The Messenger of the Lord in Early Jewish Interpretations of Genesis
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the ambiguous relationship between God and ‘the angel of the Lord/God’ in early Jewish interpretations of Genesis, for example, Gen 16:7–14; 22:1–19, and 31:10–13. Although the designation ‘the angel of the Lord’ does not appear in Genesis 32, this text is included because it exhibits the same ambiguity as the explicit ‘angel of the Lord-texts’. Moreover, it constitutes an inseparable part of the Jacob saga and the prophet Hosea explicitly identifies Jacob’s opponent as an angel. The study of the identity of ‘the angel of the Lord’ in early Jewish exegesis is set in a wider context as a part of the development of angelology and concepts of God in the various forms of early Judaism (ca. 200 B.C.E.–650 C.E.).When identifying patterns of interpretation in the Jewish sources, their chronological setting has proven to be of minor importance. A more significant factor is the nature of the biblical texts. A typical characteristic of the interpretations is, for example, the avoidance of anthropomorphism. There are obviously chronologically based differences when comparing the sources with the biblical texts; in Genesis, ‘the angel of the Lord’ generally seems to be a kind of impersonal extension of God, while later Jewish writings are characterized by a more individualized angelology. However, the ambivalence between God and His angel remains in many interpretations. In Philo’s works and Wisdom of Solomon, the ‘Logos’ and ‘Lady Wisdom’ respectively have assumed the role of ‘the angel of the Lord’ in the Bible. A possible conclusion is that although the angelology of Second Temple Judaism had developed in the direction of seeing angels as distinct personalities, Judaism still had room for the idea of divine hypostases.
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