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Shaliah

the "sent one"

 

by: Tim Kelley

July 2015

 

" At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.  24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

John chapter 10 falls on the heals of Yeshua's miraculous healing of a man who had been blind from birth, an event that caused quite a stir amongst the Jewish leader ship. Now, just weeks later, Yeshua is back in Jerusalem observing the Jewish festival of Hanukkah and is again being attacked by His detractors. The narrative continues with Yeshua's answer to one of them. Yeshua answered saying -

NKJ John 10:25-38 "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.  27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.  30 I and the Father are one." 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.  32 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" 33 The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." 34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came- and Scripture cannot be broken- 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

During His brief three and a half year ministry, Yeshua was attacked by the leaders of His day with various false charges which included breaking the Sabbath, casting out demons by the Canaanite gods, and even impersonating a prophet1.  Each time Yeshua answered their charge and they went away knowing He had won the debate; but the charge that finally got Him killed was that of blasphemy. 

The English word blasphemy comes from the Greek word blasphemia (St. 988) and is rooted in the concept hurting one's fame.  The Jews accusation against Yeshua was that He was hurting God's fame because He implied that He was the son of God and was equal with Him.  Yeshua answered their charge in His usual way -  He asked them a question based on an excerpt of scripture.  He quoted a portion of Psalm 82:6 knowing that they would, or at least should, know the rest of the scripture as well as it's context. 

NKJ Psalm 82:6 I said, "You are gods, And all of you are children (sons)2 of the Most High.

The context of this passage is an indictment against those Israelites who were in a position to judge others.  This would of course include the Jewish leaders that were currently surrounding Yeshua.  The prophecy states that those who judge unrighteously will walk in darkness and die like men.  It then closes by saying -

NKJ Psalm 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; For You shall inherit all nations.

Being that God (the Father) cannot inherit what is already His, Yeshua was indicating that HE - a righteous judge -  would inherit all nations.

This of course enraged His accusers even more, so Yeshua slipped away to await another day.

This story, which is set in the context of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, showed that the Jewish leaders were not really dedicated to the revealing of the Messiah - the King of Israel, but were instead dedicated to their own greed and power.  If they were truly looking for the coming Messiah, they would have recognized Him by His works, or more correctly the works of the Father (vs.25). 

But there's even more to this story a point that a person is likely to miss unless that person reads through the lens of the Hebrew culture.  We know that the leaders of the 1st century Jewish people did know that Yeshua was an emissary sent from God,

NKJ John 3:1-2 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

- and since they knew He was sent by God, they would have also known that He could be considered to be God.  Why? Because of the ancient Hebrew custom of agency. 

In this study, I want to explain the concept of agency, an understanding that helps unlock more of the words of Messiah Yeshua.  We will:

  • discover what agency is all about
  • see examples of agency in the scriptures
  • see how this understanding will help us grow in knowledge of our Messiah

With this information, we will be able to see that Yeshua had every right to claim oneness with God, and what's more we'll see that the Jewish leaders of His day knew it too. 

Before we get started, I want to acknowledge one of my sources because I'm going to be referencing it and because it shed a lot of light on this understanding.  That source is well documented article written by a man named Raymond James Essoe and called Shaliah An Introduction to the Law of Agency.  You can find the article on the internet at3 .

The Shaliah

The entire concept of agency is rooted in the word shalach (שָׁלַח St. 7971) which means to send.  We've talked about this word before in reference to the apostles who were sent out by Yeshua to teach the gospel of the Kingdom.  We referred to them as shaliach or shaliah, and even though the scriptures never use the term sent one, there are numerous examples of individuals who were sent by God: Joseph (Gen. 45:7), Moses (Ex. 3:12), Isaiah (Is. 6:8), and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:7) to name a few.

The literal meaning of shalach is to send, or to send away, but when used in the context of a person being sent on a mission (like Moses), or with a message (like the prophets), it implies even more, for when you are sent with a purpose, you now become a shaliah. 

So what is a shaliah? It's not hard to understand, and to give us a broad understanding of the concept we can in some ways equate it to the term power of attorney.  In our culture, a person with power of attorney has the authority to make binding legal decisions on behalf of another.  Wikipedia defines it this way

A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another's behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter, sometimes against the wishes of the other. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor (of the power). The one authorized to act is the agent . . .4

Whereas a power of attorney is a legal document that gives a person the agent the authority to act on behalf of another, the shaliah is the agent.  The Jewish Encyclopedia online version explains the shaliah this way5 -

The Law of Agency deals with the status of a person (known as the agent) acting by direction of another (the principal), and thereby legally binding the principal in his connection with a third person. The person who binds a principal in this manner is his agent, known in Jewish law as shelia (one that is sent): the relation of the former to the latter is known as agency (shelihut). The general principle is enunciated thus:  A man's agent is like himself (Kid. 41b) (emphasis mine)

In other words, the shaliah when acting within the parameters given him, has the authority to bind the one who had sent him.  Though similar to the agent in a power of attorney, the agent in a power of attorney is never considered to be equal to the one who granted him that power, but in the Hebrew sense, the agent (or shaliah) is considered to be the image of the one who sent him.  It's as if the sender had actually spoken the words or signed the document himself. 

Essoe states that

All Old Testament scholars and commentators recognize that in Jewish custom whenever a superior commissioned an agent to act on his behalf, the agent was regarded as the person himself. This is well expressed in The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion: Agent (Heb. Shaliah): The main point of the Jewish law of agency is expressed in the dictum, a person's agent is regarded as the person himself (Ned. 72B; Kidd, 41b). Therefore any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principle, who therefore bears full responsibility for it with consequent complete absence of liability on the part of the agent.

So not only is the shaliah the image of the person, according to Jewish understanding, a man's agent is as himself.  To verify Essoe's statement, let's look as the words straight out of the Talmud.  We'll go to the above referenced passage, Tractate Nedarim 72b of the Babylonian Talmud.  The context of the discussion is if according to Numbers 30, a man designated by a husband can disannul the vows of the husband's wife while the husband is away from the home.

Come and hear: If one says to a guardian, 'Annul all the vows which my wife may make between now and my return from such and such a place', and he does so: I might think that they are void, therefore Scripture teaches, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.  This is the view of R. Josiah. Said R. Jonathan to him: But we find in the whole Torah that a man's agent is as himself! Now, even R. Josiah ruled thus only because it is a Scriptural decree, 'her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void': but both agree that a man's agent is as himself; but he [the husband] did not hear the vows! 6 (emphasis mine)

Seems pretty clear.  As far as the Jewish people were - and still are concerned, if a man designates another as his agent, when the agent acts, it's as if the man acted himself. 

Now you might think, the Jews pulled this out of thin air, but that's not the case. In fact, we have numerous examples of the agency concept in the scriptures. Let's look at a few starting with the Eliezer's role is securing a bride for Isaac.

Eliezer of Damascus

One of the most clear examples of the shaliah is that of Eliezer, the servant of Abraham.  Abraham was getting old. and being that he and Isaac were living in the land of Canaan, he feared that his son might marry a Canaanite woman.  This prompted him to begin the process of finding a wife for his son, and he hoped to find one from his own kin in the city of Nahor his brother.  Being unable to go to Nahor himself, Abraham commissioned by oath his oldest servant Eliezer to go for him.  He instructed Eliezer to -

NKJ Genesis 24:4 " . . . go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac."

Abraham's only other instruction was that Eliezer not take Isaac back to the land from which he (Abraham) came.  So Eliezer set out.  When it appeared that he had found the correct woman, Eliezer performed the betrothal on behalf of his master Abraham, the said to Rebecca's father and brother

NKJ Genesis 24:47 "Then I asked her, and said, 'Whose daughter are you?' And she said, 'The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him.' So I put the nose ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists.

At this point, Isaac was betrothed to Rebecca, even though he had never met her.  What's more, Abraham should he determine that Rebecca was not fit to be Isaac's wife, could not annul what Eliezer had done.  Thankfully, Eliezer followed Abraham's instructions perfectly.  He never wavered in his determination to fulfill the oath he had made and he spoke the words of Abraham to Rebecca's father. When he had secured her hand, he, along with Isaac's bride, returned to Canaan.

To summarize the example of Eliezer:

  • he was sent on a mission
  • he spoke the words and performed the deeds for which he was sent
  • he returned with that which he was sent to obtain
  • he was a clear representation of Abraham in regards to his mission

Let's now turn to another example a clear example of one, or in this case ones who were sent.

The Angels at Sodom

YHVH had sent two angels to warn Lot of the eminent destruction of Sodom.  When they arrived at the city, they appeared to Lot at the city gate in the form of men

NKJ Genesis 19:1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.  2 And he said, "Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet . . . 4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house.  5 And they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight?

We can see from the narrative that the people of Sodom saw these two angels as men as well 7.  After a brief conflict with the men of the city, these two angelic men informed Lot of their mission -

NKJ Genesis 19:13  we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy . . .

It's clear that these two sent ones were both shaliah and their mission was to destroy the city of Sodom in fact they stated it twice we will destroy this place.  Destroying the city was their mission, their purpose for going to Sodom . . . the narrative provides no other purpose than to do what they were sent to do.  Never-the-less, Lot - when conveying this information to his sons-in-law, stated that YHVH, not the two angels, was going to destroy Sodom -

NKJ Genesis 19:14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, "Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!" . . .

And indeed the city was destroyed, just as the angels had warned -

NKJ Genesis 19:24-25 Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

Did YHVH destroy the city or did the two shaliah? If YHVH was going to destroy the city Himself, why did He send the shaliah? In the context of the shaliah, the answer is clear.  The two shaliah destroyed the city, but they did so on behalf of YHVH.  They were the agents that did the work; but it was as if YHVH did it Himself.

The Angel of YHVH

Moses' encounter with God began at the burning bush.  Moses was tending Jethro's flock on the side of Mt. Sinai when he saw a bush burning - yet it never seemed to burn up.  A casual reading of the narrative would leave one thinking that the voice that came out of the bush was YHVH's, but is that the case? Let's look at the text

NKJ Exodus 3:1-6 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  2 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.  3 Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." 4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5 Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." 6 Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father -- the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

The first thing we see is that it was not YHVH by name that appeared in the bush, but rather, it was the angel or messenger of YHVH.  Then it says that when YHVH saw that Moses turned to looked, God called to him. The text seems to indicate that Moses had seen the bush from a distance, and when he noticed that it was not burning up, he departed from where he was tending the flock and began to approach the bush.8 When he did, he looked. Notice that it does not say that YHVH called to him, but that God called to him.  That same God later referred to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Then finally, we see that Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look upon the face of God, who we saw at the beginning, was the angel of YHVH.  So it appears that YHVH sent the angel of God to speak to Moses out of the burning bush.  Fifteen hundred years later, Stephen confirmed that this was indeed the case in his defense before the Sanhedrin saying

Acts 7:30 "And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai.

Stephen went on to say

Acts 7:35 35 "This Moses whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush.

The Exodus account shows, and Stephen confirms, it was not YHVH who actually delivered Israel, but it was through His angel that YHVH delivered Israel.  What's more, the angel that spoke out of the bush, the emissary sent by God, was considered to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Moses and Aaron

There's no question that Moses was sent by God to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt.  He was clearly a shaliah, and the text confirms it -

NKJ Exodus 3:11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" 12 So He said, "I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."

And when Moses balked, claiming he was not able to vocalize the message, YHVH replied

NKJ Exodus 4:12 "Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say."

Here we see that Moses was to be the mouth of God . . . the words that YHVH was going to say were going to be said through Moses.  But God didn't leave it at that, not only was YHVH going to speak through Moses, He was going to elevate Moses to the position of god to Pharaoh

NKJ Exodus 6:28 - 7:2 28 And it came to pass, on the day the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 that the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "I am the LORD. Speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you." 30 But Moses said before the LORD, "Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh heed me?" Exodus 7:1 So the LORD said to Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet.  2 "You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land.

Notice that in the text as is italicized indicating that it is not a part of the Hebrew text.  Thus for all practical purposes, Moses is in the role of God when it came to Pharoah.  He (Moses) became the human representation of the God of Israel, complete with his own prophet Aaron.  From this point on, whatever Moses did or said to Pharaoh, it was as if YHVH did or said it himself.

Continuing on, we find YHVH making this statement

KJ Exodus 7:17 'Thus says the LORD: "By this you shall know that I am the LORD. Behold, I will strike the waters which are in the river with the rod that is in my hand, and they shall be turned to blood.

In this passage, YHVH declared that it would be Himself who would strike the waters of the Nile, and that by so doing, Pharaoh would know that YHVH is for real.  But keep in mind, YHVH had just made Moses as God to Pharaoh, so if Moses is God, who would then have to strike the water in order to make an impact on Pharaoh? It would have to be Moses . . . but that's not what happened. 

NKJ Exodus 7:19 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood.

Instead of Moses striking the water, Aaron struck the water.  Moses, the prophet of God9, who was fulfilling the role of God to Pharaoh, instructed his prophet Aaron who was acting on behalf of Moses - to strike the water in His stead.  In fact, Aaron acted on behalf of Moses throughout most of the plagues.  YHVH didn't actually strike the water, but because His shaliah did, YHVH is given the credit.

So in this one story we see Moses acting on behalf of YHVH as God, and we see Moses performing actions attributed to God, but through Moses' own prophet, Aaron.

Joseph the Shaliah of Pharaoh

There are numerous other examples in the Tnakh where an action or manifestation of YHVH is later attributed to a lesser being, as well as examples of the actions of the angel of YHVH being attributed to YHVH, but that will have to wait for another study.  Let's turn now to an example of a shaliah who was given the position of supreme authority of his kingdom.  This person was Joseph.

Joseph was sent to Egypt for one purpose to preserve the Hebrew people.  This is clearly shown in his statement to his brothers

Genesis 45:4-7 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.  5 "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.  6 "For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.  7 "And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

But in order to preserve the lives of the Hebrew people, what did YHVH do with Joseph? Quite simply, He gave him practically all the power and authority of the kingdom in which the Israelites would dwell.

NKJ Genesis 41:39-44 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.  40 "You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you." 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph's hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.  43 . . . So he set him over all the land of Egypt.  44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt."

What we learn from this passage is that for all practical purposes, Joseph became the representation of Pharaoh in that day.  Though he was still second to Pharaoh, he was in charge of all Pharaoh's kingdom.  With Pharaoh's signet ring on his hand, Joseph could make laws, judgments, treaties, or any other decision concerning the kingdom, and they would all be attributed to Pharaoh himself.

Conclusion

Suffice it to say, there are so many examples of the shaliah in the scripture that it would be beyond reason to believe that the Jew's in the first century did not understand that concept or that they would not see that Yeshua was a shaliah Himself.  They would also know that as a shaliah, Yeshua would be able to speak words in YHVH's name, heal the sick in His name, cast out demons in His name, and even forgive their sins in His name.  All they had to do is recognize His words and see His actions to know He was indeed sent by God, which, based on the statement by Nicodemus - they did. 

Let's again notice the John 10 passage

NKJ John 10:32 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" 33 The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy . . .

It's clear, the Jewish leaders in his day had no problem with Yeshua's works . . . they even referred to them as good works.  What's more, when Yeshua claimed that He and God were 'one' based on the fact that His sheep were God's sheep and that His sheep could not be taken from him just as God's sheep could not be taken from God, the Jewish leaders, based on the concept of agency,  should have understood exactly what he was saying, and would have thus had no basis for a charge of blasphemy.

Let's begin to wrap this up by reviewing what we've seen:

  • Jewish law regards the shaliah - the sent one - as if he were the person who sent him
  • Scripture clearly shows that Moses was considered by YHVH to be a god to Pharaoh
  • The angel of YHVH was a representation of YHVH and thus had the authority to make statements accredited to YHVH
  • Yeshua was recognized by many of the Jews of His day as the shaliah of YHVH
  • Thus when he spoke on behalf of YHVH, it was as if YHVH were speaking Himself
  • Thus in the mindset of many of the Jews, Yeshua and YVHV were for all practical purposes ONE.

Those Jews who would try to convince you that Yeshua is not Messiah do understand agency; it's part of their religious documents and a part of their civil law.  They also know that most Christians don't understand it.  Thus they, like the Jews in the 1st century, are able to attack Yeshua and throw stumbling blocks in the path of believers by quoting scriptures from the New Testament that appear to be in conflict with those in the Tnakh, scriptures such as:

NKJ Isaiah 43:11 I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior.

compared with:

NKJ Luke 2:11 "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Or these scriptures:

NKJ Isaiah 43:15-25 15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King." . . . 25 " I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

compared with:

John 1:29 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Now that we are armed with that same understanding we can diffuse those arguments and not be swayed by those who would attack our Hebraic faith.

Shalom Alecheim!


1 Luke 7:36-50; 

2 http://www.christianmonotheism.com/media/text/Raymond%20Essoe%20--%20Shaliah.pdf; 

3 Hebrew 'bane' (בֵן St. 1121) is most often translated 'son';

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_of_attorney; 

5 http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/894-agency-law-of; 

6 http://www.come-and-hear.com/nedarim/nedarim_72.html; 

7 'enowsh' (אְֶנוֹשׁ St. 0582) mortal man, person, mankind;

8  'turned aside' is from the Hebrew word 'cuwr' (סוֹר St.5439) which is more commonly translated 'depart';

9 Deut. 34:10