Who was the Fourth Man?
In our daily devotions recently my wife and I were reading Judges, chapter thirteen -- the story of Samson’s conception. Samson’s parents were confronted by the Angel of the LORD who told them that Samson would be a special child – a Nazarite in English or Naziyr in Hebrew – ie, a consecrated person.
What particularly struck me about this part of the story were verses 17 and 18 -- Samson’s father asks the Angel “What is your name?” The Angel’s reply was enigmatic, to say the least. In most English translations the Angel answers, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”
I went back to the original Hebrew to see if I could make any more sense out of that answer, and discovered something rather amazing. In Hebrew, the word “wonderful” is pil’iy. It means “beyond understanding” or “incomprehensible”. It is the same word used in Isaiah 9:6 describing the Messiah. “For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Is it possible that this Angel of the LORD was actually a theophany – a visual manifestation of Yeshua before the Incarnation?
I think we will all agree that Yeshua has always been alive and co-existent with the Father. Numerous scriptures in the Tanak and the B’rit Chadeshah clearly make that point. These include Micah 5:2; Hebrews 1:1-2; John 10:30; John 1:1-4; John 8:58; and Luke 10:17 to name a few. Since He has always been in existence, are there times when He manifested Himself as a man in the Tanak? I believe there is compelling evidence that He may have done so on at least three other occasions. Let’s look at them.
Melchizedek. “And Melchizedek, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God most high. And he [Melchizedek] blessed him [Abram] and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of Heaven and Earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand’. And he [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] a tenth of all he had.” (Genesis 14:18-20)
I want to point out three things about this story. First – the name Melchizedek comes from two root Hebrew words – Melek (King) and Tzedek (Righteousness). Melchizedek literally means “King of Righteousness”. He is also called “King of Salem” – Hebrew: Melek Shalam – which means King of Peace; a title highly reminiscent of the Messiah -- Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace).
Secondly, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews suggests very strongly that this person named Melchizedek has been present before the beginning of Creation. “…without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually (Hebrews 7:3). Moreover, Hebrews also ties this interesting point into the Messianic prophecy of Psalm 110:4, where it says of the Messiah “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Thirdly, we are told that Abram gave Melchizedek a tithe, and in return received his blessing. (Genesis 14:19-20) To Whom to we give the tithe? To God, of course! From Whom do we receive a blessing? Again, only from God! Is it possible that this Melchizedek – King of Righteousness and King of Peace – was actually a theophany of Yeshua?
Commander of the LORD’s Host. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?" So He said, "No, but as Commander of the host of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" Then the Commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:13-15) There are several points in this narrative that are worthy of notice.
First, the “man” calls Himself the Commander (some translations say “Captain”) of the Host of the LORD. In Hebrew the words are “Sar Tzevah Yahweh” – literally “the Prince of the Army of Yahweh”. The title “Prince” (or Sar in Hebrew) is the same title which Isaiah used for the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 as we saw above.
Secondly, we are told that Joshua fell on his face and worshiped Him. Whoever this person was, He could not have been an angel, because angels do not allow humans to worship them. You will recall that in the Apocalypse the Apostle John at one point fell on his face to worship an angel. The angel immediately forbade him from doing so saying, “Don’t do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brothers the prophets. Worship God alone.” (Rev. 22:8-9)
Thirdly, the “man” not only allowed Joshua’s worship, but added that Joshua was in the Divine Presence. He said to Joshua, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” These are essentially the same words God Himself spoke to Moses from the burning bush. Is it possible that the “man” standing before Joshua was none other than Yeshua, the fullness of the Godhead in visible form, the Sar Shalom, the Prince of the Army of the LORD?
The Fourth Man. Most of us are familiar with the story in Daniel of three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who, because they refused to bow to the golden idol, were cast into a flaming furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. The key passage of the story is found in Daniel 3:24-25 -- Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." "Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." (KJV)
First, let me make this point. Several English translations render the last three words of this passage as “son of the gods”; for example, the NIV, ESV, NASB, RSV, and others. Whatever one may think of the old KJV, in this instance the translators got it right. Let me explain. This story in Daniel is written in Aramaic – an ancient Semitic language and a predecessor of Arabic and Hebrew.
In Aramaic the last phrase is: בַר־אֱלָהִֽין (bar-elehon).
“Bar”, of course, means “son” – such as in the familiar term “bar mitzvah” (son of the covenant). “Elehon” is a form of the word “elah” which means “God”. It is a singular noun, not a plural one. (The plural form of God is “elohiym” such as is found in Genesis 1:1). Technically, therefore, the correct translation would be “son of God” or “son of the god”. The Aramaic words “elah” or “elehon” appear 95 times in Scripture, and in 79 of those instances, the word clearly refers to the God of Israel. In fact, in Daniel 3:28 when Nebuchadnezzar is extolling the God of Israel, it is the word “elehon” that he uses.
One final comment – In Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar, referring to the ordeal in the fiery furnace, says that “God…sent His angel and delivered His servants…”. The Aramaic word used here for “angel” is “mal’ak” – and means “one sent”, “a messenger”, or “an ambassador”. Moreover, I find it extremely interesting that the Aramaic word “mal’ak” corresponds with Strong’s Hebrew word H4397 “mal’ach”, because one of the meanings of “mal’ach” is “a theophanic messenger ” – ie, a theophany!!
Who was the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace? Was He the same Man who appeared to Abraham as Melchizedek? Was He the same Man who told Joshua that He was the Captain of the Hosts of the LORD? And finally, could He have been the same Man who appeared to the parents of Sampson and told them that His Name was “Wonderful”?
I report. You decide. J
Dr. Bill Duerfeldt
Asheville, North Carolina