Understanding a strange figure in the OT

Well, I’m apparently blogging around once every 2 weeks now, and original content is few and far between…so I’m basically going to share whatever stuff I do have running around in my sleep-deprived and aching head.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been really digging into eschatology; reading some great stuff and listening to a whole bunch of sermons/lectures from multiple camps (i.e. learning about positions from their strong proponents, not detractors).  I’ve also been slowly assembling a sermon that I’m going to preach somewhere soon, and the other night I got totally caught staying up way too late and scouring my bible to try to gain more insight into something.  I’ve been working slowly through Zechariah 1, spending some time in 1:7-17 and the other night I decided to dig through what the OT teaches about the angel of the Lord.

Before Zechariah 1, which is the second last appearance of the angel of the Lord in the OT (the last appearance is in Zechariah 3), the angel of the Lord appears 11 other times, and as I examined all his appearances in the Old Testament I noticed a whole load of strange details when he appears:

  1. In Genesis 16 the angel of the Lord consoles Hagar in the wilderness, gives her a prophecy about Ishmael, and in response “she called the name of the LORD (Hbr. YHWH) who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing'” and said “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (16:13)
  2. In Genesis 22 the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, he said “…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (22:12).
  3. In Exodus 3 where 3:2 says that the angel of the Lord was the one that appeared in the burning bush, but strangely then he says “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6).
  4. In Numbers 22 the angel of the Lord blocks the path of Balaam’s donkey three times and claims to be the source of Balaam’s upcoming prophecies, saying “speak only the word that I tell you” (3:35).
  5. In Judges 2 the angel of the Lord stood before Israel and said “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you,  and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done?  So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (2:1-3)
  6. In Judges 6 the angel of the Lord commissions Gideon (6:11-18) and then accepts and ignites his sacrifice (6:19-21), before Gideon realizes who it was that he was talking to (6:22-23).
  7. In Judges 13 the angel of the Lord prophesies the birth of Sampson (13:2-3), informs Manoah and his wife about how Sampson was to be a Nazarite (13:4-14), and then ascends in the flames of the sacrifice (13:20) that Manoah prepared for him (13:15).
  8. In 2 Samuel 24 (& 1 Chronicles 21) here the angel of the Lord brought the pestilence that killed 70,000 as punishment for David’s census (24:15)
  9. In 1 Kings 19 the angel of the Lord brought food to Elijah (19:5-7)
  10. In 2 Kings 1 the angel of the Lord spoke through Elijah (1:15-16).
  11. In 2 Kings 19 (& 2 Chron. 32 & Is. 37) the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian troops in a single evening (2 Kings 19:35 – my favorite verse in the bible).

Apparently this “angel” allows people to even refer to him as God (i.e. YHWH), refers to himself as God (i.e. YHWH), takes the credit for God’s covenants with the patriarchs, takes the credit for the exodus, accepts and even initiates worship of himself, and has the power to give and take life, produce offspring, and build one’s name among the nations.

If any other angel accepted worship it would be blasphemous, since other angels overtly refuse to accept worship (Rev. 22:8-9) and the scripture condemns the worship of angels (Col. 2:18).

If any other angel allowed people to address him as God, or claimed the works and covenants of God as his own, he would be blaspheming God and reveal himself to be a demon…

…so who is this “angel of the Lord”?

The list of options is pretty short.

It’s not Michael, the commander of the Lord’s angelic army, since he’s still a regular angel.

It’s not the angel Gabriel, since he’s named in scripture but is still a regular angel.

Both those angels are named, and in the passages where they’re named they sure don’t do anything like the “angel of the Lord” does”.

Who is the angel of the Lord?

The angel of the Lord is one other than the second person of the triune God; the one who is known in the New Testament as Jesus Christ.

The angel of the Lord is a theophany: a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.

In Zechariah 1:7-17, Zechariah see Jesus, the messiah, before he bears that name and title.  He sees Jesus back when he was known as “the angel of the Lord”.

So now, the next time you’re reading your Old Testament and see “the angel of the Lord”, you’ll know exactly who that strange character is!

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Trinitarian” Unger

16 thoughts on “Understanding a strange figure in the OT

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  2. In agreement with you…so many rich prophecies of Christ in the Scriptures…it’s like if someone would just take the time to read, I think the power of the OT pointing to Christ is so much strong self-evidentially than any traditional evidentialist argument could shore up…

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