“The Angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a fire blazing from the middle of a bush. He looked and saw that although the bush was flaming with fire, yet the bush was not being burned up.”-Exodus 3:2
So Moses is at Mount Horeb (in the Arabian Peninsula) with his sheep when he sees a burning bush.
However, there is something peculiar about this bush.
It continues to maintain its green color and shape in spite of being engulfed in flames.
Well, this is a real attention-grabber, so curious, Moses decides to take a closer look.
At that moment a voice calls out to Moses from the burning bush.
Most Bible translations will tell us that it was the “Angel of the Lord” that appeared to Moses.
Although not necessarily incorrect, this is a bit misleading.
First, a bit of a review is in order here.
If you were reading the Bible in Hebrew, you would encounter one of the two following Hebrew expressions:
Now the problem we encounter is that the phrase “Angel of the Lord” can seem to mean BOTH MALACH and MALACH YAHWEH.
However, there is a world of difference in meaning between “MALACH” and “MALACH YAHWEH”.
“MALACH” simply means a “messenger“.
Whether it is a divine messenger (an angel) or just a regular human being, like the mailman who stops by your home to deliver a letter, all depends on the context.
On the other hand, MALACH YAHWEH means a manifestation of the Almighty God Himself.
In order to make a proper distinction between the two in English, I think MALACH YAHWEH should be rendered as “the Angel of Yahweh” and MALACH should be rendered as “an Angel of the Lord” in the case of a divine messenger and something like “a man sent from God“ or “a human messenger sent from God” in the case of an earthly messenger.
I actually revised the Scriptural excerpt from the Complete Jewish Bible I placed at the top of this post from “Angel of the Lord” to the “Angel of Yahweh”.
Alright, in case you’re confused, just remember the following three points.
MALACH can refer to either a divine messenger (an angel) OR an earthly messenger. I think it would be good to translate it to “Angel of the Lord” in the case of a divine messenger and something like “a man sent from God“ or “a human messenger sent from God” in the case of an earthly messenger. Context lets us know whether we are dealing with an angel or an earthly authority.
MALACH YHVH only refers to a manifestation of God Himself and in English should be translated as “The Angel of YHVH” to make a clear distinction that it is NOT a MALACH or just “an Angel of the Lord”.
In Exodus 3:2, the original Hebrew is MALACH YHVH and thus should be translated as “The Angel of YHVH” to let us know that there isn’t any question we are dealing with a manifestation God Almighty. However, in spite of this, many Bibles including both the King James Version and the NIV use what I believe to be the misleading term “The Angel of the Lord”.
Different English phrases should be used to show whether we are dealing with just an angel or a manifestation of the Almighty Himself.