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 Vol. 2, No. 8                                        Page 7                                                August, 2000

Messianic Prophecies

Jesus, the Object
of Angelic Worship

By D. Gene West

Text: Deuteronomy 32:43. (LXX) "Rejoice, you heavens, along with him, and let the sons of God worship him. Rejoice, you nations, with his people, and let all the angels of God ascribe might to him. For he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people." (Dr. James E. Smith's rendering of the verse from the Septuagint.)

Introduction:

  1. As we can see, the rendering of this passage in theSeptuagint version of the Old Testament is somewhat different from the common translations that are known today.  For example, the NKJ reads as follows:

  2. "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people."

  3. Nothing is said in our common translations of this text about the angels worshipping the Messiah. But,

  4. "On the basis of Hebrews 1:6, Deuteronomy 32:43a must be regarded as personal Messianic.  The writer of Hebrews was utilizing the Septuagint text which differs somewhat from the traditional Hebrew text which simply reads, 'Rejoice, O you nations, with his people.'  A pre-Christian Hebrew manuscript discovered at Qumran makes clear that at this point the Greek translation represents the original text." (James Edward Smith, What the Bible Teaches About the Promised Messiah, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, 1993, p. 71.)

  5. "In accordance with divine direction (31:19) Moses composed a prophetic poem (32:1-43) which he recited to the people just before his death. The written record of that song remained with Israel through the years as a witness against them. The aim of the song is to place in juxtaposition (side by side, par. mine DGW) the unchanging faithfulness of God and the anticipated corruption and unfaithfulness of Israel." (Ibid.)

  6. Beginning in verse 20, the Lord speaks in the first person to warn of the punishments which he is about to heap on Israel. Ultimately he would punish them by means of a Gentile nation (v. 21), scattering them into distant lands (vv. 25-26). In verses 29-33 Moses interjects his wish that the people in that day would recognize their predicament and the reason for it (vv. 29-33). God speaks again in verses 34-35. He is a God of vengeance. The calamity will soon befall his sinful people. (Ibid.)

  7. Dr. Smith, continues his observations on the text by saying, "Moses begins to describe the deliverance of God's people in verse 36. God speaks in verse 37 and reminds his people of the folly of their allegiance to false gods. He declares that he alone is eternal; he alone has power to kill and to make alive, to wound and to heal (39-40). God will make his arrows 'drunk with blood' when he punishes those who exiled his people (v. 42). (Ibid.)

  8. Inasmuch as Dr. James Smith is the only scholar whom we have found that sets this forth as a prophecy of the Messiah, we will have to depend heavily upon him so that, essentially this will be his lesson!

  9. Let us read again his translation of this verse from the Septuagint, and proceed to learn what we can about this Messianic prophecy.

  1. Who is the Speaker in Verse Forty-Three of Deuteronomy 32?

    1. There are, it seems to me, only two possibilities and they are: 1) God, or 2) Moses.

      1. God has been doing the speaking in verses 37-42 of this inspired poem, and there is no indication of a change of speakers in verse forty-three, and so Jehovah must still be the one who is doing the speaking.

      2. It is also true that the Author of the great Book of Hebrews regards God as the one doing the speaking in this passage because he said, "But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: 'Let all the angels of God worship Him.'"

      3. So we can say that it is Yahweh who is doing the speaking through Moses in this poem.

    2. There are four commands or exhortations that are contained in Deuteronomy 32:43. They are:

      1. The heavens are called upon to rejoice. Heavens is used in a figure of speech called metonymy, and it refers to the inhabitants of heaven which would be the angels.

      2. The sons of God are told to worship the Messiah, and it would appear in this text that the sons of God refers to the angels of heaven, although there are other passages in which this description does not fit angels, such as in Genesis 6:4. (There is also the possibility that the sons of God in this passage refers to the faithful remnant of the people of God who would come out of Babylonian captivity.)

      3. Next the nations (Gentiles) are called upon to rejoice also, just as the sons of God have been, and that is one of the things that makes this passage Messianic, because passages of the Old Testament which speak of Gentiles joining in praise to God are generally Messianic in nature.

      4. All the angels of God are called upon to ascribe "might" to the Firstborn one. So we can see, from the implications of this verse that Israel was to join in the joyful praise which is here urged upon the angels of God, and the nations of earth.

  2. Who is the Person Who is to be the Object of This Worship by the Angels, Gentiles, and Israelites?

    1. The pronoun "him" could not possibly refer to Jehovah, because Jehovah himself is the One who is exhorting others to praise him.

      1. Could the pronoun refer to the nation of Israel? We think not because Israel is called upon to join in the praising of him.

      2. This does not leave us a great many interpretative choices.

    2. Who, other than the Messiah, is worthy of worship (praise) by angels, Gentiles, and Israel?

      1. The fulfillment of this prophecy, according to the author of the Book of Hebrews, is seen in the worship of the Messiah by angels.

      2. The Author of Hebrews also assigns this verse to the time, which would be ". . . in the fullness of time . . ." (Galatians 4:4) when Yahweh brought "the Firstborn into the world" (Hebrews 1:6).

      3. Many scholars, although there are exceptions to this, think that this refers to the advent of Christ into the world when, at the time of his birth, the angels sang praises to Christ. (See: Luke 2:13-14.)

        1. Adam Clarke thought the reference is applicable to the resurrection of our Lord which was attended by angels.

        2. Brother Robert Milligan believed that this passage had reference to the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on the day of Pentecost.

      4. The main point that the Author of the Treatise of Hebrews is making is that the angels in the days when the Messiah was upon the earth were only worshipers of him, and not sharers in his Majesty.

  3. A Look at a Two-Fold Reason That is Given for the Praise of the Messiah.

    1. The Messiah administers righteous judgment, a judgment in which the blood of his servants is avenged and the foes of the Messiah are repaid.

      1. His servants would include all those who loved and served God because of the Messianic hope.

      2. These faithful servants were often persecuted, oppressed and put to death by the ungodly.

      3. His adversaries are those people (Jew and Gentile) who would in any way try to overthrow the Messianic purpose to redeem the world.

      4. This also refers to those people, both Jew and Gentile, who have shed the blood of the faithful servants of God, such as those over whom Jesus wept in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34.

    2. Then Moses quotes Jehovah as saying that he, the Messiah, would be merciful to his land and to his people. This means the following:

      1. Jesus would remove all those who corrupt the land (his kingdom) from within, and those who oppress God's people from without.

      2. The Messiah's land (kingdom) would be a realm of purity because the offenders would be removed.

    3. When one views this prophecy in light of later prophecy, to which we shall come eventually, this triumph is identified as the triumph of the Kingdom of Christ.

      1. We know this because the writer of Hebrews refers the verse to the time of the bringing of the Firstborn, who is the Messiah, into our world.

      2. In Romans 15:10, the very same verse is applied to the time of Christ. (8) "Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, (9) and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name. (10) And again he says: 'Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!' (11) And again: 'Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! laud Him, all you peoples!' ( 12) And again, Isaiah says: 'There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope' ( 13) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

      3. Note particularly the quote in verse ten, which comes from the Septuagint translation of the Deuteronomy 32:43 text.

Conclusion:

  1. In the opinions of a great many scholars, it is a tragedy that we do not have this prophecy properly translated from the Septuagint (identified LXX) rather than the way it is translated in many, if not most, of the English Bibles of our day.

  2. Since one important phrase is quoted in at least two books of the New Testament, namely Hebrews 1:6, and Romans 15:10, it should be translated from that translation that Paul used, which was the LXX.

  3. When Jesus came into the world, he was worshipped by the angels, and this was the first earthly evidence of his being the Divine Son of the Living God, the Messiah sent down for our redemption.

Copyright 2000 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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