The Mysterious Angel of the LORD
The universe and everything contained therein was created out of nothing (ex nihilo) by God as recorded in the opening chapter of the book of Genesis. The God of Israel is described in the Bible as a tri-une Being, e.g. God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son (Messiah). Both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are Spirit and cannot be observed unless they are manifested to us in the form of a theophany, i.e. the Holy Spirit appearing in the form of flaming tongues atop the heads of the disciples on Shavout (Pentecost) Acts 2:3 or the form of a dove at the Messiah’s micvah (baptism), Matt. 3:16. For this reason, the Apostle John wrote in his gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it, John 1:1-5
And the Word became 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… For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him, John 1:14, 16-18.
The Bible tells us that God the Son, the Messiah, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob manifested in the flesh. This is the mystery of the incarnation, prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, Is. 7:14; 9:6; Jer. 23:5. Sometimes God the Son manifested Himself (prior to His incarnation) to His creation in physical form as the Malak Adonai (מלאך יהוה) or the Angel [of] Jehovah.
In the writings of Jewish mysticism, specifically the Zohar, Metatron is a Sar (Princely Angel) who features prominently in Jewish esoteric literature. The name “Metatron” itself is a puzzle, being a Greek derived word meaning either meta-thronos, “beyond the throne,” metator, “guide,” or meta-tetra, “beyond the four [Angels of the Countenance],” (Dennis, 2010).
Reflecting the varied ways in which this personage appears in Jewish literature, Metatron has many other names and titles. Among the most common are Sar ha-Panim (Prince of the Countenance), Sar ha-Olam (Prince of the World), ha-Naar (the Youth), Marei de-Gadpei (Master of Wings), and Yahoel (a combination of YHWH (Jehovah) and EL (God) (Bauckham, 2008). In the Merkavah traditions (Karr, 1982), we learn that Metatron has twelve names, corresponding to the twelve tribes. This may account for the overlapping names and titles in the Metatron traditions (Sanh. 38b; Zohar I:21a).
References to “the” angel of the Lord disappear at the time of the writing of the New Testament. It is noteworthy that after the incarnation of the Messiah, we no longer see any references made to this mysterious, and seemingly godlike, angel.
When we look specifically into the Word of God, allowing the Bible to explain itself (Cooper, 2012), we discover the truth concerning this special Angel. The way this Being is described is different from any of the other angelic creatures we find in the Scriptures. The following is a list of the appearances of this angel according to the biblical record:
- As the Angel of the Lord to Hagar, Gen. 16:7-13.As the Angel of the Lord to Abraham and Isaac, Gen. 22:9-18.
- As the Angel of the Lord in the burning bush, Ex. 3:2-10.
- As the Angel of the Lord who brought God’s people out of Egypt, Nu. 20:16.
- As the Angel of the Lord who opposed Balaam, Num 22:22-35
- As the Angel of the Lord who brought God’s people to the Promised Land, Ju. 2:1-4.
- As the Angel of the Lord who cursed those who failed to help Israel, Ju. 5:23
- As the Angel of the Lord who raised up Gideon, Ju. 6:11-24.
- As the Angel of the Lord who raised up Samson, Ju. 13:13-22
- As the Angel of the Lord bringing judgment on Israel, II Sam. 24:15-17; I Chron. 21:12-27.
- As the Angel of the Lord who ministers to Elijah, I Kings 19:1-7, II Kings 1:3, 15.
- As the Angel of the Lord killing 185,000 troops in one night, II Kings 19:35; Is. 37:36.
- As the Angel of the Lord as the protector of God’s people, Ps. 34:7, 35:5-6.
- As the Angel of the Lord as the Word of the Lord, Zech. 1:7-17.
- As the Angel of the Lord defending against the accusations of Satan, Zech. 3:1-10.
When God devised a plan to restore fellowship with mankind through the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-37; Ez. 36:26-27; John 3:3, He first made atonement for the sin that was separating mankind from Him, Is. 59:1-2. Once that was accomplished, God could establish a Spirit to spirit relationship with the new creations He made us to be in Messiah, II Cor. 5:17-21. God’s Holy Spirit would take up residence inside our mortal bodies (in the inner man), bonding us together with Himself, John 17:20-23. He does this by connecting to our human spirit, part of the new creation we are in Christ. Thereby we can experience true worship with our Lord and Savior, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,” John 4:24 and true communion with Him. Something that is at the heart of God’s expressed will for those who place their faith in the risen Savior, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, I Thess. 5:16-18.
Whenever there is an encounter with God, it is always characterized by a need on God’s part to protect the ones who are experiencing Him within the context of an up close and personal meeting. Prior to the coming of the Messiah and the institution of the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-37, God would often appear in the Person of an angel. This angelic Being is referred to as “The Angel of the Lord.”
As we examine these encounters, we will be able to glean certain qualities and characteristics of this special angel. The first appearance of the Angel of the Lord takes place in the life of the patriarch Abraham.
Hagar and the Angel of the LORD
This special Angel is first seen when He tells Hagar, who was fleeing from her mistress Sarah’s harsh treatment, to go back and submit herself to Sarah. It is this Angel that tells Hagar her seed will be become extremely numerous and she should name her firstborn, Ishmael, e.g. “God has heard.” This was because Hagar had cried out to the Lord, because of her affliction, Gen. 16.11. Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees,” for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” Gen. 16:13
Hagar is so convinced that she has seen God that she calls the place of her discussion with this Angel Be’er-la-hai-roi or “the well of the Living One who sees me.” The next time we see the Angel of the Lord, He comes and comforts Hagar and her young son, Ishmael. He does this after she and the lad had been told to leave Abraham and Sarah after the birth of Isaac, Gen. 21:12-21.
Abraham and Isaac and the Angel of the LORD
The next time we see this Angel is when God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is the Angel of the Lord who stays Abraham’s hand when he raises it to sacrifice Isaac:
But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me,” Gen. 22:11-12.
So the actual text includes this “Angel” as speaking in the first Person as God, e.g., “you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Jacob and the Angel of the LORD
The ministry of this special angel continues with the descendants of Abraham through Isaac. Jacob, the one whom God chose to be the heir to the Abrahamic Covenant, Gen. 12:1-3, Gen. 15, Gen. 17, is desirous of the promises of God. So much so that Jacob goes the extra mile and purchases the birthright from his brother Esau, Gen. 25:33. A purchase that he did not really have to make since God had promised the Covenant promises to him by divine decree, Gen. 25:23.
The patriarch Jacob had more than one encounter with the God of his fathers. The second time God reveals Himself to Jacob, the Angel of the LORD appears to him in a dream and instructed Jacob concerning breeding the flocks he tended. Jacob explains:
Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family,’” Gen. 31:11-13.
This time the Angel of the LORD speaks to Jacob identifying himself as the God of Bethel. This is a direct reference to Gen. 28:12-15 where God appeared to Jacob in the “stairway to heaven” dream and restated the Abrahamic Covenant to him. These are the same covenant promises of God that his brother Esau despised, Gen. 25:34.
The next appearance in the biblical record does not explicitly identify the “man” whom Jacob wrestles with as the Angel of the LORD. That does not mean this encounter was with a mere human being. As we learn from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as the testimony of the author of the letter to the first century Jewish believers in Messiah Jesus, Heb. 13:2, some angels can appear to look like mere men:
And HaShem appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth, Gen. 18:1-2 JPS.
By the end this chapter, we clearly understand that one of these “men” is left standing with Abraham, and the other two depart for the city of Sodom:
And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before HaShem, Gen. 18:22 JPS.
It is established from the text that one of these three men, identified at the beginning of chapter eighteen, is God. He not only tells Abraham about his and Sarah’s future son (Isaac):
And He said: 'I will certainly return unto thee when the season cometh round; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.' And Sarah heard in the tent door, which was behind him, — Gen. 18:10 JPS.
He reveals His plans to judge Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain, Gen. 10:19; Deut. 29:23, to Abraham:
And HaShem said: 'Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing; Gen. 18:17 JPS.
Having learned from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that certain angels can look like men, and that God Himself can also appear in a similar form, we can better understand the story about Jacob and His wrestling match.
The supernatural nature of the actions of this man, coupled with Jacob’s description of “having seen God,” clearly ascribes deity to this wrestler:
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him. And he said: 'Let me go, for the day breaketh.' And he said: 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.' And he said unto him: 'What is thy name?' And be said: 'Jacob.' And he said: 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with G-d and with men, and hast prevailed.' And Jacob asked him, and said: 'Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.' And he said: 'Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?' And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'for I have seen G-d face to face, and my life is preserved,' Gen. 32:25-31 JPS
Moses and the Angel of the LORD
The next appearance of the Angel of the Lord happens when Moses is tending the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro:
Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!" And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Ex. 3:1-6 JPS.
God is now appearing to Moses as a “bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.” Note that verse six clearly identifies the One speaking as the God of Abraham, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”The theological term for this is a Theophany. It denotes the appearance of God to man in a visible form. There are several instances of the use of theophanies in the Bible. The cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that led the Israelites out of Egypt during the Exodus and protected them from the Egyptian army that was pursuing them, Ex. 14:19-20. This theophany continued to hover over the Tabernacle during the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel, Ps. 78:14.
Balaam and the Angel of the LORD
The next appearance of the Angel of the LORD happens when God confronts the false prophet Balaam. Balaam was paid by Israel’s enemy to curse God’s chosen people. When Balaam attempts to curse Israel, God Himself appears as the Angel of the LORD and forces him to bless Israel:
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. And G-d's anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of HaShem placed himself in the way for an adversary against him. --Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.-- And the ass saw the angel of HaShem standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field; and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way, Nu. 22:21-23 JPS.
We are told that Balaam was an evil counterfeit prophet, Num. 31:16. The Apostle Peter uses Balaam as an example of the archetypal false prophet, II Peter 2:15. It is interesting that Balaam is blind to the presence of the Angel of the LORD who is standing right in front of him, Num. 22:21-22. However, his donkey sees the Being and acknowledges the presence of the Angel of the LORD, Num. 22:23-27. It is only after God allows the donkey to speak to Balaam that God opens Balaam’s eyes and he finally acknowledges his sin, Num. 22:34.
It is fascinating to note that every living organism in God’s creation (with the exception of man) acknowledges His supreme authority. The animals obeyed the Lord and came to Noah’s ark when summoned, Gen. 7:2-4, 7-9. When Abraham was about to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord, he responds to Isaac’s query concerning the fact that they had not brought an animal sacrifice with them to Mount Moriah by answering him, “The Lord will provide himself a lamb for the burnt offering my son, Gen. 22:8 KJV. The Egyptian plague of Exodus 8:16-18 is one of dust becoming gnats or flies. Interestingly this plague is the first one that involves an act of special creation. Something the Egyptian priests could not counterfeit, Ex. 8:18 (* Note). God instructed stinging insects to fight on behalf of the Israelites, e.g. Exodus 23:28, Deuteronomy 7:20, and Joshua 24:12. God created a huge fish to swallow Jonah, Jonah 1:17, and God commanded ravens to bring food to Elijah, I Kings 17:2-6. In every case, God’s creatures will immediately obey the instructions of their Creator. Man, however, is not so inclined, Psalm 14:1-3; Rom. 1:18-23.
Gideon and the Angel of the LORD
The next appearance of this Angel takes place during a confrontation between the children of Israel and their enemies on their eastern border in the days of the Judges, Judges 6:3. The Angel of the LORD rebukes the people for their disobedience to His instructions to drive out all the people that inhabited the land of Canaan, Judges 2:1-5. When the Midianites, Amalekites, and other tribes on Israel’s Eastern border are invading God’s people, the Angel of the LORD appears to Gideon:
And the angel of HaShem appeared unto him, and said unto him: 'The HaShem is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.' And Gideon said unto him: 'Oh, my lord, if HaShem be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where are all His wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying: Did not HaShem bring us up from Egypt? but now HaShem hath cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian.' And HaShem turned towards him, and said: 'Go in this thy might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian; have not I sent thee?' And he said unto him: 'Oh, my lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.' And HaShem said unto him: 'Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man,' Judges 6:12-16 JPS
So Gideon is encouraged by this Angel. He even identifies this angel using the Hebrew equivalent for the covenantal name of God- LORD from Ex. 3:14. That word is Adonai and it is not only interchangeable with the Tetragrammaton, YHWH or Yahweh (from which we get the English transliteration Jehovah), but also it clearly indicates that the Person who holds this name is the Creator of the Universe. Adon, in Hebrew, means “lord,” however Adonai, used 439 times in the Bible, can be rendered either as “my Lord” (adon) or simply as “Lord” (Adonai). Thus, we find Exodus 15:17 translated:
You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance – In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established, Ex. 15:17.
Thou bringest them in, and plantest them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, the place, O HaShem, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, the sanctuary, O L-rd, which Thy hands have established, Ex. 15:17 JPS.
We should note that the JPS translators understood the word Adonai meant YHWH in the above referenced verse because it renders it “L-rd” in English. This is additional evidence that Adonai is synonymous with YHWH as it is given the special reverence by the Jewish translators that is reserved only for their Creator. Since Adonai (Lord = יְהוָה) and Yahweh (LORD = יהוה) are both typically translated as “Lord” in many modern Bibles, a suggestion, first made by William Tyndale in 1530, that Bible translators render Yahweh as “LORD” (all in capital letters or a smaller font capital “ORD” preceded by a larger font capital L, e.g. LORD) was adopted. So, “The LORD [Yahweh] appeared to him [Abraham]” (Genesis 18:1), and later Abraham speaks to the LORD saying, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord [Adonai], I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). These references clearly indicate that Jehovah or Yahweh is Adonai and that is why they are interchangeable.
Rabbinical Scholars have long placed the vowel points for Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) into the covenantal name of God (יְהוָה) from Ex. 3:14. There is an actual word in Hebrew for Lord and that word is Adonai (אֲדֹנָי). All Jewish students who are taught to read Hebrew are taught to say “Adonai” when they see the Hebrew word for Jehovah/Yahweh (YHWH = יהוה) with the vowels for Adonai placed under the Tetragrammaton YHWH (יְהוָה). In keeping with the rabbinical teaching, the Jewish tradition was introduced that one should not pronounce the covenantal name of God from Ex. 3:14, Jehovah/Yahweh, but should rather say Adonai instead. This truth is exemplified when both God the Father and His Messiah are speaking to one another in the opening verse of this messianic Psalm:
The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool,” in Ps. 110:1 (See note). *
The Messiah used this same verse to confront the religious leaders of His day concerning their narrow view that the Messiah was going to be a mere man from the tribe of Judah, Gen. 49:10. He asks them, “what do you think about the Messiah, Whose son is he,” Matt. 22:41-43? When they respond with the traditional answer, e.g. that the Messiah will be in the lineage of King David, Jesus then asks them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the (Holy) Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? This is a reference to Ps. 110:1. The Messiah points out to His critics that the inspired word of God indicates the promised Messiah will not only be a descendant of King David, but He will also be David’s God (Adonai). There are several instances from the writings of the Jewish sages that are in contrast to what modern anti-missionary rabbis say today concerning the subject of the deity of the Messiah. This indicates they understood that the Messiah would be more than a special person.
Here is a brief list of those examples.
Tal. Bab (Tract Aboth, p. 114)
And the Lord came down in a cloud… and His feet will stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives.
This is an obvious reference to Zech. 14:3-4; Rev. 19:11-21. Those who have placed their faith in the risen Savior will be supernaturally protected from the wrath of the Lamb, II Thess. 4:13-18; Is. 26:19-21; Ps. 27:5, 31:19-20.
Zohar (c. 2:44)
In the times of Messiah, Israel shall be one people to the Lord, and He shall make them one nation in the earth, and they shall rule above and below; as it is written, “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.” This is the King Messiah, of whom it is written, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.”
This is a clear reference to Dan. 7:13-14 that is the heavenly coronation of the King Messiah.
Then expositors explain these words, “Like a Son of Man,” as referring to King Messiah.
Another reference to Dan. 7:13-14.
R. Simon ben Jochai
When the King Messiah shall be revealed all the nations of the world shall be gathered to Him.
Another reference to Dan. 7:13-14.
Zohar (c. 2:44)
In the times of Messiah, Israel shall be one people to the Lord, and He shall make them one nation in the earth, and they shall rule above and believe; as it is written, “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven:” This is the King Messiah, of whom it is written, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.”
Another reference to Dan. 7:13-14.
The Midrash on Lam 1:16
‘What is the name of the Messiah? Rav Ava ben Kahanna said ‘Jehovah is his name and this is proved by, ‘this is his name… [quoting Jer 23:6].’
The context of Jer. 23:5 is a description of God’s Messiah, the Branch. This reference again indicates that David’s lineage is identified as family tree of the Messiah from a human perspective:
Behold the days come, saith the L-rd, that I will raise up unto David a righteous shoot (branch), and he shall reign as king and prosper, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel will dwell safely: And this is his name whereby he shall be called, HaShem our righteousness.
Even the pagan Sibylline Oracles when questioned about the messianic prophecies in the Tanakh spoke the truth concerning the King Messiah. The Sibylline Oracles are sometimes called the “pseudo-Sibylline Oracles” because the original Roman books were destroyed, partially in a fire in 83 BC and finally burned by order of the Roman General Flavius Stilicho, 365-408 AD. The remaining Sibylline Oracles range from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD and were spoken by Sibyls (priestesses) who uttered their allegedly divine revelations in a frenzied state. The Jewish Oracles have these startling comments recorded with regard to the following Messianic prophecy of the Messiah’s sufferings as foretold by the prophet Isaiah as well as this obvious reference to the Great White Throne Judgment, Rev. 20:11-15.
Sibylline Oracles (Erythrae)
Behold the King shall come through the ages, sent to be here in the flesh, and judge at the end of the world…Seated before Him are souls in the flesh for His judgment.
As is the case with the previous commentary of the Sibyls, these pagan prophetesses were asked about other messianic prophecies from the Tanakh. God, in His grace, allowed them to confirm the truth where His prophetic Word was concerned. It reminds us of the way God used the false prophet Balaam to speak the truth concerning God’s faithfulness to His people Israel. Here we have a series of references to the sufferings of the King Messiah from prophecies relating to His first coming as well as a Sibylline reference to the King Messiah’s resurrection.
Sibylline Oracles (BCE 117-184)
And they shall inflict on GOD blows with impure hands, and with polluted mouths they shall send forth polluted spittle, and He shall then absolutely give His holy back to stripes.
A clear reference to Isaiah 50:6 and 53:5. And with regard to the Messiah’s silence and his scourging, Isaiah 53:6-8 and his being struck down, Zech. 13:7.
Sibylline Oracles (BCE 117-184)
And being beaten He shall be silent lest anyone should know what the Word is, or whence it came, that it may speak with mortals; and He shall wear the crown of thorns.
Another clear reference to Isaiah 53:7-8 regarding the Messiah’s resurrection.
Sibylline Oracles (See Jewish Encyclopedia)
“And after sleeping three days, He shall put an end to the fate of death; and then releasing Himself from the dead, He shall come to light, first showing the “called ones” the beginning of the Resurrection.
In reference to Ps. 16:10 and 53:11-12.
Samson’s parents and the Angel of the LORD
The next appearance of this Angel of the Lord comes when he visits the parents of Samson, Manoah and his wife. The couple is told they will have a child and that they are to take a Nazarite Vow concerning him, Judges 13:3-5. When Manoah and his wife ask the name of this Angel, the following interaction is recorded for us in the Word of God:
And Manoah said unto the angel of HaShem: 'What is thy name, that when thy words come to pass we may do thee honour?' And the angel of HaShem said unto him: 'Wherefore askest thou after my name, seeing it is hidden?' So Manoah took the kid with the meal-offering, and offered it upon the rock unto HaShem; and the angel did wondrously, and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of HaShem ascended in the flame of the altar; and Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. But the angel of HaShem did no more appear to Manoah or to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of HaShem. And Manoah said unto his wife: 'We shall surely die, because we have seen G-d,' Judges 13:17-22 JPS.
It is very clear from the text that Manoah thinks he and his wife have seen God. He understands the seriousness of such an encounter and honestly believes they will not survive the encounter. As it true of these encounters, when the people involved claim to have seen God, there is not correction forthcoming from this Angel that is being identified as God. When the Apostle John mistakenly begins to worship an angel during his revelation, that angel corrects him: Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God,” Rev. 22:9.
The Angel of the Lord shows up to punish David’s disobedience for numbering the children of Israel, II Sam. 24:15-17. Following that, the next appearance of this Angel comes in the life of Elijah. This appearance is right after the Lord uses him to gain a great victory in Israel over the false worship of the pagan deity Baal, I Kings 18.
It is remarkable that immediately following Elijah’s great victory, and after his life is threatened by the wicked queen of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Jezebel, Elijah seems to fall into a depression. He ends up hiding in the wilderness and crying out to God to “take his life” from him when in the midst of these dyer circumstances that the Angel of the Lord appears to him:
And he looked, and, behold, there was at his head a cake baked on the hot stones, and a cruse of water. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of HaShem came again the second time, and touched him, and said: 'Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee,' I Kings 19:5-7 JPS.
We should note that the Angel does not reprove or rebuke this prophet. He ministers to Elijah’s immediate needs, and then prepares to answer Elijah’s prayer. He reminds Elijah that there are 7,000 other men of God in Israel who are faithful to the Lord. He then instructs Elijah concerning the final phase of his ministry, e.g. to find and train his replacement, Elisha, I Kings 19:15-22.
The Assyrian army and the Angel of the LORD
The next appearance of this special and unique being comes when the Assyrians, directed by their leader Sennacherib face the Israelites and their leader Hezekiah. Isaiah is the prophet of God at this time and he confronts Sennacherib via written letters. At this time, the Assyrians were the most powerful nation on the planet and their armies were considered invincible. As was common with those who were victorious over the armies of Israel, they actually believed that their victories proved that their gods were the most powerful of all the gods, including the God of the Israelites, II Kings 19:10-13. Nevertheless, Hezekiah and Isaiah continue to trust in the Lord and the power of His might. The Lord God of Israel sends the Angel of the Lord against the enemies of Israel:
Therefore thus saith HaShem concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come unto this city, nor shoot an arrow there, neither shall he come before it with shield, nor cast a mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and he shall not come unto this city, saith HaShem. For I will defend this city to save it, for Mine own sake, and for My servant David's sake.' And it came to pass that night, that the angel of HaShem went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh, II Kings 19:32-36 JPS.
The description of the Angel of the Lord fighting against and destroying 185,000-armed men is one of the most awesome military defeats in recorded history. While the Assyrians would not record this defeat, neither did the Egyptians when they suffered defeat during the Exodus, it remains a testimony to the power of God as the King of the Universe. Several Psalms exalt the Angel of the Lord, presenting him as encamping around those who reverence God, Psalm 34:7; chasing the enemies of God, Psalm 35:5; persecuting the wicked, Psalm 34:7; This Angel can forgive (take away) sins, Ex. 23:20-21. He is sent to comfort the prophet and encourage him about the future of God’s people Israel, Zech. 1:17, 2:1-13.
Joshua the High Priest and the Angel of the LORD
As we noted in the previous section, this Angel can forgive sin, Ex. 23:20-21. The Angel of the Lord plays a prominent part in the ministry and life Zechariah, 1:1-2:3. Zechariah receives a vision where the Angel of the Lord is a central figure. The vision has prophetic implications for the ministry of the coming Messiah that can be easily understood in the text:
And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of HaShem, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And HaShem said unto Satan: 'The HaShem rebuke thee, O Satan, yea, HaShem that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this man a brand plucked out of the fire?' Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spoke unto those that stood before him, saying: 'Take the filthy garments from off him.' And unto him he said: 'Behold, I cause thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with robes.' And I said: 'Let them set a fair miter upon his head.' So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments; and the angel of HaShem stood by, Zech. 3:1-5 JPS.
As noted earlier, the last appearance of “The” Angel of the Lord ends with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Never again does this particular Angel appear in Scripture. However, we must look to the authority of Scripture if we are to figure out the true identity of this Angel. During his appearances to Abraham, Gideon, Manoah, these older testament believers worshipped him. As noted previously, there is no rebuke or reproof from God concerning their worship of this angel. Moses, the author of the Torah, indicates that this angel has the power to forgive iniquity:
“Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him, Ex. 23:20-21.
These verses leave little doubt as to the true identity of this Angel. It should also be noted that the burning bush in Exodus chapter three is identified as the angel of the Lord (Malak Adonai):
Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the farthest end of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of G-d, unto Horeb. And the angel of HaShem appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said: 'I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.' And when HaShem saw that he turned aside to see, G-d called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said: 'Moses, Moses.' And he said: 'Here am I.' And He said: 'Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.' Moreover He said: 'I am the G-d of thy father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon G-d, Ex. 3:1-6 JPS.
So once again, this mysterious Being is described in the Word of God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There should be little doubt as to the true identity of this Being. In context, every appearance of this personage reflects the deity and authority of God. Many of the Older Testament believers acknowledged seeing God when they had been visited by this Angel. Most of the theophanies such as the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day and the burning bush are clear representations of Deity appearing in ordinary objects and circumstances, albeit supernatural in nature, i.e. an incendiary cloud that ignites when the sun sets or a bush on fire that is not consumed by the flames.
Once you have done a thorough biblical study concerning the Angel of the Lord, you can begin to see how glorious our Creator truly is. All of these manifestations are all the more extraordinary because of the way they foreshadow the life and ministry of the Messiah. The pillar of fire by night brought light to the Israelites, but it was darkness to the Egyptians, Ex. 14:19-20. This reminds us of an important spiritual truth concerning the gospel of Messiah Jesus:
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them, II Cor. 4:3-4.
We are told that the rock that provided water for the children of Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings was a theophany of the Messiah:
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ, I Cor. 10:1-4.
These great truths are all the more precious to those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus of Nazareth. The fidelity of God as manifested in the ministry of the Angel of the Lord can only serve to encourage and enlighten God’s adopted children. He is the One who gives Living Water, John 7:38, to those who place their faith in Him. He is the Living Manna, the Bread of life, John 6:35, the One who satisfies all of our spiritual hunger and thirst.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” Matt. 11:27-30.
God created everything that is seen and unseen. He originally created angels to serve Him and minister on His behalf. Prior to the incarnation, God would appeared to His creatures in various forms and spoke to them in a variety of ways, Heb. 1:1-2. The ministry of the Angel of the Lord, as did other theophanies of God, often foreshadowed God’s redemptive sacrifice seen in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus wanted to open the eyes of the religious leaders of His day, he said:
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me, John 5:39.
When we begin to understand that Jesus is the theme of the Word of God, being God’s Word incarnate, we then begin to fully understand how He has been ministering to His people all along, in every generation, making Himself known to Old and New Testament saints alike. Whether as the Passover Lamb, I Cor, 5:8, or the Rock that gave the Israelites water in the wilderness, I Cor. 10:4. The Holy Bible is always all about Messiah Jesus, whether in fulfillment the Priesthood of Melchizedek (whose very name means the King of Righteousness in Hebrew) who was also the King of Salem (peace or shalom in Hebrew) or being lifted up symbolically, John 12:32, as Moses lifted the bronze serpent, Num, 21:9. Jesus continues to use every means necessary to open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. He wants us to look up (to Him) and live. Those who understand God’s plan of redemption for a sick and suffering world can see Him in the theophanies of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the gospels of the Brit Chadasha (New Testament).
That is the lesson learned from all of these encounters with the Angel of the Lord. Each one finds this Angel interceding on their behalf in some special way. Whether it is the matriarch of the Arab nations, Hagar, the mother of Ishmael or Abraham and Sarah long past childbearing age, this Angel represents a loving God who is attentive and faithful to all who call upon Him in faith. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is willing to manifest Himself to all who sincerely seek Him. The Jewish Apostle to the Gentiles, Saul/Paul of Tarsus, explained it like this:
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory, I Tim. 3:16.
* Note: The third plague It is translated as lice in the King James Version and the New King James Version. Most others such as the New International Version, Young’s Literal Translation, the New American Standard Version, and the Jewish Publication Society translates this plague a gnats or small flies rather than lice. In either case, this plague is the second instance when God has used His creative power to create living organisms from dust or dirt. This reminds us of the creation of Adam, Gen. 2:7. Pharaoh’s magicians could not even counterfeit this plague the way they did with the plague of water turning into blood, Ex. 7:22 and the proliferation of frogs, Ex. 8:7.
* Note: With regard to the translation of Psalm 110:1. The position of some that the second word for Lord is adoni or adon (a word that is akin to the lord of the manor with no inference of deity ascribed to it) and not Adonai (a word that is synonymous with the covenantal name of God from Ex. 3:14, e.g. YHWH or Yahweh/Jehovah) is baseless.
All attempts to cloud the clear meaning of this verse by attempting to render it: “Jehovah says to my (David’s) lord” cannot be defended. First, King David is the lord (adon or adoni) of the nation of Israel. He has no one or lord over him except YHWH.
Secondly, the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), while not quoting this Psalm directly, does give us understanding of the way God’s name is rendered. The DSS render the use of the word ADNY, that is Adonai without the vowel points, would have substituted ADNY for YHWH. If the DSS authors would have translated Psalm 110:1 consistent with the way they substitute ADNY or Adonai for YHWH, they would translate this verse: “Adonai said to my (David’s) Adonai,” (NHB, 2012). In addition to this, students of Hebrew are always taught to substitute Adonai for YHWH or Yahweh/Jehovah when they read the Hebrew Scriptures or reciting from their prayer books (siddur in Hebrew). There is no chance that this is a scribal error concerning a misplaced vowel point in the Masoretic text as some anti-missionaries and cults believe.
Thirdly, the Septuagint renders the verse: YHWH says to my (David’s) Adonai. Clearly using the substitute title for YHWH or Yahweh/Jehovah rendered LORD in the English translations of the Older Testament (Tanakh in Hebrew).
Finally, this verse is referenced by Jesus of Nazareth in his attempt to broaden the understanding of his people as to the true identity of the Messiah, Matt. 22:42-44. The common belief in Judaism was that the King Messiah would be from the Tribe of Judah, Gen. 49:9-10, in the direct lineage of King David, Ps. 89:35-37. Hence, Messiah the Son of David (Moshiach ben David in Hebrew) was a common title ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth during his ministry. This is the reason for the Messiah’s enquiry of the Pharisees:
“What do you think about the Christ (Messiah)? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore, Matt. 22:41-46.
The context of the Psalm itself, the messianic nature of this prophetical Psalm, and the fact that is clearly reveals that God can manifest Himself as a plurality of Persons, and the deity that is ascribed to the coming King Messiah all give a powerful testimony concerning the tri-unity of God and the unique and exalted priesthood of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus of Nazareth.
[All Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible unless otherwise specified. The other translation used in this article is the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) according to the Masoretic text.]
Cooper, David (2012). The Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation. The Biblical Research Society. The Golden Rule is based on the principle that the Word of God is self-explanatory. That with the aid of the Holy Spirit and by comparing Scripture with Scripture, a born again child of God can understand the Bible. Dr. Cooper summarized his view of biblical hermeneutics as follows: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.”
Dennis, Geoff (2010). Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism. Retrieved on 5.31.11 from http://ejmmm2007.blogspot.com/2007/04/metatron-anomalous-angel-of-countenance.html.
Bauckham, Richard (2008). Jesus and the God of Israel. Paul’s Christology of Divine Identity. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 225.
Karr, Don (1982). Notes on the Study of Merkabah Mysticism and Hekhalot Literature in English with an appendix on Jewish Magic. Merkabah material and references can be found in shreds, often more provocative than telling, in the Talmud and other rabbinic writings. However, the major concentrated expression of merkabah mysticism is that cluster of writings which has come to be called the hekhalot (= HEAVENLY HALLS) literature, which is the focus of this paper. Retrieved on 6.28.11 from http://www.digital-brilliance.com/kab/karr/mmhie.pdf.
No Holes Barred (2012). Explaining Psalm 110:1 from the view of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved on 3.23.12 from http://nhbchristiantalk.webs.com/explainingpsalm1101.htm.