Mishpatim: I Send An Angel Before You

Malach Panav

The Torah Portion Mishpatim (Ex. 21:1 –Ex. 24:18) seems to be all about laws and rulings (its very title, mishpatim, actually means “laws”). However, at the end of all these laws and rulings, we find an intriguing sentence: “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.[1] God tells Moses that He would send an Angel before the people – and this seems to be a very special Angel, for God says: “My name is in Him![2] Who was this Angel who went with Israel?

Later, in Exodus 33, we find a different promise. After Moses pleads with God, asking Him to go with the people of Israel, God says, “My face will go with you”[3]. Face? What about the Angel whom God sends in our portion? Thus, we arrive at Malach Panav – this very special Angel of His Face, or of His Presence (as it’s sometimes rendered).

In full, this name occurs in only one place, in the book of Isaiah: In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence (Malach Panav) saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old[4]. However, there are several instances in the Hebrew Bible where we see this special Angel of God’s presence, who speaks in the name of God and delivers His message. This Angel speaks from the first person, as if he was God; he stands before the people in the form of a man, and after meeting him, people realize that they have seen God, yet their lives have been spared. We see him in Genesis 18 talking to Abraham, in Genesis 22 stopping Abraham on Mount Moriah, and in Genesis 32 wrestling with Jacob at Peniel; in the book of Joshua, he is the commander of the Lord’s army who commissions Joshua to fight the battles for the Land[5].; we see him talking to Gideon, and appearing before Samson’s parents, and also elsewhere. And we find him here in Exodus as well: The Angel of God’s face, or Presence, is going with Israel!

Historically, Rabbinic Judaism has given this Angel a Judeo-Greek name, “Metatron” מֵטַטְרוֹן (metatron), meaning “the one next to the throne” (compiled from two Greek words μετὰ (meta) and θρóνος (thronos). The Jewish sages explained: “This is [the angel] Metatron, whose name is like the name of his Master: The numerical value of מֵטַטְרוֹן [314] equals that of שַׁדַּי [314] “[6]

Christian tradition, however, has mainly understood this Angel to be the pre-incarnate Jesus. We will discuss this more when we get to Torah Portion Ki Tissa – but here is a take-home message from this Portion: this amazing promise of His Presence was given to Israel, in the first place! The special Angel was sent with His people – and ever since, His Presence has been going with Israel! Do you realize what that actually means? All these centuries, in all the pain and suffering we went through – the pogroms, ghettos, concentration camps – all these horrible periods of complete loneliness and misery, when to everyone, including ourselves, we seemed to be utterly abandoned – in reality, we were not alone, the Lord has been walking with us!  In all their affliction, He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence (Malach Panav) saved them.

You Have Reached Your Destination! 

Today, in the age of GPS and all the navigation apps, I’m sure we have all heard these words: YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION. We all know how it works: first, we set our destination into the navigation device or app, then it will offer us different roads, and then, after we choose the road, it will take us there by this road. It will bring us to our destination.

This is exactly the impression we get from this portion, Mishpatim, when we read the verse I just quoted. First, God sets our destination: “the place which I have prepared”; then He chooses the way He wants us to go: “Behold, I send an Angel before you”; and then, if we trust Him, we know that His navigation device will not fail to “bring us into the place which He has prepared”. We will reach our destination.  But what is this destination, then?

Let us open one of the most famous pieces in the New Testament: the Sermon on the Mount. Here, in Matthew 5, we hear Jesus quoting the well-known verse from our portion: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[7] If we follow the Christian interpretation I just presented, it’s like seeing this Angel, who was sent before Israel in Exodus 23, arriving and going up the Mountain in Matthew 5 (exactly like Moses went up the Mountain in Mishpatim) and interpreting to the people those instructions that were given in the beginning: YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION!

I want to be very clear: of course, I don’t think that Jesus replaces the Torah with his own teaching. We all know his words from the same chapter “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill”. We have to keep these words in mind when we read the next verse: the famous “Christian” verse about turning the other cheek: “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”. Could it really be the destination that God meant from the very beginning? Could it really be the interpretation and the fulfillment of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” ruling that we find in Mishpatim?

In order to answer this question, let us ask another question: is “turning the other cheek” originally a Jewish value?  In the eyes of many people, the words of Jesus about “the other cheek” remain the best example of how much the New Testament teaching is different from that in the Old Testament. At first glance, it seems that this is indeed the case; Jesus seems to contradict the Torah by completely abolishing the principle of “measure for measure” from our Torah Portion. However, it is only at first glance. You might be surprised to learn that the very idea of “turning the other cheek” comes from the Hebrew Bible: in the book of Lamentations, we read, “Let him offer his cheek to the one who strikes him”[8]. Based on Jesus’ own words – I did not come to destroy but to fulfill!  – we can only suppose that this “turning the other cheek” commandment was indeed the fulfillment of what we find in Mishpatim – the understanding we had to get to. The Angel sent by God arrived to the place He prepared:  YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION!

 

[1] Ex.23:20

[2] Ex.23:21

[3] Ex.33:14

[4] Isaiah 63:9

[5] Josh. 5:1-15

[6] Sanh. 38b

[7] Mat.5:38, Ex.21:24

[8] Lam. 3:30

The insights you read on these pages are typical of what we share with our students during DHB (Discovering the Hebrew Bible) or WTP (Weekly Torah Portion)  classes. If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying in-depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insightsI would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding eTeacher courses  (juliab@eteachergroup.com). Also, if you like the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you can get them here 

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Yuliya Nalarinke

    –From the article :”we see this special Angel of God’s presence, who speaks in the name of God and delivers His message. This Angel speaks from the first person, as if he was God; he stands before the people in the form of a man, and after meeting him, people realize that they have seen God, yet their lives have been spared. We see him in Genesis 18 talking to Abraham, in Genesis 22 stopping Abraham on Mount Moriah, and in Genesis 32 wrestling with Jacob at Peniel; in the book of Joshua, he is the commander of the Lord’s army who commissions Joshua to fight the battles for the Land; we see him talking to Gideon, and appearing before Samson’s parents, and also elsewhere. And we find him here in Exodus as well: The Angel of God’s face, or Presence, is going with Israel…this amazing promise of His Presence was given to Israel, in the first place! The special Angel was sent with His people – and ever since, His Presence has been going with Israel! Do you realize what that actually means? All these centuries, in all the pain and suffering we went through – never alone”- end quote.

    — I pledge Myself to you. I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands–

    1 john 5
    11And this is the witness: that Elohim has given us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son.
    Isaiah 49
    13Sing, O heavens, rejoice, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For יהוה shall comfort His people and have compassion on His afflicted ones.
    14But Tsiyon says, “יהוה has forsaken me, and יהוה has forgotten me.”
    15“Would a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Though they forget, I never forget you.
    16“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are always before Me.
    I have I scribed you on the palms of My hands.
    2 corinthians 1
    19For the Son of Elohim, יהושע Messiah, who was proclaimed among you by us – by me, Sila, and Timothy – was not Yea and No, but in Him was Yea.
    20For as many promises as are of Elohim, in Him they are Yea, and in Him Amĕn, to the esteem of Elohim through us.
    21But He who establishes us with you in Messiah and has anointed us is Elohim,
    22who also sealed us, and gave the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

    Yeshua shares our pain, anguish and desolation- it’s His, we share His and He shares ours and yes His Presence ( Face) is with us always : never will I leave you never forsake you. Hebrews 13:5for He Himself has said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. Matthew 28:20 (Hineni)And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

    He restores ( turns back) my soul – psalm 23:3

    1 peter 1

    3Blessed be the Elohim and Father of our Master יהושע Messiah, who according to His great compassion has caused us to be born again ( begotten us again) to a living expectation through the resurrection of יהושע Messiah from the dead,

    4to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in the heavens for you,
    5who are protected by the power of Elohim through belief, for a deliverance ready to be revealed in the last time,( kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation)

    6in which you exult, even though for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by manifold trials,
    7in order that the proving of your belief – much more precious than gold that perishes, and proven by fire – might be found to result in praise and respect and esteem at the revelation of יהושע Messiah,

    8whom having not seen, you love; in whom you exult with unspeakable and esteemed joy, yet not seeing, but believing,
    9obtaining the goal of your belief: deliverance of lives.

    Psalm 118:27 יהוה is Ěl, and He gave us light; Bind the festal offering With cords to the horns of the altar.
    28You are my Ěl, and I praise You; You are my Elohim, I exalt You.
    29Give thanks to יהוה, for He is good! For His love endures forever.

  2. Yuliya Nalarinke

    Yahuwah Himself is the destination.
    If you seek anything other than Him – it’s a miss.
    Hebrews 4:8
    8For if Yehoshua ( Joshua) had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.

    Yeshua is that sabbath rest, this goal and destination. The fulfillment He was talking about is the cross. Romans 10:3For not knowing the righteousness of Elohim, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of Elohim.4For Messiah is the goal of the ‘Torah unto righteousness’to everyone who believes.

    Luke 24
    44And He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all have to be filled that were written in the Torah of Mosheh and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

    45Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

    46and said to them, “Thus it has been written, and so it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise again from the dead the third day,

    47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning at Yerushalayim.

    Fulfilled : the cross – tetelestai paid in full.John 19:30
    It is finished.”
    Τετέλεσται (Tetelestai)
    Strong’s Greek 5055: I fulfill, accomplish, I pay. From telos; to end, i.e. Complete, execute, conclude, discharge.

    luke 24
    20and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and impaled Him.
    21“We, however, were expecting that it was He who was going to redeem Yisra’ĕl. ( expecting Messiah according to our own fleshly understanding )
    25And He ( Yeshua) said to them, “O thoughtless ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
    26“Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these and to enter into His esteem?”
    27And beginning at Mosheh and all the Prophets, He was explaining to them in all the Scriptures the matters concerning Himself.

    Garden of Eden- Elohim covered Adam and eve with animal skins providing the return and pointing to being covered by Him: Ezekiel 16:8Then I passed by and saw you, and it was time of your loves. So I spread My cloak over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged Myself to you, entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine, declares Yahuwah your Elohim. Hebrews chapter 7: levitical – animal skins — Yeshua the covering that levitical pointed to. Aaron stands in Melchizedek – Hebrews 7:5-12
    9And one might say that through Aḇraham even Lĕwi, who received tithes, gave tithes,
    10for he was still in the loins of his father when Malkitseḏeq met him.
    And Galatians 3. Levitical- veil is on. Melchizedek-veil is torn. It cannot be both at the same time. Hebrews 10:9
    He takes away the first to establish the second.

    Suffering Messiah was known ever since Elohim covered Adam and Eve with animal skins. Everything was pointing to Him: the Tabernacle, the priest, the sacrifice- all pointed to Yeshua as suffering Servant. He was known before the foundation of the world- 1 Peter 1:19-21. See the entire 1 Peter 1.( 1 peter 1:10Concerning this deliverance the prophets have sought out and searched out, prophesying concerning the favour for you,
    11searching to know what, or what sort of time, the Spirit which was in them was pointing out concerning Messiah, when it was bearing witness beforehand the sufferings of Messiah, and the esteems that would follow)
    Luke 24:25Then Yeshua said to them, “O foolish ones, how slow are your hearts to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter His glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was written in all the Scriptures about Himself.…
    Yeshua is the brightness of Yahuwah’s glory. ( Hebrews 1:3) Elyon the most vehemently in righteousness, loyalty, veracity. Understanding the cross- Yahuwah is Elyon above and beyond what words can describe.

    According to Strong’s Concordance,
    teruah means (1) to disfigure or shatter by breaking;(Isaiah 52:14) (2) to split ears by loud noise, such as by shouting for joy, sounding an alarm or intense crying; and( Hebrews 5:7, psalm 27, psalm 22) (3) loud destruction or triumph.( Matthew 27:50-51. Colossians 2:15. Nothing outside of Himself. It points to Him. Teruah
    Jeremiah 31:9,11,18-20
    You are יהוה my Elohim. Yahuwah my vindicator.
    “” I have great compassion for him, declares יהוה. “”

    Jeremiah 31:31. Hebrews 8:13

    Galatians 2 ( see verses 14-21)
    I have been impaled with Messiah, and I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me. And that which I now live in the body I live by belief in the Son of Elohim, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
    21“I do not set aside the favour of Elohim, for if righteousness is through Torah,( ceremonial foods) then Messiah died for naught.”
    Impaled- circumcision made without human hands- Colossians 2:9-17. Romans 2:28-29. Galatians 5:6. Galatians 6:15 is 1 Corinthians 7:19 and romans 8 – righteousness of Torah completed in those who are led by His Ruach- inward spiritual.
    Galatians 5:18-24 impaled flesh.
    John 5:44…..seek the glory that is from the only God.

    Angel means messenger – the one who is sent. As the Father sent Me I send you – John 20:21.
    The one joined to the Master is one spirit ( echad with Him – 1 Corinthians 6:17 the one being joined to the Lord is one spirit. Ephesians 5:30Because we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
    31“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”(echad)32This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Messiah and the assembly. – you are not joined to rules and regulations or ceremonial foods- you are joined to Yeshua Himself. As one pastor said: “ordinances do not save” .Yeshua does. And yes we are to be set apart to Him in all behaviour)
    Yeshua shares our pain, anguish and desolation- it’s His, we share His and He shares ours and yes His Presence ( Face) is with us always : never will I leave you never forsake you. Hebrews 13:5for He Himself has said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. Matthew 28:20 (Hineni)And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    He restores my soul – psalm 23:3. 1Timothy 1:15
    Philippians 3:10
    To know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death ( thought of Aqedat)
    –Bind the festival offering with cords to the horns of the altar.–
    Psalm 118:27 יהוה is Ěl, and He gave us light; Bind the festal offering With cords to the horns of the altar.
    28You are my Ěl, and I praise You; You are my Elohim, I exalt You.
    29Give thanks to יהוה, for He is good! For His love endures forever.

    – to know. sharing each other-
    John 17
    26“And I have made Your Name known to them, and shall make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me might be in them, and I in them.” ( I have manifested You to them and will continue to manifest – so that they will be filled to completeness with Your completeness – Your love, and I abide in them)
    Ephesians 3
    17that the Messiah might dwell in your hearts through belief – having become rooted and grounded in love,
    18in order that you might be strengthened to firmly grasp, with all the set-apart ones, what is the width and length and depth and height,
    19to know the love of Messiah which surpasses knowledge, in order that you might be filled to all the completeness of Elohim. ( to know love that surpasses knowledge)
    To know You is life. Know – as deep calls unto deep – to be His. Not just intellectual knowledge – deep heart cry Teruah knowledge – I belong to my Beloved and His desire is for me- songs of solomon 7:10 – and not my will but Yours be done.( and 1 Corinthians 13:12)
    John 17:3
    And this is everlasting life, that they should know You, the only true Elohim, and יהושע Messiah whom You have sent.

  3. Nick

    So the destination is an understanding that is arrived at after a journey. The new understanding does not mean that the old understanding was wrong.
    Is this what you’re saying? More is understood or revealed if one chooses to take the journey? Torah has not changed, but its readers do?

    Thanks,
    Nick

    1. Julia Blum

      Yes, Nick, that’s exactly what I meant: Torah has not changed, but this is the living Word, and as we walk the way that God has planned for us, we can see clearer and grasp the fuller meaning of these eternal words.

  4. Lois

    The “I send an angel…” reminds me of Jesus saying to His disciples, I will send a Comforter…. “ “I go to prepare a place for you” . The Comforter gives guidance to keep us on the Way and remind us of Jesus’ teachings, and He is preparing another destination.Jesus Himself is the Way and also the Destination and yet, He is preparing a place!

  5. Cheryel Lemley-McRoy

    I don’t think Jesus abolished the Law of Moses. He condensed all 613 laws to just two, love God, love mankind. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In loving God and your neighbor you have obeyed every law.

    1. Julia Blum

      I don’t think so either, Cheryel, I hoped it would be obvious from my post. I wrote explicitly: “I want to be very clear: of course, I don’t think that Jesus replaces the Torah with his own teaching”.