The Angel of the Lord /
The Angel of 'Yahweh'
In the Old Testament, at many important times, a very special angel appears called 'the angel of the Lord' or 'the angel of God'. This angel is specifically described as 'the angel' not 'an angel' so it appears to be an individual angel that is being talked about. This angel also only appears before Jesus was born and isn't in the Bible after Jesus came to earth. (Angels are always 'an angel' in the New Testament!)
Many Bible Scholars believe that this angel was Jesus interacting with people on earth before he was born. I also believe this (but I'm no Bible Scholar!). This is known as 'theophany' and comes from two Greek words: 'theo' meaning 'God' and 'phaino' which means 'to appear'. So it means 'God Appearing'.
This might seems a strange thing to say, but as angel means 'messenger' or 'envoy' it does make sense! Christians believe that Jesus, the Son of God, was God's messenger to the world, so it makes sense that he would have been a messenger throughout all of history. In the Bible, it certainly says that Jesus helped to create the earth and is vital to the earth 1.
15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
18 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.
In the Bible, many times angels bring messages from God. But 'the angel' often speaks as if it was God speaking directly: and certainly gives messages and promises in a more direct way and with more authority. The 'angel of the Lord' gives directions and messages at very important times in the Jewish religion.
When God tests the faith of Abraham, it's 'the angel' that speaks to Abraham and makes a great promise about his son Isaac 2.
1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,
7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time
16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,
17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,
18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
Before Abraham had his son Isaac, by his wife Sarah (or Sarai), he had another son with one of his servants called Hager (at this time Abrham's name was Abram). 'The angel' also spoke to Hagar, again making a promise 3.
1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar;
2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.v 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.
4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.
5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”
6 “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”
10 The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”
11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:“You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.
So Hagar thought it was God who has spoken to her!
When 'the angel' visited the parents of Samson to tell them of Samson's birth, they certainly thought that they had seen God, again suggesting that 'the angel' is God 4.
2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless.
3 The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son.
4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean,
5 because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name.
7 But he said to me, ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.’”
8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”
9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her.
10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He's here! The man who appeared to me the other day!”
11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the one who talked to my wife?” “I am,” he said.
12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?”
13 The angel of the LORD answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her.
14 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.”
15 Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”
16 The angel of the LORD replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the LORD.)
17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honour you when your word comes true?”
18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.”
19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the LORD. And the LORD did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched:
20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground.
21 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.
22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”
23 But his wife answered, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”
'The angel' is also identified as God when He spoke to a great Jewish leader called Moses and told him that he was going to lead the Jewish people (also then called the Israelites) 5.
1 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 desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
2 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.
3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.
10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
In this conversation, 'the angel' calls himself 'I AM'. In the Jewish religion, 'I AM' is the name for God, meaning that God has always been and still is in existence.
Later is his life, Moses lead the Israelites to freedom from slavery in Egypt. God sent 'his angel' to lead them and we are told that 'the angel' had the power to forgive sins. In the Jewish (and Christian) faiths, only God (and Jesus) has the power to forgive sins. God also says 'His name' (I AM) is in 'the angel'. Both of these are clues that 'the angel' is God 6.
20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.
21 Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.
22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.
23 My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.
24 Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.
25 Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you,
26 and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.
Christians believe that Jesus came to earth to forgive our sins and that Jesus is now in Heaven and continues to intercede to God the Father on our behalf 7.
1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Also, many times during His time of earth, Jesus referred to himself as 'I am' meaning that he was God 8.
48 [Jesus is speaking] I am the bread of life.
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
23 But he [Jesus] continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Here's another clue to the fact that Jesus is the 'the angel'! Christians believe that God is a trinity made up of the 'three persons', God the Father (Yahweh), Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So Jesus is God but is separate from 'God the Father'.
'The angel', although described as God in the Bible, converses with God the Father on more than one occasion, interceding on behalf of people on the earth 9.
12 Then the angel of the LORD said, “LORD Almighty [meaning God the Father], how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?”
1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.
2 The LORD [God the Father] said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
So both 'the angel' and God the Father were both there at the same time. If Jesus is 'the angel' we can say it was 'two persons' of the trinity talking to each other!
There are other roles that both Jesus and 'the angel' in the Bible.
Many of the early leaders of the Christian Church believed that Jesus was 'the angel'.
This can be quite a hard concept to understand (like many things to do with angels!). If you'd like to know more on this subject, I really recommend that you read the book 'Angels Among Us' by Ron Rhodes that's listed on the Further reading page. As this has an excellent chapter on the subject.