10-3 Angels At The Exodus
Angels On The Wilderness Journey.
Israel’s guardian Angel was to “keep” them in the way (Ex. 23:20),
clearly echoing how the Angels kept the way to the tree of life
in Eden. The same Hebrew word for “keep” occurs very often in Exodus
in the context of Israel being told to keep God’s commands; but
their freewill effort was to be confirmed by the Angel keeping them
in the way of obedience. They were to “keep” themselves in the way
(Dt. 4:9 and many others; s.w. “take heed”, “observe” etc.), but
the Angel would keep them in it. This mutuality is developed in
Ex. 23:21, where having said the Angel will keep them, Israel are
told “Beware of him, and obey his voice”. “Beware” translates the
same Hebrew word as “keep”. The Angel would keep them., but they
were to keep to the Angel. This is an example of how we are intended
to have a mutual relationship with our guardian Angel, leading to
Him strengthening us in the one way. This word translated “keep”
is also translated “spies” in Jud. 1:24; the spies were the keepers
in the way of Israel, to bring them in to the land. And yet the
Angel at the exodus was their ‘keeper’ to bring them into the land.
The spies were working in harmony with their Angels; and thus they
succeeded. Joshua and Moses too were working and walking in harmony
with this same Angel in their work; for “By a prophet (Moses) the
Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet (Joshua) was
he preserved [s.w. “keep”]” (Hos. 12:13). An Angel ‘brought Israel
out of Egypt’ , and it was an Angel who ‘kept’ Israel (Ex. 23:20).
This again shows how prophets and Angels were in tandem with each
other. In the work of bringing out and ‘keeping’ a people for God’s
Name, we too can have this sense of working in tandem with a guardian
Angel every step of the way.
The clear parallels between the Israelites' journey through the
wilderness to the promised land and our journey towards the promised
land of the Kingdom are numerous. The significant amount of Angelic
activity on their journey must be seen as representing the similarly
vast Angelic work in our probations. The partnership between Moses
and the Angel at the exodus to bring Israel out of Egypt is perhaps
matched by that between Jesus and the Comforter Angel (see Chapter
13) to deliver us from spiritual Egypt. The fact that the Angels
went ahead to prepare their entrance to the promised land shows
how our place in the Kingdom is certainly possible, partly due to
the work of our Angel in going ahead and paving the way. We saw
earlier that in prospect all Israel's battles with the inhabitants
of Canaan had been won by the Angels, and it was for them to live
in a suitable way and to display enough faith to enable them to
make use of these victories. "The LORD thy God (the Angel) walketh
in the midst of thy camp (a phrase used by the Angel earlier and
then repented of- "I will not go up in the midst of thee") to deliver
thee and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy
camp be holy: that He see no unclean thing in thee and turn away
from thee" (Deut 23:14).
Later Moses encouraged Joshua (and all uncertain journeyers through
the wilderness) by commenting on the great work of the Angels in
preparing the way to enter the promised land. There is a connection
made between the fear of God among the Canaanite nations, the "hornet",
and the Angel: "I send an Angel before thee. . . I will send my
fear before thee. . . and I will send hornets before thee, which
shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from
before thee" (Ex. 23:21,27,28). Moses recalled how God had said
to him "The LORD thy God He will go over before thee", and then
said to Joshua "be strong and of a good courage, fear not nor be
afraid of them: for the LORD thy God (the same Angel called 'the
LORD thy God' in relation to Moses (1)),
He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee nor forsake
thee" (Dt. 31:3,6,7). These words are quoted in Heb. 13:5, and it
is good to note the original Angelic context in which the words
were used: "Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath
said, I (the Angel) will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that
we may boldly say, The Lord (i. e. the Angel) is my helper, and
I will not fear what man shall do unto me". Later on we see that
Joshua did conceive of God in terms of the Angel- he took Moses'
Thus when it was Joshua's turn to die, like Moses his deathbed
advice was to be mindful of the Angel that was with Israel: "The
LORD our God, He it is that brought us up out of the land of Egypt.
. and preserved us in all the way wherein we went. . the LORD drave
out from before us all the people (all these things were done by
the Angel at the exodus ). . He will not forgive your transgressions
nor your sins (this is alluding to Ex. 23:21 where God describes
the Angel at the exodus going with Israel as not pardoning their
transgressions). . if ye forsake the LORD . . then He will turn.
. and consume you" (Josh 24:17-21). These last phrases are
taken up in Is. 63, where speaking about the Angel of the presence
with Israel in the wilderness we read "He turned to be their enemy.
. He fought against (consumed) them" (v. 10). Earlier the book of
Joshua commented "There failed not ought of any good thing which
the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass"
(21:45). The promises by the Angel at the exodus came true in prospect;
but tragically Israel did not make them good, so that in reality
only a fraction of the blessings were realized.
Psalm 78 brings out most clearly the enormous importance of the
Angel's work in guiding the people through the wilderness. The whole
Psalm has reference to Angelic activity at this time:
v. 1 "My people"- i. e. the Angel Michael's, the Angel of Israel.
v. 7 "That they might. . . not forget the works of God". Often
Israel were told not to forget the works the Angel did for
them on the Exodus.
v. 10 "The covenant of God. . . His law"- both given by Angels.
v. 11-13 They "forgat His works. . . marvellous things did He
in. . . the land of Egypt. . . He divided the Sea"- the work of
the Angel leading them.
v. 26 "He caused an East wind to blow in the Heaven" (to give
manna, Angel-provided food, v. 25)- the Angel caused another wind
or spirit-Angel to bring the manna. God ‘loosed’ the East wind
/ Angel and also the South wind / Angel. It may be that since
the quail were migrating from Egypt at this time, the South wind
/ Angel carried them North and the East wind / Angel drove them
into the desert where the Israelites were. The same language recurs
in Rev. 9:14, where Angels are again loosed to bring about God’s
purpose. And within Ps. 78 even, the idea recurs: “He unleashed
against them his hot anger…a band of destroying angels” (:49 NIV).
v. 40 "How oft did they provoke Him in the wilderness, and grieve
Him in the desert". This is the language of Is. 63:9,10 about
the "Angel of His presence" leading Israel.
v. 41 "They. . tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel".
God Himself cannot be tempted, and the 'language of limitation'
used here must be relevant to the Angel, not to God Himself.
v. 38 "He being full of compassion forgave their iniquity, and
destroyed them not". This recalls the language of Ex. 33 and 34
concerning the Angels which were to go with the people- a "God
full of compassion. . mercy. . truth" (R. V. ). The reference
to destruction in the wilderness must refer to the 'destroyer'
Angel which was with them, as shown earlier.
v. 36 "they did flatter Him with their mouth, and they lied unto
Him with their tongues". 'Flattery' is the language of limitation-
it must refer to an Angel rather than God Himself.
v. 43 "He had wrought His signs in Egypt". The plagues were actually
executed by the Angels.
v. 14 "In the daytime also He led them with a cloud". We
have seen that it was the Angel who led them.
v. 5 "He established a testament in Jacob, and appointed a law
in Israel". The Law was given ("appointed") by the Angels.
v. 19 "They spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table
in the wilderness?". The reference to "Angels food" (i. e. food
provided by Angels) shows that the Angels provided the manna (and
Christ likens the manna to the word, which as we have seen was
also ministered by Angels). Thus the people were tempting the
v. 52-54 "His own people (Michael's) to go forth like sheep,
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. . . He led them
on safely. . . He brought them to the border of His sanctuary".
The Angel was their shepherd, seen in the cloud and fire that
guided them through the wilderness; as Ps. 80:1; Is. 63:9-11.
Thus as a shepherd leads and chases his sheep, so the Angel led
Israel through the wilderness. “He guided them safely, so they were
unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies” (:53 NIV). But the
reality is, they were afraid. Yet due to the work of the
Angels they were given the potential to be unafraid; and so it is
with us. How often do we ‘waste’ or fail to use the potential which
the Angels have provided for us! Gen. 49:24 describes "the mighty
God of Jacob" (an Angelic phrase) as the shepherd and rock of Israel.
The references in Deuteronomy to God being the rock that Israel
forsook therefore refer to the Angel. It is worth noting that the
shepherd and rock ("stone" of Gen. 49:24) are both clear titles
of Christ- implying that this Angel specifically represented Jesus?
Hence "that rock (Angel) was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4). See Chapter
12 for more ideas on this Angel.
Tale Of Two Angels?
It is very difficult to sort out exactly how many Angels travelled
with them through the wilderness, and where they were located- between
the cherubim, in the cloud, in the fire, and where the many Angels
which we saw earlier accompanied them would have travelled, and
also the place of the 'destroyer' Angel. It may be that the references
to these various Angels only disguise the fact that they are talking
about the same Angel, due to God being able to manifest Himself
in a number of forms which if analysed with human logic appear contradictory-
the great paradox of unity amidst diversity. There is a strong implication
in the record that the one mighty Angel dwelt in the cloud and led
Israel, especially in the record of the Red Sea crossing. Elsewhere
the idea of a cloud is associated with a number of people or Angels-
e. g. the "great cloud of witnesses" in Heb. 12:1 or the clouds
of Angels with which Jesus will return. Ex. 40:37 is also significant:
"If the cloud were not taken up"- as if "the cloud" was plural,
implying it comprised many beings.
When Moses asked to see God's face, he was probably not asking
to see God Himself in person; on nearly every occasion when
men saw an Angel and thought they had seen God, they feared for
their lives because they knew that man cannot see God and live.
It seems almost Jewish culture to have believed this, and no doubt
Moses had the same view. Dt. 4:11 (see A. V. mg. ) states that the
Mount burning with fire when Moses ascended it was due to the pillar
of fire standing there, appearing to reach to the "midst of Heaven",
showing Heaven and earth were connected through this manifestation.
The Angel led them through the wilderness, and elsewhere we read
that the pillar of fire led them; the conclusion is therefore that
the pillar of of fire was where the Angel dwelt. Thus the Angel
literally "went before" them as God promised it would, in
the form of the pillar. Angels are elsewhere associated with pillars
of fire, e. g. the one which came to Manoah, and not least in that
God came down in a pillar of fire to speak to Moses. Ex. 14:19 conclusively
shows the pillar of fire/cloud and the Angel to be identical: "the
Angel of God which went before the camp of Israel removed and went
behind them; and the pillar of the cloud (the Shekinah glory) went
from before their face, and stood behind them".
So let us consider the record in Ex. 33 and 34 in more detail.
It seems vital to recognize that the 'LORD' spoken of here is some
form of Angelic manifestation. Moses asked to see the face of the
Angel (33:18 cp. v. 20); presumably it was a different Angel to
whom he spoke face to face (33:11), or perhaps the same Angel but
manifesting God to a different degree or alternatively a different,
more powerful Angel. The fact Moses saw the back parts of this 'LORD'
shows that the 'LORD' was not God Himself in person- no man has
ever seen Him, or even started to approach the light in which He
dwells (1 Tim. 6:16 etc. ); this must include Moses. This conclusion
chimes in with the type of statements about 'the LORD' which we
read in these chapters, which suggest reference to the Angel rather
than to God Himself:
33:1 "The LORD said. . the land which I sware unto Abraham. .
". We have seen that it was the Angel which made these promises.
33:2 "I will drive out the Canaanite. . "; this was done by the
Angel of the LORD sent before to do this.
33:3 "I will not go up in the midst of thee (i. e. the Angel
was saying He would no longer dwell in the Holiest): lest I consume
thee"- the consuming of Israel for their sins on the journey was
done by the 'destroyer' Angel. We can therefore suggest that the
Angel was manifest in some way, perhaps through two separate Angels,
in the following places:
- in the pillar of fire going before them
- in the Holy of Holies
In addition to this, there is the implication that a great number
of Angels- perhaps the guardian Angels of each of the Israelites-
were with them too: "great was the company of those that published
it. . . even thousands of Angels" (Ps. 68:11), i. e. the word concerning
Israel leaving Egypt and entering the promised land.
The idea of two Angels being present with Israel is found again
in Ez. 20:17,22; God’s “eye”, which is definitely Angelic language,
spread them from being destroyed- by the destroyer Angel. And therefore
God “withdrew mine hand”, also Angelic language, in order not to
destroy them. Note too how it is the Angelic “eye of the Lord” which
is paralleled with God’s mercy in Ps. 33:18,22. And encouragingly,
it is this “eye of the Lord” which is in the Angelic court of Heaven,
and yet views the righteous on earth (Ps. 11:4).
(1) This shows the same
Angel becoming personally associated with different men if their
purpose is the same, because they need the help of the same Angel
to achieve their goal.