The Angel of the Lord
A Study of Theophanies in the Scriptures
The Angel of the Lord (lit. Jehovah) oftentimes in the OT is equated with and yet distinct from Jehovah. The passage which may best describe their relation is Isaiah 63:8-9, wherein God is called Israel's Savior, but it is the Angel of His presence that saves Israel. This Angel of God was generally regarded by the early church Fathers as the Logos or Word of God (John 1:1), the one who declared God and whose glory we have beheld (John 1:14,18; cf John 12:45; 14:9; II Corinthians 4:4-6; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Hebrews 1:3). See E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, pp. 80-91, 1279-1312 for a thorough discussion of this issue. Below is a list of verses where this Angel/Logos appears:
Genesis 16:7-14; 21:17-19; 22:1-2,11-18; 31:11-13 with 28:13 & 35:1,3,7,15; 48:15-16
Exodus 3:1-6; 13:21-22 w/ 14:19 & Numbers 20:16; 23:20-23. Cf Acts 7:30-38
Numbers 22:21-35. Cf 22:9,20; 23:3-5,15-16; 24:2,4,16
Judges 2:1-5; 6:11-24; 13:2-23
Hosea 12:3-5. Cf Genesis 32:24-30
Zechariah 1:7-12: 2:3-5,8-11; 3:1-10; 12:8
Malachi 3:1 (messenger of the Covenant = angel of the covenant).
This Angel/Logos is primarily called the Angel of Jehovah (Malak Yahweh), but is also referred to as the Angel of God (Elohim), the Angel, my Angel and an Angel. Sometimes, however, these expressions are used of other figures (Exodus 32:34-33:4; Ecclesiastes 5:6; Malachi 2:7; 3:1 ‘my messenger’), and sometimes it is uncertain whether the Logos or a normal angel is intended (Genesis 24:7,40; Judges 5:23; II Samuel 24:16-17; I Kings 19:5-7; II Kings 1:3,15; 19:35; I Chronicles 21:11-30; II Chronicles 32:21; Psalm 34:7; 35:5-6; Isaiah 37:36; Daniel 6:22).
The logos also appeared in the Old Testament in various human forms (Genesis 18:1-19:22; 21:1 with 18:10; 32:24-30; Joshua 5:13-6:2; Ezekiel 1:25-2:4; 8:1-4; Daniel 3:25,28; 8:15-16; 10:5-9,16-11:1; 12:6-9; Zechariah 11:4-17; 13:7). The man who wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30) is specifically called "the Angel ... even Jehovah" in Hosea 12:3-5, the commander of the Lord's army (Joshua 5:14) is almost certainly the angel of Exodus 23:20-23 & Numbers 22:21-35, and probably all of the other figures are likewise to be equated with the Angel of the Lord.
There are also other theophanies, or manifestations of God, in the Old Testament. These are not associated with any particular angelic or human forms. See, for example:
Genesis 12:7; 17:1-22; 26:2,24; 28:13-17; 35:1,9
Exodus 19:3,8-25; 20:18-22; 24:1-2,9-18; 29:42-46; 31:18; 32:30-34:11; 34:29-35; 40:34-35
Numbers 1:1; 9:15-23; 11:16-17,24-25; 12:4-10; 14:10-14; 16:42; 20:6-7
Deuteronomy 1:30-33; 4:10-15,32-37; 5:4-5,22-27; 33:2; 34:10
Job 38:1; 42:5
Isaiah 6:1 with Jn 12:39-41
Ezekiel 1:1; 3:23-24; 9:3-4; 10:1-4,18-20; 11:22-23; 43:1-7; 44:4; 48:35
Again it would seem that in many, if not all, of these cases that God appeared in the form of His Angel. This is certainly the case in the theophany to Jacob at Bethel, for in Genesis 31:11-13 the Angel of God says that He is the God of Bethel to whom Jacob had made a vow in Genesis 28:18-22. It would also seem that the presence (lit. ‘face’) of Jehovah in Exodus 33:14-15 is another title for the Angel of Exodus 23:20-23, as both perform the same work of leading Israel into the promised land (cf Deuteronomy 4:37). Further evidence for this equation comes from the expression "Angel of His presence" (lit. ‘face’) in Isaiah 63:9. It seems to have been formed by conjoining the two names, and suggests that the inspired prophet equated "the face of Jehovah" with "the Angel in whom is the name of the Lord" (Exodus 23:21).
The scripture declares that no man has seen or can see God (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 5:37; I Timothy 6:16; I John 4:12,20), save, of course, for Jesus (John 6:46). Yet we have many appearances of God in the Old Testament as noted above, and the plain declaration of Jesus that he who has seen him has seen the Father (John 1:18; 12:45; 14:9). John 12:38-41 further expressly identifies God in Isaiah 6:1 with Jesus. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that Jesus, in his pre-incarnate form as the Word = Logos, also performed the work of revealing God to man in Old Testament times. The Logos manifested himself sometime in the form of the Angel, sometime as a human figure, sometime in nature (Exodus 13:21; 20:18-22), and sometimes in an unidentified form (e.g., Genesis 17:1,22; 35:9). Because the Logos is both with God and is God (John 1:1), it can be true both that men in the Old Testament saw God and that no man has seen the Father at any time. The only other things worthy of note are that Moses alone of all the prophets seems to have seen the Father Himself, though not literally face to face (Exodus 33:18-23; 34:5-7,29; Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 34:10); and in the age to come we will see God even as He is (Job 19:25-27; Psalm 11:7; 17:15; Matthew 5:8; I John 3:2; Revelation 22:4).
Special Study in Daniel
- The Angel/Word is manifested as:
- One like a son of the gods = His angel - 3:25,28; 6:22.
- The Prince (sar) of the Host - 8:11,25; cf Joshua 5:14.
- A holy one speaking - 8:13-14; cf 12:6-7.
- The appearance of a man = a man clothed in linen - 8:15-16; 10:5-9,16-19; 12:6-7; cf Ezekiel 9-10.
- Daniel's greater Lord - 10:17 (see C. 4 below).
- The Messiah -
- One like a son of man - 7:13-14.
- Prince (nagid) / Anointed - 9:24-25.
- Michael is manifested as:
- Part of the faithful Host of Heaven - 8:10-12.
- One of the chief Princes (sar) - 10:13.
- Israel's Prince (sar) - 10:21; 12:1; cf Jude 9 & Rev 12:7.
- Gabriel is manifested as:
- Part of the faithful Host of Heaven - 8:10-12.
- A holy one who questioned the Angel - 8:13-14; cf 12:6-7.
- The Angel of Interpretation - 7:16; 8:16-19; 9:21-22; 10:10-15,20-11:1; 12:8-9.
He delivered the revelations in 7:17-27; 8:19-26; 9:22-27; 11:2-12:4; 12:9-13.
- Daniel's lesser Lord - 10:16b-17,19b; 12:8.
- One of the angels by the river - 12:5-6.
- Note on spiritual warfare:
Israel's Prince, Michael, had been in battle with the Prince of Persia, in the first year of Darius the Mede (11:1). Gabriel was sent to "confirm and strengthen" Michael (11:1), in response to Daniel's prayer (see chapter 9, especially v. 23). His support, judging from 9:1 and 9:20-23, seemed primarily to be helping Daniel gain understanding of the vision, which in this case involved the delivery of a Messianic prophecy to mankind.
Gabriel then seems to have been left alone battling the Kings of Persia (10:13,21). Daniel had prayed for help in understanding another vision (10:1-3,12), but the Prince of Persia was preventing Gabriel from getting through to Daniel (10:12-13). So this time Michael came to the aid of Gabriel (10:13), freeing him up so that he could again give Daniel understanding of what will happen to his people in the latter days (10:14).
Two points of interest. First, what happens on earth (prayer) moves heavenly forces in the battle against principalities and powers, and they in turn minister to men (in the book of Daniel primarily through giving understanding of future events connected to the people of God and their Messiah). Second, Gabriel who is one of God's main warriors against the demonic forces, is also given the knowledge of their future power and ultimate destruction. This must have been great consolation to him as he prepared for future battle against God's enemies.
Special Study in Ezekiel
- The Angel/Word
- Visions of God - 1:1; cf 8:3; 11:24; 40:2.
- Glory of Jehovah - 3:23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18-20; 11:22-23; 43:1-7; 44:4.
- A likeness as the appearance of a man - 1:25-2:4; 8:1-4; 10:20.
- The Messiah (?) Prince (nasi) - 44:2-3, etc. (17 times in Ezekiel 44-48); cf 34:24 & 37:25.
Note that, the Glory of Jehovah and the being who looked like a man, are in fact the same figure. Compare 10:20 with 1:26-28.
- Two Important Figures
- The Man in White Linen - 9:2-4,6,11; 10:2-3,6-7.
- The man whose appearance was like bronze, who guided Ezekiel on the tour of the Temple - 40:3-4; 42:6; 44:1,4; 46:19-47:12.
- The four Living Creatures = Cherubim - 1:5-25; 10:1-22.
- The six destroying Angels - 9:1-7.
The Angel in the New Testament
There is no mention of the Angel of the Lord in the Gospels or the Epistles, and only one historical reference in the Acts (7:38). One must ask why such a prominent Old Testament figure suddenly disappeared in the New. The answer, of course, is that he did not. He just took on a different form. For in the New Covenant the Angel of the Lord has been incarnated as Jesus the Messiah. And all the attributes and work ascribed to the Angel are now found in Christ. Through both God performs his tasks of redemption, judgement and revelation. And are not the persons of both fairly summed up in the Hebrew writer's expression " the effulgence of His glory and the very image of His substance"?
The Angel/Logos, however, does reappear in the last book of the New Testament, and here is shown in his full glory (Revelation 1:10-4:1; 14:14-16(?); 19:11-21; 22:7,12-20). John clearly equates him with the figures in Ezekiel and Daniel who had the appearance of a man. He is further expressly designated as the Word of God (19:13), the Son of God (2:18), and as the one who was dead and is alive forevermore. If any further proof were needed that the Angel of the Lord is the Logos in pre-incarnate form, this should be sufficient. John's descriptions of the one "like unto a son of man" also makes it clear that the Angel is a divine person – for he, like the Father (1:8), is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (22:13).