The “Angel” of YHVH In the Pillar of Fire
In Exodus 13:21 we read,
And YHVH went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.
Then in Exodus 14:19 it is written,
And the angel of Elohim, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them.
Who is this “Angel” of Elohim (elsewhere he is called “the Angel” of YHVH)? Angel is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew word for angel is malak and simply means “a heavenly or a human messenger.” Prophetically this word can refer to human messengers such as the one coming in the spirit of Elijah prior to Messiah’s coming, as well as to the Messiah himself (as in “the Messenger/Malak of the covenant” in Malachi 3:1). In Genesis 32:22–30 Jacob wrestles with a man Scripture identifies as the Malak of YHVH (Hosea 12:3–5) and whom Jacob called Elohim (verse 30). This same Individual redeemed Jacob (Gen 48:18) and is identified with the Malak of Elohim … the Elohim of Bethel (Gen 31:11 and 13) and appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Exod 3:2). Now he is leading Israel in the wilderness. Again who is he? Stephen in Acts 7:37–39 identifies the Messiah (i.e. “that Prophet” Moses mentioned in Deut 18:15) with the “Angel” or Heavenly Messenger which spoke to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai and who gave them the “living oracles,” who the Israelites later rejected for pagan gods. Paul elsewhere said of that same Personage that the Israelites did “all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Messiah” (1 Cor 10:4). Moreover, Yeshua declared to the Jews that he was the I AM, YHVH or Messenger of YHVH of the burning bush that spoke to Moses (Exod 3:2, 14). The Jews knew that Yeshua was declaring himself to be YHVH, which is why they picked up stones to kill him, for they considered such a declaration to be a blasphemous statement (John 8:59). Yeshua went on to state that the Israelites never heard the voice of the YHVH the Father, nor saw his face at anytime (John 5:37). This would include the time period of the children of Israel. If it wasn’t the Father who spoke to the Israelites, then who did? It was the Word of Elohim that was with Elohim and who would latter become flesh and dwell with men as Yeshua the Messiah (John 1:14).
Concerning the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness, we see that it gave them light. Light in the Scriptures is often a metaphor for the Torah (Pss 19:8; 119:105; Prov 6:23). We know that Yeshua the Messiah is the Light of the World (John 8:112), and that he is the Word of Elohim in living form (personified, John 1:1, 14).
Furthermore, in Nehemiah 9:12 and 19 we read,
Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go … Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go. (emphasis added)
Light in the Scriptures often allegorically refers to the Torah, while the term the way (Hebrew: derek, lRS) means “the way of Torah righteousness.” The Scriptures uses the term way(s)/derek as a reference to the Torah in the following passages (and many more as well):
Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of YHVH thy Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. (Deut 8:6)
And now, Israel, what doth YHVH thy Elohim require of thee, but to fear YHVH thy Elohim, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve YHVH thy Elohim with all thy heart and with all thy soul. (Deut 10:12)
For if ye shall diligently keep all these [Torah] commandments which I command you, to do them, to love YHVH your Elohim, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him. (Deut 11:22)
And a curse, if ye will not obey the [Torah] commandments of YHVH your Elohim, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. (Deut 11:28)
I have chosen the way of [Torah] truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. (Ps 119:30)
I will run the way of thy [Torah] commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. (Ps 119:32)
Teach me, YHVH, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. (Ps 119:33)
The Messenger of Elohim from within the pillar of fire not only directed the Israelites in the way they should go (Exod 13:21; Deut 1:33), but the Messenger spoke to Moses from within the pillar as well,
And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and YHVH talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. And YHVH spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. (Exod 33:9–11)
And YHVH descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of YHVH. (Exod 34:5)
And YHVH came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. (Num 11:25)
And YHVH appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle. And YHVH said unto Moses … (Deut 31:15–16a)
What can we gather from all the above texts pertaining to the Messenger of YHVH (improperly translated “Angel” of the LORD)? This Divine Messenger thundered out the words of the Written Torah from Mount Sinai, he gave divine revelation to Moses out of the pillar of fire, he lit the path of the Israelites through the wilderness with both physical and spiritual light. He led them in the physical and spiritual way they should go as they were trekking through the wilderness. This fiery Messenger who gave both physical and spiritual light to the Israelites is nothing else but another manifestation of the complete, supernal light which shone upon this earth during the first three days of creation—a light which will once again shine at the end of days in the New Jerusalem replacing the physical sun (Rev 21:23; 22:5). This supernal Torah-light was concealed after day three of creation, but was hidden in the Written Torah and in the Person of Yeshua the Messiah, the Living Torah. This light was none other than the fiery Messenger who led the Israelites through the wilderness, and who became the Torah-Word of Elohim made flesh and the spiritual Light of the world in the first-century. As the fiery Messenger led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of bondage through the wilderness, is this same Torah light, concealed to most, but revealed to those who have eyes to see, leading and guiding you through the wilderness experience of your life as you are heading to the Promised Land of the kingdom of Elohim in the New Jerusalem?