Genesis 22:1-19, the binding of Isaac, is called the Akedah. In this most significant event we learn a number of things, but often do not stop to ponder the significance of the Angel of the Lord and what He says and does in this passage.
Important to our understanding of Yehovah and His revelation as the Angel of the Lord is a single word in Genesis 22:2. Our English translation says,
2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
Abraham is told to take “your only son” to a mount in the land Moriah. The word used here, as defined in Brown-Driver-Briggs’, is,
H3173 יחיד yâchı̂yd
1) only, only one, solitary, one (adjective)
1a) only, unique, one
1c) (TWOT) only begotten son
2) one (substantive)
The work for ‘one’ that is used is ‘yachid’ meaning ‘only one’ or ‘one and only.’
When we sing the Shema, we quote Deuteronomy 6:4 that says, ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one.” Interestingly, the word here translated as ‘one’ is NOT ‘yachid,’ rather it is ‘echad,’ another word in the Hebrew language that means ‘one.’ But, it means a different ‘one…’ Here, from Strongs, we have the definition,
H259 אחד ‘echâd
A numeral from H258; properly united, that is, one;
The best illustration for this use is in Genesis 2:24 where we read,
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one (echad) flesh.
Notice, the man and woman become one (united) flesh, not ‘yachid’ one (singular/only one) flesh. They are a unity, not a singularity.
Interestingly, it is in Genesis 22 that we see the second appearing of this being called the Angel of the Lord. As we have seen in the two previous posts in this series, the Angel of the Lord makes astounding claims that only God can make, yet at the same time there is a reference by the Angel of the Lord that seem to point not to Himself, but to God. Is it a veiled reference to the echad nature of God? Let’s take a look.
For context, read all of Genesis 22.
Gen 22:10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he (the Angel of the Lord) said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
While previously in this series (and an ongoing theme) we have see that the Angel of the Lord makes claims and promises only YHVH can make, there is a curious juxtaposition in the phrasing here is the Angel’s response. This can be seen by comparing differing passages where the Angel makes claims that elsewhere Yehovah makes. Later, we’ll discuss Judges 2:1-5 as a classic example demonstrating the echad nature of Yehovah and the Angel of the Lord, but in the above passage we see a possible hint.
Notice the Angel of the Lord clearly says, ‘you have not withheld your only son from Me‘ right after saying, ‘I know that you fear God.’ Why didn’t He say, ‘I know that you fear Me?’ Or, why didn’t the Angel say, ‘you have not withheld your son from God?’ Other Angel of the Lord passages have Him making clear bold statements to those effects. Interesting, and I think, an indicator or pointer to the ‘echad’ or unified nature of God with this audible, and elsewhere we will see, manifest being that assumes all claim of Divinity.
Gen 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
Gen 22:15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
Again, here we have an interesting possible juxtaposition between the Angel of the Lord being a mouthpiece/voice while the words appear to come from Yehovah, Himself. “[The] Lord saith…”
Gen 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Comparing this language to Judges 2:1-4, we can see that ‘My voice’ may have several meanings. Is the Angel of the Lord the very voice of God? Yes. Elsewhere, as in Judges 2:1-4, what He speaks is His own voice because He speaks from Himself when He says, ‘you have not obeyed My voice.’ What of the many passages wherein Yehovah chides Israel concerning obeying His Voice? Of Whom does He speak?
As we will see with increasing weight of evidence, the Angel of the Lord speaks on His own behalf while sometimes declaring specifically that He speaks the word of the Lord. The bottom line is that He makes claims that only God Himself can make and in the next installment, flatly declares Himself to be YHVH, the Elohim of Avraham, Itzahk and Ya’acov. Yet amazingly, God cannot be seen or heard at any time…. Hmmm…. Such a great and wondrous mystery.
Our story ends simply,
Gen 22:19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
Until next time, blessings.