The Angel of the Lord: A List of Verses

One of the most important contributions of the early Jewish-Christian community to our understanding of Jesus is the connection they made between Jesus and the Angel (or Messenger) of the Lord.*  This mysterious being appears in several places in the Hebrew Bible.  He has the appearance of a man, yet speaks and acts like God.  This identification was an important early step in the development of the idea of the Trinity:  that the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Word of God, is God himself, yet is distinct from the Father. 

* The Bible’s words for “angel” (malach in Hebrew and angelos in Greek) mean simply messenger.  Whether this refers to a human messenger, a spirit-being messenger (an angel), or God himself acting as a messenger must be determined from the context. 

One of the most well-known appearances of this Messenger of the Lord is as one of the three men who appeared to Abraham at Mamre (Gen. 18:13,17,20).  In the passage, one of these visitors is identified as the LORD God himself: “and the LORD said to Abraham” (Gen. 18:13).  Later, this same LORD rained fire and brimstone on Sodom “from the LORD out of heaven” (Gen. 19:24).  This is a clear reference to two distinct entities—the Father in heaven and the Son on earth—that share the divine name (LORD, YHWH in Hebrew) and are together one God.*

* Evidence for this understanding among the early Jewish-Christians can be seen in their controversies with the rabbis in which they used passages like these to argue for the divinity of Jesus (Sanh. 38b).

Here’s a list of the other appearances of the Messenger of the Lord where he is specifically referred to as God or the LORD:

1) The “messenger of the LORD” that spoke as God to Hagar (Gen. 16:7,9-11):  “And she called the name of the LORD who was speaking to her, ‘You are the God who sees...’” (Gen. 16:13). 

2) One of the “three men,” two of whom are later identified as “messengers” (Gen. 19:1), that appeared to Abraham (mentioned above):  “And the LORD appeared to him” (Gen. 18:1), “And the LORD said to Abraham” (Gen. 18:13), “while Abraham was still standing before the LORD” (Gen. 18:22). 

3) The “messenger of the LORD” that spoke as God to Abraham at his offering of Isaac (Gen. 22:11,15): “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen. 22:12). 

4) The “messenger of God” that identified himself as “God” to Jacob at Bethel (Gen. 31:11):  “I am the God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13). 

5) The “man” identified as “God” that wrestled with Jacob at Peniel (Gen. 32:24):  “I have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32:30).  

6) The “messenger” identified with God in Jacob’s three-fold blessing over Joseph’s sons (Gen. 48:16):  “The God before whom my fathers...walked, the God who has been my shepherd..., the messenger who has redeemed me from all evil” (Gen. 48:15-16).  

7) The “messenger of the LORD” identified as “God” that spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exo. 3:2):  “God called to him from the middle of the bush” (Exo. 3:4).    

8) The “messenger” with God’s name in him that went before the children of Israel in the desert (Exo. 23:20):  “My name is in him” (Exo. 23:21). 

9) The appearance of “the God of Israel” before Moses and the seventy elders on Mt. Sinai, traditionally identified as an angelic messenger:  “And they saw the God of Israel” (Exo. 24:10). 

10) The “LORD” (#1) who descended and stood by Moses as the “LORD” (#2) passed by in front of him (Exo. 34:5-6):  “And the LORD descended in the cloud and stationed himself with him there.... Then the LORD passed by over his face...” (Exo. 34:5).  

11) The “captain of the Lord’s army,” identified as “the LORD,” that spoke to Joshua (Joshua 5:14-15):  “And the LORD said to Joshua” (Josh. 6:2). 

12) The “messenger of the LORD” that spoke as God at Bochim (Judges 2:1,4):  “I brought you up out of Egypt” (Judges 2:1). 

13) The “messenger of the LORD” identified as “the LORD” that spoke to Gideon (Judges 6:11):  “And the LORD turned toward him” (Judges 6:14). 

14) The “messenger of the LORD,” identified as “a man of God” with “the appearance of a messenger of God,” who appeared to the parents of Samson (Judges 13:3,6,8):  “We have seen God” (Judges 13:22). 

15) The “messenger of great counsel” in the old Greek (Septuagint or LXX) version of Isa. 9:6, who in the Hebrew is called “mighty God, eternal Father.” 

16) The “messenger of his [God’s] presence” in Isa. 63:9, referring to Exo. 23:20-21 (see #8 above). 

17) The “likeness with the appearance of a man” that glowed like metal in Ezekiel’s vision of the storm cloud, who is identified as “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” and who speaks as God (Eze. 1:26-28):  “I am sending you to the sons of Israel...who have rebelled against me....and you will say to them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says’” (Eze. 2:3-4).  

18) The “messenger of the LORD” who speaks as God before Joshua the high priest (Zech. 3:1, 3, 5-6):  “And the LORD said to Satan” (Zech. 3:2), “I am going to bring in my servant” (Zech. 3:8). 

Later, under the influence of Greek philosophy, the idea of Jesus as the angelic messenger of the Lord was misused.  Some began to teach that Jesus was “just” an angel, that is, that he was a type of created spiritual being, and was therefore not God.  This view became very popular in the Arian heresy of the 4th century, and lives on today in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In response, the Church cooled to the idea of Jesus as the Angel (Messenger) of the Lord, and the teaching was actually denied by Augustine of Hippo (5th century).  But it remains an important Biblical teaching when understood in the original sense that Jesus, the messenger of God, is in fact God revealed to us, yet at the same time is distinct from the Father God.

(For more on this topic, see our teaching Does God Have Parts? or the index category the Angel of the Lord.)

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