Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lord of Hosts

Last time, I was arguing that “hosts” in this title probably does not refer to angels, but rather to the hosts of Israel. It is pertinent to this contention that the word “hosts” when used apart from this phrase and in the plural always refers to human armies, most commonly to the armies of Israel. So, for example, Ex 12:41 says, “all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Deut 20:9, when speaking of the armies of Israel preparing for battle says, “then commanders shall be appointed at the head of the people” (literally: they shall appoint princes of the hosts at the head of the people). 1 Kgs 2:5 speaks of the “two commanders [princes] of the hosts of Israel.” Psa 68:12 says, “kings of armies [hosts] did flee apace.”

The title “Lord of hosts” occurs one hundred forty-five times in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah. It occurs over fifty times in the much shorter Book of Zechariah. It occurs fourteen times in the two chapters of Haggai and twenty-four times in the four chapters of Malachi. The usage in the prophets accounts for the vast majority of the uses of the term in the Old Testament, and it is used consistently with the nation of Israel in view. This would seem to lend weight to the idea that the focus is not on angelic armies, but rather on human armies, in particular the armies of Israel.

Interestingly, when the word “host” is used in such a way as to indicate the possibility of the “host” being angels, it occurs in the singular. Thus with the cryptic text in Josh 5:14ff, it is the prince of the host (singular) of the Lord who appears to Joshua. Likewise, in 1 Kgs 22:19 “all the host of Heaven,” host is singular. It is the same case in Psa 103:21 and Psa 148:2.

What can we conclude from this? I think first, that the reason hosts is singular in regard to angels is due to the fact that they are considered a single army. Israel, on the other hand, was made up of twelve tribes, each providing its own army [host]. Hence the God of Israel is the Lord of the hosts of Israel, a perfect image of the Old Testament church militant.

1 comment:

K. Hugh Acton said...

Very interesting, thanks for the follow up.