One God, Three Entities (Part 1)
(Israel My Glory January/February, 2007 pg38)
The prayer of the Shema ("Hear, 0 Israel," Dt6:4) has always been the fundamental declaration of faith of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. In one short verse, Moses presented a great truth about the Godhead as a whole. This Scripture is inscribed on parchment scrolls and placed in mezuzot (wooden or metal cases) that are fixed onto the doorposts of every home in Israel. It is a verse that calls the people of Israel to serve and worship one God:
The Hebrew words Adonai ("Lord") and Eloheinu ("our God") use plural forms of the word God. The word Eloheinu is a combination of Elohim shelanu, meaning "our God." The Word Elohim is the plural form of the word Elohah.
Why does the Lord present Himself as plural? And why, after repeating the word God three times, does Deuteronomy 6:4 end with the word one?
To understand the verse
better requires examining
the meaning of the Hebrew
word ehad ("one") in the
The word ehad does not
necessarily refer to a single, individual item. It also
may mean a combination
of items that constitutes
a complete whole. The
Hebrew language uses a
different word to describe
an undivided unity. That
word is yahid.
To whom was the Lord speaking in Genesis 1:26?
The New Testament strongly confirms that God alone is the Creator:
Thus the word ehad describes a wholeness that consists of several entities. The Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 says that God is one whole who consists of several entities and that the people of Israel must worship this wholeness.
One God, Three Entities (Part 2)
(Israel My Glory March/April, 2007 pg38)
In his 13 basic principles, renowned Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (1135-1205), also known as Maimonides and the great Rambam, replaced the Hebrew word ehad ("one") with yahid ("only one") to describe God's nature. Ehad often denotes a compound unity, whereas yahid does not.
Although the idea of yahid stands in contrast to the Old Testament, rabbinical Judaism embraced it and argues that God is an undivided wholeness. However, the Bible provides many examples that clearly testify to a plurality in the one God. God is one, but not one entity. There is a single Godhead, one God to whom there is no equal; but that one God exists in a plurality of entities.
The Hebrew Scriptures
contain verses that refer to
each of the entities in the
Godhead and clearly indicate their number.
There are further examples of the Spirit's existence as an individual entity:
But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. ... "Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them...? " As a beast goes down into the valley, and the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest, so You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name (63:10-11,14).
And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn (Zech12:10).
SEEN and UNSEEN
Clearly, at least two entities compose the Godhead.
If he had seen the entity's face, he would have died instantly. Therefore, Moses clearly spoke with a God entity whose face he was forbidden to see.
According to Jewish rabbinical opinion, the Lord spoke to Moses through a reflected image. However, this view is inconsistent with God's Word. If the Lord had spoken to Moses through a reflection, the verse would have said so instead of saying "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend."
Using a literal, grammatical interpretation of the text, it becomes evident that verses 11 and 20 speak of two separate entities, both of which are referred to as "LORD."
Another example of a
visible entity within the
Godhead is found in
Exodus 24:9-11. Moses,
Aaron, Aaron's sons
Nadab and Abihu, and 70
elders of Israel ascended
Mount Sinai and "saw
the God of Israel. And
there was under His feet
as it were a paved work
of sapphire stone....
But on the nobles of the
children of Israel He did
not lay His hand. So they
saw God, and they ate
and drank" (vv.10-11).
How many entities make up the Godhead? Isaiah the prophet solved the mystery and cast a light on the relationship between the persons who compose the living God.
In Isaiah 44:6, God says, "I am the First, and I am the Last." In Isaiah 48, the Lord describes Himself as the One who founded the earth and made the heavens; and He declares that all are ready to do His will.
The Lord continues to speak and says that the kingdoms of those days acted under His sovereignty. Then He says the following:
Thus the speaker is God (entity one). And He was sent by the Lord GOD (entity two) and His Spirit (entity three). Isaiah teaches that the oneness of the Godhead is comprised of three entities: The Spirit of God and two others who are called "Lord."
Therefore, the meaning of the Lord's words in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 becomes obvious: "Hear, 0 Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." The names of the Lord appear three times in this verse, which ends with the word ehad - "one" - to teach us that one Godhead is composed of three entities.
One God, Three Entities (Part 3)
(Israel My Glory July/August, 2007 pg38)
The Old Testament often describes people's encounters with the Lord in human form and how those experiences helped them come to know Him on a personal basis. Examining some of those passages can help us know the godly entity who revealed Himself to these ancient saints, speaking to them face-to-face, as a man speaks to his friend.
Abram understood that it was God-in bodily form-who stood before him, and he fell on his face (vs3). Scripture describes the encounter as a real, face-to-face event, not as a dream or vision. Also important: Abram was still alive afterward.
The Lord presented Himself as El Shaddai because of the great significance of this name. The dot in the Hebrew letter d doubles the letter. El means "God" in Hebrew. The root of the word Shaddai is shdd and means "victorious and assertive." So El Shaddai means, "I am the Lord who is victorious and the One whom all are to fear and obey."
[vw: "el" means not only "God" but also "might". Thus the "Mighty God who is victorious" :]
However, since the second letter d is silent, the word sounds like shadai, which comes from shad, the Hebrew word for "breast." Therefore, El Shaddai sounds like the God who provides all our needs, just as mother's milk provides every need of a newborn. God's message to Abraham and to us is that He is almighty. He can provide for all of our needs. We must trust Him, believe in Him, walk in holiness and purity before Him, and present all our needs to Him. Our lives depend on Him.
The name El Shaddai appears 48 times in the Old Testament, 31 times in Job alone. And every time it appears, it refers to the godly entity that men are able to see face-to-face.
GOD and MOSES
According to the Lord's words, El Shaddai is one of the entities that compose the Godhead and is the One whom men are allowed to see face-to-face.
According to Genesis 18, El Shaddai appeared as an ordinary man. Genesis 18:1-2 prepares us for the revelation of the Lord to Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre in Hebron (cf13:18). Abraham was sitting at his tent door in the heat of the day when he saw three men coming toward him. He ran to them and bowed.
Abraham spoke to one of the men: "My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant" (vs3) The structure of the Hebrew text makes it clear that Abraham addressed one of the three as Adonai. The word Adonai is presented in plural, masculine form and serves as an expression of reverence. However, the rest of the verse indicates that the word refers to the Lord. Abraham said to Him, "If I have now found favor in Your sight." The words Your sight are masculine singular, not plural, indicating that Abraham was speaking to the Lord Himself. Abraham saw Him face-to-face and lived; therefore, the person he saw was El Shaddai. El Shaddai appeared to Abraham as a man, like any other man.
The rest of the encounter reinforces the argument that the Lord appeared to Abraham in human form. In verse 10 the Lord spoke to Abraham and promised him that Sarah would give birth to a son. Sarah heard the promise while inside the tent and laughed "within herself" (vs12) In other words, she laughed in her heart, rather than aloud. Sarah knew she was far too old to bear children and that her husband, too, was very old. But she did not know that it was God speaking to Abraham.
The fulfillment of such a promise would involve a great miracle; and since Sarah was unaware that one of the three was the Lord Himself, His words sounded like a joke to her. (Scripture nowhere says the Lord also revealed Himself to her face-to-face.)
Then the Lord asked Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? ... Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you ... and Sarah shall have a son" (vs13-14).
In verse 15 Sarah denied that she laughed. But the Lord knows what is in our hearts and therefore said to Sarah decisively, "But you did laugh!" In other words, "You doubted my promise."
"You laughed" in Hebrew is tsakhakt. Therefore, the name of their son became Yitskhak (Isaac, also spelled Yitzhak in English), meaning "will laugh."
After the Lord and the two men who came with Him finished eating, they arose and looked toward Sodom. The Lord said He had come down to examine the deeds of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (vs16-21). The men went to Sodom, while Abraham still stood before the Lord. (A similar story is documented in Genesis 11:5.)
After the two men departed, the famous negotiations began between the Lord and Abraham over saving the righteous of Sodom. These end with the verse, "So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place" (vs33).
The two men who left Abraham and went to Sodom were angels sent to save Lot and his family from the destruction the Lord was about to rain on the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The word angel does not always describe a winged image; it usually refers to a messenger.
Unfortunately, rabbinical Judaism does not take a Scriptural stance regarding the identity of Abraham's important visitor. It maintains the position that all three men who visited Abraham were angels.
This explanation does not follow God's Word. The Word teaches clearly that El Shaddai, the godly entity whom people are allowed to see, appeared to Abraham in the form of a man. Readers must decide to whom they should listen: the wisdom of men or the explicit Word of God.
One God, Three Entities (Part 4)
(Israel My Glory September/October, 2007 pg38)
El Shaddai: Angel of the LORD:
We have seen that El Shaddai is the person of the Godhead whom people can see and still live. In Genesis 18 He came to Abraham, looking like an ordinary man. El Shaddai also appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. These appearances should strengthen our faith in God's love for us and in the deity of Jesus.
Hagar, Sarai's maid, became pregnant by Abram (later called Abraham) and started to slight her mistress. So Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that Hagar could bear the situation no longer and fled. When she arrived at a water spring in the desert, the Angel of the Lord met her (Gen16:7)
Hagar was not surprised at the sight of the man who spoke to her, probably because His appearance was human in every way. The man instructed Hagar to return to Sarai (later called Sarah). Then He blessed her and told her she was carrying a son whose name would be Ishmael, and He prophesied Ishmael's future.
Only then did Hagar understand that she stood before the Lord Himself: "Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, 'Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'" (v13)
Hagar called El Shaddai by the name El Roi, "The God Who Sees," a name that presents a vital characteristic of El Shaddai: His omniscience. He knows and sees everything. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. Our lives are an open book before Him.
Abraham encountered El Shaddai when the Lord tested the patriarch by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of Moriah. Confident that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Heb11:17-19), Abraham bound his son on an altar and took the knife to slay him:
Also, in Exodus 23:20-23, the Angel of the Lord is none other than the Lord who walked before the people of Israel in the desert. The same is true in Exodus 13:21; 14:19, 24; 33:14-15; Numbers 22:22-35; Judges 2:1-5; 2 Samuel 24:16; Psalm 34:7; 35:1-6; Isaiah 52:12; Zechariah 1:11-12; 3:1-5; 12:8.
In answer to this question, the Angel of the Lord revealed Himself as the Lord: "Have I not sent you? Surely I will be with you" (vv14,16)
The word angel does not necessarily refer to a winged image. In most cases in the Old Testament, it describes a messenger. Had the guest appeared as an angel with wings, Gideon would have responded differently. However, Gideon saw a man, as any other man. To the best of his knowledge, he was speaking with an ordinary person. Only in verse 22, after he witnessed a miracle, did Gideon understand that he had seen the Lord face-to-face.
The Angel of the Lord also appeared to the wife of Manoah and told her she would give birth to a son, a Nazirite to God from the womb, who would save Israel from the Philistines (Jdg13:2-5)
Manoah's wife then told her husband, saying she saw a "Man of God" whose countenance was like "the Angel of God, very awesome." Manoah prayed that the Man of God would return. He did. And this time Manoah met Him, too, as the Angel of the Lord guided the couple regarding the child to be born (Samson).
Then Manoah prepared a young goat for the visitor. When the animal was on the altar, the Angel of the Lord ascended to heaven. Manoah and his wife then understood they had spoken to no ordinary person; they had spoken to the Lord face-to-face and lived (v23)
They saw El Shaddai, the person of the Godhead whom humans are allowed to see. Clearly, the Angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself.
The Jewish prophet Isaiah made it clear to the children of Israel that their troubles hurt the Lord. Isaiah said the "Angel of His Presence" (Hebrew, "the Angel of His face") had saved them, redeemed them, and carried them all the days of old:
The answer is found in Exodus 33:14-15. Moses implored the Lord to accompany him in the desert and help him guide the people of Israel. The Lord declared, "My Presence [Hebrew, "face"] will go with you, and I will give you rest" (v14)
Moses answered, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here" (v15). Exodus 13:21 says that it was the Lord who walked before the people of Israel in the desert. Hence, the Angel of the Lord's Presence is El Shaddai, the godly entity whom men are allowed to see. When we see Him, we see the Lord. (See John 14:6-14)
Why would God allow mere mortals to see El Shaddai?
Because of His love for us! God created humanity because He is a loving God. And love expresses itself in a desire to give and bestow. El Shaddai's closeness to us is an expression of His love, as was His self-sacrifice at Calvary so that we might have everlasting life.