc
tion be tween the a ngel of the Lord in Genesis 16 and the a ngel G-abriel
who appears to Mary in Lu ke 1, a nd I will discus..-c; these two texts be
low. But first/ let us take a closer look a t anothe r na rrative in the Gospel
of Lu ke, the encounter with the risen C hrist in chapter 24, which in
many w.., ys is reminiscent o f Raphael's role in Tobit 5-12. as ""'e ll as the
a ppea rances of the a ngel of the Lord in judges 6 and 13.


See alro Di Lell.l 2CXX), 202~205. and Goodman 1986. 166169.

C... Rev 19:9 10; 22!89. ~ea lso Ego2007. 25 1 h~.

4. 1 Tile Book of Tllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and

lhe Gospel of luke

1 35

The riseu Cllr;sl ir1 Luke 24

In many ways Luke p resents the resurrected Jesus in angelic terms.
Like Tobias, the two men heading for Emmaus are accompanied on
their jou rney by an incognito heavenly being, though the readers <1re
informed of his true identity; Lu ke 24:1516, cf., Tob 5:4. The disciples
do not recognize the risen Ch rist u ntil he b reaks the bread and sud den~
ly vanishes from their sight; Lu ke 24:30-32, cf., Tob 12:21 22. Tn the
'bre~1king o f the bread ' scholars have seen an allusion to the Eucharist,
the Christian "sacrifice," and some o f them interpret Luke 24:3()..32 in
the light of the angelophanies in Judges 6 and 13; when the angel o f the
Lord is o ffered food/a sacrifice, he ascends to heaven.~
However, Lu ke' s resurrection narrative d oes not end there. According to l uke 24:3650, the risen Christ ap peared once more to his dis
ciples, this time in Jerusalem. The disciples are frightened when they
see him, and they think that he must be ~' g host/spirit. Jesus sudden
ap pearance surely has angelic connotation..s.79 In o rder to assure them of
his corporality, Jesus cats in their presence, thus abolishing all their
In t-his narrative, it seems evident that luke ""'anted to counterfeit
the assump tion that the risen Christ is to be u nderstood as an angel,
since according to Jewish belief, angels do not eat, cf., Tob 12:1 9, and
Judg 13:16.
\Ve may conclude, however, that in his description o f the risen Ch r..
ist, Lu ke ap pears to have been inspired by Jewish traditions concerning
encoun ters \'lith heavenly beings, such as those contained in the book
of Tobit and Judges 13.81

T11e Angelic Annu nciation of the Birth o f a Special Child

As shown in dKlp ter 3 'the angel o f the Lord' is generally described in
the Bible as a benefactor,112 and has always a special reason for his ap..
pcarance. He delivers a crucial message, o f great importance in the
(salvation ..) history o f Israel. Very common is the announcement of the




FtetcherLouis 1997, 62 63, Sullivan 201).1, 19 1 192.. and Skem p 2005, 54~58. C f.,
also Raphael's \\ords i.n Tob 12.-20 with jesu ~ wo rds in john 16:5: ,.,.But now I am
going 1o him w ho sent me. .:''
Cf., l.uke 24:~37, and Tob 12:.16-17.
luke 21:4 1 43.
Fletc:he'-louis 199-7,63-71. Ske mp 2005, ~58 .lnd Goodman 1986, 168.
As w e ha\re .seel\ above, the etngel is tile Red~t"m~r f'iJO;;). cf., Gel\ 48:16.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h

lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

birth of a child, o r the annou ncement o f s..1lvation, hvo elernenl'i that

a re o fte n combined.& Th e angel ic promise of a dlild follows a distinct
p~lttem. The child is a special gift from God_. and the '"'oman in ques~
tion is o ften described as barren . The birth o f the dlild is a miracle. The
p arents of L<ihmael, Isaac, Samson_. John the Baptist~-~ and Jesus all en
counter divine e missaries.s. Th is a ngelic an nunciation is so frequent in
the Bible that it may be d efined as a so-called type.-scen e.l!i>

Hagar and the at~gel mzd tile amumcialiou ofMary

There are some striking parallels between the story of Hag ar in Gen
16:714 a nd the a nnuncia tion in luke 1:2638.67 O f course an o bvious
d ifference be tween Hagar and Ma ry (as well as Elizabe th a nd Ma
noah's wife) is that the former is a lready pregn~1nt by natura l means
when she meets the angel b ut the angelophany in both annunciation
stories follows a similar p~1ttern.
According to both Gen 1 6:8 and Lu ke 1:28, U1e a ngel first addresses
Haga r a nd l'vfary with a greeting . In neither of the stories does he in tro
d ucc himself to the v~mman. According to \+Vestermann, in the origina l
narrative. vv. 11 12 in Genesis 16 followed immediately on the greeting
in v. S.$l

83 C(., Judg 13.25: Gen 18:915; 16:7-14; 2 1!17-20; 22: 11 18. See ol1W Westermann 1985,
242. The o concrere cxcasioll when lhe angel i.e; depicted as tuming against Israel
i.e; in 2 Sam 24: 15--16, cf... 1 Chr 2 1:1130, see a lso von R<ld 1964, 7i and FreedmaJl
Willoughby 1997. 318. See also <lbme. sections3.2.1 and 3.3.3.
al\~ ~vident structural simila ilies belwee!l the annunciations to ~la y a1\d
Ze\:lu.riah According to luk~ 1: 11 -20, the a.ogel Gabriel appeared to the falllel' of
John the Baptist. Gabriel (!')retells the birlft cif a son ro him and his wife, despite thei
old age, and prt'11icls lflt name and fl1t fli'$1iny/task of thei child. According to, for ex
ample, Browll ( 1999, 269), Luke was d ealy influenced by the narrative of lhe dhine
prom ise of the bith of a $O il to ancllher elderl)' and barren couple, Sarah and Abra
ham. See alc;o Nolland 1989. 1736.
See atso lhe story about Han nah and her SOil in I S.1muel 12. Although no angel i.'l
n'W!ntioned, it i.e; appa ~nt tlu t the birth of s.-u nuel is a special gift from Cod.. ''" an swer hl Hannah'.<~ prayer. Jc."SU.!I' case is of Ctlurse unique. since the NT here speaks
about a virgin birth. Joseph L'l his adopthe fllthe An aJlgel M the Lord to
Joseph in his dream; see Matt 1:20-21 and 2!13. See a lso Brown (r~pfinted ed.) 1999,
156~ 158, 231.. 1tote 1.. a1\d 268-269. For t1 discussion of Brown's book, sec, for exam ple,
Ctlnr.ld t9&S, 656-663.
See chapte1.3.2 above, Alter 198 1, 47~2. and Coleridge 1993, 31-37.
See also Wes.temann 1985.. 242-243.. a1\d 2.J5246.
Westerm al\ rt 1985, 245. He writes o n t he s.:1me page: "'The pmm ise in vv. 11 12 Iu s a
defined s truc-t\u<e, attested by a serie.'l of p.wallels, which pt.'ints hl a narTa!ive form
which has its base in the oral traditioo sMge."

84 There



4.1 Tile Book ofTllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and the Gospel of luke


There is, however. an important difference betv,,ecn the pericopes.

In luke 1:26, the narrator infom1s us that it was lite angel Gabriel who
was sent to Mary in Naz.c1.reth. The identity of the angel is thus dear.11...
Gabriel alwa ys refers to God in the third person; he is clearly separate
from God. In cont rast, the a ngel of the Lord in Genesis 16 appears very
suddenly a nd u nexpectedly, he comes from "nowhere" and speaks to
Hagar. As \Veste rma nn says, '' ... he is u nknown; he comes from and
retuntS to the u nknown."<lOThe iden tity of the angel and God is here
merged in a confusing way. Th ese characteristics of the angel o f the
Lord are not p rese nt in the narrative o f the ann unciation in luke 1.
There a re, however, obvious structural similarities between the two
texts.91 In both cases... the d ivine emissary delivers a message concerning
the b irth of a son. After h is greeting. the a ngel tells the mother w hat
name she shall give her son a nd predicts his destin y:OJz


Note that Gabrit~l in Luke 1~6-38 is ne\ercalled ' the angel of th e b.)ld'.
\.\/estermalll\ 1985. 243. See als.o chapter 3 above.
Westermann ( 1985. 245} w ites:
This I the similarity of Gen. 16:8, 1112 a nd Luke 1:28, 30b-32) is a rare ol.nd .ash)und
ing example of the perseverance of a form o\er a period of mo~ than a thOlL!>and
ye.ars[ . .. J

A comp..w ison with Lk. 1:1117 shows that the form is open hl variation ( ... ) The
form has the following parts: ( I) lntmduction: a messenge of God is there (greet
ing}: (2} announcement of P~gnancy and a birth of a son is introduced by :u:;: (3)
specification of the name of the son with the reason expiBi.ning the 1\ilm e; (4} Ill\
nQOnce m,~nt of w hat \'lill become of the child. The constant etement, which is never
missing.. is the announcement 1lf the billh of n SOOi and thi.<~ is what the fllrm a.<~ B
\'\hole is olll about: all oth er parts an~ directed to or .subordinated to th is: (uigin.llly il
i$ probably lhe announcement of the bith of a son to ,, childless womBil. It is as such
the (U\OOullt-em.ent of s..l lvation or of the lumins point in a C'risis a nd w coincide.<~
w ith the nac'l'lthes of a messenge of Cod: he comes to announce the cha nge in the
lot. But the ples show that the hwm can also be used in o.ther siluath)OS,. as in
Gen. 16, w here the IU\OOUilrement leads to another cri!>is.

Cf., the words of the ange-l of the Lord hl Samson's mother in Judg 13:3-5. w here the
me.<~s.lge of the angel of the lord also follows a similar pattem. Sl."e al<>ll Klein 2CXY7,


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Gen 16:8, 11 12 and Luke 1:28,31-33

[G<'1l 16:8) And h [the angJ o f the
Lo rd I said ; ..Hagar, slave-girl n f S.uai.
where have )'l)U rom e from and
where are )'()U goingr

[Luk1:211J And h (the angoi Gabriel)

('11 ) .."Nnw you have conceived and

!;hall bear a son;

p t J " . .. And nnw, you will conceive

in your womb and bea r a so n,

you shaH call him Ishmael?

and you will nanw him Jesus.

fur the LORD has given heed to your

(32) He will be g reat, and will be

called the 5<)n of tlw Most High, an d
the lord Cod will give to him the
th rone uf h is anrustur David.

[ 12) He shall be a w ild a~s of a man,
with his h and agains t every<me, and

everyo ne's hand against him; and he

shall Jiv~t at odds with all his kin."

came to M r [Mary] and said, "Greet

ings, fa vo r~td l)ne! 11le Lo rd is with


(33) He will reign over the house of

j acob fOnNer, and uf his kingdom
the re '"'ill be no e nd.'.-

The commissions of the angels are similar in these casesi the annuncia ..
tion o f the birOt of a .sou, his name, and ajorelelliug of!Jis lask/desliny.111c
content of the tasks/destinies of Ishmael and Jesus is of course different
but the literal structure of the messages to the two v~mmen follows the
same pattern. likewise.. the function of the heavenly emissary is the
same in both narratives. The pericopes share the same motif, the angel ..
ic announcement o f the birth of a son.-n According to john Collins, the
archangel Gabriel i n the Gospel of Luke " .. .is a messenger from God
and takes over the ,-ole of the 'Angel o f the LORD' of the Hebrew Bible,
in announcing the birth of john the Baptist and jesus.""~
However, the ambivalence conceming the merged identity between
God and the messenger that \oVC find in Genesis 16 does not appear in
Luke 1. Hagar' s response to the words of the divine emissary is that she
indeed has seen God, v. 13. Mary's reaction to the angel's message is to
question how all this is abo ut to happen, since she has no husband,
v. 34. The angel who visits Mary is explicitly identified as Gabriel by
the narrator, v. 26.

However, lhe annunciation of the birth ()( Jesus to Mary illso s-trongly e\Okes the
callinst.WI'<ltives o f the OT, e.g ., Judg 6:1124; Exodus 3, ilnd jer 1:410. See .11so \VY
ler 1996, 136138, ilnd Noll.1nd t 989, 3959.
9'1 Cllllins 1995, 611.

4. 1 Tile Book ofTllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and lhe Gospel of luke


In fact, the merged identity between the angel of the Lord and God
Himself is not found anywhere in the NT. In this respect, Samuel Meier
is correct, when he writ'es that " . .. the NT knows o f no single 'The an
gel of the Lord/God,' for the definite article never appears when a fig
ure identified by this phrase makes its first appearance- it is ahvays 'an
angel of the Lord' (Matt 1 :20; 2:13,19; 28:2; Luke 1 :11; 2:9; john 5:4; Acts
5:19; 8:26; 10:3 ["of God"]; 12:7.23; Gal 4:14).""
Concluding Remarks
Let us now tum to a comparison o f the angelology presented in these
various pericopes. The angel w ho guides Tobit is named~" but the angel
in Genesis 24 is anonymous. The angel Raphael plays a rnudl more
active part in the story than the angel in Genesis 24, w ho is mentioned
only in vv. 7 and 40.
The reason for the more developed angelology of the book o f Tobit
compared to Genesis 24 is most probably that Tobit reflects a later stage
in the development of the Israelite religion. As a named angel \"-'ith a
distinct personality, Raphael distinguishes himself fro m 'the angel of
the Lord', the theophanic angel." It is also worth noting that the OT
texLo; that seem to distinguish ben.vecn the angel of the Lord and God
are generally to be found in later biblical texts, e.g., 1 Chr 21:14-15."
However, in this respect there is an important difference between
Genesis 16 and judges 13 compared to Genesis 24. In the latter, we do
not find the merged identity of the angel and God. As mentioned above
in the text analysis. this is the only reference to an angel in the singular
in Genesis, where the distinction between God and His angel seems
clear. The angel in Genesis 24 may very well be an ''ordinary" one. If
Claus W'estermann is correct in his assumption that the reference to the
angel in Genesis 24 is a later insertion,'I'J this could thus explain the
distinction between the angel and God in this pericope.
The religion of the Hebrew BiblejOT must not be confused with the
many fonns of Jewish faith at the time o f Jesus. There is a considerable
timespan between the writing down of Genesis 16 and Luke 1. The
merging of the identity of the d ivine rnessenger and God can be ex


Meier 1993-b, 9ft.

Cf., the <lngel Gabriel in Lu ke 1:2627.
See, e.g . Fi1Znl)'er2003, 160, and Finkels lein 1929, 238.
cr.. abcwe, dupter 1.4.
Westermann 1985, 383-3&4. See cdso 1he text anatrsis in <:hapter 3.2.4 alxwe.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

plained as characteristic of an earlier time. During the Second Temple

period, the angelology of Israel be<:ame more developed; u,e angels
received names and thus became ind ividualized.oo It may well be that
the distance betv~.'een God and humanity was reg.uded as greater at a.
later stage in Israel's history;-God prefers to send angels to communi
cate with His people.
As shown in chapter 1.4, the Sadducees regarded the angels w ho
appear in the Pentateuch as a kind of impersonal extension of God. T11c
statement in Acts 23:8 should not be u nderstood to mean that the Sad
d ucees denied the existence of angels altogether but that they rejected
the id ea of angels as independent spiritual beings \vith a distinct perso
nality and will of their own, an angelology w hich lhe Pharisees em
While most scholars regard the d escription of Raphael in the book
of Tobit as an example o f this kind o f later angelology, Barker u nderstands him " ... as ._1 manifestation of one aspect of the Lord, "lee an in ...
terpretation that seems quite dose to the Sadduccean view o f angels .
According to Margaret Barker, the book of Tobit preserves memo
ries of the religion of Israel during the First Temple period, before the
reform of king Josiah and the victory of the Deutcronomistic "school;"
the religion of Isaiah and Job.lUl In her view, the d ualism present in the
books of Tobit and Job is an expression o f this older theology; the misfortu nes of Sarah and Job are caused by an evil supematural being..
their sufferi ngs are not a punishment for sin. U)l On the basis of the
merged identity of the angel of the lord and God in Genesis and, for
example, Jsa 9:6 (v. 5 in the MT), Barker argues that in the older Israelite religion, the divil1e presence had been manifold and that the angels
had represented divergent divine characteristics before they came to be
understood as distinct beings, separate from God. Accordingly, Ra
pha.el, for example, whose name means ~God heals' had formerly been
the he~1ling aspect o f the lord and, o f the four ' throne names' in

E.g., Dan 9:21; 10:1214. 12: I, a nd Tob 12:11- 15. See Bl'>o Bro\\'1\ 1999. 129 a nd 260.
See also Fi1t ke!stei.n 1929, 235-240.
Barker2()()6, LIS-128. e.<~p. p. 124.
Barker 2006, 118-t 19, 128. As support fo r her themy. B.-wker points out that tht> Deutt>ronomistic theolog)' does not seem hlle1we any room for ,,nge ls. As support sht>
refers to l'>a 37:!6 versus 2 Kgs 19:15. St>e Barke 2006, p. 119 and note 4. As is well
known, th\~re are n\) angels mentiollOO in the t>.IT-version 1lf Oeuteranomy.
104 According to Barker (2(XXI;, I t81 19), the books of Job <Jnd Tobit lllu$ d o not ~.-'Miform
to the Deutei'OMmi!Uic theory of dhine l'eWclrdretributiOI\. However, this seems to
be I'Mher a marginal s tandpllint. Ao; s taled above. many sdl\l lars see dear examples
llf a OeutemnomL<~tic inRuence Oil the theology of the book \l f Tobit.


4. 1 Tile Book ofTllbit and Wisdom of Soil) mOll and Ihe Gospel of luke


Isaiah 9, ' Prince of Peace' represents Raphael. Barker thus claims that
d uring the Sc<:ond Tern pie period the l<>rd was still remcmbcret.i as ''a
duster of angels,., to use her expression.ul5
It seems reasonable that the revelations of the angel of the Lord' in,
for example, Genesis 16 and judges 13 are expressions o f this early
stage of the Israelite religion; 'the angel of the Lord' may be seen as a
manifestation of God o n earth. Hm"rever, I agree with most schola rs
that the angel Raphael in the book of Tobit can hard ly be put in to the
same category .
Like Gabriel in Luke 1, Raphael is clearly presented as an individu
a l separate from God. The mere fact that they both have their own
names indicates their independency as d istinct personalities and dis
tinguishes thern frorn the angel of the Lord, \'ltho is a lways nameless
and a nonymous.II)(,
It is a lso highly questionable that the presence of demonic charac
ters (Satan and Asmodeus) in Job a nd Tobit respectively is an expres
sion of Israel's p reJosian ic faith, sin ce both are portrayed ~1s angel
ic/spiritual beings acting independently and in opposition to God.IU7

4.1.3 The Wisdom o f Solomon - Allusions

Wisdom and the Angel of the lord - Some Introductory Remarks
In the V\' isdom of Solomon there are some notable connections to ' the
angel of the Lord' in Genesis and Exodus. T11cre is much to say about
the concept of wiSli om but this is not the p roper p lace for a n e labora
tion of the 1 Wisdom t11eology' of Israel in general. Hov~.'ever~ in order to
demonstrate the parallels between the two concepts, I wish to briefly
point o ut the Exod us connections, although the rnain focus is on the

lOS Barker 2006, 123- 126. Jsa 9-.5(61 is rende1-ed dif!erentl)' in the ~IT n.nd the LXX. St."e
also chapters 2.2.2 and 3.4. 1 in this dissertatiQn. A.s s hown in chapter 2.2.2. in an eal'lier book Barker ( 1992. 36) inS-tead anibutes the title 'Prince of Peace' to the angel
Phanuet while Raphael is associ.l ted with the tHie 'Eve rlasting Father.'
106 Nole that the angel of the lord i1\ Judg 13: 18 refuses 10 1't'venl his name, as dOtS
Jacob's conter\der in Cen 32:30. C f., Luke 1:19 w here the olngel identifies himself in
front of Zedl ariilh and proclaims: "I a m Gabriel. I s1and in the pre.c;ence of God, and 1
ha\'e been sent to you .. ." &:.e e.g . Tob 12: 15. and FinkeJs1ein 1929, 219220.
107 According to, fo r example, Skem p (2005, 5860), the book of Tob-it and the NT in
many way5 sl ~ 1'e a s imilar demonology.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

According to Lester Grabbe, Wisdom chapters 1019 may be labeled

a kind of Hellenistic jewish Mid rash on the biblical history i.n Genesis
and Exodus. 1c.~ This section is o f interest for our quest, since it bears
witness to the same arnbiguity between God and 'l .ad}' \Nisdom' fou nd
between 'the angel of the Lord' and God in ~'ese biblical books. Re
garding the \Visdom of Solomon Helmer Ringgren writes:
The relati<)n uf Wisdom to God is here dealt with in greater d et<lil than in
the oth er (wisdom-] books, but at the same time it remains obscure in a pe
culiar way. This is most apparent in the last chapters o f the book, l 0-19. Fo r
in Chap. 10 Wi.sdum is the divine puwer, active in history. In the fo llowing
chapterS the grammatical .!>'U bjett ch anges impercep tibly and bet:<lml?S C'.od

\Visd om chapter 10 constitutC'$ a hymn ded.icated to the personified

'Lady \<Visdom' and her works fro m the creation o f human kind to the
exodus of Israel from Egypt.llll She is described as the one \\1ho led and
protected the Israelites d uring their exodus from Egypt (Wis 10:1 7-19}
and also to have guided them through the desert (chapter 11 ), u acts
that the Hebrew Bible ascribes to either God Himself (Exod 13:21 -22;
14:24, and 15:119; Deut 4:34-38; Ps105:23-45) or the angel of God (Exod
14:19; 23:20-23; Num 20:15-16; judg 2:1}."' Th us, she plays ~1c same
role as the "angel'' of the Exodu s~tra di tio n . m The same parallelism that
exists between the angel and God Himself is applicable to the relation
ship between God and ' Lady \<Visd om' :
['..Vis l 0:15) A holy people an d blamelE;':l>S race wisdom delivered from ana
tit)n t)f opprt!SSt:lr$. (16) She t:1ntered the soul uf the ser\ant o f the Lord
[Mose..;:JH and with..<;tood dre-ad king:; with wonderS and sig:ns [...1 [ 17b)
she g uided them (the lsrad itesJ along a marvelous way, and became a shel
ter to them by da)', and a starry Aa me th rough the night. 118] She broug h t

lOS Grabbe l997. 1825, 39-43.

l()9 Rings1'etl 1947, I t5, see alc;o pp. 116 I 19 and WinS-ton 197'), 3.J.
llO See also Perdue 199-1, 3083 10. Acwding 10 Winston ( 1992. 124). in cont.r.lst to

ll t



earlier wisdom books of PI'Ovebs., Job and Bl~n Sira, 'lady \\1il':dl"lm' in the Wisdom
l"lf Sc\lomon may be d.1ssified a..c~ a hyposta.qi.c;. See also Grabbe 1997, 7780, and Rins
&-en 1947, 115-119. Hl"IWever, according 10 Murphy ( 1992, 926), it is better to talk
aOOm 'l.ady WL"'dom' in this book also a.c; a personification of C'.od'$ wi.sdom, ralher
than as a hypostasis, which view is l>hared by OUI\0 (1989, 163-176).
Sel! also Perdue 199-t 310.313.
The exact meaning of Deul 4:37 and Judg 2:1 i.s. however, del).:l !ed, see dw.pte 3
See also Gie.c;dlen 1998, 98-99, and Fossum 1995, 5762.
Cf.. Exodus 3 w here the angel of the l.o1'<1' is said 10 have appearod to Mose.c; in lhe
bum ing bush. although the one who spe.1ks ro him is dearly Cod Himself. see dl<lpfer 3 above.

4.1 Tile Book ofTllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and lhe Gospel of luke


them thrt'1ug h the Red Sea, and led them th ro ugh deep waters, (19 ) but she
d rowned their encmk>:S [...) [201Therefore the righ teous plund ered the un
godly? they ,:;an g hymns, 0 Lo rd, to your ho ly name, and praif.ied with une
acct)rd your defen d ing hand ...

In Exod 14:19 the a ngel of God appears in the pillar of cloud, w hile we
read in v. 24 that "the Lord in the pillar of fire looked down on the
Egyptian a rmy, and threw the Egyptian am1y into panic"_l l$ Bu t according to the rende ring of th e exodus in Wis 10:1520, it is ' Lady Wis
dom' "',.ho becomes 'a starry flame' and the hand o f God seems to be
equated \'l.ith>
The imagery o f 'God's Han d ' in Wis 10:20 recalls the song of Moses
in Exod 1 5:1~18, which is explicitly a lluded to in this verse. In the song
of Moses as well as in \+Visd om, 'the Hand ' d early represents God b ut
in th e la te r text it seems to be yet a nother epithet for 'L1dy \'Visd om'.117
Compare also Wis 11:17 with Wis 9:12, w here God's Word/'Logos',
' Lady Wisdom' a nd 'God's Hand ' arc equa ted w ith each other as in
str umental in the creation o f the In \Vis 18:15 the 'Logos of
God' is said to be the one w ho killed the firstborn o f the Egyptians.
Thus the 'Logos' seems to be id entified with 'the Destroyer'/nn\0~0
mentioned in Exod 12:23b, and in Wis 18:16 the ' Logos' clearly
represents ' the Destroying Angel'/il'ii!Zl.D:i 1~''-' in 2 Sam 24:16 a nd 1 Chr
21:15 .n-t This is noteworthy, since scholars generally agree tha t ' Lady
\Visd om' a nd ' Logos' a re used synon)'mously in \Visd om. Here, the
'wisdom ~ tra diti o n' is fused w ith the 'Logostrad ition' of Hellenistic
ju daism.'"' Compare, for examp le, a lso Wis 18:15 a nd 9:10; both 'Lady
\\' isd om' and the 'Logos' are depicted as having their a bod e in heaven,



also lsa 63:9 i.n the r..rr where 'the angel of His {God's) pre.<~ence' is credited \'lilh

having delive'ed Israel out of Egypt. Hm'le\er. in the LXX 1-endering of Ol is verse.
any angelic involvement is explicitly d en ied: the deed is aSC'ribed to Cod Himself.
See further chaptel' .H abo\'e and Fossum 1995, 57-39.
116 Cf .. also Sir 24:4 "I ('lady Wisdom'[ dwell in 1he highest heavens, and my lhrone
was in a pillar of doud." See also \\1Lo; 1 8~ .lnd 19:7-8.
ll7 See a lso Cie.o;chen 1998, UX>-101, a1\d j ude 5, where .lcco'<ling hl some mss Jesu..c; is
identified as 1he o ne who brought Israel out oi Egypt. See Blo;o t Co 10:4 <Uld M.ltl
11: 19; 23:34; d ., Luke 7:35; II :49. Fo a discu.!l!iion of this i.o;sue and ron..neclion:; to
' the angel of the lord', see !UIther Fossum 1995, 4 1 ~9. See alo;o Col 2:1-3, t Cot 1:24,
and Suggs 1970,31-61.
118 For a q uotMion of lhese verses, see 8.:cursus 2 below. See alw W is8:4; 9.9; 2 Eu. 30.812, Win.o;ton1979, 38-39, FQS.o;um 1985,288, .md Cie:;chen 1998,93, 100.101.
119 See also Wis '1 8~25. F<lssum 1995, 51, 5562; 1985, 228. and Gk>..'>Chen 1998, 105107.
cr.. Re.v 19:11- 16.
120 See e .g... Wins to n 1979, 3810, and 1992, 125. See also Gr<~bbe 1997, 76-80.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish

lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

on Cod's throne. How then, a rc \\'e to define the na ture of 'lady \Vis
dom1 ? In a n attempt to answer this question, Gerhard von Rad \Vrites:
... None the l ~ss it is correct to say that wisdom i~ th~ funn in which jah
weh's will and his aco:1mpanying uf man (i.e. hL-; salvation) approaches
man (... } Stilt the most important thing is that w i.sdom dues not tum tO
ward~ man in a shape of an'(!", teaching. guidance, salvatilm o r the like,
but uf a perSOn, a summoning " I,.. So wisdom is truly the fo rm in which
Jahweh makt>S him.sc1f pr(~nt and in which he wishes to be sought by
man. "Whuso find s mtt, finds l if~N ( Pr<N. vrn. 35). Only Jahw~th can speak
m this way. And yet, wi$d01n is not Jahweh himself: it is ~<)mething sepa
rate from h im . . .ut

This description of 'Lad y \Visd om' is in many ways reminiscent o f the

fu nction o f the angel of the Lord as God's means of commun icating
with the world, compare the sd1ola rly discussion regarding the rela
tionship be tween God a nd the "angel" rc<:ordcd in chapter 3.6. '"
According to \Vinsto n, the \'Visdom of Solomon represents a further
step in the evolution o f the concept o f wisdom in Israelite religion
compared to Proverbs, Job and Ben Sirah, since 'lady Wisdom' is described as a n e te mal e manation of God,'Zl w hich has no counterpart in
these other books. However. \.Yinston points out that the same idea
appears in the w ritings of Philo, who in many ways appears to have a
similar 'wisdom-theology'.': 'L1dy \.Yisdom' is a mediator of divin e
revelation; e.g ., Wisdom 8-9. m Moreover, she is depicted as a savior in
\Visd om, a quality which in the Hebrew Bible is reserved for God and
the 'angel of the lord'.'"'
Wh en comparing Wis 9:10 and 10:17, we see th,1t she appears to be
equated with GOli 's Spirit, a nd in \Vis 9:4 she is depicted as seated by
Cod's throne.rZ7 She is clearly ascribed divine characte ristics; see ~Vis
7:22~8:S . m In contrast to in Ben Sirah, ' Lady \+Visdom' is never explicitly
identified as the Torah in the Wisdom of Solomon but she is the perso~
nitication of divine providence. She is credited with having guid ed the

121 von Rad 1962,4-14.

122 See also Dunn's stateme nt (1989, 176) oonrerning ' lady Wisdl).U'.
123 Wis 7:25, d ., Heb I :3. S...--e also Winston 1979, 33-4), 59-63, 1992, 124-125. and Ring
s -en I<J.47, 11 ~119.
124 Winston 1979. 33-13, 59-63, and 1992. 121~ 125.
125 S..~e also Winston 1979, 42-4.1.
126 E.g., Wis 9:18: 10:6-15. The depiction of 'Lady Wisdont' a.<~ a savior i~ th us lu\ique h)
the Wisdom of Solomon. Sl."e futher Crabbe 1997, 7980.
127 See also 1 E11. 84.23, Gieschen 1998, 93<Ji, <lnd Bauckham 1999, 1371, esp. p. 56.
128 Cf ... Col 1: 1>16. See a lso Ringg-en 19-17, 115-119. \\rright 1989, 512, Murphy 1995,
2282.1 1, and Barke r 1992,. 6267.

4.1 Tile Book ofTllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and lhe Gospel of luke


saints as well as the course of history.2., In addition to her role in the

accoun t of the exodus from Egypt, she also appears to have overtake n
the ro le o f 'the a ngel o f the Lord' in Wisdom's review o f the life of the
pat riarchs.

The Aqedah
In Wis 10:5 it is stated that it was 'lady Wisdom' who gave Abraham
strength during th e Aqedah:llll
['..Vis 10:5] Wisd om a lso, when the nations in wicked agreement had been
p ut to confusion, recognized the righteo us man and pre.ser\cd him b1ame1e.s..,. before C ud, and kept him strung in his compas.o;-ion for his child.

In Genesis 22.- it is ' the angel of the lord' who addresses Abraham and
rescues Isaac but in \Nis 10:5 it is instead 'Lad y W'isdom' w ho is involved in the Aqet.iah.lll

jacob and the Angel

In Wis 10:10..12 \Ve read about 'lady \Visdom's' involvement in jacob's
(Wis tO: tO] When a righteous man (Jacob) Aed frt)m h is bn)ther's wrath,
she guided h im o n straight paths; she showed him the kingdom uf Cod,
and gave him knowledge of holy th ings; she prospered him in his labourS,
and increased the fruit of his toil. [1 1) When h is o ppn!S.'K)r::> were covetous,
she stuod by h im and made him rich. [121 She protected h im from his ~ne
mies, and kept him safe from tho!>e who lay in wait for h im.: in h is arduous
conte..o;-t ~he gave him the victory. that he might learn that g()dliness is more
powerful than anrthing ell-ie.

She is here credited as the one w ho protected a nd gu ided Jacob, a role

that the Bible assigns to God{the angel of God. 131 Wh en he runs away to
escape the revenge o f E.t;au, 'Lady \Visdom' is said to have guided him,

129 Win.<~ton 1?92. 125. S...->e a lso Su sgs 1970, 4043.

130 In lhe so-called Aplxryphal or Owt~roc-.mon ical Scriptures of rhe OT ther~ arc a few
allusions h) Gen 22!119. 1tamely in Judith 8:2627. 1 MBCc 2:52; Wi.<t J()-.5, and Sir

44: I<J.21. Of thec::e. only the l)lle in WL<t 10:5 is o f inteTest for our s tudy.
See illso the allusion to the destruction of Sodl)ffi and Gomorrt~h in Wis 10:6-S. where
'Lady \\1L<~dom' is credited with having. saved 1..<)1, d., Gene.<~is 19 . See also Winston

1979, 2 15216. iiJld Fo.<~s.u m 1995, 4551.

132 See e.g.. Gen 28: 13-15: 31:3, 11 13. and 48 :1516. C(., Raph ael's function a..<~ a protector
and guide in the OOok of Tobit


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

shown him the kingdom of God and to have given hirn knowledge o f
holy things,u.1 most certainly an allusion to Jacob's revelation at Bethel.
Another pos.sible translation of v. 10 is to read ~holy ones' instead of
' holy things'. If we choose this rendering, ' the holy ones' ore probably
the angels he saw in his drearn.
In Gen 28:15a we read that in the d ream God says to j,Kob: " Know
that I am with you and will keep you w herever you go ... " 'L1.dy \+Vis
dom' is also said to have increased the fruit o f jacob's toil while he was
in the service of Laban, something that jacob himself tells his wives was
an act o f the angel o f God (Gen 31:413). Gieschen states that i n this
speech Jacob refers to the G<>t.i who exhorted him to leave Laban (Gen
3 1:3) as identical to this "angei."m \Vis 10:12 seems to aJiudc to Gcn
3 1:24, where '"'e read that when laban pursued the fleeing Jacob, God
appeared to the former in a dream and wamed him not to harm Jacob.
The lost part of Wis 10:12 is probably an allusion to jacob's contest with
' the unknown rnan' in Genesis 32.133
For these reasons it is apparent that the role o f ' lady \'Visdom' in
the passage quoted above is rooted i1' angelomorphic traditions. Thus, I
fu lly agree with Gicsd,cn ""'hen he w rites: "One can see from the Gene-.
sis narrative that most of the events related in \+Vis. 10.10~ 12 involved

I J3 According to Win:>ton (19i9, 217), ' the holy things' may here consist in a vision of

the future Temp~ and th e Levite p1iesthood, an inte1'p1-et.1tion he bases on l p1'esumptive influence of the Tt.; Mml'llf t'lf U;i. C f., the Targumic rende1ings M Genesis
28. see below. See .11!00 Wright 1989, 517.
l34 Gieschen 1998, 102.
135 See a lso \\1in.:;ton 1979, 2 17218. Since 'lady Wisdom' in the pas..<1age quot,~d above is
depic-ted as the p1'0tector of Jacob, it s...~ms likely t1l.l t she is: not to be under.stond as
jacob's opponent in Wi.<~ 10: 12 but rather ll..'l the one who strengthened him ln the
oontest and ens u red his vkto.y. d. Cen 32:28 129) in the LXX. Thus Wis 10: 12, in
turn.. remind.'! me of Ho.yward's interpretation of luke 22.<4.3-H in the light of lhe
LXX rendering of this verse (see fu rlltel' the di!K:u-":tion of LXX Genesis 32 in chapter
3.2.5. According hl Hayward {2005, 32l-327), the LXX \ersion of j.1cob's stru gglt~
may be u nderstood as me-aning that the angel fought alons-;ide Jacob against some
unna med foe .md he arg.ue.'l that luke had jacob's .struggle in mind when he wrote
his \'er.shln of th e 11ight time anguis h l')f je.'lus at Gethscmane. In bllth case.!;, heargue$, an angel was sent hl strengthen Jacob and Jesus. Thu..c~, o.ccmding to Ha)'Ward's
interpretatilln of l uke's passion na.T.l!iw. Ole Evo.ngeiL'It mod elled hL'I version of Jesus' at C".elhsemane on J.~oob's st rugg~ .11 jabb&'k: like }lcob, an angel .::ome.<~ hl
support jesus ag.1inst the foe. who in Luke 22:53 is explicitly d efined as ' the pO\..'el' of
darkness'. cr.. \Wstermann's ide ntification of the man of C'.enesis 32 as representing
the d em01\k powe1s {.see chapter 3.2.5). However, he do..~s oot p1-esuppose a third
per.!IOn at Jabbok. To me, Hay"ard's mnection of th e two l'l.ill'l'atives appears rather
spectlalive. becau$11.' it is hard lo imagine a third. unmentioned person at the ford of

4. 1 Tile Book ofTllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and lhe Gospel of luke


the actions of God as the Angel of the lord."'"' In Wisdom, the hypostatized divine \Visdom has taken over the role o f the angel o f God as
the o ne w ho guided and protected jacob. In the same way as the "an
gel," the personified 'L.1dy Wisdom' appears to be equated with God
Himself. 137
Concluding Rernarks
As we have seen, there arc several examples w here the actions of 'the
angel of the Lord' in the Bible have been attributed to 'divine v~.'isdorn'
in Wisdom. It seems therefore probable that the personification of wis
dorn in this book is dependent upon angclomorphic traditions... to use
Gieschen's expressio n..
4.1.4 Summary and Conclusions
The book of Tobit is full of irnplicit allusions to Genesis 24. This early
jewish novel is not an explicit interpretation or rewriting of the peri
cope but the author was certainly inspired by the biblical narrative
about the wooing of Rebekah. He seems to have modeled his own story
on Genesis 24 as a kind of proto ty pe. The two sto ries share at least two
basic motifs; the importance of marrying a relative and ange1ic protec
tion on a joum ey. Both Tobit and Genesis 24 arc family narratives and
at the same tirne tales of divine g uidance and providence. In both sto~
rics, prayer plays a prominent role.
The words of Tobias' father to his wife in Tob 5:22, "A good angel
will accompany !tim, his joumey will be successful. aud he wUI cmne back,"
remind the reader of the words of Abraharn to his servant in Gen 24:7b;
" ... lte (Cod} wifl send His angel before you, atlli you s!Jal/take a wife for my
son from !!Jere." Angelic guidance and protection o f a traveler is an important element of the plot in both narratives and may be labeled as a
kind o f common typescene. Raphael guides Tobias to Sarah and her
family, and God (by His angel) leads the servant o f Abraham to the
proper wife for Isaac. In both U1e book of Tobit and Genesis 24, the

l36 Gieschen 1998, 102. Even though the angel in Gen 3 1:11 is called ' the angel of God',
Git.>sc:hen (1998, 2.7) has <:hosen to consistently refer to thLc; figure as'IJle ange l of the
137 Gie~hen 1998. 98103.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

marriages of the two relatives (Isaac and Rebekah respectively Tobias

and Sarah) are seen as divine arrangernents.
The doxology in Tob 11:14-15 is significant, because of the parallelism of the blessing of the angels alongside God (twice in codex Sinaiticus), something quit'e exceptional in Jewish angelology.
The d isclosure of the true identity of Raphael also recalls another
'angel-narrative' in the Bible, judges 13. There are clear parallels between Tobit 12 and the revelation of the angel of the lord to Manoah
and his wife. In both narratives, the heavenly emissaries are at first
mistaken for humans. It is not until their departure that the heavenly
guests revea l who they really are. Both Raphael in Tob 12:21 and the
angel o f the lord in Judg 13:19-21 d isappear very suddenly. We may
define this scenario as another type..sccne common to many of these
narratives, cf., Gen 16:7 ..14 treated above.
There are, however, also differences between the depictions of the
heavenly mes."iengers in Tobit 12 and judges 13. In contrast to Tobit 12,
the identity of the angel and that of God are merged in Judges 13. Ra
phael, on the other hand, dearly d istinguishes between himself and
God, e.g., Tob 12:18. The difference between the two heavenly messengers is similar to the d istinction between the angel o f the Lord in Gcn
16:7-14 and the angel Gabriel who appears to Mary and Zechariah in
Luke 1. It is here worth mentioning. that both Raphael and Gabriel
identify themselves as angels who stand in the presence of God, see
Tob 12:15 and Luke 1:19.
As we have seen, the angels of Genesis 24 and in the book of Tobit
are both d epicted as distinct from God. They both play the role of g uide
and protector of a traveler. ln both cases, the angels have a rnatdl.
making commission. Accordingly, the story in Genesis 24 has more in
common with the tale of Tobit than with Genesis 16 and judges 13. But
there are also differences. The angel who guides Tobit is known by the
reader as Raphael, (cf., Luke 1:26-27) but the angel of Genesis 24 is anonymous. Raphael plays a far more active part in the course of events
than the angel in Genesis 24, who is referred to only in verses 7 and 40.
My conclusion, based on these observations, is that the role of the
angel in Genesis 24 m..,y be interpreted as representing a stage in the
evolution of the Jewish religion mid\\'ay between such texts as Genesis
16 and judges l3 and the more developed angelology found in the
book of Tobit and Luke 1.
The \r\'isdom of Solomon, the second apocryphal/deuterocanoical
book investigated above, is o f a totalJy different genre and character
than Tobit. It is not a novel but belongs to the ~wisdom - li terature' of
Israel and is a kind o f 'exhortatory discourse' dedicate d to the subject o(

4. 1 Tile Book of Tllbit and Wisdom ofSoll)nlOil and lhe Gospel of luke


wisd om. As we have seen. chapters 10..19 can be labeled a Hellenistic

Jewish Mid rash on the biblical history in Genesis and Exod us.
In this dlapter, we have mainly focused on \Visdom 10, ""'ith its
sever-al allusions to 'the angel of the Lord-texts' in Genesis and Exodus
w here 'lad y \Visdom' has assumed the role of lhc "angel" in the Hebrew Bible. The role o f 'Lady Wisdom' in this book may be defined as a
manifestation/revelation of God in His d ealing.s with humankind. She
is depicted as a mediator of divine revelation and an executor o f God's
will and salvation. In this \'l!a}'.~ her role is reminiscent o f that of ' the
angel of the Lord' in the early stage of Israel's angelology. represented
by such texts as Genesis 16; 22 and Judges 13, where the ambiguity of
the "angel" and God is still evident.
Thus, a possible conclusion may be that, although the angelology
developed in the direction of seeing angels as ind ependent personalities, Judaism still had room for the idea o f divine hypostases. It is there
fore noteworthy that the 'Logos', an equivalent o f 'Lady Wisdom' in
Wis 18:16 plays the role of the angel of the Lord in 1 Chr 21:15, a text
w here the angel seems to be d istinct frorn God.

1 50

4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

4.2 The Pseudepigrapha and the Qumran Documents

4.2.1 Intr oduction
The main sources discussed in this chapter are the Pseudcpigrapha
Jubilees, Liber Auliquilatum Biblicnrum, the Ladder (if Jacob, the Tt'Stmueul
of jacob, the Prayer of josep!J, joseph and Asene/11, Demelrins /!Je C!Jronograp!Jer, and the Qumran d ocument labeled 4Q225. All of these works
contain interpretative material concerning some or all o f the fo llowing
explicit ' angel of the Lord-texts': Gen 21:1721; Gen 22:1 19; 31:1013;
and 48:15-16. Gcn 28:10-22 and 35:1 15 are closely connected to Gen
31:1013 and are therefore included in the study. The story of Hagar
and Lhe angel has itc; o nly counterpart in the Pseudepigrapha by a rew riting of Genesis 21 in Jubilees, while the more complicated paralleltext, Gen 16:7-141 is o mitted.
The implicit reference to 'the angel of the Lord' in Genesis 32, the
tale of j,Kob's struggle at tl>e ford of Jabbok (Gen 32:2230), is d early
the main exegetical background for the d epiction o f the patriarch as an
angel in the Prayer of Josep!J.':ll:l In 4Q158 there is a rc\"'ritten version of
Genesis 32 and short allusions to the pericope are also extan t in some of
the other above mentioned sources. The Prayer of }oseplt is also ron
nectcd to some of t-he o ther biblical 'Jacob narrativt.~' . 1 39
Jnbi/et>s (/ub.) d escribes itself as a revelation given to Moses o n Sinai by

lhe angel oftlze Presetzce. According to the book's own account, this angel
d ictated the conten t of Jubilees 250 to Moses. The angel o f the Presence
is thus the alleged narrator o f }ubilees.1411 Co rnpare the trad ition that the
Torah was transmitted to Moses through the mediation of angels: Deut
33:23 in LXX, the Vulgate, Peshilta, and the Targums, see also Acts
7:38, 53; Gal 3:19, and Heb 2:2. Jubilees was most probably written in
Hebrew in the land o f Israel d uring the ntiddle of the second century
B.C.E. It seems to have been popular in the Qumran commu nity .

1.3$ See the int1'0duction by Smith in OTP vol. 2. 1985,699-712.

139 Although Jubirtl!:' contain.<~ quite a:n extet\.<~ive tC\\'I'iting of the Jacob 1\ill'rath e in
C'.ene:'is, Jacob's struggle at Jabbok ha.'l been exduded.
140 I use the English tran..<:lation of /Jtf}il~ts by \\lintem ute in OTP vol. 2. 1985, 52142.
l41 The only complete extant form of ]Hlliltts is an Elhiopic ta:nslation. See the intmductil'm by WintNmute in OTP. \'OI. 2, 1985, 3550. C!., chapter 2.23.

4.2 The

Pseudepig r<~piM


al\d the Q umran Documei\L'I

As mentioned previously, the concept 'the a ngel o f the Presence' is

probably derived from Isa 63:9 as recorded in the MT: "In all their af
flictio n He (God] was afflicted, And ll1e Angel of His Presence saved
them . .. "w: The a ngel is first mentioned in Jub. 1.27, and in verse 29 we
read:" And the angel of the Presence, w ho went befo re the camp of l'irael_
took tl1e tablets o f the division o f the years ... " The id entity of this a n
gel seems therefore to be based also on a n interpretation of Exod 14:19i
23:2023; 32:34, a nd Num 20:16.10 According to jnl>ilees, it was the angel
of the Presence who brought the Israelites o u t o f the slavery in Egypt.
In addition to this heavenly media to r o f the divine revelations, ]ubi
lees mentions several angels of the Presence: Jub. 2.2, 18; 15.27, and
31.1 4. The na rra to r is o ne of thern, often ident ified as Michael. 1-t.t Ac
cording to }ubilet"S, the angels of the Presence a nd the a ngels o f sanctifi
cation are the two highest orders of a ngels: /rtb. They \'l.'e re
created on the first d ay o f the Creation: }ub. 2.2. Besides Michael, angels
like Gabriel, Raphael_ Phanuel, Raguel_ Sariel, <1nd Uriel are o fte n des~
ignated as angels of the Presence.1 46 Compare the word s of Gabriel to
Zechariah when the latter d oubted h is me~c.;.age in Luke 1:19: 'Eye;, t:ipt
ra~Qti)A 6 RO.QE<TtllKb.J~ Ew :.,mov -roU 0t:oU .. ./" I am Gabriel. I stand
in the presence of God ... " Conceming Raphael, sec also Tob 12:15.
The angelic narrator of jubilees nevertheless distinguishes himself
from all other a ngels mentioned in the book. In many passages o f ]ubi
lees, this specific angel of the Presence ascribes to hirnself words and
deeds w hich a re credited to God in the Bible, e.g., jub. 6.19 and 12.22

l42 Olyan 1993, 1~4 1 09. The quotation of ls.1 63 ~9 is taken from the N KJV, w hich here L<~
based Ol\ the MT. The NRSV, however, transJ,ltes the verse according to th~~ Septu a
ginl's vel"$ion: ,. .. . it wa.c; no mes...;enger or angel. but his presence that sa....ed them
... ~See alc;o chapte rs 2 and J .
143 111 I:Jt"Od 23!20 23 the .mge l is li:nked to God's own na me, cl., also Exod 13:21 22. See
VanderKam 2<XX>a, 385-3SS, and 2001, 86-89. See al'l~l Olyal\ 1993, l<m-l09, and van
Ruite11 2007, 593 594.
l44 Guiley 2004,45.
l45 Guiley 201).1, 45. The ilJ\gels of the P1~ce are often equated with the four m sewn
archangels. Ange lic hier.uchies b uill l.lp<>n four archangels usua11y include 1\lichllt'l,
GabrieL RapiMel <uld Uie i/Surie l. See Gutm ann/Edilotial Staf/ 1971, 962 963, Sch~
tem 1971. 1549, and v.m Henten t995b, 150-153.
l l6 Gutmlmn/ Editori,ll st.l!f 1971. % 2 96.1. G11iley's lis t includes (besides !'vlich.ael}: Meta
trOI\. Suriel., S..mdalph~ln, As tanphaeus, Sarakiel, Plt.mue l. jehoel. ZagzagaeL Urie t
Yefefial\. S.1baoth, tu~d Akatriel. Ac>l'dillg to her, the angels of the Pre.c;enre are also
equated with the angelc; of Glor)' Gulley 2004, 45. In addiliol\ to }ubilt'ts, th e angels
of the Presence are mentioned in the Ttst.limttJts tif 111( T<f>d :..- P.ttri.u clrs, 1 Euocl a1\d
ill the LJ~ of Adam aud Ew. They appe..u also in the Qunwan lite r.llure, see Seow
1995, 611 6 13, and Olya n 1993, lOS.


4. The Ange l of the Lord- Early Je wish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

(cf., Exod 24:8; 34.10, 27; Deut 4:23; 5:2; 9:9, and Gen 12:1).1" There thus
appears to be a merging of God's and t-his angel's iden tity in Jubilees, as
is the case concerning God a nd the angel of the Lord in the Bible.t~~

l11is Qumran manuscript has been classified as part o f Pseudr>}ubUees'.
Th e accoun t o f the Aqed a h in this document is s imilar to that in Jubilee$
but there a re also diffe rences. l11e manuscrip t p robably bears witness
to yet anothe r version of Gen 22:1 ~19. lt is unclear w hether or not the
document is an o rigina l version of Jubilet"S. Th e manuscript is written in
Hebrew and c.."ln be dated sometime between the las t years of the fi rst
century B.C.E. and the beginning of the first century C. B.'~

Th is Qu mran document be longs to a group of five poorly preserved
manuscripts w hich have been classified as reworkings o f the Penta~
teuch, all of which may be dated to the first cen tury B.C.E. 4Q158 is
inclu ded in my am,lysis because it contains a frag mentary paraphrase
of Genesis 32.130 The manuscript exhibi ts a noteworthy deviation from
the MT that will be discussed belov,r but, because of the briefness of the
section dealing v,rJth this source, there \'ltill be no surn mary of the re~
sults. 1'1

Liber Antiquitatum Biblicanun

Liber Atlliquilatum Biblicarum is a lso known as Pseudo~Pirilo, bec.."tusc for a

long time it was \ovrongly ascribed to Philo o f Alexandria. Today howev

147 ~e also Vande rK.lm 2000a, 390-392.

14-B See al<>l') Ash ton... {I<J9.11.. 83) who likewL<:e has noted that the voice of the a ngel of the
l're.'icnce and the voice of God are merged in jubilee$.
149 Beside." 4Q225. there are also fragments of the Aqedah account in 4Q226 .1nd 4Q252.
A document labeled 4Q227 is also called Ps.uda--Jubilee-:;, see Verme.o; 1997.. 507-508.
and Carda Martinez 2002. 44-45. Concerning the relationship between /llbilecs and
the so-called Pstw1a--Jubiltv:s, see VanderKam 1997, 241-261. I m.ainly use the tan
scriplion and English lran.o;tntion of the Hebrew text by Garda Martinez 2002. 46-17.
150 See Ve rme..'i, 1997, 442.
151 l lL'ie the English 1rnnsla:1ion b)' Verme.o; 1997, 'ol-12.

4.2 The


Bl\d the Qumran Documei\L'I


er, it is generally acknowledged among scholars that he was not the

author. Th e Pseudepigraphon is a free retelling of the biblic..1l history
from Adam to King David, a nd as such it belongs to the 'rewritten Bible'
genre. Its author remains unkn0\\'11. It is certain that the work was orig
inally \o'lritten in Hebrew and composed in the land of Israel. There are
indic..1tions that support a dating of the original Hebrew version to the
time before the fall of the Second Temple in 70 C. E. Th e author/compiler
may thus have been contemporary with Jesus of Nazareth.1:u

Testament of Jacob
TogeU,er with the Testament oft.snnc, tile Testament of Jacob ultimately
derives fTom an apocryphal book probably w ritten in Greek during the
first century C.E. by a Jewish a u th or in Egypt, which deals with u,e
death of Abraham. The three texts are collected under the title Testa
tmmts of lite Three Patrinrclzs. In their present fonn, they aU show obvious
signs of Christianization. It is, however, certain that the original Testa
ment of Abralzam was a Jewish work, and its Jewish character is still ap
p arent. There are more 01risti~1n elements in the Tt>stament of Isaac and
Tt"Sfnment of Jacob but it may nevertheles.,.;; be worthwhile to take a look
at the latter.J$.1

The Pseudepigraphon the Ladder of Jacob (Lad. Jac.) is, in accordance

wi th its name, an elaboration of Jacob's dream at Bethel. James H.
Charlesworth calls the book a n " .. . aggadic exegetical expansion of
Jacob's vision (Gen 28:11-22) with a pocalyptic elements.""' It is only
known from the S/rrmuic To/kovaya Pnleya, or Explanatory Paleya. Tho text
in its present form is a compilation of many sources, a nd as such it is a

152 For more information, see Harri11gron's inrroduC1ion to the book in OTP, vol 2, 1985.
297-300. I use his Englis h triul..!llation of UWr Auliquitalum Biblic.trllm ill OTP, vol. 2.
1985, 304-377.
153 See Sanders' introduction in OTP \'ol. L 1983, 869-880. I use the Engli<>h tnmslation
l')f rhe Ttstll'llll.,lr &J /tkl!b b)' Stinespring found i11 O TP, vol. I, 1983, 91-1918. The bl"ll'de rtine between Chris-tian ity a nd Judai!tm was probabl)' q uite \'ague for 3 lo11ger
time in the region of the Ea.<>tern amrd us than in the We.<~!.
154 Charlesworth 1992.609.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewis h

ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

complex work, containing both Jewish and Christian elements. Behind

the presen t Slavonic version there is most certainly a Jewish narrative
w ritten in Greek.1:-.:;
According to james Kugel, there are reasons to believe that this
Greek text may in tum be a translation of a Hebrew o r Aramaic original
that pos...c;ibly derives from the Second Temple era. He sees no reason to
date the original source later than the first century C.E.l:>o>The underl y ~
ing Jewish character of chapters 16 is apparent, while chapter 7 is gen...
erally considered to be a Christian addition, as it concems the birth and
crucifixion o f Christ. m Accordingly, in the fo tlm.,ing discussion J wiiJ
focus on the jewish part of the book.
Prayer o f joseph
11le major theme of this text is the idea that the patriarch Jacob was the
earthly incarnation of the angel Israel, an interpretation based o n Gene
sis 32.ljll O nly three fTagmentc; of the Pseudepigraphon have survived.
The title is enigmatic, since Joseph is not rnentioned in the extant
verses, but originally the text was most certainly an extended version of
jacobs blessing of Joseph's sons in Gcn 48:1516.
Fragment A is preserved in Origen's Commentary ou Jolrn and de
scribed by him as "an apocrypha presently in use among the He
brev,rs." U\1 Fragmen ts B and C are quoted in the P!JUoettlia~ Gregory's
and Basil's compilation of Origen. '~' Fragment C quotes frag rnent Band
paraphrases fragment A. Due to Origen's knowled ge of the Prayer of
jo.sep!J, the source must be dated before 231 C. E. According to jonathan
Z. Smith, a dating in the first century C.E. is probable because o f the

LSS I use lunt's ll'aMiation 1lf the Lmlol~r if lob in OTP, vol. 2, 1985, 407-4 1L see his
introdu<:tion on pp. 40'1406.
l56 Kugel 1993, 209227. Kugel's reasons are based both on the content l"'f l.a.lder of};IC(!b
and the many HOOrew words that s urvive in th e transC'ription l"'f the text Kugel
point$ outthllt the1-e are many conne<:til"'ns between thi$ source and Rabbinic exeget
icaltrllditi~"'ns. See alc;o Kugel 1990. 117 119.
157 tunt introduction in OTP, vol. 2, 1985, 402-403, see aloo Kugel, 1990, I 17 119, tmd
Charleswoth 1992, 609.
158 Howe\er, a~ will be s hown below. the i.<1sue of whetl\el' ja<:l"'h is hl be t1nderstood
literally <IS the iJtotruation of the angel in this te)!t is a moot point.
l59 See Smith's introduction hl the Proyer ofj flf;tp/l in OTP. vol. 2, 1985, 699.
l60 Additioncl ll). fragment B is .1lso quoted in Eu~bi us., J11e PJ\"{Jivatimt dj fht: QISpd, and
Procopius' l a tin commentary on Genesis,. see Smith's introduction in OTP, vol. 2,
t 9S5. 699.

4.2 The PseudepigropiM Bnd ohe Q umran DocumenL<


many parallels between the text and early Hellenistic and Ararnaic
material. '..,.
Because of the few remains of the Prayer (if }osepll, its original Ian
guage is veiled in obscurity. Scholars w ho regard it as an origin~' I jewish '"rork assume that it was written in Ararnaic, while those w ho claim
Chris tian authorship advocate a Greek original. The opinions likewise
differ conccn1ing its provenance; either Alexandria or Palestine. A~
cording to Smith, a Jewis h o rigin al context and <1uthorship is th e mQ...c;t
probable, because the work contains many dose parallels in tedmical
terms, narrative traditions and theology to both Hellenistic and Pales

tinian judaism. Thus O rigcn '"'as probably correct w hen he defined the
Prayer of ]O&f11l as a Jev~.rish!
Joseph and Aseneth
}o.seplr nmt Asenetll is a romance written by an anonyrnous author. It i.e; a

Jewish composition, although it may contain some Christian interpoJa...> The novel's origin can most probably be traced to the jewish
Oiaspora of Egypt. All scholars agree that il is a fairly early work, pos
sibly from the Second Temple era, and no one has dated the novel long
after 200 C.E.'"' T1' c o riginal lang uage is generally considered to be
Gree k. 1 ~

The main d 1aracters in the novel are the patriarch joseph and his
wife Asencth, the Egyptian girl whom, according to Gen 41 :45, joseph
married '"hen he entered the service of Pharaoh. The story builds and
elaborates on the biblical joseph's and Aseneth' s relationship and tries
to answer the intriguing q uestion o f why Lhe pious and God~fearing
joseph actually married the daughter of a pagan Egypti,m priest. "'

161 Smith's int1-oduction in OTP, vol. 2. 1985.700.

l62 Sec Smith's introduction in OTP vol. 2. 1985. 699-712. I use hi$ t:r.ulslation o! the
Pseudepigr<~ phon in OTP. vol. 2. 1985, 7 1 ~71 4 . See al$0 H ayw<~ d 2005. 2112 13.
l63 Burchard, in!roduction h) }ff:.l-'pll and Ast11t ll1 in OTI,, vol. 2, 1985, 177, 186187. I use
Burchard's translation of the Pseudepigr.l phll ll ill OTP. \ol. 2, 1985, 202-247.
16ol Burchard, introduction, OTP vol. 2. 1985, 187-188.
165 Burchard, introduction. OTP vol. 2. 1985, 18 1.
l66 Burchard, introduction, OTP vol. 2. 1985, 177.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Demetrius the Chronograp her

Six fragments a re generally considered to be the preserved temnants of
a work by Demetrius,. a Jcv~.rish author w ho most probably lived in
Alexandria d uring the reign of Ptolemy IV in the third century B.C. E.
Dernetrius is the first known Jewish author writing in Greek, and the
first wit11ess to the use of the LXX version of the Pen tateuch. The two
fragmen ts o f relevance here arc numbers one and two. Fragment 1 ron ...
tains a brief synopsis of the Aqcdah w hile the second fragm ent pro-vides a resume of the p atriarchal chronology, mainly focusing o n the
lives of Jacob and Joseph.16.7

4.2.2 Hagar and the Angel


Jubilees has no version of Gen 16:7 14, only an accoun t based on Gen
21:921.'"'<: Perhaps the author viewed the two pericopes as two versions
of the same sto ry, the destiny of Hagar and her e ncoun ter \Vith the an
gel o f the Lord . Contextually it correspond s to the narrative in Genesis
21 an d is placed just before the story of the b inding o f Isaac, Gen 22:119.
As in the Bible, it is said that Abra ham drove away Hagar and his
son Ishmael very unwillingly. God had to command him to obey Sarah's w ish in this matter, ]ub. 17.4-7. God promised Abraham that he
would take care of Ishmael: "But rega rd ing the son of this girl, I will
make him into a great people because he is from your seed/' }ub.17.7.
111e expu lsion of Hagar and her son is described in Jub.17.17c-18a as
one of the many trials of Abraham. \+Ve find the coun te rpa rt to Gen
21:17-21 in fub.l 7.11-14:
And WI angel of th~ Lord, ont! (if the holy ones, said to her, "\>Vhat are you
weeping for, Hagar? Having arisen, p ick up th e child and take h im in your
arms hl!cau .se flu: tORD lms lu:1ml your wicc wul he lias ~ettn tile child." And
she (lptuctl her eye..; and she saw a well of water. And sh ~ went and filled
the water skin. And sh e gave the child a drink and an:r.:;e and went toward

l67 Hanson, il\trodu(.tion OTP \'OL 2. 191)5, 843-844. I tLc;e his translation of the Pseudep igraphon in OTP, VOL 2. 1985, 848-854.
168 Ho.,..ever, in fub. 24.1 there is a 1<eference to 1he Well of the VLc;ion' , i.e., the well
where,. <Jcoording hl C".enl6: 13-H, the a ngel ll f the Lotd appe;u-ed to Hagar.

4.2 The


Bl\d the Qumran Documei\L'I


the de:..;ert of Parnn. And the child gre,.,.. and wa~ a hun ter. And 1/w LORD
was w ith h im. An d his mother tonk a w ife for h im from the maid s of
Egyp t. And she (the w ife] bore a son for him (Ishmael] and he called him
Nebaioth becaus~t, sh~ (J-Iagar?J said, "the LORD wtJS new I() me when I ctllled
toflim.N [my italicsJ.

Jubilees' version is very similar to the biblical account.- but there are also
differences. The angel of God is here called "a11 augel of tl~e Lord, oue of
01e l10ly oues." Jubilees d oes not tell us from w here the angel spoke to
Hagar. In contrast to the Bible, the heavenly emis.-c;.ary is depicted in
}ubih>es as an u nspecified angel, one among mauy in the heavenJy court.
The divine narne used is the Lord/YH\+VH. T11e angel is not labeled ~1s
belonging to the angels of the Presence. As we t-vill sec, this is the case
in jubilees' account of Lhe binding of Isaac. The angel of the lord is there
iden tified as the narrator himself. I"\!
As in the Bible, the angel in Jub.l7.12 speaks about God in the third
person singular, as someone distinct from himself; " ... because the
Lord has heard your voice and he has seen the child ... " In Gen 21:l7b
we read; " .. . Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy
w here he is.u According to the biblical account, however, the angel of
God thereafter S\Vitches to the first person singular and says to Hagar
that" ... I will make a great nation of him," Gen 21:18b. In Jubilus, the
angel is not said to have made such a statement to Hagar, but the
promise is mentioned as God's words to Abraham in Jub.1 7.7. 1~
Some differe nces of les..o:.;er s ignificance are that in the Bible it is the
voice of /he lad that God heard, while in Jub. 17.12 it is the voice of Hagar and He is & to /rave .seeu lire child, the latter being an addition to
the biblical version.m Moreover.- in the Bible, it is God who open.s the
eyes of Hagar in order for her to see the well, but Jub. 17.12b simply
states that" ... site (Hagar) opened her eyes and she saw a v.reJI of water
... '' Maybe the wording '' ...God opened her eyes ... " appeared too
anthropomorphic for the author o f Jubilees.
To\"'' ards the end of the version in Jubilees we find some interes ting
information, not recorded in this context in the Bible: "And she [the
wife of Ishmael] bore a son for him and he (Ishmael] called him Ne-

169 ~e illso Vande Kam 2001, 52. and Ashton 1994, 83-.84.

I 70 ~e pte\ious pag~.
171 This is prob,;lbly an auempt by the authMof Jubilees to harmoni1.e the biblical story,
w herein there is a contrildiction concerning this maner: " .. . And a.<~ s.h e !Hagar} sat
opposite him (l<>hma.eiL she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heatd the \'Oice
of the bl')y; a od the angel 1"lf Cod c-alled to Hagar front heavell. . .'' Tile Swed ish Bible
2000 follows the LXX and states that il l\.~s the boy, not Hag.u. who w ept.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

baioth because, she (Hagar?] said.~ 1The LORD was near to me when I
called to him,"' Jub.1 7.14bc. "'
My interpretation, based o n the context, is that the woman who in...
spires Ishmael to call h is son Nebaioth must be ide ntified as Hagar. The
name refers back to the rescue o f Ishmael's mother a nd himself by the
angel of God in the d esert: God heard Hagar weeping a nd in His mercy
sent her an angeL Th is pa rallels the naming o f her own son in Gcn
16:11: " ... Now you have conceived and shall bear a SQn; you shall call
h im Ishmael, for the LORD has given heed to your affliction."

Concluding Rema rks

None of the Pseudepigrapha has a coun terpart to Gen 16:714. Th e only
source that has a version o f Hagar's meeting with the angel of God is
JubUet'S in its rewritten version o f Gen 21:17-21. The exdusion o f a re n...
dering of the parallel text Gen 16:714 may be explained by the fact that
the author of Jubilees vie,ved the two pericopes as t\,m versions of the
same sto ry. Another possible reason is that the author chose to avoid
the theologically more complicated version of Hagar's e ncounter with
the a ngel in \..en 16:714.
In jubilees, the angel who addresses Hag~u is an u nspecified, a nonymous angel, 'one of the holy ones'. He is an "ordinary" angel. o ne
among many in the heavenly court. Nothing is said o f h is rank but it
seems that he does not belong to the h ighest kinds of angels, namely
the angels of t-he Presence o r the angels of sanctification. The a ngel is
d early d istinct from both God a nd the alleged narrator of Jubilees, the
angel o f the Presence, w ho refers to him in the third person. In contrast
to the biblical account, the angel never speaks in the fi rst person singu
Jar. There is no ambivalence in }rrbilees' version of the story regarding
the relationship between God and this un named angel.

172 In the Bible, Nebaioth i.'l mentioned in Cen 28:9: "'So E.<~au went to lshmael and took
1\l<lhalath the d.1ughler o f Ish mael. Abraha m' s son. tftt sis ter dj "-'clMjaiJt, to be his
wife in addition to lhe Wi\'eS he had:'' See <als.o Cen 25: 13.

4.2 The


Bl\d the Qumran Documei\L'I


4.2.3 The Aqed ah


We find Jubilees' version of the Aqedah in chapters 17.1518.19. At the

begin ning of the story we arc informed that'' ... words came in heaven
(maybe a d iscussion among the angels?) conceming Abraham that he
w~1s faithful in everything v,hich was told him and he loved the LORD
and was faithful in all affliction" (v. 15)."' According to jul>i/ees, The
reason for the trial was that prince Mastcmam questioned Abraham's
faithfu lness and accused him before God.
Prince Mastema insinuates that Abraham's love of Isaac is greater
than his love of and devotion to God. He proposes therefore that God
should test Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac:

Uul,. 17:16)

And Prince tvlastema came and he said before Cod, "&hold,

Ab raham 1ov~ Isaac, his son. And he is mt)rf' pl ea~d with him than every
th ing. Tell h im tu nffer h im {as) a burnt offering upon the altar. And you
will Set? wh!!ther he will d o th is thing. And you will know whether he is
fa ithful in everything in which you test h im."'

God accepts this challenge."5 JubUees' version of the Aqedah thus in

dudes an additional acto r, prince Mastema, the Satanic character in
Jubih>es. He is a d emonic angel. the chief of the evil spirits, see Jub. 10.1,
7 11; 11.1124; 48.14; 919, and 49.2.1" In full. 10.11, prince Mastema is
explicitly identified wi th Satan. In the Qumran literature, Mastema is
often equated \vith Beliat.m
The introductory scene to Abraham's trial in Jubilees is probably in
spired by the book of Job, w herein Satan plays a similar role.'?S The

173 According to /lib. 17. 1718, God had already tested Abraham in n\BI\)' way!i and
found him fai thful. T he commandment h) offe1 ls..lac is depicted as Abraham's final



and IMrdest tl'ial.

Regarding 'prh1ce 1\l<~stema, see also VanderKam 2001. 128129.
/Jtb. 17.17 18; 18.1.
The name of th is evil angel is probably derived fmm Hos 9:7-8, where the noun
;;.):~ o.._-rurs, meani11g ' ellmily/hostility/animosily'. Verb.11 forms of this I'Oot are to
be found ill Gen27:4 1; 49:23; 50: 15, ilnd in the bl)Ok of Job ( 16:9: 30:21), where i! is
used to descibe God's as!ia olts on Job. See also Olyan 1993, 66-67, and <:hapler 2.2.2
Cf., /11b. 1.20. See. e .g., Guitey 2004, 236, van Henten 1995c, 10331035, and Flusser
197 I, I 1 19~ 11 20.
See Job 12 and VandeKam 2001, 52.S3.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

'accusing angel' motif may even be labeled as a type-scene shared by

the two boQks.'""
jubilees' answer to the q uestion w hy God tested Abraham is thus
that the whole idea was prince Mastema's suggestion, and God agreed
to it. In Jub. 18.16 it is stated that " ... And 1 [God] /Jaw made known/a all
that )'OU [Abraham] are fai thful to me in everything w hich I sa)' to
you." The purpose of the trial is thus to demonstrate the faithfulness of
Abraham in front of prince Mastema and everyone else. Abraham is
worth)' of God~"s choice . ' ~1
The angel of the Lord who prevents Abraham from sacrificing his
son is identified in Jub. 18.911 as the alleged narrato r himself, the angel
of ll1e Presence:
Uub. 18.9] And I stood before him (Abraham J and before Prince l\<fas tema.
Ami the LORD Mid, ''Speak lo llim. 0() not let h i.s hand d t!SC.:tnd upon the
ch ild . And d o no t let him do anything tu h im becau~ I know that he i.s o ne
wh() fears the LORD ." 110] And I etllll'd out to IJim frtmr lrem.-etl ami I said fo
llim, ''Ab raham, Abraharn."' An d he was terri fi ~d and said, ''Here I am."'
(1 11 And I said to him, "Do nol p ut fo rth your hand against the child and
d () nt)t d u anything to h im because now I know flrnt you are on~ who fetus tile
l.ord and you did not d t!ny your fi rstborn son to me."' (12) And Prim~c lvJnS
Uma wrlS sllmucil [.. .1 [l3) And Abraham caUed that place "TIJ~ Lim/ Jws
Si.oen,"' so that it is ~a id ''in the mtmnlaiu tire Uml Jms sc:cn.'' It L<> Mount Zion.1S1
(my italic..;).

james VanderKam points o ut that the only two contexts w here the an
gel of the Presence and prince Mastema are explicitly men tioned together in JubUees are the Aqed ah and the events leading up to the Ex
odus from Eg)'pt. In Jul>. 48.2 prince Mastema is charged with the ottempt to kill Moses but the latter was saved by the angel of the Pres
encc.111z According to Jub. 48.131 the angel o f the Presence stood ben.vcen
the Egyptians and the Israelites, in the same way as he describes him



a ls.t-. O lyan 1993, 25,


2000, 266268, VanderKam !997, 248249, and

Kister 1994, 10. \'an Ruilel\ (2002. 84-85), howe\er, questil"lOS the dependence of /llbi
ltv:s upml lhe book of Job by pointi ng out severa l diffe1-ences between the naiTative of
the Aqedah in /ttbile'.t'S a1\d Job's trial. For example, in }ullilas it i.<> \..od Himself hho
remains in charge. As in Gene.<>is22,. it is C.od who tesL<~ Abraham. But in the lxll")k of
Job, God puts Job into the hands of Satan.
ISO lui 18.16. The purpose of rhe tial was thus nllt ro pnwe son'Lt'lhing to God, who is
l)mni-sdent, see also V<~nderKam 2001, 52.
LSI Note that the angel of lhe Presence firs.1 talks about God in rhe lltird p~'tSI.m, but in the
end !i.:lys: ..... and you d id not deny your firstbom son to me." C f., the biblical text.
182 In the Bible lhe a uaclcer is identified as Cod Himself: "And i! came to pa..<>s on the
way, at the e.ncampmenr, that the LORD met him fMllSt'Sl a nd Sllught to kill him:''
Exod 4:24.

4.2 The


Bl\d the Qumran Documei\L'I


self as standing before (Va nderKam reads "between") Abraham and

prince Mastema in }ub. 18.9. These are also the only two occasions in
Jubi/ee.s where prince Nfastema is said to have been p ut to shame. In
both contexts, the angel of the Presence appears as the Savior from
mortal danger in a cn1cial event in the history o f Israel, w hen the very
existe nce o f the people v~.'aS th reatened.!&
By a54.:ribing the initiation of the Aqedah to prince Mastema~ the au
thor of Jubilees follows, according to VanderKam~ in the fool~teps of the
Chronicler, '\otho similarly transferred king David's census on God's
command (2 Sam 24:1) to the initiative o f Satan (1 01r 21:1), thus solving a theological difficulty. Both the Chronicler and the author of Jubilees seem to have been driven by a wish to justify God .uu
However, according to Jubilees, the one who calls to Abraham a
second lime is not the a ngel of the Lord, nor the angel of the Presence,
but God Himself
Uul1. 18.14) And the LORD tailed Abraham by his name ab-ain from heav~tn
just as h~ taused us (the angels! to appear :;t) that we might s peak to him in
the name uf the LORD. IJSa1 And he said, " I swear by myself. says the
LORD ...

The angel of the Lord in Gen 22:11 -12 is thus identified with the angel
of the Presence in Jubilees, '"'h ile the secQnd calling to Abrahanl in Gen
22:15-18 is ascribed to God Himself. It is, however, puzzling that
Jub.18.14 states that the Lord called Abraham by his n.mle ngaiu, since
according to fub. 18.10-11 it was the angel of the Presence who called
him by name the first time. 'A'h cn comparing the d ifferent manuscripts,
VandcrKam proposes that according to the original text it is still the
angel who speaks to Abra ham in Jub. 18.14, but we cannot be certain
about the original wording of the verse.185 There is a certain incQnsis
toney in fub. 18.9-15. In Jub. 18.9-13, the a ngel of the Presence speaks in
the first J."lerson singular as the one a nd only angel in the Aqedah, w hile
in the quotation above he seems to include Qther angels who were also
active in the first calling to Abraham.

Concluding Remarks
In Jubilees' version of the binding of Isaac (Gcn 22:1 -19) it is the demonic
p rince Mastema who is the in itia tor of the action. In Jub. 17.15 we read

183 See 1997, 248.

181 VanderKam 1997, 219.
185 v,,nder Kam 2CXX>.l, 389.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

that " ... word s came in heaven concerning Abraham that he was fai th
ful in everything ... " This refers most assuredly to an alleged discus
sion among the a ngels. Prince Maste ma is said to h ave questioned the
truth of this state me nt. Because o f h is accusations concerning Abraham,
God decides to put the latter on trial. The scenario p receding the Aqe
dah probably partly o riginated as an in te rpretation of Gen 22:1; " After
these things God tested Abraham .. . " but foremost d ue to a wish to
ju stify God. The transferring o f the initiative fro m God to prince Mas.tema explains the reason for the trial and solves a theological problem.
The a ngel o f the Prese nce narrates th e story in the first person sin
gular and iden tifies himself as the o ne \vho called out to Abraham o n
the first occasion in o rder to prevent h im from oornplcting the sacrifice.
The a ngel of the lord in Gen 22:11 12 is in Jubilees thus said to be u,e
angel o f the Presence. Like th e a ngel o f the lord in the Bible, the angel
of the Presence first spe,, ks about God in the third person singular bu t
in the end he refers to himself; " ... I know that you are one wllo fenrs tile
Lord and you did not de ny your firstborn son to 111~' Uub. 18.11b). AI
though the a ngel of the Presence in Jub. 18.911 appears to be distinct
from God, th e biblical a mbiguity still remains.
Hm.,ever, the angel of the Lord 's second call to Abraham recorded
in Gen 22:15 18 is ascribed to God Himself in Jub. 18.14 15. Jubilees is
thus not e nt irely consistent in its identification of the angel of the Lord
in Gen 22:1 19. But if \\'e are to believe VanderKam, it may have been
the angel of the Presence v,ho o nce more spoke to Abraham in the o rig *
inal version o f Jub. 18 .14. Another p uzzling issue in fub . 18.14 is that the
narra tor refers to other a ngels involved in the Aqedah.
Th e only pericope o f relevance to our study that has a counterpart in
this document is Gen 22:119; the text usually designated as the Aqedah
(even though the actual bin ding of Isaac is not mentioned in 4Q225).
The source has been labeled 'Pseudo-jubilees', and there are indeed
many similarities ben.,cen the renderings of the Aqcdah in the two
texts. Prince Mastema has the sarne function in 4Q225 as in Jubih--es; he
accuses Abraham before Cod o f lov ing Isaac more than God,. and in
this way initiates the trial.
We also e ncounter some new in fo rmation here. According to Geza
Vermes1 4Q225 bears 1t....-itness to the tradition that Abraham s..1w a 'fire'

4.2 The

Pseudepig r<~piM


al\d the Q umran Documei\L'I

marking the div ine presence on the sacrificial site.lllf> This tradition is
moreover to be fo und in Targum Pseudo ~joun tllan, Genesis RabbaiJ, and
P;rqe de Rabbi EUezer. The synagogue mosaic o f Sepphoris also seems to
testify to this interpretation of the Aqedah.' 117 Florentino Garcia Martinez, however, doubtc; this reading o f 4Q225.'~
A d earer d ifference between this source and JubUees is the mention
in 4Q??5 of /l~e holy angels .standing niJ<liJe (the altar?) weeping for Isaac's
sake, while lite angels of Mastemalllle at~gels of nuimosily are said to rejoice
w hen they see that Abraham is about to kill Isaac. According to Garcia
Martinez, the purpose of Mastcma's p lan in testing Abraham was to
abort the promise of posterity through lsaac.1" The weeping of the ho ly
angels is mentioned in other sources 1w but the presence of several de-mon ic a ngels in the Aqedah is something u nique to 4Q225. Th e a ngel's
first caJI in order to p revent Abraharn fro rn sacrificing his son is not
mentioned, b ut the o ne w ho finally stops h im from sacrificing Isaac
seems here to be ide ntified as God Himself.
The ending o f the Aqedah'., in 4Q225 d iffers from both the biblical
version a nd Jubiletos' account. It is there stated that God b lessed Lo;aac all
the days o f h is life. The name of God is rendered :1'1:7'
YHWH.' "


Conclu ding Relnarks

As in Jubilees, prince Mastema is described as the initiator of Abrah am's
trial, bu t there a re also differences bet\veen Lhe two sou rces. It tvc are to

186 See the English t:ranslat:ion of 4Q225 (4Q226) by Vermes, 1997, 509, and Vermes 1996,
H0-146. S..~e al'lo the textual notes on 4Q225 in DJD XIII. Qunmw C.WI' 4. P.mlliblical
Text:;, par1 J. 1994. 15 1.
187 See below. C f., also Exodus 3.
ISS Garda Martine;,o. 2002. 5'1-52.
189 Garcia Martinez 2002. 55.
190 See d 1apte 4.5. See also the textu al notes 011 4Q225 in DJD XIII. QtmrM Cazl' 4.
Paml>iblical Te:rls, p.ut I, 1994, 152.
191 Garda Martinez (2002, 47) hesit.l tes to use the d esignntion ' Aqed.l h' <:l')l\cenl ing the
rel\deing of Gen 22:1-19 in 4Q225, becou..'le the actual binding of is one of the
elements of the s tmy omined ill the document
192 According to Gtuda Mart:inez, this detail oontradiciS a Qumran o rigin l'lf the compositioll. He illso daim.<~ tha t 4Q225 ~ou ld be diffe1-entiated from /ubilo:s. He write.<~: "'II
belongs Lhus neithe to /t~bilt-es nor to the Qum ral\ tmdi!ioll. Thi.'l ..:ha
makes il even more interesting. in so fa as it witnesses to the development and
growth of the traditions around the Aqedah, though not in a p.wticular sectarian
oontel<t of fhe Judai.o;m of the time.."' see Garcia Martinez 2002. 56-37.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

believe Vermes, one is that 4Q225 bears \Vitness to the tradition that
Abraham saw a 'fire' marking the sacrificial site as holy. This read ing of
the manuscript is, however, very uncertain and doubted by among
others, Garda ~.fartinez.
Another and in this case obvious difference between }ubUees and
4Q225 is the appearance of several holy angels weeping for Isaac as
well as the reference to a multitude of angels o f animosity, who are said
to rejoice when they think that Abraham is about to kill his son. These
angelc;, both the good and the bad ones, have no coun terparts in the
Bible. The one who prevents Abraham from slaughtering in
4Q225 seems to be id entified as God Himself, clearly d istinguished
from the v~.reep ing/rejoicing angels.
Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum and Demetrius the Chronographer
In Liber Antiquilnlum Biblicnrum there are a fe\'~.r allusions to the Aqedah
in the retelling of the revelation of God to Balaarn, the victory chant of
Deborah and Barak, and the story about the daughter of Jephd1ah,'" cf.,
Numbers 22; Judges 5 and 11:30-40). It is only the first two references
that are of interest for o ur quest. In L.A.B. 18.5 God says to Baalam:
... And I demand ed his (Abraham's) S<)n a.s a hoh'>e:aust. And he brought
him t<) be placed c.m the a ltar, but 1gtntt him luu:k UJ his jfllher and, bt> he
d id not refuse, hi::. offering was acceptable before me, and un account of his
blood I chose them. And then I $nit/ to the rmgds who wt>rk ~cretly, 1'u ' Did I
not say regcmHng this, I will rc-vclll cr~trylllitrg I mu doiu,o,: to Abmltnm .. .'[my

In this version of the Aqedah. there is no mention of a specific 'angel of

the Lord' '"'ho interferes and stops Abraham fro m sacri ficing Isaac; the
only heavenly actor is God Himself. The angels who God refers to are
mere spectutors in the drarna, not active p~uticipants.
In the rendering of the victory chant o f Deborah and Barak we en
counter some angels ind irectly involved in lhc Aqedah. Here we read
that it v~.ras their jealousy that motivated God to test Abraham:
(LA. B. 32.1b} And he (Cod) gave him (Abraham] a son at the end of hL.; t'lld
age and took him out o f a sterile womb. And tJII the rmgd:; were jealous uf
him, and tire wmsbiJ>piu:~ ha:;t en\'it!d him. (2 ) And ~ ince they were jt!alous of

193 LAB. 18.5; 32.14, and 40. 1-9. In the last mentioned reference, Jcphthah'..c~ d.mghter
oom p.ill"eS herself with Isaac, w hom she considers as a I'Oi e model.
19-1 Or: N the angels of the sevice.. .... IEng. lran.c;. Jacobson.. 1996, 1181. ~e alc;o h i~
oommentMy on p. 581.

4.2 The Pseudepigr<~piM Bl\d the Qumran Documei\L'I


him, C<x l said to him IAbrah am], 'Kill the fru it of yt)ur body for me, and
offt!r for me as a sacrifiru what has been given to yuu by me.' 1W [my italics).

The angels thus play a similar role as prince .Mastema in jubilees. According to L.A. B. 32.4, Isaac is saved at the last moment by God Himself
And w hen he (Abraham) had offered his son upon the altar and had buund
his fet!t so as ft) kill him, the J\<fc>:;f P<)U'erful futsk11ed mul se11t forth llis r-v.1ice
from o n high saying. 'Y()u shall nul slay yo ur son, nor shall you d e::troy the
fruit of yuur body. For O()W I have appeared so as f<') reveal you to thu.o;e
w ho du not kno w you amlllat"'t' s/ud the mouths of fftO:;e w1r<1 mc tJiu~tr.vs sptakillg roil agllinst you .. .'(my italics].

The purpose of the trial was thus to pro\'e the fidelity o f Abraham to
the angels and the rest of the \"-'Orld. 1.,.; As in LAB. 18.5, no specific
angel of lhe Lord is mentioned.
In contrast to Liber Arlliquitnlum Biblicarum, the rendering of the
Aqedah in Demetrius tile Cflrouograplze-r is quite simil.u to the biblical
account; there is o nly one angel mentioned, and as in the Bible it is he
w ho prevents Abraham from oompleting the sacri fice. However, in
contrast to the biblical story, there is no ambivalence between the angel
and God. The o ne w ho saves Lsaac is clearly an angel distinct from God:
But no lung a ftt~r Cod C(lmmanded Abrah am tu offer his S<m J.saac (. . .).But
w hen he was alx)ut 10 sacrifice him? he wa:; prevented by an ang(~(, who
pnwid ed him with the ram for the burnt uffering ... 197

Concluding Remarks
Simil.u to 4Q225, Liber Auliquitatum Biblicarum refers to a multitud e of
angels involved in the Aqed ah but they are not said to have either wept
or rejoiced . Their role is instead described as similar to that o f prince
Mastema in both ju/Jilet>s and 4Q22S, be<:ause according to L.A. B. 32.11>2, it was the jealous angels who provoked God into subjecting Abra.
ham to a trial. In both L.A. B. 18.5 and 32.1b2, the angels are d epicted as
'walkers-on' in the drama; they are spectators 'behind the scenes.' It is
God Hirnself who c..1lls out to Abraham at the las t moment and saves
Isaac from being sacrificed. There is no specific angel o f the Lord who
However, in the short reference to the Aqedah in Deme-trius tire
C!Jrouograp!Jer, the saving of Isaac is ascribet."' to an angel, acting on

l95 Cf., Ge:n. Rob. 60.4, see chapter 1.5 below.

l96 See illso Bemstein 2001.). 271 272..
l97 Faagmenl I.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

God's be half. but d istinguished from h im. As in the Bible, there are no
oth er a ngels mentioned in the story.

4.2.4 Jacob and the Angel

jncolJ's dream nl Bethel

Th e context of the na rrative (Gen 28:10..22) is the same ~1s in the Bible.
Jacob is forced to leave his home because of the conflict v,.rith his broth
er. In co ntrast to the biblic41l version. hmvever, Rebeka.h is said to ha ve
been infonned in a dream of Esau's pla ns for revenge and thus advises
her son to flee to her brother Laban in Ha ran. Isaac also agrees to Ja
cob's journey and with the b lessing of his father Jacob thus departs
from home.' 9 " \>Vhen he has left.- Rebekah grieves for her son; she is
worried a bo ut h im a nd weepsi Jub. 27.13. Isaac comforts her <1nd says:
Uub. 2 7. 14] " M y sister, do mlt wf>t'!p ( )0 aca">unt of Jacob, my son, because in
peace he will journey and in peace he will return. [15) God !\lust High wiJI
protect him fro m aU evil and M will be with him because he will not fo rsake h im all of h is days, (16J fur I kn(l W that he will make hi~ way~ pruspe r
e\'erywh~re h~ g<~S until he retums tu us in peace and we ~(>e h im in
peace ...N

Isaac is confident that God will protect Jacob on his journey and that he
will return home safely. The theine of divin e p rotection when traveling
is sorneth ing we recogn ize from both Genesis 24 a nd the book of Tobit.
Although Jub. 27.13-18 is based on Gen 28:1-5,"' many scholars have
noted a rema rkable similarity between Tob 5:18~22 a nd this p~,ssage.
ln the same way as Isaac, Tobit comforts h is '''ife w hen their son Tobias
lea ves home in order to go to Media: "A good angel w ill accompany
h im; h is joum ey will be successful. and he will oome back" [Tob 5:22).
In jubilee.s, hov,tever, it is God in person who is said to directly exe rcise
His protection, not an an gel." 11

198 See fctb. 26.35; 27. 1 12.

cr., lhe pta}'er ol Isaac for hL~; son Jacob in Gen 28:3-4.
200 See.. e.g., Molwe, 1996. 193-194.
201 Dupont-$i)mmer (1968, -I I 1-126) daim.o; lhal lhe Naulhor" of Tobil was inspired by
/ubill'ts. Because Tobit's a!lgelology is mol'e d evekped in thi.~; p.1ssnge. he concludes

that /11bil~'l'S is earli.e Lhan the book of Tobit. A~; shown in the quobltion. l!iaac 1-efe~
to God's pesonal protection, but in Tobit th e pnlle<tion is exercised by Lhe angel
Raphael. Hm..-ever. moM scllol<l ~ consider the ca$e Lobe the oil~ way around: the
'aurho~ of /clbih'l'S used Tobit as a model and SOUl\.-e of inspiratio1\. The book of Ju-

4.2 The


al\d the Q umran DocumellL'I


jacob thus leaves the land of his birth in order Lo escape the revenge
of his brother Esau and, as in the Bible, God encoun ters him on the
way. We can read about jacob's dream at Bethel in Jub. 27.19-27./ubi
lees' version of the revelation is very similar, in fact almost iden tical, to
the biblical accoun t. Jacob sees in his dream a heavenly ladder with
angels ascend ing and d escending on it. 200 God stands above the stair..
case and speaks to him; jub. 27.21-22.211' In verse 24 we read that God
says to jacob:
Ur1l,. 27.24) " ... And beh(lld, I shall be with }'(lU and I .shall protect you everywhere you gu. And I shall bring you back into this land in peace because
I shall n ut fo rsake Yl)U until I du everything w hich J have said to you."

This verse is virtually identical to Gen 28:15 and it is also an echo o f the
words of Isaac in Jub. 27.1516, as quoted above.
As in the Bible, the God w ho addresses Jacob is clearly distin
guished fro m the angels w ho go u p and down o n the ladder. Jacob's
reaction to the heavenly vision in Jub. 27.2:.,...27 is the same as in Gen
]ilcob eventualJy an-ives at his destination, works there fo r his u ncle
L1ban and marries the latter's two daugh ters Leah and Rachel;-Jubilees
28, compare Genesis 29-30.
Jacob's sec.rmd dream

We find u,e shortened coun terpart o f Gen 31:2-21 in Jub. 29.14. laban
and his sons have become jealous of Jacob, who decides to flee. We
read in verse 3:

Mlets. is g:~nerally OOfl.<iidered to be lal~r than Tobit. See, e.g., MoMe, 1996, 194. As
!thown previously, ang~ls play a more predominal\t role in other parts of jubirm,
and it seems e\id~nt that /tMitcs generally ha..<; tluite an ad\anced ang~lol og:y. See a lso /ltb. 35.16-17, a passage ill which h;.l.lC once again ensm-es his w-ife of jacob's divine protection: NAnd you (Rebekah) should not fear on aocoun1of Jacob because the
protector of jat---ob is greater alld mightie Ll\oln l11e protector of Ec;au.N hl the light of
/lib. 27. 13-18, the most pmbable interpretation of Isaac's assurance in /teb. 35.16-17 is
th,l t "the protech'>l' of j.lCCib" is Cod Himself. How,~ver, if we are to believe Charles
( 1902.. 209, ntlle 17), the latter pas.c;age is Ole ea rliest 1-efe ~nce 10 Jewish belief ill
gu ardian angels . The i:sue L'l in tum diS>Cussed b) Hannah (2007, 4~424) who .l iS..J
interpreLc; the pa.c;s.1ge in this way, vJith the 1-esetvation that he mailltains that the
angel Raphat>l's role in Ole book of Tobit must be counted a s the earliest w itJless to
the belief ln guardian angels.
202 }11bil~rs does"'-'' offer 311)' ~xpl.lna tion of the meallillg of l11e stairway/ladder or the
pre.<~ellce or the ang~ls in Jacob's d n~am.
203 Wintermute has here chose' lhe rranslatioll 'stain"'' Y: not 'ladder:' God/the LORD
is depicted as sblnding abme it. Howeve1, Ch..wles' English transl.l tion has the wo1'<1
' ladder' which God is s.1id ttl be standing uptm; see }ul. 27.21 22 hl AOT. 1984, 87.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Je wish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

Uub. 29...1] Ft')r h~ IJac<>bJ t<)ld them [his wivesJ everything. ash~ h<ld seen it
in the d ream, and everything which /t( [God] told hi1n, that he would ru
turn to the house of his father.

In the context o f Jui!Uees it is unclear whether the dream that Jacob re

fers to here alludes to the p reviously mentioned revelation in Bethel or
another, d istinct v ision. The most probable interpretation seems to be
that the "author'' of Jubilees has in rnind the second drcarn vision of
Jacob mentioned in Genesis 31. Jub. 29.3 is thus a summary of Gen
3 1:10-13. As s hown in the quotation, the designation 'the angel of God'
is not used in Jub. 29.3, and in this way it differs from the biblical ac-count of this event. According to 0 . S. 1A'intennute, "he' who has told

Jacob to return home is God Himself, an interpretation that is very ob

vious in this context.:!:~).~ The angel of God in Gen 3 1:11 seems thus in
Jubilet>s to be identified as God in person, cf., Gen 31:13: "I am the God of
Bethel ..."

Jacob's pilgrimage to Betlwl

Jub. 31.1 2 corresponds to Gen 35:2-4:
(lub. 31.11 And on th e firSt day of the month, Jacob Sp<)ke to all o f the men
o f his house? saying,.. " Purify and dlan ge }'OUr doth(>s, and having arl!ien,
Jet us go up to Bethe1, where on the d ay when I Oed from the face o f Esau,
my brotheT, I made a vow to him who has been with me and has returned
me unto this lan d in peace. [2] Remo ve the strange go ds that are amung
you ...N

Unlike in the biblical narrative, jacob is said in Jub. 3 1.3 to have invited
h is fathe r and mother to come to Bethel in order to participate in the
sacrificial service. Jacob visits his parent~ and his son Levi is or
dained/blessed as a p riest by Isaac: " May he (God] draw you [levi] a nd
your seed near to hirn frorn all flesh to serve in his sa.nctuary as tire
angels of /he Pn>se11ce nt1d /l~e l10ly o11es ... " Uub. 31.14). The a ngels o f the
Presence are thus considered to perform a p riestly role in heaven.211s
jacob tells h is father that God has shown him m ercy a nd protected

him from all evil, and now the time has come for the fulfillrnen t o f the
vow he o nce made to God in Bethel, fub. 31 .24-26.a16 Because of the
weakness of old age, Isaac does not follow Jacob to Bethel to participate

20.J Wil\temute OTP, \'OI. 2, 1985, Ill. Winte1m ute is probably ro-ect in hi.<~ B...'lsump
rion. We nHL<~r, howeve r, oon.<~ide r Lhe poe;sib-iliry that the wcwding. in }ub. 29.3 may be
delibe rah~ly ambiguous, leaving it to lhe 1\~ade r to interpret the pron oun a..c~ l'eferl'ing
either to God or to an angel. See alc;o Hayward 2005, l i..Jl 16.
205 ~e also the Test1TJUI"tlf ofL11i.
206 C., }tb. 27.13- 18 and C'.en 48: 16.

4.2 The


al\d the Qumran Documei\L'I


in the service but Rebekah accompanies him, Jub. 31 .26-3(). The whole
of chapter 31 is d ed icated to Jacob's preparation for the sacrifice on the
altar he has built at Bethel and hence the accomplishment of his vow.
jubilees 32 describes jacob's sacrifice and tithe at Bethel, w hile his
son Levi functions as a priest during the service.w ln the second nig ht
at Bethel. God appears once more to Jacob, blesses him and gives him
his name lsraei.Jub. 32.1719 is thus a counterpart of Gen 35:9-13.~"
ln jrtb. 32.16 we read that jacob wants to b uild a sanctuary at Bethel,
but he is later prevented by an angel from accomplishing this plan:
Uu(J. 32.21 J And he (Jacob] saw in a ujsion uf til~ nisllf [a d ream? Cf., I Sam
3:5; Isa 29:7V'l9 and lx!hold att (mgd was descending from heaven, and there
were seven tablet!; in his hand$. And he g;we {them) to Jacub, and he read
them. and he knew everything whkh was written in them, which Wl)uld
happen to him and his sons during all tM ages r...) [23) And he (the angel]
said to him1 "Do nvt build this place, and do not make an eternal sanch.tary, and do not d well here because this is not thL> pJacl! ...

This is thus an addition to U1e original biblical story of Jacob's pilgri

mage to Bethel in Genesis 35. Tile angel w ho advises Jacob against
building a sanctuary at Bethel is cle.uly distinguished from God, be
cause according to the preceding verse1 Jub. 32.20; \\1hen God had fi ..
nished speaking to jacob, he dep~uted from hirn: " ... And jacob \vatdl-

207 One nigh t in Bethel. God confi1ms to Le\i i.n a dn~am tha l he and his son.<~ ha"e been

l)l'dnined as priesL'I of Gtld forever, /Ill~ 32. 1. See also T. Levi 2Al2, where Lf'vi is said
to lhwe been Mken up to heaven by an angel <lnd ordained a priest, d ., alo;ll dhlpters
Sand 9 in the Pseudepigraphon. According (0 Kugel (201.16. 11>168), the rr.:ldition
th.u an angel was i11volwd in Levis coven.m t wilh Clld is b.1sed on an ancienl illterpretatiol\ of Ma l 2:47. Although !he t\ame of the holid.1y is no! explicilly m.enlioned
i.n fubilm 32. Jacob's oolcbation in Bethel seems to be cmmected fO Sukkolh, a nd /teb.
32.2729 mosr rertclinly refers to the in.o;tiluti(ln of Slltmiui Atst'rd:
Alld he l)acob) obsen ed lhe~ yet one (mMe) day .:lnd he sacrificed in ir according to
everything which he had been SBcrificing on the prwious days. And he called il
<Additioll"' be<ause lhat day wa.'l added. bul lhe p1
-eviou$ {days) he c.1lled ,..the
feast.... [ .. .1Thereflll'e ir was revealed h) him sochM he miglu obsene ililnd add it to
the se"en d ays of the feast. And it was called <Addirillll"' becalL'ie il is w l'illen (on
high) in the a !testation of feast d Bys acco.ding lo the number of d ays of tll,~ year.

Cf., lev 23-.36: Num 29:3538; 2 Chr 7:9~ and Targum

S..~e a lso Ha)"'lard 2005, 13915.1. and chaplet -1.6.
/11bilo:s doe.<~ no mention Jacob's s.1rugsle and his


to Gerte:;is 35.

renaming, ar rhe fo1'<1 of Jabbok but

simply stale.<;: "And he IJacob) C'ro.<~sed over lhe JBbbok in th e ninth month on the
elevenlh day of the month. And on thar day Esau, hi$ brother, came to him and \'-'as
reconciled to him . .." [/ltb. 29. 131. See furthec Hayward 2005, 118--ll9, 132139, 144.
209 See als.o Guile)' 201).1, 105.



4. The Angel of the Lord - Early Jewish ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

ed u ntil he (GodJ went up into heaven."210The a ngel on the other hand,

appears to Jaoob in a n additiona l, separate vision and is said to be "des
cendiug from lrenven ... " According to the a uthor of Jubilees, the 'right
p lace' for the Temple is Je rusalem. The angel v~.rith the seven tablets in
his hands is here a nonymous, but he calJs to mind the a lleged narrator
of Jubilees, the a ngel of the Presence:"'
Uu(J. 1.29] And the angel of the prestmcc, who went before the camp of
Is rael, tuok the ftJb(eiS bf flu: division uf the yearS from the time()( the creation

of the law and k>:Stimony accunHng to their weeks (of yt!arSJ according to
the Jubilees., year by year throughout the full num~ r uf J ubile~. from {the
day of creati<'ln untilJ the day of the new creation when the heaven and
earth an all of their creatures s:hal1 be renewed 1... ) until tht~ sanctuary of
the LO RD is creatt>d in Jeru$alt!m upo n Muunt Zion ...

Because o f the obvious resemblance of the angel in Jub. 32.21-23 to the

angel mentioned in the q uotation, it seems probable that it is one and
the same a ngel in both cases.

Jacob awi Jo.sep!J

Th ere is no counterpart to Gen 48:15#16 in Jubilees. However, when
Jacob is reunited \o:ith his son Joseph a nd comes to live in Egypt he says
to him:
Uub. 45.3) " Let me die now after I h;wt! seen you. And now l!!t the LORD,
the Cud of Israel, be blessed, the Cod of Abraham and the God uf Isaac,
whu did not with ho ld his mercy and his kindn e;;_~ fn)m his sen ant Jacob.
(4) It is en(lugh for me that I have ~een your fa ce while I was alhe,Ji>r lite
visitm wlrit lt I StiW in Bethel ;nrs o:rfttinly tme. f\1a)' tht! LORD 1ny C..od be
bl e.~d forever and evt:r and blt!:':Sto:d (be) his name."

In his happiness over Lhe reunion with Joseph,. Jacob looks back a t his
life and recalls the vision a t Bethel. Jacob exclaims that God has indeed
kept the promise he once made to him there;" And behold, 1 [God] shall
be with you and I shall protect you ... "

Concluding Remarks
In Jubilt-es' rendering o f the Jacob narratives, God Himself st..1nds out as
the o ne w ho appears to the patriarch during his travels and hard

210 Cf.,. Gen 35:13.

211 Cf., Jubilees' versi-on of the Aqedah. A'l shown above, there are .sever.ll angels of lhe
Pre.c;erw:e mentioned in f1bilt'l'$. but the alleged naft'ator of the book seems neverthe-

les.c; to have a s.pedfic status.

4.2 The Pseudepig r<~piM Bl\d the Q umran Documei\L'I


ship s."' Th e only exception is the angelophany in jub. 32.21 23, which
lacks a coun te rpa rt in the Bible. The angel w ho gives Jacob the seven
tablets concerning the fu ture of h is descend a nts is anonymous b ut fo r
contextual reasons we may assurne that he is to be identified as the
angel o f the Presence, compare Jub. 1.29. The the rne of divine protection
of LTavelers is sign ificant in jubilees and recalls the book o f Tobit as well
as Genesis 24.
4Q1 58
A fragmentary para ph r-ase of Genesis 32 is preserved in the Qumran
manuscript 4Q158. Th is version is quite similar to the biblical account

with the noteworthy exception that, \vhen b lessing him after the fig ht,
Jacob's conte nde r refers to God in the tltird person:
" ... May the lo[rd ) make you frui tful (.. .). May he b'T<mt you kn)o wled ge
an d understanding and may he $a \' }'OU from all violence ...N

Thus here, Jacob's opponent is obviously not identified as God in J."ler


The L<ldder of Jacob

In accordance with its tit le, this Pseudepigraphon is mainly an elabora
t ion on Jacob's d ream at Bethel and his vision of the heavenly stair
wa y/ladder (Gen 28:1 022). There is a lso a short allusion to jacob's e n
cQun ter with ' the u nknown man' in Gen 32:22~30. Lad. jac. 1.3-8 reads as
(3) He (Jacob) had <l d ream. And beh(lld, a ladder was tixed on the earth,
w ho~e tu p reached to heaven. (41 And the to p o f the ladder was the fa ce o f
a man, ca rved u ut o f fire. [5) There were tv.e1ve steps Je;_ld ing tu the tup of
the ladder, and o n each step to the top there were hv(l human faces, o n the
right and on the left, hventyfnur fa ces (or bus ts) induding: their cht>Sl.;c. r6J
And the face in the middle , higher than aU I saw.~ 4 the <me of fi re, in
duding the sho ulderS and arms, t!xceeding:ly terrifying. mflre than those

2 12 As s.h own, /tebileV!-$ no version of jacob's struggle BL the fo rd of j.lbbok, nor a
dire coul\lerparl of Gel\ 48: 15-16, bu! aU the Mher rele\'lll\1 j acob narratives are
rende1'ed chereill.
213 See a lso Hayward 20()5,28-3 7.
214 Acrotding to Lunl (note 1.1 in OTP vol. 2. 1985, 407), it is probable tll.illlhe Laddt:J' of
/occ'lb orisinalty begllll w ith Jacob's own acoou.u of the events lh oll bmugh t him to Bethel consideiog the first -person ll<l!l'Mh e from v. 6 onwards.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

twentyfour faces. (7] And while 1 wa~ still lnoking at it, behold, angels of
God ascended and d escend ~d un it. [SJ And God was standing above its
highest fat.-e, and he called 10 me from there, saying, ' 1arob, Jacob!N And I
said, "Here I <un LORD!N

As shown in the quotation, the revelation of the heavenly ladder is

much more elaborate here than in the Bible, the appearance of the lad
der being described in detail. On the top o f the l.,dder there is a fiery
face of a man, and God stands above it. The ladder and God are thus
closely connected to each other.
H. G. Lun t writes that even though he has retained the traditional
translation 'ladder,' the "author'' certainJy had a solid staircase in
mind, Jined with s tatues, as a ziggurat.:.o.; As in the Bible, angels o f God
are said to ascend and descend on it, in that order. According to Lu nt,
this angelic motion is characteristic of the traditions related to Jacob;
elsev~.'here the emphasis is u pon angels descending and then ascend
ing..w. From Lad. Jac. 1.6 and onwards, the alleged narrator of the reve-lation is Jacob himself.
God u,en talks to jacob and promises to bless him and his
offspring; Lad. fac. 1.912 thus corresponds to Gen 28:13 14 b ut God's
words to Jacob concerning his present situation (Gcn 28:1 5) a re here
As in the Bible, the revelation scares Jacob: "And w hen I heard
(this) from on high, awe and trembling fell upon me" (Lad. Jac. 2.1).
jacob asks God to explain the meaning o f his dream, Lad. Jac. 2.2122.
The "author'' of the book thus presumes that the vision of the heavenly
ladder h~'s some deeper symbolic significance. T11e ladder conceals a
d ivine message.
While jacob is still praying, God answers him and sends out u,e
archangel Sariel:
(Lad. jtJC. 3:1 ( ... behold, a vuice came befo re my (Jatt)b's) face saying, (2]
''Sarit!l_ l~ad er uf the beguiled, yuu whu are in charge ()f dreams, go and
makt! Jacob understand the meaning of the d ream he has had and explain
to him everything he saw; but fi rst bi(;>$S him.NPJ And Sa riel the archangel
came to me and I saw (him), and his appearance was very beautiful and
awesome. (4) But I wa:; not a~ton ished by his a ppearance, for the vision
which I had seen in my dwam was more M rribl ~ than he. f5J And I d id not
fear the vision t.lf the angel.

215 lunt. note b in OTP vol. l1985, 407.

2l6 lunl, intmductioll in OTP \'OI. l.. 1985,405.

4.2 The


Bl\d the Qumran Documei\L'I


Lun t \\'rites that here " ... 1 the voice' has ceased to be something heard
[as in Lntf. Jac. 2.1) and has become a hyposkltic creature.""' Jacob does
not fear the appearance of the archange1i the vision in the dream was
more terrifying.
This angelophany obviously constitu tes a major d ifference between
the Lntfder of jacol1 and the biblical account in Genesis 28. In the same
way as the anonym ous -angel with the seven tablets in hie; hand Uub.
32.21), the archangel S..riel is d epicted as distinct from God. He is a
heavenly nlessenger~ the angel w ho is in charge of dreams who comes
in order to unveil Jacob's mysterious vision. God is personified by ' the
voice: Cod commands Sariel to bless Jacob before he starts to explain
the dream, and the ardlangel accordingly changes jacob's name to
Israel. Lnd.Jac. 4.1-5 is thus an echo of Gen 32:24-30:
(Lad. fat. 4:1 -5} And the a nge1 said to me Uaa"Jb], ''\\That is you r namte?N
A n d I said, '1acob." (He announced), " Yo ur name shall no Junger be caUed
Ja cob, but your name shall be similar to my name, Jsraei.N A n d w hen I was
going fn)m Phandan a of Syria t() meet Esau my b rother, he came to me and
b1essed me a nd called me Israel. And he wuu1d nut te11 ml! hi::; name u ntiJ I
a djured him.

According to the version of Gen 32:24-30 in Targum Neofili 1, it was the

angel Sariel w ho was Jacob's contend er at the fo rd o f jabbok. The other
Palestinian Targums also claim that Jacob wrestled \Vith an anget not
Cod in person. but the angel is iden tified as Saricl o nly in Targum Neoji~
li 1} 1 ~
The appearance of an archangel by the name of Sa riel is significant,
because many consider him to have been the original fou rth archanget
later replaced by Uricl/PhanueP'" He appears, for example~ as one of
the fo ur archangels in Tl1e books of Enoch, Aramaic Fragments of Q1mmur
Cave 4 .~10

217 lunt, introdution in OTP, vol. 2.. 1985,406. See al.;o Charleswoth 1992, 609.
218 See chapter 4.5 beloh' and Vermes 1975, 159-166. Vermes interprets )Mob's words in
Tmg~tm Nt'tljiJi 1 Cen 32:31 ... I have seen .angels from be-fore the Lord face to face
and my life been saved" as an allusion to the angels Oil the ladder in Jao..'Ob's
dream in Bethel. I find this interprelation doubtful Jacob's words here may just as
well.lllude hl the angel$ who met him as described in Cen 32:1-3.
219 van Henten 1995b, 152. Variai\IS of the n;une of this a!lgel are S.:mlqel and Sul'iel.
among others. There are a lso t-raditiOI\.'1 wnceming B fallen angel b) the name of Sa
riel (and similar names). Sec Guiley 2004, 318.
220 Ed. Milik .1nd Black l976. See pages 170-171. Snrit>l is a l$0 mentioned in lhe Q1m1rmt
War Scr<,lf, IQM 9. 12-15. St.>e al.;o Vern'W!'S.. 1975, 159-166.


4. The Ange l of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

According to Lunt, the a rchangel Sariel is hence lin ked to Jewish

traditions tha t clearly p redate the fall of the Second Te mp le in 70 C. E."'
S.C1.riel fu nctions in the Ladder of jncob as a so-called angelus inlerpres.
His role is thus similar to that of the a rchangel Gabriel in the book of
Daniel, cf., Dan 8:15-16:'"
[Dan 8:15) Then it happene<t when I. Daniel. had seen the vi.sion and was
seeking the meaning. that suddenly there stood ~:>~.!fore me one having the
app~tarance uf a man. (16) And I heard a matt's ttO;ce betw~n the banks uf
Ulai. who called, and said, "Grbriel, mnk~ tlus uum JltttlcrMtmd tile vi.Si(llf. (my

According to Kugel, Jacob's fea rfu l reaction to the dream (Gen 28:17)
was something that p uzzled the early Jewish interpreters. Wh at was it
that scared Jacob so much?ln As we have seen, according to Lnd. }ac.
3 .4..5, Jacob d ee med the vision of h is dream to be more frig hte ning than
the angelic visita tion. Th e a nswer p rovided by the Ladder of jncob is that
the ladder in itself is a symbolic message concerning the fu ture:
ILad. /11c. 5.11 Thus he said lo m~: "Yuu have seen a l add~r with twelve
steps. each step having twl) h uman faces ' "hich k~ p l chang ing: !heir ap
pearance. J2J The ladder is thi$ ag(:', (3Jand !he twelve s teps ;ue the periud.s
o f this ag:e. {4) But the twenty-four faC(~ are the k ing.~ of the u ngodly na
tk)n.~ of this age. (5) Und er these kings the ch il d n~."ll of your child ren and
the gen~rations of you r son.<; will be interrogatl!<l:-u (6J The:;.e will ris-e up
against the iniquity of yuur grandsons( ...J (161Know, Jac()b, that yuur d es.
cend ants shalt be exiles in a strange land, and they will a fflict them w ith
slavery ( ... ) (17) But the LORD will judge the pe()p!e fo r whom they

11le ladder represents thus the coming ages o f history a nd the twen ty
fou r faces sym bo lize the two "pagan" rulers of each period who will
subdue Jacob's o ffspring. As the e mbod iment or re presentative of the
people of Israel (d ., Lnd. Jnc. 4.15), Jacob is a llowed to see the fu ture of

221 J.unt in OTP vol. 2, 1985,405. See al.c;o 1 E11cll 20.

222 See also, e.g., Dan 9:2().27. As mentioned, S.wiel appears to be another name for lhe
angel Uriel (Phanuel) who figure.c; in the Prayc:r t)/ foSC:JJ!t and frequently functions as
an ansdus iulerpro in 1 Euo:-clt (e.g . 72. 1; 74.2; 78.10}, and if\ 4 fzr,l (e.g .. 4.1: 5.20:
10.28). Ashton ( 1994, 83-85) demon:>trilted that the same cuubiv.llence thlll exis.t..<~ between th e '01ngel of the Lord' and God olloo <~pplies lo the r~lationsh ip of Uriel and
God in 4 E:ra. See ollsoOI'Io\' 2004, 7173.
223 Kugel 1995, 2112 12.
22-t According to Kugel {1995, 2 10), in place of lunrs tran$l.uion ' interrogated', we
should probably her~ read 'tested'.
225 l.Ad. }oc 5.1617 L.:; prob.lbl) i nspi l\~d by God's re,elation to Abraham in Gen 15: 1217. The referen ce i!t dearly hl the sl.wey of the lsraelites in Egypt and their subse
que nt Exodus. See aloo lhe La~id.-r t'!f jacob 6.

4.2 The

Pseudepig r<~piM

Bl\d the Q umran Documei\L'I


the jewish people. As the Master of world history, God is standing

above the lad der and speaks to jacob. God will bless jacob and his des
cendants in all their tribulations, Lad. }ac. 1.812, cf., Gen 28:1315.""
The notion that the jewish people throughout history will suffer
subjection under d ifferent fo reign empires is something that we recog
nize from the book o f Daniel; e.g . 7:327; 9:2().26. The function o f Sariel
in the Ladder of Jacob Ls similar to both Gabriel's role in the book of Da
niel and that o f U1e unnamed angel in }ub. 32.2126: '" ... And he [the
angel) gave (them) [the seven tablets) to jacob, and he read them, and
he kne\V every thing w hich ""'as written in them, whiclt would happen to
him and lo llis S<ms duriug all the ages ..." (v. 21 b)."'
In my q uotation of Lad. }ac. dlapter5 above, I o mitted vv. 7 15. This
was deliberate, and I will soon explain w hy, but let us first take a look
at this passage:
(Lad. file. 5.7J And th is p1ac~ will be made d ($olate by lhLj(mr asa:nts ( ... J
through the sins o f yu u r grandsons. [SJ And aruund the pr()perty o f your
fMefa then> a palace wlJI be built, a temple in the name o f yt)ur God and of
(th e Cod) of your fathers, (9) an d in the pr<W()cations o f yo ur children it
wiU become desertOO by the jm1T ascents uf this age. jlO) For )'t)U .saw the fir.:;t
four buS-lt; which \VCr~ s triking against the steps [ . .. J (11 J a11gds nscemlittg
(md tltsccntlin;.;, and the b usts amid the steps. [l2) The Must High will raise
up kings frum the gran dson..; of yuur b roth er E.sau, and th~y will r~ive all
the n obles of the tribL:.S of the earth who will howe maltreated y(mr seed .
(13] And they wiiJ be deli vt~red into his hand s an d he will be vexed by
them. (14] And he will ho ld them by fl) r<:e and ru le over them.. and they
w iU n ot be able to opp()Se him until the day when h is th,)ug ht wi11 go out
agains t them to serve id ols and (to offer) sacrifices to the d ead . (15] ( l-Ie
w il1) du violence to aU those in his kingdom whu will be revealed in :,Uch
gu ilt .. .

In Lad. }ac. 5.16, the archangel Sariel explained the ladder as a symbol
of the twelve fu ture eras of '~Nor1d history, each period reigned over by
two kings, in total 24 kings of ung odly nations. In the passage cited
above, the emphasis is instead o n the socalled four ascents o f this age
and the angels ascending and descending on the ladder.
Kugel connects ' the four ascents of this age' to the four beasts in the
book o f Daniel. The angels w ho are said to go u p and d own symbo lize
the rise and d ownfall of heathen empires. The angels in Jacob's dream

226 Cf.. We!i-tennanl\ 1985, 460, where he state..; that God's 1>1-esence in history .md the
impoYiance of cuhic wo1-ship ar~ the two main me.<~sages of the text.
227 Cf., also Prnyt-'t (1/ })SeJ/h, Fr.1gment B, $et! below. Acoordins lo !he l'ra!ler of }c'15t.-p/J,
JacOO is in reality an angel himself, by the na me of Israel. See .11so the Pn:yer(JJ}ac.>h.
228 According ro Kogel (1995, 2 16). ' this place' refers to Jen L'Ialem.,. not Bethei/Lu ~.


4. The Ange l of the Lord- Early Je wish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

are thus interpreted as lite angelic princes of tire pagan uatious {d., Dan
10:13. 20)'-"' and that is why they are depicted as first going up before
descending. and not the other way around, \Vhich had bt.'en the case
with GOli 's ministering angels.m Jn the words of Kugel:"... the fo ur
beasts are transformed into (fou r) 'angels of God' said to go up and
down jacob's ladder."m
It is noteworthy that even though the angels are presen t in the ini
tial description of the dream in d1apter 1, there is no mention o f the
fou r ascents. The Ladder of Jacob in its present form seems to be a fusion
of two o riginally distinct and slig htly conflicting explanations of Jacob's
vision. In the interpretation that Kugel considers the original o ne, the
angels play no particular role in the dream, except perhaps to assure
Jacob of angelic protection for his descendantc;. It is the ladder itt itself
that constitutes the message, as 'lite staircase of history:m Kugel aocor
dingly claims that the passage cited above is a later interpolation,m a
conclusion that I find convincing. This is hence the reason for omitting
Lad. Jnc. 5.7-15 in my first quotation of the chapter.
The angels in the dream are either understood as GOO's angels who
represent the heavenly protection of jacob and his descendants
throughout history o r as the guardian angelic princes of the heathen
nations. Ho\"'ever.. the two interpretations o f the d ream have in com
mon the depiction o f God as standing above the ladder/staircase. God
is the O ne who controls \VOrld history, and he will eventually redeem
Jacob's offspring. The archangel Sariel fu nctions as the angelus inlerpres,
in the same way as the archangel Gabriel in the book of DanieL This
biblical book is an important key to understanding the message of the
Ladder ofJacob."'
The two human faces on each step of the ladder/staircase (Lad. Joe.
1.5) are said to represent futu re pagan kings w ho will subdue Jacob's
descendants (Lad. Joe. 5.1-5). However, the fiery face o f a man at the to p
of the ladder mentioned in Lad. Jac. 1.4, 6, is not id entified by Sa riel. The
wording o f Lnd. Joe. 1.4 is peculiar: "And the top of 1/~e ladder was the face
as of a mat1. cnrued ou/ offire ." The ladd er is thus described as having a

229 See also Dt>ut 32:89 in th e LXX.

230 Kugel 1995. 2112 16.
231 KugeJ 1995, 215. Here E.<~au al\d hL<~ sons rep1-csen t the Roman Empire, see also Kug el
1995, 214-2!6, 222. Til is inlerpret.atio n ic; also found in Cell. Rab. 68.14 a nd l't':iiqta dt
Ral> K.alulm123, see cho.pter 4.5. See also Hannah 2<n7, 4 1S.-121.
232 Kugt>l 1995, 21622 1.
233 Kugel 1995, 209227, esp. pp. 221227. To be exad, Kugel considers LAd. fac. 5.716a <'IS
a late r il\tepolatio n.
234 See also Kugel 1995, 2 11 221.

4.2 The Pseudepig r<~piM Bl\d the Q umran Documei\L'I


man's head a t its very top. \Vh o does this head represent? As we ha ve
seen, God is said to be standing " ... above its [the lad der's] highest
face ..." see lAd. jac. 1.8. Th us, God a ppears to be distingu ished from the
face a t the ladder's top.
However, And rei Orlov interprets the fie ry face in Lad. jac. 1.6 as
the face of God.m In support, he refe rs to Jacob1s p rayer in response to
the visio n,~1" especially his words in Lad. ]nc. 2.15: " . .. Before the face of
your [God's) glory the six-winged seraphim a re afraid [ ... ] a nd they
sing unceasingly a hymn ...11 According to Orlov, the depiction of Jacob's v ision gives the impression that God 's voice is e manating fTom
the fie ry face o f the lad der, w hich he sees as a distinct divine manifesta
tion. God is speaking to jacob from behind the 'face'. m
Moreover, Orlov refers to 2 Euoc/J 22, w hich also contains a similar
depiction o f the face of th e Lord as ' fiery and terrifying', and he further
rema rks that, in some b iblical a nd intertestarnen tal texts, 'face' is used
as an equivalen t to God's Glory, His Kauod.'-"
According to Kugel, the description of the lad der w ith the fiery
head at its top is based on the fact that the H ebrew word ~.,can mean
both 'top' and ' head,' cf., Gen 28:12a.m As rnentioned in the analysis of
Gen 28:10-22 in chapter 3, it is linguistically possible to interpret v. 12b
as meaning that the a ngels a re going u p and d own "on"/for the sake of
Jacob.l-W The Hebrew \'-rord Ll may refer either to Jacob o r to the ladder.
The Hebrew wording o f Gen 28:12 is as follows:

Kugel conne<:ls the head constituting the top of the ladder in lAd. jac.
1.4 with the Rabbinic tradition that Jacob's portrait i.'i said to be kept in
heaven.w He poin ts out that it is possib]e to interpret the suffix at

2.15 Orlov 2004. 6 I -66.

236 I.Ad. fac. 2.7- 19.
237 Otlov 2001, 62..
238 See O l'lov 20M, 63-64, and e.g., Exod 33.1823. where Mose.'l asks hl see God's Glory,
but recei v~~s the an.c;wer lha! no man can see God's fare. Sec al'll) E7.ekiel I. God's
face, a-:~ denote.'! God's presence. sec chapter 3 al\d, e.g . Exod 33:14-16; Deut 4:37,
cf., the rel\dering of Isa 6.1:9 in th e r...rr al\d the LXX. See al'io Sem'l 1993,607-613. and
the renderi11g of Gen 28: 13 in the Tarsum Onqe/,)5, see dlapter 4.5.
239 Kugel 1990, I Ut
240 Kugt>l 1990, 112-116. This intef')'retatio n is also found in.. e.g., Targum Neofili J Bl\d<;is
241 Kugel 1990, 112-124, 250. cf., a1SoO the Pale.c;tinian T.wgums to (".en 28: 12 and Gm. Rab.
68. 12.. see d\apter4.5 beklw.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

tad1ed to the Hebrew word >:m/ 'head/top' as allud ing to Jacob. According to Kugel, the verse could thus be tra nslated as; " ... and Iris Ua
cob's] head reached to Jreave-n; and behold, tile angels of God u.-ere asceudit~g
and dt"Scendiug upon !Jim.''U2 The reason fo r the shuttling o f the angels
back and forth ben"reen heaven and earth is thus their wish to behold
Jacobi on the one hand his heavenly portrait a t the top of the ladder,
and o n the other the '' real" Jat:ob lying on the ground .u.l However, this
interpretation is not expressly given in the Pseudepigraphon.
Orlov also takes this line o f interpre tation a nd discus.~es the scho
larly suggestion that the fiery face at the top o f the ladd er mar
represent Jacob's heavenly counterpart;- Jacob's portrait/image e n ...
graved in/seated on God' s throne.'-" This heavenly d ouble o f Jacob has
in tum been defined as his guardian "angel" and identified as the e rn
bod iment of the d ivine Glory. Th e idea o f Jacobls heavenly counterpart
also seems to be presen t in the Prayer ofJosep!J.""

Concluding Remarks
As the Iitle imp lies, this Pseudepigraphon is based mainly on Jacob's
vision of U1e heavenly ladd er in his dream at Bethel (Gen 28:10-22). In a
similar way to Jubilees_, this source also contains a n additional angelo-.
p hany1 not ment ioned in the Bible.
God, who is depkted as sta nding at the top of the ladd e r, sends out
the ard1angel Sariel in order to make Jacob u nderstand the meaning of
the dream vision. This angel is entitled the o ne 'in charge of dreams' .
He is portrayed as distinct from God, w ho is personified by ' the voice'.
l11e role of Saricl in the Ladder of jamb is remin iscen t of the archangel
Gabriel's function in the book of Danieli like him, Sariel is an angelus
interpres. Sa riel appears to be of a higher rank than the angels going up
and d own on the ladder. He is d early d epicted as separate fm rn both
them and God. Similar to the unnamed a ngel in jrtb. 32.2126, Sariel
reveals to Jacob the fu ture destiny of his d escendants.

2 12 Kugel 1990, 117 119 .

243 Kugel 1990, 11 2~ 1 19.

244 Orltw 2004. ~71. See a lso Fishbane 2003~ 247249, lhe renderings of Gel\esi$ 28 in
the Palestinian Targums, and chapters 4.5 <~ n d 4.6 below.
215 See furlhe1 chapter L6 and 0 1lov 2004. 6671, Rm..,land 1984, 300-507, 11nd FQ6Sum
1995, 13515 1. H owever, Orlo v (2004, 76) adm iL'I that th ere is B cerr.lin amb igui ty in
he1'erlf in the the L!tddt-r 1>/ tacob: " .. th~ fiery fare c-. m be Mkt>ll eirher a..c; God's Kawd
or an en throned vice-regent as..~iated with the F., ...-e (i.e. the enthmned JacobIsrae l)."

4.2 The


Bl\d the Q umran Documei\L'I


The angels ascending and descending o n the lad der a rc either in

terpretcd as Jacob"s guardian angels or as the angelic princes of the
heathen nations. A third variant suggested by Kugel to be hinted at in
the Pseudepigraphon is the tradition <Jf Jacob's head portrayed at the
top of the lad der: The angels arc thus shuttling back and fo rth between
heaven a nd earth in order to compare the " real" Jacob on the ground
with his heavenly image. According to Orlov, the head/'the fie ry face'
on top of the ladder may be interpreted as a manifestation of God's
Glory. Be that as it may, the a ngels on the ladder a re distinguished
from G01.i , who is depicted as the o ne in charge of world history.
In addition to Gen 28:1022, there is also an a llusion to Gen 32:26-29
in the Lndder of Jacob. Sa riel is said to have blessed Jacob and given h im
h is ne'"' name Israel. a n interpretation tha t most certainly is connected
to the tradition in Tarsum Neofrti 1, where Jacobs contender at the ford
of Jabbok is said to be the a rchangel Sariel. With regard to the fact that
Saricl is often re placed by the archangels Uriel or Phanuel, tl1ere a p
pears to be a t raditi onal link between the Lndder of Jacob and the Prayer
of joseph. wherein Jacob's opponent is the angel Uriel, see below.

Testament of Jacob
ln this narrative, the background setting o f the plot is an angelic visita..
t ion; when the e nd of jacob's earthly life d raws near, God sends h im
~vfichael. here design ated as the chief of the angels. Mich ael's commission is to prepare Jacob fo r his a pproaching d eath. This a ngelic visitation is depicted as one of many in the life of Jacob, who is used to talk
ing wi th a ngels; T. Jac. 1.410.
Some time la ter, Jaoob is v isited by yet another a ngel, a n angelo~
p hany that initially scares him, because the angel resembles his father
lsaac. This anonymous a ngeP..,. says to Jacob:

246 In his intmduelion to Prayt'r of j.-)SepJr (OTI>vol. 2. 1985, 7 11) Smith illterprets this
angel in Tl'"illmlleul of }oU(!b <IS .Michael, appearing to Jacob in the form of IS<~ac. Acoordillg to Jewish tradition., the archangel Michael L'l the guardian angel of the
people of l:w.l~~l, see, e.g., Dan 12:1. ln T. Do?JJ 6.5, we 1-ead about an unnamed 'angel
of peace' who i$ ded ou-ed r.,., be l<;rael's guardian,. a tradition that af!>O seems to be ~~:.;
tal\t ill 1Q369 and T. Lm 5.6. .,.here the .mgel who spe-aks to Levi identifies himself
as th e angel who intercedes for the people of lsr.lel. However, Je\'li.<;h t:rodition is
ambivalent on lhL<: point. since the re are a lso texts which d eny the idea of an angelic
patrol\ of ls-rae l and proclaim God robe the pe~lple's sole prote<tor, e.g., Dcu1 32:89;
Sir 17: 17 Bl\d fllb. 15.30-32. See al<;l') Kugel 2006, 186206, and Hanllah 2007. 122-423.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

(T. }llc. 2.51 ... "Do nut ftmr, 0 jacob; I am th~t angel who has been walking
with you and guarding you fm m }'OUr infancy. [6 J I announood that you
would receive the bl ~ ing of yuur father and of Relx~cca, yuur mother. (7) I
am the one who is ,~ith you, 0 Israel, in aU your acts and in everything
which you have witnes::;(..od. [8) I saved yuu frum Laban when he was en
d;mgering yt)U and pursuing you. (91 At the time I gave yuu aU hi$ possessions and blt?S..:;ed yt)u, yuur wiv(>S, your child ren and your Aocks. (10) I am
the one who saved you frum th~ hand of E..::au (... J (14] Bles~ed are you al
so, Jacob, for yuu have see.n God face f() fa ce. ('151 You saw the angel uf
God-may he be exalted!-and you saw the ladder standing fi rm on the
~'T()Lmd with it..;: top in t-he heavens. (16) Then yuu beheld the Lord sitting at
its top ,,,.jfh a pt)\ver which no one cuuld describe ...

l11is angel is thus Jacob's guardian, who has watched over him his e n ...
tire life. In T. fac. 2.89, we see that the a ngel identifies himself as the
one who saved jacob from Laban and b lessed his fa mily a nd flocks, a
dear a lJusion to Gen 3 1 : 1 0~1 3, \'I!here 'the a ngel o f God' is me ntioned.
On the other hand, the angel who addresses Jacob in the passage
cited above distinguishes himself from 'the angel o f God' refe rred to in
T.Jnc. 2.15 and speaks reverently about him in the th ird person. Verses
14-15 a re para llel and may accordingly be interpreted as referring to the
same person; " ... you have seert God f<.1ce to face (v. 14). You saw 1/le
angel of Gmi- may he be exalted'" (v. 15a), a n allusion to Cen 32:30. In
the same v~.ray as in Gen 48 : 1 5~16, the angel and God seems to be
equated v,rith each other. There a ppears thus to be a slig ht contradiction
between T.fac. 2.89 and 2.15.
In the refe rence to Jacob's dream vision a t Bethel.., God is said to
have been sitt ing at the to p o f the ladder, possessing an indescribable
pmver. The angels in the dream are not mentioned, nor the significa nce
of the lad der, v. 15b-16. "'
T. fac. 4.15 corresponds to Cen 48:15-16; Jacob blesses his grand sons
Ephraim and Manasseh a nd says:
(T. /at. 4.15] "May fltt G(Jd und ~ r whose a utho rity my fa ther$~ Abraham and
Isaac, served in reverence, the Cotl who h a~ ~ tn.>ngthened me from my
youth up to the present time when the tmgd has saved me from all my af
flictio n.'>, may he bJes~ th~ l a ds~ Manasseh and Ephraim."

In contrast to the biblical pericope.. Jacob disting uishes between the

angel w ho h as sa\'ed h im from all his afflictions (possibly a reference to
the a ngel in T. fnc. 2.59) and Cod h imself, w ho Jacob invokes in the
p rayer a nd asks to bles...c; h is grandsons. The angel is referred to as

247 Jn T. fac. 3.~. Jaoob h~lls his holLc;ehold llt.ol l God Himself once appeared to him in
Upper Mesopotamia and promL10ed to bles..; hin\ and his descendant!>, d.~ Cen 2$: 1315.

4.2 The Pseudepig r<~piM Bl\d the Q umran Documei\L'I


God's emissary, a being sent by God. Throug h His a ngel, God has pro
tected Jacob but the a ngel here is nol equaled with God.

DcrneLTius the Ch ronogmpher

ln Fragment 2 there is a preserved rende ring of Jacob's confrontation
wi th the ' un known man' o n h is way home to Canaan:
And while hl:' was going h) Canaan, an angel of the Lord wrestled w ith
him, and touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh r... ). And the angel said h)
him that from that time ( ln he would no h)nger be called jaC<)b, but lsn1el.

Thus, Demetrius understood the "man'' w hom Jacob struggles with in

Genesis 32 as a n a ngel. Unlike the b iblical accou nt, there is no indica ..
tion in h is version of the event that jacob might actually have met God
in person. However, in accordance with Lhe Bible, Demetrius accredits
the second bestowal of the name Israel in Genesis 35 to God Himself.

Concluding Re marks
According to the Tt'Simnenl of jacob, the patria rch is visitc<l at the e nd of
h is life by the a rcha ngel Michael in order to prepare him lor h is ap
p roaching death. Some time la te r, another a ngel appears, who rescm
bles h is father Isaac. This last mentioned a nonymous angel introduces
h imself as jacob's gua rdia n a nd ide ntifies himself as the ' the a ngel of
God' who Jocob from Laban a nd increased h is Oocks (Gen 3 1:10
Jn the same way as the a ngel o f the Presence in jubilees' version of
the Aqedah, Jacob's guardian a ngel addresses h im in the first person
singular. On the o ther ha nd, it seems as if the author of the Pscudepi
graphon inte rprets the 'un known man' who e ncoun tered jacob in Ge
nesis 32 as God in person, because he makes the angel exclaim; '' ... you
Oacob] have seen God face lo face. You saw the a ngel of God- may he
be exalted!" (T. Jac. 2.14b 15, cl., Gen 32:30). 'The a ngel of God' refe rred
to in T. jac. 2.15 is apparently someone other than the speaker, and in
the light of the p reced ing verse he seems to be identified as God Him
self. It is also stated tha t it \Vas God w ho addressed jacob in h is dream
al Bethel.
The a ngel refe rred to by Jacob in Gen 48:15-16 is interpreted in T.
Jac. 4.15 as a gu a rdian a ngel sent by God. This angel is probably the
same as the angelic speaker above.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

Regarding the rendering of Jacob's stntggle by DemeLTius, the 'un*

known man' is id enti fied as an angel and, unJike t-he angelic contender
in the Teslameul of Jacob w ho appears to be equated with God, there is
no hint in Demetrius' text that Jacob's opponent is an ything but an
"ordinary" angel, d istinct fr01n God.
Prayer of Joseph, Joseph and Aseneth and liber An tiquitalum
According to the Pra,ver of Josepl!, jacob is an angel himself by the name
of Israel. Smith argues that this idea goes back to the Targumic and
Midrashic traditions of the conferring of the name Israel on Jacob in
Genesis 32 v,.'hich will be discussed later.
Another motif behind jacob's angelic identity in the Pseudepigra
phon may be the collective use of Israel in Lhe Bible, e.g., Exod 4:22b:
" ... Thus says the LORD: ' Israel is rny firstbom son .. .'" a passage that
has sometimes been interpreted as alluding to a heavenly or preexistent being.Ul:l The name L';rael is interpreted in the Prayer of joseph,
fragment A as ' a man seeing God ', an u nd erstanding of the name that
also appears frequently in the work.c; o f Philo.l"'J As an angel. Israel con
stantly sees God in heaven. Smith classifies the Pseudepigraphon as "a
myth of the mystery of lsrael.''l!-U
TI1e main exegetical point of departure is Jacob's comb~'tt with the
"man" in Genesis 32. According to Smith, the Prnyer of }dseplt belongs to
a circle in first century Judaism " ... which sought a model for salvation
in the ascen t of the patriard1s to the full reality of their heavenly, angel

248 S..~e Smith. introduction to the Pmyt>rcf}.-upll in OTI, voL 2,. 1985, 701, and 1968, 253
271. A similar tradition is also exMnt in Philo's writings Bboul lhe ' Logos-', \\'hk h he
sometimes called lsr.lel, see below. C f., also Kugel 1998. 394-397. In 81odus the title
deari> refers to llle no.tion, as in .f Ezra 6.58; Sir 36: 12; Jt~b. 2.20, and Ps.;. Sol. 18.4. but
someti mes Exl'ld 4:22 i.e; interpreted a..c~ referring to the patriardl in person, e.g. Jub.
19.29; E:rod. /Wl>. 19.7. See a lso Smith DTP, vol. 2, 1985, 7 13, note d.
249 However. to be pre<ise, Philo does not explain the name Israel as mean ing ' a "'"''
seeing Cod' but niways gives the shor1er etynHMogy 'the one who sees (God)', thus
l"'miuing the \\'\"11'<1 ' mtut' . See further d l.olpte 4.3 below.
2 50 Smith introduction in OTP. vol. 2. 1985. 704. and,. 1968, 281-282. When dLc;rus.!iing the
incarnation of the angel lsrae.l. Smith {1968, 28 1283) refers to the 'd escent myth' and
compares the Prity~r(!f }t'1Sl>p/l "'ith the d escent of 'lad)' Wi!idom' into the midst of
Israel in str 24:8. See als.o H;mnah 1999,89-90.

4 .2 The Pseudepigr<~piM al\d the Qum ran Documei\L'I


ic n.ature.''n l An obvious parallel to this concepl of angelic incarnation

is to be found in the Enoch literature, pa rticularly in 2 Euoch.zsz
According to Smith and others, the tradition of an a ngel by the
name of fsrael is also connected to the idea of h is heavenly portrait.m
Even if Jacob himself is not .an angel, he may have a heavenly counter
p art, an angel wi th. the same name.rn In the Prayer of Josep!J however,
Jacob appears to identify h imself as the angel:
(Fragment A}"], jaa:lb, who is speaking to you, am also Israel. an angel of
God and a ruling s pirit. Abraham an d Isaac ltotre cre.rlted before. any m >rk. But.
I, Jacob, who men call Jacob but , ... hose name is Is rael am he who GM mUcd
Jsnrd which means, a man ~ing Cod, because I am the firstl,arn (~{ cuery
living thing Ul wltom G(Jd givtS lifo."!5.'>
And when I was c~>m ing up Fmu Syri(m Mcsopatmuif1, Uriet the ang(~l of
God, came fo rth and said that 'I [Jacoblf.iraeiJ had dtsecmled to tarlh and I
had tabemacled amung men:sn and that I had been called by the name of
Jacob. He envied me an d fimght with me (uut wre.Sllttl witlt m~ Sa)ing that h is
name and tile tltunt llml is before 1.'.1lery tmgel was to be above m inel-;.;. I told
h im h is name and what rank he h eld among the sons o f God. ' Are you not
Uriet the eighth aftt!r me? <Wid 1. Israel. flu: nrclumgd of tl;e: power )f ll1t Uml
and the chiifcrJpfllitt among the son.;; t)f God ? Am I not Israel, the first mim's
ltr bt.fore the fate ojCfKl?' And I called upon my Cod by the inextinguishable
name.NlSS imy italics).

Scholars are divided in their interpretation of Jacob's statement above;

does Jacob claim to be the earthly iucarnnliou o f the a ngel L~rae l. Jacob
bein g his earthly name, Israel the a ngelic name,zw or is it Jacob1s angelic

251 Smith, OTP vol. 2, 1985, inl1'0ductlon, 705. S..~e a lso the Pray~r oJim:ttiJ \'. 19.
252 Smith OTP vol. 2.. 1985, inmlducdon.. i 05. See 2 E11ad1 chapte 1: 22.9: 33.11; 67. 18 .
See illso VanderKam 2000b, 428-432. and Fletcher-Louis 1997, 14t).J64.
2.1)3 See Smilh O'TP, \'0 1. 2, 1985, introduction.. 710, and 1968, 284-292.. Kugel 1998, 397,
and Orlov 2004, 6671.
254 See G~en 1998. 137142. and FCIS.$um 1995, 142149. Cf., Pirq~ de Rallb; Elit'!cr 37.
The title rs..~el' is sometimt'S given h) Ole ' Logos' by Philo, see, e .g., 011 /Jee Ct.mftsit.m
cifTangut:' 146. See also dt~~pters L1 and 4.6.
255 Cf., Col 1: J.;.l7. Sl."e also Sm ith 1968,268, and Gieschen 1998, 140.
256 Cf.. )ohn 1: 14.
21)7 Aa:ording to Smith. another possible tran..;latio n of this pas.<~age is: N his name
(Uriel) should have precedence over my 1t ame (lsr.lel) and of Ole angel thBI i.'l before

258 The itali..-s in the q uotations of the l'raya.T if }ttiepll ill'e the trBit.-=;lah'lr's. Aocm\.iing to
Gieschen (1998, 1:39140) the refel'etlce to ' Ole inextinguL.;hable name im plies a COl\
nection to Ole ' divine name-angel' or the Exodus tradition.
2S9 See Smith 1968, 281292. Sulli\'an 2001. 98-101, HwMdo 1998, 61~5. and Kugel 1998,
398-399. Smith the idea of illcarnntion and ' the d e..<~cent-m yth' in the
Pmyer aJ j tJscpft.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

counterp art who is speaking?:!oo In a ny case, it' is clearly an angel~

ic/divine being who speaks in the Prayer of Joseph. The interpretation of
the etymology o f the narne Is rael as 1a ma n seeing God' e mphasizes his
ccleslial status. According to Smith, the underlying idea is that the heavenly name is knmvn. only to other a ngels.2io1 Th e tradition that the pa
triarchs were fo rmed before the cre~1tion is also to be found in other
Jewish works.:!ftl
In this context, we may mention Jos. Asett. 22.7~8 "'"here Jacob is also
described in angelic terms:
17J And Aseneth saw him Uact)b] and was am azt~d by his beauty [ ... J and
his uld age was like tM youth of a handsome (yo ung) man~ and his head
was all white a$ snow ( ... ) and his e)t.>S (were) Oashing and darting (Aashes
of) lighting. and his sinews and his shou l de~ and his arms were like
(tho~) of tm (mgcl, and his thighs and his cal\'eS and his feet like (those) of a
!,.;ant. 18) Amlfttcob u'li'S lik~ tJ man wl1(, h(ld w r.stled with GIJd. And Aseneth
saw him and was amazed and ~he prostrated herSelf befo re him face dl)Wn
on the ground ...

Jacob's features in this text are commonly ascribed to divine beings,

see, for exa mp le, Ezekiell and Dan iel 7. Aseneth's p rostration is a very
typical response to angelophanics in the Bible, e.g., D"n 8 :1517. It is
also noteworthy that the a u thor of Joseph atzd Aseneth seems to have
unde rstood the patriarch's conte nde r in Ge nesis 32 to be God. Possibly,
the a uthor regarded Jacob's angelic appearance as a result of that di
vine encoun te r.:!ru
According to the Prayer of joseph; w hen jacob/lsr.,el come'S u p from
Syrian Mesopotamia:!r.t he is confronted by the angel Uriel. The goo
graphical setting is the same as in Gen 35:9~ 10.265 In the same way as
Hosea 12, the Prayer df ]"seph a ppears to combine the biblic.:1l traditions

260 See Fossum 1995, 148. T hese two interprelatkms of Jaoob's claim need nl)l exclude




each other, the incamated angel may very well be identical with Jacob's celesti al
oom\lerpat, thus Smith, Kugel et aL Howevet, Fossum explidtly denie..o; the idea tltal
the angel lst"ael in the l'ra!l~.,. ('/jl)f.(!ph is aCiually portr.lyed as iuctrmtkd in Jacob. He
instead speak.o; of a my:;lical ideJIIily' belWl~en two being...~ one e-a rth ly and one he.wel\ly. See also the diMUS$ion -egardi\8 the interpretatiol\ of ' the fiery head' on top of
the ladder il\ Jacob'.<~ d ream nt Bethel in the sedion on the Ltdder of} oU(!b alxlve and
d\apters4.5 and 4.6.
Smith OTP voJ. 2. 19$5, 713, 1\0h~ e .
See, e .g., T.wlmma (ed. Buber) NumWrs. Nas.o 19 Bnd Smith afl' vol. 2. 1985, intro~
duction. 70-1.
Sl~e also Sullivan 2004, J02 10J, al\d Odov 21.'X>4, 75-76.
S) Mesopl)I<Uuia is the siBndard Septuagint lr.msltltion of PBddanAram. Sl-<>e
LXX Cen 3 1:18 ilnd 33: 18 .
C.... lXX h) Gen 35:9.

4.2 The

Pseudepig r<~piM

al\d the Q umran Documei\L'I


regarding the bestmving of the name Israel on Jacob.2(t(o. According to

the Pseudepigraphon, Jacob initially seems to have been unaware of his
heavenly identity, because Uriel is said to have enlightened him con
cem ing this matter. The ignorance o f jacob may have been inspired by
the portrayal of him in Gen 28:16 as an ignorant man sleeping on the
ground.W' See also Fragment C:
(Orig~n writes) )<K't lb was g reater than man, he whu supplanted his b r(>th er
an d wht> d{!d ared in the :;arne book from which w~ q uott-'d "J nmd in the
tabl ~ ts o f hem~n" that he W
' it$ 11 chief ctlpf11i11 of the pow~r tif the Umi tuul fwd.
from of old, flu: nwrat> lsmel: sumelhing whid1 Ire rt>cognius whitt tloin.l{ service in
the. b(J([y, bei11g remiml!!d of it by the arclmugcl Uriel.

Jacob's o pponent, the 'unknown man' o f Genesis 32 is Lhus id entified as

Uriel, usually d esignated as o ne of the archangels.:!r.s That Uriel has to
remind Jacob of his heavenly id entity and origin may be inspired by
the biblical statement that it was his opponent w ho gave Jacob the
name Israel. see Gen 32:28.
The Pmyer of fosepl! supplies a motive for the a ttack on jacob U1at
differs fTom the one contained in the Bible story. Uriel is said to have
envied him. The conflict is described as rivalry between two angels
regarding their heavenly status and rank.:w.o The Palestinian Targums
iden tify Jacob's combatant as the angelic leader o f the celestial worship,
a tradit ion that is also extant in L.A.B. !8.5b6
15). . . And then I (C'.udJ .said to the angels who work ~e<:retly, 'Did I no t say
r~gard ing this, "I w ill revea1 everything I am doing h) Ab raham (6} and to
jaet>b his S<)n~ the third one whum [ called firStbom? who, when ht' was
wr.:stling in the dus t with the tmgel wlrt>Ull'IS in charge tif l1ymns, wo uld not
Jet him go until he blessed him."'

266 See a lso Smilh introducrion i.l\ OTP \'OL 2, 1985, i 09-710.
267 See illso Smith 1968, 284-286.
268 S..~~... ~~.g., I En. 9.10: 10.1, 4, 9, II: 20.2 and Guilt!}' 200t 360-361. 01\ page 361 Guiley
w rites: "In lhe Prayer of Joseph, Uri.el stntes, ' I ha\'e come down to e.uth to make my
dwelling: am o ng men, and I am c.1lled J ~Cob by nam e.' The e>:ilct me.'uling of this
stiltem ent is no! d e<tl', but it suggesL'I that Uriel m ig ht have be<ome Jacob, thus making him the fi rst angel of re<ord to become a motal."' This interpretatio n is apparent
ly ba.c;ed on a totally diffe1'enl translalion/und~rstanding of th e wording of the PraJ~e'r


269 See alc;o Smith 1968, 278-281. The IMme ''Uriel' mea ns ' fi re/lighl of Cod' . C!.,
Rab. 77.2. '"'hl~rein jaoob in his S-tlife with the ang~l at jabbok cla ims to be made
complete b) fit e, like an angeL See also Exe'Ni. Rab. 15.6: "'lll e angels are called 'fire',
fo r il L'l wrillen: TJ/(' flaming fire> Tlly mi11ish'f"S (Ps. CIV, 4), and l$l'.lel L'l also so called,
as il is wrillen: itJtd Jl1e l1m1se of lacob sllall ()<!a fire (Obad. 1, 18) .. ."' [E11g. lran.'l. l eh r0\BOI\



4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish

ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Th is tradition concerning Jacob's{lsrael's rival may be connected in the

Prayer of Joseph to the early Je\'ltish personification of the worshiping
community as an a ngelic figure Israel leading the heavenly
choir before God's throne.2m The theme of angelic riva lry is also to be
fou nd in, for example, Af>JC. Ab.10.9 and chapter 18." 1
The rivalry betv~.reen Jaoob/Israel and Uriel may also be seen as a
reflection o f the biblical conflict between Esau and Jacob. Esau's jealou
sy o f his brother in the Bible is paralleled by Uriel's envy in the Pseudepigraphon as the motive for the attack. In later haggadic lore, the
frate rnal conflict is exte nded to include Jacob's and Esau's descendants
and their respective g uardian angcls.:!n
As previously mentioned, Uriel is normally counted among the
a rchangels together with Michael, Gabriel a nd Raphael, but in some
sources he is re placed by the a ngels SaricJ:m o r Phanuet.m Thus Tnrgum
Neofiti 1 refers to Sariel as the angelic ad versary o f jaco-b in Genesis 32
and, in the Ladder of Jacob, Sariel is the artselus interprt"'$.:!73 The name
Phanuel may be derived from the p lace name Peniel 'face o f God' in
Gen 32:30m.. Compare Jacob's id entifica tion of himself in the Prayer of
Jo.seplr; " ... Am I not Israel, the firs/ minister before tire fnce of God?" The
name Uriel was often conflated with Sariel to prod uce the name Su
riei/Suru'el and variants.277 Th is a ngel is o ften ascribed negative
attributes and sometimes said to h~we been the one w ho a ttacked Mos

270 See also Smith 1968. 262265. and I. H1dlitt 91b.

271 See also Smith OTP V(>l 2, 1985, intmduct iOI). 702-703. ln Tan!mma. Be1-eshit 1. 10 there
i.<~ a comment on Job 25:2: "Dominil)n 01nd fea are with \...od; he makes pe-a..-e in his
high hea ven." In Tanlumm 'dominion' is interp1-eted as Michael rear' as Gabriel. According to lhe Mid rash. Cod is the one '''hl.l makes peace between th ese angel<~.
2?2 See e.g .. Geu. RfW. 77.3, Smith OTP vol. 2, 1985, introducfion, 1968, 274276.
Smith ( 1985. 706} interpret$ Jacob's encounter w ith the of .mgels in Cen .;2: 1-2
as a military oonfmnt<llim,. ~e also dU~pte -1.5 below.
273 E.g . TJtt bcJt>l."S af Emd1, A1llllf1tic Fragmmls 1>j Qctnmm CtWt' 4. 00. Black and Milik 1976.
:tee pp. 17\l-174 and IQ.M 9: 12-15. In oiQHen 9:1 Saciel replat.""eS Uriel in the Greek
nunuscrip ts. The dassific-Mion of Sariel as an ard'1angel appcMI'$ to be unique h l
Qumran. See a lso Smith OTP vol. 2, 19!l5, introduction, 708, and Venne.<~ 1975, 159
166. Smith mention..<~ a lhird angelic n.1me ' lstrahel (l<~rael)' which substitutes for
Uriel in the Cizeh fragment of I 11. 10.1.
274 In 1 11. 40.9:- 511.6; .md 7 1.8, 9, 13 Phanuel replaces Uriel as one of the four a.rdt.ln
275 See also Orlov 2004, 71 73.
276 Smith OTP. vol. 2.. 19&S introduction. 709. See al<~o Olyan 1993, 108 109.
27i St.>e, e.g., 1 E11. 9.1 and 20. 1 and Smith OTI vol. 2, 1985. introduction 709. See .1ls..J
note v.; .lbove.

4.2 The

Pseudepig r<~piM

Bl\d the Q umran DocumellL'I


es in Exod 4:2226. However, according to Hugo Otieberg in .3 Euoc/1,

Suriel is none other than the angelic prince of the Presence.m
In contrast to the biblical story, jacob/Israel identifies his opponen t
in the Prayer of joseph; " . .. Are you not Uric), the eighth after me?"m
jacobs kno,.,,.Jedge of his adversary's name demonstrates his pov,rer
over him.::i(l The designation o f Uriel as " ... the eighth after rne Oa
cob/Israel) ... " may imply that he is excluded from the group of the
archangels, usually said to be four or seven in n umber.ll>1 jacob howev
er, d aims to be no less than " ... the archangel of the power of the Lord
and the chief captain among the sons of God ... " Smith suggests that the
implicit idea in the Pscudcpigraphon is an angelic hierarchy \"dth seven
archangels with Israel as the eighth highest angel, mling the seven be-low him, a cou nterpart to the role of the Ogdoad in Gnostic trad..itions
and the Dynnmis of the eighth and highest heaven in Jewish Merkabah
trad itions.2l-lz
jilcob's designation o f himself as" ... the archangel of the power of
the Lord and the chief captain among the sons o f God ... ":?lS.1 parallels
the titles commonly given to Michael, the g uardian angel of u,e people
of lsraeJ.:mt
Fragment B is presumably an elaboration of Gen 48:15-16. Jacob
addresses joseph and his sons: "For I (Jacob) have read in the tablets of
heaven all that shall befall you and your sons." This passage o f the Prayer of
Joseph relates the Pseudepigraphon to the so..:alled ' testament-genre',
and is clearly connected to Jub. 32.21 :
And he Oacob) saw in a vis iun of the nig ht, and behold a n angel wa!il descending fro m heaven, and there were seven tablets in his hands. And he
h-ave (them) to jacob? and he read them, and he knew everything which

278 Smith OTP vol. 2, 1985 introduction, 709. and Odebe1'g 1928,99.
279 Cf.. Gen 32:29: "Then ).l\':Ob ilSked him, ' l'l\~3$(: tell me your name.' But he S.l id, 'Why
h> it that YlU ask my ruuue ? Alld he ble$.'1ed him." The 'malls" blessing of }.1cob
denll>ns.tate.'l thai, ae<:ording ro the biblical \eJ"Sioll, it is he who is Jacob's superior,
no! the other WilY arQund as ill the Prayer oJloscJJ!t.
280 See illso Smith OTP vol. 2, 198.1), 713, note m.
281 See a lso Smith OTP voL 2, 19$.S, 713, note n.
282 Smith, intmduc:tion in OTP vol. 2, 1985, 704.
283 Ac; s tated above, the designation sons of Cod' is commonly used reg.wdil\g ilJlgel'l ill
the Bible, e.g . Gen 6: 14 a nd Job 1:6.
284 Cf.. D.ln 12:l. 1l1e G reek word used here for 'chief captain' {\lt.\QXet;;) i$
unique to the l'raytr of /I)~;>J but lppears to be synon}'mous w ith the design.ation of
the arch~1ngel Michael in He-llenis tk Jewish literatul\~ (ttiJXtc:ttQt.hlyo;:), e.g .. LXX,
Dal\ 8: 11 and T. A(). 1.4 and }os. ~1$1'11. 14.7.S. See a lso G iesc:~n 1998, 14().-142. and
Smith OTP vol. 2, 1985, intmduction, 704.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewis h lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

was written in them, which would happl!n hJ him and to his sons d uring
all the age.o>.za;

Srnith also suggests a link to th e Testament of /$nne and the Te.,tament of

Jacob, in whid1 the angel Michael appears to the patriard1 in question in
the form of h is father (Abraham or Isaac). He writes: " ... in the Prayer
of Joseph, perhaps, [tl>e a ngel] Israel appears to Joseph in tl>e fom> of
Finally, we have seen that the ' unknown man' who comes from
nowhere and wrestles with jacob in Genesis 32 is id entified as the angel
Uriel in the Prayer of Joseph. The battle at the ford of Jabbo k is depicted
as a confrontation benvecn two competing angels. In the light of early
Jewish tr-aditions, the in terpretation that the competition concerns the
leadership of the celestial worship is dose at hand. According to L.A. B.
18.6, the combatant is the angel i n d1arge of hymns.lll>' In both Pseude
p igrapha it is obvious that Jacob's opponent is an a ngel distinct from
However, the angelic de piction of Jacob{lsrael in the Pmyer of fo.sep!J
is more complex. Jacob's iden tification as the a ngel Israel may imply
that it is Jacob's celestial counterpart who speaks~ and/or Jacob is u n ...
derstex>d to be this angel's earthly incamatio n.2"9 Moreover, 0 1arles
Gieschen and jarl Fossum, for example.. consider the a ngel Israel to be
more than an "ordinary" angel; he is the manifestation of the very
Glory of God."" Orlov is open both to the interpretation that Jacob's
celestial " twin" is an a ngelic servant of God/'the Face' a nd to the idea
that he is ide ntical with God's Face, i.e., God Himself.l'il

285 Cf... al<;o Puryl'r of fOSt:plt, Fragn"W!nl C and !Ad. fac-. 4.1 5, !tee above.
286 Smith in'P, vol.l. 1985, intmduction. 711.
287 Cf... the P.lle!ttinian Targunt.<I IO Genesis 32. see cholpter 4.5 belovt.
28.1) See,. e.g . Fossum 1995, 142 149
289 See.. e.g,. Smith 1968, 28-1292.. and Sullivan 2001, 98 10'1.
290 Fossum t995, 142149, and Giescht.>Jl 1998. 137 142. As support for their inte.rpreM
don, both o f the.'>e sdlOiars refer to Philo's writings. where th e 'logo.<~' L'> also sometime..<! labeled ' the angellsr.lel", and the 'togo~;i of Phil~l is indeed no " ordinary"' an
gel. See further chapters 4.3 and 4.6 below.
291 Orlov 2001, 76. d .. also Jacob/lsrael's claim in the l'raye:r of }ost"piJ: " Am I not Israel.
the fi rst minister before the face of God?"'

4.2 The Pseudepigr<~piM Bl\d the Qum ran Documei\L'I


Conclu ding Remarks

T!Je Pmyer of Joseph

In the Prayer of Jo.sepl!'s elaboration of Genesis 32, jacob is depicted as
the (incamated) angel Israel who is challe nged by U1e angel Uriel. TI1e
name Israel is interpreted as 1a man seeing God'. The competition con~
cems the status of the two angels in heaven. According to Smith, in the
light o f early Jewish traditions it is probable that their rivalry concems
the leadersh ip of the celestial worship. The angel wh o confronts Jacob
is else\'1.1here often depicted as the heavenly worship leader, e.g.~ L.A.B.
Contrary to the Bible, Jacob identifies his opponent and designates
h im as " ... Uriel, the eighth after me ... " According to Smith, the state-ment may attest to an angelic h ierarchy with Israel as the counterpart to
the Ogdoad in Gn ostic traditions and the Dynnmis of the eighth highest
he~wen. Israel rules the seven archangels below him, Uriel being the
lowest. Regardless of how we interpret Jacob's designation of his op
poncnt in the Prayer of josepl1, it is beyond doubt that he is an a ngel and
not God in person.
However, jacob's own identity in this Pseudepigraphon is more
a rnbiguous; is he the inc.unation of a very h igh ranking angel, o r is the
a ngel Israel somehow to be understood as an embodiment of God

Joseph mrd Asenellz

A.;; in the Prayer of Joseph, Jacob is described in a ngelic/divine tcm1s but

the focus is not so much on his heavenly status as on h is external features. The n arrator explains Jacob's extraordinary appearance by the
fact U1at he has struggled with God. Th us, it seems implied that the
mysterious ''man" at Ja bbok was God in person.

Liber Autiquitnlum Biblicarum

The only jacob narrative o f interest for o ur study alluded to in this
book is the patriarch's struggle with the 1Unknown man' at the ford of
jabbok. Jacob's opponent is in LA.B. 18.6 stated to be the angel in
charge of hyrn ns. He is the leader o f the celestial worship a nd thus
clearly a being d istinct from God.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

4.2.5 Summary and Conclusions

Our texts do not offer any hornogeneous interpretation of th e identity

of the angel o f the lord, but there is a tendency to identify him as a n
angel, p resumably of high rank bu t distinct from God. Th ere is moreo~
ver no source Lhat contains ren derings of all Lhe pericopes in q uestion.
In jubilees the a ngel of the Lord is identified in various ways. The
angel who meets Hagar is d epicted as an 'ordinary' angel dea rly dis~
tinct from God; he is a nonym ous a nd appears to be of a lower status
than the narrator, the angel of the Presence.
On the other hand, in the rend e ring o f the Aqedah, the biblical a m
biguity between God a nd His a ngel is to a certain degree still present in
jubilees. In 4Q225 and Uber Autiquitatum Biblicarum, the o ne who calls
ou t to Abraham in order to stop him frorn sacrifici ng Isaac is ide ntified
as God Himself. The initiator of the Aqedah is, according to jubilet.'S and
4Q225, the d emonic p rince Mastema, a nd in LA.B. 32.1b~2 it is the jeal
ous angels who provo ke God to test Abraham. These interp re tations
a re most certain ly based on th e wish o f the a uthors to justify God.
The reference to a rnultin1de o f a ngels involved in the Aqedah in
4Q22$ and L.A.B. 32.1b2 has no counterpart in the bib lical story. May
be the calling of the a ngel of the lord to Abraham in Gen 22:11, 1518,
was un derstood as an implicit indication that all the angels had been
watching the scenario at Mount Moria h. The presence and in terest of
the a ngels may also be a n expression of the importa nce of the event in
Jewish tradition. Besides prin ce Maste ma, 4Q225 also rnentions several
angels of animosity. \Ve thus e ncounter to some exte nt a d uaJistic
world view in the in terpret..1tion.s: of Gen 22:1 19.
There are p lenty of renderings/allusions to the Jacob narratives in
the sources. In jubilees U1e a ngel of God who calls to Jacob in Gen 31:11
seems to be identified as God in person. This interpreta tion may de
pen d o n the fact that U1e a ngel o f Cod in Gen 31:13 ide ntifies h imself as
the God who spoke to Jacob in his dream a t Bethel (Gcn 28:10.22). In
addition to the great variety o f the b iblical texts, the variation o f the
interpretations in jubilees may also be explained in the lig ht of the im
portancc of the stories in the Jewish trad ition, an explanation that may
also apply to o ther sources. The Aqeda h is a h ighly crucial event in the
history of the people of Israel. and Jacob is a very important person,
being the a ncestor o f the nation.
According to the Testament of jacob, the o ne w ho appeared to him in
Cen 31:11 is h is guardia n a ngel. who refers to God in the th ird person,
thus distinguishing between h imself and God. In the re nde ring of Gen
48:15 16, Jacob according ly refers to tho a ngel as his guardian, a being

4.2 The Pseudepig r<~piM Bl\d the Q umran Documei\L'I


sent by God in order to protect h im. The Pseudepigraphon's interpreta..

t ion of the 'unknov,,rn man' in Genesis 32 is, however, exceptionaL The
author rnakes his angelic speaker equate God v,rith 1 lhe a ngel of God'
w hen allud ing to Gen 32:30. There is hence a cel'tain in consistency re~
garding the interpretations of the Jacob pericopes in the source. jubilees,
the Testament of Jacob, a nd the Ladder of jacob contain angelophanies
without counterparts in the Bible.
The identific..1tion o f the " man" in Genesis 32 as God can only be
fou nd in the Tt'Sfament of Jacob, but this inte rpretation seerns also to be
implied in Joseph aud Aseueth.
According to Demetrius tile Chrorwgra1>her, the Ladder of Jacob, the
Prayer of joseph, and Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarwn, he is an angel. In
Demetrius' rendering it is an unspecified angel w hom Jacob meets,
w hile in the o ther sources he is defined as the archangel Sariel or Uriel
or the 'angel in charge of hymns.' This angelic identity o f the con tender
may also be implied in 4Q158, since he refers there to God in the third
person. Th e altemation a nd cha nging of the angelic names Uriel, Sariel
and Phanuel and the connection of all these angels to Genesis 32 in
ancient Jewish interpretation, not to mention the combining o f the t\VO
first names into the variant Suriel etc., may imply that we are dealing
wi th one and the same a ngel, but u nder di ffe rent names.
Both in Joseph aud Asenetl! and the Prayer of Josep/1, jacob is also por
trayed in a ngelic/divine te rms, and some schola rs even ide ntify ' the
angel Israel' in the Prayer ofJoseph as the embodiment of God.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

4.3 Phi lo of Alexandria

4.3.1 Introduction
The early Jewish philosopher Philo o f Alexandriam was a very produc.
tivc author who comments on more or less all o f the texts discussed in
the present thesis.m Due to the vastnes.-; and complexity of the subject,
a detailed d iscussion of Philo's authorship and teaching is impossible
within the frame of this thesis, thus I \"-'ill restrict myself to a brief over
view regarding his person/ theology and exegesis.
Philo's Teaching and Exegesis - jewish and Greek

Philo Ale.nmdrinus artd }udaeus

Philo is known by two names, Philo Alexandrinus, in modem scholar
ship usually in the form of Philo o f Alexandria, and Philo Judaeus, a
name given him by the Church Fathers .2'<~4
These narnes express significa.nt information about Philo as a person. He was truly an 'Alexandrian', not only by birth and citi7..en..r;hip,
Alexandria being the metropolis where he spent his entire life,m but
above all by his extensive knowledge o f and great devotion to Greek
culture and philosophy. He had a broad Greek education and was well
acquainted with many Creek philosophers and, Philo shared
this positive attitude toward Greek culture with the majority o f the
Jewish community in Alexandria. The jews of Alexandria appear to

292 Philo ihed .1pprox. 30/LO B.C.E-50 C.E. See Willia mson 1989, I. Bo'gen 198<1, 233,
Rtmia 1990, I. 3, and \Vins ton 2CX)5, 7105.
293 U nles.~ otherwise s tated, 1 use the texl~ b)' Philo fmHld in the loeb series and th us
the nanslation.<~ by Colson. Whitaker, and Marcus.
29-1 Wins ton 2005, 7105.
295 Philo C.:lme from a wea1t11y. a ds tocratic,. and int1uential Jeh'i$h family in A~!lndria
(according to jerome, of priestly descent). Philos brother, Alex<lnder, w.1s probabl)
the chief inspe<tor of l-"USioms t"IO the Eills tem border of Egypt and was rich enough
ro pm,ride silver and Sllld pl.ues for nine gates of the Tempf.e of Jerusalem and to
k nd money to King Agrippa I. One of A~xand e"s sons (i.e.. Philo's nephe\") m.u
ried the King's dillughter Berenice See Jo..;ephus, fe-.tisll War 5.205 and Aul. 19.276-277. S..~e .llso Runia 1990, I. 25, \'\>'in.<~ton 2005. 7105. and Borgen 1997, 1415.
296 Runia 1990, I. 45, and BOI'gel\ 1997, 16-17.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


have been the most thoroughly Hellenized in the Diasporam a nd Philo

was certainly an exceptionally lea rned man.l'lll The influence o f Stoic
ism, Pythagorea n, a nd Platonic traditions upon his a uthorship is gener~
ally acknowledged . Thus, fo r examp le, the impact of the Platonic dis
tinction between the world of 'forms' or 'ideas' and the vL'iible world is
evident in his works, a nd Philo1 s method of in te rpretation1 so typical of
h is exegesis, was had itc; o rigin in Greek (originally Stoic) allegorical
t rad ition.:!'fl
Howe\er, although Philo was greatly influenced by Gree k though t
and lite rature, he ide ntified hirnself first a nd foremost as a practicing
jew and biblic.:1l exegete, not as a Greek philosopher.~1 He was a de-vout Jew who regarded the Torah as the ultimate source o f ,.nsdom. 3111
For Philo, Moses was the sup reme teach er a nd he wisheti to demon~
stratc the truth o f Judaism by means of the tools o f Greek p hilosophy,
both to his fellow Jews living on the brink of assimilation in an c nvi
ron ment d ominated by Hellenism a nd to a pagan a udience. Thus, he
had a some\"'hat apologetic aim in writing his tTeatises.:~~J: Philo had a
basically u niversalistic ou tlook, although he believed in lsr;~el's special
role as the priestly nation in the world.300 His works may be d escribed
as an attempt to read Greek p hilosophy into the Torah of Moses, thus
reconciling Greek ideas with his Jewish heritage. Accordingly, the
name Philo judaeus is also appropriate.~

Pitito aud rite jewish society of lzis lime

Philo's authorship represents the culmination of Alexandria n Jewish
literature, and Demetrius the chronographer, Pscudo~Aristeas, and
Artapanus can be rnentioned a rnong his predecessors. Philo was by no
means the first Jewish writer to make use of allegorical and phil050phillwge.<~t and most influentia l jewi!th communi
cy of the Diaspora. According, hl Philo (Ag1in$1 Fl.rws 43), the JeY..'S numbered over a
million people, but that m.ay be an O\'erestim.ation. ~a lso Willia mson 1989, 5-6.
See Runia 1990. 1, 41, Borgen 1997, 16 17, and J~ h us' note in Atfr. 18.259.
See Borgen 19&1, 254-256. W'inston 2005. 7106, and Amir 1971, I I l-414.
See Runia 1990, I. ~5, n. 189190, and Williamson 1989, 25. However, the is.sue of
the es..;ential Jewish or HellenL<>tic characte of Phihl's writings has bt."en the subject
of m uch scholarly di.scus.ookln. See e.g.,. Bllrgen 1997, 113.
Philo o ften mentions the synagogues of A!ex.lndi,l. and he appears h> h.ave been B
reg:ul.u visitor. His writings express a high reverence hlr the Jewish Shabbat. See.
t~.g., OJ1 tilt Emlt.'LI\SY to Co
1i llS 13213-1.1nd 0 11 Dmuus 2. 12.1. See also Borgen 1997, 1718, 1984, 257, \ll,l'illiamson 1989, 2-5, and Runia 1990, t 5, 7-8.
See Runia, 1990. I. 5, .lnd II. 189- t 90.
See Williant.<~on 1989, 3. Runia 1990, I. 12. and Borgen 1984,269-272..
See Runia 1990, I. 5, 11. and Win!tton 2005, 7 1057106.

297 During Philo's lime Alexandria had the




1 94

4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

cal exegesis as teslified by, for example, the earlier works of Aristobu
Ius, and there are many connections between the \<Visdom of Solomon
and Philo's ""'orks.liG
The p lace of Philo's tho ught within the religious context of his day
has been the subject of much schola rly discussion; was he essentially a
Mid d le Platonic philosopher, mystic, or Jewish exegetc?.JCoi The answer
is probably that all three of these designations encornpas.~ true aspects
of this multifaceted personality a nd au thor. He \"'as certainly a mystic
in the sense that he regarded the ultimate p urpose of life to be the vi
sion o f God. In Questions ami Answers on Exodus 2.51 he writes: '1 For the
beginning a nd end of happiness is to be able to see God." Thus, Philo's
interpretation of the name Israel as 'he \\'ho sees (God )' expresses the
heart and goal of his piety.llli
As mentioned above, Philo was an Alexandrian Jew, and the ques
tion arises as to what exte nt his version of Judaism was represen tative
of the Jewish cornmunity in w hich he lived. Erwin R. Goodenough
advocated the v iew that Philo is a witness to a Hellenistic rnystical
branch of jud aism nou rishing in the Greek-speaking world and particu la rly in Alexandria during his time, a Judaic-Hellenistic brand'\ differ
ent to Palestinian Jewish faith.ll'"' Samuel Sand mel also argues that 'Phi
Ionic religiosity' differet-1 from the emerging Palestinian Rabbinic Ju
Philo's religiu.s-ity wm; q uite uniqul! and d ifferent frum that pre~ented and
advocated in Rabbinic Literahtre. Tu Jab(}r the p<'lint, his religion was nut
distinctly different from that uf the RabbL.,, but his religiosity was (... ) In
Rabbinic judaism the Laws are an end in th e m.~J vt~s, in Philo they are a
means to what he concl!ives a.s- a greater end. There is no eclm I know ()fin
Rabbinic liter<lture of tiw central goal in Philo's Judais m, that uf mystic
C<)mmunion with the Godh ea d.~

305 See Borgen 198-1,279-280, 1997, J.S.45, .lnd Runia 1990, I. 15, William.c;on 19$9. 147,
and Win5-ton 2005,7105-7106.
306 Sl~e Borgen 1997, 113.
307 \\lilli.amson 1989, 2829, 7172, and Win.<Oton 1996, 74-82. See .llso Botgen 1997, 3, cmd
Tllbin 1992. 35 1. In his works, Philo someti mes refers hl personal myMical e);periences,. !tee, e.g . On Sp~cial Lr.tos 3.l-6; On 1J1e Clltr.l()im 27-29 and lite Migration ofAb-raluun 3-1-35.
.30S See Borgen's (1997, 1-13) survey of the histor)' o f research in Philonk stud ies.
309 S.mdmel 19i9, $3. Commenting on this passage, Wil!i.lnt!ll"'ll {1989, 71) SIBle.<~ llMI
although il is ind eed true that Philo's goo I ,,..,l$ "mystic communion with the Godhead .. it need not p~r Sl'e);dude the impcmance of the Mos.ak commandnwnl<~ in Philo's pie ty. in the same way as the Rabbinic emphasi.c; on otx'>dience to the law need
not ~xdude the goal of com munion wi!h Cl"'d, and 1 tend 10 ag n~e wi th him.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


As shown in the quotation, in contrast to Goodenough, Sa.ndmel classifies Philo's religiosity as "quite unique11, i.e., he does not consider him a
representative of a large movement wi thin the Hellenistic Diaspora
judaisrn of the time but as reflecting a rnargin~'l viewpoint.lo However,
although Sand mel regards Philo as thoroughly Hellenized, he d oes not
deny his loyalty to Judaism. The Torah was the cen tre of Philo's exeget
ical endeavors_, not the writings of the Greek philosophers.:m Tn the
same way as Josephus, Philo considered Moses the greatest legislato r
and teacher of all time.'" According to Philo, the highest philosophical
truth is to be found in Jud aism.ll3
The fact that Philo was a recognized leader in the Jev,.'ish communi
ty of Alexandria and was even chosen to head the delegation sent in
39{4fl C.E. to Emperor Gaius Caligula in Rome in o rder to defend jewish customs and rights indicates that he was not regarded as an outsider or a heretic by his fellow Alexandrian Jews.JN In this light, Sandmel's
classification of Philo as representing a marginal viewpoin t seems ra ..
ther unlikely.
An opposite view to those of GOOli cnough and S..1.ndmel was proposed by Harry A. Wolfson, who argued that Philo o nly ,eprcsented a
Hellenization in respect of terminology, on a "superficial level'' so to
speak, and not in terms of relig ion. According to 'A'olfson, Philo's
thoughts are to be seen as a Hellenistic philosophical ad aptation of
basically Pharisaic/Paleslinian Judaism.m
Scholars today are generally agreed that it is impossible to d raw a
sharp dividing line bet\ovccn so~called Hellenistic and Palestinian )udaism..w The Judaic \\'Orld of Philo's time was one of mutual infl uence
and comrnunication between various jewish groups in Galilee, Judea,
and the Diaspora.l17 Thus, scholars today tend to favor \Volfson's u n~
derstanding of Philo, although he has been criticized fo r presen ting

310 Sandmel 1979, 147.

311 Sandmel 197'), 134.
312 See e.g., 011 llrt> Cn!11tion 13 .md Au/.1.18-23. See also Borgc?n 1997. 78, and Runia
1990. J, 4-12.
313 Run.ia 1990, t 7-$, 15, and Vv'in.<~ton 2005,7106.
314 See Wiltiam1>0n 1989. 23. In th is context, i! may be added tlu t the Jewish community
of Alexandria did not live in an e nti1-ely fiendty environment. as demons trated by
the pogmm during the time that Caligula was Roman emperor and Flaccus governor
of Egypt, an e\'ent that caused Philo to w ite his treaties Oulhe EmNssy tc> Goie1.<1 ond
."\gains/ Fl.tcclls.
315 Wolfson 1947, \'OL 1, 3-f>6. See also Borgen 1997, 4.
316 See Hengel l 974, Kugel {ed.) 2002, and ~Jason 1991. 336.
317 See Borgen 1984.2.158-259. and 1997, 20-21.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Philo as a much more systematic philosopher/theologian than he was in

reaJity.:us However, the infl uence of Greek philosophy o n Philo's au
thorship may be greater Lhan Vo.' olfson admitted.
As Josephus, Philo points out that Jerusa.lem was the center of a
net\\.ork linking the Diaspora and Palestinian It is evident Lhat he
regarded the Jews as one nation, regardless o f whether they lived in
Judea, Alexandria, Athens o r Rome. Philo mentions Jewish pilgrimages
to Jerusalem, and he himself visited the Temple at least once. His writ
ings breathe great respect fo r the Tem p l e-cult.;;'~;~
Apart from the Bible, Philo indicates that he used o ther Je\ovish
sources in his work and in the Life of Moses 1.4 he refers to infom1ation
obtained from "some of the elders of the nation".3l0 It has been dis
cussed to ""'hat extent Philo's writings may share exegetical trad itions
with Palestinian Judaism, and at:cording to, for example, Peder Borgen
and Naomi G. Cohen, the ansv,rer is most certainly affi nnative:nl How
ever, because no sharp d istinction can be drawn between Palestinian
and Alexand rian Jewish traditions, the w hole question is subordinate.
In the words of Borgen: 'The main q ueslion is then to uncover tradi ..
tions current in judaism at that time and examine the various usages,
emphases and ap plications within this common contcxt."~1
However, there were naturally differences ben"reen the Jews living
in Alexandria and Palestine, an obvious one being the language. l11e
question of Philo's knowla ige of Hebrew has been much d ebated, and
no consensus has been rc~'ld"' cd .ln \Volfson main tained that Philo in ...
deed knew Hebrew~' b ut the predominant view today is that Philo
probably d id not master the language.:us However, his lack of know
led ge o f Hebrew need not automatically exclude an acquaintance with,
and use of, Palestinian traditions, as demonstrated by Cohenm but in
contr~,st to their Palestinian brethren, the Bible w hich Philo and Alex
andrian Jews in general kne\'lt and read was the LXX.

318 See Borsen 1997.5.

3l9 Cf... AcL'I 2. See Borgen 1997, 1~21, .md \'\>'illia mson 1989, 2-5. See als..J Ou Ptcwi.l~'fl ct

320 See a lso Borsen 1984.238.
321 BQI'gen 1984, 259259. and Cohen 1995. 1-20. See also Segal l?n. 178-18 1.
322 Bl'u'gel\ 1984a. 124.
323 801'gel\ 198-1.257.
324 \Volfson, 1947 vol. 1. 88.
325 See e.g .. Runia 1990, I, 13. and Wins.ton 2005, 7106.
326 Cohen 1995, 1420.


4.3 Philo of Alexandria

Plri/o's ltVJrks nnd exegetical approach - some remarks

Although Philo's biblical in terpretation has been b riefly discussed
above, e.g., his ernplo)'ment of the allegorical method and the impact of
Greek philosoph}' o n h i.o; authorship, I find it app ropriate to make a fev'
additional remarks.
As mentioneti above Philo's Bible was the LXXI which he cons i
dered div inely inspired, and he no awareness of the Hebrew
u nderlying the Greek translation.:u? He regarded Moses as the supreme
p hilosop her ond spokesman o f God and the author o f the entire Pentateuch, o n w hich his exegesis is mainly based.~11 Philo rarely refers to
other biblical books but, as p rev iously s tated, he sometimes mention..c;
extrabiblical trad itions. Borgen suggests that the Sitz im Leben of Phi
lo's exegetical work rnay have been the Alexandrian synagogues.~"
Although he was a genuine advocate of allegorical exegesis, i.e., the
symbolic exploration of Scripture~ Philo also maintained that it should
not be used in order to abolish the Jiteral meaning. w hich may be illu
stratec.i by his statemen t in the J\lfigratiotl of Abralurm 8'993:

There are thuse who, regarding 1av.s in their literal sense in the light of
symbol.:; uf matterS belo nging tu the intellect. are overpunctilious abuut the
latter$ while treating the fonner with eao;:y going neglect. Sud! men I for my
part should b1ame for handling th ~ ma ttt~r in too easy and off hand man
ner: they ought to ha\'e given careful attentio n h ) lxlth aims, to a mor~ fu ll
and exact investigation of what is nul seen and in what is seen tu be s t~
wards withuut reproach. A., it is, as though they w~re Living al(me by
them..~lve..:; in a ,~ i ld erne."-'>, or as tho ug h they had bec(lme disembodied
souls( ... ) (tis qu it~ true that the Seventh Day is meant IQ teach the power
of the Un(lrig-inate and the no n-action of cnoated beings. But let us ntlt for
this reason abnl gate the laws laid down fo r i ~ observanc\? a nd light fi res
o r till the gmund ur carry loads [... J lt is trut~ aloo that the Feast is a symbol
of gladness uf soul and of thankfulness to God? but we should no t for this
reason turn our back.'> o n the general gatherings of the years seasons. (t is
true that the rettiving circumcision does indeed po rtra)' the t~xdsion of
pleasure and aU pa.S.'\ i(mS, and the putting away of the impious conceit ll
but let us not on this acc<>unt repeal the law laid sown for circumcising.
Why. we .shall be igno ring the Sanctity of the TempJe and a thousand uther
things, if we are g-<ling Ul pay heed to no thing except what is shewn us by
the inner meaning of things. Na)' we should look o n aU tht~Se outwa rd ob
servan<."E!S as resembling the body. and their inner meaning;:; a~ resembling
the soul. It follows that, exadly as we have to take thought f() r the bc:>dy,
because it is the abode of the S<)ul, so we mus t pay heed to the leHer of the


Bl"'l'gen 1984, 257258, Willian\SOl\ 1989, 168 169. a nd n 200S, il06.
328 Bo1'8en 1984, 258, Runia 1990. II. 1891 and WiMton 2005, 144.
329 Borgen 1997. 1718 .

1 98

4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Ja,vs. Jf we k~ep and obse rv~ these, we shall nut incur the cen..<i-ure of the
many and the charges they are sure to bring ngainst us.

In this passage... Philo summarizes his exegetical stand point. In spite of

his philosophical outlook... he maintained the validity o f the rite of cir-cumcisionJ-"10, the celebration of the Shabbat and other }e\o\o'ish holid ays,
and the temple...:ult."' Although he gave preference to the allegorical
interpretation of Scripture, he did not neglect the value of it..c; literal
meaning and recognized both forms of exegesis as equally valid. This
was most unusual in Philo's time, and his authorship constitutes the
earliest extant example of an attempt to reconcile the two modes of
in terpretation, an attempt that brought him in to conflict with other
jewish exegetes. Philo d ebated both with the so-called literalists, ......ho
rejected the allegorical methOti ,m and those interpreters who only accepted the allegorical meaning o f Scripture. J.1l
However, there is no d oubt that Philo considered the allegorical
reading of the Bible as the way of d isclosing the profoundest truths of
the texts. According to him, the biblical texts encompass Lwo levels; the
apparent, literal meaning and the allegorical, deeper one. beneath the
surface so to spcak.JJ.I
The allegorical interpretation of Scripture enabled Philo to maintain
his conviction that it constitutes the inspired, infallible word of God. in
spite o f the fact that it contains passages which, if taken literally, would
depict God in an unworthy way.n.> For example, Philo emphasized the
absolute transcendence of God and therefo re stTongly opposed anthro
pomorphism.J.1fi The use of the allegorical method also enabled him to
apply his insights gained from Greek philosophy to the Bible, while
remaining faithful to his Jewish heritage.N In Philo's view, not o nly the

330 SeeaJsoOnllteSpecia!laws 1.111.

331 See, e.g .. Williamson 1989, ~5. B(wgen 1984, 259261. .,~~d Winsh)n 2005. 7106.
~12 Amons the so-c.alled literalic;ts, rwo main groupR can be distingui!\hed; those who
rejt.'C'Ied the alleg,oric.l l method becau ~ the> considered th.u it t~odangered t1lc Nau
thentic" meaning of the Bible and introduced alien ideas into Judaism .and apo~M t e
jews (and pagans) who used the litet.ll re<tding of the texts in order to ridicule the
Biblical message. Accot'ding to th e apostates. no allegoical inti!rpretation whatsoev
er could justify the \'alidity of the Bible. See \\1iUiamson, 1989, 152158, and Bm-gen
19$'1, 26026 1.
33.3 See also Ou Dr~tms 1.120 and. e.g., Bo'gen 1984,2.59-261, Williamson 1989, 152-158,
and Winli-ton 2005. 7106.
3.1 4 Sl~e W illiant.c;on t989, 157163 .
.n.r; See Williant.c;on 1989, 157 '158.
336 St.>e W illicuuson 1989, 5251. 7<185.
3.)7 See WillinmS~m 1989, 157-158, and & rgen 1984,262-264.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


Bible b ut also the ""o rk of the allegorical exegete is divinely inspired.J.lll

In On Spedal Laws 3. 1 ~6 he expresses his view on his life and work:
There was a time when I had l ei~u re for philoso phy and for the contemplatio n of the universe and ih> Cl)ntents, when I made its spirit my uwn f... t
when my con.s t-ant companion$ wert! the d ivine themes and veri ti~ [... J I
had nu ba.;e o r abject thoughts nor g ruveled in search of reputation u r of
wealth ur bod ily comfo rts, but St~emed always to be bl)me aloft into the
heights with a soul posses.~d by some Gl)d-sent inspiration [.. .) But as it
prOvt!d, my Step$ were d ogged by the deadliest of mischiefs (... ) which ( ... J
plunged me in the <:K:e<m of civlJ cart'S [...J Yet amid my groan$ I ht))d my
o wn, fo r planted in my soul fmm my earliest days I keep the yearning fo r
culture (.. .) To this I o we it that Stnnetimes 1 raise my head and with the
soul's eyt>S-dimly indeed because the mist of extraooous affairs has
clouded their clear vis ion-1 yet make a shift to look amund me in my d e
sire tu inhale a brt!ath of life pure and unmixed with evil. And if I unexpectedly obtain a spe11 uf fine weather and a calm fro m civil turmuils, I get me
w ings and rid es the wage::: )... J waftOO by the brei!ze::: o f knowledge
J it
is well fo r me to g:ive thanks to ('.ud even fm this, that tho ugh submergt!d I
am no t ~u cked d own intu the d epths? but can also o pen the soul's eyes I...).
So beho ld me daring. no t only to read the sacred mes:::age::; of Mose.o;, but
a 1St'> in my love of knm..'ledge tu peer into each of them and unfo ld and r"e
veal what L.; not known to the multitude.


Philo's treatises can be divided into three main categories; the exegcti
cal, the historical-apologetic, and the p hilosophicai.J>J The first category
cQrnprises Philo's exposition of the Mosaic Scrip tures and consists in
tum of th ree large series, the first of which comprises paraphrases of
the Pentateuch, e.g.? Otl lite Creatimz, On Abraham? On Rewards atld Pu
uislzments and Ou llze Special Laws.341' These works bear clear resemblance to the genre o f ' rev,,ritten Bible' and Borgen classifies thern as
The second series o f the exegetic.."ll w ritings cQnsists o f purely allegorical commentaries on Genesis, e.g._, On the Cherubim, 011 Flight and
Finding, On the Coufusion of Tougut>s, Ou the Clzauge of Names, On Sobrie#
(If, Allegmica{ Ttlterpretatiotl, OH Drtmkemzess, On J!Je lvfigration of Abra
ham, Wlro is lite Heir, and On Dreams.:J.U
The third and final series o f t reaties belo nging to the exegetical C.."'t
egory are Qzn">Stious and Atz.m~ers 011 Genesislxodus. As the titles indicate,
in these works Philo employs questions p ut to the biblical texts as the


See W i lliam..o;Qn 19~9. t 69172.

Runia 1990.1. 5, Wins ton 2005, 7 106, and A mir 1971, 4104 11 .
See Winston 2005,7106, ,,nd Runia t990, I. 57.
Borsen 199-7, 6379, <~ nd 198-1. 233234.
Run ia 1990, 1, S-6, and Bors,~n 1984, 243-2<16.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

starting point for his exposition . Th e exegetical treaties comp rise by far
the largest part o f the Phi Ionic corpus (39 books)."-'
Among th e h istoricalapologetic writings, we fin d Agait1st Flaccus
and On lhe Embassy lo Gaius. A s an example o f the \VOrks o f the last
main category, the philosophical treaties? On Providence can be men
tioned. In total, 48 of Ph ilo's writings are still extant.Jt-~
Since the concern of this chapter is Philo's in terpretation of 'the a n
gel of the Lordtexl~ in Genesis, it is the first main category that is of
interest, i.e., the exegetical w ritings. The m ain books by Philo analyzed
below are On Flight aud Fit1ding, On Abraham, Questions and Answers ou
Geuesis,;;..s:; a nd On Dreams. In th ese \"-'Orks we find Philo's in terpreta ..
lions of Genesis 16; 22; 24; 28; 31, and 32. Concerning jacob's struggle at
the ford of Jabbo k, Philo comments upon Genesis 32 a nd Jacob's new
name Israel o n various occasions, for example, a lso in Ou the Cltauge of
Names, Ou Drukenuess, and On Sobriety. As will be shown, there arc a lso
some scattered rernarks on these pericopes in some o f Philo's other
texts, fo r example, On tile Cherubim. He a lso briefly discu~~s jacob's
bles.sing o f Ephraim and Manas..;;ch i1' Ge ne.o;is 48 in several of his
books, for examp le, in Allegoricallt!terpretaliou, book three.

Tile Pltilonic concept of God nnd augelolosy - some remarks

Although there is much to say a bo u t Philo's doctrine o f Goct:w. a nd his
angelology, this is not the place for a d etailed treatmen t of the subject
and I will confine myself to say just a few words o n the m~1tter, since it
concerns the main issue o f this d ' apter; Philo's perception o f the angel
of the Lord a nd h is relationship to God. The ' Logosdoctrinc o f Philo
constitutes a n essential part of h is concept of coo.:m As will be shown

343 Runl.l 1990,1. 57, ilnd Borgen 1984, 24 1-242.

3114 See Runi.l 1990, I, 5-7. and Amir 1971,4 10-1 11. It is thanks to theeill'ly Church that
Philo's writings were saved from oblivion, a..!l the enlt~l'ging Rabbinic J ud ,l i ~m after
the fall of the Temple in 70 C. E. s.howed liule interest in Phih)'s philosophic.l l inte l'pretations of the Bible . Many OlUl'(.h Fa the rs were influen ced by Phiil)'s alleg(u-ical
exegesis a nd ideas. e.g... C lement ol Alexandria and Origen. Until the 1&" renturr
Philo rem ained alm ost forgollen in Jewish society. However, R. Osh oi.lh Rabbah's
!i<l}'ing in Gtn. Rab. 1.1 seem.<~ to ha\'e been infl uenced by Phih)'S 011 /11e Crl!lltiOtl 16.
See Runia 1990. 1. J4,.J5, Borgen 1984, 2i92SO. Winston 2005, 7107. and Amir 1971.

34.5 Unfor1unale1y, the main pa1't of Qtet'$lio11s aud 011 Geue:sis is 01\ly exta nt in an
Armenian translation,. J>I'Ob.lbly daling from the 5fh cenlur> C. E.,. the Greek origina l
being l os~. ap.u'l from a tin)' porlh)n {~s..c1 tltaJl 10 pe cent) of lhe book See Marcus
(intmduc1ion) 1933, vii.
346 See also WilliamsQn, 1989.28.
347 See a lso Williamson 19.89, 103.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


in the following.. the angel of the Lord appears to be identified as the

'Logos' in many of Philo's interpretations o f our pericopes. In o rder to
illu minate the role of 'logos' it is necessary to also briefly discuss
Philo's theology in general.
A main theme in Philo's writings is polemic against on the one
hand atheism, and o n the other, polytheism; the n.vo worst kinds of
wickedness.-'~ According to Philo, the creation bears wil11ess to the
existence of the one true God, its C reato r:
(Que:;ti(ms mul AJJSW('r~ on Ct'm.sis 2.34] ... And this (reaStnl), seeing with a
sharp eye both thL>Se (celestial phenomena) and thro ug h them the higher
paradigmatic forms, and the cause of all things, immediately a pprehends
them and genesis and providence, for it rt:'aSOn.S that visible nature did not
come into being by it.;.elf, fur it \Vou1d be impossible for harmOn)' and order
( .. . J to come about by themselves. But it is necessary that there be some
Creator and Father, a pilot and charioteer:. who both begat and wholly pn~
servL>S the things begotten.

A comerstone o f Philo's theology is thus that God is b<Jth the Creato r

and the Sustainer of the world and.; through the testimony of the crea
tion, His existence is made known to all hu mankind.34"
As stated previously, Philo stresses the absolute transcendence of
God; hu mankind can only g ain knowledge of God's existence bu t not
of His essence. God's nature is fa r beyond human grasp and comprehension, He is indescribable and outsid e bo th space and rime .:~so God is
" ... t ranscending virtue, transcending knowled ge, lTanscending the
good itself and the beau tiful itself ..."'" From u,is it fo llows ~'at God
is es._~ntiaUy nameless since.. according to Jewish thin king, a name exp resses the inncm1ost nature of a thing or person. The only epithet th~'t
is ad equate to denote God is 'He who 15'/'the (truly) Existent', the
"name" by w hich God revealed Himself to Moses at Mou nt Horeb in
the LXX version o f Exod 3:14: i:yc;, ip1 0 <;)v/"1 am the one who is." In
d esignating God, ' the Pure Being' Philo uses both the biblical mascu
lin e fom1 0 tlrv 'He "'"ho is/exists' and the philosophical absLTact neuter
tO Ov 'that whidl exists'.3.'U By his employment o f the fom1er epithet,

3118 Williamson 1989, 29-31.

349 cr.. Rom 1: 1823. ~e a lso \\' illiamsol\ 1989, 34-38. a nd the condu.!iion of On lite
Crealiou 170-172. hhere Philo presents a s ummary of hi~ faith in five p ainciples,
w hich has been c-a11ed 'the fir:>t c-reed in hi$1o.y'. See alc;o Mendelc;on., 1988, 29-49.
350 See e .g . On 1111' SJk'Cia! L.r.cs 1.32. See also Willi.1mson 1989, 38-4J, and Runia 1990. I.

JS1 Ou/111' Cn.'ltliott, 8.

352 See W'ill i a m-S~m 1989. 39-42. a nd Runia I, 1990, 9, Sandmel 1979. 9 19-1. a.nd Dl)(Jd
1953, 60-62.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Philo disting uishes h imself from the Greek philosophers a nd reveals

h is Jewish heritage; in spite of His utte r transcendence~ the God of Philo
is a personal being ""'ith whom we as hUJnan beings can enter into a
mu tual relationship.x.l Other Jewish cha racteristics o f his theology are,
for example, his belief that God hears a nd answers p rayers, a nd the
conviction tha t God is active in history.l!>t
However, the u tter transcend ence of God leads to the q uestion as to
how it is possible for hu mankind to know a nything at all about Him.
Philo considered the Mosaic writings to contain the supreme divine
revelation, but how was it comrn unicated? Ho'"' does God rela te to His
created beings? Philo~s goal was the vision o f God, bu t how is it possi
ble for hum~ln beings to relate to a transcendent God? Philo's answer
was that although the hu man mind cannot comprehend the essence of
God, His activities or l)uvCc:~n:;/ ~ powers~ can be known. God makes
Himself kn own by His actions. It is by means of these 'powers' or ~po-
tencies' that God relates to His creation. The two main 'powers' are
expressed in God S cre..l tive activity and in His governing a nd sustain*
ing o f the world . These 'powers' are in turn connected to the t\vo main
d iv ine d esignations in the LXX; Tlreos 'God' represents God as the Crea*
tor a nd Kyrios 'Lord' represents God's sovereign ty.m Moreover, in con
trast to the Rabbis, Philo relates the fo rmer te rrn to God's goodness and
mercy, while Kyrios stands for GOO's retributive power.l5(, In h is d epic-tion of the div ine ' powers', Philo also applies the Platonic concept of
the world of the id eas.:lli7 As stated previously~ he believed in divine
inspira tion; by God~s gr-ace and initiative the human soul can receive a
glimpse of t-he divine reaJity:

(AIIc,'\orical lntcrpreftJlitm 1.36, 3SJ Breatht,!d inh), we note, is t,!quiva lent tu

" inspired " ! . . . ). Fo r how could the soul have conceived of God, had He not
breathed into it and m ightily laid hold of i t? Fur th e m ind of man wou ld
never h;wt,! ventured to soar S() high as to grasp the nah.lre of Gl)d, had not
Go d Himself drawn i t up to H im self, so fa r as it was possib le t hat the m ind
of man sh ou ld be d rawn up, and stamped i t with t he i mpre.o;:s of th~ pOw
e n; that are w ithin th~ scupe of its underStanding.

By His Spirit, God makes Himself known to the mind o f man. Hmv
ever, the h uman soul is u nable to grasp God's nature in iLc; fullness and

35:3 Runl.l 1990, I, I I.

35'1 See 1989, 31-34, and e.g., 011 tfw D.:mi"S"~' 47. However, according to
Runia (I, 1990, 12), Philo's "ersh)n of Ju d .li ~m was essentially a-his-toric.
355 Sl~e Runia 1990, I, 9, \'\>'illi.amson 1989.48-54, Sandn~l 19'79, 9 1-9<1, and Borgen 1984,
3S6 See Wolf!tOn 19-17. vol. 1, 224-225, and Segal 19i7, 173- 178.
357 Wolfson 1947, vol. t 217-226.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


can o nly perceive God as He is manifested in His 'powers'.l!i.." ln Philo's

interpretation o f Abraham's encou nter with the three "men" in Ques
lions aJtd Answer:> mt Cent"Sis, he presents yet another example of his
conception o f the relationship between God, His 'powers, and human
(Que--stitms mul An:;w,rs to C(ne-~is 4.2) What is the meaning of the words,
"H~t rAb rahaml saw, and beho ld, thret~ men wert! Stand ing t)V(~r him.. ?
Most natural things, to those who are able to S(!e d oes (Scripture) pre~nt,
(namdy) that it is reasonable. fur Ont! to 00 thn.:.e and for th ree to 00 one, for
they were t)ne by a higher principle. But w hen counted with the chief powers, th~ creative and the kingly, l-Ie makes th~ appearance of three to the
h uman mind. Fur this [the mind) cannot bt? so keen of :;igh t that it can ~
Him who Ls abO\'e the powerS that btdong to 1-lim, (namely} God, distinct
from an yt hing t!ISe. Fur so soo n as (me sets eyes u pon Cod. there also ap
pear, together with His being. the minL.;tering powers. S() that in place o f
one He makes the appearance of a triad. Fur w hen the mind be~;in$ to have
an apprehension uf the Exis ten t One, He is known tv have arrived there,
making (Him.sdf) uniq ue ( ...J But. as I said a little earlit:r, 1-le cannot be
seen in His oneswss w ithout(...] the chief pow~rs that t:xist immediately
w ith Him. (namt:ly) the creative, which is called Cod, and the king ly,
which Ls called l o rd .. . (S) and He in J-lis uneness is likened to a triad 00cause of the weakness of the beholders ...~

Thus, Philo interprets the three "men" who visited Abraham in Genesis
18 as God and His two powers. However, in reality, all three visitors
were a manifestation of the o ne true God, and Abraha m's perception of
them as three was an illusion, d ue to the limitations o f the hurnan
mi nd .Jt.~'

As stated above, Philo objected to anthropomorphic depictions of

Gnd, and in, for example, On Al>ra!Jam 107, 11 8, he firml y states that the
three men appeared to Abraham " in the form of men" and that " it is a
marvel indeed that though they neither ate nor drank they gave the
appearance o f both eating and drinking", thus interpreting the narra ..
tivc in a docetic way .lM
\Vhen describing Philo's theology, it is impos..c;ible not to mention
the ' Logos', a most central term in his teaching. As stated above, Philo
identifies the angel of the Lord as the ' Logos' in many of his interpreta
tions of o ur pericopes. This should not surprise us, because the 1 Logos'
may be described as the connecting link between the creation and God.


See also Williamson 1989, 505 1, 59-62.

See a lso On AbntJ,am 119-123.
See also Williamson 1989. 505 1. and Th un.berg: 1966, 56S-570.
See als-o Williamson 1989, 52-S-1.

20 4

4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

According to Philo, the sun rnay be likened to God and the ~mnra ys to
His ' Logos';- we as h umans cannot g aze directly into the sun w ithout
being blind ed but we can perceive the light which emanates from it.'f12
The above mentioned tension bet-ween God 's transcendence and
immanence find s its p rime solution in the concept of the ' Logos'.. \"thich
encompasses and u nites the ')>0\"-'ers' o f God, both the creative and the
ruling aspect."'' The 'Logos' may also be d escribed as the expressed
thought of God; it is God in His self revelation to ~'c world . God in His
essence remains unfathomable but, through His 'Logos', 'He w ho lS'
reaches d own to a nd makes H imself known to humankind. The 'Logos'
is God in His knowability.364 Philo also depicts the 'Logos' as the in...
strumcnt by which God both created and sustains the world . Moreover,
the 'Logos' is the image of God, and h uman beings arc in tu rn created
in the image o f the ' Logos'.3fi!l
Philo's depiction o f the ' Logos' is very complex, and it has been
much discussed w hether it is to be u nderstood in terms of a n inde
pende nt e ntity, a 'hypostasis' or a manifes tation/an aspect of God, as
the .. powers' mentioned above..36io It is beyond the scope of this thesis to
elaborate this issue in de tail bu t it will b riefly be touched u pon below,
since the ' Logos' constitutes a keyterm in Philo's exegesis of the peri
copes in focus.
The religioushistorical background to Philo's 'Logos' is both Jew
ish and Greek. For example, the te rm itself was borrowed from the
Sto ics, although given a new meaning, a nd the re are a pparent connec
tions to Jewish wisdom tradition and perceptions of the creative '\'\ford
of God'. Philo sometimes ident ifies the divine '\<Visd om' with the ' Lo~
gos' but 'Wisdom' is also metaphorically d epicted as the mother o f the
'Logos' ~1nd God as its Father.)!,7
In this context, Philo's teaching has often been compared with the
' l ogos' o f John's Prologue, a nd it is genera lly recogn ized that ~'c
Evangelist and Ph ilo d raw upon common traditions. There a re ccr

362 Sl~e the dili<:ussion below of Ou Dreams 1.2:)9.240 and Qu:sticms tJIIll Auswtt~ on C..eue
sis 3. 3435. See illS!> Williamson 1989, 105106.
36.) Sl.>e e.g., 011 tilt CIJ~'tlebim 2728. In 011 FfigM omet Filliiing 101 q uoted below, lhe to-gos' is even depicted as being the - marioteer of the Powel'sN. !X.--e also Williamson
19$9. 105109. and Wolfson 1947, 'ol. I. 234-ns.
364 See Williamson 1989, 103109, Sandmel 19i9, 94 97. Dunn 1989, 220230, 2-11, and
Dodd 1953,6.1).71.
365 William s.c>n 1989, 108- 109, J 12 I 15. Set> also Borgen 1984, 2M266, Wolfs.c>n 1947, vol.
J, 261282. and Dodd 1933,68-71.
366 See Runia 1990, 1. 9-10, and Tobin 1992,351.
367 \Vins h)l\ 1989, 103109, Tobin l99l350-351, and Wolfson 19-17, vol. J, 253-261.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


tainly parallels between Philo's 'logos' and John's description of the

pre incamate Ch rist. However, the idea of the 'Logos' as incarnated in
a historical person of flesh and blood v~.rould most certainly have ap..
peared a bsurd in Ph ilo's eyes.Jr.s
Philo also had a conception of angels as intermediaries between
God a nd hu mankind . These a ngels a re sometimes termed 'logoi' b ut
are not to be confused with the supreme, divin e 'Logos'~ the totality of
the ' powers' ..;ow Th e a ngels may be described as a special kind o f imma
nent powers in the \VOrld. 11lcy are ' unbodied souls', i.e., souls that
have not been incarnated as humans. Philo equa ted the
M lpovc9"demons" of Greek cosmology \\rith the biblical a ngels. According to Philo, it is through His angels that God exercises His provi
dence over huma nki nd.J.>~1
In the same way as the ' powers' the angels are d ivided into two
main categories, the beneficial and the punitive. The ...beneficial a ngels'
are God's instru ment in granting 'secondary gifts', such as deliverance
from evil. For example, Philo identifies the angel who saved the city of
Zoar from destruction:;..., as beneficial, while the a ngels w ho destro yed
Sodom an d Gomorrah were p unitive a ngels. The 'principal b lessings',
hmvcver, are granted by God Himself.3T.! Wh en discussing Ph ilo's in
terpreta tion of Jacob's blessing of Ephraim a nd M~1nasseh in Genesis 48,
we will retum to this aspect of his angelology.
Finally, it must be stated that Philo also seerns to have believed in
evil ' 1angels", w ho not are to be confused wi th God's pu nitive a ngels...
acting on His behalf.m

368 See also Willi<ult.."'n 1989,52-54, 1151 19, Dodd 195.1. 71-73, and Dunn 1989, 240245.
t\1any scholars poin t out tJMt the s imil.l rities between Philo's logos concept and the

pre-incamate 'Logos' of john d o no-t nt.<essarily impl) any dil'ecl influen\.-e l)f Philo's
works on the Fourth C'.ospel. bu~ are due to the Evangelis t's and Philo's common~
ligimL"' herit.lge. See,_e.g.. Brown 1966, l Vlll.
369 \<\>'olfson 1947, vol. I, 366-385. &."e also William!lon 1989, 110- 111. 135, .lnd Borgen
1984. 273.
370 WolfSl)ll 19<17, vol. I, 366-385. See a lso Runia 1990, I, 10. and Hrmnah 2007.424-425.
371 SeeGen 19:15-23.
3n Wolfson 1947, vol. 1.381-383.
373 Wolf.!ll)ll 1917. voL I. 383-38.1). However, Philos belief in evil ''llngelo;.. hM been
disputed by schola'S.. see, e.g... Dillo n 1983. 203-200.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

4.3.2 Hagar a nd the Angel

Philo has some commen ts on Hagar's e ncounter with the angel in his
works Ottilie Cl1erubim, On Flighl fltld Findiug, On Dreams and Queslious

and Answers 011 Genesis.

In Ou tire Cherubim 1.3, Philo describes Hagar's first fligh t as volu n
tary (Genesis 16) w hile the second o ne (Genesis 21) was a banishmen t.
11le first time Hag ar return ed to her master's house when she met the
angel. here called ' the divine reason' by Philo. On the second occasion
Haga r d id not return. Apart from this b rief commentary on Genesis 21,
Philo main ly focuses on Hag ar's c ncQunter with t-he angel as recorded
in Genesis 16.
According to On Fligltl and Finding L S, Hagar's motive fo r heres
cape in Genesis 16 v,ras that she \Vas ashamed. Philo a rgues for his in
terpretation in the fo llmving \~t.rords:
(On Fli:~ltt and Fimli11,~ l.S-6) ... A sign of this is the fa ct that an angel, a Di
vine Word, moots her to ad\ her the right courSe, and to suggL~t return
to the hou~ of ht~ r mistrl!SS. TitiS angel add re$~t>S her in th~ encouraging
\'oords, ''The Lord hath hearkened to thy humi1iationN (Gen. X\'i. l l), a hu
miJiation promptl!d neither by fear no r by hatred 11 but h}' shame, the
outward expressio n of inward m()d t!Sty. H;_ld she run away owing to fua r,
the angel would prt.)bably have moved her who had iniipired to fear tu a
gentler frame uf mind; fur then, and n()t till tht!n, would it havl! been safe
for the fugitive to gu back. But no angel first approacht!d Sarai f... JBut it is
Haboar who is taug ht by t'ht! angel monitor, whose goodwiU t() her makes
him at on ~ fri end and counselor, nut to ft!el any shame, but be uf good
courage as well; pointing o ut that shame apart uf confid~tncl! is but a half

As seen in the quotation, Philo designates the angel o f the Lord who
encoun te rs Hagar as a 'divine 1A'o rd/a divine Logos', and th is identifi
cation o f the angel is also extant in On Dremw; 1.240 and in Questions
and Auswe-rs on Genesis 3.28: "\V hy does the angel say to her, 1Hagar,
maidservant o f Sar~1h, whence comest thou and w hither goest thou'?
[ ... )Bu t as for the d eeper meaning, forceful ness (is meant), for the di
vine Logos is a d iscip linarian and an excellent healer o f the weakness of
the soul."
The angel appears in order to encou rage a nd ad vice Hagar to re
tum to her mistress. Philo also de notes him as 'the angel monitor', Ha
gar's teacher. l11e translators Colson and \Vhitaker understand this ~1s

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


Philo d escribing the a ngel as Hagar's personified inner oonviction.X't

Their interpretation seems to be oonfinned by Philo's own words:
(011 Flight and Finding 1.203205) The inward monitor fb i Atyxu;t tht~.
speaking within the soul says to it, '""'hence comt~t thou, and whith~ r art
thou going? (ibid. 8). In thus ad d re~sing her he d ut~ not expre:=os doubt o r
inq uir}' ll fur w~ may not think that an angel is igno rant of anything a f.
fecting us. Here is a proof of it even the secret.; of the womb, which are
hidd ~n frum created beings, the angel knows with c~ rtai nty, a$ his w<lrds
she\v: " lo, thl>u art with child, and s halt give birth to a boy, and ~ha l t call
his name Ishmael" (i(Jid. 11). Fo r it is nut in the po\ver of man to know that
the e1nbryo is a male l ..) So the wt)rds ''Whence tl>m~st thou?" are spoken
to rebuk~ the soul that is running away frt)m better judgement.

According to the transla tors' in te rpretation, the a ngel is here called ' the
in wa rd monitor' by Philo.375 Bu t the a ngel seems nevertheless to be
addres.<ing Hagar from the o utsid e. Why else does Philo fi nd it necessary to explain that the angel's question is not caused by ignorance?
The angel already knew the reason fo r Hagar's flight, a nd he is rebuking her. The angel knows all about Hagar, includ ing that she is pregnant with a male child. Philo's words a re pecu liar in th is context; in
contrast to created beings, the angel kllO\'ItS "the secrets of the womb."
Does this imply that he is not a created being h imself? Or does the term
"created beings" in this case refer to h umans as distinct from angels?
The a ngel is said to be speaking to Hagar's soul. '"'hich may imply
that Philo regarded Hagar's rnecting v.r ith the a ngel as a n ' inner expe
rience' . \+Ve are perhaps to understand Philo as sa ying that the angel
spoke to Haga r through her own conscience.
Ph ilo understands Gen 16:13-14 to mean that Hagar perceived the
angel/' the divine Logos' as God Himself. ln reality she did n\eet not
God in person, bu t His servant; see, for example, Ot1 Fligltl and F;ndittg
1.211212. This interpretation is also to be fou nd in On Dreams 1.23924()3:~> a nd Queslions atld Answers on Geues;s 3.3435. Here, Philo comp~ues God to the sun itself a nd the ' Logos' is like ned to the sun rays, by
some people misinterpreted as being the source o f light itself:
mui Answer:; OJJ Cemsis 3.34) (Cen xvi. '13) Why d o~s (Scriptu r~)
say, "And she called the name uf the Lurd, who was speaking to her,

374 Colson.f\Vhitakel', Anal)lical introduction to fliglll .md FindiJlg, 19-19, 3, a nd note a on

p. 12. T he 1-evi.sed tran.<>lation of Philo's works by Yonge (1993) a mtain..'> a slightly
diffe1-ent rende1ing of 011 Fligld aud Fiudi11g 1.6: " . .. But lhL<> angel. who is reproof, a t
the !tame tinle friendly o.nd full of advice, <lUI of his goodnes..<l teache$ her not to feel
o nly shame, but also to entert..l in confidence. .."
375 Yonge's tran.<>lation ha.o; here N .its I the soul'sl convictor:''
376 For a quot.uion of thLc: passage. see Sl'!(!ion 1.3.5.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewis h ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

"Thou art God who seest ml!, fo r s he said, "Fo r indeed I have seen before
(me) him who appeared tu meN? Observe the fi rst point carefully, that he
was the servant of God in the same way (that Hagar was) the maid-servant
of wisd um. Henoo the angel was called {God) in order that she mig ht har
monize the reality to his appearance. Fur it was fitting and proper that
God, thL> Mt).~t High OnL> and Lord uf all. should appear tu wL..dom, while
he who w as his Logos (and) minis ter (should appear) I;() th~ maidservant
and attendant of wisdom. But it was not ~trange (for her) to belie\' that the
angel W<lS God. Fur those w ho are unable t<l see the fi rst cause naturally
suffer fw m an illusion, they believe that thl! ~eo)nd is the first. {They are
like those) who have pour eyes ight and are no t able to see the corporeal
fonn, which is in heaven,. (namely) the sun,. and belil!ve that the rays which
it sends h) earth an~ this ilo;elf. And all thuse who d u not see the Great King
a$<-"ribe the d ignity of the firSt in sow reiE,t lty tu his satrap and the (me un
der him.

As we have seen previously, Philo states in Ou Flig!Jt and Finding that

the a ngel d id not need to approach Sarai. In the quotation above, on the
oth er hand, he writes that God in person appeared to her, in the text
symbolized by v,rjsdom, while the 'Logos/a ngel' encoun tered Hagar,
the maidservant of wisdom.li7 Hagar an d Sarai are thus depicted as
being on d iffe rent spiritual levels. The 'Logos/angel' appeared like God
to Hag ar.m

Concluding Remarks
To conclude, it seems clear that Philo interpreted Gen 16:7-14 as a n
encoun ter between Hagar a nd the d ivine ' Logos', God's servan t. A~
cord ing to Philo, ' the a ngel of the Lord' in Genesis 16 is not to be con
fused with God Himself. Howeve r, it is peculiar that the ' logos' is con
trastcd with created beings in On Flight and Finding 1.203-205.

4.3.3 The Aqedah

Philo's rewriting of Ge n 22:1-19 in On Abral!am is p hilosophical and
qu ite cxte nsive compared to h is renderings of other pericopes. Howev
er, it is Abraham who is the rnain c haracter in Philo's version, not
God/the a ngel.

3'i7 See .Marcus' h)Otnotes s and i (Ques1io11s mld Awm.'l'rs m 1 G~'fltsill}, 1933, 222.
3'i8 ~e als.o Quts fiOII S and Allllln!!'S lltl G!!Jitsill3.35.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


Philo is more interested in Abraham's e rnotions a nd thoughts~ his

' in ner life'~ so to speak, tha n in describing the external course o f events.
He mentions, for example, neither the b inding o f lsaac o n the altar nor
the raml"'. Philo provides an allegorical interpretation o( the event.
According to Philo, God is the real owner and source of all true joy and
Abraham demonstrates this by his willingn ess to sacrifice his son~ his
happiness in life. Philo thus d raws a ttention to the name of the son,
Isaac, which in Hebre\v means ' he la ughs'. God gives Isaac back to
Abraham and shows thereb}' that He is not grudging. The message is
that God is the rightfu l owner of all happiness a nd joy, and He gives it
w illingly to all w ho are worth y of i t.J~ No a ngel is mentioned in Philo's
version o f the Aqedah. It is God Himself who calls out to Abraham and
saves from being sacrificed.
{On Abm}urm l 76-177] .. . Cotl flit> Srwiour stopped the det:d half-way with a
r.'iJicr: from the air, in v.hkh He ord ered him to s-tay and n ot touch the lad .
And huice lie crJllt'll the father by namL> f() tum him and draw him back
from his purpo..e and thus- prevent his- carrying Qut the s laughter. So Lsaac
was- sav~d. Since God r~turned the gift of him and u~ed th~ o ffering which
piety rendered to Him to repay the ()fferer ...

Philo does not mention the second divin e interfe rence in Gen 22:1 5~ 18
and the bles,ing of Abraham b ut simply states that " twice He [God[
called the father by name"~ a reference to the a ngel's words in Gen
22:11 w here Abraham's name is repeated twice?st ""'ith th e difference
that in Philo's version the a ngel is substillltcd by God.

Concluding Relnarks
In his accoun t of the Aqedah, Philo appears lo identify 'the angel of the
Lord ' as God the Savior. Hmvever~ his substitution o f the ..m gel for God
may also be interpreted to mean that -Philo considers the angel per se as
u nirnportant a nd not neccss..1rily implying that Philo deemed the angel
in Genesis 22 to be a manifestation o f God b ut that he read the text as
God speaking through the angel. In a ny case, it was God who inter
fe red. Philo's ascribing of the rescue of Isaac to God may also be seen in
the ligh t of the irnportance of the Aqed ah in jewish tradition.

379 Ho.,....evel', in 011 tilt llndt:lll$tY1Mellt'SSofCod 4, Philo mentions that Abrahrsm bound
lsa!K, but al.,o he re.. it i.'l Abraham's ' inner world' Iha l is in focus.. and no .1ngel is
mentioned in the shOI'I allu$ion to the Aqedah.
380 Ou Abraltellfl200207.
381 See a lso Feklmal\ 2006, 276.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Philo describes the divine interference in terms of a 'voice from the

air;, which calls to mind the concept of the bnt!J qol as a representation
of God in Rabbinic texts.:oo The epithet 'the Savio r~ is also notc\o\o'Orthy.
According to Feldman, Philo emphasizes that God called Abraham by
name ""' ice? since he regarded God as the giver o f principal benefits
and blessings, whereas it is his servants, the angels, w ho bestow the
secondary gifts as wen as execute p unishrnents.J.<a
4.3.4 The Wooing of Rebekah
Philo has given us a detailed verse~by~verse analysis o i Genesis 24 in
his treatise Questious and Anszoers 011 Genesis 4.8~146. However, the role
of the angel is not his main concern; Philo makes only a few comments
u pon the subject. According to Philo, w hen Abraham assured his ser
vant that he would be accompanied by an angel, he pro phesied:
(md Answer:; on CenLsis 4.90) (C'.rim xxiv. 7) Why d <~S he (Abra
ham) say, "Th~t Lord Q.)d of heaven and Cod of the earth will ~ nd his an
gel befor~ thy face, and thou shalt take a w ife fur my so n Isaac:''? Thul-1 do I
see that he is a pn)phet and lehoislalt!S o racularly thing:-; that are to O'>n'le
( ... J Fo r wht~ce dues he know that th~ ~ervant wlU be ablt! to et)mplete his
fourne)' through the guidance of the angel if not from ~ome divination and
pnl phccy? But perhaps somecme will l-iay, " \\/hat need d id the servant have
of an angel tu go along, s-ince ht! bo re with him the cummand to complete
the marriage with a virgin uf th~tir family? Tu this it mus t be l-iaid, "Not in
effectual Sir, d id He wish the human mind to be in nature. but to be active
( .. . J Fo r this reason the steersman will no t abandon the ruddt~ r even
though the ship may be enjoying a fowuurable wind 1...] This is the liter<ll
mt!aning. Bu t tht! passage also contains an allt!gOry ( ... 1 For inasmuch the
uttered word, which in C<'lmpariso n with the mind has bet.'1l called "l-ier
vant," at o nce was in doubt and gave an a p ~arance tlf weakness and de
ceit, the Saviour joined and fitted W it cuwther word, not deceived o r de
frn uded, which he calls "angeJ,N (as) the int~trpreter of divine oracles and
commands. And when he comes along and teach....,. man. he C(lmpel~ him
not to vaci1late in his reaS<ming ur move abuut and be m nfused.


By divine inspiration, Abraham knew that the servant would be able to

accomplish his task by the help o f angelic guidance. The role of the
angel is thus essential for the success o i the commission. Philo goes on
to compare h uman life to a ship and states that God, the steersman, is
382 Cf. . L.A.B. 32.4: !Ad. Jac. 3. 1; l'il'qi de Rabbi (i,our 31 and Tg. NtVJ.f. Cen 22:10. See also
dlap!l~rs 1.2 rmd 4.5.
383 Feldman 2006.. 276279. See also On lfk' Cmtjitsitm oJTmtg~ees HI0-18 1 and Ou Ffiglll
tllld Fiuolill,~ 66-67.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria

21 1

always involved in human affairs, even when we {the rudders) think

that we are able to cope \ovith life on our own . Philo also interprets the
verse allegorically. The ' uttered word' represents Abraham's servant,:m.l
God is called ' the Savio r::~~~s and the angel is 'another word', the teacher
of mankind.
The servant's doubt~ concerning the willing ness of the woman to
follow him back to Canaan and Abraham's answer (Gen 24:58) are
interpreted allegorically by Philo in the following way:
(Que:;tions fmtl Answers (W Gen~-sis 4.9lJ You need b ut say that if the angel of
Gl)d is not there, it w<'mld ~ee m that the woman might n t'lt wish to go
along. Wherefore he [Abraham) says, by way of sealing and amfinning the
matter, "If s he does nut go with thee as if perhap$ wishing to go with a
conl pani()n, she may wish to go along with the d ivine Word." And ENI?n
tho ug h she may not have faith in thi$ youth, she (will have fai th) in him
w ho instructs and leads to the elected way and the cumpletion o f a great
wo rk. And the work is the d ivine, holy and con.'~trated marriage of the
soul, the harmuny o f the selftaught reason.

Although the woman may not trust ' this youth', that is, Abraham's
senran t,M6 she will have faith in his angelic guide, d esignated by Philo
as 1 thedivine \+Vord', the 'Logos'.J117
In the same way as Abraham's words in v. 7, the servant's prayer
(Gen 24:121 4) is interpreted prophetically by Philo;
(Quc>$fitms mul Answt'rs on Gemesis 4.95J ... since the angel o f C od was his
companion (m the journey and was near by, he was perhaps enthused by
him ;md began t() be p<l$~essed.

The arrival of Rebekah at the well even befo re the servant had finished
speaking (Gen 24:15) is interpreted by Philo as proof o f " ... the surpass
ing kind ness of God, which seem to be S\o\o'i fter than anything in crea ..
tion .'1l..~

Concluding Relnarks
It may thus be concluded that prophetic in.c;piration as well as d ivine

guidance are main themes in Philo's interpretation of the pericope. The

therne of divine providence is d ominan t in Philos analysis o f the narra


See iiiSO Marcus 1953, note a {Qtt~limL': fmd Answors tm C.eltiSis), p. 374.
Cf., Philo's commentary upl"'ll Gen 22:119, see ilbovt~.
See iiiS.O Marcus 1953 (QUL"Siious Otld .41tSWI'rsem c.mLOSis), nl"'te a. p. 37-1.
See ills.o Marcus 1953 (Ques1im1s a11d mt Ct11~osis), note b, p. 374.
Queslimt!> ami Answers mt Gt11i!sis 4.96.

4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis


tive. The angel is by Philo equated with the divine Word, the 'Logos'
but distinguished from God Himself, designa ted by Philo as ' the Savior'.

4.3 .5 Jacob and the Angel

Jacob's Dreams
lttt roductiort
In Ou Drenms 1, Philo made a thoroughly allegorical inte rpretation of
Jacob's two d reams in Genesis 28 and 3 1. Th is was Philo's second trea
tise on dreams, the first one has u nfortu nately been lost.:m Acco rding to
Philo, Jacob's dreams a re exarnplcs of the kind of dreams that enable
the mind to perceive the fu ture by d ivine inspiration.:~""

jncolJ's rlrenm nl Bethel

In Gen 28:1 1 \\'e read :
He e<une ( :'l:.~l )'w1 to a ct!rtain pltra: (01j'm:J), and :;tayed thert! for the night,
beauSt! tht~ sun had ~eL Taking t'>ne of the sUmes uf the place.. lw put it un
d t!r his he<ld, and la}' down in that place.

As me ntioned in chap ter 3 above, the Hebre w word Cli'll/'place' has a

double connotation; it can also designate a 'holy site'. Philo states tha t
this word (in Greek 't6no~;) has a threefo ld meaning:
{Ou Dnwm:; 1.62-64) ... firstly that ( ) f a ~;pace fillr.d IJy tJ mnl~ritll fimu, s~crmtlly
that of the Diiiue Won/ [t'l 6Eio.:; AOyo.:;]. which God Himself has complett!ly
fi11ed thro ug ho ut w ith incorpo real pot(.~cies; for "'they saw." .says tvloS\!S$
p1act! where the Cud uf lsrael stood.N (Ex. xxiv. 10) ( .. .] There Lo;a third
si,~uijictJliou, in keeping w ith which G<xl Himself is calletl a plw:c, by reaso n uf
His <."o ntaining things. and being contained by nothing whatever. and !Je.
mg a pJace fur aU tu ftt!e intt,), and because Ht! is Himself the s pace which
hllld'i' 1-lim; fur He i$ that which lie Himself has occupit!d, and naught (>n
dost!'S Him but H im~l f. t mark you, a m not a place, but in a place; and
each thing likewir.e that exL.;-ts; fur that which is contained is different from

389 See the"'An.alytical introdu ctio n lo bl'IOk 1/ 011 Drenms. b) Colsonf\Vhitalct>l' 1958,
285, il\ Pl1ih1, vol. V. LC L
390 Ou Dr~!oms I. I 2.
391 literally . .. he mf.l a cetail\ place . . :"

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


that which contains it, and th~ Deity, bt:!ing contained by nothingm, is of
neCl~Sity Itself (to; own place ...,;.;~

According to Philo, apart from its ordinary " physical" meaning. the
word 'place' may either indicate the divine Word/'Logos' w hich God
fills and in w hich he st..1nds, or God Himself.:w~ The divine 1 Logos' is
God's place, an interpretation Philo bases on Exod 24:10 according lo
the LXX, w hich diffe rs from the MT:
And they [Moses, Aron, Nadab, Abiud ;md ~eventy of tJw elders of Israel]
saw lht pillet! where the Cod of Israel SlOc'KI . I Ktti t:i6ov ti'JV T(mov <"liJ
t:ion1Kn b 6t:<'.t.; Toll 1o(>ulA ..N, (instead ofl; " ... and they saw the Cud of
lsral!J .. . / ... ; N,_'L" ' :1'?1\tiN. l~Wl . (MT)..m

See also On the Carifusion of Tongues 96-97 where Philo identifies 'the
place' in the LXX version of Exod 24:10 as u,e 'Logos':
For then they ::;hall behold the place which in fact is the Wo rd, where
stands God the never chang-ing. n~v~r swerving. and also what liL:-s under
his feet like ''the work uf a brick uf sapphire, like the fo rm of the fi rmament
of the heaven"' (Ex. xxiv. '1 0), l!Vt!:n the W(lrld of o ur senw::;, which he indi
cate..; in t-his mystery. For it well benefits th()Si' who have entered into com
radeship w ith knowledge to desire to :;ee the Existent if they may, but, if
they cannut, W ::;ee at any rate his lmagl!, the m()St huly W'()rd, and after the
Word its most perfect work uf aU that l)Ur st! know, even this wo rld ...

The use of the word ' place' as signifying either God's 'L<.>gos' or God
himself recalls the early Rabbinic epithet OljHl/lv!dqOm as a d ivine title
designating God as ' the Omnipresent.''"' In addition to Exod 24:10,
Philo also uses Gen 22:3-4 to support his interpretation:

392 Yonge pmpo~e~ another lrai\Siatil)ll: " . .. but the Deil)' being AAJJTOUI\ded by noth
ing. is necessarily itsell its own place .. ."
393 As seen in the quohltion, Colson and Whitaker have cl\c)sen to translate Philo's
concept 'l.ogl'll:i' acoording fO iLc; literal English me.m ing NWord:'' I will the-1-efore use
both temls a~ intechangeable equivale nts.
394 A('C(l(ding h) Segal ( 1977, 162165), Philo's divine 'l.ogos' is the hyp06tasi?:ed intelli
gen.:e of God; b)' His ' LogO$', God reve<~ ls Himself fO humankind. Tile tog~ is
God's ' image', the visible emanation of Cod. Kleinknecht (1969, 89) \\'rite!>! "'Tilus the
A6yo; is a mediating figute whidl romes foth ftom God and estal>li~he.<~ a link between the remotely transc~ndent God and the world of m.m. and yet which
represenLc; m.m to God as a high ptiest . .. "See also Hanneth 1999, 79-83.
395 S..~e also 5eg.11 1977, 1 6.~169, '""' B<'ll'ker 19')2,. I 18122.
396 See ai!>O Jas.trow 1971,830, Segal. 1977, 161162. Urbach 1975, 6679, A. Ma1morstein
1927, 92 92, and 148- 153. According h) Koehler/ Baumgartner (2001. 627), rhe \\'CU'd
,\1tfrt'm already ha~ thi.<~ meaning in Esth 4:14: "For if you keep silen ce at :;uo::h time a.<~
thi~. relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from .1.nother quarter .. ." 11nK Ol~ ...
f1'0m Godj. See also chapter 4.5 below.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

(On Drmms 1.64-66J"He [Abrah<lm} came to th~ place (the LXX: ... i)AEh:v
d.:; 'tbv Tt'm uv) of which God had told him: and lifting up hi.:; eyt~$ hi! saw
the place from afar."' (Cm. xxii. 3f.). Tell me. pray, did h~ wh<) had come to
the place see it from afar? Nay, it would .seem that one and the same word
is used of two d ifferent things: o ne of these is a d ivine Word, the other G<>d
whu was befure th~! Word l ...) But when he has his place in th~ d hrine
Word he does not actually reach Him Who is in very essence God, but soo..o;c
Him from afar ...

l11e repetition of the v~.rord 'place' implies that it denotes differen t
"entities" in Gen 22:3-4; God and God 's 'Logos'/Word.
After his survey of the three different definitions o f the word
'place', Philo concludes that the proper interpretation of Gen 28:11 is
that ' Lhe place' denotes u,e Word of God: " ... jacob, having come to
Senseperception, meets not now God but a word of Glxl, even as did
Abraham .. . ""' Furthem,orc, Philo highlights the fact that the text
does not say that Jacob came intentionally,, by choice so to speak, to the
place but that he mel with a place. Hence the divine 'logos' met him,
manifesting itself suddenly to an u nprepared Jacob.:wll
Philo provides several allegorical interpretations of ' the sun' in Gen
28:11. The sun, according to Philo, first and foremost represents God;
' the Father and Ruler of the Universe', to use his designation.3'J'J God is
Light the very source of all light."" The sun may also symbolize the
d ivine 'Logos', the divine pattem o r model w hich contains the fullness
of God;~n and finally it may represent the hu rnan mind, enlightened by
God d irectly or by the means of His ' Logos'."" According to Philo, the
latter applies to jacob in Gen 28:11.""
The sto nes mentioned in this verse are also interpreted allegorical
ly; the sto nes represent incorporeal ~words'/A6ym.. that is, immortal
souls. Jacob takes o ne of these sto nes, the suprem e logos, the divine
'Logos' itself, to serve as the pillow for his mind. Hence Jacob lays his
whole life ~'in the hands of" the divine Word, the 'Logos':11"'
After this prelude, Philo discusses the d ream vision itself. He in ter
prets the Jadder/sl<lirway as sym bolizing three things. Firstly, the lad
der is a figurative name for the air.~ the abod e of the unbodied souls.

397 011 Dn>r~ms 1.70.

398 011 Dn~ms 1.7 1.
399 O u Dmmts t.n-7<1, 8791.
400 Ou Dn:r<~n>i 1.75-76,87-91. Cf., Jolu l 1:4-9.
401 Ou Drrutns 1.75-'76,85-86. Cf., Col 1: 15-17.
402 Ou Orru111S 1.77-84. 115 1 19 .
40.1 Ou Drmms 1.1 1>1 19.
404 Ou Dmm1s 1. 127-128.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


The angels ascending an d descending on the ladder rcpresenl the

movement o f the souls; some descend into human bodies '"'' hilc o thers
ascend a nd remain in the upper realrns forever.<W!I Some of these souls
a re even hig her spiritu al beings, by Philo called angels :
(On Drerm1s 1.1401 42] ... viooruys of tM Ruler of the universe, earS and
eyes? .so to speak, uf the &
"Teat king, ~hold ing and hearing all things. The$e
are ca11ed "demt'ln.S,. ["'J by the <Jther philosophers~ but the sacred
record is wont to call them "angels,. o r messengers, employing an apter
title. for they bo th cunvey the bidding::; of the Father to His children and
repurt the children's need to their Father. In accordance with this tlu~y are
reprt$Emted by the lawgi as a~nd ing and de.!Oeend ing: not that C od,
who is already present in aU d irections, needs informants, but that it was
boon W us in our sad case to avail our.;;elvL>S uf the service.'> uf "words,. act
ing o n our behalf a!; mediatOrS .....w

Secondly, the ladder in itself c..1n be said to represent the human soul,
upon which the divine \Vords ascend and descend, hence the soul con
stitutes the hu man link connecting wi th the di vi n e. ~~~~~
Th ird ly, the ladder may be a picture of the future life o f jacob, with
all the ups and downs that awaited him:
[On Dnams 1.150, 153156] lt may be that the Practiser OacobJ has his own
Jife presented f() him in his visi()n as resembling a stairway{ ... } The affairs
of men a re naturally likened to a Jadd ~ r owing tu their uneven course. Fur
one day, the poet says, brings o ne man down frum un high . and lifts anoth
er up, and nothing relating to man is of nature h) remain as it L~, but all
such things are liable to changes of every kind (... ]Such is the road nn
which human affairs g u up and down.. a road liable to shifting and un.">fa
ble happ<'ning.< [... J

Kugel compares this interpretation by Philo with the one given in the
Pseud -epigraphon Ladder of Jacob, w here the ladder is said to represent
' this age' as well as the fu ture destiny of Jacob's descendants.-W'J
According to Philo, the dream showed God. 'the Ruler o f the an
gels' standing fi nnly upon the ladder, rneaning that God is the unqucs

405 Ou Dreams i.I33-J39.

406 In thLo; cootext. the Greek wotd is nolto be understood ol S denoting ' e\'il spirits'.
407 Philo thus identines the biblical angels w ith the demons of the Creek philosophe rs.
But u nlike the demo1\!l of, fo r example, the Stoic phiiOSllp her Posidoniu..<;. Philo'~ angels are not the nece..o;sary link between the upper and lhe l-ower stages of being. In
Philo's \iew. the angels are instruments of Oi\'ine PI'O\idence, .and thei ser\'iccs
could on occasion be dispen.'ied with when God preferred to romact nlel\ directly.
See Altman l<ril, vol. 2. 973-976. and Ha1ulah 1999, 8485.
408 Ou Dreams 1.146-149.
409 Kugel l995, 2 12. See .liS..J chilpter 5 in N lAdJ~r >/Jtoob. A Ne\'' tran..;lation a nd h\lroduction,... tunt i1\ OTP, 1985, vol. 2, 401-4 11 .


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

tionable lord of all creation, stand ing high above all created beings and
things. lt is God alone \vho establishes and holds together the creation
and prevents chaos:
(On Ori:ams '1.157-1581 ~ dream Sht!wed the Ruler of tht! angels (Tbv
(.tvxt.l)'YfAuv, ..:l.JQ1ov] set fast upun the s tairway, even the Lord, for high
up Like a chari l)f~er high o ver his chariot o r a helmsman high over his ship
mus t ,.,..e conceivt! uf Him that IS (Tb i'1v} stand ing o ver bod ie..:;, o ver souls,
over doings, over words, o ver angels [.. .)over powers descried by o ur
~n.:;es, O\'>r invis ible beings, yea all things ::>een and unseen: f()r having
made all the univers~ to depend o n and cling to Hirn..;eJf ( ... ] Let nobody
(...1think that anything co-operates w ith Cod to help Him to stand fimll}'
11For it is because He stabiL-;hes and h()fds it together that the syst~nl of
creatOO beings remains strongly and mig htily free fro m de..:;tructiun . ..

The one w ho addresses Jacob in Gen 28:13-15 is thus interpreted as God

Himself, a statement that slightly contradicts Philo's previous assertion
that God contacted Jacob through His 'logos', because he was u nable
to see GOO directly {On Dreams 1.115~ 119). However, the meaning of
Philo's statement in On Dreams 1.157 is d isputed . The Greek wording is
-rOv liQxCtyyt:Aov, KUQlOV /'the archangel, the Lord'. Since elsewhere in
Philo's works tl1e ' l ogos' is also termed 'archangel' (Who is 1/~e Heir 205206 and On tile Confnsion ofTongnes 146-147) some scholars interpret On
Dreams 1.1 57 as a reference to the ' Logos' :~IO However, the followi ng
designation '' Him that TS" as well as the context in general ind icates
that Philo in this case is speaking about God.m TI1is interpretation
probably also lies behind the translation o f the exl'ression T0v
cioxf.iyyt:Aov as ' the Ruler of the angels' chosen by Colson and
God in troduces Himself as ''the LORD [YHWH) the God [Elohim)
of Abraham your fathe r and the God [Eiohim) of Isaac" (Gen 28:13).
Philo interprets this to mean that God is both the God of the u niverse
and the God of Jacob's family.This is hence an example o f concurrent
Jewish universalism and particularism:m

410 E.g., Wolfson t947, vol. I, 377-379, and Segrtl1977. 170.

411 Sel! also Ha1ulah 1999, $6.
4t2 Yonge tran!tlales 011 Drmtms 1.157 as follows: " Bul lhe deam alo;o tepte..<;el\led lhe
archange-l. namely the Lord himself, firmly plal\ted ol\ Ole ladder; for we mlLo;t imagine that lhe living God slands,e all Ol ing:s .. ."Thus, Yonge also interprels lhe
de.'lig:nation Tiw tiQxc\yy.:Aov ' the ;1rch.:mgel' as ref~~I'Ting hl God in this ron text
413 Ou Duams 1.159. According to Philo.. Tile facl lhat God addres..:;ed Jacob by name
indicates lhal God counted Jacob as one of his friends, 011 Drt'tUtls l .193-196.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


Philo poses the question as to w hy God designates Himself as ' the

LORD God' in relation to :'\braham, w hile in connection to He is
just 'God'. One part of the answer is that the divine designations d enote
two d ifferent aspects of God's personality. To Philo, YHWH/Kyrios
denotes the divine principle of justice and sovereignty, and the desig
nation God/Titeos represents the divine mercy and creative pote ncy.~'~ It
is noteworthy that a similar d octrine of the t\"'O main d ivine attributes
also appears in Rabbinic Jud aism. However, in the words of Segal;
. .. Philo's id tmtifi catio n of m~rcy and justice with the nam(?S of God is t~ x

actly o pposite to the standard rabbinic doctrine. YHWH i:c; 1nerciful fur the
rabbis; kyrios, judging for Philu. C()n\'e rsely, Elohim is judging fur the rabbis; lheos, merciful fo r Philo:m

Another part of the explanation pertains to the different characters of

the two patriarchs_,m. a matter 1 cannot elaborate on here. According to
Philo, Jacob reacts with surprise and fea r when he awakes because he
reali? that in fact God is not in any particular place but is omnipre-sent. ' The gate of heaven' (Gen 28:17) represents the visible \Vorld of
the senses, through w hich we can perceive the divine.4 ' '
Jacob's sec.rmd dream

After these remarks, Philo goes o n to analyze Jacob's second dream,

recorded in Gen 31:1 0~13. As a starting point it is wortJw~.hile to take a
look once more at the wording of the two crucial verses in the text:
ICen 31:11) Then Jhe rmgd (if Cod [o:s~:1 1X?i:t] .said tn me in the d ream, 'Jacob: and I said, 'Here 1am!' 1131' J (un the Cod of lklllel, u:-htr~ y<m tmoinfeil a
pilltiT mul made a v'()w to me. Now le-ave thi~ land at once and return t() the
land uf y()ur birth .'/ cny :111Y 11J D~ ~; 1111J "'!~ ;o:s?l 0'1.' M~7.! 111/K ~ n:t i N."; ~:>JX)
(1T'1ill:) f1K iN. ::!ll!t"l !IXT:1 f"'''tl~:ll~ ~l

Since it is stated in v. 11 that it '".ras the angel of God who ~1ddressed

Jacob, Philo concludes that the Bible considers d reams as God~sent,
even though ~'cy are not mediated directly by God Himself but
through the agencr of H is" ... in terpreters and attendant messengers
w ho have been held to receive from the Father to \A/horn they mve their
being a divine and happy portion,'' to use Philo's own words. ~~~~

41-1 0 11 Dreams l.l60-163.

415 Segal 1977, 175. AC<:l"u'<ling to Segal ( 1Cf77, 170, note 27), Philo Bl'ill often links the two
design..iltions of God, Elohim ond YHW H (Tilrus and Kyrifl'll), to rhe 'Existing Oil\~
and His ' Logos' respecth <e ly. See also Hannah 1999, 84.
416 SeeOnDuams l .l60-l n.

417 Ou Dreams l.l82-188.

4 18 011 Dreams 1.190.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Philo then calls attention to the peculiar wording of v. 13a, whid 1

he quotes from the Septuagint version:
[Cen 3 '1 :13) . .. ~-y<;, ti~ t (.J OtO; i' ()(I,Od:; o(n l:\ 't6m~> Ot uiJ . .. I I am the
God that appeared to yo u in the place of Cud .. .

As a comment on this verse, Philo writes:

{On Dwmts 1.228-231 1 . .. And do not fa il to mark the language uf.ied, but
cardully inquire whether there are two Gods; for we read " I am the C'.t'd

that appeared to thee,"' not " in my place" but "in the place uf Cod," as
though it were ano ther'~. What, then. are we to say? He that is truly God is
One, but thuse that are improperly so caU~d are more than one. A<.'cording
Jy, the holy wurd in the present in$-tance has indicated Him Whu is truly
God by means of the articles saying " I am the God/ while it o mits the article when mentioning him wh() is improperly so called, saying "Who ap
peared to thee in the place" not "of the C od,"' but s imply "uf God." 1-lere it
g ive~ the title t)f "G(,d" to t lif.i chief \r'lurd, not from any superstitit)US nicety in appl)ring nmnes, but with one aim before him, to use words tu exp re~s
facts. Thu~ in an()ther place, when he had int.Juired whether He that IS has
any n<lme, he came to know fu11 well that He has no pr<1per name( ... J for it
is O()t the nature of Him that IS to be s poken of, but simply to be. T(~timo
ny W this is afforded also by the divine response made to MoSK~' question
whether He has a name, even " I <un He that 15"' ( Ex. iii. 14) ... ~19

'The God' in definite fo rm d enotes the true God in Himself, while the
word 'God' \o:ithout the definite article denotes the ' Logos'. God ap--peared to jacob in Gen 28:10.22 through His 'Logos', God's d1ief Word.
According to Segal: " Philo derives the idea that the logos is a separate,
second d ivine hypostasis from the fact that 'God' is repeated in 'place
of God'' in.stead of using the pronoun (i.e., My place) as one v~.rould
normally expe<:t."'" See also Gen 35:1 (MT) w here God!Eiohim refers in
the third person to the God/EI who previously revealed Hjmself to
Jacob in Bethel: " .. . Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an
altar there to the God [not to me!] \vho appeared to you v~lhen you fled
from your brother Esau." God reveals Himself to humankind in the
form of His ' Logos':m
(On Drwrms 1.232) To the soul~ indeed which ;u e inrurpureal and are occupied in His worship it is likely that He should reveal H i m.~H a.s He is, <."on
verSing with them as friend with friends (the ange1s?J;~: but to ~()uls which

4 t9

Cl... Ou lltt: Otcmgc ofNamt:.o;. 11-15 quoted below.

Segal 1977, J62.
See also Segal 1977, 159-165,and Williamson 1989, 12 1 125.
My own interpretation is tha l Philo he1-e pmb.lbly refe rs to angel<>. Segal (1977.. 163),
however, inlep-el$ Philo to mean lhal some humans al\~ indeed cap.lble of seeing
God d i-eclly.. if lhey can tr.lnscend what is materi<ll, while othe.r humans who l"'nl}'
know lhe 'logos' mis take the O:ilPY for lhe origina l.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


a re sti11 in a lxldy (humans), g iving Himself the likffi(.>SS ()f ang~ls, n ot al

tering His uwn nature. fo r He is und1angeabl~, but conveying to those
which n.--ceive tht! impre;sion uf His presence a semblance in a different
form. such that they take the im age to be not a copy? but that migina1 fo rm

Philo then continues to discuss the many anthropomorphic descrip

tions o f God in the Bible and says:
(011 Dreams 1.23724'1 ) .. . Broadly Spt!aking the lines t<1ken th roughou t the
Law are these two unly1 one that which kt!eps truth in view and su p nr
vides tht! thought "God is n(lt a man" (Num. xxiii. 19), the o ther that ' "' hich
keeps in view the ways of thinking o f the dullt!r folk. o f whom it is said
"the l o rd Cod chaSt(m thee, as if a man should chaste n h is sun" (Deut. viii.
5). Why then, du we wonder any longer at His assuming the likenes..; of tm:?f:ls,
St:!eing that the succour of those that a re in nt>ed He rtSSumes that of men? Acco rdingly. when He Sa ys "I am the God who was seen (lf thoo in the p lace
of God" (Gen xxxi. '13), underStand that ftc otcupietlthe plate of rm tm,"?el Duly
sa for tJS npp~Jrcd, without dta11ging, with tJ v h:w to flit! profi: ofhim wlw mrS uot
y~t ctqmble of seeiug tit~ tnrr. God. For just a~ tho....e who are unable tll see the
sun i ts~l f see th e g:lt>am of the parh~J i on a nd take it for the J,'Un ( ... J so som e
regard the inmge of Coil, His nngel the Word, a.<> His very self. Do you not soo
huw Hagar, who is the education of the schoo ls, sa ys to the angel "Thnu art
the Cod th at d id st look upo n me"? (Gen. xvi. 13).: for lx!ing Egyptian by
d escent she wa.o; not qualified to see tht! supre m e Cause. But in the passage
upon which we out! occupied, the mind is beginning, as the result of improvement, to funn a mental image o f the sovereign Ruler t)f aU such P<r
tencies. Hence it is that J-le Himself says "I <lm the Cod". whose iumst! t-huu
d idst afuretime behold deeming it to be I Myself, and d id st d t!dkate a pillar
(~ngraved with a most h oly inscription (Gen xxx i. 13); and the purport o f
the inscription was that I alone am standing ( .. . J and sustained th~ un
iverse to rest fi rm upon the mighty Word. WlttJ i.s my vicuoy.

In, for example, On Husbandry 51, the 'Logos' is likewise labeled God's
'viceroy' and additionally identified as the ' divine nameangel' of Exo
dus 23.= The 'Logos', the image of God, the angel of God and the di
vine viceroy are thus equated to each other in Philos teaching.m It is,
hmvever, noteworth y that 'the angel of God' in singular form is not
mentioned in Genesis 28 bu t only in f'.crenesis 31, w here he in v. 13 idcn~
tifies Himself as flu~ God, in definite form, a term understood by Philo to
denote God Himself, not a mediator. Philo's statement that it was the

423 See illso e.g ., On FUgilt and Fi11ding 10 1, II t -112. Otl JJ1e Mign;tNm of AbmJwm t74, ond
Gieschen 1998. 107~ 1 t2.
424 Acrording hl Gieschen (1998. 107-1 12), Philo's u~c: of lhe term 'anger to denote the
'logos' reve.11s his dependence upon the Jewi.c;h ongelomOI'fJhic lrild ilion~ in his elaboration of the amcepL


4. The Ange l of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

'Logos' w ho appeared to Jacob in Bethel is not entirely consistent with

his previous analysis of Genesis 28.m
There is also a contradiction in Philos interpretation of Gen 3 1:10
13, since he deems it necessary in On Dreams 1.190 to assure the reader
that Jacob's dream is divinely inspired, despite being transmitted by 'a
messenger', not God in person:llr.

jacob's Struggle at the Ford o f jabbok

In On Sobriety 65 there is an allusion to Jacob's encounter "vith the an...

gels of God in Gen 32:1 . The meeting with the angels is interpreted as a
struggle against inner passions? a moral preparation for his \vrestling
bout at jabbok:
... frmn Isaac's seed aHain C(lmes the virtues of the laboriuus Jife in which
ja<."t)b exerci.:;ed himself to mas-tery. jacob trained in the wresUingb()ut with
the passions. with the angels- t'lf reason to prepare him for the ctmflict ...m

According to On Drwrkenuess 82-83, jacob's struggle at )abbok is in terpreted allegorically as the patriarch's final exercise i n his pursuit of
virtue. Philo quotes the statement in the LXX Gen 32:28; "Thy name
shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name, because
you have been strong with God and mighty with men" and takes this
to mean that Jacob had showed himself worthy bo th in fro nt of God
and humans. As a reward, Jacob is blessed with the name Israel. '"'hich
according to Philo signifies perfection and the sight of God:""
Now Jaet>b is a name for learning and p rogTC$$, gifts which d epend un the
hearing; lsr-ae1 for- perfection, fur the name expteSSl.>S the vis-ion of God. And
what among aU the b les:.::ings- which the virtue., ~oive can be mor~ perfect
than the s ight t)f the Absolute(}' ExL'> He whu has- the sight of this b1es..:;.
ing has hLs fair acknllw1edgt!d in the eyes uf both parents-, fur he has gained
the strength which is- in God and the p()wt!r wh kh avails among men.


the dilio.tssion of Philo's intep-et.l tion of jacob's d ream at Bethel (C'.enesis 28)
abo\e. Ao; mentioned in the i.nti'Oduction, be.:ause of the inhe1-ent ilmbigu ity in Phi
lo's d i$0Jssions of the ' l....,go.<~', tl\el'e are also divergent views among -egarding th e iote rpretcllion of Philo's \\'l'itingli on this point. There are basically two
,..sides;" those w ho cons ider Philo's Logo.<~ a.<~ noth ing m ore than a way to expl'ei$
C"...od's acti on in the world, e.g. Hurtado (1998, 44-18}, while o thei"S argue Ph ilo's
'logO$' s hould be regBrded as a h)rpos.lilsi ~. e.g.,. Wolfron (1947, \'OI. 1. 231252). See
alo;o Hannah 1999, n-83.
426 See Ott Dmum; 1.190 quoted aOOve.
427 See also Col.son/ Whitaker. l930, 0Jt SoWridy 65, h)Otnll te a, p. 478.
428 See also H11ywa'd 2005, 169172.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


Thus, Jacob/Israel is presentet.i as a role model in virtue w ho has ob~

tained the most precious spiritual gift, the ability of seeing God as a
reward.419 Philo presents a similar interpretation of the LXX Gen 32:28
in Oullle Cltangeo[Names 44-45, Rl -82:
(44-45J And ~o those were fitting word$ which were said tu thl~ victorious
wrl>Stler when he was <llx)ut to be cr<lwned with the garlands of triumph
( .. . 1 To win ho nour in both s pheres, in o ur duty bo th towards the un
created and the <:reated. requires no petty mind. but one who stands in
very truth midway between the wurld and Cod rbut a<; fo r One which (if
one must speak the truth) lk>$ as a boundary between the world and God
(K<X, ~ou Kni Ol;uV pt6<1Qiuu) ... ). 1
[81821 ... The task of him who sees Cud is nut to leave the sa cn.~ a re~
na uncrowned, but carry of the prizes of victory. And what gou land mure
fitting fo r ito; purpose o r of richer flowerS could be woven fur the victo rious
soul than the power which will enable him ttl behold the Existent with
dear visiun? Surely that is a gl oriou~ 1,>uerdo n to offer to the athlete !>(ml,
that it should be endowed with eyes to apprehend in bright light Him Whu
alo ne is worthy of uur contemplation.

As shown above, Philo depicts Jacob/Israel after the victory at Jabbok

as a boundary figure, a mediator between God and the created world, a
fu nction that Philo elsewhere ascribes to the 'Logos':

I Who is fit!! Ndr 205206) To

His word, the chief mes..o;enger highl>St in age

and hunour ['t<;, t>i: ci:QXHyyfA<~' ta.tlmJtnt3uTth<~ A6yc~': To H is archangel
and eldest Logos&l1], the Fatht>r of aU has gi\'en the .s-pecial prt~ rogative, ft)
stand at the border and separate the creature from the C reator. This same
Word both plead$ with the immurt<ll as !.'Up pliant fo r the afAicted mortality
and acts as ambassador of the ruler to the subject. lie gloril!S in this prt~
rogative and pr(ludly dt~Scribes it in thl!Se wor(l~ 'and I s tood bl!hveen the
Lord and you (Dt?ut v.S), that is neither uncreated as God, nor created as
you, but midway betwet:!n th~ two extremes, a :,Urety to buth sides ... m

ln this text, Philo defines the 'Logos' as a supplian t and describes it in

priestly categories, a role that he also as._<rigns to the people o f Israel;
Israel is the priestly nation, representing God in the world.~33 However,
in contrast to jacob/Israel, the 'Logos' is to be " neither uncreatcd as
Cod, nor created as you [humans) ... "u.~ There appears to be a close

429 See a lso Ou lltt' MigmtWn ofAbttJiunn 20020 I.

430 Eng. lran.s. Ha)ward 200.S, 162.
4.)1 Eng. lran.s. Ha)ward 2005, 16.1.
4.12 See also Philo's interpretation of Genesis IS in Oulf~t Migralio11 of Abt1tllflm 17317..,
w here Lhe 'log.l')!;" is idenlified with the 'divine name .1ngel' of Exodus 23. a ., On
Fligltlellld Fiuding I 12.
4.3.1 See e.g.,. Ou !It~ EmfMssy to Gaite,; 3-4. See also Willia mson 1989. 119-121.
434 Seeals.oWilliamson 1989, 119121.


4. The Angel of the Lord - Early Jewish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

connection between the 'Logos' and the nation of Israel in Philo's \"-' l'it
ings..f..1.5 Indeed, in Ott Jl;e Cmifusiou of Tongues, 146, the 'Logos' itc;elf
carries the narne of Israel, a name that Philo throughout his \Vritings
interprets as meaning 'one who sees (God)' :~:li!
But if there be any as yet unfit tu be called a Son of Co<)d, let him press to
take his place under God's Firstborn, the Wo rd, whu holds the eld erShip
a mung the angels, their ruler as it were l.. 'Ti>V tiyyi:Ac..w nQur~lJ'tun>V. ,;.,.;
th> t.1Qx(tyytAov: the eld est uf Hi.:; angels, a.'> the great a rchangeJU.l - And
many names are his, fur he is called, "the &ginning," and the Name uf
Go d, and His Word, and the f\1an after HL.; ilnage. and " he that sees,N that
is Israel( ... i, i)(!c~w, l u(.H"-'''A]:".ill

According to Philo, it was this 'angel', the 'Logos',. who bestowed the
name Israel o n Jacob. Moreover, the reason that jacob, even after his
renaming as Israel, is on occasio ns still called by his o ld name-1' 9 is due
to the fact that the new name was given to him by an angel, and not by
God Himself; in contTast to the case of Abraham:
{On the Clwuge oJ Naml!'S 87] .. .Therefore did Abraham in token of the tWtm
tenor of his future tife r~ive h is new name fmm Cod, the unchangeable
( ... 1 But jacob was re-named by an angel. Gt)d~s minister, the Word, in aC
kn()Wiedgement that what is below the Existent cannot pro duce pem"ta
nrnoo un~werving an d unwavering ...

Thus, the ' Logos'/angel is in this context distinguished fro m God. Ac

cording to Ha}n..vard, in identifying Jacob's opponent in Genesis 32 as
an angel, Philo was most certainly dependent on text witnesses of the
LXX Gen 32:24, which spe<:ify u,at it was an angel w ho wrestled with
the patriard1.4411
As rnentioned previously, according to Gen 28:11,. the stone which
jacob_used as a pillow during his nightly sojoum at Bethel is allegori
cally interpreted as representing the divine ' Logos' in Ou Dreams 1.128.
In this context, Philo briefly refers to Jacob's wrestling bout at Jabbok
and identifies this 'Logos' as Jacob's contender. As his teacher and
trainer/ the 'Logos' disciplines jacob and rewards him by giving him
the new name Israel- he who sees:

435 See a lso Wolfson 1947. vol. I, 377379, G ie~hen 1998, 111112, and HiuUMh 1999, 88
436 For a full ILc;t of references, liee th~ 'Index of name!>'; ' lsrlk'-1' in Philo, vol. X, lCL,
1962. 334.
4J7 Yonge's tran.c;Jation.
4J8 Cf... Col1: 15 17and Heb 1:13.
4.19 See, e.g. \A"-n 34:3; 35:1 IS; 37: 1. 34; 48:23.
440 H.:lyward 2005, 167.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


(011 Drewus 1.129) The divine wurd readily listens to and accepts the athlete
(Jacob) tube first of aU a pupil. then when he has been satisfied uf his fi tness of nah.tre, he fastens <m the glove..; as a trainer d t>es and summons him
to the exercises, thi!n clOSl$ with him and fur<."eS him tu w restle until he has
d eveloped in him an irresistible s trength, and by the b reath t)f d i vi n~t inspiratio n he changes ears into eyes, and g:ives him when remodeled in a new
funn the name of Israel-l-Ie who St~e.s.

Since the ' Logos' in Out!Je Catifusiou of Tongues 146 is designated by the
very same titJe, ~Israel', that is given to Jacob, Gicsdlcn suggests that
Philo may have understood the renaming of Jacob as the 'Logos', i.e.,
the angel Israel bestowed his O\Vn name upon the patriarch.u1 Because
of the close connection between Jacob/the nation Israel and the Logos'
in Philo' s mindset, o thers, for example, \'Volfson and Darre11 D. Hannah, in terpret the 'logos' in this context as the guardian angel of Israel.
the archangel Michael."'
Although Philo does not explicitly offer any such specific identifica
tion of Jacob's contender in On Dreams 1.129, it seems implied that the
' Logos' is to be u nderstood as an angel. akin to those o thers
A6ym/'angels' mentioned in the context.443 However, as discussed
above? sdlolars differ in the interpretation o f ' the archanget the Lord'
w ho, according to OH Dreams 1.1 57, addresses Jacob from the top o f the
ladder in his dream at Bethel. some identify him as God in person/ o th..
ers as the Logos' .
In the same way as the biblical account, the name of the antagonist
remains unknO\\'ll in Philo1 s interpretation o f Genesis 32, w hich may be
illustrated by his discussion of the narrative in On Ihe Change of Names
So impc,,s,sible to name indet:!d is the Existent that not even the Pot('nd\!S
who serve Him tell u.s a pruper name. Th us after the wrestling-bout in
which the Man l>f Practit.-e [Jacob) eng:aged in his q uest of virtue, he says to
the un.o;een [cmQt1n,_,J ma..;-ter,.4~ "Announct'! to me Thy name," and he said
"\!Vhy do~t thou ask this my name?"' (C'ol!n xxxii. 29), and he refuses to tell
his personal nam\! f... t O i61uv u:Uf.?lO\'}. "(t is enough fl>r thee,N he
mean.'>, "to profit thn)ugh my benediction, but as fur names, those symbl>ls
which indicate created beings_, look nut fo r th~tm in the case of ilnperishable
naturns." (<fuJo mv {1<J)OUQnn.;] Think it nut then a hard saying th<lt the
Highest of all thing..-. should be unnamable ( ... Tb "f(~ Ovno.N 11Qt<~U Tc:tTov

44l Gies.chen t 998. 112. Cf., Pirq2de Raflbi EJj~"ZCr 37.

442 \VolfSl"'ll t9<17, vol. I, 376-379, Han nah 1999,88-89.
443 See also Hayward 2005. 172-177.
4<!4 \ \mge h a...<; he re: 1141'..And indc<ed, lhe liv ing Cod is so co m p letely indescribable, lhal
even those pov.ers which minis ler UI\ I O hint do lll"'l annom\<:e his 1woper Jhlme h"' us
( j he IJaoobl s..1ys hl the invisible Master ..."'


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

dQ(H)Tov . .. J when His \Vord has no name

its own which ,.,.e can speak

(lmbu b ..\6yu~ nlmni Kt..Vil~~ bvb~n n u ti Qq"tt'>~ 1))-livJ. And indeed if
J-fe is unnamabte He is also inconceivable and incomprehensible. {Yc.mge
translates: .. .But as fo r name.o; which are the symbols of created things, do
not seek tu find them among immortal natures. Therefore du not dou b t ei
ther whether that which is more ancient than an y existing thing is indescribable, when his very wmd is not to be mentitmed by us aceording to its
proper name ... )
And so the wurds ''The lord was seen uf Abraham'"' (Cen xvii. l) mus t
not be understood in the sense that the Cause of al1 shone upon him and
appeared to him.. fur what h uman mind could cuntain the vastne.o;.-. of that
vision? Ra th~ r we mus.t think uf it as the manifestation of t)ne of the Po ten
des whkh attend him ...
( )f

As in the Bible, Jacob's opponent refuses to reveal his name. According

to Philo, the reason for the refus.:1.l is that names are syrnbols indic..1ted
for created beings and those of imperishable beings are not to be asked
tor, i.e., both God and his ministers. Th us, the ''man" w ho con fro n t~
jacob at U1e ford of jabbok is here clearly identified as o f a supematur
a), celestial natu re and origin; it is the 'Logoo' of God. but not God in
person. Ronald Williamson interprets the passage to imply that Philo
u nderstood Genesis 32 to mean that since God is u nnamable, Jacob's
request is denied, but even if God in His essence is beyond human
comprehension, man is able to receive H is blessings.4-U
According to David Runia, Philo d istinguishes here between the
'logos' and God. The 'Logos' is said to have a personal and proper
name (rO lbtov Kai 1<\)Qwv), although he refuses to reveal it, but God is
unnameable. Moreover, there is a difference between God, who is de-picted as 'indescribable'/ d()Qt)TO~ and the 'Logos', whose proper name
is "not to be mentioned"loU Q11<Tix;.44n In this con text we may also ron
sider Philo's statement in On the Confusion ofToJJgues 146 that the T...o~
gos' has many names, while God is essentially nameless. COli is be)'Ond
human comprehension but the 'Logos' is God's ''face" turned tov,.rcud
humankind, His means of communicating \'lith the world ..t.~'
The 'Logos is depicted as 'the unseen Nfaster', i.e., he is invisible to
jacob, but this may be explained by the fact U1at the battle took place at
night, thus the appearance of the opponent w..1s concealed by dark

44.5 \\riUiamson 1989, 86--92.

446 Runia 1990, Xl iS.
4-47 See Williamson 1989, 105109, 11312S,.lnd Runia. 1990, 1. 9 .
418 See Ge1\ 32.."2224, 26 and Colson/ Whilake r. fOI')Lnote a {Ou tftr Clumg!!of Names), 1934,
1 50~ 1 5 1.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


After his paraphrase of Gen 32:2930, Philo compares the two pa

triardls Abraham and Jacob to eadl other and claims that, sin ce it is
impossible to truly see God, neither of thern encoun tered God in per~
son b ut that it was one o f Cod's potencies who manifested themselves
to them. However, it is notc\"'orthy that in lhe c..lse of jacob 's antagon~
ist, he is portrayed as d istinct from 'created beings', compare Philo's
description of the ' Logos in Wl1o is lile Heir 206 a nd Ou Fligirl and Find
itrg 1.203205.

Philo and the Prayer of Joseph

Many scholars have pointed out parallels between the Prayer of joseplr
and the Philonic corpus. An obvious one is the e tymology of Ule name
Israel, which is explained in both cases to signify the seeing Qf God.
However, while the Prayer of }oseplr explains the name to mean 'a mau
w ho sees God', Philo always omitc; the word 1 man' a nd employs a
shorte r fonn of the etymology, i.e., 'he/the one w ho sees (God)'.
The reason for Philo's omission of the word ' man may be that he
wished to loosen the epithet from its origin al context, i.e., the " histori
cal" patriarch's renaming a t Ja bbok, in o rder to open up fo r a more
abstract employment of th e name. As already shO\\'ll, 'Israel' is also the
title that Philo assigns to the 'logos' in Orr lire Cmrfnsion ofTorrgrn-s 146.
In this light, it is noteworthy that although the Prayer of Joseph re
tains the word ' man' in itc; ely mology of the name, the Jacob/Israel who
speaks in th e Pseudepigrnphon has apparent simila rities v~.rith Ph ilo's
' Logos' . Indeed, the description o f jacob/Israel in d1e Prayer of Joseplr
parallels in many ways Philo's depiction of the ' Logos', which may be
demons tTated by a comparison between the Pseudepigraphon and nvo
Philonic passages:


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish ln tetpreta tion..c~ of Genesis

Prayer ofJoseplr


(Fragment A) "1. Jac:xJb, who is speak (On the Confusion of Tongues 1461 But
ing to yn u, am also Israel, au angel of if there be any as yet unfit ft) be called
a Son<)( Cud, let h im to ta ke his
Coli ;md a ruling spirit.( ... ]
pJace unde r God's Firstborn, th~
But, I. jacob, who me n call jaet)b but
Wurd1 who ho lds til ~ eldcrslrip amtmg
whose na m e is lsrt1el a m he who God tlte tmgels, their nrler as it were
<:allt!d lsra(!/ wh ich mean s, n man
(... Tb v Uyyl:AcoJV nQtuPlJTln:uv, c~>;
set iug Cod, because I a m the firstbom itv t:\Qx_ciyytAcJv: the eltlest of his
of every Jiving thing to whf)m God
a flgds, as the grctlf trrcluwge/4,-.,). And
g ives li fe.~
many names a re his, for ht,e is called,
"'th('!" Beginning," and tht! Nam e of
C ud, and His \Vord, and the Man
after His image, an d " Ire that sees, ..
that is ls rtuof ( ... t, ''tx~v, lo<,xu)AJ.
And when I was coming up from
Syrian Mes<)po tamia, Uriet the angt~ l
of God~ came fo rth and said that I had
descen ded to earth (. .. J He e nvied me
a nd fo ug ht with me [.. . )

[Ott Fligllt mu1 Findiug 101 J The Divine

I Uacob/ ls raelJ ft)Jd h im [the op pt,J..
ne-.n tJ h is na m e and , ., hat rank he held Word_, Who Ls l1iglr nbove till these
a mu ng the son.s <>f Cud . Are you n ot (the po we rS)( ... J Ht! is Himself the
image of God , clti~fest ofall Beings
Urid , lh t~ ~ iJi:hlh after m e? a nd I.
lsmt l, til~ llrcltaugel of the power of
[... Jplaced nearest (. .. J to the Alone
tltt Lortl a nd the chief ctlptt~iu tm1oug truly Exis tent One. Fo r we read: "I
the sous of Gml? Am I not lsmt l, the will talk to yuu from above the Merfirst mitristcr before tht! fa ce of Cud ? C)'Seat, betw~n the tw u Che rubim"
( Ex. xxv .21) wurds which she w while
f.. ]"
the Wort/ is til(! charioteer of the
Powers, l-Ie who talks (God ] is seated
in the c.hari<ll .. . tSl

449 cr.. Col 1:15 17. See al!iO Smith 196-Cl, 268, tmd Gieschen 1998. H O.
450 Yongc's tran.c;Jalion. See a lso Wile) is I he Heir205 .md Ou Dn>r~ms 1. 157 tlUOied above.
451 St.--e al<;tl Ou lite CJ1e111Mm 2728. where lhe ' Logos' is depicled as standing belween rmd
uniting the lwo Cherubim, reptesenting C.od's higheS-t pt>\''e rs. His g<mdne..c;s, and Hi.<~
Stwereiglll)'. However, hl \1!/ltc) t; lite Hdr 166 God Himself occupie.c; lh is position.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


As shown, many of the epithets that Philo as..c;:ign.s to the 'Logos' correspond closely to/are identical to those given to jacob/lsr~1el in the Pmyer
of Joseplt, fo r example, 'archangel'~ ' firstborn', ' Israel', i.e., ' the man who
sees'/'he w ho sees', 'the archangel o f the power of the Lord' /'the charioteer of the Powers'.m' Ho\vever.- Philo also employs tem1s not found in
the Pseudepigraphon, e.g., he labels U1e 'Logos' as ' the man after His
[God's ! image'.
An additional connection between Philo's ' Logos' and the angel Jacob/Israel in the Prayer of Josep!J may be that Uriel in the latter work is
depicted as lite eig!Jlh in rank, '"'' h ilc Jaoob/Isr.-.el is 'tl1e archangel of the
power of the Lord'. Philo assigns a similar title to the ' Logos', which he
declares to be 'the d1arioteer o f the Powers'. When commenting o n the
LXX Exodus 25 in Questions and Answer.s on Exodus 2.68, Philo describes
the ' Logos' as part o f a sevenfold hierarchy in whidl God h~1s the p rime
position and the 'Logos' the second highest. Possibly.- the author of the
Prayer of Jasepll also had such a heavenly hierarch y in mind and placed
Uriel o utside " the inner-circle o f seven'' bu t this conclusion remains
hypothetical; perhaps there is only a "superficial'' similarity between
the terminology of Philo and d1e author of the Prayer ofJoseph.
However/ it is evident that both of them agree in ascribing to Israel
the status o f the highest angel b ut they arrive at this conclusion b}' d iffe rent routes;.t.u Philo never depicts the pntrinrdt Jacob as an (incamated)
angel. In his works.- it is the ' Log<:>S' that inhabits this position. The de
scription of the conflict at Jabbok as a confrontation between two rival
angels, Uriel and Israel. in the Prayer of Joseplt has no counterpart in
Philo's exegesis:m
The only similarities between the elaborations on Genesis 32 pre
sente..i by Philo and the Pseudepigraphon are the fact U1at Jacob's o pponent in both cases is iden tified as an angel, Uriel and the Logos'
respectively, and the etymology of the name Israel. However, in Philo's
works, the name ' Israel' is generally described as a reward, Jacob has to
bt>come Israel ;, order to see God, it is not a quality he possesses from the
outset."-;. >;
Based on these parallels and d ifferences, there is no dear anS\'I!er
regarding the relationship between Philo's authorship and the Prayer of

452 S..~e a lso Smith 1968, 267, and Bitnbaum 1996,75-76.

453 See Hayward 2005,206--211, 2 15-217, and Sm ith OTP. vol. 2. 1985, it\ lroduction. 7\14.
454 See a iJ'O Ha>ward 200.1), 200-207, 215-216. For a det.l iled di.c;russion of the Pra!f~' of

/OStplt, see dlapter 4.2 alxwe.

4SS A n exception to this " rule"'. l\01\'ever. is Philo's statement in lhe l'tiSt~rity 1md Exift of
Cain 63. See also H!l)'\Vetrd 2005.201-208, 216-217.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

}osep!J. The latter rnay be contemporary with Philo's works but that

does not imply any inter~depende nce between them. Philo both might,
and might not, have known the composition. Most probably, both Philo
and the author of the Pra!f" of joseph built u pon common jewish traditions regarding the etymology o f the name Israel and angelologyi tradi
tions pre-dating bo th of them. They had a common religious heritage
but used it differently in their respective authorships::.t.
The Blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh
Regarding the interpretation of jacob's blessing of his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, Philo has three references to Jacob's words in Gen
48:1516 relevant to the present thesis. The first is fou nd in Allegorical
lnlerprelaliotl 3.177-178:
Now tho..;e uf whom we have been speaking p ray tu be fed with the word
of Cod. Bu t jacub? looking even h igher than the wurd, says that he is fed by
God Himself. He s-pea k.~ o n th is- wiSt~: "Tht? God to Whom my fa thers Ab
raham and Isaac were well pl t~as-ing. the God V.'ho feedeth me from my
youth up unto this day, the Angel wh{) d elivered me out of all my ills_ bless
these boys" (Cen xlv iii.15f.). HtW' beautiful L.; his to ne and temper! He
kK">ks e,m God as feeding h im, not His Word; but thtt Angel, who is the
Word, as healer uf iUs (.. .) He thinks it meet and right that He that IS
should Himself in His uwn Pen;on g ive the p rincipal boons, while His An
gels and \Vurds give the secondary g if ts; and St:ondary are such as involve
riddance from ills f .. ) Nuw His {Cod's) mode uf dealing is the same in the
case of the soul. The good th ings, the food. He Him~ lf be..,-tows with His
o wn hand, but by the <lgency of Angels an d Words such as invQive the rid
d ance o f iHs.

In this allegorical interpretation of Gen 48:15-16, Philo d istinguishes

between the 'angel'/the 'Logos' and God . It is God who bestows the
prime benefits upon the soul, w hile the 'angel' gives the secondary
giftc;, such as d eliverance from ills. God and His angels have d ifferent
roles in relation to the pious. Thus, Philo identifies the 'angel' in Gene*
sis 48 with the 'Logos', who is here portrayed as subordinate to God
and distinct fm rn Him.
In both of the other two references, Ou tire Confusion ofTongut"S 180
182 and in Ou Fliglrl mrd F;udiug 61>67, we encounter similar interpreta
tions of Jacob's words:

456 See Haywa1d 2005, 2162 19, and Smilh '1968, 259260. See also Bimb.1um 1996, 72 90.


4.3 Philo of Alexandria

(On/he Confw;iml oJTougu'S Hl0-182) ...God is the cau~eof good thinWi o nly and of nothing a t all that is bad, s ince He Himse1f W<lS the most ancient
of being..'> and the good in its most perfect fo rm [.. .) b ut that the cha~tist!
m~nt of the wicked should be aS$ured through His underlings. My though
ts are attested al:;o by the w ords ( )f him Oaa )bl whu wa.o; made perfect
thruugh practice? " the God who nourished me fn)m tn}' yo uth, the angel
who sav~t me fn)m all evilo;c [... ) f()r he, too, hereby confesses that the tru
ly good gifts, which nouris h \irtue-luving souls, are referred to God alone
as their Ci-l uSe. but ( m the other hand the p rovince of things evil has been
a , mmitted to angels( ...). Tl~ reft)re he says, "Co me and let t LS go dm.,n
and cunfound th~ m ."~"' The impious indeed deserve to have it a~ their punishment, that Cod's benefi cen t and merciful and bountiful powerS shuuld
be bmught in association with W<)rk~ of vengl!ance. Yet, though knowing
that punishment was salutary fo r the human race, He d ecreed that it
should be exacted by uthers ..."'~
[On Fliglrf flntl Fimlfu.~ 66-671 ... He [God) punishes n()t by His t)wn
hand ~ b u t by th o~ of others who ad as His mini~te rs (... )The Practiser (Jacob) testifies to what I say in the wo rds, "Cud who nourishes me... (q u()ta
tio n nf Gen 4S:1516J He a::;crib...~ to Cod the more important good things.
by which th~ soul is nu urished, and the les.~,; impo rtant, which C()me about
by escape from sins, to God's minister.

In the same "'.ray as in Allegorical lulerpretatiou 3.177178, Philo uses

Jacob's \VOrds when bles..-c;:ing his g randsons to support his claim that
God is the giver of goodness only and cannot do anything evil, not
even pu nish..t""' Instead, He has appointed this task to His ministers,
the angels. It is notcv,,rorthy. t-hat Philo in On the Confusion ~if Tongues
181 interprets the scrip tural plural o f Gen 11:7 "Come, Jet us go
down ... '' as referring to God' s pov,rers/angels. ln this context, Philo
supplies the same explanation of the use of the plural fo rm in the ac-.
count o f the creation o f hu mankind (Gen 1:26):
[On the Cunfus ion tifT(Jngucs 178179] tvlan is practicaUy thi! tm1y being whc)
having know l t~dge uf good and evil often ch uu..;:t?S the wurSt I ... J Thus it
was meet and right that when man was formed, God should as..sign a share
m th~ wmk tQ HLs li t~u t~na nts, as He d oes with the w()rd~ let us make

457 The reference i$ to Cen 11:7.

458 The tr.ansl.ltors Colson and Whitaker ( 1932,. 110. note a) have a comn\elll

l) n


Philo here seem. <1 to assign the work of punishment 10 Lhe lower divi.<~il.)n of lhe mi
nisters rather lhan to !he Potencies, though elsew h,~re he tr~~ats it as belonging to lhe
Kingly Potency indicated by lhe name o/6 Kl-'Qto.;, e.g.., Dt Abr.l44, 145. Here the
.. angel$"" have lhe w hole province of e\ril assign...>d lo them. whether to save them
ft'Om it. as with Jacob, or 10 inflk~ it.
459 ~ea ls.oOnHusJumdry 128-129.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

m t!n/' tha t ~() ma n's right actit)nl> might be aHributa ble to Go d, but his sin.s
to o thers. Fur it St~m ed unfitti ng to God the Allrule r t hat the road to
w ickedn ess w ithin the reasonab le soul should be o f His m aking. a n d therefore He d e legated the f() ml ing o f t his part f() His inferi()Ni . ..~

Because God is the o rigin of good only and human nature encompasses
both good and evil, Philo declares that God tvas assisted by H is ser
vants in the creation of human kind, a statement t-hat cornes perilously
d ose to the 'two powers-heresy' combated by the early Rabbis, al
though Lhe Rabbinic interpretation of the same passage explains the
plural by saying that God consulted the angels.461
Concluding Remarks
Gen 31:13 as re.:orded in the LXX is a key verse for Philo's theological
ICen 31:13) ... tyc;, Li~ (1 fh:6t; i) <'KIJOtl:; o(n i:v t6m~, Atc:(JiJ... I 1 a m t he

God that appea red t<:. yC~u in t he pJace of Cod .. .

According to Philo, the God (in the definite fo rm) here refers to His
' Logos', i.e., 'god' in the indefinite form. Philo's cornment Qn this verse
implies that God initially appeared to jacob through u,e 'Logos'. The
' logos' is identified by Philo as the angel of the Lord, the image of God
and the divine viceroy. However, his in terpretation of the verse is not
enti rely in agreement with his comment on Genesis 2R since, according
to Philo, Jacob's dream showed God standing above the ladder, indicat..
ing that he is the lord of all creation.
The sun as "veil as the word ' place' is said by Philo to S}'mbolize
both God Himself and the divine 'Logos'. It is noteworthy that the
word A111iq0m/'place' denotes God as the Omnipresent in some Rabbinic

4(,0 See a lso Ou lf1~ O'llliml 7275. If we Cl"'nl'inue to read On Fliglll and Fiudiug (68-70)

\ '/e

find the same explanation of the use of the plural hwm in .::onrM.<tion with the Cl't!<l
riml of huma1t kind.
46t Sl.>ee.g .. C"..-'11. R4b. 8.4; b. 5!tJiitt'.ltriu38b, and Tg. Ps.J. Gen 1:26. However, the Rabbi.<~
s-ll'ongly opposed the notion that God ltaJ hd11 in the neaHon. See al.~o Segal 19n,
176177, and FO$sum 1985, 198-21 I. llte re are als..""' pass.tge.~ in Philo' s works tJMt
seem to ron t adk~ hL~ "dllCtrine"' of Cod a" Ute oigin of goodness l"'nly, e.g., Alit
g.,;..-.ti intt>rJIYefaJiml 3.1MI06. See a l$1) Wolfson 1947, \'01. I, 282. 349, and 382. lt
must a lso be pointed out lhat, although olCCOI'<Iing to, e.g., 011 tf1r C.mfllsilm iJf
Tmgtet'S li81 79, God a.~signs the creati-on of lhe evil aspect of man to his serVBI\l<\,
God is still in control and ha..c~ the ultimate respl"'nsibility for lhe whole creation. thu..c~
there i..; no place for d ualis m in Philo' s lhi1\ See also \ViUiamson.. 1989, 44-IS.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


sources, an interpretation in line with Philo's understanding of the

word. 46:.!
To conclud e, Philo is ambivalent concerning who re"1lly addressed
Jacob at Bethel; it was either God o r His 'Logos'.
There is also a certain ambiguity in Philo's intcrpretalions o f Genesis 32. As shown above, in his commentary on the narrative in On the
Change of Names 1415, Philo denies that humans (including jacob) can
sec God but in other passages Jacob's " pri7..e" for "....-inning the batt le is
said to be the sight of God,4"' and Philo consistently interprets the name
Israel as signifyi ng 'one who sees (G01.i y. In Ou Dreams 1.79. Philo uses
the LXX rendering of the place--name Pcniel in Genesis 32 and writes
that jacob " passed by the appearance o f God [TO <lbo;; TOO emu)," a
reference that may imply that he interpreted the narrati ve to mean that
jacob had indeed seen God's face at jabbok. Moi'C()ver, as shown above,
there is an ambivalence between God and the 'Logos' in Philos por
trayal of the latter in his writings and, although the 'Logos' is sometimes depicted in angelic terms, it/he also appears Lo be something
more than an 1'ordinary" angel.
Regarding the first ambiguity, Philo's words in On Rewar~ts and
Ptmisltmenls 4344 may throv..r some light on Lhis issue:
But those, if such wen~ be. wh() have had the pl)wer tu apprehend Him
through 1-fim~el f without the co-operatit)n of any reasoning process tu lead
them tu th{! sight, must be n~cord ed as holy and genuine worshipperS and
friends of Cod in very truth. In their company is he who in Hebrew is
called Israel but in our tongue the Cod.scer who s~s not J-lis real nature,
{()r that, a$ I said i~ impossible-but that l-Ie IS f .. is denominated Israel. but
in the Grt.oek "set:!ing Ct.Kit not meaning by this cxpre.s.o;ion ::;eeing what
kind of being Gt)d is, fl)r that is impossible? as I have said before. but Set:!ing that ht! reall)' does exist... ... JIM And this knowledge he ha~ gained not
from any other source, not from things on earth ur things in ht!aven,( ... J
but at the ~;um mon.o; of Him atone who has willed to reveal His exi'i"tence as
a per$on to the suppliant (i.e., Jacob).416

Jacob has not been granted the ability to sec God's true natu re but God
Himself has revealed His existence to him, a statement that most
probably alludes to jacob's experience at the ford of Jabbok. Thus, ac
cording to Lhis passage, it seems that Philo interpretc; Genesis 32 in

462 S..~e fotexam ple Gc.-11. RtJIJ. 6$. 9 (quoted below in <:hapter 45).
463 E.g., OJ: Dntke-nut>sll82..&3 and Oulftt~ Ciumgt: t>/ NtJml'5 82. see quolations above.
46.J Yooge's transJatio1t.
465 \\mge has here: "' . .. nl")l having le.wnt this fact from a nyone ellle ( .. . j bul being in
st1-u<:ted in the fact by Cod himllell, who is v1iliing hl 1'eVeal his own exLc;tenre to his


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

terms of a revelation o f God, w ho had willed to" ... reveal His existence
as a person to the supplian t.''-1M
Rega rding the comparison be t\veen Philo's authorship and the
Prayer of joseph, it may be conclu ded that U1e descriptions of the 'Logos'
by Philo have many p arallels wi U1 the angelic portrayal o f jacob in the
Pscudepigraphon, as bo th are e nt itled 'Israel', 'archangel', etc. Howev
er, the respective interpretations o f Genesis 32 differ con.o;:iderably.
Finally, Philo's references to Jacob's words in Gen 48:1516 clearly
indicate that he conceived the a ngel in v. 16 as being d istinct from and
subordinate to God. According to Philo, the su perior blessings are
granted by God, the rescue from evil by His servant, th e angel.

4.3.6 Summary and Conclud ing Discussion

Basical1y, it seems as if the biblical ambivalence between God a nd His
angel, w ho Philo also called the 'Logos', is maintained in Philo's theo
logical syste m. Just as the identity of the angel and God is merged in
our pericopes, so is that of God and His 'Logos' in Philo's teaching .
However, Philo was not a systematic theologian. by modern sta ndards,
and there are certain incons istencies in his works, for example, the de*
p iction o f the ' Logos' varies.
Philo generally identifies the -'angel of the Lord' with the divine
' Logos', w hich applies to his a nalysis o f Genesis 16; 24 and 28. The only
exception is his interpretation of Genesis 22, ,.,.here neither th e angel
nor the 'Logos' is mentioned; the o nly heavenly actor is God in person.
Th e reason fo r this may be that the angel d oes not play such a distin~
tive role in the Aqet.iah, in contrast to Genesis 16. fn Philo's interpreta
lion o f Genesis 16, the 'Logos' a ppears to be d istinguished from God
but at the same time a clear distinction is made between "him" and
"created beings." Hagar believed that she had met God, but it was only
His servant. Philo contrasts Sarah a nd Hagar v,rith each other and, u n ...
like in H~1gar's case_.. God appeared in person to Sarah .
Philo's in te rpretations of the ' man' who confronts Jacob at Jabbok
are ambiguous. The "man " is ide ntified as the ' Logos', w ho is depicted
in a ngelic terms but at the same time the ' Logos' appears to be some-thing more than a " mere" angel. This is expressed by the new name of
jacob, ' he w ho sees (God)', ,, name that also belongs to the 'Logos'. In
many ways, the description of the ' Logos' in Philo's works parallels the


~e als.o Colc;on. fooh\Ot~ a

(On Rc;:~l!trdsmrd PJtlli~hmwt.;) 1939,338.

4.3 Philo of Alexandria


depiction o f the angel Israel in the Prayer of Joseph, although the p atriardl Jacob h imself is never u nde rstood as a n angel by Philo. It is the
' Logos' who is the supreme ardl angel. However, in On Dreams 1.157
God Himself seems to be design ated as ' the archangel', standing on the
stainvay in Jacob's dream at Bethel (Genesis 28). In Philo's treatment of
Genesis 28 a nd 31, the rela tionship be tween God and His ' Logos' is fa r
from clear. The word 'place' in Gen 28:11 is, for instan ce, said to refer
both to God a nd to the 'Logos' . However, in the case o f Philo"s interpretation of Gen 48:15- 16, 'the angel' is porrrayed as distinct from God.
The connection between ' the angel of t-he Lord' and the 'Logos' in
Philo's exegesis is o bvious but... as mentioned above, Ph ilo's ' Logos..
doctrine' is very complex and still an issue for scholarly discussion.
Many scholars maintain that although Philo calls the 'Logos' 'a
second G od/~r;; the ' Logos'/'the angel o f God' is essentially a man ifesta
t ion of the One God as He has d10sen to reveal Himself to the world.
For exam p le, in the words of Alan Segal:
Philo allows for the existtmce o f a second, principal d ivine creature, whom
he ca11s a "sEX<md God," wh-o neverthtd e.o;.'O is o nly the visible emanatiun uf
the 1-figh, C\'er-existing God. In doing this, he has an en tire-ly d iffenmt emphasis than th ~ rabbis. He is clearly fo llowing the Greek philo~ophers. Like
them, he is n~1 uc.1ant to etmceive o f a pure, eternal God whu pa rti cipab..~ d irectly in the a ffa ir:; t.lf the <-"orruptible wurld. Su h~ employs a system of
mediation by which G(x:i i::. able ft) reach into the tran..o;ient 'vorld, act in i t.~
fiH it.. a::. \V1l as transcend material exi~tence, withuut implying a dmnge in
HLs e::>sence ll So the logos, d efined a~ the thinking facu lty of C<>d, can
easily be described also as an incorporeal being( ...] The /t)go~ b~um es the
actual figure of Go d who appeani "like a man" in o rder that men may
know His prcsence.u.a

According to Hannah, Philo was a d evout Jewish monotheist... and he

maintains that in spil'e of h is o fte n very exalted language w hen speak
ing about the ' Logos', Philo always distinguished carefully between
God a nd His ' Logos'. As an example, Hannah refers to Philo's in terpre
tation of Gen 31:13 where the ' true God' is disting uished from tl1e ' Logos' by means of the defi nite article.~ The same v iew is stressed by
\'Villiamson, ""'ho conclu des tha t the 'Logos' is God's 'logos'/ it is the
u ttered or expressed lltougllt of God a nd thus not to be understood as a
separate, distinct being having its own d ivine ontological status. It is
generally ackn owledged that it \Vas Philo's belief in the a bsolute tran~
scendence of God that necessita ted his doctrine of the ' Logos, i.e., the
467 Questim1s and Answers om C.clll'Sis 2.62.
468 Segal 1977, 164- 165. See'!> whole chapter conceming Philo on pp. 159181.
469 Hannah 1999, 77-79.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

expression of God's communication with humankind. Th us, \Villiam

son argues that, although the ~ Logos' is often personified in Philo's
teaching. it sho uld not be mist..1ken fo r an independent personality.4711
Margaret Barker, however, claims that the Jewish philosopher in
fact considered the 'Logos' literally as a kind of a second God, a God
Philo identified with the divine \.Yisdo m and the angel o f YHWH:171
Barker questions Segal's statemen t that Philo actually derived the idea
of tl1e 'logos' fro m his exegesis o f Gen 31 :13 in the Septuagin t. Acco rding to Barker, Philo could hardly have invented the idea of a second
deity in the Hellenistic judaism o f his day. She claims that Philo proba
bly used Gen 3 1:13 as a proof text for something that he already believed in as a religious tntth.m
Barker also questions Segal's conclusion that Philo was following
the Greek philosophers. Even though Philo's theology is d ifferent from
that of the Rabbis, Barker argues that Philo \Vas not primarily depen
den t on Greek philosophy in his writings but drew his ideas of a divine
mediator from ancient }e\o"'ish beliefs, presenting his conclusions in a
Greek "costume."47l
I am not entirely convinced by Barker's line of argument, althoug-h I
also find it doubtful that Philo derived his ' logos-theology' solely from
Gen 31:13 but I am not sure that this is w hat Segal really means. Philo
was a Jewish leader in Alexandria, and I agree with Barker that it is
probable that his ideas were not unique but derived from his Jewish
context and heritage. Philo's great contribution was to express Jewish
theology in Greek terminology. Althoug h there is no doubt that Philo
was infl uenced by Greek philosophy, his works arc essentially }e\ovish.
It therefore seems to be an over-interpretation to daim that Philo and
his fellow Hellenistic Jews should have literally believed in a second
God. I tend to agree with Segal, who states that Philo's 'logos' is mere*
ly "the visible emanation of the High, ever~existi ng God."m


\'IHIIi.amson 1989, 103-l09, ll9 125.

Barke 1992, 114-133.
Barker 1992., 119.
Barke 1992, 1141 18.
Segal 1977, IM . In hi.<~ discussion of Philo's 'logos', Gieschen {l998, 112) seem..; to
h1we taken a p!>Silion liQme where between tlt;H of Barker and Segal, th ough ~lightly
closer hl the Jattel"s interpretiltion. He writes: N although the Wlwd is n1>l completely St'IMra le from God, Philo does u~e language thal indicate.<~ the Vv\wd is a d ivine hyposta.<~is with a degr~ of disJim'f pel'$0nhood ... " See .al$0 Hamlah 1999, n79.

4.4 Th~ /11dl'r1Jl A111iqui!ies by Flavius Josephus


4.4 The ]udea11 A11tiquilies by Flaviu s Josephus

4.4.1 Introduction

A vast amoun t of sd 1olarly books and articles have been written con
ceming Flavius Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, politician, and
general, active during the first cen tury C.:175 Since the focus of this
chapter is Josephus' understanding o f the angel of the l.ord in Genesis,
I "ill restrict myself to an o utline of Josephus as a Jewish ''theologian"
and interpreter of the Bible ...a76

Josephus as an In terpreter of the Bible

It was in Rome that Josephus wrote his fou r knmvn works; The Jewislr

War/Bellum judaicum (ca 75-79 C.E.), The judeau At1tiquilies /Anliquitales

judaicae (ca. 93-94 C. E.), and his autobiography Life/Vita, an append ix to
the latter work (ca. 95 C.E.). Finally, he wrote the polemical work
Against Apiou/Conlra Apionem (ca. 95 100 C.E.), generally regarded as
written in defense of the Jewish people and Judais m.m

475 See., e.g., Feldman's bibliogNphies: /fl5l1Jiuts a11d ..Hodl.'ftt Sdml;1rslup (J9.l7..SO). 1984,
and /i)U'111Uts: A S1lpple.t11eul.1ry 8iblitlgrf1phy, 1986. Feldnum has h imself w iuen/ediled
se\eral book..'! and olrtid es about Josephus,. e.g. /Ml'l111lt.<:. 1ft; Bible a11d HisWty, 1988. I
would also like to mention Molson's introduction in Flo1Vi!IS JosqJ!ms. Tnmsl.alim1 ttlld
C(t/1111/t'lllary, vol. .t Juderm AtllitJIIifit':i t 4 (ed. Mason,. tran.'l. and o::ommentn.ry, Fe ldman). 20()(}.l.. Xlli-XXXVI and the article "New a.ments in Josephus r,~seau:h," by
Bond in Ct.rmlls itt R;:seardJ: BibJi.:al Sludit'.-;. vol. S, 2000. 162 190. See al40 M.1son's
!i-UfVt>)' "Josephus and Juda ism," 2000b, 5<16-563.
4i6 Josephu..'l was born 1\.'1 Joseph ben Mauityahu in rhe ye.u 37/3S C.E. in jel'USale m,
w hich was also rh~ place of his upbringing. He was of prie.<~tly de~"'ellt, and on his
nllllher's !tide he beiMged to the roy<'~ I Hasmonean fa mily. According to Eusebius:
(HE 3.9.2.), he died in Rome. pnlbably around 100 C. E.. see also Sterling 1992, 235.
Aller JO$ephus" death the Roman.<~ deposited his works in the city lii>I'M')" and e1-ected
a ..'ltatue in his honor. For surveys of his life. see Bilde 1988, 13-22. 27-6(). Feldman
1992, 981998, and 2006, 313333, Sterlins 1992,. 229-2.)5, Schalit I<Jil, 25 1-264, At
t:ridge 1984, 185-192, .1.nd Bond 2000. 162178.
477 In .4111. 20.268, Jl)!;ephus mentions that he intended to w1ite yet Bl\Other work: On
C11~1oms .md CaJtSt'S, whe1-ein he would d eal with su ch theological issu es as the rea$0l'IS for the comm.lndmenl"',. the prMtice o f circumcision. e tc., see also, e.g., A111.
1.23, 29, 3. C)IJ. 230, 4.198. However, this work d oes not appear to luve been completed, see Feldman 1998, 205; 2(XX>. 10, note 34, and 2006, 333, Schi'u-er, vol. I {Iran.<:.,
rev., a'ld ed. Vemes a nd Millar) 1973,55-56, and Attridge 1984, 2 12. Bec.1use of his
deference to the Rom.aM and !itibSe!.luent affili.uion w ith the impe1ial f.lmiiy, Josephus' reputation amons his fellow Jews suffered, and his writings ha\'e survived


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

The source focused upon in this chapter is the Judemr Autiquities;o~'s

wherein all Josephus' rende rings of the relevant Genesis tcxts are to be
fou nd. I will therefore say a fev,r words in gen eral concerning this work.

T!Je aim and inleuded rendersllip of lite }udentl At~liquilies

l11c }udean Antiquities comprises twenty books and d eals with the hist<r
ry of the Jews frorn the aeation to the time of the Roman~)ewi'ih warY"
Roug hly ~'c first half of the work parallels the Bible and is a rewrit ing
of jewish history during biblical times.~~ As its title implies, Josephus'
aim in \"' riting the judeau AntiquUies was to prove the antiquity and
nobility of jewish people and religion. The virtues o f the b iblical heroes, Abraham, David, etc., a re c mphasized:un
As to the question of the intended readers of h is work, it is general
ly assumed that josephus wrote primarily for the Gentile, Greekspeaking world, w ith a somewhat ~'missionary'' a nd apologetic aim."112
In Josephus' own words:




mainly bec-.mse o f theil prest.'J'\'<llion by the early Cllur.:h. J t\~ph us' M 'ilings preoent
a unique and invaluable source of infMmatit'lO f\~gard ing, Jewis h society and hiS-tory
at the time o f the birthof<luistianity, see Bilde 1988, 15-l7,and Bond 2<XXt li7-J79.
See als.o f eldman 1992, 995-996.
Mo.<~t scholars lriut.c;late the title of this Wtll'k as the J~><~Ji.dt Auliqw'lil."!l. Ho\Y"ever, alcmg
with, for example. 1\Jas.on and Feldman., who$e trans lation I u ~ (fe ldman 2000a. ed.
Mason), I have chosen the title }lldtrm Anti.qJtitics. th us u.<~ing the d esignation 'Judean'
as refering ld the people of Jud ea. Compare other ethnic design.<llions; 'Egypti;m;
'Babylonian', no t to me ntion jo:sephu.'l' model. the /Wm:m Autiq11ili~":l. see below.
Although Jt>wi:;.h history begin.<~ with Abr.lham, JCI\.<'ooeph u..c~ follows the Bible a1\d
a..xordingly s tarts his wok w ith the cre-a tion. It is generally as.<~umOO th;l! Josephus
aspited to produce a Jewi.'lh counterpa rt to the Rmmm AntilJtilits by Dionysios of Halicamassus.. written about a cennuy e.U'Jiet and al'lo enc\lmpas.<~ing twenty books.. see
ThaC'keay's introducHon in fos..,ms, vol. rv. in the loeb series, reprinted 19i8, p. lX,
and Altsh uler 200S, 4957.
Mason 2000b, 556.
Set>., e.g., Bond 2000, 172-174, Bilde 198.1). 93,99-101, .md Feldman 1992.988.
There are dhergel\1 v iews amo ng schololrs as to \\'helh~ r ftdt'OII Auliq1tili!!S wa..c~ an
auem pt b y joseph us to ptol>elyci7.e. !\Jason and Feldmnn argue that by '''ritillg the }ti
ek't211 J\nliquilit':i, joseph us wanted to point out the attr.lCtit'lOS ,l( Judai.'>m to potential
OOJl W11S. s...-:.e FeW man 1998, 46-19. and Ma:.c;on 2000b, 553558. See also Bilde 1988, 99.
Other St.ilolars have dfiUb ted Jo.c;ephus miss:ion:uy'' inten tio n. see the s uwy ill Bond
2000, 1'721 74. A diffe1-enre betwee"~ Mason and Feldman is that the former has played
down the apologetic nature of the \\'t)l'k arguing tha t it is m.ainl) d irected ttl itl\ already
intere.<~lt->d ~nd sympathetic Gentile readel'$hip. Acco'ding to Mason (2000b, 556), the
/lede!i7JI Antiqtdlits may best be d escribed as" . .. a oom prehen.'>i\'e man ual tlf' prim er in
Judean his tory. law. and culture."' According: to G. E Sterling (1992. 302306). Josephus'
main putposo."! in witing the Judewt A11tiquilit-s was to gain 1'eSped fot the jewish ~ople
within the Crem-Romtm world and not hl pro.~Jyti.ze. as in .4g,tilfs.l Api.m.

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flavius Josephus


[Ant. 1.5-6) J h ave taken in h;md thi..s pre..;cnt tas k th ink ing that it will appear
to all the Greeks d eserYing uf studious <llten ti<)n,~!G for it i..s going to encompass our entire andent histo ry and constitution uf the state? translated from
the Hebrew writings (...] to reveal wh<l ~ Judean.s were frOn"l the beginn ing and what fortunes they experienced, under '"hat surt of lawgiver they
were trained as to piety and the exercise o f the other virtues .. :"~

The political constitution that Josephus refers to above is, o f course, the
Mosaic Law, the Torah, which he affirms is the most superb constitu
tion in existence.m According to Mason, Josephus' interpretation of the
Bible)jewish history has an evident priestly perspective; the ideal jewish government is theocracy, executed by means o f a priestly aristocracy.4llto
However/ in josephus' world view, the Mosaic constitution also has
a universal d imension; the God of Israel is also the God o f all human~
kind and He re'"'ards everyone '"'ho obeys His decrees and pu nishes all
w ho transgress thern:4117
I Anl. 1 :1 4) On the whole, one \lhO would wis h to read through it rthe Bi~

blel would e$pe<:ially learn frum this history that those who comply with
the will of Cod and do nt)t ven ture to transgress Jaws that h ave beL:.rt well
enacted s ucceed in aU things beyond belief an d th at ha ppines~ 1ie.s befo re
them a."'i a reward fr(ml God. But to the extent that they d is..:;ociate themselves frum the scrupulous ob~rvancl! uf these laws the p racticable things
becuml! impracticable, and whatever seemingly gO()d thing tht!y pursue
with zeal turns in to irremed iable misfo rtunes.4~

This "deu teronomistic'' theology penetrates josephus' in terpretation of

history. A major theme in his writings is the belief in divine providence
and justice exercised through the events o f world history."~~'~ According

483 )o.c1ephlL'I .c;pedficatly dedicalt->s his ,.,.ork to one of tlwse interes.ted Gentiles; "" ... there
were certain person.<~ curious abm11 the hL<~h)l)' who urged me h) pursu~ it, and
above aU Epaph.roditus, a man devoted to every form of le<uning,. but e..c;pecially intere..;t~d in the exp~rience...; of history. . :" fAll f. 1.81 See also Auridge 1984, 187. Cf. .-.1so the d edication fO Theophilus in tuke 1: 1-4 a nd Acts 1: I.
481 Unless olhe.rwis~ stated, I use the Englis h translation of th~ /Jtd~1Jl Auliqtilit:"ll by
Feldm<m 200()a.
485 Ani. 1. 14-26;- see a lso Mason 2000b, 554.
486 1\laSt-.n 2CXX)b, 554-555, 360.
487 Alt~gh josephus does nl""lt d eny llt.ll a speci.ll relBtions.h ip between God and l<~rael
exists, it is not stre..c;s~d in the /lld~m Anliquiltts and he never explicitly mentions the
ccweJMnt. Se~~ A ll ridge 1976,78-83.
488 See al110 Aul. 1.20: "God as the universal Father a nd lord Whl) beholds all things,
gra n l<~ h) s uch as follow Him a life of b1is.~ but involves in dire calamilie.'l lhose w ho
step out.<:ide lhe p.Hh of virtue."
489 See. e .g., Attridge 1976, 71-107, Stel'ling 1992, 295-297, .md Bilde 1988, 184-185. 1\laSOI\ (2CXX)a, XXII-XXXIV) lisL'I fl)ur major theme..; in th~ /ltd!!llll Auliqtdlits! the antiqui-


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

to Josephus, the Mos..1ic constitution is fou nded upon the laws of nature
and piety and is therefore universal and superior to all o thers.4'90
As a precedent fo r his rendering into G reek of the biblical history in
the judeau Auliquitit>s, Josephus rnen tions the LXX and refers to the
legend of its creation, a fact that also implies that his work was primari
ly directed towards nonJewish readers.Hl However, apart from the
intended Gentile audience, most scholars assume that Josephus also
had a Jewish readership in mind . Josephus' secondary aim may have
been to strengthen the Jewish identity among his feiiO\v Jews in the
Oiaspora and to wam against assimilation:m
17te sources fmd gmre of llze judeau AHiiquilies
josephus' reference to the LXX as a model for his work leads us to the
question of whidl sources he used when composing the biblic..1l pa
raphrase of the Judean AHiiquilies.J<n Most scholars assurne that Josep hus had at his d isposal biblical texts in bo~' Hebrew a nd Greek, possibly also an Aramaic Targurn, and that his usc of them v._, ried from
book to book. The facts that a multitud e o f text variants existed in Jose-p hus' time and that he did not transla te the b iblical texts literally, but
usually paraphrased and rewrote the biblic..1l stories in his own v~mrds,
make the whole issue very complex. Most likely, josephus made use of
a Greek biblical text but there are indications that it was not the LXX as
we know it today. The Hebrev~. text he had befo re him may have been a
d ifferent version from the later standardized MT.w.t

ty of Jewish t."ttlture. the M(-.s:aic law as an altemative political oon...:;titution. Judaism

as an altemative philosophy of life and the moralizing perspecthe on history. See al
so Schwartz. 1990. 176-200, Allridge 19-IW, 217227, and Betz 1987, 2 13-218.
490 Ant. 1.2124, see also Mason. 2000b, 5.~. and Bilde 198.1), 185 1fl7.
491 Ant. 1.9 13. See a lso Feld man 1998. 47; 1992..986-987, and Mason 1998,19-&>. ln Ant.
12.11 1 18, Josephus retells the s.tor)' of the oigin of the LXX as it is recorded in the

!eJt,r ofAristt!mo.
S(~e the survey in Bond 2000, 172173. nnd Feldman 1998, 49.1n llnl. 4.197, Josephus

in fact addres..c1es potential J ewi<~h who might encounter hi.<~ te):t, and A111.
1.88 also seems to be inteJl ded for an audience fam iliar with the biblical tradition.
See also Stel'ling, 1992..306307.
493 I will here limit myself to main!)' disclL<~sing the sources behind llle biblical part of
the work. s ince Josephus' account of lafer jewi.<ih hL<~tory is not of intere..'lt in the
present investiga tion.
494 Feldman 1992, 986-987. and t99S. 23-:36. According to Fe ldman, for hL<~ rendeing of
the Pe ntateuch. josephus probably used a Heb1-ew text and/OI' a (wrinen?)
A1amaic Targu m. See al:~o Auridge 1976, 29-38, and 1984, 211. According to the lat
ter (Attridge 19&1, 21l). the evidence fo r josephus' u..<~e of a Targum is very scant.

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flavius Josephus


josephus' mother to ng ue was Aramaic$ and although the earliest

extant Targum for the Pentateuch$ Onqelos, dates from the second cen
tury C. E.$ the rendering of biblical texts into Aramaic in the synagogue
sen rice is much o lder. Some scholars argue that$ in his rewriting of the
Pen tateudl, josephus was probably influenced by the Aramaic "transla
tions" which he may have heard every week in the synagogue. ~'<~5
As already pointed out, the judeau Anliquifies does not constitute a
literal translation of the Bible but is a free paraphrasing of its content
and includes a great deal of interpretati ve material. Therefo re. the d aim
of josephus in Ant. 1.17 has puzzled many o f hisreaders:
This narrative will. therdure, in due course, set forth the precL.;e details uf
what is in the Scriptu n~s aa.ording to its proper order. For ( pro mL..ed that I
\I:Ould do this throughout this treatise, n either adding nur umitting an}'

Since, in his retelling of biblical histo ry. josephus has apparently both
omitted certain episodes and in ten\foven a large number o f additions$4'*' his statement above has given rise to much discussion. Many
solutions have been proposed"'"-' and I \viii mention just a few of them.
Louis H. Feldman suggests that like the Rabbis, Josephus consi
dered it permissible to elaborate on the narrative parts of the Pentateuch b ut not to aher the biblical rommandments. Another proposed
explanation is that josephus included not only the w ritten Torah in
'Scripture' but also the Jewish tradition in general, the so~called o ral
Torah.'<M There is also the fact that josephus and his contemporaries
most probably understood the word 'translation' as includ ing interpre
tation. The modern concept of literal translation, verbatim, so to speak,
was unknown in Josephus' days. The Greek words Josephus uses for
' to translate', seem to encompass interpretation, p..uaphrasing and am
plifyi ng. To josephus, it was the co/1/elll of the biblical texts that mat

495 E.g. . Feld man 1992, 986-987, and 1998, 17,23-30, Schalit 1971,258. and ln.c;tone Brew
cr 1992. Ul3184. Reg.wding the scht")larly d iscu~si on l">f the ex:islcnc~ of synagogues

during josephus::' time, see ..chapter 2.

Se~ Fe.ldman 1998, 37-38. Ae<oding to Alii. 4.1%-19i, Josephus him~lf nclmowl
edged lhe restruchuing of the biblic.l l ma teial as his only tru~ innovation. See a !Jto...,
N iehoff 1996,44-45.
497 See F~l tima n 1998, 3946, Bilde 1988,94-97. and lnowlocki 20(15, 49-51.
498 Regarding lhe asgadic and lul.akhic lraditions in lhe /tedruu .4uliquilit'l>, some of the
mat~ri al can be found in oth~r extant source~. but there are a lso ~xampks of u1tique
t:radition."', only presel'\ed in Josephus' work. For mor~ inrorntalion. see Mason 1991,
330-333, Sc:hafil I<Jil, 257258, Fe ldman 1992.. 992.-99<1, cmd Sc:hwartz 1990, l i 0-171.

4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis


tered, not their extemal form ..woJ A comparison \Vith the rendering o f the
Bible in the Targums is appropriate."" All these theories seem fairly
reasonable and d o not necessarily exclude one another.
According to Feld man, the Judeatz Antiquilits shares many of the
d1aracteristics o f Midrash, e.g., the explanation of difficult passages~ the
addition o f details, In many ways the work may be classified as a
kind of ' rewritten Bible', as it retells the bibJical na rratives in its own
words. In tenns of literary genre, the }udeau Antiquities has many simi
larities with books sud 1 as Jubilt"t's and Liber Anliquitatum Biblicnrmtz .t~lz
Feld man argues that there are indications that Josephus and the presumably contemporary PseudoPhilo (LAB.) made use of a common
oral o r written exlrabiblicaJ source in their elabo ration o n Scripture.'~13
There are also extra~biblical paraJiels betv,.'ecn the content o f Josephus'
work and Jubilees as well as other A]X)Crypha and Pseudepigrapha,
such as 1 or 3 Esdras and the Wisdo m of Solomon.30' Feldman also
points out affinities between the Jrrdemr Antiquitie-s and the Rabbinic
~vfid ras h i nl .!it1~

The impact of Hellenistic literature, bo th jewish and pagan, on Josephus' works can not be exduded. Thus. the infl uence o f P hilo is ap
parent in Josephus' account o f the creation of the world.xo.; Henry St. J.
Thackeray argued that Josephus had hvo assistants w hen he composed
the latter part o f the }udean Autiquities, each o f them infl uenced by a

499 Feldman 1992,. ~986: 199$. 4246, .lnd 2006, 343-345. See .-.Jso lnowlocld 2005. 'o!S
65. Bilde 1988, 9597, and Sterlins 1992. 252258.
500 Feldman (1998, 17) propn_<;e$ that Josephul'!: used the Targum..<~ as models fo r his
interp~ t.l ti ve biblical pa'' Phmse in the ftdl!lw Atlliquiries.
SOl Feldman 1998, 16.
502 As s hown in chapter 2. the definition llf l\1idrash is much deb.1ted among scholars.

Porion does not classif) the lrdi'An Auliquilii!S as B Midas hic work. because in con
rrast to }ubila"f> and LA.B., th e former seems to be d irected to non-Jews {Porton
1992b, 72). However, in the lisht of Porion's own definition of Midrash as" . .. a type

of lite.r.nure, oral o r .,...riuen. which has its s tarting point in a fixed, canonical text.
oon..<>idered to be the rewa~ \\'Ord of Cod by the midrashist ,,nd his audience. a1\d
in \\hidl the original verse is explicitly cited or d eatly alluded to" (Porton 19i9, 112),
it could be etrgued tha t neither of the th1-ee work..c1 fits in. Sec also Fe ldman 1998,
141 7.

Fe ldman 1992,986. and 2006, 322323.

504 Feldman 1998, 5 1, 62~. See also Awidge 1984,212 .
505 Feldman 1998, 6573, and 2006. 322323. See alsoSchalit,. 1971. 25725$. According to
Fe ldman (1992.. 986). there are also parallel<~ between the Anliquilits .-.nd Mi
dralthim .1mong the Dead Sea Scrolls:.
506 Feldman 1992, 985989, and 1998, 5 156. See etlso Sclt <llit 1971,258, Ste rling 1992, 252
297. and Attri dgl~ 1984, 2112 16. Attridge (1976, 36, and 198-1, 2 11) is skeptical abl'lOt
)o.c1ephus ' alleged d ependence on Philo.

4.4 Th~ fudl'r1Jl A111iqui!ies by Flavius Josephus


different Greek a uthor.!X'G Th is theory has been refu ted by, for example,
Feldman, a nd Josephus himself d oes no t mention any assistantc; being
involved in the work.!O!
Finally, the personal imprint o f the a uthor on h is work must be tak
en into accou nt. Feldma n a ttributes seve ral elemen ts in the }udeatl Au
tiquities to the c rea tiveness of Josephus himself a nd, like all a u thors, he
was influenced by the environment in whid1 he lived as well as by
co nte mporary e vents and personal experiences. For examp le, Jose phus
emphasized the virtues of biblical heroes and exhibited a rationalizing
tendency, e.g., h is downgrading o f miracles, traits that according to
Feldma n may be related to the fact that he w ro te primarily for a non...
jewish audience.!1119 Josephus frequently employs the fo rmu la "concem~
ing such matters [miracles] Jet each one jud ge as is pleasing to him/ '!>111
a cornment also found in many other ancient h istorians' w ritings, for
example, Oionysius of Halicamassus.m However, the formula is not
due to personal doubts, as Josephus himself most certainly belie ved in
mirades, bu t a n expression o f courtesy towa rd h is pagan readers.5 1:
All in all, Josephus was clearly not a systematic wr ite r o r theo lo
gian, and h ie; writings d isplay a certain ambiguity to ward miracles. He
frequently p lays dO\vn the supernatu ral clemente; of the biblical sto ries
and SQme times omits them from h is n a rrative altogether, bu t he also
assures his reade rs o n several occ..1sions o f the historicity a nd accu racy
of the miraculous character o f the biblical narratives. Fo r example, Jo~
sephus testifies that he h imself has seen the p illar of salt identified as
Lot's wife, see Ant. L203

!,07 See TIMckeray' s int mduction in fos~pfws, vol. IV. xhxvii, 1978, in lhe Loeb seies.
508 Feld ma n t<m, 98S, 994995. See also lltshl ne Bre\~er 1992. 184 185.
509 Feld man 1998, 54-62, a nd 2006, 322323. Kosken.tiemi (200~. 279) arg.u es ttg:<tinst this
intt.>rprelalion of jl'l!'ll"phu$' writing.~ and s.t.ltes: " A skeptical pagan audien ce, which
JosephlL<~ wa s a llegedly concerned about. i.<~ the fant.l:.-y of some scholars. He did nl')l
write for skeptics; Olilei'\'IL'I~ he c~rtainly would have omilted more stories. and certain!)' he had nol added or e)(<~gger.l ted mir.lcles,. .1s he som~tin"'-"S does... Th~re Me,
however, ma ny examples in jo.<;ephus' rendering ol c,~ne.<~i.'l w here his ationalizing
tend~I'W.')' is evident, as will be shown.Jillustrated below, and it seems T~ason.abte to
assume thallhis is du ~ to lhe rultUI"..l l COI\Ie)(l in which he wmle.
5 10 E.g ... Alii. 1. 108, 3.$1, 3.322, 4.158. 10.28"1, etc.
511 Se~ a lso F~ldma1\ 1998. 209, and EJetz 1987, 212.
512 See Feldman 1998.210, and Beiz. 1987, 2 12 213.
513 ~e a lso Be11. 1987, 212-213, a od Mo~h.-ing 1973, 376--383.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish

lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Josephus - n Phnr;see?
As a teenager, Josephus decided to acquainl himself v,rith the three
Je,vish "sects"; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Es..c;enes. He also
spen t three years in the d esert with a certain he rmit named Barmus.
According to a common understanding of Life 12. Josephus finally decided to join the Pharisees, and the prai ominant view is that he either
was a Pharisee, or at least wished (for politica l reaso n.,~) to p resent h im
self as such.s1.a However, his Pharisaic a llegiance is a matter o f discus
Many sd10la rs have pointed o ut ideological diffe re nces behveen the
Jewish \.Var a nd the Judenu AtzliquiOes, bu t it is d eba ted whether the his..
torian 's attitude towa rd the Pharisees changed significan tly in the latter
In addition to Josephus' statement in Life 12, scholars h ave some*
times referred to other issues in o rder to '-'prove" h is a lleged Pharisaic
a ffiliation, for example Josephus' abovementioned exaltation of the
Mosaic Law, the inclusion of cxtra~biblical material in his writings, his
emp hasL'i o n d ivine providence, a nd h is belief in the resurrection of the
dead.r> 17
These arguments h ave a ll been refuted by Steve Mason, \"rho c laims
that Josephus' theological outlook may very well be seen as representing

514 See, e.g ... Feldman. 1992. 982. Fran);man ( 1979. 399) identifies Jo..;ephu..c~ as a Pharisee
based on his S-tatement il\ Lifi- 12 See a lso the S-Urvey of the discu..<ision in
Bond 2000, 170, Bilde 1988. 175, 189, Attridge 1976, 11-13, a1ld Masol\ 1991, 18-39,
515 See, e.g . Schwam: ( 1990, 170222) \Vho comments on life 12 s tating that the fact that
)osephu..c~ says that he conducts hi.c; life according to the n 1les of the Plt.:wisees does
not imply thn.t he c1.1ims to be a me mbe1 of tha t group. See also Ma..c;on 1991. 342-356,
and 2000b. 546-562.
516 The fact that Josephus often e); criticism of the Phtsrisee$ has gi v.::n rise to
qu~ti ons about his relations hip to the Sl'<>up. MaS~-m. for e)o;.lm ple, maintain..c; ll\olt Jo-sephu..<~' a ltitude hl the Phari~s was Largely negative, see the s urvey in Mason 1991,
18-39, and 18 1-195, 325 356. See also S..:hwart7. 1990, 170-216, and Bilde 1988, 173191. My supervisor Tord Fornberg susges.t..c~ that Josephus' attitude toward the Ph.l
ri..c;ees may be conn.."Cted to his relalion.c;hip to the different ''sd \OlliS"' with in the
Sl'<>up. f ul'lher, th<ll Josephus probably disliked the natil)nalistic "schoor' of Sh amntBi. w hich ha d tie.o; to the militant. 1-cl>elliou..o; groups in Jewish soc-iety. Afle1 the
war, this fraction losL its inRuence ove1 the people. The SUI'\'iving school of Hillel,
ho\~Wr, was more mode1a te and pacifistic. Josephus' more fa \'OI'<tble portray<~ ! of
the Pharisee.c; in his later works may thus be seen as hjs appnwal of the school of Hil
~1. See also fQrnberg 1988, 13, and Attridge 1984, 186,226-227.
517 See che AAJrvey in Ma!IOn 1991. 330-341. <tnd Bilde 1988, IS5-186. Bilde (t98S, 189)
writes thBt
Josephult rharis.aic' thoolog}' runs like a red tlll'ead th1'0uglmut his
works .. .N

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flaviu.'l Josephus


the general je\\rish view of his day. He also refers to studies showing
that jooephus' aggadic elaborations of the Bible point to a priestly rather
than a Pharisaic in fluen Moreover, because o f our relatively sc1nt
knowledge of the Jewish traditions of Josephus' time, it is difficult to
make an accurate evaluation of his writings on this point.5l'
As wilJ be shown in the following. Josephus appears to have shared
the Pharisees' belief in angels as independent personalities, distinct
from God.sw However, the belief in individual angels and d emonic
spirits was not restricted to this group but a more \Vide spread phcno
menon in Second Temple Judaism.m
Differences between Josephus and Hellenistic judaism represented
by,~ for example, Philo have also been proposed as indications of his
Pharisaic affiliation. One such d ifference is the lack of a teaching on
intermediary "hypostases," equivalent to the Philonic 'logos' .522 But, as
Mason writes,~" ... it is no longer possible either to distinguish rigidly
between 'Palestinian' <1nd ' Hellenistic' o r to equate ' Palestinian' and
'Pharisaic' ... "sn
Seth Schwartz concludes his analysis of Josephus' relationship to
the Pharisees by stating that in the ]udean At~fiquities he promotes the
emerging Rabbinic judaism and the early Rabbis as the post-war Jewish
leaders, a group related to, but not identical with, the Pharisaic move*
Harold Attridge argues that there are no clear connections between
the major interpretative themes of the Judeml Anaquith>s and the Phari
saic tradiLion.s2s If we arc to believe Attridge, Josephus' retelling of

51ft Mastln 1 99 1. ~335.

519 ~e a lso Mason 1991. 330-333, and Schw<li'LZ 1990, J7(t-171, h'K>ml"lle 1.
520 For a survey of the Pharil't!lic "d octrine" of ang,~ls, see Fi1t kel:>tein,. 1929, 2.35-240, in
NeuSJl,~r 1990, 217222. 11le Sadducees did not be-lieve in angel11 <IS independent individuals, see chapt~r 1.4 above. Fi 1tk~l.!lt~in (1929, 239) vuite.'l: \'lthen the writer of
Acts )see 2.'l'.81 implies rha t th~ Silddu~es d~nied the exist~nc~ of ange ls,. he doe$ not
mean ang~l'l in the sense in w hkh they .ue m~ntioned in the Pentrth~uch, for the
5.ldducees accepted the Torah a,.<; fully as. did the Pharisees; he refers rather to their
refus.ll to accept the new angelology of Maocabaean d ays., with iL'I ins istence tho.t the
angels we~ ll\"ll mer~ minist~r.'l l"ll the di vin~ will but had v.'ill'l and char.lclers of
their own."
521 Sec Cutmann/editol'ial st.lff 1971. %2-966, and New.<~om 1992..251253.
522 ~~ Attrid g,~ 1976,9, 17, and Mason 1991. 336..
523 tvlaMn 1991,336. 5a-al<>oGeJ'dlll<l1' 2001. 15 18,arcd324-330.
52<1 Sclw1artz 1990, 170.216.
525 Auridge 1976. 15 and 178 179. However, in his dtapter about Jos~phus in J~ilisJt
Wrilings of Jlu St!ml/d Templt' Pl>rhld (198<1, 186), Allridge app~a s'S to a dhere to the
conventional inteJ1>ref.:l li on of Lift! 12: "The account ( . .. J s~rves. to indicate that Jose


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewish

lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

Jewish history bears the imprint of a very personal theological outlook

and he emphasizes that there is a d imension of Josephus' a uthorship
that cannot be explained as merely an influence o f sociopo1itical cir
cum stances or his need fo r self defense.~"
The importance of Josephus' priestly identity has been pointed out
by several schola rs. As a priest, Josephus considered h imself a prophet
and an inspired interpreter of the Bible, c-apable o f discerning and
hence tra n.~mitti ng its true message to his readers:527

4.4.2 Hagar a nd the Angel

Genesis 16
In contrast to the biblical version, in his prelude to the story o f Hagar's
encoun ter with the a ngel, Josephus ment ions Abraham's distress
caused by his d1ild lessness. Abraham p rays to God for the birth of a
son and God promises him offspring . In this context, Josephus declares
that it "vas on God's command that S.uah brought Hagar to t-he bed of
Abr-aham in order to make her p regn ant. The birth of Ishmael is thus
described by Josephus as a n o utcome of a divine initiative. Th is differs
from the biblical account, where the idea is solely ascribed to Sarah
with Abraham agreeing to .,ocomplish it (Gen 16:13). In Josephus' accoun t, Sarah is simply depicted as obedient to God.~11 The transferring

phus m ade .m inhwmed choice in l"lp ling for the Phari~ee.<l. n~e daim to dose as."'C>d
ation with that ~;ect, a.<~ well as the p.wlirularl)' picture of it, i~; a dtaracteris-tic of Joseph us' later writing. In contrast. the earlie 1 account of the ~eeL<~ in the \Var
(2.:119-66) paints a g lowing p iccure of the Es..-o;e.n es. a.<~ the mo.'lt aur.lcrive J...}. Per
hap.<~ that portrBit in War repre..<~enL<~ the e.ll'lier predilectiM s of the h isrori.ll\, who
had spent such .a lengthy perilxl with the de..c;ert hermit., although it also serves well
the apologetic tendency in the l\-'ar to portr..,y a u thentic JudaLc;m as d is tincc from that
lli the l'eVl"lluti onaries."' See al~o Auridge 1984, 22~227.
526 Attridge 1976, 15and 181 184.
527 See, e.g., Mason 2000b, 549-562. lns tone D1'eWe1' 1992. 185187, Attridge 1976, 16.
Sterling 1992. 2JS.238, Bildc 1988, 189 19 '1, Fetdm.Bn 1998, 5662. .-and 2000, 3-4. O n
~eve.rai OtXasions in his writings, Josep hus identifie.<~ himself with the prophet Jere
miah, among o ther b iblical ch.w.lcters. St."e, e.g... Fektman l 992.. 986; 1998, 59, Bnd
Ma::von 2000b. 549550.
528 ..1\tff. 1.18(;.187. See ai!IO Bailey 1987, 159, Franxma1~ 19i9, 139, and Asruwu 198.1), 147.
cr., G1'11. Rab. 45.2 whe1-e it L<~ s tated that God was ~peaking through Sarah on this ion.

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flavius Josephus


of the in itiative from Sara h to God is note\vorthy, since josephus o ften

tries to dirninish d ivine activity in his retelling o f the Bib le.:o211
Wh en Hagar becomes p regnan t she begins to look down on her mistress. Sara h p un ishes her and Haga r flees, as in the Bible. According to
josephus, Hagar put her case to God: " .. . she p la nned llig ht, being
u nable to e nd ure her hardships. a nd she besought God to take pity on
her."530 During her escape, Hagar meets a divine messenger:
(Ant. 1."189190) ... But as Sht! (Hagar] went fo rth thn">ug h the w ildemes:=o,
au angel of God (tlyytAo~ f)~lo.;) md her, bidding her to retum to her rna~
ters. For she wuuld attain a better l if~ thn)ug:h being se1f-ctmtrol1ed (fc:~r,
ind eed, she wa:=> in th1...>$e tn)uble:=o lx~cause ~he had betm thoug htles,<o and
stubborn tuward her mis tres..<o): he ~aid if she disolx~yed Cod and went further on her way she wou1d peris h whereas if sh e n.'tum(..od she would be the
mother of a son whu would be king o f that land. She obeyed thi.:=> and returning: to her masters she o btained pardon. Nut long a fterwards she gave
birth to bmaelt>s; someone might r~nder it " heard by God;" bec-.auSt! God
had listened tu her tmtreaty.

Strictly speaking, josephus calls the one who meets Hagar in the desert
"a divirte a ngel/rnessenger/ilyyAo.; 9eio.;." He d oes not say "an angel
of the lord/iiyy<Ao:; KL'Qiou" as in tl1e LXX. However, josephus' choice
of d esignation is most probably not to be un derstood as refe ning to the
divine nature o f the messenger. josep hus simp ly states that the messenger was sent by God, w hich may explain Feld man's free transla tion
of ilyyrAo~ 9icx;: as " an angel of God.''!Vt In agreement with the LXX,
josephus interprets the divine emissary as a n unspecified a ngel and
uses an. indefinite form; "a11 a ngel of God." Th e divine messenger refers
to God in the third person. josephus seems to clearly d istinguish God
from His messenger.

529 Am.a1u 1988. 147, and N.>ldnt.M'I 1998, 20>214. In his r~telling of Genesis 16, Josephus
may WI'Y well have been influenced by Cen 21:12 where it L<; explicitly $lolled lltal
S.1rah's wish 1~ce i ved d ivine sanction. See Feldman 2006, 370, and Fr.mxman 1979,
530 Ani. 1. 188.
531 Also Thacker3)' ll'ans lates iiyyr,\o' (~tlo.; as an <~ngel of \A:Id." See th~ /L"<I'i:lfJ Allliq
11ilies 1.189 in /OStJIIIw;. the Loeb Classical Librar>' vol. IV, r~printed 19i8. According
ro the GmkEuglisJ1 Uxiam compiled b)' Liddell and Scott ( 1968, 788), in add ilion ro
'd ivin~. 9tio' may cdSl) mean: 'of or f1'0m che god(s), belonging or sacred to a god,
more than human ..:, ~tc. In A Crt't'k~Eugli'SJI Lxico11 Jo lite Ne-;o TeslfiiiWtll a11d t>tf~er
E11fly OtriMiatl lih'f1llur!! ( I~V. and ed. F. W. Dcmker 2000, 446-447) three m.:lin mean
ings al\~ lis ted: I) " ... that whid'l bo.~ il)l'lgs to thl! lt.'llure 01' ~l<l lu..<; of d~ily, divine. 2)
per.Sllns who st.1nd in dose relation lo, Ol' refWt characteristics of, a d eity .. . 3) that
w hich exceeds the bounds of or earthly possibility, s upenl aturaL..


4. The Ange l of the Lord- Early Je wis h l n te tpretation..c~ of Genesis

Like the author of jubilees, Josephus lacks an equivalent to Gen

16:10, where the biblical messenger speaks in the first person; " I will so
greatly multiply your offspring ... " Instead, according to the Judenn
Anliquities, the angel o f God promises Hagar that if she obeys God and
retum.c; home, her future w n will be prominent, a ruler of the country.
l11erc is no mention of the destiny o f Ishmael to beco me ''a wild man,"
as in Gen 16:12a.
TI>e angel appears to regard Hagar's past behavior and flig ht as rebellious, since he assures her that " ... she would attain a better life
through being selfoontrolle<i ... " TI>is parallels the words o f the angel
of the lord in Gen 16:9: "Return to your mistress, and submit to her,''
but in contrast to the biblical version, Hagar's own responsibility for
her situation is emphasized and the angel in Joseph us' account threat
ens her with the dreadful consequences that "viii happen if she does not
return. He gives her a reprimand... but at the same time encourages her
and promises that God wil1 take care of her and her son if she is o~
edienu ..n The text is a kind of mo ralizing parcnesis.n-; Josephus' elabo
ration on the speech o f the angel seems to be clearly infl uenced by his
"d euteronomistic" perspective mentioned above.
josephus hos omitted the biblical d ialogues between the angel and
Hagar. He refers to the angefs mes.c.;. _1ge in the third person. It is con
stantly the voice of the narrato r that "we hear"' in the text.
In the end we read that Hagar did return, was forgiven and had a
son... who was named Ishmael, m eaning ' heard by God' . The name is
interpreted by josephus as referring to the conviction that God listened
to Hagar's prayer fo r mercy. It is not stated that the angel o f God to ld
her to call her son by that name, a clear d ifference compared to the
biblical version, see Gcn 16:11; " ... you shall call him Ishmael, for the
LORD has given hee<i to your affliction."
Another striking difference between the two versions is that Jose
phus completely omits to render Gen 16:1J..l4. The two last verses of
the pericope, where Hagar seems to iden tify the angel of the lord as
God, are thus left out without comment/ probably because o f the thco

5.12 All i n all, Josephu.!l stresses the in.<~olenre o f Hagoll' and thus puts Sarah in a mo re
filVll l'abie ligh t in o:tlmpari.<~l'lll tl) the Bible. See also Fram.:man 1979. 138139, B.ilile)'
1987, 139, Amaru 1988, 147, and Feldman, 1998, 180, 244. The angel's t>Xho rt.ltion
that Hagar "would attain a bette r life tlu'Oug h being self-.(01\lrolled" may be related
to Josephus high e.<~teem o f the Stoic philosophy. See Fe ldma n, 1998, 192-197, 238.
5.13 Cf. l'hito's commmt upon theperin)pe.

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flavius Josephus


logically p roble matic character of the pas.age."" To josephus, it was an

impossible thought that the handma id Hagar could h ave seen Cod and
survived. In h is view, the divine emissary must have been an "ordi
nary" angel.
\+Ve must a lso remember that Josephus main ly wrot'e fo r non ..Jews,
w hich may have infl uenced h is interpreta tions. Perh~'ps he assumed
that h is "audience'' \\o'ould have difficulties w ith Gen 16:1314, so he
p referred not to comment upon these verses.53 s

Genesis 21
josephus a lso has a counterpa rt to the o ther biblical story a bo u t Hagar
and the angel in his }udeatt Auliquities. As in the Bible* Abraham at first
does not want to listen to Sarah and hence sends Haga r an d Ish mael
away. It is God 's approva l o f the expulsion that rnakes h im ch~mge h is
mind .s..,. The cou nterp~ut to Gen 21 :1 7~19 is to be found in the Attt.
But tm m1gd df God f6t:.lo~ t:fyytA<'~J met her n-Jagar) and Utld her o f a s p ring
n earby and bad e her to IO<''k after the nu rtun~ uf tht~ ch ild, fo r great bk.>$..;;
inbry; awaited h~r th rt)Ugh the p re'>ervatiun o f Jsmaelu..o;. And she took cou
rage through these prom i~s, an d meeting shepherd.s, esta~d her misfor.
tunes because of their att~nti un .

Again, Josephus lite rally refers to the angel as 'a divine messenger', and
as in h is rend ering o f Genesis 16 he uses the indefinite form. It is an
anonym ous, unspecified divine emissary that Hagar e ncounters. In Gen
21:1 7 we read that " ... Cod hea rd the voice of the boy; and the a ngel of
God called to Hagar from heaven ..." But in Josephus' version, the di
v ine messenger meels Hagar, p robab ly o n earth, in the desert, compare
Cen 16:7. Al~1o ugh occording to the Bible, the a ngel calls to Hagar from
heaven, it is a kind of " meeting". In the Bible, the ange l's intervent ion is
described as God's response to Ishmael's crying.s.l7 This is not me n

5..14 Ao; stated alx)\'e in fh~ illlroducticm, Josephus usu.lil}' tries hl omit thetlklgic.l l J>I'O~
l~ms in his r~nd ei11g of lhe Bible.. See Peldmlu\, 1992.. 987, and 1998. 164 171.


Thi.c; m ay p1'0bably havt> been the case even for jewish reade rs.
Jos~phu..'l does not render God's OOIW~rsarion with Abraham in Gen 21:1213, bul
simpl) write$ that "... later, for (".od alc;o approved of the things d~c-e~d by Sara,
having been persuad~d. he IMnded O\'et lsmaelos ... )Ani. 1.217]. See also f.eldnMn.

1998, 250.
5'37 ACCO(ding to C'.en 21: 16, in the ,._rr Haga is the on~ \\ho cries, but in the LXX It L<~
Ishmael. a r~ndering lhBl s~~m..o; lobe more logical becau..c:~ il is st.lted in verse I7 in
both versil)l'l..<: liM I it was the voice o f 1J1eboy lha l God he,lrd.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

tioned in the ]udeau Auliquities, a fact that Feldma n explains as a n at

temp t by Josephus to p rotect Abraham from charges of pitilcssnes..-;.5.!11
There are stylistic d iffe re nces between the two versions. Josephus
has dlosen to simply summarize Lh e conte nt of the message o f the a n
gel to Hag ar. As in his rewriting of Gen 16:7-14, he has omitted the
d irect speech of the biblical story. The a ngel of God says to Hagar in
Gen 21 :18; ... for /will make a great nation o f him (Ishmael)." josephus
simp ly states that " ... grea t bles.,c;;ings awaited her through the preserva ..
tion of Isrnaelos."53'J
The ambivalence between the angel and G<ki in the Bible is no
where to be found in Josephus' rewriting of the narrative. As a matter
of fact, Josephus d oes not explicitly mention God. According to h im, it
was lite nngel w ho told Hagar about the spring, but in the Bible we read
" ...Th en God opened Iter eyes and she saw a well of water ... " [Gen
21:19a). In the }udean Antiquities it is the angel, as God's emissary, w ho
tells Hagar a bout the spring o f '"'a te r. M~1ybe Josephus, in the way
as the author of jubilees, considered a literal re ndering of this verse too
anthropomorphicJ;.at, The insert ion of the a ngel keeps the distance between God an d Hagar intact According to Feldman, josephus trans~
ferri ng of the action from God to the a ngel rnay also be seen as an ex
p res..<;ion of his rationnlizing tendency. The miracle is diminished by the
fact that it is not God Himself who opens Haga r's eyes but a n a ngel
who tells her of the spring of water..s-~ 1 An additional reason for the
substitution of the angel for God may be that it was the a ngel who ad
d ressed Hagar first;-m since he wanted to eliminate the a rnbiguity o f the
blurred identity of God and the angel, Josephus p referred to have only
one heavenly actor in his version of the story.
The shephe rds a re not mentioned in the Bible. Their presence can
be seen as Josephu s' explanation of how Hagar and Ishmael managed
to surv i ve in Lhe desert, a question that the Bible leaves u nanswered.
Josephus wan ted to tone down the supernatural elements of the story,
and hen ce rationalizes itw.

5.)8 Feldman 1998, 244-245.

5.39 According to Feldman ( 1998, 254}, JO$tphus' omillillg or the angel' s promise to make
Js hmaei a sl\ lt Btion was prob~tbly pl)liticalty mori vated.
540 S..~e all)() Feldman 1998, 169, and 1992. 987.
541 Feldma!l 1998,251.
542 Cf... Gen 2 1:17 and A11t. I. 219. see ablWe.
543 ThLc; is bul one of ntany examples of JclSephus rationalizing tendency ill his rewriting
of the biblical accounts, see Feldman 199$, 205-214, 249252. and Bet-z, 1987,212-213.
However, another explana tion of the presence of the s hepherds has been pmpl'l~Sed

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flavius Josephus


Conclu ding Remarks

It seems a p parent that Josephus interpreted the d ivine mcs.c;cngers of

both Genesis 16 and 21 as "ordinary" angels, o f no specific significance.

josephus has chosen to omit everything in the biblical texts that imp lies
that the angel might be identical with God, e.g., the angel's direct
speech in the first person in Ce n 16:10 and 21:18, and the problematic
verses Gen 16:1314. The mes.,c;;cngers a re d early d istinct fro m God
Hi mself b ut talking on His behalf. josephus most certain ly considered
the biblical ambivalence between God and the angel in these texts a
theologica.l problem, a nd he thus chose to erase this a mbiguity in his
rendering of the narratives.

4.4.3 josephus' Aqedah a nd His Version o f Genesis 24

The Aqedah
Josephus rnakes a q uite exte nsive elaboration o f the Aqedahw in Atll.
1.222236. However, as stated in the text a nalysis in chapter 3, the main
ch a racters in early Jewish exegesis of the na rra tive a re generally Abra
ham and Isaac, not the angel of the Lord, a nd this also applies to jose
p h us' version.
Since this thesis deals with concepts of God a nd angelology, I \ Viii
focus my analysis on these parts of Josephus' rendering of Gen 22:119.
Josephus begins his version of the pericope by transforming God's
short appeal to Abraham in Ce n 22:1 2 in to a real th eQphany; Cod a p
pears to Ab ra ham a nd remind s h im of all the be nefits He has g iven
h im, of which Isaac is the supreme gift
(Ant. 1.223-224) ... He (Abraham] attained thLs [his son Isaac::),(() be s ure,
by the will of Cud, w ho. w i$hing to make trial uf hi$ piety toward HimSt?1(,
appeart!d to him and aftt~r enumerating all the things that He had g ranted,
how He had made him stronger than his enemies and how hi! had his
present happiness and his son L"-<tkos owing to His bl!nevol enc~, as ked him
himself to offer thLo; o ne as a sacrifice and victim to Him...e1f. and He bade
him to lead him up Mount "-1orion, bui ld an altar, and t)ffer him as a burnt

by Fram:ma1' {1979, 155). According hl him. it Lo; po.~sibl e hl "find"' j l~ phus' she~
herds in tu\ alternate r~ading of the Hebrew text in Gen 2 1:19.
.544 J u.o;e th~ te1m ' Aq<ah' ot ' Aqed<lt lsa<ac' . i.e. 'the binding of Isaac' bemuse this
expce.o;!iion h ol S ~ome th~ s~ner.\l d esignation of G~n 22!1-19 in Jewish exegesis of
the text. However, nowhere does josephus me ntion the actual bindin g of Isaac on
the alta r. See B:lso Feldman 2CXX>.l, 90.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewis h lntetp retation..c~ of Genesis

offering. Pur thus h~ would d e mon.'~lTate his piety toward Himself if he va

Jued what was pl~a..,-ing to Cod abuve the p r~servation of his child.

Josephus' implied message is that because Abraham owed all his bene-fits to the divine be nevolence, God, as the giver o f the gifts, also has the
right to w ithdraw them, hence justifying t he test.-5-t>
Abraham's reaction to the d ivine commandme nt is that" . .. nothing
would justify d isobedience to God and that in everything he must
submit to His will, since all that befell His favo ured ones w.1s ordained
by His providence ...",5-16 an insertion that very well mirrors Josephus'
own conviction.~'
Abraham thus travels to Mou nt Moriah together with Isaac and
two servants in o rder to obey God's bidding.~"
\+Vhen the altar has been prepared, Abraham d irects a long speech
to his son and te lls him that he is the intended sacrificial victim. The
consensus is tha t since Isaac's birth was a d ivine miracJc, God has the
right to reclaim his life. Isaac was born supernaturally, so his death will
equally not be a natural Jn contrast to the Rabbinic e laborat ion of
the Aqedah, josephus' Abraham does not make any appeal to God.'"'
Isaac. being 25 years old , receives Abraham's words with joy. He con ...
siders it an honor to die such a death and rushes to the altar.5.$1 Isaac's
willingness to be sacrificed is depicted by Josephus as a n act of great
virtue ..m He is a prototype for Jc\~t.rish marty rdom.m
According to josephus, it was God Himself who prevented Abrn
ham fro m completing the sacrifice of Isaac, no a ngel being mentioned:
(A"t. 1.23.1-234J And the deed would have been done if Cod had not stood
in th~ way. (..:iw btQtlxOq TO EQyOv 1-n) U'thn:u.; t j.l71Ubf:Jv TO U Ot:uiJI For
He ca11ed upon Habnml<)S by na me. preYenting h im fro m the s laughter of
the child . Fur He said that He had decrt>ed tht! slaughter of his child not be-

cause He hmg~d fur human blood, nur had H~ made him his father wish
ing tu d~ prive him of his son with such lmpi ~ty. but being willing to tL~t
his attitude, to St>e whether, if commanded. he would ubey such injunctions. But having learned the enthusias m and the high d egr~e of his piety,

545 See also Nie hoff 1996,36, Feldman 1998, 252, and 2000,86.
S.16 A11t. 1.225, Englis.h n ansl.ltion TI1ackeray in }t'li>t:p/uts, vol. IV, the LCL... reprin!ed

547 See Niehoff 1996,36-37, and Feld m.a.n 2000a, 87.

548 Ant. 1.22.5--227.

5<19 A11t. 1.~2.'H.
550 Cf., Gm. Rab. 56. 10 a!ld the Pillestinia.n Tarsum$ to Gen 22: 14. See a lso Feldman
2000a. 90.
551 ..1\tft. 1.232.
552 Alit. 1 .~232.
5!>3 See F~l dman 2000a, 8892.

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flaviu.'l Josephus


He said that he t<'J<)k plea.s u re in what he had offered him and that l-Ie
d oomed it proper that he and his race would nu t fall short of recehing
every C<)nSideration, and that his son would be very long-lived and ha\ing:
lived happily '"'Ould bequeath to his virtUl)US and legitimate children a
great realm.

As shown above, Josephus often prefers to let God replace angels in his
paraphrase o f the Bible. The absence of the a ngel may thus be a resu lt
of his 1'dcmythologizing" effort.554 ln the Bible, the a ngelic interfe rence
is expressec.i by a heavenly voice_. calling from above. The su bstitu tion
of God for the angel thus has no a nthropomorphic implications. Moreover, since it was God in the firs t p lace w ho commanded Abraham to
offer his son, it is logica l that it is God who in terferes a nd saves ls..1ac.56~
Another explanation is that Josephus considered the Aqedah such a n
important event that it must have been God in person v,ho prevented
Abraham from offering Isaac..~;;, It is a lso worth noting that in josephus'
version, the two heavenly in tervent ions are combined in to one)l-57
Moreover, josephus emphasizes that the God of Israel does not find
p leasure in human sacrifice; it was not a cra ving for hu man blood that
mad e God command Abrah am to o ffer his son; it v~,ras "just'' a test. According to Feldman, Josephus' intention is to stress the d iffe rence be-tween hu man sacrifice among the pagan s a nd the Aqed ah.558 In cont rast to many o ther e arly Jewish interpretations of the pericope, Jose-p hus does not d elve into the problem of God's omniscien ce in re lation
ship to His testing of A b raham .:;~
ln. the same way as in the biblical account, Isaac is thus spared and
a ram takes his place on the alta r:
(Ant. 1.236] ... Having said tl-u.~ things, (;c)l/lm>ught ftJrtJr a rmu fmm tJbscu rity for thr.m IAbraham and Isaac] fM the SilCTifice ...

According to Feldman, it is implied in the Bible that it was the angel

w ho supplied Abraham with the sacrificial substitu te, since it is th e
angel who is spe..1king in Gen 22:11 . In contrast to the Bible, however,
Josephus explicitly states that it was God w ho sho,ved Abraham and
Isaac the ra mi God b rought it forth from obscu rity. He a lso omitc; to say



al'>o Feldman 1998, 212213, and Bultmann, e.g., New


aud Mytftc>I>$Y

1tml ollttr Ba~ic 1Nrifillg:>, 1984.

555 Cl., Gen22: 1 and Anl. l.223224quoted above.

Se~ als.o Feld man 2000a, 92.
5S7 Ct.. Gen 22:11 12. 15 18, 1\~Sp\~cli \'ely Ani. 1. 234235. ln contrilst to the Bib l~. the
divine promis~s ar~ thus made to Abraham before the appei11'ance l')f the ram. See a l
so Franxman 1979. 161162.
55R Fe ld man 1998, lM-285, and 2000, 92-93.
559 Cf., A11t. 1. 233234, quoted above and . e .s .. }ul. 18.16: Ge11. Rifb. 56"1)8.



4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetp retation..c~ of Genesis

that it was caught in a thickel by its honts. Feldman argues that in this
way Josephus wanted to imply that the animal had been there all the
time but merely hidden from sight; the sudden appearance of the ram
would otherwise have seemed too miraculous for his Hellenistic read
There is no dear distinction in the Bible between God and the angel
in this biblical context. The ram is given by God"" 1 but its arrival is not
necessarily supernatural.~ It is~ however, de.u that in Josephus' ren...
dering o f the Aqedah, the o nly heavenly actor is God Himself.
The Wooing of Rebekah
ln At1l. 1.242256 Josephus refers to the guidance of God and the impor
tance of prayer in his retelling of the servant's match making tTip in
Genesis 24, but he d oes not mention the angel. Another important dif
ference between Josephus' accou nt and the biblical story is that, according to Josephus, Rebekah was appoin ted frorn the o utset by Abrah~'lm
as the future wife of I saac.~ See, for example, Ant. 1.245:
Therefo re. he (the servantJ prayed God that Rebttkka, f()r wooing whom fo r
his $un Habramos had dispatched him, if this marriage was destined to be
contracted in accordance with his intention, should be fou nd among them
(the maiden..; at the weiJ) and should be ri!COgnized by her offering him a
drink when he r~u ested it. whereas the others refused.[Cf. Cen 24:.1214)

As in the Bible, Rebekah meets him at the "veil and personifies the an...
swer to his prayer;
(Aut. 1.249) ... o n hearing these words. M ftheser.anfl b()th n~juiced at the
things that had happt?ned and at the word.; that had been said s poken,. See
ing that God was so dearly supporting his jo urney ... (cf. Gen 24:2(~28]

Josephus thus refrains from mentioning the angel but he emphasizes

the theme of divine provid ence.

560 Feldman 1998,252. <tnd 2001,), 94.

561 Thal is. e ith er dir,~cll y
ind irectly. As is me ntioned in d l.'lpter 3, Gen 2.2!14 m<ty be
translated in \'<lrious w.lys. llle N RSV renders the \'erse as follows: "So Abraham
c.11led that place ' The LORD w ill provide'; <1..<1 il is said to this day, ' On the mount of
the lORD it sll.'lll be provided: According tl) this translation, it is near at ha~1d h)
inlerpret the ver se as Abraham alluding to C'.od'$ provL<~ion of Lhe .'>acrificial substirute, i.e .. the in hi$ name-giving of the pia~.

562 cr... Gen 22:1114.

563 Seeals.o, 1979, 165-168, cmd

J~Jdnwn200tl3, 9798.

4.4 Th~ fudl'r1Jl A111iqui!ies by Flavius Josephus


Conclu ding Remarks

The absence of the a ngel in Josephus' version o f Genesis 24 may be d ue
to the fac t that h is p resence is not a n important facto r in the biblical
sto ry, since it is only me ntioned twice.~ In contrast to the angels in
Genesis 16 and 21, the a ngel of Genesis 24 does not speak. The a ngel is
not a main characte r; the story stands w ithout it. Because of h is rationa..
lizing tendencies Josephus prefers to delete it from h is na rra tive, in the
same v,.ray as in h is rende ring o f the binding of l~aa c.Y>.~
As shm\'ll. above, apart from his wish to "demythologize" the bibli
cal stories, Josephus' decision to omit the angel in his version o f the
Aqedah may be based on additional reasons. On e example is the logical
sequence of the sto ry; in the Bible, it was GOti in person w ho ordered
Abraham to sa.crifice his son and therefore Josephus transfers the res~
cue of Isaac to Him. Th e story needs no rnore than one heave nly actor.
Josephus evidently prefers to have the same divine/heaven ly ..'tctor
throughout his na rratives, oornpare his re nderings of Gen 16:7 14 and
21:1 721, \\1here it is the angel w ho cons tantly add res..-c;es Hagar. The
biblical ambivalence between God and the angel has disappeared in
josephus' versions of the pericopes.

4.4.4 jacob and the Angel

jacob's Dream at Bethel
Josephus interprets the messengers/angels o f God [LXX: oi i\yyt:Aot t oU
9 toU] whom Jacob saw in his dream ascending a nd descending o n the
ladder as O~a.;.. whatever tha t may be:
(Ant. 1.279-284) ... b ut he [Jaa)b) took up his q uarteni in the op('n air. placing his h ead o n Sh)ne.s collected by him, and he saw the foll owing vision
which a p pea rted to him in h if.i sloop (..-:t:'i -rmn lm)\' Kt.nit ; oU; Unvm~o,; ll4tv
t'_.(~ 11t1QtUJTtllUXV (.UJ.tffl) ft $'Cmed tO him fibOtEv) that he $aW a )add e r
reaching from earth to heaven, and down it he saw ;1jsious that luid a fonn
dcsc.mtling more tmtf$.cnucly tluru is ftmnil flmong m t!ll (..:ni b i aim]; Ot!'t~
Kn unJ(JU~ vq.nlt'ITt:QUV ~ J\nt\ dvflt,x.Jnuu t~Um v LX<.nXm;J. An d Jast of
al1. a b<)V it, G<xl, f1ppenriug cf(:tlrly to him, ca ll t~d h im by name and spoke the
fl>l lowing words: "lakobo.s, y uu who are th e offspring of a gol)d father and
grandfa ther who achievt~d g lory fo r his great virtue, it was not fitting fo r


~e G~n 2-1:7, 40.

~e a lso Feldman..

1998, 249-251.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish l n tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

you to be d iset')u ragcd at your prest~t circumstance,:; b ut It) hu~ fo r better

things. For, indeed, an abund ant pre-Sence o f great bk-ssings in every re
Spt?ct will await you by ''irtue uf my as,:;istante. For I Jed Habramos hither
from Mesopotamia when he was b~ing d riven out by his kinsmen, and
made your fa the r prosperuus . I s hall allot tu you a destiny no le$s than
theirS. And taking courage, theref<>re, proceed on your way availing yt'>ur
self o f me as )'Our aSet)rt ( ... )and good children will be born to yt)U, and
their multitude will be beyond number [....) But do not ~ apprehensive of
any danger nor fl!ar the multitude uf tuils, ~ inc.-e I am exerting my pn w i
d ence uver the thing.;;; that will be done by you lx;,th at present and, fa r
more, in future matters." Now God pred icted the.'*" things tu lakolx)S. And
he, being highly p1tmsed with the viSil)nS (tc.:t,x,._.i vm~J and promises.
b rightened up the s tones, sinoo a predictitm uf $0 man)' blessings had b~n
made upon them; and he mad e a vow to sacri fice upun them ...

Thackeray translates josephus' d escription o f Jacob's nightly vision

d ifferently:
... l-Ie Uact>bj lhougM that he saw a ladder( ...] dmvn whkh were d L~Cend
ing plumtonL'i (if mtflm mon august limn that of m6rfllls? and abuve it last of aU
plainly visible to him W<l S Cod ... S6ot

Th e Creek word OtfJru:;: may be translated as 'appearances', ~visions',

' phantoms' or 'apparitions'.r.r.r It is noteworthy that these phantoms a re
only said to d escend but not ascend back to heaven. According to
Feld man, the reason may be that in josephus' mind a ngels cannot be
said to ascend from earth to heaven p rior to their descent from hea
ven.!1r.." Moreover, josephus points out that it only seemed to Jacob that
he saw the he~wen ly ladder. Feldman sees this as yet an additional ex
ample o f Josephus' rationalization of the biblical stories, and he also
explains Joseph us' ide ntification of the angels as ' phantoms of nature'
as a result o f this tendency.!o&.l
I agree that visions/apparitions/phan to ms may be less concrete t-han
angels, ,m d Josephus' statement that Jacob o nly tlmugill he saw them
descending o n the lad der emphasizes the imaginary character of the
vision. Bu t even in the biblical version.. the revelation is depicted as a

~e his tl'ilnsl.l tion in /05t'J1IIIlS, Vlll. IV. LCL.. repinted in 19iS, Ant. 1.279. Whi.<~ton
(new upd.lted edition. 1987, Aut. 1.279, p . 47) has yet o~~ nolher tran.<~lation of Jose
phus' version of Jacob'.<~ 1'evela tion: " At w hich time he saw in his sleep such a vision
stcmding by him:- he-aven.,. and pe1'SOns d escending upon the ladde r llt.ll seemed
more excellent than human: and at Last God himself stood abO\e it. and was plainl)'
visible to him . .. ,.
567 Feldman 2!XX)a, 109. See nlso Liddell .md Scott t96H, 12821283.
568 Fe ldman 2<Xnl, 109.
569 Fe ldman 2000a, 109, a nd 1998, 2 12. In his Cllmmenhlr)' to the }t1dtvm AutiquiJi~>s,
Feldman seems in fhis case hl be is~fl uenced by Thacke.rays trmlslalion.


4.4 Th~ fudl'r1Jl A111iqui!ies by Flavius Josephus


and thus less concrete than a real even t ~' Is it really only Jose
phus' attempt to rationalize the biblical narrative that may explain his
alterations of jacob's vision of the lad der and its angels at Bethel? This
question needs fur ther consid eration, even though it is not the main
issue in the present investigation.
Could it be that Josephus' interpretation o f the angels as ' phantoms
of nature' is inspired by Greek mythology? There are rnany o ther ex
amples "'"here 'phantoms' or 'specters' replace angels in Josephus' ren..
dering o f the Bible. However, in these cases he uses the synonyrnous
designation cptiv-caaf..laln rather than 0\jJu~, e.g., his versions of the
ap pearance of the angel o f the Lord to G ideon (At1l. 5.213-214, cf., jud g
6:1124) and his rend ering of the angelic visitation to Manoah's wife
(Ant. 5.277-285, cf., judges 13). We may also mention Josephus' renderings of Gen 32:1 2 .m d vv. 2232, see belm"-'.572 To retum to his account
of Gen 28:1022, the \'isions/phantoms on the ladder do not play any
significa nt ro le in Jacob's dream vision. Josephus makes no subsequent
cornment about their presence.
The importance of the drearn lies in the message that Jacob receives
from God. In contrast to Philo, Josephus shows no hesitation in claim..
in.g that Jacob in his vision actually saw God Hirnself; God is described
as standing above the ladder, plainly visible to jacob. God is depicted
as the Master of all creation, standing above 'the apparitions/the phan
toms o f nature'.


a!SI) Gnuse ( 1996, 149) nho writes: NTh~ \<isual aspect of the dream iL underscored by the use of the t~rm, 'he thought ((bo!rv) he saw,' the e>:pres..~ion common
to visual symbolic d 1-eams (.'\111. 1.279). Btl! an auditor}' a..<>pect i..; de.wly J>l'l':sent, for
God canoo (... )and spoke a ratllel' long. mes<>age 1 ). llle oontent of the message is
charact~rislic of auditory me.o;!i.lge d 1-eams with its emphasis on d i\ine di1-ection and
pre.o;~nce. Tile dr~am combines elements of the auditory message dream and the visual symbl"llk dream, but this resuiiS from the presence of both mode..<> in the original
bibltcaJ h"Xt.N
571 Aoo..lrding to lidd~ll and Scoll (1968. 19 16), the word cj)c't\mopa has the me-aningt~
'apparition', ' phantom', \'ision', and 'd re<~ m', etc. In A Gud:~Euglis}l trAkmr to llle
Nt>w T1'-St.tmml tmd e>llttr Ea,ly Cluistimr Lilemlt~re (rev. <~.od ed. Dankt>l' 2CXX>. 846,) we
find th e t.anslation..; 'apparition' and 'gh ost' as vtell as ref~ren ce.o; to (among others)
M<llt 14:26: tvl.wk 6:49. and Luke 24:37.
sn Se~ alc;o Feldmrm 1998, 212-213. In hi.<~ rendering of the angi!l of th~ lord visiting
tv1anoah' s wif~... josephus in f.tcl alt~rna tes between th~ designations
lt.n.'t'lltl'<~pp.uiti on/spectl'e and O:yytAo.;/tmgel. AI the end of the stor)' il Bl"ttMI
I> appears !hilt Josephus identifies the hea\enly \'isitm- as God Hint.c;elf. Sl-"t' also the
comme nlay on Aul. 5.277-2$4 by Bress 2005, 69-71: 2007, 528. 532, and note 25 on
the !.tsl m~ntioned page.



4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewis h lntetp retation..c~ of Genesis

In contrast to the biblical version of the d ream, Josephus omits

God's introducing o f Hirnself as "the God o f Abraham your father and
the God of Isaac" (Gen 28:13). Perhaps josephus wanted to a void his
readers' possible as.umption o f potential polytheism among the pa
triarchs, since God's self iden tification might suggest His need to dis
tinguish H imself from o ther deities.!;.:; Another reason may be that he
wished to omit sud l a ~'na tiona listic" statement. As mentioned in the
introduction, Josephus has a universalistic perspet:tive in his retelling
of the Bible; the God o f Israel is also the God of all humankind.
The dream is interpreted as a p rediction o f the fu ture destiny of Ja
cob and his descendants. Bu t whatever happens, Cod promises jacob to
watch over a nd protect him.
Josephus then goes o n to relate Jacob's reaction to the revelation.
He is described as overjoye<t a t God's promises and makes a vow to
return an d sacrifice on the site of his dteamf;u In veneration of the
p lace Jacob names it Beth el, which according to Josephus can be trans-la ted as fh:fa i:CTt{a, 'divi ne hea rth:.m

Th e Commission to Retum
In contrast to Philo, Josephus does not comment on the appearance of
the a ngel of the Lord to Jacob in Gen 31:1013. H is reason may be that
he found it difficult that in the Bible it is ~, e a ngel o f God who talks to
jacob and identifies h imself as 'the God of Bethel' . We have seen before
that Josephus tends to avoid such theological problerns.57to
Josephus simpl}' states in Au/. 1.309 that after 20 years in the service
of Laban Jacob decided to leave him in secret Nothing is said about
whether or not jacob's d ecision \Vas based on God's command. God is
not mentioned here by Josephu s.

573 SeeGnlL<;e, 1996,119.

574 Ant. I. 284. In contrast lo the Bible, ]osephw1 does nol mention ja<:llh's fe.w ful reac
tion to the d ream, and he al-.o omits Jaoob's l'l'fe~nce 10 God in the biblical1e)(t, d .
Gen28: 1 ~ 1 7.

575 Ant. 1.284. TI1ackeray (foseJ1Ims, vol. IV, LCl.. repinted 1978, 139) translate$ fh:it.l
tmia as 'God's heart !)tol\e.'
576 Gnuse ( 1996, 150), on the othe hand, suggesL<; that J06ephus chose to omi! Jacob's
dream " .. . beCIUL'te it a lludes to the s heep .,....hich were produced by 'mttg:k" in the
mnti' S process. Josephus omits the <l<:count of Jacob's trickery in sheep production
tactics, be<-.l use il was a n embarrassing slOt)' ... ""~ ~tl<~o Fe ldman 2CXX>a, 116.

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flavius Josephus


On the other hand, Josephus has an expanded version of God's aP"'

pea ranee to Laban in a dream, warning him not to act rashly toward his
nephew and son ..Jaw..m

The Battle at the Ford o f Jabbok

Whereas Lhc Bible initially d esignates the opponent of Jacob as 'a
man'!'W11 w ho later in the story gives him the new name Israel, because he
has striven with God and with }mmatzs and has prevailed;m Josephus at
first calls Jacob's adversa.ry 'mz npparUion' '"'hom he subsequently iden...
tifics as 'a divine at~gel/an angel of God'. See At1t. 1.331 -334:'""
. .. And when the)' had crossed a certain tommt called Jabacchus, lakubos,
ha\ing been left behind, tmcountered Olt (lppnrifilm,S8I rtPwTcif1~l(Y Tt
<Tt)VTVXtoJv) and wrestled with it. When it began th~ battle, he overpowered
the apptJrition~ (<ixwTt:l<J~lno;; J And it, indeed. emp h))'ed $pOOch and
\I:Ords with him, urging him to n.>joice in wh at had occurred and n ut to
su ppos~ that it was a small matter h) prevail, b ut that he had d efeaMd a tiivim~ angel [Otiov ityytAovJ5~tl and to consider this a symbo l t)f gr eat future
blessings tu come and an a:=osu ranc~ that his race would never be extinguished an d that his pn)geny wo u ld n ever disappear and that no man
would be superior tu him in j:jfrength. And he bade him to take the name of
Israel. And this sig:nifie..o;, in the languaJ;e o f tht! Hebrt!WS, the (Jpponeul of nn
fmgcl of Gm'/ l<'>v Uv;to;ci-tt'Jv UyytAcoJ 6a>UJ. Now he p red icted these
things at the requt.>St u f lakubos. Fur, pt?r<."eiving that he was ll mt'$$.rnger of
Gmt {UyytA<w tlvcn e~oVJ , he {Jakubus] entreated him to sibonify wh at fate
he would have. And the appuritiOtl {q>Uvta<J!la),S~t~ having .said this, va
nished. And Jakobo.s, pleased with thi:=o, called the place Phanouelus, which
:=oignifies "the filCL of Coti.N And because in the battll.'? ht! had suffered pain in
the bmad tendon buth he himself abstained fr<>m eating it an d because of
h im neither is it permitted tu us [the )tw.s) to eat it.

.4111. 1.3 12 313. d ., Get\ 31:24. Set' Bl<~o Gnuse 1996. !5015 1.
C.en 32:24. Tile LXX has he1~ 1\\'(;:. MT {Gen 32.'25) has wx.
Se~ c~n 32:28. r..rr: ("'..en32:29.
See <tlso Franxmen 1979.204-205.
Thackeray (fosc'l"'u-:;, voJ. IV,lCl repl'inted 1978, 159) has th~ trans latm 'phantom'.
Thackeray (/O$~pfws, \'OI. IV, lCl, ~printed 1978, 159) ha.<~ lhe tl'olll$l,ltion Nthe s.1rus
gle l""d been begun by t he spMre, which now found.~ tongue ...
S-83 A<~ sho\\'1\ abcwe, th~ G 1~ek texl l\.ils here 9riov kyyr.Aov which Thn-d:eray (f~~~pfms.
vol. IV, LC L. reprinted 1978. 159 Jtran.<~late.<~ a~ 'an nngel of Cod'. cf., Josephus' ren
dering: of Gen 16:7 14; set' abo\'e.
SStJ Thackeray {)osepluu:, vol. IV_. lCI., rep1inted 1<178, 161) likewi se here uses. lhe de$ig
nation ' the apparition' .



4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish ln tetpretation..c~ of Genesis

As in his description of the angelic visitors to Gideon and Manoah's

wife in Judges chapters 6 and 13, Josephus ernploys the peculiar desig
nation <j>avmapo., 'phantom/apparition/spectre' for the opponent o f
Jacob. Likev~.rise, according to the Bible, the angelic encounter which
Jacob is said to have had on his way to Canaan (Gen 32:1 2) is described
by Josephus in Ant. 1.325 as Jacob " ... lmd visions [cpavtaafl<"<>
auvnUyxaviv] whid1 inspired him with good hopes for the fu ture
... ":>~~s By the use o f the same tenn, Josephus appears to connect the two
passages.31SU Feldman tTan.c;lates the same passage slig htly differen tly:
'' ... visions presented themselves that suggested good hopes for the fu.
ture ..." In both o f these translations, the visions are unspecified and d o
not necessarily refer to angelic beings that Jacob met. They might just as
well denote some other kind of (more abstract) revelation(s).
However, Robert Hayward understands the passage more con
cretely; on his way to Canaan Jacob entouutered some plwutasms, to use
his expression. On the basis o f the connection betv~.reen the two stories
and this more literal in terpretation of Atlt. 1.325, Hayward suggests
that josephus may have intended to imply that the phantom Jacob
foug ht at the ford o f Jabbok was one he had met previously. These
p hantoms had thus been \Vith the patriarch for some time, and this may
hence explain w hy Josephus refrains from mentioning that Jacob was
alone at the ford of Jabbok.ID This interpretation, however, seems fa r
Tile designation cf>c.\vtaa lla 'phantom/apparition/spectre' is un...
usual in Jewish \"-'ritings. The word is nowhere used in the LXX Penta..
teuch and it is only to be fo und in the Codex Alexand rinus in Job 20:8;
Jsa 28:7, and \Vis 17:14/15, denoting visions of a negative d 1 aracter.~~~
Hayward points o ut that by his use o f this expression Josephus leaves

SS5 Ant. I. 325. Tl \.ilcke <~y's c:mnl)lation in f(~:>e!pfms, vol. IV. lCl. oeprinted 1978, 157. Cf.,
Josephus' d epiction ,.,r the angels tha t jMob (thought) he $iwl on the ladder in his
dream at Bethel.
586 I.e., Gen 32: 1-2 and vv. 22 32.
587 H.1yward 200S, 2.10.
588 See A C.mmrdmlcc 111 tlte StpltagiiiJ. second edilion (ed. Hatch and RedfMlh), 1998,
1-12-1. See a iSQ Ha>ward 200.r;, 232. ln Josephus' writings. the wo1d <flt.\\t:'I.<TJ.Jo.l occurs
in: /o!tl>isfl War 3.353, 5.381, Aut . t.325, 1.33 1, 1.333, 2.82, 3.62, 5.21.). 5.277, and 10.272.
S..~e A Complete Coucoulmtcc ro Flmius jf&'f}ltus, vol. IV (ed. Rengstotl'), 1983, 279. "Ow
negative connotation of the word in LXX may imply tha i it i<~ a hoe:tile, dem-onic oul
gel whom jacob encounter$ at Jabbok. Howeve1, we have seen that josephus. for example, also empfoys this word in his rendering of the angelic visitation to Manoah
and his wife, as well a.<l in his vetsion of Gen 32:1 2, which speaks again!>! sud l an inferpretation.

4.4 Th~ fudl'r1Jl A11liquilies by Flavius Josephus


the jewish discourse and steps into the world of Greek philosophy.
According to him:
The word <PthotrOflr if.; <.".Ommon in l ~amed treatises t)f the C reco-Ro man
period, and refers to an image presented by an object to the mind, a dream,
or a vision. Tilt! sen$4.~ t'lf the wurd ilf.; d ream or vision ht!ig:htens the pnr
p hetit quality of the narra tiv~ ...SS9

HaY'"mrd pointe;: o ut that Josephus has transfo nned the biblica.l narra..
tive into a prophetic vision, probably inspired by Gen 35:9-15/ioo where
Jacob's change of name to l~rae l is connected to a d ivine oracle.""1 \'Vhereas in the Bible, Jacob's combatant blesses him in the end, josephus
omill) the blessing;.m the phantom's fu nction in the Judean Auliquities is
instead to foretell the future destiny of Jacob and his descendants. In
josephus' version, the prediction of the indesLTuctibility of Israel becomes the main message of the narrative.S\13
Besides the absence of the bles.sing of jacob, there are also many
other items in the bibJical sto ry that Josephus has o mitted in his rendering of il. For example, in the Judemt Anliquities, the arrival of the d awn
is not connected to the departure of the phan tom/angel.~ The daybreak is nmvhere mentioned by Josephus. In his version, the battle ap..
pears much shorter than in the Bible; jacob certainly d id not fight all
night long. Nor does josephus directly mention that jacob's adversary
during the fight hit him on the hip socket,SOJ5 an omission that makes the
battle lose some of its ooncretenes..c;. It is not u ntil the end of the story
that he alludes to this detail.r>'H> josephus has also removed all direct
speed l in his aa:ount. In sum, compared to the biblical o riginal, Josephus' narrative of jacob's experience at the ford of Jabbok appears to be
more visionary in character, his use of the term cj>dvtaalla being a

589 HaywMd 2005. 2.12.

590 Hayward 2005, 221, 228230, 234.
591 In (he context where we expect hl find it. thLc; the-ophally is omillt.>.d by Jnsephus. see
Ani. 1.3-:.IJ-342. In addition to the divine orad~ in Cen 35:9-B, the prediction of th~
phantom in Josephus' account of Gen 32:22-32 also appears (O be inspired by Clxf s
promises given to Jacob in his drenm at B~thel. i.e ... Cen 28:10-22. See alc;o Hayward
2005, 230, 234.
592 Aaording to Ha)'\'lard (2005, 238) the reason for the omission of the ble.c;sing was
n~l cetainly bec-ause Jacob had shown himself to beth~ angel's/ph.mtom's superillr, w hich made it illogical for his defeated t to bless him.
593 Se~ also H.aywa1\J 2005, 226-235. However, it is of course ptlSSi bl~ to interpM th~
phantom/angel's p1-ediction of Jactlbs and his descenda!lt$' future s ucces.!i as a form
of bleS.!Iing:.
594 Cf.. C'.en 32:24, 26, 3 1.
595 cr.. C'.en 32:25.
596 Ani. 1.334, d. G~n 32:32. St.>e alc;o Haywa1'<1 2005. 225-228.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

main reason.w lt is also because of Josephus' employment of this word

that Robert K Gnuse includes the story in his analysis o f dreams and
dream reports in the writings of Josephus:
Most likely we are not read ing a dream report in this te.xt, at leas t not like
the other d ream report!; reCl)rded by Joseph us. But its inclusion is warranted in o ur list because o f this use (lf the word <PUvtuu ~a., which el~
where can mean ''dream:'' Alsu. we canno t be tuc) sure just exactly what Ju
sephus intemls to descriOO he re. O ne might be htmpted !<) cal1 this an
d&,JJ\ov. a persunage who &-ives a mesr.;age, but o therwir.;e th is image ad'>
in a m ost u nusual fashi(>n fo r typical C n~ek d ream image.-; when it wre.o~tl e.o;
with Jacob.9JS

But josephus also refers to Jacob's opponent as a d ivine angel/an angel

of Goct.m \.Yhereas in the Bible, jacob's combatant d oes not want to
reveal his name, he openly discloses his identity in A til. 1.332-333:
And it (the phan tom J, indeed, employed speech and words with him Oa
cob ~ urging him to rejoice in wh at had c:x:curred and no t suppc.)st? that it
was a s matJ matter to p revail, but that he had d efeated a div ine angel and
to cc.lnsid~r this a S)mbol uf great future blt?S.<iings and that his p rogeny
would never d isappear and that nt) man wuu ld be superior tu him in
strength . And he bade him to take the name o f lr.;rael. And this signifies, in
the language of the Heb rews, the o p ponent of an angel uf God . ..U

In the Bible, the opponent's iden tity remains a mystery but it is hinted
at in the rne,'lning of jacob's new name Israel:"... for you have striven
with GOO and with h umans, and have prevailed"fl11 as well as in the
name Jacob gives the site of the battle, see below. In Josephus' interpre
tation of the narrative, the narne Israel signifies the opponent of au nngel
of God, not an opponent of God in person."" Josephus emph.1sizcs that
the patriarch has not only striven with no Jess than an angel b ut has

597 Jo.ooephus' des.criplion M the departu1-e of the <jlllvmo~o also underscores the imagi
nary character of lhe event:
And the Bppal'ition, having said th i$. v.mi..;hed:" IAnt.
1.333). See also Begs: 2007, 534.
598 Gnuse 1996, 152.
.599 Cf... }OlOephu..<l' .~coounl of the angel of the lm'<l'$ vi!iit to Mano..'lh's wife in Au!. 5.2772115. The word ciyyt.Ao' is robe found in some extcml maouscripL.; of the LXX, see
S..~pruagillt3, Vetus Tes.tamentum Graerum. vol. I, C'.enesis {eeL Wevers 1974), pp.

600 Cf... Gen 32:29: "Then Jacob asked him, ' Pie.1se rell m e your name. Bul he said, ' Wh>'
do you ask my I'Uime?' A.nd there he blessed him."'
601 Gen 32:28.
602 See Aul. 1.333 tluoted .1bLwe. The identification of jacob's comba~ant as om 31\gel is
al.;o well ath~sled in other early jewis h sources, for example, in one 1-eading in lhe
LXX, the Targums, and the Ptayr-r of foseJJ!r. J~phus ma)' have been inJiu enced b)'
the tr.-.dilional jewish interpretation. See also Hayward 2005, 2.)1 236.

4.4 Th~ Judl'OJI Allliquilit'$ by Flavius Josephus


also shown himself to be h is superior. The victory is a sign/symbol of

great fu ture
According to Feld man, Josephus uses the d esignation d.yyu\o.; in
ord er to retain the ambiguity of the b iblical text, since the Greek word
bears the meaning of both 'messenger' a nd 'angel'.oo.~ In the Bible, how
ever,.. the opponent is never explicitly called " a me~c.;enger" or "angeJ"6us
but Jacob exclaims in the e nd : " ... I have sem God jnfe to face, a nd yet
my life is p reserved/' hence the place~namc Penuel.~ Josephus renders
the meaning of Penuel as ' the face of God' bu t he omits to explain the
etymology o f the name, p resu mably in o rder to avoid the anthropo
morphism o f seeing God face to face.ftCI7 josephus simply leaves it to the
reader to figu re out the connection behveen the p lace name and jacob's
encoun te r w ith the ph~1ntom/angeJ..6011

The Retum to Bethel

In contrast to Philo, Josephus provid es an accoun t of Jacob's return to
IAnt. 1.341-342] And God, approaching lakobos, whu had been stricken
w ith c()nStematiun at the en0m1ity of the det1d::> and , ang ry w ith his
St)ns, (allud ing t() the epiS<x te t unceming Dinah, Gene.sis 34], bad e him
ha,e courage, and p urifying hi$ tent.:; f() offer th~ sacrifice.s that he had
vow~..-'d when he first departed to>potamia u pon the vision uf his
d ream. Therefore, while he \Vas purifying those whn were following. he
came uJ>(m th~ gods of l abanos. f()r he did no t know that they had been
stolti!l by Rachela, and he hid them in Sikima (... ] and departing fn)m there
he sacrificed in Baithe1oi (Bethel), w hen~ he beheld the d ream w hile he was
going previous ly to Mesopotamia.

The dream spoken about is, o f course, Jacob's nightly vision at BetheJ.61"'
In the same v,,1ay as in the Biblical version, Josephus states that God
exhorted Jacob to fulfill the vm..,, he once rnade in Bethel, comp are Gcn
28:2022 a nd Anl.1 .284. As usua l, Josephus has simplified the narrative.
In the Bible, God says lo Jacob:

603 See a lso Hayward 2005, 23 1-236.

604 Feld man 1998,328,and 2000,121.

605 A,. stated previously. the design.ation ' man' in the Bible sometimes Ius the implied
meal\ing of' angel' and this may lie behind josephus' interpreMtion of Cen 32:22 32.


C'.en 32:30.

Feld man 1998,328, and 2000, 121. See al$0 Begs 2007, 530-531.
See a lso Hayward 2005, 239.
Ge:n 28: 10-22. d.., A11r. 1.279-284, see above.


4. The Ange l of the Lord - Early Jewish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

"Arise, go up to Bethel and settle there. Make em altar there to tilt Cctl who
appeared to you when you fled fro m your broth~ r Esau.N(Gen J.5:1)

It is indeed very strange that God here seems to refer to Himself in the

third person; josephus accordingly omits this theological problem,""

compare the absence o f the angel of God in his version o f Gen 31 :10~
13.' 11 josephus has deleted the second theophany at Bethel"' but he has
an abbreviated rendering of Jacob's fulfillment of his vow; '' .. . and
departing fTom U1ere he sacrificed in Baitheloi .. : '(Aut. 1.342, cf., Gen

The Blessing of Ephraim and

Josephus omits Jacob's blessing of his grandsons Ephraim and Manas~
seh in Gen 48:15 -16. Jacob's "ad option" of them has been transformed
in At1t. 1.195 into a request directed to his own sons to regard Ephraim
and Manasseh as their equal brothers and to let them share the land of
C1naan. According ly. Josephus eliminates Jacob's reference to the angel
in this context. Maybe the equation of God and the angel in Jacob's
prayer bo thered him, so he decided to delete the passage."
Concluding Relnarks
It may be conclud ed that, according to josephus, it was nonnally God

Himself who spoke directly to Jacob, the sole exception being his ren
dering of Jacob's struggle with the 'phantom/angel o f God at the ford

610 Another diffe 1~nce Cllmp<l red to the biblic.ll version is that josephus points ou! tltat
J.lcob did not know about the foreign gods s toll"ll by Rachel. Wherea.."' i1\ Cen 3S:2 it
is jacob w ho ins-ll'ucts hL'I hous ehold to get rid of t11em. in jQSephus' version i t is God
who l't'VeiiiS thei1 presenre to jacob illld orders him to purify his tei\L'I. Acnwding hl
Fe ldman, Josephus in this cilse in..::erts an ilppea rance of God w here the Bible does
not mention Him. This S-liltement seems peculi.:u, s ince in (act C(>d L.:: speaking in
Gen 35: I, even though He dl1o.~S not t>Xpre$Sl) instruC1 Jncob to get rid of any S-ll'ol.OS'-'
gods. See Feldman 2000.:\, 124. note 963.
6tt SeeAul. I..J09 and &bo\'e.
612: Cf., Cen 35:9-13. According to Feld m.m {2CXXt 124, note 968). the omi.c;sion of the
divine blessing of jarob may be politic-all> moth ated .
613 The1't' may alc;o be oiJH!r reasons why Josephus deleted the blessing of Ephraim and
Manasseh. see Peldman2(10()-., , 185, note 519. See also Feldman, 1998, 328.

4.4 Th~ /11dl'r1Jl Allliquilies by Flavius Josephus


4.4.5 Summary a nd Conclusions

In o ur a nalysis of the Judeau Antiquities, we have seen that the \ovish to

avoid theologic..1l problerns such as a nthropomorphisms and ambigui
ties is characteristic o f Josephus' rendering of the biblical pericopes.614
One example of this tendency is h is o mission of Gen 16:13 14, wherein
Hag ar appears to identify the angel o f the Lord as God. The ambivalence between God a nd the angel in both Genesis 16 and 21 is excluded
from Josephus' interpre tations of the texts. In h is version of Gen 21:19 it
is a n angel who tells Hagar a bout the spring of \ova ter, but in the Bible it
is COl-i who opens her eyes, so that she r:nay see it. God is nowhere
mentioned in Josephus' renderin g o f Genesis 21 . According to him, the
divine messenger w hom Hagar me t was an "ordinary" angel. dea rly
distinct from God.
Ln Josephus' interpretation of the Bible, a ngels thus sometimes rep lace God, but there are also examples \\1here the opposite is the case.
For example, in h is ren dering of the Aqedah, Josephus does not rnen
tion the a ngel o f the Lord; the o ne who calls to Abraham from heaven
and prevents hirn from offering Isaac is God Himself.
Although there i.'i a certain ambivalence concerning the identity of
this angel in the biblical text, it is unlikely that josephus u nderstood the
angel in Gen 22:1 J.12, 1518 as a revelation o f God in person. Most
probably, he in te rpreted the biblical text as implying that God spoke to
Abraham through the <1ngel. Th e divine emissary is not importa nt and
therefo re not ment ioned. Josephus' omission of the intermet.i ia ry may
also be d ue to h is general rationalizing tendency. Another pos..c.;ible
explanation o f the absence of the a ngel may be that Josep hus consi
dered the near sacrifice o f Lsaac such a crucial event that it must have
been God in person \ovho interfered. Moreover, becau se it was God who
commanded Abraham to sacrifice Is..1ac {Gen 22:1, cf., Ani. 1.224), Jose
p hus may have cons idered it logica l to transfer the p revention of the
sacrifice to God in person. In contr.1st, in Genesis 16 and 21 it is an a n..
gel who addresses Hagar in the fi rst instance a nd josephus hence saw
no need to in troduce God in h is versions of the narratives.
As can be seen in the survey above, it appears that whenever possi
ble Josephus prefers tn avoid mentioning an gels. Since the a ngel in
Genesis 24 plays such an insign ific. rmt role in the story, josephus neg
lects to mention h im in h is version of the wooing o f Rebekah. fn Gene

6l4 Howeve r.. j llSiephus is fa r from alone. since this tendency is common in J ~wish ex
~sesis in genetal.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Je wish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

sis 16, on the other hand, the angel who meet~ Hagar is a main charac
ter in the narrative and thus impossible to ignore. Josephus' omissions
of Jacob's dream in Gen 31:1013 as \Veil as the Patriarch's blessing of
Ephraim and M~1nasseh may be d ue to his wish to ~1void theological
problems. In Josephus' version of the life o f Jacob, it is generally God
who speaks to him, the o nly exception being Jacob's encounter \Vith the
' phantom/angel' at the ford of )abbo k.
\.Yhat then, is the d ifference between, for exarnple, the narrative
about jacob's stmggle al lhe ford of Jabbok and the Aqedah? Wh y does
the angel replace God as the one who shows Hagar the spring of water
in Josephus rendering of Genesis 21, w hile he ascribes the prevention of
Abraham's sacrifice to God, contrary to the Bible? Wh y d oes Josephus
treat these stories diffe rently? A possible answer may lie in the nature of
/he lexls. On the one hand, josephus' "demythologizing" tendency
makes him eager to omit the activity of angels where possible but, o n
the o ther, he also \"'ants to avoid anthropornorphisms and other theological problems in his rend ering of the Bible. The various natures of the
narratives should also be taken into account when con..c;idering Jose-phus' d loice of terms in d esignating angels: ciyyeAo;; 'angel/messenger',
<1><\VT<ta~la, and/or otj>1<; 'vision/apparition/phantom'. For example, the
divine emissary who encounters Hagar is d early a messenger, ",,.hiJe the
angels on the ladder in jacob's drearn do not have this fu nclion. Morecr
ver, Josephus' d1oice o f the term cp.:ivnA(J!JLl in his version o f Jacob's
struggle at the ford of jabbok is most probably d ue to his wish to minimize the concretenes.c; of the narrative and present it as a vision.
The d ivine intervention in the Aqed ah {manifested by a heavenly
voice) conforms to Josephus' tr~1nscendent conception of God. Hm,ev
er, concerning, for example.- such an anthropomorphic talc as Jacob's
struggle at the ford of Jabbok, josephus found it hard to believe that the
patriarch's opponent might actually have been God Himself. When
analyzing the judenn Anliquifies, it is also hnportant to bear in mind that
by modem standards josephus was by no means a systematic author o r
In conclusion, it may be stated that it is apparent that Josephus
wanted to elimin.=-lte the biblical ambivalence between God and His
angel in the pericopes. T1' e ambiguity o f the biblical texts disappears in
josephus' rendering of them. In his versions, the angel(s) is/are dearly
d istinguishable from God, it is either God Himself o r an angel(s) who
is/are depictet.i as ~1ctive. Josephus seems to have a form of ' Phari
sak/individ ualistic' view on angels, regarding them as distinct perso
nalities, separate from Cod, although they all remain unnamed in his
treatment o f these texts.

4.5 The Targunt.<t, Rabbinic Mid rash .md Talmud


4.5 The Targu ms, Rabbinic Mid rash and Tal mud
4.5.1 Introduction

Tnrgun1 Onqelos
Targum Onqelos (Tg. Onq.)/' 15 one of the two a uthoritat ive Targums of
Rabbinic Judaism, is the most literal o f the Targums to the Pentate uch.
Nevertheles..c;~ it contains some interpretative material paraphrasing o ur
As is the case with a ll of the Targums, the origin al composition and
redaclion of Onqelos is difficull to date, since it contains layers of ma
terial from different periods. \Vc must distin guish between the dating
of the traditions oontained in the Targums and their final redaction. In
the words of Anthony D. York:
While the evkhmoo indicate.<; a great an tiquity for w ritten Targ:umim to
many portions of the Bible, no effective method has as yet been d evised to
d istinguish between the recen.sion of a particular taf},'Uinic text and tht! Ira
d itiun that underlies that tt~xt."l"

scholars agree that w hile the Targum (the so-called 1 Pmlo

Onqelos') originated in the land o f Israel. the final revision and redaction of Onqelos took place in Babylonia, probably towards the e nd of the
third century C. E.""' The Targum may contain some pre-Christian ele~
Most certainly, Onqelos was originally produced primarily for the
benefit of the Aramaic~speaking masses and not for the sch olars of the
t ime. Both U1e aggadah a nd the halakhah of Onqelos disclose an apparent connection to the school of Rabbi Aq iba.M~t Th e Targurn contains

615 Hencefo rth, I will use the s hOJter d esignation Om~t1os, except when applying the
616 York 1974,49.
617 There <I I'C, however, al.;o scholars who advocate a B.lbylonian migin of Ot~qdc~. e.g.
1'. Kahle. 51.~ Gros.<>fcld 1988,30-32.
618 Grossfeld 1988,30-35.
619 Grossfel d 1988. 30-32. For more information, see hLc; w hole 'introduclion', Grossfeld
1988, 1 35. See .also Abetbach/Grossfeld 1982. 9-18, and Bowke 1969, 2226. Alexrm
der ( 1992. 321322) \\'rites that Pr<llll Targum Ouqt'los origin!ltcd in Pale.<~tinc/the land
of l:w<~el in the firS-t or eal'ly seoond centutielt CE. Ae<ording to him, the Babylonian
redaction of the Targum made in the fourth or fifth cenhuies C. E.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

many parallel traditions v,rith the Rabbinic

muds, the Babylonian in particu la r."~,

~vfidrashi m

and the Tal

The Palestinian Targums to the Pentateuch

Similar to Onqelos, these Targums are ve'Y d ifficult to d ate. All of them
most certainly contain material fro m different pcri01..isof jewish history.
As their designation indic..1tes, they all o riginated in Palestine/the land
of Israel. In contrast to Onqelos, the Palestinian Targums were never
officially "canonized" by Rabbinic: judaism.~

Targrmr Neofili 1
As mentioned in chapter 2.2.3, Alexander Diez Macho clairns that Tar
gum Neofili l (Tg. Neof"') con tains paraphrases that are pre-Ch ristian,
since they favo r the Ouistian interpretation of Scripture.~' Acco rding
to Bowker, Neofiti in it~ present fo rm can be assigned to the third century C. E., while M. McNamara suggests a dating o f the Targum to the
fou rth century or rnaybe earlier.6l" Neofiti v~.ras (re-)discovercd by Dicz
Macho in the Vatican Library in 1 956.~'i
Tile Genizah HWtluscripls
The Genizah is located in the Ben Ezra Synagogue o f Old Cairo. It con
tains je\ovish manuscripts d ating from approximately the $J.h- 9d\ centu
ries unlil the 14ct~ century. The Cairo Genizah is the largest and, after
Qumran, the most import..1nt source of ancient and medieval jewish
texts discovered in modern times. The Genizah fTagrnents o f Palestini
an targumic manuscriptc; are counted among the earliest extant v~.rit
620 GI'OSsfeld 1988, 1518 . If not otherwise s tated. I use the Engli.<>h translatio n by Aber
bad'\/GI'OSSfeld, 1982.
621 McNamara {1992.. 4 1), howeve. writes that "' .. .The nttmu$Cripts of the P.lii!'Siiniall
Ttt~l/IIIS of the Pentah?uo::h have been lran.<~mitted to us by Rabbinic judaism. This is
evidence that even if not an official Targum, as Om~tlf}$ la ter was. the Palestinian

Targum tradition was 1-eoognized by Rabbi1tic Judailm ll..'l its l'WIIl."' 11lere .ue scholars (e.g., Klein) vJI\Q see a oonne<rion between the Pa~tini nn Targums And the halakah of the sc:hool of Rab bi l~maeL McNnrnara 1992. 42.
622 Henreforth.. I will u..c:e the l>ho11er designa tion Nrufili, e);<:ept v.'hen the abbrevi
at ion.
623 Dfe:z. Macho 1960, 22>233.
624 Bowker 1969, 16-20. and McNam ara 1992, 44-15.
625 McNamarB. 1992 (inl mduction). 79. I consult the Engl i.<~h ta ns l.uion!l b)' J..,lcNam a
ra}!\1ah er 1968 and McNam ara 1992. If not othen'li.<~e S-lclted, I use the Englil>h trans
lalil11l by M. McNamara. 1992.

4.5 The Targunt.<t, Rabbinic Mid rash .md Talmud


nesses of the ancient Aramaic translation of the Bible. Scholars have

long acknowledged their significance in containing early midrashic
traditions and no n ~normative halakha. The Gcnizah also contains t..u~
gumic Toscfot, Fragment Targums, i.e... selections of verses, phrases
and passages excerpted fro m the Palestinian Targumtradition,. festival
litu rgical collections and introd uctory targumic poerns, etc.6lr.

The Frngment Tnrgmns

There arc also Fr-agrnent Targums that have been preserved outside the
Cairo Genizah. In contrast to most of the Geniza.h manuscripts, the
incompleteness o f the Fragmeul Trgums (Frg. Tg.) is probably delibe
rate and not d ue to accident~ Qf transmission. A common theory is that
the Fragment Targums constitute selective extracts put together by re*
dactors from the now lost Palestinian Targums.ft27 .:~.ccording to PhilipS.
Alexander, they represent a Palestinian exegetical tradition that ty po-logically stands ben.veen Neofili and Tnrgum PseudoJmratlum ..~11
The origin Qf the Fragmenl Tnrgums is veiled in obscurity. One vie"~"
is that they originated as complements to Onqelos, in order to preserve
the Palestinian targurnic tradition w hen Ouqelos became est.:'lblished as
the "official" Targum of Rabbinic Judaism. Another view is that the
Fra.gmeul Tnrgums constitute variants o f Targum Pseudo ~jon a tlran.6~ The
liturgical nature of all the Pentateuch Targums is generally recognized,
and the Fragmeut Targums may have been used in the synagQgtJe as
supplementary or alternate material to the main Targum being used.r.30
The Fragmettl Tnrgums do not contain the very late elements fo und
in Pseudd~jouatlran. O n the other hand, they have passages that refer to
the destruction of the Se<:ond Temple in 70 C.E."1 Alexander writes: "It
is not possible to put any kind of precise date on Frg. Tg., but it probably represents a recens ion o r recensions o f the PT (Palestinian. Targum]
earlier than Ps.Jou but later than Neof."'"

626 See Klein (introduction) 1986_. vol. I, xh:-xxxviii. 1f not o the..,.,rise s.l.ilted, I lL<te the
Arama ic texfs of the Ta1ogum Cenizah fagmenL<~ rolle<:ted by Klein along with his
translation..;. For furthe inform ation reg:. uding 1he Geniz.lh manlL<tCI'iplo.. see Klein's
627 Klein 1980, 12. McNa m.:l r.l 1992.4, and Alexander, 1992.323-324.
628 Alexande r 1992, 323.
629 Alex.lnde.r, 1992.324, McNolmara 1992.. 5, and Klein 1980, 13-19.
6:30 r<.kNamara 1992.6, <Uld Klein 1980, 19.
631 Klein 1980,23-26.
632 Alexander 1992, 324. If no t otherwi!ie s tated, I use the Englis h tl'<lns l.uion found in
Tilt Fragfltt.IJ T1trgums t>tilt' Pmltlt'UdJ. Acr:ordiug lo Jl1eir Extant Sl>utc.!':s, vol. I (AI'l
nuk tel<t) and vol. 2 (Eng. tran.<t.). Ed. and lrBilS. Klein., 1980.


4. The Angel of the Lord - Early Jewish lnte tpretation..c~ of Genesis

Targum Pseudo~}otlalhmt
Targum Pseudo--Jonathan (Tg. Ps. ~J.'fU in itc; present form is consid ered to
be of a later d a te, although it certainly oontain..c; ancient t raditions. Psett

p robably received its final form after the emergence of Islam a nd the Arab conquest o f the Mid d le East. This Targum is the only
one that generally consider to contain elements from the Islam
ic e ra a nd therefo re it contains a n ti ~ Moslem pole rn ic.6."U
Pseudo-Jouatlratl in its present fom1 contains an amalgamat ion of
material from diffe ren t periods, perhaps to a higher degree than a ny
other Targum to the Pe ntateuch. It reveals knm,,.Jedge about Islam and
refers to a wife and daughter of Mohammad (Tg. Ps.J. Gen 21:21) as
well as to 'Yohanan the High Priest' in Tg. Ps.J. Deut 33:11 Oohn Hyr
canus, 134104 B.C.E.).
As mentioned in chapter 2.2.3, this Targum contains in terpretations
that were censured in Rabbinic literature, sometimes as early as the
Mishna h .~1.11 However, Michael Maher states that PseudoJonathan " ... in
its fiHal form cannot be dated before the seventh or eight century ~llo (my
Tt has been proposed that the Targum constitu tes a n attempt to
combine a Paleslin ian targurnic tradition w'ith material from the rev ised
Baby lonian Onqelos, with interwoven additio ns from various Midra
shim, however, this has been disputcd.U.17 f'vf.m y scholars agree that the
redaction o f lhe Palestinian Targums was probably completed in pre
lslamic times, w ith the exception o f PseudcJ~Jonntlum .~"~

The Targum to C hronicles

Because of the rela tively low canonical status of the book of Ouonides
in Judaism1 it is unlikely th at it was read in Lhc ancient Synagogu e ser
vice. Thu s, the Targum probably did not originate in the Synagogu e



I will use the shl)l'tet de:!'ig.nation Psettdc>-/t>llllllum, when not npplying

the .1bbreviatkln.
634 M<lher 1992. II. Because of the ltmguage of Psctedo-]cma/Jtan, S..Jme do nat
COI\Sider it a..c; belonging to the Paltstinian ttuogumic family, al!hough it ront.lin:; Pal
e.c;tinian material. Maher 1992.. 9.
635 Alexander 1992.. 322. See also Bowket1969, 26-28.
636 Mahe r 1992. 12.
637 Ale>:ander l992, 322-323.
6.18 McNamarn1992, (introduction), 4J-;J5, and M.lher 1992, 1112. For the Aram .1k tt~>:t
of Pscttd~>-Jmatfllltt, see Oarke 19~1. If not otherwise s tated, I use ~1 aher's Englis h
t.r.mslation ( 1992} of l11e T argum.

4.5 The Targunt.<t, Rabb inic Mid rash .md T almud


but in the religious school o r/and private stud y. The Targum to Cltrom'
cles (Tg. Cltr.) has an apparent Palestinian character and it was most
certainly composed in that country. although it also displays affinities
wi th the Babylonian Talmud. It also appears to have been influenced by
Pse-udo ~jonatlran .

It is very difficult to d ate the Targum lo Cltronkles, as it probably

constitutes the result of a long process o f work by generations of inter
pretcrs at the Jewish academies. It may have originated in 41~'~ century
Palestine and was finally edited in the 8~'~ centu ry C. E. There are no
Arabisms in the Targwu lo Chronicles. In many ways, it has a more d e
veloped angelology than the MT o f Chronicles, e.g., in 1 Chr 29:11 an
gels are depicted as assis ting in the giving of the Torah at Sinai.6.1"

Genesis Rabbah

Genesis Rabball (Gen. Rab.) is one of the o ldest exegetical Midrashim. It is

a Palestinian work edited during the late 41h/carly S~t~ century CE . al
though containing earlier matcriai.MO
The Midrash shares many traditions with the Jcrusalenl Talmud
and Ouqelos.u Ancient jewish tradition ascribes the authorship of Gene
sis Rabball to Rabbi Hoshaya, who belonged to the first generation of
Am oraim in the land of Israel. However, such an early date for the final
form of the Mid rash is not tenable, since Palestinian Rabbis up to approximately 400 arc cited therein.M2 Tt con..c;titutes a run ning commen
tary on the book of Ge n es is.6.1:~

639 Mcivor (introduction) 1994, 11 -18. I u!le th e Engli!th tra1tsla.tion by Mdvor, 1994.

640 Stack/Stemberger 1991, 300-305.

6111 Grossfeld 1988, 16-JS, and Bohlker 1969, 78-'7\J. &"e ollso Strack/Stembe.rge 1991,
642 Strack/Stemberge 1991,303-304, and Freedman 1939, );:lo:Viii-);>:ix. Freed man refers to
ZUI\1..., who claim..; lhal Ct:Jtesis Rh.blh1lt was edited in the s ixth centu i'Y C. E.
6113 Plwhm 1992..l, 820, and 1979, 128. If not o1herwise s 1..1ted, I use the Engli$h t:r<msl<uion
by H. F1~edman.. 1939.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer

In contrast to Genesis Rnbba!J, th is is a narrative l'Yfid rash and as such
similar to the rewritten Bible' genre. It was proba bly composed in Pa
lestinejthe land of Israel durin g the 8"1 o r 9th centu ry C. E .~
Pirqe de Rabbi /iezer (Pirqe R. /.) is a composite work. \Vhile it con
tains ma ny references to Islam a nd Arab rule, the redactor/author most
certainly made use of earlier traditions.r.u The Mid r-ash a lso ap pears to
be clo-~ely related to the Pseudepigrapha, Genesis Rabbah. a nd Pseudo}mznlltnn..Nr,

Pesiqta de Rab Kahana

Th is is a homiletic Mid rash containing sermons for the feslivals and
special Sabbaths. It is a Palestinia n Midrash probably dating from
a round the 51" century C.E. Pesiqta de Rnb Ka/rann (Pesiq. Rab Kah.) is
considered by some scholars as the o ldest known homiletic f'v1idrash.647

Mekilta d e Ra bbi Ishmael

Th is is a hala khic conunentary on the book o f Exodus. Th e ~vfidrash
may probably be assigned to the school of Rabbi Ishmael. Mekiltn de
Rabbi /slmme/ is a very old Midrash, probably originating during Ta nnaitic times, a lthough its fin al red action may be dated to the second
half o f the third century C. E."''

644 Sttack/Stemberger 1991. ;356.357. Although Pit~~ dt RabJli 1ie:ur is generally considered to have been edited duri ng th e eigh th or ninth century, much llf the material
in thi..c~ Midra."h is older. See, e.g... th e introduction by Fiedlander. 19 16, pp. liii 1v
and Strack,/Stemberger 199 1, 35ft.3S7.
645 F1iedlander 1916. liiilv, and Bowker 1969, 85. Strad:/Stemberger, 1991, 356-357,
cl.1ssifioes Pinl" dl! Ra1lbi 111'-ztr (i1\ contrast to Friedlan der) as the c~at i ve wo.k of a
6<16 F1iedl.mder 1916 x ix lv, Bowker 1969, fl5. Maher 1992, 5 12. and StrackJStemberger
1991.357. llLc;e the English trans lation by Fried la~~der, 19 16 .
6<17 Sl~e Strack,o'Stemberge l991. 317322, and Br.lude{Kapstein 2002. xi d . I use the
English tran.c;Jation by Baud e and Ka pstein, 2002.
6<18 St:rack/Stemberger 1991. 2.75 279. See .11so Lauterbach (introd u ction) vol. 1. 1961. >:iiiixiv. I use the English t"tan.<ilation by Lauterbach, 1961.

4.5 The Targunt.<t, Rabbinic Mid rash .md Talmud


The Talmuds
As is \Vell knov,m , the two Tal muds, in particular the Babylonian one,
are the principal works of Rabbinic Jud aism and further presentation is
superfluous. For some general infom1ation, see chapter 2."'9

4.5.2 Hagar and the Angel

Tnrgun1 Onqelos
Genesis 16
Regarding Gcn 16:710, 0 11qelo.s is very similar to the MT. Moses Aber
bach and Bernard Grossfeld have chosen to translate '"i :o:-t't. in v. 7 in
indefinite fo rm: "Then n11 angel o f the lord fo und her by a spring of
water in the wildem ess ... " But we could equally understand the Tar
gum as referring to a specific d ivine messenger, ' the angel o f the Lord ',
as in the Bible. To some d egree, the biblical ambivalence ben.veen the
angel and God remains in t-he Targum. As in the Bible, the angel refers
to God in the third person (v. 11, see below) but he also talk-5 w ith di
v ine authority in the fi rst person: " I w ill g reatly multiply your descen
d an ts ... " (v. 10).
Onqelos interp rets Lhe coming o f the angel as God's answer to the
p rayer of Hagar. "Behold, you are p regnan t, and you shall give birth to
a son; and you shall c.-.11 his name Ishmael; fo r 1/le Lord !Jns accepted youI'

prnyer" (v. 11).

As mentio ned in chapter 3, verses 13~1 4 are both linguistically and
theologically problematic in the MT. As a consequence there are differ~
ences ben.veen the Targum and the Hebrew text in these verses. A
comparison between the texts p rovides the following result:

649 1 use the English tran..;lation of th e Babylonian Talmud by Epstein., vol<t. 1-35.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

T~. Onq. Aramaic and Eng. trans.

Gen 16:1314: lv!T{NKJV

' In ; N ;m~ :M~ "'OT.'t :ll.1' OIC ~1j>'lll

p ;:;

n41 \'\1 "inN. '11'~ o;:~



:"',lll\ 'J

, ,J 1:11 !1.'1i' lJ :u:" ' N1 ri? 1SJ 1~::1; ~,i'

n~ nii!K :lll"!i ;;r.nx ; ...., ~I!IS'J nK..,'Sl


-stn n ""'~' ~K ~~ i'l'"l.t~ .,K ~'0 "ln N."\'7-s x :.,

N1'J N"'\":1? XV P

r-' ~,,




rt 41 ;

''lfiK1 11'0

&1 :1i11 'lM'~ N.?!l'i'


fl 3] Then she ct~lleil lh~ rumu of the
LORD who s:pokt~ to her, You-Are-the~Q)(f-Wh6-Set.s; for she said, "Nat>~t I
also hae ~ell I-lim wlto sees m~?" p 4)
Therefo re the well was called B~:er
Lalmi Roi; (the well of the U\'ing One
who sees me] observe, it is between
Kadesh and &red.

fl 3J And s/w pmycrl in the name of the

U..rd who had s poken with h~ r,t..'lll
(and) she said, "Ycu tJre the God wh11
sres ~rythiug,N for she said, "1. too,
fun~ begun f(J $4.'t (\is:ion.o;} a fter f-Ie had
been revealed to me." [14) Therefure
tilt! well was called th~ Well where the
living angel appeared, behold it is between Rekem and Hagra (my italics].

The angel of the Lord w ho spoke to Hagar seems to be id entified by her

in Ouqelcl5 as God Himself in v.13, in accordance with the f\(T: " .. .You
are the God '"'.'ho sees euerylhing ..." Otlllelos interprets this verse as an
allusion to the omniscience of God. God sa'v Hagar in her trouble.
Grossfeld assumes that Lhe targumic addition 'everything' is d ue to an
attempt to diminish the anthropomorphism o f the Hebrew ~, ?~... since
it could be understood as Hagar calling the one who spoke to her '"the
God whom it is penn iHed to see.",.,!i 1 This is theologically problematic,
since no human c.m see God and live (cf., Exod 19:21 and 33:20). The
LXX has "You are the God w ho sees me ... instead of "You-Are~lhe
God\VhoSees. It all d epends o n how the wo rd,~, is vocalized.m
The idea that a maidservan t should have given God a name ,
probably hard for the targumist to imagine, and he rewlves the prob
lem by translating ;n:T' Ctii ~~m /she called the name of the Lord" as
n~?'~l ~, IQ)W:I /"she prayed in the name o f the Lord ." Compare, for ex

650 Accord ing to Aberbach/Cms.c;feld, it is s ignifican t that Onqtlfl:l tr.m!tlates: the Heb1'e\V
phrll.<~e :t'i~ u;;; in v. t:) a..<~ :;:;.:; 77<l:i1Xi , using the lthpaei fl', rm of the \'erb '7'i<J/ 'hl
speak'. Oueltlos could jus:l as well have used the traJlSialion :;.n 7.'7::;. Aberbach and
Grossfeld suggest that lhe reason was probabl)' that lhe ta'SumLc;t wal\ted to make
C'.od's words to Hagar les.c; diroo. The u.<~e o f this gram matical foml renders the di sMniX' between Cod and H aga geater: Aberbach!GrO!;Sfeld 1982. 99, no te 10.

651 Gross:feld t9Sfl. 73, note 12.

6..'>2 ~eals.oOlescer 1986,8S-87.

4.5 The Targunt.<t, Rabbinic Mid rash .md Talmud


ample, Gen 12:8: " ... there he [Abram] built an altar to the lORD and
invoked the name of the lord (<nii"' o~':l ~1i'' l]." See also Gen 13:4; 21:33,
and 26:25 both in Ouqelo.s and the ?vfT."~ The reference to t-he prayer of
Hagar in Onqelos may also be an influence from the sy nagogue~liturgy
of the time.
The end of Gen 16:13 is also different in the Targum. According to
Onqelos. Hagar is here saying: " ... I. too, have begun to see (visions)
after He had been revealed to me." The targumic ad dition in Hagar's
exclamation; " I, too have begun .../...~l~ n11t~... " might, according to
Abcrbach/Grossfeld, be connected to the midrashic vie\ov that several
angels appeared to Hagar. The meeting wiU' the angel of the lord in
the d esert \\'ilS thus only her first heavenly vision.611t
Note that Hagar is saying'' ... 1, too, have begun to see (visions) ... "
This is pos.sibly an allusion to the midrashic concept that divine revela
tions happened regularly in Abraham's household. Hagar is exclaiming
that nmv she tool despite her low status as a servant. has had a heaven..
ly visitation.6.'15
Hagar meets the heavenly emissary in a revelation, a vision. It is
thus not comparable to a 'face to face' encounter between two persons
in the desert. G rossfeld writes that Ouqelo.s in v. 13 presupposes an u n~
derstanding of the Hebrew o?;,; 'here/even' as o;n; ' dream ('6Mo
This reminds us of what God Qnce said to AarQn and Miriam in N um
(5) Then the LORD came down in a pillar uf duud ;md stood at the en
trance uf the tent, and called Aanm and Miriam, and tht!y both came for.
ward. [6) And he said$ "Hear my word$: Wht?n there are prophel<:> among
you, I the LORD make myst!lf kn<nVl'l to them in visions; I Speak to them in
d reams. (7J Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my

653 See also Gros ..<1fe ld 1988, 73, nme 9, Che~er 1986, 89, and Aberbach(Grossfeld 1982.
99$ note 10. TI'I is ill te'Pretation may be seen in the light of the fact that the Hebrev1
word KV (especially in combina tio n with the p-epo.<~ition :!) can a!St) m\~an 'call
upon/ invokeJappe.ll to', hence 'pray'. a ., also Rom 10:13 and the l'e ndering of Cen
16:13 in the Palestil\ ian Targums, see below and Maher 1992.. 63, no te 16.
654 Abcrbilch,'Gros.sfeld 1982, 99100, note II. Aberb.lch/Cro..,sfeld refers here to C'ttu.
/Wb. -15.7. I am dll l.lbtfu l abl)Ut this refererw:t:,. s ince Q_.,,I'.S;s RtJbb11)t he re oommen l~
upon H11s;al"s e>:pe1ience dul'ing het escape ( 1\)0\ Sarah in Genesis 16. II i..; ll'ue
the ~tates that seve ral .angels nppe.a1'ed to Hagar, bter on 1me nnd rflt' sam~ ex-Lit$i.lll.

65S Abctbach!Grossfeld 1982. 99100, note II. ln addition to the Rllbbinic tradition,
Abctbach and Crossfelrl base this on rm a.<~l)u mption of the substitution of the word
o?:i in ro-n br ~ (I} in Tg. Ouq. Cen 16:13 . ..\ s shown abo\'e, Gros..,feld also susgesL.;
anO!her inlet'flt"elation of Owlt'lfiS concerning the .. t ...anslalion" of the word o?:i.
656 Grossfeld 1988, 73, nl"'te 13. See also O les tet 1986, 87.


4. The Angel of the Lord- Early Jewish lntetpretation..c~ of Genesis

ht)U$e. 18) \>Vith him J ,:;peak fare to face-deon ly, not i n ridd les; and he~
holds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak
against my Si"n'ant Mo~s?,.

l11e meeting between the angel o f the Lord and Hagar is not described
by Onqelos as a meeting 'en route'. It is not an 10rdinary' meeti ng benveen two persons in the desert1 b ut depicted as a heavenly vision. This
is a spiritualization of the biblical pericope. In this way Onqelos tTies to
diminish the anthropomorphism o f the text, a typical targumic de-vice.IU7The LXX also differs from the Targum on this point:
ICen 16:13} KL't i i:K"c~Atm~v J\:ylt(> ,(J {JvOp t.t Kt-'Qtuv 'tOU At.tAuUvw.; 1lfJ<l;
u:trn1v, ru c) fh:b~ b rmtx:J\' '"'C OTt dm:v, Kai yl-'t(.> t:vc.,muv t:iDov ('x1)66tUt
"'oi/And Hagar called the nam~ of fh (? Lord who Spoke to ht!r, " Yo u are the
God who se~ me./luoks upo n me;" fur she said, "Fo r I have upenly {or: in
perSon,~~ chapter 3) ::;een him that appeared tom ~... {14) ht..:.L-v "TMnuv
i:Ktl:Acat.v 't~J (fi(.Ji:U:(.J <t>Qi:tlQ oU t vc.'mcov t:ibov ... / ...The w~U of him whom
J have o penly seen ...

As is shown by the quotation, the LXX has no problem in stating that

Hagar openly smo God. The LXX also d istinguishes itself from Onqelos
by the trnnslation of v. 13a: " And she called the nome o f the Lord w ho
spoke unto her ... " According to the LXX, Hagar here names the God
w ho appeared