"God is not a Man" part I: The Patriarchs
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Perhaps one of the most popular statements that resound in the communities of those who oppose the idea that the Messiah has come already (Yahusha aka. “Jesus”) is based simply on Numbers 23:19 which states the following:
“God (Elohim) is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” -(Bemidbar) Numbers 23:19
First, I believe it's important to deal with the true meaning and context of this verse. Second, we’ll challenge the idea that YAHUAH (the pronunciation of YHWH) can in no way, shape, or form be present in the body of a man with scriptures from the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) alone. Let’s slow down here and see if those who use this argument are misrepresenting the true intent and proven possibilities.
“Elohim is not a man…” Clearly, the most obvious rendering of this short phrase alone does speak truth in and of itself, that the creator of the heavens and the earth is not a human man. Truly, we know that no human man could accomplish what YAH has accomplished in His creation, His miraculous interventions with humankind or with His perfectly unfolding plan. In this regard the statement is of course a true one, even without context; however, it must be noted what this verse does NOT say. This verse does NOT say that “Elohim cannot operate through a man, speak through a man, or send an ambassador of His own Word who is embodied by human flesh.” That should go without saying, nevertheless, today’s debate requires that it must be said.
Next, we must look at the rest of the scripture presented here which states “that He should lie.” Additionally, in the second line of this verse it states “neither the son of man, that He should repent.” Any objective reader of this scripture should easily extrapolate that what is truly being taught here is that Elohim does not lie or change His mind like men do. The intent and translation of this scripture is designed in such a way to convince the reader that the Most High will not change His mind once He’s made a decision. Essentially, once He says it will come to pass, it will. Once YHWH makes a promise, He will certainly carry it out. This is solidified with the following line of scripture which says:
“...hath He said, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?”
Simply put, YHWH does not have the propensity for changing His mind and falling short of doing what He says He will do. That is the most clear understanding of this text, and one that is definitely backed up through the whole counsel of the Word.
What is not intended by this passage is the idea we mentioned before, that Elohim cannot operate through a man, speak through a man, or send His own Word who is embodied by human flesh. That simply cannot be true, as it is a contradicting idea to the counsel of the rest of the word and the standard operation of the prophets as we will see. Let’s take this a step further and demonstrate that it is not only possible for the Spirit of YHWH to be embodied by a “man”, but that this actually occurred in more than one instance according to the Tanakh.
Here’s a few examples:
22 The same night he (Jacob / Ya’akov) arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
26 Then He said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And He said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with Elohim and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But He said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen Elohim face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” - (Bereshiyt) Genesis 32:22-30
In this passage of scripture, it should be quickly noted that Ya’akov wrestled with a man (called a “man” twice) who is later explained to be “God” (Elohim). As Ya’akov (Jacob) states here in verse 30, “For I have seen Elohim face to face…” So, with just this first example, we see contextual proof that it is possible that our Creator can interact with man while adopting the form of a man Himself, otherwise, Ya’akov must be mistaken, and thus the Tanakh. We’ll talk more about the nature of what is at work here in these examples later; however, for now the point is made. The Torah makes the claim that Elohim appeared as a man before Ya’akov, making this possibility a reality right in the first book of the Bible.
1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has YHWH indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And YHWH heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4 And suddenly YHWH said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out.
5 And YHWH came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I YHWH make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak face to face, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of YHWH. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” -(Bemidbar) Numbers 12:1-8
And yet another example:
“Thus YHWH used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua (Yahusha) the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” -(Shemot) Exodus 33:11
In these two examples of Yah’s interactions with Moshe, it becomes immediately apparent that he is said to “behold the form of YHWH” and speak with YHWH “face to face.” Later, it will be discussed what it really means when YHWH says that one day He will send a prophet like Moshe (Moses) in Deuteronomy 18:15, (“YHWH your Elohim will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—”) but the pieces should already be starting to fit themselves together in your mind.
How can the Creator of the heavens and the earth be contained in a small tabernacle built in the wilderness? How can Moshe (Moses) sit and talk with YHWH like a friend when surely the Most High is too great to be even contained in the earth at all? Simply, if we apply the understanding we gain from Jacob’s experience, it must be that Moses is interacting with an image of YHWH, a voice of YHWH, or, to get directly to the point, the Angel of YHWH.
In discussion of this concept we’re brought beautifully into the next example of a man interacting with YHWH in the form of an “Angel,” and that is no other than Joshua (Yahusha) himself.
13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And He said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of YHWH. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to Him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of YHWH’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. -(Yahusha) Joshua 5:13-18
At first glance, many have been tempted to read this passage of scripture and assume that what Joshua was encountering on his way to Jericho was simply an angel, possibly even Michael, the warrior angel that would lead them to battle; however, upon closer inspection we can find some pretty interesting points that can not be ignored. First, the “commander of the army of YHWH” says, “now I have come.” This alone should give us pause as we recognize that this statement implies that this person is someone that the nation of Israel has been waiting for, or is waiting for, thus the announcement, “now I have come.”
Second, we see that Joshua (Yahusha) fell on his face and worshipped the “commander” of the army, a type of adoration that we don’t see anywhere else in the Tanakh except in the presence of YHWH. We do; however, find that in the book of Revelation, John is expressly told not to worship the angel He is speaking with.
“Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Messiah. Worship Elohim.” -Revelation 19:10
The fact that this “commander” allowed this worship is monumental. Last, and perhaps most importantly, we see a final statement from the Commander of YHWH’s angels that I believe is one of the most important statements made here. The Angel says:
“'Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.' And Joshua did so." -(Yahusha) Joshua 5:15
With the major points of Joshua (Yahusha) in mind, a few questions have to be asked if we want to understand the importance of this passage. “Why was Joshua (Yahusha) allowed by the Angel Commander to worship him without being corrected? Second, why does the Angel announce “Now I have come?” Last, why does this messenger of YHWH tell Joshua (Yahusha) that the place where he is standing is holy ground? Addressing the last question specifically, there is only one other instance of “holy ground” being designated and the subsequent need to remove the shoes of the one being addressed in the scriptures, and that is in the account of Moses (Moshe) in which he directly communicates with Elohim.
“And the angel of YHWH appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When YHWH saw that he turned aside to see, Elohim called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the El (“God”) of your father, the El of Abraham, the El of Isaac, and the El of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at Elohim.” -(Shemot) Exodus 3:2-6
With the study of this passage and the previous passages that we’ve seen to this point which demonstrate Ya’akov (Jacob) wrestling with Elohim through an angelic-man figure who he later calls Elohim (“God”), the pieces of the puzzle should be starting to neatly develop a picture in our heads of what is truly occurring here. To better understand the importance of these key points, please continue to the next module titled, "God is not a Man" pt. II: The Angel of YHWH.