Who is the ‘Angel of the Lord’?
Some say the Angel of the LORD in the Hebrew Scriptures is no different from other angels. But He is far different. In fact, He is God Himself.
He Speaks as God. “I will multiply thy seed” (Gen. 16:10); “I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen. 22:12); “And the angel of the LORD said unto him [Balaam],…I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me” (Num. 22:32).
He Is Identified as God. Genesis 16:11 says, “The angel of the LORD” spoke to Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid. “And she [Hagar] called the name of the LORD who spoke unto her, Thou God seest me” (v. 13, emphasis added).
However, the clearest proof of this special Being’s deity came when
Moses met the Angel of the LORD in “a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Ex. 3:2). Here the “angel” identified Himself unmistakably:
I am the God of thy 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 (3:6).
Thereafter in this encounter, the “angel” is called “the LORD” and reveals His covenant name: “I AM THAT I AM,” also known as Jehovah, Yahveh, or Yahweh.
He Accepts Worship. Under no circumstances is man to worship anyone or anything other than the true and living God (Ex. 20:3–5; Mt. 4:10). God’s angels reject worship. However, the Angel of the LORD accepts it, indicating He is God.
When Joshua met a man who identified Himself as the “captain of the host of the LORD,” Joshua “fell on his face to the earth, and did worship” (Josh. 5:14).
Balaam did likewise when he saw the Angel of the LORD (Num. 22:31). Samson’s father, Manoah, and his wife “fell on their faces to the ground” (Jud. 13:20); and Manoah told his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (Jud. 13:22).
Before the Incarnation.
The Scriptures are exceedingly clear that Jesus existed before His physical birth in the manger of Bethlehem. Sometimes He appeared on Earth for specific purposes. These unique appearances are called theophanies or Christophanies. Both refer to visible, preincarnate manifestations of Jesus, the Second Person of the triune God.
Creator. He actively formed the word “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). The apostle Paul called Jesus the “image of the invisible God” and said, “By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth” (Col. 1:15–16).
Eternal One. Jesus Himself declared His deity when He said,
“Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn. 8:58). And the prophet Micah announced that Israel’s Messiah would be the Eternal One Himself:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth [actions or activities] have been from of old, from everlasting [literally, “the days of timeless eternity”] (Mic. 5:2).
Jesus, the Eternal One who came to Earth to be born in Bethlehem, was involved in every aspect of creation and Israel’s history.
He was the One Jacob wrestled with and who changed Jacob’s name (Gen. 32:28).
Jacob told the Angel of the Lord, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Gen. 32:26). The Angel then changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen. 32:28), which means “he who strives with God” or “a prince of God.” Jacob then declared, “I have seen God face to face” (v. 30).
Living Word.John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus was, is, and forever will be the Living Word of God. Prior to God’s Word appearing in print, the definitive Word, who later became flesh (Jesus), often provided the necessary revelation through His appearance as the Angel of the Lord.