The God-Man: The Trinity in the Old Testament

23 June 2021

3.6 MINS

Part 6 of a series on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus is God: fully human, and fully divine. In this series we have seen comprehensive evidence that Jesus is God — from the lips of Jesus himself; from the apostles; and from names of God and Messianic prophecies applied to Jesus by New Testament writers.

In Part 6 of this series on Jesus the God-Man, we consider evidence that the God spoken of in the Old Testament is comprised of more than one person. At first glance, the Old Testament doesn’t seem to be the most obvious place to find evidence of the Trinity, but get ready to be surprised.

The Bible is clear that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). Even so, the God of Scripture is revealed on many occasions as being plural in personhood.

This begins in the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, where God’s name is the Hebrew word Elohim (אֱלֹהִים). In the Hebrew language, the -im suffix makes a word plural, just like -s does in English. So the first verse of Scripture actually reads, “In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth.

God’s plural nature is echoed elsewhere in Genesis in ways that are more obvious in English language Bibles. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” is one such example from Genesis 1:26 (see also Genesis 3:22 and Genesis 11:7). In Isaiah 6:8, we also hear God ask the prophet, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” This follows directly after the seraphim, in worship of God, cry out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:3).

There are many passages in the Old Testament where at least two persons are present and both are referred to as God or the LORD. This is seen, for example, in Zechariah 2:8-9 — “For thus saith the LORD of hosts… I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.” The reader can follow up similar instances in Genesis 19:24, Psalm 45:6-7, Isaiah 48:16, Hosea 1:6-7 and Amos 4:11.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is known to Jews as the Shema. It begins, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” God’s name Yahweh (יהוה) is used twice, and his plural name Elohim appears as well. Most curious of all, the Hebrew word translated ‘one’ suggests unity rather than solitariness. It is the same word that appears in Genesis 2:24 to describe a husband and wife coming together as “one flesh”. So the verse could more literally read, “Hear O Israel, The LORD our Gods is one unified LORD.

A detailed survey of the Old Testament reveals three persons who are each considered divine: the LORD, the angel of the LORD, and the Spirit of God. There are of course thousands of appearances of the LORD in the Old Testament, so let us skip to the angel of the LORD.

The angel of the LORD appears to Hagar by a spring in the wilderness (Genesis 16); Abraham just as he is about to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22); Jacob, to wrestle with him (Genesis 32); Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3); Balaam as he rode his donkey (Numbers 22); Joshua just before the battle of Jericho (Joshua 5); Gideon in the winepress (Judges 6); Samson’s parents, before Samson’s birth (Judges 13) David at the threshing floor, the future site of the temple (2 Samuel 24); Elijah, to call him to God’s service (2 Kings 1); The Assyrians, slaying 185,000 of them (Isaiah 37); Nebuchadnezzar, from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3); and Zechariah, to reveal details of the last days (Zechariah 1-3).

Notably, on four of these occasions, people responded to the angel of the LORD with worship. Balaam “bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face” (Numbers 22:31). Joshua “fell on his face to the earth, and did worship” (Joshua 5:14). Gideon made an offering of a young goat and unleavened cakes (Judges 6:18-21). Samson’s parents also made an offering of a young goat (Judges 13:15). God has sworn that he will not give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 48:11) — so what this tells us is that the angel of the LORD is a person of the Godhead.

Consider too, that when asked his name, the angel of the LORD refuses to answer, explaining that it is ‘secret’ or wonderful (Judges 13:18) — and this is the very name Isaiah gives to the coming Messiah! (Isaiah 9:6).

What about the Spirit of God? The Spirit of God first appears at the creation, where we read that he “moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). But he is more than just a force or an emanation of God. The Spirit is a personal being, with all of the characteristics of personality — including intellect, emotion and will. He is said to strive with man (Genesis 6:3), move upon people (Judges 14:6), speak through people (2 Samuel 23:2), abide with people (Psalm 51:11), be grieved by people (Isaiah 63:10), and speak to people personally (Ezekiel 2:2).

Tying all of these threads together, there are several occasions in the book of Isaiah in which three divine persons are spoken of together. In Isaiah 42:1, the LORD says,

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth;
I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”

The reader can find other eye-opening examples of this in Isaiah 48:12-16, Isaiah 61:1 and Isaiah 63:7-10.

The words Trinity and Triune do not appear in Scripture. But in the Old Testament alone — before the Messiah has even come to earth — there is more than enough evidence on which to build the Christian doctrine of the Trinity!

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One Comment

  1. Maree 23 June 2021 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Our God is amazing.. praise be to God

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