So the conversation continued recently. Here's the request from our not-quite-unitarian-but-no-longer-Trinitarian Friend : )
I'd be interested in your exegesis of Zach 14:3
Biblical Monotheist answers:
Understanding the principle of agency can really help in scriptures like this. A very brief explanation for Zechariah 14 comes from a book I have. This brief explanation refers to the principle of Jewish Agency, which you can read about below the Exodus verse.
From page 210 “They Never Told Me THIS in Church” by Greg S. Deuble
In Zecharaiah 14 we have a remarkable prophecy that Christians eagerly anticipate. It concerns a day yet future when God Himself will go out and fight against the nations of the world that will be gathered against Israel and the holy city of Jerusalem. This is popularly known as the Battle of Armageddon. On that day, just when the enemies appear ready to strike the knock-out blow God Himself will intervene in the world’s history and “his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south” (Zech. 14:4). The feet that cause this earthquake in the Hebrew Bible are the LORD’s feet. However, Christians believe this to be a reference to Jesus Christ himself returning at the Second Coming to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth. The argument is that since Jesus’ feet are spoken of as God’s feet, then Jesus must be God Himself. In the light of what we have seen so far, this cannot be. If we keep in mind the principle of Jewish Agency, we will have a right understanding that Jesus’ feet are spoken of as God’s feet in exactly the same way Aaron’s hand is spoken of as the LORD’s hand in Exodus 7:17-19.
Exodus 7:17-19 “17 Thus saith the Lord, In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.18 And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river.19 And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.”
The Principle of Agency in Scripture
In the Bible there are examples of human principals using fellow humans for agents, of God as divine principal using angelic agents, and of God using human agents. This notion of principal and agent is the key to understanding the relationship between the one true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Divine Principal and Human Agency
The LORD told Moses that he would be “Elohim [God] to Aaron” (Ex. 4:16). He says, “I have made you Elohim to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet” (Ex. 7:1). In Exodus 7:17-21 the LORD says: “By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.” The LORD then says to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt — over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs — and they will turn to blood.’” Moses and Aaron did as the LORD had commanded. Aaron raised his staff and struck the water of the Nile “and all the water was changed into blood.”
The LORD had said that He Himself would strike the waters with the staff in his own hand. Yet, it was Aaron’s hand that held the rod, and Aaron who struck the Nile. Clearly, Aaron is not God. Rather, Aaron stands as God’s agent, in the place of God. One might even say he is “God,” not literally, but in a manner of (Hebrew) speaking. One might even say in this case that God (as principal) was represented by Moses (the agent), who in turn was represented by Aaron!
Divine Principal and Angelic Agency
Genesis 18 begins by saying that “the LORD appeared to Abraham” (v. 1). We read that Abraham “looked up and saw three men” (v. 2). The implication is that one of the three is in a sense the LORD. Later it is the LORD who says, “I will surely return to you about this time next year” (vv. 10, 13). When the men get up to leave the LORD speaks yet again (v. 17). Finally, two of the angelic men turn away. As the NIV has it, “Abraham remained standing before the LORD” (v. 22). The alternative, given as a footnote, reads “but the LORD remained standing before Abraham.” It was not literally the LORD (the principal) who appeared to Abraham; it was an angel (His agent). As agent of the LORD, however, the angel is treated as the LORD. We know this must be so because the Bible is adamant: No one has seen God (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12; 1 Tim. 6:16). Note too that the one angel who directly represents God is worshiped as God’s agent.
When Jacob wrestled with a heavenly being, he is said to have “seen God face to face.” So Jacob is said to have wrestled with “God” (Gen. 32:24-30). However, we know from the word of the LORD to the prophet Hosea that Jacob in struggling against God actually wrestled with an angel (Hos. 12:3-4). Jacob did not literally wrestle with the LORD (the principal); it was with an angel (His agent) that he wrestled. However as the agent of the LORD the angel is treated as the LORD. Again, we know this is so because the Bible insists: No one has ever seen God (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12; 1 Tim. 6:16). So too, when Jacob, as an old man, blessed Joseph’s children he said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm — may he bless these boys” (Gen. 48:15-16). Surely, God Himself is not an angel, but the angel as His agent represented Him.
Another very clear example of this type of thinking is as follows. According to Deuteronomy 4:12 it was the LORD who spoke to Israel “out of the fire” to give them His Law at Sinai. It is said to be the LORD’s own voice that they heard. Yet several Scriptures reveal the speaker to have been an angel. Stephen says that “he [Moses] was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai” (Acts 7:38). He told the Jews, “You have received the law that was put into effect through angels, and have not obeyed it” (v. 53). Paul also says, “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator [Moses]” (Gal. 3:19). Hebrews 2:2 only serves to confirm this point, saying that the message (the law) was “spoken by angels.” This is no contradiction. The LORD did not literally speak “out of the fire.” An angel spoke. However as the agent of the LORD the angel is treated as the LORD. It is as if the LORD actually spoke.
Scripture affirms that it was God who “opened the doors of the heavens” and “rained down manna” for the people of Israel to eat during their wilderness wanderings. He gave them “the grain of heaven” to eat (Ps. 78:23-24). The manna did not literally come down from heaven, the throne of God. It was “from heaven” in that it was a gracious gift of God. So too, the manna is called “the bread of angels” (Ps. 78:25). This is probably not because angels actually have manna for breakfast. God himself provided the food, but he did it through the agency of His angels.
Read the rest of the article on agency here:
RESPONSE FROM FRIEND:
Am I following you? Am I capturing your interpretation of Zcharaiah 14:3? If I am not capturing it could you either modify my understanding of your interpretation or write your own?
Answer from Biblical Monotheist:
I think you captured it pretty well! We see it over and over again. God says He will act when in fact He is going to empower His angels and His people to do the work. Actions that are directly attributed to God are in fact carried out by his commissioned agents; ones sent by God. In a sense we, too, are His commissioned agents/ambassadors (John 20:21, 2Cor 5:20).