Yesterday, while studying the Balak Torah portion with our home fellowship, I was again enthralled with the appearance of the Angel of the Lord. My Bible is filled with highlighting and notes at each of these amazing appearances. When I first began this journey toward a fuller understanding of Messiah, I was coming out of a Christian pulpit. I knew very well that if Jesus, Whom I later understood to be Yeshua, is the Messiah, and if He was, as He claimed and as the Apostolic writings testify to, Elohim made manifest, then I should be able to see Him throughout the Torah.
Indeed, He is visible in multiple ways, only one of which is the many ‘Angel of the Lord’ passages. I have mentioned some of these on this blog before, but have not done an in depth look or series that works through them other than a general overview in this post and a Study Guide I posted. The simple fact is, a study of the Angel of the Lord so strongly connects Yeshua with the Torah that we are left without excuse. Other clear pictures/connections/manifestations only serve to bolster the underlying fact that if we love Jesus/Yeshua, then we will keep the commandments He gave from Mt. Sinai. …All of them!
So, let’s jump in. This first offer will be from Numbers 22 and 23. In future posts, we will go back and pick up numerous other appearances of the Angel of the Lord.
Balaam, the greedy seer, son of Beor at Pethor, is summoned by Balak to curse Israel on the eastern side of the Jordan in the months leading up to their crossing at Jericho. We’ll not get into Balaam’s grave error and the events leading up to his eagerness to curse Israel other than to state that he was walking contrary to the express will of God leading to a most amazing encounter.
Balaam was riding his donkey and was accompanied by two servants.
22 But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26 The angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. 28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
Here we have an amazingly set stage for a face to face encounter between the Angel of the Lord and Balaam. Jokes aside about this ‘seer’ being so blind that he actually responds to a talking donkey, Balaam is about to come face to face with Someone that makes astounding claims.
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed [h] (prostrated) all the way to the ground.
In Scripture we find many passages where angels appear visibly to man. It is interesting to note that they always tell the human NOT to bow, except in the cases of the Angel of the Lord. Over and over, we see the Angel of the Lord make astounding claims in addition to accepting worship. Make no mistake, this is no mere ‘messenger.’ More on that in a minute.
32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was [i]contrary to me.
Hey!! I have read and studied this passage dozens of times and here for the first time I notice the words, ‘TO ME!!’ The Angel of the Lord is clearly claiming that HE is the One who told Balaam not to go (Num. 22:12). Just another little detail
33 But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.”
35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I [j]tell you.” So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.
Here is where the serious confirmation begins. The Angel of the Lord tells Balaam, ‘…you shall only speak the words which I tell you.‘ I cannot stress this point enough! Not only has the Angel of the Lord accepted worship, He now claims to be the One who will direct Balaam what to speak.
Balaam gets the message loud and clear. Notice what he says concerning the Angel of the Lord just a couple verses later,
38 So Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak.” 39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some to Balaam and the leaders who were with him.
41 Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, and he saw from there a portion of the people.
Skipping down a few verses to Numbers 23:5 we read thusly,
5 Then the Lord (Hebrew text says, YHVH!!) put a word in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and you shall speak thus.”
Clearly, the ‘Angel of the Lord’ and ‘the Lord’ (YHVH) are one and the same. Or, as we see in the Shema, they are echad, a multiple unity. We will deal with some of the objections as we develop this series, and the mountain of evidence completely squashes those who claim this is an angel, little ‘a’, speaking on behalf of Yehovah.
Yeshua made an astounding claim when He said,
John 14:9 Yeshua *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
And, He also said,
John 5:37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.
Just what did Balaam see and hear, then? Yeshua claims to be the One who reveals the Father.
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him.
We will develop this more as we consider other ‘Angel of the Lord’ passages, but this is good brain food for now.
There are a couple other pointers I want to make from this Torah portion.
- Targum Onkelos, the Authoritative Aramaic Translation from the first century, like several other period translations, uses a literary device called the Memra when personifying the Lord in the Torah. The ‘Memra’ is short for an Aramaic phrase, ‘Memra de Yeya,’ meaning ‘Word of the Lord.’ John’s use of ‘In the beginning was the Word’ is not some brilliant new thought, rather, the rabbis of his day knew exactly what John was speaking of when he referred to Yeshua as ‘the Word.’ John was claiming that Yeshua was the visible manifestation of Yehovah!! In this portion, we see the phrase from Onkelos in Numbers 22:18; 23:21 and 24:13, evidencing another layer of Presence by the Holy One.
- Balaam is traveling with two servants and is met by the Angel of the Lord with drawn sword. This should immediately bring to mind Genesis 3:24. The Numbers passage doesn’t say it, but I would bet my last dollar that the Angel of the Lord was flanked by two cherubim! Balaam flanked by two, The Angel of the Lord flanked by two. Compare also with Revelation 19:15….
Wowzers! More to come.