Christ in the Old Testament (Part VIII)

Christ in the Old Testament, Theology, Worship

Christ in the OT 8 Christ the Name of the Lord

Christ: The Name of the LORD

Making a Name

Names are very important things in the Bible, and God has many of them: Yahweh/Jehovah, El, Elyon, and many, many more. Each name reveals something about God’s character and attributes. But though he has many names, very early on in the Bible, God sets in motion a plan in response to the people at Babel who want “to make a name” for themselves (Gen 11:4). This plan is essentially to make (to glorify) a Name for himself. “Name” is the word shem in Hebrew, and through Noah’s son Shem, the promised Seed will come (Gen 9:26-27). How might this work? Let’s return to the Angel of the LORD.

Names of the Angel of the LORD

My favorite name for the Angel of the LORD in Jewish literature has to be Metatron (as opposed to Megatron, the evil leader of the Decepticons). No one knows quite where the name derives. Sometimes called “lesser Yahweh,” some have suggested the possibility that the “him” in Ex 23:21 (“because my name is within him [the Angel]” refers to Metatron, where the ttr in the word comes from tetra, the word for “four” in Greek, and a shorthand for the Tetragrammaton word YHWH.[1]

Many through the centuries have suggested that a biblical proper name for this Angel is Michael. Michael is an archangel (Jude 9; Rev 12:7) of the heavenly council.[2] This council includes the heavenly angelic princes of Greece and Persia (Dan 10:20) and other “sons of God” (Ps 82:1). In Daniel, he is called “Michael your [Israel’s] prince” (Dan 10:21) and “the great prince” (12:1). Michael is a proper name. It means “who is like God” (mi-ka’el) and can be either a statement of a question. If it is a statement, then it points toward the direction that Michael is one who is like God.  If it is a question, it might be read in light of Exodus 15:11, “Who is like you, O LORD among the gods (mikamokah ba’elim yhwh) … doing wonders (pele’)?”

When the Angel of the LORD appeared to Samson’s mother and father, and he was asked his name, the Angel responded, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is Wonderful?” (Jdg 13:18).  It is interesting that the Angel phrases his response in the form of a question, just like the name Michael may be. This is of further interest in light of Isaiah 9:6 which predicts of the Messiah, “His name shall be called Wonderful (pele’), Counselor.” Curiously, the LXX of this verse reads, “His name is called the Angel of the great council,” and many Fathers used it to prove that Jesus was the Angel of the LORD before coming as a man.

We can see from both Ex 23:21, Jdg 13:18, and Isa 9:6 how important it is that the Angel bears the “name.” In the rest of this post, I want to focus on how the Name of the LORD actually becomes personified in much the same way that the Word does. The NT refers to “names that are named” (Eph 1:21). In the verse, “names” is akin to “authorities,” “powers,” and “dominions,” all titles of supernatural entities. So these entities are actually called “names.”

Name Personified

names of godOften, in the same verse, we are commanded to praise “the LORD” and then the “name of the LORD” (Ps 113:1; 135:1; etc.). Similarly, we give thanks “to the LORD,” and also to the “name of the LORD” (Ps 122:4). People are to fear “the LORD,” but also “the name of the LORD” (Isa 59:19). The LORD is great, but then the Name is great (Jer 10:6). The same goes for trusting (Isa 50:10), loving (Isa 56:6), and glorifying (Isa 24:15). Normally we praise, thank, fear, trust, and love people. Therefore, the Name of the LORD takes on a kind of identity all his own in these verses. One dictionary sums this up saying, “God’s name has become virtually an independent entity, separate from God, i.e. a hypostasis.”[3]

We can see this from the NT. Nehemiah 9:5 says, “Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.” The NT takes this passage and interprets it for us saying, “God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Php 2:9-10).

Place of the Name

Moses says, “You shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there” (Deut 12:5). This habitation was in the temple in Jerusalem, and as we have seen in a previous post, Jesus says he is the Temple (John 2:21). When you see “the name of the LORD,” think about capitalizing it in your mind (as is often done in our hymns, at least in our Trinity Hymnal), and reading it with Christ as the embodiment and fulfillment, for “Jesus” means “Ya [God] Saves” and “Christ” means “Anointed one.” His name is Emmanuel—God with us.

 

[1] See Andrei A. Orlov, The Etymology of the Name ‘Metatron,” in The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ, 107; Tuebiingen: Mohr-Sieback, 2005). An excerpt is here. See point #7: last accessed 8-14-2014.

[2] Also called the “divine council” (Ps 82:1), this is the group of heavenly beings variously called the “sons of God” (Job 38:7; Ps 82:6) or “watchers” (Dan 4:17) who administer the affairs of the cosmos. Also 1 Kgs 22:13-23; Isa 6:1-9; Dan 7:9-14; etc. See Michael S. Heiser, “Divine Council,” in Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008).

[3] H. B. Huffmon, “Name,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 611.

 

 

 

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

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6 thoughts on “Christ in the Old Testament (Part VIII)

  1. This sheds interesting light on “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.”

  2. Yes, it does indeed. In fact, when I preached the Ten Commandments a few years back, this whole thing was already on my radar, and I preached the very thought you had. I’ll try to upload those sermons on the Ten Commandments from Exodus this week on our http://www.rbcnc.com website.

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