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Angels

1st September 2008, mgh

 

1) Angels in the Bible

When you think of Angels no doubt a picture comes to mind. The following will introduce you to the Angels of the Bible. These are eyewitness accounts, some of which are very detailed.

And truth is often more wonderful than fiction.

Introducing the word 'angel'

The English word 'angel' is derived from a Greek word 'aggelos', a word that means 'messenger'. If you run a message for someone you are an 'angel'! In Greek there is nothing special or Divine about this word, ordinary humans are 'aggelos'.

The Bible is partly written in Greek (the New Testament) and partly in Hebrew (the Old Testament). In Hebrew the word for messenger is 'melak'. This Hebrew word is related to 'melâkâh' meaning to deputise or employ. The same word is used for both human and Divine messengers.

Jacob(also called Israel, ancestor of the Hebrews) is afraid and sends messengers to his brother Esau (ancestor of the modern Jordanians).

Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. .......[Then later]....Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. ... And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and also he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him”(Genesis 32:1-6)

The Hebrew for 'angels' and 'messengers' is the same. The messengers are clearly humans who are not the divine angels Jacob had met previously. The passage could equally read,

And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. ........... And Jacob sent angels before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir.

The translators generally have worked out which messengers were Divine and which were not. But the Hebrew text makes no difference.

In English the word 'angels' is used to describe the messengers of God. But these messengers aren't always delivering messages. In the Hebrew they have another name for when they are doing other things. When speaking for God they are called by His name Yahweh. Often they are called 'Elohim', or in English 'Mighty Ones' translated 'God'.

Meeting three Angels

Abraham and his nephew Lot lived in Canaan (modern Israel) from 1921 BCE. They separated and Lot and his family moved to Sodom.

In approximately the year 1897 BCE three men came to Abraham at lunch time. These were not ordinary men, for they represented the God of Israel, who is called Yahweh. This event can be read about in Genesis chapter 18. Abraham understands that no less than the Lord, Yahweh, speaks when they speak to him. They eat (Genesis 18:8). Then Abraham accompanies them as they leave. There is a discussion among the men.

And Yahweh said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?”; (Genesis 18:17)

One of the men called 'Yahweh' speaks. He says,

“Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know”. (Genesis 18:20-21)

We note that these men have to go there to see what is going on, that is they are not 'all seeing'. They are messengers of God, not God Himself. At this point it is recorded the men depart. But not all three, only two of them. One remains in front of Abraham.

And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before Yahweh. (Genesis 18:22)

Then Abraham pleads to save the city of his nephew Lot. The other two men, now called 'messengers' or 'angels' appear in the streets of Sodom the same afternoon.

And there came two angels (messengers) to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house”... and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. (Genesis 19:1-3)

These angels eat Lot's food. They look like ordinary men. They continue to appear as ordinary men until they are surrounded by people intent to do Lot harm. Then,

they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
And the men said unto Lot, “Have you here any besides? son in law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whatsoever you have in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is grown great before the face of Yahweh; and Yahweh has sent us to destroy it”. (Genesis 19:11-13)

The two men previously called 'Yahweh' by Abraham at lunchtime, as they speak the words of Yahweh, are now called 'angels' or messengers and are 'sent', or delegated, by Yahweh to destroy the city. Next these men take Lot by the hand and transport him outside the city

And while he (Lot) lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; Yahweh being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. (Genesis 19:16)

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are then destroyed. Archaeologists have found the bitumen was all burnt out at that time indicating a fire in the oil and bitumen deposits on the surface, possibly with explosions. The remains of these cities were evident until Roman times, but have since been covered by the Dead Sea.

In summary, these three angels:

a. Looked like humans, within the ethnic range expected in the region.
b. Can eat human food.
c. Can't see what's happening in a town at a distance.
d. Can make a door appear to vanish.
e. Can transport people when holding their hands.
f. Can control the action of fire on the earth.

When they speak the word of Yahweh they are called 'Yahweh', when they are employed to do a job by Yahweh and are sent they are called 'angels'. But they look like men, and may be mistaken for a human.

Jacob's experience

Jacob is the grandson of Abraham, living in Canaan, now modern Israel. In approx. 1760 BCE he leaves his family to go to Syria. He stops at Bethel on the way where he saw angels going up and down (Genesis 28:12), showing that the angels walk on earth. He then returns to Canaan in approx 1739BCE with his family and wrestles with one of them.

Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
And he (the man) said, “Let me go, for the day breaks”. And he (Jacob) said, “I will not let you go, except you bless me”. And he (the man) said unto him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob”. And he said, “Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed”. And Jacob asked him, and said, “Tell me, I pray you, your name”. And he said, “Wherefore is it that you ask after my name?” And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God (Mighty Ones) face to face, and my life is preserved. (Genesis 32:24-30)

From this incident we learn that Jacob realised that the man he had wrestled with was a representative of God, as the word 'God' here is 'Mighty Ones'. The Hebrews called the angels 'Mighty ones' when they were not giving messages, as they saw them as representatives of Deity. This angel looked exactly like a man and didn't give his name. We learn that a strong person can hold an angel, and that they can shrink muscles.

Moses sees an Angel

Moses before he is given the mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt in approx. 1492 BCE at Mt Horeb sees an Angel that looks like fire,

the angel of Yahweh appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. (Exodus 3:2)

This is beyond human control and Moses went out of his way to see this. We learn that the Angels or Messengers of Yahweh can control fire and are not burnt.

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