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Who was the Angel of the Lord?

Throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) in the law, writings and the prophets, we read about the ‘Angel of the Lord’ or sometimes a ‘Man’ or the ‘Captain of the army of the Lord’ who mysteriously appeared. Examples include meeting Hagar and promising her a child, appearing to Abraham by Mamre before he interceeded for Sodom, wrestling with Jacob, meeting Moses at the burning bush, appearing to Joshua with drawn sword, encouraging Gideon, explaining to Samson’s parents about the child they would bear, emerging to David between heaven and earth and walking in the fiery furnace with Daniel’s friends with a form like the Son of God. In some encounters the biblical characters were astounded that they had seen God and survived (Genesis 32:30; Judges 6:22-23; 13:22).

No Man Shall See Me and Live (Exodus 33:20)

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God hid him in the cleft of the rock and he couldn’t see God’s face since if he did he would die (Exodus 33:20).

Therefore, is the Angel of the Lord, Metatron (a representative ambassador speaking as though on behalf of God), or the angel Michael, or Messiah?

Just an Important Messenger?

The word for angel in Hebrew is transliterated ‘malakh’ meaning messenger. It is evident that the messenger has unique characterics. Jacob called the name of the place where he fought with God ‘Peniel’, since he had seen God face to face and his life was preserved (Genesis 32:30). The messenger also said that Jacob had struggled with God and man and prevailed (Genesis 32:28). Curiously he did not reveal his name, though he assured Jacob that his name would no longer be Jacob but Israel.

When the Angel of the Lord met Moses at the burning bush, the terms ‘the Angel of the Lord’ and ‘the Lord’ were used interchangably. Also, Moses was told to remove his sandals since the ground was holy, and he revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:1-6).

Before taking Jericho, the Captain of the army of the Lord appeared to Joshua with drawn sword. He instructed him to remove his sandals for the ground was holy and he received worship in some ways akin to his appearance to Moses (Joshua 5:13-15).

When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, like Joshua, he prepared him for battle. The terms ‘the Angel of the Lord’ and ‘the Lord’ were again used interchangeably and he reassured Gideon that he would not die (Judges 6:11-23).

When Manoah and his wife met the Angel of the Lord, he responded cryptically to their question about his identity, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful (Judges 13:18)?” The Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar like with Moses at the burning bush and Manoah’s wife assured him that though they had seen God they would not die (Judges 13:20-25).

When Daniel’s friends survived the fiery furnace, the fourth man was like the Son of God (Dan. 3:24-25) reminding us of Isaiah 43:2 and God’s presence.

Prophecy about the Son of God

Psalm 2:12 foretells Messiah’s triumph and kingdom: “Kiss the Son lest He be angry and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little, blessed are those who put their trust in Him.”

Agur wrote in Proverbs 30:4b, “Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?”

Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.”

Greater than the Angels

In the Brit Hadasha (New Testament) we read in Hebrews 1:1-13 that Yeshua (Jesus) is the express image of God and is so much better than the angels. The writer quotes Psalm 45:7 in support, “Therefore God, your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above your companions.”

Also compare how the angel Michael and the Lord Jesus responded differently in rebuking Satan. In Matthew 4:10, Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!” But in Jude 9, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!’” Furthermore, Yeshua received worship (John 20:28-29), though angels refuse worship (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).

The Angel of the Lord was Jesus the Messiah

The Angel of the Lord was Yeshua (Jesus), the Messiah in preincarnate form. He is Immanuel, meaning God with us. He is both the Jewish Messiah and the Saviour of the world.