Who Was the Angel of the Lord?

He can be identified with the preincarnate Son of God, before he became a human at his birth. But where those verses? And can all of the verses describing an angelic visitation refer to Jesus?

Let’s start with a basic definition and description, as noted in the other posts.


(a) Are messengers;

(b) Are created spirit beings;

(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);

(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).

(e) Have moral judgment;

(f) Have a certain measure of free will;

(g) Have high intelligence;

(h) Do not have physical bodies;

(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans

(j) They have the emotion of joy.

However, sometimes the messenger of the LORD was referred to as LORD or God, and in many cases this means he was the preincarnate Son of God. H goes way beyond a mere messenger, though that was his function when he visited people.

With those basics, let’s get started with the Bible study.

If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com.

The angel of the Lord, who will be identified as the preincarnate Son of God in this study, appeared to these people.

1.. Hagar

In Gen. 16:17, her mistress Sarah mistreated her, so she fled. In her extreme discouragement, the angel of the Lord met her and told her to go back. She complied. Then she took stock of what she just experienced and said:  “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.’” It was the LORD who visited her, and this is the key concept to determine whether the angel was a mere messenger or the LORD, who manifested himself in the person of the Son of God.

However, in Gen. 21:17, an angel of God visited Hagar again in her moment of extreme discouragement, and nothing is said about the angel’s divinity on the same level as the previous visitation, so this passage indicates that the divine visitor was not the pre-incarnate Son of God.

2.. Abraham

In Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22:11-15), the angel of the LORD called out to him, just as the patriarch was about to plunge the knife into his son. Then the Angel of the LORD made this revealing statement as to his identity: “’I swear by myself, declares the Lord’” …. This means that he was no ordinary angel, but the pre-incarnate Son of God.

3.. Jacob

Gen. 31:11-13 says that Jacob was about to experience a miracle of prosperity, his livestock. Then an angel of the God appeared to him and said “I am the God of Bethel,” where Jacob dreamed about a ladder and angels ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:10-17). In that passage the LORD called out from heaven, apparently without a manifestation of him in angelic form. However, here at his father-in-law’s estate, the angel of God did and called himself “God.” So this refers to the pre-incarnate Son of God.

Hos. 12:4-5 reads: “He [Jacob] struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there—the Lord God Almighty, the Lord is his name!” (See Gen. 32:30). Clearly this refers to the preincarnate Son of God.

4.. Moses

In Exod. 3:1-4, Moses is getting his calling to deliver the ancient Israelites from their oppression in Egypt. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in the burning bush, and v. 4 says “God called out to him from within the bush.”

5.. Israelites during the Exodus

In Ex. 14:24 the Israelites are fleeing the Egyptians and are about to enter the Red Sea. The angel of the LORD was in the pillar of cloud by day. And then the identity of the angel is further revealed: “The LORD look down from the pillar.” So he was the pre-incarnate Son of God, because the Old Testament is able to distinguish between him and an ordinary angel, like Michael.

6.. Balaam

In Num. 22:22-36, Balaam was riding his donkey to curse the people of Israel, but the angel of the LORD blocked the various routes. When Balaam finally had his eyes opened and saw him, he bowed low and fell face down. This is one hint that the angel was the preincarnate Son of God because he did not ask Balaam to get up, but accepted his worship.

7.. Joshua

In Judg. 2:1-4, Joshua and the Israelites offered sacrifices to the LORD while the angel of the LORD was still present. Only God accepts sacrifices.

8.. Gideon

Judg. 6:11-23 teaches that the angel of the LORD appeared and said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior!” This is more than just a message from the throne of God, though it was that. It can be interpreted as saying that the LORD as the angel is with him right then. So this angel is the pre-incarnate Son of God. But it is possible to interpret the passage as the messenger being an angel.

9.. Samson’s parents

In Judg. 13:21-22, the angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah and his wife, parents of Samson. Manoah asked this question and got this reply: Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true? He replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.’” Then the angel accepted their offering, an act of worship. Only God can accept worship.


What are we make of these Scriptures?

First, certain modern interpreters like to “demythologize” (strip away because they are myths) the biblical accounts of angels. But the demythologizers have arrived too late for Bible believers. Many of us have seen them. Those biblical accounts are not myths, but are authoritative and infallible.

Second, the Son of God is not an angel, for he created them (John 1:1-4), but he did serve as a messenger in his preincarnate state. That’s what these stories teach us.

Third, the OT is able to distinguish between the pre-incarnate Son of God and ordinary angels.

Here are some verses that mention the latter group: 1 Kings 13:18; 2 Chron. 32:21 (cf. 2 Kings 19:35); Dan. 3:28 and Dan. 6:23; Zech. 1:9, Zech. 1:13-14; Zech. 2:2-7; Zech. 4:1-5; Zech. 5:5-10; Zech. 6:4-5). So not all angels are the preincarnate Son of God.

Fourth, in the above passages, people called the angel of the Lord “God” or “LORD,” (the sacred, four-letter name of God), or they worshiped him, and the angel accepted the titles and worship, and did not correct the people. Often the inspired author of a biblical book also called the angel “God” or “LORD.”

How does this post help me grow in Christ?

You have just come to know Jesus better. He was active in the lives of his people before he was born as a baby and laid in a manger. Knowing the Bible better also enables you to understand who God is. It is edifying and comforting to know that Jesus is not some human messenger or a man-made messiah or even just an angel. Now when he was incarnated (became flesh) at Bethlehem, his redemption could save sinful humanity because he was God in the flesh. His redemption meant the world for us—literally the world.

Please worship Jesus and the Father in your Bible study and church service. You have every biblical right to do this.


Bible Basics about Angels

Angels: Questions and Answers

Angels: Their Duties and Missions

Angels: Their Names and Ranks and Heavenly Existence

Angels: Their Origins, Abilities, and Nature

Who Was the Angel of the Lord?


Works Cited

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