The Messenger of His Face and How Torah was Given to Israel
The authorship of the Book of Genesis is attributed to Mosheh who wrote it down for us. But the question presents itself, “How could he have known what had taken place from the Creation of the world to his birth?” The creation of the heavens and the earth, the stars and everything visible and invisible in the universe, is a colossal event no man has ever witnessed. The story of Adam and Chavah who sinned by accessing the knowledge of good and evil, the Flood and all detailed description of the ark, the Tower of Bavel: all of this would have been unknown to Mosheh without revelation from heaven by someone who had recounted all these stories for Mosheh. Without this revelation from heaven, we would not have known either.
The oral tradition in preserving the history
We should not consider the oral tradition as a means of preserving the history of mankind, because it is unreliable with regard to details and facts, particularly the creation of the universe and mankind. We should recall that the mankind and the earth were “reset” (figuratively speaking) in the flood and the source of information was one family: the family of Noach. And if we have to consider the oral tradition as a means of preserving the history of mankind through one family, we should also consider the inevitable distortion that comes with it. For instance, the creation and flood stories have been preserved in various cultures by the means of oral traditions. But their variants are so many that they are just unreliable source of information with regards to the details. That is not to say that the oral tradition plays no part in history, on the contrary it does, but as it is the case of the descendants of Noach through Shem, there was even a disconnection in the oral tradition.
As we studied in the article “Israel’s whoring in Egypt“, there was an unbridgeable disparity between the generation of the exodus under Mosheh and the generation that came down to Egypt under Ya’akov. After the death of the sons of Ya’akov and their children, the new generation born in Egypt was so immersed in the Egyptian culture and idolatry that they almost lost their national identity. As one rabbi has said, if Israel had stayed one more day in Egypt, there would have been no Israel to redeem. The Israelites in Egypt did not keep the Covenant of YHVH handed down from Avraham to Yitschak and Ya’akov-Israel and particularly the sign of the Covenant: the circumcision of all male children. The assimilation in the pagan culture was so deep that they did not even know the Name of the Elohim of their forefathers, much less the creation story and the Flood. Therefore, what Mosheh had written down and preserved in the Torah must have been a narrative by someone. But to make the things even more complicated, we find nowhere in the Hebrew Scripture, excepting one, as to how the Genesis story, was given to Mosheh.
So, we are coming to the point to ask the question as to who narrated the Genesis story to Mosheh, because this will help us understand key details in it and even in the Apostolic Writings, as we will see below.
The narrative by the Messenger of His Face
As aforesaid, there is no direct reference in the Hebrew Scripture as to how Mosheh had knowledge of the creation story and all the events afterwards. However, there is a book that provides clear evidence that Mosheh had knowledge of the events from the creation of the world until his time and more particularly how he obtained that knowledge. This evidence is the Book of Jubilees. We will read below from The Book of Jubilees or aka The Little Genesis, translated from the Ethiopic text by R. H. Charles, D.Litt., D.D., Fellow of Merton College; Fellow of The British Academy, Lecturer in Rabbinical Hebrew, King’s College, London; Translations of Early Documents, Palestinian Jewish Texts (Pre-Rabbinic), Canon of Westminster, 1917.
From the very beginning of the Book of Jubilees, we are told that YHVH the Elohim of Israel said to “the angel of the presence” to write for Mosheh everything from the creation to the building of the Tabernacle. “The angel of the presence”, literally, “the messenger of the Face” is a mysterious heavenly being who serves as a delegate or mediator for YHVH. This we studied in the articles “The Transcendent Son Hidden in Elohim” and “The Revelation of the Messenger of YHVH” and in a broader scope in the series of articles The Oneness of the Creator and The Messiah. We read from the Book of Jubilees thus,
Jubilees 1:27-28, “And He said to the angel of the presence: Write for Moses from the beginning of creation till my sanctuary has been built among them for all eternity. And the Lord will appear to the eyes of all, and all will know that I am the God of Israel and the Father of all the children of Jacob, and King on Mount Zion for all eternity.
The messenger of the Face in Jubilees is a very close expression of “the angel of His presence” (literally, “the Messenger of His Face”) in Isa 63:9. We read,
In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity, He redeemed them; and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old. (Isa 63:9 JPS)
Here “His presence” is not to be taken in the sense of “the angel who sees His presence”, since all “angels see Him (Job 1), but as “the Angel who is His Face, or in whom His Face is manifested”. The “He” that follows immediately after that phrase does not point back to the Angel of His presence, but to YHVH, who reveals Himself through him. And although this angel is regarded as a distinct being from YHVH, he is also regarded as one who is completely hidden before Him, whose name is in him.
But where do we ever read of this? Only on one occasion in Exo 14:19-20 in which a distinction is expressly made between the Messenger of Elohim and the pillar of cloud that was protecting the people from the pursuing Egyptians. The Messenger of His Face is a personal medium in which the Name of YHVH is indwelling (Exo 23:21) for the purpose of His self-attestation. Although the Messenger did sometimes appear in human form both in the time of Avraham and also in that of Yehoshua (Jos 5:13), it never appeared in such a form in the Exodus, but in the form of heavenly revelation, such as in Exo 23:20-23. This mediating Messenger is called “the Messenger of His Face”, as being the representative of YHVH before men and as His self-revealing presence (hence “Messenger of the Presence”). Consequently, the Face of Elohim is called directly “His Face” in Deu 4:37 to distinguish that Being from the “angels”.
Note: It is the improper translation of the Hebrew word mal’ach (a messenger) as “angel” that has brought the confusion that the Messenger of His Face is one of the “angels” (like Michael and Gavriel) YHVH created on the second day of the creation week. The Hebrew mal’ach is someone who does business for someone else; mal’ach could be “an angel”, or a human. In the Scripture, the Messenger of His Face is seen as pre-existing through whom everything came into being. This we studied in the article “The Transcendent Son Hidden in Elohim“.
Therefore, the “Messenger of His Face” in Isa 63:9 is identical with the Messenger in whom the Name of Yehovah is (see Exo 23:20-21). To distinguish that Heavenly Being from the “angels”, YHVH became even more direct in His words to call His Messenger “My Face” in Exo 33:14, Exo 32:34, and in Exo 33:2, as something incomparably higher and unique than the manifestation of Elohim through the mediation of “angels”. To correctly understand the face-to-face dialogue in Exo 33:11 between YHVH and Mosheh, we need to see it in its entire context. After the golden calf sin, YHVH was angry with the people because of the grievous sin of making an image of the invisible One. As a result, He said to Mosheh that He personally would not go with the people to lead them to the Land, but “His Face” would: “My Face shall go, and I shall give you rest” (Exo 33:14). But what Mosheh responded was very revealing. Mosheh distinguished “His Face” (verse 14), that is the same Messenger in Exo 23:20-23, from YHVH Himself, when he said in the very next verse,
If Your Face is not going, do not lead us up from here. (Exo 33:15)
Did YHVH not say His Face would go (Exo 33:14) and did He not say (before the golden calf sin) that His Messenger would go before them to bring them into the Land (Exo 23:23)? Why then did Mosheh say, “If Your Face is not going…”? On the surface it seems that there is an apparent contradiction. But this contradiction is easily solved if we consider the meaning of the Hebrew word paniym, “face” (literally, faces), that can also mean “presence” in “royal plural” in Hebrew. In other words, in verse 14, YHVH is saying, “I Myself shall not go with you, but “My Face”, the Messenger who was leading you, shall go”. Mosheh however is saying in verse 15, “If You YHVH personally are not going with us, do not lead us up from here at all”. Furthermore, we read in Jubilees,
Jubilee 2:1, And the angel of the presence spoke to Moses according to the word of the Lord, saying: Write the complete history of the creation, how in six days the Lord God finished all His works and all that He created, and kept Sabbath on the seventh day and hallowed it for all ages, and appointed it as a sign for all His works.
The Book of Jubilees is the earliest authority that testifies that the Torah was given to Mosheh through the Messenger of His Face. YHVH says in His Torah that every matter should be establish by two or three witnesses. The first witness is the Torah, in which we have the first mention of angels in connection with the giving of the Torah.
The LORD came from Sinai and rose from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, and He came from the myriads holy, at His right hand was a fiery law unto them. (Deu 33:2 JPS)
For further knowledge of what “‘fiery law” refers to, the reader is encouraged to read the article “The Fiery Law from YHVH’s Right Hand“, but it is sufficient here to note that YHVH came down on His mountain Sinai with myriads of saints (KJV) to set forth the glory of the Covenant which He made with Israel. The three clauses, “YHVH came from Sinai…from Seir…from Paran”, do not refer to three different manifestations of YHVH, as some suggest, but to the one appearance of YHVH at Sinai, which Mosheh depicted so majestically in Deu 33:2, and the myriads of saints can only refer to His messengers (angels).
The other witness we find is in nowhere else, but in the Apostolic Writings, namely, Apostle Stephanos’ speech before the council of the Pharisees. We read,
This is the Mosheh who said to the children of Israel, “Yehovah your Elohim shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. Him you shall hear.” This is he [Mosheh] who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the Messenger who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received the living Words [The Torah] to give to us, unto whom our fathers would not become obedient, but thrust away, and in their hearts, they turned back to Egypt … (Act 7:37-40)
We also read in Acts that this was the same Messenger who appeared to Mosheh in the burning bush and who led Israel out of Egypt,
This Mosheh whom they had refused, saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?” this one Elohim sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Messenger who appeared to him in the bush. This one led them out, after he had done wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. (Act 7:35-36)
We are given another hint, as we read further,
… who received the Torah as it was ordained by messengers but did not watch over it. (Act 7:53)
After reading these passages from Acts, the question arises: How could Stephanos have known that the Torah was ordained/enacted/given through a messenger unless he had knowledge of the Book of Jubilees? To make his case even stronger before his accusers the apostle identified this Messenger as the prophet Mosheh promised to Israel. With all that being said, we see that the Book of Jubilees purports to be a revelation given by YHVH to Mosheh through the medium of the Messenger of His Face.
Other clues in the Scripture
All these came as allies unto the vale of Siddim – the same is the Salt Sea. (Gen 14:3 JPS)
In this verse, the phrase “the same is the Salt Sea” means, “which was changed into the Salt Sea” on the destruction of the sin-cities (Gen 19:24-25) and is a clear clue of a narrative by a witness of this event. Up to this moment the Valley of Siddim is described “like the garden of YHVH” (Gen 13:10), but here the Valley of Siddim is called “the Salt Sea”. This can only mean one thing: the Salt Sea had not been in existence in the time of Avraham but came to be sometime after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and definitely before the setting of the borders of Israel at the time of Num 34:12. So, when did the Salt Sea (aka the Dead Sea) come into existence? Either it came into existence with the earthquake at the parting of the Red Sea (Exo 15:12, Psa 77:16-20 and Antiq. 2:15:3), or the earthquake at the giving the Covenant at Mount Sinai (Exo 19:18), as we argued in the article “When did the Salt Sea come into existence?“.
More clues of a narrative by someone else other than Mosheh.
And Rachel died and was buried in the way to Ephrath – the same is Beth-lechem. (Gen 35:19 JPS)
It is a fact that the city of Ephrath was not known as “Beth-lechem” until much later, therefore, these three words the same is Beth-lechem were obviously narrative by a direct witness of the death of Rachel.
In the very next verse, we find another clue,
And Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; the same is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day. (Gen 35:20 JPS)
The phrase unto this day is used in the following instances to express again witnessing of events obviously neither did Mosheh witness, nor could he have possibly known without the narration of a direct witness.
And he called it Shibah. Therefore, the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day. (Gen 26:33 JPS)
And Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests alone became not Pharaoh’s. (Gen 47:26 JPS)
“Unto this day” again pinpoints the time of speaking as the day of the narrative of a direct witness of those events. Who was the only witness of Creation? Who else but the Messenger of His Face.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.