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" (malakh 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
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.
1. "The angel of the
LORD" is distinct from Yahweh, yet identical with
Yahweh (Gen. 16:10, 13; 22:11-18; 31:11, 13; Ex.
3:2, 4; Josh. 5:13-15; 6:2; Zech. 1:10-13; 3:1, 2).
In several of these passages the term "the angel of
Yahweh" is completely interchangeable with "Yahweh,"
"Yahweh's "name," which is equivalent to the saying
Yahweh's being, is in His special angel (Ex. 23:20,
21). The conclusion is the presence of the angel of
the LORD is the same as the presence of the LORD
(Ex. 32:24-30, 34; 33:11, 14, 20; Isa. 63:9). He
accepts worship due only to God. If He were only an
ordinary angel, regardless of His stature, he would
have refused the act of worship and corrected the
2. Moreover, in some of
the texts it seems impossible to distinguish between
the angel of the LORD and the LORD Himself (Gen.
16:7-13; 21:17; 22:17-18; 24:7, 40; 31:11-13; 48:16;
Ex. 3:2-10; Judges 6:12-14; 13:21-22). This unique
Angel seems to possess full authority and character
3. "The angel of the
LORD" speaks as God, identifies Himself with God,
and claims the prerogatives of God (Gen. 16:7-14;
21:17-21; 22:11-18; 31:11, 13; Ex. 3:2; Judges
2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Sam. 24:16; Zech.
1:12; 3:1; 12:8).
4. "The angel of the
LORD" was a divine person, and "He is to be regarded
as a kind of pre-incarnation of the Messiah." The
identity of "the angel of the LORD" with Yahweh is
fully established in Genesis 16:13. "Then she called
the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a
God who sees'; for she said, 'Have I even remained
alive here after seeing Him?'" The angel of the LORD
is not a created being, but the divine being
Himself. He is recognized as a superior being by the
writers of the Old Testament. This angel is of the
Godhead because He bears the titles belonging to
Deity alone--Yahweh and Elohim. Isaiah 42:8 reads,
"I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My
glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images."
5. The angel of the LORD
definitely identifies Himself with Yahweh in a
variety of circumstances. In Genesis 16:10,
"Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, 'I
will greatly multiply your descendants so that they
will be too many to count.'" This is no ordinary
messenger of God. He doesn't say, "God will." He
says, "I will greatly multiply your descendants."
Examine Genesis 18:19-21 and note who is speaking
and who is making the promises to Abraham. "The
angel of the LORD" in chapter seventeen is "God" in
chapter eighteen. The angel of the LORD is God
Himself. Sometimes He is called Yahweh and at other
times Yahweh's Messenger. Yahweh says, "I will send
My angel [or messenger]," but the Angel is clearly
said to be Yahweh Himself. The same person is in
view whether Yahweh says, "I will send my angel," or
"I will go."
6. The writers of the Old
Testament call Him Yahweh (LORD). In a time of
crisis the angel of the LORD visited Gideon to give
encouragement (Judges 6:11-24). It climaxes with
worship in verse 20-21, "The angel of God said to
him, 'Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay
them on this rock, and pour out the broth.' And he
did so. Then the angel of the Lord put out the end
of the staff that was in his hand and touched the
meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up
from the rock and consumed the meat and the
unleavened bread. Then the angel of the Lord
vanished from his sight." Note carefully what
happens next. "When Gideon saw that he was the angel
of the Lord, he said, 'Alas, O Lord God! For now I
have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.' The
Lord said to him, 'Peace to you, do not fear; you
shall not die.' Then Gideon built an altar there to
the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace. To this day
it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites" (vv.
22-24). You do not build altars to angels, and you
do not worship angels. That would break the first
7. The doctrine of the
Trinity of the Godhead is here implied. This
theophany is in perfect accordance with the earlier
foreshadowing. He is perfectly equal with God --
essentially one with God, yet a distinct person from
Yahweh (Genesis 16:10; 17:20). Judges 2:1-2 has an
interesting observation about the exodus. "Now the
angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And
he said, 'I brought you up out of Egypt and led you
into the land which I have sworn to your fathers;
and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with
you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with
the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down
their altars.' But you have not obeyed Me; what is
this you have done?" Here "the angel of the LORD" is
God in His self-manifestation. This is similar to
His dealings with Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. He
speaks with authority as though He were God Himself.
Only the Logos, or some other manifest
personification of God, would be able to do that. He
is an "angel" only by function or responsibilities
meaning He is one with the Godhead who serves as
messenger or revealer. In His person He is ever the
manifestation of God (John 1:18). This Angel is
Deity. He is of the Godhead.
8. Godly men recognize
this angel as God. The angel of the LORD reveals
Himself to people and they understand Him to be a
divine person (Genesis 16:13). In Judges 2:1-3;
6:14, 16 the angel of the LORD is referred to as the
LORD (Yahweh). The angel of the LORD uses the first
personal pronoun (vv. 1-3, 14, 16) in speaking as
God to Gideon. He performs the miracle and
disappears thus causing Gideon to recognize Him. The
only reasonable conclusion is that this was a true
theophany. This "angel" uses the first person
references while speaking in behalf of God. He is
God Himself, more specifically the Second Person of
the Godhead, here in theophany (cf. Gen. 18:1-21;
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
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
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
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
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).
16:7-13 The Angel of the LORD
Christ in the Old Testament