Point / Counterpoint
A Reader Responds to
Abraham and Isaac, Part 1
Just finished the latest "WAY," and enjoyed it very much, especially the article on 'Ruling...'. Keep up the good work. Yet, doesn't it seem that, even in the non-aligned groups, the stay-at-homes, or the LRCOG's, there seems to be a tendency to look for (too often) some man or men to come along and supply the "leadership," or the answers to all of our problems? Of course, you have much more contact with those peoples, and I can only judge on a few conversations and what I read in letters to the editor and articles. Perhaps I'm misconstruing! ...
Will make some comments on Part 1 of the article on Abraham and Isaac. At the start, you make reference to "God," who told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, as being "El Shaddai." Yet that is not what the scriptures say. In fact, in Genesis 22:1 it says this, "It came to pass after these things, that God [Elohim] did test Abraham...". In verse three it even shows that God [Elohim] even named the place he was to go. In verse 8, Abraham stated that "God [Elohim] Himself will provide a lamb." This, of course, is the 'real' expression of faith, that "God would provide."
In verse 11, it says, "and the angel of the Lord [YHWH] called to him." This of course is a literal angel and should not be capitalized. (Just as the "death angel" was indeed a literal angel.)
Note that the "angel" says, "...for now I [the angel] know that you fear God [Elohim], seeing you have not withheld you son, your only son from ME!" (Remember, this is the angel speaking.)
First, nowhere is "El Shaddai" used for God. Secondly, the name Elohim [God] is a plural word, and can and does apply to any being in the spiritual realm [God or angel]. Satan, the "god of this world," fits the Elohim category.
Consider a few verses that help explain what I'm referring to.
Genesis 7:16: "And they that went in, went in as male and female of all flesh, as GOD [Elohim] had commanded him; and the LORD [YHWH] shut him in." Who is who? There are definitely TWO separate spirit beings spoken of in this verse.
Isaiah 52:12: "You shall not go out with haste, nor go out by flight; for the LORD [YHWH] will GO BEFORE YOU, and the GOD [Elohim] WILL BE YOUR REAR GUARD." Again, TWO separate spirit beings. Which is which?
Leviticus 24:14+: "And you shall say to the Israelites, Whoever curses his God [Elohim], he shall BEAR HIS SIN. ... And he who blasphemes the name of the Lord [YHWH], he shall surely BE PUT TO DEATH." These are two different Hebrew words for "curse" and "blaspheme," but have pretty much the same meaning. Still, it should be evident that there are TWO spirit beings spoken of.
Exodus 17:16: "...The Lord [Yah] has sworn, that the Lord [YHWH] will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." In an article I sent to you earlier, it shows that the Lord [YHWH] that led Israel in the cloud was "an angel," while the Lord [YHWH] that followed them was "that Rock ... Christ."
... A booklet from YNCA [Yahweh's New Covenant Assembly] ... shows how the letters YHWH (tetragrammaton) can be spelled two separate ways, depending on which accent mark was placed below the "yod." If a 'gamet' was underneath the "yod," then you might have the spelling Yahweh. However, if a 'shewa' was underneath the "yod," then the spelling might be something different, such as Yehwah, or as the article points out, it might simply be the vowels for the word Adonai. In either case, without the knowledge of which accent marks are supposed to be under the "yod," then we have to use the context, or other verses, to know who is being referred to when "the Lord" is used. For instance, in the verse above (Exodus 17:16), Yah would almost certainly be the "True" Lord, and the Lord [YHWH] would be referring to an angel.
Finally, let's go on to Genesis 17, where the "real" El Shaddai is spoken of. Notice carefully what these first few verses say, and how they are said:
Genesis 17:1+: "When Abraham was 99 years old the Lord [YHWH, but we don't know which accent mark is used] appeared to Abraham and said, I am the Almighty God [El Shaddai]. Walk and live habitually before Me. ... And I will make MY COVENANT ... between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly." This is obviously referring to Isaac and through Isaac. Verse 3, "And Abraham fell on his face." Not that I put a period here. It is because this conversation ended. Now continue verse 3, "And God [Elohim, not El Shaddai or YHWH] said to him, AS FOR ME, behold MY COVENANT [Elohim, not El Shaddai] is with you, and you shall be the father of MANY NATIONS."
Note: One nation through Isaac from El Shaddai, and many nations through Elohim's covenant, by the descendants of Hagar and Keturah. (Read the account of Hagar in the wilderness, and the angel telling her that "he," the angel, would make Ishmael a great nation.)
Note also that circumcision was the symbol of the covenant of God [Elohim], and in the Gospels Christ does not take credit for or give the Father credit for circumcision. In fact, He clearly pointed out that it originated with "the fathers"!
What I'm trying to point out, Jack, is that, to this time, it is difficult to determine which YHWH is "The" Lord, and which is an angel; which ELOHIM is "The" God, and which is an angel (or angels).
Again, keep up the good work. Am looking forward to the next "WAY." ...
Thanks a lot!
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Thanks very much for your letter. As you pointed out in the beginning of your letter, a strong personality in the local group can easily dominate those who aren't as willing or able to stand up to a stronger personality. If a leadership struggle ensues, everyone may suffer from it. The important thing in successful local leadership is consensus, where the ekklesia decides who should lead, or if there should even be a permanent leader. The most functional groups I've seen, including our own Bible study group in the Sacramento area, work best when everyone there is meek and yielding to God's Spirit, when God's will and plan is uppermost in everything done and said, when responsibilities can be shared rather than assigned or grasped, and perhaps most importantly, when individuals don't try to push their own unique understandings or doctrines on the group.
Thank you also for the enlightening exposition of the Abraham scriptures revealing two spirit beings rather than just the One. I have already incorporated some of what you have said into another article on the subject in this issue.
To look at both sides of the issue, though, it is instructive to note that the Hebrew language of the Bible is written in a characteristic lyrical style, especially in the poetic books of the Psalms and Proverbs, but also in many places throughout the Hebrew scriptures. The style of writing so often found throughout the text uses couplets, a poetic two-line device, in conveying the message. The usual sense of the couplet is that a statement is made, then an explanatory statement or enlargement of the idea is placed alongside, in the same sentence.
It's much like the Amplified Bible, which can turn a word or a phrase a number of times until the book is satisfied that the reader understands several possible nuances of meaning in a given verse. However, rather than just "repeating, and saying again, and reiterating, and going over it another time," as the Amplified Bible does, the Hebrew scriptures use the couplet, somewhat as a statement and response form.
There are so many hundreds, or even thousands, of examples of the Hebrew couplet, we couldn't begin to point out all of them. Here are just a few samples:
"For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. [Wisdom = knowledge and understanding.]
He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, [upright = blameless]
for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. ... [guards the course = protects the way]
For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you" (Proverbs 2:6-8, 10-11).
These verses demonstrate the principle of the statement and response approach used in so many scriptures. Virtually all of Proverbs chapter 10 is written in this couplet format, as are so many of the Proverbs and Psalms. It's evident in these examples that one thing is being spoken of, but viewed from two angles.
This is how many of us have viewed the references you cited regarding God and the heavenly beings, where it may be that two beings are spoken of, or the couplet may give two names for the same Being.
Now, you must realize I'm not saying I'm right and you're wrong. I'm just showing the "flip side" of what you were saying. There is much value and truth in what you said, and I don't wish to minimize that. What you said in your letter and what I have just related above are not opposite or contradictory thoughts, but actually blend together in an increased knowledge of how the Bible works. That is, after all, what we're here to learn!
Carl Franklin has produced two booklets demonstrating the duality of God-beings or spirit beings you have mentioned. The booklets are entitled The Two Jehovahs in the Psalms and The Two Jehovahs in the Pentateuch, and can be obtained from Fred Coulter, Christian Biblical Church of God, P.O. Box 1442, Hollister CA 95024. Although they are rather technical in nature, they are well worth the reading.
Thanks very much for your letter, and for increasing our understanding.