The Angel of the LORD
There is a person in the Old Testament referred to as the Angel of the LORD or the Angel of God. Whenever this particular Angel appears to people throughout the Bible, they refer to him as God (Elohim), LORD (Yahweh), Lord (Adon), and a handful of other names for God. The Hebrew word for angel (malak) is also translated messenger about 50% of the time. Like, when “Jezebel sent a messenger (malak) to Elijah” to threaten him.¹ So I will use messenger instead of angel everywhere there is a reference to the Angel of the LORD, but all other angels I will still refer to as angels.
There are many times when God sends an angel to help or speak to someone, but God makes a clear distinction between the Messenger of the LORD, and all of the LORD’s angels. When an angel appears to someone in the bible, he never refers to himself as God, and an angel always speaks for God, not as God.² But when the Messenger of God speaks, he refers to himself as God, and he speaks in the first person. For example, the Messenger of God told Jacob, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.”³ If there was any one angel that could possibly be the Messenger of the LORD, it would probably be the angel Jesus refers to as “my angel.”⁴ But when the apostle John tried to bow down and worship him on two separate occasions, Jesus’ angel rebuked John saying, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you.”⁵ The Messenger of Yahweh on the other hand did not rebuke those who worshiped him, but encouraged it, speaking of his holiness.⁶
The Messenger of the LORD appeared in person to Abraham,⁷ Jacob,⁸ Moses,⁹ Balaam,¹⁰Joshua,¹¹ Manoa,¹² Gideon,¹³ the Israelites,¹⁴ and possibly Elijah¹⁵ and David.¹⁶ The Messenger of the LORD is also mentioned by Hagar,¹⁷ Hosea,¹⁸ Isaiah,¹⁹Zechariah,²⁰ Stephen,²¹ Elihu⁴⁹ and a woman from Tekoa.²² In every case except David and Elijah there is a reference to the Messenger of the LORD being God. Hagar called him, “the God Who Sees”. Hosea calls him “the LORD God of hosts,” and He told Moses to refer to him as the “I Am,” or “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”.²³
Not only is the Messenger of the Lord referred to as Yahweh, he is also referenced as being Jesus. For example, when Jacob had a vision at Bethel, the scripture refers to the man on top of the ladder, as the LORD (Yahweh).²⁴ But later when the Messenger of the LORD appeared to Jacob in a dream about Laban’s wages, he said, “I am the God of Bethel.”²⁵ So the one on the ladder is both the LORD (Yahweh) and the Messenger of the LORD. In the New Testament, Jesus said he was the one at the top of the ladder, which was also referred to as “the gate of heaven.”²⁶ Jesus told Nathanael, “you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”²⁷ Later Jesus declared, “I am the gate of the sheep”, and “No one comes to the Father except through me.”²⁸ It was undoubtedly later that Nathanael realized Jesus was saying, I am Yahweh, and I am the only way to enter heaven’s gate. So the one standing at the top of the ladder is referred to as the LORD (Yahweh), the Messenger of the LORD, and Jesus.
The Bible also interchanges these three names for the one who lead the Israelites in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. The first time the scripture mentions the pillar it says, “the Lord (Yahweh) went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire.”²⁹ But the next chapter says, “the Messenger of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.”³⁰The New Testament, implies that Jesus was the one in the cloud saying, “our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea… For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”³¹ Once again Yahweh, the Messenger of God, and Jesus are said to be the same person.
So, if Yahweh and the Messenger of God and Jesus can be the same person, where is God the Father in the Old Testament? One reference is Zechariah’s vision of the high priest Joshua. The scripture says, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Messenger of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD (Yahweh) said to Satan, The LORD (Yahweh) rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!”³² So the Messenger of Yahweh is also referred to as Yahweh, but he says may Yahweh rebuke you. He both is God, and he mediates on Joshua’s behalf to God. The New Testament says, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”³³ I believe this is an example of Jesus calling on God the Father to rebuke Satan, on Joshua’s behalf. Zechariah’s vision goes on to say, “And the Messenger said to those who were standing before him, Remove the filthy garments from him. And to him he said, Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”³⁴ So the Messenger of God took away the filth of Joshua’s sin. The New Testament says Jesus is the one who takes away the sin of the world and covers us with his righteousness.³⁵
Another reference to the Messenger of God mediating between man and God, is spoken by Elihu: “If there is a Messenger beside him, one mediator out of a thousand, to tell a person what constitutes his uprightness; and if God is gracious to him and says, ‘Spare him from going down to the place of corruption, I have found a ransom for him… he sees God’s face with rejoicing, and God restores to him his righteousness."⁴⁹ So after God listens to this mediator, he said a ransom was found, that can restore this man’s righteousness. And the scripture says Jesus is the only mediator and ransom that exists for the sins of men.⁵⁰ So here again Jesus is reffered to as a messenger who, I believe, is speaking with God the Father.
Another reference to God the father and Jesus is when the Messenger of God asked Manoa to prepare a burnt offering to Yahweh. The scripture says, “As the flames from the altar shot up toward the sky, the Messenger of the LORD ascended in the fire.”³⁶ This is surely symbolic of how Jesus would become a sin offering on our behalf to the Father.
Another reference to God the Father and Jesus is when Moses talked with God on the mountain. The scripture says, “The Lord (Yahweh) called to him out of the mountain.”³⁷ and said, “Behold, I send a Messenger before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.”³⁸ So Yahweh makes a distinction between himself and this Messenger who carries his name. After the Israelites made a golden calf, Moses returned to talk with God, and God said, “I will send a Messenger before you… but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”³⁹ And as Moses continued talking, God said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. And Moses said to him, If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.”⁴⁰ So Yahweh continues to speak of the Messenger of his presence as separate from himself. But when the first martyr Steven recounts this story, he said it was the Messenger of God who spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai.⁴¹
The scripture almost sounds confused, on the one hand Yahweh and the Messenger of God, are the same person, but on the other hand Yahweh talks about the Messenger of his presence as a different person? Isaiah helps clarify this when he says, “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD (Yahweh)… For he said, Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely. And 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; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.”⁴² Isaiah talks about Yahweh, the Messenger of his presence, and the Holy Spirit as three separate people, and yet the same God. It seems that part of the reason for the name changes is that God is three and yet also one. The scripture doesn’t always make clear distinctions as to which member of God is speaking. And I’m not sure our minds can fully comprehend a three in one God?
Although it can be mysterious which member of God is speaking, I see a consistency in the Messenger of God referring to Jesus. The scripture says no one has ever seen the Father, or heard his voice.⁴⁸ And the Holy Spirit is not spoken of as having a consistent form. In Genesis the Spirit is said to be hovering over the waters, and in the New Testament he descended in the form of a dove and later as tongues of fire.⁴³ But Adam and Eve walked and talked with the God in whose image they were formed.⁴⁴ The scripture says Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… all things were created through him and for him.”⁴⁵ So it’s logical to conclude that if we see God in the form of a man it would neither be the Father nor the Spirit, but the Son.
Messenger seems a fitting title for Jesus, who the New Testament refers to as the Word of God. Not only did Jesus personally explain the message of God, he is the message of God.⁴⁶ Jesus said, “the scriptures point to me”, and again “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”⁴⁷
In Summary, the Messenger of God is not an angel, but the LORD God himself. He both is God and is separate from God. In the Old Testament the Messenger is referenced as being Jesus, and in the New Testament Jesus made reference to himself being the Messenger of God. Jesus explained the message of God, he physically finished the message of God, he literally is the message of God, and I believe he is the Messenger of God.
① 1 Kings 19:2 ② Luke 1:19 / Hebrews 1:13-14 ③ Genesis 31:4–13 ④ Revelation 22:16 / Revelation 1:1 ⑤ Revelation 22:8–9 / Revelation 19:10 / Colossians 2:18 ⑥ Joshua 5:13-15 / Exodus 3:5 / Exodus 34:5–8 / Judges 13:20 ⑦ Genesis 22:11–12 / Genesis 18:1–22 / Genesis 22:15–18 / Genesis 17:1–6 ⑧Genesis 32:24–30 / Genesis 28:12–15 / Genesis 35:9–15 / Genesis 31:4–13 / Hosea 12:3–5 ⑨ Exodus 3:2–17 / Exodus 4:1 / Acts 7:30-41 / Exodus 24:9–12 ⑩ Numbers 22:31–35 / Numbers 23:4–5 ⑪ Joshua 5:13 ⑫ Judges 13:6 / Judges 13:17–23 ⑬ Judges 6:11–24 ⑭ Judges 2:1–5 / Exodus 24:9–10 ⑮ 2 Kings 1:3 / Daniel 7:13 ⑯ 1 Chronicles 21:15 ⑰ Genesis 16:10–13 / Genesis 21:17–19 ⑱ Hosea 12:3–5 ⑲ Isaiah 63:7–10 ⑳ Zechariah 3 ㉑ Acts 7:30-41 ㉒ 2 Samuel 14:20 ㉓ Exodus 3:2,13–15 / Hosea 12:3–5 / Genesis 16:7,13 ㉔ Genesis 28:13 ㉕ Genesis 31:11,13 ㉖ Genesis 28:17 ㉗ John 1:51 ㉘ John 10:7,9 / John 14:6 ㉙ Exodus 13:21 ㉚ Exodus 14:19 ㉛ 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ㉜ Zechariah 3:1-2 ㉝ 1 Timothy 2:5 ㉞ Zechariah 3:4 ㉟ John 1:29 / 2 Corinthians 5:21/ Romans 13:14 ㊱ Judges 13:20 ㊲ Exodus 19:3 ㊳ Exodus 23:20–21 ㊴ Exodus 33:2–3 ㊵ Exodus 33:14–15 ㊶ Acts 7:38 ㊷ Isaiah 63:7–10 ㊸ Genesis 1:2 / Matthew 3:16 / Acts 2:3 ㊹Genesis 1:27 / Genesis 3:8 ㊺ Colossians 1:15–16 / John 1:2-4 ㊻ John 1:1 / John 1:14 ㊼ John 5:39 / Matthew 5:17 ㊽ John 5:37 / John 6:46 / John 1:18 ㊾ Job 33:23–26 ㊿ (1 Timothy 2:5-6 / Matthew 20:28)
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