In my recent debate with Ijaz Ahmad he made much of the fact that the Angel of the Lord in Zechariah 1:12 intercedes with the Lord for Jerusalem, something that presupposes that the two are distinct. According to Ijaz, this shows not only that a distinction obtains between the two, but that the distinction is ontological in nature, i.e. it demonstrates that the former alone is Lord and the latter is not. Although I did point out that the Angel of the Lord is also identified as Lord in His own right in Zechariah 3, and thus that “the Angel of the Lord” is the distinctive title by which this second person who is Yahweh is distinguished from the first, the title being most appropriate since He is evidently the heavenly Mediator and Messenger between God and His people, a fact that follows naturally from Zechariah1, I think much more could be and needs to be said than I communicated during the debate. Since this was the passage on which Ijaz drew most of his thunder, and since most people I have talked to were unimpressed with his other arguments against the deity of the Angel, particularly his failure to grapple with the lexical and scholarly evidence I provided for the fact that the word angel (mal’ak) is not restricted in meaning or use to created spirits – something that brought on the bizarre charge from Ijaz that I was the one guilty of playing word games and being unscholarly, a lapse on his part that was aggravated by the fact that he didn’t bring a single scholarly source forward to justify his repeated misuse of the term, or even for anything else that he mentioned – I will take some time to fill out my all too brief comments in the debate on Zechariah 1 as part of the fulfillment of my agreement with Ijaz to discuss this issue further, and in order to make the matter clear for Christians who were/are interested in having me address this.
One of the first things to note is how the view I contended for comports with the overall theology of Zechariah, who many times over in the book that bears his name indicates that there are at least two persons who share the name, nature, attributes and perform the works of Yahweh. While I will seek to show in a follow up post that the second person identified as Yahweh in Zechariah is the Angel of the Lord, it should be observed that even apart from being able to make this equation the following evidence is proof in its own right for a distinction of persons in the Godhead in the Old Testament, which is all-important. That is to say, the following passages that speak of two persons as Yahweh prove that the Old Testament teaches that God is not a solitary person and in this sense He is not like any other conscious agent in existence – including schizophrenics, a straw-man trumped up by my opponent that applies to Modalists who believe the persons of the Trinity are actually only one person who banters back and forth between different alter egos, rather than to Trinitarianism, which teaches that God subsists in three actual persons – He being uniquely multi-personal, and thus unlike anything or anyone.
The first of many examples for Zechariah’s overall “binitarianism” presents itself in Zechariah 2:6-12, which reads as follows:
6 “Ho there! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have dispersed you as the four winds of the heavens,” declares the Lord. 7 “Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon.” 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. 9 For behold, I will wave My hand over them so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me. 10 Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord. 11 “ Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. 12 The Lord will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. 13 Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.”
In this passage Zechariah speaks the words of the Lord [Heb. Yahweh], making a clear distinction between himself as the purveyor of these words, and the Lord with whom they originate. Before demonstrating the obvious fact that the above passage presents two persons as Yahweh, let the following be noted here: while Zechariah’s actions here in speaking for the Lord are in a measure consistent with what the Angel of the Lord does in Zechariah one, which is to be expected since the Angel is a distinct person who can speak to and for Yahweh, the prophet does not also refer to himself as the Lord or in any way indicate that he shares the Lord’s name, nature, attributes or prerogatives, something the Angel of the Lord does elsewhere in Zechariah, and times without number elsewhere in the Old Testament. In other words, Zechariah is not only personally distinguished from Yahweh, but he is nowhere put ontologically on a par with Yahweh as a co-sharer in His name and attributes, a fact that flies in the face of Ijaz’s appeal to the idea that an agent who speaks for God is by virtue of this called by the name of the one who sent Him. This is not true of the Angel of the Lord who is both distinguished from one called Yahweh and who is simultaneously identified as Yahweh by nature, as we will eventually see.
In any event, in the above verses the Lord who says things like the following in the first person: “I have dispersed you” (v. 6), “I will wave my hand over them” (v. 9), “I am coming” (v. 10), “I will dwell in your midst” (v. 10), and who refers to the daughter of Zion, i.e. the people of Jerusalem, as “My people” (v. 11); is the same Lord who also refers to the Lord in the third person, saying: “After glory He has sent Me” (v. 8), “he who touches you touches the apple of His eye” (v. 8), “then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me” (v. 9), “many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day” (v. 11), “you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me to you” (v. 11), and “The Lord will possess Judah as His portion” (v. 12).
Any attempt to say that the Lord is simply referring to Himself in the third person here, which would otherwise be grammatically possible, is negated by the fact that the Lord who refers to Himself in the first person says that He has been SENT by the Lord that He refers to in the third person:
“After glory has He sent Me against the nations that plunder you…” (v. 8)
“Then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me.” (v. 9)
“…you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me to you.” (v. 11)
Note in particular that it is Yahweh who speaks in verse 8, but the verb that follows in the next clause, selahani, i.e. “sent me,” indicates that Yahweh is the one being sent and that He is being sent by Yahweh. It is Yahweh who is speaking according to verse 8, but the pronominal suffix in Hebrew in verse 9, “He has sent Me,” also refers to someone called Yahweh. Thus the one who is sent and the one by whom He is sent are identified as Yahweh.
This is why interpreters who have no room in their thinking for Yahweh as multi-personal can only suggest in the end that the passage must be emended, which is just to say that the text has to be changed in order to make it comport with unitarianism. But this tells us more about such interpreters who are inclined to do this sort of thing than it does about the text. Or, better yet, we may say it tells us a lot about the text – namely, that it is unavoidably binitarian, i.e. it presents two persons as Yahweh, one of whom sends the other, for if there were any viable way around this on exegetical grounds, or even through some eisegetical feat or sleight of hand, then such interpreters would not throw up their hands in exasperation and say that the text has to be changed to reflect their assumptions. Even those who are given to suggesting that Old Testament texts should be emended or changed when they do not align with their thinking only do so only as a last measure, i.e. when all else fails. Hence, the very suggestion in this place that the text ought to be emended shows they are at their wits end.
Any attempt to monkey with the quotations and suggest that it is the prophet who is saying that he was sent is likewise negated by what the sent one is said to do, which is something that the prophet decidedly would not and could not do, i.e. punish the nations that have come against Jerusalem:
“After glory has He sent Me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.” (v. 8)
“For behold, I will wave My hand over them so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me.” (v. 9)
In addition to the above, the Lord who is speaking promises that He would dwell in the midst of His people, and that this would be proof that the Lord has sent Him:
“Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me to you.” (v. 11)
That the Lord, the sent/coming one, the one who will come against the nations, the one who says He will wave His hand over them so that they will be plundered, also says He will dwell in the midst of His people, and that this would be the sign that the Lord of Hosts has sent Him (“Me”), once again makes it clear that this one is Yahweh, for what the sent/coming one says He would do is nothing other than the chief blessing and primary goal of the covenant between God and His people, i.e. that He would dwell in their midst. While this is stated many times over in the Old Testament, verse 5 in the immediate context tells us just what is meant:
“For I,” declares the Lord, “will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her MIDST.”
What we see in the above passage, which teaches that the Lord sent the Lord after glory, and to defend His people, and to dwell in their midst, is just the sort of thing we see throughout the prophets. Repeatedly we are told that the Lord is going to come, and we are no less certainly told that His coming is in accordance with His having been SENT or being employed BY or acting FROM the Lord.
Two primary passages, and several supportive ones, shall suffice to illustrate the point.
First, there is the example of something Moses says in Genesis 19. After Genesis 18 tells us that the Lord appeared on earth with two angels to Abraham just prior to Sodom’s destruction, we read:
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah —FROM the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. (Genesis 19:23-25)
Significantly, the distinction drawn here between the Lord who rained down burning Sulfur and the Lord FROM whom He rained is perpetuated several times over by the prophets:
“Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold. And their bows will mow down the young men, they will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, nor will their eye pity children. And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Isaiah 13:17-19)
“As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah with its neighbors,” declares the LORD, “No man will live there, nor will any son of man reside in it.” (Jeremiah 50:40)
“I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, and I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. “I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. (Amos 4:10-11)
Just as Moses clearly says that the Lord judged Sodom and Gomorrah by raining burning Sulfur FROM the Lord out of the heavens, so the prophets present God/the Lord saying that He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah BY God.
For more on this passage, see my four part article:
The “Heavenly” and “Earthly” Yahweh: A Trinitarian Interpretation of Genesis 19:24 – [Part 1, 2, 3a, 3b]
Second, there is the example of Hosea, through whom the Lord said:
“6…And the LORD said to him, “Name her Lo-Rummah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them. 7 But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them BY the Lord their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen.” (Hosea 1:6-7)
Here the Lord clearly distinguishes between Himself and the means He says He will NOT employ or use – bow, sword, battle, horses, horsemen. By the same token, the Lord also distinguishes between Himself and the means He says He WILL use, but incredibly the distinction is between Himself as Yahweh who will deliver the house of Judah and Yahweh their God whom He said He would employ or use to do so.
To return to the prophet Zechariah, we later read something highly interesting about this person who is called Yahweh who is sent to destroy those who come against Jerusalem:
9 “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 10 I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11 In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.” (Zechariah 12:9-14)
In the above passage the Lord says that the people will “look on Me whom they have pierced,” and tells us that the house of David and Jerusalem’s inhabitants will mourn for Him, i.e. Yahweh, the pierced one, as one mourns for an only son or firstborn. Somehow Yahweh, who is going to destroy Jerusalem’s enemies, would be pierced and be the object of mourning. Whereas Zechariah 2 tells us that He would be sent by Yahweh, both Zechariah 2 and 12 tell us that He is Yahweh. Thus the latter passage reinforces the first in terms of identifying the one who is to come as Yahweh, and the latter further identifies Him as the one who would be pierced.
A third passage in Zechariah of some significance is found in Zechariah 13 and is closely related to the passage in Zechariah 12. For just as Yahweh said in 12:10 that He would be pierced, so in Zechariah 13 we are told not only that false prophets, by the Lord’s decree, will come to such a fate, i.e. they would be pierced through, but even the Shepherd of Yahweh would experience a terrible fate, no doubt the piercing mentioned in 12:10, and back of it would be the Lord’s own sword. Most significantly for present purposes is the fact that “the Shepherd,” –indeed, “My Shepherd,” – is identified by Yahweh not only as one distinct from Himself, but as “My Associate.”
“1 In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. 2 It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land. 3 And if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who gave birth to him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you have spoken falsely in the name of the Lord’; and his father and mother who gave birth to him will pierce him through when he prophesies. 4 Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies, and they will not put on a hairy robe in order to deceive; 5 but he will say, ‘I am not a prophet; I am a tiller of the ground, for a man sold me as a slave in my youth.’ 6 And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’
7 “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the Lord of hosts.“ Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones. 8 “It will come about in all the land,”
Declares the Lord, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. 9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
Note well that the passage calls the Shepherd both “the man,” geber, and “My Associate,” amiti, both together indicating that this is no ordinary man but a man who is also equal with God, which presupposes that this one is contemplated as partaking of two natures, humanity and deity.
So strong is this term that some post-Christian Talmudic Jews, recognizing the implications of what the text actually says, have said that it should not be taken as it stands in the text, which is literally “the man who is my equal,” but as “the man who thinks he is my equal.” This is just another example that those with a unitarian bias simply will not bide or submit to the text but will instead regiment or seek to bring the text into line with their thinking.
Messianic Jewish Scholar Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s comments are appropriate here:
“ZECHARIAH 13:7 is a one verse summary of the whole of Zechariah chapter 11. The Shepherd of verse 13:7 is the Good Shepherd of 11:4-14. This verse again states that Messiah will be a God-Man. The humanity of the Messiah is obvious: “…and against the man…” The words which follow are never adequately translated into English and so the divinity of Messiah is not made obvious. What is translated as “my associate” is, in the Hebrew, “my equal.” The verse should really read, “and against the man, my equal,” and of course in order to be equal with God, Messiah must actually be God. This may not be obvious in English translations, but is very close to the original Hebrew.
This verse also emphasizes the violent nature of Messiah’s death and again states that His death will be the cause of the dispersion of Israel. The shepherd was struck in 30 A.D. when Jesus was crucified, and the sheep were scattered in 70 A.D. when Israel was dispersed. These are the words applied to Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 26:31-32 but the primary reference here is to the dispersion of 70 A.D. In verse 7b, even the little ones, the innocent common people, are to suffer because of the rejection of Messiah, the Good Shepherd, by the leaders of Israel.” (Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Ariel Ministries, 1998), p. 74)
For more on this passage, see the following series by Sam Shamoun:
If the second person in all of these passages from Zechariah who is called Yahweh and also Yahweh’s Associate or equal is in fact the Angel of Yahweh, a possibility that is every bit consistent since the second person called Yahweh in Zechariah 2:6-13 is SENT, which is what the noun Mal’ak itself means, and since He also plays an instrumental role in Israel’s deliverance, etc., then we have clear evidence that the Angel of the Lord is Yahweh. In any event we do have explicit evidence that the overall theology of Zechariah is at least Binitarian in character.
In the next post on this issue I will look directly at what Zechariah explicitly says about the Angel of Yahweh and show that He is in fact identified as Yahweh, and show that He not only is sent by Yahweh, intercedes with Yahweh, etc., but is even said to do what only Yahweh can do.