« PreviousContinue »
would first consent to bless him. The man then told him, that his name should no more be Jacob, but that henceforth he should be called Israel : and the reason, which he assigned for the change, was, that as a prince he had power with God and with men, and that he had prevailed in the contest. Upon this, Jacob demanded the name of the stranger : but his curiosity was instantly checked, though the desired blessing was bestowed upon him. His antagonist now seems to have suddenly withdrawn himself: and this circumstance, together with the extraordinary tone of authority which he had assumed, most probably led the patriarch to discern his true character. Jacob, it is said, called the name of the place Peniel or the manifestation of God : and his reason for so calling it he thus sets forth; I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Nothing can be more unequivocal than such a declaration. What he had seen, so far as external appearances were concerned, was a man like himself; for, by the act of wrestling, he had found him to be a real substance, and no airy phantom. But he asserts himself to have seen goD face to face, while yet he had beheld nothing save a MAN. The conclusion therefore is inevitable, that this being, though in form and composition like a real MAN, was yet no other than very god.
Nor can it be said, that such a conclusion has been strained from a single difficult passage. Jacob
'Gen. xxxii. 23. 30.
himself, shortly before his death, informed Joseph, that the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac, the God who fed him all his life long, was the Angel who redeemed him from all evil : and Hosea, in a similar njanner, teaches, when speaking of the circumstance now before us; that by his strength he had power with God, yea he had power over the Angel and prevailed, even Jehovah the God of hosts.' The man therefore, with whom Jacob wrestled, was assuredly the Angel-God both of himself and of his fathers : and this God, though discharging the office of an angel or messenger to the invisible Jehovah, and though as such repeatedly appearing under the human form, is yet declared to be no less than Jehovah himself. In short, when the whole is laid together, Jacob's antagonist was plainly the anthropomorphic Word of God, who was afterwards permanently manifested in the flesh, and whose peculiar office it is to declare the unseen Father.
II. Thus repeatedly did the Angel of Jehovah, who was promised as the future Seed of the woman, reveal himself in a human form under the Patriarchal dispensation ; whether subsisting before the deluge, or after the deluge, or in its reformed though confined state in the families of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. We shall equally find the same divine person, both introducing, and presiding over, the Levitical dispensation.
It will be proper however, that we should first
notice what I am inclined to esteem the formal abrogation of Patriarchism among the now completely apostate Gentiles : for, as the Word was the special God of Patriarchism as well as of Judaism, concinnity itself seems to require, that none but he should abrogate the primeval system.
An account of this transaction we find recorded in the history of Balaam and Balak.
The king of Moab, alarmed at the approach of Israel, sent to Balaam, a patriarchal seer of the true God, that he should come and curse the invaders. Balaam, though speculatively orthodox, was practically an impious opposer of the counsels of Jehovah : hence, unless he had been withheld by a superior controuling power, he was well inclined, for the sake of honour and promotion, to execute the commission of Balak. Still he dared not act without first consulting the Lord : and then we are twice told, that God came unto him ; an expression which implies some sensible descent of Jehovah, though we are not specially told the manner in which he revealed himself. But light is rapidly thrown upon the subject, as we proceed with the history.
While Balaam was on his road to join the king of Moab, vainly and impiously hoping that God would permit him to earn the wages of iniquity, the Angel of Jehovah stood in the way for an adversary against him. Here, from the peculiarity of the expression, we are naturally led to anticipate, that this Angel of Jehovah is the same person as the Angel-God of the Hebrew patriarchs :
and his menacing attitude, as one bearing a drawn sword, appears to intimate, that he displayed himself to the prophet in his capacity of the supreme Archangel or the captain of the Lord's host. His subsequent conversation with Balaam abundantly demonstrates, that such is his real character. Jehovah opens the eyes of the seer; and then first he beholds the Angel of Jehovah, standing in the way
with his sword drawn in his hand. This particular shews, that the form, which he saw, was that of a man : but the language, which he heard, was that of God. Behold, says the terrific appearance, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me.
Go with the men : but only the word, that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak.' This assuredly is not the style of a mere created delegate : nor did Balaam understand it as such. The word, that God pul, teth in my mouth, says he, that shall I speak. This declaration to Balak is palpably the echo of what the Angel of Jehovah had said to him on the road. The word that I shall speak unto thee, is the language of the Angel who had just before told the prophet, Thy way is perverse before ME: The word that God putteth in my mouth, is the explanatory echo of Balaam.
Balaam. Hence it is clear, that, in the apprehension of Balaam, the anthropomorphic ANGEL OF JEHOVAH was no other than the god by whom he was inspired.
Every thing being now prepared, and a sacrifice
Numb. xxii. 32.
Numb. xxii. 38.
having been duly offered, Balaam leaves the king and his attendants, that Jehovah might come and meet him. Accordingly, God did meet him, and Jehovah put a word in his mouth : upon which he returned to Balak ; that is to say, be returned from the visible presence of Jehovah, who had revealed himself to biin apart. Now, when we recollect the previous manifestation of the Angel, and when we call to mind that God the Fatber is declared to man solely by the agency of his anthropomorphic Word; we can scarcely doubt, both that what Balaam then beheld was a person in a human figure, and that that person was the Angel of Jehovah.
But let us attend more particularly to his own language: for that most fully explains the nature of the being, who had appeared to him on the road.
Balaam the son of Beor hath said, even the man whose cyes were opened hath said. He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the apparition of the Almighty; falling prostrate, but having his eyes opened.”
These words plainly refer to the events of his journey. Our translators have thought fit to describe the prophet as falling into a trance : but, in the original, there is no mention of any trance; and indeed his very declaration, that his eyes were opened, seems almost purposely introduced to pre