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OLD TESTAMENT THEOPHANIES

TRINITY - REVELATION THROUGH HISTORY

What we have so far done was to establish the fact that a strictly monistic God actually violates the concept of God who is a creator and is active in history. We have also seen from the first chapter of Genesis, that God declares himself in plural form.

However we know that God is beyond understanding to the human mind and we should not try to make God fit to our reason. So the reasoning that we have done is simply apolegetic. The actual corroboration should come from the revelation of God to mankind through history. Such revelation did take place from time immemorial to our fathers and it is this that form our faith and understanding. These appearances of God are called Theophanies or Epiphanies in Greek and Latin terminologies.

In this chapter we are looking at the Old Testament Theophanies to see how God has appeared unto the patriarchs.

ADAMIC THEOPHANY

The first appearance is described thus:

Gen 3: 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

  1. He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

Here we see a God who is walking in the garden. This is not a spirit, it is a real living being with material body. If we take the description as it means, there is no other possibility.

ABRAHAMIC THEOPHANIES

APPEARED

Gen 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty ; walk before me and be blameless.

2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers."

  1. Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,

In this theophany even though we are told that God appeared to Abraham, no specific description of how this appearance came is given. There are many other similar references like this which we have no clear definition of the form of God even though a form is implied.

VISION -was it a dream? But it was reality.

15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."

Here again we hear the word, but have no mention of a form.

Covenant ceremony : Fire and Smoke

Covenant ceremonies are always interesting because of the necesity of the real presence. In this sealing of the covenant there is an appearance of God.

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.

  1. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates--

This appearance is like a smoking firepot with blazing torch - fire and light.

TWO ANGELS AND GOD - IN HUMAN FORM?

18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.

  1. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
  1. Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.

17 Then the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?

18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."

20 Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous

21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."

  1. The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.

Here we are specifically told that one of the three men was indeed Yahweh. Two were angels, who went down to Sodom and Yahweh stood with Abraham and Abraham interceded for the land. Yet the Lord himself refers to another Lord.

JACOBIAN THEOPHANY

Gen 32: 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.

26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.

28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.

  1. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

Here we see Jacob wrestling with a man whom later Jacob understood as God whom he had seen face to face.

MOSAIC THEOPHANIES

In many cases we come across the name ANGEL OF THE LORD which means messenger of the Lord. Here this messager appeared to him in flames. A fire that burns but do not consume in this case.

Ex 3: 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.

  1. So I have come down to…

Evidently it is the Lord God himself who is talking as he identifies himself to Moses.

 

GOD OF ISRAEL

However the celarest appearance of the God of Israel was again at the time of Mosaic Covenant Celebration which culminated in a dinner. This was witness by 73 elders as described below.

Ex 24: 9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up

10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.

  1. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

They saw the glorious figure of God himself who has a hand. This is not a haphazard vague reference. The statement "They saw the God of Israel" is repeated twice within two verses to emphasize the reality of the event.

 

MOSES MEETS GOD

Then one day Moses wanted to see God's face.

Ex 33: 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

21 Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.

22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

  1. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."

Ex 34: 5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD.

6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

  1. Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.

Did Moses see God? Certainly god came and stood with him. It was certainly God because, Moses worshipped him.

JOSHUAIC THEOPHANY

Joshua also met God as a man.

Josh 5:13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"

14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"

  1. The commander of the Lord's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

MANOAH - JUDGES PERIOD - Samson promised Man&Flames

Jud. 13: 15 Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you."

16 The angel of the LORD replied, "Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD." (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the LORD.)

17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?"

18 He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding."

19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the LORD. And the LORD did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched:

20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground.

21 When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD.

  1. "We are doomed to die!" he said to his wife. "We have seen God!"

KINGDOM PERIOD

Theophanies were rare during the Kingdom Period. Yet when the temple was dedicated they did see God descending as a glorius fire.

1 Ki.8: 11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.

2 Chr. 7: 7:1 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it.

3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, "He is good; his love endures forever."

  1. Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD.

PROPHETS

EZEKIEL

Ezekiel's vision of God id very similar to that of the covenant ceremony and is reminiscent of the revelation appearance. This was the figure like that of a man of glowing metal, full of fire surrounded by brillllinat light.

Ez 1: 26 Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.

27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.

28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

2:1 He said to me, "Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you."

In another vision the same picture is repeated

Ez 40: 3 He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand.

Now we meet the Spirit which lifts Ezekiel and takes him to another place.

5 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple.

  1. He said: "Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The house of Israel will never again defile my holy name--neither they nor their kings--by their prostitution and the lifeless idols of their kings at their high places.

ISAIAH

48:11-18 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another. "Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. (thus establishing the speaker's identity as God.) My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens . . . And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me (God was sent by God), with his Spirit (a third divine personality).

"This is what the Lord says -- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea."

This verse identifies three persons. The one who is speaking is evidently God, then the speaker refers to the sender as the sovereign Lord and one who accompanied him was the Spirit

DANIEL

Nebuchadnezer sees a fourth person in the fire "like a son of the gods"

Dan 3: 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king."

  1. He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

Daniel also saw the vision of a man just as in Ezekiel and revelation of John:

Dan 10: 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist.

6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves.

8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.

  1. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

SOPHIA

Pro. 8: 22 "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;

23 I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.

24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water;

25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,

26 before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world.

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

30 Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,

  1. rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

The Sophia (Wisdom) can be identified as the Spirit of discernment and one who gives life. Here we are told that this Wisdom was with God from the begining, before creation and was involved in the creation process. Yet there is indication that Wisdom proceded from God.

LORD SAYS TO MY LORD

In Psalm 1 10, the one who is in a future day to rule in Zion is addressed as a divine personality by another who is also deity. "The Lord says to my Lord," writes David the (7-8) psalmist, "sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies" (Psalm 110:1-2).

Here is one who is "the Lord" speaking to David's Lord and telling him to sit at his right hand until the time comes for him to rule in the midst of some who are now his enemies. Surely the psalm is speaking of two divine personalities, one whom is yet to be Israel's King! "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:9). "At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts" (Jeremiah 3:17).

SON OF GOD

This challenging question is presented to mankind:

Pro. 30:4 "Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his Son? Tell me if you know!" Does God have a Son?

Then in the Psalms we are instructed to Kiss the Son:

Psalm 2:11-12 "Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son , lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."

The Hebrew for "kiss the Son" is nashqu bar. Some translations puts it as , "Do homage in purity," it will be homage in purity to the Son of God.

Thus we notice that we have different forms of revelations of God which can be braodly categorised into three groups.

1. A God who cannot be seen

2. A God who can be seen - mostly in human form yet with glory surrounding befitting God

3. A God who do not have a form yet appears in light, darkness, cloud, fire etc.