Identifying the “Angel of the Lord”

Posted on July 6, 2019


By David Ettinger

Think Bigger
Genesis 16:7 reads: “The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert.”

Too often, believers tend to think simply in terms of a created angelic messenger such as Michael and Gabriel. However, it is important to think bigger! Most Bible scholars identify “the Angel of the LORD” as none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

“How can this be?” some often ask.

Whenever the Angel of the LORD is referred to in the Old Testament – there is no mention of Him following the birth of Christ – He is generally seen as both being God and yet distinct from Him. For instance, after the Angel assures Hagar, the runaway slave, that she will bear a son and have numerous descendants, she responds, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). Such recognition could only have come from divine inspiration.

Visits by the Angel of the LORD are peppered throughout the Old Testament; His visits frequent, His authority unquestionable. Because He is referred to as “God,” the Angel is believed to be what is called a “theophany” – a visible manifestation of God to human beings. The Angel of the Lord is Jesus Christ before “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). In other words, the Angel is the “pre-incarnate” Christ, appearing to humanity before He took on flesh and blood.

And guess what? Hagar is the first person the Bible records as having had the privilege of His company! The Angel could have first appeared to Adam. Or Enoch. Or Noah. Or Abraham. But He didn’t. Instead, the pre-incarnate Christ appeared to a humble, frightened, confused, and lonely Egyptian slave girl.


Multi-Facet Characteristics
In considering the many visitations of the Angel of the LORD, we can see in Him Christ’s inherent characteristics. For instance:

 • In Genesis 22:11-12, we see the Angel as the Savior, the one who prohibits Abraham from killing Isaac.

 • In Genesis 31:11-13, we see Him as Divine Ruler, appearing to Jacob and ordering him to leave Northwest Mesopotamia and return to Canaan.

• In Genesis 24:7, we see Him as the Great Fulfiller, assuring Abraham that He will find a wife for his son from among his own people.

• In Genesis 48:16, we see the Angel as the Great Deliverer, the One who rescued the 147-year-old Jacob from all harm.

• In Exodus 3:2-5, we see Him as the Glorious One who appeared to Moses in the burning bush.

 • In Numbers 22:22-35, we see the Angel as the Wrathful One who delivered judgment. He threatened to take sinful Balaam’s life if he disobeyed the will of God.

 • In Judges 6:11-23, we see the Angel as Divine King, commissioning weak-willed Gideon to become leader of Israel and to head up the battle against their oppressors.

 • In Judges 13:2-5, we see Him as the Great Messenger, the One who tells the parents of Samson that He has chosen the child for His very special purposes.

• In 2 Samuel 24:16, we see the Angel as the Great Warrior on the verge of destroying Jerusalem before God the Father stops Him.

• In Zechariah 1:12, we see Him as the Great Intercessor as He pleads to God the Father on Israel’s behalf to show mercy to Jerusalem. In Zechariah 3:1-2, He intercedes again, this time for the priest Joshua as Satan ruthlessly accuses him.

An “Active” Jesus
It is clear that Jesus was not simply “sitting on the sidelines” waiting for His opportunity to take on flesh and blood and enter into the realm of human history. Jesus has had an active role in the fate of humanity since the beginning of time.

How much of a role? Consider this extraordinary revelation from the book of Colossians: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (1:16).

In other words, Jesus is the Creator of the universe. As is God the Father (Genesis 1:1). As is the Holy Spirit (Psalm 33:6).

Very lofty stuff!

Now consider this. When Jesus first chose to reveal Himself to humanity, He did so in the barren desert to an Egyptian slave girl. To her, He showed Himself as the Great Comforter. The Angel of the Lord is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. The Savior. The Deliverer. The Glorious One. The Judge. The Ruler. The Intercessor. And to a humble, frightened slave girl fleeing for her life, Jesus appeared as the great and merciful Comforter!