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Genesis 16:7–13

The Angel of the Lord

God’s proper name is composed of the four letters YHVH. The Jewish people do not pronounce this name out of reverence for the sacredness of the divine name. For many years it has been transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah using the vowels of the name Adonai. It is consistently translated in the majority of our English translations of the Old Testament as “LORD” with all four letters in capital letters. The name Adonai is distinguished “Lord” in our English translations.   

The "messenger of Yahweh" or "Angel of the LORD” (mal’akh Yahweh) is seen in the Old Testament as an important figure, mysterious as well as intriguing, reverenced and obeyed. It is interesting how often the appearance of "the Angel of the LORD" marked a turning point in history or brought about some event that produced long-lasting consequences. He is seen as the guardian over the chosen people of God who appears over and over again.

At times "the Angel of the LORD" is called "the Angel of the Countenance" meaning that He was ever before the face of God.

God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2, 7; 15:1–6). Abraham obeyed and walked by faith and entered into the Promised Land (Genesis 15:7). However, time passed and he had still not seen the birth of the promised son who was so crucial to the fulfillment of the covenant. 

 Desperate to have the promised son, Abraham listened to Sarah and got into deep trouble (Genesis 16:3-4). When left to human ingenuity, we often fail. God, however, wants it to be clearly understood by everyone involved that the child was in every sense to be a child of promise. Abraham and Sarah were now advanced in years and were both beyond child bearing age. Man can contribute nothing. Only the God of grace can provide the son of the promise.

Abe and Sarah had waited long enough or so they thought.

Hagar was Sarah's maid, and she was the innocent party. She was just a family maid who was loyal to her master and a believer in the God of Abraham. Abraham made Hagar pregnant and strife broke out in the home (16:5–6). In despair Hagar ran away. "Sarah treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence" (16:6).

It was while Hagar was in the wilderness, alone and fearful that "the angel of the LORD found her" and revealed Himself to her (16:7-10). This is the first occurrence of "the angel of the LORD" in the Scriptures.

Who is this "angel of Yahweh"? What makes "the angel of the LORD" different from other angels who appear in the Old Testament?

Our focus should not only be on the first occurrence of the Angel of the LORD in the Bible, but all of the passages in the Scriptures. When we study all of these passages, the conclusion is evident that the Angel of the LORD is part of the eternal Godhead (cf. Gen. 16:7-10, 13; 18:1-33; 21:17-20; 22:11-18; 31:11-13; 32:24-32; 48:15, 16; Ex. 3:2-14; Josh. 5:13-15; Judges 13:3-23; 2 Kings 19:35; 1 Chron. 21:15-18, 26-30; Ps. 34:7; Zech. 1:8-17; 3:1-2; 12:8).

A. H. Strong said, "Commonly in the Old Testament, the 'angel of Jehovah' is a theophany, a self-manifestation of God. The only distinction is that between Jehovah in Himself and Jehovah in manifestation. The appearance of the angel of Jehovah' seem to be preliminary manifestation of the divine Logos, as in Genesis 18:2, 13; Daniel 3:24-28 . . . "

I agree with E. W. Hengstenberg in Christology of the Old Testament, the German Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch, H. C. Leupold, Lewis Chafer, A. H. Strong and many other scholars as to the identification of this special person.

Several things stand out about this angel in various passages of Scripture.

The One who announced to Samson's mother his coming birth was the Second Person of the Godhead in pre-incarnate form (Judges 13:1-23). The angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah and his wife promising them a son (Judges 13:2–23). The passage reaches its climax in verses 19–22. Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God" (v. 22). The angel of the LORD is God.

Malachi 3:1 reads, "'Behold, I am going to send My messenger [or "angel"], and he will clear the way before me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold He is coming,' says the LORD of hosts." The Messenger of the Covenant (Angel of the Covenant) will suddenly come to "His temple." The implication is that the Messenger is Yahweh who abode in the temple for whom it existed. Jesus Christ, when he was here on the earth, was ever in the temple. It was His house. His "triumphal" entry into Jerusalem was a conspicuous advent of Yahweh to His temple (Matt. 21:1-17; Mk. 11:35-37; Luke 19:28-48; John 12:12-16; cf. Zech. 9:9). Jesus Christ fulfilled the expectations concerning the Messiah and was none other than the Messenger of Yahweh or Messenger of the Covenant in the Old Testament.

Therefore, many Old Testament scholars identify the angel of the LORD as a true theophany. He is the pre-incarnate Logos. Hence it is best to see the angel as a self-manifestation of Yahweh in a form that would communicate His immanence and direct concern to those to whom He attended.

It is clear from this and other passages of Scripture that this Person was an appearance of God Himself, the Second person of the Godhead who assumed a temporary natural body. The angel ceases to appear to men after the incarnation of the Logos of Jesus Christ.

A theophany is a self-manifestation of God in visible and bodily form to men before the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The theophanies are chiefly appearances of the angel of the LORD, who is clearly distinct from angelic beings. They are actual occurrences, not imaginary, not hallucinatory experiences. They take place in historical settings initiated only by God.

Several scholars have observed that the natural unity and integrity of Scripture would be broken if it could be proved that the crucial high point in the Old Testament revelation was a creature angel, while that of the New Testament is the incarnation of the God-Man.

Who is this angel of the LORD? The earliest church fathers and most conservative evangelical Bible scholars agree that the angel of the LORD is no one other than Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the second person of the God–head. These theophanies are pre-incarnate appearances of God the Son in human form. The angel of the LORD appeared only in the Old Testament. Theophanies are unknown in the New Testament after the permanent incarnation of Christ.

Our study of the Angel of the LORD leaves no room for doubt that the term denotes God Himself as seen in human form. This “messenger” is God made visible, and at the same time God sent. “The Angel of the LORD” is a term for the Lord Himself, the pre-existent Son of God.

It is the teaching of Scripture that the angel of LORD is specifically the Second Person of the Trinity. The Angel of the LORD of the Old Testament is the Christ of the New Testament.  

Jesus Christ was and is Yahweh, and since He is Yahweh, He preexisted from all eternity. The Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament is clearly the same person identified as the Christ of the New Testament. The Angel of the LORD and Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is the same person. The image of the Invisible has become flesh and dwelt among us and redeemed us by the atoning sacrifice of Himself.

In the fullness of time, "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:14, 18). When you look into the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, you see the face of God. In Him we have the perfect vision of what God is like. Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."

This is why the early church proclaimed there is salvation in no other person. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. . . . Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father . . .” (John 14:6, 9). 

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Title:  Genesis 16:7–13 The Angel of the LORD
Series:   Christ in the Old Testament

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2007. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

Unless otherwise noted “Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey College, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries for ten years. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Honduras.

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