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The Angel of the Lord

Prof.M.M.Ninan

In Hebrew, the word for "angel" is malakh.. A malakh simply means messenger, it could be human, terrestial, alien, material or immaterial beings in other dimensions. Yet there is one malakh who stands out from all the rest. The Bible calls him, "The Angel of the Lord."

In the Talmud he is called Metatarsus, which derives from two Greek words meta and thronos, meaning "one who serves behind the throne of God." He is also known as the "Prince of the Countenance" because of the close relation between this angel and God Himself. The Angel of the Lord is one who is sent by God, the one who represents God Himself. The name of God is in him.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord appeared in human form.

 

1. Hagar :The God who Sees

Gen 16

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...

Hagar addresses the Angel of the Lord as God

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."

 Evidently Hagar spoke to the LORD and addressed him as "You are the God" Of course we can argue that it was only that aspect of God which sees. But we cannot perceive the entire aspects of God. That will be asking too much.

 

2. Abraham Intercedes with God

Gen 18

1. The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.

Three men

2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.……

  1. "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him. "There, in the tent," he said.

One of them was the LORD

10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.…

13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?'
14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."…..

17 Then the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?
18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.
19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."

20 Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."

Abraham intercedes with God

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.
23 Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?…..

26 The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
27 Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes,
28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?" "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it."…..

30 Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?" He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."…

  1. Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."

The Lord went away while the two Angels proceded to Sodom

33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

19:1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.

So out of the three men whom Abraham received one was the LORD himself. The other two were angels. But this angel was a localized angel, who was limited in space and had the form of a man.  The fact that God appeared to Abrahm is confirmed by Stephen before the Sanhedran:

"The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, "Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you."'" (Acts 7:2).

 

3. God who Stayed a Sacrifice

Gen 22

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."…..

Angel of the Lord identified himself as God

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…

Here the Angel of the Lord is in talking from the Heaven and speaks in first person as God and swears by his person. Was this angel delivering a message from God in the first person as a quotation? Was this Angel sent or was God immanent in Him?

 

4. God who wrestles with Man face to face.

Gen 32

Jacob wrestled with a man who turns out to be God

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
27 The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.
28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

Here again the wrestling man turns out to be God. At Peniel Jacob saw the face of God as a man.

This is confirmed by the prophet Hosea

Hosea 12

2 The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds.
3 In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God.
4 He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there--
5 the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown!

Hosea thus confirms that the Angel of the Lord who fought with Jacob was indeed God himself. Now how do we explain the fact Jacob overcame God? Remember that this was the night before Jacob was going to meet his brother Essau whom he tricked. Jacob still had a second chance to make the choice between right and wrong. To concede that he had tricked his brother. He was reluctant to do that. Finally the Angel of the Lord had to touch him and make him weakling. The next day we meet Jacob appearing before his brother Essau limping. Then he fell down and gave the honor due to his elder brother. Every one of us struggles with God. We still can make choices against God and prevail. But it will lead to disaster. God in his mercy may touch and make us limping just to humble ourselves to chose the right from the wrong.

The 'angel of the LORD' who visited the patriarchs was God Himself, not any creature masquerading as God. God himself authenticates it thus:

Ex. 6

2 God also said to Moses, "I am the LORD.
3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Yhvh I did not make myself known to them.

 

5. God who appeared in the Burning Bush

Ex 2

Moses meets the Angel of the Lord in the flames of fire and widentifies himself as 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.…

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.……

God gives a proof that Moses actually saw God

4:1 Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?"
2 Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied.
3 The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.
4 Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.
5 "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has appeared to you."
6 Then the LORD said, "Put your hand inside your cloak." So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow.
7 "Now put it back into your cloak," he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.
8 Then the LORD said, "If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second.
9 But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground."
9
Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."

Moses was speaking to the creator of man

11 The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go;

 

6. God who Presided over the Covenant Dinner

Ex. 24

9. Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up

They saw God

10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.

God of Israel has hands

11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.
12 The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction."

 

7. Moses sees the Back of God.

Ex 33

18 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."
19 And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."
21 Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.
22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.
23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."

 

8. Angel of God in the Pillar of Cloud

Ex 14

18 The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen."
19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them,

 

The Angel of the Lord was in the pillar of cloud guiding the Israelites through the wilderness. This Angel says "I am the Lord".

 

9. Joshua meets God

Joshua 5

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
15 The commander of the Lord's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

That the Commander of Yahweh's army is the Angel of the Lord who appeared to Moses in the burning bush becomes clear when He commands Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy"

In Revelation 22:8, the Apostle John "fell down to worship before the feet of the angel" who had shown him visions of things to come. But the angel refused to accept worship saying: "See that you do not do that, For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God" In accepting the worship of Joshua, the Angel declared himself as God.

10 Baalam sees the Angel of the Lord

Num 22

The Angel of the Lord appears to Balaam, a no Hebrew Prophet.

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.
22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.
23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road.
24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides.
25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again.
26 Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left.
27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff.
28
Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, ...

31 Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
32 The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.
33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."
34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back."
35 The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

 

11. Gideon meets the Lord

Judg. 6

Angel of the Lord Appears to Gideon

11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.
12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." …..

14 The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"….

  1. The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together."

Gideon asks for a sign

17 Gideon replied, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.
18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you." And the LORD said, "I will wait until you return."
19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.
20 The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth." And Gideon did so.
21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared.
22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!"
23 But the LORD said to him, "Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die."

 

12. Manoah meets God

Judg. 13

Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah and his wife

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.
 

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 honor you when your word comes true?"
18 He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding."

The Angel of the Lord proves himself to be the Lord

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:

  1. As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame.

Manoah and his wife worshipped the Angel of the Lord

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."

 

13. Elijah strengthened by the Angelof the Lord

1 Kin. 19

  1. Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.

…..

5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."
6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."
8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

 

14. Angel of the Lord destroys the Assyrian Army

2 Kings 19

  1. Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria.

35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp

 

15. Angel of the Lord selects the plot to build the Temple

I Chronicles 21:18

Then the angel of the LORD ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite

 

This later became the site of the temple of Solomon.

 

There is a dialectics in the Angel of the Lord. He is the Lord God, yet he is a distinct personality - distinct and comprehensible, visible, audible and in human form.  Look what Zachriah says:

"In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them." (Zechariah 12:8).

Could this be Jesus?

Zech 2:10 "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD.

And he did in the person of Jesus.

Jesus claimed to be the supreme malakh of God. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

Jesus claimed that "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58)

Abraham called the angel of the Lord as the judge of mankind; and in John 5:22 Jesus says, "The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son."

Since man cannot see his face of glory and live, he put on a face so that everyone can look, see and be saved.

 

Phill.2

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Finally Jesus presided over the New covenant ceremony just as he had presided over the Old Covenant Ceremony. Only this time he laid his hand on his disciples and comforted them.