Over the course of the last 18 months or so, a topic I have explored from multiple angles is the visible presence of Yehovah in the Tanakh and the connections to the Messiah. We’ve looked at ‘the Angel of the Lord,’ ‘the Memra,’ and the ‘Metatron.’
Recently, I was challenged on whether or not God can be seen. And, while I agree that there are verses indicating His altogether set apartness, there also is the clear statement of Scripture, over and over, that God does indeed reveal Himself to His creation in a form that man can relate to. Consider Genesis 18 in this week’s Parsha. The text begins,
18 Adonai appeared to Avraham by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the entrance to the tent during the heat of the day.
No explanation. No apologetics. No tap-dancing. The text is starkly clear: Yehovah appeared to Avraham!!
But this isn’t the first time. Just go look at Genesis 17:1! No explanation there, either, but it is possible in the context of 17 to spiritualize the event as if it were a vision until one gets to verse 22. The CJB says,
22 With that, God finished speaking with Avraham and went up from him.
The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash is a little more accurate when it translates,
And He finished speaking with him and God ascended from upon Abraham.
Still, no such explanation in Genesis 18. Rather, we find that clearly, one of the three men is Yehovah!! Read,
2 He raised his eyes and looked, and there in front of him stood three men. On seeing them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, prostrated himself on the ground, 3 and said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, please don’t leave your servant.
Besides noting that Avraham prostrated himself before these men, it is significant that my Chumash notes that the Hebrew text for ‘O Lord’ is sacred. Fancifully, they dismiss the significance by declaring that in “taking leave of from God, Abraham implored Him not to go away from Your servant, but wait while he attended to his guests.” They, of course have to ignore the ‘your servant’ in the next verse as Abraham addresses the men. Further, they have to ignore the context of the rest of the chapter to isolate Avraham’s statement as addressing God apart from the three men now before him.
9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” He said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will certainly return to you around this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Sarah heard him from the entrance of the tent, behind him. 11 Avraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years; Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, “I am old, and so is my lord; am I to have pleasure again?” 13 Adonai [text: Yehovah!!] said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and ask, ‘Am I really going to bear a child when I am so old?’
But wait! It gets better! The conversation moves to Yehovah preparing to judge S’dom and ‘Amorah. Other evidences precede this, but consider,
22 The men turned away from there and went toward S’dom, but Avraham remained standing before Adonai [Yehovah]…. (extended conversation between Avraham and Yehovah, finishing with)… 33 Adonai went on his way as soon as he had finished speaking to Avraham, and Avraham returned to his place.
There is exactly ZERO evidence in the text that this is anything BUT a face to face encounter. Just as in other places and times, Avraham sees a form of a man who eats and drinks and speaks as Yehovah. But why should we be surprised? We are created in His image… Targum Yerushlayim renders Genesis 1:27 as,
And the Word of the Lord created man in His likeness, in the likeness of the presence of the Lord He created him, the male and his yoke-fellow He created them.
Read that last cite again and let the thought sink in before proceeding.
It is remarkable that in our times the issue of God’s incarnation has once again been raisedas a nagging question. With the post-Holocaust “theology” of modern Judaism teaching that it isimpossible (because it is beneath Him) for God to ever participate in material substance, many Messianic congregations are once again being confronted with a crucial question: is it possible for Yeshua to be God in the flesh, to actually be עִ מַ נוּאֶ ל, Immanuel, “God with us?”At the basis of this question is the notion that God could never take on physicality, because if He did, He would be less than the eternal God, and would, by definition, not be God! This Greekphilosophical method of thinking may pose a problem for the western mind, but it did not do so to the ancient Hebrew. God appears throughout the Tanach in the form of a man….Our parashah this Shabbat is one of those texts which head the list of “problem” passages for those who maintain that God cannot take on a physical form: it begins, רָ א אֵ לָ יו יהוהוַ יֵּ “HaShem appeared to him.” Simple, straightforward, without any explanation as though some eternal reality has collided with temporal substance—no, just simply, “HaShem appeared to him.”But the Stone Chumash makes another interesting and honest statement, regarding v. 3 and the word אֲ ד ֹ נ ָ י, Adonai, translated “my Lord.” The Chumash note reads: “According to most interpretations, the wordאֲ ד ֹ נ ָ י} in this passage is sacred.” Indeed, the Sages teach that whenever the scribes wrote the word Adonai with the vowel qametz under the nun (as it is here), this always was a reference to יהוה! This interpretation is corroborated in our text by v. 22: “The men had turned from there and went to Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before יהוה.” This verse contains one of the 18 Tiqqune Sofrim, the “corrections of the scribes.” These “corrections” are carefully marked in the notes of the Masorah. In this case, the scribes felt it irreverent to say that Adonai remained standing before Abraham (which is how the original text reads). Should the Sovereign of the Universe stand before (a Hebraic way of noting service) a mere mortal? So the scribes reversed the order of the sentence, and wrote: “while Abraham was standing before HaShem.” This “scribal correction” verifies beyond question that the ancient scribes recognized the “man” who spoke with Abraham was, in fact, God Himself.So there you have it! HaShem appears to Abraham, eats with him, talks with him, negotiates with him—and the text carries on as though this is normal. There is not one hint of explanation in the text to overcome what we perceive as an insurmountable problem. What is the viewpoint of our text? That God has always existed in both invisible and visible form, and that this is an eternal and thus essential aspect of His nature. To say anything less is to fail to let the text speak in its own words, its own language. How is it that the Scriptures can, on the one hand, flatly state that no one has seen God at any time, and yet plainly say that God has appeared to people? It isreally very simple:… (Link for the whole lesson)
[Long quote, and I apologize for formatting and Hebrew letter irregularities…]
The point of our post is that we have yet another example of the Everlasting God loving and desiring fellowship with His creation so much that He interjects Himself through human form to interact!! What an amazing, amazing Elohim we serve!!