El Shaddai: The Angel of the Lord
We have seen that El Shaddai is the person of the Godhead whom people can see and still live. In Genesis 18 He came to Abraham, looking like an ordinary man. El Shaddai also appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. These appearances should strengthen our faith in God’s love for us and in the deity of Jesus.
Hagar, Sarai’s maid, became pregnant by Abram (later called Abraham) and started to slight her mistress. So Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that Hagar could bear the situation no longer and fled. When she arrived at a water spring in the desert, the Angel of the Lord met her (Gen. 16:7).
Hagar was not surprised at the sight of the man who spoke to her, probably because His appearance was human in every way. The man instructed Hagar to return to Sarai (later called Sarah). Then He blessed her and told her she was carrying a son whose name would be Ishmael, and He prophesied Ishmael’s future.
Only then did Hagar understand that she stood before the Lord Himself: “Then she called the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’” (v. 13).
Hagar called El Shaddai by the name El Roi, “The God Who Sees,” a name that presents a vital characteristic of El Shaddai: His omniscience. He knows and sees everything. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. Our lives are an open book before Him.
Abraham encountered El Shaddai when the Lord tested the patriarch by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of Moriah. Confident that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17–19), Abraham bound his son on an altar and took the knife to slay him:
But the Angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:11–12).
The phrase you have not withheld your son…from Me indicates the Angel of the Lord was the One—the Lord Himself—who had commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
Also, in Exodus 23:20–23, the Angel of the Lord is none other than the Lord who walked before the people of Israel in the desert. The same is true in Exodus 13:21; 14:19, 24; 33:14–15; Numbers 22:22–35; Judges 2:1–5; 2 Samuel 24:16; Psalm 34:7; 35:1–6; Isaiah 52:12; Zechariah 1:11–12; 3:1–5; 12:8.
Now the Angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lᴏʀᴅ appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Jud. 6:11–12).
The security situation in those days was poor, and Gideon answered bitterly, “My lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” (v. 13).
In answer to this question, the Angel of the Lord revealed Himself as the Lord: “Have I not sent you? Surely I will be with you” (vv. 14, 16).
The word angel does not necessarily refer to a winged image. In most cases in the Old Testament, it describes a messenger. Had the guest appeared as an angel with wings, Gideon would have responded differently. However, Gideon saw a man, as any other man. To the best of his knowledge, he was speaking with an ordinary person. Only in verse 22, after he witnessed a miracle, did Gideon understand that he had seen the Lord face-to-face.
Manoah and Wife
The Angel of the Lord also appeared to the wife of Manoah and told her she would give birth to a son, a Nazirite to God from the womb, who would save Israel from the Philistines (Jud. 13:2–5).
Manoah’s wife then told her husband, saying she saw a “ Man of God” whose countenance was like “the Angel of God, very awesome.” Manoah prayed that the Man of God would return. He did. And this time Manoah met Him, too, as the Angel of the Lord guided the couple regarding the child to be born (Samson).
Then Manoah prepared a young goat for the visitor. When the animal was on the altar, the Angel of the Lord ascended to heaven. Manoah and his wife then understood they had spoken to no ordinary person; they had spoken to the Lord face-to-face and lived (v. 23).
They saw El Shaddai, the person of the Godhead whom humans are allowed to see. Clearly, the Angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself.
The Jewish prophet Isaiah made it clear to the children of Israel that their troubles hurt the Lord. Isaiah said the “Angel of His Presence” (Hebrew, “the Angel of His face”) had saved them, redeemed them, and carried them all the days of old:
For He said, “Surely they are My people, children who will not lie.” So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old (Isa. 63:8–9).
The question is, “Who is the Angel of His Presence?”
The answer is found in Exodus 33:14–15. Moses implored the Lord to accompany him in the desert and help him guide the people of Israel. The Lord declared, “My Presence [Hebrew, “face”] will go with you, and I will give you rest” (v. 14).
Moses answered, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (v. 15). Exodus 13:21 says that it was the Lord who walked before the people of Israel in the desert. Hence, the Angel of the Lord’s Presence is El Shaddai, the godly entity whom men are allowed to see. When we see Him, we see the Lord. (See John 14:6–14.)
Why would God allow mere mortals to see El Shaddai?
Because of His love for us! God created humanity because He is a loving God. And love expresses itself in a desire to give and bestow. El Shaddai’s closeness to us is an expression of His love, as was His self-sacrifice at Calvary so that we might have everlasting life.