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Were the two messengers who warned Lot in Genesis 19 created angels or a theophany?
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Dead Sea PlainPompeii
The Dead Sea Valley and a victim of the disaster at Pompeii


It is asserted that the appearance of the Angel of the Lord (the construct form in Hebrew) are usually physical appearances of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. There are exceptions, for example in Isaiah 37.36 the angel who executes 185,000 troops in one night was likely an angel of vengeance like the Passover angel of Ex.12.23 and not the Saviour.

The Bible's grounds for this assertion are examined here and here. However some of these arguments might be applied to the two angels who visited Lot in Genesis 19.1. Was this another theophany, and if not what are the indicators of this?

Augustine for example claims(1) that the two sent to Lot to warn him to flee Sodom's imminent destruction were two members of the Godhead appearing in a visible form, for whom he washed their feet and who ate and drank with him (19.2,3). He suggests one was the Son of God the other the Holy Spirit, since they were 'sent', whilst the Father appearing in physicial flesh remains behind with Abraham. The claim is deprecable and results from misreading the text and may lead to much error.

Lot bows low to the ground to the messengers (19.1), a similar form of words as Abraham's greeting of the Theophany in the previous chapter at Mamre (18.2). He bows low with this face to the ground. Lot also uses the plural form of Lord (Adonai) usually only used for YHVH. Abraham's words however were addressed to One Person in the singular. Lot's use of Adonai is used initially in the plural of both messengers (v.2) and then in v.18 as he pleads for mercy the same title is used (in plural) of a singular person with 3 singular pronominal suffixes and a singular form of a verb. Only one messenger replies (v.21-22) citing the constraint he is under before acting to destroy the cities.

If Lot is addressing the Son and the Holy Spirit, most exceptionally appearing as a human agent, Who is doing the talking? Augustine suggests, 'Are we here, too, to understand two persons in the plural number, but when the two are addressed as one, then the one Lord God of one substance?' So two distinct human manifestations are addressed in the singular because they are but One representation of God. The implication, if this were true, that there are in fact two distinct gods, two foci of worship, united in One Divine Nature is difficult to evade. The implausible suggestion that the Father was also visible as an incarnate manifestation, Who then separated Himself from two other members of the Godhead points to a grotesque tritheism.

No, Lot used the honorific plural to one created angel, the one chief spokesman of the two, perhaps Michael or Gabriel. Then why is the plural form usually reserved for YHVH? Perhaps there is confusion in Lot's mind, perhaps he too is confusing him with a Divine manifestation, despite the earlier disclaimer (v.13). It would not be surprising since the Apostle John twice later commits the same error (Rev.19.10,22.9). Under Lot's intense pressures it's conceivable. However it's not a necessary conclusion to draw. The endorsement of the title for a creature without a summary refusal by the angel is also not sufficient grounds to reject this proposal. The same title is used of Abraham himself later both in inspired narrative and by Laban (Gen.24.9,10,51). Thus it seems far more likely it was used as an honorific title of one angel than some hypothetical and dangerous simultaneous unity and plurality of two Divine persons, with Lot and the inspired narrator switching from singular to plural use, as Augustine suggests.



1. Augustine on the Trinity, Book 2, Chapter 12, p.62 of CCEL's pdf file.



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