Is the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament an Appearance of Jesus? #216
Hello friends and happy Thursday to you – my apologies for the lateness of the podcast release today, as I mentioned on the announcement recorded on my iPhone, we took a short trip to Fresno and I left my equipment at home. Alas. Today’s episode will be short and hopefully sweet. Our Bible readings include Judges 13, Acts 17, Jeremiah 26 and Mark 12. Our focus passage is Judges 13, which is the beginning of the narrative of Samson – one of the most famous figures in the Old Testament. In this passage, the unnamed mother of Samson is working in a field, and she encounters an angel – apparently a very special angel. Let’s read the passage and then discuss our Bible mystery of the day.
There are many angels that appear in the Bible, and we’ve already discussed that there are at least two different ranks of angels, with archangels being somehow above regular angels. In the Old Testament, “THE Angel of the Lord” (emphasis on the definite article) seems to stand out above all the other angels. For one, as we see in Judges 6 (Gideon) and this chapter – the Angel of the Lord will accept worship and sacrifices from people, unlike regular angels (as seen in Revelation 22:9 when the angel there tells John that he is merely a fellow servant and should NOT be worshipped.) Further, the Old Testament seems to weave in and out in some places of using ‘Angel of the Lord’ and ‘Lord.’ Remembering that LORD is Yahweh) Consider Exodus 3:
3 Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. 3 So Moses thought, “I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up?” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
Who is speaking here from the Burning Bush? Is it the Angel of the Lord, as in vs. 2 or is it the Lord/Yahweh, as in vs. 4?? It would seem that, in this instance, the Angel of Yahweh is, in fact, Yahweh. This is also the conclusion that Hagar, servant of Sarai and Abraham reached in Genesis 16 after encountering the Angel of the Lord:
9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” 10 The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.”11 The angel of the Lord said to her, “You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction. 12 This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will settle near all his relatives.” 13 So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?”
As we have discussed before, it appears quite clearly that the Angel of the LORD is somehow God – in at least some of these passages. Could the Angel of the LORD be Jesus in a pre-incarnation form? I think that is possible. Possibly because The LORD/Yahweh has a conversation with the Angel of the LORD in Zechariah 1, but more because of the Angel of Yahweh’s answer to Manoah’s question here in Judges 13:
18 “Why do you ask my name,” the angel of the Lord asked him, “since it is beyond understanding?”19 Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered them on a rock to the Lord, who did something miraculous while Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 When the flame went up from the altar to the sky, the angel of the Lord went up in its flame. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown on the ground. 21 The angel of the Lord did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.22 “We’re certainly going to die,” he said to his wife, “because we have seen God!”
First notice that Manoah equated the Angel of Yahweh with God Himself. Perhaps more important, notice the answer to Manoah’s question. In the Hebrew, the answer of the Angel of Yahweh could be translated as ‘wonderful,’ as in, “why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” This is how both the ESV and the NASB (and others) translate this passage. This reminds me of the Isaiah description of Jesus, and His names in Isaiah 9:
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Most Bible translations render that passage as the CSB does – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty god, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Others, however, render it “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” With ‘Wonderful’ being its own name. Both Hebrew Words here – from Isaiah 9 and the Angel of Yahweh’s description of His name – come from the same Hebrew root word, and both can be translated as wonderful. Is this a clue that Jesus is the Angel of the Lord? The best we can say is maybe…but I do believe it is a pretty strong indicator – another definite maybe, as it were. Unfortunately, as Don Stewart will show us, we can’t be definitive:
Don Stewart at BlueletterBible.org:
The context must determine the identity of the angel of the LORD. If the angel of the LORD was, in some instances, Jesus Christ coming in a temporary body, then the term angel stresses the basic meaning of the word – one sent. God the Son was sent by God the Father. Therefore the word “angel” in that context would be referring to the office of the One sent-a messenger.
This is in keeping with nature of the mission of Jesus Christ – He is the one whom the Father has sent.
I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me (John 8:18).
If, however, it is one of the angelic host who is referred to as the angel of the LORD, then it is the nature of the being that is being stressed – one of the heavenly host, a created spirit-being.
On a number of occasions in the Old Testament when the angel of the LORD appeared, it seems to be the LORD Himself. The angel has attributes that belong to God and God alone. In addition, He is addressed as the LORD. If this be the case, then He is not a created being, but God Himself who took on angelic form. Though some have thought it to be God the Father, this would more likely be an instance of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, coming to earth for a short time in a human form.
Other times, however, the angel of the LORD is clearly distinguished from the LORD. On these occasions the angel must be a created being rather than God Himself.