The Angel of the Lord

Very few people understand that Jesus is found throughout the Old Testament as “The Angel of the Lord”, “The Angel of Jehovah,” or “The Angel of His presence.” Although this concept is disputed by many, I believe that Jesus walked and worked throughout the Old Testament as the “Angel of the Lord.” Some great Bible teachers, including the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee and many others, also taught that “The Angel of the Lord” was the pre-incarnate Christ. Justin Martyr and other early church fathers believed and taught that Jesus was “The Angel of the Lord.”

Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the first president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and Dr. John F. Walvoord, who revised Dr. Chafer’s work, defined this concept of God.

Definition: “A theophany is a manifestation of God in visible and bodily form before the incarnation. Usually, the term theophany is limited to appearances of God in the form of man or angels, other phenomena such as the Shekinah glory not being considered a theophany. The theophanies are chiefly appearances of the Angel of Jehovah, who is clearly destined from angelic beings” (Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Volume V, pp 31-33).

We provide the following Scripture and comments.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2, NIV).

The apostle John states the following in His Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it” (John 1:1-5, NIV).

The apostle Paul penned these words about the role of Jesus. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:15-20, NIV).

The prophet Micah said that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and that His origins are from ancient times. Where was He in the Old Testament if He were from ancient times?  Surely, He was active; however, this is not clearly stated in the Bible. Could it be that He was functioning under a different name?

Isaiah gives us a summary statement of the role of “The Angel of the Lord.” “He said, ‘Surely, they are my people, children who will be true to me’; and so, he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy, he redeemed them; he lifted them up,” and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:8-9, NIV).

This verse seems to imply that the “angel of his presence” was different from other angels – He is probably “The Angel of the Lord” – one of the three persons of the Godhead. When God the Father is spoken of in the Old Testament, He is usually spoken of as Yahweh – He spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai as Yahweh. The Holy Spirit is also always identified in the Old Testament.

The following are some examples and support from the Old Testament. At the end of this summary, we will allow you to drill down to the Scripture of all references.

The “Angel of the Lord” appeared to Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, after she fled to the wilderness. “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ ‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,’ she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her. ’The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count’” Gen:16:7-10, NIV). “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seenthe One who sees me’” (Gen 16:13).

In the 13th chapter of Judges, we are told about “The Angel of the Lord’s” appearance to Samson’s mother before he was born, telling her that she would have a son. The “Angel of the Lord” instructed her husband, Manoah. So Manoah asked him, ‘When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?’ The angel of the Lord answered, ‘Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.” (Judg.13:12-14, NIV). “When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. ‘We are doomed to die!’ he said to his wife. ‘We have seen God!’” (Judg. 13:21-22), NIV).

Both references state that the “Angel of the Lord” is God, one of the three members of the Trinity. Which one is HE? We will try to answer this question with Scripture in the comments below.

“The Angel of the Lord” is referred to56times in 51 verses in the Old Testament. He is not named in some of the references. Let us look at some of these appearances. He met Abraham by the great trees of Mamre to announce the forthcoming birth of his son, Isaac (Gen. 18:1-15), and later, on Mount Moriah, as Abraham lifted his hand to slay Isaac as a sacrifice to God (Gen. 22:11-18), He restrained the hand of Abraham. He wrestled with Jacob and changed his name to Israel (Gen. 32:24-30). From a burning bush, He called Moses to lead His people out of bondage (Ex. 3:2), and then in a pillar of cloud during the day and fire at night (Ex. 13:21-22, Ex. 14:19), he led his people into the Promised Land. In the land of promise, He protected, comforted, and chastised His people as recorded in the following verses: (Judges 2:1-4, 5:23, 6:11-26, 13:3-21); ( 2 Kings 19:35) and (1 Chr. 21:12-30).

Note: these references are repeated with comments at the end of this article.

Now let us meet Jesus as the Great “I AM” as he appeared before Moses. “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So, Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up’” (Ex. 3:1-3, NIV). We have read this many times; however, we may not have realized that the Son of God may be speaking to Moses.

“The Angel of the Lord,” told Moses that he would go to Egypt and lead the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob out of bondage. God planned to use those people to build Israel’s great nation, home to His ambassadors to the Gentile Nations. God would make His covenants through this nation and bring forth the promised Messiah.

Moses asked the “Angel of the Lord,” who shall I say has sent me?  He replied, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am  sent me to you’’” (Ex. 3:14, NIV). 

During Jesus’ first advent, He walked as a man and preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and He met resistance from the Jewish leaders. Jesus said to them: “’Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’ ‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:56–59, NIV). As we read the gospel of John, Jesus referred to Himself seven times as “I am.”  He was the one who met Abraham and the one who told Moses that He was “I am who I am.

From my study of the Scriptures, I believe that they teach that the second member of the Godhead was very active throughout the Old Testament as He led and ministered to His beloved Israel.

List of some of the Key References in the Old Testament

Some of the references were given above. They are listed here for your use. Just click on the Scripture reference.

  1. Gen. 16:7-13 – A meeting with Hagar – the handmaiden of Sarah.
  2. Gen..18:1-33 – A conversation with Abraham (Angel of the Lord implied).
  3. Gen. 21:16-18  – A second meeting with Hagar.
  4. Gen.. 22:11-18 – His appearance as Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac.
  5. Gen. 22:15 – Promises Abraham many (Angel of the Lord implied).
  6. Gen. 32:24-32 – A man appeared to Jacob (Angel of the Lord implied).
  7. Gen. 24:7, 40 – Jehovah is pictured as sending “His angel.”
  8. Gen.32:24-29 – Jacob wrestled with a man. (Angel of the Lord implied).
  9. Gen. 48:15-16 – Jacob’s reference to the angel who redeemed him. (Angel of the Lord implied).
  10.  Ex. 3:2-14  – Appears to Moses from a burning bush. (See John 8:56-58, Acts 7:30-35).
  11. Ex. 14:19 – Protected and guided Israel in the wilderness. 
  12. Ex. 23:20 – Protected and guided Israel in the wilderness. Based on the above reference.
  13. Ex. 24:9-11 – Appearance to the elders of Israel (may be the Angel of the Lord).
  14. Ex.. 32:33-34 – Protected and guided Israel in the wilderness.
  15. Ex. 33:9-23 and Ex. 40:38 – cloudy pillar and fire by night (Angel of the Lord deducted).
  16. Num. 20:16 – Moses speaks of God sending an angel to lead them.
  17. Num. 22:22-35 – Confronts Balaam.
  18. Josh. 5:13-15 – Appearance to Joshua (probably the Angel of the Lord). Note: we are not to worship angels.
  19. Judges 2:1-4 – Announces Judgment on Israel (confirms that He led Israel in the wilderness).
  20. Judges 5:23 – Referenced in the song of Deborah and Barak.
  21. Judges 6:11-20 – Conversation with Gideon.
  22. Judges 13:3-21 – Conversation with Manoah and His Wife.
  23. 1 Chr. 21:11-20 – Came to destroy Jerusalem because David sinned.
  24. 1 Chr. 21:27-30Came to destroy Jerusalem because David sinned.
  25.  2 Kings 19:35 – Killed 185,000 Assyrians camped at the gate of Jerusalem.
  26.  Ps. 34:7 – Reference to the protection of the Angel of the Lord.
  27.  Ps. 35:5-6 – Reference to the protection of the Angel of the Lord.
  28.  Isa. 37: 33-36 – Reference to the killing of 185,000 Assyrians.
  29.  Isa. 63:9 – Key verse on role of the Angel of the Lord.
  30.  Dan. 3:25-28 – The fourth man in the fiery furnace . Probably the Angel of the Lord.
  31.  Dan. 10:5–9 – Appearance of a man to Daniel (May be Christ) – Compare to Rev.. 1:13-17 .
  32.  Zech. 1:11-17 – Appearance to Zechariah.
  33.  Zech. 3:1 – Confronts Satan and admonished Joshua the High Priest.
  34.  Zech. 12:8 – A reference to the Angel of the Lord in the same role as Christ will have at His Second Coming. They are the same person and the reference is to the battle of Armageddon.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version© NIV© 2011 by Zondervan Corporation.  Used by permission. All rights reserved. Used with permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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