Plurality in the Old Testament

Sam Shamoun

We now move into the second part of our discussion where we take a look at specific texts which refer to multiple Divine Persons side by side. After all, if the exegesis and analysis that we presented in the first part of our discussion that the use of plurals points in the direction of God being multi-Personal is correct, then we shouldn’t be surprised to find passages where the Bible writers mention more than one Divine Person. And, lo and behold, this is precisely what we find happening in the Holy Bible.

Here is the first text which mentions two different Divine Persons side by side:

"Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven." Genesis 19:24

Yahweh brings down sulfur and fire from the Yahweh who is in heaven above. Some anti-Trinitarians have come up with an explanation in order to deny that this refers to two distinct entities as God:

Answer: It has been alleged by some Christian theologians that there are two divine personalities mentioned in this verse, one on earth, conversing with Abraham, and the other in heaven. The one on earth, it is claimed, rained down fire upon the two cities from the one in heaven.

There is, however, no grammatical basis for such an inference. In accordance with the construction of the Hebrew language, we find that in the first half of the verse, the reader is informed who caused the brimstone and fire to fall upon the two cities. In the second half of the verse he is told for emphasis, not only from whom it came but also from where. The verse emphasizes that it is "from the Lord," in order to leave no doubt as to who is in command of events.

An individual will often speak of himself in the third person instead of using the first person. Examples of this may be seen in the following: Lamech said, "Hear my voice you wives of Lamech" (Genesis 4:23), not "my voice"; similarly David said, "Take with you the servants of your lord" (1 Kings 1:33), and not "my servants"; and Ahasuerus said, ". . . in the name of the king" (Esther 8:8), not "in my name." They are all referring to themselves in the third person not to another personality. Likewise, when God speaks of Himself in the third person He is also not speaking of another personality.

God uses the technique of speaking in the third person about Himself in a number of scriptural contexts. It is a common feature of the Scriptures, when "the Lord" (HaShem) speaks, for the text to repeat the noun rather than make use of a pronoun (e.g. Genesis 18:19; Exodus 3:12, 24:1; Numbers 19:1-2; Zechariah 1:17). (Jews for Judaism, Question: Isn't the doctrine of the Trinity supported by Genesis 19:24: "Then the Lord caused to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven"?; source)

The explanation given is possible, but not at all probable since the evidence demonstrates that the text is not an example of third person usage. Genesis 18 clearly establishes the fact that in 19:24 the author is indeed referring to two distinct and different Persons as Yahweh. We quote the entire chapter because of its importance in establishing this point:

"And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, ‘O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, ‘Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.’ And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while THEY ATE. They said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘She is in the tent.’ THE LORD SAID, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’ THE LORD SAID TO Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, "Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?" Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ for she was afraid. HE SAID, ‘No, but you did laugh.’ Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. THE LORD SAID, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.’ THEN THE LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I WILL GO DOWN to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.’ So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, BUT ABRAHAM STILL STOOD BEFORE THE LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ AND THE LORD SAID, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’ Abraham answered and said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ AND HE SAID, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’ Again he spoke to him and said, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ HE ANSWERED, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’ Then he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.’ HE ANSWERED, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.’ HE ANSWERED, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’ Then he said, ‘Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.’ HE ANSWERED, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’ And THE LORD WENT HIS WAY, WHEN HE HAD FINISHED SPEAKING TO Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place." Genesis 18:1-33

In the above we see that Yahweh appeared as a man alongside two other men, ate food and conversed directly with Abraham. To substantiate that one of the three men was indeed Yahweh appearing to Abraham note verse 22 carefully:

"So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD." Genesis 18:22

The text says that as the men headed towards Sodom Abraham stood before Yahweh, meaning that Yahweh remained behind. If Yahweh was indeed one of the three men and yet remained with Abraham then we would expect to find that only two men showed up at Sodom. Lo and behold, this is precisely what we find:

"The TWO ANGELS came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, ‘My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No; we will spend the night in the town square.’ But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate." Genesis 19:1-3

Instead of three men showing up we find that only two of the three arrived at Sodom, which the verses identify as angels. The reason why only two showed up is because the third man had remained behind to talk to Abraham. And yet Genesis 18 states that the One who remained with Abraham was none other than Yahweh God, affirming that he was one of the three men!

Furthermore, Genesis 18 says that Yahweh intended to go down to Sodom in order to verify for himself that the city was as wicked as he had been told:

"Then the LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I WILL GO DOWN TO SEE whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.’" Genesis 18:20-21

What this implies is that after Yahweh finished conversing with Abraham (cf. Gen. 18:33) he went to Sodom to join the other two men in order to bring destruction upon Sodom.

It is not surprising that this is exactly what we find happening:

"Then THE MEN said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For WE are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD HAS SENT US to destroy it.’ So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. As morning dawned, THE ANGELS urged Lot, saying, ‘Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ But he lingered. So THE MEN seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, ‘Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.’ And Lot said to them, ‘Oh, no, my LORDS. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there--is it not a little one?--and my life will be saved!’ He said to him, ‘Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.’ Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—FROM THE LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and HE brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived." Genesis 19:12-29

A careful reading of this chapter shows that at first the angels/men came to escort Lot and his family safely out of Sodom in order to destroy it. A little later, after a period of time had elapsed, Yahweh himself appears to destroy that wicked place.

Hence, the foregoing establishes beyond any doubt that Genesis 19:24 is indeed referring to two distinct entities or Persons as Yahweh, the One on earth who appeared as a man and the Other who was in heaven. There is no escaping this conclusion.

There are other references affirming that Yahweh did indeed appear personally to Abraham:

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD APPEARED to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, …’ When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham." Genesis 17:1, 22

"God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD. I APPEARED to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.’" Exodus 6:2-3

"And Stephen said: ‘Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory APPEARED to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,’" Acts 7:2

A person should therefore have no problem accepting the Bible’s clear teaching that on at least one occasion Yahweh appeared to Abraham as a man who then left him to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

As it stands, Genesis 19:24 is an explicit witness that there are two different Persons identified as Yahweh God.

Here is another:

"And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst. Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the LORD. Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. For thus said the LORD of hosts, after HIS glory sent ME to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of HIS eye: Behold, I will shake MY hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent ME. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be MY people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent ME to you. And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling." Zechariah 2:5-13

Yahweh sends Yahweh to dwell in the midst of God’s people! Lest the readers fail to see this point we present the specific section once again, this time using a different translation:

"Ho! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. For thus said the LORD of hosts, after HIS glory sent ME to the nations who plundered you, for HE who touches you touches the apple of HIS eye: Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts HAS SENT ME. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the LORD. And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be MY PEOPLE; and I will dwell in the midst of you, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts HAS SENT ME to you." Zechariah 2:7-11 RSV

Interestingly, towards the end of the book the inspired prophet reiterates his point that Yahweh is coming to dwell with his people:

"Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day HIS FEET SHALL STAND ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God WILL COME, and all the holy ones with him." Zechariah 14:1-5

The NT identifies Jesus as the LORD who is coming with his holy ones and whose feet will touch and split the Mount of Olives in half:

"And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem FROM THE MOUNT CALLED OLIVET, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away." Acts 1:9-12

According to the above text Jesus is to return to the place from where he ascended into heaven, with that place being the Mount of Olives! We are even told that he will return with all of his holy ones:

"so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones." 1 Thessalonians 3:13

Thus, Zechariah by revelation saw the Lord Jesus descending upon the Mount of Olives in his physical, glorified body whose feet he literally beheld touching and splitting it in half!

This basically means that Jesus was the One who spoke to Zechariah by revelation and he was the One who told him that Yahweh was sending him to live in the midst if the people. If anyone doubts that Jesus was the Yahweh who spoke by inspiration to Zechariah then this next text should help cure that doubt:

"The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on ME WHOM THEY HAVE PIERCED; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves." Zechariah 12:7-14 NASB

"In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." Zechariah 13:1 NASB

The One who is coming to fight for Jerusalem is the One whom the inhabitants had pierced. And the One who was pierced is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ!

"But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water… And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced.’" John 19:34, 37

"Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen." Revelation 1:7

The prophet Isaiah is another one who mentions more than one Divine Person:

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God (El Gibbor), Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." Isaiah 9:6-7

"In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God (El Gibbor)." Isaiah 10:20-21

A child is born who is the Mighty God and yet Yahweh is the Mighty God as well! Isaiah continues:

"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel AND HIS REDEEMER, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.’" Isaiah 44:6

Here is the Hebrew transliteration of the underline portion of the text:

YHWH Melech Yisrael VE Goalo YHWH Tsevaot

The prefix VE is the word "and", and a more literal rendering would be:

Yahweh the King of Israel AND His Redeemer Yahweh of Hosts.

The HIS in the text can be referring to either Israel, that Yahweh is Israel’s Redeemer, or to Yahweh himself meaning that this is a reference to the One whom Yahweh has appointed to be Israel’s redeemer, who happens to also be Yahweh. If the latter interpretation is correct then this is how the text would be rendered:

"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and the LORD’s Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god."

Basically this would mean that there are two distinct Divine Persons here, Yahweh and the Redeemer he has raised, namely Yahweh!

There is evidence for viewing this text as a reference to Yahweh and the Savior whom he would send:

"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; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." Isaiah 63:9

God and the Angel of his Presence saved Israel, indicating that God does have a Redeemer whom he sends to save his covenant people.

Elsewhere, Isaiah refers to Yahweh’s Servant as the One who saves the entire world:

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope. This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: ‘I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.’" Isaiah 42:1-7

"Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’ But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God.’ And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength- he says: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’ This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: ‘Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:1-10

The Servant is a light and means of salvation for both the Israelites and the Gentiles, showing that he is indeed Yahweh’s Redeemer.

The NT provides further attestation for this exegesis, that Yahweh does have a Redeemer who is sent forth to save the nations:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:16-18

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." 1 John 4:9-10, 14

Amazingly, the Lord Jesus even identifies himself as the First and the Last which is the same title used by the Redeemer in Isaiah 44:6:

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the First and the Last, and the living one. I DIED, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’" Revelation 1:17-18

"And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.’" Revelation 2:8

Hence, Jesus is the Redeemer sent forth by God who is the very First and the Last!

The Book of Psalms is another place where references to multiple Divine Persons can be found:

"The LORD says to my Lord (Adoni): ‘Sit at MY right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord (Adonai) is at YOUR right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head." Psalm 110:1-7

Yahweh addresses David’s Sovereign and tells him to sit on his right, and David’s Master is called Adonai, a Divine title, in verse 5. We definitely know that Adonai refers to David’s Lord since he is the One who sits at the right hand of God, which means that we again have two different Personalities referred to as God.

For more on Psalm 110 please consult the following article:

We now move on to our sixth text:

"Your throne, O God (Elohim), is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God (Elohim), your God (Elohim), has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;" Psalm 45:6-7

The Psalm is addressed to the king, the one whom God anoints to sit on his throne as his representative. What makes this quite shocking is that the king is being called God or Elohim, while also having a God or Elohim over him! Thus, we have two distinct entities being identified as Elohim. As noted Messianic Jewish scholar Dr. Michael L. Brown puts it:

"So this royal descendant of David is called ’elohim: ‘Your throne, O God [’elohim], will last for ever and ever’! To attempt to translate the key verse with "your divine throne" or "your throne is God" is forced, to say the least. The most natural and obvious meaning is, ‘Your throne, O God,’ spoken to the Davidic king!

When I first started Hebrew in college, I asked my professor, a very friendly Israeli rabbi, to translate for me the words kis’aka ’elohim ‘olam wa‘ed. He replied immediately, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever,’ explaining, ‘These are praises to the Almighty.’ I then asked him to read the rest of the psalm, clearly addressed to the king, and his face dropped. How could this earthly king be called ’elohim? To repeat: This is the most natural and obvious meaning of the Hebrew, and no one would have questioned such a rendering had the entire psalm been addressed to God. How then can the earthly king be called ’elohim? …

Jewish scholars have sometimes forced the translation of the key words in order to avoid the powerful implications of the text. This is seen clearly in the 1917 Jewish Publication Society Version, which rendered Psalm 45:6[7] as, ‘Your throne, given of God,’ even though the translators created the words ‘given of God’ out of thin air…" (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 2000], Volume Two, p. 43)

Brown states in a footnote:

60. There are at least two instances in Rabbinic literature in which this verse, removed from its context is explicitly understood to mean, "Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever," and is cited to prove that God’s throne is eternal; see Otsar HaMidrashim, Hekhalot, sec. 3; Shnei Luhot HaBerit, Sefer Bamidbar-Devarim, Parashat Shofetim, Torah Ohr, 2. This provides eloquent testimony to the fact that I have stressed in my discussion, namely, that no one would ever question the obvious and proper translation of this verse had it been in a different context. (Ibid., p. 273)

Furthermore, according to the Hebrew Bible the kings could also receive obeisance and honor due to their royal status and their special relationship to Yahweh God:

"Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! … May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before him and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! Psalm 72:1, 8-11

The verb serve is the same word used in reference to the worship given to Yahweh!

"All the nations you have made shall come and worship (serve) before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name." Psalm 86:9

The people even reverenced King David as they worshiped their God:

"Then David said to all the assembly, ‘Bless the LORD your God.’ And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and paid homage to the LORD and to the king." 1 Chronicles 29:20

The reason why these kings could be called God and why they could receive such homage is because they were shadows of a greater reality to come, the Messiah. The Messiah would be the very embodiment of what these kings only typified, i.e. they were God in a purely functional sense whereas the Messiah is God ontologically, in an actual sense. In the words of Dr. Brown:

"Obviously, when we apply this verse to Jesus the Messiah, there is no question or difficulty. In fact, he is the answer to the question and the solution to the difficulty. But this psalm was originally addressed to an entirely human ‘son of God’ and later applied in its fullest sense to Jesus, the last and greatest Davidic king. How can this be? …

The answer is very important and helps to provide a key to understanding Messianic prophecy. The word ’elohim can mean God, god, gods, or angels, all of which refer in some sense to ‘divine beings.’ It is also important to note that in the Ancient Near East, the kings of Mesopotamia and Egypt were considered gods themselves. This, however, was not the case in Israel. Rather, the Davidic king was a highly exalted human, recognized as God’s unique son. Here in Psalm 45, the Hebrew language was stretched to its limit, speaking of the Davidic king as ’elohim, a ‘divine one.’ But this daring concept serves as the perfect introduction to the real divine sonship of the Messiah. He truly is ’elohim! So this verse applied in a limited sense to the earthly, Davidic king, and it applies in its full sense to Jesus, the Davidic Messiah.

This may seem a little complex, but it really is very simple. Every time a new Davidic king was installed, there was an elaborate ceremony, and it appears that psalms such as Psalm 2 were read, proclaiming the king to be God’s son, the anointed (mashiach) of the Lord (cf. Ps. 2:2), and promising him rulership over the entire world (see Ps. 2:8-9). Eventually, these psalms became part of the Hebrew Bible, and as each new king failed to live up to the high prophetic expectations, disappointment set in. But these were God’s words and God’s promises. How could they fail to reach their fulfillment? It was this kind of tension that caused people of Israel to begin to look for a greater son of David, the anointed one (mashiach) par excellence.

When Jesus the Messiah finally came into the world, these royal psalms reached their goal. Here was one who truly was God’s Son, who in a unique way was ’elohim among us, and who was David’s lord, to be worshiped and served by all mankind. Thus, the royal psalms had their partial application to the earthly sons of David, but they were only fulfilled through Yeshua, the greater son of David. This understanding alone does justice to the truth of the Hebrew Bible and the truth of history. (Ibid., pp. 43, 44)

The Hebrew Bible itself establishes the basis for viewing certain historical figures and events as precursors or as foreshadowing the future, specifically in relation to the coming Messiah:

"Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day." Zechariah 3:8-9

"And the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And say to him, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. And the crown shall be in the temple of the LORD as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.’"’" Zechariah 6:9-14

Joshua the High Priest and his friends are symbols or signs pointing to Yahweh’s Servant the Branch, a title of the Messianic King:

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’" Jeremiah 23:5-6

Interestingly, this text identifies the Messianic Branch of David as Yahweh who is our righteousness!

Basically, this establishes the position that the kings of Israel were typical of the greater King, the greater David, the Messiah whom the NT documents identify as Jesus. Hence, if the kings of Israel could be called God in a purely functional sense, since they were God’s representatives on earth, and could receive reverence/obeisance/honor because of their royal status then this would apply even more so to the Messiah who is greater than all the kings combined. It is little wonder, then, that the NT writers applied specific royal passages to the Lord Jesus, especially Psalm 45:6-7, since they realized that he is the antitype, the archetype which all the others pointed to:

"But of the Son he [Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’" Hebrews 1:6, 8-9

In light of Hebrews’ application of Psalm 45 to Jesus we are left to conclude that Elohim is not being used collectively for the entire Godhead. Rather, the first reference to Elohim refers to the king as God’s representative, with the second being a reference to God the Father. Lest the reader assume that we are stretching things quite a bit at this point notice what the following texts say of the king’s relationship to God:

"And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever." 1 Chronicles 17:9-14

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed (Messiah), saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us… As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill. I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.’" Psalm 2:2, 6-9

"Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one, and said: ‘I have granted help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, … He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." Psalm 89:19-20, 26-27

The king is God’s royal son which means that Yahweh is a Father. Thus, Psalm 45:6-7 in its ultimate fulfilment is a reference to God the Son being anointed by God the Father!

The final passage we will look at comes from the book of Proverbs:

"The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle. The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out. Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy Ones (Qadoshim). Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is HIS SON'S NAME? Surely you know!" Proverbs 30:1-4

The word Qadoshim in verse 3 is a masculine plural adjective and is the reason why we have translated it as Holy Ones, which agrees with the NRSV rendering:

"I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the holy ones."

Agur speaks of how terribly ignorant he is of the Holy Ones, and proceeds to recount some of the incomprehensible ways of God and his Son. Essentially what this means is that Agur used the plural form of Qadosh ("Holy One") because he had two distinct Entities in mind, Yahweh and his Son who shares in his Father’s sovereignty and who happens to be just as mysterious and incomprehensible. As noted Christian apologist and author Dr. Robert A. Morey says in his classic volume on the blessed Trinity:

First of all, it is clear that God is described not only as the Sovereign of the universe, but also as having a Son. This is so clear that no commentator, Jew or Christian, Trinitarian or Unitarian, denies this to be the case. Where they disagree is the identity of the "Son" of God.

Second, the Son is clearly a Person and not just a metaphor or an impersonal force or power.

Third, the parallelism in the Hebrew text reveals that what is true of the Father is equally true of His Son. Agur first asks … "What His name [i.e., the Father’s]?" Then he asks … "And what is the name of His Son?"

Notice that Agur asks the same question twice… "What is the name of?…" To lead his reader to the right answer, Agur then issues a rhetorical question… "Surely you know, don’t you?" The obvious answer is, "No, I do not comprehend the nature of the Father or His Son."

The Father and the Son are both described as incomprehensible in their natures because in Hebrew idiom, to know the name of someone is to know their nature. But Agur declares that we cannot know the divine, inscrutable name of God or His Son. Thus, the deity of the Son of God is established in this text. He is just as incomprehensible as His divine Father.

Fourth, the Hebrew parallelism in the text also refutes the attempt to understand the Son as the nation of Israel or one of its earthly kings, which are never said to be incomprehensible. To deny the deity of the Son, in this text, would require one to deny the deity of the Father.

Fifth, Agur could not have uttered these words unless he understood the multi-personal nature of God. R. Payne Smith comments on this verse:

The concluding clauses of this energetic passage are rationally and easily interpreted, if we admit that the ancient Jews had some obscure ideas of plurality in the divine nature.

Keil agrees that this is the underlying assumption of Agur:

But he would not have ventured this question if he had not supposed that God was not a monas [unity] who was without manifoldness in Himself.

(Morey, Trinity: Evidence and Issues [World Bible Publishers, Inc., Iowa Falls, IA 1996], Part II: The Old Testament Evidence, Chapter Eleven, "God the Son," pp. 175-176)

The online NET Bible commentary to verse 4 states:

16sn The reference to "son" in this passage has prompted many suggestions down through the years: It was identified as Israel in the Jewish Midrashim, the Logos or demiurge by some of the philosophers and allegorical writers, as simple poetic parallelism without a separate identity by some critical scholars, and as Jesus by Christian commentators. Parallels with Ugaritic are interesting, because Baal is referred to as a son; but that is bound up within the pantheon where there was a father god. Some of the Jewish commentators exhibit a strange logic in expressing what Christians would say is only their blindness to the full revelation: There is little cogency in this being a reference to Jesus because if there had been such a person at any time in the past he would have left some tradition about it through his descendants (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 317). But Judaism has taught from the earliest times that Messiah was preexistent (especially in view of Micah 5 and Daniel 7); and the claims of Jesus in the Gospels bear this out. It seems best to say that there is a hint here of the nature of the Messiah as Son, a hint that will later be revealed in full through the incarnation. (Source; underline emphasis ours)

The NT documents identify this Holy Son for us, and even give us his name:

"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God." Mark 1:24

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Matthew 11:27

"No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:13-18

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me… Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?" John 6:38, 62

"The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses." Acts 3:13-15

"But the righteousness based on faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?"’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘"Who will descend into the abyss?"’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." Romans 10:6-7

"Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)" Ephesians 4:7-10

The Son who ascended and descended, the Son who no one knows except God, is the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Holy One! Thus, Proverbs 30:3-4 is another passage which uses a plural adjective, Qadoshim, because it has two distinct and coequal Divine Persons in view.

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