This is part three of an eight part blog response to a posting by Daniel O. McClellan entitled, “The Angel of Yahweh in Early Hebrew Bible Narrative,” which was dated June 16, 2011 on WordPress.
The next area of focus is on the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac. Daniel is focused on one particular part of the passage. It is where the LORD is reported as speaking to Abraham in Genesis 22:16. He states, “In v. 16 we have Yahweh speaking, but the phrase ‘says Yahweh’ appears. This does not necessarily indicate reported speech, though, and is unlikely to be original.”
There are three things to address from Daniel’s statement on his perception of this phrase:
- The phrase taken at face value is, “Yahweh speaking.”
- Daniel points out that the phrase, ‘says Yahweh’ can be understood as reported speech and he states in so many words that it could be the inverse, which is direct speech.
- Daniel concludes that the phrase is unlikely to be original whether or not it is reported speech or the LORD directly speaking.
Now in regard to the phrase, “…says Yahweh,” Daniel is not content to merely credit it as a Post-Deuteronomic addition but is driven to mention that it does not necessarily indicate “reported” speech. To state more simply, the Angel is not necessarily speaking on the LORD’s behalf (reporting the LORD’s words), and the phrase is Adonai Himself speaking. The issue which Daniel is trying to address does not seem clear. Could it be related to his possibly answering views of other critical conclusions which he does not agree with? I could be wrong but without researching this particular passage on every Documentarian view, I would guess that at least one other critical scholar believes that the phrase, ‘says Yahweh’ is original to the text. Perhaps I am giving too much weight to Daniel’s choice of words which may have been used to convey simpler ideas, but I am persuaded to give Daniel more credit for thinking about these things in broader ways.
The basic idea which Daniel is promoting is that in all these ‘angel of the Lord’ stories it was originally only the LORD (Yahweh) as the participant and later on a Post-Deuteronomic editor added the Hebrew word “Malach” into the text thereby creating the ‘Malach Adonai‘ (Malach Yahweh)(Angel of the LORD). In the case of Gen. 22:16 Daniel seems also to be suggesting that the phrase, “says Yahweh” was also an addition by a Post-Deuteronomic editor and he further seems to state that the phrase was unfortunately vague and could be understood as either direct speech or reported speech. As Daniel does not state these things directly, I could be misinterpreting his own presentation, but he seems to indicate that the “correct” interpretation of the phrase, ‘says Yahweh’ could be that the LORD is actively speaking. One should keep in mind that another interpretation is possible. It is that the angel could be identified as a non-specific angel who is speaking on the LORD’s behalf and not a theophany. Daniel does not explore this perspective, but dismisses it.
In his second point he states in so many words that it doesn’t really matter if it is reported speech because the phrase is likely not original. So it would seem that Daniel is favoring an “original” theoretical Elohistic authorship which was later modified by a hypothetical Yahwist and then changed by an unsubstantiated Post-Deuteronomist. Well, I could be mistaken in this assessment but one thing is clear which is that Daniel understands that in order for the Interpolation theory to be more likely, he needs to address the phrase “says Yahweh”.
In his radical critical approach there are certain things that don’t quite fit into a clean logic of Documentarian theories. Why would a Post-Deuteronomic editor either add or allow a verse which reads, “says Yahweh” in Gen 22:16? Daniel seems to suggest that the hypothetical editor knew they could use vague words in order for the text to match their theology.
What evidence is given that the phrase “says Yahweh” in Gen. 22:16 is likely not original? He states, “It (the phrase) appears nowhere else in Genesis and it never appears anywhere else associated with any angel of Yahweh.” Again, it must be noted that one must first be persuaded that the Biblical texts should be interpreted by diachronic analysis in order to speculate as to why certain phrases appear in some places but not in others.
Daniel’s point seems focused on the Hebrew word pair “Naum Adonai” which in Gen. 22:16 is translated, “says Yahweh”. The word “Naum” is more frequently translated as “declared” in most of the Scriptures such as, “declares the LORD”. It is used mostly by the prophets. His point being that this is the only passage in which this word pair is used with the appearance of the ‘Angel’ and so it must certainly be an insertion at a later date. Well, I suppose anything is possible but again, it is all still speculation.
If we do not limit ourselves to the word pair “Naum Adonai” then there are examples to be found which also convey the same basic understanding as “says Yahweh” in connection with the ‘Angel’. For example, Gen. 16:13. This verse in context is the story of the ‘Angel’ appearing to Hagar. It reads:
“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” ESV
The Hebrew in the first passage transliterated reads, “VaTi-keRah Shem Adonai HaDoh-bear ELeiYah Atah”. The verb used to convey how the LORD spoke in this verse is “Dabar” which has been conjugated to “Dohbear” and preceded by “Ha”. The words, “Shem Adonai” are translated, “the Name of the LORD which is followed by “HaDoh-bear” which is “who spoke”. I should point out again for the beginner student of scripture study that the Name of the LORD is the sacred four letters in Hebrew which most scholars refer to as ‘Yahweh’. In this case I have used, “Adonai”. In plain English it reads, “The Name of ‘Yahweh’ spoke”. This is not much different from, “says Yahweh”. The exception is that instead of the Hebrew word pair, “Naum Adonai” the verb “Dabar” is used. By not limiting ourselves to counting how many times a word pair occurs we can be open to other similar verses.
The speculation is entirely dependent upon considering the phrase, “Naum Adonai” as late hypothetical Deuteronomic language, but this seems to be based on the number of times it occurs in each book. This is problematic as one cannot be certain if this phrase originated in Genesis earlier and then later became more frequently used in other scriptures. If this was a “Deuteronomic phrase” one could also speculate why this phrase is not used more in the book of Genesis if indeed the Book is filled with Deuteronomic theology?
Moving on to Gen. 22:14 Daniel states:
“In v. 14, the explanation of the name of the mountain could be “On the mountain of Yahweh it shall be provided,” or “On the mountain of Yahweh he will be seen.” In both these stories the notion of seeing God appears to have been obscured to hide God’s own presence.“
His reference to both stories is in regard to the Angel appearing to Hagar and the story of Abraham offering up his only son. Daniel states that the notion of seeing God appears to have been obscured. I suppose one could draw this conclusion only if they first are convinced that there is a notion to be obscured in the first place. The verses in question could be translated more than one way but this does not mean that the original Hebrew writer was trying to cover something up. It simply can be the case that they are difficult to translate due to the lack of understanding we have with regard to the use of certain Hebraic context which has been lost through the sands of time.
In Gen. 22 the context makes it clear that verse 14 is echoing verses 7 and 8 which reads:
- “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
- And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” KJV
The translation is difficult as it does not literally translate “God will provide”, but “God will see”. There is a possible idea of, “God will see-to-it”. Incidentally the literal translation can line up with the Christian theology of the LORD seeing Jesus as the sacrifice because one way of translating verse 8 literally is, “…God will see him a lamb…” which is what John the Baptist so simply stated in, “Behold the Lamb of God…”. The point being is that the focus of the ‘seeing’ or the ‘providing’ is the sacrifice.
Daniel’s statement that something is being obscured in verse 14 might just be a misunderstanding on his part because the Hebrew is there for all to examine and come to their own conclusions on how to translate it. While he is setting up two ideas against each other in the ‘providing’ and ‘seeing’ most who examine the Hebrew understand the ideas as two ways of explaining the same thing. In other words God will ‘see-to-it’. This is also a theme in Scripture in which the LORD sees the suffering of His people and rescues them (Ex. 3:7,8).
The basic understanding of Genesis 22 could be expressed in the following ways:
v.7 Where is the lamb (sacrifice)?
v.8 The Lord will see it (the lamb).
v.14 Abraham calls the place, “The LORD will see (it)”.
One could also translate it in another way:
v.7 Where is the lamb?
v.8 God will see him, a lamb.
v.14 Abraham calls the place, “The LORD will see (him)”.
So in both cases we can see that the object can be the lamb. If we go with the Documentarian translation preference it might convey something like the following:
v. 7 (No comment from Daniel) Possibly remains, “Where is the lamb?”
v. 8 (No comment from Daniel). Possibly remains, “God will provide”.
v.14 “On the mountain of Yahweh he will be seen.”
This point needs to made with regard to the possible “he” who is seen on the mountain. Many would quickly make the assumption that this “he” is in reference to “Yahweh” while it can just as easily be referring to “it”, the sacrifice, but even if it should be “he” we wonder if Abraham is referring to the Angel of LORD or the LORD Himself, and in the end this still does not change the object of chapter 22 which is the sacrificial lamb. It was the sacrifice of Isaac which was stopped by the Angel and a substitute was provided to Abraham. It was in this context which Abraham named the place. In my opinion it is a stretch to consider verse 14 related to Daniel’s overall argument having to do with ‘seeing’ God especially when we consider the clear connection to verse 8 in the same chapter.
And even if we do translate verse 14 as “he” we are suddenly struck with the implication that “he” is the sacrifice in verse 8! And maybe this is one of those times when the Hebrew means both in two different verses? Perhaps Abraham was shielding Isaac from the fact that he would be the sacrifice in verse 8? In this case the “he” is Isaac, but Abraham answered Isaac in such a way as it could mean “it”. In the end, in verse 14, Abraham names the place after the phrase he used in verse 8 with Isaac except now it has taken on a new meaning of hope, which is summed up in a paraphrase such as, “God will see! (it)(everything)(your heart’s sacrifice and desire)..(and will rescue you by providing).” It is an idea which encompasses all of what God is all about. He will see all things, provide for all things, and rescue us from all things. :-)
This ends part 3 of this 8 part series. I look forward to my next post and remember to Keep Ceeking Truth!. :-)