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Old Testament Survey:
The Pre-Incarnate Christ / Angel of the Lord

by Dr. Steven C. Brown, D.D.


In this Section:


Some people believe the "Angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament is Christ, pre-incarnate, while others are at odds with this assumption. The Amplified Bible, Expanded Edition, explains references to "the Angel of the Lord" as follows:

    "The Angel of the Lord" or "of God," or "of His presence" is readily identified with the Lord God (Gen. 16:11, 13; 22:11, 12; 31:11, 13; Exod. 3:1 6 and other passages). But it is obvious that the Angel of the Lord is a distinct person in Himself from God the Father (Gen. 24:7; Exod. 23:20; Zech. 1:12, 13 and other passages). Nor does the "Angel of the Lord" appear again after Christ came in human form.

    He must of necessity be One of the three in one Godhead. The "Angel of the Lord" is the visible Lord God of the Old Testament, as Jesus Christ is of the New Testament. THE CAMBRIDGE BIBLE observes: "There is a fascinating forecast of the coming Messiah, breaking through the dimness with amazing consistency, at intervals from Genesis to Malachi, Abraham, Moses, the slave girl Hagar, the impoverished farmer Gideon, even to the humble parents of Samson, had seen and talked with Him centuries before the herald angels proclaimed His birth in Bethlehem."1

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Hagar and the Angel of the Lord
We see the first appearance of the "Angel of the Lord" in Genesis 16. Abram [Abraham] had been unable to father a son by his wife Sarai [Sarah], so Sarai suggested he try to have a child by her Egyptian maid, Hagar. After Hagar conceived, Sarai became jealous and treated her very poorly.

Hagar decided to run away, and she met the Angel of the Lord on a road leading to another town. The Angel comforted her and then sent her back to Abram and Sarai. The Angel advised that her child would have many descendants, but his life would be one of many hardships.

7"The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.
8And he said, 'Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?' She said, 'I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.'
9The angel of the LORD said to her, 'Return to your mistress and submit to her.'
10The angel of the LORD also said to her, 'I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.'
11And the angel of the LORD said to her, 'Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
12He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.'"
(Genesis 16:7-12 emphasis added)

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Abraham and Three Heavenly Visitors
In Genesis 18, three "guests" visited Abraham and his wife. The Amplified Bible, Extended Version, explains:

    One of the three guests was the Lord, and since God the Father was never seen in bodily form (John 1:18), only the "Angel of the covenant," Christ Himself, can be meant here...2

After the incident with Hagar, God changed Abram's name to Abraham and his wife's name from Sarai to Sarah, as we now know them. Sarah was still without child at this time, as both Abraham and Sarah were too old to conceive a child. However, God blessed them greatly and told Abraham he would father a child with Sarah, even in their old age.

Here in Chapter 18 "three men" (v. 2) visited him, one of whom the text tells us is the LORD (v. 1). The Bible does not tell us how Abraham knew one of the men was the Lord, only that He was. "And the LORD appeared to him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth." (Genesis 18:1-2 emphasis added)

After the two angels departed toward Sodom, the Lord [the Angel of the Lord] revealed to Abraham His plan to destroy Sodom and its neighboring town, Gomorrah. Abraham then began to intercede with the Lord on behalf of the righteous people living in Sodom.

23"Then Abraham drew near and said, 'Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?
25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?'
26And the LORD said, 'If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.'
27Abraham answered and said, 'Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.
28Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?' And he said, 'I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.'
29Again he spoke to him and said, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it.'
30Then he said, 'Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.' He answered, 'I will not do it, if I find thirty there.'
31He said, 'Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.' He answered, 'For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.'
32Then he said, 'Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.' He answered, 'For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.'
33And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place." (Genesis 18:23-33)

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Hagar Meets the Angel a Second Time
According to the narrative in Genesis 21:1 20, the Lord was true to His Word to Sarah, and she did become pregnant and bear a child to Abraham, even in her old age. They named him Isaac, which means "laughter".

Hagar, the Egyptian maid, also delivered a son whom she named Ishmael according to the word of the Lord in their first meeting. Ishmael was born a few years before Isaac; and when Isaac was weaned, Ishmael was seen mocking the boy. Sarah became very upset with this mocking, and had Abraham send Hagar and her son away.

Hagar and the boy wandered in the desert until they ran out of water, and Hagar was sure the boy would die. However, the Angel of the Lord heard Hagar's cries and spoke again with her in the wilderness. He saved Hagar and the boy's lives by miraculously providing a well of water.

The destinies of both Isaac and Ishmael were part of God's great plan, though they each played vastly different roles.

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Abraham, the Angel, and a Ram
One of the most powerful illustrations of a father's love for his son and the love of a man for his God is the one of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:7-18. God had requested of Abraham the very thing that He Himself would do centuries later in sacrificing His Son, Jesus Christ.

Notice that when Isaac asked where the lamb was for the offering, Abraham told him that God Himself would provide the lamb. This satisfied the curiosity of the young man, but Abraham's words were very prophetic — well beyond what he had possibly imagined them to mean, since God would literally provide the Lamb at a much later date.

The Angel of the Lord stayed the hand of Abraham, sparing the boy's life so he could fulfill his destiny in God's great plan. Abraham had proven his obedient love for the Lord. Then, the Lord provided a ram which Abraham and Isaac consequently used for the burnt offering.

"But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here am I.' He said, 'Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.' And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son." (Genesis 22:11-13 emphasis added)

    Throughout Scripture and time, God has been revealing Himself to mankind, sometimes in miraculous signs and wonders. Other times He has chosen to reveal His glory and power in more subtle, less visually spectacular ways. However He chooses to reveal Himself, we need to be ready to receive His Presence in our lives.

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The Angel of the Lord Selects a Bride for Isaac
In the narrative in Genesis 24:7 48, we see how important it was for Isaac to take a wife to accomplish what God had planned for him and his descendants. It was so important that God sent His Angel ahead with Abraham's servant to scout for a potential bride for Isaac. "Jehovah, the God of Heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, To your seed I will give this land: He shall send His Angel before you. And you shall take a wife to my son from there." (Genesis 24:7 MKJV emphasis added).

The servant believed Abraham and even asked the Lord to reveal to him the woman whom God had appointed for Isaac. "Let the young woman to whom I shall say, 'Please let down your jar that I may drink,' and who shall say, 'Drink, and I will water your camels' — let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master." (Genesis 24:14 emphasis added).

The Angel and Jacob's Flock
Genesis 31:1-13 tells us about the Angel of the Lord's involvement in Jacob's activities with his father-in-law, Laban. The Angel of the Lord spoke with him to give him specific instructions for the future. "Then the angel of God said to me in the dream . . . 'Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.'" (Genesis 31:11-13 emphasis added)

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Jacob Wrestles with the Angel
In Genesis 32:24-32, we read that "a man wrestled with Jacob" , the "man" being the Angel of God. Although Jacob did not lose the wrestling match, so to speak, God did afflict him with a physical impairment. God also changed Jacob's name to Israel.

24"And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.
25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
26Then he said, 'Let me go, for the day has broken.' But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
27And he said to him, 'What is your name?' And he said, 'Jacob.'
28Then he said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.'
29Then Jacob asked him, 'Please tell me your name.' But he said, 'Why is it that you ask my name?' And there he blessed him.
30So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, 'For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.'
31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
32Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh."
(Genesis 32:24-32 emphasis added)

Even though Jacob realized he had wrestled with, and had seen God face-to-face, he did not die. God, Himself, told Moses centuries later that no man could see His face and live. "'But,' he said, 'you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.' And the LORD said, 'Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.'" (Exodus 33:20-23)

There is no indication in Scripture that the fullness of the glory of God was manifest while Jacob wrestled with the "man". However, Jacob obviously saw or sensed something spectacular that caused him to exclaim, "I have seen God face to face." Obviously, Jacob did not wrestle with God the Father, but with the pre-incarnate second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

I imagine this same revelation was visible in Jesus during His earthly ministry. This explains how we might see the likeness or image of God and live. In considering this story and others about the Angel of the Lord, we must never lose sight of the fact that "all Scripture is given by inspiration" (2 Timothy 3:16), meaning that God Himself gave revelation to the writers so as to remove any doubts concerning the events and the pre-incarnate Christ.

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The Redeeming Angel and Jacob's Blessings
In Genesis 48, we read about Israel [Jacob] blessing his grandchildren, the children of Joseph. Joseph brought the two boys to his father and presented them according to their birth order. However, moved by the Holy Spirit of God, Israel crossed his hands and blessed the children according to God's desire, not their birth order.

"Then he blessed Joseph and said, 'May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm — may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.'" (Genesis 48:15-16 emphasis added)

Notice that Jacob [Israel] said the Angel had redeemed him continually from every evil. This can only be the Lord, for no one has the authority to forgive sins, except God. This was also a chief complaint that the religious leaders and rulers had against Jesus, since He claimed to be able to forgive people of their sins.

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Moses, the Angel, and the Burning Bush
The next recorded appearance of the Angel of the Lord came several hundred years later when God prepared to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt.

1"Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
2And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.
3And Moses said, 'I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.'
4When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here I am.'
5Then he said, 'Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.'
6And he said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God."
(Exodus 3:1-6 emphasis added)

After revealing His identity, He then told Moses His name. "God said to Moshe [Moses], 'Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be],' and added, 'Here is what to say to the people of Isra'el: "Ehyeh [I Am or I Will Be] has sent me to you."' God said further to Moshe, 'Say this to the people of Isra'el: "Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh () [Adonai], the God of your fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitz'chak and the God of Ya'akov, has sent me to you." This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.'" (Exodus 3:14-15 CJB)

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The Angel, the Cloud, and the Red Sea
As the Israelites began their journey through the wilderness, God faithfully provided a divine chaperone and protector, His Angel. He gave them light, while at the same time, causing darkness for the enemy that pursued them.

"Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night." (Exodus 14:19-20 emphasis added)

God further protected His children supernaturally, as He enabled them to pass through the sea on dry land, while drowning the Egyptians.

24"And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic,
25clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, "Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians."
26Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen."
27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the LORD threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea.
28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained.
29But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
30Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore."
(Exodus 14:24-30 emphasis added)

Notice, it was the Angel of God in verse 19 who stood between the Israelites and the pursuing Egyptians, providing light for the Israelites and darkness to the Egyptians; and in verse 24 we are told it was "the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud".

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The Angel Goes Before the Israelites
Scripture tells us in Exodus 23:20-25:

20"Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.
21Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.
22But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
23When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out,
24you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.
25You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you."
(emphasis added)

The importance, power, authority, and deity of the Angel of the Lord are vividly portrayed in this passage.

God, Himself, said, "My name is in Him." He told Moses to listen to and to obey this Angel, for He [the Angel] would not pardon the people's transgressions. This statement tells us clearly that the Angel was God because only God has the ability to pardon sins.

    Jesus' biggest obstacle or point of contention between Himself and the Jews during His brief time on earth was that He was able to forgive sins, for they rightly believed that no one could forgive sins except God. They considered Jesus to be a blasphemer for comparing Himself to God on this issue. Had they only realized that, in actuality, it was God in their midst who was offering forgiveness, how differently things might have gone!

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The Angel of the Lord Continues to Lead Them
While Moses was on the mountain speaking with God and receiving the Commandments, the people below grew restless and impatient, and were overtaken by sinful lusts and desires. They fashioned a metal [golden] god of their own design and worshiped it. God was angry and promised to bring punishment upon the guilty, but once again, mercifully allowed the Angel of the Lord to lead His people, proving that the guilty will not go unpunished, but the innocent will benefit from God's mercy.

"But the LORD said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.'" (Exodus 32:33-34 emphasis added)

God Places Limitations on the Angel
God placed a limitation upon the guidance the Angel would provide for Moses and his people. The Angel would show the way and drive out the enemies from the Promised Land, but He would not be among the people because of their stubborn ways.

"The LORD said to Moses, 'Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, "To your offspring I will give it." I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.'" (Exodus 33:1-3 emphasis added)

God Relents and Promises His Presence to Go with Them
After Moses passionately interceded on behalf of the Israelites, reminding God that they are His chosen people apart from the rest of the people on earth, God relented and assured Moses of His commitment to them, and that His Presence [the Angel] would go with them.

12"Moses said to the LORD, 'See, you say to me, "Bring up this people," but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, "I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight."
13Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.'
14And he said, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'
15And he said to him, 'If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.
16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?'
17And the LORD said to Moses, 'This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.'"
(Exodus 33:12-17 emphasis added)

    How many of us would be so bold or so confident in God's great mercy and grace to pray, "If your presence will not go with me, then I will not go" [paraphrased]? How many problems or struggles might we avoid if we would learn to wait for the Presence and power of the Lord going before us!

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Balaam's Donkey and the Angel
In this unique passage of Balaam and his talking donkey, Balaam's donkey saw the Angel of the Lord and tried to steer his master away from the Angel's drawn sword. The donkey, no doubt, sensed the imminent danger for his master and tried to protect him, even though his master beat him.

In Numbers 22:20-35, we read:

20"And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, 'If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.'
21So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.
22But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him.
23And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road.
24Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side.
25And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again.
26Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left.
27When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
28Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?'
29And Balaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.'
30And the donkey said to Balaam, 'Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?' And he said, 'No.'
31Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face.
32And the angel of the LORD said to him, 'Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me.
33The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.'
34Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, 'I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.'
35And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, 'Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.' So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak."
(emphasis added)

    It's both humorous and sad when you think about it. The donkey knew better than Balaam how futile and dangerous it is to oppose the Lord!

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The Angel and a Snare to the Israelites
As a result of the Israelites not driving out the Jebusites, Canaanites, and other pagans living in the Promised Land — but in fact, made covenants with them — the Lord became angry. He reminded them of how He had brought them to the Promised Land. He didn't break His covenant with the people, but they didn't follow through with their part, so God told them He would no longer drive away their enemies from before them. They [the enemies] would become a reminder of a broken promise . . . a thorn in their flesh.

"Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, 'I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, "I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars." But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.'" (Judges 2:1-3 emphasis added)

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The Angel of the Lord Curses Meroz
In the "song of Deborah", following Israel defeating the king of Canaan, both Deborah and Barak recited all that the Lord had accomplished during that military campaign. In Judges 5:23, we read: "Curse Meroz3, says the angel of the LORD, curse its inhabitants thoroughly, because they did not come to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." (emphasis added)

[Note: Other translations refer to the "angel of the LORD" in this passage as the "messenger".]

    Here, we see how the Lord responded when the inhabitants of Meroz chose not to assist the Lord in His opposition of the mighty. By placing a curse on Meroz, He has taken a very aggressive response to their reluctance to obey the will of God, one that resulted in their complete destruction and removal from history, save this curse upon them. In the following verse, however, we see a blessing upon Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite. She was blessed because she did as God had commanded. This brings to light the Scripture which says: "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6b NIV)

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The Angel and Gideon
Being severely persecuted by the Midianites, the Israelites cried out to God for deliverance. After some hesitation on His part, God sent His Angel to a very unlikely person to deliver Israel from the Midianites.

11"Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.
12And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, 'The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.'
13And Gideon said to him, 'Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, "Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?" But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.'
14And the LORD turned to him and said, 'Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?'
15And he said to him, 'Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.'
16And the LORD said to him, 'But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.'
17And he said to him, 'If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me.
18Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.' And he said, 'I will stay till you return.'
19So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them.
20And the angel of God said to him, 'Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.' And he did so.
21Then the angel of the LORD reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.
22Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, 'Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.'
23But the LORD said to him, 'Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.'"
(Judges 6:11 23 emphasis added)

    If we continue reading the narrative, we find that with only 300 men, God defeated and expelled the Midianites (cf. Judges 7:7-25). Even when the odds heavily outnumber us, God is with us. And God expects a great deal from even the least of us . . . from the most unlikely . . . even from those who don't feel confident to do the things that God asks of us.

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The Angel and Samson's Parents
As we learned in the lesson "Jesus Portrayed in the Old Testament", during the times of the judges, Israel repeatedly sinned against the Lord. This brought about God's stern discipline, which resulted in their repentance, at which time He would raise up a deliverer from among them.

This was the case in the 13th chapter of Judges where we see a husband and wife who had not borne any children. While the husband, Manoah, was in the field, "...the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, 'Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.'" (Judges 13:3-5 emphasis added)

After the woman told her husband what had happened, he prayed and asked the Lord to send the "man of God" again. The Lord graciously granted Manoah's request, and the Angel of the Lord appeared to his wife again. She ran to get her husband who quickly followed her to where the man was, and Manoah asked the man what the child's purpose was to be.

13"And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, 'Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful.
14She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.'
15Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, 'Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.'
16And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, 'If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.' (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.)
17And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, 'What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?'
18And the angel of the LORD said to him, 'Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?'
19So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching.
20And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.
21The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD.
22And Manoah said to his wife, 'We shall surely die, for we have seen God!'"
(Judges 13:13-22 emphasis added)

    Once again, God had chosen someone who might initially appear to be an unlikely candidate to do His work. So much did God want a special child named Samson to be born, that He sent His Angel to announce the pregnancy. As with Abraham's wife, Sarah, and Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth in the New Testament, so also was Manoah's wife blessed. These three formerly-barren women did bear children: Isaac, John the Baptist, and Samson respectively. Each of these pregnancies defied human rationale, but God provided especially for them to fulfill His purposes through them.

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The Angel, David, and an Unlawful Census
Satan had convinced David that he needed to "number" the people [take a census], even though Joab strongly advised against it.

    As you read the texts in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, you will immediately notice what appears to be a contradiction. 2 Samuel 24:1 says: "...the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, 'Go, number Israel and Judah.'" And 1 Chronicles 21:1 — relating the same event — says: "Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel." (emphasis added)

    I will attempt here only a cursory explanation that I believe is well supported by Scripture. As we know, in Job's life, God allowed Satan to attempt all manner of evil and sorrow against Job in an effort to get him to renounce his God. Scripture reminds us time and again that God permits Satan certain liberties in His children's lives. But these are only to ultimately accomplish God's will in the long-run.

    After reading all the relevant passages, I believe the narrative in 1 Chronicles provides the correct rendering. In verse 1 we find that "Satan stood against" or "rose up against" Israel and "incited [caused] David" to take a census.David's trusted friend and advisor, Joab, did not want to follow David's orders at all, because he knew it didn't seem right with God. The King insisted on a census, so one was taken; however, Joab purposely did not take a complete census [as he did not include the children].

After David completed the census] as revealed to us in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, the Lord's anger was aroused against him. Through the Prophet Gad, God gave David three choices of punishment; and the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel that resulted in the deaths of 70,000 men. However, in His great mercy, God relented to continue the destruction. He instructed the angel who had been smiting the people to stop the destruction.

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"So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, 'It is enough; now stay your hand.' And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, 'Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father's house.'" (2 Samuel 24:15-17 emphasis added)

When David saw the Angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth with His sword drawn (v. 16), he immediately realized he had done something truly against God. In v. 17, David confessed his sin and asked God to punish him and his family and not the innocent ones. Why was the census unlawful? Because it indicated that David had been relying on the number of his warriors, rather than on God. Although Satan prompted David to seek the census, one positive end result was that it caused David to purchase the land on which the Temple would be built.

    There are many times when we may think we know what is best, even though it is not necessarily in line with God's directives, and even when our closest friends and advisors disagree with us. And often, our poor choices and bad decisions can adversely affect the lives of others.

Many suffered because of David's leadership, or lack of it, in this event. However, God knew when to intervene and He commanded the Angel of the Lord to return His sword to its sheath, and stop the destruction.

There are several points of significance in this narrative:

  1. The angel who had been killing the people appears to be the same Angel standing by the threshing floor.

  2. As soon as David saw the Angel of the LORD, he began praying for mercy upon the people.

  3. God heard David's prayer and commanded the angel to stop, just as the Angel of the Lord stayed Abraham's hand in Genesis 22:11-12.

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Elijah and the Angel
Following the Lord's spectacular display of power in 1 Kings 18, giving Elijah victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled from Queen Jezebel's wrath. We find him in 1 Kings 19, wearied from his flight and praying to die.

5"And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, 'Arise and eat.'
6And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.
7And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, 'Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.'
8And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
9There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'"
(1 Kings 19:5-9 emphasis added)

Of course, there's much more to this narrative than I have written above, but for this particular lesson it is enough. There's a very significant phrase used in the quoted text above. Did you see it? In verses 5 and 7, we're told "an angel" and "the angel of the LORD" came to Elijah. But in verse 9, we see the "word of the LORD" speaking to Elijah! Perhaps it is by this authority that the Apostle John was able to discern and write: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." (John 1:1 emphasis added) This could only mean a distinct Person of the Godhead.

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The King of Assyria and the Angel
Many times we have heard of a mighty nation overpowering another, and simply destroying it with little effort. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, had destroyed much and killed many, and had become mighty (cf. 2 Kings 18:9-19:13).

Hezekiah, King of Judah, feared the king of Assyria and prayed most earnestly to God. Through the prophet Isaiah, God explained to Hezekiah that it was He who had made Sennacherib's victories so easily attained, because God had used him as His instrument to destroy the nations that He desired to have destroyed (cf. 2 Kings 19:14-34)

Although God had assisted Sennacherib in battle, God still recognized him as an evil man who worshipped another god. Thus, He sent the Angel of the Lord to destroy 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians in one night.

"And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place." (2 Kings 19:35-37 emphasis added).

    As you read this story, keep in mind that God can bless whomever He pleases, but He specifically says that we can love no other god before Him. As a consequence of serving a false god, the king of Assyria suffered the wrath of the one true God for his "raging against God" (v. 27).

See the parallel narrative of God's deliverance and the death of the Assyrian king in Isaiah 37:31-38.

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A Psalm about the Angel of the Lord Saving David
4"I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
6This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
7The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them."
(Psalm 34:4-7 emphasis added)

This psalm reminds us that the Lord is gracious and sufficient to deliver us from all of our fears. He is faithful to hear our prayers when we call upon Him. This passage speaks of the Angel of the Lord as being able to deliver those who fear Him, and He likewise encamps around them.

    We believers know that Jesus is the true Deliverer. This passage is one of many which causes us to consider the distinct possibility that the Angel of the Lord and Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead, are indeed one in the same Person. The religious rulers and leaders of Jesus' time on earth accused Him of being a blasphemer, a crime punishable by death. Their reason: No one could forgive sins except God Almighty.

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The "Angel of His Presence"
The prophet Isaiah wrote: "I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, 'Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.' And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." (Isaiah 63:7 9 emphasis added)

This passage speaks of God's great love for His chosen people and the faith He had in them. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit, causing Him to turn against them, to discipline their bad behavior. As we've already studied in the previous lesson, God took His Presence, or the Angel of the Lord, from them for a time, so they could not easily defeat their foes and would return to Him.

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The Angel with Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego
It would be difficult to find anyone today who does not know the story of the three Hebrew boys who refused to worship Babylon's god or the golden idol. Even most non-Christians know the story.

The three condemned men in this passage were devout believers in God, so much so that they were willing to go to their deaths rather than renounce the one true God. However, God spared their lives by sending His own Angel to their rescue, which caused a nationwide testimony to the supremacy of God Almighty, for all of the citizens to take notice of the God of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego.

20"And he [the king of Babylon] ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
21Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.
22Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
23And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, 'Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?' They answered and said to the king, 'True, O king.'
25He answered and said, 'But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods."
26Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, 'Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!' Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.
27And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
28Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, 'Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
29Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.'
30Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon."
(Daniel 3:20-30 emphasis added)

What a powerful witness their devotion to God was to the people of Babylon!

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The Angel with Daniel in the Lion's Den
Here is another story with which most people are familiar. Daniel's enemies plotted against him by tricking the king of Babylon into issuing a non-revocable decree making it illegal for anyone in the kingdom to pray to any god but his false god (cf. Daniel 6:6-9).

Being a devout Jew and fully trusting in the Lord's mercy and protection, however, Daniel continued to pray at his window three times a day (cf. Daniel 6:10).

As with the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, God reversed the death decree. King Darius, who had condemned Daniel, suffered tremendous guilt about the sentence of death until he learned that Daniel had not been harmed. Daniel spent the night in a den of ferocious and hungry lions and came out the next morning without even one scratch.

19"Then, at break of day, the king [Darius] arose and went in haste to the den of lions.
20As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, 'O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?'
21Then Daniel said to the king, 'O king, live forever!
22My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.'"
(Daniel 6:16-23 emphasis added)

We know the lions were, in fact, hungry man-eaters because Daniel's accusers and their families were brutally attacked and killed immediately after they were thrown into the same lion's den (cf. Daniel 6:24).

Having personally witnessed God's angelic intervention in Daniel's life, this ruler also then began to fear the Almighty God of Israel (cf. Daniel 6:25-27).

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Zechariah's Visions and the Angel of the Lord
The prophet Zechariah had several intense visions wherein he saw the Angel of the Lord as well as other created angels over whom the Angel of the Lord had charge. In these visions, Zechariah learned about God's plans for Israel and the end times.

A Man Riding a Red Horse and the Angel
In the first chapter of this prophetic book, Zechariah tells us he saw a man riding a red horse with many red, reddish-brown, and white horses behind him. When he asked the man who they were, the man said God selected them to "patrol the earth." (cf. Zechariah 1:10). In verse 11, the text makes it clear that the "man who was standing among the myrtle trees" was the Angel of the Lord.

This vision is a very powerful and profound one, a prophetic vision of the end times. Rather than make a commentary of my own on this passage, I will opt to bring up some significant points in the footnotes of the Amplified Bible that discuss the possibilities for the distinctions between "the angels", "the Angel", "the Man", and "the Lord":

    a.) Angel of the Lord of Zech. 1:11. b.) The interpreting angel, mentioned in Zech. 1:9,13,14; 2:3; 4:1; 5:5,10; 6:4,5, not to be confused with the Man of Zech. 1:8 or the Angel of the Lord of Zech. 1:11. c.) That the Angel of the Lord is an uncreated angel distinguished from other angels, and in many places identified with the Lord God, is undeniable. On the other hand there are passages in which He seems to be distinguished from God the Father. The simplest way of reconciling these two classes is to adopt the old view that this Angel is Christ, the second person of the Godhead, even at that early period appearing as the Revealer of the Father.5

Zechariah 1:14-21 records God the Father's assurance that He will bring to nothing those nations that rose up [or will rise up in the future] against Israel and that He'll prosper them, "comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem." (v. 17)

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The Angel and A Man with a Measuring Line
Chapter 2 of Zechariah records another astounding vision that is best interpreted in God's own words:

1"And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand!
2Then I said, 'Where are you going?' And he said to me, 'To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.'
3And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him
4and said to him, 'Run, say to that young man, "Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it.
5And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst."'
6Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the LORD.
7Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.
8For thus said the LORD of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye:
9'Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me.
10Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD.
11And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.'"
(Zechariah 2:1-11 emphasis added)

This passage enables us to delve into the personality of the Angel of the Lord, and causes us to see the tremendous part the Angel has played in events concerning God's people. The passage reveals...

  • God to His people in the Old Testament times;

  • how God's Messenger (the Angel) will be involved in the future of His people;

  • that this Angel has absolute authority over other angels;

  • that the Angel's hand will swing with authority over the nations that have plundered God's people. These nations themselves will become a plunder, this being accomplished with the approval of God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts (cf. Revelation 19:11);

  • that this Messenger will come and dwell in the midst of you as was prophesied about Jesus Christ; and

  • that the people will gather around this Messenger and shall know and recognize Him as the One sent by God, Himself.

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The Angel of the Lord, Joshua, and Satan
Zechariah 3:1-8 vividly illustrates the awesome and exalted position of the Angel of the Lord.

  • He rebukes Satan (v. 2);

  • He forgives Joshua's sins (v. 4);

  • He refers to Himself as the "Lord of Hosts" [also otherwise known as the "Commander of the Heavenly Host", YHWH-Tzva'ot (Sabaoth)] (v. 7); and

  • He speaks of bringing forth His Branch (v. 8), which of course, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

All of this occurred as Joshua stood in judgment before the Angel of the Lord while Satan stood at Joshua's side to try to accuse him. We know who the Branch is of whom the Angel spoke of, and we also know who the one true Judge is before whom we all will stand one day. Of course, it's Jesus Christ, our risen Savior. And don't forget, all of this occurred long before Jesus was born in the flesh.

This passage vividly describes the ultimate authority of Christ as the One who forgives and is also the one true Lawgiver as mentioned in the book of Revelation. He is the Commander of the Heavenly Host, who led God's army around the wall at Jericho and who stood before Joshua, advising him to remove his sandals because the ground on which he was standing was holy ground [as was the case with Moses at the burning bush].

Following the prophetic utterances of Zechariah, there is no indication in Scripture that the Angel of the Lord ever appeared again after the birth of Jesus Christ. This would lead us to reason and conclude that, just as Jesus Christ was/is the Presence of God to His children in the New Testament and beyond, the Angel of the Lord is the Presence of God to His children in the Old Testament.

In other words, the Angel [or Messenger] of the Lord in the Old Testament is the same Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, in the New.

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Dr. Steven BrownQuestions/Comments?
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1The Amplified Bible, Expanded Edition, pg. 18; copyright 1987, Zondervan Corporation.


3Merozn. A plain in the north of Palestine, the inhabitants of which were severely condemned because they did not help Barak against Sisera. It has been identified with Marassus, on a knoll to the north of Wady Jalud, but nothing is really known of it. Like Chorazin, it is only mentioned in Scripture in connection with the curse pronounced upon it.

4The Amplified Bible, Expanded Edition, 1987, Zondervan Corporation.

4The Amplified Bible, Expanded Edition, Johan P. Lange, "A Commentary", 1987, Zondervan Corporation.

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