Who is the “Angel of the LORD”?

The “Angel of the LORD” appears 12 times in the Tanakh.

This Angel appears many times with instruction, encouragement, correction, and guidance to chosen individuals, primarily those who have been given an important task.

At first we might assume this Angel is an ordinary messenger of G–d who comes with heavenly instructions, but when we consider more closely the reactions of the individuals this Angel visits, they don’t quite match up with those of others who received angelic encounters. Those to whom the Angel of the LORD was sent reacted with great awe and fear, worrying that they might not live after their encounters with Him, and claiming they had “met G–d face to face.”

Does G–d take on physical form and speak with human beings face to face? Or is the “Angel of the LORD” just a regular angel on assignment? Let’s examine these cases and see if common themes make the “Angel of the LORD” different from the rest.

What is an Angel?

The Tanakh describes angels as “messengers”—heavenly beings sent to share messages from G–d to humankind. Angels were created to obey G–d and carry out His will.

Psalm 103:20–21

Bless the LORD, ye his angels, 

that excel in strength, that do his commandments, 

hearkening unto the voice of his word. 

Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; 

ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

But the reactions of those who encountered the “Angel of LORD” weren’t “normal” reactions to magnificent angels, whether they be of lower or higher rank (such as Gabriel in Luke 1:11 & 19). Rather, each person responded with one common thought: I have seen theLORD.

Here are eight times the Angel of the LORD appeared to different people in the Tanakh:

  1. Genesis 16:7–14: The Angel finds Hagar near a spring in the desert after she has run from her mistress Sarai. He tells her to go back. After her encounter, she calls on the name of the LORD she has met: “Thou G–d seest me.”
  2. Genesis 22:11–15: Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to G–d, but the Angel of the LORD appears to him, provides a ram in Isaac’s stead, and refers to Himself as G–d.
  3. Exodus 3:2–4: Moses stands before the burning bush in Mt. Sinai, and the Angel of the LORD appears to him in a flame (in Verse 2). In Verse 4 it says, “G–d called unto him out of the midst of the bush.”
  4. Numbers 22:22–38: The “prophet” Balaam is met by the Angel of the LORD on the road. The Angel tells him to go back and only speak the words He (the Angel) speaks to him. In Verse 38, Balaam says, “The word that G–d putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.”
  5. Judges 2:1–3: The Angel of the LORD appears to Israel and refers to Himself as the One who brought them out of Egypt and made a covenant with them.
  6. Judges 6:11–23: The Angel of the LORD appears to Gideon with words of courage. In Verse 22, after the Angel of the LORD consumes the offering Gideon brought Him, Gideon fears for his life because he has “seen an Angel of the LORD face to face.” We then read that “the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” (Judges 6:23).
  7. Judges 13:3–22: Manoah and his wife are visited by the Angel of the LORD, for whom Manoah wishes to prepare a goat. As the flame of the burnt offering goes up toward heaven from the altar, the Angel of the LORD ascends in the flame, causing Manoah to say to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen G–d.”
  8. Zechariah 1:12: In Zechariah, we see the Angel of the LORD pleading with the LORD to have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.

How do these encounters differ from those with regular angels?

In Daniel 9, we see that the prophet Daniel meets the angel Gabriel after 21 days of prayer and supplication. In contrast to the above examples, Daniel does not react as if he has met G–d.

Identical to G–d?

G–d tells Moses that the Angel He will send before Moses is so closely identified with Himself that He could say “my name is in him” (Exodus 23:20–21). It was the same for Jacob, who identified the Angel who redeemed him with G–d Himself (Genesis 48:15–16).

The Angel that led the people of Israel was called “the Angel of His presence” (Isaiah 63:9). Not only is He one with God in name, honour, redemption, and presence, but also He is one with Him in power (Genesis 18:14). He is someone who, like God, can forgive sins (Zechariah 3:1–4) and He even receives worship (Judges 6:11–16).

Perplexingly, too, the Angel has a human form, to the extent that He can be wrestled with, yet He can give divine blessings (Genesis 32:24–32). He could stand and talk with Abraham in Genesis 18.

Then Malachi, the last prophet of the Tanakh, tells us that this Angel of the Covenant is going to come in the future to judge, but also to purify, Israel (Malachi 3:1–4). He will come once more in human form and do the work of the Messiah for Israel.

G–d Taking on Human Form?

Could this Angel of the LORD be Yeshua, who took a human nature, in union with His divine nature, to deliver the ultimate message of G–d to the world? Could Yeshua be the Angel of the Covenant that Malachi predicted would come?

John 1:1 and 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G–d, and the Word was G–d . . . and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.

Yeshua Himself was with G–d from the beginning, appearing throughout the history of Israel till He permanently took a human nature and dwelt among us to deliver the ultimate message—salvation and reconciliation unto G–d.

When the Son came to earth in human form, He spoke only what His Heavenly Father told Him to speak, for it was on His behalf that He appeared, just as the Angel of the LORD did (John 12:49).

In Hebrews 1:2–3, it says that G–d spoke to us through His Son, the express image of His person:

Hebrews 1:2–3

G–d, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high . . . .

We understand if this is confusing and might even seem unbelievable, but we suggest you search the Tanakh yourself to see if there is any truth to our comparison of these scriptures to Yeshua, who came in human form.

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