CHAPTER 2: THE LANGUAGE OF ANGELS
Certain phrases and words seem to have definite
Angelic connections, and when such phrases occur together in a passage
they imply God's actions are to be understood very much in terms
of Angels. Some passages very clearly associate a certain phrase
with Angels, but later uses of it are hard to fit into a specifically
Angelic context. This may be due to our limited insight, or because
the phrases refer to God manifestation in several other ways apart
from through Angels. For example, Ex. 31:18 tells us that the law
was written with "the finger of God", whilst elsewhere
it is evident that Angels gave the law and probably wrote it physically
on the stones. However, it is hard to consistently interpret the
"finger of God" as a reference to the Angels.
Also relevant at this stage is the question of
whether 'Elohim' is a title of God in person or of God manifest
in the Angels (1). The idea that elohim usually refers
to Angels is discussed by Umberto Cassuto; and he concludes, with
reference to the Pentateuch, that "wherever the Lord is spoken
of objectively, the name Yahweh occurs; but when the reference is
to what Moses saw or felt subjectively [as a result of interacting
with an Angel], the name Elohim is used" (2). Others of course
would argue that there were multiple authors or editors of the Pentateuch,
and one used the term Yahweh whilst another used Elohim. Cassuto's
alternative is worth reflecting upon, and it commends itself to
me in many passages.
2. 1 THE LORD OF HOSTS
This is a key identification tag to the language
of Angels. "The Lord of Hosts" basically points to God
being manifested through a mass of beings, with the implication
in the word 'Hosts' ('armies') that they are organized in a hierarchical,
military way in order to achieve set objectives. This mass of beings
may refer to:
- Natural Israel
- The saints (surely 'Yahweh Elohim' is more relevant to them?)
- Gentile armies used under God's close control
The vast majority of references can only sensibly
apply to the Angels. This opens up a huge field of Bible research,
seeing that the titles of God are used so meaningfully in Scripture.
Is there any other conclusion to be drawn than that in most places
where "The Lord of Hosts" occurs there is an Angelic context?
If this is not accepted, then the question has to be faced- who
are the "hosts" referred to?
Many of the Angelic contexts considered in this
book include "The Lord of Hosts"; the cumulative weight
of evidence is just too great to be ignored. Many times when the
title is used it is in conjunction with other Angelic language.
The more obvious connections between Angels and "The Lord of
Hosts" are listed below:
- "And Jacob went on his way, and the Angels of God met him.
And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host" (Gen.
32:1,2). The word for "host" here is almost identical
in meaning to the normal word for "hosts"; this former
carries the additional implication of an encampment.
- The Angel that met Joshua described Himself as "the captain
of the Lord's Host" (Josh. 5:14,15)- the host of Angels that
would go before Joshua and Israel to fight their battles.
- Elijah addresses himself to the Angel as to “the Lord
God of hosts…the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant…slain
thy prophets” (1 Kings 19:10). He perceived that Angel as
the Lord God of hosts.
- Neh. 9:6 "the Host of Heaven worshippeth Thee"- hard
to apply just to literal stars
- The Angel cherubim of Ezek. 1 moved with "the voice of
an host" (1:24)
- The Angels watching Christ's birth were "a multitude of
the Heavenly host" (Lk. 2:13)
- "Bless the Lord, ye His Angels. . . bless ye the Lord,
all ye His hosts. . praise ye Him all His Angels: praise ye Him,
all His hosts" (Ps. 103:20,21; 148:2)
- "The Lord gave the word (to enter Canaan): great was the
company (same word "hosts") of them that published it.
. even thousands of Angels" (Ps. 68:11,17).
The Army Of The Lord
David’s host increased,
until it became “a great host”, “like the host of God” (1 Chron.
12:22)- the parallel between David’s men and the Angelic hosts is
clear. Significantly, the Angelic armies that destroyed the Syrians
are called ‘a great host’ in 2 Kings 7:6. Asa and his army defeated
the Ethiopians- and it’s described as them being “destroyed before
the Lord and before his host” (2 Chron. 14:13). Again, the hosts
of Israel become the hosts of God. When Israel finally return to
the Lord, their hosts will be “as the mighty one” [Heb. gibbor],
a title of God. They shall fight, because the Lord will be with
them (Zech. 10:5,7). The “mighty ones” [again, Gibbor] shall
“come down” at Jerusalem to defeat Israel’s invaders- referring
to Christ’s return with the Angels (Joel 3:11). But surely the Angels
will work through the ‘mighty ones’ of the feeble remnant of Israel.
That remnant, physically weak and scarcely armed, hemmed in within
Jerusalem, will become the mighty ones through which the mighty
Angels will work. In that very context, as Israel’s enemies make
themselves strong, so the weak shall become “strong”- again, gibbor
(Joel 3:10). I take this as a reference to the repentant and feeble
remnant of Israel becoming strong, rather than [as it is often read]
weak Gentile nations becoming strong in the last days. Thus there
will be a standoff between the ‘mighty men’ of the Gentiles (Joel
3:9) and the ‘mighty ones’ of God, the Angelic hosts working through
the feeble remnant on earth whom they will make into ‘mighty ones’.
Hence the many references in the prophets to the ‘mighty men’, the
gibborim of the Gentiles, being slain in the last day. It
will be the final showdown, screened world-wide, between the hosts
of God and those of men- although we live it all out, we see it
all, in our daily experience now. And we today are just as capable
of being used as the hosts of the Lord, if we walk in step with
the Spirit. We have to learn the lesson of Israel, who preferred
to trust in the hosts of mighty ones of their own strength and their
Gentile friends, rather than upon God (Hos. 10:13). When Israel
walked with God, “The hosts of the children of Levi” were actually
called “the host of the Lord” (1 Chron. 9:18,19 Heb.). The Angel in the pillar of cloud and fire "did not depart" from before Israel (Ex. 13:22). Joshua walked in step with the Spirit / Angel, and so he likewise "did not depart" from the tent where the Angelic pillar was (Ex. 33:11). The parallel between the Angel and Joshua is clear- and it should be in our lives too.
Note how the Angelic
‘hosts’ of God are contrasted with the ‘hosts’ of the enemies of
God’s people (2 Sam. 5:24; 1 Sam. 17:45,46; Is. 37:36). David and
Goliath is the great example- David came to the hosts of
the Philistines in the name of the God of Angelic hosts.
And hence his faithful confidence that “the battle is the Lord’s”
(1 Sam. 17:47). This is a comfort not only in times of physical
danger but in realizing that in any situation, there are far more
with us than with our opponents. In every ‘battle’, we of course
should be ‘on the Lord’s side’- and the battle is His, and ultimate
victory assured. Perhaps these things are the reference of the enigmatic
Song 6:13, which speaks of the dance or company of the two hosts-
those of Angels and the corresponding hosts on earth?
The Angelic elohim
“helped” Uzziah in his battles; and yet within the same context
we read that his human armies “helped” him (2 Chron. 26:7,13). Again,
the Angelic armies in Heaven are seen reflected in the human armies
of Israel upon earth. The human armies are described as helping
Uzziah with “mighty power”, a phrase elsewhere used about the mighty
power which God alone gives (the same two words occur in this context
in Dt. 8:18; Zech. 4:6). And David learnt all this in practice,
when he reflected how human armies alone lack this ‘mighty
power’- all human strength is not strength at all unless it’s operating
in tandem with God’s Angelic strength: “There is no king saved by
the multitude of a host: A mighty man is not delivered by great
strength” (Ps. 33:16).
(1) The linguistic arguments either way are contained
in correspondence in 'The Testimony' magazine 1947 p. 420 and nearly
every month in 1948.
(2) Umberto Cassuto, Exodus (Jerusalem:
Magnes Press, 1967) p. 32.